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Thursday, July 9, 2015

Are you a patriot?

7/5

It’s the 5th of July. The Sunday after the 4th. And today, after Jeremy and I tried to  rehearse in the sanctuary, now transformed into a theatre for Noche Flamenca and their production of Antigona, we decided to worship in the chapel and so we are there. And as we have ben doing, we begin with Every time I feel the Spirit.

OPENING SONG   Being the weekend of the 4th, we begin with Woody Guthrie’s This Land is Your Land:
This land is my land,
From California to the New York Island,
From the Redwood Forest to the Gulf Stream waters,
This land was made for you and me.

As I went walking that ribbon of highway
I saw above me that endless skyway,
I saw below me that golden valley,
This land was made for you and me.

I roamed and I rambled, and I followed my footsteps
To the sparking sands of her diamond deserts,
All around me a voice was sounding,
This land was made for you and me.

When the sun came shining, then I was strolling,
And the wheat fields waving, and the dust clouds rolling,
A voice was chanting as the fog was lifting,
This land was made for you and me.

One bright sunny morning, in the shadow of the steeple,
By the relief office I saw my people,
As they stood there hungry, I stood there wondering if,
This land was made for you and me.

Was a big high wall there that tried to stop me,
Was a great big sign that said, "Private Property,"
But on the other side, it didn't say nothing,
That side was made for you and me.

Nobody living can ever stop me,
As I go walking my freedom highway,
Nobody living can make me turn back,
This land was made for you and me.

Woodland and grassland and river shoreline,
To everything living, even little microbes,
Fin, fur, and feather, we're all here together,
This land was made for you and me.

I mention that the last verse was added by Pete Seeger as an environmental/climate verse.

We begin our service of the word with Psalm 48, usig this as a response:
Great are you Lord, you are  holy and just
By yoiur power we trust in your love
Great are you Lord, you are  faithful and true
By your mercy you proves you are  love.
Our Epistle is 2nd Corinthians 12: 2-10,
Which I follow with my doo wop By the Grace of God and then the GOSPEL Mark 6: 1-13.

Our reflection was like this:
So what did you do to celebrate the 4th of July? When you look back, which 4ths were your favorite? Where have you seen fireworks? I can think of beaches, of neighbors’ back yards, Riverside Park. And one incredible year when I was invited to the Pawnee nation annual pow wow and watched as they entered the ceremonial grounds carrying an American flag to chants and drums. I asked what they were doing.
It’s the flag song, they said. We sing it to welcome back our men from the wars. And remember those who did not. The contrast of the flag, no national anthem, their own song of thanksgiving and lament, was profoundly moving.

What does it mean to be a patriot?  All the major league teams yesterday wore hats and uniforms with stars and stripes and flag motifs. I suspect that had more to do with merchandising and marketing than patriotism.

Today we are singing two great songs, call them patriotic songs, with interesting stories. Woody Guthrie wrote This Land is Your Land…in 1940 in response to Kate Smith’s God Bless America. He originally called it God blessed America. His anti-capitalist critique was not part of what I learned growing up.

Katharine Lee Bates wrote America the Beautiful in 1893 after a visit to Pike’s peak. Never married, In 1910, when a colleague described free-flying spinsters as fringe on the garment of life, Bates answered: I always thought the fringe had the best of it. I don't think I mind not being woven in.

She lived for 25 years with Catharine Coman, her love since her Wellsley college days.

So there you have it…two of our most loved patriotic songs…one written by a communist (sympathizer?) and the other by a lesbian. (And I hope that annoys someone somewhere..)

I thought about this a lot this week as Jeremy’ wife, our graphic artist Priska Wenger, became a citizen. About what is pledged. And at the ballgame I went to with my brother in Detroit, They held a special court session right at homeplate to welcome 45 new citizens. I loved it as the camera panned their faces, from the corners of the world.

SO what does it mean? Clearly love of country. And with that, It’s been a roller coaster ride:
*Black lives matter
* The ongoing assault on voting rights
*Ongoing mass incarceration
*The Charleston massacre
* Marriage equality

Scripture has some clues.
First Paul. The famous thorn in the flesh passage. No one knows exactly what that was. Bur nite that he prayed and prayed and prayed to have it removed. And it never was. And that should tell us something.

He says My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness."…and ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.
When Howard Rice, then president of San Francisco Theological Seminary,  ran for moderator of the General Assembly, he was confined to a wheel chair. In the question and answer period, someone asked um how he would hold up to the physical challenges of the job, he responded with this quote. And that my friends, was the election.  s

What does that mean? What is your greatest weakness.  How does it make you strong? I suppose we learn from them, we have to find ways to work around them. Took me years to learn I had adhd and depression and countless doctors and…for me it is still an issue. And I am still responsible to find ways to deal with it. My disability activist friends look for healing, not curing. Perhaps it means we have to be completely reliant on God.

But as a nation….Sharon Welch has said that our dominant culture is one of control. That in itself can be for good or evil or both. She calls for an ethic of risk…Ultimately control is impossible. And risk is necessary for peace. (In the new Cuba –US relationship, …who’s at risk there? I just read an article concerned about Cuba;s natural environment once it opens up. Then there are the ongoing US-Iran negotiations.
Jesus says "Prophets are not without honor, except in their hometown, and among their own kin, and in their own house." 5And he could do no deed of power there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them…..
11If any place will not welcome you and they refuse to hear you, as you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them." 12So they went out and proclaimed that all should repent. 13They cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.

We need the prophetic voice of loving critique. (Abraham Joshua Heschel….said that a true prophet comes from a  people and speaks to  a people..and must never be divorced from that people. )

One of the signers John Witherspoon was a Presbyterian.  Our theology of imperfection serves us well. NO one and even more no party or official perfect.  As in IAF, ALL must be subject to critique.

