“In 1950 a committee representing 17 nations declared Albert Schweitzer Man of the Century. Two years later in ‘52 he won a Nobel peace prize. Albert Schweitzer was considered a multiple genius, a man of many talents and abilities and he was an outstanding philosopher, theologian, concert musician, historian, and was a missionary evangelist. With all of these achievements though, the most important thing about Albert Schweitzer was not what he accomplished in this area, but rather his faith, his faith which informed every decision that he made and the direction of his life.
When he was 21 years old, Schweitzer decided to spend the next 10 years devoted to the arts and sciences and then at the age of 30, he said that he was going to spend the rest of his life in service of the poorest of the poor in some direct kind of service. So, at the age of 30, he wrote a letter to his family and to some of his closest friends and he said that he was going to enroll in the university and become a doctor and he was going to go to Africa and minister to the poorest of the poor for the rest of his life. Well now his family reacted rather negatively to this along with some of his closest friends and they said to him that a person who is so blessed as you are by God should use his abilities and talents in something far greater than ministering to the poor in Africa, but Schweitzer stuck to his guns when he was 38, he became a doctor and when he was 43, he left for Africa and established a hospital on the outskirts of the jungle and there he stayed and there he died at the age of 90 after ministering to the poorest of the poor for most of his life. Well now, what was the motivation for Albert to leave the life of luxury and fame, no doubt, and give his life for the poor? It was truly his faith, his faith that informed every decision. When asked why he did this, he said it was partly because of his meditation on the Gospel that we have read here today, the Gospel of Lazarus, the poor man and the wealthy man and he said, ‘I found it inconceivable that I should live a life of luxury while there are so many people with absolutely nothing.
So, that brings us to our Gospel today and we might ask, ‘Well what was the sin of the rich man, the rich man who was in a place of torment after his death, what was his sin?’ Well he didn’t abuse Lazarus. He didn’t call the police on him. He didn’t call him names or anything like that, but his sin, the sin of the rich man was that he did not SEE Lazarus, Lazarus who was on his doorstep, Lazarus who was covered in sores, Lazarus who was hungry, Lazarus who had nothing. The sin of the rich man was that Lazarus was just part of the landscape of things, that that’s the way things were. The rich man was wealthy, Lazarus was poor, that’s just the way things are. The sin of the rich man was that he did not have compassion for Lazarus. He did not feel Lazarus’ pain or know Lazarus’ hunger or know Lazarus’ not having anything to his name. The sin of the rich man was that he did not help Lazarus when he could have. He could have helped him tremendously , but he did not, so where are the Lazarus’ of our world today? Many are at our own doorstep and the sin of the rich man is committed over and over again by many individuals and by many nations. Where is Lazarus today? Lazarus is in the veteran, the man who has PTSD and can’t find a life for himself. Lazarus is in the homeless, the homeless of the city. I know a lady, a friend of mine, who everyday makes up about 100 meals for the homeless in our city and then she takes all of them to them. Every day of her life she sees Lazarus and she has compassion and she does something about it. Lazarus is here at our doorstep. We fail to see him sometimes, but he is there.
I’d like to share with you a little prayer that I entitled, ‘Lazarus.’
Lazarus was here, full of sores,
Hungry, a casualty.
I didn’t harass or hate him.
Him, I did not see.
He was poor, like so many more,
What was I to do?
It’s the way it is, after all.
They’ll always be with you.
Why was he poor and destitute?
The shape that he was in?
Was it his fault, was it his fate?
Was it caused by his sins?
Don’t look at me. I didn’t see.
I did not cause hsi grief.
Why blame me? I didn’t know.
He might have been a thief.
Lazarus is here, with us still.
See him in the other,
The one who’s different from you,
Lazarus is your brother. “