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Lift every voice
2nd Sunday after The Epiphany

January 15, 2017

For Beloved Community Mennonite Church

Vernon K. Rempel, 2017

Bible reading

Psalm 30:5b, 11, 12a

Weeping may linger for the night,

but joy comes with the morning….

You have turned my [sorrow] into dancing;

   you have taken off my sackcloth

   and clothed me with joy,

so that my soul may praise you and not be silent.

Duckwall’s

When I was 14 years old

I had a blue folding comb and brush combination.

I carried it with me at all times.

In the bathroom in high school,

I would snap it open like a switch blade

and comb and brush my long brown hair,

depending on whether it needed the

detangling on the comb

or the smoothing of the brush.

It was my iconic tool of long-hair grooming!

This being the mid 1970s,

I had other components of what I’ll call

the “late hippy cool” ensemble:

tight bell bottom jeans,

t-shirt, sandals with

tire-tread-style soles.

During this year,

at some point my friend and I

were checking out the new vinyl,

which we called “records,”

at Duckwall’s, the local,

what we called “dime store.”

We had been walking around the store

just hanging out, looking at model cars,

stuff that we thought was funny –

which could be anything for me at that age –

and now had settled in at the records.

I remember the Stone’s Sticky Fingers

album was one that we noticed.

It had been out a couple of years.

Neither of us owned it yet.

Suddenly, I felt a hand on my shoulder.

A voice said “Now boys, I’m not hard to

get along with, but I hear you’ve been

bothering one of my employees.

I’m going to have to ask you to leave.”

It was the store manager in his official

manager outfit of white shirt

stuffed awkwardly into slacks.

Apparently, one of the employees

didn’t like our looks, and decided

we were trouble.

So we found ourselves kicked out of Duckwalls.

As Delmar asks the immortal question in

O brother where art thou?

when they were kicked out of Woolworth,

“I wonder was it all of them or just the one?”

We of course thought it was funny,

that old stuffed-shirt manager

kicking us out of Duckwalls.

It also felt embarrassing and undignified

but we had no words or capacity

to speak about or admit that.

Later on I felt angry

at the indignity.

I would have liked to tell that manager

a thing or two

about how I’m a good guy

and we weren’t doing anything

and why do you kick people

out of your store for how they look?

All day long

Kicked out for how they look?

So there it is.

I have friends who are people of color

who believably say that

this goes on for them all day long.

How exhausting, upsetting,

soul-undermining is that?

To walk around with skin-color

as a flag for casual, accidental,

or purposeful mistreatment.

My situation was a choice.

I chose my post-hippy look

as a form of self-expression.

And I only mention it because

I use it as a small window

to understand how daily

indignity might feel.

To be born into a situation

in which getting kicked of stores,

being eye-balled on the sidewalk,

yelled at, held under initial suspicion

rather than welcomed.

How hard is that?

And then it’s about extra scrutiny

by the police, and abuse, and

even death.

Lynching keeps morphing into new forms

but one way or another,

our society keeps hurting and killing

people of color.

All day long.

All day long.

It is soul destroying.

As Langston Hughes wrote:

“…it was there then,

In front of me,

Bright like a sun

My dream.

And then the wall rose,….”

How urgent it is for us to be in friendships,

and intentional solidarity arrangements,

and places to take action for structural

and social change.

To get to another place,

as Hughes continues in his poem:

“My hands!

My dark hands!

Break through the wall!

Find my dream!”

Our society needs the goodness of the souls

of people of color.

Our society can’t go on undermining these gifts.

It’s like God’s handing us the goodness

right there, and we’re saying “‘No thanks’,

we’d rather remain separated and angry.”

It is of course the torment and terror

of slavery visited down through the generations

keeping alive in some form it’s

awful destructive spirit.

It is of course the ancient human curse

of prejudice, the our-group versus your-group

mistrust that gets coupled with power

and becomes a destroying force.

It is what is called in family systems theory

the homeostasis, that which opposes

change in a system even when

the status quo is harmful

to both others and ourselves.

Soulfulness

Racism is a question of power.

The old definition is that racism

is prejudice plus power –

the distortion plus the ability

to act upon that distortion.

