If we look back two or three chapters in the Gospel of Mark, we can find readings similar to the themes in today’s Gospel lesson. Twice earlier in Mark’s Gospel Jesus had foretold his suffering. When Jesus told the disciples that, they didn’t seem to get the point of why he was telling them.
“In April, 1536, at the end of the twenty-seventh year of the reign of King Henry VIII, there were, scattered throughout England and Wales, more than eight hundredreligious houses, monasteries, nunneries and friaries, and in them there lived close on ten thousand monks, canons, nuns, and friars. Four years later, in April 1540, there were none. Their buildings and properties had been taken over by the crown and leased or sold to new lay occupiers. Their former inhabitants had been dispersed and were in the process of adjusting themselves to a very different way of life.”[i]
So begins G.W.O. Woodward’s essay on the Dissolution of the Monasteries. Woodward goes on to write about the reasons for the Dissolution, the way in which it came about, and its far-reaching consequences, not only for the Church, but for the whole of British society. For the next 300 years there would be no monasteries, convents, monks or nuns in the Church of England. Continue reading
In my twenties I used to travel a lot. I especially loved the Middle East and North Africa. I travelled through Jordan, Syria, Egypt, Tunisia and Morocco. Whenever I stopped in a village, locals would come up to me and we’d try to communicate. They would show me photos of their family – and they would always ask to see my family. At first I didn’t have any photos – but I soon learned. In the Middle East and Africa, if you want to know someone, you ask about their family. “Let me see your family, then I will know who you are.”
Jesus never ceases to amaze me. We read in this passage how he lived his mission. He taught wherever he travelled. He told the people how transformative love can truly be. And he manifested that love through “curing every disease and every sickness.” While travelling he interacted with many people who were “harassed and helpless”. He met and saw people who were abused, mistreated, and left for dead. People who had lost their trust and hope. People whose outlook in life was diminished by living day to day without a hint of change. People who found more comfort in death than in life, because life can be incredibly painful. Continue reading
I don’t know if today’s readings from Acts and the Fourth Gospel were in the minds of Thomas Cranmer and the other compilers of the First Prayer Book in 1549; but the sentiments expressed in those readings must certainly have been in their thinking—devotion to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship; the breaking of bread and the prayers—worship in spirit and truth.
The Book of Ecclesiasticus, also known as Sirach, has the distinction of being the only book in the Bible that counsels against putting your elbows on the table at dinner (41:19). Ecclesiasticus covers a wide swath of the human condition, from rapturous poetry in celebration of wisdom to the most mundane things, like how to behave at a dinner party. Don’t eat too much, do enjoy the wine, but don’t drink too much. Don’t interrupt the musicians. Don’t talk too much, don’t chew greedily. Don’t be the last to leave. (Ch. 31-32)
If you are hungry for good news this morning, you’ve come to the right place! Today we celebrate the Feast of Pentecost, recalling the coming of the Holy Spirit in power upon the early Church and rejoicing in the power of that same Spirit’s presence in our lives today. There is so much good news here it’s hard to know where to begin!
John’s Gospel likes to be obscure at times. What was the name Jesus made known to the disciples? The pronunciation of the Hebrew name for God was supposedly only known by the High Priest; he only pronounced it, whispering, once a year on the Day of Atonement inside the Holy of Holies. Is this the name Jesus made known to the disciples? How did he find out the divine name? Does that mean he was conferring a kind of priesthood upon the disciples? Who knows? Continue reading
They have loved their children as best they could. They have trained them and nurtured them, disciplined them and encouraged them. They have tried to give them self-confidence and an appreciation of their unique gifts and abilities. They have tried to shape their character and mold their values. They’ve tried to inspire in them a vision of what life can be, and of what they can offer to the world. And now they are sending off these children of theirs, releasing them so that they can find their own way of being and loving in the world. As parents, they are aware of the challenges, the temptations, even the dangers, that will confront their children in these new settings. And so they pray for God’s protection, and for wisdom as they make choices, and for the guidance of the Holy Spirit as they begin this new phase in their life’s journey. Continue reading
Christian monasticism began when, in 270 AD, Anthony, a wealthy young man, heard the Gospel story read in church of the rich young man who asked Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life.(MT 19:16-25; MK 10:17-25; LK 18:18-25) Jesus replied, “Go, sell what you own and give the money to the poor – and come follow me.” Anthony did so, and followed Jesus out into the Egyptian desert and he became a hermit, or lived the eremitic life, from the Greek word for desert. Many others soon followed his example, and the desert became populated with hermits. Continue reading
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about a phrase from our Rule of Life that refers to the “mystical and apostolic aspects of our vocation”. The “mystical and apostolic”: it’s a way of encapsulating one of the polarities or we might say complementarities of the Christian life. The mystical and apostolic—or we could say the contemplative and the active—or prayer and service. The SSJE has both in its DNA—as do many other religious orders.
In my reflection and prayer on today’s gospel, one phrase jumped out at me and grabbed my attention. Jesus says, “I do not say to you that I will ask the Father on your behalf; for the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God.” For the Father himself loves you. This is startling in its simplicity but it is the core theme of John’s gospel; the love of the Father for all of us. This simple phrase from the 16th chapter of John: “…for the Father himself loves you, mirrors the sentiment of love from way earlier in the 3rd chapter: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.”
This day in the Christian Year marks the day after Jesus’ Ascension into heaven when the Disciples knew that Jesus was no longer with them in the way that he had been.
Today’s Gospel is a flash-back to Jesus preparing his Disciples for that time when he would no longer be with them physically. After speaking of pain and joy Jesus said to his Disciples; “I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.” (Jn 16:22) Continue reading
“I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, [the Spirit] will guide you into all the truth…” John 16:12-13
There is more. Jesus is here saying that God’s Spirit will come to us in Jesus’ stead, and that the Spirit will guide us into all truth. There is more yet that Jesus has to reveal to us: more than what he revealed in his own lifetime, more than what has been recorded in the Scriptures, more than what has been remembered by our predecessors in the faith. Jesus has more for us – as much as we can bear – to be revealed to us through God’s Spirit. Continue reading
Over the last several weeks I have been busy building raised garden beds. If you have been to Emery House, you may have seen them, or even inspected them. In one I have spinach and beets, in another lettuce, radishes and carrots. In a couple of smaller ones I have planted potato onions, shallots and Egyptian Walking Onions (now isn’t that a great name!). Last week I transplanted the creeping oregano into one and one of the guests carefully transplanted most of the perennial onions into another. Continue reading
“You did not choose me but I chose you.” –John 15:16
It is an honor to be chosen. When we are chosen to fill a job opening, chosen to be a friend or partner, chosen to take on a special role or responsibility… it is a sign of affirmation. Someone wants us, needs us, trusts us, believes in us. We feel honored to have been selected. And yet, even the highest earthly honors pale in comparison to the honor that has been bestowed on us in Christ, who has chosen us in love to be his friends.[i] Imagine! “You are my friends,” he says to us, “I have chosen you.”
For what has he chosen us? Continue reading