Marks of Love – Robert Heaney

image1-2As Episcopalians we talk about five “Marks of Mission.” To think of these as five marks of love seems to me to be a helpful reframing. God is love. And whatever mission is or is not, it is about the God of love. Indeed, we might say that mission is who God is and what God does. Christians think of God, in God’s being, as burning “with an unchecked Flame, red hot, incendiary. God does not have Love any more than He has Knowledge or Power: He just is these things.” God is love. Love without object or act (Katherine Sonderegger, Systematic Theology Volume 1, 489, 485).

God is love. Too often we skim over such words as a rock skitting across water thrown from a boat to a shore. We touch the truth for a passing moment. We fail to plumb the depths. If, by the power of Christ’s Spirit, we could begin to experience and encounter the depths of divine love we would avoid much of the misunderstanding and malpractice that passes for mission in the Church. God is love. Continue reading

Thanksgiving for the Ministry of Women – Br. David Allen

DavidA_2008_031 We heard in today’s Gospel that Jesus was setting out on one of his preaching tours. At first thought today’s Gospel may appear to be just another narrative about one of Jesus’ walkabout tours for ministry. The purpose of those tours was to proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom of God, and to bring that message to the towns and villages of the region of Galilee. Continue reading

Love’s Concern – Br. David Vryhof

davidv150x150Imagine the range of emotions parents might feel when sending their daughter off to college for the first time, or saying good-bye to a son who is moving across the country to begin a new job.

They have loved their children as best they could. They have trained them and nurtured them, disciplined them and encouraged them. They have tried to give them self-confidence and an appreciation of their unique gifts and abilities. They have tried to shape their character and mold their values. They’ve tried to inspire in them a vision of what life can be, and of what they can offer to the world. And now they are sending off these children of theirs, releasing them so that they can find their own way of being and loving in the world. As parents, they are aware of the challenges, the temptations, even the dangers, that will confront their children in these new settings. And so they pray for God’s protection, and for wisdom as they make choices, and for the guidance of the Holy Spirit as they begin this new phase in their life’s journey. Continue reading

Mystical and Apostolic – Br. Mark Brown

Mark-Brown-SSJE-2010-300x299I’ve been thinking a lot lately about a phrase from our Rule of Life that refers to the “mystical and apostolic aspects of our vocation”.   The “mystical and apostolic”: it’s a way of encapsulating one of the polarities or we might say complementarities of the Christian life. The mystical and apostolic—or we could say the contemplative and the active—or prayer and service.  The SSJE has both in its DNA—as do many other religious orders.

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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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God’s Poor – Br. David Vryhof

I won’t ask for a show of hands this morning, but I’m wondering how many of us know a person or a family who is living below the poverty line.  The U.S. Census Bureau defines that as a single person who makes less than $11,491 per year, or a family of four that earns less than $23,018 annually.  In 2010, the Census Bureau tells us, over 15% of the people in the United States were below the poverty line (15.3%).  The percentage for children was even higher:  21.6% of children living in the United States in 2010 were living below the poverty line – that’s one in every five children in one of the wealthiest nations on earth.  If you know a person or persons who live with this kind of poverty, I’d like you to picture them and keep them in mind for the next few minutes.

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You Are My Witnesses – Br. James Koester

Acts 1: 15-17, 21-26; Psalm 1; 1 John 5: 9-13; John 17: 6-19

There is a word, or at least the implication of a word that pops up frequently during these days of Easter. Jesus implies it when he tells Mary Magdalene in the Garden on that first Easter Day to “… go to my brothers and say to them ….”1 And Mary certainly acts on it when she proclaims to the disciples ‘“I have seen the Lord” and [then] she told them that he had said these things to her.’2 Jesus himself uses it when he says to the assembled disciples “you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”3 Continue reading

Richard Meux Benson – Br. Geoffrey Tristram

“I Richard Meux Benson, promise and vow to Almighty God, the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, before the whole company of heaven, and before you my fathers, that I will live in celibacy, poverty and obedience, as one of the Mission Priests of Saint John the Evangelist unto my life’s end.  So help me God.”  With this vow, made on the Feast of Saint John the Evangelist, December 27, 1866, our Society was founded.

