Monday, January 21, 2013

In the morning while it was still dark


It’s still dark as I head down Amsterdam to the church. Inside the darkened church, I walk up the four flights to the gym. Isis is there on the landing, greets me with a hug. Says that she was depressed that I wasn’t coming. She leads me by the hand inside. They are still in silence. Matt sees me, greets me with a hug and leads me to the food table laden with fresh organic foods. Root vegetables, garlic. And salmon. I take some with cream cheese and a rice cake. Someone offers me horse radish root. Isis offers me a chair and I sit and eat in the half light. Dawn starting to creep in through the windows.  

They finish their cleaning up. Soon a circle forms. From out of the silence, chants begin. Some like Yiddish niggunim. Some like Gregorian. Though I don’t know what they have been through or experienced, I can feel this:  it was significant. It was spiritual. It was important.  I can tell that this is a annual foundational experience that grounds and connects the people who make up Dzieci. And for the others, an adventure. They’ve been here for 24 hours. I will later learn that they’ve come from as faraway as Greece and Australia. Someone found a flyer  on the subway and waited a year to come. Around 7am, Matt reads from Moby Dick and it s over. 

Oh, grassy glades! Oh, ever vernal
endless landscapes in the soul;
in ye, - though long parched
by the dead drought of earthly life –
in ye, men yet may roll, like young horses
in new morning clover; and for some
few fleeting moments, feel the cool dew
of the life immortal on them.
Melville - Moby Dick - Chapter 114

They had created a memory space, a place for Teddy. Several of his pictures on the wall. They met him when they were rehearsing their last two plays. Felt him as part of their family. And at one point, as I look around the circle, I see  him sitting, leaning forward, in his Occupy t-shirt and sweat pants, hair damp and pushed back, his glasses on his face. And a big smile. As if to say, This  was really cool... He would have entered in with full openness to everything the experience could bring. 

The sun is up. It is light. I head home to rest before church. 

                            * * * * 

I stop at the Bangladeshi coup ship to pick up my bulletins before church. The doors are shut. Stephen comes down to help me. He needs rest. The drumming kept him up all night. 

As the service begins, I share again my wonder at the people who have preceded us. The people who built this place. How they chose the Zechariah quote to engrave above the door: Not by might, not by power, but my my spirit says the Lord god of Hosts.  Although they chose no human representation at first, they commissioned pre - Christian  Celtic iconography for their Tiffany windows. And now what I’ve learned about the baptismal font. What I had written off as overly florid late victoriana was in fact much deeper.Rising from the troubled waters of creation,  lotus flowers. For Egyptians a sign of rebirth, for Buddhists and Hindus spiritual awakening, purity and dedication. Themes clearly in line with baptism, but specifically non-Christian in origin. Consciously or not, our predecessors set in motion forces the ends of which they probably never imagined. 

As we read our sciptures, I interpret. 
Isaiah 62: 1-5  is all about vindication
1 Corinthians 12: 1-11 is all about  different gifts...we are all unique....not alike...yet also all valued....
And John 2: 1-11,  about  abundance. If there was no other Gospel, in this story we’ve got no  anunciation, no angels, no virgin birth ...just a  mother and her hard to understand special the end she will appear again at the  tomb.

So this is the second Sunday in Epiphany. The second Sunday in ordinary time. But it is anything but ordinary. Today is also Inauguration’s trivia  for you ...another way in which Obama is unique...After tomorrow, he will have been sworn in 4 times. Only Roosevelt had been sworn in that many times. The first time, the Supreme court justice messed up requiring Obama to come back the next day and do it again. This time, he will do it today and again tomorrow.

This is also Martin Luther King,Jr.  weekend...There is something fitting about that....We have in our nation an unfinished dialogue trying to take place...One about race and class and privilege. We forget that before he was murdered, King’s new project was the Poor People's Campaign, The class issue was every bit as controversial  as his protesting Vietnam. 

Let’s look at the Oscar nominated films...
*Lincoln (did you know that both Lincoln and King suffered from depression... and Mother Theresa too? )
*And Django with its theme of racial revenge
*And then war....with Argo and Zero dark Thirty..
*And inequality and injustice...the back story for .Les Miserables,.....

Race issues are still prisons, education...but also class...our middle classes disappearing...for example;
    • in 2010, top 1 % took home 93% of income growth in the USA(we are the 99%)
    • we in the middle class have less real income than we did in 1996
    • growth we had, the bottom 80% spent 110% of their income
    • greatest disparity since 1920
    • 1/5 of our children live in poverty ...lower than Latvia, Bulgaria and Greece
    • in 2010, tuition debt reached1trillion dollars and youth unemployment twice national average
Countries like Brazil lowered inequality while increasing growth and opportunity...and committed to providing youth access to education, food, health care in order to pursue aspirations. All this while our land of golden opportunity, is a dream  no longer true. 

Without addressing inequality, there is no way we are not only lifting up King’s dream but setting an agenda for a president’s second term...

So far I’ve got the makings of a good social justice sermon here....
we do that....just Thursday, court victories over Saigon Grill an Domino’s 

BUT one of the reasons we are still here is that following the land marking decision, in conjunction with a planned  merger, I was offered a 5 year social justice ministry...but can’t be conceived of apart from community, a worshipping community, a sustaining spiritual community..

And I could not see Social Justice separated fro a worshipping community apart  from a community...
In his darkest hour, Dr. King’s depression sent him back to the faith he grew up with. His African -American church.   And there’s something more...hear these words from his famous Dream speech:

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal."
I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.
I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
I have a dream today.
I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification; one day right there in Alabama, little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.
I have a dream today.
I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.

This is not about policy but prophetic must be able to see it, to believe it, make it real....,  to be it...

Dr. King saw it...and was able to articulate it so that we all could understand...a radical call for acceptance and inclusion.As for we need to be able to imagine it, articulate it so that we can begin living it out (we are...) and counseling us to:We live in a highly
  • to understand our own gifts and share them 
  • create a sense of abundance...

 Gentrified neighborhood ...and yet there are AIDS residences,  Supportive  housing sro’s, and public housing projects,  The city wishes the to be invisible people .... and keep them invisible.I believe that our call is to create a meeting grounds for different peoples...and attract people who see the value in the vision and are willing to sustain it..

Then and only then will we be free.....

As the plates are passed,we listened to Mahalia Jackson sing Precious Lord, take my hand....Dr. King's favorite hymn (). And we make our circle. Song we shall overcome.And the our Amens. And then Happy Birthday to Cara.  

Marsha has brought a fresh-baked apple pie to celebrate Cara’a birthday. Its melt in your mouth warm This is one of her gifts. Lilly and Samantha lead us  into organizing our Sandy relief supplies...It’s a good way to end this day at West-Park....

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