Calling by Name – Br. Luke Ditewig

Br. Luke Ditewig

John 20:1-18

Jesus came standing next to Mary Magdalene, but she did not know it was him. When Jesus called Mary by name, she recognized him. A most brief and beautiful portrait, so intimate, so familiar. Mary felt she had lost everything: her Lord, her friend, her way. Called by her name, Mary was found; she regained sight, saw Jesus beside her.

Jesus calls us by name. Some people hear God speak literally, audibly, as Mary did. That is not my experience. If it is, I missed it. If you experience that, be grateful. I do hear God call me by name, and it is powerful, resurrection power, like what Mary experienced. I bet you have experienced it too. Continue reading

Hospitality – Br. Luke Ditewig

Br. Luke Ditewig

Genesis 18:1-16
Luke 19:1-10

Traveling in the desert is dangerous. One may faint from heat or be blinded by light. Caves offer safe shadows. One cannot survive alone. In the desert culture of Abraham and today, when meeting someone you share provisions. Generosity may save a stranger’s life. In our first lesson, God visited Abraham and Sarah in the person of three strangers. Abraham hurried from the tent, invited them to stop and rest in the shade of the tree and then hurried off to prepare a meal and serve them. Hospitality, tonight’s radical practice, is essential in a desert and everywhere. We all need welcome and sharing.

We assume self-sufficiency though most of us experience much need and forget our past. Remember the children of Abraham spent 400 years as resident alien slaves in Egypt. After being rescued and later receiving land, God instructed: “The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt”[i] Being a stranger shapes behavior. We know what it feels like. God said: “You shall not oppress a resident alien; you know the heart of an alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt.”[ii] Later our ancestors were aliens in exile under Babylonian rule. We know what it is like to be traveling and to be outsiders. Having been strangers, we welcome strangers. Continue reading

Antony & Adoration – Br. Luke Ditewig

Br. Luke Ditewig

Today we remember Antony of Egypt, the founder of Christian monasticism, who moved out into the desert alone to pray. When Antony emerged from the desert and learned of a great persecution of the church, he returned to the city and cared for those in trouble. Later he returned to the desert but many people came out to see him and hear his wisdom. Judges repeatedly called Antony down to the city to advise them in their rulings.

Solitude for prayer, for focusing on relationship with God, is key to our life and what we offer on retreat. Monasticism like ours is life shared together, a company of friends who prioritize friendship with Christ. Continue reading

Sermons for the Beach: Remembering Joy


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

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

Onward – Br. Luke Ditewig

Br. Luke Ditewig

Matthew 13:54-56

In high school, college, and seminary I played in a hand bell choir and also as a hand bell soloist. Many people knew me as “the bell guy.” When returning to California to visit my parents, I keep being asked about bells though I stopped playing years ago. That memory, that name sticks.

People leave, change, and return with memories of who we once were jostling up against who we are now. Memories may be neutral or fun like the bell guy. Memories may be of embarrassment, shame, or guilt. We may be treated with aggression, evasion, or suspicion. People may restrict us, zeroing in on what we did—even if we only did it once—focusing on the past instead of acknowledging who we have become. Continue reading

Common Connection – Br. Luke Ditewig

Br. Luke Ditewig

When 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.

Today we conclude a ten-part sermon series on the Anglican Five Marks of Mission. These 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.These communicate we are connected to and being converted by Christ.The five marks may be summarized: tell, teach, tend, transform, and treasure. Let’s review. Continue reading

Look at Love – Br. Luke Ditewig

Br. Luke Ditewig

Isaiah 52:13-53:12
John 18:1-19:37

“Look on the one whom they have pierced.” Look long. Look well. Look at Love. “Wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the punishment that made us whole, and by his bruises we are healed.”

It is hard to look. We would rather turn away, turn away from suffering and death, prejudice and inequality, poverty and violence, each swirling round our world, close to home, and in ourselves. Life can be so frightening, confusing, and revolting. We would rather turn away. Continue reading

Living in Rhythm and Balance – Br. Luke Ditewig

This sermon is part of a Lenten preaching series on “Growing a Rule of Life.

Preaching SeriesSQRules of Life & the Rhythms of Nature – Br. James Koester
Our Relationship with God – Br. Geoffrey Tristram
Our Relationship with Self – Br. Mark Brown
Our Relationship with Others – Br. David Vryhof
Our Relationship with Creation – Br. Keith Nelson
Living in Rhythm and Balance – Br. Luke Ditewig

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Br. Luke DitewigMark 1:29-39
Philippians 4:8-9

This Lent we’ve been reflecting on Growing a Rule of Life, a list of goals and practices of how to live well with gardening as the primary image. We have considered various relational garden plots in which to grow our relationship with God, with ourselves, with others, and with creation. Today we conclude by looking at the whole, looking to Jesus for how to balance these relationships, and for many of us reviewing the personal rule we’ve drafted with suggestions for how to live in rhythm.

