Inseparable Love – Br. Curtis Almquist

Br. Curtis AlmquistMatthew 13:36-43

Some of the strongest and most-foreboding warnings about damnation and hell are on the lips of Jesus.  This gospel lesson is one of many places where we hear Jesus speak such an ominous prediction: that sinners will be “thrown into a furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”  Jesus’ words could seem especially threatening if you were ever a sinner.  (I’ll add as an aside that, in a few moments there is opportunity for known sinners to make a confession, in the dire case we have any sinners here.) Continue reading

It’s Not Good to Be the King – Br. John Braught

Br. John Braught1 Kings 3:5-12
Romans 8:26-39
Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52

It’s Not Good to Be the King (It’s Better to Be a Servant)

Kings and their kingdoms may lead us to think of the figureheads of a constitutional monarchy, symbols of leadership without actual power. Kings and their kingdoms may lead us to think of the kings of legend and fantasy; or, we may think of feudal kings, endowed with divine right, their hierarchical kingdoms ruled absolutely, and often tyrannically, by the king. Kings and their kingdoms may lead us to think of these things, all of it sounding to us the empty, outdated, unfair political remnant of a bygone age. Continue reading

Open the Window – Br. Nicholas Bartoli

Matthew 13:24-30 (Parable of the Weeds)
There’s a saying they have in the US Marines and Special Forces, “Kill ‘em all and let God sort ‘em out.” That seems to be just about the opposite of letting everything grow together like in the parable of the weeds. But I do appreciate some of the wisdom in it, namely “let God sort them out,” which can be shortened even further to “let God.” An example might be, let God take care of weeding out sources of pain and suffering in someone else’s life.
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St. Mary Magdalene – Br. Curtis Almquist

Br. Curtis AlmquistJohn 20:11-18

Mary of Magdala is “a complicated person.”  This is not Mary, Mother of Jesus.  Nor is this Mary of Bethany, sister to Martha and Lazarus.  This is Mary of Magdala, the agricultural, ship-building, trading center of Magdala, northeast of Jerusalem.  Magdala was a hot spot commercially and socially, and it had a wild and wicked sort of reputation.  We don’t know when or where Jesus met Mary of Magdala.  (The Scriptures don’t record Jesus’ ever having even visited Magdala.)  We know nothing of her family or upbringing.  Neither do we understand Mary’s condition when she first met Jesus.  There really is no substantiated reason for assuming that this Mary of Magdala had been a harlot… other than she has been distinguished, down through the years, by her association with the town of Magdala.  MagdaleneMagdala was that sort of place… and the fact that so much energy has been spent down through the centuries to “clean up” her reputation may mean she did have a colorful past.  We don’t know for sure. Continue reading

Overcoming Evil – Br. Luke Ditewig

Br. Luke Ditewig

Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43

Jesus teaches using stories from everyday life, divine truth revealed in soil and seeds, wheat and weeds, yeast and bread, fish and nets. Today is wheat and weeds. We may not be familiar with wheat, but our own lush summer garden growth includes plenty of weeds.

Jesus tells a story of something that happened so often that there’s record of this crime and its punishment in the civil law of his day: sowing weeds into another’s field.  As we hear in the story, the weeds looked particularly like wheat when young. At first, one couldn’t tell the difference. Only later having grown up and starting to produce fruit do the weeds distinguish and appear. Continue reading

Mercy rather than Sacrifice – Br. Curtis Almquist

Br. Curtis Almquist
Matthew 12:1-8

Some things we cannot say about this passage from the Gospel according to Matthew.

  • We cannot say that Jesus and his disciples, walking through grainfields, was in any way wrong, like they should have taken the road and not disturbed the crops.  In Palestine, in Jesus’ day, fields of corn and grain were sowed in long narrow strips, and the land between these rows was always a right-of-way for persons on foot.
  • There’s no question whether Jesus’ disciples were stealing.  The Jewish Law, in the Book of Deuteronomy, explicitly said that a hungry traveler had the right to do exactly what the disciples were doing: to pluck ears of grain by hand.
  • Nor is there no precedence for what Jesus’ disciples are doing on the sabbath.  There’s probably endless precedence; however Jesus recalls here how David and his hungry companions had done something parallel on the sabbath.
  • Nor can we say that the disciples’ action on the sabbath would have been universally condemned by their fellow Jews.  Quite to the contrary, the Mishnah, a collection of Jewish authoritative commentary published about 200 c.e., does not list such “plucking” as unlawful on the sabbath.  Jewish opinion, even in Jesus’ own day, would have been quite mixed about the rightness or wrongness of what the disciples did on the sabbath.

