Sunday, May 23, 2004

there is no other stream

Come Lord Jesus live in our hearts forever.

God reigns over all
Christ reigns over all
Christ redeems us
Christ reigns in us
We are one in Christ
As Christ is one with God

Come Lord Jesus, live in our hearts – forever.

The psalm proclaims the greatness of God and invites us to join in acclamation. The prophet Zechariah, looking forward to the day of the Lord, said it another way:

“And the Lord shall be king over all the earth; in that day there shall be one Lord with one name.” (Zech 14.9, TNK)

God reigns over all. God alone is the Most High. There is no other name to worship in but the name of God. And we learn that God has given Jesus the name that is above every other name. Christ reigns over all. It is through Christ that God is known to us and in Christ that we become one with God. The apostle Paul, perhaps quoting a very old hymn that he already knew by heart, said:

Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself and took the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death – even death on a cross.

Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Phil 2.5-11, NRSV)

Imagine now the scenes Acts portrays. Paul and Silas are preaching in the marketplace, with some success, but this girl keeps following them. She cannot help herself; she is possessed with an oracle. And over and over again it divulges their secret: The Most High God, the God acclaimed in the psalm, the God revealed and embodied in Jesus Christ, God the Most High, has sent them with the good news of salvation through Jesus Christ. The way to oneness with God is through Christ.

And yet she does this because she is compelled. This annoys Paul and he casts out the demon. And so, ironically, she is freed from this by the very men she fingered, the very God she acclaims. And it gets them in trouble. The men who were exploiting her, just some businessmen trying to make a living, saw her as nothing but a means of livelihood. And so they made trouble for Paul and Silas.

In prison they kept at it. Paul and Silas bound in jail all night long, praying and singing hymns of praise to God. They cannot keep from singing praise to God. And who shall deliver them but Jesus Christ?

Now picture the despair of their jailer, as they are suddenly freed. There is an earthquake – it is like California, there, perhaps even more earthquake-prone – and his whole world comes crashing around him. From power over them, charged with their captivity, he finds himself suddenly trapped himself. If they are gone, he will pay with his life. And he prepares to do just that right there and then. But they stop him.

His life has already been redeemed. These servants – these slaves – of the Most High God know that their own Lord has humbled himself, taking the form of a slave, a captive, that humankind, that they, should be saved, freed. But what must I do to be saved? Believe. The jailer asks the simple question, and gets the answer that frees him forever.

All you have to do to be saved,
to be forgiven, to gain new life,
is to put your faith in Christ.

The door is open,
the bonds are broken,
the prison walls are shattered;

step through the door,
walk into freedom,
and you are free.

The jailer, on the point of despair, of losing everything – his livelihood, his life – finds new life by putting everything in the hands, in the service, of Christ. Now for him Christ, not Caesar, is Lord.

He has seen the proof that God reigns over all,
that the name of Jesus
is above the name of Rome,
that Christ reigns and not only
way up there somewhere but right down here in the prison cell.
He has redeemed and freed not only the captives but the jailer.

This is the deliverer, the same Jesus, who gave some practical advice, the canny words of a peasant, to people in the Middle East living under foreign occupation by Rome. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

The rule seems new and yet is very old. It is part of the foundation of the world. And through Christ who is the one foundation we can be built into the new Jerusalem, the new creation. We are no longer prisoners of the flesh, the old human kingdom, but we are free in Christ.

The Revelation invites us into new life. The invitation is extended in rich imagery, inviting us to take part in the kingdom. Let anyone who wishes take the water of life as a gift. If you are thirsty, you may drink. This new life is available freely to all, to anyone who dares to approach the Son of the Creator. If you are thirsty, you may drink.

You may remember a children’s book by C. S. Lewis, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. A girl wanders through an enchanted forest. She hears the sound of running water. Thirsty, she approaches, and comes to the edge of a stream, and – hears a voice: If you are thirsty, you may drink.

It is the voice, to make a long story short, of the Lion of Judah. The Alpha, the Omega, the One who IS.

Is he safe? No, but he is good.

Could she find another stream? There is no other stream.

It is through him, through Christ, that we get to the living water – and we are all welcome. We all drink from the one stream. And through Christ we are made one with God.

Jesus prayed that we might be one
as he and the Father are one,
that he might live in us
as God dwelt in him,
that the world might know, through our love,
that God loves us as God loves Jesus.

That we are one, not through our loving God, but through Christ’s love for us. The essential unity is not over how we love God or know God.

It is not about our spirituality or our ecclesiology, or our own righteousness. It is about God knowing us, God loving us.

There is nothing we can do about it.
Already, before the foundation of the world,
God knows us, God loves us.

This love which cost everything
Which breaks the bonds and
Opens the doors and shakes the foundations
Of our old human prison,
Which sets the captives free,
This love opens wide the gates of paradise.
Living water bursts from the Rock.