Touching your neck or chest, feel your heart beat. We are rhythm at the core. Whether relaxed or stressed, the heart pulses our beat, sounds the rhythm of our life’s dance. Rhythm is the pattern of presence and absence of sound, of notes and rests, long and short, more and less, doing and refraining, ebb and flow. Rule of life may also be considered rhythm of life. What’s your beat? What’s the tempo? What are the steps or style of your dance? Where’s the emphasis? As in music, rests, the seeming absence, define notes and create the rhythm.

What was Jesus’ rhythm? How does his life inform how to live? Jesus went to the synagogue, worshiping God in community on the Sabbath. In our gospel lesson, Jesus is just leaving and he goes to the house of Simon, one of his disciples. Jesus goes to synagogue, spends time with friends, and he responds to those in needs. Many crowd the house that evening, and he heals them.

“In the morning, while it was still very dark, Jesus got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed.” Jesus knew what was coming. People would gather with requests. The “to do” list would sprout. Jesus knew the pain and questions of his own human heart would be present. Jesus knew waiting with God to be primary and sustaining. Jesus stopped and went away to pray. Jesus taught in the synagogue and on the road, healed at home, and people were constantly coming to him asking more. Jesus’ rhythm has lots of activity, lots of serving, and significantly, Jesus stops to pray.

Jesus also invites us to stop and rest with him. Sometimes he sends the disciples off ahead of him while he dismisses the crowd. “Come to me, all you who are weary and carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. … my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28, 30) Like animals yoked together to share the work, Jesus says he will work with us, easing the burden.

How does Jesus do this? Not simply taking over. Jesus teaches modeling that amid hard work and relating to many, stopping to rest and pray is humanity’s natural rhythm, how we were created to live well. Jesus invites us to be his companions and friends, choosing a life yoked to him, a life regulated by God, or we might say following a pattern, a rule, a rhythm of God.

Eugene Peterson paraphrases it this way: “Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” (Matthew 11:29-30 in The Message)

Choosing to be regulated, to grow a rule, a pattern, a rhythm of life is challenging. As with a garden, it takes planning what’s appropriate and possible, establishing boundaries, providing nutrients, tender care and pruning. It requires a lot of showing up and patience. Growing plants or a rule of life is also learning the “unforced rhythms of grace.” We cannot control what is grown. We invest but we do not produce. God gives the growth. We receive what we do not deserve and often can’t request. Keeping company with Jesus, we face again and again that we are dust, learning humility, that we are not God.

With humble honesty and gentle grace, I invite you to consider the rule of life you are planning, and perhaps review what you’ve thought or written about through this series. Here are three suggestions.

First, focus on freedom. Does what you plan feel like increasing burden? It’s supposed to be helpful. The point is becoming more fully alive. Philippians reminds us to seek what is honorable, just, commendable, excellent, and worthy of praise. These bring us freedom. Following Jesus is challenging and incremental. Beware of taking on too much. Be gentle with yourself. Start small, and ask for help.

Second, move and adapt. Planting the same thing in the same place depletes the soil. Changing what and where we grow enables further growth. A monastic virtue, and for some communities one of the vows, is stability, which comes from the word “to stand.” It’s hard to stand upright for long periods without moving. In the words of Br. Michael Casey, a Cistercian monk: “Stability is not immobility. It is the knack of remaining constant in the midst of change. … the important thing is to keep moving forward, to keep adapting to changed circumstances and to re-orient oneself toward the goal.”[i] A rule of life changes us, and it too will need adapting. Hold it lightly. See what emerges. Watch the weather. With the goal in mind, adapt to the life you receive.

Third, dance with others. Relationships help us stay in rhythm, help us balance. Do part of your rule with others. Share a practice. Perhaps a different person for each garden plot: relationship with God, with yourself, with creation. Notice together what you discover. Or stop to reflect with someone or some group about the experience as a whole, what it’s like living into your rhythm, your rule of life.

Every day presents many choices. A rule, a rhythm, helps us regulate and balance. What will you seek to grow or how will you dance in this season of life you’ve been given? Jesus says: Dance with me; follow my lead. “Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me, and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

[i] Michael Casey, ocso (2005) Strangers to the City: Reflections on the Beliefs and Values of the Rule of Saint Benedict. Brewster, MA: Paraclete Press, p191.

Childlike Salvation – Br. Luke Ditewig

Br. Luke Ditewig

Galatians 4:4-7

“God sent his Son, born of a woman, … so that we might receive adoption as children.” We are not slaves but children of the King of Kings. As Savior, Jesus names us daughter and son.  When teaching, Jesus often pointed to children and told adults to be like them.How is being childlike part of salvation?

Freedom. Children naturally play, risking the new. Step outside the box. Move about. See if it and how it works.God is always inviting us into more. Childlike freedom furthers our becoming. Continue reading

Waiting in the Dark- Br. Luke Ditewig

Br. Luke Ditewig

Luke 1:39-55

The darkness deepens, the daylight shortens. Dark and more dark. Violence strikes. Fear infects. Prejudice multiplies. Sadness swells. Dark and more dark.

