Wednesday, September 12, 2012

We remember 9-11

Feels good to see Teddy on the steps as I arrive for worship. He had called me the night before to report Edward's presence on the steps. He'd called 911 but got tired after waiting 45 minutes and went to bed. Steven and Jay found him there in the morning and he left. Only issue was in the bus stop, which we'll  leave for the city to take care of.  After yesterday's day of work, the place is already.

Marty is back. Asks where my orange baseball hat is. I tell him I've got a lot of different hats.

Asks about my boys and school. If they've gone back yet. I say that two are done with college, one still in.  He talks about how when he was in college, the City College, CCNY, was free. Back in the day when New York City considered education part of what was part of what a city needed to give its people. For its own betterment. I tell him I'm enjoying the conversation but have to go.

Fara has arrived and I will have her speak about her experiences and rally as part of the announcements at the beginning of the service. I step outside to check things out. Before going back in, I pause to cross myself (helps sometimes) and look out to see an old man talking to himself has seen me.And he crosses himself in response. 

Time to start the service. I invite Fara to speak. Her pain and passion is clear and I can see that several congregants are very moved. Before she sits down, I invite she and Amy 
 up and do a prayer of support for them. As the service continues, I can see that they are intrigued by what we are doing and decide to stay. 
John signs Fara's petition

As the sermon starts,  I say that there are a number of things on my mind. Today is the  day of New York City's Labor Day  march (Teddy was there this morning, before church...) And it's the weekend of the commemoration of 9-11. And this year we have the same sequence....Sunday church and Labor Sunday, Monday then Tuesday, well, the DAY. Many of you weren’t here, so I’ll tell you the story so you’ll know.  And my focus is on the pre-story.

Sunday: Our music person, Bill Schimmel had invited Paul Stein, a longtime cultural worker and singer of union songs, to join us with old Labor songs. (Paul with his accordion was a regular performer at Zucotti Park, he even came back to  West-Park for the OWS Town Hall and played in the balcony theatre....)We had guests from the Union (SEIU) who handled all the restaurants and concessions at the Metroplitan Opera. They were going on strike, opening night of the Met. Several of is clergy had agreed to stand with them in solidarity, perhaps even civil disobedience. Earlier in the week I had spoken at an interfaith support rally for these workers.  Many (most?) were undocumented.
One more thing....we had been working with Manhattan Together to bring out people to vote in the Tuesday primary election. And some had agreed to be poll watchers. We all know what happened that Tuesday. Even in the midst of a disaster we didn’t even really understand, many of us stopped by the polling places anyways. When we talked about it, some of us had a feeling that voting was a form of resistance to whatever those forces were out there against us that seemed to be about taking away freedom. As an affirmation of who we aee as a people. That was before we fully realized  what small political  space our  democracy has to offer these days..)

The next day, I called to see if, well, the Opera Action was still on. There was quiet on the other end of the phone.  We’ve lost like 250 workers they said. And more, the  fact was as they were undocumented, thier families were afraid to report them. Their names were never officially counted, never officially registered. A few weeks later, I was invited to participate in a memorial  mass and service at  Holy Name in their memory. After the meeting with the workers, all of us clergy had been given a photo of us with the workers. I keep it behind my desk. I'd look at it, wonder how many had survived...

Those were the before days that year, same sequence as this...This year, we’ve also got the conventions...One party was all upset that the other party had left out the word God from its platform. And as I read Proverbs last week, (22: 1-2, 8-9, 22-23) and James (3: 1-12)....I couldn't help but think, really? Are all these religious conventioneers really listening to the word of God?

James ( by tradition the brother of Jesus) makes it pretty clear....(Luther really disliked this letter, called it a gospel of straw. For him it was all grace....our clergy Bible studies still carry that debate on, the Catjholics always insiting on the necessity of works...) We all sin, but all are accountable to God. And I know that some will say it’s just about individual charity.  BUT.....I believe that it has to apply to institutions,political parties, society, churches as well as individuals....James says, essentially, If you’re not gonna walk the walk, don’t talk....

So what does the gospel, Mark 9: 30-37,  have to do with any of this? The story of the Syro-Phoenician woman? (Already studied by our Bible Study last month)  First, it's about  inclusion (This gentile woman was totally outside his circle...) Secondly Jesus could grow...Why is that even important? Because if he was fully human,like us,...he needed to grow.

We need to be like her. Our politicians, for sure, of whatever people of faith, we need to hold them accountable. And unions, and othern organizations  who seek to speak on  behalf of the poor, of working people, ..we .need to hold them to their  own values...

And finally US....we need to learn...Jesus granted her the healing of her daughter not because of her faith but for saying that....Jesus thanked her for helping him....his healing is an act of gratitude.

Especially as we begin a new season, we need to get our words and actions as together as possible...and to remind each other when we don’t.

In a post 9-11 world we are less free...we’ve comen to accept what has been unacceptable...James calls us to  speak and act as those who are to be judged by the law of liberty....freedom, with responsibility...that is our call on this day as we remember....

We lit the candles of remembrance
Following the sermon, I led a litany of remembrance.Then  we  gathered around the table and silently lit candles. 

After our amens, I saw Teddy and John R talking with Fara and Amy. Conversations were continuing.

I found myself in a long and fruitless discussion with Rachelle about her stuff and why it couldn't stay in the sanctuary. I called Hope over to help me. But as always, it runs in circles.  We'll have to find her someone to go through everything and get rid of what's trash and get rid of everything .   It's part of keeping our sanity. But the conversation threw me off. 

Glen brought refreshments and we gathered to talk about pastoral care, beginning with our homebound. ( What  a joy to see Deacon James back again.)
And Glen's new theatrical ideas and finally  the Session deals with business that has accumulated over the summer. 

The Sanctuary NYC folks are coming in as I leave....


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