This week, we have a powerful story of reversal, the world turned upside-down. Or rather, right side up. This parable is what Mary sang about in the Magnificat way back at the beginning of Luke’s Gospel. The poor are filled with good things, and the rich are sent away hungry; brought down the powerful and lifted up the lowly. Here it is acted out in the parable Jesus told to those who were ridiculing him because they loved money more than God’s kingdom.
But is this a parable about the someday of heaven or the call for justice today? The only answer is yes! This is a both/and story. It is about what God has in store for all of creation. It is an Advent message here at the end of September—a teaser, perhaps, of that glorious season to come. This means we are looking to God’s promised future, even as we work to make today look as much like that promise as we can.
Yet, while life after death is an element of the parable, this is not really a story of heaven. It is a call to holy living. It is an invitation to listen to the prophets and the law and to live as though the kingdom was already among us.
What gulfs do we see around us; what divides people in our communities? How might we speak into those gaps? Whom do we lift up in prayer as a way of acknowledging those marginalized? What doors do we need to open as a way of becoming more inclusive? How might we pray so that God can direct us to see the truth that surrounds us?
Today, we sing of the promise; we cling to the hope of the kingdom, the relationships of the kin-dom where we are truly one in the Spirit. We celebrate the hope of who we were created to be, even as we embrace what is within our reach and acknowledge what we need divine help to realize. Let our testimony be of crossing the gulfs that exist between us, of overcoming barriers and differences in order to be one body, one family. Maybe the worship team should ask the office to do a demographic study for the congregation to discover the level of homogeneity, but also to compare to the neighborhood surrounding the church building. What gaps do you see? What bridges have already been built and what gulfs still need to be crossed?
Worship is a model of life in the kin-dom of God. What the prophets described, what Mary sang, what the law defines, what Jesus lived before us, is the aim of our worship expression every time we gather. It is our joy to cross the gulf and, by the Spirit’s guidance, build the kingdom.
Rev. Dr. Derek Weber, Director of Preaching Ministries, served churches in Indiana and Arkansas and the British Methodist Church. His PhD is from University of Edinburgh in preaching and media. He has taught preaching in seminary and conference settings for more than 20 years.