But there is not only the question of power.

Rabbi Ed Friedman used to tell us

to think about soul more than power.

Where’s the soul in the system.

Who has the heart to move and and change?

Who’s willing to sacrifice for the good vision?

It is linked with power.

Power needs to be transformed,

dismantled, shared, watched closely.

But I think it was the genius

of the heart of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.,

to reach first for soul, rather than power.

What does it mean to reach first for soul?

It means to confer dignity

to sit-ins and refusal to ride in the back of the bus

by using ancient words of beauty:

Isaiah 40:4-5 (KJV): “Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain….”

And Psalm 30:5 Weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes with the morning.

It means to invite everyone to show up

on the mall in Washington in their Sunday best.

It means singing songs like “Woke of this morning with my mind

stayed on freedom” while crossing the Edmund Pettus bridge.

It means not asking so much

“who’s side are you own now”

as declaring

“standing on the side of love.”

It means having a vision for beauty

for all people, those who are passive,

those who are actively bringing harm,

those who are walking for the sake of their lives and dignity,

those who are watching from afar.

Dr. King always reached for the healing

that all of us need,

whether we have the power of privilege

or are suffering from forms of privilege.

Soul is when the ones doing the hurting

also begin to understand

and to move for transformation.

As Bryan Stevenson recently said

on the Politics and More podcast from The New Yorker

(April 4, 2016)

that when you hurt somebody on the playground

you’re not okay until you apologize

and do something to fix the harm.

You’re not okay until you do something to fix it.

You’re not okay. It damages your life.

(The link to this podcast is in my notes, if you’d like to see it: http://www.newyorker.com/podcast/political-scene/bryan-stevenson-talks-to-david-remnick-about-the-legacy-of-racial-terror)

Stevenson notes that it is often put

upon people of color to demonstrate

harm. But it comes to those who have

racial privilege to learn about,

understand, and dismantle the harm.

Especially for the sake of those being harmed.

And also for everybody’s sake.

What a hot mess we still are in.

Despite president Obama’s eloquent

speech on race that helped make for his election,

despite so many good and strong initiatives,

we still stumble so badly with each other,

we still harm each other so much.

This all goes to power, yes, and power-sharing,

and power-development and empowerment.

But it also goes deeper, to a place called “soul”

where there is deep and clear water for all,

for those of us mostly benefiting from privilege

and those of us mostly being hurt by arrangements of privilege.

At the end of our service,

we are going to sing “Lift every voice.”

My own commitment is to sing this

as a commitment to in fact long for

and act for the richness of every voice

in our society.

A commitment to surrender privilege so all may live.

To stand and suffer in solidarity

so that all may be in life-giving community.

To move and move until, because of love,

I am the one no longer numb with privilege,

but feeling deeply the need to reach out for love.

Weeping may linger for the night,

but joy comes with the morning….

You have turned my [sorrow] into dancing;

   you have taken off my sackcloth

   and clothed me with joy,

so that my soul may praise you and not be silent.

May it be so. May our souls not be silent.

May the benighted racism of our time,

with all of its daily indignities and harms,

give way soon and very soon to the

morning of the graciousness of

God’s transformation and healing.

“Your body is light”

For Beloved Community Mennonite Church and Columbine Unitarian Universalist Church

December 24, 2016

You Have to Know Your Body as the Home of God” (excerpt)

By Rebecca Parker

You have to know your body

as the home of God

And this is the purpose of Christmas.

The rose blossoming in the wilderness

is the unfolding of your pleasure

as the fingers peel an orange and sweetness buds in the mouth.

The bright star in the night sky

is the sudden clarity of your instinct for joy….

~~~~~

If you’re like me, you tend to reach for Lord of the rings

in order to find a good Christmas metaphor!

In the Lord of the Rings,

Frodo and Sam are venturing

through the toxic, lethal wastes of Mordor.

Hate is incarnate all around.

There is little likelihood they will either

succeed or survive what they are doing.

At this deep dark moment,

Sam sees a star:

There, peeping among the cloud-wrack above a dark tor high up in the mountains, Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while. The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him. For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach.”

(Book 3: The Return of the King)

This may have resonance for us right now,

perhaps in our personal lives,

what illness, harm, loss, broken relationship might we be living with?

And of course, there may be resonance for our political moment:.

“In the end, the Shadow was only a small and passing thing:

there was light and high beauty forever beyond its reach.”

Parker Palmer calls such a moment the “tragic gap.”

There is “light and high beauty”

and we may find ourselves walking in Morder.

