“To Live is to Change” – Br. Geoffrey Tristram

When I first started high school my two elder brothers, Christopher and Michael, were already there.  It was a rather old-fashioned school, and we were called by our surname.  “Come in Tristram,” the teachers would say.  With three Tristrams in the school that could sometimes be confusing.  So to distinguish us, rather light-heartedly, Christopher was referred to as Tristram.  He was the oldest.  Michael was known as Tristram Minor.  Then I arrived.  I was to be Tristram Minimus – which I didn’t much like!

That stayed with me over the years at school.  I think it so often happens – in a family or a community – that although you have grown and changed, others still see you as you were, or remember something you once did, and still define you in those terms.  And we want to say, “I’m not that anymore – I’ve changed.  Haven’t you noticed?”

It was quite a liberation to leave school and go to university where no one had met Tristram Minimus – but only Geoffrey.  Like the lobster which grows and changes and needs to burst out of its old shell, it felt wonderful to make a new beginning, changed from a school boy into an undergraduate.

“To live is to change.  And to be perfect is to have changed often.”  Famous words of John Henry Newman.  They reflect one of the great inner dynamics of the Gospels, which is Christ’s call to each one of us to change.  It is not always welcome; it’s not always comfortable; it’s not always easy, but like it or not, if we refuse to change we will die.  That goes for us as individuals, and for us as Christian communities.  “To live is to change.  To be perfect is to have changed often.” Continue reading

CONVERSION – Br. David Vryhof

Micah 6:6-8; Luke 19:1-10

This evening we begin a five-part preaching series entitled, “Breaking the Word.”  Each Tuesday in Lent we’ll be considering a different word.  The words we’ve chosen – conversion, forgiveness, grace, redemption and passion – are words that we Christians use frequently but which we may not fully understand.  We seldom take time to explore their meaning or to reflect on their significance for us.  That’s the purpose of this series.

Tonight’s word is “conversion.”  It’s a word that, for some of us, might have some mixed, or even negative, associations:

  • It may elicit unpleasant memories of encounters with religious groups or individuals that make it their chief aim to convert others to their point of view.
  • It may bring to mind a certain style of evangelism that strikes us as manipulative or intrusive.
  • It may conjure up images of “hell-fire and brimstone” sermons, or of massive crusades in which charismatic preachers try to whip up the emotion of the crowd to affect a response to their message.
  • It may remind us of people we have know who have been “converted,” but who bore witness to their conversion in remarkably unattractive ways.

As our bulletin notes, the word itself simply means “to turn around.”

Continue reading

The Call of Levi – Br. David Vryhof

I wonder how the other disciples felt when Jesus called Levi, a tax collector, to become one of the twelve.  I can imagine them rolling their eyes and shaking their heads and thinking, “What is he doing?  If he wants this movement to go anywhere, why would he choose someone who will be distrusted and even hated by the people because of his association with Roman oppression?  This is not going to make our life any easier!”  Some of them – maybe all of them – must have questioned Jesus’ judgment.  I doubt that Levi was a popular choice.

Maybe you can think of someone in your life that you would just as soon not have in your life: an obnoxious co-worker, perhaps, or a constantly complaining neighbor, or an impossible boss, or a disreputable or embarrassing relative.  Maybe you’ve found yourself wanting to distance yourself from them.  Perhaps you find yourself thinking, “My life would be so much easier if he didn’t work here, or if she wasn’t part of this committee, or if I didn’t have to deal with them.” Continue reading

The Weighing of the Heart – Br. Geoffrey Tristram

In his Ash Wednesday sermon, Br. Geoffrey Tristram invites us to practices of asceticism, not as a distortion or denial of the human spirit, but as a form of training, spiritual exercise, to prepare us to encounter—like a rustling wind—the searching love of God.

This sermon is available only in audio format.

Shrove Tuesday – Br. Curtis Almquist

Br. Curtis Almquist

Today has traditionally been called “Shrove Tuesday.”  The word “shrove” is derived from an Old English verb “to shrive,” which means “to hear confession,” or “to grant absolution.”  To shrive is about cleaning out the cobwebs in the closets of your soul – things done and left undone, things said and left unsaid – which may clutter or weigh heavily on your conscience.  And so this word “shrive,” from which we get the traditional name for today, Shrove Tuesday, is buttressed right next to Ash Wednesday, which marks the beginning of season of Lent, a season of penitence and abstinence.

