New Hymns for the Lectionary
Proper 21C - Gospel

Where Saints Have Landed
TEXT: Mark Ryman (2004) based on Luke 16:19-31.
TUNE: "Hamburg" by Lowell Mason (1824).

There was a gulf fixed between you and me
and I could not see to that distant shore.
It was as wide as the Aegean Sea—
troubled by waves and horror of Thor.

I was engulfed by the swell of my soul
and could not find my way through the abyss.
The surf was high from the view of that shoal;
I wondered much if a god exists.

So God sent down lightning to show the way
back to the coast from which I was stranded.
This Light of Life turned my dark into day,
revealing where saints have landed.

If you would find your way back to God’s shores,
do not wait long like the rich man in Luke.
Lazarus is no more covered with sores.
but that rich man suffers God’s rebuke.

The Lesson - Luke 16:19-31

       There is a great divide between the saintly and the not-so-saintly. This chasm does not neatly exist in language; it is more subtle than words can sometimes shade. If you look for an antonym for saintly, you find devil, fiend, jerk, and the like. Sometimes the difference between a saint and the opposite is not so stark in the eyes of the world. It is however, absolutely so in the eyes of God.
       There are two principal players in today’s lesson: a man who seems quite proud of his station in life and another whose life has become a bloody mess (literally). The first dresses himself in splendid clothing and makes a pompous showing of himself at the entryway of the city. One gets the idea that he does not merely show up for work at 9 and leave for home at 5, passing through the city gates twice a day. He wants to be seen more often than that so he might pass that way often or even hang out there for awhile.
       The problem with wanting to be seen is that you miss what God wants you to see. Begging at the gates was Lazarus, covered with sores and suffering greatly. No man seemed to tend to his illness but dogs noticed him and licked his wounds. The rich man could have done much better by poor Lazarus than these dogs. But he did not and this makes him seem less a man than a dog.
       If God sends dogs to care for his children when men fail to do so, surely it can be inferred that God wishes his children to be neighborly. The rich man would not see Lazarus as neighbor. His only neighbor was the man who noticed his high station. As you pass Lazarus, do not ignore him, for in doing so
you ignore God. In order to truly love the Lord your God, you must love Lazarus as yourself.

© 2004, Mark E. Ryman

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Mark E. Ryman