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Monday, May 21, 2012

Ascension


5/20
The sanctuary still has the afterglow of yesterday’s wedding. 
I’ve got to get over my sense of disorientation from the loss of a cellphone and numerous other mixed emotions. As usual, Teddy and Chris have everything ready.
At the beginning of the service, I read the story if the Ascension from Acts 1. Then pull out the guitar and sing, I’ll fly away:

Some glad morning when this life is o'er,
I'll fly away;
To a home on God's celestial shore,
I'll fly away (I'll fly away).
[Chorus]
I'll fly away, Oh Glory
I'll fly away; (in the morning)
When I die, Hallelujah, by and by,
I'll fly away (I'll fly away).
When the shadows of this life have gone,
I'll fly away;
Like a bird from prison bars has flown,
I'll fly away (I'll fly away)
Just a few more weary days and then,
I'll fly away;
To a land where joy shall never end,
I'll fly away (I'll fly away)

As a response with Psalm 1, I have us sing the refrain:
 We shall not, we shall not be moved, we shall  not, we shall not be moved
just like a tree, planted by the water, we shall not be moved.
And...
No, no, no nos moveran; no, no, no no moveran
Como un arbol firme junto al rio, no nos moveran.
and explain it is both a spiritual and an old union song. Make any verse you want...Black and white together, the union is united...
And then after we read the scriptures, Acts 1: 15-7, 21-26 and John 17:12-19. I begin the reflection. 
This is the Sunday following the Feast of the Ascension...One of those gateway days like Christ the King, and Transfiguration, leading us from one liturgical season to the next..I remember when I was in Germany on this day. Himmelfahrt, they called it, IE, heaven bound, heaven journey...It’s still a .public holiday...I’m not sure what that means in an essentially secular society like Germany today. it always comes 40 days after Easter.
We’ve been talking about resurrection living...What does it mean to be resurrected? Are  we ready to claim new life? As individuals, as a church? In the context of the risen Christ present in our midst.
So now we make a shift...how do we live when the visible presence gone? The ascension leaves the disciples in an in between space....
Part of what they have to do is replace Judas...and this Judas  story is different than the other Judas story, the one where he hangs himself. Here he takes his coins, buys a field, and falls headlong into it, bursting open and his bowels pouring out. (No wonder the lectionary skips those verses.)
Pretty soon we’re into all kinds of sketchy stuff....Like all this  happened to fulfill the scriptures...what? Psalm 41:10 says:
Even my trusted friend,
who ate my bread,
has raised his heel against me.
Most of us know what that feels like, and I’m sure David did too. But I can almost  guarantee that David had no thought in his head about Judas when he wrote that Psalm....
And the whole fulfill business gets too crazy for me... finding random verses scattered throughout the Hebrew Scriptures as if it were the gospel according to Nostradamus...or Jean Dixon. I’m not sure  where or ...how...I fit in such a world...
Still there is this fascination with Judas..whether it’s in Kazantszakis’ Last Temptation  where they are boyhood friends (along with Mary Magdalene) or Jesus Christ Super Star, we don’t want to let him go. We want to understand him. In recent years we have discovered the Gospel of Judas. In this gnostic gospel, Jesus needed someone very special to fulfill this role...and only Judas was strong enough and spiritually mature enough to fulfill the role. 
It’s fun to think about, but the real point here  is succession. They needed to be 12 again.... I wonder..what if every time we lost someone, church member,  one way or another, we didn’t rest until they were replaced?  If that became the priority?
( Though I am convinced that God brings the  people we need to us...)
But back to the weird...the casting of lots....I just read where an election in Texas was just settled by a coin toss...I remember when the church where my dad was choir director merged with another church. Who would be the new choir director? Someone suggested casting  lots as a Biblical solution. My dad said no way. (And wound up being named choir director.) Makes me wonder why Presbyterians have always been so opposed to games of chance..
The bottom line is, here it is about two people we’ve never heard of. It’s about ordinary people  called to do extraordinary things...that’s where we come in
I’m also troubled by what I read in John...all this in the world/not in the world...It’s where the Lutherans get their kingdom of heaven/kingdom of earth dichotomy. (Luther said he’d rather be governed by a wise Turk than a dumb Christan.) And Presbyterians their social vision rooted in a world over which God has dominion. When I was a kid, I remember singing, This is my father's world...
What we have here is John’s cosmic Christ..The one who is preexistant, who drops down for awhile then goes back up. For me, here, this world, is enough...the other place we belong to is  the place of liberation...from whatever oppresses us..occupation, slavery, poverty, addiction....mental illness....none of this define us. Our true self is deeper, beyond that....That’s what i think it means...
So what then are we to do? Obama said it the other day, We know what to do, do we have the will? ...Jesus says, you’ve seen how to live, will you?That is the question that goes with us as Jesus leaves us without his physical presence...Will we? That is out own journey to take....
Our final hymn is Guide my feet. As i look around the circle, it;s good to see Don back from China. Jennifer back again. Wondering how Glen’s dog and Anna’s dog will get along. We close with our Caribbean Halle, halle, hallelujah...
Making a sale
Chris and Runi
We have not had time to plan for this year’s Amsterdam Avenue Street Festival, but Teddy and Chris and Runi quickly organize a clothing/book sale. And mainly enjoy just dealing with folks on the street. 
Late in the afternoon, it’s Leonel’s concert. To benefit the church. It begins with Josh the Juggler. The Leonel sings some songs, Hoagy Carmichael & co. And then it’s Joan’s Seven Ages of Woman, a feminine twist on Shakespeare’s Seven Ages of Man. It’s Joan, her daughter Dee Dee and granddaughter Emily and narrator Nydia. It’s clever, well written, classic Broadway style. The audience shares its appreciation with Joan.
The show ends with folksinger Richard Corrie. (That’s right.) Accompanying himself on autoharp. 
They deserved more people. But who they did get was wonderful. Lots of older folks, peace movement veterans. The old Peace Action folk who used to meet here at West-Park. Joan herself a founder of Grandmothers Against the War and  the Granny Peace Brigade. Allow me to say, saints....
And afterwards, I meet women who had been a part of the planning team here for the march against nuclear proliferation in 1982 that drew over a million to NYC. One of them is pressing me to do something about human trafficking. Tell him who we are, her friend says. Turns out they’re sisters of the Sacred Heart, those senior citizen nuns so devoted to the poor they’ve drawn the ire of the pope. These women who stood with Dan Berrigan in exile are not about to be cowed by a straight laced German pope and a hierarchy that it's out of touch  with the streets.


It’s been an honor to have them here. To hear their experience of West-Park. And our opportunity to carry that legacy on.

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