“No Regrets”

“No Regrets”

Lent 4 (NL3) John B. Valentine
Luke 16:19-31 March 14, 2021


Let’s begin today with a confession ... a recognition ... and admission ... that most all of us are busy.

“Life happens” ... we say ... “There’s only twenty-four hours in a day.”

There's always something to distract us from getting around to things we know that we should do.

• Charles Hummel called it “The Tyranny of the Urgent” ...

• President Dwight Eisenhower talked about it as the conflict between “the urgent” and “the important” ...

• Henry David Thoreau pondered it when he noted "It's not enough to be busy, so are the ants. The question is, what are we busy about?"

If you’re anything like me ... somewhere in the back of your mind you know that you’re neglecting some stuff you should do ... but somehow just never get around to it.

But then something happens.

Someone close to us dies ....

A long-standing relationship completely disintegrates ....

A door closes on some opportunity that had been staring us in the face for months ....

And we’re left with ....... a boatload of regret!

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I actually ran across an article about regret the other day ... one which was written by a hospice chaplain ... in which she recorded those things which were the most common regrets of the terminally ill.

And I’m sorry to report that missed business opportunities and unattended church council meetings didn’t make the list!

No ... the top five life-regrets as identified by this chaplain to the terminally ill were these:

Number 5 ... I wish that I had let myself be happier.

People admitted that they feared change in their lives ... so they pretended that they were content. In fact, they wish they’d laughed more and allowed themselves to be a bit less serious.

Number 4 ... I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

People felt badly that they were so caught up in their own lives that they let important friendships slip away.

Number 3 ... I wish I'd had the courage to express my feelings.

Many of the chaplain’s respondents acknowledged that they’d suppressed their feelings in unhealthy ways in order to keep peace with others.

Number 2 ... I wish I hadn't worked so hard.

In fact ... this regret was expressed by every male patient ... every single one of them!

And ... Number 1 ... I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

This is the most common regret of all. "Most people had not honored even a half of their dreams" ... the chaplain noted ... "and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made."

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If you haven’t figured it out by now ... the topic on the table this week is the topic of ‘regret”.

NOT because of some article I happened upon ... but because of our lesson from Luke 16.

You see ... Jesus told that story about a nameless rich man who was "dressed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day" ... who dies ... and is buried ... and finds himself in Hades being tormented by oodles of regrets.

But precisely NONE of the rich man’s regrets have to do with missed business deals or unattended sporting events either!

No ... the nameless rich man's regrets seem to go in a different direction ... one that pretty well parallels the findings of that hospice chaplain.

For Jesus tells us that the rich man was not alone in his life nor in his death.

For "At his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who longed to satisfy his hunger with what fell from the rich man's table; even the dogs would come and lick his sores."

Now ... the way Jesus tells this story ... its clear that the lives of the two characters couldn’t be more different

• One rich ... the other poor ...

• One well-fed ... the other starving ...

• One clothed in rich robes ... the other clothed in nothing but sores, scabs and dog slobber ...

• One with umpteen friends and family members ... the other whose only friends were those dogs who would feast on him.

Whereas the rich man's life in this world was lived in the lap of luxury ... and marked by an abundance of choices ...

Lazarus' life was ... to borrow the word of philosopher Thomas Hobbes ... "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short."

But then the story turns ... and both of them die ... and Lazarus is ushered by the angels into the nearer presence of God ... and the rich fellow heads straight to Hell ... and now

• the sufferer is satisfied ... and the satisfied one suffers ...

• the hungerer thirsts no more ... and the feaster begs for a drop of water ...

• the one who had nothing has all things ... and the one who had all things has nothing ...

• the beggar becomes the begged-of ... and the begged-of becomes the beggar.

And in the face of this world turned upside down ... the rich man’s regrets come into sharp focus ... and I think that they’re important for us to name what those regrets are.

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Regret Number 1.

“I wish that I had cared for the people around me.”

Lazarus had lived a life lying at the rich man’s gate ... which meant that the rich man stepped over or around him each time he left his home. Every single day ... the rich man had missed a chance to help Lazarus by simply giving him the leftovers from his table.

And he came to regret it .....

Regret Number 2.

“I wish that I had listened to Moses and the prophets.”

The rich man realizes in death that he’d paid no attention to the Word of God ... and all that talk about “loving your neighbor as yourself” and “sharing your bread with the hungry”.

And he came to regret it .....

Regret Number 3.

“I wish I'd had the courage to live a life of generosity rather than a life of vanity.”

It wasn’t just that the rich man had had an opportunity to help Lazarus one time ... no ... he had had opportunities to help him all the time. But ... every day ... he chose vanity over generosity.

And he came to regret it .....

Now I can only imagine that the rich man had come up with some internal justification as to why he wouldn’t help Lazarus ... even though he had to step around him every day of his life ...

• Maybe it was because he rationalized his way around him ... blaming Lazarus for his own poverty ... insisting that the poor man whom he stepped around was lazy or unwilling to work.

• Maybe it was because he moralized his way around it ... saying "God rewards goodness and punishes wickedness ... my prosperity is the confirmation that my life is a life well-lived.”

• Maybe it was because he theologized his way around it ... saying “I’m blessed ... he’s not ... that must be the way God wanted it.”

But ... in any event .... at the end of the day ... too late in the day ... he came to realize that he was FULL of regrets:

Regrets that he hadn’t cared more for the people around him ...

Regrets that he'd paid no attention to the Word of God ...

Regrets that he’d chosen vanity over generosity time and time and time again.

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Now let’s be clear here.

None of us is perfect.

All of us are in need of forgiveness.

We will all come to the end of life feeling that we have made mistakes along the way.

But God sent Jesus into this world so that we could have ‘abundant life’ ... or ‘life in abundance’ ...

And ... at least to my ears ... “life in abundance” sounds a whole lot like “a life without regrets” ... “a life you won’t regret.”

After all ... at the end of the day ...

Would you rather be an onion ... or a bell pepper ... or an avocado? (As referenced earlier during KidTalk!)

“No Regrets” was a sermon preached by Pastor John Valentine in conjunction with worship on the weekend of March 14, 2021 — the Fourth Sunday in the Season of Lent.  The text upon which it is based is Luke 16:19-31 — a story which Jesus tells about Lazarus and an unnamed rich man.