Sunday, March 01, 2009

Lenten Meditation: A story for Dallas and its urban scene 2009

"The Rich Man and Lazarus" (formatted for modern residents of urban neighborhoods)

There once was a rich man, expensively dressed in the latest fashions, wasting his days in conspicuous consumption.

A poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores (likely due to his runaway diabetes and no health care options), had been dumped on his doorstep, outside the walls and fencing that surrounded his estate.

Homeless Lazarus worked through his days with a single focus: all he lived for was to get a meal from scraps off the rich man's table. Just the crumbs, sir, just the crumbs.

Lazarus' "best friends"--the only ones to even look his way--were the dogs who came and licked his sores.

Then he died, this poor man, and was taken up by the angels to the lap of Abraham, to, as we say, "a better place."

The rich man, sharing the destiny of all humankind, also died and was buried. However, he woke up in hell and in torment. When he looked up, he was completely amazed to see Abraham in the distance with, of all people, Lazarus in his lap!

"Uh, oh," he thought!

He called out, "Father Abraham, mercy! Have mercy! Send Lazarus to dip his finger in water to cool my tongue. Just a small thing, just a little help here, sort of like the pocket change I denied Lazarus so often. I'm in agony in this fire."

"But Abraham said, 'Child, remember that in your lifetime you got the good things and Lazarus the bad things, and you didn't care enough to even look his way. It's not like that over on this side. Here and now he's consoled and you're tormented. Besides, in all these matters there is a huge chasm set between us so that no one can go from us to you even if he wanted to, nor can anyone cross over from you to us. It's just too late, Child.'

The rich man said, "Oh, no, don't tell me that! What was I thinking? Then let me ask you, Father--just a little favor, sort of like a hot meal or a drink of water or a place to live, like I so often denied Lazarus: Send him to the house of my father where I have five brothers, so he can tell them the score and warn them so they won't end up here in this place of torment."

Abraham answered, "They have Moses and the Prophets to tell them the score. Let them listen to them. I mean, after all, they are in church every Sunday!"

"I know, Father Abraham," he said, "but they're not listening and, honestly, in church lots of time is spent talking about everything but Lazarus and the values that would have rescued him while he lived on this side. But, I know that if someone came back to them from the dead, they would change their ways."

Abraham replied, "If they and their religious leaders won't listen to Moses and the Prophets--to say nothing of the songs they've been given--they're not going to be convinced by someone who rises from the dead."

St. Luke 16:19-31


Anonymous said...

The tragedy is that the rich man created the gulf between himself and Lazarus ("God helps") by refusing to cross it in life. Only after death did he come to realize that he wasn't on the side of those "God helps," a miscalculation that had become eternally permanent. As C. S. Lewis once observed, if we go through life continually refusing to say, "Your will be done," in the end God will acknowledge that freedom, by allowing us to suffer the consequences of our decisions and say, "Your will be done."

Anonymous said...

The power and the point of this parable is found in its "value proposition." As you say, Anon 8:03, it clearly announces on which side the force of God in all creation stands. It clearly announces that to ignore the obvious needs of the poor is to stand on the wrong side of both history and eternity.

Anonymous said...

Larry, thanks for the reminder. We've been asleep for about 30 years on these issues.