Sunday, April 29, 2012

Yarn and Dry Bones

On Friday night, I was invited by Ventiko to participate in a new monthly evening of performances at Culture Fix.  For the event, I re-imagined the string sculpture that I had first seen in NYC with Freestyle Arts Association. In this incarnation, the sculpture started off as a bizarre PVC structure with yarn and scissors at the base.  
Inside the structure were simple instructions comparing the PVC structure to the dry bones of Ezekiel 37, in which God asks the prophet, "Can these bones live?"  The idea is that throughout our existence we are often confronted with the dried out remains of what used to be, relationships, institutions, dreams, which no longer seem to have use or meaning.  What do we do in such situations? Do we walk away?  Do we try to give them new life? Do we dismantle them and make something new?  
I have been assigned to start a new congregation in a neighborhood where the physical remains of Lutheran congregations that were robust one-hundred years ago are very present in the form of massive, badly deteriorating buildings. So for me, the question is a very real one.  Can these bones live?  And if so, what will they look like?  I hoped this yarn sculpture would give me some insight.
At first, people behaved as I thought they would.  They wrapped the skeleton in different colors of yarn.
But then something unexpected happened:  someone started to wrap the yarn around a person! 
Once one person started, another followed, until soon everyone was tying themselves to their neighbors, and weaving the whole room into one intersecting web. 
The sculpture started with the PVC structure, but through the inspiration of the community, it literally came alive in the bodies of its co-creators.  In doing so, it laughed, and danced, and jumped across the room. 
Looking back, participants making each other part of the sculpture is an incredibly obvious thing to have happen, but in the three years that I've known about string sculptures, I've never thought to imagine that it would.  And that gives me hope.

Of course, at the end of the evening, I still dismantled the sculpture (it fits nicely in a should bag and under my arm).  In two weeks the PVC will be reborn as something completely different for Animamus Art Salon, that I will be hosting at St. John's Lutheran Church (155 Milton, Brooklyn) at 7:00pm on Sunday, May 13.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Magnetic Bible Bashing Returns! With Bishops!

A couple weeks ago, I was invited to be part of a group of pastors that spoke to the bishops in the Northeast about starting new (and often unusual) churches.  But since so much of what I do is about interactive art-making, I invited the bishops, their staff, and my fellow church planters to play with high-velocity magnetic bibles!  Just like the last time I played with magnetic bibles, I hung four magnetized bibles from the ceiling.  Underneath the bibles, I spread out several hundred words worth of magnetic poetry, which I double-sided so that the same word appeared on the front and back.
Then I asked people, if they were to contribute their own verse to the Bible, what would it be?  Using the magnetic poetry, participants were invited to attach those verses to the front covers of the bibles.  
We documented what was written on each bible; then we pulled back the bibles and smashed them together!
(That's Bishop Marie Jerge from the Upstate New York Synod smashing a bible in the background)

When the bibles collided, the poetry changed.  Individual words shifted, fell, and jumped from one bible to the other.  Just as with the creation of the document called the "Bible" what each individual contributed became something new, something larger, through its collision with the sacred words of others.
(Bishops and staff examine the new creation)

If you'd like to read what this group of people initially wrote and what it transformed into, click "Read more."

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Holy (Week) (Seed) Hand Grenade!

During Holy Week, I teamed up with Lutheran Church of the Messiah and St. John's Lutheran Church to make sacred seed bombs.  The process was structured to follow the Holy Week pattern of viscous liquids, dirt, brokenness, and new life.

  • What Jesus Did:  Gets invited over for dinner and gets covered in oil by unnamed woman (Mark 14:1-11).
  • What the Congregations Did: Bake bread for the services of Holy Week.  
  • What Sacred Seed Bombers Did:  In the baking process, blow eggs, so that contents of the shell can be used for food while keeping the empty shell intact.  Get covered in egg during blowing attempt.
  • What Jesus Did:  Washes the dirt from disciples' feet.  Tells them to love one another (John 13).
  • What the Congregations Did:  Wash the dirt from people's feet.
  • What Sacred Seed Bombers Did:  Fill empty egg shells with dirt and flower seeds.  Write messages of love and hope on the egg shells.
  • What Jesus Did:  Gets crucified, killed, and buried (Mark 15).
  • What the Congregations Did:  Recount the breaking of Jesus' body and our own brokenness.
  • What Sacred Seed Bombers Did:  Break eggs by throwing them into an abandoned lot.

