Holy Cross Day – Br. Curtis Almquist

Br. Curtis Almquist

May I never boast of anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world…”Galatians 6:14-18

Jesus was convinced and, ultimately, convincing that on the other side of death – death in its many forms – is life.  Jesus says, “For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.”[i] Here’s the best way for us to lose our life on Jesus’ terms: surrender.  Surrender the lordship of our life to Jesus Christ, who wants to live within us.  The only way to live life – which can be such a killer – is to allow Jesus Christ to live within us.  This was St. Paul’s discovery.  In his writings, St. Paul uses one particular phrase more than 85 times: “…in Christ.”   He speaks of living his life “in Christ.”  “No longer” living life on others’ terms or even on his own terms – he’s “no longer” doing that, he says repeatedly – but now living his life “in Christ.”[ii] Continue reading

Dying to Live – Br. Robert L’Esperance

SSJE141The Restoration of the Religious Life in the Anglican Communion:  The Profession of Marian Rebecca Hughes, 1841.

Matthew 16:24-27

“If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.  For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.”

Ayman Nabil Labib was a Coptic Christian.  “Like many Coptic Christians in Egypt, Ayman Nabil Labib had a tattoo of the cross on his wrist. And like 17-year-old men everywhere, he could be assertive about his identity. But in 2011, after Egypt’s revolution, that kind of assertiveness could mean trouble. Continue reading

Fresh Beginnings – Br. Mark Brown

Mark-Brown-SSJE-2010-300x299“So he said to him, ‘What is your name?’ And he said ‘Jacob.’ Then the man said, ‘You shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with humans and have prevailed.’”

Jacob wrestling the angel until daybreak is surely one of the more mysterious and dramatic episodes of the Bible.  Jacob not only prevails, but he is given a new name, a new identity: Israel. Continue reading

Laying Down Our Lives – Br. Curtis Almquist

MizekiAlmighty and everlasting God, who kindled the flame of your Love in the heart of your holy martyr Bernard Mizeki: Grant to us, your humble servants, a like faith and power of love, that we who rejoice in his triumph may profit by his example; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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Listen and Look While You Weep – Br. Luke Ditewig

Br. Luke DitewigBr. Luke Ditewig assures us that Jesus Christ comes; the question is not “if” but “how.”  In what “surprising yet ordinary” ways have you noticed God calling your name? How might looking for God in the ordinary make you more aware of God’s presence already taking place in your life?

This sermon is currently only available in audio format.

Surrendering – Br. Luke Ditewig

Br. Luke DitewigPeople often ask me: “What has surprised you living in the Monastery?” One surprise is how much we acknowledge, encourage and remember death. We acknowledge our own corporate and personal brokenness and fragility more than I experienced in other communities. We say in our Rule of Life that the Christian life is a path of death and detachment, daily letting go and dying to our old selves, letting go of abilities, personal preferences, and expectations for how God will call or use us.[i]

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Our Coming to Christ Changes Everything – Br. James Koester

You may have heard me say in the past that the Christian faith, and specifically the liturgical cycle of feasts and fasts is one of the few ways that connects many of us to the world around or rather, under us. In the past few decades wide open spaces have turned into strip malls. Soil has become a toxic waste, and our feet rarely touch the ground. It is not because we have finally discovered how to fly. Rather it is because out cities have become concrete canyons. In places like Toronto and Montreal there exist a labyrinthine system of tunnels and underground shops, office buildings and walkways which connect most of the downtown to the subway system. There you never have to go outside to swelter on a hot and humid July afternoon, or freeze on a frigid February morning. We have become observers to the world outside us, sheltered from the elements by air conditioning and central heating. Electricity extends the day, far beyond nightfall and what we can do and when we can do it is no longer limited by our need to cooperate with nature, but rather by our ability to harness it.  Continue reading

Bernard Mizeki – Br. Geoffrey Tristram

 This week, there is a great festival taking place, drawings tens of thousands of people.  It’s not a pop concert, or a political rally.  It’s taking place in Marondella, Zimbabwe.  For this week marks the anniversary of the death of Bernard Mizeki, who gave his life as a martyr, serving the Shona people of Africa.

We brothers of the SSJE have a special devotion to Bernard because he became a Christian through the ministry of our brotherhood in Cape Town, South Africa.  We used to run a school there and as a young man Bernard attended night classes.  It was through meeting and talking with our brother, Frederick Puller, that he became a Christian – and was baptized on March 9, 1886.

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60 Seconds – Br. Mark Brown

Hebrews 10:19-24; Psalm 27: 5-11; John 4: 23-26

“Do you wish to know your Lord’s meaning in this thing? Know it well, love was his meaning. Who reveals it to you? Love. What did he reveal to you? Love.  Why does he reveal it to you? For love… So I was taught that love was his meaning.”

