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September 29, 2019

Mind the Gap

Luke 16:19-31

[Jesus said:] 19“There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. 20And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, 21who longed to satisfy his hunger with what fell from the rich man’s table; even the dogs would come and lick his sores. 22The poor man died and was carried away by the angels to be with Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried. 23In Hades, where the rich man was being tormented, he looked up and saw Abraham far away with Lazarus by his side. 24He 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.’ 25But 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. 26Besides 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.’ 27The rich man said, ‘Then, father, I beg you to send Lazarus to my father’s house—28for I have five brothers—that he may warn them, so that they will not also come into this place of torment.’ 29Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; your brothers should listen to them.’ 30He said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ 31Abraham 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.’ ”
Why do you think Jesus told this story?
I think most people interpret this particular story from Jesus as giving the disciples the extra "heads up" on how to get into heaven. Perhaps Jesus was warning the disciples so that they would not find themselves in the same fate of the rich man, suddenly faced with spending eternity on the other side of the chasm.
But I think there is another reason Jesus told this story.
If you travel to jolly old London town and travel on public transit, you can't help but notice all the "Mind the Gap" signs everywhere. It's almost comical how many there are - you would think there are hords of Londoners falling into the space between the platform and the train all the time. I think Jesus was telling this story to the disciples so that they might "mind the gap."
Jesus was getting into quite a bit of trouble with the religious authorities too - for all the attention he was giving to the gaps and the margins. For healing, for forgiving, for teaching with authority - the religious powerful where quite upset at all the "gap minding" Jesus was doing. So I think he also told this particular story to remind his disciples that all this gap minding in this world, makes a difference in heaven too. Ultimately Jesus shows us how to conquer the ultimate gap between life and death on the cross as he closes the great chasm and shows us the way to eternal life.
And it's not like gaps have gone away in our world. I mean take a flight anywhere in our world and just after the plane levels off a smartly dressed flight attendant usually comes back and swishes shut that see threw curtain creating a giant chasm between the front of the plane and the back. And heaven forbid you cross that line to use the bathroom in the front. That is unless you fly Southwest - they don't have any classes at all and it's just a free for all.
There are things in our world that keep us apart and keep us from seeing the Lazarus in our world. I remember once working at the Welcome Center at Holy Communion, a Friday feeding program for folks facing homelessness in the city of Philadelphia. I remember eating lunch with a lady who said, "I wish people would just look at me, really make eye contact with me." She went on to explain that so often people avoid making eye contact with folks on the street. "I mean I don't care if you don't give me anything, but at least acknowledge that I exist." How can we be people who "mind this gap?"
I think that our trouble with being people that mind the gap - is that too often our biases get in the way of being agents of resurrection.
I watched a TED talk this week, noted diversity and inclusion speaker Vernā Myers, in it she talks about traveling all over the country for talks and training and how she was once on a flight when she heard the voice of two women from the flight deck. Her immediate response was, "yes, GIRL POWER!!" As the flight was getting ready to descend for landing they hit a patch of rough turbulence. Suddenly the voice of the female pilot was not so reassuring to Verna, "I hope these ladies know what they are doing," and she wanted the voice of male pilot in control. Caught up by her own biases she confessed that sometimes they can catch us off guard, but if we can name them, notice them, see them, and walk boldly towards them -- we can begin to see the Lazarus that sits at our gate.
Because when it comes to crossing the boundaries of our world - Jesus shows us the ultimate example on the cross. Crossing the great chasm that was fixed between our sin and our redemption - set between life and death - Jesus +CROSSED+ it for us.
And following his example we notice all kinds of people in our world - minding the gaps of our world that keep people apart because of their socio-economic position, political persuasion, sexual orientation or presentation of their gender. We share a banquet table that is open to all - because there is nothing that keeps you on the other side of the chasm - we are all united in God's amazing love. Which means that we share what we have in this life and in the one to come.
We can mind the gaps of our world - there is a story of agency in this gospel lesson - we can do something about it in this world. Because we are the people who believe in the resurrection from the dead - we believe that Jesus makes all the difference in the world, both in this world and the one to come. Amen.
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