Thursday, November 28, 2013

Reign of Christ Sunday: Communities of resistance and new creation

Presentation from Bread & Puppet

Today is Christ the King Sunday. Or Reign of Christ Sunday. Or Reign of God Sunday. And the Sunday following the 50th anniversary of the assignation of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy. And the Sunday before Thanksgiving. And we have so much to be thankful for.
Feeling blessed by the presence of Leslie at our service. A Presbyterian minister in her own rite and also wife of our new exec, Bob. And the presence of our Bread & Puppet friends one last time. And we worship with the full array of puppets filling our sanctuary.
Our first lesson comes from Jeremiah. And we talk of his prophetic witness, how his name came to be associated with unrelenting critiques of corrupt governments and institutions. (As in jeremiad.) Today he’s after bad shepherds, those who lead the people astray, who try to manipulate their fears and anxieties into supporting politics of power and domination. It’s almost too direct and apparent to warrant lengthy conversation.
We sing together the Benedictus, the song of Zechariah. And then a look at the Epistle,COLOSSIANS 1:11-20. So clearly we’re dealing with a cosmic Christ theology here. A theology with echoes of Gnosticism. But we’re not here to spend long time in discussion of theology. We are most drawn to this verse,
13He has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son
And there the conversation begins. We talk about how Christ the King Sunday became a day of resistance during the Hitler era in Germany. A catholic version of the Confessing  Church’s Barmen Declaration. If Christ is king, Hitler cannot be. If we live in the kingdom of Christ, we cannot give allegiance to the Reich. It’s that simple.
But transferred..what does that mean? Again resonance with B&P’s shattered world and parody of a customs officer interview. Many transfers are not voluntary. Where are we? It’s being able to envision the beloved community and live into it before it exists. To imagine a community of welcome, acceptance, inclusion living lives dedicated to justice and harmony with creation…to seek to live that even before to exists so that it can exist. Like worship gatherings of antebellum slaves. Tutus’s pre-fall of apartheid declaration that we have already won. King’s mountain top vision and speech.  That’s what it is.. Yes, and Bread and Puppet in their northeastern kingdom home. Communities of resistance and new creation.
Finally we come to the Gospel. And the greatest paradox of all. This  is the crowning moment of the church year. The moment when Christ is enthroned as sovereign of creation. And where do we find ourselves? On the cross.  In what was intended as a political execution of humiliation. And it is there where we find the triumph, as we discovered in our year long study of Mark. Not the resurrection. The resurrection is a bonus. It is not a proof. Perhaps a consequence. It is in the willingness to follow to the end, even to the cross, where the powers of death and domination are ultimately defeated. It is the ultimate defiance. It defeats manipulation, threat and intimidation. Robs the empire of any power at all. And in this is victory.
Is there not fear? Of curse there is fear. I recall Rabbi Marshall Meyer’s defiance of the Argentine junta. Standing naked in the police station until they gave in, turned over the one he came to find. They could have simply killed him. But his complete vulnerability defeated them. When asked if he was afraid, he replied, Afraid? I was scared shitless…But he stayed steadfast. And in that willingness to go to the end, the powers were defeated. They had nothing else to threaten. And in that we are saved. Delivered from the powers of death and domination.
The dialogue continues with our friends from B&P. Why are you part of B&P? What does it mean? And the answers all have to do with a sense of making a difference. Of  transformation.  Of self. And world. A relentless, tireless resistance. And the experience of joy that comes from community. Can we the church find that? Create that space? That is our challenge as we begin again.
In the offering part of our service, our B&P friends present us with banners to keep in a sign of our ongoing connection. And the proceeds of their passing the hat. (Over $800.) And we thank them for their gift of presence and for standing in solidarity when the chips were down. And Katherine makes a personal presentation. And we bless them as they prepare for their final performance and return to Vermont.
Katherine's presentation
We end with songs. And embraces. And then our session meets. Approves an overture for General Assembly regarding current oppressive drug laws. And work on our strategy for moving forward.
And so we come to B&P’s final performance. Another full house. Ted and Asya and Jonathan back one last time. My neighbor Ric. And Jeremy. And my friend Milica joins  me. And I see our new exec Bob and Leslie are here as well. I want it all to slow down. Not end. But it must.
And as soon as the standing ovation is  over, as soon as the final bows are done, the dismantling, deconstruction of the shattered world begins.

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