Sunday, December 31, 2017

Ecclesia: a la puerta del ano nuevo (en espanol)


Listo para culto de adoracion con mi hermano Padre Clyde

Ecclesia es una iglesia muy especial. Adorando el Dios todos los domingos afuera en tres parques de la ciudad, una communidad "pan-denominacional" con peronsas sin hogares con oraciones, himnos, y eucaristia. Esta manana me siento honorado a compartir con mis hermanos y hermanas en el parque en el viento helado: -10 degrees C!
Despues leyendo de gospel, fue el tiempo para mi homilia.......

Ya casi estamos terminados con 2017. No hay mucho mas.  Muchos de mis amigos estan diciendo que ellos  tengan mucho alegria a ver el fin de este ano. Pero, el problema es, el ano pasado, estaban diciendo la misma cosas. Yo necesito pensar me...el projimo ano, va pasar la misma cosa de nuevo? .

Sin duda este ano ha sido muy dificil, muy duro. Especialmente con mis companeros del camino. Muchas temores, muchas heridas.

Ahora estamos a la puerta del ano nuevo. Una nueva oportunidad para renovacion.

Tambien es el septimo dia de navidad. Yo creo que es importante siempre a celebrar todas doce dias, . ...En la biblia tenemos el nino Jesus en el templo por su dedicacion. Sus padres fueron fieles en tradicion..Les encuentran dos persones justos...Simeon y Ana.

Simeon lleva el nino en sus brazos. Este es el cumplimiento de sus expectaciones....este hombre justo entienden que este nino viene por todo el mundo, si todas personas, justos o no. Todo el mundo.

Anna esta profeta sin cuidado por su misma. Con profetas, asi es. Ella tiene cuidsdo por la redencion de su ciudad. Y asi es con nosotros. Pero Simeon tiene una otra palabra por Maria.
He aquí, este Niño ha sido puesto para la caída y el levantamiento[i] de muchos en Israel, y para ser señal de contradicción 35 (y una espada traspasará aun tu propia alma) a fin de que sean revelados los pensamientos de muchos corazones.

Porque este nino  esta aqui para nosotros, el va caminar con nostros cada paso del camino porque este es el camino del amor.. Y por eso, es inevitable que el va sufrir. y por eso, su madre va sufrir. Por que este es el camino del amor.

Estamos al puerto del ano nuevo. Soy uno que creo en resoluciones del ano nuevo. Alguna vez, actualamente se hacen. se hacen direccion. Trata mandar este tarde en refleccion del ano pasado. Y sus esperanzas por el ano nuevo. Y manana, abra la puerta. Hace un paso. Simplemente uno. EN este direccion. Y paso por paso, dia por dia, camina. Conociendo que el nino que  nosotros celbramos es con nostros en cada paso.

Nunc dimittis servum tuum Domine, secundum verbum tuum in pace.

Ahora deja que tu siervo
Señor, Señor,
De acuerdo con tu palabra, irse en paz.

Let your servant now go in peace, O Lord
Now go in peace,according to your word.

Despues oraciones y compartiendo la paz, vamos juntos a rompir pan como hermanos y hermanas. El ano esta casi terminado......

Ecclesia: at the doorway of a new year


Ready for worship in Marcus Garvey Park with  Clyde Kuemmerle

Ecclesia is a special church. As a "pan-denominational" Christian community, there are three congregations worshipping outdoors in three New York City parks, Madison Square in the Flatiron, Tompkins Square in the Lower East Side and Marcus Garvey in Harlem. Gathering every Sunday afternoon throughout the year, regardless of weather, there is preaching, prayer and Eucharist followed by a meal served by a select circle of "sponsor" congregations and a rota of preachers. Founding Pastor Clyde Keummerle is very particular at who preaches at the services, so I consider it a bit of an honor to be invited for this last Sunday of 2017.

As I head to Marcus Garvey Park, it's a frigid 12' F (-11'C) and with the wind, even colder. I'm greeted by Pastor Clyde and volunteer Vijay from the Interfaith Center. There's an overflowing shopping cart under the ledge. Clyde figures its owner is probably in the hospital since its been there since last week. Christmas  Eve Sunday was milder and several dozen turned out here in Marcus Garvey. In this weather, the circle will be smaller. There are other logistical issues as well, but we will worship.

