Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The sixth Sunday in Easter: Memorial Day reflections


Stephen arrives and Samantha soon after to watch Steve’s son. Cute little guy. Dion and Deacon James helping  get everything set. Outside, Anna is there with puppy and Sergeant Keith disappearing up the street with an older woman. Apparently he’s doing OK.

It’s Memorial Day weekend so I know it will be a slow day.

We start with Acts 17: 22-31. We’re looking at Paul as a preacher. Paul, far from Jerusalem, meeting the Athenians where they are,.praising their religiosity. Riffing off of their altar to an unknown God. (23) he speaks of immanence… though indeed he is not far from each one of us (27) and finishes with that zen-like formulation, (28) In him we live and move and have our being. I say it’s like swimming in the ocean. We’re in it. We’re surrounded by it.  Sustained by it.

The  we read Psalm 66: 8-20 responsively. I stop with verse 12:
you let people ride over our heads;
          we went through fire and through water; 
which of course makes me think of James Taylor, Oh I’ve seen fire and I’ve seen
rain…and then  …yet you have brought us out to a spacious place….I ask how many have ever been to a Passover Seder. And how in Hebrew, the word for Egypt, for slavery, is mizraim, the narrow place. That’s where we live. Squeezed in. Restricted. Constricted. And instead God leads us out to a spacious place, a place where we can breathe. And I ask folks to reflect on what are, where are our narrow places? What would a spacious place feel like?

The Epistle lesson, from I Peter 3: 13-22, raises the idea of suffering for righteousness sake again….17For it is better to suffer for doing good, if suffering should be God’s will, than to suffer for doing evil. 18For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, in order to bring you to God….as Andre always reminds us, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s reference to the power of unmerited suffering.  And this very tactical advice, . Do not fear what they fear, and do not be intimidated, 15but in your hearts sanctify Christ as Lord. Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you; 16yet do it with gentleness and reverence. Keep your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who abuse you for your good conduct in Christ may be put to shame. And Jeremy reminds us how the tactics of non-violence push the powerful to expose themselves. Like the firehoses and dogs of Selma. The Tiannamen tank. The bodies of Mississippi when searching for Goodman, Cheney and Schwerner. Gandhi took this as tactical advice from Jesus. And King took it from Gandhi. Circle complete.

Finally the Gospel, John 14: 15-21.  At this point in Eastertide, more than half-way through, Jesus is  preparing his disciples for life after he is no longer with them in the flesh.

He is sending another advocate. As Anna reminds us, in Spanish, abogado, attorney. How Satan is the accuser, the prosecutor,the voice in our head that tells us that we’re no good, that we can’t make it. And that it si the Spirit of Truth, the voice ta reassures of of our worth, our value, our belovedness. The defense attorney, as it were.

Then it moves to 17This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you which gets 
us back swimming in that cosmic ocean again. And if I could do  it , we’d go to
 I am he as you are he as you are me
And we are all together
You know, I am the walrus...
But no way even Jeremy and I could pull that off.

It’s Memorial Day weekend. I think of how my dad always wanted to put flowers on his father’s grave. And I wish I could be in Washington, Pennsylvania and visit my father’s grave. I see it in my mind’s eye.

John R remembers Vietnam veterans coming home to no recognition. I remember my steel town.Only 40 % of my classmates going to college, The disproportionate numbers who went to Vietnam. And the children of lower classes sent off to war without any notice by the rest of us. Somehow the major league baseball players wearing camo isn’t quite enough.

It is Fleet Week, Times Square and the tourist areas with sailors in their dress whites, Marines in their khaki and blue.I miss  the foreign sailors and ships.

Anna recalls how her father was a pacifist inside militarist japan. And I remember the man I met last week who was born in an internment camp. And took 20 years to regain hsi citizenship. We all have our stories. 

Or maybe Memorial Day’s just the day the beaches open. Where so many of our folks are. And I wish I was.

The service ends. We make our circle. .Go our separate ways. I'm alone .I’ll go see Rachel this afternoon.

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