Saturday, September 29, 2007

How Wide a Chasm?

The Gospel for Sunday, September 30, 2007 is the challenging parable of Lazarus and the rich man (Luke 16:19-31). Challenging not simply because all of us in the US are much richer than our neighbors in places like Haiti - the poorest nation in the Americas - but also because, if we listen with sufficient imagination, we are challenged about all the chasms that we have created or allowed to exist between us and people of color, our LBGT neighbors, people with disabilities - and the list could go on and on. Like the rich man in the parable who doesn't even see Lazarus, we don't see our neighbors,don't know their names, don't even acknowledge their existence. We may not be as ridiculous in this as the president of Iran, who said that their are no gay people in Iran, but we often go about our lives as if there were no people without food or shelter or adequate medical care, etc.

One of my college English teachers once said that her parents had stopped urging her to finish her suppper by reminding her that there were starving children in China after she had challenged them to name one.

Can we name some of those in our world who are among those my colleague Fr. Bill Wipfler called "the last, the least, the losers"? Will naming them help to narrow the chasm bewteen us and them? I hope so.

Several years ago, I left parish work to work as the director of a commission on homelessness. My office was in downtown Buffalo and my friend Charlotte asked me how I was planning to respond to panhandlers. I hadn't given it any thought, so I asked for her advice. She suggested that I always ask for the panhandler's name and introduce myself. I took her advice and during the six years that I worked for the commission I made friends with a few of the people who asked for money. I remember one day in winter when I met a couple of men near the end of the day. After introducing myself and learning their names, I gave them some money and talked with them for a few minutes. I could tell that they had been drinking and I said that I hoped that they would not use the money I had given them for more booze, but that the money was a gift and the choice of how they would use it was theirs. As I started to walk away, one of the men thanked me for the being the first person that day to treat him like a real person.

What are the chasms in our lives and how can we reach across them to get to know our neighbors before it's too late?

Why a Blog? and Where is ToyTown?

To answer the second question first: ToyTown is what some folks call East Aurora, New York, the home of Fisher-Price. For nearly six years, I have served the Episcopal parish in East Aurora, Saint Matthias Church. On most Sundays, when one of my three clergy colleagues isn't preaching, I preach without notes. Every so often someone asks me for a copy of a sermon and I have to explain that none is available. Which brings me to the answer to the first question: this blog will be a place where I can, as I prepare a sermon, post my reflections on the lectionary texts. At times those posts may be fairly complete outlines of the sermon. At other times they will be more sketchy. For those who want to revisit my thinking about the texts, this bog will often be a place where they can do that. Others who are strugglng with the same texts may want to read my reflections and share their own.

From time to time I may share my reflections on other matters within the life of The Episcopal Church, the Diocese of Western New York, Saint Matthias Church, or the larger society.