Saturday, June 27, 2015

What will it take to calm these waters?


Continuing our series on Life in the Spirit: Stormy waters, the question today is
What will it take to calm these waters?

We open the service with Every time I feel the Spirit and follow with Tu has venido a la orilla. ( And our Psalm is 133, or Hinay ma tov umanyaim, chevet achim gan yachad

After reading mark 4: 35-41,
Jeremy and I do the song made famous by John McCutchen, Alleluia, the great storm is over. ()

And then it is time for reflection.
What will it take to calm these waters? Let me begin like this:

Clementa Pinckney, 41. Pastor, father of 2, state senator
Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, 45, reverend, track coach, mother of 3
Cynthia Hurd, 54, librarian and wife
DePayne Middleton-Doctor, 49, mother of 4, church choir member
Tywanza Sanders, 26, recent graduate of Allen College with a degree in business
Myra Thompson,. 54, mother and wife
Ethel Lee Lance, 70, mother, grandmother,church sexton for over 30 years
Daniel L. Simmons, retired pastor and father
Susie Jackson, 87, mother and grandmother

Each a name. Each a person. Someone who loved and was loved.

Our friend Osagyefo Sekou had this to say on Facebook:

The shooter is not a ‘loner’, but part of a system of white supremacy. To reduce this act to that of a troubled individual is to commit another act of violence." 

Dear America: If the #‎CharlestonShooting is not terrorism, then I am white.

Dear God: They kill us in your house.

And our friend Sarah Zapiler, this:

 White people:

Let's come together and decide on a set of actions we will take to dismantle racism in our own lives. Let's share resources and energy that will make us stronger. We will be responsible to hold each other accountable to in the months to come. 

Bring your hope for a new kind of world. Invite anyone. Today while we are worshipping, people are invited to Sarah's house to wrestle with that issue. Let our thoughts and prayers be with them.

Most amazing of all were these words from survivors:
You took something really precious from me. I will never talk to her again,” the daughter of 70-year-old Ethel Lance, one of nine people killed in Wednesday's massacre, said. “But I forgive you and have mercy on your soul. You hurt me. You hurt a lot of people. But God forgives you. I forgive you.
Felecia Sanders, mother of the youngest victim, 26-year-old Tywanza Sanders, also spoke. Every fiber in my body hurts, Sanders said, and I will never be the same.
Sanders survived the shooting by playing dead.
We welcomed you Wednesday night in our Bible study with open arms. You have killed some of the most beautifulest people that I know, she said in court. As we said in the Bible study, we enjoyed you, but may God have mercy on you.
I chose theme before this shooting…..but when I went to do my preparation, I open Ched Myers’ commentary on this passage, and lo and behold I find this…The Kingdom as Reconciliation…
So let’s look at the passage again. Jesus says, Let us go across... sounds simple enough, but…what does it mean? Across means to the other side, to the gentile side of the lake..the unknown, the foreign, the other side of humanity…
A storm comes up, the disciples see Jesus asleep, he wakes, quiets the sea…by referring to the lake as sea, Mark is connecting with a long Biblical tradition where sea connotes: chaos, threat, danger…
Let me make that clear….by entering into a journey to the other side, a journey intended to lead to reconciliation, the disciples will enter a world of chaos, threat and danger…to do the work necessary to dismantle the structures that support and sustain racism and gun violence, we will have to enter into uncharted territory, unfamiliar, even scary territory. Especially to face that which still lives inside, and I do believe this is true….still inside each of us…
It’s not enough to call, as our denomination did, for an arresting of hate…and self-examination…until we confront the structures that support and sustain, there will be no real change…
 And to be sure, to quote Meyer again, All the power of the established symbolic universe of segregation opposes this journey….
We confront two powers here…one of gun violence, the other white privilege…it’s too easy to speak of lone crazy gun man…when we have a culture that supplies the ethos and language of hatred and easy access to weapons to enact that hatred. And no, NRA, the answer is NOT having everyone come to church armed…
But what calms the storm?
“Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?” For we who seek to bear the name Christian, seeking to follow a path, we seek to make ourselves one with the one who silences the forces of chaos and danger.
I think again of the words of the Charleston AME folk…make no mistake about it, those words of forgiveness are more than anything for their own sake, that is, the only way they can hold on against this chaos, the only way they can survive such a loss, is by staying true to who they are called to be at the deepest level.
 (Like the Amish several years ago..2006…Do we remember that  was the third school shooting in the United States in less than a week, the others being the Platte Canyon High School shooting on September 27, 2006 and Weston High School shooting on September 29. That was the 24th school shooting in the United States in 2006, according to the National School Safety and Security Services]

