Sunday, March 23, 2008

Easter Morning!

Easter A - 23 March 2008 * John 10: 1-18

The Reverend Kirk Alan Kubicek, Saint Peter’s Episcopal Church, Ellicott City, Maryland

Alleluia! Christ is Risen! The Lord is Risen indeed! Alleluia!

Or is he? Book after book, magazine article after magazine article, movie after movie, all try to tell us just who this Jesus was. Or, more properly, is! To pin Jesus down as being this or being that is only to place him back into some kind of tomb. When we pretend that we know just who Jesus is, we simply domesticate him to be the person we need him to be and close him up in another tomb of our own making.

"The only excuse," writes John Shea (The Challenge of Jesus, The Thomas More Press: 1975), "and a lame one at that, for another book on Jesus is that we are never quite through with him. When the last syllable of the last word about Jesus the Christ has been spoken, a small, balding man who until now has been silent, will say, ‘Just a moment, I….’After two thousand years people still journey to Jesus. They bring a vaunting ego and last year’s scar, one unruly hope and several debilitating fears, an unwanted joy and a hesitant heart—and ask Jesus what to make of it. We have only gradually become aware of the hook in Jesus’ promise, ‘I will be with you always, even to the end of the world. ’This not only means he will not go away, but that we cannot get rid of him! He continues to roll back the stone from the caves we entomb him in. It is only because Jesus insists on inserting himself into the thick of our plots that we insist on commenting on him." (Shea p. 11)

Alleluia! Christ is Risen! The Lord is Risen indeed! Alleluia!

So after forty days of Lent and the magnificent journey of Holy Week, it all seems to hinge on the actions of one woman; one previously crazy and insignificant woman; one woman who, tradition maintains, once was possessed by evil spirits. A quintessential outsider, a powerless, and much maligned woman, the likes of which have been on parade all of Lent: the Samaritan Woman at the well, the Man Blind from Birth, Nicodemus, Martha, the confrontational housekeeper, Lazarus stinking in the tomb, and now Mary of Magdala, Mary Magdalene.

She leaves the house while it is still dark. That is, it is still Sabbath: time to rest. But she who had always been restless until she met Jesus can rest no longer. He was the only person who had ever made her feel healed, healthy, and whole. When she was with Jesus all the demons seemed to vanish into thin air. So she had followed him and ministered to him, listened to him and watched him as he spread his Good News of God’s love for all people.

Alleluia! Christ is Risen! The Lord is Risen indeed! Alleluia!

So Mary Magdalene is the first to find the stone rolled away from the tomb. She runs back to tell the others. "They have taken the Lord out of the tomb! We do not know where he is?" Who is this "we?" Wasn’t she alone at the tomb in the still darkness of Sabbath morning? Are the demons back? Is it possible that she already knows that we who are reading her story are already with her wherever she goes? That we who come to eat and drink with him week in and week out on the first day of the week, that we are somehow inextricably linked with her so that wherever she goes we go, wherever she runs, we run, when her heart is racing, so is ours, because we, too, have been to the tomb in the darkness and can see that the stone has indeed been rolled away?

Mary, Peter and the disciple Jesus loved run back to the tomb. It is like a footrace. They look like a couple of kids racing down the streets of Jerusalem, the City of Peace, the City of God’s Shalom. Their hearts and feet are racing! The other disciple outruns Peter. But then like the Roadrunner in the old cartoons he puts on the brakes and does not go in. He sees linen cloths lying about, but stands back. Peter alone goes in and sees the cloths, like swaddling cloths, lying all about. As he surveys the scene, the other disciple comes in. John tells us plainly, “…he saw and he believed.”

Alleluia! Christ is Risen! The Lord is Risen indeed! Alleluia!

There is endless speculation as to who this other disciple whom Jesus loves might be. Some say John. Others say the Samaritan Woman at the well. Still others say it is whoever reads or hears this Gospel and also sees and believes. That is, the beloved disciple is you and me.

As soon as we step closer to the communion rail and accept the bread and the wine for the first time, we, too, began to see and believe. And once one eats of this bread and drinks of this cup, one cannot help but have the feeling in your heart that you are a disciple whom Jesus loves. Each time that cup is passed to us at the Eucharist, we look into its depths beyond the dark wine shimmering gold and, trembling, we say, “Yes, Lord, I believe.”

All this takes only a moment. Then the boys return to their respective homes. Only Mary stays behind, all alone, weeping. She stoops to look in, and where before there had been nothing but swaddling cloths lying all around, there were now two angels asking her, "Woman, why are you weeping?"

