Wednesday, December 16, 2009
"Why is it that the worse the Christmas service, the closer we get to the idea of Christmas?
Children's services, with children running aimlessly in the aisles in lamb costumes or dressed as wise men, neglecting or refusing to say their lines, why so much closer to the idea of Christmas?
What is this thing about Christmas, the paradoxical tendency of Christmas, that the more heartbreaking it is the closer it seems to get to the point? Why is failure and awkwardness so human and so natural at Christmas?... Why is it that desperation is closer to God?...
At the same time, what about the Mean Estate stuff, what about Mary lying in bad circumstances? Why is it that the no-room-at-the-inn part is inevitably moving, even when you are skeptical about the whole thing?... And why an ideology of the neglected and left out and miserable and disinherited and lonely and poor and ill and exiled, anyway?...
And why is it, meanwhile, that singing is the thing that enables me to understand this, why is it that singing makes the Christmas holiday what it is, what it can be, what it ought to be?"
- Rick Moody, Christmas 2006
Wednesday, December 09, 2009
They're also conducting a Book Drive to benefit African Refuge's After-School Program.
African Refuge is a non-profit org. on Staten Island offering aid to West African refugees. Due to a 14 year civil war, many Liberian children have missed one or more years of school. They need a library for their after-school program. We can help them build it. Please bring your 'gently read' or new books to Old First (7th Ave.&Carroll St.) on Sunday, Dec. 13th from 3:00-7:00pm. The books should be for readers age 5-17. Adult-level books also welcome.
Tuesday, December 08, 2009
Old First Christmas Carol Sing-along
Please join us for a SING-ALONG of all your favorite classic carols.
Proceeds support our mission in Africa in the work of Debbie and Del Braaksma as they teach trauma-healing, reconciliation and trust building to people who have previously only known war.
December 13, 2009 5.00pm
Old First Church 7th Ave & Carroll St. Park Slope
Sunday, November 15, 2009
Een Goed Begin
In 1766 that building was torn down, and its stones were included in the walls of the new and larger church, and that beaker reflected that new interior. Forty years later that building was taken down, and what happened to its stones we do not know. They built a new church of bluestone over on Joralemon Street, and that beaker reflected a third interior.
How impermanent our history has been. Three locations, five buildings, stones put up and down. And yet there is that cup of Jesus’ love. How many hands of the faithful have held that cup and put their mouths on it and drunk from it.
Friday, November 13, 2009
I read this to my wife this morning, and she laughed. "That's great," she said, and then, "You know, I think when people stop worshipping God they start to worship their children. And that's more burdensome."
Ja, and it generates more guilt than any other religion I know of, along with oppressive legalism. I am continually amazed at the guilt and legalism of the Park Slope cult of children. I fly for refuge and relief to the lighter and more pleasant ease of Calvinism.
The worst part of it is the poor kids. The last thing they want is to be in charge. And yet they are never in charge of their own little lives, being so ceaselessly watched and constantly taken care of. But that is what one does with something sacred. Like the Masai with their cattle in East Africa.
On Sunday mornings, as I walk to church through Prospect Park, I often pass a "soccer school" for toddlers. Their parents dress them up in soccer gear and pay some hip jocks to teach their kids how to kick the ball, and then they watch them like medical students at a surgical theater and applaud them when they kick the ball near the goal. Those poor sacred kids.
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
You think it's easy? Here's the lyrics (it's antique Dutch of 1563):
Als een hert ghejaeght, O Heere,
Dat verssche water begheert;
Also dorst myn siel oock seere,
Nae v myn Godt hoogh ghe-eert.
End spreeckt by haer, met geklagh:
O Heer waneer komt die dag,
dat ick doch by v sal wesen,
End sien v aanschijn ghepresen.
Seeking water, seeking shelter,
gasps the thirsty, weary deer;
So my soul, in days of trouble,
longs for God’s refreshment here.
In this stressful course of life,in its loneliness and strife,When, say I, will God deliver;
is his mercy gone forever?
Monday, November 02, 2009
The menu is based on recipes from an authentic cookbook of the period,
De Verstandige Kok, (The Sensible Cook)
Gerecht schotel (main course) Beef with Ginger, Chicken with Orange
Groenten (vegetables): Stewed Cabbage, Belgian Endive, Leeks
Brood (bread): Pumpkin Cornmeal Cakes, Rye and Wheat Bread
Nagerecht (dessert): Almond Tart, Pear Tart, Spanish Porridge, Zoete Koek
Eet smakelÿk (bon appetite)
For information and reservations, see the webpage.
