Saturday, May 28, 2016

Trinity Sunday: Does it make any difference?


a table for Trinity Sunday

So what’s new this week? …I attended an Andrew Goodman Foundation update …They currently have ambassadors, IE on 41campuses (…they are working on registration…especially important in a day where the bright to vote is begin rolled back and challenged every day…In Louisiana, for example, there is a new law requiring photo ids to register. Over  100,000 students have ids with no photo… that’s enough votes to turn an election..

I did two weddings in the park on Friday. It was filled with  tourists.…It was warm, perfect weather… There were at least 3 couples getting married…Back at the church, Dion was on the steps selling his collection of stuffed animals
Dion and the stuffed animals
I had long conversation with a member, talking about concerns very dear to me.. I began remembering what I enjoy about this work…we are on the very  cusp of summer….

Yesterday…even in the midst of a performance by Broadway Bound Kids, we did our annual tours as part of the Landmarks Conservancy Sacred Sites Open House Tour day.   I love telling our story, the archi-theo-social history of this very special place. (

Today is Trinity Sunday…41 years ago, this day marked the occasion of my first sermon…at St.Paul’s, New Haven..This day is a pause before launching  into the long green season…of Sundays after Pentecost, of ordinary time…which ends with our only other theological theme Sunday…Christ the King..

The question to keep in the back of your mind…does it make any difference?

Russ’ bulletin cover
gives us another Trinity.. racism, materialism, militarism.. (from Martin Luther King Jr’s speech at Riverside Church…) those three up against the Father, Son and Holy Ghost is  like a 3 on 3 streetball game…..

This concept has troubled me since I was a kid …I got in trouble in Sunday school asking questions…there were of course those cool diagrams…is/is not…all of that …
traditional Trinity diagram
and of course the Celtic trinity’s 
Celtic Trinity
with all thee all interconnected circles and lines…

I can give you all the standard  explanations but….

Historically, Thomas Becket (1118–70) was consecrated Archbishop of Canterbury on the Sunday after Pentecost (Whitsun), and his first act was to ordain that the day of his consecration should be held as a new festival in honor of the Holy Trinity. This observance spread from Canterbury throughout the whole of western Christendom.
Anglo-Catholic parishes observe Corpus Christi on the following Thursday, or in some cases the following Sunday.
John XXII (1316–1334) ordered the feast for the entire Church on the first Sunday after Pentecost. A new Office had been made by the Franciscan John Peckham, Canon of Lyons, later Archbishop of Canterbury (d. 1292). The feast ranked as a double of the second class but was raised to the dignity of a primary of the first class, 24 July 1911, by Pius X (Acta Ap. Sedis, III, 351). Since it was after the first great Pentecost that the doctrine of the Trinity was proclaimed to the world, the feast becomingly follows that of Pentecost. (from Wikipedia..)

The key quote…the only one in the Gospels is Matthew 28: 19
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,

 Notice it took nearly 400 years to be established as a doctrine..

The three persons are distinct, yet are one "substance, essence or nature".[4] In this context, a "nature" is what one is, while a "person" is who one is.[5][6][7]
The Fourth Lateran Council declared, "it is the Father who generates, the Son who is begotten, and the Holy Spirit who proceeds")

“Whitsunday”….simply means ”white”…the color we use today….

What difference does it make?

The Father (or Creator)  …..leads us to respect for/care for “creation”…ongoing partners with the creator in the ongoing work of creation

Son (or Human One)….leads us to see the sacredness of our lives…seeing the  face of God (and Christ) in all people

Holy Spirit (or Wisdom?) is what flows through and sustains us…informs and supports our friends and community…

They are different ways for being for us, all ways of being a community of faithful believers…but all the same substance of the Holy One who is our God…

And so we go out…to make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…


Saturday, May 21, 2016

Pentecost: What do you hear?


celebrating new elders

Leila and Pat have decorated the chapel in red for Pentecost…
Martha Kato is our musical guest…

It’s been another one of those weeks…so Donald Trump has selected New Jersey Governor Chris  Christie to head his transition team. Last Friday night, my rabbi friend Steve Blane shared with me his fear: y’know, he might actually  get elected…and that he was beginning to understand how, well, the unimaginable happens.. It starts to be sadi…well, he’s not that bad….there are good points….he doesn’t really mean it, once he’s elected…we’ve been there before, Steve says.

