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.
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 (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PkERnneAdsU)