Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Yom Kippur: Day of Atonement


with Rabbi Steve on Yom Kippur

My friend Rabbi Steve Blane's Sim Shalom synagogue lives most of it's life online. ( ) But come the High Holy Days, it comes to life at the  Bitter End, perhaps Greenwich Village's most iconic nightclub. (Video of service here... Once again, he asked me to share a sermon...and afterward, a's what I had to say....

It is good to be back here with you again this year. Since last year I have actually performed on this stage twice...with Rabbi Steve and I feel at home.

It's Yom Kippur which means that most of you are fasting. I'm thinking that's a strange word. Because I did this for many years... in an  interfaith family...and you know what, when you are fasting, time goes  really slooooowly....

Yom Kippur....the holiest day of the year. It means literally Day of Atonement. I've been thinking about that word.  I mean we all know that to atone is something you do to make up for something you did. 

But I want to go a little deeper. In English, it is what looks like, at ... one.....the word emerged in the 16th century from the Latin word adunamentum  or ‘unity.' ....and carried with it the sense of reconciliation.

It reminds me that in my tradition, after our corporate prayer of confession, I would say...It is good as we seek forgiveness from God that we seek forgiveness from one another, as we seek oneness with God we seek oneness with one another and as we seek peace with God, we seek peace with one another...the peace of the Lord be always with you...and they respond and with your spirit...and then we all exchange greetings of peace.  As I think about it, it's a reminder of something I learned from my Jewish friends...that repentance is never just personal, it has a social aspect. As a rabbi friend of mine once said, Judaism is  a team  sport.

You can't ask God to forgive what you did to another person without going to that person first. It also says, as Simon Wiesthenthal made clear in his beautiful book the Sunflower, neither can you forgive what wasn't done to you. Your being here as a community says that you can't  be one with God without being one with one another. It begins with relationship.

I  need to  say a word here about forgiveness and reconciliation. They are not the same thing....forgiveness is something one does for oneself. To stop being controlled by another. To break the power of victimhood. To let go. As one friend once said, to give up for all time the hope for a different past. It frees oneself. Last year in Berlin, I met a man from Rwanda who after years of searching found the man who had murdered his father. He had intended for years to take revenge. Take his life. Get even. But confronting the man, he thought about what had been controlling his heart all these years and forgave the man. He said he had learned that we become what we do not forgive. 

Forgiveness however, does nothing for the relationship. As a friend of mine once said, there is no reconciliation without reconstruction.  It is a process. Sometimes a long process to reconstruct a relationship step by careful step. But what else can atonement be about?

Well, I know these are the final hours of the days of awe....what was written down last week in pencil is now going down in ink, close to being sealed. Book closed and locked. As we used to sing when I was a kid, making a list, checking it twice,gonna make sure who's naughty and nice..

But think about this afternoon in the waning hours. Find a quiet place. To sit for a few moments. Let the faces of people who are important to you pass in front of you. Those who have made you happy, who have been there for you. Those who have hurt you. And perhaps those you have hurt. Even inadvertently. Where a relationship is broken. And ask yourself if there is just one step, just one that you might make to break the ice, the iciness of brokenness.

There is a lot of brokenness around us these days. When we think about how hard it is between two people, sometimes even family members, how can we even  imagine that there might be reconciliation between those who believe Donald Trump is the answer and those who don't? Between blacks and whites? And yes Palestinians and Israelis? 

But in that first scary step, that is where life is. The closing words of the Torah portion for this morning say:

 I call heaven and earth to witness against you today that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live, 20 loving the Lord your God, obeying him, and holding fast to him; for that means life to you and length of days,

May your fast go well. And your  breakfast joyous, L'chaim.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Let those with ears to hear DO


Welcome back Mark

It's Labor Day weekend . The unofficial end to summer. And I am back to Beverly Church on a hot and humid Sunday. Walking through the streets with the English names and Victorian homes. And occasional gardens.
a home garden
And Pakistani restaurants...and Mexican
panaderias...Still flyers up from last week's church flea market and barbecue...

