At the Furnace

By Jim Hatherly


Two furnace workers in hell discuss the latest arrival, the rich man who refused to acknowledge Lazarus in the parable told by Jesus.


Luke 16: 19-31


Samantha and Frank, two furnace workers in hell.
Rich man, Abraham (voices offstage)


Sam: Frank, can you come over here a minute? Please, I need some help.

Frank: OK, Samantha. What is it now?

Sam: The gas valve is stuck on this furnace. It won't turn all the way up.

Frank: Did you try some WD40? It works for me all the time.

Sam: O you guys. Only two things you need in this world, right?

Frank: Right. (together) WD40 to make it go and duct tape to make it stop. Ha Ha. No, I mean it. Just spray some on and see if it won't loosen up the mechanism. It's got to work. We're expecting someone very special down here today. The furnace has to be going full blast. We don't want to disappoint His Lowliness.

Sam: You bet we don't. Not like the last time. Boy, did he ever blow his stack when that nice couple Ahab and Jezebel came down. We were only working at half-capacity that day. Not good enough for His Lowliness.

Frank: Did you call that plumbing and heating company I told you about? The one in the red pages?

Sam: I did, but all I got was their answering machine. I swear, Frank, I think they've got our number on some kind of screening system. Whenever we call for help, nobody ever comes.

Frank: I know what you mean, Sam. And when they do, they are always complaining about the working conditions. Always going out for a drink of water, sitting by the fan. Talking about how nice and cool it is upstairs. It makes you feel kind of unimportant.

Sam: They don't know how important we are down here, do they Frank? Don't appreciate the job we do. I would say we are about the most undervalued furnace workers ever.

Frank: I agree, Sam. But they don't know what they are missing. I don't have to tell you, it is never dull around here. Not when the heat things start cooking. Boy, it can get noisy. So who are we heating up this old contraption for today?

Sam: Let's see ... O here it is. Some rich man. Doesn't give his name, though. Let's just call him Ritchie, what do you say?

Frank: Sounds good to me. OK, Ritchie, We're ready for you. Come on down!

Sam: Frank, you have to stop watching those game shows. Hey, look, coming in door number 2 - I guess that must be him. He sure looks rich enough.

Frank: Here, Ritchie, Ritchie, Ritchie.

Sam: Frank, stop it. The man is going to have a hard enough time adjusting to being here, without you teasing him.

Frank: Sorry, it must be the heat going to my head. So, what do you have on that sheet of yours? What does it say about old Mr. Rich here?

Sam: It says that he had it all going for him upstairs. Nice family. Good seat in the synagogue. Respected in the community. Ran for school trustee. Sounds like a pretty decent fellow.

Frank: He sure does. Maybe we better check his luggage tags. He might have been sent the wrong way. What else does your little cheat sheet say?

Sam: O, here's where it gets interesting. In spite of all that nice stuff, it seems the fellow was very selfish. It seems his riches got the better of him. Sort of stole his compassion away. Says here that God tested him over a long time. Put this beggar in front of Ritchie's gate, day after day, month after month. Just to see how Mr. Big would handle the situation.

Frank: So, how did he do on the scorecard?

Sam: Zero out of ten, Frank. Apparently he didn't even see the poor man at the gate. Lazarus was his name. Say, isn't that interesting? The poor man gets a name but the rich man doesn't. I wonder what that tells you.

Frank: Tells me God likes to reverse things now and again. This is not the first time God has done that.

Sam: You're right. Seems Ritchie would step over Lazarus on his way home, go into the house and eat like there was no tomorrow. Meantime, Lazarus, full of sores and with nothing to eat, just sat there. The only company he had were dogs that came to lick his wounds.

Frank: A guy like that can't live too long. What happened to Lazarus?

Sam: It seems he got his reward. The angels came for him last night. Guess he went way upstairs. To visit Abraham.

Frank: I thought it was Saint Peter.

Sam: Peter hasn't died yet, Frank.

Frank: Sorry. Anyway it sounds fair. Let's keep an eye on Ritchie over there, you know, just in case he gets too comfortable.

Sam: Nobody gets comfortable down here, Frank.

Frank: And that means, in the words of His Lowliness (together) "You're doing a good job!"

Sam: I have an idea, Frank. Why don't we switch on the audio-video connection between here and way upstairs? They just installed it last week. Let's try it out.

Frank: Yeah, before the wires melt. This could be fun. I can't wait to see old Ritchie's face when he sees where Lazarus is now. OK. Power on. Video on. Audio on. Pull up a chair, Sam. Let's see what happens.

Sam: Ritchie is looking at the screen. I think he sees Abraham and Lazarus. Yes. We have a connection! Ritchie's about to talk.

Ritchie: Father Abraham, have mercy on me. Send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue. I am in agony in these flames.

Frank: Well done, Sam. It's working. But what about Abraham? O wait, I can hear him now.

Abraham: Child, remember that during your lifetime you received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner received evil things: but now he is comforted here, and you are in agony. Too bad, but there is a big chasm between the two of you. And you can't get across it.

Frank: Whoa. That seems a bit harsh, doesn't it?

Sam: It sure does. And look, Ritchie is shaking his head. He can't believe it.

Ritchie: Then, father, at least send Lazarus back to my house. I have five brothers. He has to warn them, so they don't have to come here.

Frank: He sounds desperate, Sam. Hold on, Abraham is going to say something else.

Abraham: Your brothers should listen to Moses and the prophets. The same as you should have done.

Frank: This is not looking good for Mr. Fancy Clothes. Looks like we're going to have him here for a long time. I wonder if he has any more to say? What do you say, Ritchie, any final comments before we turn off the video?

Ritchie: Father Abraham, if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.

Abraham: If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.

Frank: Turn off the connection, Sam. I think that's all she wrote. Game over. A pile-driver for old Ritchie, that's for sure. He's going nowhere. And don't forget to turn off his water supply.

Sam: Sure, Frank. I'll do that. In a minute. But don't you wonder? I mean, we are on the wrong side of everything down here. I know that. But every time someone like Ritchie comes down for the long cook, I get to thinking.

Frank: Thinking is dangerous, Sam. His Lowliness doesn't like it.

Sam: I know, Frank. But don't you think people really can repent? You said so yourself, in a way. You said, "God likes to reverse things." Don't you think those brothers up there can actually see things for themselves? Maybe one of them will see a beggar on the street, and stop, and wonder about the whole scheme of things. And why some are rich and some are poor. God seems to show such love for those who are left on the outside. And such disdain for those who are hypocrites. Don't you think if people could see their hypocrisy that they might stop, and repent, and be forgiven?

Frank: Are you suggesting that God can really forgive people? Put things right with the world after all? Be careful, Sam. We could be out of a job.

Sam: We can always get work in air conditioning. No, I just feel that people need some hope in their lives. To give them a new vision of things. Someone to assure them that they can be forgiven, once they have made up their minds to change.

Frank: Maybe if someone were really to rise from the dead, they might just understand that. That would mean there could really be a new beginning.

Sam: I think so, Frank. If someone could rise from the dead.


Copyright Jim Hatherly, all rights reserved.
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