Words of Julian of Norwich, the 14th century English mystic whom we remember today. In her “Revelations of Divine Love”, the “Showings,” she recalls that “when she was young” she desired and prayed for “three graces by the gift of God”: 1) recollection of the Passion of Christ, 2) bodily sickness to the point of death, 3) the gift of three spiritual wounds. “When she was young” she wanted these things to happen at the age of thirty—and they did. Continue reading

Good Shepherd – Br. Robert L’Esperance

John 10:11-18

O my God, you are here… but always you are where we are, and always you love us, calling us each by name. Amen.

On this Good Shepherd Sunday Jesus tells us that he “calls his own sheep by name and leads them out…and the sheep follow him because they know his voice.” Well, that’s a metaphor, no matter what sheep-like sounds we might make at odd moments or how much we might sometimes behave like sheep.  It’s still a metaphor.  We’re not sheep. I feel quite confident about that as an unequivocal statement.  But though we are not sheep, we do respond to this picture of Jesus as our Good Shepherd.  We respond because he says he has come so that we might “have life, and have it abundantly.” God really wants us to get the most out of life. If we love life, if we choose life, we respond with joy to the one whose deepest desire is to give us life in abundance. If we do not love life, if we choose death, then we respond more readily to the enemy of the Good Shepherd, the thief, who Jesus says, “Comes only to steal and kill and destroy.” Continue reading

“OH WOW” – Br. Mark Brown

Rev. 7:9-17; Ps. 34:1-10, 22; 1 John 3:1-3; Mat. 5:1-12

There are two things a little out of the ordinary this evening. On this “First Tuesday”, which happens to be All Saints Day, we invite you to come downstairs after the service for a soup supper.  And this feast of All Saints is one of the occasions when we renew our Baptismal vows. Following these reflections, we’ll stand together, renew our promises and be sprinkled with water as a reminder of our baptism into Christ, into his death and resurrection, baptized into his likeness.

We stand together in this life on a kind of threshold, a threshold between two rooms.  The room before us and the room behind us are both infinities, infinities that we only vaguely comprehend. The room behind us is an infinity of nothingness, of un-being, of non-existence.  We have come out of that “un-beingness” and now actually do exist. The other room, the room before us, is an infinity of being, of what we call “eternal life”. The threshold upon which we stand partakes of both rooms. Like in the narthex of this chapel, we can hear the sound of traffic from one direction and we can smell the incense from the other, and yet not be in one place or the other. Continue reading

Sermon at the Eucharist of the Resurrection in honor of Br. John Mathis SSJE (1923 – 2011) – Br. Geoffrey Tristram

We come together today to give thanks to God for John.  We give thanks that after a long life of many struggles, but also many blessings, God has now called John home.

As I was praying over today’s Scriptures, one line in particular from St. John’s Gospel stood out for me: “Jesus said, ‘anyone who comes to me I will never drive away’.” And that for me is an apt way of describing John’s remarkable ministry. Like his Lord he would never ignore or turn away from someone in need, however desperate their lives had become.

The first time I met John was thirteen years ago, when I first visited the monastery.  He was walking slowly towards Harvard Square in his own rather distinct habit: those blue denim farmers’ overalls!  When I introduced myself, his whole face lit up with that wonderful smile – which has given hope and encouragement to so many over the years. Continue reading

Look to the Glory – Br. Curtis Almquist

Jesus looked up to heaven and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all people, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. I glorified you on earth by finishing the work that you gave me to do. So now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had in your presence before the world existed.

”I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything you have given me is from you; for the words that you gave to me I have given to them, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. I am asking on their behalf; I am not asking on behalf of the world, but on behalf of those whom you gave me, because they are yours. All mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them. And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one. (John 17:1-11)

When people are near death, if they know it, and if they can talk about it, they most often speak in profound simplicity about what really matters to them. They speak about what is most important. And this is true for Jesus, who speaks these words, from today’s Gospel lesson, just prior to his being betrayed, then tried, then crucified, which he knew was coming. What are Jesus’ last words about? They’re about glory: that he would be glorified by the God whom he calls “Father,” and that he, in return, would glorify the Father.1 It’s like a light shining into a mirror, which in turn reflects the light back to its source which, in turn, reflects and receives and reflects and receives so that the light’s beginning becomes it end. Jesus says he looking to reclaim his glory, the glory that he had in the Father’s presence before the world existed. Those are Jesus’ last words, last wishes: glory. Continue reading

