Wednesday, May 7, 2014

The third Sunday in Easter: Matters of the heart


First order of business, buying the communion elements. Then sweeping.
Debra arrives and helps me set up then we try singing Gillian Welch’s By the Mark.  I love working on the Appalachian harmonies, just having to decide whether to go over or under. Don arrives, then John R as we are rehearsing.

Today in our readings, we are following the word heart. In our first reading, Acts 2: 14a, 36-41; we find it in verse 37, Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart …the people’s response to Peter accusing them of crucifying Jesus. And as was portrayed in Dzieci’s Passion, we are all perpetrators and all victims.

We spend some time talking  about  39 Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.  John R asks what generation isn’t corrupt? And Wayne says it’s very simple, if you claim Jesus as your savior, you are saved.

I review H. Richard Niebuhr’s (from my school, Yale) categories:
Christ against Culture. Christianity is a counter-cultural movement, over against the culture. From monastic movements to sixties Jesus movements or todays’ intentional communities.
Christ of Culture. Christ is revealed in the culture around us and Christ’s encounter with creation.
Christ above Culture.  Law, reason, gospel, and church prepare us  for an ultimate communion of the soul with God with a Christ who is above history.
Christ and Culture in Paradox. History is a dialectical time in which belief and non-belief, evidence of the coming kingdom and evidence of chaos are in contradiction of each other simultaneously.
Christ Transforming Culture.  We are present in our moment in history experiencing  transformation of our own lives and working for the transformation of society  around us. This is the work of the Risen Christ in us.
While I‘ve always seen all f these around me, clearly the transformational model is closest to my heart. (And to the theologians like Gutierrez and Cone that I teach at Newark.)

We sing our Psalm 116 this week, and then move on to the Epistle, 1 Peter 1: 17-23. Here we find the heart in the imperative to 22 …. love one another deeply from the heart… and that we have genuine mutual love,That’s the hard part, the mutual love. Could we possibly build a community based on that? Mutual expressing our accountability to one another, our commitment to community.

Debra and I sing By the Mark together, and I enjoy the dance of harmony.

Finally, we conclude with a reader’s theatre reading of  Luke 24: 13-35. The story of Cleopas and his friend on the road to Emmaus. Here we find the word heart as the two respond to Jesus’ explaining the scriptures to them: 32 Amazing! Weren’t our hearts on fire within us while He was talking to us on the road? 

Ultimately, they persuade Jesus to stay awhile with them and they recognize him …in the breaking of bread (31) It took not wounds or marks but the common intimate act of breaking bread together,as they always had, as companions, as companeros, for them to recognize him. And then he vanishes into thin air. And the two go running all the way back to Jerusalem where the disciples are still in hiding.

Today, as we break bread together, he will be revealed to us in each other. Not the bread and wine transformed, but us.

As we pass the offering plate, Wayne sings for us Blessed Assurance, in that pure sweet tenor of his.

Then we break bread together. And soon the service is over.

Following the service, we have an open discussion about the ministry and mission of the church. Here is what we hear:

*  I want  do something, be helpful. I love music. Traditional. From the hymn book.
* Everything must undergirded by prayer. That's where I feel safe. My first question is, Is it safe? Is this a place where people are  mutually respectful? I like the model here.  I always envisioned it and when  I came here, I saw it.
* I am here because of  loyalty. Familiarity.
* I come or  spiritual nourishment. To take a moment to forgive the pick pockets who stole my IPhone.
* I want a place that welcomes me. And my puppy. To feel not isolated. Something to help me through the week. A place with honorable people. A place for both my  head and heart.
* Beauty is important. There is  something holy about aesthetic beauty. And this place is beautiful. I would love to help wit beautifying the church. Sweeping up. Cleaning up. Moving things around.
* A church is giving a place to come And feel and practice our  faith. In a community. To be part of something.
* Church is sharing faith with a community. Proclaiming our faith by example.
 * Church is a place that touches  a heart. Everyone has been given a gift. We need to find what each person can do best. If you touch their hearts, bodies can't help but connect. This is a place for showcasing the gifts. We can all do something.,power is resident in the gifts.
* We can be a place where there is singing. Communion. Authenticity.
* I  grew up in small town. This reminds of home. But we all have a lot to learn. I like the intimacy, but there is strength in size. We can be a  place to contribute. It is hard to reinvent church. But there are  a lot of people who are like us. How do we find them?
 * There is the challenge of bringing back people who have left. We need to make that effort. And we need to strengthen our resilience.

When we spoke of what we could do, this is what we heard:
* We remember the Point of Encounter mission we had for years. Our trips of sharing to Brazil. Could we recreate that? Every two years participate in international service? Places where we have congregational connections? Like Brazil, Cuba, Nicaragua?
* Could we share what we have with the kids in projects? Like music. What kind of advertising would we need?

It was a good conversation. I guess another matter of the heart. A first step. Now to St. James in Harlem and the installation service for our friend, Bob Foltz-Morrison as Executive presbyter of New York City Presbytery.

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