Saturday, May 3, 2008

To Be In Christ

4 May 2008/Easter 7A * Acts 1:6-14/1 Peter 4:12-14; 5:6-11/John 17:1-11

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

Become A New Creation

Our Diocesan Convention began the morning after our Ascension/National Day of Prayer Service. To get to the ball rooms of the Baltimore Convention Center we had to take as many as four long escalators up, up, up to the top floor of the building. Stepping off after an ascension that felt like it very well might end up in heaven, I fully expected to find Jesus standing there, arms outstretched announcing, “Welcome to my Father’s House!” Instead, there were the obligatory registration tables and long rows of so-called “exhibitors” hawking all kinds of ecclesiastical bric-brac for those who arrived with both too much money and too much time on their hands!

Today stands between our Lord’s Ascension into heaven witnessed by the gathered community, and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the gathered community some ten days later on the Feast of Pentecost

This Seventh Sunday after Easter is layered and richly imbued with deep and, given the High Priestly Prayer from the Fourth Gospel, even mystical meaning. It is important for us to stop whatever we are doing and to just let ourselves “be.” For in the deepest sense of being human, being a person, it is of utmost importance that we simply let ourselves “be” before we set about any kind of doing.

The ancient Greeks would say, “Know thyself.” I believe that is what Jesus has in mind as he prays for his disciples – that is, as he prays for us – that we may be one as he and the Father are one. And he says that this is eternal life: that we may “know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.”

That is our being is informed by a deep sense of who we are and whose we are: we are to be of God and Christ. As God and Christ are one, we too are meant to be one.

This was the message we received from our Bishop-in-Charge, John Rabb. Recorded from his hospital bed at GBMC, he reminded us of a most important fundamental aspect of our being – that is that we do not choose to be disciples of Jesus Christ, but rather we have been chosen. “You did not choose me,” says God in Christ. “Rather, I chose you!” It is Christ who has chosen all of us.

Take careful note in our gospel for today of the number of times Jesus says that we are those people “whom you gave me” – “you gave them to me” – “all whom you have given [me]” – “those whom you gave me.” We are those people who have been chosen by God and given to Christ Jesus.

This is a truth of our very existence that seems to fly in the face of all modern sensibility that wants us to believe that we can be whatever we want to be, and that we can choose to be whatever and whoever we want to be. Such a modern understanding is precisely the “roaring lion” our “adversary the devil” that “prowls around, looking for someone to devour.”

Our calling is given to us. Who and what we are meant to be has been chosen before all time, before all creation – Jesus calls us to be his disciples, his followers and his Body, his ambassadors as Paul would put it, to a world that does not know Him. The only true God has given us to Jesus. “It is Jesus Christ who has chosen all of you,” said Bishop Rabb. “It is about who we are in Christ Jesus.”

This same theme was taken up by our Bishop-Elect, The Reverend Canon Eugene Sutton.

“What is the vision of God for us?” he asked. And then quoting Paul’s Second Letter to the community of Christians in Corinth he offered this answer: “If anyone is in Christ he is a new creation.” (2 Cor 5:17) “How can we become a “New Creation?” he asked. “How can we Be in Christ?”

Being precedes doing. Until we “know” the only true God, and Jesus whom God has sent, we do not know ourselves – we do not know who we are and whose we are. Such knowing makes all the difference. It makes all the difference in how we view the world, how we view others in the world, and how we view one another in the household of God in Christ.

Our Bishop-Elect gave some ideas of how we might become a “new creation” – how we might “be” in Christ.” It will be, he said, through becoming a people of prayer. A people who know how to stop doing, and “be still, and know that I am God” in a place of stillness and silence – two very foreign locations in our present creation.

It will also mean becoming more and more a people of reconciliation so that we might “heal the breaches of the past.” Bishop Claggett, the first Bishop of Maryland, like most Anglicans and Episcopalians in Maryland at the time, was a slave owner. Our new bishop, a descendent of slaves, will be consecrated at the Washington National Cathedral, the place where Bishop Claggett is buried. Bishop Claggett was our nation’s first Chaplain to the US Senate, and The Reverend Dr. Barry Black, the current Senate Chaplain and native of Baltimore will preach at the consecration. Eugene Sutton believes that Bishop Claggett is rejoicing even now that such breaches of the past in which he and the church participated are even now being reconciled in Christ.

The Bishop-Elect made use of our Lord’s own metaphor of our being branches of the vine, and that our unity does not demand uniformity, but rather an acceptance of our inherent diversity as witnessed in the diverse community of the Trinity itself. He also suggested we might become a new creation by addressing the problems of Education in the city of Baltimore where fewer than 25% of African American young men graduate High School. He sees us becoming involved in addressing the complex issues of our nation’s and our state’s current economic crisis. And he sees us being a people who become a new creation by our concern for how we treat creation itself. “People are dying because of how we choose to live our lives and waste our resources,” said our Bishop Elect.

Finally, to be in Christ, to become a new creation, he said, will entail building a lot of bridges. To that end he finished his sermon on Friday with the following poem by Georgia Douglas Johnson, one of the Harlem Renaissance Poets (1890-1966):

Let’s build bridges here and there

Or sometimes, just a spiral stair

That we may come somewhat abreast

And sense what cannot be exprest,

And by these measures can be found

A meeting place - common ground

Nearer the reaches of the heart

Where truth revealed, stands clear, apart:

With understanding come to know

What laughing lips will never show:

How tears and torturing distress

May masquerade as happiness:

Then you will know when my heart’s aching

And I when yours is slowly breaking.

Commune - the altars will reveal...

We then shall be impulsed to kneel

And send a prayer upon its way

For those who wear the thorns today.

Oh, let's build bridges everywhere

And span the gulf of challenge there.

-Georgia Douglas Johnson

No comments:

Post a Comment