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)
Br. Curtis Almquist originally preached this sermon on July 22, 2006, in honor of the day that is also today’s feast day, The Feast of Mary Magdalene.
Mary of Magdala is, shall we say, a complicated person. This is not the Mary, Mother of Jesus. Nor is this the Mary of Bethany, sister to Martha and Lazarus. This is Mary of Magdala, the agricultural, ship-building, trading center of Magdala, northeast of Jerusalem. Magdala was a hot spot commercially and socially, and it had a wild and wicked sort of reputation. We don’t know when or where Jesus met Mary of Magdala. (The Scriptures don’t record his ever having even visited Magdala.) We know nothing of her family or upbringing. Neither do we understand Mary’s condition when she first met Jesus. There really is no substantiated reason for assuming that this Mary of Magdala had been a harlot… other than the fact that she has been distinguished, down through the years, by her “last name” Magdala. Magdala was that sort of place… and the fact that so much energy has been spent down through the centuries to “clean up” her reputation maybe means that she did have a colorful past. We don’t know for sure.
What we do know for sure, from Luke’s gospel, is that “seven demons had gone out of her” (Luke 8:2). Demon possession, though, was associated at that time with both physical and moral or spiritual sickness; Luke’s reference to “seven demons” might just be emphasizing either the seriousness of her former condition (Luke 8:30) or the recurrent nature of it (Luke 11:26). In any event, we know her to be a person with great need and a person who came to have an equally-great devotion to Jesus. And we meet her in tonight’s Gospel lesson, weeping at Jesus’ tomb.
In this sermon, originally preached on July 18, 2004, Br. Jonathan Maury unfolds the texts appointed for this week, Genesis 18:1-10a(10b-14) and Luke 10:38-42, in order to suggest how God invites us, like Abraham and Martha and George Herbert before us, not only to hospitality, but also to “sit and eat”
When first glimpsed over the flat, scrub-covered land, it appeared quite small. Gradually, though, this was revealed as an optical illusion created by its isolation in the vast expanse before us. As the truck driven by our host Father Gabriel moved closer and closer, its immense height and expanse became clear. Its proportions seemed to be as those of legend and folklore. Its spreading boughs created a shelter from the lightly falling rain. We had arrived at one of the nearly two-dozen out stations in Father’s cure, at a gathering place of Christians for worship and fellowship in rural Zimbabwe. As pilgrims, guests and strangers, we had come to the great tree—to a place of meeting and hospitality with God…
Br. Curtis Almquist originally preached this sermon on July 15, 2007. In it, he offers his thoughts on Luke 10:25-37, also this week’s proper.
You may know the term “proof-texting” when it comes to the interpretation of the Bible. Proof-texting comes down to deciding whatever it is you want to say about the Bible, and then searching out the scriptures to find the verses or the stories to support or prove your point. By being very selective in your Bible references, by choosing and mixing and matching verses, you can make the Bible say almost anything you want it to say. For example, “Judas went out and hung himself.” “Go and do likewise.” That could be a rather extreme example of proof-texting: patching together two things which really are not related to one another. Another form of proof-texting is taking a verse or story from the scriptures out of the larger context – making more of it or less of it than should be, were you to look the whole picture.
I want to say that this gospel lesson appointed for today could lend itself to proof-texting. If we were to take Jesus’ story of this good Samaritan as a kind of normative template for how we are always to navigate in the world, we might miss the mark. Now I know this is rather risky ground for a preacher to tread. The Good Samaritan gets such good press in the Bible. Who am I to impugn the actions or motives of the Good Samaritan? So I won’t. Rather, I want to extol the virtues of the priest who gets very bad press. This is the priest who passes by to the other side of this man who has been beaten and robbed. I admit to identifying with the priest. I have passed by many people, many, many people in life who are in great need. They may not be bloodied by robbers, as in Jesus’ story, but they are clearly wounded by life. Something has happened to them, and you need go no further than the streets surrounding Harvard Square to find such poor souls. Whether they have struggled with substance abuse, or mental illness, or joblessness, or some kind of terrible trauma, whatever, they are clearly in need, a good many of them standing or sitting or laying beside the roadway.
Br. David Vryhof originally preached this sermon on May 6, 2006.
Know that the Lord is God; it is he that has made us and we are his.
We are his people and the sheep of his pasture. Psalm 100:2
See what love the Father has given us that we should be called the children of God; and that is what we are. I John 3:1
I have many memories of the Dutch Calvinist home in western Michigan in which I grew up. One of those memories is of a framed piece of calligraphy which still hangs in the family room. Written there was a quotation from the Heidelberg Catechism, an explanation of Reformed faith that is organized into 52 sections, conveniently called “Lord’s Days,” so that the preacher could preach on one section each week throughout the year. And he did – every Sunday morning!
This quotation was of the first question and answer from the Catechism. / “What is your only comfort in life and in death?” the catechism asks. It then goes on to offer an answer: “That I am not my own, but belong – body and soul, in life and in death – to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ.” Our only comfort in life and in death, the catechism maintains, is that we belong to Christ. We are God’s own creation, and we belong to the One who has created us. “It is he that has made us and we are his,” declares the psalmist, “We are his people and the sheep of his pasture.” We belong to God.