Monday, February 5, 2018

Healed to Serve: Super Bowl Sunday at Beverly Church


worship leaders

Beverly Church is located in the Kensington Gardens section of Brooklyn, which as you might recall, was the original home in Great Britain of Peter Pan. The walk from the (once) elegant subway station takes you up Beverley .Road past stately Victorian homes fancily labeled with their year of construction, 1889, 1901, 1902... Occasional home signs speak for immigrants. 
welcome here
The church itself was built in a more modest time in 1920.  Today the neighborhood is a lively home to Latinos, African Americans, Russians and others.

Today os the 5th Sunday of Epiphany. Hymns focus on light. We read Isiah 40 responsively and then the Gospel.  Then it's time for reflection:

So let's look at that last line from Isaiah again...
those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength,
    they shall mount up with wings like eagles,
they shall run and not be weary,
    they shall walk and not faint.

Like what? like eagles....think there might be a hidden omen there for the Super Bowl? Yes, it's time for that great American winter holiday....Super Bowl Sunday... a day for hosting parties  and indulging in all kinds of quantities of food and drink...

In 1990, a Presbyterian Pastor made a simple prayer said by Reverend Brad Smith of Spring Valley Presbyterian Church in Columbia, South Carolina:

“Lord, even as we enjoy the Super Bowl football game, help us be mindful of those who are without a bowl of soup to eat.[2] ”  And so was born the Souper Bowl of Caring.(

That first year, 22 churches raised $5,700. The number of groups involved has steadily grown each year, and so has the amount raised and put back into the communities.

They are now raising over 10 million a year.  It started with youth groups...we did this project at West Park...sometimes with real soup!...and many places now use the Saturday  before for a "service blitz"..This is just an example of how one person's idea can take off...

As for me, tonight i think I'll help serve dinner at the Homeless shelter. with church friends...(my hometown team is not in it....and the only jersey I would wear tonight is Colin Kaepernick's....)

And this  week was the state of the union address...we have a long way to go...people are disappearing...who have been here for decades.... with wives and children.....our neighbors... what's Jesus up to this week?  Four scenes, two settings...Peter's house and a deserted place...(For what follow, much thanks to Jill Duffield of the Presbyterian  Outlook  for her inspiration...)

Scene one, starts with healing of Peter's mother in law. He "takes her by the hand." Much like when he raises the little girl in Mark 5:41 My first  reaction . when I read that "she began to serve them" was "give the lady a break.." But I want to come back to that.  

Four scenes, two settings.... Simon's home and a deserted place. The four scenes? Healing of Simon's mother-in-law, scene one. The whole city clamoring at the door, scene two. Jesus praying alone, scene three. Jesus' prayer time interrupted by Simon and his companion who've come to let Jesus know everyone wants him, scene four. I"Healed to Serve" 

One thing is clear.....
 Nothing will quiet the fervor of those once sick and suffering now made whole. Once Jesus begins to fulfill his mission there is no turning back the tidal wave of humanity longing for the presence of God.

The tie that binds these two settings and four scenes together is the mission, Jesus' mission, to proclaim the message and cast out demons and bring healing. Suffering exists in Simon's household and throughout the surrounding neighborhoods. Deserted places and crowded cities yearn to hear God's good news. 

Mark's Gospel has a breathlessness to it - one scene quickly fades into another and another. We have to keep  keep alert and keep watching   might miss him and have to go looking for him.Jesus refuses to stay put. We cannot contain him. He is on a mission. A mission from God, no less, and all we can do is find him and follow.

Jesus never is where we expect to find him....

 Jesus will be found even if it isn't where we thought he would be.

I have heard the gospel preached and Jesus present in strange places by unexpected people. I have been taught Jesus' new commandment to love one another through strangers. Rev. Vince Anderson inherited the congregation at Pete's Candy Store in Brooklyn and it became the Bar Stool Tabernacle. The Hot Metal Church in Pittsburgh began as a Bible study in a tatoo parlor.

I was blessed to be at Yale when the blessed Henri Nouwen was teaching us about being a  Wounded Healer, how our wounds could heal others. 

The news as of late has been filled with brutality, cruelty and violence. The serial sexual abuse of young, female gymnasts, the torture of 13 children by their own parents, another school shooting that has left students dead and lives shattered. The crowds are clamoring at the door, crying out for healing and help. Where is Jesus? Does he have the power to cast out these demons? Bring wholeness to this depth of brokenness? Is there a word of good news to be proclaimed to these communities? To ours?

I read that thousands (thousands!) of people have called to offer help and support for the 13 Turpin children. The local chamber of commerce has put together a list of items needed, and the response has been overwhelming. They have asked people to stop bringing things and said to please send money instead. So far, $50,000 has been raised. Seeing the list of shoe sizes and clothing needs and the request for art supplies and hygiene items made those children's suffering gut-wrenchingly tangible. But seeing each item crossed off and the notice that every request had been fulfilled gave me hope that Jesus' mission, his message, his healing and his casting out of demons would not be thwarted, no matter how deep the darkness or powerful the demons.

There are some scenes in our current setting filled with suffering, sickness and evil spirits, some present in the house next door, others played out in the streets, some private hells and some public tragedies. And if we want to find Jesus, we need to pray and then join him on his mission of preaching, teaching and healing, until the every member of the crowd, every member of every household is made whole and well.

We are healed to serve.  Our healing is for a purpose.  Yesterday I  saw a play developed  from the stories of formerly incarcerated people and the struggles they face in going home. It was called "Home is a Verb". They are using it to reach out to help others in heir journey.

This week:
 Everyone of us here has been healed in one way or another. How has Jesus healed you for you to serve him?
When have you had to search for Jesus? Where and how did you find him?
Jesus' mission requires him to leave those who want him to stay. He is always on the move in Mark's Gospel. How do we discern when to stay and when to move? When to keep serving in ways we currently serve and when to make a change?

This week, try Praying  the headlines.  Pull up a news website or look at the front page of your local paper. Pray for the people and places you read about. 

We are healed to serve.....the verb for Peter's mother in law was "deaconing."  We are all called to use our healing for  the sake of others. May God grant us wisdom, insight and courage to be about that work in Jesus name.

We hear the news of  a beloved saint of the church who died nine months  ago. A feisty Irish woman who never wanted anyone to mourn for her. She kept her secret well. But her community still needs to mourn.
Back to Beverley

We will share communion. And then is their practice, a shared meal downstairs.

I'll spend my afternoon with Edvard Munch in the new Metropolitan Museum extension reflecting on galleries and themes like despair and sickness and death and the profound sadness that haunted him.

Then serve homeless women dinner, my Kaepernick jersey under my sweater. And finally, the end of the Super Bowl at an Irish pub. 

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