This morning I went to church at the American Church in Berlin. This is where I go to church when I go to church here. I have really begun to appreciate and relish the people that are connected with that place. It is a lovely group of people, diverse from all over the world and the space is beautiful (sometimes a bit cold but beautiful). I don’t go as much as I used to go to church when I didn’t have a Sunday gig for a few reasons….1. I am on leave and I now understand the temptation to stay at home or brunch with friends. 2. There are things that happen that make it difficult to be present in that when they happen I yearn to be back in my pastoral role. For example, presiding over communion sometimes adds a little twinge of missing and yearning to be in that position.
I have preached three times at ACB and have loved it. These moments remind me that part of me was created to lead a worshiping community. I have also spoken at a Lenten event and try to be present if the clergyperson and now the intern needs someone just to talk with and vent to about whatever to someone who has been there. These have been valuable people to me when I am in active ministry.
This morning I went to church and sat next to a friend, gave hugs to people I know and met new people and wanted to support the intern in her preaching while the pastor is away for a few weeks. I also really valued people like that when I was learning and growing, people who cheer me on and give me honest feedback in helpful ways. I yearn to be that person for others. Anyway, I was sitting in the pew and listening to Rachel preach about this morning’s Gospel passage. Rachel, our intern, is already a gifted preacher who pieces words together in meaningful ways. A few things struck me as I listened….
- She started her sermon by saying, “We believe in a topsy turvy God.” She went on to explain about how God turns things upside down and reveals God’s kingdom to us here on earth. I love that imagery and it certainly resonates with me.
- She also talked about how in this parable (it is the one of Lazarus and the Rich Man, Luke 16)the kingdom on earth is not comfortable and we are rarely comfortable when God does God’s thing. I started to really think on perhaps when kingdom is revealed, what does it mean that we are uncomfortable? Is that always the case? Is thin space full of discomfort?
- She did an excellent job of making sure we all stayed away from this being a parable about heaven or hell but about how we live here and now.
- And then she talked about how in this topsy turvy parable, by design, the rich man is unnamed but the poor man is named…he is Lazarus. He is referred to over and over again. Jesus did this by design. It is meant to perk up our ears. We usually name the powerful and know their names while the poor are invisible or forgotten. We rarely ask those names or remember them….
This is where I started to kind of chuckle. Not about the concept. It is a good point. A great point. Makes me remember and think and make me question my own priorities. But then I thought…Lazarus…Jesus names his primary character Lazarus…..in his storytelling this is the name he chooses.
Lazarus…like one of his best friends…
Lazarus…like brother to Mary and Martha…
Lazarus…like the owner of the home is is often welcomed into
like the guy he raises from the dead in John
like the one he weeps over
the very same name as the dude in his story. Lazarus. Now, I don’t want to say that the guy in life was the same in story but it reminded me of preachers. I often tell family and friends, and warn new friends, if you are in my life, you are fair game in sermons and writings. Preachers tend to name our friends and family in the midst of our ministry. We name drop and build our stories around the people in our lives.
Could it be that Jesus is preaching and Lazarus makes a guest appearance?
What do you think?