Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Advent 1: get ready


The Soviet Union Isaiah statue

The first Sunday in Advent. Off to a bad start as I have to clear Joe and company off the steps. It’s getting harder and harder to get movement in the morning. George at least relocates to the bus stop for the duration of services. I’m on the receiving end of attitude. And Joe’s wife seems to moved to use the steps as a restroom before leaving. Enough already, OK? And I struggle with my need to make the entrance open, clean and inviting against the guilt trip accusations that come my way about neighborhood rich people and their sensibilities. From my side, it’s respect I’m after. Beginning with self.

Pat has come early with Larry to get the place ready for Advent. Wreath. Greens. Candles. Other seasonal decorations. She has a good eye and a caring touch. And as always I’m happy to see my son Dan here.

We start with singing Barbara Lundblad’s first verse of a rewritten O Come o come Immanuel.. seeking to avoid the supercessionism of ransoming captive Israel.

O come, o come Immanuel                                                                                                                                      
And bless each place your people dwell
Melt ev’ry weapon crafted for war
Bring peace upon the earth for evermore
Rejoice, rejoice! Take heart and do not fear,
God’s chosen one, Immanuel, draws near.

Our first lesson is ISAIAH 2:1-5

We talk about how

t He shall judge between the nations, 
and shall arbitrate for many peoples; 
     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

is the inspiration for the former  Soviet Union’s gift to  the United Nations, a statue depicting this Isaiah  passage. How strange that an officially atheist country would  choose a biblical image, regardless of how universally appealing it is .  Directly across the street from the Isaiah plaza where so many antiwar protests take place.

Ain’t gonna study war no more, ain’t gonna study war no more…(Down by the River Side)

And we talk about swords to plowshares. Anna talks  about the city's gun buy back program. Someone else about landmines, Cambodian fields now stripped of land mines and available for rice production the first time in a generation. Buddhists turning  bullets into bells.

Then we talk about ROMANS 13:11-14. Leaving aside for the moment all the finger waving admonitions, 13let us live honorably as in the day, not in reveling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarreling and jealousy and instead focusing on the advice to put on the Lord Jesus Christasking ourselves exactly what does that mean?

And I talk about Ignacio Silone’s Bread and Wine, the story of a  former seminarian now communist underground resistance fighter  hiding in the guise of a village priest. And how the townspeople begin to come to him for what should be expected from a priest. And to keep his cover, he begins to do the work of a priest. And slowly, act by act, he comes to be a priest, servant, even believer again. In Catholic existentialist terms, being precedes belief.

And I recall how as when I don’t believe, the simple act of praying  with someone can make it real again.

Finally, we look at the Gospel. MATTHEW 24:36-44. Clearly about getting ready. We have to deal with the way it has been appropriated the premillenial dispensationlists and their rapture agenda. But the fact is, it’s not clear that it’s those who are taken who are the blessed ones.

* It is certainly clear that on World AIDS day, before we understood what was going on, that was the case, that one will be taken and one will be left.
* We talk about our friend Diana who just died of lung cancer. During her days of capture by the Argentine junta during the dirty war, that was the case, one taken, one left.
Being taken could be the judgment

It’s about keeping awake. Like my friend Father Earl helped St.Mary’s in Harlem become the we are not afraid church, I would like West-Park to be the we are wide awake church. Get ready.

And as always, Marhsa wants to know for what? The end of time? And John R says that for those who go on the Metro North this morning, it was the end of time.  Six dead as a speeding train jumps the tracks.  A bad day for people get ready, there’s a train a comin’.

                                                    People Get Ready

If it’s just about the next world, Marsha isn't  interested.And doing the right thing  now needs to be done because it is right of its own nature, not because you’ll get punished if you don’t do it. We ponder how we teach children:

You better watch out
You better not cry
Better not pout
I'm telling you why
Santa Claus is coming to town
He's making a list
And checking it twice;
Gonna find out Who's naughty and nice
Santa Claus is coming to town
He sees you when you're sleeping
He knows when you're awake
He knows if you've been bad or good
So be good for goodness sake!
O! You better watch out!
You better not cry
Better not pout
I'm telling you why
Santa Claus is coming to town
Santa Claus is coming to town

                                                     Santa Claus is Comin to Town

That’s not what living is all about…

Live today as if it were your last. Just because.

Before our communion, we talk about World AIDS Day. And we talk about Stephen  Festa. As he always saw himself as the child inJesus’ arms and when he died, his partner rested the Tiffany widow and rededicated it to Stpehen’s memory so that today we call it the Stephen window. 
The Stephen window

We read the litany prepared by the Presbyterian Health Education and Welfare Association Aids Network litany. Light his candle. Recall others we have  lost. We prepare for communion. And following  the service, share in some  classic brown and white cookies Gary Greengrass has given us  for the 4th day of Hanukkah.

                                                        Get ready for Christmas Day

We end the day with Paul Simon's get ready...
Later on  way for a night of volunteer work at the shelter at SPSA,  I encounter Rachel. She’s been released from the mental ward at St. Luke’s. But still been evicted from he Capital  Hall room. Now nowhere to go. And with a brand new shopping cart full of accumulated items.  It’s frustrating.

Late at night, I’m getting ready to leave. RL, Joe and Pat stop in. Invite me up to the studio for an Amanda listening party. We sit quietly as her voice on CD fills the room. That Tin Man song that led RL to call her Tin Girl. Almost as if she’s here with us.

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