Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The following prayer was given to me by Father Nick Minich on the occasion of my ordination to the priesthood on February 16, 1964.  It has been a daily prayer for these past forty-eight years.  I give thanks for the gift, the joy, and the privilege of that call.


You have called me to your priesthood to carry on the work which you began.

        Fit me, I pray you, for this task with such faith that through my voice even the disbelieving may listen to you word;

        With such hope that through my hands even the despairing may be held fast in your grip;

        And with such charity that through my heart even the despised may know that you can never cease to love them.

        Join me so deeply to yourself that no one I meet shall lie beyond your saving grace.


Thursday, February 9, 2012

FEBRUARY 12, 2012
(Year B)

 A Homily

The Very Reverend Donald W. Krickbaum 

2 KINGS 5: 1-15b — 1 CORINTHIANS 9:24-27 — MARK 1:40-45

This is the season of Epiphany, the time when the light of Christ is made known to the world.  Now is the time for us to shine the light of Christ into this darkened world in which we are living.  Today and throughout this liturgical season of Epiphany, we are hearing stories of healing – one of the means through which Jesus expressed the authority and the love of God in a given moment.  We hear later in Mark’s Gospel, how Jesus spoke of his coming passion and death, inviting those who loved him to take up the cross and follow him.  We watch as he broke bread with his disciples for the last time and was immediately arrested and executed.  And then, we stand before the empty tomb early on Easter morning to be told that he is alive, he is risen.  It is a powerful and soul-shaking story.  Sit down and read Mark’s Gospel right through.  It is not very long, and you will be overwhelmed by the story as it unfolds before you all at one time.

If you do that, you will be caught up in the truth that the kingdom of God is right here, right now.  A sense of immediacy and urgency will overtake you and you will see the true mission of Jesus to show us who this God is and what God is like, and how we are to live if we choose to be a part of the story.  We are living in a world where we need to recapture the sense of urgency that existed in the early church and today make an immediate and urgent call for light, a call for reconciliation, healing, and peace -- a call for God.

Jesus began this work of reconciliation by touching and healing those who turned to him.  This is what the kingdom of God is all about: touching, healing, loving, caring for each person.  Jesus used his miracles to get the people’s attention so they could hear his teaching; hear that he was calling them to come and find new life; and for us to hear that we who have been called are now sent to call others to come and see what we have discovered – that we are loved and offered peace and new life.

Is the Gospel relevant to today’s world?  You bet it is.  Is it relevant to each of us?  Is the Gospel of Christ relevant to you in your life today?  Yes, indeed.  What I think we sometimes miss in the whole wonder of the Gospel is the fact that Jesus was sent to each one of us and that his whole life, while caught up in the mission of the reconciliation of the world, never lost its focus on the person.  Jesus stopped and touched the leper.  In his grand scheme, his love and his desire to touch the lives of people would cause him to pause to heal, to reach out to those who hungered for what he came to give them.  Do you understand that this means that he came for you — you, yourself, just as you are at this very moment?  Today’s reading clearly reminds us of the directness and the immediacy of God’s love, desire, and care for each of us.  He stops and turns toward us and says, “Peace, be whole.”

You see, we are invited into a relationship with a God of Peace, who cares about the peace of the world and peace among nations, and who also cares deeply about your peace.  As we are called to pray for peace, we are called to pray with and for one another.  Jesus was always “person-centered.”  God is “person-centered.”   “He so loved the world,” but because it is your world.  God desires peace for his creation, because it is your home.  God desires peace for each of us and a sense of joy and health for every individual.  And, by his example, Jesus is teaching us about how we should be as his church, his family and community – to care for each person and to love every person.  Yes, we are concerned with great and weighty issues – issues of war and peace – but we must, also, turn to those around us, caring for the person next to us, and showing that God loves and redeems every individual who will accept his love – note, I said, accept, not earn. 

We can get so preoccupied with our plans and the building of institutions that we lose sight of the primary mission of Christ.  Like Jesus, we are called to draw others to God and, like Jesus, we are to show others who God is and what God is like.  Like Jesus, we keep our eyes on God and his love for the world, but, at the same time, we must never lose sight of the leper who was touched and healed, for we, in fact, are the leper.  We are the individuals who are touched by the compassion of Christ and the love of God.  We have been healed because he has chosen to do so.  Now we are the prophets, the wounded healers, the restored and reconciled sinners.  We are the Beloved’s beloved. 

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The Revolution

FEBRUARY 5, 2012
Year B

Isaiah 40:21-31 – 1 Corinthians 9:16-23 – Mark 1:29-39

It’s a simple little story, but the reading we just heard from Mark is one of the most moving, and most challenging, parts of this gospel. It’s from the first chapter of Mark, and it describes the second part of a sort of model day in the ministry of Jesus and sets before us the essence of the Gospel story.  Last Sunday and this Sunday, the Gospel tells us of what Jesus was about, how he saw his work, and the foundation of prayer and commitment to his mission that held his attention and his desire for what he came to do.  As one having authority, grace, and love from God, Jesus healed the sick, cast out demons, cared for the poor, and drew the outcasts to himself.  This is what the Gospel is all about. That is what God had sent His Son to do.

Isaiah said, “Have you not known?  Have you not heard? Has it not been told you from the beginning?  Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth? . . . Lift up your eyes and see. . . The Lord is the everlasting God . . . He does not faint or grow weary . . . He gives power to the faint, and strengthens the powerless.”  That is what God is all about.

