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


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

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

The Poverty of God – Br. Jim Woodrum

Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16; Psalm 22:22-30; Romans 4:13-25; Mark 8:31-38

“Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”  With those words we began the season of Lent; a season that the prayer book describes as one of ‘penitence and fasting.’  It is traditional for people to give up something during Lent; something that is a part of the daily fabric of their lives, perhaps something that is a treat or is looked forward to regularly for comfort.  For instance, many people give up drinking their favorite soda, or eating chocolate.  Others may give up watching a favorite TV show or spending time on social media.  Whatever it is, when we are triggered by habit or desire for this creature comfort, its absence ultimately serves to remind us of our ‘poverty.’  Continue reading

The Gift of Tears – Br. Curtis Almquist

curtis4John 11:1-45

Whenever you are around people who are very, very happy, you will likely see tears.  These are tears of joy, wonder, gratitude, satisfaction that come from a deep place in a person’s soul, when someone has experienced a kind of greatness so amazing, almost too great to behold.  Something simply bursts with a release of ecstasy streaming down a person’s face.  Of all the things that can be planned in life, tears of joy and gladness do not need to be choreographed.  They simply happen.  And it is the same for the tears of sorrow, tears of pain or loss, burning the eyes like from the salt of the sea, and coming from a place as deep and endless as the ocean.  Tears of sorrow expose a person’s deepest vulnerabilities, longings, and losses. Continue reading

Let Living Waters Flow – Br. John Braught

Br. John BraughtJohn 7:37-52

The metaphor of thirst is used throughout the Gospel of John to characterize the believer’s relationship to the spirit. Whoever comes to me, Jesus says, will never be thirsty, for, “Out of the believer’s heart”, or as the Greek renders it, out of the believer’s belly, “shall flow rivers of living water.”(1) Yet, Jesus himself cries from the cross in his final hour, “I thirst,” suggesting, perhaps, that this side of the grave our deepest longing – our thirst – for wholeness, for union, for belonging, will not be quenched. Continue reading

Collaborating In Love: Bearing Fruit – Br. James Koester

James Koester SSJEIt’s been a long winter. We still have snow on the ground at Emery House but it seems that spring has come, at last. Things are late however. Two years ago the snowdrops bloomed on March 8 and the squill ten days later. As yet snowdrops are just up, and bloomed for the first time today. The garlic and onions I planted last fall are beginning to poke their heads out of the ground and the chickens are getting incredibly restless. Whereas a couple of weeks ago they would not even emerge from the coop, now they can’t wait to get out in the morning.

Since moving back to Emery House I have learned a lot: about chickens and ducks and geese; about garlic and onions and leeks; about tractors and mowers and bees (and that some mowers and bees don’t mix!). But I probably only know just enough to be dangerous, and not enough yet, to be a good farmer. I am certain there is a great deal more to learn, and I am sure I will learn some of it this year. Continue reading

Dare Ask Questions – Br. Mark Brown

Mark BrownHosea 14:1-9; Mark 12:28-34

“After that no one dared ask him any questions.”

I’m not sure why.  Jesus was simply agreeing with the man: to love God and neighbor is better than burning animals.  Why would they dare not ask questions?

I don’t know.  But I’ve got plenty of questions for the next time I see Jesus.  What were you doing before the Big Bang?  How did you come up with the design of the atom?  Can you explain quantum mechanics?  How long will I live?  Why do you allow so much suffering in this world?  Can’t you do more?  I’d like to think I would dare ask questions. Continue reading

Sermon for Thursday after Lent 3 – Br. David Allen

DavidA_2008_031Jer. 7:1-15, 23-28

The message of our First Reading, from the Book of the Prophet Jeremiah, is that God gave this commandment to his people; “Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be my people; and walk only in the way that I command you; so that it may be well with you.” (Jer. 7:23) But the response to this was; “They did not listen to me, or pay attention.” (Jer. 7:26)

In order to understand more clearly what Jeremiah was saying we should look back to the beginning of chapter 7.  Continue reading

