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Posts by Br. James Koester

The Dream of the Vineyard – Br. James Koester

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Br. James Koester

Isaiah 5: 1 – 7
Psalm 80: 7 – 14
Philippians 3: 4b – 14
Matthew 21: 33 – 46

Everything I known about vineyards and growing grapes comes from watching several seasons of Falcon Crest, a Friday night TV soap drama that competed with Dallas and Dynasty. I preferred Falcon Crest over Dallas because there was a priest, Father Bob, who would show up every so often in Falcon Crest, and who wouldn’t love a night time TV drama with a priest in it.

You’ll perhaps remember that the drama of Falcon Crest centered around two branches of a family, living in California’s Napa Valley, one of which had extensive holdings and the other quite a modest operation. Week by week we were offered up a menu of greed, corruption, competition and family dysfunction, with a little sex and murder thrown in for good measure.

What I leaned about vineyards and grape growing from Falcon Crest is that grapes are pretty temperamental. They demand just the right amount of sun and rain and certain soils. But even more important, vineyards are not only big business, and at times a cut throat business, but they are also a long term business. You can’t plant a grapevines in the spring and expect a profitable harvest that same fall. It takes years, and a great deal of hard work before you will see the results of your labours. Read More

What’s In a Name? – Br. James Koester

Homily preached at St. Matthew’s Church, Ottawa.

Br. James KoesterFeast of Saint Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist

Proverbs 3:1-6
Psalm 119:33-40
2 Timothy 3:14-17
Matthew 9: 9-13

For most of my life I have been fascinated by names. Never having been a parent before, I am curious why parents choose the names that they do for their children. I wonder why my Mum and Dad picked the two names that they did for me. My baptismal name is Colin James, but there is neither a Colin nor a James in my family tree for generations, so I often wonder what made them choose these particular names for me? What I do know, is that I wasn’t supposed to be named Colin. I was supposed to be named Cullen, after my paternal grandmother’s brother, who was given the maiden name of his paternal grandmother. But my aunt and uncle beat my parents to it by five weeks. My cousin, who was born on 1 July, was named Cullen, so sometime between then, and my birthday five weeks later, my name went from Cullen to Colin. Read More

Putting on Christ – Br. James Koester

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Br. James Koester

Ezekiel 33: 7 – 11
Psalm 119: 33 – 40,
Romans 13: 8 – 14
Matthew 18: 15 – 20

Our confessor was here yesterday, to hear the confessions of the Brothers. I was at Emery House for the day and so I missed the opportunity to make my confession, so I’ll confess to you …… I’ve never really been terribly interested in clothes. (You thought you were going to get something juicy, didn’t you?) It was my older brothers, Charlie and Chris who were the clothes horses in my family. In fact, in high school both of them got jobs in a men’s clothing store, and for a while after high school, my brother Chris was the manager of the store. My family recognized that I wasn’t all that interested in clothes. On one occasion Brother Jonathan and I happened to be in Toronto at the same time as my parents. The four of us arranged to meet somewhere for dinner one evening. When we got to the restaurant my Dad took one look at Jonathan and one look at me, and turned to my Mum and said I told you that we could at least count on Jonathan to be properly dressed! As I said, I’m not terribly interested in clothes. I hate shopping for clothes and usually buy the first thing that I think will fit.

It’s probably a good thing that I am a monk then. I don’t have to spend a lot of time thinking about what I am going to wear on any given day. Even before I went to bed last night, I knew what I would wear today, and I know what I’ll be wearing five years from now. I bet you can’t say that! Read More

Called to be Prophets – Br. James Koester

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Br. James Koester

Feast of the Beheading of St John the Baptist

2 Chronicles 24: 17 – 21
Psalm 71: 1 – 6, 15 – 17
Hebrews 11: 32 – 40
Mark 6: 17 – 29

It was over thirty years ago, while I was still serving in parish ministry, that a couple from one of the congregations in the parish came to me. They were concerned, on my behalf, that I might feel constrained in my preaching. It’s not that they had a complaint about the content, or my style, although that may have been true as well. What they were concerned about was the use of a lectionary. Having come from a Baptist tradition they were unfamiliar with the use of a lectionary. They were worried that by using a lectionary Sunday by Sunday, and basing my sermons on the appointed lessons, I was somehow not free to say or preach about what I might otherwise want or need to say. As a lifelong Anglican, I was a little surprised by their question. I think that they were equally surprised by my answer. Read More

The Gift of Laughter – Br. James Koester

Br. James KoesterChurch of Saint Mary and Saint John, Cowley

Philippians 2:1 – 18
Matthew 15: 21 – 28

I want first of all to express my gratitude for the invitation for us to be here today. As you know my brothers and I are members of the Society of Saint John the Evangelist, known better here as the Cowley Fathers, so it is a delight to be here in Cowley, the parish where it all began.

We have been on pilgrimage to celebrate the 150th anniversary of our founding, as we have explored the roots of Christianity, and thus Anglicanism in this land, but also discovering our own roots as an Anglican monastic community and especially as a particular monastic community that had its origins in this neighbourhood.