Mark, who is in the Navy,  as he does whenever he is home on leave has come. And brought an old friend.  Here is the reflection....

It's good to see you again. As always, there's a lot on my mind. I spent a week back home in Pittsburgh. And many of my friends were struggling with a grand jury report that came out and said that in Pennsylvania, there was testimony of  300 priests abusing over1000 victims. And they believe those figures are conservative. Everyone was checking  the list. One of the musicians from my old church found the priest who  had married him, baptized his first child. Beloved parish priests . Men I used to work with. Some friends wanted to know where to turn. Because they could not go back. Can you imagine how that would feel? 

I continue to wrestle with that. Thinking of all the victims. 

I'm also thinking about the death of John McCain. When I was at the ballpark yesterday afternoon, the flags at Yankee Stadium were at half mast. In his honor. And so all the other flags were lower as well so as to not be higher than the US flag. His body lie in state in the Capitol Rotunda, rare for a Senator. And everything from invited speakers to pall bearers had symbolic value and meaning. 

Of course some can argue about some of his decisions, his positions. But at the end of the day, I think we want to have someone who symbolizes for us a different way of being than we are living out right now. Where personal integrity is important and valuing and respecting others, especially our opponents, is honored. And I believe our desire to lift up those values says something good about us. 

I think both these stories relate to our scripture passages today. In the Gospel, the religious leaders are very upset at Jesus' disciples' failure to wash before eating. (Not a bad idea..) Jesus is very clear that no ritual of what to do before eating or even what we eat is as important as righteous behavior.  You've heard of clean hands, pure heart? He's saying clean hands don't count when your heart isn't pure....

Part of what's going on here is opening up the doors of the community so more can come in. Jesus is saying no ritual, no tradition, is more important than the living, moving spirit of God.

Let me clear though. Jesus is not saying that tradition has no value. Think about it....Jesus went to worship regularly. He prayed.  He was going to Jerusalem to celebrate Passover. In our communion service today we'll recall Jesus following the traditions of his faith.

I've spent enough time with you to know that you have your special traditions, your  ways of doing things that are different from what any other church does. If I asked you, what would you say you'd most want to hold on to? Or miss the most if it were gone? 

This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me; 7in vain do they worship me, teaching human precepts as doctrines.' 

We take our human prejudices and make them doctrines. 

Certainly, our Roman Catholic church knows about tradition. They've been at it longer than we have. But I wonder if some of those traditions may not be contribute to their problems. Maybe it's time to have women priests. And allow priests to marry. 

Certainly we Presbyterians have had to move beyond tradition.  We divided over slavery in the 1860's and didn't reunite until 1983. We hesitated to ordain women and when we made it mandatory, some of our churches got angry and left. And when we finally allowed LGBTQ folk to have their God-given ministries officially recognized, more couldn't abide that and left. 

Traditions keep us and imprison us. We have a President who seems to be telling people things can go back to the way they used to be. No uppity women or scary black people or other languages on our phones. 

So OK. What makes us us? What is distinctive? We don't dress like the Amish people I saw in the Philadelphia Greyhound station. Or wear yarmulkes like Jewish men or hijabs like Muslim women or turbans like Sikhs. 

I think it should be in our James' words, caring for widows and orphans. 

In James' words, being doers, not just hearers. And he's got some wonderfully specific advice...

: Let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger; 20for your anger does not produce God's righteousness. 

Is that true of us? Of you? Of the church?

I had a preacher who used to end his sermons with Let those with ears to hear, hear...

But maybe today what I want to say is Let those with ears to hear, do....

And once again we pray for each other. And share bread and cup together before sharing a meal. I remind them that just being here...just choosing to spend Sunday morning in worship is a witness. Is important. Has value. There is still tomorrow left before we go back to our regular lives...

Second Reading James 1:17-27

17Every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. 18In fulfillment of his own purpose he gave us birth by the word of truth, so that we would become a kind of first fruits of his creatures.

