Signs and Symbols – Br. Curtis Almquist

curtis4The Victorian poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning, writes that:

Earth is crammed with heaven
And every common bush afire with God…1

Ms. Browning is here using sacramental language to describe the experience of life. A sacrament is an outward sign of an inward grace. To understand life sacramentally is to apprehend the whole of creation as a window to God, whether it be a simple bush — the burning bush — or some other element of life, or another human being, created in the very image of God. Every thing in life has the potential of being revelatory. Continue reading

Holy Smoke – Br. Mark Brown

One of the catch phrases of the recent political landscape has been “It’s the economy, stupid.” It sounds like something Jesus might have said in one of his crankier moments. Jesus was very concerned with money and had a lot to say about it.

About this time of year parishes all over the country are having “Stewardship Sunday”. (Perhaps that’s why some of you are here!) Vestries are preparing annual budgets and figuring out ways to economize. Some preachers are reminding people of the Biblical standard of the tithe. People are wondering if that means 10% before taxes or after.

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St. Ignatius of Antioch – Br. David Allen

When I think of the early martyrs I often think of Tertullian’s words, “The blood of the Martyrs is the seed of the Church.” (Apologeticus Ch. 50) That simple sentence contains the answer to many questions about the martyrs’ willingness to face death.

Ignatius of Antioch was one of those martyrs, a century earlier than Tertullian.

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Jacob’s Pillow – Br. Mark Brown

 1 Sam. 3: 1-20; Psalm 139:1-5, 12-17; 1 Cor. 6:12-20; John 1:43-51

This is surely one of Jesus’ more obscure sayings. “Very truly I tell you,” he says to Nathanael, “you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.” The reference is to Jacob’s dream in Genesis when he sees angels on a ladder ascending to and descending from heaven.  But what can it possibly mean? We need to do a little detective work.

So, why not start in Paris? I’m not a regular in Paris, but have managed to get there three or four times.  On one visit way back when I happened to go into a book store—an old-fashioned book store (remember book stores?). Very high ceilings with shelves all the way to the top, ladders to get up there.  The overflow in stacks on tables, even on the wood plank floor.  The fragrance of old leather bindings in the air. It happened to be a Left Bank version of what we would call a “New Age” bookstore: all the world religions, and then some.  Theosophy, Anthroposophy, astrology and numerology and the occult, etc. etc.–all the more exotic for being in French.  There in the Christian section of the store a little book jumped out at me (have you ever had books jump out at you?)  “Le Symbolisme du Temple Chrétien”. The symbolism of the Christian temple. By someone named Jean Hani. I bought and read it. Continue reading

Corpus Christi – Br. David Allen

This sermon for Corpus Christi was preached at Emery House

1 Cor. 11:23-29; Jn 6:47-58

Today we are keeping the Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ, historically called Corpus Christi. On this solemn feast day we acknowledge and celebrate the meaning of the Holy Eucharist wherein we are spiritually fed by the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ under the forms of consecrated bread and wine, and fed also by the prayers of the whole Church.

All of the Post Communion prayers that we use during the year recognize the importance that the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist has for us, but there is one of those that I think particularly points up that importance in ways that go beyond our daily spiritual nourishment to touch on the cosmic dimensions of what takes place when we have participated in this Holy Sacrament.  That is the prayer that begins with the words, “God of abundance”. Continue reading

A River Runs Through Us – Br. James Koester

Baptism of Our Lord Jesus Christ

Isaiah 42: 1 – 9; Psalm 29; Acts 10: 34 – 43; Matthew 3: 13 – 17

I don’t know if I actually saw it the first time. I think I did, but I can’t swear to it. It was on my first visit to Jerusalem and the course I was taking at St. George’s College had spent a few days in and around the Old City. We had then departed for Egypt and had been to Cairo and then on to St. Anthony’s Monastery and to St. Catharine’s in the Sinai. We had crossed the Gulf of Aqaba on the Red Sea and had visited Madaba, Petra and Nebo in Jordan. We were finally heading back to Jerusalem and had just passed through the border crossing into the West Bank and were driving over the Allenby Bridge when our course director announced that at that moment we were crossing the Jordon River. Luckily I had a window seat, but even in the moment it took me to turn my head and look out the window, we were over the river and all that could be seen as we drove off was the lush growth of trees, scrub and brush that outlined the river bank. I remember seeing that, but I don’t actually remember seeing any water, much less anything that passed as a river, at least to my mind.

