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Thursday, June 30, 2016

Faithful Resistance: Gospel Visions for the Church in a Time of Empire by Rick Ufford-Chase...a review.....


6/30




Faithful Resistance: Gospel Visions for the Church in a Time of Empire by Rick Ufford-Chase
A review…..

With his new book, Faithful Resistance…our friend Rick Ufford-Chase had made an important and significant contribution to the growing body of literature on the future of the church. (And how to get there..) It is significant that Rick’s primary focus is not how do we save the church but how do we live as faithful followers of Jesus in this empire dominated day and what role does the church have and what kind of  church is needed in the struggle. The church is thus a means to faithfulness, not an end of and to itself.

The book is also an example of liberation theology praxis. It is intended not only as reflection and analysis but as a workbook to help the faithful be about this work themselves.  It is especially intended to be used in groups, groups that help sustain each other in mutual support and solidarity in difficult days ahead.  In that, Rick follows in the footsteps of the  Latin American liberation theologians who brought a Freiran approach to the doing of theology in their Christian Base Communities.

It is very helpful that Rick comes to this book not as an academic or even professional clergy but as a lay person who understands the value of each of our God-given unique ministries and our need for one another. He draws on his experiences as a seminary drop out, going adult volunteer, border justice worker, moderator of a historic denominational church with international partners, peace activism and co-chairing an ever evolving study center with interfaith intentional communities. In broad strokes, Rick responds to the already inevitable end of the large national (and local!) denominational church infrastructures  as we have known them. (For example, in New York City Presbytery, there are approximately 14,000 members in 99 churches. Half belong to 5 churches, the other half to 95 churches over 50 of whom have no pastor at all…) Related to our ecclesiastical structures are our literal structures from our  national office in Louisville with its echoing emptiness to our hulking aging stone buildings with mausoleum like silence. How do/can they function in our mission?

This is for Rick, not an occasion for mourning but more an exciting opportunity for recreating at the grassrootsiest of levels a church that is flexible, mobile and resilient. Being independent of reliance on larger structures, the church can be radically free to be a faithful witness, not unlike the primitive church.

Towards that end, Rick does several important things:
* Names and discusses the power of white privilege (and other cognate privileges of class, gender, orientation, etc…)
* Produces one of the first real discussions I’ve seen for the implications of this new reality for theological education. (Happy to see two institutions I’m involved with, New York Theological Seminary and Newark School of Theology on his list of emerging models of providing quality education for those who cannot afford.. moneywise or timewise…traditional theological education.)
Others chapters tackle such issues as confronting empire at the border, the importance of ecojustice, nonviolence as a principle and practice, worship, the meaning of solidarity, being a church that is “small but fierce.” Oh, and the intriguing exploration of the idea of  responsible living in a “watershed.”

Though somewhat presbycentric, Rick's primary context, it nonetheless has much to say to all of us struggling to find faithfullness.

Rick’s bottom line is one that appeals to me at the deepest level:
“ I am interested in creating a community where those who have been rejected in every other space can come and feel safe..”  Amen. Word.

Pull together a circle of friends. Get a few copies of this book. Let the connversation begin….








Saturday, June 25, 2016

Can we still dance? (after Orlando)


6/19/16

Pat and Leila gave us beauty again...

We began our service singing Desmond Tutus's Goodness is stronger than evil...
Goodness is stronger than evil;                                                                                                              love is stronger than hate;light is stronger than darkness;life is stronger than death.Victory is ours, victory is ours through him who loved us. Victory is ours, victory is ours through him who loved us.
In our first lesson, Elijah listens for the voice of God. It’s not in storm or thunder or…it’s finally in what the King James Version called a “still, small, voice”..or more accurately “silence in silence” or..”the Sound of Silence” So I just have to share what’s been all over the Internet, this remix of Paul Simon’s song, by heavy metal band Disturbed.  Let’s listen:


Why this song? Why now? What’s changed in 50 years?
(Russ points out the difference between the original plea for an apathetic world, not listening, to what becomes an impassioned plea, HEY, YOU MOTHER_____STILL DON”T GET IT…)
Last week. When I came to church , I wasn’t fully aware of what had happened in Orlando. If I had been, I would have spent the morning on Orlando alone.
As I came into church, Pastor Yvonne M. Harrison of the lbgtq Pentecostal Restoration Temple church was talking about her leaving the Pentecostal church. How she was “Disfellowshipped” People instructed not to talk with her. Not to even pray for her. There was one pastor who did….and he was her guest. I reflected on that pain…
In my neighborhood clergy Bible study on Wednesday morning, the young Vicar from Trinity Lutheran was nearly in tears. About our failure, refusal  to speak the truth. To be honest. Orlando was not about “terrorism”…It was an act of a disturbed, more than likely closeted gay man, with religion inspired hatred of himself, rejected by his own father…taking that out on others..with an easily acquired automatic weapon. He was going got accompany his sermon with 'Lord of the Dance." (words I have rewritten..) And an in answer to my question, Can we still dance, he says we must...as resistance..
And so we sang tho morning, more slolwy, reflectively:
I danced in the morning when the world was young 
I danced in the moon and the stars and the sun 
I came down from heaven and I danced on the earth 
At Bethlehem I had my birth 

Dance, dance, wherever you may be 
I am the lord of the dance, said he 
And I lead you all, wherever you may be 
And I lead you all in the dance, said he 

I danced on a Sunday  when the sun went away
It's hard to dance when you cqnnot see the day
They thought that hatred could silence our song
But we are the dance and we still go on..


We danced for those who love and we danced for those who hate
We dance for the angels who wait at heaven’s gate
We dance for the weak and we dance with the strong
The dance is love and it still goes on…

I was talking to our friend, Stephanie now Ryan, Johnstone about her upcoming concert with her choir of young lgbtq (queer) folks. And how we no what a completely new way of understanding that Galatians passage about Completeley neither “male nor female” in Christ Jesus. Those distinctions, categories, have no meaning..
The Luke passage, about the Gerasene demoniac is on of my favorites. I thought of the man on the steps, half naked, dirty shouting and cursing. And the two sisters who come daily with all their belongings. And how our  Dion has such an easy loving touch with those on our steps.
Our old member Philip once told me how every Sunday, his pastor would thank God for waking up ”clothed and in his right mind.” I guess if you start there, the rest of the day is easy.
I remembered how Dostoevsky used this passage as an aPentecostal ascription to his book “The Possessed,”…how he saw his Russia as a society driven mad, possessed and going over the edge…
How Jesus deliberately referenced the Roman Empire by naming the demon Legion…the Empire does drive us mad..and to come to one’s senses is to become dangerous,a perceived threat…to be driven out…he ants to follow Jesus, but Jesus sends him back, to be a witness to sanity restored, to a new way of life.
A way of life where
28There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. 
Let us come to our senses…help each other to break free…and claim the life we were promised..
Amen

 Second Reading Galatians 3:23-29
23Now before faith came, we were imprisoned and guarded under the law until faith would be revealed. 24Therefore the law was our disciplinarian until Christ came, so that we might be justified by faith. 25But now that faith has come, we are no longer subject to a disciplinarian, 26for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. 27As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. 29And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to the promise.
Gospel Luke 8:26-39
26Then they arrived at the country of the Gerasenes, which is opposite Galilee. 27As he stepped out on land, a man of the city who had demons met him. For a long time he had worn no clothes, and he did not live in a house but in the tombs. 28When he saw Jesus, he fell down before him and shouted at the top of his voice, "What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, do not torment me"-29for Jesus had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. (For many times it had seized him; he was kept under guard and bound with chains and shackles, but he would break the bonds and be driven by the demon into the wilds.) 30Jesus then asked him, "What is your name?" He said, "Legion"; for many demons had entered him. 31They begged him not to order them to go back into the abyss.
32Now there on the hillside a large herd of swine was feeding; and the demons begged Jesus to let them enter these. So he gave them permission.33Then the demons came out of the man and entered the swine, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and was drowned.
34When the swineherds saw what had happened, they ran off and told it in the city and in the country. 35Then people came out to see what had happened, and when they came to Jesus, they found the man from whom the demons had gone sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind. And they were afraid. 36Those who had seen it told them how the one who had been possessed by demons had been healed. 37Then all the people of the surrounding country of the Gerasenes asked Jesus to leave them; for they were seized with great fear. So he got into the boat and returned. 38The man from whom the demons had gone begged that he might be with him; but Jesus sent him away, saying, 39"Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you." So he went away, proclaiming throughout the city how much Jesus had done for him.


