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Saturday, July 21, 2018

World Cup 2018: Final (foot) notes....


7/21

Footnotes



"Everything I know about altruism and man's obligation to man I have learned from football"
Albert Camus

The week after. The World Cup is over. The month long celebration of football and tribal roots ended with a game Croatian team finally being defeated by the powerful and fluid soccer of the French. Since Croatia is now part of our family, we watched each game, especially the last rounds, connected to my son, daughter in law and grandson in Croatia by Viber and What's App. Even watching one game with my mom in her assisted  living facility in Trenton. On the big screen in the community room, with workers stealing looks at the game.  And on finals Sunday, we gathered at my house for breakfast and football, my youngest and I in our Croatia checkerboard jerseys. After the game, my daughter in law said, "That silver was worth gold..."

And so some final notes...

*  I love the way our tribes gather for the games. You walk down Fredrick Douglass, cheers ringing from every bar.

* Over the years, I have watched games with gatherings of Dutch and Italians in bars and pubs  and gatherings of our American friends to watch games at 2 am from Korea. 

* West Harlem was the center of gatherings  for the  African teams. When the last African team was eliminated, the cheers turned to France. France is the African team, an African friend said. And those who fear le grand remplacement shuddered.  Like the West Indian service workers at anassited living facility rooting for England. The legacy of colonialism and global migration gives us multicultural teams from France, England, Belgium. The current rising star on the world scene is France's Mbappe. 

* We choose our teams by friends, connections, experience. I suffered through early rounds with my friends from Uruguay and Argentina. I ached with my German friends for their early exit. My sister's family drew a cheer for Mexico or two. Denmark connections. And then Brazil. I remembered the 2002 final in Newark at a Brazilian club in the Ironbound with my colleague Regi. Sausages and cachaca at 7 am for the final against Germany. When Brazil won, people poured out into the streets from the clubs, the police closed off the blocks and one grand football carnival broke out. 

* I was happy to learn that the brief interruption of the final was by Russian punk perfomance protesters Pussy Riot. And Mbappe shard a double high five with one of their protesters. (https://www.stuff.co.nz/sport/football/world-game/105531332/world-cup-final-pitch-invaders-jailed-for-15-days)

* After one game, the commentator said a team lost because of insufficient imagination. A common problem in urban ministry, church work and politics. A friend responded that he's never heard that said about baseball or American football.

* Socialist magazine, Jacobin, designed a unique football jersey for the World Cup. Informed by the work of their friends at Africa is a Country, they adopted the theme Football is a country. They would have been great for watching the games. Unfortunately like many thing related to socialism or the revolution, there have been delays related to production and the jerseys have yet to arrive. (https://www.jacobinmag.com/2018/06/the-jacobin-world-cup-jersey)

* How I miss Eduardo Galeano. His El futbal a sol y sombra: Soccer in sun and shadow, may be the best book ever written about football. Originally published in 1997, he took on the task of updating it with each succeeding World Cup.  El mundial, like theology, always takes place in a context. And in clear, concise and sometimes cutting words, he would tell us what was going on in the world surrounding each Cup. He loved the game deeply, even while knowing its deepest faults and how money and greed had corrupted it. 

Writing of the 2010 Cup, Galeano wrote:

Many African players worthy  of their heritage live and play on the continent that enslaved their ancestors....In one of the ..matches, the Boeteng brothers, sons of a Ghanaian father, played against one another: one in a Ghanaian shirt, the other in a German one. Of the players on the Ghanaian side, not one played in Ghana's national championship.of the players on the German side, every single one played on  Germany's national championship. Like Latin America, Africa experts working hands and working feet...

* He quotes German theologian Dorothee Solle, when asked how to explain happiness to a child. She  responded,"I wouldn't explain it,... I'd toss him a ball and let him play..."

* At end of the cup, one can feel what Galeano describes as the Irreparable melancholy we all feel after making love and at the end of the match..."

As the Cup began I instinctively went to look for his updated volume, then remembered he died in 2015. I love this book every bit as much as his trilogy on the history of the Western hemisphere as seen from the south, Memory of Fire.

* If you feel, that sense of post-Cup melancholy, pick up a copy of el Futbal...it will fill you. 

 I go about the world, hand outstretched and in the stadiums I plead, A pretty move, for the love of God..."  
             Eduardo Galeano

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Reflecion parsa Ecclesia en espanol...