Clyde passes out hand warmers and we're ready to begin. After reading Luke 2: 22-40, I share my homily:

So we're just about done with 2017. Not much left. Can't tell you ow any  friendsI I have who have said how glad they are to see it go. Only thing is, I remember last year everyone saying how glad they were to be done with 2016. Makes me wonder if we'll be back here again next yearsaying the same thing about 2018.

No question about it's been a rough year.. Especially for my neighbors. Folks I walk with. Lots of hurts. Fears. Anxieties.

But we're at the doorway of  another year. A new year. And maybe how it turns out, maybe we have something to do with that. A new year's a new opportunity to reboot, take another shot at what we want.

This is also the seventh day of Christmas. ...that's seven swans a swimming if you're keeping count...and in the Bible we've got baby Jesus being brought to the temple for dedication. His parents were good about keeping the traditions...and they encounter two people....two righteous people...Simeon and Anna...

Simeon takes the child in his arms ...this so what he's bene waiting for ...and rejoices....because Simeon, righteous and devout, understands that the Messiah has come for the unrighteous and the unclean, God's people Israel as well as the Gentiles.  FOR EVERYONE.

Anna is a prophet, not concerned with her own salvation, but with the redemption of her city. That's what prophets do. But Simeon has another word for Mary, Jesus is sent for the falling and rising of many, but a sword will  pierce her soul. Because this child is here for all of is, because this child will walk with us every step, because this chid will walk from Garvey Park and the streets of Harlem and wherever we will go, it is inevitable that things will happen that will hurt. That will be painful. And because they hurt him it will hurt her. But that's what comes with love.

We stand stand at the doorway of a new year.  I'm one who actually believes that New Year's resolutions are ok and that sometimes they actually work, if only to set directions. What would it mean to leave this park this afternoon, reflect on the year just past, and reflect on what we might want for the new year. And wake up tomorrow morning, open that door and take just one step. Just one step in that direction. One step at a time. One day at a time.

Knowing that the baby we  celebrated  last week is Jesus the human one who walks with us every step of the way.

Nunc dimittis servum tuum Domine, secundum verbum tuum in pace.

Ahora deja que tu siervo
Señor, Señor,
De acuerdo con tu palabra, irse en paz.

Let your servant now go in peace, O Lord
Now go in peace, according to your word.

We share our prayers. There  are family  issues. And housing issues. And job issues. And then the sharing of peace.

My feet and even lips are freezing. Clyde will lead us to Manna's, a soul food restaurant, for a luncheon buffet. The year is almost over.

Gospel Luke 2:22-40

22When the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23(as it is written in the law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male shall be designated as holy to the Lord”), 24and they offered a sacrifice according to what is stated in the law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.”

25Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; this man was righteous and devout, looking forward to the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit rested on him. 26It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. 27Guided by the Spirit, Simeon came into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him what was customary under the law, 28Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying,
29  “Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace,
          according to your word;
30  for my eyes have seen your salvation,
31       which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
32   a light for revelation to the Gentiles
          and for glory to your people Israel.”

33And the child’s father and mother were amazed at what was being said about him. 34Then Simeon blessed them and said to his mother Mary, “This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed 35so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed — and a sword will pierce your own soul too.”

36There was also a prophet, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, having lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, 37then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped there with fasting and prayer night and day. 38At that moment she came, and began to praise God and to speak about the child to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.

39When they had finished everything required by the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. 40The child grew and became strong, filled with wis

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Urban Church, Global City: Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay


a gathering in Colonia del Sacramento

The City of Colonia (del Sacramento), Uruguay is one of those cities that lives larger than its actual  numbers. This is a reflection of both its historic and current reality. Historically, Colonia bounced back and forth between Portugal and Spain until Uruguay finally gained its independence from Brazil.  This historic colonial port city is cosmopolitan by its very nature. Today, less than an hour across the river from Buenos Aires, it can almost feel like a part of the metro area. The city is constantly  filled with tourists taking in  the narrow colonial cobblestone streets,
Narrow streets

the old city
dating from 1680,
Historic archway
fortifications, convents, lighthouse with sweeping views, etc. as   well as the sharp corner of Uruguay.
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Such is the context for ministry here.

