Loss

Suffering is not always the last word. I’m not denying pain or loss; but I am saying that amazing good can paradoxically come out of appalling bad. That’s what is called “redemption.” Jesus said he’s come to us “to seek and to save the lost.” How wonderful it is when something we have lost in life is retrieved, saved, and redeemed by Jesus.

Br. Curtis Almquist, SSJE
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Life in the Midst of Death – Br. Curtis Almquist

Br. Curtis Almquist

Romans 8:35-39
John 14:1-7

We begin the first of five Tuesday evening sermons in Lent focused on “finding God amid all that troubles us in our lives and in the world.” This evening we explore the ultimate terms of life: “Life in the Midst of Death.”[i] I’m going to start with eternity and then move back-from-the-future into the present. First, a disclaimer. My own experience of life after death is limited. I’ll come back to that.

After Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection, Jesus said he was going away to prepare a place for us, where he invites us to follow. [ii] This place in heaven is a “mansion” according to the King James Version of the Bible, which is what I learned from as a child. Maybe also you? However the Greek word that was translated into English in the 1500s as “mansion” does not mean what the word “mansion” connotates for us today. For us today, a mansion is like a small palace, like the oceanfront mansions in Newport, Rhode Island. But the Greek word used here is actually much more modest and far more intriguing. The Greek word is simply a temporary dwelling place: an inn for overnight lodging.[iii]Along the ancient Roman roads, travelers’ inns were placed about a day’s journey one from another where travelers would spend the night.

The Greek word for this inn that Jesus prepares for us implies a journey, an ongoing development. Rather than imagining eternity as something static – where we are installed in a private palace – imagine eternity as an adventure in the company of heaven, with travelers’ inns being prepared for us, both for our heavenly rest and for our heavenly adventure, as we move from light to light, from one inn to the next. Read More

Fear

If your life now is swamped with fear, this is not an obstacle to God but rather an invitation from God to take Jesus at his word. We need not be afraid. Jesus knows every reason why we could be afraid because he’s been there. He assures us he is with us: his presence, his power, his provision.

Br. Curtis Almquist, SSJE
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Purpose

Lent is upon us tomorrow. For Jesus, the forty days in the wilderness were a time to re-align himself to why God had given him life: to claim the right purpose, power, and voice God had given him. For us, the focus of Lent can create space anew for the light, and life, and love of Jesus to teem in us and through us to our desperately broken world.

Curtis Almquist, SSJE
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The Scripture of Your Life – Br. Curtis Almquist

Br. Curtis Almquist

Mark 7:24-30

This is a very old story. For more than 2,000 years people have heard this same Gospel story endlessly. Nothing changed. The same story. Quite boring, irrelevant… except for one thing. The only thing new or different is what’s going on for us, the hearers of the story. We, the hearer, are in a new space, like never before.

In our Rule of Life we say, “These hearts of ours are not empty vessels but inner worlds alive with images, memories, experiences and desires.”[i] God’s revelation to us will be a kind of synergy between what is going on with a very old scriptural story, and what is going on today in our own heart and imagination[ii]. And that creates a whole new story.

So we have Jesus in the region of Tyre, a town on the Mediterranean coast of southern Lebanon. A woman comes up to him. She is from Syrophoenicia, the Roman province of Syria. She is a long way from her homeland. Is she without a country? We don’t know. She may be without hope. She is certainly a person vulnerable and desperate or she would never, never alone have approached a man, a Jewish man, especially as she is a Gentile woman and a foreigner. Read More

Question

“What are you looking for?” Jesus’ question is a profoundly simple one which has successive levels of depth. Let that question form your prayer to Jesus. He asks you, “What are you looking for?” And you respond. And then he asks you, “Why?” And you respond. And then he asks you again, “Why?” Keep plumbing your response, and you’ll eventually get down to what is real about you and Jesus.

Br. Curtis Almquist, SSJE
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Experience

Growing up, Jesus was as lost as many of us. I presume plenty of mistakes and lots of confusion during Jesus’ hidden years. Jesus, as an adult, was no longer just knowledgeable; his knowledge and power were now complemented by wisdom; he was accessible, in quite a lowly way. Losses in life can yield such great gain.

Br. Curtis Almquist, SSJE
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Gospel

In the Canon of Holy Scripture, we have four Gospels. There were also many unwritten Gospels about personal encounters with Jesus.The version which probably has greatest authority for you is the Gospel according to You. What has been revealed to you? What is the essence of Jesus’ work and words embodied within you? That Gospel is so important for you to hear, remember, and claim. It’s your vocation.

Br. Curtis Almquist, SSJE
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Jesus’ Understanding for the Misunderstood – Br. Curtis Almquist

Br. Curtis Almquist

Mark 3:13-19, 31-35

The scene captured in this Gospel passage does not typically show up in beautiful stained glass windows in churches. This is a troubling scene. In the family system it is a rough day for Jesus, his siblings, and his mother, Mary.[i]

Here is the back story. Away on a mountaintop Jesus had just appointed his twelve apostles, and then he returned to Nazareth, which is the setting for this Gospel lesson.[ii]  A considerable crowd has surrounded Jesus outside his family’s home as he teaches. There is very mixed energy in the crowd. Jesus’ mother and his brothers must have been inside their home, because the Gospel of Mark reports they then go outside and send word through the crowd for Jesus. Why? Is it so they can stand with Jesus and give their public assent to his teaching? No. Does his family want to protect Jesus? No. We read the family makes their appearance to restrain Jesus.[iii] The verb used here to describe their reaction to Jesus literally means “he is out of his mind” or “he has gone mad!”[iv] What we witness is an attempt at a family intervention.

The terse situation seems only to escalate when we hear Jesus’ reaction to the report that his family has appeared on the outskirts of the crowd. Jesus seems to respond rhetorically or dismissively: “Who are my mother and my brothers?” And looking at those who sat around him, Jesus says, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.” Read More

Perfect

Jesus calls us “to be perfect.” The New Testament Greek word for “perfect,” teleios, means to be complete, conformed to who God has created us to be: ourselves, real. To be perfect is how we would talk about a glove which fits perfectly to the hand, or a spice which perfectly complements some food. We best hear the word “perfect” as a verb, i.e., to perfect. Conversion is life-long.

Br. Curtis Almquist, SSJE
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