~~~~~

I have a ministerial colleague in Colorado Springs

who recently had to give up her beloved dog Cleo.

It just wasn’t working out to have sweet Cleo

in the current living situation.

By chance, she found out a woman in her theater group

could house the dog out on her ranch.

The woman was very gracious, kind,

“You may bring the dog, if you change your mind, that’s fine,

she’ll receive great care, and she can run, but we can

always be in touch and you can always come see her.

I know how hard this must be for you.”

So my friend and her husband brought the dog to the ranch.

While they were saying their goodbyes,

the ranch-owner disappeared for quite a bit of time.

Then she finally came back, and my friend and her husband

were ready to leave.

As the drove out, down the lane,

they noted what the ranch-owner

had spent her time doing:

putting up Trump signs!

Their kind dog-care person was for Trump.

My friend felt like this was bizarre, of course.

But also that there was a chance within it.

Maybe there would be an opening for conversation.

Maybe there would be a chance to explore the gap,

to somehow move beyond the rants

about the enemy and to find,

without surrendering any advocacy for peace or decency,

to seek a bit of “we the people” with this woman.

My friend does this.

She shines the light into the tragic gap.

It can look utterly dark, like Mordor.

And yet she, radical peace activist that she is,

finds light to shine in the darkness.

~~~~~

There is darkness.

The accretion of heter-normativity, racial prejudice and denigration,

the massive assertion of male dominance, xenophobia,

perhaps most awful of all – casual countenancing and employment

of brutality, crudity, and cruelty.

And yet the star shines.

It is a star of hope

but not only that

it is the star of what each of us is bringing right now

how each of us is entering the world right now

With our next breath, with our next step,

when we choose compassion, love, and fierce kindness

instead of fear, passivity, and blame

then our souls will be the star hanging in the sky over Mordor

then our souls will be the light shining into the tragic gap

then our souls will not only be the goodness we wait for

but the goodness we are, accomplished in this moment

and nothing, no darkness, can put it out.

It has already been done.

And will be again and again.

I walk with you in this, now and always.

“In the end, the Shadow was only a small and passing thing:

there was light and high beauty forever beyond its reach.”

~~~~~

And now I must express my gratitude for the unfailing

graciousness and kindness this congregation (Columbine Unitarian Universalist Church)

has shown to our new congregation.

When we were most vulnerable,

when we are homeless,

you offered us a home,

and did so joyfully,

with outpouring generosity.

We were always so glad to follow your service

in your building

because you left good spirits

and angels all through the bulding.

We could feel it.

We entered encouraged

and walked away encouraged.

So I say, thanks be to Spirit

for this congregation

and may you be blessed.

And I know that we will still be blessed together.

This is not the end but only au revoir.

Until the time that we have the chance

to grace the earth together again,

I say thank-you, thank-you, thank-you.

Peace be.

Grand illusion – Advent 2

December 4, 2016

For Beloved Community

Vernon K. Rempel, 2016

~~~~~

Lectionary reading

Isaiah 11:1-3a, Vern Rempel’s edits

A shoot shall come out from the stump

of Jesse ben Obed and Nitzevet bat Adael*

and a branch shall grow out of the roots.

The spirit of God shall rest on that one,

the shoot and the branch,

the spirit of wisdom and understanding,

the spirit of counsel and might,

the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Holy.

That one’s delight shall be in the fear of the Holy.

*named in the Talmud – http://www.chabad.org/theJewishWoman/article_cdo/aid/280331/jewish/Nitzevet-Mother-of-David.htm

~~~~~

Additional reading
Psalm 1, Stephen Mitchell’s paraphrase

Blessed are the man and the woman

who have grown beyond their greed

and have put an end to their hatred

and no longer nourish illusions.

