Sermon for Wednesday of Lent 3 – Br. David Allen

davidallen_1

Mt. 5:17-19 

        In today’s Gospel reading Jesus said that he had not come to abolish the Law or the Prophets, but to fulfill them.  In other words, Jesus said that he had come to teach the true spirit of the Law and the Prophets.  He went on to say, “not one letter, not one stroke of a letter would pass from the law until all is accomplished.” 

Until all is accomplished. How are we to understand that?  I think in saying that Jesus was referring to a time when the full spirit of the Law would be established.

When we look, for example, at the situation that presently exists in this country and in other parts of the world, I am afraid that the full spirit of the law still needs to be established in most parts of this world. Continue reading

Resistance: Transforming, Not Conforming – Br. Curtis Almquist

Br. Curtis Almquist

Romans 12:1-2, 9-21

I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect. Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” No, “if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. Continue reading

Being Born from Above – Br. Jonathan Maury

Genesis 12:1-4a
Psalm 121
Romans 4:1-5, 13-17
John 3:1-17

Though cautiously doing so by night, still,Nicodemus feels compelled to come to Jesus. This elder,a respected leader among the religious authorities, comes to see the mysterious rabbi from Galilee. However, mere curiosity does not motivate Nicodemus’ visit.He seems,rather, to be one of the “many [who] believed in [Jesus’s] name because they saw the signs that he was doing” (John 2:23) during that first Jerusalem Passover festival at which Jesus appears in John’s gospel.

“Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God.”(John 3:2)Nicodemus, I would say, exhibits a certain amount of courage and imagination.Courage in approaching Jesus in the wake of his disruptive action in the temple; imagination in that though there is much that Nicodemus already knows of God, he comes to Jesus aware that there is likely still much that he does not know. Continue reading

You can change! – Br. Curtis Almquist

Br. Curtis Almquist

Luke 11:29-32

There’s a word that shows up in this Gospel lesson appointed for today; the word shows up continually in the Scriptures and in the vocabulary of the church: repent.  Repentance is both better and worse than you might imagine.  The English word translated as “repentance” is the Greek word “metanoia”: a preposition “meta (after) and “noia” (to think or observe).  “Metanoia” – repentance – is something we conclude in hindsight where we realize we had it wrong: something we have done or left undone, said or left unsaid that was wrong.  Maybe a conclusion or a judgment call about something or someone which we now see wasn’t right.  It may be a whole pattern of actions, brazenly in the open or in the secrecy of darkness that may have snowballed out of control, and it’s wrong.  It’s got to stop; we can see it, sadly.And so that’s the other piece about repentance.  Repentance isn’t just wisdom gleaned from experience; repentance is regret gleaned from sorrow.  We cannot go on, we simply cannot live with ourselves that way any longer.  Repentance is hindsight teeming with regret, enough so to fuel a change in life.  Repentance is both better and worse than you might imagine.  Continue reading

The Radical Practice of Waiting – Br. Geoffrey Tristram

Br. Geoffrey Tristram

Isaiah 40:27-end
Psalm 130
Mark 4:26-32

“All good things come to those who wait!”  My mother used to say that to my brothers and sister and me when we were growing up – and I hated it!  “No, can’t I have it NOW?” – we’d plead.  “Please, can you buy me a Chelsea football shirt?”  “No, you’ll have to wait till the end of the month.”  “O no, why can’t I have it now?”

In our Western society, we hate having to wait.  At the supermarket, deciding which lane will be the shortest.  You make a choice, and it’s the wrong one.  All the other lanes are moving much faster.  Shall I swap?  If only I’d chosen the other lane: now I’ve got to wait.  Or you are driving, stopped at a red light, that’s been red for ages – and then it goes to green, and the car in front doesn’t seem to have noticed – O come on!  Or at the airport: you look at the board for your flight, and see the dreaded word ‘DELAYED.”  O no, I’ve got to wait another hour. Continue reading

Sermon for the First Friday in Lent – Br. David Allen

davidallen_1

Isa/ 58:1-9a

What do you usually think about as we begin the season of Lent?  Discipline? Penitence? Fasting?

