Welcome to the Society of Saint John the Evangelist

The Rule of the Society of Saint John the Evangelist

We Brothers welcome you to a share one of our daily practices: listening to and reflecting on a chapter of our Rule of Life.

In addition the Brothers have a series of other resources that we hope might be helpful to you in exploring living with a Rule.

Living Intentionally: Creating a Rule of Life

We invite you to download our Living Intentionally Workbook for Creating a Personal Rule of Life. Walk with Br. David Vryhof step-by-step through the process of writing your own Rule.

A Framework for Freedom:

We invite you to discover the freedom that comes from living by a rule of life, by journeying through “A Framework for Freedom,” a 7-week self-guided video course to help you say “Yes” to your life.  Watch the series now.  Subscribe to a daily email.

In Lent 2012, we preached a series on the challenges and rewards of living by a rule of life. Drawing on chapters from SSJE’s Rule. Read and listen to the sermons.

A Living Tradition:

Each day of Lent 2011, we posted a short “living commentary” on our Rule, with a Brother or two offering his unique perspective on the document which shapes and forms our prayer and practice more than any other apart from Scripture and The Book of Common PrayerTo read that conversation, click here.

 

The Rule of the Society of Saint John the Evangelist

We Brothers welcome you to a share one of our daily practices: listening to and reflecting on a chapter of our Rule of Life.

  • To listen to the SSJE Rule of Life, read aloud by a brother, click on the chapters to the left.
  • To read a Guide to Personal Reflection, click here
  • To Subscribe to the SSJE Rule of Life, click the subscribe buttons on the left.
  • We welcome comments on each chapter.
  • To purchase a copy of the book The Rule of Life, click here

Introduction

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The audio book, The Twelve Days of Christmas, is read by Br. Curtis Almquist and accompanied by carols sung by the Brothers.

The Twelve Days of Christmas follow from December 25 until January 6, the Feast of the Epiphany, the traditional date when the Magi arrived to present gifts to infant Jesus. For many, the meaning of these days is lost. By Christmas night we are saturated with the holiday hype, overfed by music and food, and may already be disappointed that the presents received are not enough. This audio book is not a bah humbug about Christmas customs and presents.

This is simply an invitation to go deeper than the tinsel and wrappings, beyond the presents given and received, to the source of all the good gifts in life. Readers are invited to unwrap gifts that will last, praying the twelve days of Christmas.

Forgiveness

Behind the most heinous of actions is a person who cannot know fully what they are doing or why. If they could, I think it would be otherwise. And from Jesus’ perspective on the cross, this person needs to be forgiven. What Jesus is up to on the cross is forgiveness, his arms opened wide for all, whether or not they ask for it, whether they be friend or neighbor or enemy.

-Br. Curtis Almquist, SSJE

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Each day of Holy Week offers a fresh invitation to engage with this most sacred season. Explore our Praying Holy Week resource pages as you journey along the road to Calvary and the Empty Tomb. Praying Holy Week >

An Uncomfortable Love – Br. David Vryhof

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Maundy Thursday.  If you’re anything like me, you may have to be reminded each year what the word “maundy” means; it’s not a word that comes up in everyday conversations. “Maundy” is derived from the Latin word mandatum, from which we get our English word “mandate.”   Mandatum, then, refers to a mandate or a command. In the context of tonight’s liturgy, it is tied to Jesus’ words in John 13:34, where he gives his disciples a mandatum novum, a “new command,” namely, to love one another as he has loved them.

What’snewabout that? we might ask.  After all, hasn’t God always been a God of love, and haven’t God’s people always been instructed to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself”? (Luke 10:27)[ii]This command did not originate with Jesus and his followers; it was deeply embedded in the religious tradition they practiced.[iii]

The command itself isn’t new, but the radical wayin which Jesus teaches and embodies it surprises and challenges Jesus’ disciples; it goes beyond their expectations[iv]

Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him.

To understand the full impact of Jesus’ action at the last supper we must understand that in first-century Palestine, no host would ever offer to wash his guest’s feet.  Washing feet was a dirty, menial task; done by a slave, if possible, or by the guest himself if no slave was available.  A polite host might offer a bowl of water and a towel, but no free person would ever stoop to wash the feet of another free person.

When Jesus takes up the bowl and towel, he takes on a menial task that only a slave would perform, but in doing so, he changes it into an act of extraordinary strength and beauty, and demonstrates to his disciples and to us the power of sacrificial love.True love is measured by such acts of humility and service, and it often startles and surprises us by showing up when we least expect it.  

This is Jesus’ new command, his mandatum novum: that we love one another with this same startling and surprising love, a radical love that is willing to humble itself, to lay aside its own preoccupations and selfish interests, and to serve in response to human need. Jesus teaches us and shows us that there is nothing more important than love: In God’s kingdom, love and love alone determines and defines our relationships with one another. We continue to have roles and the status that often accompanies them, but these do not define us. And, they are always to be employed in the service of love.  

