At one time, but I’m not so sure now, Romeo and Juliet in high school was required reading. How much of the story do you remember?
Here’s the world’s shortest summary with a little bit of analysis: “The play follows the blossoming love, secret marriage, and eventual deaths of two teenagers whose families hate each other.”
I told you the summary would be short, for we could study the play for hours and hours and still never go deep enough into all the nuances of the themes, especially when getting into the theme of love.
Also, here’s some quick background information on the play: In a way, we can say that Romeo and Juliet was a remake. The story of two young lovers appears decades earlier in a poem by another poet, and the two feuding families originated in Dante’s Divine Comedy. Shakespeare made it all into a play, and it first appeared with the title, “The Most Excellent and Lamentable Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet.”
Just a note here before we accuse Shakespeare of plagiarism, it was typical for composers and writers to use material from others and expand upon it. As a matter of fact, it was considered a compliment to have your work used in part by others who created more good work from it.
Now that we are all updated on the play, I want to talk about the original title.
We have to say that the title gives us something to think about, The Most Excellent and Lamentable Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet. What is the title saying with the part, “The Most Excellent?” To say that the play is “Most Excellent” seems odd because it’s about how two young people who die.
So, how is this an excellent play? Well, because it handles its deep subjects in an excellent way. When we are out to talk about any deep subject, we need to go about it with intentions to dive as far as we can into it. Not only are we talking about love here, but how this love between these two young people causes their deaths. These deaths bring us to the second part of the title, “Lamentable Tragedy.” The deaths of Romeo and Juliet could have been prevented. Because their deaths need not to have happened, it makes for a tragedy. A tragedy is when something goes “bad,” and it is realized that something has gone “bad.” But, the real kicker is that it’s too late to do anything about it.
When we come to know something, but when knowing it too late, it’s a tragedy.
The two feuding families come to realize that their hatred for each other caused the deaths of their young darlings. The families reconciled, but it cost the deaths of Romeo and Juliet.
Since we are starting this morning with a literature class, here is some homework:
For next week, write a 1,000 word essay that explains how a tragedy like the play of Romeo and Juliet can help with our own experiences. With our doing of some thinking and brainstorming, this is a tough assignment, if not a near impossible one.
Back in school, didn’t you just hate it when you got an assignment that didn’t make sense? Well, if you don’t know where to start, it’s good to start basic.
My start of the essay would talk about the definition of tragedy. If tragedy is about knowing something, but that knowing makes it too late to do anything about it, can reading about other people’s tragedies really help us all that much? It makes for some good drama, but can it really help us in our own lives? If you are a victim of a tragedy, like Romeo and Juliet, you are probably dead. It’s not a pleasant subject, but we could say Romeo and Juliet were united in death. If you are a survivor of a tragedy, it’s more about how it’s a fact that tragedies just happen at times, hopefully rarely, if not at all, but, when they do, we can only accept them and have to find ways to get through them. In my essay, I would still make a case for the benefit of reading about the tragedy of Romeo and Juliet. When we are seeing a tragedy unfold in a play on a stage, we can see how the events of a tragedy come out, and by that seeing, we can reflect on the events in our lives as they are unfolding. If we have any amount of self- awareness, we can intervene and stop the tragedy from happening. But, even as I hear myself say all of that about doing an intervention on ourselves, we sure can get stuck into some things.
Those two feuding families were stuck deep into the hate that they had for each other. Although events were unfolding that showed how destructive their hate for each other was, for nothing that is good can ever come from hate, they continued in their hate until they suffered loss. In my conclusion, I would sum up my points by saying that although tragedies can just come upon us, it’s possible to see some signs that a tragedy is in the making, and maybe it can be deflected enough to stop the losses.
We do want all things to turn out well for us.
