All songs from The Malcom X Jazz Suite by Terence Blanchard unless noted otherwise.
Melody for Laura
Theme for Elijah
Blues for Malcolm
Malcolm Makes Hajj
Malcolm At Peace
Someday We’ll All Be Free – Aretha Franklin
Category Archives: Movie
19 May 2023
Filed under Louisville, Movie, Photo
1 April 2023
Pieces of April – Three Dog Night
April Come She Will – Simon & Garfunkel
I’ll Remember April – Miles Davis
Snow in April – John McCutcheon
Sometimes It Snows in April – Prince
April – The Decemberists
April – Beach Bunny
Gateway – R. Carlos Nakai
In Your Mind – Johnny Cash
Electric Blue – The Cranberries
Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues – Ramblin’ Jack Eliot
Magic Hour – Jhene Aiko
Carnival of the Animals: Tortoises – Olivia Colman
Wide Stride – Billy Preston
To Not Exist – Bryan E. Miller
I Believe in the Communion of Saints
I Believe in the Communion of Saints
August 7, 2022
First Presbyterian Church of Whitestone
The Rev. W. Mark Koenig
The movie Amistad aired a day or two ago.
It tells the story of a rebellion by a group of Africans on the Spanish ship La Amistad in 1839. The Africans, of the Mende people, had been illegally taken into slavery near Sierra Leone by Portuguese. They were taken to Cuba where they were sold to the Spaniards commanding La Amistad.
As the ship sailed to another port, some of the Mende people escaped their shackles and killed most of the crew. They tried to force surviving crew members to sail them back to Africa, but they were tricked. Eventually the ship was seized by the forerunner of the U.S. Coast Guard.
Trials followed. The issue pivoted on whether the Mende were free people being enslaved or not. To trade in human beings was illegal at the time. Enslavement was allowed. People born enslaved remained enslaved. People already enslaved could be sold to others for further enslavement. But the small step of banning the trade of free people had been taken. Were the Mende people on La Amistad free when they had been taken? A court decided they were, and the people should be released.
The U.S. government, fearful of starting a civil war, appealed. The court again ruled in favor of the Mende.
The U.S. government, fearful of starting a civil war, appealed again. To the Supreme Court.
At this point, former President John Quincy Adams became involved. He was serving in the House of Representatives at the time. The abolitionists and lawyers representing the Mende people had approached him earlier and he had declined. Now, he said yes.
I do not know if it happened this way in real life, but there is a scene in the movie where President Adams is speaking to Cinque, the leader of the rebellion. It happens shortly before the final arguments with the Supreme Court. Cinque is nervous. Adams seeks to reassure him. “You are not alone,” Adams says. He refers to himself and the other attorneys and the abolitionists supporting the Mende people.
Cinque draws himself up to his full height. Speaking through a translator, he says, “I know. My ancestors will be with me. I have summoned them.”
I had seen Amistad before. A couple times. But somehow I had missed this Communion of Saints moment.
I believe in the Communion of Saints.
In the wooden pews of the Neville Island Presbyterian Church, l breathed in the aroma of pipe tobacco that permanently permeated my father’s clothes and joined my family and the congregation in affirming, “I believe in the Communion of Saints.”
I did not understand what that meant. I could have been no more that eight or nine years old. With no understanding, I affirmed the words. I believed.
Understanding has grown somewhat over the years. Belief has deepened profoundly.
Here is the basics of what I understand.
In the Reformed tradition, we do not believe that saints are holy people. People somehow better than the rest of us. People to set apart and place on pedestals.
Saints are everyone of us. Ordinary people. Believers who seek to follow Jesus as well as we are able. Believers of every time and every place.
Look around you at the people gathered here this morning – whether in person or on Zoom. You are seeing Saints.
When you have a chance, look in a mirror. You are seeing a Saint.
When you think of family, friends, acquaintances in other places, you are thinking of Saints.
When we celebrated Bill’s life yesterday, we celebrated a Saint.
