Wednesday, November 21, 2012

When is the triumphant entry?


Katrine and Marie come back to visit again. When they thought it was all or nothing and had a sense of how expensive it might be to do all, they decided nothing was better. But something about the building kept calling them back. Maybe something  smaller? A way to begin? Let’s say we’re open.....

Visiting with Teddy before he leaves for his Sandy clean up job. It's back breaking labor with people’s soaked and sodden belongings. As we talk, Anna walks by with puppy, making a joke or two but mainly good humored teasing.

RL apologizes for missing Catherine’s concert. Unavoidable home commitments. Which I understand. Wants to check out dates in December for possible open mike/showcase events. And I’m wondering if he cold get me a lineup of entertainment for the crafts fair if Amanda can’t be here. 

Two burly private  investigators come in looking for me. Looking for Heather. Parents trying to find her and their grandchildren. I haven’t seen her in months.  She only lived here a very short while. W made it clear immediately that this was not a place for she and her children. Would see her time and again. Was connected to DJ Dan. There was the Child Protective Services inquiry. The time to see me wanting to turn her life around, seeking my prayers...Kids generally seemed OK. I heard Brooklyn,  heard squats, but....I don’t know...

A man from Euclid Hall has a long story and needs a Metro Card and I’ve got one for one. Not enough for the time put into the story.

People from a film academy came to check out the building. Wish Jamie were here. I have to start the group on my own. And one of the guests feels a little too aggressive and assertive and I’m too stressed for that.  I’m thankful when she arrives. 

John H and I are reviewing our experiences of the Dzieci Makbet. He’d seen it before, larger venue, larger cast....more impassioned, he felt. But we’re more interested in exploring how do these experiences begin to build towards  community? Toward a church?  How would it be differentiated from what Jane and Sanctuary do? From John’s perspective, it requires an intentional and in depth exploration of Christian scriptures, their origins, meaning today....We are in complete agreement, although I know we may have some radical differences in assumptions regarding the scriptures...And this is not the time to get into that. But he’s right in terms of creating a center for a community to gather around. 

I see Dave and Donna coming in and going out. Where did I see them last? Was it the cafeteria at Whole Foods? Or?  What are they up to? They’re gone before I’m able to ask....

The Center Board meets. John H, Ted, Mim, Hope....concerned about finances. Concerned about the negotiations with Noche. Is there a back up plan? Is there? Ted in his position knows of all kinds of short term needs of arts groups...even just to dry things the wake of Sandy. Can we be involved in that? Why can’t Space Works get it together around that? What do we need to, how do we follow up with Jane round our last meeting? I’m surprised to find out we’re not getting the crafts fair this year. All ted’s stuff in Red Hook storage was lost. Communications an issue too. So we need to schedule a full meeting asap.

Jamie is taking another group around.

I need to assemble a complete set of keys for Jamie and Danielle and myself. Looks like Rachelle has snuck a cart into the sanctuary again. I need to get one person around here connected with a psychiatrist and a residential program because that’s the only way they can move forward. Need to find out from someone else exactly what their story is. Whatever it is is OK, but what is it? Need to reclaim one  of Marc’s closets for Martin and repurpose another room. Need better communications.  Need to clean up the front, the office, need another dumpster..need to know exactly what renovation would much money we owe....need to finish this contract....need...need to put up a big piece of brown paper so i can put in front of my eyes everything I need to do.... need... a sense of chaos is closing in...

The St.Agnes guys are here but Teddy is at work and Danielle not around...Jamie sends them off on a project.

On the steps, I find Gary with a bottle. Man, you know you can’t do that...
Just takin’ a break, just waitin’ for the next bus, just....
You now the rules...
All right, all right...the next bus...

I need to get out for awhile.

When I come back after making dinner at home, Gary is still on the steps.
Gary, you told  me next bus...that was hours ago....
Ah, they beat the shit out of me, stole my phone...
He seems drunk. Who Gary, who? 
Can’t make out what he says.
Where’s your friend Anthony? Doesn’t he take care of you?
He looks at me. Like he’s not sure. Help me up, OK? 
I know his legs don’t work so well. I help him up. Off the steps. Onto the sidewalk. 
Thank you pastor. Thank you for everything. 

Back inside, Anna, Hope, Marsha, John R and I gather around the table in the sanctuary in its warm evening light. I’m exhausted but we open our Bibles, head into Mark 11. A lot of the passages we’ve been studying have also been part of our Sunday morning lectionary. But not this. It’s a Holy Week theme...Jesus’ (so-called) triumphal entry...But Maybe since Advent is about Jesus coming again, maybe this is not a bad passage to look at in this season. Although as we will come to find out, it’s neither all that triumphant and not really the entry. John R points out as he reads that Bethpage and Bethany are like Long Island place names.  I tell him that I was at a church in Newtown, Queens last weekend that went back to 1672. The whole history of English dissenters welcomed to the New Amsterdam colony....the openness of the Dutch...How that all changed when the British took over. But yes, Long Island founders were devout....

Those names are important too....Bethany: house of the poor, and Bethphage:
House of unripened figs. 

What do we find:
  • Jesus entry is powerful contradictory street theatre, trappings of triumphant entries like the Maccabees, or the Sikari but his followers are unarmed, only with palm branches
  • Palm branches  also called for in Zechariah for the one who brings peace
  • Like a king’s entry, but on a colt of a donkey, the ride of a poor man
  • Marsha points out an unridden colt would never have known another master
  • People shouting hosanna!, save now!...also associated with sukkot and the waving of branches...
  • The people lay down coats and branches...all they have

This could be a band of resistance fighters ready to go in and try to take the city. But when he comes in, Jesus enter s the temple....and...and..looks around and leaves...looks around and leaves...nothing happened...all that build up and....nothing...
He goes back to Bethany (house of the poor.)

Then there’s this incident with the fig tree. (Bethphage.) Symbol of the fruitfulnesss of life. Symbol of the good man. The righteous man. Symbol of the nation.  And as it is fruitless, Jesus curses it. 

That fig tree is not the people, it is the socio-religio-politcal system symbolized by the temple that must go. Our side winning is not enough. Restoration of the Davidic kingdom is not his project. The whole thing has got to go. It’s an Occupy Wall Street moment. Not this. Not that. The whole thing. Everything

So our conversation goes a lot of places. Anna wants to know why it has taken so long. Is that really what the church wanted? I respond that in my tradition, the church as a human institution will inevitably be imperfect if not corruptible if not ultimately sinful. Becoming the official religion of the Roman Empire set a certain course. Like the missionary movement that accompanied American imperialism in the late 19th Century. 

And Marsha sees connections to a theology of community organizing where whoever is in power must be held accountable. And we talk again of Tutu, and King and the history of Black Theology that can celebrate victory already won even while slavery or apartheid  continues. Or a village like le Chambon in France where every family saved a Jewish family.  What does it take to raise children so that they will respond like that? And our predecessors at West-Park who were inspired to choose as their slogan, Not by might, nor by power....from Zechariah 4:6. How do that happen? Setting in motion a  line that continues down to today. 

But I think back to what Jesus is trying to say. The this, not that, a transcultural, transnational class based community that is spirit led and driven....non-ideological but political as an expression of the spiritual commitment....what would it take to create such a community? What would living in it feel like?

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