Thursday, October 25, 2007

The Diocese of California Gets an Award from the East Bay Chapter of the United Nations!

Last night was a night to remember. I attended the award presentation and dinner for the UN Awards because I had been at the right place at the right time and was asked to accept the award on behalf of the Bishop of California, Marc Handley Andrus, along with the Rev. Ted Thompson. Ted came to the dinner with his lovely wife (really) Mary and my lovely husband Matt Cantor came with me. We all took the stage and accepted the award together. The evening included a clown-like dancing water goddess, covered in flowing spangly blue robes and wearing an enormous wave-like hat. The theme of the evening was "Water for Life" and she made sure we remembered that. At the second half, she came out covered with plastic water bottles and intoned over and over again, "Is this what you want? Is this what you want? Turn off the spigot of your tap and turn on the spigot of your heart!" The food was great, and we were among very honorable company as recipients of this award- we came right after Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates. I did the acceptance speech and here it is:

Acceptance Comments for the East Bay Chapter of the United Nations Citizen Award
Given to the Diocese of California

I am truly honored to accept this award on behalf of the Episcopal Diocese of California, Bishop Marc Handley Andrus and all the remarkable churches, youth groups and individuals who have done such wondrous work for the Millennium Development Goals. And thank you to the Water Goddess for making this such a Berkeley moment for me. There have been so many astonishing things happening in the diocese to support the MDGs that I am sorry I have time to lift up only a few, but here goes…

Bishop Marc, very early in his tenure as our Bishop created a diocesan committee on the MDGs. This has been beautifully chaired by the very versatile Rev. Shari Young. The impact of the work of this committee has radiated out like ripples of water not only through the Diocese of California, but all over the world. Churches have shifted their programming to reflect their commitment to the MDGs, they have gone solar, their outreach programs have blossomed and many churches have sent out missions to alleviate hunger and fight disease all over the world. Our own East Bay St. John’s church in Montclair under the leadership of the Rev. Scott Denman is a good example of this, having completed a youth mission trip to Puerto Rico this past year and continuing important mission work in Uganda and Tanzania.

Bishop Marc also created a committee to identify three dioceses to be in partnership with ours. This would be a partnership that would have mutual fulfillment of the MDGs as a major priority. One was to be in Latin America, one in Asia and one in Africa. I am proud to say that our own East Bay Rev. Ted Thompson was the one who ably chaired that committee and they recently identified the first of those three partner dioceses - the Diocese of Curitiba in Southern Brazil. It turns out that Curitiba is one of the greenest cities in the world, so we will learn as much from them as they will from us. I would also like to raise up the Church Divinity School of the Pacific for their innovative greening of the campus program, led by Jan O'Brien with the sage help of Dr. Marion Grau. And Kevin Jones of Holy Innocents, San Francisco, has created a database that is a veritable wikipedia of accountability of the progress made by our diocese with the MDGs. Our work has been mapped out so that we can see the consequences of the impact of every church in this diocese throughout the world.

There has been truly wonderful representation by the youth in the diocese. The youth group of the Rev. Ted Thompson’s own Christ Church in Alameda, led by Laura Toepfer, drafted a resolution for the California Diocese to urge all clergy and all churches to change AT LEAST one incandescent bulb for a compact florescent. This resolution passed almost unanimously just last Saturday, and I went home and replaced one of my light bulbs that very afternoon! Two East Bay youth groups have sent teams to New Orleans to repair the awful damage there and help the people who continue to suffer. St. Alban's Church in Albany sent 22 people, led by the indomitable Bobbi Ryan and Interim Rector, the Rev. Linda Campbell, and actually ran a camp for the children from the lower 9th ward. All Souls Parish in Berkeley sent a group of 18 hardy souls to clear debris and weeds from a huge field, pass out supplies to the needy and insulate the new houses that are being built. Many other youth groups have done many other marvelous things, in and out of the East Bay, from creating works of art to illustrate each MDG, ( the Youth Arts Academy) to making ceramic light switch plates, telling us to turn off our lights! These were sold, and the proceeds used for a solar panel fund for the youth group’s church- Our Saviour, Mill Valley.

