Thursday, October 3, 2013

Sean Lazaro at the gate


Joe and company are getting their stuff together as I arrive. He surprises me by asking for a broom and dustpan, setting to work as I go around to 86th. And there he is again, Sean, asleep by the door. I ask him to leave before services, but well...

Soon Rachel arrives, wheeled by her Joe. Dion the Open Mic comedian is back again as well as an English couple who had been to Open Mic a few weeks back.

We start by discussing the Jeremiah passage. (32: 1-3a, 6-15) About Jeremiah commanding that a field be purchased at Anathoth even as the Babylonians are laying siege to Jerusalem, about to enter in. The country will be occupied, taken off into exile, and he’s advising buying property. Why? Because at the end of the day when this time is over, Houses and fields and vineyards shall again be bought in this land. Even at the darkest hour, there is a future. It is assured. The prophetic act is what we called in Latin America propaganda of the deed. It’s meaning revealed by what it is. 

Not too long after I had explained that the name Baruch means blessed, in walks Berik with a Russian friend. Berik, the same meaning in Arabic. 

In Timothy (6: 6-19) we get that famous quote about money being the root of all evil (10) and notice it is actually the love of money...not money itself. There is no romance in being poor. In fact, what most poor people want is not to be poor. 

It talks about Jesus making the good confession. More than a statement of wrongs that one has done, it’s more a statement of who one really is, as in the Confessing Church of Germany that stood up against Hitler. Their confession, the Barmen Declaration,  that Jesus alone is Lord had profound political implications in the day when the German Christian movement equated Hitler with God, or at least God’s will. 

It concludes with an admonition :
They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, 19 thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life. (Or that which is really life...) 
What is the life that is truly life? Pat says that it is the spiritual life. And checking the 12 step movement, she connects confession, saying that it begins by being able to say what is real about oneself, with living the life that is real. Her way to start the day.

Our Gospel lesson is the great Jesus story of Lazarus and the rich man. (Luke 16: 19-31). Though he is not named in the Bible, he’s known as Dives, as my friend Melissa says, like a diva.

I point out that this Lazarus is not the same one as Martha and Mary’s brother who Jesus raises from the dead.  And that even though he is only a character in a story, in popular Latino culture he's known as a saint, San Lazaro. Poor, covered with sores and lying by the gate. Dogs licking his sores. (Anna points out the healing power in saliva.) 

I point out the connection between San Lazaro and Babalu-aye in Afro-Caribbean religion. Ricky Ricardo of 1950's  I Love Lucy fame singing babalu!....who knew?! And Paul Simon sings  Babalu-aye spins on his crutches/ Says leave if you want/ If you want to leave. Simon also used San Lazaro /Babalu Aye as a character in his Broadway show, The Capeman.  The people see themselves in San Lazaro. And so he lives. And can be found prominently on any botanica shop window.

As I read the description of Lazarus in the Bible, I all of a sudden see in my head, Sean outside, with no feet, by the door. A living visual sermon illustration. It doesn't make sense. Reachout has found him a transitional place. Took all his stuff that we were keeping for him and him, too, in a van there. What is he doing back?

The rich man, now in Hades, sees Lazarus in the bosom of Abraham. (Oh rocka my soul in the bosom of Abraham...) We talk a little about the Greek idea of Hades and how the Jewish idea grew from the reality of an ever burning trash heap outside of Jerusalem. But the real focus is on how even in Hades, the rich man does not realize that Lazarus is not there to serve him.

And now that chasm has been created that cannot be crossed. And how the punishment we receive is really what we create for ourselves. That if we cut ourselves off from relationship here, we have condemned ourselves to an eternity of loneliness. 

Marsha questions what it means it be connected. I mention, as Jesus said, where two or three are gathered the intersection of two or more people, another reality is called into existence. When that is multiplied, the whole greater than the sum of its parts. And that is something sacred.

Jan, from England, who came from Open Mic, notes that at the end, the rich man for the first time thinks of someone other than himself. He wants Father Abraham to send someone to his brothers and warn them. Abraham’s answer is rich with Jesus’ ironic humor
Abraham replied, They have Moses and the prophets; they should listen to them. 30 He said, No, father Abraham; but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent. 31 He said to him, If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.

Of course, Jesus would raise a man named Lazarus. And of course, Jesus too. And have we yet listened?

We clean up after services and I watch John R walking with Rachel down the street. 

The session meets to review yesterday’s shocking and devastating actions at presbytery. To begin to think through what our strategy will be now. It gets tiring having to do this over and over and over again. Very tiring. I’m glad that the service, actually the people, had lifted my spirits. 

Outside, Sean is still there. I tell him Sanctuary is coming soon. I go to get him a coffee and a ham and egg sandwich. Then take off with Stephen to try and catch at least the final part of yet another futile effort by the Steelers. This time in London. It is a bright, sunny beautiful day.

When I get back, Sean is still there. Sean Lazaro at the gate.

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