19You must understand this, my beloved: let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger; 20for your anger does not produce God's righteousness. 21Therefore rid yourselves of all sordidness and rank growth of wickedness, and welcome with meekness the implanted word that has the power to save your souls.

22But be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves. 23For if any are hearers of the word and not doers, they are like those who look at themselves in a mirror; 24for they look at themselves and, on going away, immediately forget what they were like. 25But those who look into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and persevere, being not hearers who forget but doers who act-they will be blessed in their doing.

26If any think they are religious, and do not bridle their tongues but deceive their hearts, their religion is worthless. 27Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.

Gospel Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23

1Now when the Pharisees and some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered around him, 2they noticed that some of his disciples were eating with defiled hands, that is, without washing them. 3(For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, do not eat unless they thoroughly wash their hands, thus observing the tradition of the elders; 4and they do not eat anything from the market unless they wash it; and there are also many other traditions that they observe, the washing of cups, pots, and bronze kettles.) 5So the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, "Why do your disciples not live according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?" 6He said to them, "Isaiah prophesied rightly about you hypocrites, as it is written, 'This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me; 7in vain do they worship me, teaching human precepts as doctrines.' 8You abandon the commandment of God and hold to human tradition."

14Then he called the crowd again and said to them, "Listen to me, all of you, and understand: 15there is nothing outside a person that by going in can defile, but the things that come out are what defile."

21"For it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come: fornication, theft, murder, 22adultery, avarice, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, folly. 23All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person."

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Thoughts on the Pennsylvania grand jury report on the Roman Catholic church


On my way to Pittsburgh for a performance, I'm trying to get my head around the recent grand jury report. Over decades in Pennsylvania, over 300 Roman Catholic  priests involved with the sexual abuse of over 1000 victims. They believe this is a conservative number. Think about that over 300 priests. Over 1000 victims. In just one state. It's almost incomprehensible.

Friends of mine post on Facebook. Wondering where they can go now. That they can't go back. Finding their old beloved parish priest on the list. Perhaps the one who married them. Reading the disturbing details. Even marking certain boys with special gold crosses. And me finding names of men I worked with in my Pittsburgh days. Colleagues. Some I always felt strange about but some I really liked. And Bishop, now Cardinal Wuerl who in protecting priests and the name of the church left countless children vulnerable. I remember his piercing blue eyes. He cold meet you once and always remember your name. His support of our interfaith Holocaust remembrance services. Today they removed his name from Pittsburgh's North Catholic High School.

I grew up here. In my neighborhood, we Protestants were the minority. There was a heavy "anti-papist" aspect to our culture. The one thing we knew about our Jewish neighbors is that they weren't Catholics. Our pastor kept us after church to warn us that if John F. Kennedy were elected, the Pope would control his decisions and actions. My first encounters with Catholic iconography were frightening, all the anguished bodies. The feelings ran deep.

Coming to appreciate Catholic spirituality was a journey for me. Some of it was encountering popular Catholic culture in Northern New Mexico. Or a girl friend who gave me San Antonio to look after me. I came to understand that the poor saw themselves in those icons. And a God who understood their suffering. Mary brought a feminine balance to a male theoecclesiastical praxis.

Later, it was Catholic existentialist writers who kept me in the broader Christian faith community. Shusaku Endo's Silence was a vitally important book to me.  And Miguel de Unamuno. And Ignacio Silone. I say all this to say that I had come to recognize that Catholic practice spoke to some very deep places in me. 

When I was Protestant Chaplain at the University of Bridgeport, the Jewish chaplain and the Roman Catholic sister who was the first woman to  be named  a chaplain and I were inseparable friends. As a young single guy, I struggled with my relationships and she helped me see that not loving anyone helped her stay available to everyone. 

For my Latino friends, it's often hard to separate what's Catholic and what's Latino. Friends who no longer can claim Christian faith remain cultural catholics. 