Participation in Love – Br. Curtis Almquist

curtis4Song of Songs 1:8-13 | John 15:7-11

“Each of us should have two pockets,” the rabbis teach.  “In one [pocket] should be the reminder, “I am dust and ashes,” and in the other we should have written, “For me the universe was made.” (1) For you the universe was made.  Why so?  Why did God create the universe?  Why did God create you?  Out of love.  For the love of it.  But I’m speaking here of your being not just the object of God’s love, but also the subject of God’s love.  God needs you.  Those are the shocking words of Meister Eckhart, the 14th century German mystic. (2) God needs you.  And centuries later, Martin Buber, the Jewish philosopher, would confirm the same: “You know always in your heart that you need God more than everything; but do you know too that God needs you?”  Continue reading

The Invitation to be loved – Br. David Vryhof

davidvI John 4:13-21 / John 3:1-17

Tonight is the second sermon in our five-week Lenten preaching series, “Love Life.”  In this series we have been focusing on the Gospel of John and its theme of love.  Tonight we consider the “invitation to be loved” which the gospel offers us.  We are invited by THE GOD WHO IS LOVE to enter into a loving and intimate relationship with God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit…. and to extend that love to others, particularly those in the community of Christ’s followers and those who are in need.

In the First Letter of John we learn that “God is love” (I Jn 4:16) and that God abides in those who confess that Jesus is the Son of God, and they abide in God” (I Jn 4:15).  This is the testimony of the believing community, who have come to know and believe the love that God has for us” (I Jn 4:16) through the testimony of Jesus and the testimony of the Beloved Disciple found in the Fourth Gospel.  They have discovered their true identity as beloved children of God and are learning to live – or to abide – in that identity.  “See what love the Father has given us,” the author exclaims, “that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are!” (I Jn 3:1) Continue reading

Becoming Perfected – Br. Curtis Almquist

curtis4Matthew 5:43-48

In the New Testament Greek there are four different verbs for “love.” There’s the verb stergein, the love within a family, a child’s love for his or her parents. There’s the verb eran, which is the love of sexual passion; the erotic “love of lovers.” There’s the verb philein, the kind of love we have for our closest friends and neighbors. Then there’s a fourth verb, agapan, that Jesus uses here. This love, agape love, is different from the rest. Jesus here specifically says that he’s not talking about loving family or friends, those to whom we’re naturally attracted and already love; nor is he coaching us to fall in love with people. He’s using here this very unique agape love in terms of our most difficult relationships: with our enemies. Enemies, which includes people who are literally out to kill us and folks who give us a hard time, who trip us up, who take advantage of us, who don’t have our best interests in mind, people who are – as we say in slang – not helpful to our program. Enemies. And how do we deal with those sorts of folks?  With agape love. Continue reading

Sermon for Thursday after Lent 1 – Br. David Allen

DavidA_2008_031This morning I want to reflect on how today’s Gradual Psalm relates to the Gospel, and what it can mean to us. Psalm 138 does not really fit the usual theme of Lent. It is a Psalm of thanksgiving and of Praise.  “I will give thanks to you, O Lord…I will sing your praise.” (v.      1) As with other Psalms it can be understood on more than one level.

The first is the purpose for which it was written, possibly thanksgiving for a victory. Continue reading

Lenten Love – Br. Luke Ditewig

Br. Luke DitewigI was away recently on my annual personal retreat. Initially I slept a lot. I slowed down, tried doing one thing at a time. I gazed at beauty. I was more aware of being with God as my best friend. Jesus and I went on walks together . We wrote our initials (JC + LD) on a sandy beach and in snow-covered woods. We sat quietly, enjoying hot chocolate by the fireplace. Then Jesus gently asked a question. I said: “Oh, please, I don’t want to go there. We’ve been having such a nice time. I don’t want to talk about that.” I pushed back and ran. Continue reading

What is Love? – Br. David Vryhof

davidv150x150Matthew 5:43-48

Anthony de Mello, the late Jesuit priest and spiritual writer, describes the nature of true love in this way: “Take a look at a rose.  Is it possible for the rose to say, ‘I shall offer my fragrance to good people and withhold it from bad people?’  Or can you imagine a lamp that withholds its rays from a wicked person who seeks its light?  It could only do that by ceasing to be a lamp.  And observe how helplessly and indiscriminately a tree gives its shade to everyone, good and bad, young and old, high and low; to animals and humans and every living creature – even to the one who seeks to cut it down.” (The Way to Love, p.77)  Continue reading

The Spiritual Practice of Lent – Br. David Vryhof

davidv150x150Today is Ash Wednesday, the first day of the season of Lent.  This day marks the beginning of a journey we will make together, a journey towards Jerusalem where we will meet the Lord in his Passion and Resurrection.  This is a time for prayer and for fasting, a time for denying the false self and embracing the true self God intends us to become, a time for drawing near to God in the intimacy of love.

