Salvation Revisited: An Advent Preaching Series
During this season of Advent, at the 5:30 pm Eucharist on Tuesdays, we will be exploring the theme of ‘salvation.’ Salvation is a theme that is central to Christian faith and particularly appropriate during this season, as we await the coming of our Savior. Over the course of these four Tuesdays, Brothers will be sharing their reflections on what salvation means and how we might receive or experience it in our daily lives.
Dec 1, 2015 – “See, I am Making All Things New” – Br. Curtis Almquist
Dec 8, 2015 – “Coming Home” – Br. Geoffrey Tristram
Dec 15, 2015 – “The Sacred & Imperishable Proclamation” – Br. Mark Brown
Dec 22, 2015 – “Salvation: From What, To What?” – Br. David Vryhof
“He has walled up my way so that I cannot pass, and he has set darkness upon my paths.” (Job 19:8)
Today we give thanks to God for the life and witness of one of the greatest mystical theologians who ever lived – St. John of the Cross. During my life as a Christian, a priest and a monk, whenever I have felt my life of prayer has become shallow or even empty, I have invariably found new life, hope and passion in John’s writings, and especially in such great poems as The Living Flame of Love and The Dark Night with its famous opening line, “En unanocheoscura.” Continue reading
Christ the King Sunday
Daniel 7:9 -10, 13 -14
Rev. 1:4b -8
John 18:33 -37
Today is Christ the King Sunday, the very last Sunday of the Christian year. Which means that, ready or not, next week is Advent Sunday, the first Sunday of the year. This last Sunday draws our attention to the last things, the end times, the vision of the consummation and renewal of all things.
One of the chief images of this vision of the end times is Christ the King. King of kings and Lord of lords, the Lamb upon his throne in the Book of Revelation: “Crown him with many crowns…”
But what kind of king is this, who was born in a stable, lain in a manger, worked in a carpentry shop, washed people’s feet and then died on a cross? The Roman imperial authority, Pontius Pilate, would have entered Jerusalem in great pomp and display of military power, entering from the west, having come up from King Herod’s lavish port city of Caesarea, most likely riding a magnificent horse.The King of Kings came up from the east, through the barren splendor of the Judean desert and up and over the Mount of Olives—riding a donkey. Continue reading
Feast of St. Elizabeth of Hungary
The spinning wheel is, for us, a cultural artifact from a time before the Industrial Revolution. But for much of history in many parts of the world, spinning wheels were not only necessary household tools but carried significant symbolic meaning. In Grimm’s Fairy Tales, heroines are commanded to spin straw into gold or unwittingly prick their fingers on enchanted spindles. In India, Gandhi mobilized the already rich cultural associations between the spinning wheel and the manufacture of homespun cloth, transforming spinning into a spiritual practice and an act of Indian resistance to British rule. And in Byzantine icons of the Annunciation, the blessed Virgin Mary is often depicted holding a spindle and distaff – the ancient equivalent of the spinning wheel. Legend holds that she was one of the young women privileged with the task of spinning the yarn that would be woven into the great veil of the Temple in Jerusalem. Continue reading
Feast of St. Hilda of Whitby
Today we remember St. Hilda, the abbess of a community of men and women at Whitby in England. She was a grandniece of the king and so had life-long access to powerful people, who often sought her out for advice. We also associate Hilda with the Synod of Whitby, when England pivoted away from the Celtic Christian tradition to a stronger alignment with the Roman. She died on this day in 680.
As did Hilda, we live very much in the particulars of our time and place—as did the disciples. In Matthew today we read of their concern for how they’re going to get by, now that they’ve left everything behind. Jesus has words of reassurance for them and promises of thrones. But I wonder if they noticed something Jesus says almost in passing: “at the renewal of all things”. At the renewal of all things. Continue reading
1 Samuel 1:4-20
It’s a great joy for me to be back at the monastery, after my time of sabbatical. I spent much of my time with my family – my mother and my brothers and sister and their families, my nieces and nephews. I also stayed with friends in England, Ireland and France. It was also a great time for reflection and for prayer. I am so grateful for this time away, and I’m very grateful for your prayers for me.
I visited so many great churches and cathedrals, from York and Durham to Canterbury, and from Cork to Notre Dame in Paris. Whenever I go into a great church, I love to find a place to light a candle, and kneel down, and remember those I love, those who are on my heart, those who I know in need, or have asked me to pray for them. And I know many of you do this in the chapel – lighting a candle and offering up prayers. Continue reading
Since about the age of 9 I have been an avid reader of mystery stories, good ones, not the lurid ones. I believe that over the years that habit has helped me to become more sensitive to the Mystical Literature of the Bible.
