Today we remember Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuits, who taught about finding God in all things. Ignatius taught many forms prayer but said the most important, especially if nothing else, is to stop before bed, review the day, look for God in it and give thanks.
Often at end of the day, facing tomorrow’s unknowns, we fear and forget grace. Looking back reveals God with us. Ask yourself: “For what am I most thankful today? When was I most fully alive? How did I receive love?”[i]
There’s a story of an orphanage amid a warzone. The children have trouble going to sleep. One of the adults gets a loaf of bread and goes around tearing off a piece for each child saying: Hold onto this. We fed you tonight. We will feed you tomorrow. Go to sleep. Continue reading
The anonymous author of the Cloud of Unknowing, a 14th century guide to Christian contemplative prayer, uses God’s appearances to Moses, or theophanies, as models for how we experience God’s continuing revelation in the world. For example, the Old Testament image of a pillar of cloud symbolizes the unknowing of God through a kind of negating of everything we think we know, while a pillar of fire symbolizes the way of affirmation, knowing God through qualities we affirm through images, sensations, thoughts, and feelings. Continue reading
2 Kings 4:42-44; Psalm 145:8-13; John 6:1-21
If someone were to ask you what it feels like to be hungry, how would you answer? Perhaps you would begin by describing what a hunger pang is like, how your stomach feels as if it is tied in knots. You might explain that when hungry, your blood sugar drops and you get a headache or are prone to be shaky, mentally dull and lacking of energy. You could speak about how embarrassing it is when your stomach begins to growl, usually at an awkward time, like during the silences during the Prayers of the People, eliciting a polite smile from your neighbor. All of us here today know what it feels like to be hungry because it is a common experience. No matter who you are or your station in life, your body needs food regularly in order to function properly.
Now what would you say if that same person asked you what it looks like to be hungry? Look at your neighbor, do they look hungry and if so, how can you tell? I have to admit when I reflected on this question, I cheated and googled the question: “what does hunger look like,” then clicked the images icon and what I saw was alarming. There was a picture of African children with distant eyes looking at a camera while holding empty bowls. Another showed a group of what appeared to be Indian women and children with their hands extended towards someone handing out food, their faces drawn with a look of desperation. Another was a black and white photograph from the Great Depression in this country showing men, women, and children looking deflated, waiting in a long line at a soup kitchen hoping to get a meal. Perhaps none of us here present are experiencing, or have ever experienced hunger of this magnitude, certainly not I. But I suspect it all begins with that one hunger pang, the body’s natural indication of need. Hunger is an indication of need, and it is automatic. Continue reading
Today we remember St. James and St. John, the sons of Zebedee called to leave their fishing nets and follow Jesus. As the red colors today remind us, we honor their martyrdom: they eventually drank the cup he drank, as the gospel puts it. But this scene could be played for laughs, it is such a broad caricature of brazen ambition. Whose idea was it anyway, mother’s or her boys’? And the other disciples might well have been angry at the Zebedee family’s outrageous grandiosity while secretly wishing they had brought their mothers along to advance their cause. Continue reading
Tonight we remember a key part of our story, the rescue at the Red Sea. We remember and retell the story as part of God’s people, for we are descendants of Abraham and Sarah, of Isaac and Rebecca, of Jacob and Leah and Rachel, and their twelve sons.
Joseph, sold by his brothers into slavery, saved the whole family from famine by bringing them to Egypt. Later expanding in number, they were made slaves and remained so for 400 years. There in Egypt, that mighty empire at whose wonders we are still discovering and marveling. Freedom from Egypt? Impossible! Continue reading
God is one, and the many religions of the world are like many paths up the same mountain, or like many rivers emptying into one great ocean. Then again, maybe not. Maybe God is not one, in the sense that religions are so radically different in their beliefs, practices, their understanding of the human condition and the nature of reality that any talk of oneness threatens to gloss over some very important distinctions, distinctions that define who we are as Christians.
The question of how religions of the world understand and relate to each other is an important one, especially in today’s world where religious violence and harassment continue to rise, a world that cries out for more interfaith tolerance and cooperation. Of course, this is hardly a new problem. In our reading from the letter of Paul to the Ephesians we’re reminded of the tensions between the gentiles and Jews of long ago. Today, however, with the world seeming ever smaller, our opportunities to encounter those of different religious traditions has grown in ways Paul could never have imagined. Continue reading
The phrase that most gets my attention in this Gospel passage is where it ends, about Jesus’ giving “hope to the Gentiles.” Gentiles are not Jews. If you were a Gentile, by culture and class, where you lived, what you ate, what work you did, how you dressed and appeared, what you valued, what you believed, if you were a Gentile, you were very, very different from a Jew. As a Gentile, you would face all kinds of discrimination at the hands of Jews, Jews who were convinced they were on the right side of God. Jesus’ takes on a ministry “to the crowds” of equal access to God – to God’s love, God’s hope, God’s provision – the same for people very different from his own was radical. It’s actually a radical shift in Jesus himself. Continue reading
“At that time, Jesus said, ‘I thank you, Father.’” Jesus’ gratitude is important, particularly at that time. What’s been happening? Jesus is misunderstood and ignored. (1)
John the Baptist prepared the way for Jesus, introduced Jesus to the crowds and baptized him. But lingering in prison and not seeing expected change, John doubted.