Monday, September 28, 2009
The plaster started falling from the ceiling of the synagogue of Congregation Beth Elohim, a block away from us, just in time for the High Holy Days of Yom Kippur. They had a problem, but Rabbi Bachman knew that all he had to do was ask . . . .
Monday, September 14, 2009
The Dutch television network NOS came to Brooklyn as part of the Henry Hudson 400th Anniversary festivities. They visited the New Utrecht graveyard and also Old First, where they interviewed Melody (my wife). I was in South Africa, so I missed it all.
Wednesday, August 05, 2009
I don't know why these photos got posted in reverse order, but the top one should be the last one. This is from the Jinglebell Jamboree of 2008, the community holiday concert at Old First. That's Ethan Schlesser and myself. I'm the Garfunkel to his Simon. We're performing his song-and-dance number, "At the Jinglebell Jamboree". He's at the piano, and behind us is our band, the Bilger Family Band (they're "The Band" to our Bob Dylan; ha ha.). That's Marty Markowitz, the Brooklyn Borough Presient, who's our chief fan.
Thursday, June 25, 2009
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
Monday, March 02, 2009
I've realized this year how much I look forward to Lent. I didn't grow up observing it – it wasn't much emphasized in the California Mennonite Brethren Church, and I think I learned about it from my Catholic friends. It sounded a little weird to me, as it probably does to most people.
It was actually a French cookbook that deepened my understanding. Amid the decadent recipes for Easter cakes and meats, the author mentioned that in traditional French and European culture, Easter was following on a long cold season where no one had eaten meat, eggs, or milk. This was a kind of medieval detox, she suggested, that made the spring Easter feast all the more enjoyable.
I hadn't thought before that about how seasonally appropriate Lent is, or was in a culture more connected to the seasons. Food was scarcer as stores ran out, so we tightened our belts. It's not doctrinal, but it's a wise strategy of the church, to deal with of the most difficult time of year and use it as a way of understanding sin and suffering.
Coming from the mild weather of California, this part of the year in the Northeast has always been especially difficult for me. It's been so cold for so long, and it seems to be getting colder, and it seems there's so much more winter still to come. I chafe against the weather, frustrated and angry and indignant. Lent is a way of accepting the darkness and the cold as right and appropriate for its time. I look forward to Lent because it makes sense of the darkness.
My temperament tends toward optimism, even in the face of opposition. And my job involves a lot of smiling, making people comfortable, and speaking enthusiastically about whatever I'm presenting. Lent allows me a break, at least internally, from my own cheerfulness, even my own optimism. It is a time to recognize that I am broken, that the world is broken, and to sit with that knowledge for forty long days. The dead, cold natural world, and my own body made of dust that shivers and aches, reflect the state of my own selfish, ashamed soul in need of redemption, and whole fallen world. Lent acknowledges not only my imperfections and my debts, but my sorrows and my fears and my embarrassments. And it is both pain and relief to acknowledge these things.
When I was a child I loved the mystery of Christmas, the anticipation of Advent. It was a break from the casual blandness of everyday life, an implication that there was a deeper and more meaningful world that required solemn preparation. I love Lent and Easter increasingly as I grow older, as perhaps a greater, a more grown-up mystery. With its focus on the death that precedes the resurrection, it can only resonate if you have had time to understand suffering, to see death. I appreciate the chance to participate in this mystery, the long preparation for the day of the Lord.
And when Easter arrives, all that joy and optimism comes rushing back, fresh and real. We are saved, we are brought to life, each of us clothed in glory as the earth breaks forth into blossom. And we have been saved all along. The sun does shine in February, and Christ's salvation isn't dormant during Lent. But it is good to live mindfully through the mystery of darkness, so that we can be dazzled again by the light.
Saturday, February 21, 2009
God’s Holy Mountain We Ascend
the tune is WIE SCHÖN LEUCHTET
God’s holy mountain we ascend, where truth and love together blend;
how fair God’s holy dwelling!
God’s people, we assemble here in holy love and childlike fear,
all clouds of hate dispelling.
With Christ, in Christ,
interceding, ever pleading our salvation.
Father, hear our supplication.
Upon God’s mountain fairest heights, God’s chosen people Christ invites
to enter here God’s dwelling.
Where once the loaves were multiplied, where heaven’s manna God supplied,
all loves Christ’s love excelling.
Christ lead us to this holy hill where you fulfill your Father’s will
in perfect expiation.
Here we recall that festive meal that Christ these mysteries may reveal
in joyful celebration.