Summary: Where is God in a world that doesn’t make sense? God can be found intimately involved in the world, hidden by our preconceived ideas, and limited spiritual imagination.
Luke 16:19-31 “Living in a Topsy, Turvy World”
I once read that Native Americas, the Sioux to be more exact, at one time in their history participated in what they called a Sun Dance. As part of the dance, men would allow themselves to be skewered through their pectoral/chest muscles. They would then dance for hours seeking a vision from their sun god. When I read this story of the sun dance, I was shocked. It appeared barbaric and sadistic.
People listening to Jesus tell this story of the rich man and Lazarus would be just as shocked. It went against all of their values and all that they thought to be good. Riches were signs of God’s blessing. Riches meant that God was please with the individual’s life and had given that individual a sign of God’s approval. Poverty was a sign of God’s judgment. Poor people had angered God; their suffering was a result of their sin.
This was a parable about a topsy, turvy world.
DIFFERENT CUSTOMS AND DIFFERENT COUNTRIES
Faye and I have had the opportunity to travel to various parts of the world. It has been interesting to observe and to come against different customs.
· In Spain, evening meals aren’t served until around 8:00 at night. The party doesn’t start until 10:00 or 11:00 and goes until 4:00 in the morning. For a morning person who usually eats supper at 5:00 or 5:30, this was quite a shock.
· The Japanese are leery of foreigners. They stare at you, whisper behind your back and won’t sit next to you. We consider such actions as rude and racist. For the Japanese, they are natural actions of those who are aware of their cultural and ethnic identity and who seek to keep their traditions pure.
· While traveling to Mexico, a person might just as well throw his or her watch away. Time doesn’t mater to them as much as it does to us. This was a major adjustment to a person to is as connected to the clock as I am.
SOME CUSTOMS ARE BETTER
The customs that we have in the United States are not always the best customs. We can learn from some of our neighbors on this planet called “Earth.”
· Generally speaking in Europe, meals are a central part of the day. Families and friends gather for meals, and when they do they sit at the table talking and eating for one or two hours. In a society where we consume fast food in seconds and communicate with others via post-it notes on the refrigerator, such a custom is a definite improvement.
· The Japanese where surgical masks in public, if they have a cold or flu. Any one of us who has been coughed or sneezed upon can appreciate how wonderful it would be if we would adopt such a custom in the United States. The Japanese often place community above self. We will never where surgical masks in public because it would draw negative attention to ourselves and it would take away from our looks.
· The Scandinavians are fanatical about preserving the environment. If there is a conflict between human desires and nature, nature almost always wins. In a land of polluted rivers and ground water, and where we don’t think about the natural resources because there are so much of them, this focus is appealing.
THE NEW WORLD THROUGH THE CROSS
Jesus died on the cross so that we might become citizens of a new nation; subjects of a new kingdom.
· Our value is not based on how much we possess, but on the fact that God loved us so much that God gave us God’s son to suffer and die for us. God’s love is total and steadfast. God is constantly moving in our lives to convince us that we are worthy of God’s love because we are God’s creation and God wants to love us.
· One of the judgments upon the rich man in the story was that he was self-centered. He did not attend to the needs of the poor man sitting just outside his door. The kingdom of God places importance on others. We are invited to love and serve others because of what God has done in our lives.
· Society in the United States is focused on the here and now. In the kingdom of God we live as eternal beings; we view our lives beyond the confines of time. This doesn’t make us late, but it does give us a different perspective on life.
We are aliens, ex patriots, living in a foreign land. It is tempting to adopt the customs of the country where we live, but God always reminds us that we are God’s people who do and say things differently. The topsy, turvy customs of the kingdom of God allow us to live the abundant life that Jesus gave us through his life, death and resurrection.