One of our customs at the Monastery is to read the obituary at Compline of a brother on the anniversary of his death. So over the years we have read about the small house on the Iffley Road where Fathers Benson, Grafton and O’Neill began the life of our community, and now we have seen, what is known to you as the Isis Hotel, the very house in whose parlor chapel those first three Fathers made their professions on 27th December 1866, the Feast of St. John the Evangelist, and thus began the life of our community. We read about the chapel at the top of the stairs where Father Benson’s teaching to the early members of our community acted as the crucible where our community’s life took shape, and now we have celebrated the Eucharist there and explored the rest of the old Mission House, now St. Stephen’s House. We have seen, and even touched, the names of departed brothers inscribed on the walls of the Mission House Lady Chapel, including many of those whom we have known and loved over the years in our Monastery in Massachusetts. We have met and stayed with the All Saints Sisters and the Sisters of the Love of God, whose histories are so tied up with our own. And some of us, having heard about the Gladiator Club, founded after the Second World War by Father Hemming, have now been to the Gladiator Club and met some of its members, had a drink, and watched a couple of rounds of Aunt Sally. We have prayed in the cell in the Mission House where Father Benson died and stood outside this Church by his memorial cross. And today we are here, in the heart of the Parish of Cowley St. John, with you, who are no less the daughters and sons of Father Benson than we are. Read More

A Three Alarm Day – Br. James Koester

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Br. James KoesterZechariah 9: 9 -12
Psalm 145: 8-15
Romans 7: 15 – 25a
Matthew 11: 16 – 19, 25 – 30

When I was in seminary, one of my professors frequently spoke of alarms bells. He’d be in the middle of his lecture, or answering a question, or making a comment about something, when he would stop and announce: alarm bells should be going off in your head right now! It took a while, but we soon realized that this was his code for us to make connections between what he had just said and something we might have heard or known from a different situation.

Well, if it were Professor Koester, and not Brother James standing before you today, I’d be saying alarm bells should be going off in your head right now! In fact, really loud alarms should be ringing for you this morning. It’s not that you are in a deep sleep right now and need to wake up (although perhaps that’s true!). Instead you should be thinking, this all sounds vaguely familiar. Where have I heard this before? Read More

A Joy Most Ravishing – Br. James Koester

Life Profession of Jim Woodrum SSJE

Exodus 33: 7 – 1, Psalm 139: 1 – 12, 1 John 4: 7 – 12, John 15: 9 – 19

Well I am certainly impressed. Never in a million years did I imagine that so many people would show up today. I really only expected the brothers, the guests in the guesthouse and our regulars at the Saturday Eucharist. But look at you! You have come from near and far: Georgia, and South Carolina, from New York and parts in between. You have come from any number of places around Cambridge and Boston, and all to show your dedication, your devotion, your loyalty, your faithfulness, your friendship to someone whom we are told, was of remarkable life and learning.[1] And you are all dressed up to boot! That’s all pretty impressive, and we are honoured by your presence at this celebration today. The one person that I don’t see here though, surprises me by his absence. I don’t see the Mayor of Boston here. And that surprises me. Of all the people who should be here, he’s at the top of the list. Why isn’t he here with us today as we celebrate the feast of St. Botolph, the Patron Saint of Boston? Read More

Look to the Glory – Br. James Koester

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Br. James Koester

Acts 1: 6 – 14
Psalm 68: 1 – 10, 33 – 36
1 Peter 4: 12 – 16, 5: 6 – 11
John 17: 1 – 11

I am not naturally inclined to poetry. It’s not something I read a great deal of. I don’t spend my time reading the great poets or memorizing poems. When I was in Grade Eleven, we were given a choice of a number of options to choose from in our English literature class. One option was Canadian Literature. The other option was poetry. I of course, signed up for the Canadian Literature section. The problem was, so too did a number of my classmates. The end result was that I, and several others, were simply reassigned to the poetry section in order to even out the class sizes. I remember distinctly that one of the assignments of this class was to write five poems during the course of the term. I wrote my first poem at the end of the first class and handed it in. I still remember it:

O God, why me?
I chose Can Lit,
But got stuck in poetry.
O sh….

Well, you get the idea. Read More

Miracle Working Icon of the Mother of God – Br. James Koester

Br. James Koester

Sirach 38: 27 – 32
Psalm 107: 1 – 9

Matthew 6: 19 – 24

I have never been much of an artist. I can’t draw very well, and in fact I describe myself as one who draws stick people badly. At least, that is the story I have told myself for most of my life, not only as an excuse, but also as a defense. If I had to draw something, I would use that as the explanation of why I didn’t put the time or effort into it.

But then something happened. I visited the sister of another member of the community one afternoon and saw on her walls framed cross-stitch samplers that she had done. In an instant I knew that I had to learn how to do that, so by the end of the afternoon she had equipped me with a needle point hoop, floss, needle, fabric and pattern and after a brief lesson, I went home. Little did I know, that that afternoon’s cross stitch lesson would be a life changing event for me. I am not being overly dramatic when I say that my life has never been the same since. Read More

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. Read More