In deepening darkness, we wait for consolation, for peace, for God. “Show the light of your countenance and we shall be saved.” (Psalm 80:3)

In those days, in those dark days, Mary set out and went quickly to visit Elizabeth. A normal visit turned extraordinary. By divine power and blessing,now both Mary, a young virgin, and Elizabeth, a barren elder, are pregnant.

Dark days since they also bear the burden of public shame.The scandal since Mary claims pregnancy through the dream of an angel. Who did she think she was?The long years of ridicule for Elizabeth who had never born a child. Rumors swirling about why she was now. Continue reading

Live Loud – Br. Luke Ditewig

Br. Luke Ditewig

Matthew 1:18-25

We frequently remember Mary for saying “yes” to God’s invitation.Joseph also said “yes”though none of his words are recorded in scripture. His life is his word. Joseph’s actions speak loudly.

Joseph was a righteous man.  Quiet Joseph resolved to do the right thing, to dismiss Mary quietly, to save her from disgrace.Then God told Joseph to do something different, to take Mary as his wife and name their child Jesus.Joseph listened and followed. Continue reading

The Soul of Creativity – Br. Luke Ditewig

Br. Luke Ditewig

Colossians 1:15-20
John 1:1-18

Welcome to a preaching series we’re calling: Finding God in Harvard Square. For part one this evening, we’re exploring creativity.

In the beginning, God “birthed creation from the formless womb of space.”[i] Birthed breath-taking beauty of earth and sky, bumblebees to blue whales, pumpkins to prickly pears, delphinium to dogwood. God who “counts the number of the stars … knows them all by their names.”[ii] We and all creation reflect the image and nature of God the Divine Artist. Creativity, the ability to make or think new things, is of God’s essence. Creativity reflects God.

Many of us were taught a narrow, restrictive view of creativity. It’s not just the arts. Not just for a select few who others approve of as artists.[iii] We create when writing an academic paper or a poem or an equation, designing a motor, building a bench, setting up a celebration, cooking a meal, or playing a game. All of us create or think new things. All of us reflect God. Continue reading

Mercy – Br. Luke Ditewig

Br. Luke Ditewig

Today we remember and give thanks for Saint Matthew, an apostle and evangelist, called into companionship with Jesus and sent out to share the good news. Matthew’s story reminds us Jesus calls and sends all kinds of people. Matthew worked as a tax collector. Tax collectors were considered traitors to the Jewish people because they worked for the occupying Roman Empire. In league with the enemy, tax collectors were outcasts, barred from Jewish community. Even more striking than uneducated fishermen, Jesus invited Matthew.

Jesus particularly liked and looked out for the least and last on the religious leaders’ list. Especially in Jesus’ day, eating together was a sign of acceptance and belonging. Companion literally means sharing bread. The Pharisees asked Jesus’ disciples: “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” Jesus answered them directly: “Those who are well have no need of a physician but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice.’” Continue reading

A Lifetime of Change – A conversation about vocation with Br. Luke Ditewig

P1270754Q:  When did you first begin to have a sense of a monastic vocation?

I went to seminary right after college because an internship made me think I wanted to be a hospital chaplain. After my first year I got a real taste of chaplaincy in Clinical Pastoral Education and found I did not want to be a hospital chaplain. It was quite a shock: everything I had expected – the very reason why I’d come to seminary – turned out to be not as I thought.

I continued my seminary studies and chose a full-time, year-long internship so that, like CPE, I could learn and discern further by doing ministry outside the classroom. I’m from California and studied near Boston and in Princeton. God sent me on a cross-cultural adventure of parish ministry immersion in western Nebraska. I returned for a second year after seminary alongside a different priest. Then I moved to a desert island. Campus by the Sea, a Christian camp on Catalina off the coast of Los Angeles, is a special home and thin place where I’ve encountered God all my life. I grew up frequenting it as my dad led collegian retreats, later volunteering as a teenager. Leaving Nebraska, I followed a long-held dream by returning to camp for a whole year on staff. Continue reading

Hold On – Br. Luke Ditewig

Br. Luke DitewigToday 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

Saving Still – Br. Luke Ditewig

Br. Luke DitewigExodus 14:21-15:1

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

Deep Truth – Br. Luke Ditewig

Br. Luke DitewigMatthew 11:25-26

“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

On the Cross – Br. Luke Ditewig

Mark 4:35-41

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

Into the Boat – Br. Luke Ditewig

Br. Luke DitewigJohn 6:16-21

In the dark while crossing the lake, a strong wind whips the waves wild. Tense, holding on tight, they row in the rough three or four miles, straining, anxious.

Yesterday evening we chanted Psalm 107, including:

“Some went to the sea in ships and plied their trade in the deep waters.

A stormy wind arose, which tossed high the waves of the sea.

They mounted up to the heavens and fell back to the depths;

their hearts melted because of their peril” (v23-26).

There in the middle, in the storm, on the sea, in the dark, a figure appears, walking on water. Jesus sparks further fright in the night.

Jesus says: “It is I. Do not be afraid.”

Continue reading