by Rev. David Rommereim
Good, solid relationships last. They give you the chance of becoming self-aware. With quality friends, you speak for yourself rather than for others. One of my rabbis, Edwin Friedman, calls that, becoming self differentiated. The prophet Jesus names it, you "love G*d with all your heart, soul, strength, and your neighbor as yourself."
Friends make self-awareness happen, carefully and deliberately. They suspend judgment so that you may be yourself. When conflict arises you, have a community to guide you rather than fight with you. If, perchance distance comes between you, the relationship may change, but rarely snuffed out. Strong relations abide through the bond of love (agape).
With friendship in mind, I remember my 9th grade math teacher. He presently lives across this continent. Remarkably, we keep in touch nearly once a year. One day, after a conversation, he said, "David, you're radical." At first, I was bewildered. I did not know what he meant. Then, after thinking about it, I learned he meant it complimentary.
He called me radical after I shared a story about a time I was busy assisting a congregation and a neighborhood, in a public ministry that needed G*d's prophetic voice. The plea was not about me. Rather, I was eager to hear the soul force of the Prophetic voices of Jeremiah, Isaiah, Ezekiel, Moses, and Jesus in a cacophony of brute force.
I shared with my teacher, that violence was on the rise despite more cops hiding in dark tinted cars parked all around street corners. There was the plethora of guns and ammunition. I knew 30% of the community was armed (a normal NYC statistic at the time). There was also illicit chemistry infiltrating our neighborhood and distorting the lives of users. The church was nestled in a little corner of the block. Nevertheless, because of the prophet Jesus, and his prophetic community named The Way, we could not remain silent. We wanted things to change and peace to abide in our neighborhood.
The story was personal, but it was not about me. It was about G*d and the memory that G*d did not want to be mocked by the violence caused by silence, nor the empty voices, nor the violence of death defying ignorance paid by large financed political action campaigns (PAC).
When the math teacher called me, radical, it was not what you think. He did not refer to a radical that you may assume has to do with politics and social reform. He meant a radical that goes deeper. His notion is deeply rooted. It is a radical that is far-reaching, thorough, and fundamentally related to the nature of what it means to be a person of faith and a sojourner of the Prophetic ministry of G*d (Jew and Christian).
I remember that little encounter with my teacher, because this Lent Good Shepherd community returned to the roots of the Jesus story. We returned to the fundamental and thorough good of Jesus' prophetic mission.
We began the season remembering the meek and mild Jesus. We still love his image with a lamb carefully draped over his shoulders. We love the carefully groomed brown locks of that Warner Salzmann's portrait of Jesus that hangs in many basements of the remaining Lutheran churches along the 4th Avenue Local. Nevertheless, this Lent, many of us returned to the Jesus of the Prophetic Voice. Jesus enters our history with his mentors, Moses, Elijah, and others.
So, in the middle of this Great and Holy Week 2013, we return to Gethsemane, the place of prayer. We remember the trial in the praetorian of Roman occupation. We return to the temple and a religious hegemony that was as corrupt as the day is cold. We remember Jesus leading a peasant's revolt because the upper 1% horded all the resources and controlled a barbaric economy. (Sounds familiar?)
Daily bread was for the people of means, rather than for all people. Prophesy is why Jesus taught us to pray "give us this day our daily bread." It is why Jesus taught us to hallow G*d's Name, it is why we pray "Our Abba" rather than "My Abba," or why we ask, forgive the debts as we forgive the debtors. Jesus, the compassionate one, knew that a dysfunctional economy always hurts the ones whose back is against the wall.
The Prophet Jesus brings us back to the beginning, restores our lives, and teaches us without judgment. Ultimately, we ask him to lead us not into temptation, and to deliver us from the evil one.
We began Lent, remembering that James Baldwin challenged us to "do our first works over." He counseled us to "Go back to where you started, or as far back as you can, examine all of it, travel your road again, and tell the truth about it. Sing or shout or testify or keep it to yourself, but know from whence you came."
It is Passover and Easter, two faith cousins featuring G*d's soul force of justice-love. This week I thank G*d for the living memory of the Prophet Jesus. It is a good time to take a step back, re-member. Then leap forward.