Continue reading

Spring Cleaning – Br. Mark Brown

Ex. 20:1-17; Ps. 19; 1 Cor. 1:18-25; John 2:13-22

Isn’t this a delicious, made-for-the-movies rampage? In the verses just before Jesus turned water into wine at a wedding—but only after being borderline-rude to his mother: “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come”. If in that episode he was standard bearer for cheeky young men, today he is patron saint of the hot headed.

He probably didn’t go all the way in with that whip of cords. The merchants and money changers would have been in the outer precincts of the Temple complex.  Herod had built an enormous platform with retaining walls for the Temple, which was surrounded by a broad plaza, divided into zones of access.  There was an outer Court of the Gentiles. Jewish women could get closer to the Temple proper.  Jewish men could enter the Temple, but not into the court of the Priests.  The High Priest could enter the Holy of Holies, but only once a year on the Day of Atonement.  The Holy of Holies was the inner sanctum partitioned off by a great curtain. (The curtain rods of the baldacchino over our altar are a vestige of this.) Continue reading

Our Founders and the Grace of Tradition – Br. Geoffrey Tristram

Lenten Preaching Series: A Framework for Freedom

SSJE Rule of Life, Chapter 3: “Our Founders and the Grace of Tradition” 

Guard the good treasure entrusted to you, with the help of the Holy Spirit living within you (2 Timothy 1:14)

In the center of London, just off the Strand, lie the ancient Inns of Court where English lawyers or barristers live and work.  One of the Inns of Court is called the Middle Temple and one Christmas, centuries ago, Queen Elizabeth I presented the barristers with a Christmas pudding “made with our royal hands.”  Because this pudding had actually touched the royal hands, they decided to save a bit of it and add it to the mixture for the next year’s pudding.  Then, a spoonful of that pudding was saved for the following year.  And so it has gone on through the centuries until today.  A sort of culinary apostolic succession!

This evening’s sermon, in our Lenten preaching series, takes its title from Chapter Three of our Rule:  “Our Founders and the Grace of Tradition.”  Tradition – from the Latin verb tradere – means literally to hand on, from one person to another, from one generation to another.

That story of the Christmas pudding is probably a source of fun to those lawyers today, but it says something of how important tradition is in our lives.  It gives us our roots and it helps us establish our identity.  We love to touch, to hold, to see, to feel, things from our past.  There’s a church near here where, on the table in the sacristy, there is a chunk of creamy stone.  I picked it up, and a label on the back said “a piece of Canterbury Cathedral!”  I don’t know who managed to dig it out of the wall, but it was brought back 80 years ago to this country as a kind of relic – a physical, tactile contact with the mother church of our Anglican tradition. Continue reading

Mutual Support & Encouragement – Br. Curtis Almquist

Lenten Preaching Series: A Framework for Freedom

SSJE Rule of Life, Chapter 43: “Mutual Support and  Encouragement” 

Colossians 3:12-17; John 15:9-17

The story is told of a weary man, aged beyond his years, who walked slowly into the office of a country doctor.  The man appeared spent, even by the brief walk back to the doctor’s examination room, and he sat down heavily onto the examination table.

“What seems to be the problem?” asked the doctor.

The man answered, “Doctor, life is very short and very hard, and I find no joy.”

The doctor listened to the man describe his symptoms, then examined him.  On finding no physical abnormalities, the doctor wondered how he could possibly be of help? Finally, the doctor’s face lit up when he thought he might have a remedy.  The doctor said, “There’s an amazing clown appearing in our local theater. Prokevia is his name. He’s absolutely marvelous!  Go and see him, and perhaps he will remind you of the joy that lies hidden in your life.”

The man looked up at the satisfied doctor, breathed a sigh and said, “My dear doctor… I am Prokevia.”

You may understand Prokevia’s suffering if you are a wonderful person.  Continue reading

The Good News of Temptation – Br. Robert L’Esperance

Looking to the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness, Br. Robert L’Esperance invites us during Lent to the practice of self-examination. In this practice we are often reluctant to undertake, he uncovers the good news of temptation: Temptation, and an awareness of our own failings, are essential if the boundless love of a boundlessly loving God is to be real to us.

This sermon currently is available only in audio format.