Luke 16:19-31 (NRSV)
Verse 19"There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. Verse 20And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, Verse 21who longed to satisfy his hunger with what fell from the rich man's table; even the dogs would come and lick his sores. Verse 22The poor man died and was carried away by the angels to be with Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried. Verse 23In Hades, where he was being tormented, he looked up and saw Abraham far away with Lazarus by his side. Verse 24He called out, 'Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in agony in these flames.' Verse 25But Abraham said, 'Child, remember that during your lifetime you received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in agony. Verse 26Besides 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.' Verse 27He said, 'Then, father, I beg you to send him to my father's house- Verse 28for I have five brothers-that he may warn them, so that they will not also come into this place of torment.' Verse 29Abraham replied, 'They have Moses and the prophets; they should listen to them.' Verse 30He said, 'No, father Abraham; but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.' Verse 31He said to him, 'If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.'"
In my parish calling I often sought to hold people accountable for attending church regularly and giving regularly either financially or in other ways—a parish rule was that persons who did not attend or give over a two-year period were to be placed on an “inactive” list. A friend once told me, however, that this just meant that they were placed on a different “responsibility” list, not dropped from membership.
Luke’s story teaches about divine judgment and the resurrection. The rich man in Jesus’ parable is not named, but Lazarus is. The rich man had good things and now is in anguish. Lazarus had evil things and now is comforted in heaven. Christ teaches his followers how to understand the scriptures and the promises of God in light of their fulfillment in him. We are called to invite people to repent and trust in God’s mercy. Yet God does not give up easily on the lost, or even the inactive members of our congregations.
Gracious God, may we hear the scriptures in the light of your son fulfilling them. May we be gracious in our responses to others as you are gracious in your response to us. Amen.