Sunday, December 12, 2010

Advent III: Life is sad, but beautiful


Today our neighbors are celebrating El Dia de la Virgen de Guadalupe.

There was no rain as I left our house, but halfway to the church, it was all torrential rain and swirling wind. I stop at Barney Greengrass to shake off the rain and get coffee. I nod to Gary who’s busy taking orders.

As I start to open the doors, I see them move from the other side. It’s Holly, first one there to help set up. As the doors swing open, I see Marty sitting there. I tell him I’m glad to see him, ask how he’s doing. He looks up at me, “Reverend, the wind is whirling wild. You don’t mind if I sit here awhile?” I tell him no and that people will be coming in a little while. To make himself at home.

Back inside, setting up. Another man comes in. Overflowing shopping bags in his hands. Wearing a leather jacket. Under one arm is a boom box wrapped in a black plastic garbage bag. Muffled sounds of Christmas carols make their way out. I can only make out every third word or so of what he says, like “food.” I tell him that we have none. I offer him a bottle of water. He asks for another. “Change.” I empty my pocket, give him what I’ve got. He mumbles something, points to a dime on the floor. I bend over, pick it up, give it to him. “Raincoat.” We don’t have. “Jacket with hood.” I tell him to wait. Go check out our supply. Nothing that works. When I come back to tell him, Holly is giving him directions to St. Paul and St. Andrews down the street where we’ve been for three years. I tell him we’ve got nothing and open the door to see him out, point him to SPSA.

Our folks are slowly gathering. We notice that it is warmer outside where the wind is warm, nearly 50 degrees, than inside where the cold of the week has soaked in and stayed. We light our candles and sing Advent songs.

Today’s passages seem to have the theme of “seeing is believing.” John is in jail and wants to know if Jesus is the one. And Jesus answers in terms of Isaiah, blind seeing, lame walking, lepers cleansed, deaf hearing...And I talk about the beauty of the image but issues with the seeming connection between physical condition and spiritual wholeness. Our need for “people first” language, difference between healing and curing. And I share Barbara Lundblad’s rewrite where the woman who is blind processes with her dog, the deaf man sings with joy in sign, the veteran in a wheel chair prays for all and the girl who cannot speak dances in with the bread.

And I’m surprised when Hope breaks in and says that in this passage she hears something profoundly liberating. That in Jesus there is a way of relating that transcends every condition or circumstance, deeper than everything else. And Andre speaks of Jesus being God in human form and that we see Christ in the face of others and hope to reveal his face to those we meet.

I say that Jesus concludes with the “Good news being preached to the poor.” That the bottom line is do we preach good news to the poor. Especially as we engage in new relationships around us. And I mention the advice attributed to St. Francis of Assisi I used at Melissa’s installation: “Preach often. Use words when necessary.” That this ministry of incarnation is what this season calls us to and that if we are true to that calling, our project will succeed. That our key words are presence, relationship, action. What do we see? What do we hear? What then must we do?

Philip sings “Sleepers Wake” and we sing a Latin American gloria and finish with “Soon and very soon...” Andre says the gloria made him think of the Underground Railroad.

Arcadia is organizing food for next week’s crafts fair. We find the church’s old coffee urn. And miraculously, our old wooden creche set, a gift from Mary. And we’ve found another set of gourds painted as the Three Kings and the Holy Family. Perfect for a Dios de los Tres Reyes Magos celebration in January.

Arcadia sets up the creche. The urns are heading out for cleaning. We go outside where it’s warmer, in the wind. P_____ shows up. She stayed at SPSA this morning. Lessons and carols. The music was beautiful. There was a film crew. I feel a twinge of pain at how full their life has become,how far we have to go. P____ looks at me. “Reverend Brashear, you look sad.” I shrug. "Life is sad. But beautiful,” she says and kisses me on the cheek. We talk about her case. Gary, other attorneys, it’s always confusing. She has appointments. I ask her to give me a call, keep me posted.

At the corner, there’s Pat, a deacon. She’s been waylaid by a knitting issue, preparing for a future grandchild. I remind her about the crafts fair. It’s raining again.

Walking north on Amsterdam, there’s a crowd in front of Saigon Grill. A picket line. There is once again conflict between the Vietnamese owners and the Chinese and Mexican delivery people. The Chinese organizer has a bullhorn, “Boy-cott --Sai-gon- grill...Boy-cott...” And then call and response,

”Que queremos?”




I ponder the Chinese workers chanting in Spanish. A little further up, strike breaker delivery guys, also immigrants, sit and smoke, looking anxious.

It’s raining harder.

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