But I have to say that the leadership for all this good work has been from Bishop Marc Handley Andrus. Since this is Berkeley, I would like to take a moment to try to impart to you the cosmic nature of Bishop Marc’s leadership. Perhaps the best way to do this is to describe the presentation that Bishop Marc has made whenever possible- at events, conferences and during a sermon. I refer to “The Cosmic Walk.” This is a tour through natural history, starting at the very beginning- the phenomenon of the Big Bang- or, as the Bishop calls it, "the great primordial flaring forth." A long rope is spiraled out on the ground, with the inside coil representing the beginning, delineating such landmarks as 12.5 billion years ago when stars and galaxies are born, 4 billion years ago when the oceans are formed, 2 billion years ago when oxygen-loving cells emerge, 600 million years ago when ecosystems emerge, right down to the emergence of human beings, and eventually, culminating with the creation of the MDGs. The Bishop saunters along the spiral, noting each landmark and honoring it by lighting a candle at each spot. The moment that stays with me the most is 540 million years ago when eyes emerge- the instant when the first amphibian raised its protruding eyes out of the water and, for the first time, that thing which was made from the earth was able to see. For the first time, earth sees itself.

I was taught to see the earth in an entirely new way when I took a course on the MDGs from Bishop Marc’s remarkable wife, Dr. Sheila Andrus. There were many transformative things I learned from that course, but here are two that have really stayed with me:

First, the brilliant feminist and ecological hero, Dr. Marion Grau came to talk, and she made an interesting confession. She said that she discovered that the work she had been doing was, in large part, fueled by anger that other people were not doing enough, or by guilt, that she was not doing enough. She came to realize that guilt and anger are not renewable energy sources, and like an incandescent light bulb, she was burning out. So to renew herself, she went to a great joyous Earth-day like festival in her native Germany, and she had a revelation: That she no longer needed to fuel her work with anger or with guilt, but with joy. Joy that she, in this short life, could do SOMETHING to reach these goals we are all talking about, and joy that there were so many people all over the world to do that something with!

After her talk, Bishop Marc showed up and immediately added another Millennium Development Goal- I guess when you are Bishop you get to do that. He added MDG #9: Peace and Reconciliation. And I hope that all of us will work for peace as well as the realization of all these goals. I hope we do something every single day, preferably out of joy, that will add in some small way to the realization of these outrageously optimistic, challenging and deeply possible goals. Thank you.
-The Rev. Este Gardner Cantor

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Giving Peace a Chance

On Saturday Oct 27 a long-planned coalition peace march took place in San Francisco. There
were parallel marches all over the country, and although two other significant ones took place in LA and New York, the San Francisco march was by far the largest, at 10,000 marchers. For the San Francisco march, a coalition of 180 groups, including faith groups, students, labor, women’s groups and many more came together under one banner only: Stop the war in Iraq.

Bishop Marc decided that the Diocese of California should participate in the San Francisco march, and that we would gather at the Cathedral and march the short distance to the Civic Center where the masses were gathered. There was an unusual emphasis on including the faith community by the organizers of the march, and a large and moving interfaith service was held at Grace Cathedral Oct 25, to further that effort.

The Episcopalians met at Grace Cathedral at 10:00 and marched down to the Civic Center on a truly beautiful day for a march, singing all the way. We met an enormous crowd at the rally, which included a huge interfaith group- Buddhists, Quakers, Baptists, and many other denominations.

Our own Bishop Mark was one of about ten who addressed the crowd, and he spoke movingly about the importance of being witnesses to the deaths and injustice in Iraq, as the women by the cross and the beloved disciple had witnessed Jesus’ death. He spoke of the unreliability of the media, and the importance of telling our stories and of giving others a forum for telling theirs. He posed a question to the crowd: How many people know the number of Iraqis killed in the Gulf War? I saw no hands raised. He proposed we use whatever platforms we had to give voice to those not often heard, to learn information so often suppressed, and he mentioned the church as one likely forum.

After he spoke a burley man approached him and said repeatedly, “Are you the head of the church?” After the bishop clarified who he was, the man said wonderingly, “I’ve seen people who go to church here at these marches, but I have never seen the head of a church here!” The man shook the bishop’s hand. The other speakers were lively and loud and inspiring. Standouts were the always-irrepressible Code Pink, who led us in song, and a wonderful Philipino rapper named Kiwi who had everyone dancing.

We all marched together to Market Street where everyone laid down on the street for a short, legal, very affecting three-minute die-in- a demonstration of the loss of life we
hear so little about. Then we marched on to Dolores Park, remaining with the large faith contingent, and singing peace songs led by a spirited Quaker with a megaphone, a great spirit and a (self-described) awful voice. The spirits were high throughout the march. As usual the streets were lined with police and the helicopters flew overhead, reminding us again of the realities of war. Ten thousand people witnessed for peace that day, and the witnesses will keep on marching until the war is at an end. Join us.

