Sunday, September 30, 2012

God's Dream

30 September 2012/Proper 21B - Mark 9:38-50
The Reverend Kirk Alan Kubicek, St. Timothy’s School for Girls, Stevenson Maryland
Salted With Fire
What starts out with the disciples trying to score points with Jesus for stopping someone who is doing the work of the kingdom – healing and casting out demons – ends with Jesus telling us all to be salted with fire! In between there is all this talk of stumbling around and lopping off limbs, tearing out eyeballs and being thrown into “hell”: All in all a fun day with Jesus on the road to Jerusalem.

This is all a part of a longer section of Mark’s gospel concerned with discipleship – faithful discipleship. That is, What is expected of those of us who would call ourselves Christians? This really is a question about what it means to be human. We are to be spiced up, healed and purified by fire and salt. Oh yeah, and stop stumbling around. 

Fire in the ancient world was used to purify things. Still is. Get rid of that deadly e. coli bacteria with fire, lots of fire. Just as we were all eating our spinach fresh and loving rare hamburgers, now we are told to boil the spinach to death and go back to “well done” burgers.

Which bring us to salt. Salt was used to preserve foods, extend shelf-life if you will. It was also used to spice things up. And finally salt was used medicinally.

Altogether these sayings on fire and salt suggest several things.  Healing within the community of Christ is necessary to be a disciple of Jesus - especially healing that is reconciliation rather than division and challenging one another’s credentials. (We might note the vast difference in meaning between Jesus’ “Whoever is not against us is for us,” vs. the more popular, “You are either with us or against us.”) Further, the salt that flavors us distinctively as Christ’s own people is meant to keep us from blending in with the surrounding culture.  This distinctiveness implies eliminating – lopping off – those things that cause us to stumble (skandalon) – things that get in the way of being good and faithful disciples so that we can all do the work of the Gospel. The contribution of Christians to the health of the world depends on our own wholesomeness. The life of the world depends on us.

Another metaphor for all of this might be pruning. We need to prune away those things that block us from following Jesus and fulfilling our Baptismal Covenant so that we can grow in those ways that make us more human. The Christian life is a life of following and pruning – pruning and following. This pruning is not so much for our sake as for the sake of the Gospel.

Most of what needs to be pruned away is a modern world that teaches self-centeredness and self-reliance (independence) as the key to the fullness of life. Whereas Jesus calls us to be those people who dare to say that the secret of life – and death – is giving oneself away: reaching out to others, to the world and to God. It is a call to a radical dependence on God, and radical interdependence upon one another. Some may call it collectivism, but from beginning to the end the Bible outlines God’s Dt from beginning to the end the Bible outlines God'ream that we would depend upon God alone, and take care of one another. “The earth is the Lord’s and everything therein.” Psalm 24  If it is all God’s, we are God’s appointed stewards of everything. And “everything” is to be used for the common good of the whole human community – nothing is to be set aside for personal gain. Going way back to Manna Season, God envisions a society in which everyone  has enough, no one has too much, and if you try to accumulate too much it sours on you. It is God’s Dream of Shalom – justice and peace for all people, respecting the dignity of every human being.

For the consequences of accumulating and withholding goods that are to be used for  the collective common good, a close reading of Joshua 7:1-16 (The Sin of Achan), and Acts 5: 1-11 (The Sin of Ananias and Sapphira). Using the wealth and goods of the whole community to be redistributed to those in need is a Biblical imperative with grave consequences for those who act otherwise.

God has gifted us with himself – the Word became flesh and dwelt among us – and if we wish to achieve fulfillment, we, too, must give ourselves away. Moral progress comes only as we learn to acknowledge life as a gift – not earned or achieved – but given.

To be wrapped up in ourselves, self-centered and autonomous, says Jesus, quite simply is hell. In the text the word is actually Gehenna – which is a place. Gehenna is a valley outside Jerusalem which to this very day is a burning, worm infested garbage dump. It also used to be the site for human sacrifices to the god Molech. There is always fire smoldering in this valley, and over time it became a geographical metaphor for what happens to those people who have little regard for others, the environment and the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Jesus.

It is interesting to note, that Gehenna in the real world is a product of our own creation. People go to the edge of a cliff and toss all their personal refuse over the cliff. I don’t care to enumerate all the times I dump my personal stuff on others, on the earth and on God. This dumping is sin. Sin, says our Baptismal service, is those things that corrupt and destroy the creatures of God, including God’s creation.

