Shaking the dust

The lectionary reading from Luke yesterday was a strange one. There’s a wealthy, powerful man who lives in luxury, and a poor beggar named Lazarus who lies outside his gates. They both die, and while Lazarus is comforted by Abraham, the ancestor of our faith, the rich man is tormented. In his suffering, he calls out to Abraham, asking him to send Lazarus back to earth to go warn the rich man’s brothers so they do not end up at the same fate. And Abraham answers, “If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.”

I am continually disappointed by the number of Christians in this country who have bowed to the gods of guns, violent nationalism, capitalism, and power (particularly at the expense of others, usually marginalized.) I’m reading the same scriptures they supposedly are, and nowhere in them is this idolatry condoned. But what, then, do our prophets actually say? Do not turn away the needy (Amos 5:12). Do not oppress the foreigner, orphan, or widow (Jer. 7:5-7). Work for the renewal of creation (Is. 65:17-25) and equity for the poor (Is. 11:4). Show mercy to one another (Zech. 7:9-10). I could go on and on…

As I read about Lazarus and the rich man yesterday, it struck me that there are so, so many who are like the rich man’s brothers, who refuse to listen to the words of Moses and the prophets. They’ve become the caricature of those Jesus addresses in Matthew 13, whose hearts are calloused & whose eyes cannot see the Way. They’ve “refused to listen to this message. They stubbornly turned away and put their fingers in their ears to keep from hearing” (Zech. 7:11).

& I, quite frankly, have grown weary, and I find myself siding with Abraham — if people can’t even heed the Law and the Prophets, how can they truly obey the Resurrected One? Then I remember Jesus’ words to his disciples, that if they enter a place where peace is not offered to them, they are simply to shake the very dust from their feet and continue on.

It can be exhausting to be a person of faith in this country these days. Perhaps today, you simply need to hear someone say it’s ok to shake the dust and move on.