John situates this teaching on the Bread of Life in a very specific place, which you can visit: the synagogue at Capernaum (we read this a few verses later). What you see today is a partial reconstruction of an elegant Greco-Roman style building of imported stone dating from just after Jesus’ day. This synagogue re-uses the foundation of an earlier synagogue built with the local black basalt, which is where Jesus would have taught.
Jerusalem is silent. The shofars have sounded, the priests with their ram’s horns have announced the beginning of Sabbath and now all things lie in unquiet silence. “And the Lord God rested on the seventh day from all the work he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all the work he had done in creation.”
“It is finished.” It is accomplished. The work has been done. “By the word of the Lord were the heavens made; by the breath of his mouth all the heavenly host.”The Word has come forth and has accomplished what was purposed: in flesh. The word did not return empty, as it had been prophesied:
2 Cor. 5:16-21
Luke 15:1-3; 11-32
Lent IV, Year C
The topic this morning is parables. Matthew [13:34] says that Jesus only taught in parables, i.e., sayings or stories where one thing or person can represent another. The meaning is in the eye of the beholder; we connect the dots ourselves. They are open-ended, inexhaustible. Like the father in today’s story, parables come out to meet us where we are on the road and take us to new levels of understanding.If Jesus taught only in parables, that implies that even his actions can be “read” as parables. Everything he did, besides being what he did, could be read as a parable, where one thing can stand for another. So, washing feet can represent other kinds of loving service. Physical healing can represent other kinds of healing. Turning water into wine can represent other kinds of transformation.
This sermon is part of a Lenten preaching series on “Growing a Rule of Life.”
Rules of Life & the Rhythms of Nature – Br. James Koester
Our Relationship with God – Br. Geoffrey Tristram
Our Relationship with Self – Br. Mark Brown
Our Relationship with Others – Br. David Vryhof
Our Relationship with Creation – Br. Keith Nelson
Living in Rhythm and Balance – Br. Luke Ditewig
Growing a Rule of Life: To subscribe to a daily morning email with a short video and download a PDF of the accompanying workbook enter your name and email.
More information here: SSJE.org/growrule
Gen. 1:1-5, 26-27/Ps. 8/Matthew 17:1-8
We continue this evening with our sermon series on Rule of Life. These sermons are coordinated with our daily Lenten video offering “Growing a Rule of Life”. There are about 30,000 people sharing this project with us; many are using a workbook as a guide for the series—you can get one at the back of the chapel, or you can download it from our website www.ssje.org.
A rule of life is simply a rhythm or structure or framework meant to help create balance in our lives, to help us “keep the main thing the main thing”. We’ve organized this series around four relationships: our relationship with God, our relationship with others, our relationship with creation, and our relationship with our own selves. These are all interrelated, of course: you can’t really talk about one without the others. But for the sake of discussion and focus, they’ve been divided up this way. This evening’s topic: our relationship with our selves.
“Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.” Verse 11 of Psalm 51, one of the great penitential Psalms of the Bible. The immediate concern of the Psalmist is being cleansed of sin. But the idea of a “clean heart” and “renewed spirit” has a wider resonance.
1 Kings 3:3-14
It is night at Gibeon and King Solomon dreams. In the inner world of the dreamscape, images and words get put together in ways that may not make sense in ordinary waking consciousness.
The human heart, for example, doesn’t really have ears, except that it might in dreams or in Salvador Dali paintings. In Solomon’s dream he asks God for “a listening heart,” a “lev shomeah” in Hebrew. Our translation offers a rather prosaic distortion of this very poetic image: rather than “listening heart”, we heard “understanding mind”. Which is not a bad thing to desire, but what Solomon asks for is a “listening heart”.
