Year C, SUNDAY 26  

Sept 25 - Oct 1

 

 

Luke 16: 19-31                                                                                                            (Sermon 1: “Well I’ll be Damned?”)

1 Timothy 6: 6-19

Jeremiah 32: 1-3a & 6-15         (Sermon 2: “Some Jeremiah Real Estate”)

Psalm 91: 1-6 & 14-16

 

 

PREPARATION

 

It’s time to lighten up, folks!

 

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God,

and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you all.

And also with you.

 

We are travellers with Christ on the way to a glorious future.

This church is a resting place where we can catch our breath,

look together at the guide Book for pilgrims,

pray for guidance on the road ahead,

and eat and drink from the unique provisions

which our Lord has provided.

 

Make the most of it. Permit God to make the most of us.

 

            OR —

 

Fellow children of God,

for any of you who despair because they fear that life no longer has meaning,

for any who cling to anger because it seems the only thing that keeps them going,

for any who are so lonely that their hearts feel withered and desert-dry,

for any who have turned to self-pity rather than to repentance and healing,

and for all those who come here today contented and thankful for many blessings—

this house of prayer is filled with

the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,

the love of God,

and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit.

 

So,

lighten up, will you?

 

PRAYER OF PRAISE

 

Glorious are you, Creator of heaven and earth;

Your handiwork is all around us.

Glorious are you, Saviour of the lost,

Your words and deeds are our light and salvation.

Glorious are you, loving Spirit of Truth,

You renovate and enlarge the lives of your people.

 

God most wonderful, we worship and adore you.

Amen!

 

CONFESSION AND ASSURANCE

 

Come my sisters and brothers, come with me in prayer to the God who has mercy  and will abundantly pardon.

 

Let us pray.

 

Merciful God, we are not very good at making a adequate confession of our sin. Sometimes we don’t feel particularly repentant about anything. At other times we can get guilty about trivial matters, yet miss seeing the larger picture and our more grievous faults.

 

Yet we realise that everything we think, feel and do, becomes contaminated by the foolishness and evil around us and the folly and evil within us.

 

Loving God, you have been very patient with humanity.

Please continue with that saving patience.

Look upon and within each of us as we bow before you.

Uncover and reprimand everything that is evil and all that is second best.

Create in us a spirit of honest repentance.

Enable us to get rid of self justifications, and to make room for your forgiveness and renewal.

 

Dear Saviour Christ, please enlarge the healing work you have commenced, and bring us nearer that hour when our liberation shall be complete. For your love’s sake.

Amen!!

 

ASSURANCE OF FORGIVENESS

 

It is time to lighten up!

It is written for our encouragement and peace: “The love of God is shown to us, in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.” My friends, believe this remarkable Gospel and live with the liberty of Christ.

Amen!

 

PRAYER FOR CHILDREN

 

            Feeding the Hungry

 

It really upsets me God,

            when I see on the TV

            the faces of starving children.

 

Help me, and all well-fed people,

            to share what we have

            with those who have much less

            or even nothing at all.

 

In Jesus’s name.

Amen!

                        from “Prayers for Aussie Kids”           Ó  B D Prewer & Open Book Publishers.

 

OR

 

Dear God,

whenever I get down on myself,

or come on heavy against others,

will you please tell me to lighten up?

 

Whenever I get self important,

talk big and try to impress others,

or think I am better than others,

please tell me to lighten up.

 

Whenever I worry too much

about bad  things that can happen,

remind me of the love of Jesus

and tell me to lighten up.

 

Whenever I get guilty and gloomy,

about things I have done wrong,

or won’t even tell mum or dad,

give me the sense to confess to  you

and be able to lighten up.

 

Thanks  God.

Talking to you does lighten things a lot.

Amen!

                                                            Ó B.D.Prewer 2006

 

PSALM  91: 1-6 & 13-16

 

You who live with the Awesome Friend,

and rest in the shade of God’s love,

shall say to the most Holy One:

“My Home, my Triune God in whom I trust.”

