Easter Doubt – Br. Jim Woodrum

Br. Jim Woodrum

John 20:19-31

This morning we hear one of the most quintessential stories in all of the gospels; so definitive in fact that it has given birth to a term that is used to label a person we deem as a skeptic.  When someone we know is unwilling to believe something without concrete evidence, we call them a ‘doubting Thomas.’  Beginning with Easter Day we hear an abundance of post-resurrection stories witnessing to the disciples and those close to Jesus seeing, speaking, and eating with Him, giving credence to the fantastic rumors that His body had not been stolen, but that He had in fact risen from the dead three days after his gruesome crucifixion, just as He had prophesied.  Our lection from John begins with one of these accounts:  it is the first day of the week following the crucifixion and Jesus’ disciples have hidden themselves behind locked doors out of fear for their lives.  Jesus appears among them bidding them peace, and then he immediately shows them his hands, feet, and side: the wounds that were inflicted on him to assure his torture and resulting death.  John says: ‘Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.’

But the gospel writer says that one of them was missing:  Thomas, who was called ‘the twin.’  Where was Thomas?  Was he out surveying the scene, plotting a safe exit from Jerusalem for the others?  Was he discreetly purchasing food and other provisions that they needed?  We don’t know, all we can surmise is that Jesus’ disciples were hiding in fear and that Thomas was not with them.  Considering the little we know about Thomas, this is not altogether surprising.  There seems to be an implicit bravado associated with him.  Earlier in John’s gospel, it is Thomas who exclaims “let us also go [with Jesus}, that we may die with him,” demonstrating that Thomas was utterly devoted to Jesus at the most, and at a hothead at the very least.[i] Continue reading

Saints of the Old Testament – Br. Curtis Almquist

Br. Curtis Almquist

Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-12, 23-28, 32-12:2

 Almighty God, in the midst of your people Israel you raised up many saints who through faith in your eternal covenant conquered kingdoms,did justice, and won strength out of weakness. Grant us to hold in glad remembrance their holy lives and fearless witness, that by your grace we may press on towards the goal for the prize of our heavenly calling;through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Studying history is both illuminating and humbling: illuminating because of the great benefit of perspective.  Life in-the-present can leave us quite myopic.  What’s going on in-the-now is very close to us – it’s “in our face” – so much so that we often can’t see around it.  Our perspective is inevitably blocked in some ways.  We could take, for example, the political campaign rhetoric during this past year.  Without the benefit of an historical perspective, the long view, we could simply react to various campaign statements just for their “face value,” but miss the wisdom gleaned from history.  Studying history can also be quite humbling.  It can put us in our place as individuals and as a nation in a very long line as life unfolds down through the centuries.  Today’s celebration of the Saints, the holy ones, of the Old Testament takes the long view, and that’s important for several reasons[i]: Continue reading

A Prayer for Greater Faith – Br. David Allen

SSJE159Ephesians 3:14-21

When I read over this lesson I could feel that it was a farewell address.  Paul was giving advice and encouragement for the time when he could no longer be with the people of Ephesus. It was a prayer for spiritual strength; for courage and perseverance.  (Vv. 16-17)

At the beginning of this 3rd chapter of Paul’s letter to the Christians in Ephesus he referred to himself as a prisoner for Christ Jesus.

After a series of trials before several tribunals Paul had appealed to the Emperor.  He was on his way to Rome by way of churches he had founded. (Cf. Acts 25:10-12) He did not want the concern that these people of Ephesus had for him to hinder the growth of their faith in God.  Having said this, look at the main thrust of today’s Epistle reading. Continue reading

In Between – Br. James Koester

Br. James KoesterIsaiah 60: 1-6
Psalm 72: 1-7, 10-14
Ephesians 3: 1-12
Matthew 2: 1-12

We’ve all had that experience of living “in between” things. As children we lived most of our lives “in between” weekends, or vacations and holidays. We would count off the days until the next holiday came along so that we could escape school, even if just few a few days. Later we lived in that “in between” time between relationships, or jobs or children. Now some of us live “in between” seasons of Downton Abbey, anxiously awaiting the next fix to see what will become of Lady Edith or who Lady Mary will marry next. Continue reading

Martyrs of Japan – Br. Geoffrey Tristram

Geoffrey_SSJEOn this day, February 5, 1597, 26 Christians were crucified in the Japanese city of Nagasaki.  For some 40 years before this terrible event, the formerly closed world of Japan had opened up to the West, and 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.

Continue reading

On Openness – Br. David Allen

Lk. 7:36-50

Today’s Gospel is a story about contrasts.  We heard in Luke’s Gospel this morning that a Pharisee named Simon invited Jesus to eat with him.  A woman of that city came to that house with a jar of ointment and stood at Jesus’ feet, weeping and washing his feet with her tears, wiping them with her hair and anointing them. Continue reading

Steadfastness of Faith – Br. David Allen

1 Cor. 1:18-25; Jn 12:44-50

Today we honor Justin, martyred in Rome in the year 167 (A.D.)

What is there about a martyr that makes him, or her, significant?  How can any of the martyrs help us to grow in the Christian faith?  One way is for us to be mindful of the witness of the martyrs. (cf. SSJE Rule. of Life, Ch. 38) Continue reading