Saturday, August 27, 2016

In the waning days of summer....


It’s the waning days of August. The last part of vacation. Last week was my annual beach time with my clergy colleagues. I love beach time, the rhythm of the days. I wish I could take a whole week. Or more. So I’m thinking about rest.

What do you think of when you think of sabbath? It’s clearly important. In Abraham Joshua Heschel’s classic, it’s  built into the framework of the universe.  It breaks the relentless march of time. We need time to remember:  i.e., put ourselves back together. Like when a painter steps back from their work to review the canvas. 

For Walter Breuggeman, sabbath is resistance. A protest against the commodification of everything. It’s also about  equality. All people, including servants, and animals, get a sabbath. (Although there was a tradition, not Biblical, of hiring a Sabbath goy). 
NO business is to be done. (That would mean NO meetings….they break the  spirit of Sabbath…and no L’shan hara…NO speaking ill of another, that too,  breaks the spirit…

Rest. Clergy need another day for our sabbath. But…there’s a problem. Part of the concept of sabbath is it’s communal in nature. 

What do you remember as a child? “Blue laws”…all the businesses closed. A big  dinner after church. Then quiet time. Until supper. I could feel that rhythm of quiet all around me.

Being in Israel on Sabbath, you can feel it.(Conversely it’s strange waking up on a Sunday and finding rush hour traffic and the beginning of the work week..)

It’s a struggle to preserve even Sunday morning in a multicultural world. (For my kids in this neighborhood, soccer and  little league baseball took place on alternating days. I was lucky in my 15 years as coach…got lots of “favors” to keep church time free for my games. (When I was in Oklahoma, I played FIFA soccer. We won division 4. Then 3. BUT…Division 2 played at 11 AM on Sundays. I was moved when my team voted to stay in Division 3 so I could still play.

Obviously the Bible takes it seriously. For’s the  center  of the commandments. A bridge between those before,which relate to God, and those after, which relate to to neighbors. In our Bible Study, breaking the Sabbath demanded capital punishment. 

That’s why the people are so upset with Jesus. But then he uses the traditions around animals to make a point. It’s about Settingfree…unbinding…not healing or curing but setting free…Sabbath as liberation….

What in our life needs to be set free?  (Last week Jesus was  in a straight place, stressed…)

His response’ like a Pittsburgh parishioner once told me, was to Set principle aside and do what’s right…
Thanks Leila!
So what is sabbath to you?

We spoke of our memories, of quiet times, family times. And how hard it is for us now…the bigger issue of course, is Jesus call to be set free from the world of commodification, set free to live….

Luke 13:10-17

10Now he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the sabbath. 11And just then there appeared a woman with a spirit that had crippled her for eighteen years. She was bent over and was quite unable to stand up straight. 12When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said, “Woman, you are set free from your ailment.” 13When he laid his hands on her, immediately she stood up straight and began praising God. 14But the leader of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had cured on the sabbath, kept saying to the crowd, “There are six days on which work ought to be done; come on those days and be cured, and not on the sabbath day.” 15But the Lord answered him and said, “You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger, and lead it away to give it water? 16And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen long years, be set free from this bondage on the sabbath day?” 17When he said this, all his opponents were put to shame; and the entire crowd was rejoicing at all the wonderful things that he was doing.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Jesus brings division....


49 “I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! 50 I have a baptism with which to be baptized, and what stress I am under until it is completed! 51 Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division! 52 From now on five in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three; 53 they will be divided:
father against son
    and son against father,
mother against daughter
    and daughter against mother,
mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law
    and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”
Interpreting the Time
54 He also said to the crowds, “When you see a cloud rising in the west, you immediately say, ‘It is going to rain’; and so it happens. 55 And when you see the south wind blowing, you say, ‘There will be scorching heat’; and it happens. 56 You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky, but why do you not know how to interpret the present time?

What’s up with Jesus?  Does this even sound like him?
Even though he’s talking here with his closest friends, nevertheless, it’s disturbing…

Families torn apart?
Is that what the guy whose name we claim brings?

While a case can be made for what response a radical righteousness produces, what concerns me is that this is the self-description of every demagogue that comes along. Or people in extreme positions. Jesus language has an apocalyptic sense like Trump’s “Midnight in America ” speeches. It’s especially hard in what feels like one of the most divided times in our country. It almost feels like  Jesus is glorying in that division.

First, let’s look at the context….he speaks of a baptism…he sees that what lies head for him is like  a baptism, a baptism of fire, as we say…Jerusalem is inevitable.  He can see where this is leading.  To go against the church and state, the establishment, the empire, yes , that will bring division….