Saturday, June 18, 2016

Forigve much. Love much.





6/12

Leila's work this week


Back in New York City….

Since last we were together…

I spent  a week at home connecting with my roots…I performed a wedding for the son of a high school friend. I played two with  someone from a church I worked at 22 years ago, before I came here…we hadn’t seen each other since…I visited that church that had loved through a painful divide caused by our denomination’s opening the door to marriage equality…still remaining were a faithful remnant. And now with many of the most conservative and rigid (and mean!) churches having  left, a new day is possible..for church …and presbytery…

Muhammad Ali died…one of the heroes of my young adult days. To follow the arc of his career, you pass from the first in your face athlete to beloved American icon. Thankfully, he was  fittingly celebrated in Louisville, his home town.  His picnic perception changed from that of “coward” to having his courage recognized. Ali belonged to the world. And the  Ali Center in Louisville  today is not only a museum but also an active working conflict resolution center…

Our theme today is forgiveness. And love. We begin with the story of the woman at  the dinner. During Lent, e ahd the same story from John’s perpective and the woman was Mary. Luke has an unnamed woman from the streets. In John, the emphasis is on extravagant love. Intimacy.

Here…it’s the power of forgiveness….and love…

Jesus places her in C=comparison with Simon.  Can we blame him? He’s advising Jesus. Helping him come up with a good business plan. A solid plan for organizational growth. What Jesus is condoning here just doesn’t look good. The woman is the wrong kind of person.  Much needed people will be turned off. Hard decisions have to be made..if the church is to survive…

BUT for Jesus …it’s all about love. She was forgiven more, therefore loves more….

In the Ali story,  not sure who or what is “forgiven”…perhaps it’s us. Do you recall Ali’s rescue  of  15 hostages in Iraq? …and ultimately the  moving moment with him being the final torch lighter for the 1996 Olympic torch…

At the wedding, I sat beside someone who had been president of  youth fellowship. Deeplu involved in scouts. An then became involved in a teen pregnancy. CVould happen to anyone. But he was treated like an  outlaw. And kind  of became one. Today in his sixties , he’s still got shoulder length curly locks. He’s been doing environmental law in West Virginia. The round grandma beside me. On the otherside was the woman in high school with the scarlet letter. Real life is never perfect ,but always has its beauty. In us just being human. Our lives are sacred and full of meaning.

I guess the message here is ultimately about grace…

What do we need to receive? And from whom?
What do we need to extend? And to whom?
Forgive much. Love much….feel your forgiveness. Love more.

Forgive much. Love much

Luke 7:36-8:3 One of the Pharisees asked Jesus to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee's house and took his place at the table. And a woman in the city, who was a sinner, having learned that he was eating in the Pharisee's house, brought an alabaster jar of ointment. She stood behind him at his feet, weeping, and began to bathe his feet with her tears and to dry them with her hair. Then she continued kissing his feet and anointing them with the ointment. Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw it, he said to himself, "If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what kind of woman this is who is touching him--that she is a sinner." Jesus spoke up and said to him, "Simon, I have something to say to you." "Teacher," he replied, "Speak." "A certain creditor had two debtors; one owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. When they could not pay, he canceled the debts for both of them. Now which of them will love him more?" Simon answered, "I suppose the one for whom he canceled the greater debt." And Jesus said to him, "You have judged rightly." Then turning toward the woman, he said to Simon, "Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has bathed my feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. Therefore, I tell you, her sins, which were many, have been forgiven; hence she has shown great love. But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little." Then he said to her, "Your sins are forgiven." But those who were at the table with him began to say among themselves, "Who is this who even forgives sins?" And he said to the woman, "Your faith has saved you; go in peace." Soon afterwards he went on through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. The twelve were with him, as well as some women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, and Joanna, the wife of Herod's steward Chuza, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them out of their resources


 

Back in New York City….