7/1

Ecclesia with Vijay




On a hot sunny Sunday, I went to share Eucharist with the Ecclesia community in Marcus Garvey Park. I've now done this in freezing cold and sweltering heat. I took the tike to refelct on the nation. Here isa Spanish version of my reflection....

Yo quiero hablar un poco de nuestra  nacion. Por ejemplo, en la semana pasada,cinco jornalistas fue assassinado.  Si este es comun en otra paises, el no es comun aqui en nuestra pais. Historicamente,  La primera vez fue de un ministro y abolicionsita en 1837 mato por una turba proesclavitudista.

Ayer milliones fueron marchando contra la separacion de familias y ninos. Mira...
no me quiero estar parte de un pais que hace como eso.


Hoy quiero hablar de curando....y toque, tacto. Tenemos dos historias en este evangelio. Los dos tengan curando, toque y fe.

Primero...un lider del sinagogo...un hobre muy importante..un jefe...First... Dl esta suplicando a Jesus a curar su hija, quien esta muy enferma, enferma hasta morir.

En camino, hay una gran multitud acerca de Jesus. Y una otra historia interrumpes. . Una mujer empuja a Jesus y le toca. . Jesus se siente una perdida de su poder. Esta mujer ha tenido una hemmoragia para doce anos. Ella tiene dolor en su cuerpa...pero mas....la separacion de la communjdad. 

Ellas se hace a pesar de reglas de puridad. Especialamente  tocando un hombre, o alguna otra. Pero Jesus le apoya y le cura. Porque de su fe. Y su coraje. 

Ahora...regresamos a primer historia. Ahora es muy tarde que la nina esta muerta. La gente dice a su padre...Olvidelo. Es muy tarde. Adlelante...
Jesus les repremanda. Y dice Ella esta simplemente dormiendo. Porque el quiere hacer un hecho de amor, de compassion, no una demonstracion de poder publica.  Este curando es en responso al fe de Jairus, no la fe de su hija. 

Que pasa aqui?
 *Curando necesita fe...personal, o en solidaridad....pues nunca, nunca parar orando para los otros....
* Necesita agencia...el poder a decir si se puede...y creer lo..
* Y no tenga miedo a rompir reglas
* Y necesita toque.....una connecion verdedera

Curando se restira a communidad....a normalidad....

Hay alguna cosa de toque que necesitamos...cenizas en Miercoles de cenizas o agua santa....la toque de familia, amigos, enamoradores...

Toca es haciendo alguna cosa verdadera...como compartiendo eucarista y una cena con nuestros companeros...

Dejenos tener la coraje a comencar el curando...




Compartiendo una almuerza despues comparitendo la eucaristia

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Packing List

7/8

St. Peter's Williamsbridge, Bronx


It's a typical subway Sunday. The 2 is supposed to go al the way to 219th where I'm preaching but when I get to the station it tells me it's only going to Gun Hill Road, And then when we stop at 180th, we're told there's a "sick passenger" and are being "held  at the station." We finally get moving again and at Gun Hill Road, I have to locate a shuttle bus and somehow make it to St.Peter's Evangelical Lutheran Church in the Bronx in time for the service.

I've never been to the Williamsbridge neighborhood before. The old church has a sign in German above the door, "Gott is die liebe," God is love. And a newer sign by the newer building calls this St.Peter's Lighthouse Church, which makes me wonder  if some other church is sharing space.  But no. It all has to do with a gift. 

Inside, the two eras of church history are visible in the construction. And it's the first Lutheran Church I've ever seen with a full immersion baptistry. The whole congregation, except one old white man, is black, African American and Afro-Caribbean. It's a straight up Lutheran service, but a spirited singer from Ghana leads us in a series of praise songs.
Our praise song leader
And soon enough it's time for my sermon.


This is the time of year when lots of New York kids are heading  to camp. If that camp us a sleep away camp, we all get something we're familiar with. It's a packing list...all the things to bring...all what not to bring. In the gospel lesson today it looks like Jesus is giving his disciples a summer camp list. 

Now the don't bring is pretty lenghthy....
no bread, 
no bag,
 no money in their belts; 
not to put on two tunics.
As for the TO brings, just a staff and apparently one tunic (the clothes on your back) and a good pair of sandals...
Apparently Jesus wants his disciples to be mobile, ready to move  at the drop of a hat....

Maybe we should take a look at what precedes those instructions...