Colonia the southwest corner of Uruguayserves as the center of pastoral  activities for  four more communities including  Riachuelo, San Pedro, El General y La Barra all under the leadership of Pastor Ariel Charbonnier. A single newsletter publicizes the activities of the various communities including worship, Christian Education, Bible Study and the Women's League. 

Pastor Ariel has brought together a gathering for conversation including members from the "other" Colonia, Valdense, and their pastor Oscar Geymonat.
Iglesia Valdense de Sacramento and Pastro Ariel
There is some joking about the  that in Colonia Valdense, todo el mundo son valdense... everyone is a Waldensian. 

We focus in on the particulars   of church and city, seeking to understand  the context of ministry. We talk about history, the tree most important events, etc. And especially why be a Waldensian now? And then began to talk about the importance of paying more attention to gifts than needs. 

As is true elsewhere, the Waldensians here seem to have a greater social and cultural impact than thier  numbers would seem to indicate. it would seem to be important moving forward to ask what special call the cosmopolitan reality of Colonia del Sacramento maybe making on the church. 

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Urban Church, Global City: Dolores, Uruguay


"El Granero de Pais"

The city of Dolores, Uruguay, calls itself el granero de pais, that is the barn of the country. It is the center of the surrounding agricultural  area and sits on the left bank of the San Salvador River before it empties into the Uruguay River. 

Dolores' true claim to fame is it's annual celebration to welcome spring every October. For one weekend a year, every other activity  stops and .the  city fills with visitors from all over. 
Festival float
While there are many accompanying activities like carnival games and rides, music, food and drinks, the center piece of the festival is a grand parade that passes through the city's streets.
A grand parade

Ostensibly organized by the lcoal high school students, the hands of the  parents are clearly visible and the students joke abut their parents' intensity about the event. (Something strikes me as universal about that...)One can imagine the fathers who drive the vehicles that haul the giant decorated floats gathering for a beer after. 

The festival is so all consuming if the city that even church  services set aside for the weekend. La Iglesia Valdense, however prides itself  on the massive barbecue it produces. Thanks to a member who donates a whole   cow, and the dedicated  work of a crew of volunteers, it is truly a church activity of another kind truly building...and  And that is typical of this congregation. 

One important strategy for most successful urban ministry is to be engaged in one's community in integral ways.  And this is very much a reality of the way this congregation lives out its ministry. A year ago a tornado touched down in Dolores, a virtually unheard of climatic event. Four people died and some 200 were injured. A third of the people lost their homes A high school was destroyed.
School destroyed by tornado
And the  church itself was blown away.  A terrifying experience for the community.

In talking about the church's response, Pastor Carola Tron quotes Isaiah 44:26:
26 who confirms the word of his servant, and fulfills the prediction of his messengers; who says of Jerusalem, "It shall be inhabited," and of the cities of Judah, "They shall be rebuilt, and I will raise up their ruins"; 

Even while devastated itself,
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the church gathered for worship among the ruins of its sanctuary and turned to serving their neighbors. Only when the neighbors were taken care of did the church turn its attention to its own needs. 
with the people of La Iglesia Valdense de Dolores

Eventually a new functional multipurpose building was constructed making use of what was still usable from the existing community house.  The new bulldog houses worship, fellowship, education and meals. The congregation though small, feels vibrant and united. The response to the tornado and yes, the annual barbecue, show an urban church actively engaged in its community.  (And it was a joy to be accompanied by Juan on cajon when I sang ).
Joined by Juan on cajon

Pastor Carola ...and her sister Claudia in Parana, Argentina...are typical of the dynamic  and creative leadership of women pastors I have met on my visit. Pastor Carola Tron is also currently serving as Moderadora of la Iglesia Valdense del Rio Plate. Such leaders are a rich resource for the Waldensians of the Rio Plate. 

