Wednesday, February 18, 2009

A prayer for Ruby Eugenia and all of her generation

A prayer for Ruby Eugenia and all of her generation.
La Rotunda, Santa Fe, NM
opening session house floor
March 18, 2009

Please pray with me,
O God our help in ages past...our hope for years to come.

Thank you for this new day, and the life you give us.
Thank you for our elected officials who govern here,
and for all who facilitate this process of public service to our community

Thank you for the life of my daughter, born 7 weeks ago today.
She knows little of what this world is all do we all.

Her big blue eyes delight in the way the shadow of the ceiling fan is cast on the vigas in our home.
Colors in contrast catch her eye and she is fascinated by them,
and yet we so often are a people divided on the grounds of differing colors, red and blue...
yellow, black and white. May we be united n our diversity this day!

I love how my little one sits on the changing table amazed by this simple little stuffed animal, that we call seƱorita obeja; but we so often are a people who feel like we need more things, bigger things, faster and fancier things. May we delight in simplicity today!

My little girl is comforted when her mother or I hold her tightly in our arms, there she rests and is at peace,
and yet we so often are a people who push others away, we build walls, and we keep you at arms distance... Hold us close this day.

When my little angel sleeps, she rests without worry, without fear, as if she is basking in the very presence of your divine being...
but we so often are a people who cannot trust, we are afraid of one another, we cannot trust ourselves...Free us from worry and fear, today.

My precious baby knows no threat to her life; and yet, we so often are a people who threaten so much of life, the lives of others and the lives of your creation. This day may we respect all life!

My little angels thinks that everything is just right, for now, but some day she will wake up to parents in an argument, someone in power will mistreat her, a friend will betray know well this road.

Soon she will discover a world different from the one she knows now.
But, may the actions of this day make it possible for her to wake up to a better world.
As discussions take place and decisions are made here today,
may they be made with my little girl Ruby Eugenia in mind, but not just her, sino all children in this state, in this nation, and in this world.

O God our help in ages past,
and our hope for years to come
do a new thing! Make a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland. And may we perceive it!


Sunday, February 15, 2009

Mk1,40-45 sermon

Sure Jesus, I won’t tell anyone….
Mark 1:40-45, 2 Kings 5:1-14
Westminster Presbyterian Church, Santa Fe
February 15, 2009

I have joined a new club. Wow! I mean it has been so cool for me to be in this club. It’s kind of a wink wink, nod nod club. You don’t have to say much to know who is in it. “Oh really, how old is yours?” “Ah, yes, I understand.” (slide 1, Ruby Gene and me). Being a Dad has been an amazing experience for me so far. I’d heard a lot of things about parenting, before, but I didn’t really know what it was going to be like…now I’m part of the club.

I want to thank each and everyone of you for your love and support for Trasie and me throughout her pregnancy, the special time during the birth, and now in these early days of Ruby Gene’s life. I’m not used to getting so much attention..oh, wait… I remember, when people have stopped by to drop off a little gift or maybe some food, it’s not me they’re interested in seeing is it.

And, God willing, I look forward to everyone getting a chance to meet her next week. I wonder if she’ll sit through the entire service? It will be the first of many sermons she’ll hear me preach “bless her heart.”

It’s crazy for me to think about her growing up…and what life has in store for her. I kind of wish she would just stay small. Like she is now, even if it means restless nights. The world can be a difficult place, a harsh place. Unfair it seems at times.
This morning’s passage from Mark implicitly names the cruelty that can be experienced in life. Did you catch it? The leper in the story, at one point in his life, was a baby child, just like my Ruby Gene. Probably doted on and loved like Ruby Gene has been by so many wonderful people. Maybe he did well in school; maybe even had a family of his own.

