Saturday, July 28, 2012

Of Cabbages and Kings

July 29, 2012/Proper 12B - Pentecost 9 - John 6:1-21/2 Samuel 11:1-15/(I Samuel 8: 10-18)
The Reverend Kirk Alan Kubicek, Saint Timothy’s School for Girls, Stevenson, MD
Of Cabbages and Kings
The world is a hungry place. People are hungry for food, for jobs, for love, for care, for leadership that cares. The list of our hunger goes on and on. What the Bible knows is what we all know - all of our hunger centers around a spiritual void. We are hungry for God. That hunger is very real, and yet we deceive ourselves into believing we can feed that hunger with other things like food, money, fancy clothes, fancy cars, more technology, more stuff. We accumulate so much stuff, stuff that we believe says something about who we are - stuff that we somehow mistaken for who and what we are. We accumulate so much stuff that our homes overflow with stuff, until we have to go beyond the home and rent self-storage spaces. That is, we have to store the excess amount of our self somewhere else, so that our self becomes fragmented, separated into different places. We become a problem to ourselves - or what we believe is what we are, what defines us: the clothes we wear, the house we live in, the cars we drive and so forth.

This, in all likelihood, is mostly a Northern Hemisphere problem. It is a problem driven by our desire to be like everybody else - especially those who have more than we have. And it is becoming a world-wide problem as our principal export is a life-style based on the accumulation of more and more stuff. The whole world desires to be just like us.

This is all driven by a belief that there is not enough stuff in this world, so we had better stockpile as much as possible for ourselves. This perceived scarcity of stuff leads to trade imbalances, the stealing of resources from other parts of the world, and eventually manifests itself in trade wars that can soon turn into outright warfare. So then we need to accumulate more resources, more stuff, dedicated to the protection of what we already have. We end up demanding leaders who can assure us that our stuff will remain ours forever and ever.

Into such a world steps Jesus. Rome had conquered Israel and turned it into a client state, exporting all its goods to other parts of the Empire, and charging outrageous taxes on those goods at the same time. It was a dangerous time to be a client of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Rome demanded full loyalty.

So along comes Jesus. The Jesus in John is declared from the first verse of the Fourth Gospel as God - the Word, the logos - in the flesh. Indeed, this is the only way to make sense of someone who can take five barley loaves and a couple of fish and feed thousands of people with lots and lots of leftovers! Barley loaves, as opposed to wheat loaves, is the food of the poor. The lesson here is quite simple, and yet one that we refuse to accept: The need of the world is not too great for our resources if it is the Lord who directs the use of those resources.

A mighty big "if".

Meanwhile, the people try to make him King. That would seem to be appealing. Look at how people in every conceivable human community clamor to become "king." Right now we are looking at two individuals who will marshal millions if not billions of dollars for the right to become or remain "king” of the United States of America. Look around the world where competing individuals and groups of individuals resort to violence to gain and maintain "kingship."

Then look at Jesus. Nothing doing. As soon as there is a hint that the people might make him the next king, he sneaks off to be alone. Why, we might ask ourselves? It might have saved him having to go to Jerusalem only to be crucified, dead and buried. Why would he turn his back on what others count as the ultimate goal?

Here we may do well to recall that Jesus appears to have studied scripture pretty carefully. At every possible turn of events, he can marshal quotations from every corner of Hebrew scripture. So no doubt at this juncture he very well may have the eighth chapter of the First Book of Samuel in mind. This is the episode when Israel demands that the boy prophet Samuel appeal to God to give them a king - because, after all, all the surrounding countries have kings, so we should have one too.

This signals a lack of trust in the God of the Exodus, who up to this pivotal moment, had raised up judges to pull the tribes together in times of great danger. When the danger passed, so did the judge, and folks went back to life in their tribal clans with their diffuse political connections. But at the time of Samuel, with threats from surrounding kingdoms, the people demand a king to unite them and make them strong. God tries to dissuade Samuel. Samuel tries to dissuade the people in chapter 8 of First Samuel, saying, in effect,  " A king will take your sons and make them soldiers and send them to war; and take your daughters and make them his servants; he will take your fields and produce, and tax you on all of it; until you will wish you had never asked for a king, but by then it will be too late." The people persist and God gives them Saul, which did not work out particularly well. And then David, and, well, look at what happens to David in this Sunday's episode in 2 Samuel 11:1-15. After failing to pull off a cover- up of his indiscretion with Bathsheba, he uses his authority of the military to have her husband Uriah killed in battle. Then comes Solomon. Under the reign of Solomon, the consolidation of power and goods becomes so acute that the people attempt  a social revolution, so unhappy are they with their once desired “king.”

