“Peter, do you love me more than these?”
The heart-piercing question is asked on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, where Peter and several of Jesus’ other disciples have gone to fish. What are they doing here? They have witnessed Jesus’ death and resurrection, he has breathed on them the Holy Spirit and sent them into the world… so what are they doing here in Galilee, taking up again the familiar occupation of fishing?
It’s difficult to predict how we humans will act, especially in the aftermath of extreme trauma and stress. There can be no doubt that these disciples were shaken by what they had seen in Jesus’ final days and that they were struggling to make meaning of it. And we can imagine how unsettling it was to encounter their Lord risen from the dead, appearing suddenly in a locked room and showing them the wounds in his hands and side. It’s not hard to see how all this could have been overwhelming, and how they might have been experiencing fear and confusion as well as hope and gladness. Continue reading
Wisdom of Solomon 1:13-15, 2:23-24/Psalm 30/2 Cor.8:7-15/Mark 5:21-43
A miraculous healing; a miraculous raising from death… I’m not always quite sure what to make of these healing stories—sometimes they raise more questions than they answer. What did Jairus’s daughter die from the second time around? What was the final illness for the woman with the hemorrhage—something caused her eventual death, even though she had once been healed by Jesus. How many people did Jesus actually heal? Why didn’t he just waive his hand over the whole earth and heal all people everywhere? Why Jairus’s daughter and not his neighbor’s? What does it mean that Jesus can heal and sometimes does—and sometimes doesn’t ? Perhaps you’ve experienced healing in a way that you know was a special grace—it happens. But, as we all know, no one gets out of this alive. Even Lazarus, raised from the tomb, died again. Continue reading
Our gospel lesson from Matthew today describes one of Jesus’ amazing acts of healing. A Roman Centurion comes to Jesus and asks him to heal his servant who is paralyzed and terrible distress. Just as with the leper in yesterday’s gospel lesson Jesus immediate response is ‘yes,’ without any qualification. He practically says “lead the way.” But the Centurion stops him, citing his unworthiness for Jesus to come to his home. Perhaps he was afraid that his friends and colleagues would be hostile toward this itinerant rabbi. Or maybe there were other circumstances that he was embarrassed to expose Jesus too. We don’t know, because Matthew doesn’t go into detail. Continue reading
When I was growing up I remember really liking my Uncle Michael – we used to call him Uncle Mickey. I didn’t get to see him very often, but I so looked forward to his visits. I only found out much later why he didn’t come to visit us more. He felt ashamed, he thought we wouldn’t want to see him, he believed he wasn’t worth seeing. You could say he felt “unclean.”
The notion of uncleanness was a very important one in ancient Jewish culture, and it was applied to both food and people. Reasons for such laws included, for example, concerns over hygiene or the creation of a unique Jewish identity. Originally, they were never meant to indicate a person’s state of sin or social worth, but by the time of Jesus being pronounced “unclean” could put you in the category of moral failure and social outcast. Continue reading
“Not everyone who says to me, Lord, Lord, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my father in heaven.” (Mt. 7:21)
Today’s Gospel Reading is the continuation of a series of excerpts from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. Each part of this long discourse has something to teach us about human behavior and how it relates to the kingdom of heaven. Continue reading
Nativity of St. John the Baptist
Preached at Emery House
Isaiah 40:1-11 Acts 13:14b-26 Luke 1: 57-80
Zechariah, a priest of the temple, and his devout wife, Elizabeth, are childless and elderly when they are visited by the angel Gabriel and told they will be parents of a son. Their son will become a great prophet, and herald the coming of the long-awaited Messiah. How can this be? About six months later Gabriel appears to a relative of Elizabeth who is an unmarried young woman named Mary. She is told that she is going to bear the Messiah. How can this be? Elizabeth does indeed give birth to a son, John, and Mary gives birth six months later to a son, Jesus. If we work our ways backwards in the western calendar of the church, with the birth of Jesus being celebrated on December 25th, the birth of his cousin John would be celebrated six months earlier, today, the 24th of June: John, the miracle son of Zechariah and Elizabeth, who were old enough to be his great grandparents. Jesus, the miracle son of Mary, almost too young to be a mother, and her fiancé, Joseph, who becomes Jesus’ stepfather. Continue reading
