Vicar's Musings for Ordinary Sunday 10
10 June, 2018
As I've often said, ministry with those experiencing homelessness is in our DNA at St Peter's. It is a ministry firmly grounded in Biblical tradition, and made explicit in the teachings of Jesus. In Deuteronomy 15:11, for example, to choose just one passage from hundreds in the Old Testment, we read: "Since there will never cease to be some in need on the earth, I therefore command you, 'Open your hand to the poor and needy neighbour in your land.'" The breakfast program at St Peter's was founded in 1992 by a small group of parishioners after the 7.15am weekday Mass, and is named after a character in one of our Lord's parables: Lazarus. We will be reflecting on the parable after Mass today, at our 1pm Forum, so I will reproduce it here in full.
Jesus said to the disciples, "There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who longed to satisfy his hunger with what fell from the rich man's table; even the dogs would come and lick his sores. The poor man died and was carried away by the angels to be with Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried. In Hades, where he was being tormented, he looked up and saw Abraham far away with Lazarus by his side. He called out, 'Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in agony in these flames.' But Abraham said, 'Child, remember that during your lifetime you received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in agony. Besides all this, between you and us a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who might want to pass from here to you cannot do so, and no one can cross from there to us.' He said, 'Then, father, I beg you to send him to my father's house — for I have five brothers — that he may warn them, so that they will not also come into this place of torment.' Abraham replied, 'They have Moses and the prophets; they should listen to them.' He said, 'No, father Abraham; but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.' He said to him, 'If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.'"
Although at face-value this looks like a parable of judgement, I would argue (and will do at the 1pm Forum today) that this is a parable of care as much as judgement. As with all scriptures, we need to be careful how we use them. Our theology, and the lens with which we read scripture, is paramount.
I do hope that you will be able to join us today, at 1pm, after High Mass for the first in a series of three forums entitled: "Lazarus at the Gate: homelessness ministry at St Peter's, past, present and future." Today, as well as myself, the panel will consist of Christy Thiagarajah, a faithful member of the weekday Mass community since 1992 when the Lazarus Centre was founded; and John Hendry, a conference speaker and practitioner in positive psychology, who will help us to reflect on our legacy of homeless ministry in terms of "care" and "gratitude".
The Rev'd Dr Hugh Kempster
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