‘If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’ - Luke 16:19-31
A nameless “rich man” in Hades sees the poor man Lazarus whose needs he ignored in this life sitting beside Father Abraham and begs Abraham to send Lazarus from the angelic realm to warn his five brothers not to do what he had done – ignore the plight of those without resources. Abraham’s reply in essence is: all they need to know has already been said by Moses and the prophets – if they continue to ignore them, sending someone back from the dead will be of no use.
That is, we already have enough information on what we are expected to do in this life. It appears that all things necessary for salvation can be found in Moses/Torah and the Prophets. No need to send more messengers to do what? Repeat the same message? Yet, that is exactly what happens with Jesus Christ the Son of God. Our God is a God of second, third and even fourth chances: in the immortal words of Jonah, the man who became fish food, “…I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and ready to relent from punishing.”
I sometimes find myself wondering just what makes a Moses or a Jeremiah or a Paul or Timothy take the time and the risk to devote their lives to deliver the message: Love God; Love Others, all others; and begin by Loving yourself as I Love you.
At the end of the day it boils down to two things. First, God in Christ says to us, to all, to all the “others” in this world, “You are my Beloved; I am well pleased with you.” As I have written countless times, this is the Good News. When we are in our deepest moments of self-doubt, despair, loneliness, misunderstood, unloved, disrespected or any other place in which we find it increasingly difficult to put one foot in front of the other, remembering this can make a difference, the difference – all the difference in the world as we used to say.
This is in all accounts how the Gospels, the Good News of God in Christ, begins. As Jesus aligns himself with all of humanity, a humanity in need of washing away all the old stuff so as to begin again to live a life that respects the dignity of every human being, he comes up out of the water of the River Jordan and an off-stage voice declares, “You are my beloved; with you I am well pleased.” From that moment on Jesus carries this message to all people: rich and powerful people, the poorest of the poor, the neediest of the needy, the lost and abandoned and all who live lives of self-doubt, loneliness and despair.
When he is asked to share with them the meaning of life he tells stories that are meant to remind them of what has already been said over and over again by people like Moses and the Prophets. His mission is one of recollection, a mission of re-membering; remembering all the things we forget when life and the world around us comes crashing in on us leaving us paralyzed – emotionally if not mentally and physically. You are Beloved; there is a God who is well pleased with you. Remember this and love yourself so you can get back to loving others.
Then there is the summary of all this given to me by my spiritual guide and colleague, The Reverend Pierre Wolff: We come from Love; We return to Love; and Love is all around. Science today has confirmed – we all come from the same place. There is no such thing as race. There is no real substantive difference between people, nor between people and all other creatures. We share some 90+% of DNA with earth worms for God’s sake! All the elements that make up the world about us and the universe in which our Earth, this fragile island home, spins around a star come from just one place, just one moment in time, a “singularity” as some call it. Some call it Big Bang. Some call it God. Some just call it Love. And science confirms it will be as the Bible says – eventually we all return to that place from whence we came. We might as well call it Home for that is, after all is said and done, where we spend whatever it is we call “eternity.”
Meanwhile, we live in between – here and now. What the great spiritual wisdom of all ages and all kinds strive to say is that even while we are here and now, in between, that same Love surrounds us on all sides – if only we will stop doing whatever it is we are doing long enough to see this, to feel this, to know this, to remember this, to re-member this.
And the great Good News is that we can choose to participate in the Love that is all around. Clearly some choose not to participate. Others forget to participate. We tend to live, as another of my spiritual guides once put it, in a state of amnesia. We sleepwalk through life. We need something to break us open, to wake us up, to re-connect us to the Love that is all around; to live lives of re-connecting others, all others, to the Love that is all around, the love from whence we come to which we will eventually return.
We can all be like Moses, Jeremiah, Paul, Timothy and the countless numbers of those who came to believe: You are God’s Beloved; God is well pleased with you. We come from Love; We return to Love; and Love Is all around. We must remember this. The consequences of forgetting are too costly. And truly unnecessary. You are Beloved. You are of Love. Take a moment every day to remember this, and as the Anchoress and Mystic Julian of Norwich once put it, “All shall be well, all shall be well, all manner of thing shall be well.” Amen.