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Thursday, February 25, 2016

First Sunday in Lent: What tempts you?

2/14 

For this First Sunday in Lent, I sing the old standard, Farther Along… 




And after reading Luke 9: 28-43, we begin our reflection.

So it’s Valentine’s Day…and the first Sunday of Lent..and I’m not sure how to bring those two together…except to say a few things about Valentine’s Day…it’s got that Hallmark kind of romance around it…but what if you're not in a relationship? Well, it’s kind of painful. I think we need to move beyond sweethearts and those candy hearts with those clever sayings on them to think about the importance for friends. A very wise person once said Friends will get you through times of no lovers better than lovers will let you through times of no friends…Maybe that’s all I need to say…

Lent …we have 40 days of self –reflection, self-criticism. Self-assessment . 40 days to get us ready for the celebration of the Resurrection and new life.

A second shot at those New Year’s resolutions…

It’s about the length of spring training. (Pitchers and catchers start next week…) This is Jesus’ training session for what’s to come.

Notice…it's the same spirit that blessed him at his baptism that drives him into the wilderness…

And we’ve got this whole wrestling match with the devil… but I’ve  got to tell you, it’s hard for me to get a hold of.  This devil seems to be more like the Satan we met in Job. The prosecuting attorney. The accuser. Almost like he’s in league with God. Like Rocky training Apollo Creed’s son for the big fight.

And we even have to wonder, is he hearing these voices in his head? What are the accusing  we hear in our heads?

Let’s look at the temptations…

The first…stones to bread..to feed the hungry…was misquoted in we are the world

As God has shown us by turning stone to bread
So we all must lend a helping hand




..in fact God didn’t change stones to bread, that was a tempting offer by the devil…as a a Jehovah’s witness, MJ should have known that…
Then there’s the offer of kingdoms. The devil says, …for it has been given over to me…well, ok…by whom? For what purpose? What’s going on here?

And the devil keeps calling him son of god…which Jesus, check this out, never calls himself…

Finally the Evil Knievel challenge…the Nick Wallenda’s walk across Niagara Falls…Philipe Petite’s Twin towers  walk..the David Blane stand on a tower in union park or buried alive routine…and Jesus says NO to all…just to get people to believe in him…and the devil eve quotes scripture..

Finally…the devil departs until an opportune time…so what does that mean? When Jesus is most vulnerable….like maybe in the Garden?

It’s not like dancing girls, cocaine and lavish goods the devil is offering here…everything he offers is GOOD…it's the offer of accomplishing what Jesus was sent here to do…

Jesus’ temptation is to take the easy way out..what a thing to ponder in this primary season…we face those choices  daily…

I love the Hilary Clinton perspective:   Don’t let the (achievable) good be the enemy  of the perfect……

What I come down to is that God is God. It's no dualistic , binary world we live in. Like Stephen Mitchell has God say in his translation of Job ….your problem is you think someone else is in here… there’s only me…

Jesus is like Jacob, godwrestling….at the fork of the Jabbok

Jesus in training for the ultimate fight , the fight with  death…

Does the devils turn to God and  say, OK, he’s good to go?

We’ve got 40 days to get in shape…

so please, let us  help each other….






GOSPEL LUKE 9:28-36 (37-43)

So.
28Now about eight days after these sayings Jesus took with him Peter and John and James, and So it’swent up on the mountain to pray. 29And while he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white. 30Suddenly they saw two men, Moses and Elijah, talking to him. 31They appeared in glory and were speaking of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. 32Now Peter and his companions were weighed down with sleep; but since they had stayed awake, they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him. 33Just as they were leaving him, Peter said to Jesus, "Master, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah" — not knowing what he said. 34While he was saying this, a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were terrified as they entered the cloud. 35Then from the cloud came a voice that said, "This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!" 36When the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silent and in those days told no one any of the things they had seen.
37On the next day, when they had come down from the mountain, a great crowd met him. 38Just then a man from the crowd shouted, "Teacher, I beg you to look at my son; he is my only child. 39Suddenly a spirit seizes him, and all at once he shrieks. It convulses him until he foams at the mouth; it mauls him and will scarcely leave him. 40I begged your disciples to cast it out, but they could not." 41Jesus answered, "You faithless and perverse generation, how much longer must I be with you and bear with you? Bring your son here." 42While he was coming, the demon dashed him to the ground in convulsions. But Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit, healed the boy, and gave him back to his father. 43And all were astounded at the greatness of God.