But something happens…a tragic turn of events. Disease. Leprosy. Now he is restricted to living out in the “open field.”1 After so many people around him, now he’s isolated, not welcomed in the public places. He’s an outcast. Leprosy “…a slow, chronic disease that attacks the peripheral nervous system and motor skills, often leading to disability and disfigurement.” 2Not much chance of coming across someone with leprosy in our day.3
But back in Jesus’ day, it was a fairly prevalent thing; and there were harsh strict rules dealing with lepers. 4 Lepers were impure so they were kept apart. There was little chance for them to become clean, and be restored to society. The leper says to Jesus, “if you choose, make me clean.” It seems others who knew the cleansing codes, chose not to. Jesus sees the man and our translation says he was moved with pity…other translations say filled with compassion, or feeling sorry for him...
Okay, so here’s a cool greek word for the week, we actually have two of them this morning. splanchnizomai (slide 2). When Jesus sees the man he was splanchnizomai. - “profound compassion that one is moved to act on behalf of someone else.”5 Jesus splanchnizomai:
People are busy lobbying for various laws to be pasted about any number of issues these days. Many do so for selfish gain. But some do so on behalf of others who are marginalized and oppressed in society—Who? Immigrants, homeless, gays and lesbians, minorities, people with disabilities, the list goes on. I happened to be at the rotunda Thursday, it was quite cold but that didn’t stop Father Juan. Bald, standing in the cold, he’d come all the way up from Roswell to speak on behalf of workers who were not being treated with fairness and dignity.
Is this splanchnizomai? Drawing on the tradition of Ezekiel,6 Jesus’ feelings and action “address more than a spiritual and personal dilemma; he is condemning social and religious practices that contribute to the misery of those in the greatest need.”7 Jesus is opposed to the oppressive system that would marginalize and exclude this leper, so Jesus does choose, and he touches the man, breaking down barriers.
And there is healing and power in Jesus’ touch. Jesus touched this man. Perhaps he could have healed him from a distance as Elisha did Naaman in the story from Kings. Naaman was an important man, he traveled a long distance to meet the prophet in Israel named Elisha. And he got the healing he wanted…if he would only go down to the waters and wash. But what’s interesting as we compare the interaction between Naaman and Elisha, and that of Jesus and the leper. Elisha knew the Leviticus laws, the purity codes, so maybe he didn’t want to become unclean by coming into contact with—by touching—a leper8....But, Jesus, the new prophet of Israel, the one Mark says is the Son of God,
knows the implications of touching this man. “Jesus, if you choose.” “I do choose. Be made clean!” And there is the touch. He is made clean…and then strangely, Jesus tells him: “Shhh, don’t tell anyone!” The translation is “sternly warns him.” (Slide 3). Our second greek word: Embrimesamenos. A translation I like is “snorting with indignation”. Snorting with indignation Jesus tells the man not to say anything, rather to go back, appear before the religious authorities that had refused to allow this man to be part of society, and show them, as a testimony against them.9 Jesus is snorting at those who created and enforce this kind of harsh treatment of this child of God.
But don’t tell anyone who did this!”
Sure…I won’t tell anybody.”
Many people wonder why Jesus tells the man to keep quiet. All over Mark’s gospel, we see Jesus telling people to: Shhh, keep quiet. The messianic secret. Why? Aren’t disciples supposed to proclaim the good news? Doesn’t Jesus want people to know who he is? Theories abound, but here in these verses, it seems quite apparent to me why Jesus wanted this man now cured of leprosy to keep his trap shut. In the verses just before this passage begins Jesus says to his disciples: “Let us go on to the neighboring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do.” That I may proclaim the message there also, for that is what I came out to do. The passage continues: He went throughout Galilee, proclaiming the message in their synagogues and casting out demons. But, how things change in just six verses. At the end of this encounter with the leper Mark says, “But [the cured man] went out and began to proclaim it freely, and to spread the word, so that Jesus could no longer go into a town openly, but stayed out in the country…” It seems like Jesus didn’t want this man to say anything because he knew that if he did, according to the laws of those in power, according to the social structure which ruled the day and could determine who was acceptable to have around and who wasn’t, Jesus didn’t want the word to get out that he had touched this “unclean” man.
And when it did get out he could no longer do what he came out to do, proclaim the good news…. But this cured man did. It’s funny, the leper is told to do two things, appear before the priests, and to not tell anyone. Did he do either one? Follows directions listens well: Non-satisfactory!10 Oh sure, Jesus…I won’t tell anyone. How could he not? Can’t you see him heading into town and runs into that neighbor who grew up down the street:
Hey, Jerry (short for Jeremiah), is that you?”
Well, you sure look different, did you do something with your hair?”
Well what is it…?”
Well, I used to have a problem with my skin…it was kind of falling off.”
Oh what happened?”

And after he tells one person, he might as well tell everyone else. He went out to proclaim it freely, to spread the word…. He becomes for the early community a model witness. His life has been radically transformed by Christ’s touch; he can’t contain himself. In a complete role reversal, Jesus can no longer move about from town to town proclaiming the good news, but this cured man can.