Lent is usually thought of as a season of discipline.  The other three words, Austerity, Penitence, Fasting, are important for the full development of Discipline.  It is more than any one of those.  Lent is a season for Spiritual Formation.  Lent is a time for us to let the Holy Spirit form in each of us the image both of a child of God and of a good  servant of God.

The 1st lesson read today from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah gives some contrasts between wrong ideas about fasting and positive ways in which we can use fasting as a way of doing something good for those who are in need. Continue reading

Lent: A Journey Toward Easter – Br. Jim Woodrum

Br. Jim Woodrum

Isaiah 58:1-12
2 Corinthians 5:20b-6:10
Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21

If I were to walk up to you and wish you a Happy Ash Wednesday, how would you react?  If I were to say ‘I hope you have a great Lent,’ I imagine I’d get some strange looks, maybe a dubious smile, or perhaps even judged as being irreverent.  Truth be told, Lent actually seems to be the opposite of happy and festive.  We don’t ring bells in excitement.  We don’t have a festive meal to mark the occasion.  We deny ourselves certain creature comforts that have become staples of our happiness.  We look with a strange combination of pity and amusement upon our fellow Episcopalians when they slip up and say “Allelu…!”[i]And we step outside the door of Ash Wednesday with a sigh, trying to psych ourselves up for the journey towards Easter which at this point seems to be nowhere in sight.  Yet, we as Christians know that this is something we must do.  Which way do we go?   Just how far is it really?  Do I have enough provisions to sustain me until I arrive?  How did I get myself in this mess?

I admit, I have often stepped out on my Lenten journey with a sense of dread, fixated on just how it is I’ve gotten it all wrong, how badly I’ve messed up, and putting together in my mind the words I will need to pray in order for God to forgive me and take me back…..if I’m lucky.  This isn’t necessarily inappropriate, but I think it turns a blind eye to a very important truth about our relationship with God.  We often think that we must do the right thing in order to please God.  We must say the right words to ‘woo’ God into thinking that were wonderful, smart, and loveable.  If we act in the right way, God will react graciously.  Continue reading

Jesus’ Transfiguration; Our Transfiguration – Br. Curtis Almquist

Br. Curtis Almquist

Matthew 17:1-9
Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John and led them up a high mountain, by themselves. 2And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white. 3Suddenly there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. 4Then Peter said to Jesus, ‘Lord, it is good for us to be here; if you wish, I* will make three dwellings* here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.’ 5While he was still speaking, suddenly a bright cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud a voice said, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved;* with him I am well pleased; listen to him!’ 6When the disciples heard this, they fell to the ground and were overcome by fear. 7But Jesus came and touched them, saying, ‘Get up and do not be afraid.’ 8And when they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus himself alone.[i]

Mount Tabor is about 100 miles north of Jerusalem,just west of the Sea of Galilee.  It is forested with pine trees and offers stunning, panoramic views.  On a clear day, to the north and west, you can see Lebanon; to the east, beyond of the Sea of Galilee, you can see Syria, Jordan, and Mount Hermon.  Jesus and his disciples would have known the words of Psalm 89 about these majestic mountaintops.  The psalmist says, “The north and the south* – you created them;Tabor and Hermon joyously praise your name.”[ii]These mountain tops are sovery beautiful and breezy. Mount Tabor is only about 2,000 feet above sea level, but that is a lofty height above the sea level of Galilee, which is nearly 700 feet below sea level.  Mount Tabor is a place where you are glad to linger.It’s heavenly. Continue reading