Verna Dozier, a wise lay-leader in our church, in her book The Dream of God, called this demand for a king the Second Fall after the episode in The Garden. The third fall happens early in the life of the church, at the time of Constantine, when the church goes from being an alternative to the Empire and allows itself to become the Empire – the Church becomes King. The impulse is the same in 2 Samuel as it is under Constantine - we want to be like everybody else. And yet, to this day we are still looking for a way out of being an Imperial Church and somehow find our way back to the very beginning – to being an alternative to the Empire, not a cover-up and support for it.

For as anyone can see, Jesus will have none of it. And yet, we continue to hitch our wagons, our stars, our souls and our very being, to the belief that with just the right "king" all shall be well.

We find ourselves clinging to models of leadership and institutional power that the Bible repeatedly warns us against. And we wonder why it no longer works. Again, read about David and the so-called Wise One, Solomon, and see how quickly it all fell apart even then, approximately 900 years before Jesus.

It is no wonder that God decided the only way to get our attention was to come down himself and be one of us. God in Christ invites us once and for all to give up any notions of being like everybody else as having any life-giving sustainability. The accumulation of power and stuff will never fill the spiritual void that keeps us from becoming the people God wants us to be.

Our portion of the gospel ends with the disciples heading off in a boat across the sea. They run into rough waters and high winds. When all seems about lost, Jesus appears. The text is not entirely clear - it could mean he was walking on the water, but it can also mean he was "on the sea shore." So we can read this to say there he was, on the shore, to welcome them ashore when after much hard work and treacherous time they approached him and the shore. He simply says, "Be not afraid." Note, as soon as they see him, as soon as he says this, they are immediately safe ashore!

Can it be that for St. John the meaning is to be found in the peace that pertains once we willingly receive Jesus to be our companion? Companion - literally one with whom we share bread. He who is the Bread of Life, the Bread from Heaven, the True Bread - our manna, our sustenance, our daily bread. Christ is the guide of life whom we follow, says William Temple, in the strength that he supplies into the way of Peace.

That's pretty much it. We can continue to trust in our appointed and elected leaders, and trust in the accumulation of more and more stuff. Or, we can trust in Jesus, who withdraws again to the mountain to be alone. What if we were to withdraw day by day to be alone with Jesus? How might we allow him to be our daily bread? The need of the world is not too great for our resources if it is the Lord who directs the use of those resources. Once we trust in the Lord, we will find ourselves on the other shore, safe and secure from all alarm with nothing to fear. Our deepest and true hunger can and will be satisfied, if only we will continue to row our way to the other side – his side – to the country that needs no king. Amen.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

"Ubearably Savage"

22 July 2012/Proper 11B – Jeremiah 23:1-6/Psalm 23/Mark 6:30-34, 53-56
The Reverend Kirk Alan Kubicek, Saint Timothy’s School, Stevenson, Maryland
I Shall Fear No Evil
Friday, July 19, 2012 was another one of those mornings where we wake up only to discover that while most of us were sound asleep yet another episode of violent evil had claimed the lives of 12 persons, injured 58 others at a midnight screening of the latest episode in the Batman movie franchise. The movie’s director called it “unbearably savage.” Through Facebook I quickly made contact with friends in the vicinity of Aurora, CO, to make sure all were safe.

I have been here all too recently as a lone shooter claimed the lives of my two closest colleagues in ministry on May 3. Both shooters have been described as deranged, mentally ill, obviously disturbed, etc. Then come the predictable calls for greater gun control, followed immediately by calls for more lenient concealed carry laws. As I drive around town doing errands, even sports radio hosts in Baltimore, two of whom are former policemen themselves, advanced the idea that if more people in the theatre had had handguns the rampage could have been stopped. Never mind that the shooter was covered head-to-foot in military grade body-armor, and that once people started shooting back they might have mistakenly deduced that there was more than one shooter and begun shooting one another with what we euphemistically call “friendly fire.”

Then come our texts for Sunday morning – “Texts that linger, Words that explode,” to characterize them as Walter Brueggeman does in his book of the same name [Fortress Press, Minneapolis: 2000]. “Friendly fire”… “Words that explode”… and were I to make a list of possible causes for the violence in our culture we might call that a list of “bullet” points. The violence has even subsumed our rhetoric, our very language, our most basic modes of communication and thought.

