Sermon Synopsis Luke 16:19-31

(Disclaimer: I have owned a dive business for several years and have been certified at technical levels for some time. I am in no way recommending the following actions without the proper training, supervision and preparation… which is the point of my illustration).

It hit me at 175 feet of depth…

The technical description is 175 fsw (feet salt water) on air (21%O2). I was on a training dive with a very experienced retired Navy dive buddy. The two of us had been given permission to separate from the larger group and go over the wall for what is known as a bounce dive (go to depth and return with very little bottom time). The purpose of the exercise was to measure my body’s reaction to narcosis brought on by diving to depth on air.

I had previously completed a stopwatch timed multi-numeral mathematical computation on shore and at 100 ffw (feet fresh water) with no discernible difference in computation time. We would be stopping every 25 feet of descent beyond 100 fsw to communicate with each other and would only continue as long as both divers concurred.

At 150 fsw I could discern no noticeable effect. In hindsight, I was undoubtedly being impacted by the increase of nitrogen in my bloodstream going to my brain but I was able to communicate clearly and use my computer efficiently and so indicated that we would descend another 25 feet to reevaluate.

When we reached 175 fsw I began to become self-aware of the effect of narcosis. I had to expend mental energy to focus my concentration on the information on my computer screen. It read; 2740 psi (plenty of breathable gas) and 186 fsw… I signaled “thumbs up” which means ascend.

We completed our decompression obligation in stages as we ascended to the shelf and reconnected to our group who were busying themselves looking at fish within the reef. We signaled our return to the dive master and completed our dive with the group.

In our passage, Jesus tells the story of two men spending their lives within yards of each other. Lazarus suffered with hunger and painful sores; experiencing as well the mental anguish of being in proximity to, but never benefiting from, the rich man’s abundance. In contrast, the rich man, living with extreme wealth was insensitive to Lazarus’ needs. It is relevant to point out that the rich man knew his name (and so presumably his circumstances).

Jesus’ parable describes the spiritual consequences of living a life of abundance while being apathetic to the needs of others.

The rich man’s pleas reach a point of desperation as he calls out for a supernatural warning to be sent to his brothers who are still living. In response, Jesus describes Abraham saying (with some irony) that if his brothers ignore the lessons that are already before them they will not be convinced to soften their hearts, “…even if one were to rise from the dead.”

I believe that we can experience a spiritual form of narcosis. We enter an environment that dilutes our sensitivities to the world around us. We participate in an illusion, in which we come to believe that the life which we have been blessed with, we somehow deserve. Instead of the diver’s brain being impacted by excess nitrogen we allow ourselves to be drugged by self-righteousness and arrogance.

We assume that we are blessed because we have worked harder than Lazarus (not thinking about the person working two jobs at minimum wage who rents our properties, gaining equity for us but nothing for themselves). Or we indulge ourselves in thinking that are smarter (again, discounting the people or the circumstances in our lives that have facilitated our success).

Jesus is not condemning people who have been blessed in this life. He is pointing out that it is easy for us to allow our sensitivities’ to the needs of others to be dulled… and the consequence can be a steady decent into the abyss.

Warmly,

Rev Dan