Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Ascension Sunday. Fly up day. Everyone deserves Sunday dinner.


Everyone deserves Sunday dinner

Ascension Sunday.
I open up the doors and Debra is there waiting. Today we’re doing I’ll Fly Away.But first she helps me set up. Steven S is hard at work doing his part and Deacon James arrives and helps us get set up, too.

During our announcements, I tell everyone that Dion will not be with us because today he will be receiving a scholarship for continuing education at a special Daytop luncheon.  

Today we start with the actual Ascension story, in Acts 1: 6-14. And then Debra takes the lead and we do I’ll Fly Away with Jeremy adding piano color. I enjoy the opportunity to do a harmony with her.( For Psalm 68, we use as a response the popular Our God is an Awesome God. Marsha reads the epistle from 1 Peter 4: 12-14, :6-11. Arcadia reads John 17: 1-11 in Spanish and then I read it in English. I decide to skip Nobody Knowws which Andre was going to sing, but Jeremy is moved to sing Pete Seeger’s One Grain of Sand,( in his own unique  arrangement, that he will be singing later today at the Left Forum.

I remember being in Germany on Ascension day. There it’s called  Himmelfahrt. Roughly translated, heaven journey.  In a secular society, it’s a pubic holiday. Kind  of  a spring fever day. A day for picnics. I remember the Dahlem Domane, the farm and ecology museum across the street from the Martin Niemoller Peace House. All set up for a children’s carnival.  The holiday had as much relation to religion as our Memorial Day does to actually remembering war dead. (Which is not to criticize the breath of a spring day...I loved I do Memorial Day...)

I  ask how many were Brownies? How the day a girl went from Brownies to Girl Scouts was known as fly up day. That’s what we’ve got here for Jesus, fly up day. It’s a gateway Sunday, like Christ the King, or Transfiguration that opens the door to the next major holiday and season.

Notable in Acts: The disciples are still looking for Jesus to restore the kingdom. Get rid of the Romans. Put them in charge. The empire has already been defeated, but not in the way they expected. And then in a flash , Jesus is gone. The keep looking skyward until  two angels remind them, Not up there, look here…here on earth, put your focus here.

Then there’s this reference to Jesus’ brothers.
Who were they? And Judas, Son of James, which would make him Jesus’ nephew. The Catholic church has always tired to explain this away, to keep Mary a perpetual virgin. But it’s clear that Jesus has brought some of his family with him. What would it be like to be Jesus’ younger brother? One thing we do know, the disciples were... constantly devoting themselves to prayer....

Psalm 68 shows us God’s preference for the poor, the marginalized the vulnerable. God is the :
5   Father of orphans and protector of widows 
6   God gives the desolate a home to live in; 
          he leads out the prisoners to prosperity, 

We think what Henry F reminded us of yesterday, the American prison industrial complex. The outrageous and disproportionate percentage of black and Latino young people behind bars. In the black community, in the 18-21 age range, more in prison than in college. And Jeremy reminds us of the disproportionate stops of young blacks and Latinos in the Bloomberg era’s stop and frisk policy. Yes, gun violence was reduced, but at what cost?
And then again….O God, you provided for the needy.
33  O rider in the heavens,. (Is this a place to break into  I KNOW YOU RIDER GONNA MISS ME WHEN I'm GONE?)

And here is where we got our awesome God from:
35  Awesome is God in his sanctuary,
          the God of Israel;
          he gives power and strength to his people.
Blessed be God!
When we read about god fearing in the Bible, it's not about being afraid, simply being in awe.

Peter brings us back to the issue of suffering again.

4:12… the fiery ordeal….

Sharon Welch has said that it is NOT about  self-sacrifice, giving something up, losing yourself….instead it is about finding yourself, gaining yourself, you are gaining a greater self….
One of us says that its about being part of something bigger than ourselves. We know that Abraham Lincoln suffered from what they called melancholy. What we call today depression. Even to the point of suicidal tendencies. He only grew beyond that when he could see himself as part of a grander design, purpose.
Peter reminds us that …… you know that your brothers and sisters in all the world are undergoing the same kinds of suffering. 10   
And I think of THE BALKANS…..whole villages wiped out, tens of thousands homeless. And the dead animal carcasses, heat and mosquitoes putting everything on the verge of a public health disaster. And our western press virtually silent on this issue. And meanwhile for the first time since the war, Balkan people reaching out across boundaries in solidarity. Serbian soccer hooligans getting on buses to hep their Croatian brothers. Djokovich donating all his winnings from the Italian open.Long live the five republics of Yugoslavia... he said. I saw this happening  last night at the benefit at Milica’s gallery benefit concert. Something bigger.

Finally, the gospel. John 17: 1-11. The word glorify used over and over again in John’s cosmic litany. Then this intriguing reference:
 10All mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them. ……. so that they may be one, as we are one.
Who are those who are yours? The simplest answer, all God’s children not in Christendom. Or the vast majority of the world. All God’s children. And the goal is simple
so that they may be one, as we are one.
Oneness is a  goal………like the former Balkan enemies are showing us now. Don’t be looking up to heaven. Look right around you. Right here.
Ascension Sunday.

We share our Communion, remembering  that it is not the bread and wine that is transformed, but we, ourselves, into the risen body of Christ.

The session leaves quickly for a lunch meeting with a representative of the Covenant  Funds of the Presbyterian Foundation. We’re talking about endowments and money management and conservative vs. risk and all manner of things I didn’t imagine we’d be talking about. Trying to keep these things straight. All part of trying to use this moment wisely.

When the meeting ends, it’s too late for me to go to Junia’s performance. But I will go to the shelter tonight. We’ll serve Sunday dinner. As Kate says, everyone deserves Sunday dinner.

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