Monday, May 30, 2011

Sixth Sunday in Easter: Every day is Judgment Day

Andre’s there waiting for me when I arrive.
Razor blades. That’s new. AA batteries. Empty food containers. Ketchup packets. A man’s denim shirt. A jacket. A Lord and Taylor’s shopping bag. A red shopping cart with bottles and cans and a woman’s boot. The other boot. A broken Presidente beer bottle, that’d  be a Dominican beer. And around the corner, a Gordon’s gin bottle. No vodka today. 
Luis and Alma arrive. Then  Amy. Amy and Andre begin to practice. 
I start at 11.  Talk to the kids about Memorial Day.  We thank the soldiers for what they did for us, they say. I ask how many had parents, relatives who served in World War II. Most hands go up. Arcadia reads the gospel, Andre chants the psalm and we respond. And I read Acts 17:  22-31. And pull up a stool. I need to go back to last week. The end of the world. Judgment Day.  Did you think about it? For how long?  It’s there at the end of the passage, but who did?
I joke that when I couldn’t reach Amy’s cell last week, I thought that she might  have made it. Amy said that all the kids at school were buzzing. Luis’ father was worried. He told him not to. Andre said that we always have to be ready. Some  paid it no mind. Hope said it was about relationship. And I said that yes, some of my colleagues said that it was about Jesus’ life judging righteousness. That we measure against that life. Always comes up short. And Andre said, isn’t that what grace is about? And I said for sure. And that’s what sets us apart from Baptists and Free Church people. We don’t make decisions for Christ. That was already done for us. Even our capacity to commit, a function of grace. And we never know. Not really. Never have the full mind of God. Adam’s desire. The first sin. To claim to have God’s knowledge. 
But there is judgment at the end of this passage. We’ll get back there.
So we’ll take a look at Paul’s sermon. What’s Paul  up to here? Who is he preaching to?  The Athenians. He respects them, honors their traditions, what they hold sacred, speaks their language....and then...uses the opening of the unnamed God to get his message across.
To an unknown God...that’s the dark....trying to find....maybe not even far...perhaps so close we can’t see...
It has implications for multiculturalism, inclusion. Like Belhar. Our differences are both an obligation and an opportunity. It also means taking serioiusly what it means to live across the street from Matt Damon and three blocks from public housing projects. And I recall the other warm night’s impromptu do wop concert.  We have to learn to speak to both. We need not only survive but to grow.
So Paul says that God has fixed a day...Well,  it wasn’t  last week, but when? October?  That’s the new date. (I hope it’s after our  gala, says Marsha.) There has been mad weird weather lately....
So we are to be judged in righteousness....Calvin said, God does not leave us to an untimely end...
And I circle back to Memorial Day. Our family tradition of visiting the cemetery. Every Memorial  Day raises questions...why do they die? I remember my uncle. The Navy paid him to go to medical school. Served  in World War II. Married a Quaker. As the Korean War went on, it didn’t seem right. He’d paid his obligation. Asked to be discharged by reason of conscience. And eventually succeeded. When the Vietnam War loomed for me, his example inspired, informed our family conversations. 
And here it is. For the men and women in Afghanistan, Iraq and...every day is Judgment Day, the potential end of the world, for them, for those who love them. And still, it is the poor who go to die for others. Those who make the policy decisions. They need to be honored. Special stars and stripes baseball hats on big league teams tomorrow is not enough. They can’t remain on the periphery of our  awareness. We are responsible to hold our leaders accountable. 

Every day is judgment day.

                                        * * * * 

At the end of the service,we sing Happy Birthday to Andre. And Luis and Alma tell us it is their 40th anniversary. They remember, recall, describe that day in this very place 40 years ago. We gather in a circle around them. Bless them with prayer. And I reflect on 40 years worth of shared love. 
                                          * * * * 
Another street festival. One block over on Broadway. I walk up and down the blocks.  How many chicken on a stick/gyros booths can there be? Like last week only one block over. It's street fair season...... Hang out in the Safe Haven basketball booth, passing out fliers. Spend time at Counclmember Brewer’s booth. Go to the performance stage on 86th to pass out fliers. This is so not my gift, working the crowds, so counterintuitive. . 
My friend Matt is playing. An older/ageless/toothless hippie/homeless woman is twirling in time, ribbon sin her braided flying hair. Deadhead style. A short older guy, bearded, leathered, equally toothless dances with her, pulls out his harmonica, plays along. Disappears. Leave her twirling alone.
I’m passing out fliers. My wife Andrea, her sister Susan just back form the Brooklyn Flea stop by. And Katherine, just back from Portland. I need to ask Matt for help on my concerts. I’m passing  out fliers. It’s sunny and hot....

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