Today, we give thanks to God for one of the great saints and martyrs of the Church, St. Alban. He is one of my favorite saints because for much of my ministry as a parish priest I worked in the English Diocese of St. Albans, which is in the county of Hertfordshire, some 25 miles north of London. The city of St. Albans, in Roman times, was called Verulamium, but its name was changed in honor of the man who, like his Lord, gave his up his life for another. Continue reading
I am impressed by many who cry out to Jesus for help. People in the Bible including blind Bartimaeus who shouts louder and louder when he hears Jesus is nearby; the woman who works her way through the crowd and reaches out to touch Jesus’ clothes; the small group who climb up on a roof to lower their friend in front of Jesus, and the centurion who says: “If you just say the word, my servant will be healed.” Jesus healed them and commended them for their faith. 1
In contrast, Jesus’ own disciples are embarrassing and uncomfortably familiar. They spend lots of time with Jesus, see the miracles, witness healing. Yet when a storm rises up, when life gets rough and tough, the disciples freeze in fear. “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” Continue reading
Preached at Emery House
The Sea of Galilee is at the vortex of a wind tunnel coming from the north, and the sea is notorious for storms. A storm will literally come out of the blue. We could ask, why was this Gospel story remembered? Why has this story been passed down over the generations, eventually figuring into the Canon of Holy Scripture? It isn’t a “heads up” about bringing rain gear if you ever plan to travel in Galilee, though that may be prudent. Rather, the story has been remembered because it’s archetypal. This is a life story. There you are; all is calm, all is bright… and a storm hits. And so does fear. Continue reading
Preached at Emery House
Jesus presumes we have a dual citizenship. We belong both to earth and to heaven. The one – heaven – is our beginning and our end. The other – earth – is where we find our way. We’ll be reminded of this momentarily as we are invited to pray The Lord’s Prayer: “…your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven…” Today’s Gospel lesson is an alert about what we treasure, that is, to what we give ultimate value, importance, and worth. The English words “worth” and “worship” come from the same etymological root. What we worship – where we give ultimate worth – has the highest claim on our life. Continue reading
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth…but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven…. Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”
In his Sermon on the Mount Jesus contrasted earthly treasures that moth and rust can consume and that thieves can break in and steal with treasures stored up in heaven where neither moth nor rust consumes and thieves do not break in and steal. We know that thieves do not break into heaven to steal the treasures there. Continue reading
II Cor. 9:6-11 and Matt. 6:1-6, 16-18
Yesterday one of the students in the class I am teaching this week raised the question of whether we should strive to be happy. Is happiness something we should desire, something we should seek? Is it selfish to want to be happy?
We live in a culture that constantly encourages us to seek our own happiness, and which bombards us with images of what happiness looks like. Smiling, care-free people show us how happy we will be when we own this shiny new car, when we wear this expensive jewelry, when we visit this exotic vacation spot, when we try this new medication, when we open this refreshing can of soda! Continue reading
Ephesians 1:17-23 Ephesians 3:14-19
If you have ever been filled-to-overflowing with love, if you have ever teemed with joy, been overwhelmed with gratitude, been awestruck by something too wonderful or too beautiful for words, then you know the language of the heart. If you have ever suffered a devastating loss – the death of a loved one, a terrorizing diagnosis, a deep disappointment, a betrayal, an appalling poverty, a tragic ending, a desolating sadness – then you know the language of the heart. What the heart knows, and feels, and receives, and shares plumbs the depths of our soul, oftentimes deeper than words, and where silence or tears are sometimes the only language we know. The language of the heart. Continue reading
Click on the links below to read selected articles from the Summer 2015 Cowley Magazine:
- Br. Geoffrey Tristram peers into the mystery of the Trinity to find a dance of love that involves us all.
- New and Abiding Friends of SSJE—Christina McKerrow, Constance Holmes, Alexis Kruza, Carol Petty, Michael Zahniser, Ross Bliss, and Nancy Barnard Starr—share their experiences of the Monastery and Emery House.
- Br. David Vryhof wonders “Is God Deaf?”