Today’s first reading from the Wisdom of Solomon certainly fits into that category. I believe that the meaning of most mystical literature can be seen more clearly by contemplation rather than by reason.
I have been praying with today’s first lesson to see it more clearly as prayer ever since I first read it over, earlier this month. Continue reading
Wisdom of Solomon 7:21-8:1
The Kingdom of God is within you—among you, between you. Within you. Within you. Do you know the place? Have you found the way to that land of God that comes to us not in things that can be observed? That distant land, that land within you? That place closer to you than your own breath–and more distant than all stars. It’s here, it’s there; it’s not here, it’s not there—then, here it is again. It’s so easy to lose your way and then find it once more.
That land has a special atmosphere, a gentle breeze that is the breath of the power of God, a bright Spirit as of a reflection of the eternal light, as Solomon’s Wisdom put it. The bright Spirit of that place—within you—is more beautiful than the sun and surpasses every constellation of the stars. The only rain fall there is of a special quality, a quality of mercy, mercy that is not strained, but“… droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven upon the place beneath.” As a poet once said. Mercy himself is enthroned within you. Continue reading
The Twenty-Fourth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 27B)
1 Kings 17: 8-16
Hebrews 9: 24-28
Mark 12: 38-44
Several years ago, in fact the summer of 1991, the whole community packed up, and we went on pilgrimage to Britain. Some of you might remember. It was the summer of our 125th anniversary, and we went to Britain to visit some of the places the community had been associated with. We went to, and stayed in, the old Mission House in Oxford. We met sisters at the Fairacres convent, a community we had helped to found in the early days of the twentieth century. We had our annual retreat at Bishop’s House on Iona, which had once been a house of the Society. It was a great time, and for the most part the weather was spectacular. Whenever I am in Britain, I am struck buy two things. I am struck by just how small the country is and how close everything is to everything else. And I am struck by the fact that I lose all sense of direction. I am struck by the fact that I have absolutely no sense of where things are in relation to one another. Now that’s fine if you are not driving, but if you are driving … and alone …without a map, that’s a recipe for disaster. I mean, how hard can it really be to get from Heathrow to Oxford, especially when you have just come from Oxford? It’s just over there. Or was it there. Or maybe it was that way. I guess I didn’t know after all. Boy did I get lost that day. I am surprised I ever made it back to Oxford because after a while it became really clear, I wasn’t anywhere near Oxford. Continue reading
A profound shift is taking place in this country. It has already taken place in much of Western Europe. It has also happened in Canada. It is just now that the United States is catching up. That shift is the movement away from Christianity in places where it was once dominant. For a whole variety of reasons those who claim to be Christian and those who affiliate with a particular church are slowly declining.
But there is a difference between what is happening in Europe and what is happening in North America. The difference is that in Europe there is still, even if vague, a dim memory of a pre-Christian past. Those of us in North America, at least those of us of European descent, have no such memory. Our collective memory does not include a time when we were not, at least in North America, Christian.
That is not true in Europe. And that is what fascinates me. Continue reading
When I read gospel lessons like the one we’ve read today, I sometimes wonder what the disciples thought when Jesus spoke difficult words like these. I’m sure they were keenly interested in the success of Jesus’ mission and were delighted to see the large crowds that flocked to him. Being in the inner circle of a popular public figure like Jesus must have been very gratifying. As more and more people came to Jesus, it must have felt like confirmation of their own choice to leave everything to follow him. But I think they must have shaken their heads with confusion and disbelief when Jesus addressed those same crowds with words like these – words which could only have been off-putting for those who heard them: “Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple” (v.26). “Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple” (v.27). “None of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions” (v.33). Continue reading
All Souls’ Day – Preaching Series: Finding God in Harvard Square
This is the last in our preaching series, “Finding God in Harvard Square”, and the title of this sermon is, “The Soul of the Body.” It is the last of the series, suggesting perhaps that the body is the last place we may expect to find God.
This sort of thinking coincides with the feast we keep today, All Souls’ Day: The Commemoration of All Faithful Departed, a day specifically set aside for remembering those who have died, those who, so far as we know, no longer have earthly bodies.
In many respects, we have been taught, and we do feel at times as though our bodies are mere vessels’.We may revere our bodies as temples at times, though we may also view our bodies as prisons which prevent us from living to our full potential. We may go back and forth. Many of us have ambiguous relationships with our bodies. Continue reading