Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Memorial Day, Pentecost, breathe...


It has to be an important meeting to be scheduled for 8:30 am for the Saturday morning of Memorial Day weekend. I’ve made some last minute copies, go to Barney Greengrass to get bagels and  told  young white George he’s got to get up and leave the steps. Hope soon arrives with the coffee. I’ve got my packets ready to hand out.

Our guests, representing two Presbytery committees, are arriving. We are presenting our plan for the future. Plan A, in which we make one last effort at the overall interfaith Center at West-Park vision. Then contingency plans, ready to be put into motion should any part of A fail. we’ve put a lot if hours into this presentation.

All the hard work paid off. The guests could see that we had taken our challenges seriously. Had done hard thinking and had brought in people with needed expertise.  At a certain point in the meeting, the energy moved towards what can we do together to make this work. 
We leave with a timeline and deliverables agreed to.  A successful meeting. Again, hard work, preparation. Moving from a defensive position to taking the lead. All good. 

This Memorial Day weekend feels strangely quiet. Almost like August in Manhattan when nobody’s here.

Teddy, who’s gone to work, has warned me that the steps are pretty messy. But I have to start inside. There’s a lot to be done. Rachelle has come in to claim her SUV cart. Asks if I need help. So she helps set out the candles, take away the dead flowers. 
I’m outside sweeping. Anna sees me. Tells me I need to get inside and work on my sermon. Make sure she gets her 50 cents worth. As she’s picking up a broom, Chris comes out to help as well. We’re getting  it together.
Lots of people are out of town. I’ve planned the service to fit who’s ever there. My regulars are there. Don back from China. Glen. And all of our hearts are gladdened to see Deacon James back after many weeks of fighting chemo.
As we’re beginning, I talk about Pentecost in the Jewish tradition. Shavuot. First harvest festival. I remember how Andrea told me that on kibbutz, there’d be  a parade of tractors and new born animals.  And I look at Glen’s dog. The tradition of Moses giving the law on Sinai. Fire on the mountain. And smoke. And the tradition of all night study. The great night our neighbors at Manhattan Jewish Experience had planned with a different study every hour and breakfast on the roof at 4:45 m. Greeting the dawn like Moses coming  down from the mountain. 
Deacon James reminds us that t’s memorial Day weekend. We need to remember the veterans. And also those who are serving now. I remember how my father always used this day  to remember his father. And now I remember my own. And I tell James that my subtle nod of honor  is the the blue candles on ether side of the white Christ candle on a red cloth covering the table.  
We start by singing Spirit of the Living God in English and Spanish. Prepare for prayers with Veni Sancti Spiritu. John reads the story of Pentecost. Hope Romans 8:m 22-27 and then Hugo the gospel in Spanish, John 15: 26-27, 16: 4b-15. And I in English. 
I ask everyone to breathe in. Hold it. Then breathe out.....Ask what it feels like. Think of the peace of the first few underwater breast strokes before you have to breathe. Quiet and peaceful. Breath and life. Spirit. Inspire...breathe into. Respiration...breathe back into... Conspiracy...breathing together...Breath and life. 
Any Pentecost memories? Hope has the best . Red balloons, blown up, played with. Talks with children. Her father loved the day.
Then I ask who remembers the Wizard of Oz story? What’s that got to do with Pentecost?
Things were set in motion by a great wind
Dorothy sees things  wonderful and amazing
Oz on the one hand a phony, but on the other knew she had it within her all that she needed  to go home...that each of the characters already possessed what they wanted the most and just didn’t realize it...
And when she  returns to Kansas, everything is the same,  except her....
Pentecost. What do we see? 
  1. They were all together. The manifestation of the Holy Spirit takes place in community
  2. There was a tongue of fire on each No exceptions. Each person receives no more, no less than the other
  3. And that somehow the spirit overcomes all barriers of communication
I remember OWS, Zucotti in the early days...Mic check.....the rolling waves of words moving back through the crowd...a miracle of hearing, not of speaking...everyone feeling they’re singing my song, they’re speaking my language...
In Joel’s prophecy, we see a cosmos under threat...and we must ask ourselves, in the face of amazing creation, 
Do we allow ourselves to wonder?
What to we do to become more aware?
How do we celebrate?
As it says in Romans, we’re in a time of groaning, in society, and especially in the church...The words of course are familiar, I say them every Sunday as we begin our prayers. How the spirit prays with us in sighs too deep for words. I recall the woman Puerto Rican pastor years ago who led our church in a multicultural retreat. How she said she had finally reached the point where she dreamed in English. But I will always moan in Spanish, she said.
What does it meant experience the spirit? It’s about , as Sharon Welch says, the ethic of control vs. ethic of risk . Our US culture is a culture of control, even when motivated by good intentions...what is required of us to truly be open to the spirit is to have:
  1. Genuine interest in other cultures, religious differences, not simply euro dominant assimilative acquisition
  2. Genuine nonvolatile which differences are taken seriously and honored and....
  3. Genuine perseverance past difference
Easter was all about learning resurrection living. The narrative of the risen Jesus walking in our midst. But now, in the season of Pentecost, we need Jesus to be gone so that we can get on with it....we are in a continuous process of becoming, both as  church and us
In a very real sense, we have come full circle. We begin with a breath that brings  clay to life. Then the holy written word which sustained people and broadened understanding of God, as God’s living word. Then, as Christians, we believe that  word became FLESH and dwelt among us. And now WORD and BREATH together, back to  spirit again.
Breathe in. Breathe out. Let yourself feel it inside of you. Let us take the risk if letting the spirit to live within us. 
And we all sing, every time I feel the spirit....An intimate Pentecost. But the spirit was there.
As we stand in the circle, Glen has acquired another quilt,and again tracked down its story. We spread it out, And he tells the story of the two plays he is producing.  And talks about his vision of a growing community as the plays are developed. we hold the quilts together. We fold the quilt and put it away in the office, to await rehearsal. 

Hope, Willa, Glen, James and Hugo

The sanctuary folks are beginning to arrive. I give Jane a warm greeting. The choir is warming up. Jeremy back from San Franciso. 
Berik has arrived to take down some paintings in anticipation  of the coming dance  festival. 
People are leaving for Memorial Day picnics. 
It’s very warm outside. And quiet.  Almost like August.

Memorial Day night. Coming back from dinner with Katherine in an Indian neighborhood, I stop at the church. Little Christopher  is outside. Holding Glen’s script tight in his arms. He’s been studying it. No one is answering the bell. I call Teddy. He and Chris and Runi are at Jamie’s showering in preparation for tomorrow’s trip to Maine. Teddy comes back to let Christopher in. Rachelle arrives with a cart full of Starbucks leftovers. Teddy has to pick out a wrap or two to keep her happy. Plus a few for the others. She’s already been to the steps. Dave and Donna are back. If I can get them seen a couple of more times by Reachout, they’ll be eligible for services. There’s also white George and two rather sketchy characters.  
Teddy and I walk together down to Jamie’s where we’ll plan the trip. We all come back together. We’ll be getting  up early in the morning.  

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