Monday, October 24, 2011

Welcome Sanctuary, welcome Jane

Two empty vodka minis and a giant pan of kugel. Must be someone’s idea of tzedaka.
Jeremy is getting everything set for the video projection and music for Sanctuary’s service. Marc calls to make sure that I’m all set for sound. Another one of the Sweatshop Free..campaign workers has come to worship today. Rachel is finally back, just recently turned 90. And Brian Taylor, who has been Winky the Clown and Santa Claus here, is also back. 
I tell the congregation that  last Friday night...and somehow I missed it...Occupy Wall Street became Occupy Columbus Circle . The march started at Symphony Space, went all the way to Columbus Circle. Right down Broadway. Pete Seeger on canes. Arlo. Toshi Regan. Passing right by. And I missed it!  
But, that was not the only street event this week. The night before, West End Avenue was shut down. It was Erev Simchat Torah, that is Joy in the Torah. For anyone who’s ever thought Jews were  burdened by law, this night disproves that. A bandstand at 86th Street. Dancing and singing Jews filling the streets.  I have to ask, what would it take to get us, Presbyterians,  dancing in the  streets? 
(I remember one year at church camp, the song leader tried to get us to sing: Slap, bang, here we go again, jolly presbyterinas..uh, no...)
What is this holiday? This is the end of the fall Jewish high holy days. On this night, they read the passage we read today, Deuteronomy 34: 1-12, the last chapter of the Torah, then imediately a new scroll is opened and they  go back to Genesis 1,  the very  beginning again....It’s to show that God’s living word never has an end..
It is the poignant story of the death of Moses...He’s been allowerd to see, but doesn’t get to go to the Promised Land. It is this passage that inspired Martin Luther King, Jr’s Mountaintop speech the day bepfe he was assassinated. doesn't matter with me now. Because I've been to the mountaintop. And I don't mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will. And [God's] allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over. And I've seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land. And I'm happy tonight. I'm not worried about anything. I'm not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord. —Martin Luther King Jr.
Sometimes I fear this may be the reality  of my ministry, I have been allowed to,  I can see it, but...maybe I’ll never live to go there. 
It’s that way with the national Presbyterian  church
With New York City Presbytery
yes, and West-Park....
There are times I see that’s what’s happening here is  exactly what is supposed to be happening...but it’s so far...
So in the meantime,that’a where we live,  in the meantime...what do we do?
Well, there’s Jesus and the people who are out to trick him again...they ask him which is the greatest commandment and he says, 
’You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment.
And then he says, a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”(Matthew 22: 34-46)
Like unto means they are directly connected...there is no love of God unless there is love of neighor.
(Shortly before Jesus, Rabbi Hillel was asked if he could recite the whole Torah while standing on one foot. Hillel responded, What is hateful to you, do not do to others, the rest is commentary.) 
Paul, in 1Thessalonians 2:8 has this to say:
So deeply do we care for you that we are determined to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you have become very dear to us.
Their own selves, their lives are the living Gospel. Who we are, what we do, becomes our proclamation. As St. Francis of Assissi (was reported to have) said:
Preach the Gospel always, and if necessary, use words.
It’s no surprise that an interfaith working group of Christians, Muslims, Jews and Hindus agreed on this statement of support for Occupy Wall Street that we read together last Sunday in worship:
We, the people of faith communities throughout New York and the United States, see in the spirit of Occupy Wall Street a promise of democracy renewed.
Our spiritual traditions are clear: the impoverishment of the many for the benefit of the few destroys us all. The cries of our people are clear: the American dream is compromised; the middle is slipping away; and in our politics, fairness is dissipating. The Soul of our Nation is threatened by many false idols.
So together we affirm the golden rule: do to others as you would have them do unto you. We commit ourselves to the restoration of justice for all in our economy, and compassion in our politics, that together we might behold a revolution of values for all our people. We ask all Americans to join us in this prayer, that once again our country might be the fulfillment of hopes and dreams for all who reach its shores.
As I said last week, it comes down to matter...what we do in the meantime is to seek to be living Gospels, to care for each other and to expect, no, demand the same from those who govern us. That and nothing less
Andre sings Lord I want to be a Christian, we all sing Lord make us more holy and we make our closing circle. 
The Session meets to talk about the coming of Jane’s Sanctuary group. And our boiler plan. And the possible coming of the Cordoba inititiative  and Grace church. It’s a lot. But the boiler comes first. A committee is formed to talk with Jane. And Marsha will meet with me tomorrow with Harris our attorney to discuss ongoing legal concerns. 

Welcoming Jane and Sanctuary

Jane’s folks are starting to come. And come. And come, Her brother Paul has come with his five year old daughter. They call Jane’s mom in Portland for prayer. Probably over 100 have come. Jeremy and the gospel choir get things up and moving.
I’m in a state of wonder about all this. I know my struggles to grow, to atttact a crowd. The rapid growth of more conservative Christian groups and both Orthodox and Renewal Jewish groups. What’s the draw here?
There’s spirit. It’s upbeat. The music is good.. Jane is an amazing performer. Good with a mike, seemingly intimate and yet not exhibitionistic. Good with a story, and a sermon as well. She invites me up to welcome them there and I do.As i come forard,jeremy plays For he’s a jolly good fellow...Much to b ethankful for. (The floors in the lobby and basement havenpow been painted as well.) Remind them that it’s not my church but God’s church tha welcomes them. Jane sees something of destiny in all this.  
Jeremy and Bryan Christie do their music and video installation meditation piece. There are other meditations and offerings from the four corners. 
All the joy makes me anxious. I never trust it. Is that my curse? Is there something irredeemably dour and calvinist about my being? Is joy what people really need and I can’t get there?  I’m left pondering all this....I’m at heart a Christian existentialist, one who sees the holy in the human in all its manifestations, what Alves called life in all its paradox, perplexity but most of all, profound beauty....What can I do with that?  How can I build?

I see Boxer Mike in the back in white sweats. With is Dalmatian. Hey, how come I didn't know about this?
I’d really love to stay and hear Jane’s sermon. Stay for potluck and planning. But I’m off to my friend Takako’s long awaited ordination and need to bring an exrra white robe for a Japanese minister friend of hers. Across the park at the tawny Brick church. In the meantime, welcome Sanctuary, welcome Jane. 

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