Love God and Do What You Want – Br. James Koester

Br. James Koester

Acts 14: 19 – 28
Psalm145: 9 – 14
John 14: 27 – 31a

When I was 7 or 8 I made a book of coupons for my mother, which I presented to her on Mother’s Day. Each coupon was good for something different. One was for taking out the garbage. Another was good for breakfast in bed. I don’t remember what the other ones were good for, but the idea was that she would take out one of the coupons, return it to me and I would do whatever the coupon was good for. Curiously, she never used them. I found the coupon book years later among her things. My hunch is that my book of coupons said more to my mother than any number of breakfasts in bed.

Each of us have different ways of showing love. We might be one of those people completely comfortable telling another I love you. Or we might be one of those whose love for another is shown, not so much in words as in deeds: flowers, acts of kindness or generosity, thoughtful gestures, small favours. That may be the way we show love. 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

Jesus, the Icon of God – Br. David Vryhof

davidv150x150When I entered the monastery back in 1985, I knew nothing about icons.  I had never visited an Orthodox church and had no idea that icons had been used by Christians for centuries in both public worship and private devotion.  Towards the end of my novitiate, I read my first book about praying with icons:  Behold, the Beauty of the Lord by Henri Nouwen, published in 1987.  In it Nouwen describes several icons with which he had prayed for some time, noting their distinguishing characteristics and describing the insights he had gained from praying with them. Continue reading

The Sound of Silence – Br. Geoffrey Tristram

geoffrey 150xOne of the questions that I get asked as a monk quite often when I travel around is, “Are you a silent order?”  Kind of a difficult one to answer.  No – we don’t take a vow of silence, and we do talk quite a lot.  But silence is a hugely important part of our monastic life.  Guests sometimes say – “Oh, being silent – is that sort of part of the Brothers’ penance?”

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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

Pachomius – Br. Geoffrey Tristram

geoffrey 150xChristian monasticism began when, in 270 AD, Anthony, a wealthy young man, heard the Gospel story read in church of the rich young man who asked Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life.(MT 19:16-25; MK 10:17-25; LK 18:18-25)  Jesus replied, “Go, sell what you own and give the money to the poor – and come follow me.”  Anthony did so, and followed Jesus out into the Egyptian desert and he became a hermit, or lived the eremitic life, from the Greek word for desert.   Many others soon followed his example, and the desert became populated with hermits. Continue reading

A Home in Your Heart – Br. James Koester

jamesk1Acts 16: 9-15
Psalm 67
Revelation 21: 10, 22 – 22: 5
John 14: 23 – 29

Over the last several weeks I have been busy building raised garden beds. If you have been to Emery House, you may have seen them, or even inspected them. In one I have spinach and beets, in another lettuce, radishes and carrots. In a couple of smaller ones I have planted potato onions, shallots and Egyptian Walking Onions (now isn’t that a great name!). Last week I transplanted the creeping oregano into one and one of the guests carefully transplanted most of the perennial onions into another. Continue reading

Chosen as Friends – Br. David Vryhof

David Vryhof SSJE  2010John 15:12-17                                                                                                         

“You did not choose me but I chose you.” –John 15:16

It is an honor to be chosen.  When we are chosen to fill a job opening, chosen to be a friend or partner, chosen to take on a special role or responsibility… it is a sign of affirmation.  Someone wants us, needs us, trusts us, believes in us.  We feel honored to have been selected.  And yet, even the highest earthly honors pale in comparison to the honor that has been bestowed on us in Christ, who has chosen us in love to be his friends.[i]  Imagine!  “You are my friends,” he says to us, “I have chosen you.”

For what has he chosen us? Continue reading

Love No Matter What – Br. Luke Ditewig

Br. Luke Ditewig“I give you a new commandment that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.”[i] Instead of telling us to be kind, respectful, compassionate or patient (which we are to be), Jesus tells us to love. In the New Testament Greek there are four words for love. One is about family, love between children and parents, between siblings. Another is the erotic, sexual, falling in love. Another is the love of close friends. Then there’s agape, different from the rest. It’s not based on a relationship or affinity.

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Sleepy Heads – Br. Mark Brown

Mark-Brown-SSJE-2010-300x299They were weighed down with sleep—but they stayed awake, it says.  Icons of the Transfiguration often show the disciples lying on the ground while Jesus and Moses and Elijah stand in glory on the mountain peak.  Perhaps Peter and John and James are in that half-awake, half-asleep state we all know.  That dusky neither daylight nor dark state, that in betweenness familiar to people everywhere.  The disciples do awaken more fully to the mystery light before them in the days ahead, in the months and years ahead, those bracing months and years ahead—and in the eternity to which they have finally arrived. 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.

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God’s Love – Br. David Allen

DavidA_2008_031The first reading for today’s Eucharist tells us about God’s love. It also tells us what we need to know about God and our love.

