Saturday, May 26, 2012

I Will SIng To The Lord As Long As I Live!

Pentecost 2012 - Acts 2: 1-21/Psalm 104:25-35,37/Romans 8:22-27/John 15:26-27;16:4b-15
The Reverend Kirk Alan Kubicek, St. Peter's at Ellicott Mills, Maryland
We Do Not Know How To Pray As We Ought
Lord of the universe: I am a simple man, an ignorant man. Oh, how I wish I had the words to fashion beautiful prayers to praise thee! But alas, I cannot find the words. So, listen to me, O God, as I recite the alphabet. You know what I think and how I feel. Take these letters of the alphabet and you form the words to express the yearning, the love for thee, that is in my heart.
-Unknown author
Pentecost is like that. Life is like that. These Days Between have been like that - there are no words. Notice what the disciples do on the days between - they are all gathered together in one place when the house begins to shake, rattle and roll. I have experienced this before - in Dekoven House, Racine, Wisconsin - a place that looks like it is home for the Adams Family, right on the banks of Lake Michigan. It was winter. I was on silent retreat led by the Scottish Bishop, Richard Holloway - who after each "talk" with us would fall to his knees and invoke the Holy Spirit. After one of his talks I went to my room. The windows began to rattle, the wind began to howl, the entire building was shaking! That is when it struck me - The Holy Spirit is trying to get to us, get inside Dekoven House and shake us up when all we have to do is open the windows and let her in! All we have to do is go outside and let God's Spirit, God's breath, God's Holy Wind have at us: Ruach in Genesis 1 in the Hebrew; Pneuma in Acts in Greek; Prana for the Hindus; Spiritu Sancti for the Latin church - all these words mean spirit, breath and wind. All are meant to connect us directly to the source of all life: God, YHWH, Brahman, Allah, Father, Son and Holy Spirit - all names for The One God.

We keep coming back to John's version of Maundy Thursday - yet another section. He knows  how he ought to pray as he prays for us and announces he will send another version of God, since the Father becoming the Son seems not to have completely put us back on track. He calls this the Spirit of Truth - not a reference to the discovery of scientific and general historical truth, though truth of every kind must ultimately be One, of one source, the afore mentioned One God.

The Muslims say, "There is no God but God." The Sufis, an early stream of Islam, narrow that down considerably as they say, "There is nothing but God." Jesus is saying much the same thing over and over again in every conceivable metaphor about vines, shepherds, bread, you name it! Here he says the Spirit of Truth will set us straight about sin, righteousness and judgment.

Archbishop William Temple puts it this way, sounding much like a Sufi mystic himself: "Everything which is other than God would have it is sin." Or, as we say in baptism, sin is anything and everything that separates us from the Love of God. Which soon leads anyone who is open to the Spirit of Truth to realize that the opposite of Love, the Love of God, the opposite of "the way God would have it," is nothing less than self-centeredness. Says Paul elsewhere in Romans, "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." (Romans 3:23) This is our definition of sin - we have fallen short of the glory of God. We who are imago Dei, made in the image of God, have forsaken our very created Being and instead are concerned exclusively with our selves - my self - instead of centering our selves, individually and collectively, on God in Christ.

You see it is not good enough to be as good as those around us. Nothing is enough than that we should be as good as God. Jesus says it himself, "You shall be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect." (Matthew 5:48) After all, from the very beginning, Genesis chapter 1, it is made evident that we are made in the image of God, male and female.

So when it comes to sin we attempt to correct the symptoms, not cure the dis-ease within us. We try to reform our habits of lying, cheating, sloth, envy, gluttony, on and on it goes. But we ignore the dis-ease of our self-centeredness - we simply are not God centered. Really, if we were God centered would be find ourselves where we are right now?

The Holy Spirit, if we allow it into our lives, if, as we pray, we allow the "inspiration of the Holy Spirit" - literally the breathing in, the inspiring, of God's Holy Breath, Spirit and Wind - we will find ourselves blown to new places and new ways of Being that we cannot possibly imagine. Says Paul, we do not hope for that which we can see! But if we hope for what we do not see, and wait for it with patience - ahhh, there's the rub.

Waiting and patience, not really our strong suits as human beings in a consumer driven capitalist society that dictates what we think we want and need. But it is all things we can see! Not things hoped for that we cannot possibly see or imagine!

