Monday, March 26, 2012

Fifth Sunday in Lent: Written on the heart


Wesley and Antonia are slow moving out this morning. I need to remember to talk to Project Reachout aboiut them.  Rafael is encouraging them to move along. A young former occupier with an aggression problem and a broken hand was also found on the steps this morning but is up and gone. 
Steve is helping to get the place ready. Candles placed and lit. I’m off to pick up the bulletins.
At least three visitors this morning. A mother and her boy. A young  African-American woman. A young woman who Andre guesses is an actress.
Amy can’t come today. Andre not here yet , so I start the service alone.  John reads the passage from Jeremiah 31 about the new covenant. Andre has arrived. We do Psalm 51 together. Andre leads us in O for a closer walk with God. Marsha reads our epistle from Hebrews. Our Gospel this morning is John 12: 20-33. 
I ask if anyone knows about the vilage of Le Chambon sur lignon.  During the time of the Nazi occupation, (back when that was only a negative word), beginning in 1942, this town, of  maybe 2600 people , under the leadership of pastors Andre Trocme and Edouard Theis,  saved between 3000 and 5000 Jews  That means every person saved at least one or two people, hiding threm in  in their  homes, their barns. When the Nazis were nearby, their gusests would hide in the forest. And when the Nazis left, they would walk into the forest singing a hymn to let them know it was safe to return. 
The pastor’s cousin,  Daniel Trocme, was sent to the Maidenank Concentration Camp where he was executd. Otherwise, the people evaded the Nazis. How did this happen? Why did they react this way? For one thing, they were Huguenots, Protestants. They were  different.Used to ostracism, prejudice, themselves. Outsiders. The French filmmaker Pierre Sauvage, was one who had been saved as a child in this village. His film, Weapons of the Spirit, was created to find that answer. The people of the village wanted no credit for simply doing what was right.  Finally one pointed to the words above the door of church:   Little children, love one another...He asked, How could we see this every week and  do other?
We are talking about a New covenant.  One that is written not on stone, not in a book but written on the heart, this time...they shall all know me....There is no precondition, no obedience required..It’s not a new Torah,  but one put in a different place...In those days the heart was the home of will and intelligence. Feelings came from  the guts...
And it was to be inclusive, from youngest to oldest, and ALL classes....So what does it mean to be written on the heart? 
I recalled my conversation with Eugenia. Her lifetime of commitments, involvements. What she learned from being raised in this church...The VALUES that were communcated. Like with the people of Le Chambon. It’s the same thing week after week until it becomes a  part of you. 
The Gospel seems to be about preparing for something coming. And seeds. I recall our potatoes from a week ago. Wonder where we might plant them. Planting seeds..there is this idea that something must die first...
Some Greeks have come to see Jesus. (Most likely this is to show us that he was to be here for Gentiles as well) Strange, they seem disappear from the story. Still waiting at the door as the others go on with their discussion. 
There are these troublesome words in 12:25   Those who love life,will  lose it, who  hate life, keep it...I want to say no, that’s wrong...I don’t want you going around feeling my life sucks...Andre says, that’s not what it’s about...
Look, even Jesus would just as soon avoid what’s coming if he could. But he knows that facing that moment is why he’s here. No its about all those fears that keep us from doing the right thing. That keep us from taking the risk. What the people of le Chambon were able to overcome. 
Jesus says that when he is lifted up (remember last week?),people will be drawn to him irresistably...That’s part of how it gets written on your hearts, by seeing it. In Latin America we used to talk about the propaganda of the deed, acts whose meaning were  so inherently clear that everyone would immediately understand. 
That is what can defeat the ruler of this world. That is the forces of intimidation, seduction, manipulation, anything to take you away from your values. 
That’s the greatest thing we can do for our children, is to live our life here in such a way that they will understand what is expected. That the covenant will be writtn on their hearts. That when their moment comes, they will do the right thing. 
Today we finis with O Jesus I have promised and then  we make our cirlce and sing Amen. 

The young woman is an actress, from West Virginia, come to the city to study theatre. We introduce her to Don.
Jamie wants to talk  with Don about possibilitities, but we have to have a meting  with Rev. Sekou about the upcoming event with Cornell West and him on Thursday. So I let them go wishing I could be part of their  conversation.
After our meeting with Sekou, I stick around for Jane’s service.  I had agreed to be ready to preach for her  if she was not able to make it back form the coast, but she’s here. It’s their fifth month anniversary and the  thanks to West-Park and me were effusive. In my brief reflection, I reference the Jeremiah covenant on the heart and le Chambon. 
Late in the afternoon, the Dark Lady Players are celebrating Our Lady Day, the Day of the Anunciation  with their production of Four Comic Anunciations to the Virgin Mary by William Shakespeare. Four scenes from Romeo and Juliet, Othello, Twefth Night and Hamlet. Each, in their view, a parody of the  Biblical anuniciation story. 
DLP has drawn a good audience for a late Sunday afternoon. In the 40-50 range. Given the fact that it’s not a bad draw for any off-off Broadway production, even Shakespeare straight up, this is a real sign of progress for DLP. They have set themselves a daunting task. For a company that is not only experimental but esoteric Shakespeare, they are beginning to establish a place of awareness in the general and theatre going public. Inch by inch, step by step,  through persistence, hard core rigorous scholarship and boundary pushing creative work, they are gaining a foothold. They still have to struggle with how to make it entertaining, fun, beyond the didactic exploration of what’s beneath the surface. It’s a task not unlike trying to reinvigorate a small but detrmined congregation, bring the center into being  and restoring a wounded building while trying to particpate in the birth of a new way of being church. We’re in this together.

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