Closing the chasm
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. Luke 16: 26
Jesus speaks more about economics, riches, and the poor more than any other single topic; far more, in fact, hundreds of time throughout the four Gospels. He was seeing, as a man who grew up in meager circumstances himself how the powerful and wealthy held on to what they had at the expense of the poor and needy. Jesus says, very plainly, that our wealth and power can be a HUGE obstacle, a chasm, a gulf, between the understanding and reception of God’s grace and its application in our lives. But more than wealth itself it is the indifference that money and power can instill in us toward those whose lives are spent going without. We pretend, like the rich man in Luke’s parable, not to see the Lazaruses of the world; that is the danger. We generally live in communities where we don’t see those who are systemically going without but that isolation can, in and of itself, become a chasm where we separate ourselves from seeing the pain of our fellow humans.
Christ calls us into community for many reasons and a powerful one, I am convinced, is so that we will see, share, and lean into the pain of our brothers and sisters in our parish family, our neighborhood, and in the wider world. When we come together in Christian community and hear the good news of Jesus – and see the suffering world through His eyes – we are encouraged not to look away from our own complicity in unjust systems, ideologies, and practices. At the same time, we are reminded that the grace of God is intended for all and we understand that we not only don’t look away from the suffering of the world, we run into that suffering with the good news of Christ’s love; a good news that needs to be shared not only in word but in how we take care of each other. Stewardship is only one way that we reach out into the world both by providing for mission and outreach but in keeping this place as a staging area for moving out into the world. We also strengthen ourselves here in community with the knowledge of God’s universal and unending grace. Read Luke 16 this week and pay particular attention to verses 19-31 and all that it tries to teach us. We need not be consumed by guilt because of what we have or what we do for a living; that, too, can be a gift, as long as we are prepared to use some of what we have to bridge the gulf that threatens to keep us from any or all of God’s children.