Easter Sunday (and Season)
  • What Jesus Did:  Rises from death to new life. Gets mistaken for a gardener (John 20:1-18).
  • What the Congregations Did:  Celebrate Jesus rising from the dead.  Look for eggs.
  • What Sacred Seed Bombers Did:  Look for new flowers/life to rise in an abandoned lot from the broken shell of eggs/love.  Become guerrilla gardeners.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Blue Like Jazz

Blue Like Jazz, a movie about a 19 year-old Texan Christian who decides to run away to the notoriously non-religious Reed College, opens tomorrow.
A group from Columbia University is going to see the film tomorrow at 2:30pm at AMC Empire 25 Theater.  There will be food and conversation afterwards, which I, in my dual identity as Reed alumnus and pastor, will lead. If you're interested in joining us, let me know!   

Friday, April 6, 2012

Questions of the Cross/Preguntas de la Cruz

Sermón para Viernes Santo 2012.  Good Friday Sermon, 2012.

La cruz es una pregunta
The cross is a question
La cruz es una pregunta
Cada vez que alguien es condenado...
su nombre, sangre en la boca de la muchedumbre 
su cuerpo, una pelota para las botas de la policía 
su alma negada en las burlas  de los sacerdotes
sus derechos, dinero que los políticos se gastan 
La cruz es una pregunta
¿Quién es este humano?
¿Cuál es su nombre?
¿Es Dios?
¿Soy Yo? 

The cross is a question
Every time someone justifies a death...
dangling a broken law in the scales of justice
graphing the gain to be had by others
dripping insinuations of someone else’s self-incrimination
blaming a corpse for its rot
The cross is a question
Who is this human?
What is their name?
Is it God?
Is it I?

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Holi Festival of Colors

You can read more about the significance of Holi in Hindu culture and religious traditions here, but I was curious about what draws 80,000 people (most of them in no way connected to the Hare Krishnas who put on the festival) to a small Utah town.  

Perhaps most obvious is the breathtaking beauty of a geyser of colors against snow-capped mountains.
Yet the world is full of beautiful places.  Beyond just beauty, Holi gives permission.  Everyone who goes there goes to throw colors.  Everyone who goes there goes to get colors thrown on them.  Everyone who goes there goes to get dirty.  
There are no questions about how to fit in:  as soon as you enter, people cover you in color. There are no question about how to interact with strangers:  cover them in color.  There are no questions about what to wear:  whatever you wear will be covered in color.  There are no questions about your hairstyle, your make-up, your wrinkles, your complexion:  they will all be covered in color.  Strangers will make you colorful; strangers will make you dirty; and you will be beautiful because of it.  
The unity that Christians are promised having been clothed in Christ, people actually experience clothed in a cloud of color.  The freedom that Christians are promised in the waters of baptism, people actually experience in a shower of color. The colors act as a Carnival mask, giving people the freedom to frolic, to flirt, to dance wildly to bands in ways they would never feel comfortable doing otherwise.  And every time someone wants to make their presence known, to share their soul with the world, all they have to do is throw a handful of color into the air.
(yes, this couple was actually getting married)
And every two hours there is a coordinated color throw in which everyone throws a bag of color up in the air at the same time. If you stand in the center of the throw, you step into another world. For a brief second your color streaks into the air beside the colors of your neighbors, and you see a hundred colors behind.  But then, as the colored powder lingers in the air, the colors merge.  What was once pink, and green, and yellow, becomes brown, and then black, as all the individual colors become one and block out the sun.  For a handful of untaken breaths you stand alone in darkness, knowing you are surrounded by a throng of thousands, unable to see them, but feeling their powder like mist on your skin. In the darkness you are embraced by the divine. Then the wind comes and blows the cloud away.  Friends hug, couples kiss, and people push towards fresh air, covered in a layer of thousand-color ash.

Also, there are llamas.
Pictures of our trip provided by Landon Goldberg, for more of his photos, click here.