You are my witnesses – Br. James Koester

Br. James KoesterDeuteronomy 32:1 – 4
Psalm 119: 89 – 96
Ephesians 2: 13 – 22
John 15: 17 – 27

One of the challenges for the preacher is to be able to say something intelligent on a feast day when there is very little from which to draw. Today is one such day. We can turn to Scripture, but except for a few references in the gospels and Acts, we won’t find much on either Simon or Jude. So that leaves the Tradition. What does the Tradition say about these two? Again we can’t say much about them, and certainly not much with certainty. If I were to preach a sermon based simply on what we know about both Simon and Jude, the sermon would be over by now, which may not be a bad thing, but none the less I will press on and see what we can make of them. Continue reading

The Spirit of Holiness – Br. Jim Woodrum

Br. Jim WoodrumLeviticus 19:1-2, 15-18; Matthew 22:34-46

I became a fan of football my freshman year of college at the University of South Carolina where I was in the marching band.  Even though I had been to many football games in high school, I didn’t find them very exciting and was more interested in socializing with my friends in band than watching the game.  College football was different.  The sole purpose of the marching band was to support the football team and to boost school spirit and I found it to be great fun.  So, I started to learn what the game of football was all about, little by little.  This was daunting for me because I didn’t want my friends to know that I had no clue as to what was going on.  So I tried to learn the rules quietly.  When a friend would give me a high five and yell something about a touchback I’d try to save face by being excited too but inside my head I was yelling “What’s a ‘touchback?” Continue reading

Sermon for St. James of Jerusalem – Br. David Allen

Here is my sermon from this morning.  Because so little is known about James, only a scant few mentions in the Bible, listed as one of Jesus’ siblings in Matthew, one of the early witnesses of the Resurrection in I Corinthians, and his role in the Council of Jerusalem.  Everything else comes either from tradition or legend.  But I feel that first Council was vital to the growth of the early Church, and dealing with the relationship of Christian teaching and Jewish law and customs.  I only had a short time in which to get my ideas together with the previous week being my annual personal retreat in which I immersed myself in a significant book dealing with early monastic (principally Benedictine) spirituality by Dom Jean Leclercq, 0SB, of Clairvaux Abbey, Belgium, The Love of Learning and the Desire for God.  Then, directly upon my return from Glastonbury Abbey, Hingham, I was greeted with the news of Br. Tom Shaw’s death an hour earlier.  So between the SSJE Community working out plans for the funeral (to be Nov. 1) and keeping up with the daily routine of our monastic life, including  Yesterday being the monthly Retreat Day, I wasn’t able to be as thorough as I should have been.  Looking back at the readings this morning, too late to include anything in the sermon, I saw how James made reference to the Old Testament Prophets Amos and Daniel, who spoke of openness to the Gentiles.

Anyway, here it is.

davidallen_1Acts 15:12-22a / 1 Cor. 15:7 / Mt. 13:55

Today we commemorate James,

“Brother of the Lord.”  Some sources say he was the first Bishop of Jerusalem.  The event for which he is best known is his role as Presider of the Council of Jerusalem, the first recorded Council of the Church.  Our reading from The Acts of the Apostles was about this council.  The purpose of this Council was to clarify how many of the customs of Judaism were to be observed by Gentiles becoming believers in Jesus.   (Acts 15:1-5) Continue reading

Become Who You Are – Br. Curtis Almquist

Br. Curtis AlmquistLuke 12:39-48

From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required; and from the one to whom much has been entrusted, even more will be demanded.  Luke 12:48

This gospel passage has two layers of meaning.  One layer is a prediction about the Messiah’s return to the earth, what the church has called “the second coming of Jesus Christ.”  A second layer is about our accountability to God for the life entrusted to us… which presumes several things: Continue reading

In Christ – Br. Mark Brown

Br. Mark BrownEph. 2:11-22/Psalm 85:8-13/Luke 12:35-38

Paul speaks elsewhere of being “in Christ”. “In him we live and move and have our being.” [Acts 17:28] “…we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ…” [Eph:4:15] The phrase, “in Christ”, has often fascinated me, so I’d like to ponder what it may mean. Being “in Christ” may be one of those mysteries best comprehended without words in contemplation.  But it of our nature to attempt to contain ineffable mysteries in our poor words. A poet [Alexander Pope] once said, “Fools rush in where angels fear to tread…”  But I’m undeterred.

