On Our Doorstep

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Monday, November 17, 2014 – Proper 28, Year Two

[Go to Mission St Clare for an online version of the Daily Office including today’s scripture readings.]

Today’s Readings for the Daily Office:

Psalms 89:1-18 (morning) // 89:19-52 (evening)

Habakkuk 2:1-4, 9-20

James 2:14-26

Luke 16:19-31

Our readings today show us that our greatest fear should be the gulf between the rich and the poor. According to these Scripture passages, the gulf between rich and poor can destroy society in this life and divide humanity after death. These readings use the language of the Lord’s anger and of Hades to convey how deeply the gap between rich and poor should terrify us.

In the first reading, the prophet warns God’s people against building houses that are set apart from others. In the words of this prophet, “Alas for you who get evil gain for your houses, setting your nest on high to be safe from the reach of harm!” By putting property values above all other concerns, the wealthy no longer have to deal with poor neighbors. But in doing so, “You have devised shame for your house by cutting off many peoples.” The prophet predicts that violence and destruction will result.

In the second reading, the letter warns people that faith alone cannot save us. As the letter says, “If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,’ and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.” It is deadly for us to keep our faith to ourselves without clothing and feeding others.

Finally, the gospel tells us the story of a rich man and a beggar named Lazarus. Unlike some wealthy homeowners, this rich man isn’t completely isolated from his poor neighbors. Lazarus the beggar lays at the rich man’s gate, hoping to eat a few crumbs from the rich man’s table. Presumably, the rich man walks past or steps over Lazarus each day.

After both the rich man and Lazarus pass away, the gospel story tells us that their fortunes are reversed. Because the rich man received his good things in this life, he spends his afterlife in agony. And because Lazarus received bad things in this life, “now he is comforted.” But unlike in this life, the rich man and Lazarus can no longer commune with each other: “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.” In this image of the afterlife,

the rich and the poor are irreversibly divided.

Whatever the afterlife looks like, and whatever the future holds for this world, the Scriptures have a resounding message for us: Bridge the chasm between the rich and the poor . . . before it’s too late. We need to be neighbors to each other, and reach out to one another, while we have the chance.

Lora Walsh blogs about taking risks and seeking grace at A Daily Scandal. She serves as curate of Grace Episcopal Church in Siloam Springs and as director of the Ark Fellows, an Episcopal Service Corps program sponsored by St. Paul’s in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

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