Sin is related to temptation. So, when gas is cheaper  so think we can go back to pouring even more pollution into the earth’s atmosphere and pay less for the privilege! Hell, it turns out is of our own creation and is determined in the here and now. Hell is not some future destination. We manufacture hell every day for those who are hungry, those who have no health insurance, those who suffer from disease fostered by toxic pollution, the capability of nuclear arms to destroy this planet and so on.

And Hell is not a condition that affects just the individual; Hell exists collectively in human society as well. Hell is the drive toward self-reliance, self-autonomy, whether of individuals, communities, churches, governments, or nations. The Anglican priest and poet John Donne says it best some 360 years ago, “No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main…”

So, the answer to the question, Why is Jesus talking about Hell and cutting off limbs and plucking out eyes? To impress upon us the importance that what we are doing right here and now matters. That all that we do and all that we say has eternal consequences. We can choose to create Hell, or become purified by fire and seasoned with the salt of Jesus. We can squabble over who is the greatest and who can or cannot heal and cast out demons, or we can welcome everyone who does the work of Christ who has already redeemed the whole world on the cross. We can be those people who hold on to all we have, or become those people who give ourselves away. We do this not for our sake but for the sake of the Gospel, for others and for the world.

The world and everyone therein needs us. The world needs us to embrace God’s Dream of radical dependence on God, and radical interdependence with one another. We have been given the means to create Heaven or Hell. People who embrace God’s Dream reach out to others without casting them as victims, but seeing them as opportunities to express the love and compassion God desires for all. We are called to be people of fire and salt. “Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.” Shalom – God’s vision of a world in which everyone has enough, no one has too much, and a reverence for the Earth and all its resources is valued by all. God’s Shalom: try it, you’ll like it! Amen. 

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Take Off Your Shoes And Live

22 September 2012/Proper 20B – James 3:13- 4:3, 7-8a/Mark 9:30-37
Take Off Your Shoes
“Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.” – James 4: 8a
Deep in the human heart is an insatiable longing to see the face of God and live. This desire lies at the heart of all world religions, and in the Judeo-Christian traditions finds its most tender expression in the Psalms, ancient songs that express the deepest and broadest spectrum of human desire: “Let the light of your face shine upon us, O Lord.” Ps 4:6

Yet, we also find the Lord on Mount Sinai warning Moses that no one can see God’s face and live [Exodus 33:17-23]. Christians believe, however, that God himself has responded to our deepest desire in coming to us as one of us in Jesus. Jesus whom the Fourth Gospel, John, identifies as the Word, the logos, which we are told, was with God before creation, and is God, and is the eternal Word that grounds all of creation – everyone and everything there is throughout the vast expanse of interstellar space we call the Universe.

In the face of Jesus we see the face of God “who is the source of all creation and its final end.” [The Glenstal Book of Icons, The Liturgical Press, Collegeville, MN:2002/p43] In Jesus we are offered a vision of God’s eternal Love and Compassion as he places a child in the midst of the disciples and says, “Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.” -Mark 9:37

His disciples had been arguing, something the Letter of James stridently urges people of God not to do. They were arguing as to who among them is the greatest. Jesus places a child in their midst and self-identifies with the child, and identifies God – the one who sent me – with the child.

In God’s kingdom there is no room for those who think they are the greatest! There is plenty of room for those who welcome the least of our sisters and brothers into their midst – children represent those people who live every day at the bottom of the human totem pole – at the bottom of our society. We are to no longer see them as victims, as leeches sucking the resources out of society, but as those people our Lord loves dearly.

Children had the status of just above dog or slave in those days – so the metaphor is rich and telling of the kind of people we are called to be. Children were not cuddly, and fawned over, but were generally cast aside – if they survived infancy, so be it. If not, so be it. By placing a child in the disciples midst, Jesus makes a statement of radical acceptance of all people among his followers. If you wish to draw near to God, if you wish to see the face of God and live, you must welcome those who spend their lives at the very bottom of human society. To have any chance of seeing God you must welcome them into your midst, into your heart, into your life. Archbishop William Temple once said, “The source of humility is the habit of realizing the presence of God.”

