Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The gated city grows


It's Martin Luther King, Jr.'s national holiday day. And Obama's second inaugural day.

There were two visitors, Sandy volunteers, who just came in to take a look. One was a member of First Presbyterian, Honolulu. The other was being given a good Sanctuary pitch. I did my best to explain the difference. 

RL continues to face Jobian afflictions that would be close to unbelievable if they weren’t true.  At least one or two exhibit the kind of brainless sadism that only certain state bureaucracies can inflict. Still, he can listen to my complaints.  And it’s a good time to pull out Dusty Withers: the Lost Episodes, his homage to and recreation of old time radio cowboy shows with a theme song that surreptitiously burrows into your brain and stays there an unwelcome guest. (Ask Danielle)

Cara has been hard at work on clearing the sanctuary of left over papers, etc. from the Sanctuary service yesterday afternoon. She finds a French press with some left over coffee. Hmmm, we’ll have to ask about that. It’s a blessing to have her here when shes not  playing piano for dance classes. But I love to hear her play when after some warm up exercises she floats off into various shades of blue.

Finally time for Bible study. Tonight we pick up with Mark 12: 35, which immediately follows the discussion of the greatest commandment. (28-34). It’s at the end of a whole series of conflicts and dialogues with the various parts of the national and religious establishment. Into this comes the question about David’s son. In essence, Jesus basically negates the idea of a triumphant Messiah from the Davidic line who will overthrow the Romans and reestablish an empire. To which he says, just plain no. That’s not what my movement is about. Empires are no better just because our side runs them. (And so welcome our reformed critique of any party in power. Or community organizing’s holding any party in power accountable. All systems of dominance and control are over. And the people listen  to him with delight? It can only be they enjoy his tweaking the establishment so much they overlook his critique of the whole thing. (Occupy Temple?)

Which easily leads into his critique of the scribes, (38-40). Who wear fancy clothes, enjoy being treated with deference in the marketplace, seats at the dais at charity banquets, all all too familiar of religious leaders who cozy up to the elite. He could  throw in country club memberships as well. (Yes, not like this ended with’s endemic...) Worst of all, they devour widow’s houses.... Because heirless widows were considered incompetent, they were often appointed trustees over their property, exacting their own administrative fees and then ultimately the property itself. Reversing the basic demand of scripture to care for the widows and orphans. 

I think of this every time  I'm in housing court and see the weak and vulnerable who have been barely and courageously  holding on pushed out of their rent stabilized apartments  so that landlords can get market rate.  In every gentrifying neighborhood. The gated city grows. And the Bloomberg city hall ends rent subsidies for the most vulnerable. They devour widows’ houses....they will receive the greater condemnation....

Which you have to read in  order to understand the story of the widow’s mite...(41-44) Often used as a romantic paean to the spiritual superiority of the poor, it is actually more a lament. For the widow put in all she had, all she had to live on... Yes her faith is the better for its total trust. But the system has exploited her. 

No wonder that what comes next is the destruction of the temple foretold. (13: 1-8)The symbol of the nation itself must come down because the entire system is hopelessly corrupt. Jesus the (non-violent) Django to the Temple’s Stephen....those who serve in the master’s house are as much a part of the problem as the master. Jesus is announcing the end of privilege and exclusivity and the dawning of a new community of mutuality and inclusivity.  ...the beginnings of the birth pangs....

Barack Obama was inaugurated today to begin his second term. He gave a good progressive speech. Seneca Falls, Selma, Stonewall.....a good construction, that... The agenda is clear. Is the will? 

John helps me lock up and I head home in the growing cold...

(Once again Bible study inspired and informed by Ched Meyer's Binding the Strong Man...)

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