Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Awakening 2: the first Sunday in Advent, from Lament to Hope


Robin Rhodes, Bob Brashear, Angela Lamb, Olivia Harris

40/60 is here, ready to rehearse. They’ve come from Boston and Washington to reunite here at West-Park. Jeremy M arrives soon after.

There are quite a few visitors. One an old man I never do get to meet. There’s a woman who raises her hand in praise. I’ll be watching her for reactions. Turns out the parents of 40/60 have also all travelled here from different places to be here for the service and afternoon concert.

Pat and Larry are here early to decorate again and Pat has brought the three purple and one white candles for the Advent wreath.

We’ve got to cover Ferguson and Advent today.  We begin with O COME, O COME EMMANUEL.  Jeremy explains that it’s from the 12th Century. And I add that the third verse, the one about war ceasing and filling the whole world with peace was written by Henry Sloane Coffin, father of William, former Yale Chaplain during my time there and Riverside pastor, at the start of World War I.

I’ve written my own words for the LIGHTING of THE ADVENT CANDLE:   
One: Our brothers and sisters are not yet free. Like captives and exiles in their own land, they mourn the loss of children with inconsolable grief.
All: We light this candle in solidarity. We light this candle to light the path from lament to hope. To the day of true emancipation when all will live in freedom.

We begin our scriptures with ISAIAH 64: 1-9 and follow with 40/60’s first
MUSICAL REFLECTION. Jeremy has written a  sung response for Psalm 80: 1-7, 17-19:
O come Lord, come; restore and save us now. After MARK 13: 24-37, we go into When the saints come marchin’ in with its apocalyptic language.

And then I begin my REFLECTION.    It’s been a hard week.  What you might call a kairos moment…where our normal chronos is interrupted…a week where the heavens are torn open…(Isaiah 64:1) There was the verdict in Ferguson. Then people exploded. Fires blazed. In New York City, tunnels, bridges, highways shut down. Shopping malls across the country. While protests in Ferguson have been building for weeks, there were spontaneous outcries across the country…

Friday was the traditional start for the shopping season, Black Friday. But another cry went up:  Black lives matter…If you saw Nicholas Kristof’s op ed this morning in the Times,( you got some insight into the emotions of the time:
Black men are 21 times more likely to be killed than white men
Imprison higher percentage of our black population  of than apartheid South Africa.
There is now greater income disparity  in than in 1970 South Africa  at the peak of apartheid

As the children of Israel lifted up their lament from their Babylonian exile, it  easy to understand how our black citizens might feel abandoned…in captivity…

O come Emmanuel we sang…lonely exile, has been said that what is happening now is not a renewal of the civil rights movement but a movement for the emancipation of oppressed….

Every Advent is three at the same time:
Historic, as in the birth of Jesus
Existential, as we move towards this season’s celebration of Christmas, the incarnation, God coming  to be  present in human flesh, in the midst of humanity
And future…the Second coming, or the day of emancipation, of liberation, of the coming of the  beloved community.

It is our challenge to move from our lament to hope.
That Jim Wallis quote again, to be able to believe  in spite of the evidence and the courage to make the evidence change.
Archbishop Tutu at the peak of apartheid affirming we have already won
Martin Luther King, Jr. saying that the arc of history is long but it bends towards justice
The liberatory power of black worship that created zones of liberation in the midst of slavery and oppression  giving sustaining power for the long struggle for true emancipation.

It is our work as followers of Jesus to create those outposts of the kindom, those liberated zones where people can taste and see and experience the freedom, the victory that is to come. That is the journey we invite you on in as we begin this season. I’m not even sure I know what all that means but it begins with a commitment to go there. And that we journey together.

We need a coming. We await a coming. Not for a new one to come. But to find  Emmanuel already in our midst. On the other side of our lament, hope…

As I concluded, before 40/60 played again, I asked Olivia to speak about how they experience the sharing  of their music as reflection on what is going on around us. And she explained her feeling of anger and frustration as she marched in Boston  and the moving of music through their instruments.  The non-didactic, expression of lament and hope.

Before our prayers, we sang as 40/60 played, from Isaiah 64:8:
Change my heart O God, make it ever true                                                                                        Change my heart O God, may I be like you.                                                                                         You are  the potter, I am the clay                                                                                                         Mold me and make me, this is what I pray.
Then I had John R and Dion bring our ceramic baptism cover from Occupy days. I showed it’s words of peace. And the crack. How its creator (Sheryl Jaffe) had said we were about healing the cracks in the world. And how I later learned of the Japanese tradition of always needing an imperfection as a reminder of life’s (and our) imperfection.

Our final song is Ella’s Song by () Berniece Johnson Reagon. It is frightening how fitting the  words are to what is happening  today:
We who believe in freedom cannot rest We who believe in freedom cannot rest until it comes 
Until the killing of Black men, Black mothers’ sons Is as important as the killing of   White men, White mothers’ sons And that which touches we most is that I had a          chance to work with people Passing on to others that which was passed on to me  To me young people come first, they have the courage where we fail And if I can shed some light as they carry us through the gale  The older I get the better I know that the    secret of my going on Is when the reins are in the hand of the young who dare to run against the storm  Not needing to clutch for power, not needing the light just to shine on me I need to be just one in the number as we stand against tyranny  Struggling     myself don’t mean a whole lot I come to realize That teaching others to stand up and  fight is the only way my struggle survive  I’m a woman who speaks in a voice and I   must be heard At time I can be quite difficult, I’ll bow to no man’s word 
In the honor of powerful grassroots organizer Ella Josephine Baker, 1903-1986.
I go off to have brunch with my boys and return for 40/60’s concert. The gym is full  of supportive friends and family and they give us an afternoon of passionate,               inventive and intense music including a musical interpretation of Ulam’s Spiral, the    revelatory graphic representation  of  the correlation of prime numbers. By their          teacher David Mc Bride. 
Ulam's Spiral 
It was warm enough today that      people were eating brunch at the   outdoor café tables. The late          afternoon  sun washes through as   the music fills the room. 
A good end to the day….
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