As I quoted from Mary Gautier last week:
My church and my country could use a little mercy now
As they sink into a poisoned pit it's going to take forever to climb out
They carry the weight of the faithful who follow them down
I love my church and country, they could use some mercy now

Let’s look closer at  what he’s feeling… Συνέχομαι  distressed, hard pressed, in a diificult strait, in a tight place…
He’s feeling STRESS
He is IN A TIGHT SPOT, in a STRAIGHT   (it’s like in Hebrew,  the word mtrzrayim, it’s the word for Egypt, but it also means the narrow place, the tight place…talking about that has become part of the passover seder..)..
Should we tell Jesus to maybe do some mindfulness work? Take up yoga?
Are you under stress/ tension? What makes up yours?
Also….he feels we can’t read the times….again, that’s hard…facing what we’re facing these days…
Our homeless population has once again risen from 60,000 to now almost 80000…what’s going on? That’s why we’re seeing so many around…There’s boundless spirit around us...,but it feels like it’s all circulating in a small circle. 

We’ve got a candidate for our highest office who says our president founded the world’s worst terror organization (that actually could  have been argued for another president)

There's no progress on the climate  crisis
What do you read?  In the signs of these days?
One of our congregation feels like Hilary and Trump are actually in cahoots together.  Old friends, invited wedding gests, etc. And that Trump is so outrageous just to guarantee Hilary wins. Another is mainly worried about her children. And another sees hope and possibility out of the definitive clarity of the moment.
Is division inevitable?  We’re not sure.
Today, after the scripture, I sang Blowin in the Wind, by Bob Dylan, remembering his line You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows…
Things are quieter now that Restoration ministries has moved on to Judson Church for their services. Though the volume of their worship often gave me a headache, I nevertheless miss their eclectic blend of rocking pentecostalism, progressive social perspective and African American prayer and worship while being openly and celebretary.. queer.  I will definitely miss them.

Thanks again, Leila

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Rally for Housing

The Rally for Affordable Housing

The Interfaith Assembly leads the rally
First: The invite to the rally
Please join the Interfaith Assembly and other faith leaders and people of faith: 

To bear witness to the critical need for supportive housing 
for the most vulnerable New Yorkers

Wednesday, August 10, 2016 
 9am to 10am
At Governor Cuomo's New York City Office 
633 3rd Avenue (btwn. 4oth and 41st street

and to urge the Governor to release the 
full funding for 6,000 units of supportive housing 
over the next five years by signing, without delay 
the MOU for the 1.9 Billion in the state budget 
for affordable and supportive housing 

This presence in front of the Governor's office will be the third weekly Wednesday witness in partnership with the campaign 4 NY/NY housing to let the public and the Governor know that New Yorkers across the state call on him to act now to sign the MOU for the full $1.9 billion. We hope you will help us send the message that New York's people of faith stand with our most vulnerable neighbors in calling for action NOW. 

Fully six months since Governor Cuomo pledged to produce 20,000 units of supportive housing over the next 15 years, and over 100 days since the Governor and State Legislature included 1.9 billion in the state budget for affordable housing including 6,000 units of supportive housing,  a mere $150 million has actually been authorized

As the Daily News  
reported last month 
about the memo of understanding still unsigned 

"Gov. Cuomo, Legislature deadlocked on $2B affordable housing plan for New York"

The lives of New York's most vulnerable residents are not a bargaining chip!! They are our mothers and fathers, sisters, brothers, children and neighbors. 

Supportive Housing development is an endeavour that involves multiple partners and years of planning and coordination. The current $150 million authorization severely constrains our partners' ability to gain the long term commitments from funders, developers, property owners and others required to move forward on the scale of development that our current crisis demands. Every delay in signing the full Memorandum of Understanding truly means that many of our most vulnerable neighbors will suffer and some will actually die prematurely from the lack of appropriate housing and needed services.
Marc L. Greenberg
Executive Director
Interfaith Assembly on Homelessness and Housing
165 West 105th Street, NY NY 10025

The Press release:

gather on Wednesday, August 10, at 9am in front of the NYC office of Governor Andrew Cuomo to bear witness to the crisis of homelessness and call on the Governor to exercise his leadership and sign an MOU with the State legislative leaders to release 1.9 billion dollars in the New York State budget to fund 6,000 units of supportive housing state wide over the next 5 years. 