But they delight in the way things are

and keep their hearts open, day and night.

~~~~~

Cats

Blessed are the man and the woman…

who no longer nourish illusions,

But they delight in the way things are.

Disclaimer: this meditation is going to have

an ongoing cat metaphor. Apologies to dog people.

We had a cat incident this week.

Our old cat, Wick, likes to stalk up

on our new cat Sadie.

Someday, they may find cat love,

but not yet.

Sadie likes to sit behind our Christmas tree.

So, in the incident, Wick crouched down

and carefully began stalking Sadie

behind the tree.

Only Sadie wasn’t there.

She was up on the table.

Sitting there, she watched

with great interest as Wick stalked her.

So we had Wick stalking where Sadie wasn’t,

and Sadie watching from above.

Poor Wick.

But it is so easy to chase illusions,

rather than delighting in the way things are.

~~~~~
Beyond illusions

Delight in the way things are.

No longer nourish illusions.

It’s always a good time for a 70’s flashback.

In 1977, the rock band Styx

had a song – “The Grand Illusion.”

Here are some excerpts:

“But don’t be fooled by the radio

The TV or the magazines

They show you photographs of how your life should be

But they’re just someone else’s fantasy

“So if you think your life is complete confusion

Because you never win the game

Just remember that it’s a Grand illusion

And deep inside we’re all the same.

It is so easy to chase illusions,

to imagine a cat under the tree

where there is no cat under the tree.

In this season, there are many Christmas illusions.

I offer this catalog from Sturbridge as an example.

I want to say first that I have very fond

memories of visiting Sturbridge in Massachusetts.

It’s a wonderfully preserved historic village.

And it has an immense gift shop.

I could feel the tug of longing. The cinnamon smell.

All these hand-made and crafty looking things

that echo the history of the old village.

The catalog is like the gift shop.

Such sweet looking stuff. But seriously.

Here you can buy an Ebenezer Scrooge soft sculpture

for only $129.95,

ironic since Scrooge learns that it is sharing,

not accumulating, that is the true meaning of Christmas.

Or a folksy upholstered chair for $649.95.

And the candy cane pillow for $59.95.

It’s not anything against these objects in particular.

Maybe they are just what you need for beauty in your life.

But what are our illusions?

What will grant us

the beauty and simplicity that we seek?

Catalogs and the radio and television

can be a challenge in these Advent days

leading up to Christmas.

They can tug at our hearts.

I have certainly felt this.

I remember when I was a child,

how glorious it was when the Sears and J.C. Penny

catalogs would arrive in the mail in November.

All the glowing objects, the glorious toys,

even the smell of the printed pages,

the chemical tang that meant opulence and wonder.

Dog-earing pages for parents to find,

hints for Christmas.

~~~~~
Fear of the holy

Stephen Mitchell’s Psalm One

says that the man and woman are blessed

who no longer nourish illusions

but delight in the things are.

Those who look for real cats

under real trees.

In our Advent reading for today,

there is a related idea:

the fear of the Holy

(my paraphrase for “fear of the lord”)

Delight in the fear of the Holy.

It is another way of saying

“delight in the way things are.”

I have so often feared for myself

instead of fearing for the Holy,

For example, I have chased the illusory cat of my own security

rather than seeking security for all people.

I have chased my own housing

rather than housing for all.

All my fearful questions gather around me:

What will happen if I have a child?

What will happen when I grow old?

What will happen with my disability?

It is exhausting to try to go it alone.

We live in fear for places to live,

for access to health care and food.

And then we may imagine that catalogs

and TV movies show a picture of a truer life.

I know this well –

find meaning for Advent by shopping.

That, as Styx sang, is the Grand Illusion.

A community of practice

Instead, we may practice Advent community together.

We may build with each other a community of practice,

doing the good stuff together,

what Buddhists call a “Sangha.”

A place where we meditate, sing, pray,

in order to no longer nourish illusions

but rather to delight in the way things are.

In this way we prepare for real Christmas,

prepare to find real cats under real trees.

In this community we are holding

generous and open opinions of each other

weeping for each other; laughing with each other

listening long and actively waiting

for new understanding to emerge.

We are saying to each other,

you can come live with me,

we can eat and laugh together

and not worry about tomorrow,

because we will work as we can,

and share what we have,

and we will find strength

in a community of love.

And then our hearts grow great..

We find that we have capacity

to move with compassion with

those who are traveling, seeking opportunity –

immigrants or refugees.

We find compassion with those

who have not found a way to earn a living

or a house to live in.

And the circle grows, the community strengthens.

And we have fun. Fun that feels more real.

Fun that is just as funny as one cat

on the table watching as the other one

stalks it in the wrong direction.

That is delighting in the way things are.

That is delighting in fear of the holy,

rather than just fear for myself.

As Styx sang:

“Deep inside, we’re all the same.”

That’s the real Advent cat under the real Christmas tree.

That’s delighting in the way things are.

