Sermons



Rev. Andrew Cunnington
25th September 2016
Not In The Right Shape

I don’t know if you’ve ever treated yourself to a SPA break weekend. They’re not cheap but let’s face it we all deserve a bit of pampering from time to time and you know what they say about money, “Well you can’t take it with you”.

And Jesus told them a parable “There once was a rich man”.

I think we got a good deal really with our break. A “his and hers” twenty four hour special. Lovely comfortable hotel. Nice soft bed. Welcome bottle of bubbly and the first thing they give you is your own pure white fluffy dressing gown and cosy luxury slippers and you can swan about in those all the time if you want.

And Jesus told them a parable “There once was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen”.

The food well, I tell you. Superb evening meal and because we were staying overnight you could have a couple of drinks. Breakfast, well didn’t know where to start really, and then a buffet lunch. I was still full from breakfast, but I tried to do it justice, having paid for it, you know.

And Jesus told them a parable “There once was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and feasted sumptuously every day.

I’d never had a full body massage before> it was very relaxing and then you could sit on this wonderful hot bed and have a coffee brought to you before wallowing in the pool and perhaps nipping into the sauna. You could forget about everything and everyone.

And Jesus told them a parable “There once was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and feasted sumptuously every day, and at his gate lay a poor man.

I often think about what it must have been like to be dragged towards Calvary as Jesus was. Beaten, scratched and bruised and hardly able to stand.

“At the rich man’s gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, full of sores”.

He was starving too was Jesus and on the cross when they had finished their torture he cried out “I thirst” and they lifted sour wine on a stick for him, laughing as they did so.

“At his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, full of sores, who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table”.

Starved of love too. That must have been the worst thing. For the Son of God to cry out to his Father and get no reply. To see friends fleeing for their lives. To hear the crowds deriding him as he hung there, and the unrepentant thief haranguing him.

“At his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, full of sores, who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table and moreover dogs came and licked his wounds.

In Vienna I think it was, I stood before a hideous depiction of this Gospel story. That horrible flabby rich man, tucked up in bed, trays of food in front of it, some of it carelessly spilt on the bedclothes, women attending him, musicians serenading him, animals gnawing away at the food he threw in their direction and Lazarus, practically a skeleton, trying to clamber in through the open window and being pushed away by a servant.

Don’t like this parable at all. Didn’t like that painting, and why because there is too much of me to be found in the despicable rich man and it reminds me that I have far to go to inherit the kingdom of heaven.

My life and Christ’s life as far apart as the rich man and Lazarus sometimes.

And come on, you’re the same, the comfortable, quiet life, you can’t beat it.

But let’s take this a bit further than simply wallowing in guilt. Let’s look at the one thing that unites the rich man and Lazarus.

Neither of them are in good shape. Neither of them is fit for a future of any description. This life is all there is, they must have both been thinking. The rich man with all his wealth. The poor man in his extreme poverty. My guess is that neither of them could see an end to it.

Both lives are one act plays with no intermission. A beginning and a middle and an end all caught between the years of our span of life on this earth.

We have a hope beyond this, but we need to get ourselves into shape if we are to proclaim it properly.

For the mentality of the day and the temptation of the day is that this life is all there is and so there is nothing to get in shape for. Nothing to hope for, and that is why we get so angry with one another when we get into each other’s way over things that don’t really matter.

In his great book “How Shall We now Live” by Sam Wells, the writer is contrasting the flabbiness of an outlook where there is no eternal future, with the need to get into shape if you believe in something good up ahead.

He says that the purpose of Jesus’ life on earth is that he is getting into shape to meet with us. He is becoming as we are so that he may love us ever more deeply and that it is on the cross that we see that form becoming real. God in training to meet with us. God getting ready to meet with us as if we were that important to him, and in the story of Jesus we see that shaped.

The reality of rich man and poor man find a unity in him and from that emerges a citizen of the kingdom.

He offers us this meeting place wherever we are and whoever we’re with. He is getting himself in shape for love of you. Can we cast aside our aspirations for personal comfort at a human level to be present at such a meeting.

A good number of us are straight off to Iona after this service. Some good company. Some nice meals. A SPA and a swimming pool. Beautiful scenery. But there is the weather forecast and the threat of wind and rain and choppy seas up there. Rather chilly. A bit too remote for the usual creature comforts. What no cash point machine…not anywhere? In the pull between the rich man and the poor man in us, will God have his way.

How will each of us look at our lives if we come to see that the full body massage, the fluffy dressing gown and the luxury slippers do not bring salvation, not on their own anyway. Not if we see that there is more than one act to this play.

 
 
Luke 16:19 –end