In our story today Jesus tells us about a man who is very wealthy. He wears fancy clothes, he eats fancy food, he is surrounded by his riches. The rich man is surrounded by the walls of his home, which protect him and all of his riches. While right outside of his home, right on the other side of the walls, just past the gate is another man Lazarus. Lazarus, who wants so badly to have even the smallest portion of what the wealthy man has set before him. But Lazarus is all but invisible to the rich man. Now in practical terms I am sure that the wealthy man can physically see Lazarus. But you can see someone without truly seeing them. You can see someone and not see them in their full humanity. And this is the wealthy man’s relationship to Lazarus. He does not see that Lazarus is hungry. He does not see that Lazarus is hurting. He does not see that Lazarus is in need. He does not see Lazarus as being of equal worth to himself.
I don’t find it very helpful to paint the wealthy man as a bad man or evil. And neither to paint Lazurus as good or the hero of this story. It’s their relationship to each other that is valuable to us tonight. Let me see if I can illustrate this with another parable written by a woman named Chesca Leigh.
In the garden there’s a caterpillar and a snail, and they are basically best friends. They hang out 24/7 they do dinner, movie nights, crafts, and whatever else caterpillars and snails do. One day they are on their way to a party that is right outside the garden, and they have to go through the fence to get there. The caterpillar goes right through but the snail is stuck. Her shell is too big to fit under the fence. So she says, “Oh no, I can’t get through can you lift up the wire or maybe we can build a bridge or something.” And the caterpillar is like “Dude, just go under.” But she can’t there is just no way that the shell is going to fit. The caterpillar says “Come on, hurry up, we’re going to be late.” And it’s just not happening, there is no way for the snail to get through and at this point she is getting frustrated because it is not like she doesn’t want to go to the party but for some reason caterpillar just isn’t getting it. She says, “It’s not that easy for me I can’t just crawl under stuff. Maybe we can go around.” And this sets caterpillar off “What! Just because I can crawl under stuff doesn’t mean I have it easy. Do you even know what it’s like to have 16 feet? Finding shoes is a nightmare!” Snail responds, “Woah, woah, woah, I’m not saying you have it easy, I’m saying I have shell and there is some stuff that is harder for me just like I don’t know anything about finding shoes because I don’t have feet.” Caterpillar thinks about this for a second and realizes the snail is right. He’s never had to think about shells or slimy trails. But snail has to think about these things all the time. That’s part of being a snail. They have been friends for so very long and yet they had never really seen each other.
It’s kind of like that for every one, right? We all have our own struggles and challenges. Some big, some small. Some in our control, some not. Whether it be our age, family system, race, gender, sexuality, ability, opportunity, et cetera.
Our work is to meet each other, to be in relationship with each other, to listen to each other. What can we do in our own lives to truly see each other? To see where each other are hungry? To see where each other are hurting? To see where each other needs help? To see each other as being of equal worth to our self? To see each other in our full humanity?
As Jesus closes his parable, if we do not pay attention to the prophets, if we do not listen to the prophetic voices of today, how else will be convinced to care for each other. We must look. We must listen. We must meet each other.