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Wednesday, October 9, 2013

He's got the whole world



10/5

Arrive a the church to find Joe and the gang still on the steps. Tell them I’m opening the  door soon. Rob the white guy back. Wondering what’s up. Tells me that he’s now in a place  in Yonkers. And working temp. But with the government shutdown, his case his case is stuck somewhere between Manhattan and Westchester. Him and how many others? He’s here to visit with his family. Offers to sweep up, but by the time I get back with broom and pan, he’s gone.

This week’s surprise is RL’s friend Thatcher and his wife have come to join us for worship.  His turn to usher up in Westshester and he’s decided to come here instead. Turns out Marsha and his wife are connected to the same workplace, Seniorbridge. 

I start us with It’s me, it’s me, it’s me oh Lord, standin’ in the need of prayer...

Point out that Jerry Garcia and the Wildwood Boys sang this as a sacred song at Jerry’s wedding.


We start out with Lamentations. (1: 1-7, 3: 19-26) How lonely sits the city that was once full of people....Pittsburgh in the  ’80’s, Detroit now? I point out that this is the exile the prophets have been talking about for weeks now. I mention that every summer our Jewish neighbors commemorate Tish’a’bav, the destruction of the first temple. And the readings are the book of Lamentations. The people have all gone, been taken, away.

The thought of my homelessness is wormwood and gall....
It is likely our night at the shelter.  That tonight is our night to serve at the homeless shelter. For those of us who serve there, it is revelatory. Many have jobs. Children. But still can’t get housing. And I think of Rob. Stuck in a government shutdown. Wormwood and gall....

But it is more than that. God’s mercies are...new every morning...

Psalm 139 is another of the greatest hits Psalms. Exile again. The opening lines
By the rivers of Babylon,
There we sat down, yea, we wept
When we remembered Zion.

Became well known through Bob Marley and the Wailers. in Jamaica, Babylon was America, the forces of colonialism. I remembered hearing it sung by Lebanese civil war exiles in Cyprus. A longing to go home.

For there those who carried us away captive asked of us a song,
And those who plundered us requested mirth,
Saying, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!”
How shall we sing the Lord’s song
In a foreign land?

Or as Marley sang, how can we sing King Alphas song in a strange land?

But the psalm ends in  one of the strangest, most violent passages in the Bible:

Happy the one who takes and dashes
Your little ones against the rock!

Bashing children’s heads against the rock? Whoa I remember Walter Wink reflecting on this one time. Many of us sensitive types would ban this verse  from the Bible.This psalm clearly not written from the triumphal time of David. Wink asked us to reflect on the feelings of an exiled people. A captive people. An occupied people. These are feelings of anger coming  from a sense of hopelessness. Of humiliation. Of dignity take away. We have to acknowledge those feelings. Give them up to to God. Or else we become suicide bombers. Psalms like this encourage us to share with God exactly what we feel. So that it can go somewhere else.

When the psalm is done, I pick up my guitar and do my own version of Marley’s Rivers of Babylon...a few more times and I might actually get this reggae thing...



With 2 Timothy 1: 1-14. Not a letter to a church for a particular reason.Not a letter of general moral exhortation. But a letter to a particualr person. And the references to two very specific people, Lois and Eunice...in the end, that’s what it is about. Specific people. With names.Relationships. that’s where the  holy lives. And we go around the circle and each name one who made us who we are. and as always, the answers are heavy on moms and dads.

Finally the Gospel. (Luke 17: 5-10)Increase our faith.You can’t increase faith.You either have it or not. Even the tiniest grain as the capacity to grow. Even the tiniest bit of faith is faith. The last part of the passage verges on the incomprehensible. But the first pat is clear. You either have it or you don’t.

it’s worldwide communion Sunday. We share our places of origin. our roots. Havana. China. Scots-Irish. French. German. Japanese-cabresan Italian. Texas. And I identify the stoles on the communion table: Mayan. Guatemalan. African kinte cloth. Palestinian embroidery from Jerusalem. More Light stoles of protest, now welcome to be worn by our servers, this week John R and Nirka as we share our bread and cup.From the Latvian potter Valda. from Pittsburgh. 

In honor of St. Francis and maybe the new pope,I bless all the dogs present today. Five of them! Including regulars puppy and Tony. And I let myself be awed by interspecies connection, understanding. Relationship. Something holy there. 
 sing l watch soccer from italy with Beppe. then  the Bucs vs. St.Louis from Pittsburgh. And end at my serbian friend Milica’s gallery. The artist s Itlaian. From Sardinia like beppe. The dancer Asian. 

World wide communion Sunday. He’s got the whole world......








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