He asked: “Are you really the Messiah or should we wait for another?” Jesus replied: Yes, I’m doing what you said. Remember Isaiah; I’m healing and liberating, just not as you expect. John, who perhaps knew Jesus best, misunderstood him. Continue reading
Exodus 2:1-15/Psalm 69:31-38/Matthew 11:20-24
I remember growing up my dad subscribing to the Readers Digest Condensed Books. Several times a year you would be mailed a volume that contained abridged versions of four or five recently published books. It was a very middle brow sort of thing and popular in the Midwest where I’m from. The “condensed books” would have all the “best parts” of a book, but leave out all the “unnecessary” parts—whatever that meant in some editor’s opinion.
If I were making a Readers Digest Condensed Book from the Gospel of Matthew, I just might leave out today’s passage about the woes and damnation of Chorazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum. It simply doesn’t resonate for me the way The Sermon on the Mount and the Summary of the Law and the Passion story do. The Bible as a whole has passages that really sing to me and parts that I wouldn’t miss if they weren’t there. Continue reading
In the year 70, the Roman army utterly destroyed Jerusalem, both the city and the Temple. The great first-century historian, Josephus, claims that 1.1 million people were killed during the siege, the majority being Jewish, and that 97,000 people were captured and enslaved. (1) Josephus writes, “The slaughter within [Jerusalem] was even more dreadful than the spectacle from without. Men and women, old and young, insurgents and priests, those who fought and those who entreated mercy, were hewn down in indiscriminate carnage.” Continue reading
Here is my sermon for this morning. As I began to write it I thought it would be quite easy, simply finding present day equivalents for categories, but I found I was doing more re-writing as I went along, right up to 30 minutes before time to get ready to preside and preach.
David Allen, SSJE
Jesus sent his 12 Disciples out on mission with these words of admonition; “As you go proclaim the good news, ‘the kingdom of heaven has come near.’” The concept of the kingdom of heaven as a network of love was becoming real for the disciples. Hearing Jesus’ teaching on the kingdom by parables brought them a clearer understanding. This would grow in time, as it does for most of us. Continue reading
Today is a retreat day for the Brothers. Retreat has a lot in common with Sabbath rest: laying aside work, giving priority to prayer, resting in solitude. “Come unto me all who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest,” Jesus says [Matthew 11:28]. “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you,” says St. Augustine. And for Paul, the Sabbath, the Jewish day of rest, is but a foreshadowing of Christ—“the substance belongs to Christ” [Colossians 2:17]. Christ is, himself, the substance of Sabbath: he is our rest, our resting place, the one in whom we find our true rest. Continue reading
In our first lesson, from the Book of Genesis, we hear about Jacob, who was a scoundrel and schemer. His latest scam was to trick his father. Jacob co-opts his father’s blessing intended for his older brother, Esau.
Where the story picks up in our Genesis reading, Jacob is traveling to meet up with his estranged and cheated brother, Esau, an encounter which Jacob would surely dread. This difficult reunion is delayed because of a wrestling match Jacob undergoes in the middle of the night by the river Jabbok. Who is this opponent? Is it a demon or is it an angel, some emissary from God? We can’t immediately tell. These two beings fight with tremendous, even superhuman strength. In Jacob’s case, it’s as if his life depends upon it… which it probably does. Jacob’s thigh is thrown out of joint. And this is very curious, because Jacob does not experience his wounding as being beaten but rather as being blessed. Finally we get the picture that his accoster is not a thief-in-the-night nor a demon, but rather some angelic messenger who brings a severe mercy to Jacob: God’s blessing which has broken through to Jacob. What do we make of this story? Here’s two suggestions: Continue reading
“Here I am.” Hineini in Hebrew. A phrase used three times by Abraham in this relatively short passage. A phrase that acts in the Torah as a narrative pivot, a turning point, as the one who utters it responds to God – or another person − in readiness, vulnerability, and expectation. “Here I am” – as if to say: I am present with my whole heart to the need or command before me. I do not know what it will demand of me, nor do I know how it may change me. I am present to this encounter. I am present to this challenge. I am present to this possibility.
Abraham responds, “Here I am” to the God who calls him by name. He replies, “Here I am” to his son Isaac, who asks innocently “Where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” And he utters, “Here I am” to the Angel of the Lord, who intervenes at the final moment, revealing God’s true intention. Continue reading
Why was this Gospel story remembered? Why did this story of Jesus’ power exorcising two demoniacs, and with the subsequent destruction of a herd of pigs, become part of the Canon of the New Testament? It’s quite puzzling. The Gospels according to Matthew and Mark remember virtually identical stories but they don’t locate the miracle in the same country. (1) A herd of swine was sacrificed – which would have been an economic disaster to the swineherds and their families… who – being swine herders – were obviously not Jewish. But that’s surely not a good reason to remember this story. (After all, Jesus’ last words in the Gospel according to Matthew are to “go into all the world.”)(2) And the story ends with the townspeople begging Jesus to leave. Continue reading