So I come to these thoughts with a sense of respect and some hesitation to speak of (to?)  a community that is not mine. Certainly, manipulative abuse of power is present in every faith community. But when I look at the width, breadth and depth of this abuse, I have to feel that something is seriously broken. That something near the center is just plain off. That it is time for a reboot.

First, there should be no confusion of issues here. Pedophilia is not an LGBTQ issue. It's roots are elsewhere. 

More deeply, I'm thinking that the very veneration of celibacy attracts profoundly disturbed individuals who feel that maybe this is a way out. Or an answer. Or worse, a cover. Certainly, there are many who have lived their ministry with integrity and honesty in a healthy caring way. But the sheer numbers in the grand jury report are just too overwhelming. 

Catholicism has had a major role in global social and cultural history. I pray that it can be capable of critical (self) analysis and the kind of radical reconstruction that seems so clearly to be needed. 

Above and beyond all else is the unanswered suffering of thousands of children. That suffering, beyond reparations, demands change at the deepest level. May my Catholic friends have the courage, wisdom and creativity to undertake this journey.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Bread of Life


Gott ist die liebe

 A straight ride up the 2 train to the Williamsbridge  neighborhood  of the  Bronx. Back to St. Peter's Lutheran Church. I continue to be intrigued by this church. By the fading German  letters above the door declaring Gott ist die liebe...God is love.  There are German words inside too.  There must have been a German population here once although the official history seems to be Jewish and Italian. And many of the current membership have roots in Africa and the Caribbean, especially Jamaica. And I would still love to know how they got  a full immersion baptistry pool.

The beginning of the service with its praise songs led by a Ghanian feels almost separate from the traditional Lutheran liturgy. But soon enough it is time for my sermon, even as I feel I'm losing my voice.....

Ready to preach

Good morning.  Its good to be back again. We're getting into that deep part of summer. When the city feels so quiet. It's a time to enjoy the city in ways we normally can't. Last night, for example, I went to Outdoors at Lincoln Center's Americana Festival. The featured performer of the night was Mavis Staples. Not sure how many here know her but the Staples Family Singers first hit the stage 68 years ago. And now Mavis keeps that legacy alive. Her music takes us through decades of freedom riders and civil rights marches and protests and back to a today that has many of us uneasy and concerned. But when she lifts up her voice and sings, "I'll take you there," there's something transporting. Uplifting. Healing. And sustaining. 

I know a place
Ain't nobody cryin', ain't nobody worried
Ain't no smilin' faces, mmm, naw, naw
Lyin' to the races
I'll take you there......

Reaches though decades of struggle to touch us today...

I'm thinking about what keeps us going. What keeps us going. I keep hearing Jesus say over and over again, he is the bread of life. There's lots more that's kind of convoluted and hard to follow and doctrinally complex, but this is pretty straight forward. 

Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty."

Hmmmmm.  What's that mean?  I mean there's lots of literal hunger out there....

There's a lot of hunger out there..the figures are harsh...
1.2 million New Yorkers live in food vulnerabiity...42% of our citizens don't have enough income to meet basic needs...(how are you doin?)
41 Million Americans are hungry
769 Million world wide are without adequate food(Feeding America/New York Times)

At the same time, each of us Americans are estimated to waste between 300 and 360 pounds of food a year, that's 165 billion pounds...(Christian Science Monitor) 
So that's actual literal hunger.  But there's lots of other hungers around the world as well...

I'm asking myself what does hunger feel like? Have any of us here ever felt hunger? For food itself......?

But what of other kinds of hungers?  What gnaws at us? Drives us...Some of us here had a hunger for a better life...for political reasons...or economic reasons...which are no less political....and so we left our home and came here to New York City, to the begin anew...has our hunger been satisfied?

What hunger stays with us? And what does Jesus mean he is the bread of life? Does Jesus feed those who are literally hungry? Well it was just a few weeks ago that Jesus facilitated the feeding of 5000 hungry people. And remember what he said to his disciples, You feed them...No magic tricks, rabbits out of hats, sandwiches out of thin air. He says, Start with what you've got. See what happens next. 