He's been in his hometown,...and it hasn't gone so well....all they see is the carpenter they've known for 30 years..Mary's son (notice that, Mary, not Joseph)...with 4 brothers and some sisters...they can't see him as anything else....
and Jesus has that famous quote..Prophets are not without honor, except in their hometown, and among their own kin, and in their own house....so apparently even his family couldn't even see him as different...last Thursday at another church, we talked about this passage over dinner....sometimes hometowns are proud of their children...in the South Oakland neighborhood of Pittsburgh there's a sign that says Welcome to South Oakland, home of Dan Marino and Andy Warhol. Forgetting of course that Andy had to leave Pittsburgh to become famous and wasn't all that welcome during  his life. 

Is it envy? Or skepticism or...? As for family, we also talked about the fact that families get used to people in specific roles.  It's hard to accept change....even positive change..When someone who has been an alcoholic or drug user get sober, it's not always easy for the family. Likewise when someone gets out of prison.  Jesus has been running the family business. Who's taking care of that now with him running around? No...this didn't go well....

He could do no great thing there. Even with Jesus, people had to believe it could happen for it to happen. Otherwise, no deed of power...
People have to believe for it to happen...the slogan of the farmworkers was si se puede.....yes we can...that became the slogan of the Obama campaign....

Maybe that's what he's thinking of when he sends his followers out....this may not work with our own people, we've got to look at new markets. There is this too, by travelling so light, his people will have to be completely dependent on who they meet on the road. For food, shelter, security.

And he had some other good advice too..."Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave the place..... "what? Maybe that's another way of saying you have  to be where you are... I mean really be there...

And if any place will not welcome you and they refuse to hear you, as you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them.

That's to say don't keep beating your head against the wall....if they can't hear you, move on..like if Jesus' homies couldn't hear him, time to move on....and even shake the dust off your feet....don't be carrying burdens...let it go...I heard a refugee from Rwanda talk about forgiving the man who had murdered his parents. He forgave in order to set himself free...what he said was profoundly moving: what we do not forgive we become, he said....

I'm aware that a lot of bags are being packed these days..there are more people in motion than at any other time in history. What AI Wei Wei calls "the human flow...."  The Sonora desert is strewn with personal items left along the trail. People leave because they feel they have no choice. When living becomes impossible, leaving becomes inevitable. We have a crisis of migration. And now a crisis of welcome as more and more countries close their borders. And one of then even separates parents and children.

We have to be prepared to welcome those who come perhaps without even a staff. We need to open our doors and raise our voices. And then, maybe then, we can begin the work of trying to figure out what is driving people form their homes in the first place. 

Friends, we have to travel light on this journey. But I can tell you this...Jesus travels with us every step of the way, every day....and always..

Travel light..
ch
Amen

For the second time this week, I celebrate a Lutheran Eucharist. So much more liturgical than my Presbyterian tradition. A deacon assists me in an alb like mine.
Ready for worship
I notice this church uses the shot glass communion cups like Presbyterians. After the service, there's a chicken dinner served downstairs. 


Like it's namesake St.Peter, this chur has been a rock of presence in an ever changing neigborhood. 


Gospel Mark 6:1-13

1He left that place and came to his hometown, and his disciples followed him. 2On the sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astounded. They said, "Where did this man get all this? What is this wisdom that has been given to him? What deeds of power are being done by his hands! 3Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?" And they took offense at him. 4Then Jesus said to them, "Prophets are not without honor, except in their hometown, and among their own kin, and in their own house." 5And he could do no deed of power there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them. 6And he was amazed at their unbelief.

Then he went about among the villages teaching. 7He called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. 8He ordered them to take nothing for their journey except a staff; Gospel Mark 6:1-13

1He left that place and came to his hometown, and his disciples followed him. 2On the sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astounded. They said, "Where did this man get all this? What is this wisdom that has been given to him? What deeds of power are being done by his hands! 3Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?" And they took offense at him. 4Then Jesus said to them, "Prophets are not without honor, except in their hometown, and among their own kin, and in their own house." 5And he could do no deed of power there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them. 6And he was amazed at their unbelief.

Then he went about among the villages teaching. 7He called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. 8He ordered them to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts; 9but to wear sandals and not to put on two tunics. 10He said to them, "Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave the place. 11If any place will not welcome you and they refuse to hear you, as you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them." 12So they went out and proclaimed that all should repent. 13They cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Healing spirit, healing faith


7/1

Ready for worship at Beverly Church....


