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Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Jesus, a child, a window


923

Only one empty coffee cup to pick up this morning....

The first person in the sanctuary this morning is Rachelle struggling to get her cart out the door. She wants to hit the flea markets again. Even though it’s pleasant and cool, the bright sun has her concerned. And I realize for the first time that part of the reason for her eccentric get up is her extreme sensitivity to the sun as part of her ongoing medical condition.  

We’ve got three visitors, an older woman and a young couple. Amy seems to be stuck in traffic, so we begin.

After John reads the good woman,good wife passage  from Proverbs 31: 10-3, I have Marsha read Sojourner Truth’s Ain’t I a Woman Speech as it was delivered at the  1851
Women's Convention, Akron, Ohio:
  

Well, children, where there is so much racket there must be something out of kilter. I think that 'twixt the negroes of the South and the women at the North, all talking about rights, the white men will be in a fix pretty soon. But what's all this here talking about?
That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place! And ain't I a woman? Look at me! Look at my arm! I have ploughed and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me! And ain't I a woman? I could work as much and eat as much as a man - when I could get it - and bear the lash as well! And ain't I a woman? I have borne thirteen children, and seen most all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother's grief, none but Jesus heard me! And ain't I a woman?
Then they talk about this thing in the head; what's this they call it? [member of audience whispers, "intellect"] That's it, honey. What's that got to do with women's rights or negroes' rights? If my cup won't hold but a pint, and yours holds a quart, wouldn't you be mean not to let me have my little half measure full?
Then that little man in black there, he says women can't have as much rights as men, 'cause Christ wasn't a woman! Where did your Christ come from? Where did your Christ come from? From God and a woman! Man had nothing to do with Him.
If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone, these women together ought to be able to turn it back , and get it right side up again! And now they is asking to do it, the men better let them.
Obliged to you for hearing me, and now old Sojourner ain't got nothing more to say.
With Psalm 1, we use the refrain from an old movement/union song:
No, no, nos moveran; No, no, nos moveran; Como un arbol, firme junto al rio, No nos moveran....
We shall not, we shall not be moved; we shall not, we shall not be moved; just like a tree, standing by the river, we shall not be moved..
Steven reads James 3: 13-4:3, Arcadia, Mark9: 30-37 in Spanish, me in English and then begin the reflection.
The lessons this week are really didactic...all straight forward, preachy, no nuance. We’ve got another go around here of more about living wisely...

In Proverbs, we’ve got the Good Wife passage. At first glance, it feels like one of those let’s not go there passages. But as we look closer, there are lots of counter cultural descriptions  that go against expectations...For example we have a woman of commerce...business...real estate...she plants a vineyard....and has strong arms....

And with all this, she is always reaching out to  the needy...

In Psalms...well, what is the scoffers’ seat.? What does it mean to scoff? I mean beyond typical New York City sarcasm? Hope says that she is a scoffer. How she relates to things sometimes, like it or not. And everyone agrees that there is this element of looking down upon.  I connect it with cyncicsm and recall how Sharon Welch says that cynicism is  the prerogative of the privileged...scoffing..Truly oppressed, excluded, do not have time for cynicism. Also related is liberal despair...another sign of privilege. 

James is all about gentleness and wisdom.. and there is in tension the issue of envy and selfish ambition...

3:17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy. (Like the very essence of the good woman)

Then there is this thought in James that maybe our prayers are not answered because maybe we ask for the wrong things...sure we’ll always pray for parking places, to escape jams (usually of our own making) and to fix things. That’s to be expected. Human nature. But the real issue is focus, where do we focus our attention, our deepest prayers....

In Mark, Jesus is once again being perfectly  clear about what is going to happen..and the disciples just  so completely don’t get it...They’re embarassed when they know that he knows that they were arguing about who is greatest..

Jesus responds that the first shall be last, and the last first....and perhaps the greatest example? Children. In Jesus‘ day they were the most vulnerable in society, truly marginalized, not romanticized like today...

But for all of our romanticizing children, what is the reality? Our poverty rate for children is  22%, the  second highest among developing countries...only Romania, a center for child trafficking, ranks  higher....and over the  last decade, children’s poverty  grew in 38 states..and for black children the rate is 38%, and for Hispanic children is 32%

Perhaps, in the end, we are judged by how we treat the most vulnerable...

The Steven Window
Here is our story (and I point above me to the window above).The window above me is called the Steven window...It was during the ’80’s, the AIDS crisis. That Tiffany window had fallen into disrepair. One man always told hi spartner that when he looked at that window, he always felt like he was the chuld held in Jesus’ arms. When he died,his lover paid to have the window restored and then rededicated it to his partner, Steven. And so even though we have become a much more multicutural congregation and the imagery of that window is white, it is that story that makes it so important to this place. 

Who ever welcomes on these welcomes me....

May we always seek to see the world through the eyes if the most vulnerable. 

After church, we go to McAlpin Hall. Ted and Mim and John H join us as we plan out our strategy and status report for our meeting with represntativs of Presbytery next Thursday. We know what is important to us, it's value, but can we get our point across?

One of Jamie’s real estate friends comes for another discussion of another possible strategy. 

Marty is stationed by Dunkin’ Donuts. I compliment him on his fancy ball cap. So how long did you preach today? he aks.

About 20 minutes.

Just like my father, may he rest in peace. Y’know he used to preach so hard, he’d burst into sweat. Beads of sweat all over. Pouring off of him.  He used to carry five handkerchiefs. Five. You know how cowboys used handkerchiefs, pulled up over their faces? They had to have leather laces to kee theor cowboy hats on. In the wind, on the plains.

I ask if his father wore a cowboy hat. 

He looks at me like i’m crazy. NO. He used handkerchiefs...

We wish each other well. It’s been a long Sunday. The weather is perfect. 



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