I am the bread of life....hmmm....what does he want us to do?  I thunk there's two sides to this. Maybe one is to believe. To make a commitment to believe in Jesus. (Have you already done that? If you can imagine it, you can understand that...) You, in a sense, bring him inside of you to travel with you, to sustain you, guide you...

But if the believing part is hard, there's another way to the bread of life. I'd call it following. See where he's going and follow along. When he says 'You feed them," well you feed then and soon you will be fed as well as you enter into an ongoing relationship of participation in the presence. 

Might I  add that this means being able to be explicit and concrete about your hungers. You  must be able to name them, if you want Jesus to respond to them. 

I want you to notice one other reality here. The neighbors question Jesus' authenticity because they  know him. They know his family. He's spent the last 30 years among them as a should have  been married by now singe guy working in his father's shop. Bread from heaven, seriously?

Point being...there may be within your community one with special gifts who can help in the feeding of God's children. Especially as we share Eucharist this morning. The reformer Zwingli believed it was not the bread and wine that was transformed but the people who share it.
As we share the one loaf, the one cup, the bread of heaven, let us be open to allowing ourselves to become that sustaining bread for others. Together as the body of the risen Christ

In the sharing of Eucharist, they use traditional thin wafers but use the small individual cups I always associated with lower liturgical traditions. (Like the folks at Beverley) For health reasons they say. 

After the service, we go downstairs for lunch. (Like Beverley again.) But the one white man in the congregation stays behind, plays the organ.

Downstairs, we talk.  When I touch that setting, it's just like Radio City Music Hall, he says. He sees what's going on in the world today as "Biblical prophecy." He's been here over 40 years, and still misses the former pastor, who layed hands on him and healed him. 

There are other conversations. About the class issues of who has teeth and who does not. And answered prayers for parking spaces. It is a good lunch. 

Gospel John 6:35, 41-51

35Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty."

41Then the Jews began to complain about him because he said, "I am the bread that came down from heaven." 42They were saying, "Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, 'I have come down from heaven'?" 43Jesus answered them, "Do not complain among yourselves. 44No one can come to me unless drawn by the Father who sent me; and I will raise that person up on the last day. 45It is written in the prophets, 'And they shall all be taught by God.' Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me. 46Not that anyone has seen the Father except the one who is from God; he has seen the Father. 47Very truly, I tell you, whoever believes has eternal life. 48I am the bread of life. 49Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. 50This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. 51I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh."

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Greyhound: all come to look for America


Cathy, I said as we boarded a Greyhound in Pittsburgh......

I am in the Indianapolis Greyhound Station. Or Pittsburgh. Or Cleveland. The arcing lines of Streamline deco ringing the banks of seats. A bit of weariness showing through. Echoes of an era when horizons felt unlimited. And I've got Simon and Garfunkel in my head. Nobody's ever sung it better, the feeling of a Greyhound trip through America.

You experience travel different on a bus. In the air, you measure the journey by hours, not much sense of forward motion. You come in, you sit down, hours later you are somewhere else. On a bus you feel your movement. looking out the window, the landscape passing by. You measure not by time but miles experienced, consumed. It is, no surprise, more grounded. You can feel the journey traveled.

So I looked at the scenery
She read her magazine
And the moon rose over an open field....

That last line perhaps one of the closest to perfect lyrics ever written. 

(We won't even tqlk about trains, which our country can't seem to figure out. They take longer, cost more, it's a lot to pay for leg room...)

But I still find myself wondering how I've become part of those who travel by land, not by air. Because, yes, travel is a class issue as well. In a workshop I taught on income inequality, I used the example of being on an airplane needing to use the restroom and there is one just two rows ahead of you. But you are forbidden to use that one. You must go 30 rows back to where a line is forming. It's like that.

Traveling the Amtrak Corridor, you wind up with a lot of college students on buses. But that changes as you head out into America. So a quick look around. More than 2/3 of my fellow riders are people of color. Most of the drivers too. (Of my last 6 rides, 4 were black. One Hispanic and one older white man. Two black women.) And station workers. 