Lazarus, come out! – Br. James Koester

Ezekiel 37:1-14; Psalm 130; Romans 8:6-11; John 11:1-45

Yesterday was a spectacular day! The weather made it a perfect spring day and so I decided to make the best of it and spend the afternoon in the bee yard at Emery House. Of the nine bee hives I had last fall, eight survived the winter. The ninth hive unfortunately died. It must have starved sometime in January when it was so cold that the bees could no longer access the food they had stored last summer. Of the eight hives that survived the winter, seven are bursting with bees. The eighth hive seems to be a little slower in recovering. For the last several weeks I have been feeding the bees a sugar candy to make sure they survived the last of the cold, snowy days and that they had enough food to get them through until the nectar begins to flow and the flowers produce their pollen. Yesterday I decided to switch their food and feed them sugar syrup, into which I was able to put some antibiotics in order to give them a boost as they head into the spring honey flow. As I peered into the hives, I couldn’t help but see how they were bursting with bees and while I only looked down into them through the open top I knew they were thriving. It seems that wherever I looked yesterday life was literally erupting around me. Continue reading

Longing for Heaven – Br. James Koester

Haggai 1:15b-2:9
Psalm 145: 1-5, 18-22
2 Thessalonians 2: 1-5, 13-17
Luke 20: 27-38

I can’t tell you how many times I have been asked. And I know that the other members of the community have also been asked the same question. In fact, I was asked this question once again, just the other day and I was nearly 2000 miles away from here!

When will you be back in the monastery? When will the chapel be open? When will we be able to have services back in the chapel? When will the Tuesday evening Eucharist begin again?

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Breaking the Death Barrier – Br. Geoffrey Tristram

“You’ve been living in Boston for nearly ten years, and you’ve not been to Fenway Park?” That’s what a friend of mine said to me some months ago, and he promptly went out to buy a couple of tickets. And so it was one late afternoon we were lining up outside the stadium among the crowds, waiting for the Red Sox to meet the LA Angels. Well, all I can say is that I was well and truly smitten. It was one of the most exciting evenings I’ve ever had. It was an incredible game. But what I most remember is the time just before the game began. The crowds were alive with excited expectancy and anticipation. Kids were jumping up and down in excitement. They knew this was going to be a special game and the atmosphere of expectancy was electric.

That experience of my first Red Sox game came back to me as I was reflecting on today’s Gospel. Those disciples must have been absolutely filled with a sense of expectancy and anticipation. Something amazing was about to happen. Jesus has just ascended into heaven, and we read “the disciples returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and they were continually in the Temple blessing God.” (Lk 24:52-53) They were probably singing, praying, even dancing in their joy. I wonder what the others in the Temple thought? What’s up with them? What are they so excited about? Continue reading

Holy Saturday – Liturgy of the Word – Br. Curtis Almquist

Something strange is happening—there is a great silence on earth today, a great silence and stillness.  The whole earth keeps silence because the King is asleep.  The earth trembled and is still because God has fallen asleep in the flesh and he has raised up all who have slept ever since the world began.  God has died in the flesh and hell trembles with fear.

He has gone to search for our first parent, as for a lost sheep. Greatly desiring to visit those who live in darkness and in the shadow of death, he has gone to free from sorrow the captives Adam and Eve, he who is both God and the son of Eve.  The Lord approached them bearing the cross, the weapon that had won him the victory.  At the sight of him, Adam, the first man he had created, struck his breast in terror and cried out to everyone: “My Lord be with you all.”  Christ answered him: “And with your spirit.”  He took him by the hand and raised him up, saying:  “Awake, O sleeper, and rise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.”

I am your God, who for your sake have become your son.  Out of love for you and for your descendants I now, by my own authority, command all who are held in bondage to come forth, all who are in darkness to be enlightened, all who are sleeping to arise.  I order you, O sleeper, to awake.  I did not create you to be held a prisoner in hell.  Rise from the dead, for I am the life of the dead.  Rise up, work of my hands, you who were created in my image.  Rise, let us leave this place, for you are in me and I am in you; together we form only one person and we cannot be separated.

For your sake I, your God, became your son; I, the Lord, took the form of a slave;  I, whose home is above the heavens, descended to the earth and beneath the earth.  For your sake, for the sake of man, I became like a man without help, free among the dead.  For the sake of you, who left a garden, I was betrayed to the Jews in a garden, and I was crucified in a garden.

See on my face the spittle I received in order to restore to you the life I once breathed to you.  See there the marks of the blows I received in order to refashion your warped nature in my image.  On my back see the marks of the scourging I endured to remove the burden of sin that weighs upon your back.  See my hands, nailed firmly to a tree, for you who once wickedly stretched out your hand to a tree.

I slept on the cross and a sword pierced my side for you who slept in paradise and brought forth Eve from your side.  My side has healed the pain in yours.  My sleep will rouse you from your sleep in hell.  The sword that pierced me has sheathed the sword that was turned against you.