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Sermon for Thursday of Proper 10A – Br. David Allen

Here is my sermon from this morning.   It took some prayer and meditation before the connection between the “Yoke” of the O.T. Law and the yoke of Jesus’ Law of Love became so clear.  I also recalled Peter’s testimony at the Council of Jerusalem in which he referred to the yoke that they had been bearing of the O.T. observances.

davidallen_1Mt. 11:28-30
(Come to me)

The words of Jesus in Today’s Gospel Reading are both a call to prayer and a challenge.

At first thought they seem to be words of encouragement for the poor farmers, herders, and laborers that Jesus encountered during his years of ministry among the rocky hillsides and coastlands around the Sea of Galilee.  There is some truth in that image.  Many of the people whom Jesus met were poor, and had to work hard to support their families.

But as we consider the words that Jesus used in that invitation and challenge we can begin to see another dimension to what he said.

As Jesus taught about the Kingdom of God, his Father, he encountered opposition from the leaders of the synagogues, and the representatives of the Temple in Jerusalem.  The Pharisees and Sadducees questioned by what authority he taught, and the source of his power to heal.  Especially he was accused of breaking the Sabbath Laws by healing the sick, the lame and the blind on the Sabbath Day, and of failing to keep other parts of the Jewish Law. He was also accused of blasphemy by calling God his Father.

Just after the words of Jesus, “Come to me…” appear in Matthew’s Gospel we read how Jesus was confronted by some Pharisees for allowing his disciples to eat from the heads of grain plucked as they walked beside the fields on a Sabbath.  That was considered as doing work of harvesting; forbidden on the Sabbath.

From this example we can see that the yoke of which Jesus spoke, was the yoke and the heavy burden of Old Testament Law as it was interpreted literally by the officials.

By contrast Jesus offered to those who heard his compassionate invitation the way to the easier yoke and the lighter burden of the Law of Love.

“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens ….Take
my yoke upon you, and learn from me … and you will find rest for your souls.” (Mt. 11:28-29)

We can do our part in giving witness to Jesus’ “New Commandment”,loving our neighbor as ourselves, and respecting the dignity of every human being, by living the Baptismal Covenant of the Church promised by us or for us at our Baptism.

(B.C.P. p.305)     Think about this!

You Are the Light of the World – Br. Geoffrey Tristram

Br. Geoffrey TristramMatthew 5:13-16

Ever since I was a child I have always been fascinated and moved by the Olympic torch – the light which is lit several months before the opening of the Games at the site of the ancient Olympics in Olympia, Greece.  The light is then carried by torch-relay across the world to the site of the Games.  Traditionally, it has been carried on foot by athletes.  But it first traveled on a boat in 1948, across the English Channel, and then by airplane in 1952 to Helsinki.  In 1976 the light was transformed to an electronic pulse and laser beam.  And in 2000 divers carried it underwater near the Great Barrier Reef.

It’s a very powerful image.  I used to imagine the responsibility of carrying this precious light.  It must not go out.  And every four years there is a new and exciting way of transmitting that light. Continue reading

Pulling weeds – Br. Robert L’Esperance

robertMatthew 13:1-9, 18-23

This is a true statement:  I love to pull weeds.  I do some of my best thinking while pulling weeds and the other day I found myself sifting through memories of my brother, Paul Wessinger.  Paul was passionate about gardens and gardening and our deep friendship first began to grow around our shared love of flowers.  Paul loved all kinds of gardens.  I think Paul would have liked the monastery cloister garden.  In many ways it’s like Paul, off-beat and unexpected.  Honestly, it’s like few other gardens I’ve seen.  Paul would have liked that because he told me that the older he grew the more he liked the unexpected and the off-beat.

The changes in himself, that Paul often talked about with me, began slowly and gradually, like those germinating seeds Jesus talks about in today’s parable.  Paul seemed to loosen-up and grow more flexible, even radical, the older he got.  He reminisced often with me and he told me that in his younger years he had been quite rigid and inflexible; later in his life he lost his certitude about many of his ideas and beliefs about God and jettisoned a whole host of rigorous rules handed-on to him for living out his monastic vocation.  By the time I arrived at the monastery, Paul was approaching his nineties and his spirit was soaring higher and higher into territories that he never imagined.   Continue reading

Commemoration of the Blessed Virgin Mary – Br. David Allen, SSJE

Here is this morning’s Sermon.  I realized when I was scheduled to preach today that it had been some time since one of us had explained why we observe some Commemorations.  I was given support in doing this for today.  I read over the Gospel lesson several  times and it seemed to develop by itself.

davidallen_1Jn 2:1-11

For many years, perhaps from the very beginning, it has been our custom in the SSJE to designate open Saturdays as Commemorations of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  Currently this is done in Ordinary Time, after the Feast of Pentecost until just before Advent.