Today, in hearing Jesus’ parable about the rich man and Lazarus, do you think the rich man is a tragic character? Because of his belief that having lots of money and possessions were the goals of life, he missed what is most important, the salvation of his soul. The rich man sees the errors of his ways, but it’s too late, he’s in hell. Would you say that fits a tragedy? I’m not sure I would go as far as calling the rich man a tragic hero, but he does not want the fate that he has in hell for his brothers, who also seem to have his belief that life is all about money and possessions. He wants someone to tell his brothers to make changes in their lives, so they have much better outcomes than he has as he is sitting in hell forever. I want to talk more about the rich man, but lets for a moment talk about Lazarus. To be sure, this is a parable. The rich man and Lazarus are fictitious characters. Jesus is telling this story to make a point. Although there are people in the world who are so well off that they have fancy underwear, and there are people who live in extreme poverty like Lazarus, but to say, I doubt anyone here today has underwear made of pure silk, and no one here is so poor that they eat scraps that are meant for dogs.
So, how does this parable apply to us? Every person has regrets. We have all done things that we look back at and say something to ourselves like, “How could I’ve been so wrong?” Seeing what a situation for what it is has to be most important to us, and to say, if we don’t see it and admit this truth to ourselves, it would be tragic. The truth is that we have been so wrong, maybe it was even during this past week. We have caused some hurt to others by what we have said or done.
Here in church, we call that wrong sin. Sin is when we go against God’s good will for us.
Although the rich man and Lazarus had lives that were so different from each other, they had something in common, they both were sinners. What was different, and so much different, was that the rich man believed that money and what it could buy in this life was most important; whereas, Lazarus believed that the next life that was for eternity in heaven was most important. To be clear, having money and stuff is not a sin.
But, as we look at what we have are we saying in selfish pride, “I’m self-made,” or are we saying in humbleness, “All I have is God made, they are gifts from above.” This sermon could take on the issues of poverty, injustices, and inequity. And, we could talk about how the poor suffer, for definitely, Lazarus did suffer in this life quite a bit.
The key to understanding this parable is knowing the meaning of Lazarus’ name.
We have to ask from out of all the names of the world, “Why did Jesus choose to name this poor man, Lazarus?” Lazarus means the one who the Lord helps. Really, God! That leaves some questions, doesn’t it? Do you mean that you helped Lazarus? Lazarus had a miserable life, but he did not have a tragic life. He did not suffer the worst tragedy of all like the rich man, who lost his soul to the temporary things of the world. God helped Lazarus keep what is most important, his soul that now rests forever in heaven where the perfect riches of eternal life are. Of course, we are to help the poor and to be justice fighters. We are to work for equity. Although this parable contrasts the rich and the poor, that contrast is not what this parable is about. What this parable is about is God’s main concern for us, the salvation of our souls. God’s desire is for us to be blessed in this life, but all these blessings that give us care in this life are never to get in the way of our goal for this life, which is to get to eternal life. God always will give us what is needed for this life. We might be comparing and contrasting the rich and the poor these days to get things even. But, trying always to even things out in this world is not what we are to be doing. The reason why some have more than others will always remain a mystery. No matter what are station in life is, what we to be doing is to treat each other fairly.
We are to be honest with each other. In all things, we are to be humble and kind.
In somewhat of a defense of the rich man, he didn’t want his brothers to suffer his fate, so he asked that someone who was raised from the dead to be sent to tell his brothers.
The answer was that if they didn’t listen to Moses and the prophets that they wouldn’t listen to anything else. Every week we come to the same things, but they are what most important. To the world they seem too ordinary to have any effect, but they are everything to us. We have words, but they are God’s Words that give life now and forever. We have bread and wine, but they are the true body and blood that were given shed by Jesus for us to give us life now and forever. We have confession of sin, and, then, we have the great reversal. We hear how every sin is forgiven that gives us life now and forever. Don’t get thrown off how ordinary we are here, but it’s through these things that God gives us Himself in Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit that gives us things for this life and forever.
This life will have its tragedies, but by the grace and power of God we get through them. And it’s by this same grace and power of God, we will get through this life to our ultimate goal, eternal life. The best thing about heaven is there is no looking back with regrets, for in heaven all is at perfect peace forever. With that picture of heaven in our minds, we can have that heavenly peace to stop a tragedy if we can, but if a tragedy does happen, we can get through it until we get to that forever peace that will be ours in heaven one day.