Monday, October 17, 2011

The Daily News didn't come but it was a good day anyways : A day for food justice

Adolfo, Bob, Tracy, Sophie, Victoe, Hope


We’re all excited about the Daily News coming. Hope is there. Then Andre. Amy arrives in time to practice with Andre. Pat and Larry have come and brought flowers for the table. The place is looking good.  Tracy arrives along with her coworkers Adolfo from Mexico and Victor from China. Deryl is downstairs painting and Marc is working with the sound system. Marc tells me he’s written some music that might be appropriate and then a recording of his solo guitar work fills the sanctuary. I’ve handed out scripture feadings in advance. We’re ready.
I explain that the first time I had wanted Tracy to be wth us was Labor Day Sunday. To honor workers. But that being my surgery didn’t work. I described seeing cultural worker Paul Stein at the march. How he remembered playing at West-Park that Sunday before 9-11. With today being an emphasis on Food Justice, an emerging concept of a constellation of issues from production to distribution, land use, and consumption, it was a good opportunity to have her come. 
I described my experience at the clergy workshop on mindful eating...Jane is in the second pew and smiles knowingly....and that it is a corrective to mindless consumption, how that’s a metaphor for much that happens in our system. 
First, I spend some time with the question, what does today’s gospel lesson mean in the context of Occupy Wall Street?
Matthew 2: 15-22 is another of those testing Jesus moments. It’s the one about taxes, and who’s picture is on the coin? I had done that wth the children and my ones and fives earlier in the service. The answer Jesus gives has to do with authority and meaning..exactly some of the issues raised by Occupy. For too long our current system with its so-callled free market has had the quality of a religious belief. As if it were hardwired by God into the universe, not by human policy making. 
Jesus on the one hand seems like he's dividing things up, this is Gods, this is  Caesar’s..But if we truly believe that all things are under God’s dominion, and if we say in our offertory prayer all things come of thee, and of thine own have we given thee, then there is no division. It is all God’s, our role is one of being stewards, of stewardship.  
At our clegy discussion group, we spoke about a second level, discerning when it is necessary  to resist, when to cross a line....Friday morning, when we waited to see if a move to evict the occupiers was coming, I recieved a text from my son in Berlin, this may be one of those Niemoller moments, he said. I’m surprised that some of the congregation don’t know the Niemoller statement:
First they came for the communists,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a Jew.
Then they came for me
and there was no one left to speak out for me.
I talk about Niemoller and Bonhoeffer and the Confessig Church movement, how placing ultimate authority only in Jesus had profound poitical implications in the Germany of the 1930’s.  And it has implications for us. 
What’s going on around us is what in Spanish we call a grito, a cry, an outcry, a scream...There has to be that before a plan. 
I invite Tracy up, ask her to explain what is happennig on the Upper Westside, why the pickets. And she describes what started the action at Saigon Grill. How they have remained stalwart on that line throughout the cold of the winter and heat of the summer. (Like West-Park?) A constant presence, two  blocks north.  She speaks of the exploitation of immigrants, and the amazing thing that happened when the Mexicans and Chinese came together, (symbolized by the presence of Adolfo and Victor with her ) and it became more than a restaurant labor/management issue and more about creating a sweat shop free Upper West Side. 
Together, we talk about the connections between Occupy Wall Street and creating a sweat shop free zone in our neighborhood. We have to live out concretely in our own community the ways of what just community looks like, the new reality on the other  side of Occupy...we start doing that now. 
As an act of thanksgiving,we take up the Bread for the World offering of letters. This years’ focus is on preservng   the circle of protection for the most vulnerable.In the US, The Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit keep millions of families out of poverty, reward work, and promote economic mobility. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps) has responded quickly and effectively to need, preventing an increase in the percentage of families struggling to put food on the table for three consecutive years.
We also write  in support of international poverty-focused development assistance that can reduce the likelihood of conflict and strengthens our national security. Moreover, cuts to poverty-focused development assistance will restrict our ability to respond to humanitarian emergencies, such as the ongoing famine in the Horn of Africa.
(To learn more about Bread for the World and the Offering of Letters go to   ) 
We have named this  offering the Carol Wadsworth Memorial Offering of Letters in honor of her decades long quiet, constant witness both through Bread for the World and as our representative to the Interfaith Assembly in Housing and Homelessness. 
Neighborhood, national, inernational...that’s how we begin to live in, build, a post occupy world even while the larger issue continues to be defined. 
As offerings are collected, we’re blessed by Andre’s singing Rock of Ages. Jane can hardly keep from joining in. Our last hymn s Where cross the Crowded Ways of Life.
1.Where cross the crowded ways of life, 
where sound the cries of race and clan, 
above the noise of selfish strife, 
we hear your voice, O Son of man. 
2. In haunts of wretchedness and need, 
on shadowed thresholds dark with fears,
from paths where hide the lures of greed, 
we catch the vision of your tears. 
3. From tender childhood's helplessness, 
from woman's grief, man's burdened toil,
from famished souls, from sorrow's stress, 
your heart has never known recoil.
4. The cup of water given for you still 
holds the freshness of your grace; 
yet long these multitudes to view 
the sweet compassion of your face. 
5. O Master, from the mountainside 
make haste to heal these hearts of pain; 
among these restless throngs abide; 
O tread the city's streets again. 
6. Till all the world shall learn your love 
and follow where your feet have trod, 
till, glorious from your heaven above, 
shall come the city of our God! 
And then as we gather in our circle, I call Tracy and her colleagues up bless them in their work on our streets.  I say how proud I am that is people north of the AARP line that have been involved and present in Occupy, especially Pat and Marsha. And then our benediction and Amen. 
Samantha and her family have brought coffee and donut holes. 
Outside, on the street corner, I run into Jim Wadsworth. I tell him how we have just honored his late wife Carol. He looks a little surprised, then moved. I bring  him up to date on the boiler. Thank him again for helping wiht the Dickerman Fundation. We shake hands, I tell him to come for coffee. I understand why you’re doing this, he says, I do. 

The Daily News didn’t come. But it was a good Sunday anyways. 

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