I did not go to church this past Sunday; I however did go to my prayer table, I lit some candles and pulled up the lectionary page on my phone. I opened my bible, I wanted to read and hear what you were reading and hearing.

The Gospel reading was from Luke. Take a minute to re-read this passage.

Luke 16:19-31
Jesus said, "There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who longed to satisfy his hunger with what fell from the rich man's table; even the dogs would come and lick his sores. The poor man died and was carried away by the angels to be with Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried. In Hades, where he was being tormented, he looked up and saw Abraham far away with Lazarus by his side. 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.' 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. 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.' He said, `Then, father, I beg you to send him to my father's house-- for I have five brothers-- that he may warn them, so that they will not also come into this place of torment.' Abraham replied, `They have Moses and the prophets; they should listen to them.' He said, `No, father Abraham; but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.' 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.'"

I looked at the time, it was 10:15 a.m., Ann would be preaching on this Gospel passage in a few minutes. I thought to myself, what will she say? To me this lesson is designed to scare the be-Jesus out of us. As with many parables, the teaching uses extremes, the super-rich and the super-poor, heaven and hell, there is no grey, there is no you and me because we don’t see ourselves as that rich or selfish or that poor and helpless. How do we find ourselves in this parable? 

luke-gospel-melanie-blog-9.28.jpgSt. Gregory wrote that every time the sacred text describes a fact, it reveals a mystery. Both are needed for the Christian reader, fact and mystery. The facts are given to us quite clearly, don’t be stingy and unkind to those less fortunate than you, for the price you will pay is worse than you could possibly imagine and there is no going back. The mystery however is a different story. Mystery has unseen layers, and nuance and most of all it is a mystery given specifically to you as the living word of God.

But in order to find what the mystery will reveal you must give it your time, that is the first step. You must give it your mind and your heart and then you surrender your soul to the God who is waiting for you. To me all parts of us are necessary if we want to really understand and allow ourselves to be loved by the God that made us.

To me this is what it means to “pray the scripture”, this is what the living, breathing word is about. The pain, suffering, poverty, loneliness, fear we feel and the world feels often aren’t the same this year as they were last year. The health, wealth, and abundance we experience and the world experiences are often not this same one month to the next.  How are these outward symbols of our inner life?

Scripture and life are messy. It’s easy to avoid them, yet it’s the path into the mystery that brings us closer to God in a way that transforms us. Our views, our actions, our gratitude, our hospitality, our beliefs mixed with our fears and pain and humanity will be altered. One way to dive into the mystery is through prayer. And for many of us prayer, like exercise, takes practice and discipline. There is a wonderful opportunity at Christ Church this fall to delve into the mystery. The Prayer 101 group will offer Centering Prayer and Lectio Divina. It starts the first week in October and runs through the week before Thanksgiving.  These groups are held from 7:00 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. on Tuesday and Thursday evenings and they are drop in groups. Look for details in Parish Life and on our website. What mystery does Luke’s gospel about Lazarus the beggar and the rich man hold for you?