The prophet Jeremiah describes two people, one cursed, the other blessed. The cursed trusts in human beings. The blessed trusts in God. The cursed has a heart turned away from God. The blessed hopes in God. The cursed enjoys no change of season. They experience one long 2009-2010 Omaha winter and the snow never melts. The blessed experience the seasons even in the midst of drought because they are radical (I didn’t say “fanatical”). Radical (think of a radish) means rooted. The blessed have roots in a stream that never runs dry. The Lord rewards everyone according to his ways, according to the merit of his deeds. Those who are radical produce the fruit of eternal life.
Psalm 1 continues the comparison between the cursed and the blessed. The cursed sit with the insolent, walk in the way of sinners, and follow the counsel of the wicked. The blessed not only refrain from those choices but delight in the Lord instead. The blessed meditates on God’s law day and night. The blessed prospers. The cursed, like chaff, is blown away by the wind. The Lord watches over the just. The wicked are on their own and eventually vanish. The psalmist concludes that the blessed are they who hope in the Lord.
The Gospel lesson continues with one of the main Lukan themes, namely, the great reversal. Those who are rich in this world’s goods are cursed and those who are poor are blessed. Although it is true that it is not the wealth or lack of it that makes a person blessed or cursed but the object of one’s trust, Luke never waters down Jesus’ teaching that the rich are cursed and the poor are blessed. From this Gospel you can never know anything about Lazarus except that he was poor. Did he trust in God? The text does not say. On the other hand, we know plenty about the rich man. He dresses in the very best, dines sumptuously each day, steps over a poor man who lies at his door, yet will not even give him scraps to eat. The dogs are more merciful than he. Yet, after both die the great reversal occurs. The rich man is cursed and the poor man is blessed. The man who would not even give a scrap of food to Lazarus is denied the tip of Lazarus’ finger dipped in cool water and placed upon his tongue. He is rewarded based on the merits of his deeds. In this torment he thinks of his brothers and believes that they will repent and turn to God if someone goes back to them from the dead. This request, too, is denied. God knows the human heart, Jeremiah says. It is “more tortuous than all else.” If his brothers will not believe Moses and the prophets, they won’t believe even someone who is risen from the dead.
Jesus is risen from the dead! But are we persuaded to trust in him? The cursed simply will not. But blessed are they who hope in the Lord.
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