Sermon-Retiring Time: September 29, 2019

Except for one small detail: every morning his eyes see, but his mind ignores, a man sitting in squalor next to his gate. He’s careful not to hit the guy, but he’s also careful not to remember him.

Living the dream: his senses are flooded with beautiful sights, sounds, tastes, touches, and scents. What more could he ask for?

Isn’t this what we wish for our own lives? And when something ugly appears, don’t we also want to remove it from awareness?

Whether we’re worth millions or living off maxed-out credit cards—we all want this sensuous dream, because in our culture the 5 senses are central.

Our culture has made philosophical materialists out of us all. To be a materialist doesn’t necessarily mean we want lots of expensive stuff, but rather it means, according to one definition, that “matter is the fundamental substance in nature, and that all things, including mental states and consciousness are results of material interactions.” 

Non-material things, like soul, spirit, god, truth, beauty, are at best useful fictions for enhancing our safety and comfort. Likewise, generosity and compassion are useful only if they improve our quality of life.   

The rich man in this story is a materialist who has it all, and has it all together, until he is confronted by the hard fact that soul, spirit, and God are more real and more important for his well-being than house, car, and job.  

He may go to synagogue every Sabbath, but none of the readings or prayers penetrate the hard shell of his materialistic worldview.   

When his comfort disappears in Hades, he realizes the poverty of a life built only on his physical experiences. But let’s be careful here: We should not take this parable to mean Jesus is teaching that after death God punishes sinners with eternal, conscious torment.

Rather, the vision of Hades in the parable points to the fact that each time the rich man ignores the suffering Lazarus, he is tearing the fabric of his soul. He is undermining the foundation of his humanity created in the image of God, who is Love.

When he ignores Lazarus, he is also ignoring The Law, and the Prophets. He is ignoring his truest Self. He is depriving himself of Living Water and Divine Light.

In short, every day the rich man ignores the suffering of his neighbor, he is slowly constructing hell inside himself. And as his soul bleeds out, the more he has to caffeinate in the morning, worry at work, and drink at night.  

Bob Dylan once asked: “How many times can a man turn his head and pretend that he just doesn’t see?” As long as he can mask the pain of living without the eternal treasures and pleasures of Spirit.

He is a dead man walking, a zombie, in a world created by the false assumption that matter is all that matters. Like the guy who builds a new barn to hold all his stuff and then dies in his sleep.  

This is why the Prophet Amos is so insistent when he sees this happening in 8th century Israel. He says, “Alas for those who are at ease in Zion… Alas for those who lie on beds of ivory,
and lounge on their couches…who sing idle songs, drink wine from bowls,
and anoint themselves with the finest oils,
but are not grieved over the ruin of their nation as they ignore the will of God to care for the poor and the stranger in the land!”

And it’s why Timothy must tell the materialists in his parish:“…not to be haughty, or to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, cause you can’t take it with you, but rather to set their hopes on God and…to do good, to be rich in good works, generous, and ready to share…so that they may take hold of the life that really is life.”

And what is the life that really is life?

True Life awakens in us as we risk living inside the Kingdom of God. The realm of God first becomes visible in Jesus and his ministry, as he shows us what it looks like to live inside God. As he forgives the sinful and heals the suffering; as he tells stories of a father that loves both sons, of wedding banquets open to all, of Father-Mother-God who sends blessings on saints and sinners, Jesus reveals what it’s like to live inside Divine Presence.  

First, Jesus creates in us the ability to believe Divine Life is upon us and in us. Second, Jesus empowers us through the Spirit to share God’s overflowing forgiveness, healing, and welcome with those who need it. Each week we come together to ask Christ to renew in us the Divine Life and Love, and refill us with his Spirit to take to the world.

Let me get personal for a moment—because today you and I are entering a time when we will need Christ to renew in us the presence of the Kingdom and our commitment to Christ’s ministry.  

Here’s the deal: four months from today, at the end of January 2020, I will be retiring from full-time parish ministry and stepping down as your rector.  I have been doing this work for over 41 years and God is calling me to practice my ministry in some different ways—primarily through writing and teaching.

During the next four months you and I will celebrate our time together and the good things Christ has done through us. I could not have imagined such a happier or better last 7 years for my ministry. You are a wonderful community and it has been my joy and honor to share Christ’s ministry with you.

After I leave your wardens and vestry will work with the diocese to call an interim rector and then the whole parish will go through a process to discern afresh what God is calling All Saints’ to be and do. This will require everyone pulling together, exercising their spiritual gifts, as Christ brings into focus who God wants to be the 14th Rector of All Saints’.  

I know there are a lot of questions, so at coffee hour the Reverend Canon Martha Hubbard will talk with us about what is ahead.

Let me end with what we heard from 1st Timothy today:  “But as for you, people of God, shun all love of money…. Fight the good fight of the faith; take hold of the eternal life, to which you were called and for which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses…. so that you may take hold of the life in the Kingdom that really is life.”