Rev. Este Gardner Cantor

Come to the Visioning Day for Big Theological Fun!

The Visioning Day, at Church of Our Saviour, Mill Valley, is also billed as a time of conversation with our Bishop. this is a service and set of workshops designed to include the whole of the Diocese of California in visioning a way forward for the diocese. The workshops between the two liturgies include writing, music, art and theological reflection time and are open to all. Please try to make it- Not only adults, but children and youth as well! The order of service and of the day follows:

Holy Eucharist:Building the Beloved Community
Marin Deanery Visioning Day Oct 6, 2007

Prelude Ashe Ashe, Nigerian Traditional Guitar and Drum
The Gathering Rites:
Presider: Alleluia, Christ has risen.
People: Christ has risen indeed. Alleluia

A Reading from Martin Luther King Jr. from Facing the Challenge of a New Age

Our loyalties must transcend our race, our tribe, our class, and our nation. …the end is reconciliation; the end is redemption; the end is the creation of the Beloved Community. It is this type of spirit and this type of love that can transform opposers into friends. It is this type of understanding goodwill that will transform the deep gloom of the old age into the exuberant gladness of the new age. It is this love which will bring about miracles in the hearts of [women and] men.”

The Word of God

A Collect for Community
Presider: May God be with you.
People: And also with you.
Presider: Let us pray.
It is through you, gracious God,
That your children find agape love,
the love of God that operates in human hearts.
the love of God that makes no distinction between friend and enemy
the love of God that never shrinks from justice
the overflowing, redeeming, groundless and creative love
which challenges, liberates and sustains us.
Oh God, give us this love always, that we may be at one with you
And walk the earth as brothers and sisters. Amen

The First Lesson 1 Chronicles 2-4, 7-13
David said to Joab and the commanders of the troops, "Go and count the Israelites from Beersheba to Dan. Then report back to me so that I may know how many there are."

But Joab replied, "May the Lord multiply his troops a hundred times over. My lord the king, are they not all my lord's subjects? Why does my lord want to do this? Why should he bring guilt on Israel?"
The king's word, however, overruled Joab; so Joab left and went throughout Israel and then came back to Jerusalem. But God was displeased with this command, so He punished Israel.

Then David said to God, "I have sinned greatly by doing this. Now, I beg you, take away the guilt of your servant. I have done a very foolish thing." The Lord said to Gad, David's seer, "Go and tell David, 'This is what the Lord says: I am giving you three options. Choose one of them for me to carry out against you.' "

So Gad went to David and said to him, "This is what the Lord says: 'Take your choice: three years of famine, three months of being swept away before your enemies, with their swords overtaking you, or three days of the sword of the Lord -days of plague in the land, with the angel of the Lord ravaging every part of Israel.' Now then, decide how I should answer the one who sent me."

David said to Gad, "I am in deep distress. Let me fall into the hands of the Lord, for his mercy is very great; but do not let me fall into the hands of men

Reader: Hear what the Spirit is saying to God’s people.
People: Thanks be to God

Psalm of the Beloved Community
Written by the Visioning Day Psalm Workshop May 5. 2007

All read together:

Give thanks to God who created the Beloved Community.

Y'all give to God love, thanks and praise.

Rappers and redwoods, designers and derelicts, tweakers and truckers;

Y'all give to God love, thanks and praise.

Commuters and kayakers, poppies and preachers, faults and fishers;

Y'all give to God love, thanks and praise.

Stoners and stockbrokers, cyclists and sandpipers, students and slammers;

Y'all give to God love, thanks and praise.

Sea lions and seals, cats and dogs, otters and owls;

Y'all give to God love, thanks and praise.

Drummers and dragons, Ohloni and Miwok, lovers and lunatics;

Y'all give to God love, thanks and praise.

Writers and runners, poets and pumpkins, Maoists and marshlands;

Y'all give to God love, thanks and praise.

May the Beloved Community be the net that gathers our hopes
dreams and prayers;

Y'all give to God love, thanks and praise.

May the Beloved Community be us.

Bless the Lord My Soul Taize

Bless the Lord my soul and bless God’s Holy name
Bless the Lord My Soul, who leads me into life

The Second Lesson The Revelation to John 7:9-12
After this I looked and there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands. They cried out in a loud voice, saying,
“Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne,
and to the Lamb!”
And all the angels stood around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshipped God, singing,
“Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and
thanksgiving and honor and power and might
be to our God forever and ever!”