The love to which Jesus points us is more than polite behavior or kind acts or nice words. It does not rely on positive feelings or warm thoughts.  Nor does it depend on personal attraction.  The love to which Jesus points us requires an openness, a receptivity, a posture of self-giving towards the other; the kind of openness with which we choose to receive into our hands the feet of another person, regardless of whose feet they are or where they have been.  It implies a willingness to hold those feet tenderly, regardless of what they look like or what they have done. It requires us to forgive the feet that have kicked us, and to ask forgiveness of the feet that we have stepped on.  It is remembering that the feet we hold belong to one who was created and is loved by the same God who created and loves us.  It is recognizing how much those feet look like our own.

I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34,35)

“Love one another…just as I have loved you.” Taking the bowl and towel, Jesus assumes the place of a servant and washes the feet of his disciples – all of them. No oneis left out: not Peter, who will soon deny that he ever knew Jesus; nor Judas, who will betray him with a kiss; nor the rest, who will turn away from him in his hour of greatest need.  Allof them are washed; allof them are loved.Jesus knew what was in their hearts and he still loved them.  

Tonight we replicate that act of love: we remove our socks and shoes and place our feet into the hands of another to be washed, and we likewise receive the feet of another in our hands, and wash them. We are imitating Christ’s actions; acting with the same generous, surprising, and intimate love with which he loved us.  

This is the way of Christ.  This is the way of love.  Not just tonight, but every day and every night.  Not just in the liturgy, but in the world.  We cannot choose to love only those whom we like and to whom we are attracted.  We cannot choose to love only those whom we deem deserving of our love, or those whom we admire, or those who look and think and act like us or with whom we feel a certain kinship.  No, this new commandment – this mandatum novum– is not based on feelings or emotions or personal preferences. It is based on a choice: a choice to recognize and respect the dignity of every person, a choice to see them as God sees them (as bearing the image and likeness of God and worthy of love); a choice to love and serve them with the same humility and generosity with which Christ has loved and served us.

No one said it was going to be easy.  No one said it was going to be comfortable.  It will require us to be open, to be vulnerable, to be humble, to offer ourselves in loving service to others, regardless of who they are or what they have done.  Only Christ can teach us this love. 


[i]Ideas for this sermon were drawn from the writings of Adam J. Copeland, Michael K. Marsh and Tony Reinke.

[ii]See also Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18, for example.

[iii]The lawyer who came to Jesus in Luke 10:25-28 articulated it well.  Jesus commends him for his answer.

[iv]Jesus responds to the lawyer who has correctly summarized the Law by telling the story of the Good Samaritan, in which he challenges and extends common assumptions of what it means to love one’s neighbor as one’s self (Luke 10:25-37).

Serve

Take up these symbols of the new life: towel and basin and water. Let them be for you a sign of your love for him and your gratitude for all that he has done for you. Let them be for you a pledge of your commitment to serve – not out of duty, but out of love; not to obtain a reward, but to imitate the One who freely and willingly laid down his life for you. You have been called to serve.

-Br. David Vryhof, SSJE

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Each day of Holy Week offers a fresh invitation to engage with this most sacred season. Explore our Praying Holy Week resource pages as you journey along the road to Calvary and the Empty Tomb. Praying Holy Week >

Weep

We can look around and see plentiful sorrow, and we may be unable to fix it. We may find no words, no actions, are sufficient to dress the wounds of the world. So, take heart; do not shun your tears. Do not be ashamed or afraid or dismissive of weeping, for tears can be living water.

-Br. Lucas Hall, SSJE

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Each day of Holy Week offers a fresh invitation to engage with this most sacred season. Explore our Praying Holy Week resource pages as you journey along the road to Calvary and the Empty Tomb. Praying Holy Week >

Holding Hearts – Br. Luke Ditewig

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Br. Luke Ditewig

“Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain. But if it dies, it bears much fruit.”[i]In dying, we live. Anything would be more palatable. Nothing is so essential. We must surrender, losing and letting go, being vulnerable again and again, dying to ourselves in order to live. This Holy Week we face Jesus on the cross.

When serving as a hospital chaplain, I found it exhausting continually listening to heartache. One day I realized Jesus was listening to the same heartache yet not for a few minutes per person and not just how many people I met. Jesus knows everyone and listens to all hearts, to everyone sick and dying, to all who are grieving, to each in any kind of suffering, and indeed to us all. Jesus draws the whole world to himself with a loving ear in a listening embrace.                                                                                                                                                     

All of us need and glory in the cross. Jesus invites each to die to self-sufficiency and secrecy. Jesus invites us to pray the whole truth of our lives, naming what weighs us down, our grief and questions, our wounds and concerns, as well as joys, thanks, and desires. Jesus listens directly and in the flesh through other people. Jesus, exposed and vulnerable on the cross, invites us to expose ourselves, share our inner life and struggles, pray in the dark, and pray our hearts. 

Telling our stories can be painful, like touching wounds, a kind of death. Like wheat dying to bear fruit, safe exposure of our story heals. We like to edit, restrict, categorize, or deny our lives. Good listeners help by attending to our stories with their surprises, seeming contradictions, and scattered pieces. Listeners help us hear how these pieces together form us. 