~~~~~
Styx – The Grand Illusion Lyrics

Welcome to the Grand illusion

Come on in and see what’s happening

Pay the price, get your tickets for the show

The stage is set, the band starts playing

Suddenly your heart is pounding

Wishing secretly you were a star.

But don’t be fooled by the radio

The TV or the magazines

They show you photographs of how your life should be

But they’re just someone else’s fantasy

So if you think your life is complete confusion

Because you never win the game

Just remember that it’s a Grand illusion

And deep inside we’re all the same.

We’re all the same

So if you think your life is complete confusion

Because your neighbors got it made

Just remember that it’s a Grand illusion

And deep inside we’re all the same.

We’re all the same

America spells competition, join us in our blind ambition

Get yourself a brand new motor car

Someday soon we’ll stop to ponder what on Earth’s this spell we’re under

We made the grade and still we wonder who the hell we are.

Songwriters: DE YOUNG, DENNIS

The Grand Illusion lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

Silent Night

My poem for this December:

Silent night
12-1-16

In a crowded world,
silence has room.
When you find silence,
you discover a great room,
a house full of rooms!

Here you learn
the extent of your heart.
Here you feel
how generous
is the space in which
to house your goodness.

Stretch out your arms!
Run up the stairs.
Look for the kitchen.
Live in the house.

Soon you find others
who live in such a house.
Soon you discover
that there is room everywhere.

The result

Mennopol

Well now, here we are after our national election. And the result may be surprising or exactly what we feared. Here are a few thoughts for my beloved faith community:

First of all, peace be with you. No matter how we are experiencing the process and result of this election, God is still good. Which is to say that the Great Spirit of love is still our source and hope. What do we have to fear? As Paul says in Romans 8, “…neither heights nor depths nor principalities and powers…. No, in all these things we are more than conquerers in the love of Christ.” Now let us take a look at our nation.

Division
We are a nation divided. It’s the dominant news message – a 50/50 nation. However true this is (and it needs some examination) only together will we move forward. Parker Palmer writes in Healing the…

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A community of Open & Honest questions
Common time
October 23, 2016
For Beloved Community
Vernon K. Rempel, 2016
Lectionary reading
Psalm 65:8
Those who dwell at the ends of the earth
will tremble at your marvelous signs;
you make the dawn and the dusk
to sing for joy.

This reflection is about an aspect of becoming
constructive, responsible, joyful adults.
But most of all, it’s about demons.

And in other news… (as they say)
Target stores have removed scary clown masks from their shelves
after there were numerous reported incidents
of people in scary clown masks engaging
in threatening behavior.

Halloween – fast becoming an American tradition
to rival Christmas…
complete with sexy costumes, alter ego wigs,
images of terror and death,
black and red fake blood sold by the pint.

It’s touching a nerve,
probably playing with all our submerged and unmanaged stuff,
fear of death, suppressed desires,
consumerist ennui, to get philosophical,
an existential boredom that sets in
when meaning is reduced to shopping.

What were Americans supposed to do
for our part in the Iraq war? Go shopping!
I’m sure what the president meant
is that we need a strong economy.
But it sure made a splash in the shallow
spiritual waters of our dominant culture.

Halloween is of course just fun.
But we also know there are deeper waters down there.
We pretend we’re just playing.
But in some place of our hearts
we know there needs to be more.
Our hearts echo the depths.

