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Monday, May 6, 2013

Sixth Sunday in Easter: waiting for the Advocate



5/5

Stephen  has the doors open and ready for services as I arrive. I check the side and see that our guest from yesterday is still there, unmoved after 24 hours. I want to remind him that he said he would be struck blind if he failed to move but choose not to. Tell him its been too long and that he has to go. All right, all right, I know...you did me a solid yesterday. Just give me ten minutes, just give me ten....

I pick up the bulletins at the Bangladeshi copy place. Pick up the grape juice and bread for communion. And when I get back, he’s gone but a terrible, rubber gloves and disinfectant mess remains. No, just no. My heart sinks.

Two visitors today. A young woman from India and  young man  from South Korea. Just in the city for the week. I always wonder what they’re looking for when they come. Worry about their anxious looks as people are slow to arrive. Know that if they’ll just stay, we have  a chance. So I start with a brief socio-architectural history of the church. Always good for our own members as well....


And then its time to begin. In our prayers, Stephen lifts up our 24 hour visitor. After reading the Gospel (John 14: 23-29), I pull out my guitar and play I’ll Fly Away...what better song for an Ascension reference? By that old singer/preacher the Rev. Gary Davis. I’ve heard it every way from Appalachian to second line. And then it’s time for the sermon.



                            I'll fly away





Feliz el cinco de mayo! Anyone know what that is? It’s an American holiday lifting up Mexican culture. (San Corona day?) Not Mexican independence but celebrating the unlikely victory of the Mexicans over the French at the battle of Puebla, May 5th, 1862.

In a crisis that feels all too contemporary, Benito Juarez had called for a  moratorium on foreign debt. In opportunistic response, France invaded.This would be the last  European  invasion of the Americas. And  France had not been defeated in 50 years. It would still take the Mexicans another five years to drive out the French.

The day has special significance in  NewYork City because  so many of our Mexican immigrants are  from the state of Puebla that there is a Casa Puebla on Broadway, a consulate for the state. The Upper West Side, for the Mexican community is la pueblacita. 

It was also 43 years ago today that we experienced the shootings at Kent State. A day that permanently changed me. The day I learned that revolution is serious business. I tried to share that message with  our OWS  friends last year. It takes discipline. You have to be prepared for the long haul.  Discipline.And determination.


                                                                    Four dead in Ohio
  
This was also the week in  which NBA player Jason Collins came out. That’s just a beginning.

So that's what I'm thinking about today.....the long haul....we've been celebrating the season of Easter....the presence of the risen Christ  with us, teaching us resurrection living. But those days are ending. He's getting ready to leave. Later this week, Thursday, is Ascension day, or like the Girl Scouts,  fly up day..One year I discovered that it is a public holiday in Germany.... Himmelfahrt....heaven journey....We know its important in NYC because alternate side parking is suspended.

Jesus is preparing disciples for life after he's gone.....getting us ready for Pentecost....

He will go but something will remain. He calls the spirit, Paracletas....the advocate...intercessor, comforter, companion.... And in my colleague Heidi's childrens’ sermon today, ...the babysitter...the one who takes care of you when your parents are out. But think about that word, advocate.....

In the Biblical tradition, Satan is the accuser, the prosecuting attorney...it's that voice you hear inside....the one who tells you the worst things you believe about yourself...that you're worthless...that it's too late...that you'll never make it....that you should just give up.Do you know that voice? That's Satan....

The advocate is the defense attorney....the one who stands up for you...defends you...makes the case for you....helps you to believe in yourself.

These are not external realities but internal...the voices that are inside you... Again...both those voices inside us....

He leaves us with Peace....Not as the world gives peace. What is peace? It is  more than Pax Romana.....the order imposed and controlled by the forces of power and domination. In Hebrew it is Shalom. Connotations of wholeness.....peace with justice.....spiritual and social..it is what we want here....no trouble, no fear....

I am going....and coming he says....a time we can reflect on partings....we live through them all the time. And ot’s always hard. But a coming back to look forward to.



We've been on this journey a long time.....and we  will be longer...it will take patience, persistence....we will not be alone...the advocate is with us, silencing those voices....

And the promise  peace, inside of us between us, peace.

And today we celebrate communion. Elders Leila and Arcadia helping to serve. 
And then we make our circle. Tell our guests once they’ve been in our circle they will always be with us. The woman from India comes up to me, smells and says, I’ve never seen a minister with a guitar and laptop before. 

It’s a challenge. But it always makes me happy when i know that we’ve overcome , changed expectations and made people feel glad they were here. That it was worth their while. But it’s also hard.

The session reviews Stpehen’s proposed brochures and printed materials. Arcadia recalls Amanda’s original and Stephen says how he’s used it. 

And we talk real estate and negotiations. What we can accept. What we cannot. Does it have toe  a comparison of apples and apples or can oranges and kumquats work just as well? And will there be enough to move beyond just keeping the walls standing and the doors open? And at what cost to our spirit? Our souls? Our church? What happens every day here is church, but what of the community? The body? As the days grow longer, our time grows shorter. How long can grace sustain? We reach no conclusions.

The conversation continues out onto the steps. And Cara and put on black rubber gloves, slip around the side and take care of the mess. Gingerly and carefully lifting up ruined clothes and blankets. The sweeping. And finally Mr. Clean. And more Mr. Clean. If only the rest of it could be that easy....

Ahead is the opening afternoon of the church league softball season. And to end the day right, a Cinco de Mayo fiesta at my favorite neighborhood's parish. 





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