Since last we were together…

I spent  a week at home connecting with my roots…I performed a wedding for the son of a high
school friend. I played two with  someone from a church I worked at 22 years ago, before I came here…we hadn’t seen each other since…I visited that church that had loved through a painful divide caused by our denomination’s opening the door to marriage equality…still remaining were a faithful remnant. And now with many of the most conservative and rigid (and mean!) churches having  left, a new day is possible..for church …and presbytery…

Muhammad Ali died…one of the heroes of my young adult days. To follow the arc of his career, you pass from the first in your face athlete to beloved American icon. Thankfully, he was  fittingly celebrated in Louisville, his home town.  His picnic perception changed from that of “coward” to having his courage recognized. Ali belonged to the world. And the  Ali Center in Louisville  today is not only a museum but also an active working conflict resolution center…

Our theme today is forgiveness. And love. We begin with the story of the woman at  the dinner. During Lent, we had the same story from John’s perspective and the woman was Mary. Luke has an unnamed woman from the streets. In John, the emphasis is on extravagant love. Intimacy.

Here…it’s the power of forgiveness….and love…

Jesus places her in comparison with Simon.  Can we blame him? He’s advising Jesus. Helping him come up with a good business plan. A solid plan for organizational growth. What Jesus is condoning here just doesn’t look good. The woman is the wrong kind of person.  Much needed people will be turned off. Hard decisions have to be made..if the church is to survive…

BUT for Jesus …it’s all about love. She was forgiven more, therefore loves more….

In the Ali story,  not sure who or what is “forgiven”…perhaps it’s us. Do you recall Ali’s rescue  of  15 hostages in Iraq? …and ultimately the  moving moment with him being the final torch lighter for the 1996 Olympic torch…

At the wedding, I sat beside someone who had been president of  youth fellowship. Deeply involved in scouts. An then became involved in a teen pregnancy. Could happen to anyone. But he was treated like an  outlaw. And kind  of became one. Today in his sixties , he’s still got shoulder length curly locks. He’s been doing environmental law in West Virginia. The round grandma beside me. On the other side was the woman in high school with the scarlet letter. Real life is never perfect ,but always has its beauty. In us just being human. Our lives are sacred and full of meaning.

I guess the message here is ultimately about grace…

What do we need to receive? And from whom?
What do we need to extend? And to whom?
Forgive much. Love much….feel your forgiveness. Love more.

Forgive much. Love much

Luke 7:36-8:3 One of the Pharisees asked Jesus to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee's house and took his place at the table. And a woman in the city, who was a sinner, having learned that he was eating in the Pharisee's house, brought an alabaster jar of ointment. She stood behind him at his feet, weeping, and began to bathe his feet with her tears and to dry them with her hair. Then she continued kissing his feet and anointing them with the ointment. Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw it, he said to himself, "If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what kind of woman this is who is touching him--that she is a sinner." Jesus spoke up and said to him, "Simon, I have something to say to you." "Teacher," he replied, "Speak." "A certain creditor had two debtors; one owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. When they could not pay, he canceled the debts for both of them. Now which of them will love him more?" Simon answered, "I suppose the one for whom he canceled the greater debt." And Jesus said to him, "You have judged rightly." Then turning toward the woman, he said to Simon, "Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has bathed my feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. Therefore, I tell you, her sins, which were many, have been forgiven; hence she has shown great love. But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little." Then he said to her, "Your sins are forgiven." But those who were at the table with him began to say among themselves, "Who is this who even forgives sins?" And he said to the woman, "Your faith has saved you; go in peace." Soon afterwards he went on through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. The twelve were with him, as well as some women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, and Joanna, the wife of Herod's steward Chuza, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them out of their resources