Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Occupy West-Park



Marsha meets Sanctuary folks

Ingrid and Leila


A stack of dinner dishes with newspaper between each plate to keep them safe. 
Jane’s Sanctuary people are the first to arrive . As they arrive, one of my members makes a wry comment about Occupy West-Park. And Rachel, who I haven’t seen for awhile arrives.  And of course Hope and John. When I see someone for the Presbytery’s Administrative Commission take a seat in the  pews, I’m thankful that Jane and her folks are there. But I can’t avoid the sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. It’s hard to get over the anxiety, the sadness, and be there for who is there. 
Today is Christ the King Sunday. Or as we call it now, Reign of Christ Sunday. It is the end of the  church year. The crowning of the year. The last  Sunday before Advent. And I can’t do this Sunday without thinking about Katherine. How we first came together around this service, what was it, thirteen, fourteen years ago? I asked her  how to preach this Sunday in a time of feminist awareness . And then when I heard her, asked her to come herself and say her own words. And that was a beginning. 
Another portal Sunday, that leads from one season to the next. And it’s about , what it all comes down to, is the bottom line.We’ve been building up to it . We’ve had the the wise and foolish virgins, the investor slaves...but this is it...the final word. 
There is strong stuff here. It begins with judgment. In Ezekiel 34 we read: 
I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak, but the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them with justice. (Justice will do the destruction.)
I myself will judge between the fat sheep and the lean sheep. Because you pushed with flank and shoulder, and butted at all the weak animals with your horns until you scattered them far and wide, I will save my flock, and they shall no longer be ravaged; and I will judge between sheep and sheep.
It’s about bullying. About pushing around the weak and vulnerable. Just because you can. It’s all a build up to Matthew 25. 
First, notice this. is about nations..., not individuals...not about beliefs, not about saying the right the right answers on the quiz. is about feeding, clothing, health care and healing and presence...even for those in prison..And above all, it is about WELCOMING strangers...
A lot has happened this week. Occupy evicted. A hundred tents were destroyed, clothes, Occupy Legoland, one digieridoo, and 5000 books. Sweatshop Free Upper West Side  held a rally to launch a citywide boycott of Dominos’ Pizza. Mexican, Chinese and West African workers all came together to stand in solidarity with oe another. And on Monday night, there will be a rally for the  Living Wage at Riverside Church. (Our own Caleb will be in the Living Wage chorus.)
Something is happening. And the coordinated raids, circumscribed  news accounts and  undercover cops all tell us that someone is WORRIED.
So what do we know?
  1. Day to day decisions are important. The choices we make choose for or against justice. 
2. There is a call to “direct democracy,” lived out at the neighborhod level. What we have known as community organizing. Beginning with one-on-ones, relationships, then house meetings. Then assemblies. Just like the Occupy...General Assemblies. 
  1. There can be no we/they in this. Ultimately we are clear that  that judgment is up to God. There are children of this congregation currenlty serving in the NYPD. Take care, pastor, one writes, be safe. What conversations can we have? What dialogues? And in the end, who are they
There is no time for self-righteousness here. There is only time for solidarity, across all boundaries....
I need to speak to the judgment end here. t’s not about being cast into hell, some fiery place with devils, etc. It is about the fact that whoever separates themselves from others separates themselves from God and is already in eternal loneliness, eternal separaration. And that itself is hell. Nothing more is needed.
And in the end, we do what we do not for reward, but simply because that is what we are to do.That is all. 
After church, the Session meets to discuss where we are. Serious questions are raised. It is increasingly clear, as is is not making it. Radical change is called for. But what does that mean? The abyss is closer than we lime to think.
I stay for Jane’s service. I’m still trying to get it. Her theology is not all that different from Katherine’s. The focus is more prsonal however. She is the subject, or the vehicle through which so much flows. And it seems so damned natural. And I will always be suspicious of too much happiness, too much joy. Even though I pray to God daily to open me to the possibility of joy and the grace to receive it when it comes. I’m too much a Christian existentialist, a sacred humanist.  Is that why it’s so damned hard?
And then.  The music. There is an old African-American woman with a dobro and an old bearded, mustacioed white man with a guitar. From the first funky sounds on the slide guitar on Let us break bread togther on our knees, I know exactly where this is coming from...the streets of New Orleans. And it’s there again on Wade in the water and Down by the Riverside...and I break the Commandment about coveting. As I hear that funky NOLA  street sound along with Jeremy’s piano and an upright bass and drums, a little world beat mixing with NOLA, well...
And I remember how I met Jeremy at a Woodshed speakeasy. And how a left behind purse led to Jane and Jeremy singing together in our sanctuary and now...well, I’ll stay on the thank you road and leave it at that. 
Later we’ll join in a potluck meal. Marsha, Hugo, Leila and Berik and I representing West-Park. The potential shared human resources are impressive.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 My prayer is for true collaboration.
On my way home, I get a call from Occupy...they need housing for evicted Occupiers. I quickly get Session support and agree to meet them, put them up for the night. For some reason, Judson has been shut down.  After hours, our guests finally arrive. A married young couple form Boston and their friend. (Another guest will arrive later.) She is in a wheelchair. She and her husband met in Portland, Oegon, of course. That northwestern pole in my life. Welcome strangers. I am happy when the social worker, a middle aged, straight, motherly though not matronly person arries to help. A medic too, is on call.  Welocme, strangers...The occupation has come to West-Park

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