The prophet, Jeremiah, envisions a time future when God clears out all the current shepherds (read kings, dictators,  politicians, religious authorities, experts and leaders of all kinds) and installs a “righteous branch” of David, a new king, a wise king who shall execute (another violent term) justice and righteousness. That is, God will provide a new shepherd who will set about building up a new world, a new society, a new culture of justice for all – not for some, not for many, not for a few, but for all.

The Psalmist, in what is arguably the most familiar and liturgically most used Psalm, 23, states “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.  You spread a table before me in the presence of those who trouble me…” O Lord, there are so many out there who trouble me! When I hear of such violence, even when I see someone like Gabby Giffords making a courageous recovery, I am reminded of those who were with her who had no chance for recovery because of those who trouble me. May I have the strength to come to your table, Lord, rather than run away and hide from it all.

Then in Mark’s gospel, chapter 6, what do we find? Rather than people running away from it all, hiding from the severe oppression of the Roman Empire, staying away from those who, like Jesus, challenge the shepherds, challenge the authorities, challenge the very Emperor and his cronies and stooges, we find people running as fast as they can to the epicenter of the challenge.
When the people, the poor, the sick, the halt and the lame, caught even just a glimpse of Jesus and his entourage, “they hurried there on foot from all the towns and arrived ahead of them.” Despite the mounting opposition from the official “shepherds” to Jesus and his mission, desperate people of all kinds could not run fast enough to simply be in his presence. They begged him, we are told, to be allowed to touch the hem of his cloak: “and all who touched it were healed.”

Healed: healed of all that separated them out from the rest of society. Restored might be a better word here: restored to life in and with the community of those who routinely, day after day, shunned them, shut them out, rendered them invisible. We do that today. This violence we see is not about deranged and mentally ill persons, but about a society that is rapidly going bankrupt – a society that does not look after all its people – a society that is no longer about the common good. It is all too easy to shut various classes of persons out of our lives and minds. This in a culture that makes extravagant claims of being Christian, but seems blind to the kind of society Jesus was out to build up in the name of God.

Allow these texts from Jeremiah, Psalm 23 and Mark linger with us. Allow the words to explode in our imaginations. Allow these texts, these prophetic words to have their way with us, rather than our usual tactics of trying to have our way with these words. Rather than trying to control the meaning of the Biblical text to suit our way of thinking, allow them to lead us to a new place.

Why? This morning I awoke, Saturday, July 21, to the following words in my email queue:
The Option for the Poor
Gustavo Gutierrez- The Power of the Poor in History
If I define my neighbor as the one I must go out to look for, on the highways and byways, in the factories and slums, on the farms and in the mines, then my world changes. This is what is happening with the "option for the poor," for in the gospel it is the poor person who is the neighbor par excellence....
But the poor person does not exist as an inescapable fact of destiny. His or her existence is not politically neutral, and it is not ethically innocent.
The poor are a by-product of the system in which we live and for which we are responsible. They are marginalized by our social and cultural world. They are the oppressed, exploited proletariat, robbed of the fruit of their labor and despoiled of their humanity.
Hence the poverty of the poor is not a call to generous relief action, but a demand that we go and build a different social order.

We are mistaken if we think for a moment that Gutierrez, that seminal Peruvian Dominican priest and theologian, is talking about people other than ourselves. The meaning of events like those that take occur in places like Aurora, CO and my office is to alert us to our societal poverty. As Solomon Burke puts it in one of his last songs, It's a simple truth we all need, just to hear and to see. None of us are free, if one of us is chained. None of us are free.” [words: Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil]

To paraphrase Gutierrez, the poverty of us all, the poverty of our culture, the poverty of our society, is not simply a call to generous relief action, but a demand that we go out and build a different social order. Anyone who thinks for a moment that it will be easy need only reflect on the lives of people like Jeremiah, Jesus, Mother Teresa and Dorothy Day. Like those courageous Galileans of the first century, we need to run after Jesus as fast as we can to join with him in the building of a new social order in which one need not fear going to the movies – a social order in which we can truly say, “I shall fear no evil, for thy rod and they staff they comfort me.” Amen.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Ashes, Ashes, All Fall Down

15 July 2012/Proper - 10B Amos 7:7-15/ Psalm 85:8-13/ Mark 6:14-29
The Reverend Kirk Alan Kubicek, Saint Timothy’s School for Girls, Stevenson, MD
Ashes, Ashes, All Fall Down
This is what the Lord God showed me: the Lord was standing beside a wall built
with a plumb line, with a plumb line in his hand. And the Lord said to me, “Amos,
what do you see?” And I said, “A plumb line.” Then the Lord said, “See, I am
setting a plumb line in the midst of my people… Amos