On a hot summer day, I made my way to Beverly Church.  My reflections were intended for this holiday...

I've been trying to figure out...when the 4th of July lands on Wednesday, which weekend is the July 4th weekend? Maybe take the whole week off?

But I will take the opportunity to talk a little about the nation. It's been a hard week. Five journalists shot  to death in Annapolis, Maryland. I was surprised when I googled to check my figures as to how many journalists get killed every year. But usually in places like Mexico and Afghanistan. In our history, there have been 39 US journalists killed.  The first being in 1837, a Presbyterian minister and abolitionist, Elijah Parish Lovejoy, murdered by a proslavery mob in Alton, Illinois. ( Our Presbyterian General Assembly just concluded in St.Louis, in Elijah Parish Lovejoy Presbytery. More of that later...)

Yesterday thousands of New Yorker and people across the country marched to protest family separation. I remember the morning I woke up and had to say to myself, we live in a country that  separates families from children. We live in a country that  separates families from children. It's a hard fact to absorb. Marching is a first  step. 

I raise these things because  the gospel always comes to us in a context, and these things are defining our context, our daily lives. 

What we want to talk about to day is healing. And touch. The gospel gives us two different stories of healing. And both involve touch. And faith.

First...there's a synagogue leader. This would be a pretty significant person. Begging Jesus to come and lay hands on his deathly ill daughter and heal her. 

On his way,  a great crowd gathers around him. A second story intervenes. A woman  pushes her way thru and touches him and Jesus feels that 'power had gone from him."  This poor woman has had a flow of blood for 12 years. In addition to how physically painful this must have been, this would have made her ritually impure...cut off ...for all those years... kept outside..

I couldn't help but think of the story in the NewYork Times last week of women in Nepal who are forward to live in separate huts during these days (https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/10/world/asia/nepal-woman-menstruation.html) out of a belief that they will bring some kind of disaster by their presence. Some have died in  these huts from a variety of causes.... untended fires, wild animals..

And I liked this part:
26She had endured much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had; and she was no better, but rather grew worse.
I mean most if us know what that's like....

She touches his garment even though...
She probably shouldn't be out in public in the first place
If she touched Jesus it would make him impure..but she does it anyways..
 And he compliments  her ...and heals her...because of her faith...

Now Jesus can get back to his main case. But he's waited so long, the girl is now dead. The folks are telling Jairus, "too late, time to move on..." And Jesus tells everyone to leave and that she's only "sleeping"...probably because what he's about to do is a private expression of love and compassion, not a public display to prove something (like with Lazarus) . It is in response to Jairus' faith, not the girls. (Talitha cum..which is to say, get up!..same phrase is used for resurrection...though it's more like resuscitation, she will die...than resurrection)...

The girl was 12...born the same year the other woman's problems began...

So what do we see here?
* Healing takes faith....in one case personal, in the other  on behalf  of...don't ever stop praying for other people...ever...

* . It can take agency....the woman acts on her own behalf...and has to not be afraid to break rules..

* it takes touch...real connection

In both cases, healing restores to community, to normalcy...get her something to eat...he says...the simplest of acts...

There's something about touch we Presbyterians have missed whether its ashes on Ash Wednesday or the touch of holy water...on the other hand, I love when we ordain someone and we all lay hands on each others shoulders and you can feel the power surge through..

Touch is doing something real....I was so proud at General Assembly..our church wanted to protest the bail system that frees the rich and sends poor unconvicted, usually people of color, to prison..sometimes for years..we raised over 47000 and marched to the court to literally free people...that's another kind of touch.it did something real....and a had a bigger message as well...we're going to need more of that to begin iur nation's healing...

On this weekend before the 4th of July, let's be brave enough to try...

And after our prayers and sharing communion, it's back out to the heat....


Gospel Mark 5:21-43

21When Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a great crowd gathered around him; and he was by the sea. 22Then one of the leaders of the synagogue named Jairus came and, when he saw him, fell at his feet 23and begged him repeatedly, "My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well, and live." 24So he went with him.

And a large crowd followed him and pressed in on him. 25Now there was a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years. 26She had endured much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had; and she was no better, but rather grew worse. 27She had heard about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, 28for she said, "If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well." 29Immediately her hemorrhage stopped; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. 30Immediately aware that power had gone forth from him, Jesus turned about in the crowd and said, "Who touched my clothes?" 31And his disciples said to him, "You see the crowd pressing in on you; how can you say, 'Who touched me?'" 32He looked all around to see who had done it. 33But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling, fell down before him, and told him the whole truth. 34He said to her, "Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease."

