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Launceston, The Castle, Cornwall © Mike SearleLaunceston, The Castle, Cornwall © Mike Searle

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So why did Lazarus do so well and the rich man do so badly in our Lords parable? Luke 16:19-31

Life is surely a sacred opportunity for spiritual development. If we ignore its spiritual opportunities and just indulge in sinful pleasures, we waste it and must face the consequences. We have to discover that is we live our lives driven by the seven deadly sins there will be consequences. ‘Riches’ give us that opportunity to make these mistakes

However, the poor man Lazarus would have had little opportunity:

to be proud – because he had nothing

or to be greedy - because he had little food

or to be lustful - because there would have no opportunity

or to be angry - because he had no one to tirade over

So the poor man had few wicked choices – and went to Heaven

The rich man however would have every opportunity to be proud, to be greedy, to be lustful, to be wrathful at his many employees, and be as lazy as liked. He had every opportunity to sin - every opportunity to indulge

But he is also had every opportunity not to do these things – to have faith - to have love and to be charitable

Our late Queen was fabulously rich – but worked for the service of others all her life – she did not need to work. Equally: 

She could have been proud – but wasn’t

She could have been greedy – but wasn’t – Tupperware

She could have been lustful like many of her predecessors stayed loyal to Prince Philip

She could have been envious – was not

She could have been wrathful – but she very seldom lost her temper

She could have been slothful – but the evidence is that she worked her whole life for no extra worth – for the nation – she kept up with her boxes

Surely she must have died safe in the poor man’s state of mind – and have been rewarded

Our late queen was basically and absolutely five-star granny – and a result was universally loved and respected everywhere she went.

She also had her faith which kept her up to the mark – she prayed every night

She had her routines of red boxes and royal obligations

Monastic life is full of similar supports. There is little opportunity to:

Be proud – because good monastics have nothing

To be greedy - because there is only simple food

To be lustful – because there is no opportunity

To be envious – because there in nothing to be envious of

To be angry – Because there is little opportunity

To be lazy - because the routine prohibited it

So, what about us – the lost! We must remember that in Matthew 6 Our Lord said “It is harder for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God than for a camel to go through the eye of a needle.”  gate)

I am a great believer and follower of the Franciscan Richard Rohr. This week’s daily podcast is dealing with the rich fruitfulness of the autumn of life. Older age. (https://cac.org/podcasts/)

The last periods of our lives provide us with space to reflect on life’s experiences – the opportunities taken and opportunities missed.  Opportunities to purge the physical clutter indulgence and self-seeking of our earlier years - and create space for reflection

Life really does give us the opportunity to be humble, charitable, grateful, temperate, patient, diligent and full of love.

If our Lord had been the rich man I have not the slightest doubt that he would have eaten with the poor man, regarded him an equal - and loved and provided for him as a brother

Crucially we can also remember that when Peter objected to the eye of the needle parable regarding - perhaps because he was rich - Jesus responded “but with God all things are possible.”

Let us hope and pray that this will be the case for us

In Jesus’s name Amen

Thoughts on the levels of religious messages

Personally, I like to corroborate or test religious teaching scientifically, against other religions or historically before excepting it. The Bible appears to contain several major contractions? However, this is often only because some passages elate specifically times in history and so to the needs of different spiritual cultures.

Ecclesiastics was probably written around 180 BC. However the New Testament however was created 2 Centuries later and was essentially ‘the upgrade’ a new Covenant

Ecclesiastes 3 ….. There is a time for everything, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time for war and a time for peace

However Our Lords Beatitude ….. Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God. Delivered 200 years later

The New Testament is full of non-violence. Our Lord told us to ‘turn the other cheek’ (Matthew 5:38-40), to ‘walk the extra mile’ (Matthew 5:41) with our enemies and are reminded that ‘those who live by the sword die by to sword’. How does all this relate to war in 21st Century. Let’s learn the from the lessons of history

In King David’s time, probably around 1000 BC, nations routinely went to war in the spring. Victorious armies also routinely put to the sword not only the entire opposing force or city but all their wives and children – even sometimes their animals!

We don’t do that now

In 13th Century the English fought crusades in the Holy land and captured large areas of France 

We don’t do that now

When the United Kingdom was in ‘colonial mode’, we ‘held sway’ over 50 countries - over 412 million people or 23% of the world’s population. The world was pink! This was thought to be a ‘good thing’.

By the middle of the 20th century, we had accepted the error of our ways and rightly returned the lands of our conquests to their indigenous inhabitants’. Initiating war with the world is now unthinkable – we are 21st century nation. We value being a part of the global community of nations. We avoid physical violence.

In 1949 NATO was create which is a purely defensive organisation. Generally, the developed nations are now much near the New Testament goal.

When António Guterres, the head of the United Nations, entered Kyiv on 28th April he observed that “The Russian war is an absurdity in the 21st century.”

In short, nations can grow out of war. The question arises is how do we relate to expansionist nations like Russia and China still caught in 19th Century colonial era and seemly even ignore the 159 articles of the Geneva convention

How it can the wisdom of the Bible provide an interface for us as the East and Western block confront each other? Surely, we have to speak in a language they understand and operate at - a level they understand.  This means following Ecclesiastes 3

    ‘There is a time for war and a time for peace’

However, once we come into the 20th and 21st Century powers we start to pick up our Christ’s Sermon on the Mount teaching.

    Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.

Non-violent resistance becomes both a humane and effective force. Gandhi conducted a nonviolent campaign to remove us from India and won. Ultimately, we rightly gave up our entire empire voluntarily. The Commonwealth was born

Hopefully any future ‘wars’ will be sanction driven and nonviolent. Even now China must be watching the commercial decimation of the Russian economy and ultimately the downfall of President Putin.

It is important to remember the benefits of following and living ethical teaching.

The Beatitudes use the word Blessed as the reward for following the Beatitudes. Another translates for Blessed ‘divinely fortunate’. Divinely fortunate.

History records the fates of tyrants and war mongers as being grim. Hitler died in a bunker, Mussolini by public execution, Saddam Hussain in ignominy and hanging. Malachi 4 seems whole appropriate

The transition between the states of war is appallingly painful. However, we can take comfort from the way the world has come to the aid of Ukraine just as it come to our aid in our War against Hitler. Let us pray that the Ukraine War against Russia is the War that ends wars and that we can look forward to the peace of peacemakers:

Let us look forward to a time when all nations can identify as ‘children of God’

Amen

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