Prophets: Amos and John the Baptizer. At the corner of Park Heights and Northern Parkway in Baltimore stands a little house. A sign nearly as large as the house itself announces that one can get one’s fortune told inside. Online one can read one’s horoscope. Palm readers, Tarot Card readers, TV diviners – all have conspired to give us a rather skewed idea of what prophets were and are. So we come to believe that prophecy means to predict future outcomes, tell us our futures, help us make phenomenal investments and so on. These modern soothsayers don’t mess around with the entrails of birds, pig livers and the like as their ancient ancestors would have – that would be too messy and not at all glamorous.

Instead they wear exotic outfits, silk suits and Gucci shoes, and try to emulate the role of celebrity – in the end, styling themselves much more as entertainers of a curious and often desperate public. Or, they have their own radio and TV shows, blogs and Twitter feeds, pulling in multi-millions of dollars for simply trumpeting one ideological viewpoint or another all the while mercilessly bashing the opposition.

That is, at the end of the day they have more in common with Herod, Amaziah, Herodias and her mother than they do like the prophets Amos, John the Baptizer and all those God has appointed throughout human history to be his messengers – his Editorial and Op-Ed writers, his poets and visionaries, his truth tellers. God’s prophets, as represented in the Bible beginning perhaps with the Witch of Endor, Elijah and Elisha, Amos, Isaiah, Ezekiel all the way out to John the Revelator, all appear to have two primary tasks: To speak Truth to Power, and to speak Hope to the Powerless.

And turning a neat profit (no pun intended, but apropos nonetheless) has never been the benefit of such an appointment on behalf of the Lord of Lords, King of Kings, the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Jesus. More likely they get run out of town (Amos), tossed to the bottom of a well (Jeremiah), exiled on an island (John the Revelator), or eventually just lose their head, like John the Baptizer. There is no single instance of a Biblical prophet being offered a multi-million dollar contract to broadcast their opinions, which are meant to be the opinions of the aforementioned God of the Exodus, Exile and Resurrection. Nor do they ever ask for money, and often refuse offers of the bare necessities like food and water. To say they are an odd lot does not begin to cover it.

As the Psalmist reminds us:
8 I will listen to what the Lord God is saying, *
for he is speaking peace to his faithful people
and to those who turn their hearts to him.
10 Mercy and truth have met together; *
righteousness and peace have kissed each other.
11 Truth shall spring up from the earth, *
and righteousness shall look down from heaven.
13 Righteousness shall go before him, *
and peace shall be a pathway for his feet.  Psalm 85:8-13

Most prophets, like the Psalmist, are poets and songwriters – those members of human society who attempt to use language, imagery and metaphor to help us see where we are and where we ought to be headed. They comment on the present and remind us that our actions now have future consequences. We have before us a contrast in styles: John the Baptizer simply tells it like it is – you ought not to be married to your brother’s wife. Amos, on the other hand, is to be a plumb line in the midst of the people.

You have to love God’s innate sense of humor. He appears to Amos, standing beside a wall with a plumb line and asks, “What do you see?” With the same kind of straight forwardness that will characterize John the Baptizer in years to come, Amos replies, “A plumb line.” This shepherd and dresser of sycamore trees just does not see what God sees – a metaphor for all that is wrong with the current political situation and social unrest. God’s people are out of plumb. The wall is not plumb. The wall might be the nation, it might be the church, it might be society at large, it might be the political leaders, it might be the military leaders, it might be the religious leaders, it might be the business leaders, it might be you and it might be me – it might be, and likely is, all the above and more. The wall is not plumb, it is not straight, it is crooked, leaning to the left or right, in danger of toppling over, crumbling, falling down – ashes, ashes, we all fall down! We are all out of plumb.

So here we are in the political season of Stone Throwing - almost every day one camp or the other demands and apology – you said, she said, he said, we said. Stones are hurling back and forth. You read about it in the paper, on Facebook, in Tweets. In some countries stones are literally all people have to throw to try and end generations of oppression. Sign on the wall in a classroom at UNIS: “…the oppressor never voluntarily gives freedom to the oppressed. You have to work for it. Freedom is never given to anybody. Privileged classes never give up their privileges without strong resistance.” MLKjr

Martin Luther King Jr was the plumb line. Ghandi was the plumb line. A young man in the streets of Syria is the plumb line. Joan of Arc is the plumb line. A monk in Tibet is the plumb line. Sister Joan Chittister is the plumb line. A girl who goes to school in Afghanistan is the plumb line. Pete Seeger is the plumb line. You begin to get the picture. Everywhere we look, if we look for it, there is the plumb line. It is not hard to see once you see it. There are those who work overtime to obfuscate our vision. The prophet-poet means to help us to see again.