And as she blurts out her answer she turns and bumps into someone else who is also asking her,

"Woman, why are you weeping? Whom do you seek?" Whom do I seek? Why am I weeping? Why is everyone asking me these questions? Who are those men in white in the tomb? Can’t any of them see what has happened? Oh, no, it’s the demons again! I’m losing my mind! "You’re the gardener,” she says. “You tell me! Where have you put him? You should know, not me! You work here. You tell me. Whom do I seek? Why am I weeping? Why indeed!!" Then it happens. The “gardener” says only one word. "Mary."

Alleluia! Christ is Risen! The Lord is Risen indeed! Alleluia!

She has heard this voice before. Only one person ever said her name in just this way. But it does not look like him. It cannot possibly be him. But suddenly her heart is racing again! It is about to leap out of her chest as she throws herself on the one she has supposed to be the gardener! Thank God I am not crazy after all. The demons are not coming back! They are never coming back. It is Jesus. "Rabboni!" she cries as she embraces him.

Alleluia! Christ is Risen! The Lord is Risen indeed! Alleluia!

And for a moment it seems as if it is all in her hands, in her embrace. It appears as if she can hold it all back, keep him there, hold onto him forever and ever, when he says, "Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the father, my father and your father, my God and your God. Go and tell the others." And with that, she is given a new task. And our text simply says, "She went and told the disciples, ‘I have seen the Lord, and she told them all the things he had said to her."

It took courage for Mary to go back to the tomb. It took even more courage for her to let go of Jesus. But in doing so, she gives birth to the Church. By her witness, by her testimony, the history of the world is changed, made new, transformed. Her words to his friends are the first Easter sermon ever preached! Because of her testimony, we are here today! Mary continues to run through the ages to this very day, gathering us all to be a community of his people, his beloved disciples, telling us all the Good News of God in Christ!

Like those first disciples she calls, we all race to the tomb and stoop over to see for ourselves. Like Peter, Mary and the beloved disciple, we do not all see the same things, we do not hear the same voices. Except the one voice that calls us each by name.

He calls us today. He calls us by name. He calls us to be his beloved disciples. He calls us to follow him so that we may do something beautiful with our lives and bear much fruit.

Like Mary, he also calls us to let go of him. We can shut him up in tombs of our own making, or we can be like Mary and let go, and go and tell others about our Risen Lord. In letting go, like Mary, we will find that we are more fully embraced by him, by his love and by his God than we could ever imagine.

And like the people who were changed by her words, others lives will be changed by ours. We are never quite done with Jesus. And thank God, he is never quite done with us!

Alleluia! Christ is Risen! The Lord is Risen indeed! Alleluia!

And so are we… And so are we! Amen!

Saturday, March 22, 2008

The Great Vigil of Easter

Easter Vigil 2008 – Matthew 28:1-10

The Reverend Kirk Alan Kubicek, St. Peter’s at Ellicott Mills, MD

Alleluia, Christ is Risen! The Lord is Risen indeed, Alleluia!

On this night we move from the cross to the empty tomb to an encounter with our Risen Lord on the road – the road of our journey with Christ. Together we experience the transition from darkness to light, from death to life. This is our Passover.

Most of all on this night we locate ourselves within a story – the story of God’s salvation for the whole world, a story that begins in Creation and extends far into the future, because the story of God’s Creation and Covenant and Redemption and Salvation is not ended. These Old Testament texts along with the epistle and gospel remind us that this is our story – they remind us that we are a part of this story and partners with God in God’s story. It is only just begun!

Our God creates (Genesis 1:1-2:2), limits darkness (Genesis), delivers us to freedom (Exodus 14:10-15:1), gives us daily bread (Isaiah 55:1-11), breathes new life into tired, lifeless, dry bones(Ezekiel 37:1-14), even opening up the graves of those who have died waiting upon the Lord, raising them to new life again!

Matthew, of course, echoes Ezekiel in last Sunday’s Passion when we heard that at the moment Jesus gave up his Spirit, an earthquake opened up the graves of many who had died, and on the day of Resurrection those who had “fallen asleep” began wandering through the streets of the city and “appeared to many!”

When we try to picture this in our minds we know why it is we heard that an entire cohort of Roman soldiers were terrified and declared, “Truly this man was God’s Son!”

Alleluia, Christ is Risen! The Lord is Risen indeed, Alleluia!

