“Your ID, please!” – Br. Mark Brown

Wisdom 7:15-22; Psalm 78; Matthew 13:47-52

Today is St. Bede’s day.  Bede was given as a child oblate to his monastery in about 678 or so at the ripe age of seven. He led a quiet monastic life, devoting himself to praying the office, studying the scriptures and writing.  Bede is best known as the author of  “The Ecclesiastical History of the English People,” a history of the English Church and people up to the year 729.

I’ve been reading another English ecclesiastical history lately, the just-published “Christianity: the First Three Thousand Years” by Diarmaid MacCulloch. McCullough gives Bede a lot of credit for the existence of the English as a distinct nationality.  Bede, in the early 8th century, was writing at a time when Britain was emerging from an incoherent condition of tribes and small kingdoms.  By the 10th century England was a coherent unit with a single monarchy—and a distinct national identity. The ideology of a unified kingdom of England, according to McCullough, “was fuelled by the way in which Bede had depicted a single race called the English.” [McCullough p339]  The way Bede told the story of the emerging English Church helped greatly to solidify the notion of a coherent English national identity. In the telling of things that were old, he helped create something new—bringing out treasures old and new as the parable puts it. Continue reading

Come Alive in Christ – Br. Geoffrey Tristram

I love cities. They can be so full of life and excitement: but they can also be suffocating, claustrophobic.  I was once staying with my brother Michael in a small apartment in the middle of Manchester, England, one August weekend.  It was hot and oppressive. So we took off into the country, the lovely Peak District, which is a bit like the hills of Vermont.  We climbed for hours up to the top of one of the highest hills called Kinder Scout. We were exhausted, but wonderfully exhilarated.  We drank in the air in great thirsty gulps and as we breathed we felt intoxicated by the fresh air and the amazing views…and we started leaping around and shouting and screaming with sheer delight.  A couple of hikers below us looked up and I think they probably thought we were drunk.

Today is the Day of Pentecost. On this day the gift of divine power came down upon the disciples, and there was no mistaking it, for it was accompanied by an experience which pounded their senses.  Divine power was invading them.  An intense catastrophic experience; a rushing wind, tongues of fire; a power beyond human lives invading human lives. Tongues like fire rested on each of them and they then began to speak in other languages.  It must have been an extraordinary scene, the disciples as amazed as everyone else.  Perhaps they were leaping around in their ecstatic state.  No wondered some scoffed and said, “They are filled with new wine!” (Acts 2:13) Continue reading

Sent to Tell – Br. James Koester

In this sermon, Br. James Koester traces through bishops and apostles the deep meaning that binds the Church together: We have been sent to tell.

This sermon is available only in audio format.

Breaking the Death Barrier – Br. Geoffrey Tristram

“You’ve been living in Boston for nearly ten years, and you’ve not been to Fenway Park?” That’s what a friend of mine said to me some months ago, and he promptly went out to buy a couple of tickets. And so it was one late afternoon we were lining up outside the stadium among the crowds, waiting for the Red Sox to meet the LA Angels. Well, all I can say is that I was well and truly smitten. It was one of the most exciting evenings I’ve ever had. It was an incredible game. But what I most remember is the time just before the game began. The crowds were alive with excited expectancy and anticipation. Kids were jumping up and down in excitement. They knew this was going to be a special game and the atmosphere of expectancy was electric.

That experience of my first Red Sox game came back to me as I was reflecting on today’s Gospel. Those disciples must have been absolutely filled with a sense of expectancy and anticipation. Something amazing was about to happen. Jesus has just ascended into heaven, and we read “the disciples returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and they were continually in the Temple blessing God.” (Lk 24:52-53) They were probably singing, praying, even dancing in their joy. I wonder what the others in the Temple thought? What’s up with them? What are they so excited about? Continue reading

A Christian’s Relationship to Wealth – Br. David Vryhof

Matthew 6:19-24

Over the past few days I have been re-reading Brian McLaren’s book, Everything Must Change.1 McLaren tells us that, for the past several decades, he has been wrestling with two important questions:

The first question is, “What are the biggest problems in the world?” by which he means, [What are the] “problems that cause the most suffering in the present, that pose the greatest threat to our future, …[and] that lie at the root of what’s wrong with the world.” (p.11) He speaks, among other things, of the challenges of global poverty, environmental destruction, and the increasing level of, and potential for, violence in today’s world.

