Luke 13:1-9, 31-35
In today’s Gospel, Jesus responds to a threat from Herod, “You tell that fox I have work to do.”
So, if Herod is the fox, who is Jesus? Jesus, in the words of the poet Francis Thompson, Jesus is the Hound of Heaven. And just as the hound picks up the scent of its prey, relentlessly pursuing, unhurried and unperturbed, ever drawing nearer in the chase; so Jesus has our scent. Jesus is on to us. Continue reading
Today we celebrate St. Simon and St. Jude, about whom we know virtually nothing. They are named as apostles in the Bible and there is a tradition that they were martyrs. We do know that in the first century you could get killed for your religious beliefs by people who had different religious beliefs. In the 21st century you can still get killed for your beliefs by people who have different beliefs. Or, if not killed, then demonized, ostracized, anathematized, marginalized.
How dear to me is your dwelling,
O Lord of hosts!
My soul has a desire and longing for the courts of
the Lord; my heart and my flesh
rejoice in the living God.
The sparrow has found her a house and the
swallow a nest where she may lay her young;
by the side of your altars, O Lord of hosts,
my King and my God.
I don’t think I’d be too off base if I were to say that generally we Episcopalians don’t care for surprises. We pride ourselves on the order of our liturgies, can tell you what scripture we’ll read on any particular Sunday (thanks to a well ordered lectionary), and have a committee and/or guild for just about every function of the church. That being said, today’s gospel reminds me of a story about a particular Sunday surprise in my hometown parish church.
I don’t usually refer to my sermon preparation when I preach, but I will today. For some reason I found this time around particularly challenging: I can’t remember getting so tangled up in words and using the select and delete functions on the computer quite so many times–I’ve nearly worn off the letters on the “delete” key. The subject of the gospel today is prayer—which is the air we breathe around here. But it’s something I rarely preach about.
Romans 8: 28-39
We know that all things work together for good* for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. 29For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn within a large family. *30And those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified.31 What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? 32He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else? Continue reading
There is a story that a young novice once approached an elderly monk, asking if he could speak with him about his prayer and his life in the monastery. The old man consented. Things had not been easy, the young man admitted. His prayer often felt aimless and dry, he had underestimated the challenges of living in community, and he was struggling with loneliness and countless distractions. “Ah yes,” said the old monk, “the first fifty years or so are the hardest, but it gets easier after that.”
I’m from Southern California. I came to Boston for college and then went to Princeton Seminary, so I am most at home near an ocean, lots of people and universities. Then I served as a pastoral intern in far western Nebraska, in a city of 25,000 which is the hub for a 100-mile radius. Talk about out-of-place: it was a cross-cultural experience! Far from home, far from everything familiar, I felt strange, disoriented, lost. I wondered what I had done by moving there and where God was in all this.
This is a preview of Brother, Give Us A Word – scheduled for December 1, 1 2013. Please do not repost before 5:00 EST on that day.
What grows tall and strong must also grow slowly and deep, or it will tumble… Depth takes time. God has all the time in the world. Though we live in a culture that so highly values instant access to everything, at least in the spiritual realm, we can only bear a little at time.
– Br. Curtis Almquist
Society of Saint John the Evangelist
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In the calendar of the church we remember today the life and witness of a seventh-century monk from Rome named Paulinus. In year 625, Paulinus was made a bishop. He was among the second generation of missionaries sent by Pope Gregory I to assist Augustine in evangelizing England. The church historian, the Venerable Bede, described Paulinus as “a tall man with a slight stoop. He had black hair, an ascetic face, a thin hooked nose, and a venerable and awe-inspiring presence.”[i] Paulinus began his work in York, where there were already a few Christians. Paulinus engaged in long private conversations about the Christian faith with King Edwin. The king sought advice from his councilors, whether he should become a Christian. One of the councilors responded by telling a parable: Continue reading
I have a question for you about lobsters, something very familiar (and delightful!) to many of us here on the eastern seaboard. How can a lobster weighing one pound grow into a lobster weighing three pounds, even ten pounds or more when the lobster has such a hard shell? How can lobsters grow when they seem not only protected but also confined by their hard shell? Continue reading
“We are worthless slaves; we have only done what we ought to have done.” Worthless and slaves. With those pungent words an episode in the life of Jesus seems to come to an abrupt close. The very next verse has Jesus suddenly on the way to Jerusalem, somewhere between Samaria and Galilee where he’s about to heal some lepers.
“We are worthless slaves”. The Bible doesn’t record what was said after those jarring words. But I’m sure it wasn’t the end of the conversation. I’ve come to know on no good authority whatsoever what happened next, but I am sworn to secrecy as to the source of this information. You would have good reason to be suspicious of this source. But if you’ll hold at bay the fierce dogs of skepticism for just a few minutes I’ll tell you what I heard happened next… Continue reading
The 70 returned from their first mission with joy. The 70—the new tier beyond the 12 disciples, the freshmen, the newcomers, the beginners—they return enthusiastic, confident, and caught up in what they could do. “Lord, in your name, even the demons submit to us!”
Jesus once likened his relationship to his disciples to that of a vine to its branches. “Without me, you can do nothing,” he told them.
“No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” Jesus is fond of earthy, agricultural imagery. I think the idea here is that if you are trying to plow a furrow in a nice straight line and look back over your shoulder, you’re going to mess it up. Like trying to drive a car while looking through the rear view mirror. The Kingdom of God is something out there ahead of us, and to get there we need to keep looking ahead of us—sometimes even at the far horizon. Continue reading