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The writings of author, therapist, and priest Robert Warren Cromey.

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Location: San Francisco, California, United States

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Charlie Chaplin and the Widow of Nain

(Luke 7:11-17 Pentecost 2, yr.C

We all remember the picture of Charlie Chaplin’s tramp eating his shoe in one of the old films. It is funny and touching. It is absurd, humorous – but he’s hungry. The little tramp is starving and in desperation he eats his shoe.

Chaplin was accused of being a communist because his film depicted Americans as hungry, working in miserable factories and were employees of despotic bosses.

Then there is that other troublemaker, Jesus.

There he goes again, that Jesus, raising the dead. It is hard to be a believer in this secular world when we go to church and have another weird story of our leader bringing the dead back to life.

Do we take this story literally? What does it mean?
Can we get something from the story even though it is not an historical event?

The widow has lost her son and her money. She is a dead woman with no husband and no son to take care of her. In Jesus’ day a widowed woman was cast out without money, home, food, social security or welfare. The poor became beggars, slept on the ground or in public places. Hunger was the main course in dining. The poor were undervalued, unclean, degraded and expendable. They were kept at subsistence level and controlled.

When Jesus restores the life of the son, he also restores the life of the widow. Her son can support her now. She can eat real food, not her shoes or dirt. She will have a home and family. The both have new life.

Churches down through the ages have had programs to feed the hungry.

My father was a priest in the slums of Brooklyn, NY in the 1930’s. One of my earliest memories was of lines of homeless men lined up in the evening to go into the parish hall of St. Michael’s Church to get free bread and soup which my father hustled from neighborhood grocers and bakers.

Aimee Semple McPherson, a notorious evangelist of the depression era in Los Angeles may have been a charlatan but she also fed the hungry. When the schools stopped feeding children free lunches, Aimee took over the program. When city agencies could not handle the load of beggars, women of Aimee’s Temple sewed quilts and baked loaves bread by the thousands. Her temple fed thousands each day for many months.

Actor Anthony Quinn, then a teenager, said, “During the depression the one human being that never asked what your nationality was, what was your faith, was Aimee Semple McPherson. All you had to do was to call and say you were hungry and within an hour there would be a food basket for you….She literally kept most of the Mexican community…alive.”


The late California Congressman, Phil Burton used to say, “Do as much as you can for as many people as you can and then start over.”

What can we do as a country to make sure no one goes hungry?

Evangelist Billy Sunday said, ”What the church needs is fighting men of God, not “hog-jowled, weasel-eyed, sponged-columned, mushy-fisted, jelly-spined, pussy-footing, four-flushing Charlotte-russe Christians.”

We Christens can stand tall and speak out. We can work the committees or stand on street corners. Write letters and make phone calls.

When I gave food to the hungry, they called me a saint. When I asked why are so many people hungry, they called me a communist. (Dom Helder Camera)

Why do oil companies make so much profit?

Why do we read every month about the salaries of so many new billionaires?

Why don’t we have an excess profits tax like we had in WW 11?

What can we Christians do to help abolish hunger in the world?

In the name of Jesus’ love, end the costly wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and use the money to help poor countries grow crops.

In the name of the Jesus we can fight to end global warming so lands stop becoming arid or flooded so that crops can be grown.

In the name of the love of Jesus, the revolutionary, we can support a government that is for the people and not just for big business.

Jesus raises the dead to feed a desperate woman.

In the name of Jesus the revolutionary, we bring justice, compassion and love into the world God has given us.

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