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Monday, January 30, 2012

Casting out demons, amends, who didn't pay us back, and Occupy Pachelbel


1/29
There’s confusion when I first arrive. One of Rafael’s security guys is confronting an obviously disturbed young man. Not an #owser, but drawn there, refused entry, he tore down Berik’s fashion show poster and slept on the steps all night. And now he wants in. I speak to him. He comes back at me. Eyes blazing, hands trembling.
Tells me he’s Jesus. Satan. Daniel. I say, Aren’t you Kevin? He says, No, you’re Kevin. Then he launches into song:
Oh water, water,water, I made it out of clay. Oh water , water, water, with water I will play. Do you know what I’m saying to you?
Uh yeh, that’s the dreidel song...
Of course I know that. My name’s Goldtstein. I’m a Jew. From Staten Island. My parents are dead. I’m dead. I am brought back to life.My own people, the Jews, kicked me out..I am God’s son..I am here to raise you...it’s all about the children...look into my eyes...
And I do. The scariest thing about mental illness is when I look into the person’s eyes and realize that they totally believe, are experiencing, what they are saying. Makes me question my own sanity.
Then he says,... Let me in, I can bring this place back, fill it up,  like Sister Act, like Whoopi Goldberg.
I have to admit, he almost had me there. Sorry man, can’t do. I turn and go in. He follows me. Yelling incoherently, swearing. Andre looks up from the piano, shaken. Rafael approaches Kevin. Looks him in the eye. Kevin cursing and swearing. Taking it out on Rafael. 
Rafael opens his arms, That’s okay, man, I love you, give me a hug...Kevin opens his arms, Rafael embraces him, picks him up, literally carries him out of the church. 
Andre tell me he almost had another stroke. But he was blown away. Had never seen such strength of love. I am  just glad Andre is here. Later, Rafael told me that outside, Kevin continued to rant. Until Rafael said, Well, ok, but I need a cup of coffee. And you’re the only one who can do that. Because you have super powers. Only you know what I need. Only you have the power to get that one special cup of coffee. And Kevin goes off to get it. And by the time he comes back, the ambulance and police are there and Kevin is on his way to St.Luke’s psych ward.