 

For God shall free you from cunning traps,

and save you from threats to your soul.

 White feathers of grace shall cover your sins,

and divine wings shall give you safe rest.

 

God-shielded, the night shall not frighten you,

covered by grace, no arrow shall pierce you.

No midnight stalker shall harm your soul,

no midday threat shall ever destroy you.

 

You shall stamp on beastly temptation,

you shall trample the devil under your feet.

God shall save those who cling closely,

and lift up those who call God’s name.

 

When we shout for help, you God, hear us,

when under pressure, you will be with us.

You will make us content with a full life,

and display your wonder-full love.

 

                                                                                    ©  B.D. Prewer 2000

 

LIMERICKS FOR THE RICH

 

Dives was a rich man of the East

who dined each day on a feast.

A wreck at his gate

would sit there and wait,

but Dives didn’t complain in the least.

 

Dives never questioned his lot,

nor banned the man from that spot,

he just drove in and out

without any doubt

that each deserved what he got.

 

Dives was a man of great style,

who wore a contented smile,

but the beggar’s foul smell

like an odour from hell,

made him close his door for a while.

 

                ©  B.D. Prewer 2000

 

COLLECT

 

God our most certain Friend, your have displayed in your Son Jesus that pure poverty which is eternal wealth. Heal your people from the fever of wanting possessions, that enjoying what we truly need and sharing from our abundance, we may experience that liberty which filled the soul of Christ with unstoppable joy. For your love’s sake.

Amen!

 

SERMON 1: WELL I’LL BE DAMNED?

 

Luke 16: 26

 

\Between us and you is a great gulf; we cannot pass over to your side,

and your side cannot cross over to us.

 

The story of Dives and Lazarus, of the rich man and the beggar at his gate, discomforts us; as it has every generation since Jesus told it. It is a warning about the dire danger of wealth to the human personality.

 

Affluence can desensitise us to the rights and needs of other people. I would suggest that in 9 times out of 10, rich people hardly notice the poor, and if they do, it is with a sense of irritation: “The are wasters. They deserve what they get.” When money gets a hold on us, other human beings cease to matter. Most shareholders of big companies do not know, nor do they want to know, how much human misery pays them the handsome dividend.

 

Consider this quote from a letter. It is from an big engineering firm to a government agency.

 “Following our verbal discussion regarding the delivery of equipment of simple

construction for the burning of biological waste, we now submit our plans for the ovens,

which are fired by coal and have hitherto given satisfaction.”

 

Now that sounds like typical business letter, doesn’t it. Well it was.  It was all very tidy and efficient. I doubt whether the man dictating it thought much about it. I doubt whether the typist lost much sleep over it.

 

It happens to be a letter from the awful era of Nazi rule in Germany. It is a tender to supply gas ovens in which to incinerate the bodies of Jews and those other victims who were herded into death camps. When profits are at stake, the most awful inhumanities can be covered with the polite phrases of business practice.

 

Where money and possessions are god, people do not matter. The affluent very quickly become desensitised to the suffering of others. Then it is a case of “Well, I’ll be damned.”

 

THE RICH MAN AND POOR MAN

 

In the parable of Dives and Lazarus, Jesus  is trying to get under our defences and confront us with the damnable disregard we have for the less fortunate.

 

In it he uses some of the common imagery of Paradise and Hades which was current at that time. He takes well known imagery and uses it to paint a frightening picture of the significance of our disregard for the needy.

 

The poor man died and was carried by the angels to the embrace of Abraham.  Then the rich man died and was buried. From the torment of Hades he looked up and saw long way away Abraham and Lazarus close beside him And he called out: Father Abraham have some pity and send Lazarus to dip his finger in water and cool my tongue..