Bill Coffin, chaplain at Yale during my time there, at the peak of the Vietnam war, brought these words of Katharine Bates to my attention:

America! America! God mend thine ev’ry flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control,
Thy liberty in law!

Let this, with love be our prayer today…



SECOND READING 2 CORINTHIANS 12:7b-10
Therefore, to keep me from being too elated, a thorn was given to me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me, to keep me from being too elated. 8Three times I appealed to the Lord about this, that it would leave me, 9but he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness." So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. 10Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.

GOSPEL MARK 6:1-13
1He left that place and came to his hometown, and his disciples followed him. 2On the sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astounded. They said, "Where did this man get all this? What is this wisdom that has been given to him? What deeds of power are being done by his hands! 3Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?" And they took offense at him. 4Then Jesus said to them, "Prophets are not without honor, except in their hometown, and among their own kin, and in their own house." 5And he could do no deed of power there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them6And he was amazed at their unbelief.
Then he went about among the villages teaching. 7He called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. 8He ordered them to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts; 9but to wear sandals and not to put on two tunics. 10He said to them, "Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave the place. 11If any place will not welcome you and they refuse to hear you, as you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them." 12So they went out and proclaimed that all should repent. 13They cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.

So what did you do to celebrate the 4th of July? When you look back, whiuch ines were your favorite? Where have you seen fireworks? I can think of beaches, of neighbors back yards, Riverside Park. And one incredible year when I was invited to the Pawnee nation annual pow wow and watched as they entered the pow wow grounds carrying an American flag to chants and drums. I asked what they were doing.
It’s the flag song, they said. We sing it to welcome back our men from the wars.

What does it mean to be a patriot?  All the major league teams yesterday wore hats and uniforms with stars and stripes and flag motifs. I suspect that had more to do with merchandising and marketing than patriotism.

Today we are singing two great songs, call them patriotic songs, with interesting stories. Woody Guthrie wrote This Land is Your Land…in 1940 response to Kate Smith’s God Bless America. He originally called it God blessed America. His anti-capitalist critique was not part of what I learned growing up.

Katharine Lee Bates wrote America the Beautiful in 1893 after a visit to Pike’s peak. Never married, In 1910, when a colleague described "free-flying spinsters" as "fringe on the garment of life", Bates answered: "I always thought the fringe had the best of it. I don't think I mind not being woven in."

She lived for 25 years with Catharine Coman, her love since Wellsley days.

So there you have it…two of our most loved patriotic songs…one written by a communist (sympathizer?) and the other by a lesbian. (And I hope that annoys someone somewhere..)

I thought about this a lot this week as Jeremy’ wife, our graphic artist Priska Wenger, became a citizen. About what is pledged. And at the ballgame I went to with my brother in Detroit, They held a special court session right at homeplate to welcome 45 new citizens. I loved it as the camera panned their faces, from the corners of the world.

SO what does it mean? Clearly love of country. It’s been  roller coaster ride:
*Black lives matter
* The ongoing assault on voting rights
*Ongoing mass incarceration
*The Charleston massacre
* Marriage equality

Scripture has some clues.
First Paul. The famous thorn in the flesh passage. No one knows exactly what that was. But notice that he prayed and prayed and prayed to have it removed. And it never was. And that should tell us something.

He says My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness."…and ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.
(Howard Rice story….that was the election)

What dos that mean? What is your greatest weakness. How does it make you strong? I suppose we learn from them, we have to find ways to work around them. Took me years to learn I had add and depression and countless doctors and…still an issue. And I am still responsible to find ways to deal with it. My disability activist friends look for healing, not curing. Perhaps it means we have to be completely reliant on God.

But as a nation….Sharon Welch. Our dominant culture is one of control. That in itself can be for good or evil or both. She calls instead for an ethic of risk…Ultimately control is impossible. And risk is necessary for peace. (Cuba –US…who’s at risk there? US-Iran..)
Jesus says "Prophets are not without honor, except in their hometown, and among their own kin, and in their own house." 5And he could do no deed of power there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them…..
11If any place will not welcome you and they refuse to hear you, as you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them." 12So they went out and proclaimed that all should repent. 13They cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.

We need the prophetic voice of loving critique. (Heschel….from a  people to a people..) One of the signers John Witherspoon, Presbyterian.

Our theology of imperfection serves us well. NO one and even more no party or official perfect.  (IAF)ALL must be subject to critique.

Bill Coffin, at the peak of the Vietnam war, brought these words of Katharine Bates to my attention:

America! America! God mend thine ev’ry flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control,
Thy liberty in law!

Let this, with love be our prayer today.

To introduce our prayers, Andre sings, Just a Closer Walk With Thee and for  our
OFFERTORY, How Great Thou Art. Today is a Sunday for EUCHARIST. And so we celebrate with bread and cup. And close our service with the Kathy Lee Bates song,  O Beautiful:
O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!
America! America! God shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

O beautiful for pilgrim feet,
Whose stern impassion’d stress
A thoroughfare for freedom beat
Across the wilderness!
America! America! God mend thine ev’ry flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control,
Thy liberty in law!

O beautiful for heroes proved In liberating strife,
Who more than self their country loved,
And mercy more than life!
America! America! May God thy gold refine
Till all success be nobleness,
And ev’ry gain divine!

O Beautiful for patriot dream
That sees beyond the years
Thine alabaster cities gleam,
Undimmed by human tears!
America! America! God shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

We were blessed today to have with us the two new summer interns from the Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations. And now on to enjoy the rest of the day….



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