Sunday, December 31, 2017

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

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