Lectionary Year A, B and C
Ash Wednesday
Joel 2:1-2, 12-17

Step V: Hermeneutical Bridge


Used by permission from Lectionary Tales for the Pulpit by Merle G. Franke.

A Tenant Calls a Meeting

      Juan Riviera and his wife Emily returned to Chicago after Juan completed a four-year hitch in the Army. He had joined the Army immediately after graduating from high school, and he married his high school sweetheart Emily midway into his brief stint in the service. Now as they returned to Chicago, Emily was seven months pregnant.

      Juan had received a promise of a job, but there was nothing concrete yet, so they secured an apartment in the low-cost housing development in which he had grown up and where his mother still lived. Now that they were back home in Chicago, they were eager to begin their new life and raise their faimly - as they had been raised.

      But there was a different look on the familiar, old apartment buildings. Juan and Emily didn't like the new look, for it consisted of trashed out yards and junky hallways. Old clunky broken-down cars littered the open ground between many of the buildings. "We're going to fix them up," some of the residents told Juan. But Juan and Emily had a sinking feeling that things were going to get worse, not better.

      That's when the two of them decided to do something about the situation. They went door to door inviting residents to a big gathering. Juan's mother had prepared some of her Puerto Rican delicacies as an enticement for the tenants to attend the Saturday night gathering. Juan hardly had time to announce his concern about the trashy look of the complex when tenants voiced their gripes about the landord. The landlord won't do this, the landlord won't do that... the gripes droned on for a while until Juan called a halt to it.

      He wasn't buying all the excuses. "What do you expect?" he challenged. "Is the landlord supposed to do everything for you? Did he bring these miserable old cars in here? Take a look around; see how many there are within sight. Did he leave trash in the hallways and put graffiti on the walls?"

      "You've been gone; you don't know how things are... " one of the tenants began to protest.

      But again Juan responded, "I know one thing - I can't expect improvement if all I do is sit around on my fanny and complain!"

      "The city inspectors say they're going to close down these buildings," another tenant offered.

      "Well, I'm not surprised," Juan replied. "But it doesn't have to be that way. Let's turn this place around; let's do something ourselves." Juan continued his call to arms, which included scolding of the tenants for their part in the appearance of the buildings. "Look," he pleaded, "we can begin the process of turning this place around. Let's begin by turning around some of our living habits, and show the landlord we're willing to do our part. You know, it's just possible he's got a heart and will make some improvements of his own." He paused to let that sink in, then added, "Who knows? We might even impress those building inspectors."

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