"So, almost every day I drive by someone holding up a sign that says:
“Homeless, please help.” Or, “Will work for food.” Or, “Wounded Veteran. God Bless.”
When I lived in Virginia, there was a man just like this, that I saw every day. I saw him over and over – every day he was in the same spot. Rain or sun; day or night. And, whether it is right or wrong, whether he used what was given to him for good or ill, I almost always gave him money. In my mind I sort-of adopted him – I felt connected to him.
I doubt he hardly remembered my face from time to time, but for some reason, his stuck with me. Even my kids would say, “Hey, mom. There’s your guy…”
Don said once, “You know your guy? He’s not looking so well.” And then, I didn’t see him for a really long time. I wished I had done something else for him. But honestly, I didn’t know what that would be. Eventually he returned to the corner of Lee Highway and Sycamore Street.
At first, it bothered me that they referred to him as “your guy”. After all, I didn’t even know him, really, and it felt like such 'ownership' language. But after awhile, when I would talk about him, I called him ‘my guy’. I didn’t know his name, but he did matter to me. I needed some type of relationship language to talk about him.
He’s probably still there, I’m sure. I’m fairly certain I would recognize him anywhere. But why him?
I’ve been thinking a lot about him, because the other day, I exited 495 onto Connecticut and at the bottom of the ramp was another man, holding another sign. And I looked down, pretending I was looking at something. Pretending I didn’t see him, when I really did.
His sign, it said, “How much does it really hurt to give a little?”
Really, that’s what it said. Since I still remember that moment and what his sign said, I think maybe it hurts more to not give. The not giving has been eating a little hole in my heart.
So, why not him? Why the one and not the other? Why these giant chasms between people?
I don’t know about you, but I envision ‘The Rich Man’ on one side of the Grand Canyon and Lazarus and Abraham on the other side, with this giant hole in-between them.
The ground they both stand on is solid, firm, fixed. And, between them, carved out of that which would be whole, is this chasm, this hole.
The words which really haunt me though, especially when I confess my own inadequacies and failings to you all, is the part in this parable that says, “And besides all this, 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.”
It’s the chasm piece, the hole piece, that just makes me squirm, makes me worry. Basically, scares the hell into me. What’s Jesus’ point in this parable?
First, I’m going to need you to think back to 3rd grade when you learned about homophones. Homophones are two words that sound the same, but are spelled differently and have different meanings, like hole [h-o-l-e] and whole [w-h-o-l-e].
A hole, like a chasm, is a hallowed out place in something solid, making the whole, less than whole. This is the problem here....in this parable. There is a hole or a chasm between two people. Lazarus and the Rich Man. Between me and the man standing on Connecticut, a great chasm has been fixed.
The two men, begging on the street corner for some money, for some food, for a chance. Not so different from Lazarus. Let’s face it though - it’s not two men, it’s around 3 Million, at any given time in America that are homeless.
Their lives are not as God would have them.... God does not desire people to stand on street corners, or lie at gates, or rummage through trash. That is not the whole, abundant, fruitful life God has planned for his children.
My new little green bungalow is only going to provide so much insulation and safety. If take seriously the words, “They have Moses and the prophets; they should listen to them,” and I don’t...then I am tossing not only the poor at the gate, but myself too.
The Rich Man - he didn’t listen, really. He didn’t see, really. Why? Who really knows, but I’m guessing for the very same reasons that it’s hard for us to hear the words, “And a great chasm was fixed....”. Maybe it was just too hard to hear, too hard to see... too much to give up.
It seems to me, that the place I stand, that we all stand sometimes, is just on the edge of the chasm. We want to be relieved of distresses without having to move, change, or grow. Without having to suffer, see the unseeable, and hear the unhearable.
Often, especially in the church, we talk about being the ‘hands and feet’ of Jesus, which we are, which is beautiful. But, I think, before we can actually be the hands and feet, we have to be the ears and eyes of Jesus.
We have to see as Jesus sees. Hear as Jesus hears. Not as I hear or see; or you hear or see, but as God experiences the world.
The reason I cared about the one man was because I saw through Jesus’ eyes. I saw his humanity when I saw his wounds, his pack of cigarettes, his brown tussled hair - which at some point became a buzz cut. The day he wore a trash-bag as a rain coat and his hand touched mine a bit longer than usual as I passed him some money, his eyes met mine and he said, “God Bless you.” Jesus saw him, and I got to take part.
We miss a lot when we see through our eyes and ears. We miss seeing the scars of the world as the scars of Jesus; the wounds of Lazarus as the wounds of Jesus.
We can lie in a bed next to someone and be a million miles away, just as easily as we can cast our eyes away from the gates of hell which scatter the world. Out lives are riddled with gaping holes which seem impassible.
But Jesus promises us that the chasms can be bridged. It doesn’t specifically say that in this parable directly, but underlying it, rests that promise. Jesus promises us through this parable that when we, “See. Hear. Hold. Love. Touch. Talk....then the chasm never gets dug.”
But we know, just by looking at our own lives, there is erosion; there are holes in our lives and our relationships with others. We know that distances exist.
Jesus isn’t going to do the hard relationship work for us, but he will do it through us, if we allow him to. God wants nothing more than to bring wholeness to this world.
Jesus, we pray, that somehow you will help us to see others through your eyes and hear with your ears. Amen."