Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Who do you belong to?


Long, extended conversation with representatives from a seriously interested party. Marsha, Leila and Stephen with me on our side. And our friend Ann from the Landmarks Conservancy, who’s been over almost every inch of this building and helped us with the 10 year plan for restoration, here to answer questions. An overly long discussion of awnings and signage. What will it take to get the scaffolding down? Oh, around $450-600,000. I’m seriously pondering what it could be like to not have the church house .To have a firm separation. Even with a good neighbor. Feel tired when it’s over.

Anna walks in during the meeting. I walk out to talk with her. She wants us to keep her papers safe for her. And wants help to find an attorney to help her draw up a will. I’m touched by her trust. Of course we can do this. 

Jim comes by to drop off some papers he’d collected over the years. He’s already become a key member over at Jan Hus, across the park. We’ve always thought of that church as part of the family. It’s a good place for Jim and Holly. In their neighborhood. But I/we miss them. They gave much over the years. Through some of the most difficult times. Carried a heavy load on that part of our journey. I feel deep gratitude. I feel the absence. For a moment I remember our men’s writing and spirituality group. Jack, our leader. Seasons.

A woman has come in  seeking help. I’ve only got a few dollars left. This keeps happening. She looks at me with that is that all you’ve got look. And I return the yes that is look. She says, you a minister, right? I say, yes I am. She says, so pray for me. So I place my hands on her shoulders, close my eyes, call her by name, do just that. She thanks me, leaves. 

Kirsten is a young woman from George Fox on Oregon. Working as an intern for Amanda. She’s come to check us out. Part of Amanda and Bill’s plan for the tower. She asks good, professional questions. I give her the tour. Tell her the stories. As always, Amanda is thinking creatively and outside the lines. I’m anxious to see a plan.  

RL talks to us about taking care of he and Harvey's information. This too is a honor. He sees the remains of Danielle's banana. So why are bananas so popular? He asks. She shakes her head. Because they've got appeal...
                                                   * * * * 

Time for Bible study. Tonight we’re into the 12th chapter of Mark. Confrontations and controversies for Jesus. Starting with the question of taxes. You can only get this if you see it in sequence following the questioning of his authority and his parable of the wicked tenants.

Lots at play here:
  • Unlikely coalition of the pharisees, the local synagogue rabbis, finding the living God in the word of God and the Herodians, officials of the Roman installed ethnarch Herod. Sort of the Ahmed Chalabi of his day. Normally enemies, see shared interest in eliminating Jesus.
  • The tax was hated as going to the occupying power. No taxation without representation.
  • Seek to entrap him with their question about taxes. If he says no, he's  subversive. if he says yes, he loses his popular support.
  • Whose image? No religious...or patriotic, Jew would carry a coin with the image of Caesar on it. Jesus carried no denarii. Those that do are already compromised. 
  • The word render means to pay to someone you are indebted to.
  • This is in no way a passage of compromise. Jesus' message is clear. Nothing belongs to Caesar. Everything belongs to God. Who do you belong to? But his words are so careful, there’s nothing they can do.
  • If everything belongs to God and we are called to be stewards, we have to concern ourselves with all of creation. every part of life.  We talk about how his theology has inspired civic participation. For Calvin, the highest calling was that of magistrate. Anna asks about other examples, like schools. And we speak of the long tradition of  Presbyterian schools and hospitals across the world. Generations of post-colonial  leaders educated in Presbyterian schools. It’s about stewardship....
  • And why no matter who wins an election, which party or power, we must always hold them accountable. Just like IAF.
Our traditional reformed way of political decision making:
  • Check the Bible
  • Check the tradition
  • Check all available secular analyses
  • Pray and listen for the guidance  of the Holy Spirit
  • Fight with all your might for what you believe is right
  • Go to bed with the thought that you might be  wrong

Next story is the Sadducees, the doctors of the law. A trick question about the tradition of brothers-in-law taking the place of their dead brother in a marriage. And who gets the woman in the afterlife?
  • Typical lawyer’s question, says Marsha.
  • They’re asking about an afterlife they don’t even believe in.
  • The real issue here is keeping property in a family. The woman is only a vehicle of posterity. And they want this dominance to continue even in the after life. 
  • Jesus says in effect, Really? In the community he is creating, these kind of patriarchal relationships will no longer be tolerated. Not in a community of mutuality. God is God of the living, not the dead. Live right now,what comes after will take care of itself.
One more questioner. A scribe has been listening. One responsible for copying the Torah carefully. Keeping God’s word right. He has heard. He has seen. And his question comes from a place of sincerity. Real inquiry.

Jesus answers that the Shema, hear O Israel, the Lord your God s the greatest commandment. (And why the concept of the Trinity would never make sense to a faithful Jewish person.)
  • And the second commandment is like unto it, Love your neighbor as yourself. Nothing new here. Hillel said something very similar. But Jesus connects these two verses from two different places so as to say, and the only way you can love God with all your heart, all your strength and all your soul is to love your neighbor as yourself. 

Sounds good, but...Anna is perplexed at how we get fro that kind of ethic to religious support of income disparity, military dominance, oppression. I say that once you become the official religion of the empire, everything changes. 

Then Marsha stops me. So what’s the payoff?Why should I do this? 
I mention the feeding stories as  demonstrations.  
She says so he’s speaking to hungry people, do they have to wait until the next world to get fed?
But the feeding was real, the hunger met here, now. 
OK, but why?
I have to think about this Perhaps experiencing it is self-evident. We have to create an experience that is self-validating. This way of life makes us happier,more fulfilled. I think again about the black church. About lgbtq worship services  and in the communities  of struggle who experience salvation and freedom and liberation within their communities before it becomes manifest in the world around us. 
But....says Marsha.
We need to talk about this more. 

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