Sermon for September 25, 2016: “The Travis and Bo Gospel”

Luke 16:19-31
19 “There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. 20 And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, 21 who longed to satisfy his hunger with what fell from the rich man’s table; even the dogs would come and lick his sores. 22 The poor man died and was carried away by the angels to be with Abraham.[a] The rich man also died and was buried. 23 In Hades, where he was being tormented, he looked up and saw Abraham far away with Lazarus by his side.[b] 24 He called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in agony in these flames.’ 25 But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your lifetime you received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in agony. 26 Besides all this, between you and us a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who might want to pass from here to you cannot do so, and no one can cross from there to us.’ 27 He said, ‘Then, father, I beg you to send him to my father’s house— 28 for I have five brothers—that he may warn them, so that they will not also come into this place of torment.’ 29 Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; they should listen to them.’ 30 He said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’31 He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’”

Sermon for September 25, 2016: “The Travis and Bo Gospel”

This past Tuesday we welcomed Madelyn Grace Conrad to the world.
She is doing well.
We have had a lot of family come into town to visit us.
We have had a lot of friends call and write us.
And we think even Paul likes her!

So It’s been a series of good days.

Someone who is not having a good day is the rich man in our Gospel lesson today.

Our story today is the 2nd parable we find in Chapter 16 that deals with wealth.
Specifically, the love and worship of wealth.
It is also the second WARNING parable that we find in Chapter 16.
Let me remind you what Jesus says in chapter 16 verse 13:
“No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.”
Now in the Greek language “Wealth” is “Mammon.”
And by definition “Mammon” is “Wealth, property”
The word “Mammon” is only used twice in the NT, 16:13 and Matthew 6:24
And last week Jesus was talking about the prudent use of money and discipleship.
This week, he tells the story of two men who are true opposites.

One man is covered in purple.
Another man is covered in sores.
One eats sumptuously.
Another longs for the scraps.
One is inside the gate.
Another is out.

Let me share with you some insight on these two characters.
First, The Rich Man:
He has money.
He wore purple and fine linen.
Fine linen was very expensive.
Purple was a color reserved for people of wealth, royalty, or connections to the Roman Empire.
So he dressed the part.
He eats sumptuously every day.
This man is living the high life.

Next we have Lazarus.
Lazarus was a poor man.
A hungry man.
A very sick man.
Our translation says Lazarus laid at the gate but in the Greek it reads he had been placed or “thrown at the rich man’s” gate.
The gate would have been in earshot of the room where the rich man’s dinners were held.

But then things get turned upside down.
Both men die and one man is sent to Hades, the other is carried away by the angels and is placed beside Abraham.
Now in that society it would have made sense for the rich man to be the one partying with Abraham while Lazarus languishes in Hades.
But in the story, it is Lazarus who ends up at the big party while the rich man agonizes in Hades.

How did this happen?
How did the rich man end up the loser?
Was he being punished because he was rich?
No.
Absolutely not.
I do not want to come off today saying that being rich is a sin.
It is not.

But here is where the rich man failed.
Over the last few months I have mentioned that in the Gospel of Luke, SEEING is a major theme.

Some examples:
Back in Luke 7 Jesus is invited to a dinner party at Simon the Pharisee’s house.
A woman interrupts the party to wash and kiss Jesus’ feet
The host of the party, a Pharisee, is appalled that this sinner has crashed his party.
But while Simon sees a sinner,
Jesus sees a person.
Jesus sees a child of God.

Another example can be found later in Luke 19.
Zacchaeus is a tax collector who climbs a tree to see Jesus.
While others see Zacchaeus as a hated tax collector,
Jesus SEES Zacchaeus as a person.
Jesus SEES a child of God.

When you get the chance, look and study what happens when someone SEES another person in the gospel.
Something good or bad happens.

When it is Jesus who sees someone, something good and amazing is going to happen.

But when that someone is the rich man, things don’t turn out as well.
Because what the rich man gets wrong is that he chooses not to see Lazarus.
We don’t know how long Lazarus lay at the rich man’s gate, but we can assume that the rich man could see Lazarus.
We can assume he could see Lazarus begging for scraps.
And the rich man did nothing to help Lazarus.
How many times did the rich man walk by Lazarus? Where was the hospitality?
Even the dogs had more compassion for Lazarus than did the rich man!

What has the rich man done wrong?
He is not punished because he is wealthy.
He is punished because he did not care for Lazarus.

The rich man SEES Lazarus and could not care less.

Even in the chasm scene, the rich man only addresses Abraham.
He doesn’t say anything to Lazarus.
But he DOES ask Abraham to send Lazarus to Hades, not to rescue the rich man but to SERVE the rich man.
Think how messed up that is!

One little but important side note, while the rich man doesn’t acknowledge Lazarus,
DID YOU KNOW that Lazarus is the only person given a NAME in any of Jesus’ parables?
I think that is pretty significant.

So what does this parable, this teaching, this warning, mean to us?

It goes back to the theme of “SEEING” but in the Gospels, the way that Jesus teaches, SEEING is not just the act of looking at someone or something.