Sermon for St. Matthias, Ap. – Br. David Allen

davidallen_1

Acts 1:15-17, 21-26
Jn 15:1, 6-16     

Today we remember Saint Matthias, who was chosen to take the place that Judas Iscariot had held among the Twelve Apostles.   Peter pointed out to the other Apostles that the hole left in The Twelve by the betrayal of Jesus by Judas needed to be filled in.  By the rules of the time the choice had to be by the casting of lots.  (Cf. Acts 1:15-18)

Luke wrote in the Book of Acts that the lot had fallen to Matthias. (v.26)

We don’t know much about Matthias.  The stipulation was that it be one of the wider group of disciples who had been with Jesus from the time of his baptism by John, and that it be one who had witnessed the Resurrection.(Cf. Acts 1:21-22)    Continue reading

Turning Discipline into Discipleship – Br. Jim Woodrum

Br. Jim Woodrum

Ecclesiasticus 2:1-11
Psalm 112
Mark 9:30-37

The autumn of my 4th grade year I had the sudden desire, much to the surprise of my parents, to play football.  I say my parents were surprised because I had never even shown the slightest interest in watching a football game much less playing football.  Maybe it had more to do with the fact that my friends were not around to hang out with after to school because they were at football practice, after which they’d come home to  eat supper with their families before doing their studies and going to bed.  Whatever the reason, I remember begging my folks to let me play, even against their counsel.  Finally, my Dad said to me, “If we let you play, you’re in until the banquet at the end of the season.” I was overjoyed and after I had agreed to the stipulation, we were off to pay the fee, get weighed in, and get my football pads.

Now, it only took one practice of getting hit and knocked into the dirt for me to appreciate my parents’ wisdom, and I came home and told them as much.  My father graciously thanked me before reiterating, to my dismay, that I would play Center for the East Pee Wee football team until the banquet.  Even a trip to the ER to treat a laceration to the elbow which required stitches did not change his mind.  The solution:  elbow pads.  I played through the season and you may be surprised to know that I did not get MVP nor most improved; just a participation trophy and a scar on my elbow.  This story came to mind when praying with our lesson from Ecclesiasticus:  My child, when you come to serve the Lord, prepare yourself for testing.  Set you hear right and be steadfast, and do not be impetuous in time of calamity.  Cling to him and do not depart, so that your last days may be prosperous.  Accept whatever befalls you, and in times of humiliation be patient.  For gold is tested in the fire, and those found acceptable in the furnace of humiliation.  Trust in him, and he will help you; make your ways straight, and hope in him. Continue reading

From Ashes to Easter – Br. James Koester

Br. James Koester

The Seventh Sunday after the Epiphany

Leviticus 19: 1 – 2, 9 – 18
Psalm 119: 33 – 40
1 Corinthians 3: 10 – 11, 16 – 23
Matthew 5: 38 – 48

It is hard to believe that our journey from the ashes of Ash Wednesday to the baptismal waters of the Easter Vigil begins in only ten days. It seems that just a few days ago we were gathered here, around the Christmas crèche, singing carols and celebrating the Feast of the Nativity. Already, the season of Epiphany is almost over and we stand at the threshold of Lent. Our Lenten journey will begin, as it does every year, with the mark of our mortality, which we will wear on our foreheads, until newly washed and smelling of the oil of chrism, we emerge dripping wet from the baptismal font. This journey which we take each Lent is not simply a liturgical or sacramental journey, it is a journey through life, when we face again the paradox of our humanity, which is that we are both fallen and redeemed. We are both sinners and saints. We live both in the wasteland outside the gates of Eden and in the garden outside the Empty tomb. We have something about us both of our First Parents, Adam and Eve, and the Second Adam, our Lord and Saviour. Continue reading

Another Way – Br. Nicholas Bartoli

Br. Nicholas Bartoli

Mark 9.2-13

I remember, or maybe I was told, how one day Little Nick clung to his mother’s leg for dear life. It was the first day of kindergarten, and I suppose I was wondering something like “What kind of madness is this? Am I supposed to leave the warmth and safety of Mom for a strange and scary world?” I don’t want to go.

