Pentecost 16 – Where Everyone Knows Your Name – September 29, 2019
Over my past four weeks at Emmanuel Church, I have come to understand some things about living in New England and about the Emmanuel community. First, Newport is gorgeous in the Fall! Of course, Newport was also beautiful in the summer, but over the past few weeks, as the temperatures have dropped, the leaves on the trees have started to turn to warm reds and vibrant yellows, and the sunlight reaches us at a new angle. As I look out my window at our Emmanuel Day School children playing in the churchyard at recess, my heart fills with the beauty of the season and with gratitude for our life in community at Emmanuel.
Yesterday, EDS had its opening family picnic out on the lawn, with Mr. Christopher, community celebrity children’s musician, leading in the fun. Even though the rain came earlier than we had hoped, the beauty of the Fall afternoon, together with the warmth of community, music, children, and fun, was more than a fair trade for having to end a few minutes early.
In these weeks as the seasons have changed, the members of our Property Committee (Debbie Venancio, Ron and Pam Fleming, Ed Gosling, Dave Monroe, Kevin Venancio, and Anne Sherman) have been working their usual magic keeping our beautiful church building and grounds in their best condition. Mother Anita and Steve also put their very best into maintaining our beautiful church and grounds for many years, and every time I look around, I am grateful for all that these wonderful community members have done – and continue to do!
I’ve had our community on my mind a great deal over these last weeks, and that perspective affected my view of our gospel reading this week – the Rich Man and Lazarus, which means God has helped him. The parable contains a lot more particular detail about how the Rich Man and Lazarus look than we often see in the gospels – some of it genuinely cringe-worthy. We read both of the elegance of the Rich Man’s clothing – he’s dressed in purple and fine linen – and of Lazarus, who lies outside the Rich Man’s gates. Lazarus is covered with sores and is terribly hungry; even the dogs would come and lick his sores.
Remember Jesus doesn’t give us details that aren’t important. Why does Jesus give us this gruesome image of Lazarus’s sores alongside the Rich Man’s purple and fine linen? Well of course there’s an economic message and a sharing message in that detail. But there is also a community message. Jesus is giving us these high-contrast images – these details – to show us what we miss when we don’t truly see each other, and know each other as neighbors and community members.
I have found Emmanuel a warm and welcoming place – a loving, concerned, safe environment filled with neighborliness and mutual concern – kind of like the old TV show Cheers, where everybody knows your name. I am so very honored to be in community at Emmanuel Church as we see and greet each other in gratitude for our lives together in Christ.