Monday, July 18, 2011

This is how Sunday morning begins

This is how Sunday morning begins.  I get to the church and find Edward on the steps.  I walk over, say gently, Edward, we’re going to have church here, you’re going to have to go now... And he looks up at me and says, I can’t get up. I woke up earlier and can’t get up. Will you do me a favor and call an ambulance? I feel sick. Sick to death. Like my stomach’s gonna come out through my eyes...So I tell him sure, and I call 911 and we begin to wait. 

And to make it interesting, a circle of young fashion designers are waiting to come in and check out the space. I let them in t get them out of the way.
Andre arrives with a hearty greeting, Well, I may be woozy but I’m here,  I note the irony of that and  tell him what’s going on.  He agrees to stay with Edward as I go to unlock the doors.  I find the ambulance on 86th Street and direct it around the corner. When I get there, Edward is scambling around, trying to clean things up. I tell him to stop, that I’ll take care of it, and he’s wobbling unsteadily above the garbage can. 
The EMT guys get out and approach. Edward tells them he wants ot go to the hospital. They ask some questions. As they’re leading him to the ambulance, he looks back at me, tears streaming down his face. Thank God for that man there, he says. He gave me $5. I bought a coffee and then, and then...oh shit...thank you, thank you... I say, that’s okay, Edward, you get better, you get better...He enters the ambulance and it pulls off. 
I tell Andre I’m going to pick up the bulletins. When I return, there are two teenage girls sitting, talking, eating snacks right where Edward was.  That’s how it goes.  Andre is sitting in the sanctuary with Deacon James.  Andre’s crying. Bob, he says, I had to come inside. I couldn’t take it. I saw myself in him there...I say, It’s not hard and James said, been there. And then tells me that Edward's lady friend lives in his apartment building. She comes by to drink beer and do their thing.  Hope arrives next and we fill her in. And slowly others trickle  in. 
Just before services, I get notice that Amy won’t be here so Andre and I will have to handle it.  
I tell them that there’s lots of things running round through my head this morning. Hard to focus. I ask,  Who believes in angels? a lot of hands go up, nearly all of my Latino members. I say that the whole of Jacob’s life could be seen as a  journey of acceptance thay God really loves him. ( Not always easy, I know that). 
And I speak of the importance of dreams. Joseph and his dreams in Egypt, Joseph in the gospel of Matthew and his dreams.  I hear Kermit Ruffin in New Orleans playing his trumpet and singing:
you have to have a dream, if you don’t have a dream, how you gonna have a dream come true?  (from the Flower Drum Song.)

Jacob’s ladder. The ladder....a connection between heaven and earth...angels going up and down on it...the Latin tradition of los angeles de la guarda, guarding angels......and then I wonder, what if we are the ladder, between heaven and earth?
It’s about nearness, the accessibility of God. When Jacob wakes, he says to himself, surely the lord is in this place and I did not know it..How many times have we missed where God was? Where God is? Do we sometimes forget?    When he awakes, Jacob is afraid....recognizing how close God is can be scary...

Then that word, AWESOME...How we use that expression.  I spoke of hearing the Woodshed people talking about what they are trying to do....creating  a sense of wonder. What is truly awesome? And he says of this place, truly this is the House of God...Gate of Heaven.. When I was a little kid back home, the local Roman Catholic church, Immaculate Conception, had postcards with a picture of the church on the front and these words in the back. So that’s where it is, I thought.  But really, it’s  any/every church...or more...What Katherine calls places where the veil is thin.

This is a holy place, an awesome place...God’s house, the gate to heaven...

Romans 8: 12-15. Among other things, it’ about families. We’ve got all kinds, good ones, bad ones, healthy ones, dysfunctional ones. Our families of origin, our families of choice. Here, we are all Children of God, and so siblings.  Including those who sleep on our steps.

I think about Paul’s words: these sufferings are not worth comparing to the coming glory... I want to believe that...and that the whole creation is groaning...Two weeks ago I saw the movie  Tree of Life...with Sean Penn and Brad Pitt. Well, it’s  a bit ponderous, pretentious, but nonetheless stunningly beautiful. It is, insome part, about a family facing a tragedy. Looking for the meaning of life, meaning of the universe, creation..that all of life is  contaned in one little midwestern family, struggling with the tragic death of thier 19 year old son.  Questions. His younger brother’s question of God: why should I be good if you’re not? I think about Edward, and I wonder. 
Church people like to say:
God is good, all the time
All the time,  God is good
I wonder.
But I do always feel that at funerals...that all the universe is contained  in one’s networks, connections, realtionsnhips, joys, sorrows..a whole universe dies when one person dies.  
The Bblia de las Americas says:
24Porque en esperanza hemos sido salvos, pero la esperanza que se ve no es esperanza, pues, ¿por qué esperar lo que uno ve?25Pero si esperamos lo que no vemos, con paciencia lo aguardamos.
And in English:
24 For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. 
Remember this: patience is hard...and this is tough...patience is not passivity
We saw Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure last night. In the first act we hear these words: Our doubts are traitors, and make us lose the good we oft might win, by fearing to attempt- ( Quote Act I, Scene IV). Doubts keep us from accomplishing the good that we could, we can.  We have to have the courage to try. 
And so finally:
Matthew 13: 24-30, 26-43
It’s about how we grow togtether. All that about wheat and weeds. It’s almost counterintuitive. What does this parable mean? The weeds and wheat grow together. No one of us is all one or the other. It’s what we do with it. 
Two examples. First, Chuck Colson . He used to say that he would run over his mother for Nixon.  After he got born again and got into prison ministry, it was said he would run over his other for Jesus. On the other hand, there is Betty Ford, who died recently. She used her own struggles with alcohol to connect with, help others. And the same with her breast cancer. It is never ours to judge, wheat and weeds. 
The issue is not about weeding out. The issue is transformation.....That’s what our church, our center, is trying to be about. 
We sing together My hope is built on nothing less and then He is King of Kings...and then it’s time for an Amen and church is over. 
I give a volunteer interested in fund raising a quick tour of the church.  We will meet later in the week. The Session meets with Marc and Sarah. They want to get to know us better. The here the stories of generations in ths church. of our persistence.  But there’s also openness to cahnge. Renewed  commitment to lgbtq issues. Economic justice, labor and immigrants. And sustainability. Everything we do needs to reflect these values. I’m impressed by how well they have listened. I’m anxious to see where this will go. 
My cousin Nancy is sitting on the steps. Hasn’t been here since Christmas Eve. Come to help me sort out issues around the gala. She works for the Comptroller, John Liu. Used to do advance work for Tipper Gore. She knows her stuff. She helps me out together a timeline. 
I head home to see the Women’s World Cup championship match between US and Japan. (Hard to feel bad about Japan winning, not this year.) Then return to do a tour for Jane’s new board. They ask tough questions. I give honest answers. There’s an openness. The collaboration could happen. We’re all out on the street talking. Woodshed people too. And that’s the way Sunday ends. 

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