Nehemiah 8:1-3, 5-6, 8-10
1 Cor. 12:12-31 a
“All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth.” So ends the first part of the story of Jesus’ preaching in the synagogue of Nazareth. He has just come from forty days in the wilderness, driven there by the Spirit after his baptism. But, “filled with the Holy Spirit,”as Luke tells it, things then take a strange turn: for no reason apparent in the text he begins to provoke the hometown crowd, saying that they’re going to reject him: “Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in the prophet’s home town,” he says, and other impertinent things. He makes a narrow escape from being thrown off a cliff for his insolence. But, today we have the nice part of the story.
“The spirit of the Lord is upon me…”The gracious words that came from his mouth were Isaiah’s gracious words, from a passage sometimes grouped with the so-called “Servant Songs”. One of the best known of these we hear in Holy Week: “But he was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the punishment that made us whole, and by his bruises we are healed.” [Is. 53:5] The Servant Songs in Isaiah helped shape the early church’s understanding of Jesus—and very well could have helped shape Jesus’ understanding of himself. And if these prophetic songs help us understand Jesus, they help us understand ourselves. The church is the servant of God; each of us is servant of God. He came not to be served, but to serve [Mark 10:45]—as do we.
Mark 12:28-43 a
Today we remember Aelred, the 12th century abbot of the Cistercian monastery of Rievaulx in Yorkshire. He is remembered especially for his writings on spiritual friendship and chaste fraternal affection. Quote: “No medicine is more valuable, none more efficacious, none better suited to the cure of our temporal ills than a friend to whom we may turn for consolation in time of trouble, and with whom we may share happiness in time of joy.”
http://www.azquotes.com/quote/1015945 Or, how about this: “As a result of a kiss, there arises in the mind a wonderful feeling of delight that awakens and binds together the love of them that kiss….” [http://www.azquotes.com/quote/773721] What do you think about that?
So…the focus this evening is love, that “many splendored thing”, which is the very essence of God [1 John 4:8]. Love, which is perfected in the lives of human beings when we love one another [1 John 4:12]. Love, which casts out all fear [1 John 4:18]. Love, which is the Summary of the Law and the Prophets.Love, which is central to Christian faith, life and understanding. I offer these reflections as one who stumbles along the way and very much depends on others for guidance.
Feast of St. Stephen (transferred)
Jeremiah 26:1-9, 12-15
Acts 6:8- 7:2a, 51c-60
Today we celebrate the feast of Stephen, the day upon which “Good king Wenceslas went out… when the snow lay round about, deep and crisp and even”. St. Stephen’s Day is actually the day after Christmas, but we’ve transferred it to today. It’s a feast that sits awkwardly in a festive time of year that is otherwise so sugar plummed and Santa-fied, jingled and jangled, tinseled and tangled. The martyrdom of Stephen is our reality check–we go from glory to gory in this “snap out of it” shift. We are reminded that we live “in the meantime”—and the times can be mean.
Christmas is, of course, a celebration of the Incarnation, the birth of God’s own being into this world. It is a festival of life and light: “What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people.” [John 1:3-4] We are the continuing presence of this Incarnation in the world, we are the “Body of Christ”, as Paul puts it. We are in him, he is in us, as John puts it. We are the bearers of his light, we are the God bearers, the Christ bearers in this world. We are now his hands, his feet, his eyes in the world, as St. Teresa put it. “Christ has no hands now but yours…,” she reminds us.
Mark 16:1-8, with “Shorter Ending”
This evening we continue our series Salvation Revisited. Two weeks ago Br. Curtis spoke of salvation in terms of healing, salving, salvaging, particularly of memories. Last week Br. Geoffrey spoke in terms of coming home to the merciful Father, who runs out to embrace us, as in the parable of the prodigal son. The emphasis has been on the experiences we have of salvation in this life, this earthly life.
Salvation is a very big idea with many layers of meaning. One of those layers has to do with salvation to eternal life, that is, to life after death. That is this evening’s focus. The title for these reflections: “The Sacred and Imperishable Proclamation”, words from the gospel we’ve just heard, the so-called shorter ending of Mark.