We are those people who recall that just as Matthew’s story of Jesus ends with violence, so it began with violence. It is the story of how the powers of Empire conspire to kill one baby who would be king, and how the machinery of Empire sets out and kills all baby boys so as to eliminate the one single threat to the Empire. The slaughter of the Innocents: an Empire that sees a new born baby as threat. And we remember how it is that one baby boy escaped to Egypt.

Nevertheless the machinery of Empire continues to grind away, day after day, year after year, until finally the Empire in the person of Pilate succeeds in the murder of that one last baby boy who got away – the one they were after all along. Behold the hard wood of the cross on which was hung the world’s salvation!

Alleluia, Christ is Risen! The Lord is Risen indeed, Alleluia!

Matthew’s is also a story that begins and ends with the courage and faithfulness of women! From the genealogy forward, Matthew says the durability of God’s people depends always on the durability and courage of women like Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba, Rachel and Mary!

Now women are at the tomb. They are many, including Mary Magdalene and the other Mary. Their witness puts us there as well. We experience the great earthquake. We see the angel roll back the stone and sit upon it. We hear the words, “Do not be afraid.” The guards protecting the interests of the Empire we are told are like dead men, but Jesus is alive! With all those witnesses, women and guards, no one sees him leave, but he is no longer there. Jesus is nowhere to be seen. The dead one is on the loose!

So we run back up the road to find the others, to tell them what we have seen and heard. With fear and great joy we run - with tears of grief and joy mingled with dust in the rising sunlight of the new day, the first day of the week, the first day of a new life, the first day of a new world. We run, racing, already with a mission, already with a Gospel, already with Good News for the world – he is risen, he is on the loose, he is going before us, he will meet us back at home in Galilee, there we will see him, when all of a sudden in the middle of the road, in the midst of the dust and tears and laughter and fear and joy, He appears and cries out, “Hail!”

Alleluia, Christ is Risen! The Lord is Risen indeed, Alleluia!

We fall to the ground, we grab onto his feet, we worship him. We hold onto him as if we have the power and the strength to hold him there, to keep him still, never to let him out of our sight ever again. We hold on for dear life to his feet, the feet of him who just two nights before washed our feet. We whose feet had been racing now have hearts racing, leaping, pounding in the excitement of seeing our Lord Jesus before us, our hands grasping his feet.

This is no “spiritual” resurrection – make no mistake about it, this is the resurrection of a whole person, body, mind and spirit! This is a demonstration of God’s commitment to life after death – that the physical reality of a future world after death shows the created order matters to God. Matter matters. Jesus is the demonstration project for the renewal of the whole world and everyone and every thing therein.

Alleluia, Christ is Risen! The Lord is Risen indeed, Alleluia!

Then Jesus repeats the angel’s words, “Do not be afraid.” He calms our racing hearts and minds. All becomes still He repeats the mission – Go and tell others what you have seen and heard. Worship leads to mission, mission leads to living encounters with Christ. According to the gifts that have been given us we are to carry on Christ’s work of reconciliation in the world. He sends us to do this work, his work. He trusts us to keep his work alive!

Jesus says, “Do not stay here, do not hold onto me, do not simply worship me, you must go out into the world and tell others what you have seen and heard. Behold, I am making all things new!” And when they get to Galilee he is there, as he promises. And he says, “Behold, I am with you always to the end of the age!” You do not need to search or to inquire or to carry on all sorts of hocus-pocus, for I am here. I am in the bread, I am in the wine, I am in your heart. That is Jesus. He does not say that he will someday come, nor is he prescribing ways one might get to see him more clearly. Rather he says quite simply, “I am here –Always - Now and For Ever.”

Know, my sisters, my brothers, Jesus calls you to be with him.

He calls you to know he is here, even now.

He calls you to do something beautiful with your life and bear much fruit.

The world needs you, the church needs you, Jesus needs you,

They need your love and your light.

There is a hidden place in your heart where Jesus lives,

Where Jesus is already and will be always to the end of the age!

This is a deep secret you are called to live.

Let Jesus live in you! Go forward with him!

Alleluia, Christ is Risen! The Lord is Risen indeed, Alleluia!

And so are we, so are we! Amen.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Maundy Thursday

Maundy Thursday 2008

The Reverend Kirk Alan Kubicek

Saint Peter’s at Ellicott Mills, MD

Sir, We would see Jesus!

Tonight we begin a journey through John’s Gospel and the accounts of the Last Supper, Good Friday and the Resurrection. It is too bad that we spread this out over three days since the Last Supper, Crucifixion and Resurrection are properly viewed as a unified whole, one saving event. None of the three parts, very much like our view of God, can exist without the other two. It is only through all three that our salvation, our freedom, is secured.

