September 25, 2022: Be the Dog

two hands sharing a cup of water

Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost

Be the Dog

Jesus told a story about two men. One man was very rich—so rich that his table overflowed with fine food and drink every single day. One man was very poor—so poor that he lay outside the gate of the rich man’s home, each day hoping for a bite to be shared from the rich man’s table. The rich man covered his skin in fine purple linen clothing. The poor man’s skin was covered in sores.

Day after day, the poor man waited outside the gate, hoping to be seen by the rich man. Yet day after day the rich man went on enjoying his feasts and fine clothing, never seeing his ailing and hungry neighbor right outside of his gate.

Jesus, in his very Jesus way, slips an interesting detail into this story. Even though the rich man ignored his neighbor, he knew his name. The rich man knew that the neighbor waiting outside of his gate was named Lazarus. How does Jesus slip this detail in? He tells us that after the rich man and Lazarus have both died, the rich man calls out from Hades for Lazarus to bring him a drop or two of water from Lazarus’s heavenly resting place. The rich man didn’t truly see that his neighbor Lazarus needed comfort—until he himself needed comfort.

Isn’t it interesting, though, that Jesus slipped in another shocking detail about caring for our neighbor? He said that while the rich man didn’t pay a bit of mind to the needs of Lazarus, the neighbor whom he knew by name, the dog that was also hanging out at the gate did pay attention. The dog tended to Lazarus’s sores, tenderly licking them and providing comfort and healing.

The dog was not afraid to touch Lazarus. The dog was not afraid to keep Lazarus warm. The dog was not afraid to bark, in an attempt to draw attention to the situation. The dog was not afraid to see Lazarus.

Be the dog.

Fran Spier Saylor, pastor
The Table, Apex, North Carolina