What will it take to calm these waters?
What does the one say who even the wind and sea obey?
Let us cross over to the other side….Amen

Andre sings for us Just as I am.
We sing my own Rest Awhile for our offertory. (
And finally finish the service with Somos el barco.  Remembering Ronnie Gilbert , an original member of the Weavers and the super folk group HARP, (Hollie Near, Arlo Guthrie, Ronnie Gilbert and Pete Seeger..)
We gather for Amen. And that is our service.

35On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” 36And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him. 37A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. 38But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” 39He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. 40He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” 41And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”

Saturday, June 20, 2015

What keeps you going when you don’t know how long the road is?


Today, June 14th, we continued with our theme Life in the Spirit: Creating possibility with an emphasis today on the question,What keeps you going when you don’t know how long the road is? As we have done since  Pentecost, we open our service by singing Every time I feel the Spirit and after our  opening  announcements,  sing Guide My Feet Lord.

We begin our service of the word with the reading of Psalm 20 with our chanted response, Answer us when we call. After the gospel lesson, today, mark 5: 26-34,
Jeremy and I do together, as made famous by Arlo Guthrie., Inch by inch. 

Then it was time for our refection.

When I went outside yesterday, I saw a parade. A parade that  took me back to Oklahoma. It was a celebration of Juneteenth,  June 19th, 1865 when the Emancipation proclamation finally came to Texas. A long road ended. But in many ways, another long road was just beginning as the southern states began to enact the Jim Crow laws of separation that would that last into the 1960’s.

(One of our  long roads ended  yesterday when years of detritus were finally cleared out…)

The clean up crew

Dion helped too

So what keeps you going when you don’t know how long the road is? I put that question  on facebook yesterday…and got back interesting answers…like the love of the Lord…and frequent naps…

That’s what Jesus is talking to his people about….how to keep going….let’s face it…things were not going well for him…he had been abandoned by his family, kicked out of towns, hounded by the authorities…he knows that going up against the empire is not easy..(what Martin Luther King, Jr.  called the long road to freedom…)

This was Jesus’ first reversal sermon.

So he uses this Sowing parable…not like the song I sang, agriculture was different in those days. You cast the seed. Then there was nothing you could do but wait and then  be prepared to reap the harvest.

Jesus saw his time as an apocalyptic time. Playing off the prophet Joel 3: 13..put in the sickle, the harvest is ripe.. But what then,  take up arms, like Joel’s plowshares into swords? (3:10 Beat your plowshares into swords,
    and your pruning hooks into spears;
let the weak say, “I am a warrior.”)
The growth of kingdom is  neither obvious nor controllable…our attention is not to provoking but instill courage and hope in a small fragile community…

Jesus’ words are Informed by Ezekiel and Daniel and their  tree images: ·  24 All the trees of the forest will know that I the Lord bring down the tall tree and make the low tree grow tall.

The revolution we seek  will proceed with patience and hope…

Jesus’ way is the way of nonviolence…servanthood leads to leadership, suffering to triumph, death to life. The means cannot be compromised by an attempt to manipulate ends…

Sharon Welch, who wrote a feminist ethic of risk says do what you’re called to do, regardless of uncertain outcome…just because…we do what we do to make the next thing possible…

We can’t win it all with one hail mary pass…

Or in other words…you don’t have to figure out the whole rest of your life, just what you need  to do next…our epistle assigned for today makes the statement 17So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new. And we have to ask are we willing to be a new creation? Are we open to becoming new?