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Advent 2: Preparing the Way

Decorated for Christmas

A cold December morning. The first snow. The second Sunday in Advent. And I'm on my way to Good Shepherd Faith Church. I enter the church to find it lit up with lights and holiday decorations. We light the Advent candles.
Lighting the second candle
Here was my "prompting," as they call the sermon, intending  and expecting ,response... for the day: 

'Comfort Ye"

This always used to be one of my favorite Advent Sundays.  Some of my favorite Bible verses and one of my favorite characters, John the Baptist. SO many when we all got together and did "Comfort Ye" at West Park? It continues to this day at SPSA but long forgotten is the role of our friend John in creating the project. I can still hear the solo tenor voice, maybe our late friend Philip,  opening the evening in the darkened sanctuary, "Comfort Ye..." Handel's Messiah. 

"Prepare Ye"

And the times at West Park when we would  open this Sunday with Godspell's "Prepare ye the Way of the Lord..." Has it ever been done  better?  That solo voice (in the wilderness?) crying out and one by one joined by others? 

Yes....lots of memories. But here interrupting, disrupting, disturbing...comes John the Baptist...crying out..'Prepare Ye the way of the Lord.."

So...who is this guy?  This man dressed in animal skins and living on 'locusts and and wild honey?" Like a dedicated  nazirite, those ascetic prophets of the Lord. 

By tradition, Jesus' cousin.His mother Elizabeth  carrying  him as Mary carried Jesus. Son of Zechariah, a  temple priest..son of a tall steeple, 5th Avenue or Brick Presbyterian (Associate) Pastor.  One way or another, a child of privilege. Turns hippie and heads to the wilderness. 

Or like Jay Baker, son of Jim and Tammy Faye, who walked out of the PTL  Club televangelist world and eventually walked into Pete's Candy Store in the wilderness of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, tattoos and all, to start the Revolution Church....

Think about that....

Jill Duffield who writes lectionary commentaries for the Presbyterian Outlook, reminds of  us of an old story about the importance of punctuation:

Let's eat,mother
Let's eat mother.
Commas save lives

In this  case it's  the placement of a colon:
In Isaiah . 
3   A voice cries out: 
     “In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD, 
          make straight in the desert a highway for our God. 

In Mark:
          who will prepare your way; 
3   the voice of one crying out in the wilderness: 
          ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, 
          make his paths straight,’” 

Are we to hear a voice crying out in the  wilderness to prepare a way?
Or hear a voice telling us to prepare a way in the wilderness?
And does it ultimately matter?

I've got two issues for  you...
First of all, what is wilderness to you?
and second, What does preparing the way mean?

Wilderness...good or bad? Positive or negative? It's where Israel became a people...where Jesus went to be tempted, to figure himself out... a pace where thngs are stripped down, simplified, clear... does it  feel like  a wilderness now...(Duffield)
 Such wilderness wanderings are fraught with wild beasts, unexpected visitors and disorienting landscapes, but they also include manna, water and angels.

You don't have to go to the wilds of northern New York, those thick forests north of  Lake Placid on the way to Canada...there can be a wilderness right here in the city..Williamsburg or Upper West Side..

What is your wilderness? What do you hear there?

How do we prepare?  The women have called us to attention here...with the "me too" Al Franken's down...but  what about Roy Brown? And need i say it, the president himself?

And we can't let this issue  lead us to forget that we who are white folks have a lot of work to do to start deconstructing white privilege as well as male privilege. What have you all in this congregation experienced in your efforts to be a multicultural congregation learned? What do you have to share? What stories to tell? 

I had dinner last night with the former Dutch Human Rights Ambassador to the United Nations...He said that the diplomats he knows   want to know why we aren't rising up...filling the streets...what's going on?

I couldn't really answer that. The Revolutionary Communist Party has tried, but as could be expected, no mass uprising yet.  

Start by being honest to yourself about yourself..then  we all come together ...that's how we begin to prepare the way...

This time  there was  much conversation about what preparing the way meant, especially  in this day. Some discussion  of Jesus' anger. Knowing  time and place of our responses. The general mood of tension in our subways and buses. The power of just one kind  act. Our responsibility to lighten the world with kindness.  A good conversation. 

Over coffee downstairs there is casual conversation with the arriving members of the Korean language service. The conscious desire to connect in simple ways. 

They call this the Advent Sunday of Peace. 

Getting ready to preach

First Reading Isaiah 40:1-11

1   Comfort, O comfort my people, 
          says your God. 
2   Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, 
          and cry to her 
     that she has served her term, 
          that her penalty is paid, 
     that she has received from the Lord”s hand 
          double for all her sins.

