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

The First Book of Comon Prayer – Br. David Allen

DavidA_2008_031I don’t know if today’s readings from Acts and the Fourth Gospel were in the minds of Thomas Cranmer and the other compilers of the First Prayer Book in 1549; but the sentiments expressed in those readings must certainly have been in their thinking—devotion to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship; the breaking of bread and the prayers—worship in spirit and truth.

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Ready! Set! Go! – Br. James Koester

Br. James Koester

If you are anything like me, and I have been around long enough to know that none of you are like me; but I have also been around long enough to know that you are all like me. You all have your own interior cycles of feasts and fasts. Sometimes this interior cycle is connected to the calendar. Sometimes it is even connected to the liturgical cycle of the church. But sometimes it is connected to your gut. You find yourself thinking or feeling or pondering something and you don’t know why or where it has come from and then, days or weeks later you understand. Right, you think. That’s where it is coming from.

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Three Cheers – Br. Mark Brown

Mark-Brown-SSJE-2010-300x299We close out the “Week of Prayer for Christian Unity” today with the feast of “The Conversion of Saint Paul the Apostle”.  Last Friday we began by celebrating “The Confession of Saint Peter the Apostle”.

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St. Ignatius of Antioch – Br. David Allen

When I think of the early martyrs I often think of Tertullian’s words, “The blood of the Martyrs is the seed of the Church.” (Apologeticus Ch. 50) That simple sentence contains the answer to many questions about the martyrs’ willingness to face death.

Ignatius of Antioch was one of those martyrs, a century earlier than Tertullian.

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Lydia, Dorcas, & Phoebe – Br. David Allen

Acts 16:11-15; Lk 8:1-3

We all know what a significant contribution is made to the total life of the Church by women. But, very little emphasis has been given to the significance of the contribution that women made to the life of the early Church, although it must be obvious to anyone paying attention to the reading of the Epistles and Gospels of the New Testament that women have been very much involved in the life of the Church from the very beginning. To my knowledge it is only within the past 50 years or so that women have been elected or appointed to major roles in the Episcopal Church.  Continue reading

Jacob’s Pillow – Br. Mark Brown

 1 Sam. 3: 1-20; Psalm 139:1-5, 12-17; 1 Cor. 6:12-20; John 1:43-51

This is surely one of Jesus’ more obscure sayings. “Very truly I tell you,” he says to Nathanael, “you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.” The reference is to Jacob’s dream in Genesis when he sees angels on a ladder ascending to and descending from heaven.  But what can it possibly mean? We need to do a little detective work.

So, why not start in Paris? I’m not a regular in Paris, but have managed to get there three or four times.  On one visit way back when I happened to go into a book store—an old-fashioned book store (remember book stores?). Very high ceilings with shelves all the way to the top, ladders to get up there.  The overflow in stacks on tables, even on the wood plank floor.  The fragrance of old leather bindings in the air. It happened to be a Left Bank version of what we would call a “New Age” bookstore: all the world religions, and then some.  Theosophy, Anthroposophy, astrology and numerology and the occult, etc. etc.–all the more exotic for being in French.  There in the Christian section of the store a little book jumped out at me (have you ever had books jump out at you?)  “Le Symbolisme du Temple Chrétien”. The symbolism of the Christian temple. By someone named Jean Hani. I bought and read it. Continue reading

Poetic Splendor in Color and Light: The Connick Foundation’s Orin E. Skinner Annual Lecture – Br. Curtis Almquist

Dr. Charles Connick believed that stained glass is “the handmaiden of architecture.”  Quite.  We experience in this monastery chapel the extraordinary synergy of two devoted friends, who both were artisans and spiritual seekers: Ralph Adams Cram, the architect, and Charles J. Connick, the glassman.  You have to be prepared to take it all in.  As a visitor, you don’t simply walk into this monastery chapel from Memorial Drive.

First you must ascend, you must climb the steps.  Most of the cadence of monastic prayer is based on the Psalms, which are chanted in this monastery chapel from early morning, before the dawn, until the completion of the night before we sleep.  Many of the Psalms are Psalms of Ascent: about lifting one’s step, lifting one’s heart, lifting one’s hands, lifting one’s eyes to the holy place where God dwells.  You must reenact that posture of ascent to enter this chapel as you necessarily ascend the steps, but then you must do one more thing.  You cannot enter the chapel full stride.  As you will know, at the top of the steps, you are forced to turn before you enter the rear door of the chapel, the antechapel.  That turning is an experience of conversion.  The word “conversion,” as the word appears in the New Testament Greek, means just that: “to turn,” to turn in a new direction in response to God.  To enter this chapel you willingly ascend, and then you must change course – an act of conversion – before you cross over a threshold. Continue reading

Enter At Your Own Risk – Br. Geoffrey Tristram

Today is the Eve of the Feast Day of St. Mary, mother of our Lord Jesus Christ.  This monastic church is dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary, and tomorrow, August 15, is the 75th anniversary of that dedication.  So a great cause for thanksgiving.