SEEING leads to “ACTING”
It leads to “REACTING”
It leads to “INVITING”

When we SEE people in trouble,
In despair,
In need,
What do we do?

Do we make fun of them?
Do we get angry at them and yell “you deserve it!”
Do we ignore them?
Or do we SEE them?

Travis Rudolph is a wide receiver for the Florida State Seminoles.
on Tuesday, August 30th, Rudolph and several teammates were at Montford Middle School in Tallahassee,
It was around lunch time, and Rudolph was in the cafeteria.
He saw a student sitting by himself eating lunch, and Rudolph decided to pull up a chair next to him.
The child’s name is Bo Paske.
Bo has autism.
And sadly, sitting alone for lunch is something that happens quite often.
But not on that day. And when Rudolph pulled up a chair, someone in the school snapped a picture of the duo eating lunch together, and sent it to Bo’s mom Leah.
Leah then posted the picture on Facebook, and she wrote this incredible reply:
“(Bo) doesn’t seem to notice when people stare at him when he flaps his hands. He doesn’t seem to notice that he doesn’t get invited to birthday parties anymore. And he doesn’t seem to mind if he eats lunch alone. It’s one of my daily questions for him. ‘Who did you eat lunch with today?’ Sometimes the answer is a classmate, but most days it’s nobody.
A friend of mine sent this beautiful picture to me today and when I saw it with the caption ‘Travis Rudolph is eating lunch with your son’ I replied, ‘who is that?’ He said, ‘FSU football player,’, then I had tears streaming down my face.
I’m not sure what exactly made this incredibly kind man share a lunch table with my son, but I’m happy to say that it will not soon be forgotten. This is one day I didn’t have to worry if my sweet boy ate lunch alone, because he sat across from someone who is a hero in many eyes.”
Keep in mind what Travis Rudolph did:
He SAW Bo
And he ACTED.
He SAT with Bo.
He ATE with Bo.
He even said later, “He’s a cool person, I’ll hang out with him any day. And for the mom, if he needs my (cell) number, he can get it.”
So to me, this parable is not really about the wealth of the rich man or the reason he ends up in Hades.
The parable is really about Abraham and his care of Lazarus.

What does Abraham do in our parable?
He STANDS with Lazarus
He SPEAKS for Lazarus
He CALLS Lazarus by his name
He COMFORTS Lazarus.

Abraham SEES and ACTS.
Travis Rudolph SAW and ACTED.

When Jesus sees a woman, a tax collector, a child, a sinner,
He REACTS
He DEFENDS

He…shows us how we as his followers are to do the same thing.
Amen!

Sermon for September 18, 2016: “The Prudent Gospel”

Luke 16:1-13

1 Then Jesus said to the disciples, “There was a rich man who had a manager, and charges were brought to him that this man was squandering his property. 2 So he summoned him and said to him, “What is this that I hear about you? Give me an accounting of your management, because you cannot be my manager any longer.’ 3 Then the manager said to himself, “What will I do, now that my master is taking the position away from me? I am not strong enough to dig, and I am ashamed to beg. 4 I have decided what to do so that, when I am dismissed as manager, people may welcome me into their homes.’ 5 So, summoning his master’s debtors one by one, he asked the first, “How much do you owe my master?’ 6 He answered, “A hundred jugs of olive oil.’ He said to him, “Take your bill, sit down quickly, and make it fifty.’ 7 Then he asked another, “And how much do you owe?’ He replied, “A hundred containers of wheat.’ He said to him, “Take your bill and make it eighty.’ 8 And his master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly; for the children of this age are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light. 9 And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of dishonest wealth so that when it is gone, they may welcome you into the eternal homes. 10 “Whoever is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much; and whoever is dishonest in a very little is dishonest also in much. 11 If then you have not been faithful with the dishonest wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? 12 And if you have not been faithful with what belongs to another, who will give you what is your own? 13 No slave can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.”

Sermon for September 18, 2016: “The Prudent Gospel”

For several weeks, I have had a secret wish.
I wished that our baby daughter would be born before this weekend.
I had TWO reasons for that wish. Continue reading

Sermon for August 28, 2016: “Don’t Be A Ueker”

Luke 14:1, 7-14
1 On one occasion when Jesus was going to the house of a leader of the Pharisees to eat a meal on the sabbath, they were watching him closely.

7 When he noticed how the guests chose the places of honor, he told them a parable. 8 “When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, do not sit down at the place of honor, in case someone more distinguished than you has been invited by your host; 9 and the host who invited both of you may come and say to you, “Give this person your place,’ and then in disgrace you would start to take the lowest place. 10 But when you are invited, go and sit down at the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he may say to you, “Friend, move up higher’; then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at the table with you. 11 For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” 12 He said also to the one who had invited him, “When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, in case they may invite you in return, and you would be repaid. 13 But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. 14 And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”A few months back, I had the chance to have lunch with member of our NC Synod Staff, including the bishop himself, Tim Smith.