Reader: Hear what the Spirit is saying to God’s people
People: Thanks be to God

Sequence Hymn Come All You People Alexander Gondo

Come all you people, come and praise your Maker!
Come all you people, come and praise your Maker!
Come all you people, come and praise your Maker,
come now and worship the Lord.

Uyaimose, tinamate Mwari!
Uyaimose, tinamate, Mwari!
Uyaimose, tinamate, Mwari,
Uyaimose zvino.

The Holy Gospel Luke 2:1-7

In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that all the world should be counted (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to his own town to register.

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

Gospeller: The Gospel of Christ.
People: Praise to you, O Christ.

Gospel Acclamation Creek Alleluiah

The Sermon The Right Reverend Marc H. Andrus

Confession New Zealand Prayer Book

Presider: Eternal Spirit, Living God,
We have wounded your Love
People: Oh God heal us.
Presider: We stumble in the darkness
People: Light of the world, transfigure us.
Presider: We forget that we are your home.
People: Spirit of God, dwell in us.

Compassionate God,
we confess our weaknesses and our need
for your strengthening touch,
we confess that we do not always care for ourselves
or our world as we should.
we turn to you, source of life,
and ask in the name of our Savior, Jesus Christ,
for the gifts of true healing and newness of life,
through Jesus Christ, in the power of the Holy Spirit.


May the God of love visit you in times of trial and weakness
and fill you with living water and newness of life, through Jesus Christ,
in the power of the Holy Spirit, Amen.

The Peace
Presider: May the peace, the justice and the love of God be always with you.
People: And also with you

Blessing of the Beloved Community

All remain standing to receive a blessing for the work of the Beloved Community:

Presider: On the third time that the risen Christ appeared to the disciples after he was
raised from the dead, he said to Simon Peter,

People: Feed my sheep

Presider: Then he said to him, Simon, son of John, do you love me? Peter said to him,
Yes Lord, you know that I love you. Jesus said to him,

People: Tend my lambs.

Presider: He said to him a third time, Simon, son of John, Do you love me? And Peter said
to him, Lord you know everything; you know that I love you. Jesus said to him,

People: Feed my sheep

Presider: How do you respond to this call?

People: We hear God’s call and we come to follow Christ; to feed the hungry, clothe the
naked, to visit the sick and to care for the suffering in this world.

Presider: May the blessing of God, Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer be with you and lift
you up and give you strength and courage for this holy work now and always.


Drum Solo by Michael Cobino

You are invited to join the workshops until the closing Eucharist.


Closing Eucharist

Opening hymn: Gather Us In Marty Haugen

Congregation remains standing for gathering liturgy.




Gather us in Wild Goose Worship Group
the lost and the lonely,
the broken and breaking,
the tired and the aching
who long for nourishment
found at your feast.

Presider: The done and the doubting
the wishing and wondering
the puzzled and pondering
who long for the company
found at your feast.
Presider: The proud and the pretentious
the sure and the superior,
the never inferior,
who long for the leveling
found at your feast.
Presider: The bright and the bustling,
the stirrers, the shakers,
the kind laughter-makers
who long for the deeper joys
found at your feast.
Presider: From mansion or campsite
to meet, to eat,
to be offered a seat,
to be joined to the vine
to become like the least
to be found at the feast

Presider: God is love and those who dwell in love dwell in God, and God dwells in them.

(DEACON Sets table)
Offertory Hymn Ubi Caritas Taize
Ubi caritas et amor, Ubi caritas Deus ibi est

The Great Thanksgiving Wild Goose Worship Group
Presider May God be with you
People And also with you
Presider Lift up your hearts
People We lift them up to God
Presider Let us give thanks to God
People It is right to give God thanks and praise.

Presider:: …Therefore we gladly join our voices to the song of the Church
On earth or in heaven:
Sanctus- Plain Chant


Presider: And now let us pray together:

Eternal Spirit, Earth-maker, Pain-bearer, Life-giver New Zealand Prayer Book
Source of all that is and all that shall be
Father and Mother of us all,
Loving God, in whom is heaven

The hallowing of your name echo through the universe!
The way of your justice be followed by the people of the world!
Your heavenly will be done by all created beings!
Your reign of peace and freedom
Sustain our hope in haven and on earth.

