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Saturday, April 19, 2014

Maundy Thursday


Ready for Easter

Maundy Thursday. The day we remember the last supper of Jesus, possibly a Passover seder. Or the night before.

Marina is taking on a business discussions role with Noche. Hmmm. I’ve enjoyed watching her become more and more integral to the company.

The Frog & Peach cast is putting in long hours preparing for King John.

Berik raising a banner
Berik and Leila have arrived to hang the Bread & Puppet banners that they gave to us as parting gifts.  We bring in David S to help with the project because a tall man is needed. And after some time in negotiating and strategizing, the banners are hung. The bring back to me the sense of spirit and life that the company brought to us during their residency. There is a simple, affirming funkiness to their cheap art that somehow conjures that time known as the sixties and a down home rural rootsy America at the same time. (Although that always was part of the sixties ethos). It makes me happy to see the banners up. Proclaiming spring. The renewal time of Easter. And reminding me of the joy of having B&P with us.

At the end of the day, RL stops in, just because.

The speak for themselves

For past Maundy Thursdays, see

Thursday, April 17, 2014

What Mario wrote in his press release about the Work Center's residency at West-Park

....It was delightful, inspiring, and intriguing to meet Reverend Robert Brashear (or simply Bob), Danielle Smith, and the West Park Presbyterian Church. We understand the reasons which led you to embrace our presence and efforts in West-Park. One of our members was told by her mother and grandmother that the church is God's house, and that every human being is also Gods house. These days this may sound confusing, but then, different though we all may seem or be, if we are all part of a shared existence we call to be human, then it is only just that God's house is a space for the manifestation and celebration of different aspects of this search to be human. We thank you heartily for offering your space for the performances I Am America, The Hidden Sayings, and Not History 's Bones - A Poetry Concert, as well as for making the Church available for the sessions of the Open Choir and the meetings of the Seed Group. Our relationship with you never felt like, and never became, an exchange in business. We wish especially to highlight the fact that you gave, and are currently giving, this church as a free space to use for many new possibilities to evolve and grow. We witnessed that during these performances and shared times together there was a great interest on the part of so many people to know this human work, this work to be human, and we are sure that we can attempt and develop this together as many seemed to enjoy it, felt some special connection to it, or had some specific memory which fostered a desire to participate in this work. The truth is you always encouraged us not simply to use the space but to create a shared space with others, and what transpired was truly something to build upon towards a new kind of future. We are grateful to have begun something special there with you. Your generosity is profound, and we wish to continue these fruitful conversations and our mutual efforts.

Midweek Holy Week: Quick, cheap and good. Pick two.


Joe and La Toya back to pressing the limits again. I swing open the doors. They say, I know, I know…

It’s a cold day.Geoffrey arrives early and stays late in the sanctuary. Stops in to say thank you sir.

Jeremy is back …briefly…from Switzerland. He has brought me his CD to give to Jean. And is excited to show me his new music video for his song, Let’s waste this year. Unfortunately, I can’t share it until it’s official release. His record company is looking for the right roll out strategy. But I love his shout out to me in the credits. He and Priska are hanging out in Berne, Switzerland while her show continues. To make money while he’s home, Jeremy’s made one  deal with the devil, he says, for a TV show. I’m anxious for him to get back so that we can start working together again.

Cool thing about his video. It was shot immediately after his interview with Zeljko. The same crew from the School for Visual Arts. (Hooked up by Zoran?) He invited them down to his meeting with the Hungarian puppet people. And they went along just for the fun of it. It’s taken 18 months to get the video done. Like my father said, he says. You’ve got quick, cheap and good. Pick two….And then he asks about Zeljko’s shooting and project.

Karen is in and playing the piano until Pat O arrives and we go into the sanctuary to review last Sunday’s congregational meeting and talk about next steps. We talk about the two work groups again and what it will take to move forward. It’s my job to inspire and sustain the will to move forward in spite of the frustration.

A young woman comes in. Asks if Teddy’s still here. If we know where he is. Danielle and I look at each other. He’s dead, I say, died a year ago Christmas. We had a memorial service in February. Like 200 people here . All kinds of people, he was well loved.
Did he die here?
Heart attack.
I had a feeling that he was gone…or, not here. I had a feeling.
How did you know him?
I’m a photographer. I was following
Occupy Wall Street. I took pictures of him. He came to me this week. I mean, to my mind. I didn’t now where to look. I knew he came here. So I thought I’d start here.
I have pictures. I know he had children. A daughter. Daughters. A son?
Do you have their addresses? I’d like to send them…
Yes. But there’s someone else. The love of his life. You’ve got to send her, too.
She looks at me puzzled. I give her the link to Zeljko’s film about Teddy.(
Watch this, the story’s there. Well, not the story, but, you know? 
She takes down all the information. We exchange contact info.
He got to me, you know?
Yeah, I do. He was well loved here.

And that’s the second time Zeljko came up today.

A Brazilian is in looking for a place to teach capoeira, that hot mix of martial arts and ritual, beautiful movement, movement accompanied by the berimbau. Capoeira.

Marsha and I meet. Talk about doing something. Talk through what should be done first. Decide to make a proposal lot do that. To begin.