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Easter Innocence – Br. Curtis Almquist

John 20:1-18

We have this old phrase, “misery loves company.” Peter and the Beloved Disciple were keeping company in their misery, but not for the same reasons. The Beloved Disciple was grief stricken over the horrendous crucifixion of his dearest friend, Jesus, with whom he had stayed until it was finished. Peter, on the other hand, was frightened and appalled by his own betrayal of Jesus, whom he had denied and abandoned from the bitter outset. The two disciples were together but in very different places when they hear the news from Mary Magdalene that Jesus’ body is gone. They run towards the tomb independently, no surprise. The Beloved Disciple would be ecstatic, remembering Jesus’ promise that if he were killed, he would come back to life; he would be resurrected. Peter, on the other hand, would be in agony. He, too, had heard Jesus’ prediction about his resurrection. But Jesus’ resurrection for Peter would be so very, very difficult because of his having to face Jesus. Peter would need to ask Jesus’ forgiveness… again. Not that Jesus would not forgive Peter, but that he would, as Jesus had undoubtedly forgiven him so many times before. How many times had Jesus forgiven Peter already? More than Peter could imagine.[i] You may recall Jesus had renamed Peter “his rock,” not just because he was so strong, but because he was so hard-headed.[ii] Peter here is running in very familiar territory as he races to Jesus’ tomb, only this time it’s much worse. This time, Peter has crossed a line; he now is more a follower of Judas and than Jesus.

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“To Live is to Change” – Br. Geoffrey Tristram

When I first started high school my two elder brothers, Christopher and Michael, were already there.  It was a rather old-fashioned school, and we were called by our surname.  “Come in Tristram,” the teachers would say.  With three Tristrams in the school that could sometimes be confusing.  So to distinguish us, rather light-heartedly, Christopher was referred to as Tristram.  He was the oldest.  Michael was known as Tristram Minor.  Then I arrived.  I was to be Tristram Minimus – which I didn’t much like!

That stayed with me over the years at school.  I think it so often happens – in a family or a community – that although you have grown and changed, others still see you as you were, or remember something you once did, and still define you in those terms.  And we want to say, “I’m not that anymore – I’ve changed.  Haven’t you noticed?”

It was quite a liberation to leave school and go to university where no one had met Tristram Minimus – but only Geoffrey.  Like the lobster which grows and changes and needs to burst out of its old shell, it felt wonderful to make a new beginning, changed from a school boy into an undergraduate.

“To live is to change.  And to be perfect is to have changed often.”  Famous words of John Henry Newman.  They reflect one of the great inner dynamics of the Gospels, which is Christ’s call to each one of us to change.  It is not always welcome; it’s not always comfortable; it’s not always easy, but like it or not, if we refuse to change we will die.  That goes for us as individuals, and for us as Christian communities.  “To live is to change.  To be perfect is to have changed often.” Continue reading

#Oblation: The Prayer of Oblation – Br. Mark Brown


5_OblationWe Brothers are helping people write and introduce fresh prayers into the Prayers of the People by learning about the seven principal forms of prayer identified in the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer: adoration, praise, thanksgiving, penitence, oblation, intercession, and petition.

We invite your prayers to the God of vision in words and images on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram in the format #prayersof #oblation … you may want to start “I offer to you…”
View the prayers of othersprayersofthepeople.org

To read more sermons about the seven forms of prayer: Teach Us to Pray


Br. Mark Brown offered this homily on the prayer of oblation at the Monastery as part of the Teach Us to Pray series, January 19, 2010.

This evening we continue our series entitled “Teach Us to Pray”.  In October we heard sermons on the Prayer of Praise, the Prayer of Thanksgiving, the Prayer of Intercession, and the Prayer of Adoration.

This evening: the Prayer of Oblation, that is, the prayer of offering, of self-offering. Next week the Prayer of Penitence, the following week, the Prayer of Petition.  Each week we invite you for soup and conversation with the preacher following the service downstairs in the undercroft.

The Prayer of Oblation.  Let’s begin with baptism. In our baptism we are baptized into the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  We are baptized into his light, immersed in his light.  We are baptized in his Spirit, baptized into his love, inundated by his love, engulfed by his love, permeated by his love.  In our baptismal vows, we promise to respond as best we can to our immersion in his light, his life, and his love. Continue reading

Here Be Dragons – Br. James Koester

Br. James KoesterFeast of the Baptism of Our Lord: The First Sunday after the Epiphany

Isaiah 43: 1 – 7; Psalm 29; Acts 8: 14 – 17; Luke 3: 15 – 17, 21 – 22

Did you notice it? Did you notice something different this past Christmas? There was something palpably different with our Christmas celebrations this year and I believe it had to do with the crèche.

