Rev. Alison Buttrick Patton currently serves on the CT Conference Racial Justice Ministry Board and on the worship planning team for November’s tri-conference annual meeting. She is the pastor of Saugatuck Congregational Church, UCC in Westport, CT.
Scripture: Luke 16:19-31 (NRSV)
‘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.” ’
Reflection: Says Who?
What will convince us? In this multi-media world, in which everyone can post an opinion and lies go viral as swiftly as any truth: what messenger would carry sufficient weight to persuade us that we need to change our ways? Researchers tell us that we are most likely to believe the people we already trust, those in our inner circle, who already share our views – and may therefore share our blind spots. So what happens when we need to hear a hard truth, a reminder that we are living lives out of step with kin-dom values, and that our self-centered ways have sometimes devastating consequences? (Because hell exists – if not as a geographic location consumed by flames, surely in lives crippled and spirits diminished by human actions.)
I confess I’ve often wondered what I would do if Jesus showed up today. Would I believe him, or even recognize him - one in a crowd of would-be prophets and messiahs? What would convince me?
I have no easy answer to this question (do you?). The point is we live in a complex world. But that does not free us from the responsibility to pay attention, and then to reflect deeply on our choices and their impact. “It’s complicated,” is no excuse for ignoring the damage we cause by the products we buy, the space we take up, the people we ignore or the resources we diminish. We are bound to one another – as Lazarus and the rich man were bound – our destinies intertwined.
So whatever else may be true, ignoring the voices that make us uncomfortable is surely not the answer. Listening might be. To Moses and the prophets. To Jesus, and to the people with whom he spent his time (at the margins, not just at the powerful center). Listen often enough, exercise our God-given curiosity, and the cumulative weight of the stories we hear may just be enough to persuade us – that God is alive and at work, that the world is in need of repair, that we share a heartbeat - and a longing to thrive - with every person we meet, both inside and outside the gate.
Holy One, forgive our neglect. When we would stick our heads in the sand, prod us to keep looking, listening, learning, repenting, growing and healing. Amen.
New Prayer Requests:
We ask churches and church leaders to join us in the following prayers either by sharing them during worship, printing them in bulletins, or sharing them in some other way. To make a prayer request, please contact Drew Page at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Prayers of Intercession:
- For the family and friends of Rev. Jim Rabb, retired pastor who served in CT, MA, and the Southwest Conference. Jim died on Sept. 17
- For those grieving or suffering after a school collapsed in Nairobi, Kenya, killing at least 7 students and injuring dozens more
Prayers of Joy and Thanksgiving:
- For those fighting to protect our environment, especially young people who have taken steps to be the driving force behind change
Please Remember These Connecticut Conference Churches
In Your Prayers:
Union Chapel UCC
Abington Congregational Church, UCC
First Congregational, UCC
The First Congregational Church of Ansonia, UCC
Avon Congregational Church
This Week in History:
September 24, 1789 (230 years ago) The United States Supreme Court was established by Article 3 of the Constitution. Originally, only 6 judges served on the court. The court's first session was on February 1, 1790.
“Study the past if you would define the future.”