Here, says Jesus, is the presence of God. Jesus says the presence of God is in our midst – come forward and welcome the presence of God with humility. Jesus comes from a tradition that begins with taking off our shoes. Recall Moses at the burning bush where the bush, the voice of God, tells Moses to take off his shoes. “Take off our shoes, for the place you are standing is Holy Ground.”[ Exodus 3: 5]

Now in a number of places and cultures this is still taken literally: enter a Mosque and you are required to take off your shoes. Enter a home in Japan and you are expected to take off your shoes. It is a sign of respect, and a sign of humility. It is such humility that Jesus finds lacking in his disciples. The same is true today.

Jesus wants us to take off our shoes. The Letter of James has been explicit about the radical inclusion of all people into the fellowship of Christ, the fellowship of God’s journeying people on Earth.

Taking off our shoes may also be a metaphor – remove those things that might signify stature among one another. Show respect for others by treating each person we meet as Holy Ground – as we stand before one another, do we respect one another as Holy? Do we consider all persons as Holy Icons of the face of God?

There is no more important question to ask ourselves. In our baptism we promise to Seek and Serve Christ in ALL persons – to see others, all others, as Holy, Sacred, God’s own Beloved. We are to treat others as we would treat God’s presence. Even, says Jesus, love your enemies.

To seek and serve Christ, the face of God, in all persons, God asks that we begin by taking off our shoes and acknowledging that the other who stands before us is also standing on Holy Ground. It is something to ponder in a world where we find ourselves constantly tempted by those things and those persons who represent power and status and are always demanding our attention to see them as the greatest, the best and the sole sources of our salvation. So often when we are so tempted we end up dividing ourselves against one another.

Instead we are asked to humble ourselves before the face of God as God is represented in the least of our sisters and brothers – the child in our midst. No one less than Woody Guthrie expressed it well in a song of his that was put to music posthumously by Frank London of The Klezmatics. As we listen to this song, this modern day Psalm, may we be brought closer to God, closer to others, and closer to ourselves:
Holy Ground
Words by Woody Guthrie, 1954, Music by Frank London (The Klezmatics), 2003

Take off, take off your shoes
This place you’re standing, it’s holy ground
Take off, take off your shoes
The spot you’re standing, its holy ground

These words I heard in my burning bush
This place you’re standing, it’s holy ground
I heard my fiery voice speak to me
This spot you’re standing, it’s holy ground

That spot is holy holy ground
That place you stand it’s holy ground
This place you tread, it’s holy ground
God made this place his holy ground

Take off your shoes and pray
The ground you walk it’s holy ground
Take off your shoes and pray
The ground you walk it’s holy ground

Every spot on earth I trapse around
Every spot I walk it’s holy ground
Every spot on earth I trapse around
Every spot I walk it’s holy ground

Every spot it’s holy ground
Every little inch it’s holy ground
Every grain of dirt it’s holy ground
Every spot I walk it’s holy ground

Words © Copyright 2001 Woody Guthrie Publications, Inc.

The Reverend Kirk Alan Kubicek, Saint Timothy’s School for Girls, Stevenson, MD

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Fools Hate Knowledge

15 September 2012/Proper 19B
Wisdom cries out in the street …“How long will you who are simple love your simple ways? How long will mockers delight in mockery and fools hate knowledge?...” Proverbs 1:20,22

Anti-religious hate speech and religious extremist behavior have dominated the 24/7 news cycle since the September 11th attacks on U.S. Embassies in Libya and Egypt resulted in the deaths of some of our foreign service personnel. Dots have been too hastily connected, assumptions made, resulting in even further anti-religious hate speech. As the facts begin to emerge a very different picture of just what happened is developing – and there will be more analysis to come.

As of now we know a few things: a group of people made an Anti-Islamic film mocking Islam’s founder, Mohammed; few if anyone has seen the actual film; a 12 minute “trailer” has been on the internet since mid-summer; Pastor Terry Jones, infamous for his public burning of Qurans, has worked with the film’s producers to promote the film; the very same Mr. Jones admits that promoting the film will likely provoke violence, but that is not his concern, apparently believing that the right to free speech demands no sense of moral responsibility; Egyptian television has been airing the trailer for some time; some public demonstrations against the film have broken out throughout some Muslim countries; U.S. officials seem convinced, however, that the attack in Libya was pre-meditated and had nothing whatsoever to do with the film; following news stories about all of the above, the internet is awash with anti-Muslim hate speech in readers comments – accompanied by repeated statements that, despite the First Amendment protecting their free speech, you can only be an “American” if you are Christian, even though the same amendment guarantees freedom of religion – a belief in what is now called American Exceptionalism.

Oh yes, it turns out that the producers of the film in question are anti-Muslim Coptic Christians in this country who have been on the watch-list of government and non-governmental agencies that track such behavior – with at least one of the three principals likely in violation of parole restrictions from an earlier incident.

Wisdom, portrayed throughout the Biblical literature as a woman, is surely out in the streets decrying the mocking and defaming behavior that runs through all of the week’s news stories. How long will mockers delight in mockery and fools hate knowledge? It seems for a very long time.

As we began our class on World Religions at Saint Timothy’s School for Girls, we go over a basic vocabulary list which includes the word “fundamentalist.” The standard dictionary definition correctly states the word denotes a 20th Century movement among American Protestants who hold fast to certain “fundamentals” of Christian doctrines – some of which, technically, are not historic doctrines. Fundamentalism grew out of a reaction against so-called “modernism” which is perceived by some to be a danger to Christianity. The term has been loosely reassigned to those of other faiths, especially Jews and Muslims, who maintain a similar stance against modernism, however that is understood. This extending the use of “fundamentalism” to other faiths is problematic in and of itself, but has been further complicated by post-9/11 journalism – a journalism in all media outlets that began to use “fundamentalist” to describe the kind of political and alleged religious extremists who have used violence to further a particular ideological agenda.

Allowing that one might call some Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists and other faith adherents fundamentalists, it is important to note that not all fundamentalists are extremists. And in fact, most extremists are not really religious at all, but use religion to cover for a political ideology.

Lost in all of this is that on one side you have Christian extremists literally hell-bent on ridiculing the prophet of Islam, and Islamic extremists hell-bent on spreading this Christian hate-speech far and wide.

The Letter of James gets it just right in the 3rd chapter when it writes, “…no one can tame the
tongue—a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse those who are made in the likeness of God.”

All people, of all faiths, are made in the likeness of God – this is the most fundamental truth of Biblical religion. As such, those who take scripture seriously are constrained to accept persons of all faiths with even more seriousness than accorded by the First Amendment.

It seems curious that there are Christians who want to claim that matters of faith trump the law of the land except when it is convenient to hide behind the Constitution to demean those of other faiths. It becomes a perversion of both Scripture and the Constitution as cover for a fundamental bigotry and hatred of those different from us – which is tied to an ignorance, what Proverbs calls a hatred of knowledge, which ignores the fact that when Europeans colonized the American continents, those colonists were by no means co-religionists and spent almost as much time persecuting one another as they did persecuting the First Peoples of these continents, Native Americans. That is, American Exceptionalism has never existed and is a modern-day myth.

What we have witnessed this past week is a total breakdown of wisdom, irresponsible so-called religious speech, irresponsible journalism, and if you look beneath the surface of it all, a virtual tsunami of hate speech on the internet revealing the ugly underbelly of a so-called Christian nation awash with bigotry and ignorance.

Is it any wonder that Wisdom walks the streets calling out to anyone who will listen, “Then they will call upon me, but I will not answer; they will seek me diligently, but will not find me. Because they hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of the Lord, would have none of my counsel, and despised all my reproof, therefore they shall eat the fruit of their way and be sated with their own devices. For waywardness kills the simple, and the complacency of fools destroys them; but those who listen to me will be secure and will live at ease, without dread of disaster.” Proverbs 1:33-38. How long will mockers delight in mockery and fools hate knowledge? As long as we allow the myth of American Exceptionalism to persist. Amen.
The Reverend Kirk Alan Kubicek, Saint Timothy’s School for Girls, Stevenson, MD

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Listening To Women

The Syrophoenician Woman
9 September 2012/Proper 18B - Mark 7:24-37

Jesus is trying to hide out. He wants to get away from it all. He has just tangled with the Religious and Political authorities over what is clean and what is unclean – he decries cherry-picking the rules you choose to follow, and he refuses to be constrained by the traditions of the elders.

Which brings us to this story in Mark 7 – the traditions of the elders forbid a man and a woman being along together unless they are married. And the traditions of the elders forbid a man and a gentile woman being together at all. She is considered unclean and just being in her presence can make you unclean as well. On the basis of gender and ethnicity, Jesus should not be talking with her at all.

A sentiment he echoes when she asks for help. Her daughter is possessed by a demon. This nameless woman has heard what Jesus can do to help broken people to become whole once more. This mother is desperate – she knows she should not be alone with the man, with this Jew. But she is filled with love for her daughter, and she senses that Jesus is filled with God’s love. His response, however, is not so loving – “Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.”

