September 29: Jeremiah 32:1-3a, 6-15; Luke 16:19-31
July 29, 2019 by Rev. Dr. Neal Presa
Stewardship involves past, present, and future dimensions. From the past, we inherit lessons, or we inherit legacies. From the present, we apply what we have to current needs while planning for the future. Into the future, we look to see the impact of what has been planned and the fruition or consequences of those strategies and prayers. Our lections in Jeremiah 32 and Luke 16 are about legacies: applying what you have now into a near future and a distant future for maximal impact towards God’s good purposes. Jeremiah 32 involves, at first glance, the strange instruction of the Lord for the prophet to purchase a piece of land from Hanamel. On several levels, it’s a strange instruction because the Lord’s instruction is in the midst of the Babylonian occupation of Jerusalem, presumably including Hanamel’s own farm land. Second, Jeremiah must trust in the Lord’s commandment as to how and why the purchase was to be made. The transaction is carried out, signed, sealed, delivered, and archived by Baruch for safekeeping, sort of like an ancient title company for final mortgage papers. What was not yet apparent to those involved in the transaction was that the Lord’s intent was to restore Jerusalem from the Babylonian captivity, that laying claim onto that land was a means to redeem Jeremiah’s family, but, beyond his filial relations, it was a physical and symbolic promise of a legacy gift that the land would be restored because the people would be restored.
The lection from Luke 16 is that familiar tale of two men: the rich man and Lazarus. The former is comfortable and living a life of privilege, the latter is living a miserable, pitiable existence covered with sores, groveling for food, neglected by everyone. The story goes that both men die and the rich man sees that Lazarus is enjoying the rest in Abraham’s bosom while the rich man was in a place of torment. The rich man makes a plea to Abraham for mercy but it’s too late; there’s no turning back. The rich man makes one more desperate attempt at a favor – would it be possible for Abraham to send Lazarus from the dead to the rich man’s brothers to warn them not to live the way he did so that they could avoid the place of torment. Abraham denies the request, saying that those who are alive, including the rich man’s siblings, have the teachings of Moses and the prophets, that if the living teachings of Moses and the prophets will not suffice, then the wondrous sign of someone coming from the dead to warn the living will, likewise, be of little or no effect. The implications are clear: pay attention to how you live now because there are far reaching consequences; and secondly, the rising of Jesus Christ has direct connection to the teachings of Moses and the prophets for his resurrection life is a demonstration of the promises of God.
These lections of Jeremiah 32 and Luke 16 express the long-term reach of what we do today to tomorrow and into the distant future. Wise stewardship according to the mission, vision, and values of the Lord requires prayerful action and active prayer for what we don’t see but which we can trust the Lord will bless beyond our thinking and imagining. In the former’s case, the land purchase was directly tied to God’s intent for restoration of God’s people back to Judah. In the latter’s case, there is eternal significance of how we live, how we use our resources, privilege, and power to either love our neighbor or to oppress our neighbor. To choose the way and will of the Lord in both instances is to discover in a deep and fuller way how God pursues all that we have and all that we are for the Lord’s good purposes not only in our own life, but in the Lord’s wider purposes for all people.