Sunday’s Scripture ~ Luke 16:19-31.
This week the South Shore Family will be joined in worship leadership by Rev. Josh Bell. Josh is an elder-in-full-connection in the Florida Conference. He serves in extension ministry, meaning that he serves beyond the local church while maintaining his ordination credentials. Josh is a grant writer for the incredible Community Hope Center in Osceola County – an organization that serves daily to eliminate poverty through proactively addressing justice issues faced by persons experiencing homelessness. One of Community Hope Center’s present initiatives is transforming the property of a closed United Methodist Congregation into affordable, purpose-driven, community housing!
Learn more about the Community Hope Center’s amazing work by visiting www.hope192.com.
Josh also serves as adjunct Religion faculty at Valencia College in Orange and Osceola Counties. He teaches classes in World Religions and in inter-religious dialogue. Josh has a true passion for gathering with folks around tables for engagement, encouragement, and enrichment.
He also has three of the most precious boys ever!
Thank you, Josh, for sharing your gifts and leadership at South Shore this Sunday!
Sometimes our faith is confusing. Sometimes the holy text we use to guide and shape and ground our faith is confusing.
There are many Scriptures that could be drawn upon that affirm these paradigms:
Wealth + Health = God's Favor and Prosperity
Poverty + Disease = God's Disfavor and Punishment
A person beginning his or her reading of this Sunday’s text could acknowledge the presence of these paradigms. The rich man prospers. The poor man suffers. And it is well. It is – the people believed – as a result of generations of Scripture reading and interpretation in conversation with life experience – as God intended.
Until it isn’t.
Because Jesus is Jesus and in being Jesus completes a total role reversal. The one who prospered in this life is in agony in the next…the one who was lying among the dogs now sits an as honored guest at a royal feast.
Upon seeing Lazarus the Rich Man – because of these present paradigms – could have passed Lazarus by because of the notion “This is what God intends. Who am I to interrupt what God is doing?”
Pastor and theologian Fred Craddock observes that some church people have used this same reasoning to refrain from helping those experiencing hunger and homeless.*
Friends, that is not the Kingdom of God. That behavior is not becoming of residents in God’s Kingdom. I agree with Craddock, “Wherever some eat and others do not eat, there the kingdom does not exist, quote whatever Scripture you will.”**
I am grateful for agencies, organizations, and ministries that actively serve to eliminate the gap between people and resources – between people and basic human rights. Agencies like our United Methodist Committee on Relief. Organizations like Community Hope Center. Ministries like Backpacks on a Mission. These initiatives help us tell the world a different story. These initiatives help us tell the world God’s true story – where the lowly are lifted, where the last are brought to the front, where the least are drawn to the center as Christ’s circle of friends ever-expands.
“Oh, fix me, oh, fix me, oh fix me;
fix me, Jesus, fix me.
Fix me for my journey home,
Fix me Jesus, fix me.
Fix me for my dying bed, fix me Jesus, fix me.
Oh, fix me, oh, fix me, oh fix me;
Fix me, Jesus, fix me.”***
*Interpretation: Luke 196.
**Interpretation: Luke 197.
***“Fix Me, Jesus,” The United Methodist Hymnal 655.