A profound longing lies hidden among us. Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote this about the demons and monsters we play with, in his “Essay on Demonology”:
“Willingly I too say, Hail! to the unknown awful powers which transcend the ken of the understanding. And the attraction which this topic has had for me and which induces me to unfold its parts before you is precisely because I think the numberless forms in which this superstition has reappeared in every time and in every people indicates the inextinguishableness of wonder in man; betrays his conviction that behind all your explanations is a vast and potent and living Nature, inexhaustible and sublime, which you cannot explain. He is sure no book, no man has told him all. He is sure the great Instinct, the circumambient soul which flows into him as into all, and is his life, has not been searched. He is sure the intimate relations subsist between his character and his fortunes, between him and the world: and until he can adequately tell them he will tell them wildly and fabulously. Demonology is the shadow of Theology.”
–Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Essay on Demonology”, 1875
(Quoted in A field guide to demons, vampires, fallen angels and other subversive spirits by Carol K. Mack and Dinah Mack)

I often speak about the practice of Courage and Renewal.
It is the practice that emerged from the writings of Parker Palmer.
There is a National Center for Courage and Renewal.
The website is couragerenewal.org.

The name “Courage and Renewal” is a summary
of the experienced effects of deep reflection
and soulful speaking in circles
developed as places of trust, listening, and speaking.

In this congregation, we have one that meets
on Tuesday evenings in the Cole neighborhood
north of City Park.

And we have open that meets on the south side,
most often at the home of Connie and John,
southeast of old town Littleton.

And you see a flyer for our annual retreat
at St. Benedict’s Monastery, near Snowmass.

And we weave silence and listening and speaking
into our weekly worship practice.

All of this is in service to the understanding
that we can listen well to the depths of our hearts,
and to the depths of the world,
not navel-gazing, but listening for what matters
so that we can live and respond well.

Even listening into those un-negotiated places of demons and monsters
that we play with on Halloween.
What are we really connecting with as we play?

One of the key practices that we offer each other in Courage & Renewal work
is the practice of Open and Honest questions.

Open and Honest questions are a way of inviting the other
to continue and to deepen their speech,
listening more and more to the inner teach, the soul,
the well of the heart.

We may do this with each other, with ourselves, and with the world.
Just as with listening to another person speaking,
we may ask these questions:

What is it, heart, that you most want to tell me?
What is it, world, that you most want to tell me?

When we do this, we will open the space where
the un-negotiated demons and monsters will make themselves known.
The flashlight of exploration will shine on some scary stuff.

But, if we do not let ourselves explore those un-negotiated places,
the places of our demons and monsters,
if we never take the time to just gently listen,
and slowly process and integrate some stuff,
then it comes out, as I think we all know,
in destructive ways.

Un-negotiated demons are the source of sexual assault,
of sexism, of prejudice against lgbtq friends,
of fear of immigrants, of passivity in the presence
of a refugee crisis or for people living on the streets,
we think we need to make war or get a gun
so that we can destroy dangerous others.

John Snow knows it in Game of Thrones.
We know it in some place of our hearts as well.
It hurts us to be passive when people are cold and hungry.
It hurts them even more, to be shut out of resources.

And all of our violence goes into the good earth,
and springs up in the strange fruit of repetitive violence.
It does not gather to a greatness of joy and peace,
and yet we continue to repeat it.

Winter’s coming. Winter is here. Winter is and has been among us.
Let us warm each other with our wholeheartedness.
Let us listen to each other, and to our hearts,
and to the world with open and honest questions.

Kind of like we speak to our pets?
What is it, heart? What is it, world?
What are you longing to tell me?

And here’s the great thing:
what we actually discover is that
when we let ourselves listen closely to the deep wells
of the soul,
we discover that there is something glorious
in the heart of things.

We discover a powerful and flowing joy,
and this joy is the energy that enlivens great love.

Then we find ourselves on the streets,
or with our relatives, or closest loved ones,
or the stranger, or the refugee
living in ways that are both riskier and more joyful.

We find ourselves doing things for the sake of love and justice
that we don’t even fully understand,
but we experience the joy of doing what we are doing
wholeheartedly and without reservation,
because in the depths we have found
not only demons and monsters
but joy overflowing.