So what does it mean to be “in Christ”?  I’d like to explore this in reference to the passage from Ephesians we heard this evening and also in reference to an extraordinary document produced by the recent Synod of Roman Catholic bishops: the “Relatio post disceptationem”, specifically, the first draft version that came out about a week ago. Continue reading

What Belongs to Caesar; What Belongs to God – Br. Curtis Almquist

Br. Curtis AlmquistMatthew 22:15-22

The coin in question, a silver denarius, probably showed the head of the reigning emperor, and the tail, an inscription that identified him as “Tiberius Caesar, Son of the Divine Augustus, Pontifex Maximus,” that is, as high priest of the pagan Roman religion. (1) Jesus here is navigating around trap set for him by the Herodians and the Pharisees. (2) Jesus evades being drawn into a legal question, whether the Roman occupiers had a right to tax the people whose God owned the land.  Jesus rather exposes the hypocrisy in the very question, since the taxation in question could only be paid in Roman coinage. The Herodians lose their entrapment because the Herodians want to retain the status quo – to keep the descendants of Herod on the throne and retain their own political favor – and so they’re certainly not going to buck the Roman taxation system.  On the other hand, the Pharisees would know the commandment that prohibits “graven images” of any kind.  They already have the likes of graven images in their own purses with these coins – so the problem is theirs, not Jesus’.  When Jesus replies, “give to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s” he’s as much as saying to the Pharisees and Herodians, “you figure it out what belongs to the emperor.  You’re the ones who are holding the coins.” Continue reading

Our Being Ingodded – Br. Curtis Almquist

Br. Curtis AlmquistEphesians 1:1-10

In our reading from the Letter to the Ephesians, we hear of our being chosen and adopted by God, about our being given every spiritual blessing through Jesus Christ.  The early church pushed all the boundaries.  What does this mean?  In our baptism, if we have been filled with all the fullness of Christ, made one with Christ, we have been “ingodded,” a union with God, what the early church called theosis.  St. Irenaeus, 2nd century Bishop of what is now Lyons, said, “…our Lord Jesus Christ, through His overwhelming love [for us], became what we are, that He might bring us to be even what He is Himself.”   Continue reading

Let Go and Let God – Br. Jim Woodrum

Br. Jim WoodrumGalatians 5:1-6; Luke 11:37-41

Our first lesson this evening is but a small portion of a letter Paul wrote to the churches at Galatia.  I liken it to walking in on a serious conversation being had by two friends at a crucial moment and wondering how they arrived at that point.  The phrase that gets my attention is:  “You who want to be justified by the law have cut yourselves off from Christ; you have fallen away from grace.”  From the sound of Paul’s deliberate tone, this conversation is a difficult one.  Scholars note that of all Paul’s letters, Galatians cuts to the chase straight out of the gate.  What is going on in these churches that requires such urgent frankness? Continue reading

Sermon for Pentecost 18 – Br. David Allen

Here is the sermon I preached this past Sunday at the Bethany Convent of the Order of St. Anne in Arlington, MA.  With our somewhat smaller numbers just now I have been asked to take an occasional Sunday at the Convent, with one of the younger Brothers to drive me, and sometimes to preach.  This time Br. Jim drove me, but had duties at the Monastery, so I pulled my thoughts together with this sermon.  The temptation in preaching about Jesus’ parables is to try to avoid interpreting difficult passages, and to avoid thinking of them as “history” describing actual events.  I think I avoided this most of the way, but occasionally found myself unavoidably trying to explain.  The last paragraph was a gift from the Holy Spirit working through my memory.

