John and David were brothers, two young men who worshipped in my parish in England. They had not been baptized as babies, but now felt the time was right. They asked me if I could baptize them by total immersion. So, on a beautiful summer’s day we and their family and friends gathered around a swimming pool. Having taken advice from the local Baptist minister, I climbed down into the water, in blue jeans and an alb, and baptized them.
It left a powerful impression on me. Baptism inside a church at the font is always a moving experience, with the water symbolizing washing, cleansing, thirst quenching, reviving. But when those two young men were plunged down beneath the deep water scared, and then came up again – there was a real sense of dying – and rising again. I had never before felt so powerfully how in our baptism we share in the death of Jesus, and also share in his resurrection. I remember blessing the waters with the moving prayer from the English prayer book: “We thank you Lord, that through the deep waters of death, you brought your Son, and raised him to life in triumph.” Continue reading
Romans 11:1-6, 11-12, 25-29; Psalm 94:14-19; Luke 14:1, 7-11
Just a few minutes ago, the prayers, thoughts and desires—individually and corporately—which we bring to the Lord’s Table today were ‘collected’ with these words: “…increase in us the gifts of faith, hope and charity…make us love what you command” (Collect for Proper 25, BCP 1979).
The portion of Luke’s gospel proclaimed today tells of one of several incidents remembered on an occasion when Jesus went to a house of a leader of Pharisees to eat a meal on the Sabbath. We are also told, “…they were watching him closely.” The context of this observation would suggest a kind of surveillance with less than charitable intent toward Jesus, and not a few presuppositions and already-formed opinions about him. Jesus, we are told, is observing, taking notice of the behavior of the guests, as they jockey for places of honor at the banquet. Continue reading
How many of us are confident that we can pray as we ought? Some people may think that they can, but St. Paul, writing to the Christians at Rome in the 1st Century says that we cannot pray as we ought, but that the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness, and “intercedes with sighs too deep for words.” (Rom. 8:26) As I think and pray about it I tend to agree that when it comes right down to it Paul is right. We tend to follow patterns from the Prayer Book, or from childhood, or from some other source. Most of us don’t really pray as we ought. Continue reading
How do we listen to God’s word? How do we remain open to that word? How do we hear the word in new ways? How do we listen not only with our mind but more essentially with our hearts? Today’s gospel seems to show us some ways we might do this: first, by remaining open to possibility, second, by adopting a certain naïveté, and finally, through a practice of repentance that leads to real humility. Continue reading
Leviticus 19: 1-2, 15-18; Psalm 1; 1 Thessalonians 2: 1-8; Matthew 22: 34-46
Tender is not a word that easily comes to mind when I think of Saint Paul or Leviticus. Usually Paul seems sharp or at times condescending and sometimes downright confusing. Leviticus, so concerned with purity laws is downright off putting, because I often feel that I could never make the grade, even if I wanted to. But this morning tender is the very word that springs to mind when I read them both. Listen again to Paul:
But we were gentle among you, like a nurse tenderly caring
for her own children. So deeply do we care for you that we
are determined to share with you not only the gospel of God
but also our own selves, because you have become very dear
When the construction was completed on the Monastery Chapel – I’m not talking about the extensive renovation work this past year but about the original construction completed in 1936 – the trades people and artisans who had labored to build this magnificent chapel gave the gift of these two stained-glass windows to my right, what are called the “Workmen’s Windows.”1 On the left is Saint Joseph the carpenter, pictured in the rondel with the young Jesus as his assistant and his mother nearby. The window on the right pictures Saint Luke the Physician along with the caduceus, the ancient symbol of medicine and healing.2 But what I find most interesting is that Luke is portrayed in the rondel painting a portrait of the Virgin Mary! Now you can find reference in the Gospels about Joseph being a carpenter3; and you can find reference in the epistles about Luke being a physician.4 But Luke the artist? Where did that come from? Not from the scriptures, but from tradition. Continue reading
When I was a boy growing up in Spokane, Washington, sometimes my father would take me, or the whole family, riding in our family car into the countryside west of Spokane. The Grand Coulee Dam was being built in those days and was a project of interest to all of us. The central part of the State of Washington to the west of Spokane is largely flat wheat farming country, and some of it is nearly desert-like, with grass and sagebrush, and numerous outcroppings of rock formations. Evangelical Christian sects often used the flat surfaces on these rocks to paint Bible verses, or parts of Bible verses as part of their outreach. One of the very common verses that we would see is included in our first reading for today: “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Rom. 3:23) Another verse that we would often see was “The wages of sin is death.” (Rom. 6:23a) Both of these verses as they are found in the Bible are followed by a positive statement. In the first case the verse is preceded by the word “since”, and followed by the positive statement, “they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a sacrifice of atonement by his blood, effective through faith.” (Rom. 3:24-25) It reads in full: “Since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a sacrifice of atonement by his blood, effective through faith.” (vv. 23-25) In the second case the statement is followed by the positive response, “but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom. 6:23b) Continue reading
What’s heaven going to be like? Do you ever wonder? Have you ever had any glimpses of heaven? For me, one of the times I’ve glimpsed heaven has been those wonderful meals you share with really good friends, where you eat and drink and chat and laugh for hours and hours, and it seems just a few minutes. And you never want the meal to end.