Monday, February 15, 2016

Nous saluons le retour, Victoire. Ya Coots!

2/12

Singing with Victoire

It’s been a long day so I’m looking forward to Open Mic Friday, now under the direction of the 3 D’s, Dion and the two Davids.

Rachel has come to hear David L open the show.
David Lyons opens
  But the dog is not too excited about this. (One of David’s best songs: Why don’t you love me like my dog does…)

The first part of the show feels like the Upper West Side Senior Citizen All Star Review as a bloc of old friends has signed up. Gene Cross plays some originals backed up by Helen Cohen who also performs. 
Gene and Helen
Nancy Morera does an old Irish folk song.
nancy Morera
And Shirley Eiten performs some old standards.
Shirley Eiten
This, as we like to say, is why we are here.

In the  middle of this bloc,  I’m overjoyed when I see French singer Victoire and her new husband Henri walk in, fresh from their time in Brazil. It’s been at least a year since they’ve been here.
Victoire and Henri

After strewing the floor with papers and other detritus, setting the stage, so to speak, Patricia Lewis closes this part of the show with an extended monologue called French Fries, which takes place in a McDonald’s.
Patricia Lewis and French Fries

Sound man David S does another of his classic acoustic rock sets which he does so well. And then it’s my turn. Since I saw Victoire walk in, I completely redo my set. I open with my closer,  Carolina, since it’s new and she hasn’t heard it.  Then my raucous Love Again Tomorrow. I tell everyone to please stick around because they are in for a surprise.  Then I invite Vic up to join me on my Queen of the Factory Town song.
We’ve done this before and I love how she weaves her voice through the song. It feel so good to do this again.

Dion does one of his tightest stand up sets yet.
Dion
And then it’s time for Victoire.
Victoire

Her voice has a breathy smoky quality rooted in the folk tradition but with echoes of Brel and Piaf and Paris cafes and something else that is completely her own. She sings  two songs in French and then a new one she wrote in English that is a paen to the old chapel and the old cowboy. That is here, this open mic, and RL. After that, Daivd L decides not to try and follow that performance but to just quietly end the night.

Underscoring  my happiness is a profound sadness. Victoire and Henri came in tonight wearing the Dusty Withers badges they’d received from RL . Dusty being the title character of RL’s 1950’s radio cowboy show recreation with his own unique sense of humor. The Dusty badges were cherished gifts given to the guests he invited to his studio in upstairs Room 3A.
Dusty
They wore them in anticipation of a homecoming with RL and the very first music community that welcomed her to New York City from France. Before she left she had also become a part of the Sunday morning community as well. She should have found him there. And Mandola Joe.  And Pat O. 

It was a good night. But all of us here owe something to RL. David L played his first public performances at one of RL’s shows.  Dion gained confidence to do stand up from RL. And became a key member of the West-Park church community. David S, now our handy man, also came via RL. As for me, he gave me a place to begin playing again after 30 years and the confidence that allowed me to go out in public again, touring with Pat O to some 30 venues last year.(That groundbreaking tour had its genesis here.) He critiqued my songs, with no mercy but lots of care. Got my old Epiphone rehabbed and got me my first gig bag so I felt like a bonafide touring musician.

His open mics, were accepting and supportive and at their peak, created a community of people who respected and cared for one another, as musicians and as people. Few other open mics give you 3 songs, which gives you enough time to feel out the audience, screw up  and still have time to recover.  The 3 D’s remain faithful to that tradition.  What is not seen by some is so often so much more valuable than what is seen. There is no price on what happened to us inside..