Which reveals the source of our Judgment which the Spirit of Truth is sent to us to reveal: we convict ourselves. God is not the dispenser of penalties. No need for that! Our judgment is a direct consequence of our response to the sending of the Spirit of Truth - our judgment is the verdict upon us which consists of our reaction to the "light" - the Light of Christ, the Morning Star that knows no setting, still lit in our midst since the night before Easter! Fifty days it has burned at every service we have had since Easter.

We convict ourselves. The Jewish people were among the first, if not the first, in recorded history to look at a bad situation like slavery, exile, and occupation, and say, "It must be our fault. We are no longer God centered. We must renew the covenant, repent, and return to the Lord." The Quran says much the same thing - what we do is what convicts us, not God, not Allah, not the Holy Spirit. We judge ourselves. And this grieves God - unto death on the cross.

God wants to be merciful. God wants us to be imago Dei. So it is he comes to us as Jesus, he comes to us as Spirit, Ruach, Prana, Spiritu Sancti. Our task is to open ourselves to the gift of the Spirit of Truth - which truth is Jesus, who is the Way, the Way to God, away from self-centeredness. Until we open ourselves to this gift of the Spirit, we cannot be One with God, and therefore cannot be One with one another. And all this is through Jesus to whom be glory forever and ever!

So we are to hope for that which we cannot see and wait with patience. As we breathe deeply we gain patience. Richard Rohr, by the way, observes that the very name YHWH is believed to mimic the sound of breathing - therefore the first word we "say" and the last word we "say" is God's name! And there is no one way of breathing - no Christian, Jewish or Muslim way to breathe. No rich, poor or middle class way to breath. We all breathe the same breath, which is recycled over and over throughout history - so it was the same for the caveman as it is for the astronaut! And it all comes from one source, which science has confirmed!

It is Kurt Vonnegut who says we have been given one good idea - to be merciful, as Jesus says in the Sermon on the Mount. Vonnegut hopes, like Paul, that we will be given another good idea by and by - and what it is we do not know. But Vonnegut suspects that music, that ineffable, mystical expression of human hopefulness, is the next good idea being born. The Psalmist agrees in verse 34 of Psalm 104, "I will sing to the Lord as long as I live." This is what we are to do as we hope for that which we cannot see and wait with patience! It's either that, or simply sit around and recite the alphabet!.

 So let Jesus, the Father and His Spirit open our hearts, minds and souls to the Spirit of Truth as we sing:
Can’t nobody do me like Jesus
Can’t nobody do me like my Lord
Can’t nobody do me like Jesus
He’s my friend

He takes my hand when
I’m goin’ down

He picks me up and
turns me around

He turns me around and
tells me to go home.    -Andrae Crouch (

Saturday, May 19, 2012

The Days Between

20 May 2012 Easter 7B - John 17:6-19
The Reverend Kirk Alan Kubicek, Saint Peter's at Ellicott Mills, Maryland
The Days Between
There were days
and there were days
and there were days between
polished like a golden bowl
the finest ever seen
Hearts of Summer held in trust
still tender, young and green
left on shelves collecting dust
not knowing what they mean
valentines of flesh and blood
as soft as velveteen
hoping love would not forsake
the days that lie between lie between
-Robert Hunter/Jerry Garcia
The Seventh Sunday of Easter lies uncertainly between the Feast of the Ascension and the Day of Pentecost. A time between - between the disciples feeling abandoned, left behind, left on their own, and that day when the disciples were renewed, changed and forever empowered to speak the good news in ways that all could understand.

But for ten days it had to feel strange - anxious - awkward - unknowing - lost. The One  whom they had loved and lost had been restored to them forever in every place and in every time. In those days between they must have spent much time sitting in silence, praying, wondering, imagining, trying to believe that the story, the adventure of their lives, was not over but was somehow, mysteriously beginning again. Always we begin again. All ways we begin again.

Like us, this Seventh Sunday of Easter,  I want to believe they tried with every ounce of concentration in their bodies, minds and souls to recall all that he had prayed that last night with them - what we rather casually refer to as the seventeenth chapter of John - Jesus' high priestly prayer - The Gospel of the Lord, Praise to you Lord Christ.

He is praying for his disciples -  his body - his baptized - he is praying for us. I cannot ever get over the very fact of it.  Here it is Maundy Thursday, the night before Good Friday. He knows. He knows he has to die, you know he had to die. When they, when we, should have been praying for him, taking care of him, he was praying for us.