You may not have ever looked behind the organ, but there, on the wall, is a very large and splendid plaque with these words: “To the glory of the Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  In veneration of our Lady St. Mary the Blessed Mother of God, this conventual church of the Society of St. John the Evangelist was built in the year of Our Lord, 1936.”

In England, there are so many churches dedicated to Mary, and in the Middle Ages, England was known as “Mary’s dowry.”  I was ordained priest in the Cathedral of St. Mary the Virgin in Salisbury, and before coming to America, I was rector of the church of St. Mary the Virgin in Welwyn, Hertfordshire.  And so in my own Christian pilgrimage it seems providential to me that the church, in which so much of my life is now spent, is also dedicated to Mary. Continue reading

I Believe in Churches – Br. James Koester

Ezekiel 34: 11-16; Psalm 87; 2 Timothy 4: 1-8; John 21: 15-19

A friend of mine once proclaimed quite forcefully and with real passion that he believed in churches. What an odd thing to believe in I thought when I heard him. I believe in lots of things, but I wasn’t sure that I was prepared to say that I believe in churches. I certainly believe in God, and in the incarnation and resurrection of Jesus. I believe that Jesus is the Son of God and that he continues to manifest his presence among us today in the sacrament of the Eucharist and in the gift of the Holy Spirit. I certainly believe in THE Church, that “wonderful and sacred mystery”1 which is “the blessed company of all faithful people”2 as various Prayer Books have described her. But do I believe in churches? That’s a different matter.

When I first heard my friend talk about believing in churches, I wasn’t prepared to go there. Churches after all, were just buildings and having served in a couple of parishes that had some quite wonderful buildings, I know how easy it is to slip from the worship of God, to the worship of buildings. And yet….

For over a decade now, we in the community have been dreaming, and thinking, and praying, and talking about these buildings. It all began one August during community chapter and discussions when we talked about how there must be an easier way to get in and out of the monastery. From there the conversation developed into wouldn’t it be nice if we had…? And what about…? We even talked about the unspeakable: have these buildings outlived their usefulness? Would we be better off selling and moving somewhere else?

Over and over again the conversations ended up here, in this chapel, talking about this place and what it means to us as a community and what it means to so many of you. For many of us, this place is much more than a building; it is a sacrament of God. Continue reading

Renovation & Renewal – Br. Geoffrey Tristram

Every summer my parents would bundle me and my two brothers and my sister into the car, and we would set off on holiday to the other end of England. I remember on the way we would keep seeing enticing signs: turn left – a castle just a mile along that road – or 2 miles on the right to the beach. O let’s go see the castle we’d say – or let’s walk on the beach! But my father would keep driving. We can’t stop – we have to keep going or we’ll never get to our destination before dark.

When I read the Gospels I encounter Jesus with a clear purpose and destination. Indeed he would rise a long time before dawn to spend time with his Father in prayer, in order to refocus on that destination, to keep going straight and unswervingly along the road which his Father had set before him. Continue reading

The Spirit’s Gift Continues – Br. Jonathan Maury

1 Kings 17:8-24; Psalm 146; Galatians 1:11-24; Luke 7:11-17

“Pentecost continues! Pentecost is most fundamentally a continuing gift of the Spirit;”

So begins “A Pastoral letter to the Episcopal Church” (2 June 2010) [http://www.episcopalchurch.org/79425_122615_ENG_HTM.htm], issued this past week by Presiding Bishop and Primate Katharine Jefferts Schori.

“Pentecost is most fundamentally a continuing gift of the Spirit, rather than a limitation or quenching of that Spirit,” writes the Primate. Her letter comes in response to the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Pentecost letter to the Anglican Communion (28 May 2010) [http://www.episcopalchurch.org/79425_122553_ENG_HTM.htm] concerning current struggles within the Communion. Bishop Katharine expresses concern that the text of that letter “seems to equate its understanding of the Spirit’s outpouring,” as she puts it, “with a single understanding of gospel realities. Those who received the gift of the Spirit on that day all heard good news,” Jefferts Schori continues. “The crowd reported, ‘in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power’ [Acts 2:11].”  Continue reading

“Your ID, please!” – Br. Mark Brown

Wisdom 7:15-22; Psalm 78; Matthew 13:47-52

Today is St. Bede’s day.  Bede was given as a child oblate to his monastery in about 678 or so at the ripe age of seven. He led a quiet monastic life, devoting himself to praying the office, studying the scriptures and writing.  Bede is best known as the author of  “The Ecclesiastical History of the English People,” a history of the English Church and people up to the year 729.

