Emmitsburg Council of Churches


The Holy Gospel according to St Luke 14:1, 7-14

 14:1 On one occasion when Jesus was going to the house of a leader of the Pharisees to eat a meal on the sabbath, they were watching him closely. 14:7 When he noticed how the guests chose the places of honor, he told them a parable. 14:8 "When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, do not sit down at the place of honor, in case someone more distinguished than you has been invited by your host; 14:9 and the host who invited both of you may come and say to you, 'Give this person your place,' and then in disgrace you would start to take the lowest place. 14:10 But when you are invited, go and sit down at the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he may say to you, 'Friend, move up higher'; then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at the table with you. 14:11 For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted." 14:12 He said also to the one who had invited him, "When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, in case they may invite you in return, and you would be repaid. 14:13 But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. 14:14 And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous." This is the Gospel of the Lord! Praise to You O Christ!

Poor Man, Rich Man

Once there was a man named Henry Robinson who had become rich and powerful in the ways of the world. Most of his life Mr. Robinson thought of only of himself and of his own welfare. In fact, just about everything he said and did had an underlying motive . . . Profit and SELF BENEFIT.

Even when presenting himself at a friend's Wedding Party, Henry cleverly Positioned Himself at the table of those wealthy and influential friends of the Family who could increase his own personal ambitions and ego. Rarely, if ever, did he entertain someone at his home where the bottom line of financial gain and self-aggrandizement was not at stake. Mr. Robinson also used his business and political influence in ways that lead to corruption in the local court system where an appeal regarding his investment property was at stake!!.... Surely, if you knew him, you would not approve of the ways and means by which Mr Robinson bought favors and used his wealth to influence others to secure his personal fortune.

But one day, after experiencing some chest pains, Mr Robinson went to see his Doctor, and while sitting on the examination table he began to feel vulnerable, alone and panicky. Where were his influential friends now? What good does social or political positioning do when your heart is sick and your life's breath is drawing short?

For Henry, no clever conversation nor power brokering with the Doctor was going to change the present medical condition going on within his chest . . . . For the first time -- Henry was feeling what it's like to be out of control, without influence by worldly standards, and at the mercy of others – who may or may not really care about him or his investments and money!!

As the Doctor pressed the cold stethoscope to his chest, Henry said, "Doc, there can't be anything wrong with me, I've got a business to run!" The Doctor pulled back from the man and slowly scanned his facial features–his questioning look. "Henry, you'd better settle your accounts, you'd better make amends with your life while you still can." That was all the Doctor said, then he left the room.

Suddenly feeling a cold sweat coming on . . . Henry lay back on the table–thinking to himself of the countless people that he had used and discarded like so much worn out apartment furniture over the decades .... All of these individuals had temporarily been friends of his . . . but he had used them to build and amass his fortune and he hadn't thought much about their welfare – let alone the run down neighborhoods where he owned tenant housing. His chest tightened . . . suddenly he was paralyzed with pain.

The Doctor returned to the room wheeling in an EKG machine, looking at Henry he sternly asked, "Henry, how much money do you want to pay to save your life?" Startled, but intrigued by the business proposition implied by the Doctor's question, Henry replied, "If you can save me, I'll give all you need for the new surgical wing at the hospital."

The Doctor stopped hooking up the patches and wires to Henry's chest and stared at him with wonder and disbelief. You know Henry, that kind of generosity coming from a man such as yourself, well known for being shrewd, stingy and somewhat corrupt with money and politics . . .

that just might redeem you in the eyes of some -- but there's no guarantee it will save your life. . . .


For, when we're gone from this life, "the real measure of a person's wealth is how much they'll be worth when there's no money left and no heart beat . . . it's what you're remembered for when your gone -- that's what really matters Henry."

The business man lay back on the table, thinking to himself, I guess if I die right now, I'll be thought of as worthless and a scoundrel, but if I can live long enough to change the way I treat people, maybe reposition my social involvements, make new friends that have no influence nor power to benefit me personally, and maybe if I return a portion of my wealth so that it becomes a benefit to others who are weak and vulnerable . . . then I'll be rich in the things that really matter.

"Let's Operate Doc. I need my heart to keep going a few more years or whatever you can give me. I've got to make up for a lifetime of selfishness and greed." "Interesting Mr Robinson," said the doctor. "You're moving beyond my medical model – I'd recommend you speak to the chaplain about such matters..."