 

You will notice that Dives did not do anything to harm the sore-covered beggar squatting by his front gate. He did not lay a finger on him or order him to be moved on. Maybe he would even have been content if a servant should take waste bread from his table (the bread on which he had wiped his greasy or sugary hands) and gave some to the beggar.

 

Dives did not hurt the beggar. The community had already done that most effectively. Dives just ignores him. But the rich man acquiesced in that social structures through which he was maintained as a wealthy man, yet others were kept ‘in their place’ down the socio-economic scale. He was content with things as they were. They suited him very will, thank you.

 

Day by day, centimetre by centimetre, the rich man’s comfortable life style had been digging a trench between himself and the have-nots of this world. A trench that widened and deepened into a great gulf: a chasm in the eternal, moral order of things which nothing was likely to cross in life, and nor in death.

 

Think about that gulf. Jesus wants us to think hard about it.

 

THE GREAT GULF

 

Between us and you is a great gulf; we cannot pass over to your side, and your side cannot cross over to us.

 

A great gulf, huh?

 

Jesus is using a picture of the coming afterlife to address the present moment. Jesus is saying: This selfishness is a damnable way to live. It is damnable now, not just in the future.

 

It is self damnation; we dig the gulf ourselves. We don’t need any jury to convict us, nor any judge to damn us. We damn ourselves by our attitudes and choices. We damn ourselves by the things we do not do– just as much as by the things we do. The parable is about self damnation.

 

There is a mighty gulf between indifference and justice. A jawning chasm between apathy and love.

 

There is a gulf between Hades and Paradise, which runs right through our community.

 

FOCUS: THE RICH MAN AND HIS BROTHERS

 

The focus of the parable is on the rich man, not on the poor man. The rich man and, later on, his affluent brothers who continue to live in a way that damns them.

 

Who are these brothers and their sisters and their children, and their children’s children? Are they among us today?

 

You may want to say: “Hey! Wait a moment. We are not rich. That indictment might apply to Rupert Murdoch and Jamie Packer. It cannot have anything to do with us.”

 

Not so fast, O ye of quick side steps! We may not be rich compared to the top 12% of multi millionairess in Australia. But why, when we talk about being poor or rich, do we compare ourselves with those above us in wealth? Why not compare ourselves with those below us?

 

Compared with about 15% of Australians at the bottom of the economic heap, nearly all of us here (maybe not all of us) are the wealthy.  Compared with 80% of the people of the world, most of us are among the extremely wealthy. 

 

So do not allow yourself to wriggle out from under the heavy message of this parable. Even though it hurts, even though it raises anxiety, even though we may not find any easy answers, please let this parable confront us.  I would far prefer that we live with uneasiness and painful self examination, than to settle down into that cushioned gulf-zone of insensitivity which is the world of the damned.

 

THE RICH THINK THE POOR ARE THERE TO SERVE THEM

 

I wonder did you notice, according to the parable,  what tough hides the rich have? When Dives, trapped in Hades, wants someone to warn his 5 brothers, he looks for a messenger, a flunkey to carry a message to his comfortable brethren.

 

Dives asks Abraham to send Lazarus back from the dead to warn them.  Did you get that touch? Even in hell the rich man sees the poor as the servant of the rich. Even from paradise they are expected to be at the beck and call of the rich in Hades. Send back that beggar Lazarus from the dead to warn my brothers.

 

“No way”, says Abraham. “They already have the teaching of Moses and the prophets; that should be enough”

 

However, rich men are not accustomed to being refused. Dives argues: “But if a person should come back form  the dead, they will repent.”

 

“Don’t fool yourself,” says Abraham. “Even if some one came back from the dead they still would not repent.”

 

Resurrection will not change the attitude of those who are self satisfied. The affluent are in a comfort zone, where calls to repent will seem rather peripheral and irrelevant.

 

THE PARABLE AND US

 

Where does this parable find us?

Is it a case of “Well I’ll be damned?”

 

I will not presume to answer that question on your behalf.  Nor I have the desire or intention of berating you or condemning anyone.

