Originally preached on Oct. 6, 2009, this sermon by Br. David Vryhof reminds us that “It’s not about you,” but about God (praise Him).
“It’s not about you.”
With those words, evangelical pastor Rick Warren opens his best-selling book, The Purpose Driven Life.
“The purpose of your life is far greater than your own personal fulfillment, your peace of mind, or even your happiness,” writes Pastor Warren. “It’s far greater than your family, your career, or even your wildest dreams and ambitions. If you want to know why you were placed on this planet, you must begin with God. You were born by his purpose and for his purpose.”
In this sermon, originally preached Feb. 7, 2010, Br. James Koester encourages each of us to trust that God is indeed calling us and urges us to be ready to listen, even when God uses his “inside voice.”
Isaiah 6: 1 – 8 (9 – 13); Psalm 138; 1 Corinthians 15: 1 – 11; Luke 5: 1 -11
Did you hear it? Did you hear that just a moment ago?
No? You didn’t?
I thought I heard something. Maybe I am hearing things!
There! There it is again! Did you hear it this time?
Ah you, you, back there. You heard it too didn’t you?
So I’m not hearing things, or rather I really am hearing things.
There, there it is again! Very faint. Almost a whisper.
James. James. James
In this moving ode to contentment, originally preached on July 28, 2009, Br. Curtis Almquist invites us to the truth embraced by Jesus and the mystics before us: “What is enough is now.”
In 1973 an adventurous explorer named Peter Matthiessen set out on a journey by foot to the Crystal Mountain on the Tibetan Plateau of northwest Nepal.i The trip was to accompany George Schaller, a zoologist who had planned the expedition to study the Himalayan blue sheep called “bharal.” The Buddhist lamas had forbidden people to molest these sheep. And so, where the sheep were numerous, there was bound to appear that rarest and most beautiful of the great cats, the snow leopard. In the previous 25 years, only two westerners – George Schaller, this zoologist, being one of them – had laid eyes on the Himalayan snow leopard. For Peter Matthiessen, the hope of glimpsing this near-mythic feline beast in the mountains of Nepal was reason enough for the arduous journey lasting a number of months.
I first read of Peter Matthiessen’s search for the elusive snow leopard many years ago. For Matthiessen, the journey ended up being a spiritual odyssey of a man in search of himself, which is why I have remembered it. I and many people, perhaps some of you, are now on a spiritual quest in search of meaning, transcendent meaning, in search of the holy, in search of the real presence of God in a culture and world where many of the “spiritual signs” we trusted and depended on are shaky or eroding.
- Originally preached on January 29, 2010, this brief homily offers a needed reminder of how different is God’s time from our time, and the rich possibilities for which it allows.
- Mark 4:26-29
This parable of the seed growing secretly (Mark 4:26-29) is found only in Mark’s Gospel – and its teaching is urgently needed in our speed-crazed world.
God created time, and hallowed time – and I think God likes us to spend time, and not try to beat it!
“I waited patiently upon the Lord: he stooped to me and heard my cry,” the Psalmist says.
In this sermon, originally preached on July 5, 2009, Br. David Vryhof challenges our traditional views of what the judgment of God entails, finding in this concept far more proof of salvation than damnation.
You may have noticed that my brothers have allowed me to choose a different gospel lesson from the one designated for this day. I chose this passage from Matthew because I want to talk about judgment. Now before you say, “Oh-oh, what are we in for now,” I want to assure you that I rarely deliver ‘fire and brimstone’ sermons and that, in spite of my background as a Calvinist, I am not likely to preach a sermon entitled “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.”i Judgment is not a favorite theme of mine.
I suppose that if I were to write my own gospel, “The Gospel According to David,” I might be tempted to delete from my scriptures words like these about God’s forthcoming judgment. I might be tempted to take a passage like the one we’ve read and simply cut out all the language of judgment.
For the Feast of Saint Mary the Virgin, we’re pleased to post anew this sermon, which Br. James Koester originally preached for the Feast of the Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, on Dec. 8, 2009. In it, Br. James celebrates Mary’s “yes” to God and invites us to look “not outwardly, or even upwardly, but inwardly,” to see how we too have been chosen, from the foundation of the Earth, to bear fruit.
