Giving Up Life to Discover Life – Br. Curtis Almquist

Br. Curtis Almquist

August 30, 2016 – The Beheading of Saint John the Baptist

For Herod himself had sent men who arrested John, bound him, and put him in prison on account of Herodias, his Brother Philip’s wife, because Herod had married her.  For John had been telling Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your Brother’s wife.”  And Herodias had a grudge against him, and wanted to kill him. But she could not, for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and he protected him. When he heard him, he was greatly perplexed; and yet he liked to listen to him.  But an opportunity came when Herod on his birthday gave a banquet for his courtiers and officers and for the leaders of Galilee.  When his daughter Herodias came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his guests; and the king said to the girl, “Ask me for whatever you wish, and I will give it.”  And he solemnly swore to her, “Whatever you ask me, I will give you, even half of my kingdom.”  She went out and said to her mother, “What should I ask for?”  She replied, “The head of John the baptizer.”  Immediately she rushed back to the king and requested, “I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter.”  The king was deeply grieved; yet out of regard for his oaths and for the guests, he did not want to refuse her.  Immediately the king sent a soldier of the guard with orders to bring John’s head. He went and beheaded him in the prison, brought his head on a platter, and gave it to the girl. Then the girl gave it to her mother.  When his disciples heard about it, they came and took his body, and laid it in a tomb. Mark 6:17-29 Continue reading

Sermons for the Beach: Contemplative Vision

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During the month of August, while the Chapel is closed, we are reposting sermons that we hope will inspire you to embrace play, silence, and recreation. The Chapel will reopen on Tuesday, August 30, 2016.

geoffrey 150xIt is so good to be back again, worshiping in this lovely place, after our time away of retreat and community discussions.  And it is so good to see you all again.  I do hope you have had a great summer – a time for rest and refreshment.

We had a wonderful retreat.  To spend those days amidst the natural beauty of Emery House was a great gift.  Certainly for me, and I know other Brothers, it was an occasion to deepen our contemplative vision.  In the Letter to the Hebrews which was read this morning, verse 14 says, “For here we have no abiding city, but we are looking for a city that is to come.”  And I think that’s really what the contemplative vision is all about.  It is about seeing with the eyes of faith; seeing that this life which we have is not the only reality.  When our contemplative vision grows, we see that the apparently ordinary things of life are shot through with the glory of God.  Spending time on retreat is a wonderful opportunity to really see again heaven breaking through – or as William Blake put it, “to see the world in a grain of sand, and to see heaven in a wild flower, hold infinity in the palm of your hands, and eternity in an hour.” Continue reading

Sermons for the Beach: Remembering Joy

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During the month of August, while the Chapel is closed, we are reposting sermons that we hope will inspire you to embrace play, rest, joy, and recreation. 

The first week of November a dozen people walked to Emery House, our retreat center in West Newbury. They walked from downtown Boston, walked over 50 miles in three days. They were from Ecclesia Ministries which offers spiritual companionship to homeless men and women in Boston. Both homeless and housed, they walked in community on a spiritual pilgrimage, staying with host churches along the way. We at Emery House had the honor of being their destination: together we celebrated and feasted, shared silence and reflected aloud, rested and prayed. Continue reading

2016 Fall Cowley

Fall16 Cowley CoverClick on the links below to read selected articles from the Fall 2016 Cowley Magazine, which takes up the theme “Marks of Mission, Marks of Love”:

  1. In the Monastic Wisdom for Everyday Living article, “Beloved: Marks of Mission, Marks of Love,” Br. Mark Brown examines the story of Jesus’ baptism to uncover its role in helping to establish his sense of mission – and the mission to which we are all called.
  2. Associate Professor of Christian Mission and the Director of the Center for Anglican Communion Studies at Virginia Theological Seminary, Robert Heaney, unfolds how the Anglican Marks of Mission are Marks of Love.
  3. Br. Luke Ditewig suggests how the Five Marks of Mission – tell, teach, tend, transform, treasure – signify that Jesus’ love is making its mark on us.
  4. Two of the past year’s Monastic Interns reflect on what they’ve learned about embracing uncertainty and practicing silence.
  5. FSJ Member Scott Christian shares reflections from the recent FSJ Pilgrimage to the Holy Land.
  6. “What price is too high for knowing You better?” Br. John Braught shares the vocational struggles and realizations that brought him to the Monastery.

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.

