This Sunday’s Gospel text gives us Jesus and a tough story, the story about Lazarus and the rich man. Lazarus is poor, neglected, abused, and dies; the rich man lives sumptuously and dies. They both go to where people believed other people went when they died in that era, to Hades, and they inhabit different parts. But this time their situation is reversed: now the rich man is in torment, and Lazarus is at ease with Abraham.
Now the rich man begs Abraham to save him from the torment; and Abraham says that he can’t. Then he asks Abraham to warn his brothers to amend their ways, and Abraham says, “They should read their Bible.” And the rich man says, “No, they really need you to speak to them personally.” And Abraham says, in a killer line, “If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.”
In other words, they don’t want to be convinced. Nothing will convince them. Not even a miracle.
In our day, what will convince us? What do we need to in order to change? Look at the streets of Charlotte: what will convince us that policing is broken? Look at our election: what will convince us that our political system is sick? Look at our neighbors: what will convince us that this economy, lumbering along, needs to be more directed to their needs? Look at our planet: what will convince us to stop burning fossil fuels and exploiting the Earth? Look at our children: what will convince us to do right by them and educate them the way the research overwhelmingly advises? Look at our own selves: what will convince to change? How do you change?
I think that only the Spirit of God can change us so deeply. We are in bondage to sin and cannot free ourselves, but the Spirit of God can break our chains, our hearts, our minds, and give us the life that is truly life. This is the Spirit Jesus poured out to us on his way to Hades.
Come, Holy Spirit. Come Lord Jesus, and let this world pass away.
The Reverend John Flack