Monday, September 3, 2012

Labor Day Sunday


Things seem to be ready as I approach the church. Teddy is sitting on the steps, gives me a hearty Good morning. We look at the Con Ed guys hard at work on a Sunday. Amazing, says Teddy, given that Con Ed just laid off 8000 workers. After a lockout....Brutal. And those guys will be back out here tomorrow I go to get supplies for communion. Get a call from Danielle. Bulletins not printed. Both copy shops closed. Labor Day weekend. One of our printers is out of toner. I’ll have to do this by hand. And try not to get intimidated. 

When I get back, Teddy and I continue our conversation. But something’s not right. And then we realize. In the north doorway, there’s a massive mess of human shit. Papers, flies. And another in the south doorway. Damn, I say. Jesus Christ...There’s too much to do and too little time before services. I’m sorry, Teddy, I say, we got to deal with this.....No man, he says, I’m sorry, missed this. I am sorry...Damn, this is just vindictive....

And sadly, the hose is locked away in the boiler room. We’re going to have to old school bucket brigade this. Teddy goes to roust Jay. I pull Steve off the piano. Sorry man, this is more important... Bucket after bucket dragged from the basement. Inside, Luisa is entertaining Antoinette, a visitor from Staten Island. Before it’s over, we’ll have run out of bleach and worn out a mop. And there are still bulletins to print. 

We’re halfway done when Jamie shows up with her dog, Toto. I’m also upset because I know how hard she works to try and make the place inviting to the people in the neighborhood we need to come. But she quietly grabs a broom and dustpan and gets to work. Not the prelude I want for Sunday worship. 

When it’s clean enough, I call everyone inside. Glen has arrived with his dog, Tony as well. Tony and Toto eye each other with a combination of interest and wariness. I pull up my stool, welcome the congregation. Thank Teddy and Steve and Jay. Try to find the right theological language to describe how what they’ve done ties into worhsip. I feel it. But the words are not easy. 

In our prayers, we lift up Edward, though that is not easy either. Next time I see him, it’s an automatic 911, no questions asked. 

Today, we begin with beautiful love poetry from the Song of Solomon (2:8-13) But the main passages are from the letter of James (1:17-27) and Mark 7: 1-8, 114-15, 21-23. 

It’s Labor Day Sunday. We think of the Con Ed guys hard at work outside. The  issue between  Jesus and his adversaries is  pretty clear.  It starts with the laws related to food, the laws of kashrut.  These laws originally served a variety of  purposes:
  • A call for humane treatment of animals. Muslims and Jews have virtually the same laws. Kosher and hallel very similar. 
  • A caution against mindless consumption
  • And finally health. Careful of pigs in hot climates, careful of shellfish, etc.

And ultimately here, what also is at stake identity....this is who we are as opposed to those who are not us.....

Jesus has several concerns in this confrontation:
  • Those who live on the surface and not the deeper values
  • Going to the heart of the matter
  • And most importantly,ultimately breaking down barriers to inclusion.

We talked about the short road  from classifying food as traif (unclean) to classifying the people who eat it as traif.  I recalled coming to Tulsa as a vegetarian. And being invited to a barbeque at my friend Thomas’ Church of the Living God. (As opposed to?)  I decided their offering of fellowship transcended any moral issues I might have about meat. It’s not what goes into the mouth....

James makes it straight and clear: what we are looking for is DOERS of the word,  not HEARERS. Walk, not talk. 

Those who were at out last Bible Study, August 20th, remember our dialogues and discussions on the Mark passage. 

Our conversation goes to all kinds of places, including addiction and the place of tough love.  How love sometimes requires a no. I can love Edward and still believe that the most loving thing would be to get him arrested and taken to detox. At any rate, he can’t be there anymore. The law of freedom is not easy. Takes reflection. Discernment. Hard choices.

Yes, doers, not hearers. 

We are an intimate group this Labor Day Sunday. So I invite everyone to gather around the table for communion. As I look around the table, I see  faces. Each one, the image of God. And as hands reach out to take the bread, I look at hands. The small black hands of Shana. The cafe con leche hands of Luisa. Hands gnarled by arthritis. The worn and dirty hands of homelessness or SRO life. The faces of Rachelle, Bobby. This is truly the Lord’s Supper. The communion of saints. Even though some of my exiled Catholics are still hesitant about partaking of non-priest consecrated bread and wine, they too, are in the  circle, this is what it is supposed to be. 

I stand outside, in my green stole. Greeting people. 

Jamie and I sit to go over details of our ongoing negotiations with Noche.  Marc comes in to pick up a CD changer Jamie has brought in  to donate.  Later we go down to check out our hoses to facilitate steps cleaning. 

There are hospital visits ahead to Rachel who took a fall on her steps and Jim W who had a fall of his own. Later, I will join our folks in serving a meal at the homeless shelter at SPSA. My day is far from over.  

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