I went to an interesting exhibit. Civil courage in difficult times. At Gallery MC. The little known (at least here) story of the Macedonian Jewish community and how the Macedonian people shepherded so many to safety in Albania, and yes, how Albania became a safe haven for Jews from southern and eastern Europe.

I went to two weddings yesterday. A Fools Wedding as one of our Theatre Dzieci friends got married at 2nd Presbyterian. And a wedding of friends from Union Seminary filled with  bright, (shining?) young people. Hmmm. Pentecost is about hearing voices…I’m hearing lots of voices…what voices have you been hearing? And too, who is hearing your voice?

Pentecost…it’s a day about speaking….and hearing…and understanding…a Christian holiday…the birthday of the church, actually…my friend Palestinian Christian Naim Atik when speaking in the United States is always asked…when did your family become Christian? And his answer, on Pentecost…. Our day set on the Jewish holiday of Shavuot, the festival of weeks, or as it was known in Greek, Pentecost, counting 50…

The Jewish festival celebrates Moses receiving the law on Mt. Sinai, amidst fire and smoke…and here the visitation of tongues of fire… what exactly did they hear? See?
If you hang out in the sanctuary, you’ll hear music that pulsates and throbs like rock music, higher and higher, people running and jumping and even falling out…and yes, ecstatic speech…I’d never heard that before…sometimes  I wish I could feel that…

But that’s not how we understand it…let's go back to Babel…we spoke last week about being one…that's kind of what they were about in Babel…but my friend and colleague Regi used to refer to as an enforced oneness, an authoritarian project…ONE tongue, ONE language…a joint project of seeking to have equal authority with God…like the German Christian movement in the 30’s …church and fuehrer, one….

Pentecost is …and is not….the reversal of Babel…it is in that unity is restored…it is NOT in that the distinct voices remain DISTINCT…the miracle is not a miracle of speaking but a miracle of hearing…a miracle of understanding…

It’s not just languages…God, Gott, dieu, dios, hashem, allah…I’ll never forget sitting in a Christian service in East Jerusalem and hearing God referred to as Allah…did you realize that? Palestinian and other Arab Christians pray to Allah?

We’ve got other languages. Cultures. Professions. Classes…How do we hear one another? Understand one another? I hear some fellow Americans speak and I feel we are not speaking the same language…

Bathrooms are in the news…I have a friend from North Carolina…she’s as progressive as you get…but she loves her people…she wondered how the southern wedding guests were handling the wedding scene, complete with trans friends.. ….you know most of us have never even met a trans person, she says…it feels like northern liberals who look down on us, see us  as inferior, telling us what to do…I don’t think my northern friends understand how arrogant we liberals can sound sometimes…The longer I live in New York City, the more sensitive I become to the class consciousness of the liberal elite…Couldn’t we just begin with conversation? She asks…

Do you know how we finally won gay ordination in our church? Well yeah, society was headed that way, but….It had passed 2 previous General Assembly’s only to be defeated at the local presbytery level.  After the second defeat, when a new opportunity arose, the grassroots lgbtq folks decided to change strategies. To pledge to no longer engage in dialectical partisan debate but instead to pledge to holding 1000 conversations in 2 years. Each of us had to promise what number we could lead.  Follow up was done 1000 conversations were held. Gay ordination passed, (even when the tall steeple liberals said it was too soon…)

We wondered…what if our pro-choice advocates could hold 1000 conversations?
(COW after Kent State…)One of the things that happens is that when people really open themselves up to other people, issues become personed…cognitive dissonance arises…and a person has to resolve that either in behalf of the principle or the person…most, (clearly not all) go with the person..