I’ve been reading another English ecclesiastical history lately, the just-published “Christianity: the First Three Thousand Years” by Diarmaid MacCulloch. McCullough gives Bede a lot of credit for the existence of the English as a distinct nationality.  Bede, in the early 8th century, was writing at a time when Britain was emerging from an incoherent condition of tribes and small kingdoms.  By the 10th century England was a coherent unit with a single monarchy—and a distinct national identity. The ideology of a unified kingdom of England, according to McCullough, “was fuelled by the way in which Bede had depicted a single race called the English.” [McCullough p339]  The way Bede told the story of the emerging English Church helped greatly to solidify the notion of a coherent English national identity. In the telling of things that were old, he helped create something new—bringing out treasures old and new as the parable puts it. Continue reading

Sent to Tell – Br. James Koester

In this sermon, Br. James Koester traces through bishops and apostles the deep meaning that binds the Church together: We have been sent to tell.

This sermon is available only in audio format.

John, Beloved Disciple: SSJE Patronal Festival – The Most Rev. Dr. Katharine Jefferts Schori

Isaiah 44:1-8; Psalm 92:1-2, 11-14; I John 5: 1-13; John 20:1-9

Well, beloved, it is a blessed day to celebrate.  It’s hard not to know oneself beloved in the midst of a community gathered in love, enfolded by the warmth of the sun/son and the tender wind of God.  The greenness all around us is evidence of the promise of resurrection to restore all creation.  The greenness within us is equal evidence of connection with the source of belovedness.

We opened by praying those remarkable words about Jesus, who drew the beloved disciple into deep intimacy, giving him the grace of resurrection in his inmost being.  That is also the prayer for each one here.

The mystery of the beloved disciple is his identity, and the blessing is that it’s not quite fixed.  The debates over whether it’s John bar Zebedee, or Lazarus, or even Mary Magdalene make a place for others to enter in.  As Jesus is ‘the son of the man,’ the beloved disciple becomes a way we may be the human disciple, beloved of God. Continue reading

Feast of the Martyrs of Japan – Br. James Koester

We remember today, in this commemoration of the Martyrs of Japan, what for me at least, is one of the more fascinating chapters in the history of Christian missionary activity. It is not that I am so interested in the why’s and how’s of the actual martyrdom, as I am interested in what happened afterward.

My hunch is that few of us here know much about Japan (it’s a good things Brother David Allen isn’t here because he could refute that statement in an instant). What we do know is that historically, Japan has been a closed nation. It has been difficult for, and remains difficult, for outsiders to become accepted in Japan. And that was part of, and continues to be, part of the challenge for the Christian Church in Japan. It is seen to be very much an outsider. Yet, in the Sixteenth Century, the Church, through the missionary activity of one of the great Jesuit saints, Francis Xavier as well as some Franciscans, a tiny foothold was made in Japan for the Church. Unfortunately that came to an end on this day in 1597 when six Franciscan friars and 20 of their converts were crucified outside Nagasaki. By 1630 what was left of the church in Japan had been driven underground. And that is what fascinates me. Continue reading

On a Sure Foundation – Br. Geoffrey Tristram

This sermon is available only in audio format.

The Feast of Saint John the Evangelist, the Beloved Disciple

Preached by the Rt. Rev. Arthur E. Walmsley

“God is what we have not yet understood, the sign of a strange and unpredictable future.”
– Rowan Williams

We begin in the ancient world. Go not to Jerusalem, but Athens. The 5th century BCE was the Golden Age of the Athenian democracy. The Athens city-state created a unique version of governance by the citizenry. Its high point was reached during the leadership of Pericles from 449-431, during which the great buildings on the Acropolis were constructed.

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Breathe! – Kevin Hackett

Eastertide Preaching Series: A World Turned Upside Down

This evening marks the beginning of our Eastertide sermon series, A World Turned Upside Down.  Each week, a brother will reflect on a theme drawn from the Acts of the Apostles, which can rightly be described as Luke’s “sequel” to the Gospel which bears his name. The title for the series derives from a phrase that he uses in the Acts 17.3, in which the community of believers was rightly accused of turning the known world upside down with their preaching and their new way of living and being.

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Maundy Thursday – Br. Geoffrey Tristram

This sermon is available only in audio format.