And in Scripture, heaven is very often described in terms of a great meal – a feast – a banquet. And so in our readings today. “On this mountain,” writes Isaiah, “the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine.” And then in our Psalm today, Psalm 23, we read those lovely words, “You spread a table before me…You have anointed my head with oil and my cup is running over.” And in today’s Gospel we have this parable: “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son.” Continue reading
We come together today to give thanks to God for John. We give thanks that after a long life of many struggles, but also many blessings, God has now called John home.
As I was praying over today’s Scriptures, one line in particular from St. John’s Gospel stood out for me: “Jesus said, ‘anyone who comes to me I will never drive away’.” And that for me is an apt way of describing John’s remarkable ministry. Like his Lord he would never ignore or turn away from someone in need, however desperate their lives had become.
The first time I met John was thirteen years ago, when I first visited the monastery. He was walking slowly towards Harvard Square in his own rather distinct habit: those blue denim farmers’ overalls! When I introduced myself, his whole face lit up with that wonderful smile – which has given hope and encouragement to so many over the years. Continue reading
Romans 6:3-5; Psalm 16:5-11; John 20:1-10
This evening we continue our series, “Conversations on the Way: the Man, the Message, the Movement”. These sermons are meant to be provocative; that is, to provoke questions. You are welcome to join us for a simple soup supper following the service, when we can reflect together.
The topic this evening is “the message”. If Jesus had a message, what was it? If there is a core message, what is it? If there were a contest to summarize the message of Jesus in as few words as possible, what could we say? My entry into this imaginary competition is five words. Here are my five words summarizing the core message of Jesus, as I hear it today: “Join me in the Resurrection”. Five words. Actually, I’d like to tack on five more words of clarification: “Don’t wait ‘til you’re dead.” Join me in the Resurrection–don’t wait ‘til you’re dead. My entry in the “Message-of-Jesus-in-as-few-words-as-possible Contest”. Continue reading
Isaiah 5: 1-7; Psalm 80: 7-14; Philippians 3: 4b-14; Matthew 21: 33-46
First of all, a disclaimer: I don’t know anything about vineyards or growing grapes. I don’t know how to graft one kind of grape onto another. I don’t know why you sometimes get good sweet grapes and at other times you get wild, sour, rotten ones. All I know about grapes and grape growing can be poured out of a bottle and into a glass, and even then the only thing I know about the end product is what I like, and what I don’t. So I don’t know much about vineyards and growing grapes. Continue reading
Phil. 3:7-15; Lk. 9:57-62
Today we celebrate the Feast of St. Bruno, founder of the Order of Carthusian Monks. Little is known of his childhood, except that he was born in Cologne in 1032. After ordination he became the highly respected Rector of the Cathedral School at Rheims. In 1075 he was appointed Chancellor of the Diocese of Rheims. In addition to this Pope Urban II, who had been one of his students at the Cathedral school in Rheims, appointed him as his advisor. In 1084 Bruno and six of his companions began to feel the call to the monastic life. For a short time he and his companions lived with Saint Robert and a few others who eventually founded the Cistercian Order, but Bruno and his companions decided instead to found a more austere order. They settled in 1084 at Chartreuse, near Grenoble and followed an ethos inspired by the ideals of the primitive monasticism of the 3rd and 4th centuries of the desert monks in Egypt. Their ethos centered on silence, austerity and total renunciation of the world. Similar to the early desert monasteries Bruno and his companions chose to live in small hermitages within the monastery complex, and came together for prayer and on greater feasts for some of their meals, as Carthusian monks do today. Bruno died on this date in 1101. Continue reading