davidallen_1Mt. 22:1-14

Today’s Gospel is a parable told by Jesus about a wedding feast for a king’s son, with a second “mini parable” tacked on at the end.  Most of Jesus’ parables have some explanation of the point he was making.  This one we have to work at to find exactly what Jesus was trying to teach to that very mixed crowd in Jerusalem. Continue reading

Invited to More – Br. Luke Ditewig

Br. Luke DitewigMatthew 22:1-14

A king gives a wedding banquet for his son. He sends out invitations. People know the event is coming. But when the day arrives and the call goes out to come, the guests refuse. The king tries again, sends out the message: the tables are set, the wine and roast are ready, the dance hall is decked out; come. “But they made light of it and went away, one to his farm, another to his business, while the rest seized his slaves, maltreated them and killed them.”

Those invited didn’t pay attention, weren’t interested, brushed it off, and went back to work. Wound up, filled up, backed up by work, including good work, they said “no” to the king and his party. Others lash out, fight back, kill the messengers. This is not an ordinary story, not an ordinary wedding RSVP. Nor is it an ordinary wedding or an ordinary king. Continue reading

Seeds for Meditation – Br. David Allen

Here is this morning’s sermon.  I was to have preached it on Wednesday, but time factors caused a schedule change and I preached it today, substituting the Wednesday Gospel for that in the lectionary.

I am calling this sermon “Seeds for meditation”.  They are only that, suggestions for further development of each clause in St. Luke’s version of the Lord’s Prayer.

davidallen_1Lk 11:1-4

You will have recognized the Gospel Read today as the shorter version of the Lord’s Prayer from Luke’s Gospel.  The longer version of that prayer found in Matthew’s Gospel is probably more familiar to most of us.  From very early it won its place for use in liturgical prayer.  However, I feel that Luke’s version has an advantage in its brevity for the purpose of meditative prayer.  Let the Holy Spirit guide us in our meditation on these five brief phrases! Continue reading

Seek, and You Shall Find (And Be “Disturbed”) – Br. Nicholas Bartoli

Br. Nicholas BartoliLuke 11:5–13

Jesus said ask, and it will be given to you; search, and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. Be persistent, and you will receive the Holy Spirit from our Father in Heaven. That sounds simple and wonderful, but sometimes, it can seem so much harder than that. When our relationship with God seems distant, and our spiritual life feels dry, when life seems more like a burden and less like a gift, it’s easy to believe that all our seeking is going nowhere. Something gets in the way, and the version of this saying found in the Gospel of Thomas gives one suggestion on what that might be. Continue reading

Sabbath Keeping – Br. Curtis Almquist

Br. Curtis AlmquistExodus 20:1-4, 7-17

Whatever happened to the sabbath?  In our first reading today from the Book of Exodus, we hear the Ten Commandments.  There is a longer explanation given to the fourth commandment – “Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy.” – than to any of the other nine commandments.  I’ll bet you are quite clear about not committing murder, not committing adultery, and not stealing, but what about remembering the sabbath day and keeping it holy? (1) Is that a little fuzzy for you?  And, if so, what happened, because you’re not alone?  For many of us, several things have colluded. Continue reading

Contentment, Wonder, Delight – Br. Curtis Almquist

Br. Curtis AlmquistMatthew 11:25-30

Most high, omnipotent, good Lord, grant your people grace to renounce gladly the vanities of this world; that, following the way of blessed Francis, we may for love of you delight in your whole creation with perfectness of joy; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

In the calendar of the church we remember today Francis of Assisi, born in year 1182, the son of a prosperous merchant. Francis was a lost youth with too much freedom, too much money, and too much vanity to amount to anything. Against all probabilities he met Jesus in the face and form of beggars and lepers and experienced a 180 degree conversion in life. Before he turned 30, Francis had the Pope’s blessing and thousands of followers who also were looking to see and serve Jesus amongst the lowly – not just people, but in the whole of creation. Continue reading