Later, waking up one morning, and feeling a new love pressed close under the cozy blankets, I begin to think of certain responsibilities. “Do I really need to go to work today? Can’t I just stay here in bed, wonderfully entangled with my beloved under the covers. The world seems so cold and cruel by comparison.” I don’t want to go. Continue reading

Rock of Ages – Br. Jim Woodrum

Br. Jim Woodrum

Mark 8:27-33

As you can tell from the name of our Society, we brothers have a special affinity to the beloved disciple which tradition suggests is John.  There is an icon in the statio that you pass on your way into the cloister that contains the tender image of the beloved disciple reclining on the breast of Jesus.  He was closest to Jesus in his inner circle of friends.  But if truth be told, most days I identify more with Peter.  You may remember in Matthew’s gospel that Simon is renamed by Jesus and given the name Peter which means rock, “and on this rock,” Jesus tells him, “I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.”[i]

But it is not this aspect of Peter that I identify with.  It is because more often than not gets it wrong.  Peter is constantly saying the wrong things and sticking his foot in his mouth.  It is Peter who steps outside the boat to walk with Jesus on the water but is overcome by his fear and begins to sink.[ii]  It is Peter who denies Jesus three times before the cock crows after his insistence that he would never leave Jesus.[iii]  The many stories we hear about Peter suggests that he does not have all the information he needs and often acts or speaks out of ignorance.  Continue reading

Choose Life! – Br. Jim Woodrum

Br. Jim Woodrum

Deuteronomy 30:15-20
Matthew 5:21-37

When I first began to study the lessons appointed for today, I couldn’t help but to think back to one of my favorite commercials from the 1990’s.  The setting is just outside a desert fortress where a criminal is tied to a pole and is facing a firing squad.  The chief executioner questions the condemned man: “Would you like a blindfold, Messieur?  The man answers quickly, “No!”  The executioner then asks, “Would you like a cigarette?”  Again, the man answers, “No!”  Finally, he is asked, “What do you want on your tombstone?”  The man pauses briefly to think before answering resolutely, “Pepperoni and cheese!”  The commercial was for Tombstone Pizza which not only offered you convenience:  a full sized frozen pizza served piping hot in just minutes with all natural ingredients, but also a panoply of choices suited for all tastes.[i] As Americans, we LOVE choices!  We do not like to be boxed in with no options.  We want to make the decision with the most concise information and with as little serious discernment as possible.  We are highly individualistic and want to feel like every option is personal, tailored specifically for our convenience.  Continue reading

Broader Horizons – Br. David Allen

davidallen_1

Mk. 7:24-30
(Also cf. Mt. 15:21-28)s

Today’s Gospel reading is the story of Jesus and a woman whose little daughter was afflicted with an unclean spirit.  The woman was a Gentile of Syrophoenician origin.  This story occurs in only two of the Gospels, the Gospel According to Mark, which we heard this morning, and that of Matthew.

I have been praying with these two versions of that story for several weeks, since I was asked to preach on this lesson.

There are several small differences between the two versions; differences in how those who recorded this event saw it.  I think that these differences are of far less importance than the final result. Continue reading

Cut it Out – Br. Curtis Almquist

Br. Curtis Almquist

Preached at Yale Divinity School

…If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life maimed than to have two hands and to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame than to have two feet and to be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to stumble, tear it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and to be thrown into hell, where their worm never dies, and the fire is never quenched… (Mark 9:42-50)

Don’t do this.  Don’t take Jesus literally – plucking out your eye or cutting off your hand.  You take this literally, you won’t finish the term.  But do take Jesus seriously.  This is hyperbole.  My little sister used to say this same thing to me when I was acting out, when I had tried her patience to the extreme.  She would say, “Curtis, cut it out!”  She got my attention.