(Also in the Corridor, Chinatown buses led to the indy buses like Mega and Jolt which freed from responsibility of station upkeep, drove prices down until Greyhound had to respond...)

Working people, people longing to work. People trying to reach their families. People trying to get away from families or just away. I overhear snatches of conversation. And me, who occasionally can't afford the cost of a short notice flight. 

It is a democratic experience. 

My brother was a teacher. He told me that he used to have students claim to be unbiased and completely open to new people. He would laugh and say, "No I don't think so. You're on a plane or bus and there's an empty seat beside you. Don't tell me you're not checking out every person walking up the aisle. Writing their life histories. And don't tell me that when you see the super size person heading up the aisle you'r not praying not me, Lord, please not me..."  And of course he's right. And of course, every time, yes, it is me. 

And one night in Philadelphia it's a garrulous old white man and late night in Cleveland an incredibly obese young man and they take up their seat and well into mine, pinning me against the window. And  then they will fall asleep. And their head falls onto my shoulder snd their arm reaches around me and this is NOT an intimacy I want. So its hours of elbowing and pushing back and the rest stop can't come soon enough.  I work on being compassionate. But...

And also but, we are all in this together. Same boat, same bus so to speak. 

And at the end of a long ride, the sun comes up, and yes, I'm counting the cars on the New Jersey Turnpike as we near New York City and I hear the music rise and swell and cascade, 

Counting the cars on the New Jersey Turnpike
They've all come to look for America
All come to look for America
All come to look for America

We are all looking for more than ever...looking for America...

Let us be lovers, we'll marry our fortunes together
I've got some real estate here in my bag
So we bought a pack of cigarettes and Mrs. Wagner's pies
And we walked off to look for America
Cathy, I said as we boarded a Greyhound in Pittsburgh
Michigan seems like a dream to me now
It took me four days to hitchhike from Saginaw
I've gone to look for America
Laughing on the bus, playing games with the faces
She said the man in the gabardine suit was a spy
I said, be careful, his bowtie is really a camera
Toss me a cigarette, I think there's one in my raincoat
We smoked the last one an hour ago
So I looked at the scenery
She read her magazine
And the moon rose over an open field
Cathy, I'm lost, I said though I knew she was sleeping
And I'm empty and aching and I don't know why
Counting the cars on the New Jersey Turnpike
They've all come to look for America
All come to look for America
All come to look for America

Monday, August 6, 2018

GRACE...according to the measure of Christ's gift.


With Elder Geraldine after worship

On a hot and sweltering August day, I made my way to Beverley Church...

Here was my reflection on the day....

It's getting to be that time of year.  August. A very quiet time of year.  The streets are somehow emptier. Most summer camp experiences are winding down. And any one who can leave town has left town leaving things quieter for the rest of us. It's always a good time to be here. There's still Shakespeare in the Park. (Actually lots of parks!) And Lincoln Center out of Doors. Our summer lasts longer than others. I went to visit my brother in Toledo and they've started fall sports practices because their school year begins in about two weeks. So we hold on to summer just a little longer.

It seems like some pretty important communications come from prisons. Martin Luther King, Jr's Letter from a  Birmingham Jail is one of his best known and most important writings. Nelson Mandela sent messages from behind the walls of Robbens Island that sustained his people together in hope. My good friend Peter Heltzel found himself behind bars in Albany this spring during the Poor Peoples' campaign. I've been in a few times myself buy never long enough write a letter.

So if you are wondering, Ephesians is one of Paul's prison letters.
It was during this time that Paul sat in Rome undergoing his first Roman imprisonment (Ephesians 3:1; 4:1), making Ephesians one of the four epistles commonly known as the Prison Epistles. The others are Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon.

So he is in prison, writing to Ephesus. I also need to tell you that Paul is usually writing to a church is at a point of crisis with specific answers for specific problems. And when he doesn't, like in this letter, he is seeking to build up the body for when crisis will come.

