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The News from Here – Br. Mark Brown

Galatians 6:7-16    Luke 10:1-11, 16-20

“…a new creation is everything.”  Words of Paul this morning.  A new creation is everything.  “If anyone is in Christ, he [or she] is a new creation.”  “Behold, I make all things new!” “I am making a new heaven and a new earth.” “Sing to the Lord a new song!”  There is a lot about “new” in the Good News.

Newness, engagement with the new, is part of our founder’s vision of the religious life.  In Fr. Benson’s own words (one of his most quotable quotes):  “The religious is to be specially a man—not simply of the day, but a man of the moment, a man precisely up to the mark of the times.  This makes the religious—so far from being the traditional imitator of by gone days—most specially a man of the present moment and its life.  His duties entirely throw him into the interests of the present moment.  Eternity is in that moment, and all the energies which are given to eternity are given through that moment.  The religious therefore reviews calmly, dispassionately, dutifully all the phenomena of the age in which he lives.  He does not review them as things to deplore, but as things to rejoice in, and as things to be acted upon…”

The Church, the Body of Christ, is essentially progressive.  And religious life is essentially progressive. Rooted in the past, grounded in the Eternal, but always renewing, always renovating.  Rooted in a great tradition, to be sure, but engaging the present moment, engaging the new.

“A new creation is everything.”  The new creation, God’s new creation, is happening here in this moment.  The new creation unfolds before our very eyes.

We brothers try to live up to Fr. Benson’s vision.  We try to be men “precisely up to the mark of the times.”  We try to see ourselves part of this new creation unfolding in the present moment. Even, paradoxically, as we root ourselves in the great monastic tradition.

Some recent renewals, recent renovations: A new rule–the re-writing, an updating of our Rule of Life, finished about ten years ago.  And, six to eight years ago, a process of organizational development, renewing our understanding of what it means today to live together in religious community. We came to a new understanding of how men living in Christian community can share authority in a mature way.  A fairly rigid, top-down, hierarchical pattern (appropriate to another time and place) was replaced by something more fluid and dynamic, something characterized by mutual deference and collegiality.

And more recently still: we are exploring the possibilities of new technology.  Cautiously, but hopefully. (This sermon, for example, will soon enter cyberspace.)

But here’s what’s really new at the monastery.  Both new and renewing.  Here’s what we “men of the moment” are discovering.  And it’s both new and renewing. Now, the mid-western white Anglo-Saxon protestant male region of my psyche cringes to tell you this.  But…we “men of the moment” need money. That’s what’s new here.  Both new and renewing.

It’s time for some major work on our buildings, which date from the 1920’s and 30’s.  Some crucial work.  And we don’t have enough money.  I feel myself cringing to put it so baldly.  And my ESP is picking up a lot of cringe in the chapel here this morning. (Is this appropriate?  Is a taboo being broken?)  But, cringe or not, you’ll hear more about this as time goes on.  The capital campaign is not public yet, but it’s not a secret, either.  It’s in what is called “the quiet phase.”

We are in a position of need—and that is new to us.  And renewing.  Even as we plan the renovation of our buildings, we are beginning to experience our own renovation.  The renewing of our faith, the renewing of our self-understanding.  The renewing of our sense of connectedness to the wider church.  The renovation of our sense of purpose, our mission.

To put it crassly, there’s nothing like needing money to drive home the fact of our dependence on others.  Self-sufficiency is a delusion, a dangerous delusion.  We are all, to a degree, interdependent.  It’s a fact of life.  It’s true.  And truth sets us free.  Truth opens the door to grace.  Truth opens the door to blessing.  Even if we cringe to hear it.

We “men of the moment” are finding this particular moment a time of need. That is the truth.  And therein lies grace.  And in this grace lies renewal.  This is what “new creation” means to us just now, at least in part.  God is accomplishing our own renewal through this new need.

In the gospel Jesus sends the seventy out without purse or bag or sandals—and earlier he sent out the twelve with “nothing for the journey”: no staff, no bag, no bread, no money, no extra tunic. I think I’m beginning to understand why he sent them out in such vulnerability.  The apostles were not to think of themselves as self-sufficient.  In order for them to be effective in their ministry, they themselves needed to understand that they were deeply dependent on the communities they served.

Or, more precisely, interdependent.  The communities they served needed the apostles’ message; and the apostles needed the material support of the communities they served.  There was to be no condescension born of delusions of self-sufficiency, but a deepening awareness of mutual need born of vulnerability.  In this way, those who helped the apostles would then become vital partners in their mission.  A synergy of mutual need and mutual support was created.

We “men of the moment” have plenty of sandals and the equivalent of staffs and bags and purses and food and even some money.  But we don’t have what we need to accomplish the mission we feel called to.

But in our need, in our vulnerability, we’re beginning to see more clearly how the tapestry of our life is woven into the greater tapestry of the Church and the world.  We are awakening to a more vibrant sense of interconnection with the wider church and the world.  This interdependence is new and renewing.  It’s how God’s new creation is unfolding in this moment. The real renovation here will be our own.

We depend on God.  But we don’t just depend on God: we depend on you! And that may be the best thing that ever happened to us.

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6 Comments

  1. CHRISTINA MCKERROW on November 15, 2017 at 09:00

    Dear Mark:
    I write again. It is ten years since your sermon first appeared; a few less since I last wrote to you.
    I think many of us are in a financial squeeze: my monthly income just covers my outgoings, and that isn’t with any fancy frills. That situation is not going to improve as I live longer and could be faced with a placement somewhere I cannot afford. The other day, I received four pieces of mail: three of them were all appeals for money. All worthy. The fourth piece was from my bank outlining changes that are coming.
    Sometimes, it is not possible to do more than we are already doing. Blessings to all of you. Christina

  2. Anders on September 24, 2013 at 12:17

    When I read the date of the post, I was mistaken to think it would be outdated. Perhaps what makes it the most relevant is your quote from Fr. Benson on being men and women of the present moment who see what´s happening as things to rejoice in and act upon. Pope Frances recent pronouncements have a similar relevancy of singing a new song, even in the tradition of the old, and it´s all good.

  3. Christina on September 24, 2013 at 08:53

    Dear Br. Mark:
    How little I give you. Yes, there is a money order now and again, but I read the daily message from SSJE every morning, print some of them off, reread them. My donation is so little in comparison to the blessings I receive from all of your words.
    When I go across the road for a coffee (and a scone) a couple of times a week, each occasion costs me nearly seven dollars: How would it be if my coffee money was matched for SSJE?
    Christina

  4. Jean Ann Schulte on February 25, 2012 at 18:07

    Each of us longs to be needed, to belong. To be invited to help – to tangibly respond – to the spiritual gifts and hospitality of the Brothers completes the circle of interconnection. Mark, you and your Brothers are modeling the dignity of interdependence in a world that values individual accomplishment.

  5. Polly Chatfield on February 24, 2012 at 08:00

    I beg to differ, Mark. I think it is the best thing that ever happened to those whom the Brothers go to in their need. The grace of being able to help seems a fathomless blessing. Thank you so much for asking.

  6. andy on February 24, 2012 at 07:54

    These Sermons give me help for talk at a men homeless hostel here on the ILSE OF WIGHT ENGLAND thank you so much and GOD BLESS YOU IN ALL YOU DO FOR HIM ANDY

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