There are many ways to read and share this Cowley magazine:
Tell us what you think of this Cowley Magazine in the comments below.
We welcome your comments, letters, or ideas for future articles.
I am a far-flung, antipodean member of the Fellowship of St John, and have been since 1994. I met SSJE in their southern outpost, Durham, NC and joined FSJ at CDSP in Berkeley, CA. Keeping in touch through prayer or electronically, the brothers of SSJE remind me that, wherever we are, Christ meets us with an understanding heart. With thanks for your presence to so many. Arohanui.
– Nancy Barnard Starr
Being a member of the FSJ, I share a mutual bond of prayer with the Brothers. Just knowing that makes a difference in my life, really. I know that I am part of a circle with this group of men who are living a life of prayer for the world. The relationship of mutual prayer is a very stabilizing thing – both subtly and strikingly effective. It’s a preview of the Communion of Saints.
It’s been helpful to me, in really practical ways, to have this relationship of mutual prayer as I’ve discerned a call to ordination. I have felt supported in this by the Brothers, even though I haven’t had any conversations about it with anybody from SSJE. My decisions or directions have felt the added discernment and support of a body of men who are very committed to what they’re doing, and that’s helped me, just as following the FSJ Rule has helped me to have a clear head and a clear heart as I discern forward with my own life.
Supporting SSJE financially is just a practical, material part of this relationship. Imagine how it would be to say you love someone, but never doing anything for them. How would that work?
– Ross Bliss
I first discovered the Monastery around 2007. Living a mile away, I could walk over whenever I had a really bad day and just needed someplace quiet and peaceful. I knew that every day of the week, except Monday, I could sit in on a Compline service. It became a sort of sanctuary for me: a place that I could go when I just needed to soak in God’s presence and be with other people who were deep in prayer. There is so much history of faithful service and prayer at the Monastery, that just entering the building feels like stepping into a river of prayer and letting the current carry me along.
I think it’s vitally important that a community like this exists right in the heart of Harvard Square, where so many students and young people are looking for that kind of sanctuary and the stability of a faithful community. I support SSJE partly because I personally have felt fed and nourished by the Monastery, but also because I think it’s such a great thing to have a community like SSJE living right in the heart of the city, available for all who wander in, really needing it.
– Michael Zahniser
Through “Brother, Give Us a Word,” I have an everyday kind of relationship with SSJE, because that e-mail pops into my box every morning and either challenges me or focuses me or comforts me. I just love that, even on busy days, I receive that little something – not just a blurb; not just some simple thought, promising me a happy day. No, the word is almost always challenging. It holds real-life questions and provocative ideas to make me think.
Typically, I’ll star the day’s word in my inbox because I want to come back to it. Then eventually, I realize that my inbox is full of so many flags waiting, I can’t possibly go back to each one of them, so I just save them all. They’re all worthy of going back to and thinking about some more!
I support the Monastery so that the Brothers are able to continue that work and continue the ministry from which I have benefited. I’ve gotten to where I feel like I know the Brothers now, having had chats with them every day for several years! It’s a gift of gratitude.
– Carol Petty
In my relationship with the Brothers, I have learned so much about who God is and about the qualities of honesty and transparency, love and patience, and the Fruits of the Spirit. After having worshiped at SSJE for three years, I feel that the depth of my faith has grown so much. There is an authenticity here in the Brothers’ humility, their warmth, their generosity of spirit. It’s taken my perspective on God to a totally different level; I see that God is affirming and loving, accepting and yet encouraging and challenging at the same time – not “kick you in the pants” challenging. It’s much more of an invitation: “Grapple with this. Here is an invitation for you to grow.” Continue reading
SSJE is carrying the highest mission and calling of the Episcopal Church USA and of the global Anglican Communion. Every day I find a reflection – Brother, Give Us a Word – in my inbox and I share it with those close to me, local and far-flung.
By holding up to so many the fruits of their deep prayer and devotion to their monastic calling, SSJE carries a lamp for Christian laity worldwide. SSJE has indeed become, through the miracle of electronic technology, a lamp unto all nations. I salute the community and wish to express the depth of my gratitude to them for everyone to see.
– Constance Holmes