Do we get that? He calls her a dog. He calls her daughter a dog. He calls all Gentiles dogs. And in those days, dogs were not cuddly pets, but were themselves considered unclean scavengers. Jesus suddenly appears to be fully aligned with the traditions of the elders. Until he listens to the woman.

She does not stand down. He talks about dogs, so she engages the metaphor – ‘Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.’ This woman’s heart is filled with love and with faith – faith that God will hear her cry. As we read in the Letter to the Hebrews, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”

At first Jesus could not see this woman. He could not see her love and her faith. All he could see was someone intruding on his alone time, and that that someone was an outsider – a woman, and a Gentile woman at that. But Jesus hears her. Jesus hears her and sees her as if for the first time. Jesus sees that this woman embodies the Love of God in a way that he was lacking just moments before. All she asks for are crumbs. She does not ask for all of his power. Just a few crumbs.

“For saying that you may go – the demon has left your daughter.”

It is hard to know what the miracle is in this story. Is it that the daughter is delivered from her distress? Is it that Jesus can heal up close and far away – that his powers are not bound by the ordinary physical laws of time and space? Is it that this woman possesses such self-confidence, such faith in Jesus, such love for her daughter that she will not be deterred?

Or, is it that people like this woman can change God’s mind? And, by so doing, can change the world?

It is all of the above and more. Spending my days teaching young women, I find a particular fascination with this story. Every day I come more and more to the realization that the future of the world will come through the determination and self-confidence of women like the Syrophoenician Woman in Mark chapter 7. I remember reading this in class with the girls last year. When it dawned on them how Jesus initially responds, how the woman does not stand down, and how Jesus is moved to a whole new place in relation to women and Gentiles, one of the girls simply responded, “Wow!”

This year we have a new student from Afghanistan. She writes a blog. She is part of a collective blog called the Afghan Women’s Writer’s Project. I urge you to go there and read what the women of Afghanistan are saying. They represent the Syrophoenician Woman of today. They write with confidence, with hope, and with faith – faith that the world, their world, will be a better place as they let their voices be heard.

There is much that we hope for, much which remains unseen. But if you want to spend a few moments or even a few hours with a miracle – listen to the Women Writers of Afghanistan. You will find your spirit moved. You will see that the world is changing. All that is left for the rest of us is to let ourselves be changed as well.

Jesus allowed himself to be moved, to be changed, to be opened up in a whole new way. Listen to the women of the world.  If we do, we will be changed, and the world will be changed. All for the better. Amen.
The Reverend Kirk A. Kubicek, St. Timothy’s School for Girls

Saturday, September 1, 2012

None Of Us Are Free

2 September 2012/Proper 17B – Song of Songs 2:8-13/James 1:17-27/Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23
None Of Us Are Free, If One Of Us Are Chained
It all seems pretty straightforward: wash your hands before a meal. It is what we tell every child. Every day. It is the tradition. It is our daily ritual. It is the tradition handed down to us by our elders, our parents, our grandparents. Parents look to one another to back them up when trying to get a recalcitrant child to wash up! Then along comes the Good News of Jesus Christ the Son of God – aka Mark!

Every three years we get this very lesson on this very same Sunday. Yet, rarely are we even, in the immortal words of the epistle of James, hearers of the Word, let alone doers of the Word! If we were to stop long enough to hear the Word, Jesus, the Word made flesh, we would make a startling discovery: He does not defend the traditions of the elders. He does not side with the Pharisees. Rather, he defends his followers for not washing their hands before a meal. Get over it, he seems to say. There are far more important things going on! Besides, you should be more concerned with what comes from inside of you – what you say and what you do. God, it is hard following Jesus. It is so much easier to complain about others who are not just like us than to approach them with God’s own Love and Compassion. Jesus means for us to see that everyone is a widow. Everyone is an orphan. We are all homeless. We are all poor wayfaring strangers. We are all resident aliens on God’s Earth, in God’s world, in God’s creation. Not one of us has special standing over another. None of us are free as long as one person is still chained whether by the law, by poverty, by homelessness, or by being held to the standards of others.

The Reverend William Rich put it best one afternoon as we were serving lunch to poor and homeless persons at Paul’s Place, “There by the grace of God am I!” In our most perverse moments we turn that around, “There but by the grace of God go I.” And when we do, says Jesus, it is at our own peril. Jesus self identifies with those on the margins of society and invites us to do the same.