At the beginning of today’s first reading you heard these words:  “We love because God first loved us.” (1 Jn 4:19).  This tells us that all godly love comes from God, not only this, but all love that is true comes from God.  Our love for God is not an automatic response. It is the free gift of God to us and to everyone who believes and accepts God’s love. Continue reading

The Manifestation of Christ in the Gentiles – Br. Mark Brown

We celebrate today the great feast, the “solemnity” of the Epiphany, otherwise known as “The Manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles.” “Gentiles”, meaning all the peoples of the world other than the twelve tribes of ancient Israel.  The Three Wise Men, the Magi, these emissaries from somewhere, represent the peoples of the world not of the twelve tribes.  These Wise Men led by a star discover the Creator of the stars of night.  And not in one of Herod’s sumptuous palaces, but in an unexpected place. Continue reading

St. John the Evangelist – Br. John Braught

Br. John BraughtThe beloved disciple reclining next to the heart of Jesus is the icon of our relationship with God. From this image we begin to grasp the nearness of God to us, the intimacy he shares with us, and the extent in which God cares for us. As foundational as this belief may be, however, if you are anything like me, you need constant reminders, as apparently the early Christian communities did as well. There is this reminder in the first epistle of John: “We declare to you what was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life — that God is light and in him there is no darkness at all.”

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Read, Mark, Learn, and Inwardly Digest – Br. Curtis Almquist

The Roman Emperor Gaius Caligula was intent to install his bust in the Temple in Jerusalem. And why not? The Emperor was the emperor, after all, and one of his many titles, Divi Filius (Son of God), was inscribed on every coin used by Romans and Jews alike. In Jesus’ lifetime, the Roman Emperor was called “Divine,” and was titled “Lord,” “Redeemer,” “Liberator,” and “Savior of the World.” So why not install his own bust in the Temple in Jerusalem? There was huge resistance to this threat of desecration among the Jewish community, as might be imagined. A revolt was predicted… which is why we read in the Gospel appointed for today about wars and rumors of wars: the Jews versus Rome, nation against nation. And to compound the tension and despair, our Gospel lesson speaks of a severe, multi-year drought that affected the lands east of the Mediterranean. The good news we hear on Jesus’ lips is that the end is not yet. This may seem like the end, but it’s not yet… which is a word of hope. Our knowing that historic information will make a difference how we make meaning of this Gospel lesson appointed for today: the historical context in which Jesus spoke.

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It’s the Economy, Stupid – Br. James Koester

One of the many highlights of my life in the last dozen years or so has been my ability to travel to Jerusalem on a number of occasions. If you have never been, I can’t encourage you enough to seize whatever opportunity arises and go. Your life will be immensely enriched, your heart broken and broken open, and your faith challenged and changed. If you have been, you will know what I say is true.

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“Lord, teach us to Pray”- Br. David Allen

The Gospel reading today is The Lord’s Prayer in the version from Luke’s Gospel.  Luke gives us a shorter form of that prayer than the familiar one we are used to, based on Matthew’s Gospel.

I feel that Jesus did not intend for the disciples to feel bound by a particular form of words. This is based on Jesus’ teachings on prayer and examples of his own prayers found in all of the Gospels. Jesus’ words in response to the disciples’ request, “Lord, teach us to pray,” are intended, I believe, as examples and guidelines to use and to expand upon when we pray.

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Mary and Martha of Bethany – Br. Geoffrey Tristram

I find this story of Mary and Martha quite fascinating. What is it all about? On the surface, the point of the story is clear: Jesus visits the home of Mary and Martha and the two sisters make very different choices about how to respond to Jesus’ presence. One of them, Mary, sits down at his feet and listens to his teaching. The other, Martha, apparently goes off to do some work.

Then Martha comes back to the room where Mary and Jesus are, and complains that her sister has left her to do all the work. She asks for Jesus’ support in this little tiff with her sister: “Don’t you care that she’s left me to do all the work?” But Jesus doesn’t appear to! In fact, he says that it is Mary who has “chosen the better part.”

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Faith and Action – Br. Robert L’Esperance

robertI doubt that there are many people here today who believe that the Bible was handed down by God intact (and in English) in the year 1611, in the form of the King James Version. What you may not realize, though, is that there has not always been universal agreement about just which books should be included in the Bible, and that one of the books that has had a little trouble with Church authorities over the centuries is the letter of James from which we have heard a passage read today. It was only in the late fourth century in the West and the fifth century in the East that the letter was widely accepted as Scripture; in the sixteenth century, Martin Luther would have liked to have had it removed from the Bible. In his introduction to James in his German translation of the Bible, Luther said, in effect, “It’s not in my canon” — i.e., it was not a book he considered to be the inspired word of God.

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St. John Chrysostom – Br. David Allen

Today we commemorate Saint John Chrysostom, one of the great Bishops of the Early Church.

I first became aware of Saint John Chrysostom in my teens through the Prayer of Saint Chrysostom at the end of the Services of Morning and Evening Prayer in our Prayer Book.  I think others have done so also.

That prayer has given many of us a strong reminder of Jesus’ words to his disciples, “When two or three are gathered together in [Jesus’] Name [he] will be in the midst of them.” (BCP p. 102 & Mt. 18:20) (N.B. These words are also found in the homily preached by John Chrysostom just before he went into exile.)
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