Tuesday, August 27, 2013

8/28/63 remembered


                                          Martin Luther King, Jr. 8/28/1963
Do you remember me? the person asking looks familiar. And then simultaneously we say Sarah...It’s been many a year. I ask where she’s been. Living five years in  Nyack with a new husband. In town to visit her son, same age as my Nate. We exchange the sons news reports. Ask if she’s still singing. No, more writing music and children’s books. Had warm memories of being here. Wanted to check in.
And the memories come flooding back. Bittersweet. Her coming to us years ago was special for me. She brought her son who hung out with Nate. One of those who was slowly, cautiously trying to find her way back to church. Wanted to share her voice. Had been a singer-songwriter for awhile. And she did. Singing in the choir. And then most special of all, she made liturgical  stoles for Katherine and me. Matching. With special scraps from her sewing box and pieces that had been with her for a long time. Even from home. And she wrote a beautiful letter describing what she had done, where the pieces came from. 
Sadly, it came to an end when she was accidentally copy-alled into what was one of innumerable West-Park squabbles carried out via e-mail. Someone making their way back in doesn’t want to find the stress and tension, meanness, that drove them away in the past. Or that they want a break from in their regular life.  A key to a church being able to grow is not getting sucked into drama. Much as those already in seem to enjoy ..or even want that, anyone new will be driven away. .
                                                      Bob Dylan sings Blowin in the wind

We’re remembering the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington today. I pull out my guitar. Sing blowin’ in the wind...a song of the era...and people sing along. We read our scriptures, starting with Jeremiah. Who protests about his youth, remembering that Martin Luther King, Jr. was a young man in 1963.  Only 43. And we can see the connection to Jeremiah 1: 9  Now I have put my words in your mouth. Hebrews 12 speaks of ...a voice that shook the earth...(25) and how it was was that kind of power that came through Martin Luther King, Jr. on that day. A nation was shaken to its core. We recall how it was the dogs of Bull Connor  that convinced the Civil Rights establishment to commit to the march. And a few weeks later, the bombing of the church in Birmingham. And the next summer, Freedom summer...and the murder of Goodman, Cheney and Schwerner. Earth shaking indeed.   Maybe even heaven shaking.
And finally Luke 13:10-17 with its exploration of the law and breaking the law for the greater good. We talked about the whole use of civil disobedience in social change. And how every time I’ve been arrested, judges were willing to consider the duress defense, that is, breaking a law in order to prevent something worse from happening, and every time found not guilty. 
Then we watch the video of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s speech that day in Washington, DC at the foot of the Lincoln Memorial. What some have called the second greatest speech in American history. Second only to Lincoln himself. And then we reflect. How King’s speech was rooted in the American dream. Calling America to its best sense of itself. Granting it the trust in its capacity to be true to its ideals. With the  use of the words of My Country ‘tis of thee...let freedom ring! and use of the prophets Amos and Isaiah. 
I’m one of the few who actually remembered seeing it live. How it struck deep into my heart. Brought tears to my eyes. (Still does.)  Deacon James remembers growing up on Long Island, Freeport. (Where Andrea grew up, and my parents in law..) And serving in the Korean War. How King helped him transform his anger into something else. We all have our own reaction. Some remember the  assassination of Malcom X and that the two were moving closer together .
So where are we today? So much left to do. Some ways better. Some ways worse. I remember when my friend Uli from Germany was with us when we poured into the streets to  celebrate Obama’s victory. Broadway closed. Celebration everyhwere. Uli said it reminded him of when                                                                     the Berlin Wall fell. I said that today for us another wall had fallen.
Disappointed though we are, a page had been turned. There would be no going back. The voices of that day in Washington, DC echo still.
After services, a family from Spain has com into visit.  I greet them in Spanish and Arcadia comes up to greet them with her usual grace and hospitality.
Later, Session will approve a term sheet. Next week we will begin actual leas negotiations. I think I can see light ahead....I want to believe it...

Blowin in the Wind
Bob Dylan

How many roads most a man walk down
Before you call him a man ?
How many seas must a white dove sail
Before she sleeps in the sand ?
Yes, how many times must the cannon balls fly
Before they're forever banned ?
The answer my friend is blowin' in the wind
The answer is blowin' in the wind.

Yes, how many years can a mountain exist
Before it's washed to the sea ?
Yes, how many years can some people exist
Before they're allowed to be free ?
Yes, how many times can a man turn his head
Pretending he just doesn't see ?
The answer my friend is blowin' in the wind
The answer is blowin' in the wind.

Yes, how many times must a man look up
Before he can see the sky ?
Yes, how many ears must one man have
Before he can hear people cry ?
Yes, how many deaths will it take till he knows
That too many people have died ?
The answer my friend is blowin' in the wind
The answer is blowin' in the wind.

America Lyrics (first verse)
Katherine Lee Bates
My country, 'tis of thee,
Sweet land of liberty,
Of thee I sing;
Land where my fathers died,
Land of the pilgrims' pride,
From ev'ry mountainside
Let freedom ring!



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