With the bread we need for today, feed us.
In the hurts we absorb from one another, forgive us.
In times of temptation and test, strengthen us.
From trials too great to endure, spare us.
From the grip of all that speaks of death and not of life, free us.
For you reign in the glory of the power that is love,
Now and forever. Amen.

Fraction Anthem:
Acapella Fraction Anthem

The Communion

Presider: All who seek God are welcome at the table.


Music at Communion:

Peace Before Us

Post Communion Prayer Wild Goose Worship Group

All: Eternal Spirit, Living God, in whom we live and move and have our being,
all that we are, have been, and shall be is known to you,
to the very secrets of our hearts, and all that rises to trouble us.
Take us out to live as changed people
because we have shared the Living Bread and cannot remain the same.
Living flame, burn into us.
Cleansing wind, blow through us.
Fountain of water, well up within us,
that we may love and praise in deed and truth.
The Blessing
Live without fear; your Creator has made you Holy,
has always protected you, and loves you like a mother.
Go in peace to follow the good road, and
may the blessing of God, Creator, Liberator and Kindler of the Spirit
Be with you evermore,


Post-Communion Hymn Syahamba


Deacon: Let us go forth in the name of Christ, rejoicing in the power of the Beloved Community.
Alleluia, alleluia!
People: Thanks be to God. Alleluia, alleluia!
Post Lude Guitar and Drum

The first lesson is a quote from Martin Luther King Jr. from his December 3, 1956 Sermon: Facing the Challenge of a New Age. This was presented at the first annual address of the Institute on Non-violence and Social Change less than a month after the Supreme Court ruled the segregation of buses in Montgomery Alabama to be unconstitutional.

Participating Today:
Presiding: Bishop Marc Handley Andrus
Rev. Richard Helmer

Pete Feltman, guitar and vocals
Michael Cobina, drum

Small Group Facillitators:
Bruce Cozzi
Al Ferrano
Cathy Ferrano
Kathleen Von Fischer

Theological Reflection: Bruce Cozzi
Writing: The Rev. Carol Luther
Art: The Rev. Este Gardner Cantor

Monday, October 1, 2007

Rich Man Poor Man

Luke 16:19-31
Rev. Este Gardner Cantor
Preached Sept. 30, 2007
Church of Our Saviour, Mill Valley

I had the pleasure of going to the Diocesan clergy conference with 200 other clergy folk from the Diocese of California this past week. There were many notable sages and prophets who gave us their words of wisdom. Our own Presiding Bishop, Kathryn Jefferts Schorri (the first openly female presiding bishop we have ever had!) was brilliant and moving and wise. Our own Bishop Marc Handley Andrus as ever, gave us a far-reaching cosmic view of creation and our responsibility to it.

But of all these prophetic luminaries, the one whose words stayed with me most was the fireball community activist, Marie Harris, a Baptist from Hunter’s Point in San Francisco.

Bishop Marc had e-mailed us several reams of reading material to slog through before the conference, and I managed about half of it. Fortunately, the half I read included the story of Marie Harris and the environmental victory of the community activists in Hunter’s Point/Bay View, the poorest and blackest section of the beautiful city of San Francisco. One reading introduced us to the complexities of "Environmental Justice" – the idea that health burdens and poor air quality and proximity to environmental hazards are disproportionately distributed by race and income. Although governmental agencies have begun to change policies to alleviate this injustice, it didn’t happen from a spontaneous burst of goodwill on the part of those in charge. It was the hard and faithful work of community organizers like Marie Harris combined with mounting evidence of their claims that caused the change.

The first thing Marie Harris pointed out was that the City of San Francisco is 49 miles square, and Bay View/Hunter’s Point is 2.5 miles square. In that 2.5 miles are all four of the power plants that reside in San Francisco. We, like the rich man whose table Lazarus the begger is huddling beneath, tend to be comfortable in our lifestyle, without realizing that the flames of hell are visited upon the residents of Hunters Point, Richmond and West Oakland, to name just our local regions of Hades.

The flames of hell are occurring right in their lifetime in the form of an industrial practice called “flaring.” When refineries want to burn off gas build-ups they let loose from the tops of their great smoke stacks vast plumes of flame, spewing forth pollution and illustrating in dramatically visual terms the reality of the environment these poor and minority people live in. And there are no refineries in affluent neighborhoods.