He prays that we might be as close to him as he is to the Father. He calls this eternal life. “And this is eternal life, that they may know you , the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” (John 17:3)

Eternal life. It is not something out in the future. It is not what we call the "here-after." He wants us to have eternal life here-and-now. It is a life lived with God and Jesus, here and now.

Jesus goes on to pray for our protection in this time between which is in fact eternal life. He prays for our Joy. And he prays that we be sanctified.

To be sanctified means to become more like the image of God in which we were created. It means to attain to the life God intends for all people. It means to live out our Baptismal promises: that all that we say and do will proclaim the good news of God in Christ; that we will seek and serve Christ in all persons; that we will be those people who strive for justice and peace for all people, respecting the dignity of every human being. That is, we will honestly do unto others as we would have them do unto ourselves.

Finally, Jesus prays that we be in this world but not of this world. By “world” he does not mean creation. We are a part of creation and we belong here in God’s creation. By “world” he means the reality of chaos created by humans who refuse to live a life of sanctification in God’s ways. Those who refuse God and choose a way of death over a way of life. The Gospel’s use of the word “world” forces us to see that there is creation, which is God’s reality for us, and world, which is our self-construction of destruction. Creation is from light and from love; world is about power and destruction and death.

This is why Jesus prays for us: the world is eternally seductive. Only God is eternally true.
These are days, these are days, these are days between - where we find ourselves hoping love would not forsake, the days that lie between, lie between.

So God sends us Lola. Little Lola Carole Ann Hicks is sent to us to become one of us - we who are One with Him - we who are his Body - we who are his beloved. On page 298 of the Book of Common Prayer it states that those who are united with him by Water and the Holy Spirit have eternal life here and now - this bond established by God in Holy Baptism, we are told, is indissoluble. As he comes up out of the water of the River Jordan he hears a voice - a voice from the heavens declares, "You are my Beloved - with whom I am well pleased!" That is who we are. Now and forever. Even during these days between. That is what the disciples realized. This is what we must never forget - You are God's Beloved - God is well pleased with you."

You are my Beloved
I am well pleased with you

I am God’s Beloved
God is well pleased with me

I’m gonna tell you how it’s gonna be
God’s gonna give God’s love to me
I’m gonna love God night and day
You know our love not fade away

Our Love’s bigger than a Cadillac
God ain’t never gonna take it back
God’s love’s bigger than an SUV
No one can take it away from me
You know our Love not fade away

If you don’t believe I’ve been redeemed
Then come on down to Jordan’s stream
Up in the Sky what do you see
The Holy Spirit comin’ down on me
The Holy Spirit comin’ down on me

I'm gonna tell you how it's gonna be
God’s gonna give God’s love to me
A love to last more than one day
A love that's love - not fade away
Love that's love - not fade away


Saturday, May 12, 2012

Abide With Christ

13 May 2010/Easter 6B-John 15:9-17 - The Reverend Kirk A Kubicek, St. Peter's at Ellicott Mills
O God, you prepare for those who love you such good things as surpass our understanding: Pour into our hearts such love towards you, that we, loving you in all things and above all things, may obtain your promises, which exceed all that we can desire. (Collect for Easter 6)
This is not only our prayer for the Sixth Sunday of Easter. Looked at, listened to,  more closely, it is our Lord’s prayer for us. Our Gospel (John 15: 9-17) takes us back to Maundy Thursday. From the perspective of the Fourth Gospel, this is where it all begins for those of us who would be the church – be the church. Unfortunately the word “church” comes freighted with much baggage – such that we need to cleanse or prune it of all meaning we ordinarily attach to it. Jesus, though  not using the word “church” means that community of persons who abide in him as he abides in the Father – as branches and fruit abide on a vine.

From the thirteenth chapter of John through the seventeenth chapter Jesus says and does things meant to comfort a community in crisis – a community facing enormous loss, a community that will see its “friend,” its savior, die upon a cross. They will witness the pouring out of His blood as a sign of his love for a sinful and broken world. These five chapters constitute the Last Supper for John the Evangelist, and despite no mention of bread or wine, these chapters constitute an invitation to communion with Christ and with one another that transcends all prior association of tribe, family, neighborhood, nation, and even what we usually mean by the word “church.”

