This morning’s readings dovetail perfectly with our current themes of Christian Social Witness and Stewardship and our responsibilities to our neighbors. In the gospel reading from Luke we have a rich man, possibly even a member of the royal family. He dresses in purple and fine linen which could be afforded only by the very well off. We are told that he eats very well every day. In contrast his neighbor Lazarus is very ill and very hungry and presumably very poorly dressed with no place to rest and no place to find comfort in his distress. When they both die, Lazarus is comforted and rests in peace in the bosom of Abraham while the rich man has a grand funeral and finds himself tormented in Hades. Their roles have been reversed. Why is this so? We have not been told that the rich man ill-treated Lazarus. He did not call the police and have him removed. He did not meet with the Neighborhood Association and put up “No Loitering” signs or make rules about who could live in the neighborhood. The rich man’s sin appears to be the fact that he totally ignored Lazarus that he didn’t see Lazarus’ needs for basic health care and a simple meal or recognize Lazarus as a fellow child of God. Even in death the rich man’s contempt for Lazarus is apparent when instead of addressing Lazarus directly he asks Abraham to send Lazarus to bring him water for relief of his thirst and again the rich man asks Abraham to send Lazarus to his brothers to warn them to change their ways.
In our baptism we promise to repent and to turn to Jesus and to believe in Jesus Christ. In our baptism we are welcomed into the family of God where we are all beloved children of God. We promise to live our lives so as to bring honor and glory to God, to embrace our neighbors as brothers and sisters in the family of God and to actively fight to correct the injustices found in our society and to treat all people with respect and dignity.
Our vestry has spent a lot of time visioning St. James’ future, identifying who we are and what Ministry God is calling us to. The mission of THE Church is to restore all people to unity to God and to each other in Christ. The ministry of St. James’ in Albion is to build relationships within our St. James’ family and with our neighbors through our Food and Education ministries to fulfill our vision as a Christ Centered Community, loving God, our neighbors, ourselves and all of God’s creation.
Your vestry is working on a five year plan and our ten year aspirations for the future, our plan for how we will stretch and grow into our baptismal vows. Over the next few weeks we will be asking for your financial pledge for the coming year and your continued commitment of your time and talents to support our internal and external ministries.
A large portion of our 2017 budget will be for our overhead expenses, our costs for existing, for being in business so to speak. These costs include our ability to pay our payroll, to keep the lights on and to open our doors for weekly worship and to pay our diocesan apportionment to support the work of the diocesan, national and global church. We also look to the future when we will need a new roof for the parish hall, the need to bring the electrical wiring in the rectory up to code, the need to add dehumidifiers so that we can use our Sunday School rooms in the lower level and to save for future payroll commitments.
I am proud to be your rector where we have a beautiful new sanctuary and fine music and choristers so that we can give joyful praise and thanksgiving to God. I am pleased that we provide Christian Formation with “Weaving God’s Promises” for the children and youth, book studies and Bible Study for the adults, and have just begun a confirmation class for four. We ARE a welcoming and affirming community who are willing to struggle with what that means for us personally and as a family as we face the challenges of a rapidly changing society. We are a vibrant group engaged in our church and in our community with floats in the parades, purse bingos, volunteering for Healthy Baby Days, weeding petunias, and Vacation Bible School, providing community suppers, Reading Camps and our new venture, Albion Community Gardens.
A true measure of the sincerity of the vision and ministry of an organization is the percentage of the budget that is designated for this work. Over the next few weeks your vestry hopes to provide some transparency on how we are doing. Are we a tithing church who provides at least ten percent of our budget towards our outreach ministry? Do we feed the hungry and fight to end the injustices that cause hunger and despair? Do we welcome the other and forgive them for being different from us?
The rich man in this morning’s gospel asks Abraham to send Lazarus back from the dead to the living so that they would change their ways. Abraham replies that the living have Moses and the prophets, that even if a man rose from the dead his brothers would not change their ways. O God help us to remember that a man has risen from the dead that you sent Jesus Christ to us proclaiming the Good News of the Kingdom of Heaven, teaching us to repent and follow the example of Jesus, commanding us to love God and to love our neighbor as ourselves. O God help us to see the hungry, the sick, the unloved and to provide food, health care and love, and to fight tirelessly to end the social injustices that cause these problems in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.
Mother Darlene Kuhn
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