Monday, December 10, 2012

Second Sunday in Advent: Prepare to Imagine


Second Sunday in Advent. 

Teddy and Andre are rapt in conversation when I arrive. Everything is set and ready. After I read Luke 3:1-6, I play Prepare ye the way of the Lord from Godspell. ( )And mention that it was from 1973. I used to tease my dad about his nostalgia for Glen Miller. And he was only two decades removed from the big band era. My cultural references are at least three decades old. (No four!, Teddy says.)

I ask if anyone remembers the scene in the the shofar sounds...and then from all over the city, people are walking out of offices, restaurants, subways, wherever they are and streaming to Bethesda fountain in Central Park. Where they go leaping into a fountain, a John character pouring water over their heads, people splashing water over their own heads, and each other. 

I love when John the Baptist comes to town in Advent...and all our passages speak to him today...Malachi 3: 1-4 is essentially his job description, Luke 1:68-79 is the prophesy of who he will be and the blessing of his work and  Luke 3, the beginning of his ministry...

When  we read Malachi, I had John read verse 5, which the lectionary writers had left out. We need to hear it:

Then I will draw near to you for judgment; I will be swift to bear witness against the sorcerers, against the adulterers, against those who swear falsely, against those who oppress the hired workers in their wages, the widow and the orphan, against those who thrust aside the alien, and do not fear me, says the Lord of hosts.
That’s pretty clear. Sorcerers is not about practitioners of earth religions, like my shaman friends. It’s about those who use their gifts to manipulate people through their fears and anxieties. Adultery is plain and simple.But it’s also about betrayal. Broken promises. Hired workers? that’s the living wage campaign here in New York City....And the last part, you could translate that deny foreigners their rights....our oppression of undocumented workers...what we are fighting against in the Upper West Side Sweat Shop Free campaign. The ignoring of undocumented people in the wake of Sandy. Malachi is clear. 
The canticle is traditionally known as the benedictus. The words of Zechariah, the  father of John...He had been struck silent because of his doubt when the angel Gabriel told him that his wife Elizabeth would have a child. I knew that Zecharaiah’s role in the temple made him a tall steeple preacher. But I have now learned that as a temple official, he was a part of the ruling class, the socio-religio.political economic elite. In a word, the  99%...That’s what John is walking away from...
Luke is very specific in his naming of political and religious officials,whether historically accurate or not. It’s the political plus a word, the empire. What Jesus will bring is not the empire. 
Why is John in the wilderness? It’s the empire can’t survive there..Wilderness is where the the people in exile became a nation...where the people were completely dependent upon God. Were fed by God...manna...John himself survives on a divine diet... 

I think what Godspell was trying to say was that the city can be a wilderness, too. I just saw that the Museum of Reclaimed Urban Space has just opened. That’s what they called the Lower East Side squats... reclaimed urban space...their most recent addition is the bicycle used in Zucotti Park to generate electricity. 

John enters into the desert to call us to repent, to turn around and go another direction. To turn away from lives have been compromised, that have lived with take a bath, to wash off that loss of integrity...

You know what yesterday was? The anniversary of John Lennon. Our John. Our prophet. Who had the reverse John the Baptist story, IE, grew up working class, fell into riches. And the  in this neighborhood, lived just as a New Yorker, an Upper Wested.

As John Lennon once said war is over if you want it,  John the Baptist’s 
message is Rome is over if you want it . He called us to imagine, to imagination. Because we have  to be able to imagine it if we want to live it. To imagine this church filled with beauty, filled with people who care about one another...people with out papers, citizens, yuppies and SRO residents meeting one another here....we are called to imagine....

And I play John Lennon’s song...

Imagine there's no heaven
It's easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people living for today

Imagine there's no countries
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people living life in peace

You, you may say 
I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one
I hope some day you'll join us
And the world will be as one

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people sharing all the world

You, you may say 
I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one
I hope some day you'll join us
And the world will live as one


It’s about the will to  reverse and change. And like Friday’s 
Purisisma celebration gave us a taste of ...all flesh shall see it together.....
imagine that....

As our service ends, Jamie announces that it was my birthday last week and I hadn’t let anyone know. So she brought a cake. With candles! And I blew them out as people sang happy birthday. And this was good.

The session met and discussed our building update. Holding our breath. Hoping. And a resolution from our friend at Jan Hus, Gary Cornell,asking us to join with them in calling on the Boy Scouts to welcome gay youth. And Christmas carolling. And Sandy.We will become Presbytery’s designated drop off center for Manhattan. Just as we became one of 2 hub  churches post 9-11. 

As I pass through the sanctuary one more time, the Sanctuary NYC choir s practicing. And they stop and sing me a rousing happy birthday. And two of the women  launch into a bouncy Happy birthday, happy birthday, happy birthday, and I feel very good. 

I take the mic and say, this is the place where I’m supposed  to say you shouldn’t. Ah but hey, you should...and then, y’all put me in in mind of an old   Donovan song....wear  your love like heaven....that’s what I’ll do this afternoon...wear your love like heaven...big time thanks to you....
Yes. Felt very good. 

                                * * * * 

Come back for Dzieci’s Fools’ Mass. Not many there at the first show. But Don Shriver, former president of Union and his wife Peggy are there. The idea is there is an asylum where a priest always said mass. And now he is dead. So the inmates have to create it for themselves. It’s filled with buffoonery, poignancy, madness, and ancient chants from the 11th through 16th centuries.

In the end, it moves from disturbing to profoundly moving. The dead priest, Father Jose, had made them a choir, given them a home who had no home, taught them to care for one another. And now?  And by inference, what do we do when God has disappeared? When we are left all alone?

While I know RL gets the Marat/Sade, Peter Brook resonance, I appreciate Teddy’s tabula rasa take on things....there’s nothing left but to take care of one another...he says.

After the mass has ended,  I give my friend Beppe and his friend Katarina and her friends a quick tour of the sanctuary. Katarina interested in possible space for her art.

The acting troupe has finished changing back into street clothes. We like to finish with a circle, says Matt. And asks Teddy and I to join them. And after silence, I lead us in a sung Amen. And the circle disperses.

The mass ends with a XIIth century French chant:

Novus annus, dies magnus assit in Leticia
Lux eternal de superna venit ad nos regia.

The New Year, let this great day arrive with joy,
Eternal light spreads over from above.

No comments:

Post a Comment