Saturday, August 30, 2008

Holy Ground

31 August 2008/Proper 17A * Exodus 3:1-15/Matthew16:21-28

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

Holy Ground

Peter’s story is compelling. Peter’s story is our story. Just last Sunday Peter correctly declared Jesus as “The Christ, the Son of God.” This week Peter is a stumbling block – literally in the Greek, a skandalon – a scandle.

It should be striking to us: the first assumption Peter, the keeper of the keys, makes about Jesus as God’s anointed one is wrong, satanic even. It is a cautionary tale for all of us and for the Church – the heart of the good news is the cross which always scandalizes us. Whenever we feel we fully understand Jesus, his relationship to God, his relationship to us, our relationship to the world , our next step, like Peter’s, is likely to be wrong.

Our rightful place is behind Jesus – not being in front trying to lead Jesus.

As Jesus made clear last Sunday, the only reason Peter answered correctly is because God had revealed Jesus’ identity to him. So also, for us to understand Jesus’ ministry, and in turn our own ministry and mission, it must be revealed to us by God through the Holy Spirit. We can never stumble upon it on our own.

We return to the denial of self, to turn outward toward God and others. It is a call to modesty and humility in our theology and moral deliberation. It takes a lifetime to grow into a full understanding of God’s mission, purpose and methodology. The road to understanding is strewn with missteps, stumblings and misunderstandings. God’s church does not have a mission. God’s mission has a church. We are that church, the body of Christ – incorporated into his body and his mission by the waters and Holy Spirit of Baptism.

As it is for Peter, so it is for us – what God demands is ongoing, complete reorientation. We are called to a life of daily Baptism. Christians, suggested Martin Luther, “are always one day old.” We are as much in need of being put behind Jesus today as on any other.

This is why we are taking one day together on Saturday, September 13 to hear what God is saying to God’s people. To take our place behind Jesus. To listen to what Mission God has for God’s church. Always remembering that any attempts on our part to cement our understandings, all attempts to root them in any kind of surety, will lead God to always confound us, turn us around, reorient us, and call us to begin again.

I believe one dimension of our misunderstanding and tendencies to stumble around are rooted in forgetting where we are. Like Jesus, and like Moses before him, we are standing on Holy Ground. All theological hubris, all attempts at surety in what God is calling us to be and to do, result from not taking seriously where we are.

We come into this place, or step outside back into the mission field, or into the woods, or even into The Mall at Columbia, and we forget that wherever we are, whatever time it is, we are standing on Holy Ground – for we are standing before God, or God’s image, God’s imago. In a moment we will promise to “seek and serve Christ in all persons.” It is a call to recognize where we are standing – on Holy Ground before a bush that burns and is not consumed.

It seems the earliest liturgical ritual around all this is taking off our shoes. Asian culture has retained this custom longer than we have! It means to adopt an attitude of humility. This is an attitude missing from much of American society and culture. We are so saturated with notions of Roman and English property law that we completely forget that this is God’s world, God’s creation, and that we are designated as God’s imago to be stewards of all this, not merely consumers.

Further, we forget that each and every person we know and see and meet is part and parcel of this imago of God, this image of God. In the language of the New Testament, each person is God’s Beloved. Yet rarely do we take off our shoes before each imago of God we meet. Rarely do we recognize the earth and all its resources as God’s precious gifts, but rather we treat the earth and everything therein as commodities. Worse still, we accept the commoditization of people – even ourselves. How else to explain our utter willingness to wear clothing with manufacturer’s logos, in effect becoming human billboards or walking advertisements? And we do so with a sense of pride mixed with a kind of smug hipness!

Some years ago, at least 60 or more, Woody Guthrie wrote this song – a modern-day psalm, really. Singing it may help to bring us back to an understanding of where we are, which may help us remember who we are and whose we are. With any luck we may, like Peter, get back to our rightful places behind Jesus and let him lead us the way to life in its fullest. Or, like Moses, against all odds, strive for justice and peace for all people, leading people out of bondage into freedom – helping the world to be a place where all people are recognized as God’s people.

May this song remind us that every day Christians are one-day old, standing on Holy Ground.

Holy Ground

Take off, take off your shoes
This place you’re standing, it’s holy ground
Take off, take off your shoes
The spot you’re standing, its holy ground

These words I heard in my burning bush
This place you’re standing, it’s holy ground
I heard my fiery voice speak to me
This spot you’re standing, it’s holy ground

That spot is holy holy ground
That place you stand it’s holy ground
This place you tread, it’s holy ground
God made this place his holy ground

Take off your shoes and pray
The ground you walk it’s holy ground

Every spot on earth I trapse around
Every spot I walk it’s holy ground

Every spot it’s holy ground
Every little inch it’s holy ground
Every grain of dirt it’s holy ground
Every spot I walk it’s holy ground

Words –Woody Guthrie, copyright Wood Guthrie Publications, Inc 2001

To hear the Klezmatics sing this song go to:

To learn more about Woody Guthrie and his music, go to:

No comments:

Post a Comment