As a member of a church I pastored in Pittsburgh said, explaining why they fully welcomed a young gay man who had grown up in the congregation: Pastor, sometimes you just have to set principle aside and do what’s right…

It’s not a miracle of speaking but of hearing…who hears our voice? Who understands us? Who do we need to listen to?  I struggle with that in the Micah Instititute all the time, accepting my Pentecostal brothers..…and there are people in any congregation who just do not hear each other…

The message of Pentecost takes it beyond our personal capacities…another force enters …another reality…the Holy Spirit…it is the work of the Holy Spirit to enter into the places where we intersect and help us to hear each other…

What conversations do we need to have?
Come Holy Spirit, come…

Today during our offertory, I sing Blowin’ in the Wind..remembering how when I was a kid our preacher connected the song  to Pentecost…how the wind and the Holy Spirit were similar, if not the same..and the answer is indeed Blowin’ in the Wind..(although my long ago Pastor called him Bob DY –lan)

As part of our celebration today, we are ordaining two new elders, Russ Jennings and Pat Klein. 
New Elders Pat and Russ
I want to make it special. Because it is.  Their ordinations are as important as mine. In our tradition, they are ordained to rule, I’m ordained to teach. We share with them the hand woven stoles that for years stood a silent protest in our GA's. Represnting all the ministries, turned away, buried, denied. Today, with that battle over, they symbolize WELCOME. I am wearing the red stole given tp me by my friend TK when I celebrated with him the Buddhist day commemorating the giving of the light... the Holy Spirit color...I explain how they stand in a long line that goes all the way back to Peter. And when we do the laying on of hands, there are centuries of hands touching our hands as we pray. A long, long line, a great cloud of witnesses.  We sing Everytime I feel the Spirit…..and our worship is over…

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Seventh Sunday in Easter: One


Singing with Daniel from Lebanon

John 17: 20-26 from the Message by Eugene Peterson

I’m praying not only for them
But also for those who will believe in me
Because of them and their witness about me.
The goal is for all of them to become one heart and mind—
Just as you, Father, are in me and I in you,
So they might be one heart and mind with us.
Then the world might believe that you, in fact, sent me.
The same glory you gave me, I gave them,
So they’ll be as unified and together as we are—
I in them and you in me.
Then they’ll be mature in this oneness,
And give the godless world evidence
That you’ve sent me and loved them
In the same way you’ve loved me.
24-26 Father, I want those you gave me
To be with me, right where I am,
So they can see my glory, the splendor you gave me,
Having loved me
Long before there ever was a world.
Righteous Father, the world has never known you,
But I have known you, and these disciples know
That you sent me on this mission.
I have made your very being known to them—
Who you are and what you do—
And continue to make it known,
So that your love for me
Might be in them
Exactly as I am in them.

Today is Mothers’ Day.  Friday was the day of Daniel Berrigan’s funeral. Donald Trump seems to have the GOP nomination all wrapped up. Thursday was also Ascension Day…the day we celebrate Jesus leaving earth..fro the time being…after his 50 days of earthly, bodily resurrection. I remember being in Germany ‘Himmelfahrt” day, or “heaven journey”. “Fly up day”, like the Girl Scouts. And today we’re talking about ‘One” about being ‘One”…I can almost hear John Lennon:
I am he as you are he as you are me
And we are all together…..
I am the eggman
They are the eggmen
I am the walrus
Goo goo g' job

SO what is this “one” all about?
In the list of many possible meanings of the Greek word "one," it is this particular definition that applies here: "in contrast to parts, of which a whole is made up." There is a healing of past divisions explicit in such unity; the wholeness is created through Christ, which is non-existent otherwise. The famous verse from Galatians is a fitting example of the fervent prayer of Jesus for his followers both present and yet to come: "There is no longer Jew nor Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are in one in Christ Jesus." Ephesians 4 comes to mind, too. "There is one body and one Spirit ... one hope ... one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all." (Presbyterian Outlook)

All well and good. But so what?  Our society feels far from one. The greatest income disparity since Teddy Roosevelt and JP Morgan.  The super rich don’t even want to see people not like them.  (That’s the worst)  I believe what we see in the current election is vast numbers of people saying it just doesn't work for them anymore and that they’ve lost all hope in things as they are.
While I don’t believe that Trump supporters and Sanders supporters are two sides of the same  coin, both are expressing frustration. 