Sermon for August 28, 2016: “Don’t Be A Ueker”
I was looking forward to catching up with everyone and shared my enthusiasm with my mom.
As I was about to hang up the phone, my mom wished me luck.
But then she added this little suggestion:
“Please, watch your table manners.” Continue reading

Sermon for August 21, 2016: “The Open Door Policy”

Luke 13: 10-17

10 Now he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the sabbath. 11 And just then there appeared a woman with a spirit that had crippled her for eighteen years. She was bent over and was quite unable to stand up straight. 12 When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said, “Woman, you are set free from your ailment.” 13 When he laid his hands on her, immediately she stood up straight and began praising God. 14 But the leader of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had cured on the sabbath, kept saying to the crowd, “There are six days on which work ought to be done; come on those days and be cured, and not on the sabbath day.” 15 But the Lord answered him and said, “You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger, and lead it away to give it water? 16 And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen long years, be set free from this bondage on the sabbath day?” 17 When he said this, all his opponents were put to shame; and the entire crowd was rejoicing at all the wonderful things that he was doing.

Sermon for August 21, 2016: “The Open Door Policy”

The first job I ever had was at Hinkle’s Book store.
I enjoyed working there.
I had a great boss and wonderful co-workers.
We loved working with one another.
But there was one thing we all could not stand.
Closing time on Saturday night. Continue reading

Sermon for August 14, 2016: “The Procrastination Gospel”

Luke 12:49-56
49 “I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! 50 I have a baptism with which to be baptized, and what stress I am under until it is completed! 51 Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division! 52 From now on five in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three; 53 they will be divided: father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.” 54 He also said to the crowds, “When you see a cloud rising in the west, you immediately say, “It is going to rain’; and so it happens. 55 And when you see the south wind blowing, you say, “There will be scorching heat’; and it happens. 56 You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky, but why do you not know how to interpret the present time?

This morning I want to begin with a quote from the Writer J.M. Barrie.
Barrie was a Scottish novelist and playwright, and he is most famous for being the creator of Peter Pan.
Barrie once said “One of the most dangerous days of our life is when we discover the word ‘tomorrow.’”
And that is so true! Continue reading

Sermon for August 7, 2016: “Comfort > Chaos”

Luke 12: 32-40
32 “Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. 33 Sell your possessions, and give alms. Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. 34 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. 35 “Be dressed for action and have your lamps lit; 36 be like those who are waiting for their master to return from the wedding banquet, so that they may open the door for him as soon as he comes and knocks. 37 Blessed are those slaves whom the master finds alert when he comes; truly I tell you, he will fasten his belt and have them sit down to eat, and he will come and serve them. 38 If he comes during the middle of the night, or near dawn, and finds them so, blessed are those slaves. 39 “But know this: if the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. 40 You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.”

Sermon: “Comfort > Chaos”
When I was a young kid, there was a show that came on every afternoon that I could not get enough of.
It was the Dick Van Dyke Show. Continue reading

Sermon for July 31, 2016: “Pardon This Interruption”

Gospel: Luke 12: 13-21
13 Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.” 14 But he said to him, “Friend, who set me to be a judge or arbitrator over you?” 15 And he said to them, “Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.” 16 Then he told them a parable: “The land of a rich man produced abundantly. 17 And he thought to himself, “What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?’ 18 Then he said, “I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19 And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’ 20 But God said to him, “You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ 21 So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God.”

Sermon: “Pardon This Interruption”

This morning we get a very interesting parable in our Gospel lesson.
One of my favorite shows on television is Pardon The Interruption on ESPN.
On the show two former sports writers argue and banter over the day’s sports news.
Well this morning, we get a Gospel version of this show. Continue reading

Sermon for July 24, 2016: “Let’s Talk, God”

Gospel: Luke 11:1-13

1 He was praying in a certain place, and after he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” 2 He said to them, “When you pray, say: Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. 3 Give us each day our daily bread. 4 And forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us. And do not bring us to the time of trial.” 5 And he said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say to him, “Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; 6 for a friend of mine has arrived, and I have nothing to set before him.’ 7 And he answers from within, “Do not bother me; the door has already been locked, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.’ 8 I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, at least because of his persistence he will get up and give him whatever he needs. 9 “So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. 10 For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. 11 Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish? 12 Or if the child asks for an egg, will give a scorpion? 13 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

 

Sermon: “Let’s talk, God.”

 

This morning’s sermon is dedicated to Leslie Miller.

Because this morning I want to talk about prayer. Continue reading

The Prayer for Kabul (The Road)

Tonight let us open our hearts and minds to God and pray for:
 
The people killed and wounded in Kabul, Afghanistan.
 
For the families they leave behind.
 
For the suicide bombers’ families.
 
For the repentance of those who follow ISIS and the Taliban.
 
For the Shiite Hazaras who are branded “outsiders” in their own countried and face violent persection.
 
For those who hate on “Outsiders” and that they may be led to a changing of hearts and minds.
 
For those who work for peace
 
 
There. Is. Another. Way.
 
The Violent Road only leads to more violence and death.
 
The Peace Road leads to life. For everyone.
 
Which road will you take?
 
– Amen.