Thursday, February 28, 2013

Second Sunday in Lent: Mother Hen Savior


Day after. All is quiet. In to work on service. A purimspiel about to begin...


Where Heaven Meets Hell

Cara is first to arrive and immediately busy getting the church ready for worship as I go out to get the bulletins....

Today’s gospel is Luke 13: 31-35, a story of pharisees warning Jesus of Pilot’s intentions regarding him and Jesus’ response. 

First...notice...Pharisees here are on Jesus’ side...they shared many things in common..they maintained God was in the LAW, the WORD, no matter where, not just the temple. So they were kind of like Protestants. They get a bad rap in the Bible because they we so close to the Christians and after the fall of the temple, the Christian community’s closest rival. And today’s rabbis, our neighbors, are their direct descendants.

Jesus is still on his way to Jerusalem..pointing towards his Palm Sunday entry and final show down. 

So we see his day planner:
Today and tomorrow: casting out demons
Third day: finish my work
Here we see Jesus vs. the Empire again. The Empire does hurts, releases demons..., behave demonically...

He wants to make clear that once he leaves, he’ll be heading out of Herod’s territory and into Pilate’s, but not because he is afraid...but because he needs to go there...

I’m not sure about that prophet business..not dying outside of Jerusalem...prophets are killed outside of Jerusalem everyday....

But he weeps over Jerusalem. The city that kills the prophets...both the literal Jerusalem and any city...And Jerusalem is still killing prophets...Two of tonight’s Academy Award nominations deal with the current Israeli-Palestinian conflict...
“Gatekeepers” is the stories of IDF Shin Bet (security) operatives and their actions against Palestinians. 
“Five broken cameras” is about a Palestinian journalist’s efforts to record his own experiences. Ironically, he was almost sent back to turkey from the LA airport even with hos Oscar invite. It took the intervention of Michael Moore to get him in. 
In Berlin, I visited with friends who have been working years on Palestinian-Israeli relationships. Even beginning with the awareness if the importance of power analysis and its effects on relationships, they still have all but given up. The day for thinking people to people programs will  change anything is long past.  

The question we need to ask is who are we in this story?
A pharisee? Anxious to intervene, to warn...
Herod? Threatened by Jesus, ready to do him in...
Jesus? Feeling we are under threat? 
Perhaps all three?

So far we’ve got a good social justice sermon going here. But we need to go to a deeper place. We need to end with the image of Jesus as  a mother hen.. sheltering her chicks. And we wonder, what is a hen  against a fox? (It takes me a minute to get past the memory of day glow painted chicks at Easter time at Woolworth’s...yes, live chicks, not peeps...which as I mention it was apparently not a New York experience...) Jesus as a mother hen,sheltering, warming.... Related to but different than the shepherd image. The shepherd is human, tending their own or another’s flock of animals. This mother hen is sheltering her own....her own kind...her own children...

I can’t help but remember the testimonies last week at Teddy’s memorial service. That's what he did, opened his wings and took the chicks in.  That’s what this church is supposed to be about..taking care of one another...there is room for all of us chicks under those wings, even as we spread our own....

After we finish, we meet again to review our plans for our presentation with the Presbytery representatives on Tuesday. Cara continuing to red things up, as we used to say in Pittsburgh.

                           * * * * 

It may be Oscar night, but today is the second in Sanctuary NYC’s winter film series, Where Heaven Meets Hell... a film by Sasha Friedlander about the sulphur miners of Kawah Ijen in East Java, Indonesia. In the crater of an active volcano, miners engage in back breaking lung destroying labor to try and break a cycle of poverty that crosses generations. David Osit, whose Building Babel we saw last month, has produced the film and created its score. It’s a film that shows both the anguish of a difficult life but also the beauty of humanity of the workers in their care for one another and their dignity. Yet another graphic portrayal of what global capitalism does to people. A direct connection back to our own sweatshop workers. In this series, Sanctuary, West-Park and the Center are in complete solidarity. 

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Finishing with music, good


Cara and Amanda open the night

Early check in with Amanda about tonight’s Open Mic. Stephen is putting up signs. RL arranging for supplies. Marc setting up sound.