Similarly, like all the documents of the Bible, John’s Gospel needs to be viewed as a whole, not in little bits and pieces. For instance, tonight’s account in Chapter 13 I believe depends very much on what comes before in Chapter 12 when some Greeks approach Philip and declare, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus!”

I can recall the first time these words made much of an impact on me. I was fresh out of seminary and visiting a Presbyterian colleague in town. He had to attend to something back in his office and left me to ramble around the sanctuary of his church. I walked up to the pulpit, stood behind it, and there, carved into the wood for the preacher to see were those very words, “Sir, we would see Jesus!”

It was a moment that was both humbling and intimidating, for in just those few words spoken to Philip nearly 2,000 years ago, the task of Christian preaching was amply summed up. We all want to see Jesus. Much as the familiar thirteenth century poetry of Sir Richard of Chichester states our desires:

Day by day, dear Lord, of thee three things I pray:

To see thee more clearly

Love thee more dearly

Follow thee more nearly

Day by day


We tend to think, like the Greeks, along these lines. We tend to think this is the order of things: if we could just see Jesus more clearly, we would come to love him enough to really truly follow him.

John with Chapter Thirteen alerts us and anyone else paying attention that in fact life with Jesus is meant to work the other way around. It is a curious chapter to say the least, but one drenched with remembrance, instruction and meaning. We use the word “drenched” advisedly since it is all about water – bathing to be specific. Which is how life with Jesus always begins – being submerged in the waters of Baptism, emerging from the sacred surf drenched with a whole new way of looking at and living life, discovering that, after all, we are God’s Beloved – God is well pleased with us.

But we get ahead of ourselves. The first thing one notices about John’s account of the Last Supper is that it is the longest account of the four gospels: five chapters long, chapters 13-17. Given such ample time for description, isn’t it odd that there is never one single mention of bread and wine, no detailed account like we get of the Passover Meal in Exodus, and no familiar “words of institution” as recounted by Paul in his letter to the Corinthians: “This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me….This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”

Instead we get Fellini! At the supper table, Jesus strips off his clothes, dons a towel and begins washing feet. Oh yes, the NRSV tries to cater to our sophisticated sensibilities by paraphrasing “[he] rose from supper, laid aside his garments…” with the more genteel, “took off his outer robe.” The translators obviously have not had an opportunity to watch prime time TV anytime in the past few decades and somehow feel we cannot bear to imagine Jesus, of all people, taking off his clothes. But that is how John remembers it.

Yet, it is even more disturbing to modern North Americans to think of actually touching the feet of a stranger – it strikes us as awkward at best, disgusting at the very least. For those of us who have Bluetooth phones hanging from our ears, text messaging devices in our hands as we drive, who work Excel spreadsheets while on an airplane instead of napping or reading a book, the experience of kneeling in front of someone not in one’s immediate family - or someone with whom one has had a quarrel or stood in awe or been uninterested – washing someone else’s feet is a fantastic departure, and may only be the beginning of an entirely new way to see one’s own faith in relationship to others.

It surely is a wild departure from a virtual world as the foot washer is immersed in a sensual, unprotected, tactile, personal and life-giving encounter with another person – a real person, not a Second Life avatar, but a real person! The virtual world is disavowed as something real happens in the name of Jesus, who patterns this way of relating to one another as somehow emblematic of what it means to “love one another, just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” This is the Maundy, the mandatum, the commandment of Maundy Thursday.

Peter, of course, and as usual, objects. Jesus, as always, puts him, and us really, in his place when he says, “Unless I wash you, you have no share in me,” followed soon by, “you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you.” Now we may try to pretend this was simply a figure of speech. But what if “his example” is precisely what is needed for us to physically, emotionally, personally understand what he is all about? That what he is all about, what loving one another is all about, is servanthood – serving one another – and that the only way to “get it” is to do something that is at once very simple and very hard?

Can we imagine that he wants us to follow him so that we might come to love him, and that in our following and loving is where our seeing Jesus more clearly really begins?

We are told by John that Jesus knew “…that he had come from God and was going to God.” He lives in concert with this knowledge and invites us to live out of this knowledge as well. It is a knowledge that says that moral progress only comes as we begin to acknowledge life as gift. Jesus knows this. Jesus is entwined with a purpose beyond himself. He does not even view self as we do – as disconnected, discreet, competitive, this-world-oriented entities. He is gift for others. He gives himself for others. He empties himself, taking the life of a servant. Our leader is on his knees. He is washing our feet. What does this gift make me? How do I receive such a gift? How does his gift to me reshape my image of myself? What kind of self would I be were I to refuse to give this same gift to others?