Some of you may have grown up with the custom of a pancake supper on Shrove Tuesday, which is no accident.  Going back to the Middle Ages, the custom of eating pancakes and sausages had a practical purpose, since eggs and fat were used, and eggs and fat were forbidden during the fasting of Lent.  In one fell swoop, the larder is cleared out and you have one last blowout meal before you face (tomorrow) Ash Wednesday.  In Germany, today is traditionally called Fetter Dienstag (fat Tuesday).  Likewise in France and here in the States in New Orleans, this is traditionally called Mardi gras (fat Tuesday), which is a day of feasting and merrymaking marking the climax of the carnival season.  Play hard today because tomorrow’s down to serious business: Lent. Continue reading

“Eat the Scenery!” – Br. Mark Brown

Br. Mark Brown

Exodus 34:29-35; Psalm 99; 2 Corinthians 3:12-4:2; Luke 9:28-36

There’s a well-known mountain in the Holy Land.  Ask a kindergartner to draw a hill, and that’s about what it looks like: improbably rounded and just sitting there, seemingly removed from its geological context.  Mt. Tabor, the traditional sight of the Transfiguration story we’ve just heard. What’s most stunning about Mt. Tabor is the view from the top.  It has to be one of the most beautiful anywhere, a grand, panoramic sweep.

If you’re standing facing east, the hills around Nazareth are back over your left shoulder, the hills around the Sea of Galilee at about 10:00, with Mt. Hermon, snowcapped in winter, beyond that to the north.  The distant mountains across the Jordan River straight ahead.  The hills of Gilboa, where King Saul was killed, at about 2:00.  The rich, fertile plain of Jezreel at the foot of the mountain stretching from about 12:30 all the way to 5:00. The Carmel range stretching from about 3:30 back to 5:30 in the distance—Haifa, the Mediterranean port, is just out of sight almost behind us.

The Transfiguration story is mainly about Jesus, of course, and a vision of the fullness of his divine life.  It’s about us as well, and a vision of the fullness of the Resurrection life we await. O wondrous type, O vision fair, of glory that the church may share. [Hymnal 1982, #137]

Although we anticipate this greater and more glorious life even now, the life we have is the one we have: the life of flesh and blood. A life of flesh and blood created of the dust of the earth, given to us and redeemed by God.  A life of flesh and blood taken on by God: …and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. Our ultimate transfiguration, for the time being, belongs to the religious and poetic imagination. Continue reading

What Comes Out – Br. Geoffrey Tristram

This sermon is available only in audio format.

Called by God – Br. James Koester

Isaiah 6: 1 – 8 (9 – 13); Psalm 138; 1 Corinthians 15: 1 – 11; Luke 5: 1 -11

Did you hear it? Did you hear that just a moment ago?

No? You didn’t?

I thought I heard something. Maybe I am hearing things!

There! There it is again! Did you hear it this time?

Ah you, you, back there. You heard it too didn’t you?

So I’m not hearing things, or rather I really am hearing things.

There, there it is again! Very faint. Almost a whisper.

James. James. James

There you heard it too this time, didn’t you?

That’s the problem isn’t it? It always seems to be a whisper. It never seems to be a shout. Or, at least, not for me. For whatever reason, God never seems to shout when trying to get my attention. God always uses his “inside voice” as my mother used to call it: “Jamie,” she would say, “use you inside voice,” whenever I shouted, or spoke too loudly or cried out something. That’s the voice that God always seems to use, at least with me: his “inside voice”. Shouting, and calling, and crying out, and throwing people off their horses is great stuff, but that’s not how I hear God. I hear God in a whisper; in a look; in a turn of the head; in a subtle expression on a face. That’s how I hear God. Not in shouts and cries and loud calls.

It seems that it was easier for those first disciples. It seems that Jesus spoke to them, spoke to them directly, and in no uncertain terms. To Simon Peter and his companions today he says: “Do not be afraid: from now on you will be catching people.”[1] In other places, Jesus was even more specific. He says to those two followers of John the Baptist, Andrew and his companion: “Come and see.”[2] And to Matthew as he sat at the tax booth “Follow me.”[3] It would have been so much easier if that were the case for me. Instead with me there is just a small voice saying over and over and over: James, James, James. Continue reading

Feast of the Martyrs of Japan – Br. James Koester

We remember today, in this commemoration of the Martyrs of Japan, what for me at least, is one of the more fascinating chapters in the history of Christian missionary activity. It is not that I am so interested in the why’s and how’s of the actual martyrdom, as I am interested in what happened afterward.