More numbers crunching with Martin. Marina in to dance.

Mim, Ted, Marsha and Jamie and I gather to try and create a workable budget. Phrases like bricks without straw and spinning gold from straw come to mind. hard, serious, relentless work. 

We take a break. Jamie to lead a tour. Ted, Mim and I meet with Ralph Farris of ETHEL, one amazing new music chamber group. They love the acoustics of the sanctuary. would be great to get them here.

Back to work. While we were gone, Marsha worked the figures and realized it might actually work. More head scratching phone calculator pushing mathematical sodukulike puzzling work. It might actually be coming together.  Exhausting.

No break time. Rudolfo here looking for money. (No hay.)  Amanda here to set up already. No time to go out, even to the B. Stephen, Jamie and I share a quick cup of wine. 

Rabbi Jan is getting everything set up for tomorrow night’s Purim party. Singing torch songs. Marc seems impressed as he works the sound. Rabbi Mark comes in and I introduce the two rabbis. 

RL, KT and Piano Dan
Ready or not, time to open. Amanda has once again transformed the chapel. She  has worked with Cara to take her words and music and turn it into a performance piece. She joins Cara in opening.  All the regulars ....Joe, Pat, RL, KT, Piano Amanda’s invited guests and people like Matt who we saw at the Living Room and Pat K’s daughter in law Maya and son Jay, fresh from their Bitter End gig. And I do several of my own songs, joined by Joe then Amanda. Trying out some new songs.

Matt Turk
Full house.  Stephen tending bar. Jamie stays, leaves for a movie with her daughter and returns. My friend Beppe. Martin and family.  As we’re closing, the Midnight Run shows up again with food and clothing.  So we’re still on the list...Exhausted. But finishing with music, good. 

Amanda, Joe and KT

Justice (still) being served


We are gathered to meet with the New York Foundation. Our Sweatshop Free Upper Westside campaign workers. The National Movement Against Sweat Shops. And Justice Will Be Served. And the NYF’s staff person.

The campaign has begun to pick up support from a new contingent of Columbia students. Organizing happening at multiple locations. And New Jersey. And Binghamton, as students continue to spread the word to thei colleagues. In multiple languages. Success in the Domino’s boycott campaign in moving form local to national corporation. The small victories, accomplished without pickets or boycotts, like Columbia favorite V&T Pizza, Gabriela’s (one of my favorites: cocina Oaxacana) and Land Thai and Grand Sechuan.   There’s a need for their work to be  better publicized.  There is also the win in the Domino’s case with the court holding not only the local franchise but the international corporation culpable. What is needed is to spread the word of the Domino's boycott wider. 

Hope speaks of how workers from around the city have learned that the picket lines are places where workers can gain information form other workers and gain resources  from other struggles for their own. New alliances develop. More outreach has begun with fast food workers around the city. 

I continue to be impressed at what is a true community based organizing model.  Undocumented immigrant workers, workers with papers, union workers, faith community, neighborhood residents,  politicians and perhaps most significantly, now79 small businesses. (And I’m honored that West-Park can be the base for the weekly outreach efforts.)  

The Foundation is impressed. Will renew its support. And extend an offer for a grant to help improve communications capacity. 

Economic justice happens in more than policy decisions in Albany and City Hall. It’s part of every consumer decision we make: where we buy our food, where we eat, what services we choose. Part of what the foundation wants is a list of the small businesses that have signed on to the campaign. It’s more than choosing not to, choosing to boycott. It’s also about positive choices, choosing for  those businesses that support justice. 

The list of Upper West Side businesses supporting the campaign can be found here:

The recording wasn't meant to be


Cara in and all about cleaning.  Martin in and all about numbers. Anna in and all about questions.  Someone from another church comes in with issues around their pastor which I tell him he’s  got to take his issue to Presbytery.

Kimberley and I meet for the first time this semester.. I hear about her successful production of the concert of her colleague Kristen Leigh. She and Stephen managed to pull it off well while I was in Berlin.  Trying to figure out how to engage Union students in an active participation in the  worship and spiritual life of West-Park. 