Jesus knows that the essence of Biblical Religion is that We come from Love, We return to Love, and Love is all around – God is Love writ large - capital L-O-V-E. God is at home. We are the ones who are out for a walk. All of life is a homecoming - a coming  home to the household of God’s eternal Love and Compassion– which includes love of neighbor.

Jesus, who is the Word, who is the Word made flesh, came to remind us of this.. He would love James’ assertion that true religion is reflected in all that we do. Jesus condones stepping away from the tradition of the elders, aligning himself with the poet-prophet Isaiah who affirms: we are to obey the commandments – Love God with all your heart, and mind and soul; and Love your neighbor as yourself. Make no mistake about it – Jesus chooses to enter a political debate. The Pharisees represent a kind of political as well as religious authority, and Jesus refuses to buy into their interpretation of God’s will.

Jesus was often challenged by these protectors of the traditions of the elders, of what is called the Holiness Code or Purity Code enshrined largely in the book of Leviticus and books outside the Bible. The Pharisees and others were convinced that if you did not wash your hands, if you ate shellfish, if you ate pork, if you wore clothes made from two different fibers, if you had a same sex relationship, you were bringing down the whole scene – their world would collapse – God would be unhappy. Note: Jesus never once sides with the protectors of the Purity Code.

Jesus offers a different view of what makes God happy – a counter-view: Jesus aligns himself with Isaiah and others of the prophet-poets of Israel who declare that the time for sacrifice is over , and the time for love and compassion toward all people, north, south, east and west, Jew and Gentile alike, male and female, slave and free, has come. All people. My favorite theological word is “all.” Not some people, not people who are like us, not most people, but ALL People deserve the dignity and justice of God’s love and compassion. That is, those of us who come from love and will one day return to love are meant to be active, living doers of God’s love all around for all people.

We in Maryland have an opportunity to demonstrate our love for our neighbors, and for our neighbors’ love for one another. We have an opportunity to support love, dignity and fairness for all the families in our state. We can vote For fairness, For love and For Question 6 in November, thus allowing gay and lesbian couples to obtain a civil marriage license. Does this seem to go against the traditions of the elders? Absolutely! So did the abolition of slavery. So did the abandonment of Jim Crow. So did the ordination of women. So did the downfall of apartheid. The list of traditions that are worth abandoning in human history is nearly endless.

Does this threaten “traditional marriage”? I do not see how. It extends traditional marriage and all it stands for to more of God’s beloved children. Does it threaten “Biblical Marriage”? I sure hope so. A cursory reading of the Bible reveals Abraham having a child with his wife’s servant; David having Uriah killed so he can steal Uriah’s wife, Bathsheba; Jacob, who would one day be renamed by God Israel, has not one but two wives, and sisters at that, along with a tent full of concubines; the Samaritan woman who has had five husbands becomes the first evangelist proclaiming the Good News of Jesus – and so it goes. Let’s face it, when it comes to marriage, the Bible is not much of a manual or guide.

The rule of thumb Jesus appears to commend this morning is to extend God’s Love and Compassion to more and more people, all people, and resist all urges to condemn the habits of others, since the very act of such judgment and condemnation allows evil to take up residence within your heart, placing a barrier between yourself and the God who dwells within. Jesus wants all people to be free. Jesus takes a dim view of those who try to restrict the lives of others especially in the arena of love, that most defining characteristic of God.

The Song of Songs imagines a time when the rain, the storms of this life, are over, and the song of the turtledove is in the air -a time when the frozen climate of winter is over and the time for singing has come. It is a love song about the love between God and His people, his beloved. Whenever any of God’s people are freed from the frozen, calcified traditions that have held them back from enjoying the fullness of God’s Love and Compassion, God calls to us, “Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away” – let me bring you home into the household of my eternal love and compassion. Jesus comes to bring all God’s children home free of the restrictions the traditions of the elders would impose.

We come from Love, we Return to Love, and Jesus invites us to be a part of God’s Love that surrounds all people on all sides. Even now Jesus waits to see if we will accept his invitation to be his Love that is all around. Jesus waits to welcome us home.

We Come from Love, we Return to Love
And Love is all around
All of life is a homecoming,
Homecoming, homecoming,
All of life is a homecoming,
A coming home to God.