Write the Vision , Make it Plain

January 09, 2012

by Rev. Dr. Donna Schaper
Senior Minister

I am adding a phrase to the text today. Write the vision, yes. Make it Plain, yes. And tend the frame. Write the Vision, TEND THE FRAME, and make it plain. Why do I insert, “Tend the Frame”? I do so because many of us know where we are trying to go. But we don’t’ know how to get there. I am going to argue today that tending the frame is the how.

So for those of you with body related resolves for the new year, Mazel Tov. Beat back that BMI. Do become a vegetarian. Do go to yoga. I applaud your tending of your frame. You will get out of it what you put into it.

Some of you may have resolves that are more spiritual in nature. You have either given up on the body thing or are happy the way you are. For those of you in that second category of more spirit related resolves for the New Year, let me invite you very directly to Wednesday nights at Judson.

Tend the frame of your spirit, in community, in meditation, in worship, in conversation, in community, and you will realize your vision of being a more peaceful, more energetic, more directed person. Tend your body and it will tend you. Tend your spirit and it will tend you. You will get out of Spirit the same attention you give to it. As I move to a harder example, I don’t want to minimize the personal. If anything, I want to make sure Judson is a community that tends your frame, body and soul.

The third example should give you some help with the first two. There was a tremendously important article in the New York Times yesterday that goes to the heart of why I want to tend the frame as well as write a vision and make it plain. It is called “A World in Denial of What it Knows” by Geoffrey Wheatcroft in NYT January 7, 2012 The article quotes an unlikely guru, Donald H. Rumsfeld, then the US Secretary of Defense. Apparently, Rumsfeld said that there are “known knowns…there are known unknowns. There are also unknown unknowns.”

Wheatcroft differs quite magnificently with Rumsfeld and says that said that our situation is actually none of the above. There are not just known knowns, or known unknowns or even unknown unknowns. Our world is better described as a world of “Unknown knowns.” We know if we don’t tend our bodies or our souls that they won’t tend us. But we don’t tend them, so they don’t tend us. Wheatcroft says that he is talking about something different than denial, or evasion, or even irrational exuberance or excess optimism. Unknown knowns are things tethered not at all to the inevitable, and were easily knowable, or indeed known, but which people choose to unknow. Again if you don’t tend body or soul, they won’t tend you. They won’t’ hold you up. They will let you down. Wheatcroft only discusses a few of the things that we know but choose not to know. He reminds of us of that great line of Bertie Ahern, the Irish leader, saying “The boom is certainly getting boomier.” We preferred to unknow the truth that booms always go bust. Likewise, all the calamites that followed the invasion of Iraq. They were also not only foreseeable, they were also foreseen. Similarly, what kind of will full obtusity (what a great word, obtusity) …what kind of obtusity ever suggested that subprime mortgages were a good idea? An intelligent child would have known that there is no goodtime to lend money to people who can obviously never repay it. Wheatcroft fails to mention climate change or topsoil disappearance. But then he could only do so much and so can I. What I want to do is to put the concept of the unknown knowns on our plates as Judsonites. I want to lay it on our bodies and on our souls and suggest that we can best write the vision and make it plain by coming to know what we know. By tending the frame of our knowledge, together, carefully, surely, in small, certain, intentional ways. Thus I repeat my invitation to you to come on Wednesday nights or to join a small group here. I repeat my encouragement that you tend your own body as well.

And I conclude with something about our own frame that we do know and we really need to know even more. The frame of Judson, not Judson, but its frame, its buildings require tending. We need in thousands of dollars: 345, Bathrooms and Entryway; 475 in Exterior Walls, Window Frames; 130 Gym Ceiling, Sound Abatement;100 HVAC Repairs and 100 Church Lift Repair. We may also need 800,000 for a new roof as the current roof has a predicted life of five more years. We probably have 400, 000 in hand to pay off bathrooms, assuming an incoming Grant of 250,000 and a preexisting gift. We know we need to do this maintenance of our frame over the next few years. We have already done a similar amount of maintenance in the last decade. I apologize in advance to those of you who have building fatigue, who have worked so hard and so well on these matters. My goal is encouragement, not overwhelment. Totals needed now are 1,150,000 Minus 400,000 Or 750,000 without the roof or 1,550,000 with the roof. 750 before the roof, 800 with the roof. We are also running about 100,000 behind on operating expenses and will definitely have to assess the possibility of going to one minister over the next year, especially as capital needs come into conflict with program needs. We have known these things. This year we really need to know them more deeply. Our Judson frame, small in the grander scheme of things, mimics questions of why we wasted money on an absurd invasion of Iraq or lent money that no one could repay or why some generations thought they could use fossil fuels with impunity. We are a part of a world that lives on unknown knowns. Again, we know this same unalignment of reality with truth in our own bodies, many of us, and in our own souls, many of us. We do know – and this year we need to come to know collectively what we know. We need to engage a process of congregational discernment, an utterly democratic process that will result in knowing what we know.

So what do we do since now we know we know or at least have said something out loud that is hard both to say and to hear? We stick with our vision of being one community, among thousands world wide, who head straight to justice, joy, community, warmth, fun, engagement. We don’t replace the vision nor do we let the Judson body become the Judson soul. We take a deep breath and say that we have done our best with what we have, for a long time. We remember that we will look back on these times and be proud that we did our best with what we saw. We will actually enjoy tending our frame because we love each other and we love our frame.

Specifically, I am going to ask you each in the Agape time to tell me if you want to be a part of a discernment team on how we think about the building frame. I need at least half of you to commit to thinking, praying, helping tend this frame. We are not a top down organization, we are a community and the best way I can imagine of alienating people would be to exclude them from this important conversation about our frame. I don’t ‘want you all on the buildings committee but the board and the staff will be holding a series of discernment sessions that will allow us to begin to see how we are going to tend our frame. That will mean raising money, sequencing decisions, vitalizing program and membership. These sessions will be scheduled after the Board Retreat in February – and all I am saying now is I would like you to put your resolves and your vision in with that of Judson. You will get out of here what you put into it. Likewise your body and soul. Write the Vision. Sure. Make it plain. Absolutely. Tend the Frame. Please: this is an invitation.

On the cards that will be handed out during Agape, you are invited --- not forced – but invited to tell us, with or without signing, what you are doing this year to tend your frame and to tend the frame we love together.

We are in the process of knowing what we know. And what we know is that we are on our way to a great year, decade and century. What we hold up will hold us up. We are in this together. We lean on each other to hold each other up. Amen.

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