The flames of Hell come in the form of drastically elevated rates of cancer, asthma, and many other ailments. As Marie Harris put it, “You name it, we’ve got it.” The flames of Hell come in the form of infant mortality rates that no affluent neighborhood would ever tolerate. And the flames of Hell come in the form of a deafening silence on the part of the more prosperous city residents, who always seem to find the priorities of the poor their very last priority.

But like Lazarus, Marie Harris got her time in paradise, although she nearly died trying to get there. On May 15, 2006, Marie, along with many minority community members who had fought the system for 25 years, celebrated a glorious victory. PG&E had finally agreed to shut down one of California’s oldest and dirtiest power plants right there is Hunter’s Point. Another faithful organizer, Tessie Ester, was there celebrating with Marie. Like Lazarus looking at the faces of the angels carrying him to heaven she said, “When I look over at the those stacks and I see nothing coming out, I just can’t help but cry.”

Marie Harris is a modern version of Amos or Isaiah. She told us in no uncertain terms that now that we were aware of what was happening in Bay View Hinter’s point that she was now holding us morally responsible to do something about it- to help her, to join with her. She even made a connection between the high cancer rates in Bay View Hunter’s point, and the high cancer rates in Marin County. Marie said that it was in Hunter’s point that “Little Boy” the bomb dropped on Hiroshima was assembled. And that they stored the nuclear waste in steel drums and dropped them in the San Francisco Bay. The drums, she said, began after many years to drift up on the shores of Marin. So, as she said, we each share our own piece of Hell.

We can’t contain these flames of Hell in one area, even if we may want to.
It may seem, as our Gospel reads today that “A great chasm has been fixed” between the rich and the poor, between Hunter’s Point and Marin County. But no such chasm exists.

Bishop Marc, on the first night of the conference, laid out for us a fascinating presentation he has done many times before called “The Cosmic Walk.” A long rope was spiraled out on the ground, and candles were placed to delineate the great landmarks of creation- starting with the great flaring forth- the big bang, and ending with the advent of human history. Toward the end of this great spiral, we had the emergence of amphibians. As Bishop Marc said, the eye emerged from the sea and for the first time, the earth saw itself.

Today, we, as the earth are seeing ourselves again. What do we see?

We are all born the same- we bring nothing into this world, and we take nothing away, as Paul reminds us in our second reading. And I was struck, when I looked at Marie, with how rich she is. Rich in good works, certainly, but also rich in community, rich in passion, and because of her great charisma and passion, even rich in the blessings and success of her faithful efforts.

If we cannot listen to our modern day prophets, we may never hear the word from heaven that we need to hear. Father Abraham, in our reading of today tells the rich man that his brothers did not listen to Moses, who said, “Do not be hard-hearted or tight-fisted toward your needy neighbor” (Deut 15:7)

They did not listen to the prophet Isaiah, who said:

Is this not the fast I choose:
To loose the bonds of injustice
To undo the thongs of the yoke
To let the oppressed go free
To break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry
And bring the homeless poor to your house
When you see the naked to cover them
And not hide yourself from your own kin? (Isa 58: 6-7)

It is this last direction that seems to be the redemption of the rich man. In the end he begins to think of someone other than himself- his five brothers, also presumably rich men, oblivious to the needs of the poor, as he was. He realizes that they will meet the same fate that he has, if they are not warned. Abraham’s last words are that if they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, they will not be convinced if someone is raised from the dead.

But we, as Christians, presumably HAVE been convinced by someone who was raised from the dead. And Jesus echoes the words of Moses and Isaiah in so many passages.

There is no great chasm. Both the rich man and Lazarus suffer from diseases. Lazarus may have running sores, but the rich man has Affluenza. We all live in the same world, we all die.
But we can live in heaven or in hell while we do yet live.

At the end of Luke’s gospel we hear of two whose hearts were “strangely warmed” when they heard the stranger interpreting the scriptures for them. Then they recognized him in the breaking of the bread. If the rich man HAD followed the words of the prophets, if he had taken care of Lazarus and shared a meal with him, perhaps he would have seen the face of God who had long been a stranger to him.

Across the imaginary chasm are the strangers who are so like us. If we reach out to them, if we break bread with them, our lives will be changed, our hearts will be “strangely warmed,”
we may even be cured of our inner plague. We may even be able to bask guilt-free in the promises of our psalm:

You shall not be afraid of any terror by night
Nor of the arrow that flies by day
Of the plaque that stalks in the darkness
Nor of the sickness that lays waste at mid-day
Because God is bound to you in love.