Thursday, March 22, 2012

Fourth Sunday in Lent: Vivan los San Patricios

I light the new candles that Jamie has brought to add more light. Just like those who came before us here  in 1978 believed that the Holy Spirit had more light to shine on scripture, beginning the battle for lgbtq full  inclusion. Even though we’re in the purple season of Lent, I lay a green stole across the table in honor of St. Patrick.And I place the potato from yesterday on the table .  Don is back and  has brought  a friend from Beijing. Naomi and Ping from the Presbytery Committee on Nurture of  Congregations have come. 
As usual, I have John read the First Testament lesson, Numbers 21: 4-9, that strange passage about the bronze serpent. We do Psalm 107 in people’s mic style. ...with songs  of joy....And then we sing together All beautiful the march of days...Amy is here. Her faithful volunteering to bring us music is deeply appreciated. She reads John 3: 14-21 in Spanish. And I in English.
I hold up the EMT symbol and ask, What is this, what does it mean?   and John gets it right away. It’s the Rod of Asclepius, only one snake and stafff, similar to but different from the double winged, double serpented symbol of the medical profession. 
I ask everyone how  do they  feel about snakes? Most everyone is pretty negative, except for Rafael, who predictably, likes them. Likes the way they move. That slither. Like that house in Harry Potter, Slythern. They mean different things in different cultures. That Eden story doesn’t help. Then there’s Moses in pharoah’s court, in the contest with the Egyptian magicians.  Then in  Celtic culture a symbol of eternity. And for  Native Americans, freed from any Eden fall story, a symbol of rebirth, with the annual shedding of a skin. And St. Patrick driving the snakes out of Egypt.
But there is this bad luck thing. Eden again. Like in the dice game craps, coming up snake eyes or someone who is  snakebit....
It is in short, a strange sign. What’s going on? the people are grumbling. There is no food. And it is bad food. Reminds me of that story. Two people in a restaurant. One says, the food here is terrible. And the other says, yes, and such small portions.
So how does this work?  Perhaps seeing a reminder of the sin...facing it the beginning of healing. John again says maybe it’s facing your fear. To put what you are afraid of up there, face it, the begining of overcoming it. I ike that.
Stranger still, connecting this with Jesus. Like John does.  He’s lifted up...Yes, that Jesus comparison is tough...especially as it’s  leading up to John 3:16..for God so loved the world...and we ask ourseves, well, ok, does that include me? How wide is it? Chrits on the cross with his arms stretched out. Is that a meaningful image? Comfrting image? Can we feel ourselves invited, held? 
John 3: 16 can come across as universally  inclusive, but then also, exclusive, triumphalist and supercessionist, ie, if you don’t believe like we do, you’re damned. The truth is, the historic reality of Christianity, Chirstendom, is exactly that, both. Welcoming  and inclusive, hostile and exclusive. 
If we go with  inclusive, however, it’s up to us to live that out. Otherwise, we witness aginst our own faith. Our own community.
We finish by singing the oldschool Rock of Ages..., leaving out the verse about being naked and foul...I mean I love it as an artitistic creation, but don’t want anyone to think we’re going there.  Not after what so many have lived through to protect their lives from church, from Christians. 
After we have taken up the offering, I lift up the potato I had placed upon the table. I tell how we gatherd at Zucotti. For music by Mandola Joe and the Buskers. A circle. A prayer. How we marched to the Bull. How Teddy spoke of his ancerstors. Requiem and Rose read their own poem of rebirth. And Rev. Mary placed the wreath on the Bull. The police took it off. We put it back on. They took it away. How we were solemn and dignified followed by a larger group wanting to express rage. Our green demo, their red. The march to Battery Park. Mark Greenburg talking about homelessness. Adolfo about  exploited labor. Rev. Bob Coleman from Riverisde and Occupy Faith. I’m glad to get Tracy a Riverside connection.
Then how we walked in the sun to the Irish Famine Memorial to pass out potaotes to visiting tourists. And the walk back to Zucotti. A new attempt to occupy ready to begin.
After the servcie, Don’s friend tells us how much she liked the service, the talk that seemed to connect with what’s real, right now. And our own commmittee members spoke of how our people sit close together, like a commuuty. Not far apart like dying embers. 
Late in the day, Teddy goes with me to get supplies for our fiesta in honor of the San Patricio Battalion. That group of Irish conscripts led by John Riley, one of the first Irish West-Point officers, who got to Mexico, looked around and said , this is their home. They’re  catholics. We’re catholics. Thye’re poor. We’re poor. We are being ordered to do to them  what the British did to us. We can’t do this. And so went over to other side. Were tracked down, tortured, branded, hung. Erased from history on this side of the border. Celebrated as heroes in Mexico.
Pat, KT and Mandola Joe, the Buskers
People are slow in coming. Seems there were many arrests last night. And police violence. And so a protest is on at Union Square.  Should we be there? What the police did was inexcusable.  And yet...I fear a self-perpetuating circle of protest,  more police violence leading to more protest leading to...looking for a strategy here...and not just we respect a diversity of tactics, inclusive as that sounds. 
Mandola Joe and the Buskers open the night. At the end of their set, I do a poem about the San Patricios. The Buskers play a song they don’t normally play because of it’s IRA associations. . And it scans perfectly.
We are the San Patricios
A brave and gallant band,
There’ll be no white flag flying,
Within this green command;
We are the San Patricios,
We have but one demand,
To see the Yankees safely home,
Across the Rio Grande.
But when at Churubusco,
We fell to Yankee hands,
No court of justice did we have,
In the land of Uncle Sam;
As traitors and deserters all,
We would be shot or hanged,
Far from the green, green shamrock shore,
Across the Rio Grande.
We’ve disappeared from history,
Like footprints in the sand,
But our song is in the tumbleweed,
And our blood is in this land;
But, if in the desert moonlight,
You see a ghostly band,
We’re the men who died for freedom,
Across the Rio Grande.
We are the San Patricios,
A brave and gallant band. 
The next set is Adolfo’s Mexican group, and then I do a song with the Buskers. Once again, I look around, I see Tracy and the Sweatshop Free workers getting closer to the Ocuppiers. And my musician friends like Joe and Pat and KT who marched with us yesterday and played just because...tonght.

I keep saying it. This is why we’re here. 


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