Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Fourth Sunday in Easter: Good Shepherd Sunday

Butts. And an orange.
The doors open. Steps swept. Jim arrives with the bulletins. Rachel. The Santiagos. The church is  arriving. Amy excited to find the Beckstein back again.
We say our opening Alleluias. I point to the rainbow flag hanging from the balcony. Say we’ve more reasons to say Alleluia today.  After 33 years, More Light has finally won.  Friday the Westside Spirit photographer had come to take photos for the story. Me. And the rainbow flag. The rainbow stole Leila had made for me. The photographer remembers coming to photograph me the year I won the Westy award for community leadership,  from the West Side Spirit. (What year was that?)  It’s good to remember that time. Our work with homelessness. But this, this is the end of a long journey.
All week long on the internet there’s been a growing list of saints who fought this fight and died before it was won.  From this church, Bob and Evelyn Davidson. The pastor who pushed for the More Light declaration by the congregation.  Irene Zvonik, who fought on from her wheelchair even as she lost limb after limb. How Janie Spahr flew in for her funeral.  My mentor Rod Martin and his wife Jessie, who I lived with on Riverside Drive in 1982-1983.  Matt English who was to follow me in Tulsa and died all too young from AIDS, abandoned by the Board of Pensions. Our great night at the House of Blues in New Orleans. How they rolled out the red carpet for him. And the guys from Asleep at the Wheel played Miles and miles of Texas for him. The list of names goes on and on. I remember names and faces over 30 years. Brings tears. Help ever, hurt never say the House of Blues. I think of the church. If only. 
So this is Good Shepherd Sunday. Fourth Sunday after Easter. Every year. Why? Maybe because somehow it goes directly to what Resurrection living is all about. 
In the book of Acts, there’s this amazing passage: 
4All who believed were together and had all things in common; 45they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. 
Does that sound familiar? Remember from each according to the their ability to each according to their need? 
Who was all? Who was any? All we know is that the People were  filled with awe.
It all makes me think of my college friends. How some dropped out and some after graduation went and started a commune in New Mexico.  They were filled  with idealism. Eventually the goat ran away, the well ran dry and everyone was gone. When I finally came out that way, there was nothing left but stories. 
In 1973-4 I worked at the University of Bridgeport. My friend David worked wit the Jewish students there. He and a close circle of friends, his chevra, became a garin, a seed to go Israel and rebuild a kibbutz abandoned during the 1948 war.  At Gezer. When I went to visit him in 1978, he told me that he was living his dream, that it was from each according to the their ability to each according to their need? 

Everyone worked in the fields and shared other work. There was a common dining hall. A store house for everything from ice cream to watches, when you had need. Three cars shared by everyone. A children’s home where all the kids slept at night. If you wanted something special like a tv or stereo, the community would vote. 

Last summer I was back. The children’s home is gone.The common dining hall boarded up. Each family has its own car. Owns their own home. Works in Tel Aviv or somewhere else, the fields leased. What’s left? Well shared ownership of resources, a decision making process, but...
So, Acts...Did it ever really happen? Commentators argue about this. It’s an ideal. A myth. Of course it couldn’t....they say. Well, I’m not sure. 
You know, monasteries were able to make this work. Some brotherhoods, like the Franciscans. Or the German Bruderhof.  And today there are  intentional communities that seek to live this out in spiritually based communities. Our friends at Stony Point are creating  three intentional communities, communities of living faith, Jewish, Christian, Muslim. 
This life style, It was a sign...

They worshipped in the temple, the tall steeple churches. And they broke their bread, lived out their fellowship at home. They did not live separated from the broader community...this corrupt generation.
What we read about  last week, this corrupt generation... where personal acquisition defines a person, property value a church.

For the early church, this was Resurrection living,  the Abundant out the  Good Shepherd life in community...
Earlier we read the 23rd Psalm. 
1 The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. 2   He makes me lie down in green pastures;
(What does makes mean?)
he leads me beside still waters;* 3   he restores my soul.*He leads me in right paths* for his name’s sake. 4 Even though I walk through the darkest valley,*  I fear no evil; 
(what that would feel live just  one day, afraid of nothing. People who are unafraid can’t be intimidated, manipulated.)
for you are with me;
   your rod and your staff—
   they comfort me. 

5 You prepare a table before me
  in the presence of my enemies;you anoint my head with oil;
(that’s not about religion or ritual, it’s about sensuality, like Mary wiping Jesus‘ feet with her hair...)
  my cup overflows. 

(like the beer ads where they run out and the guy opens up a cell phone ap to keep the party going..) 6 Surely* goodness and mercy* shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord my whole life long. 
It’s a demonstration of how we’re supposed to live. I remember  when I went to negotiate on behalf of the denomination with the Middle East Council of Churches. It was in Cyprus. We’d start work at 8 am. Work until noon. Have a good lunch. Siesta from 2 to 4. Then work again until 8 when we’d have dinner in the seaside restaurants. Every time your cup was empty, the cup was filled again.  If a cigarette was pulled out it was lit. No plate ever left without food.  Abundant living.
To dwell in the house of the Lord...forever...
Did you know that in Jesus’ time, the shepherd imagery was already nostalgiac? That everyone, even the farmers, slept in side the city gates? Only the shepherds lived outside. The imagery goes back to  a nostalgiac memory of their nomad days. Of the days of David.  And in a real sense connects Jesus with the margins as well. 
What is our sign? What is it about our life that might draw people to us?That would be immediately understandable? Well, next Saturday is supposed to be the end of the world. Judgment day. That would make  next week Left Behind Sunday.  I’ll see you then.
As I finished my sermon, I saw Ted walk in. He’s here for the open rehearsal of As It is in Heaven. Then Danielle arrives with some business items for the Session. Another bathroom, electricity in the boiler room, they kind of thing.
Ludovica and her producer arrive for the play. I am more than annoyed that I have to be in a meeting instead. Dealing with our future. With worst case scenarios. Ecclesiastical machinations. Need to prepare for a heavy meeting Monday afternoon. Like I said, more than annoyed. 
direct from Mc Alpin Hall

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