35While he was still speaking, some people came from the leader's house to say, "Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the teacher any further?" 36But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the leader of the synagogue, "Do not fear, only believe." 37He allowed no one to follow him except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James. 38When they came to the house of the leader of the synagogue, he saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. 39When he had entered, he said to them, "Why do you make a commotion and weep? The child is not dead but sleeping." 40And they laughed at him. Then he put them all outside, and took the child's father and mother and those who were with him, and went in where the child was. 41He took her by the hand and said to her, "Talitha cum," which means, "Little girl, get up!" 42And immediately the girl got up and began to walk about (she was twelve years of age). At this they were overcome with amazement. 43He strictly ordered them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

A concert of love for Nicaragua: Solo el pueblo salva el pubelo

7/1




Daniel, Somoza

Esta la misma cosa.

Of all the chants, that was the one that cut the deepest. Voices would cry out
El pueblo unido
Jamás será  vencido

and in the sweltering heat of a church filled with people   I could  close my eyes and feel myself in a theatre in Jalapa or a church in some town near the border with machete wielding campesinos chanting as we prepared to stand near la frontera with Honduras as a human shield against the contras. What would later become Witness for Peace. That was July 4th, 1983. 35 years ago. How did we end up here with
Daniel, Somoza
Esta la misma cosa. ?

I remember my first meeting with Daniel Ortega.  As Chair of the Presbyterian Church national task force on Central America, I was introduced as el presidente de la iglesia to el presidente del pais. I kind of liked that.  I asked the question we had prepared and Daniel answered the question he wanted to answer. To me he looked weary. (And why not, given what he faced on a daily basis? Only slightly older than me and going mano a mano with the US, my country, every day. ) . We walked out side by side, camera flash bulbs flashing much to the chagrin of our advisor who feared being used for propaganda.

My friend, Sister Peggy Healy, the quintessential Maryknoll sister, tireless peace and justice advocate, back then told me at her last meeting with Daniel, she said to him, Daniel, I love my job. Do you love your job? And that he stared at her with that stone face he could put on, then his eyes crinkled and he smiled a brief smile.

I'd like to ask, Daniel, que paso? I mean seriously, que paso?

This church is filled with people who have come from New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts as a declaration of SOS for their country. As an expression of love for their country. As diaspora nicarguenses to be with each other in a time of crisis in the life of their country. To feel the presence of each other. And to be touched by the music of Luis Enrique Mejia Godoy, Nicaraguan cultural icon. Solentiname painters were to art. He sang the soundtrack for the revolution. Songs like Cancion para mi pueblo, Amando en tiempos de Guerra, Yo soy de un pueblo sencillo.  It was what we call the "Pete role," writing and singing the songs that sustain people through arduous struggle. Now he is writing again Las madres de abril, Madre Vandálica, musically chronicling the anguish of his people. Daniel has lost the voice of the people.
Luis Enrique Mejia Godoy and Robert Brashear
He was to music what the


After updates and introductions (and my welcome and sharing recent actions of the Presbyterian Church...see below..) and el himno nacional,  Godoy is welcomed, blue and white national flags and white roses for the murdered waving.  He begins with what could be another national anthem, hundreds of  voices joining in. My friend Russ says, Can you imagine singing almost four thousand miles from home and everybody knows your words?
The music begins




We know the details. The nearly 300 dead. The snipers. The suspension of liberties. Suppression of press. The mothers' day massacre.
Nicaragua is bleeding


My question how can Daniel not understand? This is a culture that came to age in revolution. The chants, the manifestaciones, tap into the deep well of that experience. (On the one hand, familiar. On the other, they must feel, How many times do we have to go through this shit? They are not alone in that, reminds Russ...) They understand civil organization. People from the other Central American countries believe it's Nicaragua's culture of civil organization that has saved it from the deadly plague of drugs and gangs that has infested the "Northern Triangle." (Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.) Daniel came from these people. Somewhere inside he must know they won't be intimidated. Can't be done..Can power, avarice and greed so blind one from what they must know? From a reality they helped create?