Faith leaders will include: The Reverend Peter Cook, Executive Director of the New York State Council of Church, The Reverend Robert Foltz-Morrison, Executive Presbyter, Presbytery of New York City, Dr. Anne Klaeysen, Leader, New York Society for Ethical Culture, Sister Carol De Angelo, Sisters of Charity of New York, Iman Boukadoum, Interfaith Center of New York, The Reverend Robert Brashear, Senior Pastor, West Park Presbyterian Church, Marc Greenberg, Executive Director, Interfaith Assembly on Homelessness and Housing, and others, and will be joined by members of the Micah Faith Table and of the Life Experience and Faith Sharing Association – including men and women who have themselves been homeless. 

In November of last year, in an effort spearheaded by the Interfaith Assembly on Homelessness and Housing, nearly 300 faith leaders called on the Governor and the Mayor to commit to produce 35,000 units of supportive housing over the next 15 years, and this June over 150 faith leaders endorsed another letter urging the Governor and State legislative leaders to sign the MOU to release, without delay, the full 1.9 billion in the New York State budget for affordable housing and supportive housing for New York’s most vulnerable households.

 “As the legislative session closed on June 18th we were dismayed and deeply disappointed to learn that the Governor and State leaders agreed to release a mere $150 million of the 2 billion dollars in the state budget for affordable and supportive housing.  Every delay in signing the full Memorandum of Understanding means that many of our most vulnerable neighbors will suffer and some will actually die prematurely from the lack of appropriate housing and needed services. We see no reason to delay this effort one more day!” – The Reverend Robert Foltz-Morrison, Executive Presbyter, Presbytery of New York City. 
Presbytery Exec Robert Foltz-Morrison addresses the rally

‘With 20,000 households across the state of New York approved for supportive housing each year but only 1 in 6 actually obtaining it, our most vulnerable citizens need our elected officials to stand up for them TODAY and sign the Memo of Understanding for the full 1.9 Billion Dollars – a true 5-year commitment and not a series of one year allocations.  Signing the MOU would send a powerful signal to members of our communities, the general public, advocates, stakeholders and the entire country that New York is serious in its determination to end homelessness and help to affirm the public’s faith that Government is committed to help all citizens to live full and decent lives.  New Yorkers look to Governor Cuomo and our State leaders to do their job and sign the full MOU NOW” -- The Reverend Peter Cook, Executive Director, New York State Council of Churches 
Marc with Peter Cook of the New York State Council of Churches

“As people of faith, we believe that decent housing is the God-given right of all people. Our elected officials have done their part, they've budgeted the money. All it requires is the governor's signature. And still Governor Cuomo refuses to sign. It is simply wrong, in every sense of the word, to hold the lives of our most vulnerable neighbors, hostage to political whim. Governor Cuomo, sign now!” – The Reverend Dr. Robert Brashear, Senior Pastor, West Park Presbyterian Church, Chair, Interfaith Assembly on Homelessness and Housing
Pastor Robert Brashear and Robert Foltz-Morrison

“Today, I stand with faith leaders to bring to our awareness our brothers and sisters who need a place to live, a place they can call home, especially those in need of supportive housing. Too often, their stories are not known, their voice not heard. We need to get to know them, listen to their stories and respond.  We are one family, brothers and sisters to each other. I give thanks for all who are working to address this injustice. 

Sisters of Charity of New York join with Interfaith Assembly on Homelessness and Housing, faith leaders and others who urge Governor Cuomo and New York State legislators to sign the MOU on Supportive Housing. The MOU is one way to bring forth new life for those in need of supportive housing.

Pope Francis, in Laudato Si: On Care For Our Common Home, states: “Disregard for the duty to cultivate and maintain a proper relationship with my neighbor, for whose care and custody I am responsible, ruins my relationship with my own self, with others, with God and with the earth. When all these relationships are neglected, when justice no longer dwells in the land, the Bible tells us that life itself is endangered.” -- Sister Carol De Angelo, SC, Director of Office of Peace, Justice and Integrity of Creation for the Sisters of Charity of New York.

“The New York Society for Ethical Culture was the first community to answer Mayor Koch’s call to provide shelter for our most needy neighbors. After 30 years of giving comfort and support to women in transition as they take the necessary steps to self-sufficiency, finding a new home and job, we join our colleagues from throughout our great state in calling on our Governor to do his job and sign the MOU without delay.” Dr. Anne Klaeysen, Leader, New York Society for Ethical Culture.