3   A voice cries out: 
     “In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD, 
          make straight in the desert a highway for our God. 
4   Every valley shall be lifted up, 
          and every mountain and hill be made low; 
     the uneven ground shall become level, 
          and the rough places a plain. 
5   Then the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, 
          and all people shall see it together, 
          for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”

6   A voice says, “Cry out!” 
          And I said, “What shall I cry?” 
     All people are grass, 
          their constancy is like the flower of the field. 
7   The grass withers, the flower fades, 
          when the breath of the LORD blows upon it; 
          surely the people are grass. 

8   The grass withers, the flower fades; 
          but the word of our God will stand forever. 
9   Get you up to a high mountain, 
          O Zion, herald of good tidings; 
     lift up your voice with strength, 
          O Jerusalem, herald of good tidings, 
          lift it up, do not fear; 
     say to the cities of Judah, 
          “Here is your God!” 
10  See, the Lord GOD comes with might, 
          and his arm rules for him; 
     his reward is with him, 
          and his recompense before him. 
11  He will feed his flock like a shepherd; 
          he will gather the lambs in his arms, 
     and carry them in his bosom, 
          and gently lead the mother sheep.

Psalm 85:1-2, 8-13

1   LORD, you were favorable to your land; 
          you restored the fortunes of Jacob. 
2   You forgave the iniquity of your people; 
          you pardoned all their sin.                                              Selah

8   Let me hear what God the LORD will speak, 
          for he will speak peace to his people, 
          to his faithful, to those who turn to him in their hearts. 
9   Surely his salvation is at hand for those who fear him, 
          that his glory may dwell in our land.

10  Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet; 
          righteousness and peace will kiss each other. 
11  Faithfulness will spring up from the ground, 
          and righteousness will look down from the sky. 
12  The LORD will give what is good, 
          and our land will yield its increase. 
13  Righteousness will go before him, 
          and will make a path for his steps.

Gospel Mark 1:1-8

1The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

2As it is written in he prophet Isaiah, 
     “See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, 
          who will prepare your way; 
3   the voice of one crying out in the wilderness: 
          ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, 
          make his paths straight,’” 
4John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. 6Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. 7He proclaimed, “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. 8I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Urban Church, Global City: Fray Bentos, Uruguay


Visiting Fray Bentos

Fray Bentos is the capital of Uruguay's Rio Negro Department at the northen end of the Rio Plate Estuary. Fray Bentos is also a long beloved brand of canned meat in the United  Kingdom. But, as is typical in the global economy, the brand is now owned by Campbell Soup and the meat is processed in Scotland. While a Brazilian enterprise (Brazilian companies turn up a lot in Uruguayan economic conversations) has recently  reopened the plant---with a greatly reduced number of employees--deindustrialization is part of the context of urban ministry in Fray Bentos. 

On the other hand, Fray  Bentos location on the river makes it a wonderful gateway to the nearby beach world of vacation, leisure and resorts. Pastor Dario Barolin takes me on a tour of the Canas beach  area because its related to the story of his church. Along the way we are greeted by horses, which as Dario puts it, are "free" not "wild."
The free horses greet us 

Looking south
There's always something about  beach resorts in the off season. You can almost hear the sound of laughter,of children, A sense of summer seasons past and ready to come. The closed food and ice creams stands. We stop in quiet coves looking out on the water.
Quiet cove

The congregation had come into possession of property here and it had become a very important project of the church. The pastor however, as the story goes, felt the beach property was taking up too much of the congregation's time and energy. So rights to the property were not renewed. The result was a painful split in the congregation with several long time families leaving. So a major part of Pastor Dario's ministry  here has been seeking to  heal the hurts of that division.

It's significant that some who had separated from the  church come to our gathering. And one woman states that she has decided to return. Dario will tell me how important this is. Of those who have come, there is a good diversity of professions including teachers, counselors, etc. And a small but lively group of teen aged girls.  And once again the importance of the summer camp to building relationships can be seen. 
La Iglesia Valdernse de Fray Bentos

We share conversation, food and music. There is a very real sense of moving beyond the division, the conflict. Possibilities of more reconciliation remain. But either way, the congregation is moving on. There is a sense of hope. WIth real possibilities for  ministry ahead. 