This Commemoration reminds us both of the role of Mary as God-Bearer, Mother of our Lord Jesus Christ, and of her role within the Communion of Saints as Intercessor. Continue reading

Live it up! – Br. Curtis Almquist

Br. Curtis AlmquistMonthly Requiem for departed SSJE brothers – July 10, 2014

Almighty God, we remember before you today your faithful servants of the Society of St. John the Evangelist who have died in the month of July; and we pray that, having opened to them the gates of larger life, you will receive them more and more into your joyful service, that, with all who have faithfully served you in the past, they may share in the eternal victory of Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Today we remember the departed brothers of our Society who, over the decades, have died in the month of July.  We cherish these archival memories of our predecessorsIn this life we are all terminal.  There’s no guarantee that any of us here will even make it through the day.  We are alive today – all of us here – because God has breathed life into us for as much as one more day to know God, and to love God, and to serve God.  At the end of the day, each day, tonight, pray a prayer of completeness for how God has entrusted you with your most amazing life.  Pray your thanksgiving to God, as if this is your last day on earth.  And then rest in peace.  Do that tonight.  And if you wake up tomorrow morning – no guarantees! – be wide-eyed with amazement that you may have as much as one more day to know God, and to love God, and to serve God.  Don’t presume you’re going to have another day, but if it happens, be delighted because God obviously thinks you’re up to it.  Live life as a gift rather than as a given. Continue reading

Idolatry and its Twin – Br. Mark Brown

Br. Mark Brown
Hosea 8:4-7, 11-13
Psalm 115:1-10
Matthew 9:32-38

The topic this evening is idolatry; idolatry and its twin sibling. Idolatry is one of the hot button issues of the Bible—especially for God. In Exodus we read: “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; you shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or worship them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God…” [Exodus 20:2-5a]  I like the older translation: Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image. You may recognize this as the first of what we call the Ten Commandments. Continue reading

The Storms of Life – Br. Curtis Almquist

Matthew 8:23-27

The Sea of Galilee is notorious for its surprising and violent storms.  Fierce, cool winds blow off the Golan Heights to the east and meet up with the warm temperatures of the sea basin sometimes creating the perfect storm.  Storms literally come out of the blue, even when the waters have been calm and the sky perfectly clear.  This must be the very thing that happened here with the disciples and Jesus.  Aside from the wind and waves coming at them, there was something else that surfaces: fear.  They are terrified.  You likely know how it is to be sailing through life on the sunniest of days, where all is calm, all is bright… and then a storm hits. Continue reading

God is in the Details – Br. Jim Woodrum

Romans 7:15-25a; Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30

A favorite story of mine about the founder of our Society, Richard Meux Benson, is from his childhood.  His biographer M. V. Woodgate writes:  “When he was a little boy, he used regularly to read a text every night in a little testament his mother had given him, and one night he was found by his nurse lying on the floor in his night clothes, with the little book clasped in his hand.  His nurse and the governess both told him to get into bed, but he lay silently there, and at last they brought up his father, who called him to sit on his knee and tell him what was the matter.  The little boy pointed to his text for the night and his father read, ‘Thou, therefore, endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ’ (2 Timothy 2:3).  Then he said, ‘The floor is hard, so I must sleep on it.’ ‘Yes, Richard,’ said his father, ‘but there is one thing harder which the soldier has to learn, and that is obedience; so you go and get into bed.’ Young Richard Benson had a fascination with soldiers and had inherited a love for Jesus from his mother, both of which would last throughout his entire life. Continue reading

Determined to be Free; Free to be Determined – Br. John Braught

Matthew 5:43-48

The freedom we enjoy in this country is hard won. Men and Women fought and are fighting for this country so we can be free. Fighting so we can be free to govern our lives as we wish; fighting so we can be free to live the lives we choose.

This is not the kind of freedom Jesus promises. The kind of freedom Jesus promises does not depend on us doing what we want, or living the lives we choose. True freedom of the spirit, as Jesus provides it, is having peace when we can’t do what we want. It’s being forgiving when people get in our way, and we can’t live the lives we choose. It’s being loving when we are disappointed, and even hurt by other people. True freedom of the spirit is being able to meet the conditions of our lives consistently, no matter how agreeable or disagreeable, no matter how good or bad other people behave, true freedom of the spirit is being able to meet the conditions of our lives consistently, with peace, with forgiveness, and with love.  Continue reading