He did this because he wanted to support the reconstruction of the church and to support this musical tradition. No fan of can you top this jams, he was often brought to tears by impromptu unlikely collaborations that could come out of nowhere on any given night just because. Well, yes, and to have a place to play and collaborate himself. We still haven’t been able to figure out how to finish the night without his signature Stay Awhile

That's why Vic and Henri wear the Dusty Withers badge. In the last year, she’s toured Portugal and Brazil. She has a new recording out and is under consideration for a major festival this summer. Two nights from now, she’s got a serious gig at a funky French-Mexican venue in hip Williamsburg with another French singer, Marine Futin, who recently played the storied Apollo. Her American adventure began right here, with RL. And that’s why she wrote the song.

Nous saluons le retour, Victoire. And yes, Ya Coots!









Saturday, February 13, 2016

Transfiguration



2/7 



Pastor Bob and the Seed Group singers


Today is Transfiguration Sunday. The Seed Group is back again. They open our service with some songs. Concluding with Jeremy leading us in Light of the Lighthouse by Blind Willie Johnson


We read Psalm 99 and then LUKE 9:28-36 (37-43) . Following the gospel, Jeremy leads  us in the original camp meeting version of Glory, Glory Hallelujah. "Oh! Brothers will you meet me(3X)/On Canaan's happy shore?"[1] and chorus "There we'll shout and give him glory (3x)/For glory is his own";[2] this developed into the familiar "Glory, glory, hallelujah" chorus by the 1850s. 

 And then Jenna does a reading from Zora Neal Hurston’s Their Were Watching God where the town celebrates the arrival of the first street lamp in a colored (sic) town.
and we all sing Jesus the Light of the World…

And then time for reflection

TRANSFIGURATION SUNDAY is one of those  “gateway” Sundays…like Christ the King (Advent), Ascension (Pentecost) It marks the culmination of a season, a time, before a new one begins…

This marks the end of the season of light…began with epiphany…the star, the aha! moment…the moment of getting it… the narrative since Christmas has followed Jesus’ journey of self-discovery, and in parallel, our  journey of discovery of our own calls…so we pause here…before a time of self-reflection, self-examination that will come with Lent..

And the topic is transfiguration, which defined is ….

a complete change of form or appearance into a more beautiful or spiritual state.

Well, alright then

Transfiguration…words like

Shining   and Glory (from the latin Gloria ) that word alone has seven meanings…from high praise to God to magnificent beauty…

What is in the story?

Jesus on a mountaintop with Moses and Elijah…the law and the prophets…also Moses “shines” …Elijah is carried up into the heavens …(Elijah still has the capacity to come around…at brises…and Passover , we save a seat for him..and well, any time…)
How do the friends respond? Peter, always impulsive, wants to make the moment last…build three booths, so the guys can hang out…stay on the mountaintop…but they have to go back to work and immediately, Jesus has to deal with a demon…

When March madness ends in April with the national basketball championship, the song they always play with the tournaments’ video highlights is…one shining moment..

SO what?
1.     We all have those moments of glory. At least I hope we do…we don’t want to let go…the last night of Antigona, I almost cried as I watched each moment for the last time..wanting to hold on…I’ve had services here where I just wanted it  to end there…some recent Christmases., eg…but the next day, there;s work to be done,…you have to go back and start again…whoever wins the Suoer Bowl, next July will have to start all over again.

As I watch the videos of my first grand child, I remembered the birth of his father, that Is my first child…I want to tell him hold onto these moments, they’re gone  so fast… for just a moment, think clearly  in your head of your moment…what did that feel like?