After I share some songs, the teen age girls all want to come and pose for pictures. My friend and fellow musician Pat always says you have to know your audience. I will tell him I go over well with teen aged girls in small river cities in Uruguay. 

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Advent 1: What are we waiting for?


Ready for Advent

So on this first Sundayy in Advent, my birthday, I'm back to Beverley Road Church in Brooklyn.  After an unusually long ride on our increasingly broken subway system, I have ti take. cab to get to the church anywhere near on time. When I get there apologetic, the gracious response is. Does it look like we've started yet?

Here is my reflection for the Sunday:

So it's that time of year again. For us Christians, it is Advent, the four weeks leading up to Christmas. I learned thsi year that back in the day, Advent used to be 40 days before Christmas,  just like the 40  days of Lent before Easter.  I learned  about it when I saw a picture of my grandson with a small lantern  on St. Martin's Day, a day I never knew about, in Germany. (So strange that  in such a secular country, thee is still public celebration of days like St. Martin's Day and Ascension Day and New York City, the sign of a holiday is if the city cancels alternate side parking ) In the 6th century, except for Saturdays and Sundays, a fast would be declared from November 11th until January 6th. 

We've shortened that to 4 weeks. But we still wear purple,just like in Lent, (Although we've also added blue for hope.) And in traditional liturgical churches, like Anglicans and Lutherans, no Alleluias are sung until  Christmas Eve. And t's a bit strange because out  there, the world  it's all hustle and bustle of the season rfom the  absolute madness  of "Black Friday" until Christmas. From Halloween on, Christmas  decorations and music being played everywhere. And somehow, in here, we've got to provide a quiet place for some reflection. 

It's a time of preparation.  Of getting ready. And waiting. With three Christmases in our minds. First, the historic Christmas, when Jesus was born. Second, this year's Christmas, the one just twenty two days away, and then the final coming of Jesus. Somehow we keep all these in mind while also caught in all the memories of our past Christmases. 

There is this sense of urgency. Remember "People Get Ready there's a train a comin..." ( I see heads nodding...) There is no better Advent song. 

But the question is what are we waiting for? Mark's message seems pretty clear. You better get ready because he's coming back and you're  not sure when. But what exactly does that mean?

Are we really sitting here waiting for Jesus to come again? Is that something to worry about or fear? or something to look forward to?
What do you think about a Second Coming? How does it affect  your understanding of Jesus?

And we've got these strange  combinations of ordinary and extraordinary, 
In Isaiah, we've got heavens torn open and quaking mountains but also a potter and clay.  In Mark, we've got a total eclipse  of the sun (well, we've had that!) and falling stars but then the tenderness of the fig trees' shoots. (And what signs of tenderness do we see announcing  the coming of the Kindom of God?) Jesus tells us to watch for signs, then says we can't know. He says "this generation won't pass away..." but it's been over 2000 years!  What's being asked of us here? What difference does  it make?

The kids use the expression "woke."  Like you've been asleep and now you know what's going on. ("Keep awake" says Mark. 13:35) Like look what generations of women put up with for years until the Harvey Weinstein dam broke and the chorus of " me  too's" began. Now we know. Men, I wonder how many of our sisters here this morning have had their own "me too"moment. Once you know, you can't go back. 

The Federal Court recently actually brought in a  wrongful death  judgment verdict in the death of Mohammed Bah of Harlem at the hands of  police. Those of us who are white have to understand that  even though we are not personally guilty in the system of white privilege, we do benefit from it every day. And even though not guilty, we are responsible. We are called to begin the deconstruction  of that system immediately. 

We're talking about active waiting, not idle speculation. Like if he did come back, what would he find us doing and how do we feel about that?

It's like you know, we've got chronos and kairoskronos regular tick tock time, minute after minute, and kairos  when God breaks in and disrupts. Are we waiting for that?  Are we waiting for a deus ex machina? A messiah figure swooping down from the sky?

