Before service, Tiffany kind of non-verbally acknowledged me from across the room, and I kind of knew what was coming, and sure enough a minute or two later she came over to where I was sitting and asked if I would do the Scripture reading.
The Meditation was:
"Do you not know that God entrusted you with that money....to feed the hungry, to clothe the naked, to help the stranger, the widow, the orphan, and indeed, as far as it will go, to relieve the wants of all?"I immediately thought of the social justice series at CAUMC small group and Wesley's "frivolous spending takes food out of the hands of the hungry."
On the back of the bulletin there was also an excerpt from The Book of Discipline (?):
The Social Principles, paragraphs 16.3.B-CThe Scripture reading was Luke 14:1, 7-14
We support the rights of public and private (including farm, government, institutional, and domestic) employees and employers to organize for collective bargaining into unions and other groups of their own choosing. Further, we support the right of both parties to protection in so doing and their responsibility to bargain in good faith within the framework of the public interest.... We reject the use of violence by either party during collective bargaining or any labor/management disagreement. We likewise reject the permanent replacement of a worker who engages in a lawful strike. Every person has the right to a job at a living wage. We support social measures that ensure the physical and mental safety of workers, that provide for the equitable division of products and services, and that encourage an increasing freedom in the way individuals may use their leisure time. We believe that persons come before profits. We deplore the selfish spirit that often pervades our economic life. We support policies that encourage the sharing of ideas in the workplace, cooperative and collective work arrangements. We support rights of workers to refuse to work in situations that endanger health and/or life without jeopardy to their jobs.
I actually lost my place on like the second line and took far too long to find it again (some time after I'd sat back down it occurred to me that perhaps I should have just started from the beginning again). After I sat back down I felt a little bit anxious and was reminded that yes, lay reading for all that it's my preferred lay-participation is in fact a performative and more than that risky undertaking. I was also proud of myself for not getting flustered (I recalled the time everyone was so impressed at UCN when I did the reading and the Bible wasn't pre-marked, so I was just flipping through looking for the book/chapter) both visibly and internally.
In her sermon, Tiffany talked about how in this passage Jesus is at the party, that we often like to think of him as "outcast of outcasts," but here he's one of Them. She said she often has the internal debate, as many of us do, as to whether to work for change from inside the system or outside, and that while she prefers to be an outsider, Jesus' answer is: both. (I think my preferred method is to work within the system.)
She said that in this pericope, the section about table is bracketed both before and after by Jesus arguing with them about how, not if, to follow Torah. (I gleed a little inside because the term "pericope" and the importance of looking at what comes before and after a passage, are two things I came away from Amy-Jill Levine at Convo with.) She said this passage so often gets interpreted as Jesus having this new radical idea about humbling oneself and welcoming the poor and the outcast, and that in fact she has probably preached that very sermon, but in fact "radical" in fact comes from the word for "root" and Jesus wasn't coming in with new ideas but rather doing something she thinks is "deeper and more profound": "calling them back to their very own tradition." She went on to argue that (1) we [with the caveat that obviously not everyone is called to do this difficult work] need to be at table with the very people who are in positions of power and with whom we disagree, to protest and subvert and (2) one way we can work for change is to remind those in power of their own traditions of justice etc.
Mostly I loved the exhortation to be "at table" with those with whom one disagrees, because that is one of my big Things.
During Prayers of the People, Tiffany lifted up how our government has spent so much more money on "an unjust war" than on the rebuilding of an American city, and I'm a bad person and thought of this article. She also talked about how places like Houston have been happy to take in white collar refugees but not wanting to take in people who would need social services. For Christian communities (and even from a broader humanitarian perspective) I see how this is troubling, but I also have sympathy for the rationale. I really am a soulless bitca, huh?
Before dinner, Will was telling Jayson (his friend who's in town from NYC for the weekend) about something and mentioned that Annie Britton was involved, then explained who she was from Convo (which Jayson attended, though we didn't meet). I was standing there, listening, and he said, "You know Annie, right?" and I said yes, that she even likes me, though I'm not sure why. He must have said something like, "Obviously simply knowing you is enough reason," because I said, "I actually tend to think that people think they like me because they don't actually know me." He replied, "I love your spirit, on so many levels."
During dinner, Will was talking about 7villages and the discussions Trelawney was having in the comments of Tiffany's blogposts. I remembered that (I Affirmed Trelawney I think two weeks in a row for that) and said I remembered he had lifted it up in Prayers of the People and mentioned that that were some hateful, poisonous comments, and that I honestly couldn't think of which particular comments he had been referring to.
(I looked it up when I got home, and I had been thinking of the guy who had been in sustained dialogue with Trelawney. There was another commenter on a couple of the posts whose stance was phrased much more strongly/harshly, which I do validate.)
I said that I know I come at this differently than everyone else at CWM, "I have a higher tolerance for conservatives, and a lower tolerance for liberals."
He said, somewhat hesitantly, "Well, that's useful."
I was thinking later that in some ways I *am* (or at least feel far more comfortable than they would) with The Enemy they are being exhorted to table with. It's somewhat ironic as just recently I was thinking about how CWM is the closest I have to a church home at the moment.
And yes, I know that I feel very uncomfortable in church spaces that insist homosexuality is a sin (for example); we're back to my Smith problem of feeling Other regardless of which side I'm with. I was thinking later that being known and understood are huge for me, and that it's reaching a critical mass or a tipping point or whatever the appropriate term is -- because by virtue of attending this community, an assortment of assumptions are made about me. (Now I'm having visions of having conversations with people at Marla-and-company's cookout about, "If I have to pick a political affiliation, I pick Libertarian, which means no one likes me. You know not to assume I'm politically liberal in all the same ways the rest of you are, right?")
Later, Marla was asking if there was a reason Tiffany didn't have a cross on the altar tonight, and she said no it wasn't done intentionally, but if Marla thought it was because her sermon was in part about anti-Semitism then yes, she had very deliberately crafted it all.
Recalling Alixtii's post this morning, I said, "Yeah, you can just create the author-function," and then I realized that I would have to explain that term and Will was there and kinda looked at me and I quickly disclaimed that I don't actually say that, I just have friends who do.
Will pointed out, "You just did."
I realized on my walk home that it's "constructing the author-function."
Edit: Oh, Jayson complimented my necklace, and Will explained about Boston Pride, mentioning Auburndale's banner, and said they were selling the dogtags at vendor carts at Downtown Crossing for like a week after Pride.
And I wasn't particularly taken with any of the hymns, but I really liked that they were all connected to the theme of being 'at table' ("Bring the Feast to Every Hillside," "Walls Mark Our Boundaries," and Cassandra's Special Music was something abut "at my grandma's table"). /edit