Coming home on 86th after the Yankee game, it felt like fall, like playoff weather. I run into Lynnea and her King John. They open soon. They’ve been in rehearsal in the church. She’s feeling good.

Reflecting on the Seven Last Words...

Just a quick stop in before heading to Philadelphia for some time with Dan.


The conversation with Martin continues.

Jeremy G and Mario are in for another in our ongoing conversations. The open choir and the seed group have continued to meet. There’s been enough excitement that Mario decided to come back from Italy to see what’s going on. Jeremy G is going to apply for a grant to bring together a symposium to pursue the issues that are emerging.

Mario continues to be drawn towards bringing already existing groups and communities together in some new ways. Sometimes the most conservative, compassionate, caring yet exclusive groups.  My interest continues to be in helping new communities come together. Drawn together through an experience, bonded through mutual commitment and accountability and reaching out to others in service.  That seems to be how Jeremy G’s work is emerging. And how does that connect to West-Park? Can communities of question, acceptance and openness grow like conservative communities?  Can it be one of the communities within a community? That idea is coming back into focus again.

Our weekly Bible Study tonight focuses on the traditional Seven Last Words of Christ. The traditional order is:
1.    Luke 23:34: Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.
2.    Luke 23:43: Truly, I say to you today, you will be with me in paradise.
3.    John 19:26–27: Woman, behold your son. Behold your mother.
4.    Matthew 27:46 & Mark 15:34 My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?
5.    John 19:28: I thirst.
6.    John 19:29-30: It is finished.
7.    Luke 23:46: Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.

In terms of cross harmonization, we find:
·       In Matthew and Mark :
·       My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?
·       In Luke:
·       Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do
·       Truly, I say to you today, you will be with me in paradise (in response to one of the two thieves crucified next to him)
·       Father, into your hands I commit my spirit (last words)
·       In John:
·       Woman, behold your son: behold your mother (directed at Mary, the mother of Jesus, either as a self-reference, or as a reference to the beloved disciple and an instruction to the disciple himself)
·       I thirst (just before a wetted sponge, mentioned by all the Canonical Gospels, is offered)
·       It is finished (last words)

The Seven Last Words is another of those traditions that arose in the Middle Ages when the population was illiterate and only ever heard the Bible in Latin. The Seven Last Words were a teaching harmonization presented liturgically, like lessons and carols, to present one coherent story to the people.

At West-Park, for years we had a special Good Friday Seven Last Words service led by your youth and children. The idea troubled me at first, but over the years, I came to appreciate it as a teaching experience with very ancient roots. 

After reading expanded sayings, that is with the contextual paragraphs, we go back and read each story separately. Try and discern the focus of each gospel writer.
We also see two overall themes, forsakeness and forgiveness.

Mark emphasizes the forsakeness. Jesus quotes Psalm 22, a Psalm that begins is desolate abandonment but ends in affirmation and praise. It is also a blue print for the crucifixion story, including mocking and scorn (6-8, 12-13), thirst (15), clothing divided by lots (18), piercing (16), almost all the elements. And then from 19-31 triumph.

We believe that the sense of abandonment is real. If Jesus is fully human, he must feel that to the center of his being, otherwise he will not know us. I grew up with empty crosses. We regarded crucifixes as pagan,idolatrous. Only later did I realize that often  the empty cross is a protection from, avoidance of the real suffering in the world. It was actually first in the small hill towns of New Mexico that I fully understood how people saw themselves in the figure on the cross and felt strengthened by the sense that somehow God understood them.

Matthew (27: 32-54) only includes this word, although his story is rich with all kinds of other details. Like all kinds of dead people raised from the graves and walking around.(53) Like one of the interns in our study group said, the zombie story. Walking dead style.

In Luke 23: 26-47,  we have the shift from inward to outward.  The offering of forgiveness to the crucifiers (34) and the confession  of the (so-called) good thief. (43) And we note:
* Crucifixion was for political criminals, those who attacked military and commercial targets on behalf of the resistance. It was a way to terrorize the population. Only the Romans could do that. Jews could only stone, with the permission of the Romans.
* The accusing thief echoes Psalm 22 again. There was a tradition in Egypt that the good thief had encountered Jesus as an infant and let the holy family get away free. He is the first to confess Jesus as Lord, given the desertion of Peter and the disciples.
* Paradise was where souls hung out wit God until the day of physical resurrection. A Garden of Eden like holding area.

In John (19: 1-37), we find both the inner and outer. Though John never directly quotes Psalm 22, it echoes throughout his telling of the story. The outward compassion of commending the one he loved and his mother to care for one another. The expression of thirst (Ps.22 again). The imagery of the Passover ( no broken bones) for the first time creating a sacrificial expiation image. Hyssop, another passover reference. Water and blood, both medically accurate, as Anna tells us, but also an image of baptism and eucharist. And that final expression, It is finished, not so much his life, as his earthly work.

As each gospel writer had his own perspective, as we look at their work, so will we. The seven last words weave a narrative coming from different streams into one chronology. It’s not a factual history but an expression of truth.

On this we will reflect on Good Friday.

for previous years' Seven last Words reflections go to: