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Monday, April 30, 2012

Fourth Sunday in Easter: Good Shepherd Sunday 2012


4/29
At the copy shop, my freind tells me that he’s not been open these last two Sundays because his father died and he had to go back to Bangladesh. I tell him I’m sorry for his loss, and happy to see him again.
We open the service with The King of Love my Shepherd is, an Irish setting of the 23rd Psalm. Amy is still stuck in the middle of the 59th Street Bridge so it’s a capella. Marsha reads Acts 4: 5-12 for us and Amy arrives just in time to lead us in the response to Psalm 23, which we recite people’s mic style, in the King James Version. Never really sounds right any other way. And we do so in Spanish as well. Teddy reads the Epistle from 1 John 3: 16-24. And I do the Gospel, John 10:  11-18.
Every fourth Sunday in Easter is Good Shepherd Sunday. At the center is probably the most beloved Bible passage, Psalm 23. We talk about our memories, our feelings about this passage. For  most it brings comfort, a sense of peace and calm in the midst of trouble, a word that casts out fear. I’ve never done a funeral without it. Leila says in the movies, it’s what a condemned prisoner recites before execution.
I ask who has been shepherds for us? Although some say both parents, almost every one else named is a woman, a mother or aunt.  We’re urban people. We don’t see many sheep, except at street fair petting zoos, sawdust in dirty wool. I mention that even in  Jesus' time the image conjured a nostalgiac memory. In his own time, shepherds lived beyond the walls, somewhat suspect. 
For my kids, their shepherd was Kenny the porter for our apartment building who watched them safely to the bus in the morning and greeted them when the returned in the afternoon. The tricky part in the Bible is the part about laying down one’s life for the sheep. As Jesus says, I offer it up, no one takes it from me. 
It’s the week of the Tribeca Film Festival, often a home for edgy, cinema verite type films. One of my favorite films this year is Booker’s Place. A film about an African-American man, Booker Wright, in Greenwood, Mississippi at the peak of the Civil Rights era. He was a much beloved waiter at the city’s most popular restaurant, Lusco’s. When NBC came to do a documentary, they captured Booker in his song song incantation of the restaurant’s menu, never on paper. But then he went on to talk about his experience of disrespect, and demeaning treatment. He went so far as to mimic and mock those who insulted him, while he continued to smile. NBC wondered whether to run it or not. He insisted that they run it. And that led to the torching  of his restaurant, the loss of his job and ultimately his life. He insisted that he do it so that his children would not have ot go through what he lived through. No one took his life from him. He laid it down on his own. And thereby robbed the forces of evil of their power.
I don’t like to criticize other denominations. God knows we Presbyterians.....But I am astounded that in this day the Vatican would seek to silence its nuns. Seems that they devote too much time to the poor and not enough to important issues like opposing same sex marriage. These women have a median age of 70! They offer up their lives daily for the poor and oppressed. Who are the true shepherds here? I'm thankful for the movement We are all nuns whuch has collected over 150,000 signatures so far. 
Maybe that's why this Sunday comes at the peak of the Easter season every year. Because this is the essence of resurrection living, to be a shepherd. To offer up one’s life for others....
We conclude our service with On Christ the Solid Rock I Stand.... and join hands for our Amen.
Imtiaz, Nadia and Alayna
Nadia, Alayna, Bob, Hope
After the service, Nadia and her husband. Imtiaz  bring their new baby daughter  Alayna for a visit. Nadia studied West-Park as part of her dissertation. And became our friend. Brought the NYU Muslim Student Organization to West-Park for a  service day, working side by side with us. She’s brought my dissertation back to me. Defends her own this week. It’s a joy to hold Alayna. 
The Session meets to seek a strategy to deal with the avalanche of issues legal, financial and ecclesiastical now swirling around us. Need to stay clear headed, focused. 

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