Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Third Sunday in Advent: That man gets it


George is on the steps waiting. I’m a little concerned, it’s been two days now. I ask if he’s still got his apartment. He harrumphs. Yeah. For now. But after January 1...
What happens on January 1?
What, you don’t read your news?
Well,yeah but what news?
The cliff. The fiscal cliff. The fiscal motherfuckin cliff. We all goin over. All goin over. 
I tell him I have to go in. Time for worship to begin.

Shortly before the service begins, Kara comes in. Like a leaf blown in by the wind, dancing on air. She has her hair down, which I have never seen before. A look of wild in her eyes. She’s never been to worship here before. 

As she whirls and twirls and rocks,alternately laughing and crying, I begin to realize that this is different. She’s talking about hatred and persecution and having no money.  And how she’ll dance and strip if she has to. Like Mary Magdalene, her spirit lives in me! If they don’t like it, fuckem, who are they to judge? she says. And starts laughing again. 

Teddy leads her down to the first pew. Gently puts his arm around her. Andre looks over. Cerebral isssue, brain injury, I say. And Andre nods, I knew it. I could feel it, he says.

We sing a new hymn today, commissioned by Mark Koenig, our UN ministries friend, for Human Rights Day. (Last Monday)

You Made Us in Your Image
                AURELIA D ("The Church's One Foundation")

You made us in your image, O God of love and grace;
You treasure every person in every time and place.
You call your world to follow—to see in every one
A person loved and cherished, your daughter or your son.

Your will is for your people to live in safety here,
With dignity and justice, and free from want or fear.
In families and nations, may all know freedom’s song;
May all enjoy the blessing to choose where they belong.

You warn against enslavement and things that would oppress.
You call for living wages, for times of welcome rest.
You call for education for all—not just a few;
You teach us: Welcome strangers, for so we welcome you.

You made us to be equal; you made us to be free—
To speak the truth with courage, to change society,
To follow our own conscience, to choose the words we pray.
O God, may all your children enjoy these gifts each day.

Biblical References:  Genesis 1-2; Exodus 5:1-20; Nehemiah 5:1-13; Psalm 82:1-4; Proverbs 4:1-27; 
Isaiah 58:1-12; 65:17-25; Amos 5:21-24; Micah 4:1-5; 6:6-8; Matthew 25:31-46; Mark 12:28-34; 
John 3:16-17; Acts 10:34-36; Galatians 3:26-29; Hebrews 13:1-9a.
Tune: Samuel Sebastian Wesley, 1864.
Copyright © 2012 by Carolyn Winfrey Gillette. All rights reserved. 

As we begin our prayers, and people raise the families of the children in Newtown, Connecticut Sandy Hook Elementary School, Kara seems to come unglued. Seems to be happening to a lot of fragile people around me. As we sing, she claps her hands and sways over intensely.  A young woman visitor, Carrie, looks on warily. Anna with puppy looks equally warily, although she has a litany of mental health resurces ready to share. 

And then it’s time for my reflection. And I have to talk about Connecticut.  We want to ask why. Don’t. Any answer would be disresectful and inappropiate and make the experience of tragedy secondary to some other scheme. Any why is inadequate. I was  reminded today on the op ed page of the Times of Dostoyevsky, in Brothers Karamazov, his questioning, of God. And the complete inexcusability of the suffering of the innocent. His answer isn’t spoken-- it’s carried out in caring for one another of the characters as the story unfolds. We need to look at the heroes. The ones who stepped up and did the right thing without a second thought. Who led children to safety. Protected them. And those who have, who do and who will bring comfort. Look there. Our job is not to prove, disprove, or  defend God. Our job us to love one another.

That was actually the theme of Dzieci’s Fool’s Mass last week Sunday in our chapel. The inmates of the asylum have lost their priest. Now they have to create it on their own. The subtext is what do we do when God seems absent or silent?  We care for one another. And that is enough. 

OH....but there is something we can and must do. We can do something about is insane that we have more regulations about ladders than guns....that owning guns is a right and heath care is a privilege. There is no need,none, for private citizens to own semi-automatic assault weapons. None. We can d something about that. Can say enough. 

I have to talk about John the Baptist today. This could be the two sides of John the Baptist. This is not a good way to win friends and influence people.  Brood of vipers? Feels good, but what’s up with that? As we learned last week, John was a  son of privilege....What he is saying is a rejection of all privilege....race,class, religion. When he says, who taught you to flee? I’m surprised someone doesn’t say,  ahhhh...YOU told us to flee... we learned last week in Bible study, Luke may be a different gospel than we thought. Once thought to be contemporaneous with Matthew, scholars now think that Luke was  probably written in the  early 2nd century. Probably by  a wealthy educated person. While Luke presents a God who is clearly on side of poor,long the favorite of liberation theologian, he speaks to  lives that must be lived  in tension....

For example, check this out:
  • If you have 2 coats, share one. Obviously, of you’ve only got one, well, keep it. 
  • if you have food, share it
  • for tax collectors, working  for the empire, take only your proscribed amount...., NOT give up all that you have and follow the poor
* Then he circles back to a prophetic mode one more time

Yes, it does  sounds apocalyptic. Like all the buzz about the  Mayan apocalypse on December 20th this week...Now if it were true, it would certainly  simplify Christmas shopping. BUT Jane had the Mayan elders here a few weeks back...According to them, this date does not point to the end but to an era of spiritual rebirth.. and I’m seriously OK with that. 

Things get apocalyptic enough or us. Every Columbine or Virginia Tech or Sandy Hook Elementary is  apocalyptic enough Facing the end of our own lives is apocalyptic. And in time of living in tension, one thing is clear....we are called on to love one another. 

All these things are going to come together in a celebration of God being with us....God being is us ...coming....very ...soon. 

Following my refection Andre blesses us with his acapella In the Bleak Midwinter, by Cristina Rosetti. Says it’s his favorite hymn of the season.

After our final circle, Carrie asks me if  Sunday mornings are always like this. Before I can answer, Kara is swirling again, in every sense. So I invite her to play the piano. She wiggles her fingers and says, so what do fingers do? They fing!!!! And instead of her usual introspective moody playing, she is furiously pounding the keys. Uh no, Carrie, not always like this. Sometime ore, sometimes less, not always like this...I tell her we are in the process of rebuilding. I tell her we’ve only been back since a year ago March. She tells me she’s Southern Baptist from Alabama. Hope my theology wasn’t too out there for you, I say. No,not at all....uh, it...was ...interesting. I tell her I’d like to talk with her, tell her what we’re up to. What other options there are in the neighborhood. She likes that. 
Teddy has rounded up Kara. tells me he’s going to get her some food, get her to rest. They leave. 

Andre sits in my office and we talk. How Anxious Kara made me. How I was afraid she would drive away Carrie.  But in the end decided that something had drawn her here. And that this was where she needed to be. Andre said, but that’s who you are. Who we are. Why we’re here.  Even when it’s not easy.

Another woman has come in looking for help. He will fed her as well. And direct her to SPSA where there is a shelter. Seems she’s a domestic violence victim. Later in the day, Kara will wake up. Teddy will call Jane, who will call Nancy who will talk Kara out of her mania. No you will not go to a strip club audition, you will go home. Teddy, working with people until the end of the day. That man gets it, he’s beautiful, says Andre.

Late at night, I walk by the church. George is gone. 

* * * * 

Yesterday our friend, brother, companion Teddy Mapes died suddenly. The next post will tell that story. Almost too painful to talk about...

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