A Radical Act (Maundy Thursday sermon) – Br. David Vryhof

Br. David Vryhof

John 13:1-17, 31b-35

Some years ago I had the privilege of taking a course with Dr. Stanley Hauerwas, a theologian who was then on the faculty of the Divinity School at Duke University.  Dr. Hauerwas, the son of a bricklayer, was a straight-shooting, no-nonsense kind of guy who believed that living as true disciples of Jesus in the world would necessarily put us in conflict with the culture in which we live.  I remember being surprised to hear him say that participating in the Eucharist was one of the most radical actions any Christian could undertake.  Tonight we will understand why this is true.

Tonight we watch in wonder as the only-begotten Son of God, the Eternal Word who was “in the beginning with God” and through whom “all things came into being” (Jn 1:1-3), stoops to wash the dirty feet of his disciples.  Tonight we behold the Incarnate Son of God, the “King of kings” and the “Lord of lords,” tying a towel around himself, pouring water into a basin, and assuming the role of a servant.  The King kneels before his subjects; the Master washes the feet of his disciples. Continue reading

The Radical Practice of Giving Thanks in All Circumstances – Br. David Vryhof

Br. David Vryhof

Read by Br. Curtis Almquist, SSJE

I Thessalonians 5:18
Luke 17:11-19

I have a memory of my 5th-grade teacher asking us to write a short paragraph describing the things in our lives for which we were thankful.  I don’t recall any of the specifics of that assignment, but I do recall having a terrible case of “writer’s block.”  I sat for the longest time just staring at that piece of paper.  I couldn’t think of a thing for which I was thankful.

Recalling it now, it seems shocking to me that a 5th-grade boy growing up in suburban America, with plenty of food and warm clothes and a comfortable home and a loving family, couldn’t think of anything for which he was thankful.  I was surrounded by gifts, but I didn’t recognize them as gifts, and so I couldn’t begin to express my gratitude for them.  I suppose I naively assumed that everyone had food and clothing, a loving family and a comfortable home.  I was unaware of how privileged I was to enjoy these things on a daily basis, and simply took them for granted. Continue reading

The Radical Practice of the Real Presence of Christ – Br. Jim Woodrum

Br. Jim Woodrum

1 John 4:7-21;
Psalm 63:1-8;
Luke 24:13-35

Like the founder of our Society, Richard Meux Benson, I grew up in an Evangelical tradition of the church.  The word ‘evangelical’ comes from the Greek euangelion, which means “bearer of good news,” and it is the charism of the evangelical tradition to spread by word the gospel of Jesus Christ in the world.  And so from a young age I was taught vivid Bible stories in Sunday School,that were often accompanied by handouts that I could take home and color with pictures of Jesus telling stories to children seated all around him.  I also learned songs that I would sing ad naseum in the car on the way home such as ‘Jesus Loves Me’ and ‘Jesus Loves the Little Children.’As a child I knew Jesus to be my buddy and as long as I had these Bible stories, songs, and coloring sheets, Jesus was with me wherever I went.

As I grew older, my dad encouraged me to leave the coloring activity sheets behind and begin to listen to what our pastor was preaching in church, something that I wasn’t thrilled about because I didn’t understand the message he was articulating.  I didn’t yet have the vocabulary and experience to grasp concepts such as ‘sin,’‘atonement,’ and ‘repentance.’  It would take a while for me to gain an understanding of this adult expression of God, one that seemed so complex and at times frightening.  What did resonate with me was when the pastor gave what was called an “altar call.”  After the sermon and before the final hymn, he would invite anyone who wanted a personal relationship with Jesus Christ to come forward and stand with him as a public profession of that desire which was the next step in the journey of faith.  I think I was eleven when I made my way to the front to proclaim what I already knew in my heart:  that Jesus and I had had a personal relationship since before I could remember.  I always looked forward to that moment in the service to see who else might come to be friends with Jesus the way I was.  I imagine it is with a youthful twinkle in his eye that Fr. Benson once wrote:  “If we are to have Jesus our friend, we must know Him to be continually near.  The companionship of Jesus!   It is strange how many there are who look forward to being with Him in another world, but never think of living fellowship with him here.”[i] Continue reading

