Saturday, May 8, 2010

The Eighteenth Letter of the Alphabet

9 May 2010/Easter 6C - Revelation 21:10, 22-2:5/John 14:23-29
The Reverend Kirk Alan Kubicek, Saint Peter's at Ellicott Mills, Maryland

"...the word you hear is not mine, but is from the Father who sent me...Peace I leave with you; my Peace I give to you." John 14
"On either side of the River [of Life] is the Tree of Life with its twelve kinds of fruit, producing its fruit each month; and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations." Revelation 22

In his book, Living Toward a Vision: Biblical Reflections on Shalom [United Church Press, 1982], Walter Brueggemann asserts that the central vision of world history in the Bible is that all of Creation is One, every creature in community with every other, living in harmony and security toward the joy and well-being of every other creature; or as the African-American mystic and theologian Howard Thurman expresses it, "a friendly world of friendly folk beneath a friendly sky." And further, this vision is that all persons are children of a single family, members of a single tribe, heirs of a single hope, and bearers of a single destiny, namely, the care and management of all of God's creation.

And if one were to choose a single word out of the Hebrew and Christian scriptures to sum up this vision of love, loyalty, grace, justice, blessing, fruitfulness, righteousness, salvation and stewardship, that word would be shalom. Which is the very word Jesus gives us - shalom, peace, "Shalom I leave with you; my Shalom I give to you." This, he says, is not his word, but is from "the Father who sent me." Shalom, concludes Brueggemann, is "the substance of the biblical vision of one community embracing all creation. It refers to all those resources which make communal harmony joyous, effective and fruitful." (p.15-16)

Indeed, that other John, John the Revelator, re-calls our attention to the trees in the Garden of God's creation - the Tree of Life and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. We are free to partake of the Tree of Life endlessly and forever, and the leaves of this tree "are for the healing of the nations." No doubt we could use a steady diet of these leaves about right now!

Yet, from the very beginning we appear to have believed The Big Lie: if you eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, says the tempter, "you will be like God." Genesis 3:5 The problem here is two-fold, 1) we were already created in the image of God, imago Dei, and so were already "like God," and 2) rather than eating the healing and nourishing fruit of the Tree of Life, we have increasingly convinced ourselves that more and more Knowledge holds the promise or our salvation.

Note that this tree offers either/or, binary or dualistic choices, which have served such lofty worlds as science, mathematics, logic, mechanics and technology fairly well, but already we have begun to see the limitations of such knowledge - just ask the folks off the coast of the Gulf of Mexico who are watching an ecological disaster float towards their homes and livelihoods at this very moment; and which knowledge has given us such paradoxical capacities so as to harness the power of the atom while at the same time unleashing the atom's total potential to destroy all life as we know it.

So we need to re-turn, repent, turn back to the Tree of Life which some like Richard Rohr see rooted in the non-dual life of contemplative prayer, and a life of Shalom, a life of "resources which make communal harmony joyous, effective and fruitful," rather than anxious, ineffective and wasteful. Curiously, "resources" begins with "r", the eighteenth letter of the alphabet - a letter that gives us three other "r's" that may be just the resources we need to re-turn to the Tree of Life, moving away from our addiction to the Tree of Knowledge: reduce, reuse and recycle. Thanks to Bob Dorough (of Miles Davis and School House Rock fame) and Jack Johnson we can re-member how we can live a life of shalom with our planet [try here -]:

Three it's a magic number
Yes it is, it's a magic number
Somewhere in ancient mystic trinity
You get three as a magic number
The Past, the Present and the Future,
Faith Hope and Charity
The heart, the brain and the body
Give you three as a magic number

Because two times three is six
And three times six is eighteen
And the eighteenth letter
in the alphabet is R
We've got three R's
we're going to talk about today
We've got to learn to
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

Well, if you're going to the market
to buy some juice
You've got to bring your own bags
and you learn to Reduce your waste,
we've got to learn to Reduce

And if your brother or your sister's
got some cool clothes
You could try them on
before you buy some more of those
Reuse, we've got to learn to Reuse

And if the first two R's don't work out
and if you've got to make some trash
Don't throw it out, Recycle,
we've got to learn to recycle,

We've got to learn to
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle (4X)
Because three it's a magic number
Yes it is, it's a magic number

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