Twitter informed me, early this morning, in breathless astonishment, that Paris Hilton just closed the Versace runway show for Milan’s Fashion Week in a bright pink, excessively sparkly, rather short bridal ensemble. If you google it, having literally nothing else to do with your long, interminable day, you’ll be treated to various videos of the usual long dark runway accompanied by techno music and ennui.
I didn’t know this, but apparently Paris got married last year, and over the three-day “event” she wore at least seven different dresses. The main one was by Oscar de la Renta, and all the others were, as you have probably already guessed, by other important designers. Paris, according to the reporting, “loves outfit changes.” So anyway, and this is what’s so important, Donatella Versace said, “What’s one more?” and so Paris donned this eighth pink dress with a pink veil and pink gloves and amazed the world.
It is a bit confusing, I suppose, because it’s a year later from the wedding event, and none of this matters a whit, but maybe you were wondering about exactly how many wedding dresses Paris had worn in the last year. Really, it is a lot of serendipity all around. Here is what the anticipation for the wedding was like:
On Thursday evening, esteemed guests gathered at a private estate in Los Angeles to witness the wedding of Paris Hilton and Carter Reum, just as fans of the socialite sat on their couches across the country, tuning into the first episode of the Peacock’s series, Paris in Love. While the 13-episode docuseries will document the journey to November 11th, right now, we’re focusing on the day in question because as more and more details are revealed, it’s becoming clear that the three-day Hilton wedding will truly be an affair to remember. “It is definitely going to be your fairytale wedding,” Reum said to his now-wife on Hilton’s podcast, This Is Paris, the day of the wedding.
Maybe when I fail to podcast, you could go listen to Paris podcast. I bet she doesn’t fail nearly as often as I do. Anyway, all that aside, it’s Sunday, and there is another rich person, in this case, a man who has got nearly as many clothes as Paris. He wears purple and fine linen every day, not just on special occasions. He also gets plenty to eat. He probably isn’t the least bit worried about his waistline, because being thin hasn’t always been the marker of both beauty and status. He couldn’t possibly be thin, actually, because he feasts “sumptuously every day.”
In this way, Jesus sets us up to know that this is an important person, someone we should certainly care about. Of course we would want to read the gossip about him online whenever we had a spare moment to scroll. And when we came across the details of his latest menu in Bon Appetite we would stop and drool because there would probably not only be details about who cooked the food but tips about how we can do it too.
The internet is so equalizing in this way. We all can watch all the rich and famous, not from afar, but close up. And, in many cases, we can go out and get at least knockoffs versions for ourselves of what they’re wearing, and can approximate what they’re eating—if we want to.
But the rich man’s trend-setting celebrity glow isn’t really the important thing for Jesus this morning. Indeed, there is another man, flung down in front of the rich man’s gate. His name, which the rich man apparently knows, is a bit of an ironic joke—God is the Helper. The rich man chuckles to himself in the midst of his various meals, as he listens to his friends chatter on. Once or twice he cleverly draws the joke to the fore, pointing to Lazarus out there. The room always falls to a hush and then laughs appreciatively, whenever he comes to the punchline.
The interval between a wedding, or a banquet of any kind, and a funeral isn’t very long. Years or weeks or days, time goes so quickly by, and the poor rich man dies and is honored by several days’ worth of national coverage and a eulogy in the New York Times. Most of his friends, who liked all the food, were sad, because no one could pull off a party like he could.
Meanwhile, Lazarus also died, and all the people who had had to pick their way past him every morning on the way to work were sort of relieved. Sore encrusted and pathetic, his deep-set needy eyes following them as they hurried by, returning again and again to gaze, longingly, at that rich table and imagine the taste of one of the crumbs, falling to the floor—it was uncomfortable. Why did he have to be thrown down there every single day?
Anyway, he died, as Jesus said, and the community got on with its life. But, though they were both thought of no more, or at least very little, time stretched out before them still. For this isn’t the only life we live. This is only the foretaste, the beginning of time going on forever. It’s a bit of an appalling thought, if you are sifting through your piles of designer wedding gowns, trying to decide whether to go out or stay in, wondering what to talk about on your podcast when all the topics have already been covered two or three times already.
Lazarus, it turns out, really did have God as his Helper. For he was carried by the very angels of heaven to sit practically on the lap of Abraham. Now the brightness of his clothes, the consolations of his heart and mind are almost too sweet even to contemplate. All of his longings are constantly—and forever—satisfied, there with the founder of his faith. And though only Abraham is mentioned, there are lots of other people as well. All the people who kept looking out of their anguished eyes for that better country, who never settled on this one as their hope and joy.
On the other side of the cavernous ravine, one which no bridge can supersede, no information highway can explain, the rich man was alone, in torment. This time he lifts up his eyes, only he never wanted any help before, least of all from God, and so, though he longs for relief, he still doesn’t want to be with the person who is the source and fulfillment of all consolation and comfort. Of all people, as if he hadn’t had enough of looking at him day after day, he wants Lazarus to leave that heavenly table and come and give him a drink of water, as if that will make any difference, except to restore Lazarus, in his own estimation, to his proper place of beggar. How dare he rest up there, dining in the very presence of God.
Abraham, as kindly as possible, explains the situation. “You can’t come up here,” he says. The reason hovers over the darkness—you don’t want to. You haven’t even asked to come up here. You have only asked Lazarus to go down there. Moreover, you have asked for him to go back to the place of his torment, to face once again the gate, those people who had no time for him when he lived there. And tell them what? That what you do in this life matters? That God is real? That heaven is real? They already know that. And if they wanted to learn more, they could dust off ye olde Bible and give it a glance, because the text is abundantly clear in many many many places.
“No,” pleads the rich man. “If Lazarus went back—risen from the dead—they would be warned off this dark, lonely torment.” For all the irony of the story, this final jab is the very worst. For, in a bit, another Lazarus will be raised to life, and then the Lord—our Helper—himself will take his place and die in all the humiliation and degradation of the poor Lazarus in our story. And though it looked to all the world that he, Jesus, had failed, that his plain, perfectly woven garment, clutched in the hands of one Roman soldier was of no use to anyone anymore, that his blood, spilling out on the ground was the measure of his own defeat, yet look at the feast on the table before you this morning.
If you climb out of your warm bed and go to church, there you will begin already to taste the consolations of Abraham. There you won’t be alone, tormented and selfish. There you will eat and drink with those poor blessed creatures who are helped by God. There you will not just taste the crumbs that fall from the table, though you are not worthy to take hold of anything else, but will be nourished by God himself.
Hope to see you there!