I never thought I’d ever be referencing Adam Sandler, Charles Dickens and the teachings of Jesus Christ all in one message… But here we go! Because, according to Luke 16, they actually do all have this one most profound teaching in common. They’re about the ability/ the opportunity that we all ALWAYS have to (1) stop, (2) re-assess our lives, and (3) make a fresh start!
Adam Sandler demonstrated that in the 2006 multi-awarded movie ‘Click’ which tells the story of Michael Newman: this exhausted & overworked workaholic architect with a busy young family all the demands that any person trying to build their career and keep their marriage afloat inevitably faces. Well, he finds this universal remote control that allows him to fast-forward and rewind his life as he sees fit! At first, that magical remote seems to be the answer, but he gets his wake-up call when he discovers how much of life he’s missed by being on ‘fast-forward!’
Charles Dickens seems to have had a similar theme in mind as he wrote his classic
‘A Christmas Tale’ some 163 years earlier, published in 1843. He was writing about the miserable miser Ebenezer Scrooge whose name has since become synonymous with all things greedy and selfish! Of course, for Scrooge, it was all about how ugly and dismissive he was allowing himself to be to everyone and everything he touched! His wakeup call came with a series of nightly visits from his ghostly partner Marley…
Both Michael Newman and Ebenezer Scrooge got to wake up from their nightmares to find that it wasn’t too late! And that was enough for them intentionally to decide to change their lives! They could both begin again!
Now all of that is very much like the story that Jesus told almost 2000 years earlier – our reading from Luke 16 today: the parable of a rich man and a poor man. The poor man has a name–interestingly enough the only name given to anybody in any of Jesus’s parables–Lazarus – which I understand is from El-azar, “God has helped.” Jesus was speaking – as we’re told in vs 14 – to “the Pharisees, who were lovers of money…and ridiculing Jesus” …but actually, this – like all the parables – was being spoken quite directly to each and every one of us!
In all three stories we have someone who seemed for a while to be getting life right –they were PROSPEROUS! RICH! Had all the trappings! For Adam Sandler’s character it was his rewards at work. For Dickens’ Ebenezer Scrooge it was all his fantastic wealth horded away. For Christ’s rich man it was as we’re told: he was dressed in purple and fine linen and feasted sumptuously every day… Yet all three came to a point in their lives where they were forced to confront the hard consequence of how they were choosing to live, lives that may outwardly have seemed to be successful, but were actually highly destructive – lives that were either causing or allowing all sorts of destruction and pain in those around them…
But it’s only the first two characters who seem to learn their lesson… In Christ’s parable that once rich man now burning in hell was left to face the consequences of his life choices… Why?
We don’t know – but we can guess! Perhaps, it’s because it’s WE – the readers of scripture – who are left to complete the parable! It’s WE who are to be the ones who will do the ‘waking up’ and learning our lesson!
…and that’s just where the Good News of Jesus Christ impacts us! IT’S NOT TOO LATE! EVER! …WE CAN STILL FIX THINGS – CHANGE HOW WE ARE LIVING! The One whom Jesus referred to as needing to come back from the dead to wake us up is none other than the life and teachings of the risen Jesus Christ Himself!
And who does he use? Prophets! Christ uses modern day prophets like, well, preachers, who are able occasionally actually to avoid our petty issues and get it right! Christ uses people who will bless us by not always agreeing with us! People who challenge and stretch us! Christ uses wisdom from old people, young people, intellectuals, everyday people, wherever people are plugged in! Invariably, it’s a wisdom that shakes us! Convicts us! Always blesses us!
People like young Greta Thunburg! Oh my goodness, how she has been used to awaken young people everywhere, and through them, all of us! Did you catch her address to the UN this week?
We’re speaking about prophets! People not afraid to speak truth to power! Sometimes with words! Sometimes with actions! …but, through them, always it’s God loving us far too much to leave us to our own foolish devices! And that’s always how it’s been! All through history, God has always used wisdom teachers/ artists – people who force us to stop and re-assess/ re-prioritise…
Sometimes it’s not people but circumstances. For 16th Cent Jesuit zealot Ignatius Loyola (1491-1556) what stopped him was recovery from a cannon ball injury…
I love how David described it 3000 years ago in Psalm 23 – how God uses people and circumstances to forces us to stop/ MAKES us to lie down ina restore our souls…
QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION:
What are those circumstances STOPPING you, currently? What is happening in your life currently to MAKE you stop & INTENTIONALLY to Assess/ to re-assess…?
Who are those people for you currently?
What are they saying to you – or, more importantly – what are you hearing?
Perhaps it’s some reading that you’ve been exposed to…?
WHAT IS GOD MOST WANTING YOU TO HEAR, AND TO FIX IN THIS SEASON OF INTENTIONALITY – NOW WHILE THERE IS TILL TIME – BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE?
Who or what may God be using to break through to you right now – in order to get you quite intentionally, quite deliberately to own God’s most life-giving wake up call?
Rev. Robin Jacobson reserves all rights © 2019.
You are welcome to use, copy, edit or reproduce this sermon summary with copyright attached. Publication is prohibited.