Sunday, July 6, 2014

A month of Sundays: part 1


Pentecost red

Pentecost. We brought out the red. Read the Pentecost  story as a readers’ theatre. We began with the  Eldad/Medad story in Numbers 11: 24-30. Unlicensed folks prophesying as it were.  Official elders crying out for quality control. Moses responding  Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets, and that the Lord would put his spirit on them! and how what this is about  is the ministry we all receive at baptism, if not birth. And how Johnnie Ray Youngblood of East Brooklyn Baptist Church fame started the Eldad/Medad Society to help young black men reclaim their dignity and discover their  own gifts as leaders, community organizing style.

As for the miracle of Pentecost, it was in the hearing not the speaking. Each one hearing in their own tongue. Not so much a reversal of  Babel as a transformation of Babel. Not so much an empire imposed unity as a solidarity in which each continues to retain their own unique characteristics. That is the miracle. And the model.

Paul’s analogy of the body in 1 Corinthians 12: 3b-13 is a further explication of the Eldad/Medad strategy. ALL of our individual gifts are needed. We are not all to be the same. But it must be in one spirit. And we need to work with each other to help each other discern those gifts.

After worship, the Center Board met again. And once again, slowed own while we try and figure out how to deal with another one of those all-encompassing offers. Although this time, a serious heavy hitter. But we can’t delay, we need to keep forging ahead and be ready to move on our own.


I’m in Detroit. So it’s a people to the pulpit Sunday. Even though we don’t actually use a pulpit. Jeremy held down the fort. With music. And conversation. And Dion brought his own unique gift to the word. As did John R. And Teddy’s strong and wonderful friend Tina came with another friend. So sorry to miss her. She has the strength of a survivor and a relentless hold on life. I need to feel that sometimes.


Finally back from General Assembly. The Scriptures give me plenty of room to talk about GA’s actions. Genesis 21: 8-21 talks about Hagar and Sarah and Ishmael and Isaac. John R says it reminds him of people looking for problems where none exist. I talk about how this is the beginning of the sibling rivalry of Judaism and Islam.

Romans 6: 1b-11 is another somewhat convoluted  discussion of sin by Paul. I recall how I heard someone say one time, if Jesus died for our sins, we might as well make it worth his while.  I ask what is sin. There are expected comments like rebellion. I use the liberationist perspective of that which separates us from our brothers and sisters. And Shusako Endo’s trampling over the life of another without even being aware if it. Marsha has the most unique perspective: bad management. As it robs the lives of others of valuable gifts and resources. Like our failure to feed and house people is bad management.

Matthew 10: 24-39 ends with the famous ...and puzzling..saying of Jesus  I come not to bring peace but a sword ... saying of Jesus and that surely connects with what I’ve seen at GA. Following the path of Jesus can create its own conflict.

I reported that the West-Park co-sponsored call for a study on our draconian drug laws passed the committee by 64-0 and the Assembly by consensus.  (I will write more about this…)

The overtire to allow clergy to follow their own conscience in performing same gender marriages in states where the law allows passed by a 61-39% majority, as did a constitutional change in the definition of marriage from a man  and a woman to two people. (

The movement that began at West-Park in 1978 continues to bear fruit, an almost lightning-like reversal since the narrow 2 vote defeat two years ago. Of course, many of the most conservative congregations have left and others given up the fight bringing change to voter representation  in many Presbyteries. Still a 60% victory is massive.

It was the Divestment vote, with the opposition led by tall steeple liberal churches that reveals the new fault lines in the church. The traditional liberal-conservative split is over. What is coming is a divide around big and small, race and class, what we have been living through in New York City for over a decade now. Especially in a context  in which a church that moves increasingly into strong central authority control, counter to our traditional horizontal system. Most commissioners not even aware of that.

Much to celebrate. And a tough road ahead.

Bob and Jeremy
In honor of the actual anniversary of the Goodman, Chaney, Schwerner murders, Jeremy and I did a reprise on He was my brother….

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