Know, my sisters, my brothers, that for God in Christ, you are God’s Beloved. You are a pearl of great price, for which Christ pays the ultimate price to save us and keep us as his own. We need to take time each day in our prayers to reflect on all of this. Give Jesus time to thank you for what you have done for him today. Let Jesus wash your feet. Feel just how good it feels after standing on them all day. Like our Baptism, this foot washing Last Supper is meant to take us beyond our usual sense of “self” to see ourselves in a new light: expansive, responsible, and cared for by the other persons who can see the truth in this new commandment to love one another. Jesus wants us to feel good – really really good.

Like Jesus, we come from God and are going to God. Jesus invites us to live into and out of this reality – this truth. We are to know life as a gift. Acknowledging life as a gift leads us to live life with an attitude of Thanksgiving – eucharistia, Eucharist.

John’s account of the Last Supper means to help us to follow Jesus in a life of service to others so that we will come to love Jesus and out of that love begin to see him more clearly. It’s the only way. It’s His Way. He washes our feet and invites us to make it our way.


Saturday, March 15, 2008

Palm Sunday

“Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus…”

Philippians 2:5-11

We are about to read the very heart of the Christian story together as remembered by Saint Matthew.

As we do so, we are reminded by Saint Paul to “Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus…”

The “mind of Christ” Paul lifts up is that of a self-emptying Christ – that is Christ Jesus does not regard equality with God, that is being created in the redeeming love of God, something to be grasped, exploited or held onto, but rather empties himself, taking the form of a slave, a servant, humbling himself unto death – even death on a cross.

The “mind” of God, the “mind” of Christ is self-emptying, that is, God willingly limits God’s power in order to become engaged in life on earth. And more: God is willing to limit God’s power to undergo the ultimate in powerlessness so that the power and glory of God can enter the world. (Maggie Ross, The Fountain and the Furnace, (Paulist, New York: 1987) p.4.

More provocative than this, however, may be the realization that Christ had no assurance of a reward for his self-emptying. He acted on our behalf without any view of gain. This is what God exalts and vindicates: self denying service for others to the point of death with no claim of return, no eye upon reward. (Proclamation [Fortress, Minneapolis:2007])p.232

So it is we will see Jesus before the religious authorities and before Pilate refusing to answer the charges against him. How remarkable is it to see someone stand before political power and say nothing? Imagine being lied about and letting the words stand without opposition.

Pilate polls the crowd. He takes advice from advisors, including his wife and her “dream,” but he cannot be moved from responding to the public opinion polls. Like many political and religious leaders, Pilate lacks vision – not only about his power and how it might be used, but about his own place in time.

We are not unfamiliar with the kind of myopia of experience and impatience with complexity that blinds Pilate and Pilates of all eras and every generation to the larger scope of things. We are all too familiar with leaders who use slogans to describe the basis of their policies, thus pandering to lazy minds rather than teaching people how to reason with real compassion. Such practices are in full evidence in Jesus’ appearance before both the religious and the Roman leaders. Thus his story serves as a poignant commentary on all of human relationships.

We might also notice the economy of the narrative in Matthew. Only six words are used to describe the actual crucifixion itself, and then almost obliquely – “And when they had crucified him…” Then immediately all attention returns to the actions and responses of those on hand: dividing up the spoils, mocking, torturing and tormenting the crucified one.

So it is again when Jesus dies, only four words suffice, “and yielded up this spirit.” This is self-giving beyond all human imagination.

These events we read about are depicted in terra cotta, and surround us at worship every time we gather in this place – the Stations of the Cross. They are recalled, re-membered each week in our Eucharistic Prayers, the Great Thanksgiving! They form the core of our daily and weekly prayers, our hymns, and the very melodies of composers throughout the ages. In every possible medium of human artistic communication, we are reminded of just what we are to let ourselves be.

To let something be in one’s self is a restful, gracious reception. It is not a grasping but a welcome, suggests Melinda A. Quivik in her Holy Week Commentaries (Proclamation [Fortress, Minneapolis:2007])p.232. It is visible and palpable in the reception of bread and wine, the body and blood of Christ, as when the celebrant and assisting ministers hands to each person in the assembly the elements in which Jesus has located his presence. The members of the assembly are not expected to take the elements; they receive them. The difference here is important if we are to have the mind of Christ Jesus who does not grasp but empties and receives. The invocation of the Holy Spirit upon the people and the meal gives a regular glimpse we all receive of the words “let the same mind be in you” that Paul prays for us all.