When we call to mind those who have gone before us into death, our ancestors to use Cinque’s term, we call to mind Saints.
The Communion of Saints surrounds us at all times. We may not always be aware of it, but we live and move and have our being within the Communion of Saints.
From time to time, the reality of the Communion of Saints breaks into my head and heart and spirit with overwhelming power and grace. Usually when I least expect it, the understanding that in Christ, by the Holy Spirit, we are bound together in God’s love flows over me.
When we share a meal together. When friends and strangers help us with our daily lives. When we know that no matter how far apart Whitestone and Louisville may be, we are tied to one another in the love of Jesus Christ.
At times such as these, the Communion of Saints, some living and some in God’s nearer presence, began to swirl around me.
It happened yesterday as we celebrated Bill’s life. I don’t know about you, but as I gave God thanks for Bill, so many people whose lives had touched Bill’s were present. Maybe, like Mary, they had gone before Bill in death. Maybe like Malinee and Lisa, they had other responsibilities. But they were all with us in the Communion of Saints.
Three things that I believe we should do because we are part of the Communion of Saints.
Give thanks to one another when we can.
The Rev. Dr. Gayraud Wilmore was a giant in the world of theological education in the Presbyterian Church. I never met him. But I read his books. And many of the people I quote on a regular basis in my sermons studied with him.
This year’s General Assembly gave Dr. Wilmore with an award for Excellence in Theological Education. Wonderful things were said. Important milestones celebrated. It was a touching moment.
Except that Dr. Wilmore has been dead for two years.
On the one hand, it is never to late to say or do the right thing. On the other hand, there is blessing in letting people know what they mean to us when they can hear our words. I thank each of you and all of you for being part of my Communion of Saints. I am grateful to God for you.
As my friend and mentor, the Rev. Dr. Otis Turner says, “The Communion of Saints consists of people everyone knows, people known to only a few of us, and people whose names we have never heard but are written in God’s book of life.” In almost every area of the church’s life and ministry, we are part of a long line of witnesses linking us to the past and moving into a future we can only imagine, knowing our imagination will fall short of what God has in store.
Remain open to what God is doing.
The Communion of Saints reminds us that God’s people are an evolving people. Learning. Growing. Being changed by the Holy Spirit. Again and again, drawn out of ourselves to something more faithful … more just … more peaceful … more loving. Drawn by a God who did new things and who is not finished with us yet. We are part of an evolving people. It is who the followers of Jesus have been. It is what the followers of Jesus have done. It is who Jesus calls us to be. It is how the Holy Spirit gifts us to be. We recall the past. We make our way in the present. We look forward to what God is doing in us and in our community.
I believe in the Communion of Saints.
For all the saints and what they teach us. Thanks be to God.
3 December 2021
Stretching. Gym in the Apartment. NK Body Philosophy.
Except as noted, all songs by Sera. Happy Birthday!
Pie Jesu ver. On the Rocks
The Calling ver. The END
Brave New World
The Rite of Letting Go
This Is What Love Must Feel Like
Architects of December
Canticle of the Turning – Princeton Seminary Choir
With Mary Let My Soul Rejoice – Princeton Seminary Choir
Pengyou, Ting! – Princeton Seminary Choir
Christmas Is Here – Princeton Seminary Choir
Spanish Shepherd’s Song – Princeton Seminary Choir
Filed under Advent, Exercise, Friends, Louisville, Movie, Music, playlist
1 August 2021
Black My Story (Not History) – Ziggy Marley & The Melody Makers
African – Peter Tosh
Justice – Sevana
For the People By the People – Dezarie
Is It Because I’m Black – Syl Johnson
Black Woman – Queen Ifrica
Hello Mama Africa – Garnett Silk
‘Til I’m Laid to Rest – Buju Banton
Never Get Weary – Toots & The Maytals
It’s Amazing – Sizzla
Slavery Days – Burning Spear
Refugee – Skip Marley
Everybody Wants to Be Somebody – Damian “Jr. Gong” Marley
Too Long in Slavery – Culture
Redemption Song – Bob Marley & The Wailers
Filed under Antiracism, Current Events, Exercise, Louisville, Movie, playlist
31 May 2021
Walking, Rehoboth Beach, Delaware.