Poetry lends itself to music. When we sing the words of the prophets it goes to a deeper place within. We embody the words themselves. We become the words we sing. So it was last Sunday night at Furthur when the boys and girls all sang together:

Picture a bright blue ball, just spinning, spinnin free,
Dizzy with eternity.
Paint it with a skin of sky,
Brush in some clouds and sea,
Call it home for you and me.
A peaceful place or so it looks from space,
A closer look reveals the human race.
Full of hope, full of grace
Is the human face,
But afraid we may lay our home to waste.

There's a fear down here we can't forget.
Hasn't got a name just yet.
Always awake, always around,
Singing ashes, ashes, all fall down.
Ashes, ashes, all fall down.

Now watch as the ball revolves
And the nighttime falls.
Again the hunt begins,
Again the bloodwind calls.
By and by, the morning sun will rise,
But the darkness never goes
From some men's eyes.
It strolls the sidewalks and it rolls the streets,
Staking turf, dividing up meat.
Nightmare spook, piece of heat,
It's you and me.
You and me.

Click flash blade in ghetto night,
Rudies looking for a fight.
Rat cat alley, roll them bones.
Need that cash to feed that 
And the politicians throwin' stones,
Singing ashes, ashes, all fall down.
Ashes, ashes, all fall down.

Commissars and pin-stripe bosses
Roll the dice.
Any way they fall,
Guess who gets to pay the price.
Money green or proletarian gray,
Selling guns 'stead of food today.
So the kids they dance
And shake their bones,
And the politicians throwin' stones,
Singing ashes, ashes, all fall down.
Ashes, ashes, all fall down.

Heartless powers try to tell us
What to think.
If the spirit's sleeping,
Then the flesh is ink

History's page will thus be carved in stone.
And we are here, and 
we are on our own
On our own.
On our own.
On our own.

If the game is lost,
Then we're all the same.
No one left to place or take the blame.
We can leave this place and empty stone
Or that shinin' ball we used to call our home.
So the kids they dance
And shake their bones,
And the politicians throwin' stones,
Singing ashes, ashes, all fall down.
Ashes, ashes, all fall down.

Shipping powders back and forth
Singing black goes south and white comes north.
In a whole world full of 
petty wars
Singing I got mine and you got yours.
And the current fashion sets the pace,
Lose your step, fall out of grace.
And the radical, he rant and rage,
Singing someone's got to turn the page.
And the rich man in his summer home,
Singing just leave well enough alone.
But his pants are down, his cover's blown...
And the politicians throwin' stones,
So the kids they dance
And shake their bones,
And it's all too clear we're on our own.
Singing ashes, ashes, all fall down.
Ashes, ashes, all fall down.

Picture a bright blue ball,
Just spinnin', spinnin, free.
Dizzy with the possibilities.
Ashes, ashes, all fall down.
Ashes, ashes, all fall down.
Ashes, ashes, all fall down.
Ashes, ashes, all fall down.
Ashes, ashes, all fall down.
-Words John Perry Barlow/Music Bob Weir

The Plumb Line has been set in our midst. Look and you will see it. Listen and you will hear it. Sing and you will become it. Soon you will speak Truth to Power and offer Hope to the Hopeless. Picture a bright blue ball, Just spinnin’, spinnin’, free.

— The Rev. Kirk Alan Kubicek has served as rector and assistant in a broad variety of parishes over the past 28 years. He is currently chaplain and teaches at St. Timothy’s School for girls, the diocesan girls’ boarding school in the Diocese of Maryland, where he teaches World Religions and English. His sermons are archived

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Amazed At Their Disbelief

8 July 2012/Proper 9B – Second Samuel 5:1-5, 9-10/Mark 6:1-13
The Reverend Kirk Alan Kubicek, Saint Timothy’s School for Girls, Stevenson, MD
He Was Amazed At Their Disbelief

