Tuesday, June 26, 2012

We are going to the other side


We welcome new members:
Elder Marsha, Steven, John, Don, Bob. Teddy, Willa (welome back!) and Elder Leila
 (who made the rainbow stole)

Big day. Starts out like one of those that feel like you’ve momentarily slipped out of sync with the universe. People I expected would  be coming texting or e-mailing saying they wouldn’t. Someone else I’m counting on texting that they’re late coming back from upstate. After talking to Andre earlier, I’m getting that strange message on his phone. Will he make it? The Bengladeshi copy shop is closed. The Internet is wacky at the Israeli shop. Desperate to get the service bulletins and action resolutions finished and its approaching 11. From somewhere I’m learning to stay calm in these moments. Moments when there is nothing you can do. 
As I approach the steps, I see my sons Micah and Dan there. It makes me happy to see them, Micah back from Berlin for a week, Dan home from Drexel . Has Andre arrived? Yes, he’s inside waiting, says Micah. First sigh of relief. There’s a nice congregation already gathered and in the pews. 
I step to the front. Say a word or two about out of syncness and ask everyone to take a breath. As it is LGBTQ Pride Sunday, we open the service with 
God welcomes all, strangers and friends
God’s love is strong and it never ends...
I point to the rainbow flag. Remind the congregation of the More Light Statement of welcome and inclusion from 1978. The knitted rainbow stole, for so many Presbyterian General Assemblies (national legislative meetings) worn as silent symbol of witness of those excluded from serving until the victory last July. And how the Evelyn Davidson Memorial Water Table at the First Presbyterian Church at the Pride March is named for the wife of former West-Park Pastor Bob Davidson who felt that given traditional church hostility to the  lgbtq community, offering a cup of cold water in Jesus’ name to hot marchers would be  a healing witness. 

Friends from the Sweatshop Upper West Side Campaign have come to worship with us, to say thanks and to inivte us to their Friday night celebration at Holy Name. 
Given the challenges of the day, our opening hymn is Harry Emerson Fosdick’s God of Grace and God of Glory....
God of grace and God of glory
On Thy people pour Thy power
Crown Thine ancient church's story
Bring her bud to glorious flower
Grant us wisdom, grant us courage
For the facing of this hour
For the facing of this hour
Lo! The hosts of evil 'round us
Scorn Thy Christ, assail His ways
From the fears that long have bound us
Free our hearts to faith and praise
Grant us wisdom, grant us courage
For the living of these days
For the living of these days
Cure Thy children's warring madness
Bend our pride to Thy control
Shame our wanton selfish gladness
Rich in things and poor in soul
Grant us wisdom, grant us courage
Lest we miss Thy kingdom's goal
Lest we miss Thy kingdom's goal
Save us from weak resignation
To the evils we deplore
Let the gift of Thy salvation
Be our glory evermore
Grant us wisdom, grant us courage
Serving Thee Whom we adore
Serving Thee Whom we adore
Grant us wisdom, grant us courage
For the living of these days
For the living of these days
And I explain that Fosdick was one of the leaders of the Social Gospel Movement, evangelical and committed to justice. 
To prepare for our prayers, we sing Desmond Tutu’s words:
Goodness is stronger than evil
Kindness is stronger than hate
Victory is ours, victory is ours
Through him who loves us. 
I divide the long reading of the story of David and Goliath (1 Samuel 17: 1a, 4-11, 19-23, 32-49 ) into characters: Teddy (who else?) as Goliath, John as David, Don as King Saul.  And I read the Gospel story of Jesus and the boat in the storm. (Mark 4:35-41)
OK. Once again, the crowd is following Jesus. Demanding. He directs his disciples to take him across to the other side.... What is that? By tradition that meant Gentile country,although we know the reality was more complex. But it’s also the  other side of what s normal, a whole other consciousness....
It says that they took him just as he was....What does that  mean? It’s like another   scriptural hyperlink that can take you in to unexplored worlds...
It says that there were other boats...what happened to them? What happens to those around us when we get caught up in our storms? Who suffers collateral damage? Receives collateral benefits? 
Jesus was asleep....was he exhausted, worn out?  They are angry. They wake him up, just to help bail, for Christ sake..They were fishers, right? They knew what to do in a storm. They want him to help.
And so rebuking the wind and sea (same word as when he confronts demons) he says ...Peace! Be still! And everything gets mad scary quiet. And it’s then they get afraid. 
Why are they afraid? It’s the calming, not the storm....In Mark, it’s the same response to the resurrection...awe, and they were afraid....
So I have a number of thoughts...not necessarily answers...The key to story is not how people react to storms, but  how people react to what God does...The metaphors around life’s storms obviously clear...My challenge to you  from Easter  remains...are you ready for resurrection? Are you ready to accept winning? Succeeding? Actually having a vision come true? 
Notice Jesus says Why are you afraid, not why were you was the calming that frightened them.. Peace frightens them....
Friends were talking about how so many of our church (not his one) meetings devolve into conflict. Conflict stirs us, engages us, energizes us, juices us. It’s not just a church, a Presbytery thing. I remember talking to my  Occupy friends about this. And I remember these words from the Rolling Stones 
I went down to the demonstration, to get my fair share of abuse...
Peace frightens us. 
So here’s the message. Make no mistake about it. We are going to the other side....
We will have a new consciousness, a new awareness  about who’s in charge.  We have already discerned  in our Bible study of Mark that this is an anti-imperial consciousness
of vulnerability, even woundedness...BUT also a consciousness  where we commit to 
possibility, not despair
openness, not fear and
joy beyond sorrow...
Let me say that again...we are going to the other is a consciousness of metanoia not paranoia, metanoia being a transformative change of heart
I remember that amazing night crossing the Brooklyn Bridge with Occupy. The projections on the side the Verizon building  ending with Do Not  Be Afraid ( )

Yes, we are going to the other side
I have to bring up Nik Wallenda and his walk across Niagara Falls one last time. His training, his preparation. How once you commit, you’ve got no choice but to go all the way...
We have trained. We are prepared. We are exactly where we are supposed to be doing what we are supposed to be doing. We are going to the other side....
For our offertory, Andre, accompanied by Micah, sings Eternal Father Strong to Save, otherwise known as the navy hymn, and Steve, a navy man, tears up. 
And then we gladly and happily welcome new members Steve and Teddy and John and Don and welcome back Willa after a long absence. This for us is joyous. 
Then we gather upstairs for a congregational meeting. Our resolution to put the pieces in place to crate our interfaith center for arts and culture and social justice through preferably a lease, if not a sale of the church house to a partner committed to collaboration. And failing that, lease or sale and reestablishing our work in a repurposed sanctuary building. We will create our center one way or another. 
The resolution passes unanimously.

                                                                * * * * 
Come back after a great afternoon at the Evelyn Davidson Water Table at the Pride march. Saw our friends from Sanctuary marching. And Dennis from the Interfaith Assembly with his Middle Collegiate church friends. Now meeting with Ludovica to discuss the intolerable heat, Actors' Equity rules...a new airconditioner for the gym. Before this is over, this will take multiple phine calls, Marc and Teddy. Time to go home. 

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