“If you build it, they will come.” Have you heard that line when you were standing in the middle of a cornfield? “If you build it, they will come.” Some one heard that and his world changed. It changed for him; it changed for his family; it changed for the people he encountered. Supposedly, it changed for a few ghosts, but this was only a movie. Field of Dreams is more than a movie about baseball; it is a movie about vision and where it can take people. Ray Kinsella did things that were incredible, such as building a baseball field on his farm, driving across the country to find a long lost author and so forth, but it was a vision that his family shared with him. There were people who did not see the ball players on Ray’s field: his brother-in-law who was pressuring him to sell out. His brother-in-law who walked across the field and almost got hit by a pitch and almost got killed by a batter he didn’t see. His brother-in-law who didn’t see the ball players until a miracle of a dead doctor bringing a little girl back to life opened his eyes. In the end of the movie, Ray finally realized why he had gone through all of this for so many people, and it was the beginning of Ray’s own healing.
Today’s Gospel reading is about the opposite of vision. The rich man is using up resources without regard to those around him. There were commandments in the Old Testament and Rabbinical teaching that the rich should share with those in need; but this man has no regard for them. Meat was generally an occasional dish in that time: it was primarily used in sacrifices, such as Passover, and for someone to eat meat every day was a sign of incredible wealth. Lazarus is a poor man who was literally at the Rich Man’s door looking for table scraps. He is not a leper: a leper would not have been permitted anywhere near a town or village, much less the residence of a wealthy person, but his horrible state at the gate would have been an embarrassment. We’re not surprised that the Rich Man goes to condemnation after death and Lazarus goes to paradise.
An ironic this is that after death, the rich man still operates from some assumptions that he did while he was alive. He knows who Lazarus is, so he assumes that Lazarus can be sent on an errand for him in the after life as he could have before. He assumes that since he is a child of Abraham that Abraham has an obligation to come to his aid. He assumes that a message from beyond the grave will convince his brothers that their way of life will lead them to the wrong end. He is wrong on every point, and the last point that Abraham has to make in this story is an important one: if they have not heard Moses and the Prophets, they will not hear someone who has come back from the dead.
Someone has come back from the dead to speak to us. It is someone with a message of hope, a message of grace, a message of love. Jesus also comes with a warning, and the warning is about how we see things, what is on our radar, how we look at the world around us and to be careful what we are overlooking. We are stewards of the Kingdom of God, we have been given astounding riches, we have been fed with the Food of Life right here. We are called to be people of vision, to look beyond surface appearances, to look beyond strict practicality, to look beyond our own best self interest at times.
It can seem like a hopeless endeavor to do something constructive about the evils of the world, about the misdistribution of wealth, about the inequities of life. It can seem crazy to listen to a voice, like the voice that was heard in the midst of an Iowa cornfield in a movie, that says that we need to pay attention to those in true need around us. What matters is that we need to do so not only to respond to Jesus’ call to be His hands in the world, but for our own healing as well. It is through focusing on others that we find ourselves, clearly, at our best. It is through focusing on the wounds of the world, that our own wounds can be healed. It is through tending to the needs of the Body of Christ, that we best serve our own needs, and the field of dreams called the Kingdom of God does appear on earth more fully.