The cleansing of the foot washing, the cleansing of Holy Baptism, and the pruning of the vine, allowing God to remove from our midst that which does not and cannot bear fruit, inevitably results in loss which in turn results in pain.  What is meant here is not the loss of loved ones and friends in Jesus, but allowing God in Christ to remove all that separates us from the Love of God in Christ, that which our Book of Common Prayer calls “sinful desires.” (BCP p 302)

To that end what is imagined in our collect prayer, and what is imagined in chapters 13-17 in John, is for us to recognize that if we are to be a church at all, which I believe most of us if not all of us see as coming dangerously close to be slipping away from those of us who call ourselves St. Peter’s, if we are to be a church at all we need to allow God in Christ to remove, prune, cleanse all illusions that we are in control, that we make the church what it is, that we know what love is and how it should be manifested.

We are in the midst of the very hard work of mourning a tragic disruption of our life as a community of Jesus’ friends, and the even more tragic loss of two of our Lord’s closest friends. And yet, if we will really listen to our Lord’s so-called Farewell Discourse, we must come to the realization that our first duty, the first commandment is to abide in Jesus. We must accept the fact that we are not here by choice, but by his choosing us to be His people. It is He who goes to every length to pour His love into our hearts so that we might abide in him – dwell in Him. We accept this Love he pours into us so that we might dwell in Him and He in us.

To do this means that we must allow Him to cleanse and prune away all that gets in the way – that is all of our desires since what He is promising exceeds all that we can desire or imagine. Begging the question: what are we willing to give up to once and for all Be His Church? Just when will we let go of all our notions of “shurch” and abide in Him? Because until we let go of it all and abide in Him and in Him only, we do not have the capacity to obey his second command which of course is to Love one another – to love one another as He loves the Father and the Father loves Him. That is, Abiding in his Love precedes the very possibility of loving one another as He loves us. This “loving one another” is no mere Kumbaya hugging of one another, and not simply putting up with one another. This “loving one another” is very demanding work, surpassing even the hard work of processing and accepting all that has just happened to us this past week.

As I struggle to put this into words, I find myself coming closer to understanding why such passages in the Fourth Gospel are so difficult to read and to understand – so seemingly convoluted. And yet, what is being given to us this day in the Word of God holds as much promise as it holds challenges. In fact, it holds much more promise than the challenges this Word places on our hearts this morning.  Note that Jesus says these things so that His joy may be in us and that our Joy may be full. Note carefully that this is meant to be for us as his community, not so much us as individuals. In fact it is true that any notion of any one person being an “individual” did not really exist in the first century. All persons were understood to be part of a tribe, family, clan or association -what began as a community of his followers and became the church.

Jesus transcends all such affiliations, which we may as well admit exist as factions within his One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. He is saying, unless allow Him to prune away all such factions among us, we cannot possibly be One as he and the Father are One. It is painful to give up such affiliations since we believe we derive some sense of pleasure and identity from them. Not to do so, however, is much more painful. Jesus promises more than any affiliation can give, more than we desire – and face it, we desire an awful lot.

As I have been led to say all week, remembering Mary-Maraguerite and Brenda means allowing them to dispel a little of our darkness and draw us closer to the Light – the Light of Christ – of Christ who says later in this farewell discourse, “you will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn to joy….So you have sorrow now, but I will see you again and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.” (John 16:20&22)

He is here. We are here to see him in the bread and in the wine, in his Body and his Blood. He invites us, chooses us, to abide in Him. Before we can “do” anything, we must Be – we must Be in Him, abide in Him so that he may abide in us. We must dwell in Him so that He may dwell amongst us. All joy, all peace, and all that we can do or say must flow out of such an indwelling of Jesus in our midst here and now. The former things must pass away for the new to come into being. We are no longer servants but friends so that we may abide in Him and Love one another. His love is being poured into our hearts here and now so that we might obtain his promises which exceed all that we can desire. The time is now to love Christ in all things and above all things so that He, by the power of His Holy Spirit, might help us and heal us and turn our sorrow into Joy. We cannot do it ourselves. We can, however, allow him to fill our hearts with His love.
We can abide in Him.  Alleluia, Christ is Risen! The Lord is Risen indeed, Alleluia!

Saturday, May 5, 2012

We Come From Love....