As we remember one more time the events of that Friday so many many years ago, may we remember Paul’s prayer for us. May we remember that there are those whose lives are lived on the cross with Christ day in and day out. May we remember that Political and Religious leaders continue to be blinded by the myopia of experience and impatience with complexity, misusing and misdirecting the power and possibility of their respective positions of public trust.

As we listen to this story, and each time we come to this altar for refreshment, may we remember we come to receive the body and blood of Christ, not take the elements, so that in receiving them we might know ourselves even now to be living members of his Body, the Church. That it is to this we say Amen before we receive what we have become.

To let the mind of Christ become the same mind that is in us means to become cooperators in him with respect to everyone and everything else – to seek and serve Christ in all persons; to strive for justice and peace for all persons; to respect the dignity of every human being. With God’s help and an attitude of receiving and self-giving, with no eye on reward nor claim to return, we may yet hear the good news in this ancient story so that we may indeed let the same mind be in us that was in Christ Jesus.

The Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ, According to Saint Matthew….

Matthew 26:14-27:66

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Coming Home to God

March 9/Lent 5A – John 11: 1-45

The Reverend Kirk Alan Kubicek, Saint Peter’s at Ellicott Mills, MD

Roll Back the Stone

“Unbind him and let him go home…”

This is how some have translated our Lord’s final command in this pivotal story of our faith.

The Raising of Lazarus is about who Jesus is, about God’s glory, and about what we need to do to enter into God’s glory – come home to God. Such would be the essence of repentance. As such it is about us and our need to be healed and set free so we can live into the reality of our being God’s Beloved.

Martin Smith, in his book Reconciliation (Cowley, Cambridge, MA:1985), offers one definition of repentance: “Repentance is the response we are called to make as we meet Christ in the place where we have been brought to a halt, and sense his insistence that we reorient ourselves toward God, receiving from him the impulse and energy to embark freely on the next stage. This reorientation is not merely setting our sights on God as our eventual goal; rather, repentance means facing God here and now at the turning point and recognizing God as our companion on the way.” (p. 33-34)

Jesus goes to Bethany to his friend Lazarus for several reasons: to reveal God’s glory; so that the Son of Man might be glorified; and“…so that you may believe.”

The call for us “to believe” is a call to repentance – a call to roll back the stone behind which lie hidden habits grown horrible in their rigidity. Habits that separated us from the love of God and each other. This stone shuts the soul into its tomb of anxiety, or worry, or resentment.

And we might notice that when Lazarus responds to our Lord’s call to come out and to come home, the grave clothes still hold him fast.

Old habits that are the symptom of sin may cling about us when the sin itself is eradicated. If we are truly to be alive we must be freed from these also. Once freed we can be released to return home.

The overall idea here is that home is with God, our companion on the way. Yet, all our petrified and rigid habits keep us bound up, unable to move forward with God.

As our collect says, God alone can bring into order the unruly wills and affections of sinners – sinners simply being those of us who find ourselves separated from the love of God. That is, we begin to doubt or lose all sense of the fact of our identity: those creatures made in the image of God – those who by baptism by water and the Holy Spirit are made God’s own beloved, the Body of Christ, his Church.

So that although repentance means to turn back to God, often we need assistance in rolling back the stone and getting ourselves untangled from the grave clothes that continue to cling about us, even though the gift of forgiveness has already been granted through the cross and resurrection.

When we allow God to roll back the stone, unbind us and set us free, we find ourselves at home again – able to recognize that God has been with us, beside us, all along just waiting for us to step out into the open air of God’s love.

We are called by God to be here, a community of God’s people who help one another roll back the stones, untangle ourselves and step forward with God. Note that in this story, the whole community comes to be a part of the raising of Lazarus: Mary, Martha and all the people visiting from Bethany and Jerusalem. We all have a part to play in rolling back our stones and unbinding ourselves from the rigid and petrified habits that hold us back from being God’s Beloved people.

Jesus is resurrection and He is life.

Like Martha, once we know this, we too can say, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, the one coming into the world!”

Roll Back the Stone

Come back to your home

You are Free

You are whole

You are loved

You are home once again

You are home

You are the Christ

Coming into our world

We are Free

We are whole

We are loved

We are home once again

We are home