It is hard to imagine today what an extraordinary event this was.  Henry VIII had presided over the dissolution of the monasteries in the 16th century – and there had been no monastic life in the Church of England for 300 years.  Something new and powerful was happening in the church – a new work of the Holy Spirit.  What was it that inspired Richard Benson with the courage and vision to renew the religious life for men in our church, after so many centuries? 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

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.

The Early Missionary Work of the Society in Africa – Br. Eldridge Pendleton

A native Pondomisi priest making rounds on horseback.

I am sure many of you are aware of the Society’s current missionary work in Tanzania and Kenya. But you may not know of our early work in South Africa, both in Capetown and in the Transkei area of the East Cape. The Society of Saint John the Evangelist was founded in 1866 as a society of missionaries and the ministry of the Society was intended to be missionary work, both domestic and abroad

Its organization was modeled on that of St. Vincent de Paul’s Company of Mission Priests, founded in France in the mid 17th century. Within four years of the founding of SSJE, a missionary province had been opened in the United States, and in 1874 the Society established a base in India. It was not until 1883, however, that the Society began its work in South Africa, when Fr. Frederick William Puller arrived in Capetown to serve as chaplain to the All Saints Sisters of the Poor, who ran a hostel for girls and a medical mission which included the care of lepers on Robben Island. The Society started the parish of St. Philip the Deacon and built a school. The work in Capetown was primarily with native Africans, mainly migrants from countries to the north; and “coloreds,” which included all other non-whites—Malays, East Indians, and persons of mixed blood. Virtually all of these were men who had left their families and had crowded into Capetown seeking work. To provide them housing and to serve as a evangelical base, Fr. Puller established St. Columba’s Hostel in 1886. It was through St. Columba’s that Bernard Mizeki, a native of Mozambique, became a Christian, was trained as a catechist and sent as a missionary to Mashonaland (now Zimbabwe).

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Eucharist of the Resurrection – Br. Curtis Almquist

In thanksgiving for the life and witness of Paul Wessinger, SSJE (1915-2009)

Isaiah 25:6-9
Revelation 21:2-7
John 6:37-40

The father founder of the Society of Saint John the Evangelist, Richard Meux Benson, spoke of God’s glory being manifest in our own lives through brokenness, which is a real paradox.i Our own brokenness – be it our lack of self-sufficiency, our sense of inadequacy or incompleteness, our own character flaws, even our despair – whatever our brokenness becomes the portal in our own soul where God breaks through to us.  Father Benson writes that “if we enter into ourselves we shall find the ground of our heart as it were broken up, and a deep well springing up from beneath it….  This well springs up within us in no bubbling spasmodic manner; it is continual, imperceptible, the mighty power of God rising up through our littleness – expanding our nature – gradually overflowing it – until our nature is lost to sight.”ii Or, at least, lost to our own sight.

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Now is the time – Br. James Koester

Jeremiah 31: 31 – 34
Psalm 51: 1 – 13
Psalm 119: 9 -16
Hebrews 5: 5 – 10
John 12: 20 – 33

Mr. Bredin was one of the best teachers I had in high school. He taught history to all grades from grade 8 to grade 12. His specialty was Canadian history, especially the development of responsible government in Canada and he had a way of making, what could be a rather dry and boring subject for teenagers, come alive with all the drama, intrigue and backroom machinations that are a part of all history especially political history.

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The Winter of Our Discontent – Br. Mark Brown

Br. Mark BrownAdvent III
Is. 61:1-4, 8-11; Ps. 126; 1 Thes. 5:16-24; John 1:6-8, 19-28

The genius of the Scriptures is how completely they mirror human nature. From the heights of love, to the depths of hate.  From confident trust to the most lurid cynicism and cruelty. From the darkness of deep despair to the brilliant light of unmitigated joy.  The human condition is all there. Continue reading

Chosen to be an Apostle – Br. David Vryhof

The Feast of St. Matthias

Readings: Acts 1:15-26 – Phil. 3:13b-21 – John 15: 1, 6-16

Can you remember what it feels like to be chosen?  Perhaps you can recall what it was like to be chosen as a very young child – to be first in line or to help the teacher.  Or perhaps you can remember being chosen to be part of a team, or to play a role in the school play, or to become a member of an organization. Continue reading