6 May 2012 - Easter 5B - 1 John 4:7-21/John 15:1-8
The Reverend Kirk Alan Kubicek, Saint Peter's at Ellicott Mills, Maryland
Beloved Let Us Love One Another

What a surprise: our Sunday bulletin has the wrong gospel lesson. We left the bulletin, however, unaltered with last Sunday's gospel. In fact there is only one gospel, and that is Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. We left it that way, well, because it has become a kind of tradition at St. Peter's to have a bulletin blooper. And because from one "I am" passage to another in John's gospel the most important two words are "I am." So whether our Lord self identifies with being a good shepherd, a vine, or bread, the words "I am" make it clear that it is the voice of the ineffable, almighty and glorious source of all that is, seen and unseen, that is speaking. And we left the bulletin the way it is because it is the last piece of collaborative work by two women who have been violently and senselessly taken away from us.

I say this not to point to any error or mistake on their part. Quite the contrary, it is an outward and visible sign that their undivided attention was where it should be: on the voice that says "I am" and where that voice leads us, and what that voice calls us to do. Brenda and Mary Marguerite listen to that voice - a voice which in last Sunday's gospel says, " I know my own and my own know me."  A voice that this Sunday says, "Abide in me as I abide in you." A voice that says as you serve the least of these, my sisters and brothers, you did it to me.

The Lord our God, the King of the Universe, creator of all that is seen and unseen, says abide in me as I abide in you - "that he may dwell in us, and we in him." Rite One captures the true sense of it. Jesus promises to abide in our midst, in us, and we in him. Both Mary Marguerite and Brenda knew this and lived out of this kind of divine knowledge. To abide with God in Christ is to remain with him through thick and through thin - to hold on to the vine in good times and bad. No times have ever seemed so bad as these past few days. A badness that in truth lasted only seconds, and yet seems to have eternal everlasting consequences for us all.

Brenda and Mary Marguerite were doing the Lord's work. They were serving the Lord directly. "When I was hungry, you fed me..." Like nearly every day of the week, Brenda was leading a profoundly hungry person to the Food Pantry. In the matter of just a few moments it was all over. We will never understand it. We will never understand it no matter how many reports come out of the Howard County Police Department, who have served us all faithfully and well, we will never understand it.

But we do understand this. We come from love, we return to love, and love is all around. Brenda and Mary Marguerite have returned home. They have returned to the heart of Love, the eternal center of God's very Being. Their time with us magnified the sense of God's Love being all around us every moment we spent in their presence. Individually and together they represented the fruitfulness of God's vine - they are precious fruit of God's love. And now they have returned home to the heart of God's love.

"Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God", writes the First Letter of John. I know, standing beside the two of these faithful women who have been taken from us too too soon, day after day, year after year, that if there is one last desire in both of their hearts it is this: that we love one another as God has loved us. They know this because they listen to his voice. And his voice says, "The commandment we have from him is this: those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also."1John 4:21

It is their commitment to serving their brothers and sisters whoever they might be, and believe me if you spend any time in our office you eventually see every kind of brother and sister there is, that sent them home to the heart of Love. We will never know why, but we do know they and the man they were serving are with the God who says, You are my Beloved - with you I am well pleased.

So that the bulletin you hold in your hand is a sign of their devotion to God's love. What is more important: proofreading and getting the correct lesson in the bulletin? Or, following the commandment to love our sisters and brothers?

A wise practitioner of the healing arts here in Howard County once wrote, "All sickness is  home-sickness." All sickness is home-sickness. Think about it. It is true. We all want to return home to that place from whence we come - the heart of God's eternal love. That being said, then, all of life is a homecoming - a coming home to God.

Brenda and Mary Marguerite have made that homecoming journey. They now reside with all the saints and martyrs that have gone before, charting the way - the Way of Christ. Because Christ is risen from the dead, death no longer has dominion over us. Because Christ is risen from the dead, life is changed not ended. We are those people who believe that when our mortal body lies in death, there is prepared for us a dwelling place eternal in the heavens.

We come from love, we return to love, and love is all around. If we want to know what “love is all around looks like,” just look around. As I look back over the events of the past few days, I see a people who came together Thursday and Friday nights to affirm our faith in the Risen Christ.  I see a diocese that stops its business and takes the time to pray and reflect on our mutual trauma and loss. I see an avalanche of messages from all around the world offering prayers and support on our St. Peter’s Facebook page. I see a community of people called St. Peter’s who know what it means to surround one another with love. And I still see two women who were and continue to be exemplars to us of what it means to abide with Christ - what it means to be known by Christ.

In truth, right now they are where they have always been - in the heart of God's everlasting love.

We come from love, we return to love, and love is all around
And love is all around.
All of life is a homecoming, homecoming, homecoming
All of life is a homecoming,
A coming home to God.