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January 20, 2016

A Clear Picture of God and his Boy

Ilijah was abused by his father, brutalized would be a more apt word. His mother kicked him out when she needed his lunch money to pay for drugs. Even his body failed him–he suffered seizures. Those are true and real facts. When I saw him walking on Aurora Avenue, I could see those facts written in the tightness and awkwardness of his movement. Even up close, his real face seldom showed past the mask of necessary wariness. Life was mostly hard and unbeautiful. And his death was dark tragedy. There were moments of goodness. At his memorial service I heard stories of people who gave food on occasion, provided a couch to sleep on, a hot shower. A woman stood and told us this story: “I met Ilijah when I was coming out of prostitution. We became friends, hung out together, went to movies, drank together. Once I was sitting on the couch. He was lying with his head in my lap and I was stroking his hair. He murmured, ‘No one has ever touched me like that.'” She wiped tears as she remembered. And I was sure that in a service that included remarks by a couple of preachers, stories of generosity by a bunch of idealistic professionals, it was the woman who “was coming out of prostitution” who gave us the most vivid picture of God and his boy, Ilijah. (Thanks to Aurora Commons for caring for Ilijah and his kin.)
This story stands at the center of my sermon this past Sabbath at Green Lake Church.

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