“Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the deeds of power done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.”
I doubt there are many preachers who would clamor to preach on the gospel text we have just heard. We preachers tend to avoid the difficult sayings of Jesus and look for more comfortable and pleasing words. This straight-talking, hard-hitting, no-holds-barred Jesus disturbs us. And yet this may be one of the blessings of having texts chosen for us by a daily lectionary, which compels us forego, at least occasionally, the more agreeable stories and sayings of Jesus. In texts like these, we are forced to confront the message of Jesus in all its forms.
The vegetable garden at Emery House is flourishing as we partner with Nourishing the North Shore. With our land and water, they labor to grow, harvest, and distribute vegetables, mostly to neighbors in need. They carefully prepared the soil, made plans, and planted precise rows with irrigation. One section has cover crops in order to replenish the soil. It’s all planned and orderly. As in your yard or inside with containers, gardeners plan and prepare.
Today’s parable gets our attention. The sower casts seed recklessly such that seeds fell on the path where birds ate them, on rocky ground where shoots sprang up but quickly withered, amid thorns which grew alongside and chocked them, as well as on good soil which bore fruit. No one sows like this, wildly sending seed with little chance of survival. No one is so reckless. Continue reading →
On August 20, 1965, Jonathan Myrick Daniels, an episcopal seminarian did an amazing thing. When confronted by a white man with a 12 gauge shot gun, Jonathan jumped in front of 16 year old Ruby Sales, an African American woman from Alabama, and absorbed the bullet meant for her at point blank range. He died. This is amazing, but not extraordinary. Most people who have been donned a ‘hero’ usually shrug off the title saying that they reacted to a situation by instinct and not by any heroic rationale. Had he lived, perhaps Jonathan would have said the same of his behavior in the face of violence.
Like many of us, Jonathan struggled with his sense of vocation. He graduated from Virginia Military Institute and attended Harvard for graduate school but when it came to what he wanted to do with his life, he felt lost, juggling the possibilities of being a lawyer, doctor, or writer. Then on Easter Day in 1962 while attending a service at the Church of the Advent here in Boston, Jonathan heard the still small voice of God calling him and immediately knew in his heart what he must do. He soon entered what is now the Episcopal Divinity School to pursue ministry. Three years later, inspired by the words of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the gospel of Luke (He has cast down the mighty from their thrones, and has lifted up the lowly. He has filled the hungry with good things….)[i] and also by words of Dr. Martin Luther King, he asked for leave from seminary to go to Selma, Alabama to help in the Civil Rights Movement. He wrote: “I knew that I must go to Selma. The Virgin’s song was to grow more and more dear to me in the weeks ahead.”[ii]Continue reading →
Thursday evenings (6:45-8:20 pm) – September 14, 21 and 28; October 5, 12, and 19
Monastery Guesthouse Common Room
Leader: Br. Nicholas Bartoli, SSJE
Over the course of six weeks, we will be reading and discussing David Frenette’s The Path of Centering Prayer: Deepening Your Experience of God. Together we will learn how to deepen our centering prayer practice by refocusing on the nature of contemplation. We will also explore contemplative attitudes, both as part of the practice of contemplation, and as the fruit it bears within our everyday lives. Please note that you must be able to commit to at least five Thursday evenings in order to join the group. The book is available from Amazon here: http://amzn.com/1604076739. For our first meeting, please have read chapters 1-3.
Limited to 10 participants with ability to commit to at least five of the six sessions.
To join this prayer group please contact the Guesthouse Manager by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by telephone at (617) 876-3037 extension 10. The guesthouse office hours are Monday through Friday, 9:00AM to 5:00PM.
Our world paints weakness in a very bad light. It’s seen as something to be exploited, or mocked, or—at best—pitied. But today’s Gospel reading flips that script. I think this passage is a very clear example of the necessity of weakness with Christ.
Zacchaeus was the chief tax-collector in Jericho. He was a Jew who had decided to collaborate with the Roman Empire for his own wealth and power. Many of his fellow Jews saw him as a traitor. Not only that, but tax collectors were widely—and often, correctly—seen as corrupt, willing to abuse their power for personal gain. The average person on the street in Jericho would have been very likely to view Zacchaeus as a treacherous thief. Continue reading →
These book study and discussion groups, led by a brother, will explore themes arising from reading the book or other material in question. Participants need to be able to commit to all the weekly sessions, the number of which will vary depending on the group.
