Monday, August 8, 2011

Walking on water

Back from three days back home near Pittsburgh. And back with a back that aches so much it makes walking and standing painful.
I finish the service and go to print it only to realize that the printer is out of ink. I’ll have to carry my lap top down to the copy shop and take it from there. Then I’ll have to stop at the grocery store on the way back and pick up bread and juice for communion. The short trip is like torture.
At the church, when I return, I hear a voice. It’s only me says Deacon James. Hope arrives shortly thereafter and begins to clean. This is not the best crew this morning to get the church ready. We could use some help. I throw the doors open, put on the yellow gloves. I gather up the cardboard bed and a pile of extra cardboard and throw it away. But that’s as far as I’ll go this morning. Deacon Linda passes by. And talks to me about the value of physical therapy. Not now, she says, but when you’re better. 
It’s about time to begin. Andre’s not here, so I’ll have to do it on my own.  So I start off with Jesus shall reign where’ere the sun. Andre joins us as we’re about to begin reading scripture. And then, I see Regi and Domi come in. Regi was our associate pastor for 6 years. He led the Enlace de gracia mulitcultural service we had during that time in Spanish, Portuguese and English. He helped create our concert series with El Taller and led the creation of Point of Encounter/ Punto del Encuentro, our ministry with immigrants and our international engagement with Brazil.  I remember the joy and pleasure of working together. And going to Newark in the wee hours to a Brazilian restaurant to watch Brazil win the  2002 World Cup and then see the streets fill with joyous brasilieros celebrating. How we wore Brazil jerseys under our robes that Sunday.  Earning our doctorates together.  I’ll remember all that, not the tough and crazy times of 2007. He’s in Atlanta now, on the staff of the Interdenominational Theological Center. It’s good to see he and Domi here. And I have him read the gospel in Spanish.
Today I’m working mainly with the story of Jesus walking on the water.(Matthew 14: 22-33) But also a little with Joseph and his coat of many colors (Genesis 37: 1-4, 13-28) and I don’t care what the NRSV says about a robe with long sleeves, it’s still a coat of many colors to me. 
The walking on water is one of my favorites.  Feel like that’s where we’ve been so many times over the years.  The disciples look up and see Jesus walking and it scares them. He says, don’t be afraid, it’s me. And at least one of them thinks, yeah, that’s what we were afraid of. He’s out there doing what people aren’t supposed to do.  And then Peter, with the impulse control issues, decides to join him. And is actually doing it. He’s walking on water too. Until the winds come up. And he realizes what he’s doing . And starts to sink. Save me, Lord. 
Over and over again over the last ten years I’ve felt us step out of the boat. And actually start to walk. Do what we’re not supposed to be able to do. And then we get out there in the middle and lose heart. We’re brave enough to take the risk, not enough to keep going  until we  get there. The leap of faith that stops in the middle. In midair, like Wile E. Coyote chasing the Roadrunner, and then down we go. If we start, we have to keep going.  And we’ve started again. We’re out of the boat. Been out of there since a year ago May.  Just have to keep seeing Jesus out there ahead. And keep going. No matter what anybody says. 
When we talk about this, Robin, a young mother from Nashville, talks about her little son Hudson pushing away a 700 pound pillar as it was heading towards him.  It’s quite a story. She’s come to New York for his career. Another story.
Part of the critique, the doubt casting, the oppositon is the natural, to be expected response to following a dream. Like Joseph’s brothers saying, "Here comes this dreamer.Come now, let us kill him and throw him into one of the pits; then we shall say that a wild animal has devoured him, and we shall see what will become of his dreams." As if killing the dreamer could kill the dream. Like Martin Luther King, Jr’s dream.  And why we like the tag line, Dream. Real. Hard. As hard as it is, we can’t stop now. 
Then as dreamers, as walkers on water, as brothers and sisters, we celebrate together communion. Sing together, O God our help in ages past. I ask Regi to do a benediction. We sing our amens. The service is over. 
Talk with Robin. Learn more of her story. Go out to get an iced coffee at Barney’s before the session meets. Edward is on the steps. Laid out. Edward, man, it’s the middle of the day.
I know that.
You can’t sleep here in the middle of the day.
I know that. If I was sleepin’ I wouldn’t be here. (So Edward the wise ass is back.)
But you’re all laid out man. Can’t do that.
I’m waitin’ for someone, ok?
OK, but you got to get up. 
David Elias has come from St. Louis to visit his sister Leila. Haven’t seen him since we did his father, Samir's funeral two summers ago. Samir, who led the community singers. Who played the organ. He loved the church so much, it was sad to have his service in the SPSA basement.  Good to see David again. He checks out the building as the session meets. 
The Session meets with Marc to iron out contract issues. As usual, he listens well. Good plans, ready to go forward. We need to break the impasse, get the momentum going. Keep walking on water. 
I do a tour of the building. Woodshed folk working frantically to finish the sets and be ready for their first preview Wednesday. The New York Times article ran this morning. 
On the way out, I see Edward in deep conversation with another man on the steps.

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