And that’s how we keep going.

Our offertory was  Pues si vivimos and Andre sang Balm in Gilead.

And we actually sang a canon for our closing, Go With Us Lord.
Little Xavier is quite adamant that his father  should be with us when we sing Amen,s o wait until he can join us.
And then our Sunday is over.

26He also said, “The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, 27and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how. 28The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. 29But when the grain is ripe, at once he goes in with his sickle, because the harvest has come.”
30He also said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it? 31It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; 32yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.”
33With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it; 34he did not speak to them except in parables, but he explained everything in private to his disciples.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Another guest blog: Hitting the "like" button for "As You Like It"....


Sam Gibbs and Pastor Bob

Last Saturday night, our friend Sam Gibbs produced a Shakepeare’s Birthday Afterparty Sonnet Remix that was a true artistic success. ( We will be featuring a story on that soon…) To know Sam’s work better, we invited our friend Eli Y. Jack,( who Pastor Brashear persuaded to venture out to Brooklyn with him, to reflect on Sam’s recent production of As You Like It with his fledgling Stairwell Theatre Company.  

AS YOU LIKE IT  by the Stairwell Theatre Company (Hitting the like button…)

On a beautiful late May afternoon, Brooklyn’s Prospect Park Music Pagoda was the perfect place to see the Stairwell Theatre Company’s production of As You Like It. This was also a great way to begin New York City’s annual Shakespeare in the (every) Park season when almost every night you can find live Shakespeare in a park near you.

The first test of any Shakespeare production is language, and as directed by Sam Gibbs, Stairwell met that challenge. (As they had in their premiere production of Cymbeline at West-Park.)There was no adjustment period so typical of these productions, where the audience has to attune their ear to the rhythm and flow of Shakespeare. From the start, the cast handled the language in a way that sounded easy and natural and immediately comprehensible. Everything else follows from there.

For AYLI, you also need strong support in secondary characters like the melancholy Jaques and the motley fool Touchstone. One always holds their breath waiting for the all the world’s a stage  soliloquy and Theodore Caywood, in the midst of the audience, delivered, once again with a natural sense that these words were coming to him in the moment, fresh and new, not like a well rehearsed dramatic aria. Devin Doyle brought both a feeling of mischief and wisdom to his Touchstone.

Gibbs’ 8 member cast was uniformly solid while doubling, tripling and even quadrupling roles. This juggling of roles, cleverly divided, led to some breathless anticipation of what would happen which was rewarded in a way that felt amusing but not distracting in the last scene.  Ariana Karp was commanding as the dukes. Su Thomas Hendrickson made her two women distinctly different characters as the ingĂ©nue Rosalind and the earthy Audrey. Ellen Heald in the sidekick Celia role and the shepherdess Phoebe had equal success. And to Gibbs credit, his country characters never fell into the Hee haw place that always shows lack of directorial effort.

Andrew Colford, Leighton Samuels and director Gibbs himself all carried their multiple roles well. Samuels playing Sir Oliver Martext as a rabbi complete with a mazel tov                                                                                        glass breaking moment was a nice touch.

The Pagoda setting was used well with action taking place in front of, in back of and in the middle of the audience. The lawn in front of the stage was well used with no lines lost by distance. And having the audience write love notes to be posted on the trees was engaging without being overcute. The same economy used in casting was also evident in costuming and other production values as simple but not cheap.

And a very special asset to both Stairwell productions I have seen is the original music created by Matthew Gibbs.
Prospect Park with its own carousel, picnic grounds and winding pathways is what Sunday afternoons are made for. I’ve seen AYLI’s light and AYLI’s dark with a brooding Touchstone and the ….rain that raineth everyday…This Stairwell was bright, breezy and warm as a sunny May afternoon in the park.