“Between you and us a great chasm has been fixed…”
I’ve been thinking a lot about this phrase this week. In Luke’s gospel account, the Rich Man is pleading with Abraham to save him from the torments of Hades, and yet Abraham refuses him. His response is that there is a great chasm between those in heaven and those in hell which cannot be crossed. How did this chasm start? According to the gospel reading (Luke 16:19-31), it was because the rich man ignored Lazarus. He ignored his illness. He ignored his begging. He ignored his need. Because Lazarus was essentially invisible to the rich man, the chasm was created.
In seminary I was introduced to the writings of Gustavo Gutierrez, a Latin American theologian. Guiterrez believed that stories of the gospel highlight Jesus’ relationship with the poor as a way to remind us how to love one another. For Guiterrez, it could be said, the chasm between the rich man and Lazarus should have never existed to begin with, and yet, this is the condition in which we live.
At the 10am service, we will be honoring the ministry of Ed and Patti Browning. When Ed was installed as the 24th presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, he said, “There is a pain beyond these cathedral walls which most of us can barely comprehend”. This “pain” is a result of the chasm that we have created between “us” and “them”; the chasm between the privileged and the marginalized, between the hungry and the ones who eat the sumptuous feast, between the visible and the invisible.
When I think about what the Good News is for us in this story of the rich man and Lazarus, it’s that we have a unique opportunity to bridge the chasm that has been created, and possibly prevent future chasms. How do we do this? Supporting ministries such as the Crop Walk, the Warming Shelter and the Emergency Voucher Program. All of these programs serve those who are invisible in our community. We heal the chasm when we volunteer, when we offer prayer, and when we exchange the peace. And when we love one another not because it’s easy, but because it’s our calling as disciples and opens us to the possibility of experiencing God’s love more fully, then we are working to eradicate that pain that Ed spoke about. As Guiterrez explained, “…as church people…an attitude of service presupposes sensitivity to listen to others…[it] inspire[s] us to incarnate the great values of the reign of God in our history”.
I want to end with this prayer today:
God of Abraham, Moses and the prophets, your covenant binds us as sisters and brothers: help us to overcome the scandal of invisibility, the fixed chasm of indifference and to recognize you in the wounded among us; through Jesus Christ, the Builder of Bridges. Amen.
(adapted from Prayers for an Inclusive Church)
I don't know what the future of the church is, but I know that we will continue to be a place of sanctuary and hope, working towards healing in the world.