Lamentations for all
Autumn; World Communion Sunday
October 2, 2016
For Beloved Community
Vernon K. Rempel, 2016

Lectionary reading
Lamentations 3:19-26

The thought of my affliction and my homelessness
is wormwood and gall!
My soul continually thinks of it
and is bowed down within me.
But this I call to mind,
and therefore I have hope:
The steadfast love of the Holy never ceases,
God’s mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
“Thou art my portion,” says my soul,
“therefore I will hope in thee.”
The Holy is good to those who wait for that One,
to the soul that seeks that One.
It is good that one should wait quietly
for the salvation of the Holy One.

In the television show Game of Thrones,
John Snow’s girlfriend keeps telling him he knows nothing.
(Scottish accent) “You know nothing, John Snow.”
But he does seem to know one thing:
Winter’s coming.

Today it is sunny.
By Thursday, it there is a prediction of frozen mix,
and it may freeze.
Yards may be transformed from green to brown.
Autumn will get real.

The lectionaries, the guide to Bible readings
chosen by church season,
gave us Lamentations for this Sunday.

In the lament, the cry is about affliction and homelessness.
It is a beautifully literate poem of sorrow,
and so probably written by someone with enough privilege
to have had a good education.

In other words, it may be the suffering of the wealthy,
now dispossessed, likely by Babylon
invading and destroying the city.

In this case, the leading families
would have been carried off to Babylon.
The poor would have been left behind
to fend for themselves amid ruins of battle.

When we link our lives with the poor and dispossessed,
we make ourselves available to their feelings
and perhaps lived experience of homelessness and affliction.

Homelessness may be a metaphor for feeling lost.
It is also the lived situation for many people.

So the lament may be experienced at two levels:
one – the dislocation of those who had it pretty good.
two – a linked cry with those for whom life
was already really rough.

In the new Jesus-communities of the Mediterranean,
there was constant linking of wealthy and poor.
The communities directly sought to join the fates
of people typically separated in society.
We in this community may also find our way forward
in the wonderful Spirit of Jesus Christ
by linking our lives and fates with those
of the poor, for whom things are not working
in our communities at this time.

It is a risk; with risk comes danger.
But it is clear that such risk is also the place of joy.
One of the experiences of the new communities
was that boundaries were overcome:

“In Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek,
slave nor free, male nor female.”
Galatians 3:28.

Slave vs. free and male vs. female
addresses questions of power and wealth.

In these communities, the exclamation was
that those divisions are disappearing among them.

And this is a root of joy.
It is of course a problem.
People did it wrong, stepped on each other’s toes,
forgot about each other.

Paul and James had a lot to say to the communities
about good relationships among wealthy and poor:
don’t eat and drink and then show up
at the communion table
well fed while others are hungry.
(to paraphrase Paul)

Don’t reserve the best seats for the wealthy.
Everyone is in this together (to paraphrase James)

It is also the root of joy.
Paul says something like this over and over,
and so do other leaders:

“I am so grateful for the faith that I see growing among you.”
(Thessalonians, many other places)

And it’s not gratitude for believing the right words.
It’s gratitude for a new quality of community,
creating a people where before
there was no people (Ephesians)

How are we linking our fates with the poor in this community?
How have we made moves to refuse to honor class divisions?
We need the immigrants, the foreigners,
the strangers, the homeless, the hungry.

We need to be an extended family for those
with mental illness, which is not uncommon among us.

And if we think about the dispossessed,
we may also remember the aging,
and lgbtq persons, and people of color.
There may be considerable dispossession
without direct poverty.

When we link our fates,
when we can pray the lament together,
all together, then, Isaiah 58 says,
our light will shine forth,
our bodies will gain strength,
and we will be known for making
the streets safe and good.

You could run for office on that.
(Except all the non-violence might make it hard to win!)
Winter’s coming.
But this morning, all the tatters of clouds in the sky
were tinged with red, going to pink and orange.
It was a stunning sight.

The blessings are now.
We don’t know what will come next.
But in strong, inclusive community,
the blessings are now.