Letting ourselves be seen and letting our stories be witnessed by another person actually changes our internal chemistry. We were created for this. Being listened to literally helps our bodies heal. Love listens. 

Look at Love on the cross. Everything hangs here. Everyone is held. On the cross, Jesus hears all. Jesus listens to people lost and lonely, grappling and grieving, troubled and terrorized, wounded and dying. Jesus listens to you, to me, to everyone. On the cross, Jesus bears the weight of the world. 

Look at Love on the cross. What is heavy on your heart? What pain or trouble do you bear? What secret is eating away at you or what story needs telling? Nothing is too awful, or messy, or trivial, or weighty. Nothing. 

As we walk in Holy Week facing the cross, here are a few suggestions for prayer.

First, look at Love. Pray with a crucifix or an image of the cross. Gaze at Jesus, his agony, his wounds, his love. Listen for what he says to you. Surrender by speaking your pain to the one who bore and bears all pain. Pray to the crucified Christ. Listen for his response.

Second, pray as Jesus did. On the cross, Jesus cried: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” This bitter grief is the first line of Psalm 22. Like other psalms of lament, it goes back and forth from trouble to trust. Jesus surely also knew the next lines of Psalm 22: “[Why] are you so far from my cry and from the words of my distress? … I cry in the daytime but you do not answer, by night as well, but I find no rest. Yet you are the Holy One, enthroned upon the praises of Israel. Our forebears put their trust in you; they trusted, and you delivered them.”[ii]

Pray Psalm 22 or use it as a model. Be specific about your pain and your present situation. Cry. Question. Grieve. Then pause to remember the past. What’s your experience of God?  When have you received love? Cling to memories as hope even amid today’s desolation. Pray the tension of present pain and trust God’s future informed by past provision.

Third, pray to Jesus with skin. Find a safe, trustworthy person and share what’s on your heart. Take a risk by telling your story honestly. Speak up to share. Let another witness your inner life. Let another grain die to bear fruit. Surrender by praying your life, sharing your story honestly. Let Jesus listen to you in the flesh with a safe person.

Love listens. God created us each to listen. While we can build skills, all can help heal with listening. One need not necessarily be or go to a professional. Jesus said, “Love one another as I have loved you.” Love by listening.                       

This Holy Week, linger at the cross looking at Love, praying to Jesus, who is listening to all, tenderly holding hearts.


[i]John 12:24

[ii]Psalm 22:2-4

Grace

Most of us have likely found ourselves acting and thinking in ways which are opposite to what we would identify to be “good.” None of us is free of the influence of evil. But our celebration of Jesus’ suffering, death and glorification in this Holy Week provides a sacramental and transformational means to the grace of divine love, which evil can never defeat.  

-Br. Jonathan Maury, SSJE

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Each day of Holy Week offers a fresh invitation to engage with this most sacred season. Explore our Praying Holy Week resource pages as you journey along the road to Calvary and the Empty Tomb. Praying Holy Week >

Pain

Even Jesus in his humanity experienced great anxiety and discomfort at the knowledge of what he would have to undertake in order to fulfill the will of his Father. Perhaps we can take some comfort in that. Jesus is aware that the pathway of healing leading to wholeness is often very difficult and painful before we find relief.

-Br. Jim Woodrum, SSJE

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Each day of Holy Week offers a fresh invitation to engage with this most sacred season. Explore our Praying Holy Week resource pages as you journey along the road to Calvary and the Empty Tomb. Praying Holy Week >

Confronting the Powers – Br. Curtis Almquist

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Br. Curtis Almquist

Palm Sunday
Luke 22:14-23:56

In Jesus’ day, palms were carried in joyful, triumphant processions by Jews and Romans alike. Roman soldiers, returning from a successful conquest, would wave palms as they returned home to their welcome. Jews used palm adornments for their annual pilgrimage to Jerusalem, to the Festival of Tabernacles. And palm decorations were carved in stone within the Temple. Palms symbolized an oasis in the desert, victory in public games and in conquests, and a sign of blessing and homage. 

Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem replicates how the Roman Emperor and his emissaries would enter the city: on a roadway strewn with palms, and with the crowds waving palms, shouting their praise. The crowds welcoming Jesus are shouting, “Hosanna,” which, in Hebrew, means “savior.” “Savior” is the very title already claimed by the Roman Emperor. The Roman Emperor’s titles included the “Savior of the World,” and “Son of God,” and “Lord of Lords.”[i]  That’s the Roman Emperor. Unlike the Emperor and his party, whose processional entry would be on magnificent Persian stallions, Jesus is on a donkey.

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Mystery

It is the supreme mystery of our Christian faith we are about to witness this week. Make no mistake about it. The events of Holy Week and Easter are not merely annual reenactments of the tragic events of the life of an important historical personage. This is spiritual mystery on its deepest and most cosmic scale.

-Br. Eldridge Pendleton, SSJE (1940-2015), SSJE

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Each day of Holy Week offers a fresh invitation to engage with this most sacred season. Explore our Praying Holy Week resource pages as you journey along the road to Calvary and the Empty Tomb. Praying Holy Week >