Those of you who have joined us at one point or another for one of our meals will know that most of the time, on most days, we listen to the reading of a book during the meal. It’s only on Sundays, Tuesdays and some feast days that we share in conversation over the meal. Right now we are reading quite an interesting, and highly amusing biography of Benjamin Franklin, entitled Benjamin Franklin: An American Life by Walter Isaacson. It turns out, as we have discovered, that Franklin was quite an interesting, and highly amusing character. Earlier in the fall our book of choice was a little more esoteric as we read Mother of God: A History of the Virgin Mary by Miri Rubin. Mother of God was a heavier read, and as we joked at the time, we now knew more about Mary than she knew about herself! One of the underlying themes of the book was that before she became known as the Mother of God, before she became known as the Queen of Heaven she was simply Mary of Nazareth, the mother of Jesus. In essence underlying all the titles and the various devotions that is who she was, and that is who she remains.
In this sermon, originally preached on Oct. 20, 2009, Br. Geoffrey offers a helpful discussion of the difference between healing and recovery, as well as the power of intercessory prayer both upon the one prayed for and upon the one who prays.
One of the most wonderful experiences of my life was some years ago when living in England I had a sabbatical, and I spent a few months living in Egypt. Most of the time I lived in Cairo, and the part of Cairo I loved most of all, was not the famous parts with the pyramids and the sphinx, or even the medieval Islamic City of Cairo, but Old Cairo, Al-Qahira, south of the modern city, next to the Nile. The small walled city is Christian, Coptic Christian, and it is full of ancient churches like St. Barbara’s, St. John the Baptist, St. George, St. Mark.
It’s a quiet world set apart from the frenetic world of modern Cairo. Here narrow, windy lanes lead from one ancient church to another. And it was here one day that I walked alone into the Church of St. John the Baptist and I saw a man kneeling in front of the altar with two others, and they had their hands on his shoulders, and there were other people standing around and praying.
Br. Curtis Almquist originally preached this sermon on Feb. 22, 2009. We’re pleased to repost it in honor of today’s Feast of the Transfiguration.
Mark 9:2-9; Matthew 17:1-8; Luke 9:28-35
In early February, one of my brothers and I were on top of Mount Tabor where this event, Jesus’ transfiguration, took place. We were traveling with a group of pilgrims following the path of Jesus’ birth, ministry, death and resurrection in Israel/Palestine. Mount Tabor is north of Jerusalem, and about 11 miles west of the Sea of Galilee. Mount Tabor is forested with pine trees and offering stunning, panoramic views. On a clear day, to the north and west you can see Lebanon; to the east, beyond of the Sea of Galilee, you can see Syria, Jordan, and Mount Hermon. Jesus and his disciples would have known the words of Psalm 89 about these majestic mountaintops: “The north and the south – you created them; Tabor and Hermon joyously praise your name.”i And that is because these mountain tops are so beautiful and breezy. Mount Tabor is only about 2,000 feet above sea level, but that is a lofty height above the sea level of Galilee and the nearby desert of the Jezreel Valley. Mount Tabor is a place where you would like to stay; we certainly would have been glad for a longer visit. (I wanted to get information from the Franciscan guesthouse about staying there!) And so, on the one hand, it’s no wonder that Peter and James and John were coaxing Jesus to stay around and build some tents, which is how people then and now would set up camp out in the wilds.ii
In this sermon, originally preached on Nov. 10, 2009, Br. James Koester discusses the Community’s yearly retreat, as well as the history, founding, and charism of SSJE. We republish it this week, as SSJE heads once again into its annual Community retreat.
2 Timothy 1: 6-14; Psalm 77: 11-15; Matthew 5: 13-19
For the past two summers the community has tried something quite different during our annual community retreat. Rather than inviting an outside retreat leader or even asking a particular brother to lead our retreat, and to give the daily meditation, we have asked a number of brothers to give a single meditation within the context of the daily Eucharist. In this way, over the course of the retreat, we hear from a number of brothers and hear a number of different voices. This past summer we added another element to the retreat, and that was a daily tea and conversation, during which the brother who had led the meditation earlier in the day then facilitated a conversation. It was a formula that worked quite well and we had a number of excellent meditations and conversations.
This summer I was asked to help the community think about our history and the role that our history has played in our past and how our history has helped, or not helped, shape our present and our future. While I was getting ready for this, I did some reading and thinking about the history of Anglican religious communities and ours in particular, and was glad to be reintroduced to some of the more colourful characters in Anglican religious history.
In this sermon, originally preached on July 25, 2007, Br. David Allen shares thoughts on the wider meanings of martydom, meanings applicable not only to James, whose feast we keep today, but to us all who hope to answer, “We are able.”
Acts 12:1-2 ; Mt. 20:20-28
The last sentence of the Chapter on Life Profession in The Rule of the Society of St. John the Evangelist reminds us that “The witness of the martyrs should never be far from our minds as we go forward in the vowed life day by day.” (R.L. SSJE, Ch. 39, p.79)