Blesses are those who wash their robes
– the faithful witnesses
– who accepted the forgiveness of sins
– who are redeemed by Christ,
so that they will have the right to the tree of life,
and may enter the city by the gates.

The gates are open.
The Spirit says come.
Let everyone who hears say Come.
Let everyone who thirsts, come—
Come to the living water. Drink.
And let Christ come in and fill your heart.
Let his reign begin now, in you.
Come Lord Jesus, live in our hearts, forever.

We are one in Christ as
Christ is one with God
May we be one as God is one
That the world may know the Love of God.

O God, you have made of one blood all the peoples of the earth, and sent your blessed Son to preach peace to those who are far off and to those who are near: Grant that people everywhere may seek after you and find you; bring the nations into your fold; pour out your Spirit upon all flesh; and hasten the coming of your kingdom; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. [Collect for mission, page 100, Book of Common Prayer]

St John's Episcopal Church, Lakeport, California
May 23, 2004 9.30am Holy Eucharist
7th Sunday of Easter, Year C
Acts 16.16-34, Revelation 22.12-14, 16-17, 20, Psalm 47, John 17.20-26

Sunday, May 9, 2004

But to get back to our hazelnut...

The Lord is gracious and full of compassion,
slow to anger and steadfast in kindness.
The Lord is loving to everyone,
and his compassion is over all his works.

Julian had a vision -- of God holding the world in the palm of her hand
as Julian would hold a hazelnut. There we all are -- saints, sinners,
mothers, daughters, rich, poor, -- all alike held in God's love.
Everyone, everything, we know and be and are, held together by God's love
-- and our love for one another.

This small cosmos of ours -- is all we know. And yet string theory --
I've been reading Scientific American -- implies that there's more. This
universe may be 13.7 billion years old, since the Big Bang, but there may
have been someting before that -- and other universes beyond it. We may
be one of an ultimate multiplicity of universes. Suddenly the picture

But to get back to our hazelnut,

Remember those Blue Diamond farmers on TV standing up to their chests in
a roomful of nuts? Our hazelnut is suddenly one of many, an infinite
roomful, with more pouring in all the time. And yet God still holds us in
the palm of hishand. -- And holds each ofus as of infinite worth. For all
that, he sent his son to live for us -- to kneel by the roadside and
touch a blind man's eye, to laugh at a wedding, cray at a funeral, be one
of us.

And we become one with him -- in his love. Each of us is of infinite
bvalue to God -- and he reminded us, too, love one another.

We are all together -- no man is an island, entire of itself; each is a
piece of the continent, a part of the mainland. If a clod should wash
away, Europe (our little island) is the less, as much as if a peak or a
promontory were -- and we all in our cloddish -- or peakish -- way hold
this continent together. -- We all _matter_ to God -- and we each matter
to the other.

We may not always see it out in the world, but sometimes we do in
microcosm -- a little world. For instance, in a church, or on a baseball
team, or in a jazz band, or at a square dance. When I was in DC I was on
a city rec league softball team. No uniforms. We mostly just showed. One
of us was a player/manager. He'd call us all together -- booked us with
the league, and brought the bag of equipment (bat, balls). And then he
played, I don't know, third base. (I was in right field.) We could play
whether he was there or not -- he could have someone else come with the
bat & ball if he couldn't make it -- but there we all were together, each
with a glove at our positions, or up to bat. Maybe our church is a little
like that.

Or maybe we're like Dave LeFebvre's jazz band -- called together, we show
for the gig with our instruments. When we play we have a basic tune --
and each of us gets a turn to step up and shine. It's the job of a good
jazz musician to make the others look good _ when they're playing. In a
jazz band -- or a bluegrass band -- or here.

And lastly our church may be like a dance. One fall evening in high
school a bunch of us from Gaithersburg piled into my 1967 International
Travelall and drove out to Barnestown. There was a square dance. The
eight of us wandered in the room at the crossroads church.

The other dancers welcomed us in, observed that there were enough of us
to make up our square, and got us started. The caller came over when he
could -- someone alerted him -- but it was the other dancers, mostly, who
showed us the moves. And we danced. We all danced. The dance went on
whether the caller was with us that moment to show us, or not.

And the dance goes on. Each of us is part of us loving one another,
laughing with each other, supporting one another in trial or
circumstance. All held together on this continent of love. This crazy
little hazelnut in the palm of God's hand.

St John's Episcopal Church, Lakeport, California
May 9, 2004 9.30am Holy Eucharist
Fifth Sunday of Easter, Year C
Acts 13.44-52 or Leviticus 19.1-2,9-18, Revelation 19.1,4-9 or Acts 13.44-52, Psalm 145 or 145.1-9, John 13.31-35