Amanda and I off for a long conversation sorting through issues. When  we get back, she has an extended conversation with Cara about her music which has the result of unintended consequences. Dinner at  Flor de Mayo, one of the last of the old  Cuban Chinese restaurants in the neighborhood now with a Peruvian twist. (And a supporter of the Sweatshop Free Campaign.)

In the chapel for a recording session with Amanda for her new songs are Joe and KT and Dan. The expected recording assistance is not going to happen. I understand why but am still upset. That’s not the way we want to do things around here. With Jeremy’s assistance, we set out to do it on our own, but that’s not what’s going to happen and lots of hours of time will be wasted.

Still, we get to hear Amanda’s new songs. Ukulele and great harmonies with KT. Their voices weaving and intertwining on can I ever live without you? with  Piano Dan on the voice trumpet.   One song with a chorus that just drags you in.... I don’t know where this love will go... She’s rediscovered something. Dan frustrated with the piano. The recording seems to suck. Wasn’t meant to be...

Monday, February 25, 2013

So his name is Geoffrey....


Press conference at Saigon Grill

Saigon Grill press conference

On the way to church, stop by the press conference in front of Saigon Grill. The Sweat Shop Free Upper Westside Movement has a victory to celebrate. The court has decided that Saigon Grill owes the workers more than 1 million dollars in back pay and damages. The question is whether they will make arrangements to pay up or go chapter 11 to avoid paying. At any rate, the decision sends a clear message: you cannot exploit workers, documented or not, for the sake of profits. 

They ask me ot speak and  i do, emphasizing that every consumer’s decision we make, where to shop, where to eat, which salon...every decision is a choice for or against economic justice.

Tracy and I meet for coffee afterwards. Through these conversations, and having seen and experienced some of the dark side of unmediated ideology, there must be something more, something deeper. Something that migt be found in communities of inclusion, equity and mutuality, communities based in relationships....a transformative way of being that seems to be the path Jesus is describing. I describe the political worship,(in German it’s a better expression..) I’d heard about in the old steel town of Duisberg, Germany. weekly meetings for study, reflection, discernment, critical analysis and prayer...wondering what it would take...She’s got an ides of her own idea centered around films, workers, reflections...

Martin stops in for numbers crunching and looking at dollars...

Meanwhile, Cara is playing the piano, Amanda improvising wordlessly over Cara’s music...

The prophet comes in and sits down in the narthex. Writing his cryptic notes. Danielle says Hello, Geoffrey. And I discover that he has opened up to her, shared his name. So  the prophet is Geoffrey. And so much still remains a mystery. 

In RL’s studio, RL, Poet Tim and Mandola Joe are in conversation. Amanda joins us. Soon she and Joe and I will head ti the Village, to the Living Room to hear our friend, Matt Turk. And Cara walks with us in the cold wind to the subway where she wil ride awhile....

Anointing and Betrayal


Amanda stops in to talk over what’s coming up in the week ahead.....Martin and his mom Luli come in to talk. Both very moved by last night’s memorial for Teddy. Luli says that it was not only a tribute to who Teddy was but to the vision of what this place not only could be but already is. And that it cannot be allowed to die. So she will get on an airplane later this week and make a trip to see if she can find a solution. There is still hope....

Mim comes in to see where we are, to see if there is any help she can offer.

Tonight’s Bible Study focuses on Mark 14:3ff, known as the Anointing in Bethany...the story of the woman anointing Jesus with costly oil. Traditionally connected with Mary Magdalene, and/or a prostitute. But nowhere here is a name given or any indication she was a prostitute. She could have just as easily been a wealthy woman. 

We talk about Mary Magdalene. her intimacy, friendship, with Jesus. How in her own gospel, she is questioned about her special relationship and when she responds, Peter chastises her. And we wonder if it was because of her importance that the official church attempted to delegitmate her by turning her into a prostitute. 