Reflections from the 2016 Monastic Internship Program

IMG_9355There was a Sunday afternoon when I was a child that I sat my mother down and demanded to know about life and death, where babies come from, and where we go. When my mother had answered all my questions to my satisfaction, I announced, “I’ve learned a lot today,” and left the room confident in my grasp of existence. Continue reading

Letter from the FSJ: Pilgrimage to the Holy Land

IMG_0986Two students asked a rabbi, “Why does God command us to put the word of God on our hearts. Why did God not say to put God’s word in our hearts?” The rabbi responded, “We are commanded to place the word of God on our hearts because our hearts are closed and the word of God cannot get in. So God commands us to place the word of God on our hearts. And there it sits and waits for the day when our hearts will be broken. When they are broken, then the word of God will fall gently inside.” This parable was shared early on in the FSJ pilgrimage to the Holy Land by one of our leaders, and this pilgrimage indeed broke open my heart. We talk of God-moments in our lives; these were God-days. Continue reading

We Need God Together – A Conversation about Vocation with Br. John Braught

John Braught, SSJEHow did your journey to the Monastery begin?

I’m a cradle Episcopalian. I grew up going to church and was an acolyte, a crucifer, a torchbearer, and a server. I enjoyed the church youth group and socializing with kids my age in the fun activities they put on, but I found church boring. Like many people, I stopped going at the first opportunity. I don’t think I ever made the connection between being a church-going Episcopalian and having a relationship with Jesus. Certainly it was the receiver, not the message, that was broken, but that element wasn’t really communicated to me. So I left the church and became wayward (in my own way). Continue reading

Tell, Teach, Tend, Transform, Treasure

IMG_5063When I was about six, two collegians who were allergic to cats asked me to move a cat away from them. I tried but had difficulty, so I said: “The easiest thing would be for you to move. You could come back later and by then the cat will have moved.” The students later told my dad they could tell I was his son. People still recognize my parents in how I speak, listen, and serve. How we live communicates our community, to whom we are connected.

This year, we Brothers are praying, preaching, and teaching around the five Marks of Mission of the Anglican Church. These five points are one way to summarize who God is and what it looks like for us to be known as God’s beloved daughters and sons. They communicate that we are connected to and being converted by Christ. The five marks may be summarized: tell, teach, tend, transform, and treasure. Continue reading

Marks of Love – Robert Heaney

image1-2As Episcopalians we talk about five “Marks of Mission.” To think of these as five marks of love seems to me to be a helpful reframing. God is love. And whatever mission is or is not, it is about the God of love. Indeed, we might say that mission is who God is and what God does. Christians think of God, in God’s being, as burning “with an unchecked Flame, red hot, incendiary. God does not have Love any more than He has Knowledge or Power: He just is these things.” God is love. Love without object or act (Katherine Sonderegger, Systematic Theology Volume 1, 489, 485).

God is love. Too often we skim over such words as a rock skitting across water thrown from a boat to a shore. We touch the truth for a passing moment. We fail to plumb the depths. If, by the power of Christ’s Spirit, we could begin to experience and encounter the depths of divine love we would avoid much of the misunderstanding and malpractice that passes for mission in the Church. God is love. Continue reading

Sermons for the Beach: Listening to God

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During the month of August, while the Chapel is closed, we are reposting sermons that we hope will inspire you to embrace play, silence, solitude, and recreation. 

Br. David Vryhof“Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.” (I Samuel 3:10)

I once had a deaf friend, an earnest Christian, who asked me whether hearing people could hear God’s voice as clearly as they could hear one another’s voices. He had often observed hear­ing people responding to one another’s voices, mysteriously communicating meaning to one an­other through the movements of their jaws and lips, and understanding one another even when they weren’t look­ing at each other, or when the speaker was in another room. He had learned that they pos­sessed a mysterious ability that he had never had, and now he wondered if the same ability that enabled them to communicate with one another even when sep­arated by a wall or a door enabled them also to com­­­municate with God. “Does God talk to you?” he asked; “Can you hear God?” Continue reading

Sermons for the Beach: The Soul of Sound and Silence

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During the month of August, while the Chapel is closed, we are reposting sermons that we hope will inspire you to embrace play, silence, solitude, and recreation. 

Br. Jim WoodrumBr. Jim’s sermon, “The Soul of Sound and Silence,” was originally preached as part of the series, “Finding God in Harvard Square.” Learn more here.

1 Kings 19:9-13 a; Psalm 62; Mark 4:35-41

Last week there was an interesting factoid released on Boston.com rating the ten busiest Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority stations in Boston.You’ll be very proud to know that our very own Harvard Square Station ranked third just under South Station (#1) and Downtown Crossing (#2) with an average of 23,199 travelers entering the station on weekdays.[i]  So it comes as no surprise that at any time of day you can find a diverse and frenetic populace bustling through the Square and its surroundings on an infinite variety of missions be it school, work, or play.  And with all this activity comes a cacophony of sound that you’d expect to accompany the bronze medalist of busyness.  At any moment you could witness a motorcade transporting high ranking government officials or foreign dignitaries speaking at Harvard’s Kennedy School, or an acrobat thrilling an audience with an impromptu performance of stunts, or hear any and all kinds of music being played live while waiting for the T to arrive.  Sometimes the sounds are not so pleasant.  The other day when I was taking a run along the Charles River, I experienced someone laying on their car horn to signal their displeasure at someone trying to make a illegal left turn onto JFK Street from Memorial Drive.  The sound was immensely disconcerting. Continue reading

Sermons for the Beach: A Home in Your Heart

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During the month of August, while the Chapel is closed, we are reposting sermons that we hope will inspire you to embrace play, rest, and recreation.