I'm thinking of Charles Dickens' "A Christmas carol" today. Actually, congress has me thinking about Ebenezer Scrooge. After this tax reform bill they are  intent on passing. Like on what world does it make sense to lower taxes on the super rich and then  remove tuition and loan reductions from the middle and working class? Cruelest of all, make blue collar scholarship benefits taxable? What??!!  It's like permanently  locking a generation of people out of the middle

When approached by gentlemen seeking charitable contributions for the poor, Scrooge responds: 

"At this festive season of the year, Mr. Scrooge," said the gentleman, taking up a pen, "it is more than usually desirable that we should make some slight provision for the Poor and Destitute, who suffer greatly at the present time. Many thousands are in want of common necessaries; hundreds of thousands are in want of common comforts, sir."

"Are there no prisons?" asked Scrooge.

"Plenty of prisons," said the gentleman, laying down the pen again.

"And the Union workhouses?" demanded Scrooge. "Are they still in operation?"

"They are. Still," returned the gentleman, "I wish I could say they were not."

"The Treadmill and the Poor Law are in full vigour, then?" said Scrooge. [Stave 1: 50-51]

Later, the Spirit of Christmas Present mocks Scrooge's former insensitivity by hurling his own words back at him as he regards the appalling children of humanity, Ignorance and Want:

They were a boy and girl. Yellow, meagre, ragged, scowling, wolfish; but prostrate, too, in their humility. Where graceful youth should have filled their features out, and touched them with its freshest tints, a stale and shrivelled hand, like that of age, had pinched and twisted them, and pulled them into shreds. Where angels might have sat enthroned devils lurked, and glared out menacing. No change, no degradation, no perversion of humanity, in any grade, through all the mysteries of wonderful creation, has monsters half so horrible and dread.

Scrooge started back, appalled. Having them shown to him in this way, he tried to say they were fine children, but the words choked themselves, rather than be parties to a lie of such enormous magnitude.

“Spirit! are they yours?” Scrooge could say no more.

“They are Man's,” said the Spirit, looking down upon them. “And they cling to me, appealing from their fathers. This boy is Ignorance. This girl is Want. Beware them both, and all of their degree; but most of all beware this boy, for on his brow I see that written which is Doom, unless the writing be erased. Deny it!” cried the Spirit, stretching out its hand towards the city. “Slander those who tell it ye! Admit it for your factious purposes, and make it worse! And bide the end!”

“Have they no refuge or resource?” cried Scrooge.

“Are there no prisons?” said the Spirit, turning on him for the last time with his own words. “Are there no workhouses?”

The bell struck twelve. [Stave 3: 108-109]

Earlier, Marley had told him:

Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, benevolence, were all my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!”

Finally, Isiah has some strong, comforting but strongnwords for us:

Yet, O Lord, you are our Father;
    we are the clay, and you are our potter;
    we are all the work of your hand.
9 Do not be exceedingly angry, O Lord,
    and do not remember iniquity forever.
    Now consider, we are all your people.

That word is ALL....All....that's people who voted for Trump  too...all means all...

How do we  live that  out, make that real?  What  better time to think about it , what better season to engage that than now?

What are we waiting for?

On this Sunday, we celebrate communion. And pray for those we love. An then gather downstairs for the breaking of bread together.  I miss my friend Geraldine who is not here today, I'm becoming aware thatch of the liturgy is probably her work and that he musical selections and variety reflect her love of music. One of those invaluable lay people who keep these churches together.   I notice the collection of photographs of earlier days, when the congregation was bigger. Remembered events and activities. Signs of their recent Thanksgiving celebration. The usotms and practices of this church that keep the body together, even through the struggles of aging and growing smaller. A faithfulness that won't let go....

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Urban Church: Global City: Paysandu, Uruguay


With the congregation in Paysundu

The city of Paysandu sits on the banks of the Uruguay River just south of the General Artigas  Bridge that connects Uruguay to the Entre Rios Province of  of Argentina.  The 4th  largest city in Uruguay, it's surprisingly cosmopolitan for a city of its size. It is famous for a battle that turned back  an invasion  from Brazil 253 years ago today. (2/12/1864). 

We have come here to visit with the  local Waldensian  Church
Pastor Nicolauand its  Pastor Marcelo Nicolau

and visit. Driving  around the city with him, the tensions of the city are clear. On the one hand, there is the thriving Brazilian owned  Norteña brewery, well located  because of the  proximity of the agricultural raw products needed for brewing.  The Azucarlito sugar factory , and  Paylana, a producer of world-class woolen fabrics, and Paycuero, a leather company. . Paysandú is also the centre of plantation forest industry. The forest plantation  industry is controversial because of the demands of a massive paper plant built near the river. Even with these, the effects  of deindustrialization can still be seen and life can be extremely difficult for those on the margins of society, the edges of the city. 