It's important to share the stories. The biggest barrier in building solidarity for the restoration of democracy in Nicaragua is the reluctance of long time solidarity advocates to criticize Ortega. There's no denying what has been accomplished in many social sectors, eg, public health. But there is also no denying what has happened. The reality is that reactionary forces...especially those aligned with the Trump administration, circle like vultures. But that does not invalidate the just struggle of the people.

This struggle began with high school students and has grown. As a prominent banner declares, Solo el pueblo salva el pueblo. Only the people save the people.
West Park with its long legacy of supportive advocacy for movements for peace and justice, exploring the intersection of beauty and justice, is a fitting place for this event and Godoy's music.

The people came together and reinvigorated each other for this struggle. In the end they understand there will be no deus ex machina. It's in their own hands..

Solo el pueblo salva el pueblo.




                                                     ****

That the 223rd General Assembly (2018) direct the Stated Clerk and the Presbyterian Mission Agency (through its Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations, Presbyterian Office of Public Witness, and Presbyterian World Mission) to speak out on behalf of the people of Nicaragua in response to violent repression taking place at the hands of their own government. The assembly directs these entities to work together to:

1.    Develop a moral, theological, and prophetic framework in consultation with our mission partners in Nicaragua, in response to escalating violence and the growing outcry for international support, thus adding our faith-rooted witness to the growing chorus of voices denouncing the actions of the Nicaraguan government. The assembly asks that such a condemnation would take the form of a written statement and press release. Such a statement should make reference, but not be limited to, the following points:

a.           Rejection of the use of firearms and other weapons used on civilians resulting in loss of life and injury.

b.           Affirmation of the preciousness of each and every life bearing the image of God our creator.

c.            Rejection of arbitrary arrest and imprisonment, and torture and humiliation in detention.

d.           Rejection of any form of repression to the people’s right to assembly and expression.

e.            Affirmation of God’s intention for humanity’s freedom to flourish and to live in peace with one another.

f.            Rejection of attempts to suppress journalists, media coverage, and freedom of the press.

2.    Develop an interagency and interfaith coalition to prioritize these issues, to continue to monitor the situation, and to respond appropriately to further developments.

3.    Address the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and the U.S. Department of State to pressure the Nicaraguan government to cease the killing of protesters and political dissidents, demand “the release of students arrested ... respecting their physical integrity” (Centro Intereclesial de Estudios Teologicos y Sociales [CIEETS]), “restoration of security and the free movement of citizens and the nonmilitarization of civil institutions” (CIEETS), and immediately “allow an international, independent, and transparent investigation in order to prosecute those responsible for the repression” (Resolution of European Parliament).




Saturday, June 23, 2018

Bobby Thompson, And Breugel ( after Lydia Millet)



6/23



Breugel's Triumph of Death


Last week, I attended a reading by Lydia Millet
Lydia Millet
from her new book,
Fight No More. My good friend artist Heide Hatry organized an after party. My contribution was a r
eflection inspired by "Bird-Head Monster" from Fight No More...followed by my Apple Tree Blues....here is the reflection.....

I was a child. Can't remember how old I was. Or if I could read. I was home alone. I found a magazine. One I liked because the pages were large. And brightly colored. Worlds I felt I could step into. Live in.

But this time was different. I had no way to understand what I was seeing. Skeletons. Corpses. Demons. Pain and anguish. I was transfixed. Terrified. Traumatized. I could not look away. And I felt I could walk into this painting. This world. And be surrounded by skeletons. Corpses.Demons. I would remember this painting for a very long time.

You know when you're watching a cable tv show and an announcement contains an "advisory: portions of the following program may be too intense for younger viewers?" Like that.

Parenthetical note: When I read Lydia Millet's story, I was convinced the painting I had seen long ago in Life Magazine was "The Garden of Earthly Delights" by Hieronymous Bosch, the inspiration for her story. But I know now it was "The Triumph of Death"
"Garden of Earthly Delights" by Bosch
by Peter Brueghel, the Elder.


This memory would come back   to me the first time I read Don Delillo's Underworld. The preface is set on a cold, raw fall day in upper Manhattan. At the Polo Grounds. The New York Giants are playing the Brooklyn Dodgers to determine who will meet the New York Yankees in the World Series. 

In a box on the first base side are four men. Restaurateur Toots Shoor. Frank Sinatra. Jackie Gleason. And FBI Director J Edgar Hoover. As the game winds to its dramatic conclusion, in the bottom of the ninth, Bobby Thompson hits a home run, the shot heard round the world. And hoarse voiced, sore throated Russ Hodges shouts The Giants win the pennant. The Giants win the pennant. The Giants win the pennant. I do not believe it. The Giants win the pennant. 