This passage clearly is an  anointing passage. Jesus as a king to be. But, how different this anointing. Taking place at the home of Simon the leper, one who wold be unclean. And in this case, Jesus does not heal him, make him clean. He simply is as he is. And the anointing is done by a woman, not a prophet. And it also seems she knows where his path is headed. 

And of course, the disciples don’t get it. They rebuke her, like they earlier did the children, say the money could have been used for the poor. Always missing who this ministry is for. All those who are outsiders. Jesus’ response to them is twofold: first of all, there will always be poor and therefore opportunities for individual acts of charity. But that is not what this is about. Secondly, relationship always supercedes theology and ideology. Something churches and movement organizations have yet to learn. And for this reason, the story of this unnamed woman will always be told in remembrance of her.....wherever the good news is proclaimed, throughout the whole world...

And for this reason Elizabeth Schussler Fiorenza entitled her classic of feminist theology In Remembrance of Her. 

We finish by talking about Judas Iscariot. How his name meant assassin. One of an underground cadre of rebels engaged in  acts of revolutionary violence. We have no story of Jesus’ calling Judas. We have to imagine it. What was his purpose? To convert him? Or did Judas seek him out as a possible leader? Did  he infiltrate the group because Jesus gathered popular attention? Did he decide to turn him in because of disappointment? 

Of the narrative’s complexity given its demands that Jesus be turned over to the authorities. Of Judas' history, connected by the early church with the betrayal of the Jews. Of his portrait in the Prayer Tower at Oral Roberts University, the only one with a beard. Of the attention given hm by Kazantzakis. Or Jesus Christ Superstar, or his own gospel. In which this role is essential to the narrative and he is the only one Jesus can trust with it. And it is with Judas we end our study. And end the day. 

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Teddy's Memorial Service


Beppe played the bowls
Teddy’s memorial service begins with my friend Beppe playing singing bowls as a meditation. Then Isis from Dzieci cries aloud and comes forward in a slow dance as Matt and the other Dzieci rise from various different places in the congregation joining in the chant and moving forward until they are all together in the front of the sanctuary.

Jane speaks
I welcome everyone and explain that this service will be a presentation for us to see the width and breadth of who Teddy was at West-Park, That we believe in the unexpected intersections of unlikely people, of unqualified acceptance, and Teddy fully lived that out. Connecting, managing, bringing people together. My colleague Jane speaks of his heart and his desire to take down the wall to see what was inside. 

The Teddy’s father speaks. When I met him the day after Teddy died, he was devastated. Could hardly speak. And at the funeral, said nothing. But tonight he has quite a lot to say. In his openness, his toughness, his humor, I see Teddy. He asks who doesn’t come from a dysfunctional family. He speaks of his intelligence. Inquisitiveness, taking apart every toy he’d ever been given. Including his bike which he had to put back together to ride. He plays off Jane’s wall reference. Teddy always taking down walls. How surprised he was to hear about Teddy’s life in the church given that he’d been so angry at God ever since his mother died. Of his many struggles. And deep appreciation for who Teddy had been able to be at West-Park. And how he had asked God to let him go before Teddy.

Tracy and Sarah
I explain that I’ve never written religious music but had written one after Teddy died. And I sing my Rest Awhile with Jeremy accompanying me. It really rolls and people are joining in. RL reads his Teddrick poem,( his voice  quavering then rising strong at the end.  The the Sanctuary singers featuring Pernell Walker sing Golden. 

Sarah and Tracy from the Sweatshop Free campaign talk about Teddy’s work with them. What they had learned from him. And both break down in tears. Kanaska comes up to talk about her time with Teddy in Occupy. An dhow he had taken care of her when she needed a safe place to be. Her street toughness giving way to an almost child like  vulnerability then her voice rising strong and true in a passionate song of elegy and affirmation. Martin comes forward, walks over to the family to share his own experiences with Teddy’s family. What Teddy had meant to his daughter, his family. 

I say that Teddy should have the last word at his ow memorial. So we play Zeljko’s movie Teddy. ( once again, the sanctuary fills with the warm rough sound of his voice, his unique take on the world. Zeljko had seemingly captured all of Teddy’s facial expressions. It ends with a long take on Teddy’s face, slowly breaking into a big heartfull smile as Sekou’s music plays. 