I Dream the Dream of the Dream of God – Br. James Koester

Br. James Koester

Jeremiah 23: 1 – 6
Canticle 16 or Psalm 46
Colossians 1: 11 – 20
Luke 23: 33 – 43

Those of you who have been on retreat with me in the past, or heard me preach, especially at Emery House, will know that I frequently go back to the same starting point over and again. I often begin with what is my favourite collect, the collect for the Second Sunday after Christmas:

O God, who wonderfully created, and yet more wonderfully restored, the dignity of human nature: Grant that we may share the divine life of him who humbled himself to share our humanity, your Son Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.[1] Continue reading

Fresh-Squeezed – Br. Keith Nelson

Br. Keith Nelson

John 6:60-69

I was raised as a Baptist in Alabama, and spent my late childhood and early teens falling in love with Jesus and his Gospel. Years later, during my studies at Harvard Divinity School, I would discover a call to follow Jesus as an Episcopalian. The eight years or so in between I found myself on a prolonged hiatus from Church and from Christianity, zealously studying and practicing Buddhist meditation. I think my exposure to these practices was a providential preparation for my later encounter with Christian contemplative prayer, and the compassionate, joyful presence of the Buddhist monks who befriended and taught me may have planted the first seeds of the Christian monastic vocation I am living into today. Continue reading

Old Picture, New Frame – Br. Mark Brown

Mark-Brown-SSJE-2010-300x299I could be confused, but I think I remember that the guidelines for a proper celebration of Thanksgiving Day call for “something old, something new, something borrowed, and something blue.”  It’s either Thanksgiving or weddings …perhaps I’m very confused…

In any event, I’ve brought something old with me to the ambo today—an old sermon.  I’ve even printed it out in the Goudy Old Style font. Actually this sermon is only four years old—but lots can happen in four years.  So, with your permission I will now quote myself and leave the new, the borrowed and the blue to you. Continue reading

Remember, Remember… – Br. Geoffrey Tristram

geoffrey 150x“Remember, remember the 5th of November: gunpowder, treason and plot.”

Those words I remember learning as a young child, for every year throughout Britain, on this night millions of people celebrate what is known as Bonfire Night, or Guy Fawkes Night.  Millions of bonfires are lit and millions of fireworks are ignited. Continue reading

Praying Your Life – Br. Curtis Almquist

curtisFrançois de Sales, the 17th century Bishop of Geneva, was revered for his insights about prayer.  His recommendation for prayer: every day, “half an hour’s listening is essential except when you are very busy.  Then a full hour is needed.” (1) François de Sales presumes three things about prayer:

1. Our prayer begins and ends with listening.
2. When life is very busy – like when you’re beginning a new school term, or a new internship, or a new job, or when life is very full – our discipline around prayer can easily be lost and yet it’s all-the-more important.
3. It’s essential to demarcate some time each day for prayer.

But don’t stop there.  I will add a fourth point about prayer which I draw from our own Rule of Life:
4. The real quest, the ultimate invitation for prayer, is to “pray our lives.” (2) Continue reading

Andrei Rublev – Br. Curtis Almquist

Br. Curtis Almquist

In the calendar of the church we today commemorate Adrei Rublev, the 15th century Russian monk, generally acknowledged as Russia’s greatest iconographer.  He was born around 1365 near Moscow, and while very young he entered monastic life and later studied iconography.  The icon you see before you here in this chapel is a reproduction of Adrei Rublev’s most famous icon called “The Hospitality of Abraham.”  This reproduction was written by our own SSJE brother Eldridge Pendleton.  I say, “written” by Br. Eldridge, not “painted” by him, but written because icons tell a story.

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Corpus Christi – Br. David Allen

This sermon for Corpus Christi was preached at Emery House

1 Cor. 11:23-29; Jn 6:47-58

Today we are keeping the Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ, historically called Corpus Christi. On this solemn feast day we acknowledge and celebrate the meaning of the Holy Eucharist wherein we are spiritually fed by the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ under the forms of consecrated bread and wine, and fed also by the prayers of the whole Church.

All of the Post Communion prayers that we use during the year recognize the importance that the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist has for us, but there is one of those that I think particularly points up that importance in ways that go beyond our daily spiritual nourishment to touch on the cosmic dimensions of what takes place when we have participated in this Holy Sacrament.  That is the prayer that begins with the words, “God of abundance”. Continue reading