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Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Second Sunday in Easter: Pondering joy


4/15
Rafael is helping me to get ready for the service. Hope arrives soon after. A couple has come to visit from outside of Buffalo. They’ve visited with us before. When when we were in residence at SPSA. Thier daughter around the corner has told them we’re back so they’ve come to check us out. Amy is back from Michigan.
This week our opening Alleluias! are Celtic. Our opening hymn is O sons and daughters let us sing... John reads the passage from Acts where ...no one claimed private ownership of any possessions, but everything they owned was held in common. (4:32)
I choose a different translation for Psalm 133: How good and pleasant it is when brothers and sisters live together in harmony...Ask how many have a memory of that passage and several remember how it hangs on the banner in front of the sanctuary at SPSA. That it was the banner they hung as a sign of welcome when B’Nai Jeshurun came to live with them after their roof fell in. How that living togtether gave new life ot both congregations. And how whe we lived there for three years, we were under that banner as well . And how I prefer harmony to unity...In unity, we all sing the same note. In harmony, we have different notes that all weave together. And then we sing it in Hebrew:
Hinay ma tov umanayim, chevet achim gan yachad....
The BJ/SPSA theme song, you might say...After reading John 20: 19-31, John’s Pentecost, so to speak, we sing Breathe on me breath of God...
And then it’s time  for reflection. I ask what’s special about the weekend. Someone mentions the 100th anniversary of the Titanic. A chance to see Leo and Kate all over again, and that tear jerking, manipulative  song. Recall that my father was fascinated by that story. Collected books, stories. I can’t remember why. 
No particuar theological significance. But, I tell them, James Clifford did tell me he’s not like the Titanic, not going down that fast. 
Before the Dodgers, Jackie was a Monarch
I also remind folks that its the 45th anniversary of Jackie Robinson’s major leaue debut opening day at Ebbetts Field, 1947. I hold up a hat from the Kansas City Monarchs, Jackie’s last Negro League team. (http://www.baseball-almanac.com/boxscore/04151947.shtml
But my real question for today, this second Sunday in Easter, is what would it take for you to believe? That’s what I asked my class  in Newark last Monday. How do they know the Resurrection is real? We were reading James Cone, who after pages of analytic theological exposition essentially  says that we do because we do...

We’re into 50 days of Resurrection living, like the Jewish 50 days of counting the Omer,50 days from Passover to Pentecost (ie, counting 50).We count 50 days from Easter. Last week I asked about what we have to leave behind, in order to leave the grave, step into new life, resurrection. This week I’m going to flip it, ask what do we take with us? How do we know Jesus? Last week, he looked plain. Ordinary, like a gardner. (No glow, no give away halo.)Mary knew him through his voice, the way he said her name. The voice of a lover, a friend, a family member. The way no one else ever said it. The sound of intimacy. 
And now we here we have Thomas. (Now I have to note that even after Jesus sightings, they’ve got the doors closed and locked. Fear is still winning here. They’re not coming out. )Today, Thomas needs something else. To touch the wounds. And that’s what I want you to see,...the wounds remain, even after resurrection...they are part of what made Jesus human,what made Jesus recognizable, what made Jesus Jesus and they are part of what make you you...We bring  our wounds with us as we step into resurrection. 
I want to be very clear here. I’m not talking about holding grudges. One wrong word at a family table echoes for years. Not that. And I’m not talking about the refusal to work at reconciliation. That is not an option. Jesus commands, demands it. And I am especially not talking about holding onto an identity of victimhood..These are things we leave back in the tomb..they are the things of death...but the hurts, the sufferings, what we have lived through... helps make us who we are...give us ways to connect with, live in solidarity with others...
That proof people want to see, it comes through a new way of living...like it says in Acts...the people were of one heart, one soul, held everything in common...There was not a needy person among them, for as many as owned lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold. 4:35 They laid it at the apostles' feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need... So it didn’t begin with Marx, but the Bible...that first Christian community was  truly an intentional community...
John says that this was the word of life and that God is light, and that we are to walk in the light ...why? so that we might have joy complete...
I’m thinking about that. Working on that. It’s not part of my religious cultural upbringing. When the summer camp song leader taught us slap bang here we go again, jolly  Presbyterians, our own youth leader shook her head, uh, no. That’s not who we are..And yes, I’m always suspicious of too much happiness. But I’ve seen it, I’ve felt it, in Black churches, in worship led by my lgbtq friends at General Assembly gatherings. In communities of struggle. That just like hope is a theological category, so is joy. But it arises out of the  struggle. No joy without struggle. Joy rises from resistance. I’m working on it. I want to go there. Will you go with me? Can we work on it togtether? 
And that’s my sermon for today. 
And then something unexpected happens. the congregation bursts int applause. And I feel humbled. And I feel shaken. For this moment, the Holy Spirit was there. And I felt it. And it was real. 
When  we take up the offering, we sing Jesus the Light of the World, only with Easter verses. We sing a Caribbean Halle, halle, hallelujah. Make our circle. Sing our amens. Linger awhile. Not wanting to leave. 

The session meets. Reviews all our various challenges. Proposed programs. We are ready for struggle. And I walk home. Pondering joy.

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