 

Believe me, I have enough on my own plate in dealing with my own soul on this matter..

 

Jesus leaves me wondering: Have I become so insensitive that I now feel good and righteous about giving mere scraps to the poor.

 

It makes me think about the chasm that can surely open up between me and others less fortunate.

It warns me that I am capable of damning my own soul, yet feeling very comfortable in it.

It cross examines my soul as to whether even though Jesus has risen from the dead, am I still unrepentant?

 

What about you?

 

If this parable does not throw us back to grace; where we cling to the mercy of God, and seek renewal, nothing else will. By grace we can be saved from our own damnation, and set free to love others as God intended.

 

 

SERMON 2: BUY SOME JEREMIAH REAL ESTATE?

 

Jeremiah 32: 8b-10

 

Then Hanamel my cousin came to me in the prison compound with the guards..... and said to me “Buy the field that is at Anathoth in the land of Benjamin, for the right of possession and redemption is yours.” I knew that this was the very word of the Lord.

So I bought the field at Anathoth from Hanamel my cousin. I weighed out the money to him, seventeen shekels of silver. I signed the deed and sealed it, got witnesses and weighed out the money on the scales.

 

What am I offered for a block of land in Jeremiah’s subdivision?

Today I dare you to invest in some of Jeremiah’s real estate.

 

But don’t expect to make a quick buck by quickly selling it on at profit. With this kind of property you have to be willing to be in it for the long haul. Keep your nerve and stay with it and I can promise you that the final dividend will truly be out of this world!

 

A question: What on earth am I talking about?

Answer: I am talking about faith in God’s faithfulness. Having faith in God’s faithfulness.

 

JEREMIAH IN THAT SITUATION

 

Let’s explore the situation in which Jeremiah found  himself.

 

To start with, he is in detention.

It’s about the year 600 BC. This incident where the prophet  buys a block of land, actually happens in the prison compound with the guards looking on.

 

Why was he there?

Because Jeremiah has dared to keep speaking the truth in the name of God in the face of official condemnation. He attacked the decadence of his nation, both in religion, morals and politics. He annoyed the rich and the powerful, and upset the boss– king Zedekiah. They wanted to silence him.

 

His prophecies were not welcome.

He insists he speaks the word of God, warning that the unrepentant nation has sinned against God so often, that now there is no hope. The nation is under  judgement. They were going to lose the war against the army of Babylon. At the very time when King Zedekiah and his “spin doctors” were trying to bolster confidence among the people, Jeremiah preached doom.

 

You can understand the official anger.

This man Jeremiah was undermining the war effort. (Vietnam? Iraq? Afghanistan?) The “war on terror?”) He was a traitor, destroying the morale of the citizens. No wonder they had him arrested and detained without trial. The fellow had it coming to him. What else were rulers likely to do?

 

But Jeremiah kept on doing what God wanted, proclaiming the truth and hoping against hope for some repentance. It did not come. Jeremiah was mocked and abused. He was arrested and incarcerated.

 

We don’t know how many people shared Jeremiah’s views. A silent minority, I guess. That is how it usually goes.

 

One person stood faithfully by him.

This was his secretary, a scribe named Baruch. If it were not for Baruch keeping a record of what Jeremiah said and did, he may well have sunk without a trace in the quicksands of history. Thanks to Baruch, two and a half millennia later, we have a precious document of 52 chapters. Chapters which testify to Jeremiah’s faithfulness, his rejection,  his desolation and his suffering.

 

CATASTROPHIC DAYS

 

Jeremiah purchased the land at Anathoth at a bad time.

It was in the final period before the kingdom of Judah fell to the Babylonians. We read that it happened in the 10th year of Zedekiah’s reign, and in the 18th year of Nebuchadnezzar. At that time the powerful army of the king of Babylon was besieging Jerusalem, and the city was not far from collapse. In spite of the Jewish king’s propaganda efforts, most citizens were in despair. Before long, many of them would be massacred, and others taken prisoner and dragged off to captivity in Babylon.