Thursday evenings (6:45-8:20 pm) – February 15 and 22; March 1, 8 and 15
Monastery Guesthouse Common Room
Leader: Br. Keith Nelson, SSJE
T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets can be read as a charter for Christian contemplative life in the modern world, a vision for all who seek to balance silence and words, stillness and loving service in the way of Christ. Through shared silence and deep attention to the spiritual motives in its authorship, we’ll explore this master poem as a doorway into the mystery of God.
Limited to 10 participants with ability to commit to all sessions.
To join this prayer group please contact the Guesthouse Manager by e-mail at email@example.com or by telephone at (617) 876-3037 extension 1.
When I was in seminary, one of my professors frequently spoke of alarms bells. He’d be in the middle of his lecture, or answering a question, or making a comment about something, when he would stop and announce: alarm bells should be going off in your head right now! It took a while, but we soon realized that this was his code for us to make connections between what he had just said and something we might have heard or known from a different situation.
Well, if it were Professor Koester, and not Brother James standing before you today, I’d be saying alarm bells should be going off in your head right now! In fact, really loud alarms should be ringing for you this morning. It’s not that you are in a deep sleep right now and need to wake up (although perhaps that’s true!). Instead you should be thinking, this all sounds vaguely familiar. Where have I heard this before?Continue reading →
As a high school actor I was initiated into the fundamentals of method acting. Later in life, that experience was put to the test when I myself began teaching high school and was unexpectedly asked to direct student theater. The method actor asks the classic question, “What’s my motivation?” The director of method acting takes pains to encourage exercises in emotional intelligence, body-mind awareness, improvisation and character exploration. Only later, once the actors are finding their voices, tapping their emotional core, working as an ensemble, and embracing the full expressive range of their bodies does the director get down to work on stagecraft: who will move where and when, how lighting and costuming and props will augment and frame the actors, communicate themes, and offer a creative vision. Without that preparatory inner work, a high school play can be a cruel form of torture for an audience. A young, inexperienced or insensitive actor will seek to convey mature adult emotions by aiming to use his voice and body to manufacture a dramatic or impactful impression upon his audience. The effort almost always falls flat because the actor hasn’t done the work of engaging that emotion — or its nearest analogue — in his own life, letting the words and actions flow from that hidden spring. On the other hand, the most gratifying and miraculous moments in a high school play are those in which we glimpse a young actor’s unselfconscious humanity: the embodied expression of her personhood taking shape behind and beneath the memorized lines and tentative gestures. Here and there, true feeling flashes forth and art takes flesh before our eyes. She has become the character because she is becoming herself. This is the fruit of the actor’s inner work. Continue reading →
Here is my sermon that I preached today. I was struck immediately by the reference to God’s Compassion when I began meditating on the Scripture readings for today’s Eucharist. The reference to Sarah’s behavior being like an angry bear protecting her cub came from mention of bears in Quebec in several of Louise Penny’s Mystery Novels about a fictional village in Quebec. The rest of the sermon just developed from there.
Gen. 21:5, 8-20
Today’s first reading is a story of Sarah, the wife of Abraham, acting something like an angry mother bear protecting her cub. We also see God, acting in contrast to that with great compassion.
The story began by telling us that Abraham was one hundred years old when his son Isaac was born. This alone was something outside of ordinary norms. Sarah herself was not much younger. Having a son born at such an age is a miracle. Continue reading →
Location: The Monastery at Emery House (West Newbury) Thursday 5:00 pm-Sunday 2:00 pm, June 21-24, 2018 Leader: Br. Curtis Almquist, SSJE
This long weekend retreat, in the beautiful sanctuary of our rural Emery House property, will offer an experience of being really present to the real presence of Christ, now. We will draw on our senses, the cadence of poetry, music, and the gift of movement, for a weekend promising to be re-creative for the soul.
Location: The Monastery at Emery House (West Newbury) Tuesday 5:00 pm-Saturday 2:00 pm, April 24-29, 2018 Leader: Brs. Curtis Almquist and Geoffrey Tristram, SSJE
This retreat is to help ordained ministers find replenishment for what has been spent, and encouragement for the future. The schedule will be very spacious, with time to rest, ponder, pray, savor your life, and reclaim the vocation to which Jesus has called you.