Saint Paul wrote, “Woe to me if I do not proclaim the gospel . . . I am entrusted with a commission . . .  I do it all for the sake of the gospel, so that I may share in its blessings.” That is what God has called us to do and who God has called us to be – extensions of the mission of proclamation of the Gospel and a continuation of the heart of God to reach all people.

Jesus is the embodiment (the incarnation) of the mind and heart of God – the same God Isaiah declared for all to see.  Jesus then called those around him, like his disciples and, later, Paul, to take up the mind and heart of God which would not only dramatically change their lives, but begin a revolution in the world.  This revolution, which you and I have been made a part, is the most heart rending, mind changing, spirit transforming, life renewing act in the history of the world.  It is enough to fuel its participants with the courage, energy, and enthusiasm to set the world on fire for God.  It is the call to go out in the name of Jesus to bring our community of faith to all people who seek God and who hunger to be a part of his family, his new creation. 

Is this the spirit, the fire, which we bring to the world and to the church?  Are we ready to be revolutionaries?  Is being a part of such a revolution why we have become members of the church?  Is this faith we proclaim bringing about in us a heart rending, mind changing, spirit transforming, life renewing existence in our personal lives, as well in our family life, and our corporate lives? 

Looking at this level of commitment, we may be inclined to say in our hearts that we really didn’t bargain for this.  Yes, we believe in God and in Jesus Christ, but maybe we are not sure about taking on all of the implications of being a Christian.  Me, a part of a revolution?  Not my style, we may say.  Surely that is not what it means to be a Christian, is it?  Really, everything should be in moderation.  Right?  No!  One of the more insidious and undermining attitudes that has been ingrained deeply in us as Episcopalians is the idea –  in which we have often taken with great pride, by the way – that everything should be in moderation and good taste.  We have lived with a deep suspicion of too much zeal and overt passion about what we believe and how we live our lives and what our expectations are of ourselves and others.  But if we are to take the Gospel to heart (and in fact take the entirety of Scripture seriously) we are talking about a major life change.

At an Annual Meeting at the Cathedral where I used to be the Dean, I said, “To discover God's will for us, to energize our commitment to his mission, and to strengthen our own relationship with him and with one another, we must begin with a discussion of our own renewal, repentance, and personal discipleship.” 

Renewal means to reignite the fire within – the light of the Holy Spirit.  It means that we seek to discover Christ in our lives, not just in the life of a book, or a sermon, or an institution, but within ourselves, deep in our hearts and minds.  Marcus Borg wrote a book some years ago, entitled, Discovering Jesus Again, For The First Time.  That is renewal.  Looking for and discovering Christ in us in a new and creative way that allows us to begin again.  New life – a new creation – was the way Saint Paul described it.  How often have we heard, or, perhaps, even said ourselves, “Oh, how I wish I could start all over.”  Well, we can.  That is “renewal” in Christ. 

We enable that renewal with repentance – by simply turning loose of what is inhibiting our movement into renewal and new life.  It is the freedom that occurs within us when we accept the forgiveness already given to us and live as forgiven and forgiving people.  It is not only saying, “I am sorry,” as important as that is, but it is turning around, facing a new direction.  In order to turn around, we have to let go of the distraction to which we are clinging, and face God.  It is a “re-orientation” -- turning to the east – the direction in which we turn to pray – the way we face God.  TURN TO GOD.  I heard of a teacher of autistic children who would take hold of the child’s chin and gently direct the child to look into her eyes and say, “Look at me.  Pay attention.”  We are called to look into God’s eyes and pay attention.  

That movement in our lives then empowers us and sets us free to follow Christ – personal discipleship.  This life as a Christian is not a spectator sport.  We are all an integral part of the “game.”  We are called to march to the sound of a different drummer.  We cannot be about business as usual; we cannot order our life as a church, or individually, as if Christ had not come.  He has come, he is here, we have seen him, he is changing the world, and he expects us to live as if he really has shown up in our lives.  And now we must be about the business of building a community that is founded on the reality that God is with us; and that community is where we discover that the desire of God for us and the great longing for God in our hearts are integral elements of our being

Are we prepared for change, new directions, and renewed energy that will enable our mission and ministry in this congregation and this community to meet the challenge that lies ahead to be the living Body of Christ?  Are we prepared to light a fire?  What this challenge requires of us is a willingness to be very attentive to God and to the needs of his people.  It requires us to be open and vulnerable enough to allow Christ to draw us into a new and deeper sense of connectedness and wholeness with God and one another. 

It is really very simple, not always very easy, but very simple: “The Lord requires no more of the people than the justice that has been circumvented; the loving kindness that has been neglected; and the humility that accepts God’s revelation of truth and unlimited forgiveness for all of his people.” [Synthesis]  

This gospel revolution is that the love of God is the ethical, moral, and spiritual standard by which the people of God are called to live and to relate to God and one another.  Seems obvious and simple, yet, we have managed throughout the history of the church to build up a systematic way of edging love aside and replacing that central place of God’s love and desire for us with our own agendas, often judgmental, almost always political in one way or another, institutionally self-preserving, and exclusive – the antithesis of the revolution begun by Jesus.

We are not here to be entertained or to be coddled.  Our mission is not to create empires or personal kingdoms.  We are not called to be curators of ecclesiastical museums, or developers of social clubs or benevolent societies.  We are here to worship God, care for one another, proclaim the Gospel, and to live like we believe what we say we believe.  We are here to do justice, love steadfastly, and to walk humbly with our God.  So simple. Not always very easy, but very simple.