War – Edwin Starr
Dover – John Flynn
Yankee Bayonet – The Decemberists
One Tin Soldier – The Original Caste
Fortunate Son – Creedence Clearwater Revival
Born in the U.S.A. – Bruce Springsteen
Masters of War – Eddie Vedder & Mike McCready
Handsome Johnny – Richie Havens
Travelin’ Soldier – The Chicks
Dress Blues – Jason Isbell
Eve of Destruction – Barry McGuire
Give Peace a Chance – Aerosmith feat. Sierra Leone’s Refugee All-Stars
The Unknown Soldier – The Doors
Soldier – Neil Young
Old Soldier – Phil Collins & David Crosby
Universal Soldier – Buffy Saint-Marie
Soldier’s Things – Tom Waits
The Fiddle and the Drum – Joni Mitchell
Where Have All the Flowers Gone? – Pete Seeger
One Last Time
A sermon preached at the First Presbyterian Church of Whitestone on 28 February 2021 on the occasion of the end of service as interim pastor.
What is your favorite Christmas Carol? Not the kind of question you would expect on the Second Sunday of Lent, is it.
While I have rarely met a Christmas carol I do not like, I have a favorite: “Once in Royal David’s City.”
As an eight-year-old boy soprano I sang a solo verse of that carol at the Presbyterian Church on Neville Island, Pennsylvania.
My voice has changed since then. It happens. Now I am more of a baritone. Which as my brother points out means “Mark sings and the rest of us have to bear the tone.”
Rest easy, I will not sing. But a song has been an earworm these last few days.
In Act II of the musical Hamilton, George Washington informs Alexander Hamilton that he will not run for a third term as president. Washington asks Hamilton to help write his farewell address. Their conversation plays out in the song: “One Last Time.”
One last time
The people will hear from me
One last time
And if we get this right
We’re gonna teach ‘em how to say
You and I[i]
It is a song about beginnings and endings. An ending for George Washington as and a beginning for the country. As Washington sings “the nation learns to move on. It outlives me when I’m gone.”[ii]
Beginnings and endings; endings and beginnings have occupied a great deal of my thoughts and feelings this week. I have been reminded of how closely beginnings and endings, endings and beginnings blur together.
Sometimes endings are built into the fabric of beginnings. They are inseparable. For example, an interim pastor serves to help a congregation prepare for the next installed pastor. And then leaves. That is the point of an interim relationship. It is intended to end. When I began serving as the interim pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Whitestone on March 1, 2018 the clock started running. It would only be a matter of time until our service together ended.
Now that day has arrived.
To return to Broadway, the curtain will fall on my ministry tonight at midnight. Seconds after midnight, the curtain will rise Pastor Janice’s ministry. There is some sorrow at this moment. At least for me. But there is greater joy about what the future will bring. Thanks be to God. Today we say goodbye.
We have shared time together. We have dealt with difficulties. We have experienced joy. We have wonderful memories. We have done significant ministry. I am and will forever be grateful. But we say goodbye.
You will always be in my head and in my heart. We are bound in the Communion of Saints. To paraphrase Paul, “I will thank God every time I remember you. I will pray for each of you and for all of you. I will give thanks for how we have shared in ministry and living the gospel from the first day of March 1, 2018 until now.”[iii] But we say goodbye.
I hope you will pray for me a time or two or ten. Each day. Maybe more often. But we say goodbye.
That is what interim pastors and the congregations they serve do. Saying goodbye creates a healthy boundary to allow the new pastor to flourish. Saying goodbye does not diminish what we have done for each other or what we mean to each other. It does not alter my affection for you. It clears the deck and opens the way to the future. I am no longer the pastor. Pastor Janice is. I will no longer be here. She will. Together with Pastor Janice you will move on in your life and ministry as a congregation. And I will move on as well.