And from the upper reaches of the Polo Grounds grandstand, a shower of confetti begins to stream. A cascade of torn and shredded paper. And one large piece lands on J Edgar's arm. And when he looks at what has landed there, everything else in the stadium fades away. Disappears. A second page lands. He holds them together. Stares. He is transfixed. He feels every emotion that young boy felt. And knowing J Edgar, something deeper. Darker.  Desperate. We know he would later commission a copy of the painting. To study. To live with. To live in.

I think of this as I read Lydia's words.

But there's one thing more. On an old dusty slide carousel there is a picture of my not yet 30 years old father. Holding his child. The boy is wearing an oversized felt 1951 New York Giants hat. In honor of Bobby Thompson.  His first baseball cap. 

Today when I wear my vintage New York Giants reproduction, I think of my father. And Bobby Thompson. And Peter Breughel. The Elder.

Monday, June 11, 2018

So you want a king?

6/10

preparing for worship at Good Shepherd-Faith 




Today, back to Good Shepherd Faith.  As I arrive, my friend elder John Gingrich is rehearsing "Ride On King Jesus," since I decided to talk about kings today, based on 1 Samuel 8. So what about kings?
Elder John rehearsws


I'm fascinated by the American fascination with royalty.  I was in Pittsburgh this summer and along with my aunt and her husband spent hours watching the royal marriage between Harry and Meghan. Of course I was rewarded with Bishop Curry's beautiful and powerful sermon, but I wondered why this seemed so captivating for so any of us. The MSNBC reporters kept finding Americans on the  crowd who had spent lots of dollars just to be there. And the question remained....why?

Is there some kind of leftover connection to the place and culture we came from? Some lingering romance around royalty?  In a Disney kind of way? There's not many monarchs left these days. England...and maybe Wakanda?

I remember Ruth Gordon in Harold and Maude speaking of kings and kingdoms saying.."I don't miss the kingdoms, but ohhh the kings..."

Anyways, that's what attracted me to this passage today.

The people of Israel had had a pretty good thing going. A collection, confederation of tribes with judges to resolve issue between them and provide guidance. A pretty horizontal life.

But they wanted to be like everyone else. They wanted a king. God gave Samuel a pretty clear word to give to the people about what that might men..

“These will be the ways of the king who will reign over you: he will take your sons and appoint them to his chariots and to be his horsemen, and to run before his chariots; 12and he will appoint for himself commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and some to plow his ground and to reap his harvest, and to make his implements of war and the equipment of his chariots. 13He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. 14He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive orchards and give them to his courtiers. 15He will take one-tenth of your grain and of your vineyards and give it to his officers and his courtiers. 16He will take your male and female slaves, and the best of your cattle and donkeys, and put them to his work. 17He will take one-tenth of your flocks, and you shall be his slaves. 18And in that day you will cry out because of your king, whom you have chosen for yourselves; but the LORD will not answer you in that day.”

But they won't listen and they wind up with Saul.  And the next thing you know, there'll be David. Obviously God's words were written after they had become .a kingdom.  A knowing explanation of what they got.

A word about the Bible. Wes Howard-Brook in his Come Out My People argues that there are two theologies in the Bible.  Not Christianity and Judaism, but the theology of covenant and creation and the theology of empire. That both are there and are in constant tension. Did you realize, for example, that the first five books . were written around the time of Solomon? Creating a mythic history for an emerging kingdom?  That the two books of Samuel were among the first to be written? (Really wasn't much written before then)..So we get not only the royal propaganda but the critique as well. The writers who longed for the days of the judges.

We get such a critique in Joel Baden's The historical David: the real life of an invented hero. We get a David who is somewhere between Tony Soprano and one of the Lannisters on Game of of Thrones. 

Kings.  They wanted a king.

We Presbyterians aren't much on kings.  Being anti-monarchical is in our system. (And some clergy would tell you anti-clerical as well..) We don't much like kings. Or bishops. It's at the core of our theology. We forget that that's a principle difference between us and Episcopalians, Lutherans and even Methodists.  It's rooted in the reformed perspective of the basic flawed nature of humanity. That plus our theology of stewardship of the world around us gave us a working theology for civic involvement. Thus we get John WItherspoon's name on the Declaration of Independence. And always a disproportionate number of congresspeople. (And amazingly well thought and well spoken basketball coaches like Steve Kerr...)

