Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Let's drink to the salt of the earth


Well…as I am arriving, there are  Joe and LaToya, sound asleep and blocking the doors. My first job is to get them up and moving. Hard enough. But then I look to my right an there is Sean in his electric cart covered in blankets, sound asleep and, well, surrounded by well, stuff, his stuff, all over the place. 

I was OK until I saw Sean.  I almost started to cry. I can’t do it all. Not sweep the  steps. And the street. And review and print the bulletin and get the communion table set and everything esthetically ready for worship. Can't do it.

Roselyn, who is writing about us for her master’s thesis is here. Jeremy is here and going over the music. He gently tells me that usually I’ve got about two octaves and now somewhat less. At best. So we try some lower ranges.

Out first lesson is from ISAIAH 58:1-9A (9B-12). There's much here that appeals to me. The first line that speaks to me is as if they were a nation that practiced righteousness. That is so powerful…those words…as if… that’s the whole claim to American exceptionalism. As if we were special. As if we were especially righteous.
Then there’s the word about only serving one’s own interests and oppressing workers. That’s what our work with the anti-sweatshop movement and the car washeros and justice for jazz musicians is all about.

Finally, it gets very explicit. And this  raises serious questions.

Is not this the fast that I choose:
          to loose the bonds of injustice,
          to undo the thongs of the yoke,
     to let the oppressed go free,
          and to break every yoke?
7   Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
          and bring the homeless poor into your house;
     when you see the naked, to cover them,
          and not to hide yourself from your own kin? 

I remember idealistic clergy friends of mine who literally tried to follow these words. About the homeless poor. That never quite worked out. So what are we supposed to do? Pat suggests that maybe we live in a different time now. Stephen that we simply are called to do what is in our power to do. And its as problematic for the church as it is for our own homes. Can’t just invite people in with no support structure. But still…..

Part of that is so crystal clear as to defy interpretation. We are either working to free the oppressed or continuing their oppression. No middle path there.  And it is by responding  that we do not hide our face from our kin, for all are our kin.

Then we find this: 

     If you remove the yoke from among you, (what is the yoke among us?}
          the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil, (we all know what it is like it have the finger pointed at us, to be the  one of whom evil is spoken..)and satisfy the needs of the afflicted,
then we shall be     
like a watered garden,
          like a spring of water,
          whose waters never fail. 

And of course, for epiphany season, we get the light…
Then your light shall break forth like the dawn,
          and your healing shall spring up quickly;

and finally this…
Your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt;
          you shall raise up the foundations of many generations;
     you shall be called the repairer of the breach,
          the restorer of streets to live in.
In Pittsburgh there was a church based group in east Oakland called the breach menders…there work was restoring housing that then could be made available at affordable prices…they were restoring the streets, rebuilding the city….
Can we do that work without speeding gentrification? A friend  says we only get integrated 
neighborhoods on the way up or the way down…and that they don’t last…
Paul’s 2nd Corinthians 2 has a lot of labyrinthine theological discussion. I note that he preached but Chirst crucifed, not Christ resurrected or christ risen, it’s the crucified christ that frees us…. but in the end it comes down to one thing: 
But we have the mind of Christ.
That becomes our hermeneutic, our interpretive key to understand everything else in the Bible. And how we seek to see the world.

We finish our  reflection with MATTHEW 5:13-20
13“You are the salt of the earth; we talk about how that has come to connote, everyday people, common, working,dependable people. …the salt of the earth…the first mined product…for which people fought…and as someone points out, salt preserves…we are the salt of the earth.
And in this season of light, You are the light of the world. …we….and also
 15No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lamp stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven…..the old not hiding your light under a bushel…we all must let our lights shine, where they are. To bury them is to cut ourselves off from which we are and is ultimately dangerous. No gift is to be left unused.

We finish our reflection. A young Asian man has joined us along the way. I’m wondering what he thought  as he leaves after we have passed the peace.

We conclude with ....Live so God can use me again.  And say our goodbyes until next week. The session  meets. Frank talk with each other. Critical clarification. Moving towards a shared understanding.

Salt of the earth, Jagger and Richards

Lets drink to the hard working people
Lets drink to the lowly of birth
Raise your glass to the good and the evil
Lets drink to the salt of the earth

Say a prayer for the common foot soldier
Spare a thought for his back breaking work
Say a prayer for his wife and his children
Who burn the fires and who still till the earth

And when I search a faceless crowd
A swirling mass of gray and
Black and white
They don't look real to me
In fact, they look so strange

Raise your glass to the hard working people
Lets drink to the uncounted heads
Lets think of the wavering millions
Who need leaders but get gamblers instead

Spare a thought for the stay-at-home voter
His empty eyes gaze at strange beauty shows
And a parade of the gray suited grafters
A choice of cancer or polio

And when I look in the faceless crowd
A swirling mass of grays and
Black and white
They don't look real to me
Or don't they look so strange

Lets drink to the hard working people
Lets think of the lowly of birth
Spare a thought for the rag taggy people
Lets drink to the salt of the earth

Lets drink to the hard working people
Lets drink to the salt of the earth
Lets drink to the two thousand million
Lets think of the humble of birth

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