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.