I really enjoyed Andrew Sullivan’s article in New York, where he wrote with empathy about the abandoned white collar voters who back Trump. I was especially touched when he wrote about how it feels when you’re barely able to hold onto the bottom rung of the economic ladder and up and coming young Ivy League men tell you to “check your privilege” and look down on you. Somewhere along the identity politics line the Democrats abandoned the working class.

We are NOT one, we are divided.
Since we’ve settled sexual identity issues in our church, new divisions are appearing:  big vs. small, rich v poor, the churches that are doing well and have pastors and the vast majority that do not.
We are not ONE. we see signs? Donald Trump wants to build a “beautiful wall”…in Acts, the wall comes
We’ve had as special friends the Seed group and Open Choir. Friday night, I attended their One Day; a Festival… in the Samuel Freedman Home.  (Itself an interesting story…built by Samuel Freedman during the depression days for broke millionaires, today housing neighborhood programs and housing for artists….) There was :
A Cuban bamba group
An African-American drum circle of young people from the South Bronx
An African-American gospel choir from a South Bronx Catholic Church
A Garifuna choir from the same church…
Oh…and me!

What moved me was the connections that had been made…these young people actors and musicians from all over the world accepted as full brothers and sisters by deeply Christian folk…and followers of Yoruba rooted religions…not judging, just feeling the inner connections…sharing each others music and dance…remaining themselves with their own unique backgrounds but also ONE at the same time…
At the Samuel Freedman home

When I do weddings, two candles  remain lit. The families  of origin always remain…even as the new family begins…the couple becomes one even as they remain themselves..

Oneness implies reconciliation. More than letting bygones be bygones. This summer, at our PC(USA) General Assembly, there will be an overture (taken to New York City Presbytery by West-Park and Jan Hus…) calling for an apology to the LGBTQ community for years of exclusion.  The Covenant Network, tall steeple liberals, have declined to support it because it is “divisive.” More Light, on the other hand has called for a Truth and Reconciliation Commission, like South Africa. To begin by telling stories. And listening. Sometimes all people ask is to be heard..

This church. Are we divided? Hmmm. Not sure. We certainly have lost people over  the years. What would reconciliation look like? Would it even be possible? Is there a first step? What would being one look like? Feel like?  If you have  any thoughts, let me know…

In the meantime, let us seek to find that place of being one…


As it is Mother's Day, here is the original Mother's Day proclamation from Julia Ward Howe, before it be came sentimentalized...

Arise, then, women of this day! Arise all women who have hearts,
whether our baptism be that of water or of fears!

Say firmly: "We will not have great questions decided by
irrelevant agencies. Our husbands shall not come to us, reeking
with carnage, for caresses and applause. Our sons shall not be
taken from us to unlearn all that we have been able to teach
them of charity, mercy and patience.

We women of one country will be too tender of those of another
country to allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs. From
the bosom of the devastated earth a voice goes up with our own.
It says "Disarm, Disarm! The sword of murder is not the balance
of justice."

Blood does not wipe our dishonor nor violence indicate possession.
As men have often forsaken the plow and the anvil at the summons
of war, let women now leave all that may be left of home for a
great and earnest day of counsel. Let them meet first, as women,
to bewail and commemorate the dead.

Let them then solemnly take counsel with each other as to the
means whereby the great human family can live in peace, each
bearing after their own time the sacred impress, not of Caesar,
but of God.

In the name of womanhood and of humanity, I earnestly ask that a
general congress of women without limit of nationality may be
appointed and held at some place deemed most convenient and at
the earliest period consistent with its objects, to promote the
alliance of the different nationalities, the amicable settlement
of international questions, the great and general interests of

Julia Ward Howe