Somewhat unconsciously, Henry went on, "I've got to do something lasting with my life and use the material possessions I've accumulated to benefit those who never had a chance for a place at the table, let alone -- never got invited to a fancy dinner party, or who went hungry.

The Doctor, turned from the read out on the EKG Screen and looked at Henry – "Well sir, three points to consider: Like the readout of your damaged (irregular) heart beat here on this screen, the Proof of your intentions will be known – 1. Publically – people will be watching to see if what you confess and pledge to do – you really follow through with. And 2:

What I'd call the Inward, Spiritual Reality of your intentions and attitudes. For I'm a medical doctor and can diagnose your coronary situation, but only GOD KNOWS your spiritual heart Henry!

And 3. As a doctor, I can see there's a blockage in the right coronary artery leading to your heart . . . this will kill you if we don't operate right away. So if you want to make a meaningful change in life . . . I would suggest you start the process of reconciliation with those you've hurt or denied immediately . . . and pray for God's mercy – to give you life beyond this operation we will attempt.

Henry noted the blips on the EKG were increasingly irregular and erratic. With a gasp, he asked the Doctor if there was a Chaplain available at the hospital who might come and pray with him. He knew he had not thought of God since his childhood, when his maternal grandmother had brought him to Church. But he felt sincere about the changes he wanted to make in his life. Henry thought to himself, if God will give me this chance – "I will make good of however much time he will give me."

When the Chaplain came in, Henry told him, "Chaplain, I want to live a new life! Be more humble, and stop ignoring and excluding others who do not present a personal benefit to myself. Before the Lord God Almighty, I confess I will seek to reach out to those poor people in my apartment buildings, because many of them suffer from mental illness, various addictions and maybe I can hire a social worker so that at least some will get another chance to improve their lives."

The Chaplain was surprised to hear such a spontaneous confession, but listened on without showing his doubts as to whether this man was sincere. After a few minutes of listening, that Chaplain asked Henry, "Mr Robinson, will you really follow through on these pledges, or are you now bargaining with God like some business deal?"

But hoping for the best, the Chaplain then commented, "Henry, if you are willing to hire a social worker to help the residents at your apartment buildings, that would be a truly amazing thing -- something never done by a private building owner in this city! Helping your tenants to improve themselves and showing compassion in this way could lead these persons to have their own place at the Table of Life where they would be helped and regain self-confidence -- let alone to perhaps own their own home one day. It would be truly transformational to our neighborhood and community!"

"However, there's One more thing Mr Robinson, all this good you want to do will be of no value to God, nor ultimately to these persons you want to help unless you tell them why and by whom you have experienced this Change of Heart. What about the little church on the corner of Main Street and 3rd Avenue? That congregation is down to 58 members and the building's falling into disrepair, don't you own the apartments next door?"

Henry was surprised, "What do you mean Chaplain, can't I just do things outside the church -- like be compassionate, show that I care? Isn't that good enough for God? I'm no church goer!"

"No Henry, You've got to explain that your change of heart was not initiated by you, but that it came into your life from God -- it's the working out of your salvation, what the Holy Spirit does in the life of a Christian. Genuine changes of heart and attitude don't come by what a Doctor accomplishes surgically, but only by what God has done, through his Son, Jesus, who came to teach us how to live for God by living a humble life of service. Changing your life to live this way is not your salvation, but a response to the salvation you gained when you were baptized as a Child of God . . . long ago in the Church."

"This surprises me Chaplain, I'd not thought of myself as a very good Christian before–in fact, I figured God gave up on me long ago.

"But if God's in this, which I believe he is, then I will go and tell others about the Salvation made possible for me through Christ and I will pray that I can be a vessel used by the Holy Spirit . . . a child of God . . . saved by GRACE, becoming adaptable and fit for God's service.

Chaplain: Let's pray, ‘Heavenly Father, you enter into our lives and sometimes it is through a heart attack, yet, you are not willing that any of us should die without the saving knowledge of Christ, though you may gain our attention in these matters. Awaken us from our human selfishness and call us to become Humble and Available to even the most pitiful of your children. Help us all to find our place at your Table which is available to us both now as we gather as your Family for the Holy Eucharist and in the Heavenly Banquet, where we shall be seated with all of your saints in Glory. In the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen

Read more writings of Pastor Jon