President Washington, at least according to Lin-Manuel Miranda, moved on to sit under his own vine and fig tree and take a moment alone in the shade.[iv]
I have no vine. Nor a fig tree. If I did, they would probably make me sneeze.
My plan is to take some time and figure out what my plan is. I am grateful to Tricia for giving me the space to do that. Retirement may be out there. Or I may look for some form of ministry. Time, and the movement of theHoly Spirit will tell. What comes after goodbye for me remains unclear.
As we say goodbye, I offer some insights I have gleaned through the years about ministry. In the words of those classic theologians the Beatles, I do so with a little help from my friends. Ginger, Babs, Mac, Bunty, Fowler, Nick, and Fetcher.
Well, they could be my friends. If we had met. And if they were real.
They appear in Chicken Run – a claymation movie involving chickens, rats, dogs, and some humans.
Chicken Run is set in 1950s Great Britain on Tweedy’s chicken farm. The chickens live ringed by barbed wire fences. The chickens make money for the Tweedys by laying eggs. Hens that fail to lay eggs soon make their final appearance. On the Tweedy’s dinner table.
The chickens, led by a hen named Ginger, become fed up with this life. Ginger knows that the chickens deserve better – a life free from the demand to produce eggs, free from the threat of death, and free from the farm. She shares her vision with the other chickens and convinces them to begin living out the vision in the only way possible – escape.
They devise a plan for escape and put it into operation. And they fail. Many attempts are made. Each attempt fails. And every time the chickens try again.
Two events break this cycle. A rooster from the United States named Rocky arrives. He brashly promises to teach the chickens to fly across the fence that traps them. At the same time, Mrs. Tweedy decides that eggs are not profitable enough. The farm will produce chicken pies. Escape becomes essential. As one chicken profoundly says, “I don’t want to end up as a pie. I don’t even like gravy.”
I will tell no more of the story so as not to spoil the ending for those who have not seen it. But what does it say about ministry?
The Tweedys said the chickens’ role was to live on their farm in the conditions they established and produce wealth for the Tweedys. Led by the prophet Ginger, the chickens had an alternative vision. They envisioned a world with no barbed wire, no dogs, no huts, and no quotas. Instead, there would be freedom and abundance and sunshine and sharing.
Jesus proclaimed and lived an alternative vision. In the face of the domination of empire and the division of the human family along lines of class and gender and sexual identity and age and nationality, Jesus taught a vision of radical inclusion, expansive love, and unfailing justice. He envisioned a world turned upside down.
Part of that vision involves recognizing who we are and whose we are. The chickens refused to accept the way in which they were assigned worth by the dominant culture. To the Tweedys, the chickens had worth only as means of production. Once they ceased to be productive they had no value and they were disposed of. The chickens knew that they were more than that. They knew they had value simply because they existed.`
Ministry involves accepting our own value and reminding others of their value. We are repeatedly told that our value comes from externals – skin color, wealth, status, gender or sexual identity, age, ability. The list goes on. Elaborate systems and structures are built upon human differences by the powerful to maintain and enhance their power and privilege.
Ministry is knowing and claiming and living the awareness that I am God’s beloved child. And so are you. And so is everyone we meet. We should be treated as such. We should treat each other as such. We should challenge anyone who says otherwise. In the words of the Rev. Dr. Grace Ji-Sun Kim, we move from treating people as others to embracing one another in God’s love.[v] And then we work to dismantle systems that perpetuate privilege and inflict oppression.
The community created in Chicken Run crossed usual lines. Nick and Fetcher are rats. That’s not a comment on their character. That’s an identification of their species. They aren’t the brightest rats. They spend a good amount of time waiting for the eggs that Rocky, the rooster, has promised to lay for them. Still the rats become part of the community working together toward the goal of freedom and a better life for all.