A couple of weeks ago I was in Chile with the  Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Chile, which broke away from the Presbyterian Church of Chile in 1973. That name is meaningful. It's the whole Johanine notion of in the world, not of the world. They courageously broke away from a church they thought was actively collaborating with Pinochet. Like our ancestors who separated over slavery.  And like the Confessing Church, the too wrote a Credo that affirms Christ as the ultimate authority over our lives. When I asked them the greatest gift that our tradition had to  offer they said democracy. And they are not far off. It can be argued that our polity was the strongest influence on the emerging US system of government.

The Occupy Wall Street occupiers who stayed at West Park were surprised to learn about the horizontal nature of Presbyterianism.

It's not the best of days for democracy. Recent studies are finding millenials...around the globe...less and less interested in democracy, One could make the case that we're in a pretty precarious position ourselves. And have been heading that way for a while.

I love the fact that its a  Presbyterian minister from Union Seminary, Liz Theoharris, who along with William Barber is one of the leaders of the Poor Peoples Campaign seeking to bring a restored moral perspective to our public discourse. This of course, was to be Martin Luther King, Jr's focus had he lived. Fifty years after the assassination of MLK...and Bobby Kennedy...perhaps is good time to pick up that mantle again.

If underneath all this you detect a (not too) subtle critique of certain monarchical trends of a certain politician, well.....it's the Presbyterian  in me...

We can appreciate and enjoy royal weddings. But we don't need kings.The one thing that  is clear to me is that it will be increasingly important to affirm that the principle authority in our lives is Jesus Christ and to him do we give the authority in our lives. I'm often amazed how at certain times, that simple theological affirmation can have profound political implications. .

May God grant us the wisdom and courage for living in our own day

Amen




 First Reading 1 Samuel 8:4-11 (12-15) 16-20 (11:14-15)

8:4Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah, 5and said to him, “You are old and your sons do not follow in your ways; appoint for us, then, a king to govern us, like other nations.” 6But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, “Give us a king to govern us.” Samuel prayed to the LORD, 7and the LORD said to Samuel, “Listen to the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them. 8Just as they have done to me, from the day I brought them up out of Egypt to this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so also they are doing to you. 9Now then, listen to their voice; only — you shall solemnly warn them, and show them the ways of the king who shall reign over them.”

10So Samuel reported all the words of the LORD to the people who were asking him for a king. 11He said, “These will be the ways of the king who will reign over you: he will take your sons and appoint them to his chariots and to be his horsemen, and to run before his chariots; 12and he will appoint for himself commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and some to plow his ground and to reap his harvest, and to make his implements of war and the equipment of his chariots. 13He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. 14He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive orchards and give them to his courtiers. 15He will take one-tenth of your grain and of your vineyards and give it to his officers and his courtiers. 16He will take your male and female slaves, and the best of your cattle and donkeys, and put them to his work. 17He will take one-tenth of your flocks, and you shall be his slaves. 18And in that day you will cry out because of your king, whom you have chosen for yourselves; but the LORD will not answer you in that day.”

19But the people refused to listen to the voice of Samuel; they said, “No! but we are determined to have a king over us, 20so that we also may be like other nations, and that our king may govern us and go out before us and fight our battles.”

11:14Samuel said to the people, “Come, let us go to Gilgal and there renew the kingship.” 15So all the people went to Gilgal, and there they made Saul king before the LORD in Gilgal. There they sacrificed offerings of well-being before the Lord, and there Saul and all the Israelites rejoiced greatly.



Gospel Mark 3:20-35

20... and the crowd came together again, so that they could not even eat. 21When his family heard it, they went out to restrain him, for people were saying, “He has gone out of his mind.” 22And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, “He has Beelzebul, and by the ruler of the demons he casts out demons.” 23And he called them to him, and spoke to them in parables, “How can Satan cast out Satan? 24If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. 25And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. 26And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but his end has come. 27But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his property without first tying up the strong man; then indeed the house can be plundered.

28“Truly I tell you, people will be forgiven for their sins and whatever blasphemies they utter; 29but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin” — 30for they had said, “He has an unclean spirit.”

31Then his mother and his brothers came; and standing outside, they sent to him and called him. 32A crowd was sitting around him; and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside, asking for you.” 33And he replied, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” 34And looking at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 35Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”