And I think about this and our own lives. Jesus is not here in the flesh to go out and travel from town to town and proclaim the good news. But, do you know who is? People who have been touched by the Christ. People who’ve been sick, people who’ve been lonely, people who have been excluded from society. And thanks to Jesus breaking down barriers and overcoming fears, these people have been made whole, can be integrated back into society. Who are these people?
You and me….Have we not been touched by Christ’s love? Made clean! I know it, I’ve heard your stories. I know it, I’ve broken bread of life and shared the cup of salvation with you. It’s happened in my life: if ya’ll would have seen me in high school, wow. My mom sent me some pictures a few weeks ago, and boy. [Show picture] I was some kind of freak. [I had a shaved head, I was really skinny, braces, pimples all over, I’m sitting in this chair all slouched over. ]
No wonder girls didn’t talk to me.
In college, I experienced Christ’s touch in a profound way. So much of the fear, anxiety, and worry that had been a part of my life, was gone. I securely embraced by God’s love and forgiveness…I remember when I came home that Christmas break, I was hanging out with some friends from high school, and one good friend said to me, “Topple, (that’s what I was called) something’s different about you…” yes, God changed my life. Wow.

Still, there are many times in my life when I keep quiet. When I keep to myself and it’s easy to not share this love with others. Does that happen to some of you?
Oh yeah, Jesus told the leper to keep it on the DL. On the down low. hush hush…so maybe that’s what I’m supposed to do too? Just…trying to be faithful.” Why do we hesitate to share our experience? Do we forget? Are we not sure about what happened? Are we afraid of what others might think? When something awesome has happened in my life… I want to go out and share it right away. When we tell our stories, God’s story, we’re not beating the bible over someone’s head, or turning into fanatics, we’re witnessing against those who would establish and maintain oppressive forces in society, and celebrating with those who have also experienced this liberation, God’s grace.

Each of us has our own experiences. Our own encounters. Sure we have disappointments in life. There is so much suffering, so much pain. What’s interesting about these healing stories we read about in the gospels is that Jesus didn’t just wipe out all cases of leprosy, which might have been a little more effective in terms of overcoming the oppressive social structures of the day. No one has leprosy anymore, I guess we can get rid of that law. Thanks Jesus.”
It’s kind of weird…. He touched lives with a healing touch, one at a time.
And we can do the same.
I went to the Santa Fe High Christmas choral concert this year…Dulce Cervantes had invited me. And there she was along with about 20 other teens. It didn’t take long to hear one person singing a little off key, a little more loudly than the others, and not necessarily singing the right words during the performance.
Once or twice the conductor had to quiet this young woman a bit. She had down syndrome. And as easy it may have been for her peers to shun her or just ignore her to protect their own reputation, there was Dulce, singing right next to her, trying to help her find her place in her music. Touching her life, while trying to sing her best. Did I tell you? Dulce’s in the club.
I’m part of the club. Yes, I’m part of the dad club. But even more significant, I’m part of the Jesus club (corny?.. yes). This club is not exclusive. Anyone is welcome, and everyone can share. It’s the club where we gather around the table, we share in bread and drink and friendship and love. It’s the club where barriers are torn down, and anyone can sit down beside you or me. Anyone can be made clean, be made whole, be given new life! Maybe we need to start inviting more people, sharing a little bit about what God has done in our lives, touching the lives of others out of thankfulness for what God has done for us…
how can we keep it just to ourselves? Sure jesus, I won’t tell anyone….

: Next Sunday, Special Sunday in the life of the church Maya Chavez will be debuting on piano! She called me this week and said, hey Chester, are you going to be at Church next Sunday? Yes. Is Ruby Gene going to be there. We hope so…Oh me, too. I’m going to play piano! We will be ordaining and installing the new class of elders and deacons. And after church we will have the fourth Sunday Pot-Luck. (bring your favorite dishes, and I know that many of you know how to cook, I’ve sampled many of you dishes over the past two months. Also, Imam Aziz al eddebbarh from the Mosque here in town will be speaking during the potluck about the recent events in Palestine and Israel.

1 Ofelia Ortega, Mark 1:40-45 Theological Perspective, Feasting on the Word, pp. 358-360.
3 There are an estimated 150 cases of leprosy diagnosed each year in the United States. According to the World Health Organization, in 2004 the number of patients with leprosy worldwide was 457,792.
4 cf. Leviticus 13 and 14
5 Gary Charles, “Mark 1:40-45, Exegetical Perspective,” Feasting on the Word, ed. Bartlett, Brown Taylor, pp. 357-360.
6 Ezekiel 34; cf. Mark 6 and Jesus splanchnizomai for the “sheep without a shepherd.”
7 Gary Charles, “Mark 1:40-45, Exegetical Perspective,” Feasting on the Word, ed. Bartlett, Brown Taylor, pp. 357-360.
8 Not only was Namaan a leper but he was also a foreigner, a double-edged sword, in terms of purity codes.
9 Ched Myers, Binding the Strong Man: A Political Reading of Mark’s Story of Jesus, 153
10 These are the marks I used to get in elementary school.