A shepherd and a carpenter. One chosen by God to consolidate power and strength for Israel, the other sent by God to give it all away. David – the prototype for God’s anointed leadership. Jesus – God’s anointed, God’s Word, God come down as one of us – God in the flesh. David fortifies Jerusalem and turns it into a citadel on a hill, calling it the City of David – in contrast to its name, Jerusalem, which means City of Shalom, City of Peace, City of God’s Shalom: peace and justice for all persons. Jesus enters the City of David on a lowly beast of burden to offer himself as a sacrifice for all. David meets with the “elders of Israel” and is their chosen king and defender. Jesus challenges all religious and political authorities answering to no one but the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. David marshals great armies to conquer enemies and protect the city. Jesus sends his rag-tag followers out two-by-two to cast out demons and heal the sick. David is the Empire. Jesus is the alternative to the Empire.

Jesus and David: a study in contrasts. And yet, both are chosen by God in their respective eras to be God’s anointed messenger. The message? Love God and love neighbor.

And yet, in his home town, he is teaching in the synagogue on the Sabbath. The people, his hometown people, are “astounded.” Where did this man get all this? He has wisdom and power, and yet he’s just a carpenter. We know his family. He’s just a neighbor kid. Then the text says, “And they took offense at him.” No pride, no excitement, no support – they are offended. Unlike with David, the elders do not come forward to acknowledge his power and certify his leadership. We are told simply that they are offended.

Jesus pretty much shrugs it off. This is how Israel usually treats its prophets. Note the sly irony as the narrator offers this: “And he could do no deed of power there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them.” Except! He heals a few sick people. That’s all! No hard feelings. He continues to do that which somehow offends them – he heals the sick. Then he moves on. He packs up his power and his followers and moves on. Perhaps there are others who will appreciate what this carpenter has to offer – eternal life.

The hometown crowd is astounded and offended. Jesus is amazed – amazed at their disbelief.

At moments like this most people would consolidate their power. A David would refortify the walls of the city, hunker down and take a stand – make a play, make a point. David would call the elders, the authorities, the leaders of the community together and make a plan. A leader like David would assert and declare, “This is my city – you will now call it The City of David.” We know this kind of leadership all too well. Political maneuvering, assertions of power are all too familiar. We are in the political season of consolidating power, money and access to power.

Jesus, on the other hand, moves on to the next town. Once there notice what he does. Instead of asserting his power, instead of astounding people with his wisdom and works of power, he gives it away. He gives it all away.

He does this by commissioning his disciples to go out two by two. Notice how when there is kingdom work to do, God’s work to do, Jesus does not send us on our own, but with at least one other partner in ministry. Note also, they are to travel light: He ordered them to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts; but to wear sandals and not to put on two tunics.

In other societies, in other religious traditions, this is normative. Among Hindus and its reformed cousin Buddhism, it is expected that at some point in your lifetime you will head off, wandering from town to town, bowl in hand, learning to depend on others for your survival. It is meant to be a lesson in humility and a lesson in interdependence.

We forget that this is how the Biblical story begins – a group of people who were no people, who had been a disparate group of slaves, wandered together for forty years learning to depend on God and others. Independence was discouraged. Independence does nothing to bring home the message: to love God and to love neighbor. To love God and neighbor is an invitation to interdependence – learning to rely on the generosity of others so that we might become more generous people ourselves.

Jesus invites those who follow him to go back to the original story – to participate in traditions that had evolved in the lands of the east, of the Indus valley – to participate in the kind of life that leads to love of God and love of neighbor. A life that is not at all about the consolidation of power – economic, military or otherwise. This is his reaction to having been rejected in his hometown: he shares his power with others, and sends them out to give it all away.

It is an astonishing story really. It ought to leave us astounded. It ought to make us think differently about power and the use of power. Again, in Hindu tradition, it is believed that power and money need to stay in circulation for the health of the whole community. Such ancient wisdom is in short supply these days – except in the religious traditions that are reservoirs of such wisdom.

Religion gets blamed for many things, much of which is unfair. Religion rarely gets credit for preserving ancient wisdom essential for life lived in the present. Love of God and neighbor demands equal amounts of humility and interdependence – qualities we are led to believe we have no time to pursue.

And yet, the healing of individuals, of communities and of the world community depends on such qualities. Time spent learning and cultivating such qualities will, in the end, lead to eternal life. As the late great Archbishop of Canterbury William Temple once put it, “The source of humility is the habit of realizing the presence of God.” Will we take the time to cultivate such a habit? Or, like the hometown crowd, will we be astounded, but ultimately offended? And, as Rabbi Hillel once asked, “If not now, when?”