Monday, July 23, 2012

And rest awhile

Teddy is the first to greet me as I arrive. Steve is practicing the piano.
In our prayers, the families of the victims in Colorado are lifted up. And Luisa lifts up the family of the accused shooter. And the young man himself. 
John reads the first lesson, 2 Samuel 7: 1-14a, where David wants to build a fancy house for God and God makes it clear that God lives in the midst of the people. And will build a house for them. 
We read Ephesians 2: 11-22, where Paul speaks of those who are near and those who are far away, the circumcised and uncircumcised. 
And finally Mark 6: 30-34, 53-56 where Jesus keep trying to get away and the crowds keep following and he advises his disciples to rest awhile. And those crowds, not like the crowd on the Great Lawn last Monday for the Philharmonic with picnics and chilled wine. No. Every one in these crowds had a pressing need. 
There’s lots to talk about. Ramadan  began Friday. I really experienced it for the first time two summers ago when my wife and I went to the Middle East. Jordan, Ramallah, Jerusalem. The quiet days. Watching the world come alive after dark. Especially in Ramallah where we saw the Ramadan lights on houses in town squares. Children and families walking. Street corner carnivals with rides.  Watching old men smoking hookahs as big screen TVs  showed  Ramadan soap operas. 
It’s the month in which the Quran is revealed to Muhammad. Down through the lowest heaven  through Jibraeel, who we know as Gabriel. The one with the trumpet. And also during  this month, the Torah was delivered to Musa (Moses), the Psalms to Dawoud (David) and the Gospel to Issa (Jesus). And so we wish our friends Ramadan Mubarak. 
And lifted the victims up in prayers.  I went  happily to the movies with my boys last Thursday, a midnight adventure,  only to wake up to a horror. How life goes on and then all of a sudden out of nowhere the world is turned upside down. And its part of the job of the preacher to try and make sense of things. But sometimes there is no sense. There is  no explanation other than recognition that it is human, part of life...we don’t dwell there, but we do acknowledge..
Final Analysis, the new play that was prepared here at West Park, explores that reality. Destruction the other side of creating beauty. And our experience after 9-11, touring the smoldering 17 acres of death. Seeing the faces of thousands of true heroes, doing their own part. That is the affirmation.Just like like the heroes in the theatre in Colorado, giving their lives for others. ..And how when we create, we are partners with God in the ongoing work of creation.  Creation is resistance, resistance to all that destroys, denies,  negates, resistance to death .Yes, creation is partnership with God.

It's always important tp know the difference between what we can do something about and what we can't.  And there is something we can do something  about.  The accused shooter amassed a lethal arsenal all with legally bought guns and bought over 6000 rounds of ammunition on the Internet. That is something  we and do something about.  
So I have a number of ideas this morning...
We don’t build  house for God, God builds a home in a congregation,we have spent so much time consumed by this building. I truly believe that now, as a congregation our focus has to be strengthening the body....that if we care for this body of people, this community, so that God lives in us building or no, the building issue will be resolved. God will build  a home in us.
So what’s involved? What Paul called the near and the  far...(the circumcised and uncircumcised, no longer the issue...) Jew and Greek , no more strangers and aliens but citizens..Think of that word, ET or a Ridley Scott monster. There are no aliens. There are people with papers and people without. Our Sweatshop Free friends, the restaurant workers, kitchen workers, delivery people....nail salon workers... people...They are members of the household... with them, as Paul says, the whole structure is bound together. 
The old tradition was, of course there is unity, red and yellow black and white they are precious in his sight... if everyone would just believe in Jesus we’d  all be one...Well that’s not the way it is. You see the same diversity in Mecca. The world’s largest population of Muslims are Asians, not Arabs.  Doesn’t work that way. Not why Jesus came. 
In Mark, the sick are brought to Jesus  on mats....I got an insight into that while I was in Pittsburgh. There’s a church called the Hot Metal Bridge Church. Started as a Bible Study in a  tattoo parlor. (I love that.) Moved into a bar. Bought the bar. They have a drama group. Did a play about the welcome mat...An older member trying to let only the right people in. Finally gets so frustrated she falls on the mat, paralyzed. They pick up the mat, carry her to go see Jesus...(I don’t have time to see Jesus, I’ve got to get to church...) They find Jesus,under a bridge with the homeless. Jesus is a woman. Jesus explains how the mat is a welcome mat. And says, pick up your mat and walk. Welcome is the door to healing. To wholeness. 
Jesus death and resurrection....just like it defeated death, just like Tutu said we have already won, going to the cross breaks down the wall .....once and for all....Jesus has already broken it down, broken through....all we have to live into it.
And my final word, Jesus says Rest awhile.  Years ago,that was one of my best sermons. Rest awhile. We need to hear that. It’s there at creation when God rests. Heschel says we’re working on a painting. At least once a week we need to step back and take a look from further back. The big picture, so to speak. Only possible if we stop. 
Rest awhile. 
Even harder to figure out how to rest awhile,in the midst of it all. I find it in 7 AM swims. Maybe its a walk on the High Line. An hour in the Met.  Watching a sunset on the Hudson. Find what you need. Rest awhile. 
We’ll get there. 
We sing a song about finding the quiet center. We gather around the circle. Alleluia! Amen!
At Jamie’s recommendation, I don my green stole and head to the door, being a presence on the street. Greeting the people. The passersby. Community people like Rachelle. Neighbors like Elle. All with ideas. 
Its a beautiful day.  Rest awhile. 

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