The the whole congregation joins in singing I Shall Be Reeased. 

As we move to the chapel for refreshments and an open mic, there is so much sharing. Steamfitters saying they would do anything for us. Best memorial service thy’d ever been to. Teddy’s daughter saying how good it was to hear her fathers voice again Teddy III (Teddy Bear) had found a picture of he an dhis dad that Dzieci had used. People who had never met or knwon abiut each other embracing, sharign memories. I ke expecting him to walk  any moment. And i missed him terribly. 


Back in the chapel, RL is getting the open mic ready. The Buskers open and Teddy’s dad enjoys the Irish music. Amanda makes sure to play while Teddy’s dad is still there. We all play something special. In his spirit. I play my New Mexico song he liked. 

Teddy Bear, Bob and Theodore Mapes, Sr.
And then the night is over. 

Amanda and RL with the Buskers

Rest Awhile

When the crowd's so demanding and the need is so great
And you feel like you just can't go on
Come walk beside me and soon you will see
The victory is already won
And you can rest awhile, rest awhile
Come away and rest awhile
(Jesus says) rest awhile, rest awhile
Come away and rest awhile

When your boat is too small and the water so wide
And the shoreline's just too far to see
I will quiet the storm, I will silence the sea
And you can walk on the water with me
And you can rest....

When the day goes too fast and the night feels too long
And the dawn seems so far away
I wil give you my rest, I will give you my peace
And you will rise to live a new day
And you can rest.....

Come you who are weary and so heavy laden
And lay your burdens down
For my yoke it is easy my burden is light
And you can trade your cross for a crown
And you can...

Thursday, February 21, 2013

First Sunday in Lent: Temptation

Amanda is back for the first time in a year. Her presence has been missed. 

It’s the first Sunday in Lent. I ask how many had experiences with Lent growing up. Many with Roman Catholic backgrounds remembered giving something up for Lent. Hope remembers Bible study with her father. And I remember when I was a kid, most of my friends giving something up. Like meat. And I mention that the first part of carnival...carne...refers to meat, the last chance to revel in meat. How Presbyterians always looked on Lent with suspicion. When  Andrea innocently mentioned my giving up something for Lent, my family looked, well, aghast.  Anyways, my hometown of Pittsburgh was a great place to be in Lent...Fish fries every Friday at the Catholic churches.

Lent also has to do with slowing Spanish lentamente...slowly... and I think of David Michalek’s ultra slow motion video spaces are opened u to walk into and explore that you never you miss so if it’s a season to slow down, what will we see?

But the real issue before us today is temptation. Hope says it’s what take us away from what we’re supposed to be. John says indecision. Anna a divided mind. (Could say heart..) 

This section follows Jesus’ baptism where the Holy Spirit declares this is my son, my beloved.. Then follows the Lucan genealogy where Jesus is traced back to Adam, son of God, not David. It’s humanity that is emphasized here, not kingship. And then thay very same spirit leads him int the desert for a confrontation with the devil. Like it’s necessary. Like spring training. 

The key is that title...son of god... the same title used by the devil, who says all the kingdoms of the earth (ie, Roman Empire) with his three temptations, food (sustenance), non-exclusive worship (keep your own religion but worship Caesar) , and peace and security. This is what Caesar can do, can you?
It’s Jesus vs. the Empire...

(Zeljko tells us  they were celbrating the 1700th anniversary of the Chritianiztion of the Roman Empire (or the imperialization of Chirtiamity?) under Constantine in hs home town of Nis. Ul called ths 1700 years of the misuse of the cross. )

Bu there’s another way to look at it. Like each of these is the opportunity to take a short cut. And, like what you learn from community organizing, there are no shortcuts. Try to skip a step, especially in relationship all galls apart and takes longer to pull back together.

And for us, it’s the difficult task of discernment or temptation  over against call. Is what you’re drawn towards a call, a distraction, or a temptation...that’s what we look for in our slowed down time when we can look deeper...