 

You can be sure that the value of real estate had fallen to zilch.

Cash and jewels which might buy diminishing food supplies, or which could be hidden until after the city fell and some kind of order was finally restored, was the only things of value. What good was land? The Babylonians were taking it anyway.

 

Enter a wily cousin of Jeremiah. Hanamel.

This guy no doubt saw his dear cousin Jeremiah as a religious nut, out of touch with reality. He decided to cash in on his cousin’s naivety. He came to the prison and offered some family land at a price which, before the war, would have been reasonable.

 

But God had already told Jeremiah of the scheme, and asked him to buy the land anyway.

 

Why?  To declare God’s sovereignty!

Because to dare buy the land when everything was in political and social disintegration, was to proclaim that God was still in charge. The chastisement a faithless nation would be severe. Many years would go by. Yet when the time was right, God would bring a remnant of the Jews back to their homeland and to their holy city. In the long term, a remnant would return to fulfil their special mission to bring the light of God to the whole world. God would not give up.

 

To buy the land at Anathoth was an act of incredible faith.

The current situation was disastrous but it was not completely hopeless. God was in charge. Jeremiah paid the cash and had the deeds to the land in his hands. The glorious future might be delayed because of the infidelity of the chosen people, but it would not be annulled. Jeremiah would not live to see the new day, but it was promised by a God whose words was never broken.

 

Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: “Take these deeds...... and place them in a pottery jar, that they may last for a long time.”

For the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel says: “Houses and fields and vineyards shall again be bought in this land.”

 

GOOD TIMES RELIGION

 

Many nice folk seem to have lots of pretty faith when things are going well.

But most of them will buckle and wobble when things turn nasty. Too numerous are such good time Christians, the fair weather believers..

 

Such “pretty faith” may not shake when disasters happens elsewhere.

Misfortune in Eretria, or Bangladesh, or Guatemala, does not matter. We even retain our Christian equanimity should people we once met die in a plane crash in Turkey, or a road accident near Alice Springs. Maybe our faith holds firm if neighbours or workmates are hit with disease, unemployment, or serious accident.

 

But then, out of the blue, something grave happens to us .

Or to those very dear to us, and our “pretty faith” shatters and we turn bitter: “How can there be a loving God when this happens to us! To hell with religion! To hell with the church!”

 

The faith of Jeremiah was made of more resilient stuff.

The fear and desperation that stalked his people was frightening. The catastrophic destruction, chaos and desolation that was to engulf them was absolutely hideous. Yet Jeremiah remained true to his God and paid 17 shekels for a block of land in Anathoth.

 

For the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel says: “Houses and fields and vineyards shall again be bought in this land.”

 

A FAITH FOR SHAKY TIMES

 

We, the very privileged people of Australia, may be a bit more shaky than we used to be. Perhaps many are not sleeping as easily as we did before the destruction of the World Trade Centre in New York, or the bombing of the night club in Bali which annihilated so many Australian lives, or the recent riots by Islamic extremists in Sydney.

have the jitters.

 

But isn’t this a very good time to buy a block of Jeremiah’s land?

Not literally of course. I mean it is a great time we put out faith in God’s faithfulness (and not waste it on expecting salvation from our favourite political parties)

 

Nothing is assured around us in the work of human hands.

“Put not your trust in princes or in any son of man.” Socially and politically and economically, nothing fixed and permanent. Only God is totally reliable. Trust nothing except God’s love and the promise that the best is yet to come.

 

The ultimate purposes of God stand.

They are not subject to the vicissitudes. of violent human behaviour or natural catastrophes like cyclone, earthquake or tsunami. What God has commenced here on earth will one day be accomplished. Every moment of the day and night, through every year and throughout each  millennium, the Spirit of the living God is at work among us. God will not be denied.