My hunch is that few of us here know much about Japan (it’s a good things Brother David Allen isn’t here because he could refute that statement in an instant). What we do know is that historically, Japan has been a closed nation. It has been difficult for, and remains difficult, for outsiders to become accepted in Japan. And that was part of, and continues to be, part of the challenge for the Christian Church in Japan. It is seen to be very much an outsider. Yet, in the Sixteenth Century, the Church, through the missionary activity of one of the great Jesuit saints, Francis Xavier as well as some Franciscans, a tiny foothold was made in Japan for the Church. Unfortunately that came to an end on this day in 1597 when six Franciscan friars and 20 of their converts were crucified outside Nagasaki. By 1630 what was left of the church in Japan had been driven underground. And that is what fascinates me. Continue reading

Teach Us to Pray

IMG_1771A seven-part series on the traditional forms of prayer designated in the Catechism of the Episcopal Church:

“Q. What are the principle kinds of prayer?
A. The principle kinds of prayer are adoration, praise, thanksgiving, penitence, oblation, intercession, and petition.”


“Q. What is adoration?
A. Adoration is the lifting up of the heart and mind to God, asking nothing but to enjoy God’s presence.”


“Q. Why do we praise God?
A. We praise God, not to obtain anything, but because God’s Being draws praise from us.”


“Q. For what do we offer thanksgiving?
A. Thanksgiving is offered to God for all the blessings of this life, for our redemption, and for whatever draws us closer to God.”


“Q. What is penitence?
A. In penitence, we confess our sins and make restitution where possible, with the intention to amend our lives.”


“Q. What is prayer of oblation?
A. Oblation is an offering of ourselves, our lives and labors, in union with Christ, for the purposes of God.”


“Q. What are intercession and petition?
A. Intercession brings before God the needs of others; in petition, we present our own needs, that God’s will may be done.”

#Petition: The Prayer of Petition – Br. Curtis Almquist

7_PetitionWe Brothers are helping people write and introduce fresh prayers into the Prayers of the People by learning about the seven principal forms of prayer identified in the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer: adoration, praise, thanksgiving, penitence, oblation, intercession, and petition.

We invite your prayers to the God of the ages in words and images on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram in the format #prayersof #petition … you may want to start “I ask your help…”
View the prayers of othersprayersofthepeople.org

To read more sermons about the seven forms of prayer: Teach Us to Pray

Br. Curtis Almquist offered this homily on the prayer of petition at the Monastery as part of the Teach Us to Pray series, February 2, 2010.

This evening is the conclusion of a seven-part sermon series we have entitled, “Teach Us to Pray,” which was the very request the disciples made of Jesus.  This evening I will speak about the Prayer of Petition.  The English word “petition” comes from the Latin petitionem, which is a request or solicitation.  The Prayer of Petition is asking God for help or healing or hope – whatever may be our need or our awareness.  Petitionary prayer is the most spontaneous prayer, the most uncensored prayer, the prayer that tumbles off our lips without coaching when the demands of life are too great and we feel too small.  I have heard people pray specifically for parking places, for the rain to come, for the sun to appear, for a job, for protection, for passing an examination, for someone to be well, for someone not to die.  You may have your own experience of praying very particularly, very specifically for someone or something.

I can still remember my own prayer of petition at one point when I was in junior high school.

  • I prayed on my knees beside my bed; I prayed with my hands tightly folded, my back straight; I prayed with eyes closed, absolutely no peaking; I thought it best if I kept saying “please.”  I said “please” to God a lot.  And this is what I prayed for, the most important thing in whole world:
  • I prayed very, very hard that I could get to try out for the seventh grade basketball team… which happened.
  • I then prayed I would make the cut and get a uniform… which happened.
  • I then prayed that I could mostly sit on the bench during the games because I was too self-conscious and too clumsy.  I was benched.
  • I then prayed I would get a little court time to play during some games, but just enough for me to earn my basketball letter for my letter sweater… which happened.
  • And this oh-so-fervent praying without ceasing was mostly for the sake of Jackie Claypool, whom I wanted more than anything to like me.  If I was a lettered basketball player, she would surely like me.

And that’s how I prayed, and prayed, and prayed. Continue reading