Ignoring Lazarus at the gate? Thoughts arising from the tragedy of Grenfell Tower.

Why is it, in the event of natural disasters and tragedies, that it is largely the poorer members of our society who suffer the most? This seems to be the case in flooding and famine situations and in war, for example. And it also seems to be the case in the horrific Grenfell Tower fire.
As I read the gospel reading at our early morning communion service on the first Sunday after the fire, the text from Luke 16 spoke clearly to me about the contrast between the rich and those in poverty. In the reading, Jesus tells a parable about a rich man with his extravagant living and the hungry and sick Lazarus, poor and sleeping rough at his gate. The rich man seemingly is unaware of the plight of Lazarus and certainly either does not see his need or chooses to ignore it, even if he is there, closeby.
I was reminded that the Grenfell Tower fire happened in one of the wealthier parts of the UK’s capital, where living alongside some folk of enormous wealth are many with a lot less. Why was it that these less affluent members of society were the ones who suffered most, who lost most or lost everything? Was their expected entitlement to, and need of, safety and security not seen? Or seen, and ignored?
Most communities have people with needs living in the heart of things. Most communities have a mix of wealthy and impoverished. How often are the needs of the less well-off members of a community overlooked? Do we do that here in Killyleagh, I wondered, and if so, how can we use the blessing of our new Parish Hall, now well in the course of construction, to ensure that we address the needs of those living right here among us, living at or gates?

The greatest commandment

Jesus reminded us that God’s greatest commandment to us all is to love God with all our heart, soul and mind. The second commandment was similar, he taught – to love our neighbour as ourselves.

During the reading of the gospel at our early morning service on Sunday 4th June, barely 10 hours after the savage and horrific attacks in London, verse 24 from John 14 struck me with such poignancy and truth.

‘Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching’. It was so clear to me that those who carried out the London attacks had no regard at all for Jesus or his teachings to love God and our neighbour.

Arguably, this may be a bit simplistic, but if more in the world followed the teachings of Jesus, irrespective of what they believe, our society would be one of much greater love and peace. And on Pentecost Sunday, when we are given firm instructions to have courage and spread the message of the Good News of Jesus, we have such a sad reminder about why we should do that – with urgency.

It is not enough merely to love God. Very misguidedly, those responsible for atrocities, such as those at Manchester, London and so many other places around the world, believe they are showing their love and obedience to God. They are not. They are instead doing the work of the devil and we should pray for them to see the Light of Truth. True love for God is seen in how we love our neighbours.

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