“Supportive housing is the best, most humane, and most cost effective way to provide chronically homeless people the support they need. Providing supportive housing to our most vulnerable residents saves government’s money -- $10,100 per year, per tenant here in New York – by reducing hospitalizations, detox and rehab programs, and incarceration.  But supportive housing development is an endeavor that involves multiple partners and years of planning and coordination.  The current $150 million authorization severely constrains our partners' ability to gain the long term commitments from funders, developers, property owners and others required to move forward on the scale of development that our current crisis demands  .  The lives of New York's most vulnerable residents are not a bargaining chip!! They are our mothers and fathers, sisters, brothers, children and neighbors.” – Marc Greenberg, Executive Director, Interfaith Assembly on Homelessness and Housing

The letter signed by 150 faith leaders reads in part:  ““As members of the clergy and the leaders of faith based communities and service organizations, we are on the front lines of providing support to the 80,000 homeless children, women and men in our communities. From Montauk to Massena, Brooklyn to Buffalo, too many individuals and families with serious social service needs simply cannot find and maintain permanent, affordable housing and get off the streets.” … “With the stroke of a pen, you can begin to change that”.   

As people of faith, we know you each share our belief that the true values of a society are revealed in the way it treats the neediest and most vulnerable among us. That is why we are writing you today to encourage you to finish the job by signing the Memo of Understanding your budget requires before those funds can be spent, and those 6,000 new units of supportive housing can be built”.

(For press people – for more info – – 917-913-0098)

What I said at the rally:

I need your help to try and figure something out.  We all know there’a crisis in affordable housing.  Maybe 80000 homeless. We got busy…those of us who work in the area of housing did our job. We wrote up programs and proposasl. And delivered them to our elected officials. Those of  us in the fauth community did our job. We wrote letters, we communicated with our elected officials.Told them of our concerns. And lo and behold, they listened. And praise the Lord, they did their job. They budgeted 1.9 billion dollars for affordable housing.  That was six months ago. SO where’s the money? Someone must not be doing their job. Who could it  be? Gov. Cuomo Maybe? So our first message is:  do your job.
The second is: sign the memo. Now.
To use the most vulnerable in our society as political bargaining chips is reprhensible. To hold them hostage is morally worng. We are here to say that stops now. 

Addressing the rally

What do you treasure?


We live in difficult times. I don’t believe we have ever lived through an election like this before that despite the trappings of normal, is anything BUT normal. I am still sorting out what that will require of us over time…I’m learning new songs, well, some old like Hard Rain, but also a new one like Mary Gautier’s Mercy Now…:
My church and my country could use a little mercy now
As they sink into a poisoned pit that's going to take forever to climb out
They carry the weight of the faithful who follow them down I love my church and country, and they could use some mercy now

In a moment like this, Jesus says:
Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. 33 Sell your possessions, and give alms. Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. 34 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Uh, that’s us….the little flock..and as always…the message begins with do not be afraid..and this
For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

On Friday, I went to my Aunt’s funeral. It was good to be with family.This set of  cousins was especially close. Our fathers were two brothers of their mom’s second marriage so they were especially close. We were well matched in age and vacationed together every summer.  My mom, still adjusting to life post stroke was there. In a reserved family, my aunt was operatic in personality. She and my mom were of a generation of women, that post war ‘50’s suburban world, in which defined roles were given to them, and they dutifully sought to fulfill them regardless of the cost. I opened up a conversation along those lines and my mom agreed.
I remember her teaching…her first full time teaching job at age 50…She said that part from family things, walking into that classroom was the happiest day of her life.
My mom, my aunt, they treasured their families, their children…my generation has similar commitments but has lived them out differently. I wonder what I truly treasured…my family, or my work? There are decisions I would make differently. ….
So what do you treasure?  What if you’re only biography were your checkbook?
As we talk about this, for most of us, family is pretty much at the top. And close friends. People.
Jesus says: Be dressed for action and have your lamps lit; the image is of a master returning from wedding, ok…but about this thief in the night image?!!!  Does Jesus really want us to go there?
There’s a story about a rabbi. A student asks, Do you have to seek forgiveness every day? Oh no, the rabbi responds, ..only on the day before you die…The student says, but how do you know when that is? And the rabbi just smiles.
I’m reminded again of my mom and her stroke..It’s not like you wake up thinking, oh later today I’ll have a stroke….or get hit by a car (like me) or… it’s 9/11.  You never know. Don’t be afraid…invest your time energy and money in what you value…and you will be ready,you will be ready…

The songs I sung for the day were Mary Gautier’s Mercy Now. And Rock of Ages. We gathered close together  in the front. And we shared communion. And the peace. And went on our way.

Thank you Leila

Watchful Slaves
35 36 be like those who are waiting for their master to return from the wedding banquet, so that they may open the door for him as soon as he comes and knocks. 37 Blessed are those slaves whom the master finds alert when he comes; truly I tell you, he will fasten his belt and have them sit down to eat, and he will come and serve them. 38 If he comes during the middle of the night, or near dawn, and finds them so, blessed are those slaves.
39 “But know this: if the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he[a] would not have let his house be broken into. 40 You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.”