Maybe that's kind of like where you are.  I mean as I know you, you do have some big picture issues to deal with. But you are not at a crisis point.

(So you know that old story about how if you've got a frog in a pot of water and up the temperature 1' at a time, he won't jump and will boil because each increase is so small? Not dealing with why you'd want to do that in the first place, but.... I have a friend who thinks that's where we are as a nation. One day, one degree at a time.  He wants to write a song about feeling like a frog in the water....)
So what's Paul got to say? Or what if this  was Paul's letter to Beverly Church?

4 I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all lowliness and meekness, with patience, forbearing one another in love, 3 eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

My sense is that you all do  bear with one another pretty well...but you might want to answer that for yourself...unity of spirit, bond  of peace...Believe me sometimes it is easier said than done...I have seen churches where people choose up sides over the smallest of things. Next thing you know, people are fighting and saying bad things about each other....somehow thinking that they can continue to serve God while they do that?

We celebrate communion today. We used to have a part of our service where  we declared that if anyone has something against anyone in the community, you were asked to go and not come back until it was taken care of. Could  you do that today?

4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call, 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of us all, who is above all and through all and in all.

I love this part.... 7 But grace was given to each of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. 

So this is where I remind you that each of you has a ministry that is given to you at our baptism, not your ordination...we are, as Luther said,  a priesthood of all believers...

And what are these?

And his gifts were that some should be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers,
for what purpose?

12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ,

that is the purpose...the building up of the body...
which of these are you? How do you live that out?

13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ; 14 so that we may no longer be children, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the cunning of men, by their craftiness in deceitful wiles. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every joint with which it is supplied, when each part is working properly, makes bodily growth and upbuilds itself in love.

Paul wants us to be mature in faith....not bounced around by every new thing that comes around...

Now you all seem to me to be mature have all been here're not going anywhere...BUT...IF you have in this room, right today, apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, ....what might you be able to do with all of that?

I know how  frustrating it is to have lost what you've lost...but what if you walked in here today and saw what you have? What more might you become?

Can you begin to  imagine?

GRACE...according to the measure of Christ's gift...what is the nature of his gift to us right now? 

That is my question for you today.

We share communion. And Geraldine introduces a prospective new member which would be cause for celebration. And our worship comes to an end for today....

Outside, the sun...and the heat....summer waiting....

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Jersey story


Jersey Story

To celebrate the World Cup, the people at Jacobin, a Brooklyn based socialist journal ( came up with the idea of creating a unique jersey for their readers and fans. It's theme would be "Football is a country," inspired both by Eduardo Galeano's Futbol a sol y sombra (Soccer in sun and shadow), perhaps the best book ever written about soccer, and Africa is a country (, an eclectic internet space  for progressive art and culture from al of Africa and the African diaspora. The idea  seemed to be that football the game creates a reality that is beyond boundaries where the beauty of the experience of the game transcends any national loyalties. And we could wear this jersey while watching  the games in celebration of that experience.

The jersey itself was intriguing. In the upper left, instead of a team crest, the Jacobin "J" in the journal's distinctive font.
The main image is essentially a post modern deconstruction of World Cup brackets and in small print, the nicknames of 8 teams:

Super Eagles: Nigeria
Les Bleus:  France
La Albiceleste: Argentina
The Three Lions: England
Die Mannschaft: Germany
Les Lions de la Teranga: Senegal
La Furia Roja: Spain
Selecao: Brazil

So...why 8?  Why these 8?  

On the back a graphic for 'Football is a country" borrowed from "Africa is a country" and a MNOB (magazine name?) "Jacobin" with a stylized "18."
Altogether an interesting  creation and worthy of a bar conversation or two. I ordered it immediately and anxiously awaited its arrival. But, perhaps inevitably, there were "problems with production" and the jerseys finally arrived Monday, July 30th, two weeks after the World Cup final. I will leave it to others for finding any metaphors in the story. 

(Happily all proceeds did go to Africa is a country...)