Saturday, January 21, 2017

Martin Luther King, Jr. Weekend 2017: Where is Jesus?


It was the Sunday before the inauguration. And we gathered to celebrate the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. And reflect on where we are …now.

All the music of the day was chosen for special reasons….we opened with “Jesus the Light of the World…” continuing our Epiphany theme of light..and getting it…and sang Siyahamba…We are marching in the light of God…a South African freedom song that was late taken up by the More Light movement for full inclusion in church life  by the LGBTQ community..a movement that was birthed at West-Park in 1978…the religious Stonewall, you might say…Precious Lord, take my hand was Dr.King’s favorite song, the one that brought the confirm in times of doubt and fear .the uncertainty of our  time moved me to sing Blowin in the Wind, a song I would sing the next day at the annual Upper West Side Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. peace walk at Pastor Heidi’s invitation..and of course we called with the Civil Rights Movement’s We Shall Overcome…

And this was my reflection…

This is the Second Sunday in Epiphany…a season of Light…a season of “getting it”…as we continue ti hold our breath in our journey into the unknown…and the weekend of celebrating the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King, JR…

In our gospel lesson, somehow we’re still with Jesus where we left him last week, on the banks of the Jordan with John…and this time it’s from the perspective of the Gospel of John…and John too has seen the dove of the Holy Spirit descend and remain on Jesus.

Ultimately, in seeking what Jesus is up to, the people ask him where he’s staying, he responds come and see…and it’s not so much asking where he is but what he does and who he is and by doing so we will discover where we are…

And where is he staying?  I’m convinced that  these days, we’re going  to find him a lot in the streets…
Last Friday, the Micah Institute (and others) walked together to deliver a letter. We walked with Mama Bah, the mother of a murdered child. The Micah Faith Table calls on US Attorney Preet Bharara to launch a full investigation into his case and fully prosecute all officers who killed her son Mohamed Bah, an African  Muslim son of our city in Septemer 2012…three years ago…It was profoundly moving to see Muslim, Jewish, Sikh, Buddhist, Hindu and  Christian clergy all together…with my neighbor Imam Konate, the spiritual leader of the mosque where Mohammad worshipped…later. he told us emotionally how moved Mama Bah was by the solidarity of so many. She felt a dam in her heart had broken open. “Come and see’’’ says Jesus…

We’ve got macro concerns and micro ones as we  move forward…macro-wise, there was recently a full page ad in the New York Times  calling us to  “Stop Trump” before he is inaugurated…calling on 1000’s…or more.. to come to Washington,DC to block the streets, etc…and of course the women’s march that will take place January 20th…these are macro actions…

We need to be concerned with the micro as well…local issues  and actions that are definable, achievable, measurable and verifiable …(the DAM-V test of organizers..)

Tomorrow is our annual Upper West Side Martin Luther King, Jr.  walk for peace and justice organized by our clergy and Westsiders for Peace and Justice…
Our march
this year the action is very specific….support for West Side Federation for Senior and Supportive Housing’s proposed expansion of affordable housing at West 108th street…
WSFSSH founder Rev. Laura Jervis

We support affordable housing
.280 units…(20% of our seniors live in poverty, in Manhattan Valley alone 2000 of them are  on a  waiting  list for affordable housing …with a seven year wait..)The plan to use  three garages owned by the city has caused a community uproar..…come and see

And our friends from the National Movement Against Sweat Shops  and Justice will be Served…are organizing to pass a statewide SWEAT bill to stop wage theft…from the most vulnerable of our neighbors, immigrant workers from Mexico, China and French west Africa…come and see…

Frequently at these services, we read from Dr. King’s I have a dream speech. But this year i want to read from Dr. King’s 

Letter from the Birmingham jail….1963…

There was a time when the church was very powerful. It was during that period that the early Christians rejoiced when they were
deemed worthy to suffer for what they believed. In those days the church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas
and principles of popular opinion; it was the thermostat that transformed the mores of society. Wherever the early Christians
entered a town the power structure got disturbed and immediately sought to convict them for being "disturbers of the peace" and
"outside agitators." But they went on with the conviction that they were "a colony of heaven" and had to obey God rather than
man. They were small in number but big in commitment. They were too God-intoxicated to be "astronomically intimidated."
They brought an end to such ancient evils as infanticide and gladiatorial contest.
Things are different now. The contemporary church is so often a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound. It is so often
the arch supporter of the status quo. Far from being disturbed by the presence of the church, the power structure of the average
community is consoled by the church's often vocal sanction of things as they are.
But the judgment of God is upon the church as never before. If the church of today does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the
early church, it will lose its authentic ring, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no
meaning for the twentieth century. I meet young people every day whose disappointment with the church has risen to outright
I hope the church as a whole will meet the challenge of this decisive hour

Yesterday, our Session met with Rick Ufford-Chase
Meeting with Rick
…..we dreamed of creating a congregation committed to:

,,,each other
…radical (and disciplined) reading of scripture
…worship (deep sharing)
…and taking action together…

of this you will be hearing more..come and see

Jesus is here..

Thank you (again) Leila!

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