 

Jeremiah did not have the advantage that we have in this Christian era. 

We are more fortunate. God has once and for all shown by the crucified Jesus how even the gravest human evil can be transformed into light and hope and wonderful joy! Each Sunday is an Easter celebration of the triumph of purpose over chaos, of love over evil, of joy over misery and tears.

 

I DARE YOU

 

Today I dare you to invest, or maybe reinvest, in some of Jeremiah’s real estate.

But don’t expect to make a quick buck by quickly selling it on at profit. With this kind of property you have to be willing to be in it for the long haul. Keep your nerve and stay with God’s faithfulness and I can promise you that the final profit will truly be out of this world!

 

In God’s name I goad you to take the glorious risk.

We don’t even have to put up the 17 shekels that the prophet paid his wily cousin. The price has been paid, in full, by the Friend of sinners. The deeds to this Divine real estate are ours for all time and eternity.

 

 

A CREED

 

It’s time to lighten up

 

God?

Yes God!

God of Jesus and our God!

 

This mysterious, resilient Presence that we call God.

This benign Energy coursing through the veins of the universe.

This sublime Purposefulness which fills all things.

This cascading Love leaping over all barriers

This pure Grace seeking the lost and ruined with renovating ecstasy.

 

This living God, above all, in all and through all,

who is on our side, forever for us!

Who has ordained that in every moment

as we take up our status

as children of the Most High

all joy breaks out among the angels of heaven.

 

We may fear we are ordinary,

or even less than ordinary,

but we are in fact the extraordinary recipients

of a Creator-Redeemer who never gives us up

as a lost cause.

 

It’s time to lighten up!

 

God?

Yes God!

God of Jesus and our God!

We believe!

 

THANKSGIVING.

 

My friends, God does not demand our thanks, but life is so rich with good things, that for us to keep silent would be a gross indifference.

Let us pray.

 

We thank you, Holy Friend, for your open handed goodness,

catering for our needs in body, mind and soul.

            We thank you, most Holy Friend.

 

That at our birth there are mothers and fathers, to nurse, provide, and nurture.

            We thank you, most Holy Friend.

 

That when we hunger there are the good fruits of the earth to satisfy us.

That if we feel vulnerable there are friends,  neighbours, pastors and counsellors.

            We thank you, most Holy Friend.

 

That in our thirst for learning there are teachers, libraries and our own amazing minds.

That with our success come celebrations, and in our failures, support from loved ones.

            We thank you, most Holy Friend.

 

That in our sinning there is Christ Jesus our Saviour.

That in our timidity there is the breath and fire of your Holy Spirit.

That in our living and dying, around us there are always your everlasting arms.

            We thank you, most Holy Friend.

 

In the name of Christ Jesus;

Amen!

 

INTERCESSIONS

 

A poet once wrote: “No man is an island.” Our lives intersect with a host of others. Lovingly,

let us now pray for them.

 

We pray, loving God, for the blessing of your Spirit on all kinds of people with their widely diverse needs.

 

Your blessing, please,

on the sick and those who nurse them,

on workers and those who employ them,

on the unemployed and those who stand by them,

 

Your blessing, please,

on the hungry and those who feed them,

on refugees and those who welcome them,

on drug addicts and those who treat them,

and the sorrowing and those who comfort them.

 

Your blessing, please.

Pour your Holy Spirit on these folk for whom we have prayed,

and also on the many who never catch our eye

or make it into our prayers.

Through Christ Jesus our Divine Brother.

Amen!

 

    © B.D.Prewer  2010

 

SENDING OUT

 

It time to lighten up.

 

Continue your journey with confidence.

Keep faith with God, for God keeps faith with you.

 

The Christ who has called us

is able the complete that which he has begun.

 

May God shield you in every steep place,

May Christ steady you on every rough path,

May Spirit go with you through every dark pass.

Amen!

                        ( Ancient Celtic blessing)