2.     This story is in 3 of the gospels…but only Luke speaks of the apostles weighed down with sleep….why? These guys are not tired, they are exhausted..physically, mentally, emotionally….and Jesus keeps trying to tell them the worst is still ahead…
Luke is saying what it’s like…you solve one problem another one comes up..you fix one part of this old building, another issue appears..just when you think a moment of financial  peace Is here, something always happens….you come back for a great family trip  to Dublin,with two full week s of  August left to get ahead …and you fall and break five ribs…your day is carefully planned and one thing after another  goes wrong…you just want to sleep..or stay in bed…I almost feel Luke is thinking about depression…

But because they manage to stay awake, they catch this moment of glory…
When you feel like you can't go on…,.open your eyes wider…see what you see…

3.     Glory and transfiguration
Glory, glory halleliujah!...Jeremy gave us the ur source. of that familiar song.and I can tell you no one knows more about that sing than Jeremy…I still remember his play…all the variations, and the deviled eggs…but that’s another story….

Julia Ward Howe used this song fpr the battle hymn….I raised eyebrows the first time I used it on this Sunday….it was this verse..

In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea,
With a glory in His bosom that transfigures you and me.
As He died to make men holy, let us die to make men free*,
[14]
While God is marching on.

We’ve moved away from it’s militarism, no longer in our hymnbooks…but…for her the apocalyptic moment was apotheosis of the abolition movement and her sense of an apocalyptic moment in the struggle for human freedom…

Did you know Lincoln suffered from depression? What they called melancholia? Only when he saw a cause beyond himself, when slavery moved from a political issue to a sense of  call  could move beyond his depression….

Once we have seen or experienced those transfiguring  moments, they are always  there…their memory keep us going…and that going becomes more than going, which can only leave us exhausted, if we have a vision to move to …our personal dream or a cause beyond ourselves…

So …preparation for Lent…this week, before Ash Wednesday, write down your shining moment…see it clearly…have your  own mardi gras, or celebrate with others…and then on ash Wednesday, make list of the things that weigh you down, exhaust you, make you want to stay in bed…. And pray about them or meditate on them for 40 days…and then I’ll tell you what happens next….

Following the reflection, we share Eucharist together. And the service concludes with another selection of songs by our group, it's good to feel them moving closer to us.  And then time for a benediction and Amen.

                           ****
FIRST READING EXODUS 34:29-35
29Moses came down from Mount Sinai. As he came down from the mountain with the two tablets of the covenant in his hand, Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God.30When Aaron and all the Israelites saw Moses, the skin of his face was shining, and they were afraid to come near him. 31But Moses called to them; and Aaron and all the leaders of the congregation returned to him, and Moses spoke with them. 32Afterward all the Israelites came near, and he gave them in commandment all that the LORD had spoken with him on Mount Sinai. 33When Moses had finished speaking with them, he put a veil on his face; 34but whenever Moses went in before the LORD to speak with him, he would take the veil off, until he came out; and when he came out, and told the Israelites what he had been commanded, 35the Israelites would see the face of Moses, that the skin of his face was shining; and Moses would put the veil on his face again, until he went in to speak with him.

GOSPEL LUKE 9:28-36 (37-43)
28Now about eight days after these sayings Jesus took with him Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray. 29And while he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white. 30Suddenly they saw two men, Moses and Elijah, talking to him. 31They appeared in glory and were speaking of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. 32Now Peter and his companions were weighed down with sleep; but since they had stayed awake, they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him33Just as they were leaving him, Peter said to Jesus, "Master, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah" — not knowing what he said. 34While he was saying this, a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were terrified as they entered the cloud. 35Then from the cloud came a voice that said, "This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!" 36When the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silent and in those days told no one any of the things they had seen.
37On the next day, when they had come down from the mountain, a great crowd met him. 38Just then a man from the crowd shouted, "Teacher, I beg you to look at my son; he is my only child. 39Suddenly a spirit seizes him, and all at once he shrieks. It convulses him until he foams at the mouth; it mauls him and will scarcely leave him. 40I begged your disciples to cast it out, but they could not." 41Jesus answered, "You faithless and perverse generation, how much longer must I be with you and bear with you? Bring your son here." 42While he was coming, the demon dashed him to the ground in convulsions. But Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit, healed the boy, and gave him back to his father. 43And all were astounded at the greatness of God.