The neighborhoods on the edges of the city come close to what some describe as shanty towns. Horses are very visible throughout the neighborhoods as a vital part of a family's economy. Pastor Marcelo laughs and says, "Argentina has its dogs and Uruguay its horses." And I was happy to learn that the Church had begun a Bible Study in a home in one of the marginal  neighborhoods. 

i was also surprised to learn for the  first time of the high rate of suicide in Uruguay. It is surprising in a country known to be "safe and secure" , secular and progressive. (Or maybe not.) At any rate this would seem to be a spiritual issue worth pursuing by la Iglesia Valdense in Uruguay. 

Back at the church, the community is gathering. There is still a number of traditional programs continuing at the church in addition to worship. These include women's group, youth group, Bible school and a special sales program to support mission. There's also a  choir.
The choit
Tonight after I shared my music,an original "Rest Awhile" and Bob Dylan's "Blowin in the wind,"
"Blowin in the Wind...''''
the choir shared their music accompanied  by the pastor on guitar. (Nearly every Waldensian pastor I met played the guitar. Not all, but nearly.)
Pastor with guitar
And when they began to sing "Blowin in the wind" in Spanish, I came up an joined them.

Among  the challenges facing the Paysandu community will be :
1. Overcoming a certain weariness just from keeping things going. 
2. responding to the social,political, psychological challenges that exist in the context of the city.
3. Bringing together people from the marginal neighborrhoods with the more established middle class congregation.

The continuing youth group is a sign of hope, once again with friendships, espcially from summer camp, leading to occasional new members. 

Time for food and refreshment before the long ride back to Dolores.  

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Statement with sign on....

principles of sanctuary in response to the global escalaton of displacement
We express our deep concern for the well-being of the refugee children, families and all migrants
currently arriving at our borders, as well as those struggling to live within our borders. In response to
the increased numbers of people around the world who are being forced to leave their home countries,
and the simultaneous increase in punitve enforcement in many receiving countries, we afrm the
following principles to guide and inspire our eforts to respond:

Compassionate Response:
We care deeply about refugee children, families and all migrants,
and we urge our countries to have open arms to protect them and preserve their human
dignity. We reject detenton of migrants as a violaton of human rights and dignity.

Due Process:
We advocate for fair and tmely legal proceedings,
competent legal
and due process for children, asylum seekers, and all migrants.

Family Unity:
We uphold and respect the unit
y of families as a basic human right.

Restoratve Justce:
We desire revitalizaton and healing of our borderlands, not militarizaton.
The only long-term soluton is a holistc approach that prioritzes safety and opportunity for
migrants and addresses root causes.

Civil Initatve:
As long as our governments are not adequately addressing these huma
crises, citzens have the right and responsibility to respond with an approach that follows the
e to provide sanctuary when needed and, above all, to love our neighbours.
Based on these principles, we covenant with one another to work together for just and humane
response to all migrants both at our borders and within our countries. We call on our governme
nts, and

the governments of all countries receiving migrants in response to the current and ongoing
internatonal humanitarian and refugee crisis
to embrace these principles.
Individual Signers:

Hanns Thomä, Asyl in der Kirche (Asylum in Church), Berlin, Germany,

Rev. John Fyfe, No More Deaths, Arizona,

Rick Uford-Chase, co-moderator, rresbyterian reace Fellowship,

Rev. Dr. Robert L. Brashear, rastor, West rark rresbyterian Church,

Susan Smith, Community of Living Traditons at Stony roint Center, Muslim reace Fellowship,

Ulrich Sonn, Internatonaler Versoehnungsbund-Deutscher Zweig, Internatonal Fellowship of
ReconciliatonnGerman Branch,
Organizatonal Endorsers:

Asylum in Church, Germany

No More Deaths, Arizona

Community of Living Traditons

rresbyterian Church USA
To endorse these principles as an individual or an organizaton, please email one of the above signers.
Online interface coming soon!