That is the journey we are on for  this Lent...discerning our calls, both  as individuals and as a congregation...

just remember...the devil left...for an opportune time...

After services, session meets to review our ever shifting landscape...and Amanda is singing wth Cara....time for a lunch....then Teddy’s memorial service.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Remembering Adham 2013


Today we gather for the fourth anniversary of the death of Adham Brenes. Once again, family and friends have gathered to remember joy and vitality of of a young man whose brief life touched so many so deeply.
Morning has broken

There’s technical issues so that the sideshow we wanted to see can’t be shown. And YouTube keeps having buffering issues as we try to play Cat Steven’s Morning has broken so that we all can sing along.
Arcadia shares this poem               
The Dash
by Linda Ellis copyright 1996
I read of a man who stood to speak
at the funeral of a friend.
He referred to the dates on her tombstone,
from the beginning…to the end.
He noted that first came the date of her birth
and spoke of the following date with tears,
but he said what mattered most of all
was the dash between those years.
For that dash represents all the time
that she spent alive on earth.
And now only those who loved her
know what that little line is worth.
For it matters not, how much we own,
the cars…the house…the cash.
What matters is how we live and love
and how we spend our dash.
So, think about this long and hard.
Are there things you’d like to change?
For you never know how much time is left
that can still be rearranged.
If we could just slow down enough
to consider what’s true and real
and always try to understand
the way other people feel.
And be less quick to anger
and show appreciation more
and love the people in our lives
like we’ve never loved before. 
If we treat each other with respect
and more often wear a smile,
remembering that this special dash
might only last a little while.
So, when your eulogy is being read,
with your life’s actions to rehash…
would you be proud of the things they say
about how you spent YOUR dash?
rembrances of Adham

The dragonfly
We talk about the different icons of Adham’s life. What’s new is a dragonfly in a glass box created by an uncle.  A dragonfly showed up at Hugo and Arcadia’s shortly thereafter. It has come to be a common symbol for those that loved him of the presence of Adham’s spirit. 
Arcadia shows a photo of the many tattoos Adham’s friends have had done to honor him. From dragonflies to quotes to the sneakers over the phone lines image. And a young woman shows the tattoos she has just had done this week. 
There are words from friends. From relatives. From my colleague Regi who was my associate when Adham died. Regi assures us of the ongoing nature of love. n ether side of the line between life and death. And how living, in dying, we belong to God, we belong to                                                                                                                                                                                   God...
Arcadia speaks of what a long  journey it is from a mother who has lost her child, especially remembering all that was gentle, kind and good abut Adham.
When it is my turn, I recall that after our years some questions still haunt. And that I believe someday a heart will be opened and someone  will speak the Truth , will resolve the  unfinished questions that remain.
And how before Adham lived in one place, Now he is present in all the hearts  and souls in  the room and those beyond the room And that while like the little glitches in the service, indicate, life is not                                                                                          perfect. We know that all too painfully well. But what is perfect is the way that a circle of people, a community can be with us and see us through painful  times, celebrate with  us in  times of joy. And that in the midst of our community, Adham is present still. And will continue to be. 
                                                                 One Love

Others share their stories, funny stories, life affirming stories. And we all listen to and song with Bob Marley’s One Love, Adham’s signature song.

Let’s get together and feel alright...
As we sit and talk, one mother wants to know why we talk about wanting to know the  ttruth. And i explain that there are these facts don’t make sense. Answers held back.
Arcadia (Left)
And as is always the case, we go to gather in  the chapel where a feast waits. Arcadia is the embodiment of the biblical precept of hospitality. Yes, it is part of Nicaraguan culture, but it is the essence of who Arcadia is. An essence that has remained even through eat could be unbearable grief. I’ve learned  that what gets us through is remaining true to who we are, especially in the  ways that take us  outside of ourselves and connect us with others. 
As it was in the beginning (One love)
So shall it be in the end (One heart)
Alright, "Give thanks and praise to the Lord and I will feel all right."
"Let's get together and feel all right."

Hug and chukd (K