6th Sunday of Easter 2017 “The Impossible Dream”
Many of us, most of us hopefully, have special people in our lives who help us to grow, to evolve, to be more like the people God intends us to be. I want to tell you about two folks in our life…Charlotte and Jack Hunt, members of our first parish, Grace in Trenton. Jack was a WWII vet who worked as a psychiatric technician at the Neuro-Psychiatric Institute at Skillman, where he lovingly took care of his “boys” as he called them…folks with extreme life issues. Jack was also our church sexton, a ministry that was his love and his joy. The inside of our Ministry Center sparkled, and our small lawn there in the city was manicured like the finest golf course green. Charlotte was on my call committee and was such a positive force in our congregation. I’ve shared before, when we went there, almost everyone was old enough to be our parents, and fact is, a majority were old enough to be our grandparents. My predecessor had been at Grace for 39 years until his forced retirement. And the sad thing is, very little happened in the second half of his ministry…they didn’t even have Sunday bulletins…since Lutherans would know our liturgy. Which would have been plausible if they were doing what the Lutheran Church was doing, but they were stuck 30 years before.
And that’s where Charlotte became such a special person in our lives. As she saw the new ministries that were beginning, she volunteered to do secretarial work for me 2 days a week. She did a lot of part time secretarial work in the area and she just put us on her schedule. And they were special times, because she knew the parish history and she knew the parish characters…making her a very helpful and valuable resource. She and Jack were dear friends helping us in those early years of parish ministry.
And then came the day we got the call that one of her clients had died and left her a very small inheritance and she wanted to take her brother and his wife, Fleda and Ed and Carol and me to New York for dinner and a show. We had dinner at Mama Leone’s…one of the tackiest restaurants in the City…but where we went every time we were in NY until it closed. Wonderful food, New York waiters, complete with attitude, and a line around the block every time we went there. And she took us to see our first show on Broadway…Fiddler on the Roof. She set the bar high for all that we would see for the next decades. I always say, Charlotte and Jack created a monster…we started going into the City twice a year to see a show when the kids were younger and more frequently in later years as resources were more available. So when people ask, “What’s your hobby?,” my response is simple, “The City…more properly Broadway.”
It was out of that experience that we began our Showtunes ministry here at Faith 20 years ago. Its goal is to try and share the Gospel in new and different and exciting ways. Your bulletin has a partial list of many of the shows that we have seen after long or short term studies. And as we go to the theater, we go to watch and to listen for signs of God’s presence that we can share with others. Hopefully you’re getting some flavor of that in today’s liturgy.
Our first lesson today is a classic, it is Paul preaching to the people of Athens. And he takes an unusual situation and finds a way to use it to teach about God. He says, “You have all your idols, but you also have this one place that talks about an ‘unknown god.’ He tells them, let me tell you who that unknown God is. It is the God who created us. It is the God who gives us life and who calls us to ministry.” And that is what proclamation is about…it is about seizing the moments and seizing unique opportunities to tell your neighbor, your coworker, your family about Christ.
Years ago, I began what was a very special, personal tradition in Holy Week. That’s always a busy, crazy time and I was looking for a way to stay focused midst it all. Carol was still working and so I would head into the City each year in Holy Week for the Wednesday matinee of Les Miserables. It is my favorite show…I’m not allowed to tell you how many times I’ve seen it…it is filled with wonderful stories of life, of redemption, of hope, of ministry, and most importantly, of God’s awesome, amazing grace. I went for years and then in 2003 the word came that the show was closing…which it did 14 years ago this last Thursday. What would I do?
And then came the gift of God. Down the street at the Martin Beck Theater was Man of La Mancha, starring Richard Kiley. Cervantes wonderful story of Don Quixote, who saw the world not as it was, but as it should be. (Echoes of George Bernard Shaw and Robert Kennedy here). Don Quixote, who forever changed the scrub woman Aldonza, giving her a new name, Dulcinea, and unlike everyone else, he treated her like the person, the lady he knew her to be. She thought he was making fun of her and kept saying, no I’m Aldonza. And he kept treating her as the special person she was. And at the end of that awesome show, as the other prisoners are making fun of her calling her Aldonza, she looks them squarely in the eye and says, “My name is Dulcinea.” She claimed the gift. This awesome show is about God’s grace. It is filled with baptismal imagery, including Dulcinea’s new name. It is filled with hope, even in the most dire circumstances. And it has one of the most beautiful, powerful songs from the Broadway Theater.
To dream the impossible dream, to fight the unbeatable foe,
To bear with unbearable sorrow, to run where the brave dear not go.
To right the unrightable wrong, to love, pure and chaste from afar,
To try when your arms are too weary, to reach the unreachable star!
This is my quest, to follow that star, no matter how hopeless, no matter how far,
To fight for the right without question or pause, to be willing to march into hell for a heavenly cause!
And I know, if I’ll only be true to this glorious quest, that my heart will lie peaceful and calm when I’m laid to my rest,
And the world will be better for this, that one man scorned and covered with scars,
Still strove with his last ounce of courage to reach the unreachable stars.
And the reality is, it is an impossible dream, that only becomes possible as God works in and through us to be the people God has called us to be. And then – all things are possible.