It’s not, I think, that the crèche itself that was especially unusual. We have had unusual and thought provoking crèches in Christmases past. Some of you may remember the year we had the Holy Family as street people seeking shelter from the wind in the back corner of the chapel with Mary looking like one of the bag ladies we often see in Harvard Square. There was also the year that Mary was faceless, and in place of her face was a mirror so that when you gazed at her you saw your own reflection and somehow you knew that you too were meant to bear, and carry and give birth to the Incarnate Son of God in our world today. You may remember the year we had the almost life sized iconographic depictions of the Mary and Joseph and the Christ Child with the ox and ass peering over the stall. And last year we had that wonderful shadow-box Nativity scene carved from a single piece of wood. No, we’ve had unusual crèche scenes before, and oddly enough the crèche we had displayed this year was not all that unusual. No, what was unusual about this year was not the crèche itself, but rather how it demanded you to encounter it. Continue reading

Waiting in Advent – Br. Curtis Almquist

The name for this season in the Church year, “Advent,” derives from the Latin, adventus, which means arrival: the arrival of the long-awaited Messiah, the Christ, whom we as Christians know as Jesus.  Meanwhile, as we anticipate this arrival, we wait.  If we were to open the Gospel accounts according to Matthew and Luke, we discover a great many people waiting for the Messiah, the Christ.  Mary is waiting.  Jo­seph is waiting.  Zechariah and Elizabeth are waiting. Symeon and Anna are wait­ing.  Most everyone, it seems, is waiting.  They’re waiting for an arrival.  There are also shepherds who are waiting. There are some sages from the east – wisemen – who are waiting.  The threatened govern­ment of Herod the Tetrarch is waiting, rather anxiously.  The only persons who are not waiting are in Bethlehem, the keepers of an inn.  And there’s no room in the inn.  They’re all full up.  It is nigh unto impossible to wait if you are full up, because waiting takes space; to be able to wait requires an emptiness.  And that’s a problem.  I think it’s problematic for many of us who live in North America. Continue reading

Uncontrollable Fire – Br. Mark Brown

John 6:51-59

He said these things while he was teaching in the synagogue at Capernaum.

As it happens, I was just there at Capernaum a couple weeks ago.  We brothers, you may know, serve as chaplains for courses at St. George’s College in Jerusalem.  Our band of pilgrims visited the site of ancient Capernaum on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee as part of the College’s “Palestine of Jesus” course.  There are ruins of the first century village as well as a later synagogue and a Byzantine period church built over the house said to have been Peter’s. Continue reading

Feeding the Multitude – Br. Eldridge Pendleton

2 Kings 4:42-44; Psalm 145:10-19; Ephesians 3:14-21; John 6:1-21

 

Our worship of God finds its fullest expression in the celebration of the Holy Eucharist.  It is the offering through which we return thanks for all that God has given us in creation, and in our redemption through the pouring out of Christ’s life-blood on the cross.  In this sacrifice of bread and wine all that we do and are is joined by the Holy Spirit to the eternal offering of Christ on behalf of the world.  It is the meal which intensifies our union with Christ, draws us together as a community, and nourishes us with the grace needed for our transformation and our mission.  It is the mystery through which we are caught up into the communion of saints on earth and in heaven, the mystical Body of Christ.  It is the gift through which we experience a foretaste of the life to come.

The Rule of the Society of St. John the Evangelist

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On a Sure Foundation – Br. Geoffrey Tristram

This sermon is available only in audio format.

Maundy Thursday – Br. Geoffrey Tristram

This sermon is available only in audio format.

Mystery – Br. Eldridge Pendleton

This sermon is available only in audio format.

The Baptism of Jesus – Br. Curtis Almquist

Br. Curtis Almquist

Mark 1:4-11

Delivered by Br. David Vryhof.

We hear that John and Jesus meet up with one another along the Jordan river.  This must have been shocking for both of them.  John and Jesus are cousins, and both of them are now about 30 years old, which is well advanced in years for that time – and they have known each other since their infancies.  Continue reading

Where are you from? – Br. Geoffrey Tristram

Br. Geoffrey TristramThis sermon is available only in audio format.

A Prayer for Lucca on the Occasion of her Baptism – Br. David Vryhof

Ecclesiasticus 2:1-11, Ephesians 1:11-23, and Luke 6:20-36

We’re not alone here today. Do you realize that? We know, first and foremost, that we are in the presence of God, the God in whom, as St Paul says, “we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28); God is here with us. Today, on All Saints’ Sunday, we also recall that we are in the presence of all the saints, those men and women and children who have gone before us in the faith, who have shown us the way by their words and their actions. Continue reading

Bait and Switch? – Br. Mark Brown

John 6:30-35

I wonder if there might be something of a “bait and switch” maneuver in the Gospel of John. Where we’re lead to expect one thing, but get something else.  We’re lured into the store drawn by one thing, but, somehow, we end up leaving with what the merchant really wants us to buy.  “Bait and switch”: we’ve all fallen for it. Perhaps we’ve been taken in by the Gospel of John, too, but in a benign way. Continue reading