11 June 2006

Homily for Trinity 1

Homily for Trinity 1 (2006)

Why Abraham? Why not say: “He went to heaven” or some such? What’s so special about Abraham and his side that he gets picked out?

Abraham was not a poor man, after all, not by any measure. A wealthy man - every bit as rich as the rich man in the parable, if not far richer. So why pick him? We get a clue if we remember what happened when unknown visitors appeared on Abraham’s doorstep by the Oaks of Mamre? Do you recall?

“When he saw them, he ran from the tent door to meet them and bowed himself to the earth and said: ‘O Lord, if I have found favor in your sight, do not pass by your servant. Let a little water be brought, and wash your feet and rest yourselves, and after that you may pass on - since you have come to your servant.” And then Abraham and his wife prepared an unbelievable feast for these three men. Sarah kneaded up 21 quarts worth of flour (Pastor Feicho tells me that amount to 187 biscuits per person!) and made cakes and Abraham had his servants prepare a young calf, and served it with curds and milk. A feast indeed. And all for men he never knew. Just because they landed on his doorstep.

Do you see the contrast then with the other rich man - the one in the parable? He can call Abraham “Father” but this is not a case of “like father, like son.” This son may have shared Abraham’s blood, but he did not share his mercy, his kindness, or his faith. His faith did not extend itself in hospitality to any who came to him. His was a life without mercy.

Think of our lives today. We are so busy. We run from one thing to the next. Is it any wonder that loneliness is epidemic among us? We have neither time for the silence of withdrawal for personal reflection nor the time for hospitality, for welcoming people into our homes. And we’ve simply accepted this state of affairs as normal. Today’s Gospel challenges that.

In Bible Class a couple weeks ago we were looking at another passage in Luke’s Gospel - chapter 11, verse 41. There Jesus said: “But give as alms those things that are within, and behold, everything is clean to you.”

Give alms from within - in other words, our mercy, our hospitality, can never just be a matter of setting THINGS in front of others: gifts to buy them off so that they leave us alone. What we must give alms of is the stuff within: our very selves. Lazarus hungered for more than just the crumbs from the Rich Man’s table. He hungered for a friend to talk to, to share with. It was the Rich Man himself that could have provided for Lazarus - not just “charity” (as we’ve come to think of it) but love, giving alms of self to another. Time, friendship, and food.

That’s how Abraham was. He didn’t just give food to strangers and walk away; he welcomed them to his home. He celebrated that they had come to him. And that, of course, points to the true Son of Abraham: He who, though He was rich, yet for our sakes became poor that we through his poverty might become rich: our Lord Jesus.
God didn’t just send us some food so that we could put fuel into our bodies and keep on going. With the food, God gives Himself. That’s vital. That’s what the Eucharist is all about. “A loaf of bread, a jug of wine, and thou.” That’s salvation. It’s what human beings ache for in the depths of their heart whether they know it or not.

When our Lord went to His cross He embraced fully the horrid loneliness that we fallen humans have chosen for themselves. He took it all into Himself and out of that horrible depth He cried out. “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” Entering that loneliness and filling it with His forgiveness, His love, His presence, He destroyed it forever. Sin is always loneliness - man going his own way: “they have turned every one to His own way.” But when “the Lord laid on Him the iniquity of us all” the power of sin to separate us from Him - and also from each other - was broken entirely! Loneliness is destroyed by the Son of Mary!

And it is no accident that He shared a meal where He gave more than bread to His own - where He gave them His very self, His true body and blood. “Do this as the memorial of me!” he told them. As the memorial of the One who was not content to give things - but who gave Himself.

Our turn now. We know that we still feast at the table where our Lord gives us Himself - the Body that shattered the grave and the Blood that forever blots out the handwriting against us. He gives us Himself without holding anything back. The Father sends us the Son who sends us the Spirit to bring us to the Son who brings us to the Father. That is how entirely God has given Himself to us. And we know that this is life.

Such life then He sets before us on His Table. If gathering together and receiving from God the gift of Himself pours life itself into us and renews us - how can we ever fail to see that what happens here should not be a blip on the screen of our lives? What happens here in this holy place manifests what all of life is created and meant to be! All that it can be when it is lived by faith in Him! Do you think it was an accident that when the Spirit came upon the disciples at Pentecost, one of the things we learn about them is that “day by day...together breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts!”

In their homes as in our ours, in every one of them, stands a table. Whether we are single or whether we are married; whether we are blessed with children or whether we are not. In each home there stands a table, and that table testifies to the will of God for us humans: to be family to each other, sisters and brothers of the Son of God. Such a simple vision God has: all of us members of one family, eating from one table, and giving ourselves fully and completely to one another. No such thing as strangers to each other, because every human is a welcome guest! Simple, but powerful. And that’s life! It starts here, it goes on forever in eternity.

Let our tables at home begin to reflect the heavenly Father’s table. Be done with token charity, and instead open wide our hearts, our lives, yes, our homes to each other and to all whom God brings our way. Rejoice to extend to others the hospitality of Abraham, knowing it is a joyous reflection of the hospitality of Him who has gone before us to prepare us a place at His Father’s table and a welcome in His Father’s home, to whose Kingdom may He grant us all to attain through His mercy and love for mankind. Amen.

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