Saturday, November 28, 2015

Last Sunday with the Work center and Open Choir: Of Kingdoms and Kindoms


Work Center and Open Choir

Today is the last day of the residency of our Work Center friends at West-Park.  And today they will be joining us in worship once more. They are joining us for the Sunday that has traditionally been the last Sunday of the church year, Christ the King Sunday, or Reign of Christ Sunday. As well as the Sunday before Thanksgiving.
Before the service, Felicita stops by to see me. She had not been able to be part of our shared vision conversation. She’s aware that changes are taking place at West-Park. That the building  is greatly improved. And improving. And that financial needs are great. One thing you must never lose, she says, this can never just become a rental space.  You cannot lose the spirit that has been here. This place is holy. Every time before we perform here, we sweep and mop the floors. We clean the pews, the cushions. It connects us with the space, like our home. It upsets me when I see people who just rent. Who come in, use, pay their money and leave. I can’t imagine this in a church in Italy. (I say something about government support…) She says, No, that is not what I mean. I am an ex-Catholic, I don’t know what I believe but I know the holiness of this space. What if all your renters, long term I mean, would take turns cleaning different spaces? Would that change how they feel? What if you gathered for a once a month meal, after working together? Is that too crazy? To care for the house you live in together and to share together. Like a community?  OK, those are my thoughts…
Mario knows that I am opening the service with these words from Revelation:
4bGrace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, 5and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.
To him who loves us and freed us from our sins by his blood, 6and made us to be a kingdom, priests serving his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
7Look! He is coming with the clouds; every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and on his account all the tribes of the earth will wail. So it is to be. Amen.
8"I am the Alpha and the Omega," says the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.
And has chosen their songs accordingly, songs from the American South, African-American work songs,field songs, call and response, spiritual, early gospel.  Weaving their bodies in a circling motion as they sing. 
The singing begins
When its my turn, I ask everyone to sing Come Ye Thankful People Come, and We Gather Together, traditional American Thanksgiving songs.
Then we reads the gospel, JOHN 18:33-37 and shared this reflection:
Do you know what a Caliphate is?  The group we know as ISIS calls the territory they already control the caliphate, a geographic territory.  Under their control in which Islamic law in its most extreme form. There are maps on the internet that show a territory that runs from Spain  and Portugal all the way across the Balkans, North Africa, the Middle East and into China. All the territory the Muslims once controlled reunited.  After that the Mahdi will arrive and the Messianic age will be ushered in with Jesus’ help.  That is the dream. Bear with me. This is not another anti-Muslim   rant.

Next we get Greater Israel…all the land promised to Israel by God. The first, found in Genesis 15:18–21, seems to define the land that was given to all of the children of Abraham, including Ishmael, Zimran, Jokshan, Midian, etc. It describes a large territory, from the brook of Egypt to the Euphrates, comprising all of modern-day Israel, the Palestinian TerritoriesLebanon,SyriaJordan, and Iraq, as well as KuwaitSaudi ArabiaU.A.EOmanYemen, most of Turkey, and all the land east of the Nile river. Seems crazy. Obviously in direct conflict with the ISIS vision. But…for now, all of mandate Palestine seems to enough of a first step.

We’ll take a brief detour for the crusaders’ campaign to recapture all the territory that had once been Christian. They actually did create the empire of Jerusalem ruling over 350,000 Jews, Muslims and Eastern Christians…

And how can we forget the Holy Roman Empire? That lasted almost 1000 years and ran from the Baltic and North Seas to the Mediterranean? Prague, Rome, Budapest? The last remaining gasps of the original Roman Empire now under the sign of the cross? The emperor elected but needing the sign off of the pope to be official.

Or the Treaty of Tordesillas where the pope divided up the world between Portugal and Spain? The Spanish arriving with la cruz y la espada…the cross and the sword….it’s not a far leap from that Philippians passage….. 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, 11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
And before I stop, let’s throw in the plan supported by US and Australian fundamentalist Christians  to blow up the dome of the rock in Jerusalem so that the Third Temple can be built.
Empires. Kingdoms.  How can we even talk about Christ the King in 2015? Years ago, I wanted to explore this from a feminist perspective which is how Katherine Kurs came here to work with us for 10 years. Now it’s the kingdom part that worries me.
Those who have been in our Bible Study know that Wes Howard-Brook in his Come Out my People….says that there are two religions in the Bible…not Judaism and Christianity but that of Creation and Covenant and that of Empire. They are in constant tension from beginning Genesis to Revelation’s end.
And that’s the conflict we look at today in the storyof Jesus’ conversation with Pilot. The emperor asks of Jesus,  "Are you the King of the Jews?" 34Jesus answered, "Do you ask this on your own, or did others tell you about me?" 35Pilate replied, "I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests have handed you over to me. What have you done?"36Jesus answered, "My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here." 37Pilate asked him, "So you are a king?" Jesus answered, "You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice."

Bottom line…Jesus says his kingdom  is not of this world…if it were armed rebels would be in the house…
So what does he mean? More and more, I’m thinking he’s asking us not to sign up for rebel armies..but to create communities of resistance….what does that mean? Like the African- American communities that created the music our friends sing, communities of liberated space where the kingdom, no kindom, already exists. A community in, but not of the world…
What would that look like? Feel like? I’m not completely sure but I know that anyone walking in would immediately feel so that’s what this place is… How would we build that? Create that? It would begin by believing it was possible and by beginning to act as if it already existed..
So how then would we relate to the kingdom of this world, this empire? I’m not exactly sure… black lives  matter and refugees and migrants and income inequality?
Still working on that…I suppose if we got the first part going, the second part would follow…and I know this…it means not allowing any other power or authority to command our ultimate  allegiance.. it’s a way of life, not assent to a theological proposition…knowing you don’t get to the empty cross of resurrection without the embodied cross of the crucifixion.. it is ultimately that act of solidarity that welcomes in  new reality, it is humility, not triumph…
The Work Center Open Choir leads us in more songs, singing, weaving, …
and as I watch Jenna, I understand that at it’s highest level, several of the choir members are creating and embodying characters, that character allowing for a deeper level of experience than even the singing and dancing. Having them with us again has been as always a moving experience. In more ways than one.
Felicita, Bob, Mario, Jeremy and Myrto
We stand together in a circle. Make our blessings and sing Amen. Until the next time….
Mario, Rachel and John

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