One of the two octogenarian Belnord peace activist Shirleys from across the street has come to plead for continued occupation. She and the other Shirley had gone down to Zucotti and put up their  own money to buy emergency supplies. She works me like a veteran activist. 
How do you preach to a congregation that’s filled with  occupiers? It’s the last official day. They’ve come to say sorry, to say thanks, to make amends. We begin by singing a calming Taize chant, confitemini domino....come and fill our hearts with your peace...and then because I know what’s coming, I move the scriptures, the sermon up. 
John reads Deuteronomy 18: 15-20, Andre chants Psalm 115, Marsha reads 1 Corinthians 8: 1-13. Arcadia reads Mark 1: 21-28 in Spanish and I in English. Tell them there are several things at issue today...
I ask, Who’s the leader of #ows? And of course the answer is no one, we all are. I lift up 
first the idea of prophets. in Deuteronomy...The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet  from among your own people; you shall heed such a prophet...tell them that’s what God says when Moses is gone. After Moses. And it always seems to be that way. Someone always seems to be  lifted up...but... I’m not so sure anymore. Marian Wright Edelman said it: there will be no more MLK, no more Gandhi. It’s got to be us....
Paul staes it more clearly:
We know that "all of us possess knowledge." Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. (Any thoughts on this one beyond word?) There is beyond this the idea of the  equality of intelligence...that all of us together are smarter than one of us alone. .Presbyterianism is supposed to be built on that principle. 
Anyone who claims to know something does not yet have the necessary knowledge;
Then how do I make sense of all this stuff about food sacrificed to idols?  Forget all the stuff about idols, watch what Paul’s saying about decision making..: His argument is, we know the idols are  not real, therefore to eat food sacrificed to them doesn’t matter, so you can do it, but if you do, you might mess up someone who thinks they are real...
OK...what’ exactly does that mean for us? Like we said last week, all things for us, are lawful, not all are beneficial... you follow me? 
For example,  when I was growing up, when we  did eucharist, communion, it was grape juice, Welch’s grape juice. The first time I went to an early Sunday eucharist at an Epsicopal church and they had tawny port, wow! But then in the ’70’s, we said wine was ok and we were all like see we can be Christians and have wine ...but then...THIS church, West-Park, by its tradition, for our regular communion, uses grape juice. Why? Koinonia, or in otherwords, solidarity. Because some folks struggle with alcohol, right? So some churches have cup A with wine, Cup B with juice, but you know what? it’s suposed to be ONE cup, so, not because its not allowed, but because we CHOOSE to, we only use juice. ONE CUP.
We make choices. Can you extend the analogy here? We don’t do some things that there’s nothing wrong with doing because it might mess up others...choices...free will, respect, not rules...
8:12 But when you thus sin against members of your family, and wound their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ.
When he’s saying family, he doesn’t mean just your actual family, he  means your community, whatever that is. If it’s a church, to hurt another brother or sister is like to hurt Jesus because we all bear his name. In a community, to hurt a brother or sister  is like hurting God, because  God is in each and every one if us, we all bear the image of God, and God is in the intersection between us....
Finally...Jesus and the demons..can you believe we have this passage today? .in the Bible, the demons, they always recognize him...why? how? It’s that 666 thing..it's not some spooky thing, it's 7 was perfect and 666 is as close to perfect as you can get...ie, sometimes, the evil one is so close to the holy one as to be hard to tell apart, good and evil, so close...
There ‘s another story, about one possessed with demons who runs around naked until Jesus casts out the demons and the one previously possessed appears clothed and in his right mind...(which is how I want to see you all when I get here in the morning...)
SO if it’s confusing, go back a step...when you act, always ask the question, who will it hurt? Who will it help? How do we build up the whole? The greater good? Do I always know? No, I don’t but that is what guides, that is what we are called to...
Instead of the planned offertory, Andre sings Great is thy faithulness, and as I expected, at the end, he goes for the high note...and you can hear a pin drop, before the amens...
I put the prayers at the end of the sermon, not before, as usual.. and asked the children to stay because I know what’s coming...one after another, occupiers stand up to apologize, to thank us...one who speaks in tongues, nervously, another who says, I do that, too, let me help you with that...quietly, softly, humby the words keep coming...finally Marsha gets up and says, we want to thank you...for waking us up, for saying what no one wanted to say, we are better for your having been here with us...
And then Kelly, no dress today but a black suit and clerical collar, gets up, quotes Matthew 25, thanks us for having lived that out, and gives us $1600 in cash...and we hug...
We pass the peace. Sing I’ve got peace like a river, tengo paz como un rio, then gather  in our circle. After the benediction, we sing our Amen to the tune of the Pachelbel canon, and I say, you have just particpated in Occupy Pachelbel...
Later, the session meets. We are clear what we want to say to Presbytery. We are a church. Treat us with the same dignity and respect as any other congregation. That’s the bottom line. The session wants the occupiers to stay. After all, says Marsha, the banks never paid us back for what they stole from us...
The detectives have come in and disappeared. I give up looking for them, figure, they’re detectives, they’ll find me..there’s a knock on the door. It’s Jane with the detectives, Nancy Drew, girl detective reporting, she says, and Hugo looks quizzical. I’ll explain later, says Arcadia. And we all laugh. The detectives see a pile of hundreds on the table. It looks like a drug deal has just gone down. And I go to give them a tour of the church. 
The font  cover is still missing. The detectives, satisfied, leave.. On 86th street, there’s the Hatzolah volunteer ambulance waiting. Maria has had a seizure. A day that began and ended with ambulances. With grace and reonciliation in between. And as Jane says, and so it is.....

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