June 28, 2011
This weekend, I and four other Transmissioners made our way to the Wild Goose festival out at the Shakori Hills farm in North Carolina. It was a weekend celebration of Christian social justice efforts, with music, readings, lots of talks, artwork, great food, and plenty of time to both contemplate and refresh ourselves in our effort to grow closer to God and better love our neighbors. I’m sure there will be many more posts about the festival itself later on, but I just wanted to write about an interesting encounter I just had whose occurrence I directly attribute to the energetic and nurturing spirit of the festival.
I was on the train to work this morning, and a few stops into Midtown Manhattan came a preacher woman. A black Caribbean woman in a lovely brown summer dress talking — or more like shouting — about the blood of Jesus, and the fires of hell.
Now I don’t know about you but I’m not a huge fan of subway car preachers, or subway car musicians. I get annoyed even when people play their IPods too loudly. It’s not their activity: it’s the fact that they are invading the space of me and those other passengers. It’s one thing to enter a subway station with someone standing there – you can choose to stand further away from them. But the only way to get away from one of these subway preachers is to leave the car, and sometimes lose your seat.
Just as I was contemplating leaving, suddenly something released in me. I started waving my hands in the air, yelled out “Preach it sister!” and “Amen!” like I was the congregation at her church.
As she went on pointing at people in the crowd and talking about repentance, I got up and began singing “This Little Light Of Mine”.” As she recited passages about the gnashing of teeth, I recited passages about avoiding worry, and considering the lilies of the field. The crowd actually began laughing and smiling listening to our dueling sermons.
The woman finally confronted me after a minute or two of trying to avoid me.
She:The blood of Jesus rebukes you.
Me- I just had the blood of Jesus three days ago at a Christian conference, along with the body of Jesus.She: You have a religious demon inside of yuo.
I-I’ve got Jesus in me, just like you do! Let’s work together on this! You get more flies with honey than with vinegar!
I began to see a small smile begin to spread on her face, and I began singing “Let the Circle Be Unbroken.”
Then a funny and miraculous thing happened. The woman continued and as she did, I heard that her words were
changing. She went from preaching about hell and repentance, to talking about how Jesus told us to love one another and that we can be saved by faith, and through our faith, good works will arise. She started talking about Jesus’ yoke being easy and his burden light. And suddenly this time when I said “preach it sister!” i wasn’t joking at all. She was now preaching a word of light to the people there.
I’m not sure how I feel about hell, but I know that the damnation argument has always seemed a cruel way to convert people to faith. Fear is a great motivator, but it’s disappointing when that’s the best we can do to bring people to God. And seeing how this woman went from preaching on the fires of hell, to preaching about the love of Jesus was truly inspiring.
I don’t know to what degree I played a role in that: perhaps she already had the love of Jesus part planned after the hell and damnation. All I know is that as we left that train car, and I looked at the smiling faces of the passengers, that we had lifted some spirits.
This is the great thing about the Holy Spirit: it has no limits. It can be just as strong in a sweaty New York subway car as on the green pastures of North Carolina.
Seven Transmissioners (plus babies) are meeting up in
North Carolina for the first Wild Goose Festival this weekend. This is a big moment since Transmission launched five years ago at Greenbelt. We’d love to meet you there!
Sacred Space presents…
Transmission, an emergent house church from New York City, blends interactive games, improv theater, and liturgy to explore scripture, sacrament, and community. Come prepared
to participate and interact!
Storytelling and Performance Tent