*Note: The retreat program ends on Saturday afternoon following the midday meal; retreatants are welcome to stay until Sunday afternoon. Please let us know.
Come Unto Me, All You Who Are Weary: April 24-29, 2018
Location: The Monastery at Emery House (West Newbury) Friday 5:00 pm-Sunday 2:00 pm, February 23-25, 2018 Leader: Br. Curtis Almquist, SSJE
Jesus has come to save us and salve us. Our heart is vulnerable to become bruised, constricted, or hardened by the changes and chances of life: disappointments, disruptions, disease, and death. We will explore the spiritual angioplasty of forgiveness, redemption, and encouragement.
*Note: The retreat program begins on a Friday. Retreatants are welcome to arrive as early as Thursday afternoon if they’d like to extent their retreat. Please let us know.
Location: The Monastery at Emery House (West Newbury) Friday-Sunday, December 15-17, 2017 Leader: Br. Geoffrey Tristam, SSJE
Advent is a time of hope, a time to listen deeply to our longing for wholeness, and to God’s promise of consolation and redemption. We will pray with scripture, especially passages from Isaiah and the psalms, as we seek to know within ourselves the world’s longing and God’s provision.
Hope, Consolation and Redemption: December 15-17, 2017
Location: The Monastery in Cambridge Thursday 5:00 pm-Sunday 2:00 pm, May 17-20, 2018 Leader: Br. Nicholas Bartoli, SSJE
Please join us at the monastery for a time of silent retreat and reflection. In this four-day retreat we will embrace silence and stillness as a way to deepen our lives of prayer. By exploring the practice of contemplation, we will deepen our experience of walking in the light of God’s presence, learning how to let our souls rest in the loving embrace of the Holy One. We will be working with the ancient monastic model of one’s journey of prayer through three stages: Praktikos, Theoretikos and Gnostikos.
Walking in the Light of God's Presence: May 17-20, 2018
Location: The Monastery in Cambridge Thursday 5:00 pm-Sunday 2:00 pm, April 26-29, 2018 Leader: Br. Keith Nelson, SSJE
Our SSJE Rule of Life holds before us the hope of “attaining maturity as loving, disciplined, and free men.” What does a mature, non-patriarchal masculine spirituality look like in our century? How can our leadership, mentoring, learning, praying and loving – as men of God– become a more authentic expression of Christ’s own compassionate strength? We’ll seek answers to these questions in scripture and in the rich traditions of monastic spirituality, in sacred images and archetypes, and in our own personal stories. Join us as we celebrate the diversity of our manhood, reconnect with our God, and renew our vision of God’s future.
Location: The Monastery in Cambridge Friday 5:00 pm-Sunday 2:00 pm, March 16-18, 2018 Leader: Br. Jonathan Maury, SSJE
If you haven’t yet come on retreat with us because it’s new or daunting, this weekend is for you. The Brothers will gently usher you into the experience of silence and solitude, offer teaching, and suggest ways you might experiment with prayer.
Location: The Monastery in Cambridge Friday 5:00 pm-Sunday 2:00 pm, February 16-18, 2018 Leader: Br. Jim Woodrum
At the beginning of Lent many of us commit ourselves to an ascetic form of Discipline which, truth be told, we are rarely able to keep. In this retreat, we will take a look at ways to transform a droll Lenten Discipline into the life-giving adventure of Discipleship.
Transforming Discipline into Discipleship: February 16-18, 2018
Location: The Monastery in Cambridge Friday 5:00 pm-Sunday 2:00 pm, January 12-14, 2018 Leader: Br. Mark Brown, SSJE
This Epiphanytide retreat will be an opportunity to reflect more deeply on the mysteries of our faith conveyed in four events in the life of Christ associated with the season: The Visit of the Magi, Christ’s Baptism, the Wedding at Cana and the Presentation in the Temple.
Location: The Monastery in Cambridge Friday 5:00 pm-Sunday 2:00 pm, December 1-3, 2017 Leader: Br. Jonathan Maury, SSJE
Awaiting Christ’s coming in power and preparing for the Christmas feast of God-with-us, this retreat will give opportunity to experience the continuous coming of Jesus in word and sacrament. Meditations will focus on the seven Great O Antiphons, as paraphrased in the hymn “O come, O come, Emmanuel”.