Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Another West-Park moment


Another August Sunday. Anna here to greet me when I arrive. And of course, puppy.

Today we start with Isaiah (5:1-7). I explain that Isaiah was a court prophet. One of the kings’ advisors. From an educated and literate background. Amos, Hosea and Micah were all working class or peasant prophets. Isaiah wrote towards a reformed monarchy, what a king should be. Which is why so many of his poetic passages later get connected to Jesus as a king, a messiah. For the others, they saw the monarchy itself as needing to be done away with and a return to the previous confederacy of peasants and tribes. Both Isaiah and Micah have the same passage about swords into plowshares, but what surrounds the passages is radically different. Micah sees everyone now sitting under their own vine and fig tree, a more radical social vision than Isaiah’s. (Look beyond the specific passage to see, eg through the end of Micah Chapter 4....)

And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.
Isaiah 2:4[2]
Beat your plowshares into swords and your pruning hooks into spears: let the weak say, I am strong.
Joel 3:10[3]
And he shall judge among many people, and rebuke strong nations afar off; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up a sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.Micah 4:3[4]

The final words about bloodshed (...he expected justice, but saw blooodshed..5: 7) are hard to take as we see Egypt collapsing into violence. And I remember my anger after the film Paradise Now, the other night.. the humiliation of the Palestinians....The prophet’s words, sadly,still truth...

Hebrews brings us back to faith again...(11:29-12;2) repeating the history of the children of Israel. I recall Arlo Guthrie;s added verse to the traditional O Mary don’t you weep...

Moses was the first to get the notion that
the  world is safer with the army in the ocean
Pharoah’s  army got drounded, O Mary don’t you weep....

Paul’s descriptions of what befalls the faithful are good descriptions of what befell the early martyrs during and after Paul...(11:35-37)

 Women received their dead by resurrection. Others were tortured, refusing to accept release, in order to obtain a better resurrection. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment.They were stoned to death, they were sawn in two, they were killed by the sword; they went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, persecuted, tormented--of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground.
But we really want to focus on the ..great cloud of witnesses...that surrounds us. So we take time to talk about our cloud of witnesses. Not surprising that many speak of their parents. Family, friends. Stephen mentions his first boss. And I talk about Ray Swartzbach, my college chaplain, who in every way showed me what a minister was supposed to be. 
Finally we talk about Luke. (12:49-56). Is this the Jesus we know bringing fire? That same old song again, 
God gave Noah the rainbow sign no more water, the fire next time...Pharoah’s army got drounded, O Mary don’t you weep...
And not bringing peace,but division (12:51) I recall that in Matthew 10:34, Jesus actually says not peace, but a sword...what’s going on? Well, at minimum, it’s simply an accurate description of what happens when radical discipleship is required. I remembered my experiences in Nicaragua, how each of the Chamorro children published a newspaper, each ideologically different, each claiming to follow in their journalist murdered father’s path. The family dinners I attended where several rounds of angry walk outs sand returns would take place.
And the final words about being able to predict weather (12:56) but not being able to interpret the present time. As Dylan would said, You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows...which led to the Weathermen break off from Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and then ultimately to the Weather Underground as the ’70’s got crazy.  Which way is the wind blowing today?
Today I sing, How can I keep from singing? A capella. An old Irish or Scottish song. And add the verse Robeson added during the Mc Carthy HUAC red scare days:
When tyrants tremble, sick with fear,
And hear their death-knell ringing,
When friends rejoice both far and near,
How can I keep from singing?
In prison cell and dungeon vile
Our thoughts to them are winging.
When friends by shame are undefiled,
How can I keep from singing?
That's the version that has made its way from Seeger on to Springsteen and Mc Cutchen...

                                                                                 Springsteen's version

After services, the session meets. A lot on its agenda:
* preparing for our meeting tomorrow night with Presbytery
  • Reviewing where we are in the development of  term sheet
  • Reviewing our history and seeking to develop an effective strategy to engage the candidates...
  • And what our policy should be about the steps.
We decide to withhold final decisions on several of these until next Sunday. 
                           * * * * 
I’m at Whole Foods when I get the call from Stan. ...Uh, the toilet in the bathroom near RL’s studio is geysering, water flowing all over the place..running down the I immediately call Marc. Then I get a call form Sarah Z, our old friend (who developed our branding, who produced our 100th anniversary, who rode Jamie and I to Teddy’s funeral, who...) She’s here watching. She’s headed to the basement to turn off the main valve. And Marc turns off a valve in the boiler room workshop....
By the time, I get there, the water’s off, but water continues to drip through the celling and the stairs are slick. Stan want so to know of the audience can exit down the backstairs so Marc and I go make sure we’ve got lights all up and down and remove anything that could block the way. And then we grab the mops for  solid hour of mopping and squeezing. Not the night I expected. 
When I see people exiting put the back way, I know the play is over, so I bring Marc upstairs for a drink and some food. It’s the least he deserves. Always there when needed, never says  a word, just does it. I see Sarah at the party. She loved the play. And was glad she could lend a hand. We both laugh, Another West-Park moment.
I’ll get RL on this tomorrow morning. He’ll know what to do.... 

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