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Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The cheese never stands alone


2/27
On the steps this morning:
Lettuce....
JIm and Holly are the first to arrive. They’ve brought a big banner. Ultimately, it should hang from the scaffolding outside. But this morning, It will stretch across the front of the  sanctuary.  It’s big, it’s bright, it’s multitcolored. Celebrate the journey, it says. It’s a gift from the Stony Point Conference Center, where my friend Rick is the Director. (See December 19) It was inspired Thursday afternoon  at my apartment gathering for neighborhood clergy friends. My parish priest, Father Duffel, said that we needed a tent. Something to cut down the emptiness of the sanctuary. Bring it closer. Something new. Something to attract the press. It isn’t a tent. But it is a banner. 
Two visitors today. Cece, longtime friend of Holly. And Jim, the hospitality professional with the amazing smile back for a second Sunday.  And Rachel is back! This is her first Sunday back since that day in August when Amanda and I, at the end of a run,  found her in Central Park. She’d fallen walking her  dogs.Tangled up in the leash.  A young man had picked her up, placed her on a bench, called 911.  As she was placed on the gurney and wheeled to the ambulance, she looked up and said, “I’m afraid I won’t be in church tomorrow.” She’d broken her hip. And this feisty octogenarian retired nurse has fought her way back. Her presence fills us with hope.
My sermon begins by remembering what a big day yesterday was. Some of us went to  the rally in City Hall Park, in solidarity with Wisconsin, with labor. I tell them that my favorite sign of the day was carried by a group wearing cheeseheads.  Their sign read  the cheese never stands alone. I’d have taken a picture if I hadn’t been in the middle of the street. It’s all about solidarity, here, there, around the world. Something is happening.  And then much of the crowd marched over to Foley Square to join the Planned Parenthood , women’s choice rally.  And somewhere in Chinatown the  Chinese Staff and Workers Association, the Saigon Grill workers union, was  celebrating the Lunar New Year.
And it was a good day for those fighting for the full inclusion of people from the lgbt community at every level of church leadership. In the voting, presbytery by presbytery, four yesterday continued their support. Five continued in opposition. And three moved from opposition to support. Indian Nations (Oklahoma,) Central  Nebraska and Sacramento, California. For the first time the double digit lead in voting  has grown to fifteen. Of the nine switches necessary for victory, the count has already reached eleven.
We agreed to pray for those voting next week:  North Central Iowa, West Virginia and Yellowstone.  Then on Friday, Mission,(Texas.) Saturday, Grace,(Texas again) then  Northern New England and Ohio Valley. The struggle that was begun at West-Park back in 1978 (see that rainbow  banner up there?)  may finally come to victory. 
This leads me, however indirectly, to Isaiah. He says to an exiled people, says to the prisoners, “come out, show yourselves....” The people are stuck in Babylon. They have been deprived of hope. They have to imagine the unimaginable. Like in the Middle East, Who, who even three months ago, who could have imagined Egypt?
It is nothing less than the end of fear. As one older Egyptian said, “once we stopped being afraid, they could no longer hurt us.”There is no more hiding.  Once people are not afraid, anything can happen. This passage, (Isaiah 41: 8-16,) is filled with  typical Isaiah themes. Themes  of roads, highways, the journey. We are always on the road. En el camino as my friends say.
My son Daniel yesterday wanted to know why we would watch the movie 127 Hours when we already knew the ending. The ending was not the point, I told him. It’s how you get there. Like the revolution in Egypt. And our own journey. It’s how you get there. 
Fear not is a major theme of Matthew from the angel and his pronouncements on. And here (Matthew 6:24-34) Jesus is preaching against fear. And yes, we’re still in the sermon on the mount. What took Jesus maybe a morning to preach is taking us weeks to get through. It’s how you get there. Jesus wants to to free us from worry, free us  from fear.
And then there it is, ” You cannot serve God and wealth....” I’d love to see that engraved somewhere indelible. Like in the front of a Presbytery meeting. But how do we not worry? Especially now that  we are in that lilies and birds place...
Worry is its own reward.It accomplishes nothing. It is  substitute for action. It wears you out, makes you think you’re doing something, but you’re not. But how do we not worry? 
How? Jesus says,But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
Really? Has anyone ever experienced that? My dad used to say, follow your heart. The money will take care of itself. Not necessarily so. But its about the journey again. The how you get there.  Building a community that is immediately recognizable as a place where people are truly caring for one another. Where the cheese never stands alone. 
 So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.
And as my kids say, word...
I can’t talk about this without remembering Bobby Mc Ferrin and his song, Don’t worry, be happy. In light of everything, really?
Here is a little song I wrote 
You might want to sing it note for note 
Don't worry be happy 
In every life we have some trouble 
When you worry you make it double 
Don't worry, be happy...... 
Ain't got no place to lay your head 
Somebody came and took your bed 
Don't worry, be happy 
The land lord say your rent is late 
He may have to litigate 
Don't worry, be happy 
Look at me I am happy 
Don't worry, be happy 
Here I give you my phone number 
When you worry call me 
I make you happy 
Don't worry, be happy 
Ain't got no cash, ain't got no style 
Ain't got not girl to make you smile 
But don't worry be happy 
Did you realize that this was the theme song of the 1988 George Bush Presidential campaign? Fitting somehow.  Until Bobby McFerrin said NO. Nobody asked me
I’ll always remember a mission retreat we held back in Pittsburgh. It was being facilitated by a member of  that definitive  social witness in Washington, the Church of the Savior, an intentional Christian community.  The retreat leader, a round little guy in sandals,  insisted upon playing this song  every break. It was driving me way crazy, making me me nervous. Finally, my good friend John said, let’s head for the bar. It took a long time for me to discover what an amazing and creative  artist Bobby Mc Ferrin really is.
What yesterday was about, the rallies  was bad decisions, stupid decisions.  Now those who are responsible  want to remove even those  last vestiges of protection and regulation. Without them the chasm between rich and poor would grow even deeper and the middle class completely vanish.  In that context,  we have to ask, what would it mean to really follow Jesus? Where money is not first but where we watch out and care for one another? Jesus seems to say, no he does say, that if we do that the rest will follow....
Can we believe?
As we stood in our circle of blessing following the service, I asked what favorites people had for the Oscars that night. Of course, the King’s Speech had  lots of supporters. I mentioned my own appreciation of Winter’s Bone, the grim but heroic  story of courage and determination in the midst of Ozarks meth country. One of us shook her head, laughed and said,  well, that’s my family. 
I see P_____ walk up and kneel before the Christ candle again,placing her hands on it, fervent in prayer. Her case is dragging on. Pressures growing and with them her inner sense of what’s going on in her apartment. I place my hands on her head. Give her a special prayer for protection, for peace. 
Ana’s cafe con leche again. In this cold, it’s almost sacramental.  

1 comment:

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