Monday, May 2, 2016

Fifth Sunday in Easter: Will they know we are Christians by our love?


Artesanal paper and gemstones by Junia Flavia D'Affonseca

Karl Barth said we  should hold the bible with one hand and the New York Times with the other.
It’s been an interesting week. We had a Presidential primary in New York. We were the center of attention for the first time in decades. It actually meant something.
Then there was an article in the Times about the percentage of income required for housing in New York City. In a nation where the standard rate is 25-30%, in our city it is…
Brooklyn 65.4%
Queens 54.1%
Bronx 54.1 %
Manhattan 47.9 %
Only Staten Island  at 27.9% is within range.

Carman Moore and Lotte Arnsbjerg did a return performance of Girl of Diamond Mountain and former congressman and wrestling icon Richard Hastert was accused of sexual abuse of minors.

Another pop music icon, Prince died at age 57. And his song Purple Rain was everywhere..
Honey, I know, I know
I know times are changing
It's time we all reach out
For something new, that means you too
You say you want a leader
But you can't seem to make up your mind
Spike Lee threw a Brooklyn street party in his memory.  Our friend Junia posted her artesanal purple paper on Facebook.

And another wrestling icon, Joanie Laurer, better known as Chyna of the WWE died, most likely of an overdose.  Before the WWE, before substance abuse issues, porn and  reality TV, she was a young woman who majored in Spanish lit and was in training for the peace corps. (

And we had a happy convergence of Earth Day and Passover.

Now what do we find in our other hand? The Bible hand? In the Gospel of John we read:
 31-32 When he had left, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man is seen for who he is, and God seen for who he is in him. The moment God is seen in him, God’s glory will be on display. In glorifying him, he himself is glorified—glory all around!
33 “Children, I am with you for only a short time longer. You are going to look high and low for me. But just as I told the Jews, I’m telling you: ‘Where I go, you are not able to come.’
34-35 “Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—when they see the love you have for each other.”
This is the story of Jesus’ Passover meal with his disciples…it follows the story of his footwashing and his giving the bread to Judas…

Sooo …we are  talking about Judas here in 13:31..The narrative has a strange dynamic. For the narrative of a necessary crucifixion/resurrection cycle to be complete, someone HAD to do it. (But then someone always does..)  The recently discovered Gospel of Judas takes the position that this was a  special assignment . It was a very difficult necessary job and Judas was the only one that Jesus could trust with it. …(Judas has always held fascination in popular culture;  like in Kazantsakis’ Last Temptation… and Scorsese’s film version and Jesus Christ Super Star…) Why did this have to be the narrative?
 We have this story during Easter, as we anticipate the Risen Christ’s leaving, because here Jesus is preparing his disciples for LOSS. For difficult but important transitions..and for accepting loss.
How then is God glorified in this ? 
 And is this really a new commandment? Well not exactly. (In Matthew 22: 36-40, Jesus says that the greatest commandment is to love your neighbor as yourself..)
Maybe he means …love me like I have loved you…(and going to the cross itself is glory…Jesus’ decision to go there glorifying God…)
The community he is calling into being is a radically open community. Last week, I went to an open house at Broadway Presbyterian where out former intern Chris Shelton is now pastor. They have a homeless shelter and once a four star soup kitchen. Once a month, they push back the pews in the  sanctuary and church members and community people and homeless people and Columbia students and Union Seminary faculty all break bread together. ( )
Every First Sunday we serve and share a meal with the homeless guests at SPSA. And thanks to Kate Baum, it is a FULL meal with main dishes, side dishes, salads, desserts and table cloths and nice settings. Other churches serve pizza or sandwiches on paper plates. But not Kate.  She has a firm belief that Everyone deserves Sunday dinner…
It’s like in that song that became popular in the ‘60’s… 

They’ll know we are Christians by our love…
The question to ask ourselves is Would the neighbor miss us if we were gone?
The vicar at Trinity reminds us, When you have a scaffolding up, or not, unless your doors are open, people assume you are closed..let our doors be open…
 It’s about Agape…it’s about They’ll know we are Christians…

That is all I want for this church, that’s all I want..

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