The second question he asks is, “What does Jesus have to say about these global problems?” As a “follower of God in the way of Jesus,” McLaren insists that Jesus’ words and actions have much to teach us about how we should live in a world facing such enormous problems as these.

There could hardly be a better place to look for answers to McLaren’s question than in the Sermon on the Mount, a section of which we have just read.  Continue reading

“Do You Want to be Made Well?” – Br. James Koester

This sermon is available only in audio format at this time.

Abiding in Jesus’ Love – Br. Curtis Almquist

John 15:9-11:  As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.

This verb we’ve just heard – to abide, Jesus’ saying to “abide in my love” – appears many times in the New Testament, well more than 100 times, and especially here in the Gospel according to John and in the First Letter of John. The word’s repetition – abide, abide, abide – signals something of its importance, and yet the sheer repetition can blunt how radical and demanding Jesus’ words are, here: As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.”

First, Jesus is saying here, “if you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love.” Jesus here is not speaking to individuals, individually. He’s speaking to us, 2nd person plural: “If you-all keep my commandments, you-all will abide in my love.” Jesus here is talking about life together: we are to abide in love. The New Testament says virtually nothing about personal spirituality or personal salvation; all its emphasis is on the Body of Christ, the Kingdom of God, the New Humanity in Christ. [i] Jesus here is speaking to us.

And then this much-repeated verb, to abide. The Greek root, meno, means to remain, endure, be steadfast, wait, stay, continue… which goes without saying if we weren’t tempted to flee, abandon, disregard, vacate, denounce. The poignancy of the verb “to abide” is to remain steadfast when everything inside of you says, “I’m out of here.” “You’ve offended me or disappointed one time too many, and I will now, justifiably shun, or abandon, or punish, or get even with you. However many times I’m supposed to forgive, this is over the line. I’m done with you.” The verb “to abide” redresses that temptation to leave people.

And then, what Jesus is saying here is even more radical. This is not just about flight; it’s also not about fight. Jesus says, “abide in love.” There’s several Greek New Testament words we translate in English as “love.” This is the most radical of loves. This is self-sacrificial love, laying down our lives for another. The love here is not about mutual attraction or brotherly/sisterly affection. This is the kind of love Jesus demonstrates at the cross. Self-sacrificial love.

“You all: abide in love,” which are very strong words. Those who know us the best and love us the most can hurt us the worst. And we them. Jesus here is speaking to us collectively, not individually, and he presumes life together: that we need one another; see love, show love, God’s love in and through one another; and because we must be reminded so many times “to abide,” we know that this is not always easy. Necessary, exceedingly challenging, possible. Only made possible by Jesus who calls us to this high mark. Our living into Jesus command “to abide in love,” requires practice. And it requires prayer: Gracious Jesus: supply what you command.

[i] Insight drawn from the writings of Archbishop Michael Ramsey.

The Way – Br. Geoffrey Tristram

This sermon is currently available only in audio format.

John, Beloved Disciple: SSJE Patronal Festival – The Most Rev. Dr. Katharine Jefferts Schori

Isaiah 44:1-8; Psalm 92:1-2, 11-14; I John 5: 1-13; John 20:1-9

Well, beloved, it is a blessed day to celebrate.  It’s hard not to know oneself beloved in the midst of a community gathered in love, enfolded by the warmth of the sun/son and the tender wind of God.  The greenness all around us is evidence of the promise of resurrection to restore all creation.  The greenness within us is equal evidence of connection with the source of belovedness.

We opened by praying those remarkable words about Jesus, who drew the beloved disciple into deep intimacy, giving him the grace of resurrection in his inmost being.  That is also the prayer for each one here.

The mystery of the beloved disciple is his identity, and the blessing is that it’s not quite fixed.  The debates over whether it’s John bar Zebedee, or Lazarus, or even Mary Magdalene make a place for others to enter in.  As Jesus is ‘the son of the man,’ the beloved disciple becomes a way we may be the human disciple, beloved of God. Continue reading