Remember Paul Harvey? Maybe you do; maybe you don’t… but he would always say something about “the rest of the story.” And that’s a helpful reminder, isn’t it? That there may be more to know about what we think we know!!
So, now for the rest of the story! Last Sunday’s text came from Luke 16… the stark parable of the rich man and Lazarus. It’s a story about the reversal of fortunes: Lazarus suffers in this life but is comforted after he dies; the rich man enjoys all the pleasures of this life but suffers after he dies. It is also a story about how important it is to pay attention, seeing and responding to human beings in need around us. But as with many of Jesus’ stories, there are layers of meaning we may mine as we dig time and time again. So, now let’s explore the rest of the story (or at least another facet of it!)!
Ever been confronted with the realization that what you had believed all your life no longer fit you? That you stretched beyond it or grew apart from it? That some new experience or insight reframed it or even shattered it? That it didn’t resonate with a broader view you’d come to embrace? That’s the rest of this story. The rich man (sometimes called “Dives,” the Latin word for “rich”) assumed the gods had smiled on him because he was wealthy, comfortable, blessed. In the worldview of the day, the only explanation for such good fortune was to believe you had found favor with the divine. The other side of that coin was to assume that the poor, needy, oppressed of the world had done something awful to deserve such a fate. So, it was no wonder that the rich man felt no compulsion to do anything about Lazarus laying at his doorstep!
Enter Jesus with a completely different take on the scene! Jesus with his connection to a very different God. Jesus with the rest of the story to tell! Minds and hearts need to change! Assumptions need to be examined! Beliefs need to stretch and bend and even break! And all for the new Kingdom underway! God cares deeply about humans. And God seeks to work through other humans to meet the needs of humans! The New Creation doesn’t operate on a system of rewards and punishments! Grace abounds! Mercy overflows! Love knows no limits!
So, now you know the rest of the story! Or at least another facet of it! When we stand in its light, what do we see in ourselves? Are there assumptions in need of fresh review? Beliefs that could use some fresh air? How might God be inviting us into a new realm that doesn’t operate the way we are comfortable with? What might Jesus hope that we will hear as we dig into his stories time and time again?
All Scripture has 70 faces according to rabbinic tradition. How many do we see?