So I’ll rephrase Jesus’ point in the form of a question to you.  What needs to go, stop, end, change in your life?  What do you need to cut out or cut off? Continue reading

The Meeting Place of Our Heart – Br. Nicholas Bartoli

Br. Nicholas Bartoli

Genesis 1:20-2:4

While growing up, I was fascinated by questions like “What does it mean to be a human being? What makes us who we are? Why are we the way are?” I would read a lot of sociology, anthropology, psychology, and probably a few more “ologies” I can’t remember at the moment. And it was all very interesting, if ultimately not quite as enlightening as I had hoped. And I remember often encountering one particular sort of statement about human beings that would always give me pause, a doubtful, skeptical kind of pause. It was the kind of statement that would compare humans, usually very favorably, to other forms of life on our planet. Continue reading

The Politics of Prayer – Br. James Koester

Br. James Koester

Hebrews 12: 1 – 4
Psalm 22: 22 – 30
Mark 5: 21 – 43

It’s been quite a week. It’s been quite a week and, no doubt there is more to come. We have seen protests, demonstrations, and acts of witness, support and solidarity. We have seen millions in this country and around the world on the streets, in airports, in front of hotels all voicing their concern, their objections, and their resistance. It’s been quite a week, and there promises to be more to come. It seems that there is a new normal taking root, not just in this country, but around the world. My hunch, and it’s only a hunch, is that what we have seen in the past week, is what the next four years will be like, so we had all better get used to it.

For us a Christians as we watch the news, read the newspapers, talk with our friends and neighbours the questions at times like these is always: “should the Church be involved? Should the Church ever be involved?” There are those among us who would argue that the Church should stay out of politics; that the Church should never take a stand on this issue or that; that the Church must limit itself to the spiritual realm and leave the temporal realm alone. There are those who would argue that Jesus was not political; that he came to establish a heavenly kingdom and not an earthly one; that he opposed the mixing of the things of God with the things of Caesar, and so should we. Continue reading

Fishing for the Fisher – Br. Keith Nelson

Br. Keith Nelson

Matthew 4:12-23

Jesus said, “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of people.”

“Fishers of people” – in older translations of the Bible, “fishers of men” – is one of those phrases in the Gospels that I have noticed myself avoiding over the years in my meditation with scripture or when it surfaces in the lectionary. I don’t have much first-hand knowledge of fishing, but that’s not the source of the disconnect, because I don’t have first-hand knowledge of most activities and objects that were common in first century Palestine. When I hear the phrase “fishers of men,” I have mostly tended to think of a certain strategy of Christian mission legitimated by the imperative to “spread our nets” throughout the known world and “catch souls for Jesus” by any means possible. In other words, I think of mission malpractice, tightly interwoven with the history of British and American imperialism. So I have to sink deeper to hear these words from another angle, an angle that will yield the Life and Light I seek in these sacred pages. Thinking of myself or other people as fish is also challenging: fish out of water, hooked, confused, gasping for air and wondering how on earth they got from point A to point B.

But here I realize I’ve gotten ahead of myself. I do, in fact, have some personal acquaintance with fishing, lured up into my conscious mind by the words of today’s gospel reading. For your consideration, I offer you two brief stories from the “gospel of Keith.” Continue reading

Who is Jesus for you? – Br. John Braught

Br. John BraughtThe Feast of the Confession of Saint Peter the Apostle
Matthew 16:13-19

For many prayerful people, God’s love is largely theoretical. They can intellectually grasp that God is love, but they do not feel it. I have been among this class of people, and I have listened to others express a similar lament. When someone tells me they intellectually know that God is love but they do not feel it, I ask them the same question that was put to me when I felt this way: “Who is Jesus for you?” Often, this question takes people by surprise. Often, (and it was the case for me) there is an uncomfortable silence, and a level of uncertainty is expressed. For many prayerful people, Christians among them, even people who love God, and who desire to follow God; many of them remain ambivalent about Jesus. Continue reading