Rise, let us leave this place.  The enemy led you out of the earthly paradise.  I will not restore you to that paradise, but I will enthrone you in heaven.  I forbade you the tree that was only a symbol of life, but see, I who am life itself am now one with you.  I appointed cherubim to guard you as slaves are guarded, but now I make them worship you as God.  The throne formed by cherubim awaits you, its bearers swift and eager.  The bridal chamber is adorned, the banquet is ready, the eternal dwelling places are prepared, the treasure houses of all good things lie open.  The kingdom of heaven has been prepared for you from all eternity.

Catch the Wave – Br. Mark Brown

Is. 49-1-7/Ps. 71:1-14/1 Cor. 1:18-31/John 12:20-36

As Holy Week gets underway we have the sensation that something large, something very large, has been set in motion. And that there’s no stopping it. Even though we know how it all turns out—sort of—there’s a sense of both largeness and inevitability. So there’s nothing to do but to go with it. Nothing to do but to allow ourselves to be swept up in this enormous wave–again.

How large is the largeness of Holy Week? We just heard in this passage from John that when he is lifted up he will draw all people to himself. “All people” is pretty large. But a variation in some of the ancient texts suggests something even larger. When I am lifted up I will draw all things, everything, the whole shebang, to myself. An exponential leap from all people to all things, the whole creation, the whole cosmos. What happens in Holy Week and Easter gathers up the entire cosmos in its energies.

We may remember the end of the Gospel of Mark where after his resurrection Jesus tells the disciples to “proclaim the gospel to the whole creation”. Not just to every human being, but to the whole creation. We may recall Romans 8 where Paul says that “the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now”, and that creation itself will be “set free from the bondage of decay”. And that the creation itself will “obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.”

It’s hard to know exactly what Paul had in mind, but his understanding of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus is cosmic in scope. Something that pertains to the whole cosmos is happening in the death and resurrection of Christ: animal, vegetable and mineral; earth, air, fire and water. From the depths of inner worlds to the furthest reaches of outer space. “Behold, I am making all things new”—not just all people, but all things, he says. Whether we quite comprehend this or not, the scope is breathtaking.

Yet the high drama, the cosmic drama of this week is experienced in very intimate things. A son and a father share an agonized conversation in a garden. Friends share supper for the last time. A foot is washed, then another. Clothing is removed to shame a victim. Flesh is pierced—the piercing of flesh is a terribly intimate thing. A mother anguishes as she awaits the last breath of a first born son. All terribly intimate moments.

Yet, all the while as these very intimate things take place, the cosmos, the planets and solar systems and galaxies swirl on their way. Its always like this, of course. Galaxies swirl even as we have our own agonized conversations, even as we share suppers for the last time, even as our own flesh, our own souls are pierced. And its all of a piece.

When he was lifted up he drew all people, all things to himself. All things, from the most distant fires of the cosmos to the most intimate embers of the soul. A fundamental unity, the very ground of our being, has drawn it all to himself. Having accomplished that, now your agony in the garden is my agony in the garden; and our agony in the garden is his agony in the garden. Now that which pierces you pierces me; and that which pierces us pierces him. Now your resurrection is mine and mine is yours and his new life is ours.

But its best not to jump ahead. For the moment, better to be swept up in this great wave and let him take us where he will.

“God does sit with us and grieve” – Br. Geoffrey Tristram

I had a bright, shiny sermon prepared for today about the wedding at Cana in Galilee, and about how in that story Jesus’ presence transformed everything so that everything and everyone in the story seemed to shimmer in the radiance of God’s glory.  And then I saw the horrifying photographs of Haiti.  Death, destruction, suffering and devastation.

In my prayers, I reflected on that other day which I always find so challenging.

August 6th, the day when we celebrate in church the Transfiguration of Christ, when on the holy mountain Christ’s face was irradiated with divine glory, is also the day when we remember the disfiguration of the people of Hiroshima, whose faces were irradiated with deadly heat and radiation.

We who are Christians, we who know and worship a God whom we call Love, we need to try to make sense of what has happened in Haiti.  We may not be able to completely understand, but we need in some way to make sense of it for ourselves.  I heard a Haitian woman yesterday as she held up her hands say, “One minute I try to hold on to my faith.  The next I say, ‘God, why us?’” Continue reading

From Battle, Murder and Sudden Death – Br. James Koester

In this homily, given at the Society’s monthly requiem, Br. James offers a helpful perspective and way to pray for the living and the dead of Haiti.

There is a phrase that comes to us from the Great Litany, which when I heard it growing up in the ‘60’s and ‘70’s elicited a smile from me. It was so beyond my world experience that I could only think it quaint, coming as it did, from another time and place, far removed from the realities of my own life: “From battle, murder and sudden death; Good Lord, deliver us.”

Growing up as I did in Canada, removed from the immediate effects of Viet Nam I knew no one my age who contemplated seriously the thought of going to war. No one I knew in my neighbourhood had been murdered and sudden death came only in car accidents, and even those were rare occurrences. In my world, death came after a long life, and usually happened in your own bed. Continue reading