James Koester SSJEActs 16: 9-15Psalm 67Revelation 21: 10, 22 – 22: 5John 14: 23 – 29

Over the last several weeks I have been busy building raised garden beds. If you have been to Emery House, you may have seen them, or even inspected them. In one I have spinach and beets, in another lettuce, radishes and carrots. In a couple of smaller ones I have planted potato onions, shallots and Egyptian Walking Onions (now isn’t that a great name!). Last week I transplanted the creeping oregano into one and one of the guests carefully transplanted most of the perennial onions into another. Continue reading

Sermons for the Beach: Stop the Motor

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During the month of August, while the Chapel is closed, we are reposting sermons that we hope will inspire you to embrace play, rest, solitude, and recreation.

Br. Mark BrownMark 6:30-34

Jesus calls his disciples to many and various good works. In the story today they’re all exhausted.  So he calls them to something very different: let’s go for a boat ride and get away from all this. So they go for a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee.  It doesn’t say whether it’s a row boat or a sail boat, but out they go. It’s time for rest.  Resting, getting away from it all, retreating is a spiritual practice.  It’s also a religious duty: it’s right there in the Ten Commandments, the Sabbath Rest. The Sabbath Rest in the most literal sense is about taking it easy on the seventh day of the week.  But Sabbath pertains to other time frames as well.  We might have annual retreats or a monthly retreat day. Continue reading

Sermons for the Beach: Hermitage of the Heart

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During the month of August, while the Chapel is closed, we are reposting sermons that we hope will inspire you to embrace play, rest, solitude, and recreation.

Br. Nicholas BartoliMark 6:30–34

Jesus embodied stillness and solitude, and he cultivated a kind of hermitage of his own heart, an oasis in a desert where his Father in heaven lived in the mystery of infinite love and compassion. To nourish this place, Jesus often retreated somewhere alone to pray or meditate, and in the reading today Jesus offers a similar experience of solitude to his disciples, inviting them into a deserted place. The Greek word translated as “deserted place” can also be translated as the wilderness or the desert. The root of the word means “lonely” and in fact the New Jerusalem Bible translation has Jesus inviting his disciples into a “lonely place.” The question is, why would anyone want to go to a lonely place?  Continue reading

Sermons for the Beach: Time to Play

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During the month of August, while the Chapel is closed, we are reposting sermons that we hope will inspire you to embrace play, rest, and recreation. 

Br. Curtis AlmquistBr. Curtis’ sermon, “Time to Play,” was originally preached to accompany SSJE’s 2015 video series, “It’s Time to…” about rediscovering the sacred dimensions of Time. Learn more here.

Matthew 18-1-5

If we consider how often the word “play” figures into English discourse, “play” is obviously important to us.  We play games and sports; we play musical instruments; we play cards; we play with our pets.  We watch actors play their parts in stage plays.  And, just for fun, there’s all kinds of word plays, like “I used to be indecisive.  Now I’m not so sure.” (1) We can play an important role in life.  But then, playing can also become quite complicated, like in a power play, or playing up to someone, or playing something down.  One can play fair, or play foul, or  play safe.  One can also play along, or play favorites, or play the field, or play politics, or play into someone’s hands, or play with someone’s head.  Complicated play. Continue reading

Divine Leisure: Joining God in the Cosmic Sandbox

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 In the first creation story told in the Book of Genesis, God’s spirit broods over the waters of chaos and speaks the universe into being, “Let there be light”—the first day of God’s creating work. Over a succession of five days, God continues creating—dry land, the dome of the heavens, winged birds, earthly creatures and humankind—and blessing everything that God has brought into being, pronouncing it all “very good.”

Then comes the seventh day: “And on the seventh day God finished the work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all the work that he had done.” After much creative labor, God takes “a day off,” simply to enjoy the fruits of this work and delight in all that creativity. “So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all the work that he had done in creation.”

Though enshrined in the Hebrew Scriptures as the Sabbath, a weekly day of rest, the rhythm of activity and leisure, creation and recreation, remains as countercultural in our present moment as it was in the world of our ancestors in faith. Continue reading