Friday, March 19, 2010

The Miracles Before Our Very Eyes We Do Not See

Hi all. Long time no check in. Read below or go to Go to and and see a few of the many things that have kept us busy being church in this Lenten season in this I am teaching two classes at as well as being one of the directors of ministerial formation there and enjoying it immensely, but sometimes the cup gets so full to overflowing you just have to share it, take a moment and sip from it slowly. This will then be somewhat of a different kind of report from our different way of being church; as always do us a favor and pass it on, post it on, witness for us....

Let's talk worship: This Sunday communion first thing at 10 am then off across town to Sheridan Lanes for Church Without Walls bowling party (join us and support bowlers even if you choose not to bowl), think of a service project there or on the way there and back, and lunch out together. Invite friends, et al. contribute what you can, in our usual shared way, everyone will be take care of. Next Sunday on Palm Sunday March 28 we will have a special Seminary Sunday Day; a indepth look at the events of Holy Week from the march into Jerusalem through the Resurrection, from First Light: Jesus and the Kingdom of God by scholars Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan, communion and common meal worked in, in the Jesus way....Also plan to attend the Friday April 2 annual our mutual Noon Good Friday Worship Service in the chapel at All Souls, 2952 S. Peoria Ave....On Easter there will be some kind of surprise, of course...

Let's talk mission: we partner with OU graduate school of social work on Tuesdays 5:30 to 8 pm Mar. 23 and 30 and in April 20 and 27 to begin our first session of the free, meal included, Community Academy for residents 14 years old and up to help develop their relationship and organizational skills to become leaders in our community, to help their churches or groups or projects and dreams they have and want to make real. Future community academies may stress a variety of skills and classes and groups. On March 30 we will host the regular monthly Turley Community Association meeting as part of the class....Saturday March 27 9 or 10 am start or come when you can to first Spring gardening and cleanup with our partner Cherokee School; we will do the second one Sat. April 17...on Tuesday April 6 calling all artists and crafts people to come at 6:30 pm, meal included of course, also trying to arrange a quilt show in our gallery space...on Tuesday April 13 6:30 pm our gardening and food justice group will be showing the monthly documentary and planning the gardening we do communally and guerilla fashion (Food Inc was a hit this month; in April it will be SuperSize Me)...and importantly on Saturday April 10 from 8 to 10 am we have our community pancake and more benefit breakfast; $5 donation or more suggestion and a chance to eat and visit and hear whats going on in lives and the community of Tulsa North and the Turley area. Then join us for random acts of kindness and/or gardening, always multigenerational...check the blogs for more and updates; just too many projects and initiatives going on to mention here...

Let's talk party: All are invited to the annual Easter Eve Holy Saturday Celebrate Jesus Emptying Hell, AshingRobinson Garden Party, 11 am to 3 pm or so, 563 E. 63rd St. N. that's up the hill from the Two Turtles Smoke Shop and Dollar General west of Peoria turn right on North Garrison and we are the little rock house tucked up with Turley Mountain rising behind us, with the National Wildlife Federation Habitat Approved Sign on the Fence. We might even end it with a little Easter Eve vigil at the house or down at a third place.

Worship, Mission, Party, that's the agenda of revolutions, you need all three, at least in the way of Jesus. Speaking of which, the real reason I write to you today...

One of the common texts from scripture for this coming Sunday has in part this, from the gospel of John:
"Six days before the Passover Jesus came to Bethany, the home of Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. 2There they gave a dinner for him. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at the table with him. 3Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped them with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. 4But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (the one who was about to betray him), said, 5“Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor?” 6(He said this not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; he kept the common purse and used to steal what was put into it.) 7Jesus said, “Leave her alone. She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of my burial. 8You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.”"

So there you have human nature, I suppose. There is Lazarus, raised from the dead, sitting at the table with Jesus, eating with Jesus, in his own home, but no one says a word about how amazing that is, no one is still going on and on about this transformation, this renewal (it isnt a resurrection of course, not in the same vein as Jesus' later, but that's another commentary); it is still so amazing and yet everything has gone back to the relative status quo so quickly. Maybe it is one of those cases where to look at the transformed one, to notice her or him, would put your own need of transformation into stark relief and you can't stand that; maybe we just have to have that status quo, homeostasis, restored. Lazarus quietly a miracle in the presence of the miracle maker and what does our Judas side fixate on, to complain about? Mary's hospitality to Jesus. Can't have that either.

I know there is that troubling passage. Jesus has a way of troubling things. The poor will always be with you; but he won't be. That social justice side of us, God forbid I sound like Glenn Beck, wants to say thank god for Judas naming the elephant in the room; but then the even quieter side of us wants to say, there goes Judas again; yes we know there is always something we need to do better for others, but there are times when the best, most immediate way you can change the world is to fill that world with the fragrance of perfume, unexpectedly (especially if you have a still raised from the dead Lazarus in the room, the real elephant in the room nobody is mentioning). Hmm, like putting your own oxygen mask on first before you can help others breathe in emergencies?

So here we have "the poor" with us always; someone gets a job and moves on somewhere else into their own place and their rented house goes empty then someone else moves in, paying or not. It is so easy to think of people as "the poor" without names and histories attached; I don't want to pick on poor Judas, Lord knows history has done that enough, but he reminds me of someone making a site visit here where we are, talking of statistics and stereotypes. He reminds me of me too. Meanwhile there are the miracles with names, Lazarus and Jesus, one getting attention and one being ignored, in his own home.

Funny what people see and don't see, fixate on and ignore.....

....We had a young man shot in front of the Chicken Hut in a crowd of people out after 2 am when the dance clubs close, and that is tragic, and mob mentality set in and people wouldn't talk to police, again, and got in the way of the first responders, again, and much was made in the media and online of people walking up to place their orders with him still lying wounded or dead. And that shouldn't be. And yet that is what people see instead of seeing what the people here see and don't see everyday. You have heard me before: a litany of things absent, so that the Chicken Hut, small as it is, becomes a gathering place for young people who want to continue being together but have no where else to go; Lord knows all the community centers we just closed in our lowest income areas couldn't be opened and adopted by churches and businesses to offer midnight basketball, a place to crash, etc. There are no movie theaters, few if any places like Chicken Hut to go to so that the one place gets the crush of people, and it isn't like they could have gone home and ordered in pizza to unwind cause you can't get pizza delivery. But the commentators don't see all that, or all the other aspects of the lives of those making bad decisions for sure. Did I just call them Judas? Sorry Judas.

The attitude is that if you are living here in the first place you get what you deserve; if you are out on Memorial Drive on the southside at that time and something like that happens it is a terrible commentary on society; but when it happens here, well then it is a commentary on the individuals involved and doesn't have anything to do with society because that's what they get for living here; the goal is often to help people get on their feet so they can high-tail it to the other side of town or the suburbs, onward and upward, let those behind suffer because they didn't get on their feet fast enough. It is one of the stories of the history of how this zipcode became to be struggling and abandoned. It is one of the reason why we have added a Fourth R to our list of the 3Rs of Community Development and Spiritual Life: remember the original 3Rs are relocation, redistribution, and reconciliation; the fourth R is Retention; as we improve the community we do it with and for the residents who are here, and so they won't have to move even when the neighborhoods are raised from the dead around them.

Even Jesus would soon, he was saying, be one whom they would not see anymore. Pay attention. Jesus was a peasant, as poor as they come, without even a home of his own so he made his home with others. Pay attention. See him. Jesus saw the Roman crosses lining the roads around Bethany, talk about your fragile gang-ridden neighborhoods with occupying forces and not much property value; he knew he could be gone at any moment, and so did Mary, who brought a glimpse of anointing to Jesus while he was alive, a small measure of the healing and anointing and life he had helped initiate and brought everywhere he went. Judas might have spread the value of that perfume around to so many of "the poor" that none got but a fractional amount so he could say he had helped such and such a number of "the poor." Mary started with the poor in front of her who had a name and a need. Hers was a miracle too, such a fragrance, such an act. Lazarus was a miracle. Jesus was a miracle. And don't forget to see Martha serving up the miracle in the background; no complaints from her in this story; I like to think of her as in her groove here, like some Top Chef, living out her passion feeding and orchestrating the community life happening all around her.

So many miracles, it's hard to see them all. So many miracles, it's hard to see at all. All that worship, all that mission, all that party, all that community organizing behind the scenes I don't write about us, all that we take for granted, all of you, miracle all.

Blessings to you and yours, thanks for all you do and all you see wherever you are and for your presence with us here, and more to come, soon I hope,


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