Ministry involves reaching out to and serving with people from whom we differ. God creates and enjoys an amazing diversity. Our challenge and opportunity is to build a welcoming, including community. God calls us to create a place at the table for everyone born, as Shirley Murray writes. God calls us to break down and reshape, remake, and replace as needed. And to make sure that not only does everyone have a place, everyone can share their voice, and every voice is heard.
The chickens created a community that worked together. When one hen had problems laying eggs, others would share theirs. Rocky points out that one or two chickens could easily escape. Ginger replies, “But that’s not the point. Either we all escape or none of us escape.” Ministry involves commitment and caring for one another.
Each chicken, and rat, had gifts they used to help one another. Everyone did something when needed. Ministry is a corporate practice – a communal art. It is not for the professionals alone. It is for everyone. It involves discerning the gifts we each have and then using those gifts for the good of the community and the world.
Chicken Run includes a rooster named Fowler who served in the Royal Air Force during the Second World War. “644th Squadron, Poultry Division – we were the mascots.” He fondly tells stories about, “Back in my day…” The time comes when his gifts are needed. When asked to help, Fowler begs off. Ginger says, “Fowler you are always talking about back in your day. Well you are here now. And it is now that we need you. This is your day.”
Beginnings and endings blur. Time has a way of jumbling together. We stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before. We plan and dream into the future. But in the end, today is the only day we have. Today we follow. Today we serve.
Today we make a transition. To return to Broadway one last time, one scene ends tonight. Tomorrow we begin a new scene in God’s Master Story – a story that began in the act of creation and that will extend until the end of days and the fulfillment of all things. A story of Divine creativity and grace and love in which we are privileged to play roles for a time. It is the story that has brought us to this moment and place. It is the story that draws us into the future.
We do not know for sure what the future will bring. But of this we may be certain. Whatever roles we play, we will be part of God’s Master Story of God’s grace and our response in ministry. I will, someday, figure out what comes next for me. You and Pastor Janice will engage in amazing ministry. And God will be with us all. This day. Every day. Thanks be to God.
[iii] Loosely based on Philippians 1:3-5.
[v] Grace Ji-Sun Kim, Embracing the Other (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2015)
Filed under First Presbyterian Church of Whitestone, Movie, play, Worship
29 August 2020
Stretching. “Gym in the apartment.”
All The Stars – Kendrick Lamar, SZA
Say It Loud – I’m Black and I’m Proud, Pt. 1 – James Brown
Infinity War – Avengers: Infinity War
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom- Ma Rainey
Civil War – Captain America: Civil War
Portals – Avengers: Endgame
Black Panther Main Theme – Black Panther
Opening – Draft Day
The Express – The Express
Toth’s Library – Gods of Egypt
Jackie Robinson – 42
Close the Island – 21 Bridges
Paul and Norman – Da 5 Bloods
Glory to Bast – Black Panther
Black Panther – Kendrick Lamar
Filed under Current Events, Exercise, Louisville, Movie, Music, playlist
17 April 2020
Pacing. Core work with NK Body Philosophy. Stretching. The Shire.
Even in My Dreams – Afro Celt Sound System
Erin’s Fair Shore – Aurora Celtic
Doctor Robert – The Beatles
Disorder in the House – Warren Zevon
Dhow Countries – Taj Mahal & The Culture Musical Club of Zanzibar
Detenido por Sospecha – Los Miserables
Carnival of the Animals, R. 125: XIII. Le cygne – Steven Isserlis and Connie Shih
Believe in Me – Michelle Williams
Basin Street Blues – Ella Fitzgerald
Acadian Driftwood – The Band
Baby Hold On – Dixie Chicks
Photograph – Ringo Starr
St. Anne’s Reel – John McCutcheon
Mujer de Carne y Hueso – Luis Enrique Mejia Godoy
Ya Got Trouble – The Music Man
A Little Priest – Sweeny Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
(NOTE: The last two are part of the Playbill Thirty Day Song Challenge, with thanks to Sean)
4 March 2020
Walking. Morningside Gardens.
All songs by Miriam Makeba.
Africa Is Where My Heart Lies
Pata Pata 2000
The Click Song