Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Fifth Sunday in Easter: The world didn't end and there was a street festival

OK. We’re still here. It’s not clear to me who’s not, but it looks like judgment day or the rapture or the end of the world didn’t come.  We’ve got work to do.
Amsterdam Avenue is closed to traffic for the annual street festival. Walking down to church, booths are being set up. Sunglasses, socks and underwear, silk rugs, t-shirts, hats, newspapers, banks, politicians, corn dogs, Thai food, kebabs, lemonade, mozareppas, falafels, pulled pork, pizza, local restaurants with their specialities, a micro brew festival, shooting baskets for stuffed animals, a crazy quilt of the unique and local and the banal that just shifts from street to street as the summer street festival season marches along. And West-Park. 
As I near the church, Luis is getting the tent set up. We’ll have clothing, women’s self development projects, jewelry from Africa made from coke cans, Andrea’s mother’s pottery, brownies, cupcakes and lemonade, like a miniature version of the whole festival. And fliers for our concerts. 
street festival

Schatzie the Butcher is setting up his famous dirty brisket   stand. I stop by Barney’s for my coffee. Happy street festival day, I say to Gary. I hate it, just hate it, he says. An anthropomorphic pizza slice is walking up and down in  front of the church: 3 dollar pizza, pepperoni, cheese... 
I invite those not actually working inside for worship. Start with the fact that we’re still here. The world didn’t end. Asked if anyone had noticed anyone gone?
Explained how it had been a tough week in our life. The AC.Presbytery. The lawyer crisis. A lot going on...the festival, a softball game, the Presbyterian Welcome celebration of the end of official discrimination against lgbtq people in our church. 
How resurrection living is a way...What are we talking about? A lot about stones today. One of my friends wanted to use the title everybody must get stoned....well...

The stoning of Steven.  Was this really what  he was supposed to have accomplished?  What do we actually believe? When a friend’s mother died, her neighbor Rabbi Jeremy, said he saw no honor in suffering. And that death sucks, no way around it, just sucks. I remember Pablo Richard. How he said that his problem with North American Christians is that we  go to the happy ending too quickly. Have to allow ourselves to experience the pain just as it is and let it be. 

Living stones. Back in the ‘80‘s when I went to Israel/Palestine, you could take one of three trips: the we made the desert bloom Israeli trip, the oppressed Palestinian trip or the sacred stones trip. One Jewish friend said of a church itinerary, but you won’t see any living Jews. Another friend  responded, you won’t see any living anybody.  When I first met Palestinian Christians, , they said, you come to see sacred stones and miss the living stones..People love our stones, but the stones are not the church. We are the living stones. 
John 14: 6 is usuallly funeral passage...I used it at a funeral just a few weeks ago..
How does it preach as a  living passage?
The first pastor I worked with, my mentor and friend, Bill Wiseman, said that when  he was a young evangelical, he saw the Jesus in this passage as a stopper...a traffic cop with a stop sign, you have to say the right password., believe the right thing, claim the right doctrine to get in. But as he got older, he saw a Jesus with open arms..opening the door, welcoming all....
Resurrection living , Christian  life is not about doctrine or right words.. It is about is a path....
I remember Silence, the amazing novel by Shushaku Endo. The young Portuguese missionary who goes to Japan, anxious to suffer for the Lord, believing that then he will finally hear not silence, but the voice of God, the voice  of Jesus. He rejoices when he is captured, ready to embrace torture. Ready to offer himself. And then discovers that his torture  is that Japanese Christians will be tortured until he gives up the faith, tramples on the image if Jesus, publicly renounces. Finally, the disappeared priest he had come to find comes to visit him. You did not come here so that they should suffer for your faith, he says, you came to die for them. So then the young man knows what he must do. With heart breaking, he steps on the image of Christ, renounces the faith. Then at that very moment, Jesus speaks to him, Now you understand, he says, to give up even what is most dear to you...for the sake of others...When I read  that, I finally understood how John14:6 is the TRUTH. Jesus is the way. A path. Like they said when I first went to Nicaragua, nuestro hermano es el camino a Belen...our brother/sister  is the road to Bethlehem . 

Like Jesus says that you can see the father in him,
we need to see the face of God in one another, and show the face of Christ to those we encounter..see all the images of God assembled here, we say...the living stones...
We finish the service. Go out to work the street fair.  Danielle and I running back and forth to the copy shop to get fliers for the concert series. Issues with layout. Printing. Delays.   Amanda and I go to talk to Councilmember Gale Brewer about the concerts, fundraising. It’s been a year since the landmarking decision. We pause to get Amelia a kebab, meat on a stick. 

The cold damp day keeps the crowd down. (When will it be warm?) We sell some things. Talk to some people. Pass out some fliers. 
I try one of Schatzie’s dirty brisket sandwiches. Working on anew neighbor relationship here. The softball players have left and returned. Another loss. But at least no mercy rule this time. Steven says we’re starting  to come around. My friends Beppe and Liljana stop by.  One of the marshals comes by to remind us we have to be off the street by six. It’s been a long day.

Leila and Marsha 


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