Feb 5, 2005

Sermon Title: I'm Lazarus

Amy Kirsten Strydom
M.Div. Student, Luther Seminary
Honorable Mention, Feburary 2005 Round
I am fairly well off, though I am sure there are more people better off than me. I am supported by my husband, and with a stipend given to me by the congregation that I work for. We have fancy clothes to wear (because I have to be presentable you know), and a soft bed to sleep on (because if I didn’t get my sleep, I would be really difficult to work with), and I think plenty of food and other luxuries. My husband thinks that the pets eat better than we do, but I think he’s just exaggerating the fact to get a bit of pity. We eat a well balanced diet, why shouldn’t the cat and dog, after all, we made the choice to have them and look after them.
(Lazarus: Karen)
I'’m Lazarus.

I am thirteen. I live with my family in Bethlehem. We had to move to my uncle’s house because the soldiers said we had to leave our house. My uncle says that the Lord is protecting us, but I am still scared. Pastor says that there is a room for me in God’s house and Jesus is coming back to bring me there. I wonder what it looks like.

The congregation that I work for has lots of activities going on: Bible studies, council meetings, choir practices, circle meetings! Almost every day there is a group of people gathering to read God’s Word and pray for each other. Come to think of it, there are also a number of groups dedicated and devoted to doing things for Lutheran World Relief, the Crop Walk, and Habitat for Humanity and Food Pantry. These groups are trying so hard to open the eyes and hearts of others in the congregation so that they can share what they have. Even the Sunday school classes and youth groups are encouraged to do some sort of service for the community.

Some of the folks asked if I wanted to get involved-- but I am so busy with this and that. I mean, they should be grateful that I show up on Sundays and put in my time here... maybe if I just smile and nod, and say a few encouraging words, they won'’t expect too much from me.
(Lazarus: Glenn)
I'’m Lazarus.

I got laid off because the company found somewhere new to put their plant. There is no work for someone like me, so I wait monthly in the unemployment line. I am ashamed that I can'’t provide for my family and it is wearing on me. I have no desire to keep up my appearance and sleepless nights are eating away my hope. Don’'t the people in those offices understand how their greed affects others? Where are you God? Where is your providence? My enemies eat great feasts while my family suffers! Where is my vindication?

On another note, there is a lot of greed in the world today. Some companies are discontinuing health benefits for their employees because it cuts into their profits. Some businesses are laying off a large number of people because robot work is cheaper. And this whole concept of out-sourcing… I keep hearing about companies who are building factories and offices in other countries. Maybe, it is to help those countries. How can you know? How can you tell what is true charity for others and what is greed and what is just plain survival? Don’t get me wrong, I agree that people here have a right to work and get paid a livable wage for their time, but, I have to admit, I do like my Low, low, prices…and, well, let’s face it, people in India and China and Japan work for less, and so the savings are passed along, right? What can I do anyway? Isn’t that what grace is for?
(Lazarus: Lisa)
I'’m Lazarus.

I live in Arusha, Tanzania. I have a disability and have to be in a wheelchair. My family has put me out on the street to beg so that I bring in some money. No one will hire me because of my disability and it is unfair. Why must I beg when my mind is alert and I am able to learn? Don’t blame my family; they do what they need to do to survive. I trust that God will provide and Pastor says I will be made whole at the resurrection. Please don’t look down on us.

And, it is getting close to the holiday times again... so every time I go to the store, there is someone standing there with a bell or a can asking for change or anything I can give... I say I don’t have any change, but something still haunts me. Jingle, jingle... I just want to tell them to go away and stop interrupting my world with their announcements that people need help. I know people need help, but what'’s that got to do with me? Quit spreading your gloom into my picture perfect world. You make me feel bad.
(Lazarus: Bob)
I'’m Lazarus.

I am poor, ill, and hungry. I lay here at this gate, hoping that he will heed the Word of the Lord and give me justice, or at least pity; for pity would be something... pity would give me a coat or a bag of leftovers. But everyday he passes me by, in his gilded carriage; in his fine clothes... I am invisible to him. I am worth less to him than the dogs and rodents that eat the crumbs off the floor. When I die he will neither mourn nor rejoice over my absence for he did not even acknowledge my human existence. O Lord, have mercy on me, a pitiful beggar.

Then, to top it all off, I found that I had to preach on the text about the rich man and Lazarus! Talk about a story that makes you think about your life! How ironic that the rich man who started out with everything, ended up as the beggar! And Lazarus, without so much as a word in the story, ends up on the lap of Abraham! Abraham tells the rich man that Moses and the Prophets tell his brothers exactly how to repent of their sinful living... and they should listen to them; because if they don’t change because of their warnings, why would they be convinced to change by someone raised from the dead? What a confusing thing to tell him. I mean really, who even understands what the prophets are saying? Which prophets? Here, here, why can’t Lazarus just stand up and say, “Here I am”? It would be so much easier... besides the only one I know that has been raised from the dead is... hold on... I... I'’m the rich man... I have been the one who has ignored Jesus command to feed his sheep... But I thought... sharing the bread of life was just telling them about Jesus. I remember now his words,
"“when I was hungry, you gave me food, when I was thirsty, naked, in prison, lonely... you took pity on me... for whatever you do for the least of these, you do for me.”

Oh Lord, have mercy on me! You have given me great riches and abundant blessings, yet before you, I am a pitiful beggar. Turn me around, give me ears to hear and wisdom to understand... help me to trust that following you will lead me to Lazarus. Lord, who am I that I should stand before your people, yet you give me words to speak of your grace and mercy, so that in the proclamation of your Word, others may hear and repent. Lord Jesus, hear my prayer.

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ, Hear the Word of the Lord! Your salvation does not depend on you finding Lazarus. Lazarus is not a means to an end or someone that can be manipulated and used for your benefit. Lazarus depends on you forgetting about yourself and hearing him, seeing him as a person, a whole person, worthy of the body and blood, death and resurrection of Jesus, worthy of your love and compassion, your actions of justice and social responsibility.

If we don'’t care for Christ in our midst, who will? In this life, we may be the rich and blessed, but before the cross of Jesus, we are all stunningly clothed, pitiful beggars waiting in hope for the day we, too, are sitting in Abraham’'s lap. And when we are sent out from here, we become broken bread in the life of Lazarus. Can you hear him calling, “
"I’'m Lazarus.”"