Perceive – Br. Luke Ditewig

Br. Luke Ditewig

Psalm 115:1-10
Matthew 9:32-38

I have gotten water in my ear while swimming. Muffled, it took a lot more effort to hear and pay attention. Remember what it’s like to lose part of your perception.

The psalmist tonight says idols, gods which humans make, are not worth worship. “They have mouths but do not speak; eyes, but do not see.” Idols cannot perceive. Don’t trust them, says the psalmist. Rather, “you who fear the Lord, trust in the Lord.”

Likewise, God speaks through the prophet Hosea, not about other nations but God’s own people. “With silver and gold they made idols for their own destruction. … an artisan made it; it is not God.” Focused on what they made, our ancestors did not perceive. It’s like their ears were full, muffled to God’s voice. Read More

July 4th – Making for Righteousness and Peace – Br. Curtis Almquist

Br. Curtis Almquist

Deuteronomy 10:17-21

“For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who is not partial and takes no bribe, who executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and who loves the strangers, providing them food and clothing. You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt…”

The Book of Common Prayer remembers today as Independence Day which, indeed it is from an historical standpoint: the colonies’ independence from English rule. However, The Book of Common Prayer qualifies in our opening prayer the nature of our country’s independence. We prayed: “Grant that we and all the people of this land may have grace to maintain our liberties in righteousness and peace….”

Righteousness is relational. Righteousness is making relationships right and of keeping relationships right: right relationships between individuals, between groups – racial groups, cultural groups, political groups, religious groups – and between nations, all of which makes for righteous living before God, the Creator of all. Righteousness is about right relationships. We pray for “righteousness” and we pray for “peace.” Peace is not merely the absence of fighting. Peace without justice is simply handcuffing people and terrorizing them to be mute. Peace can only come from equal justice for all. So we pray that we be emissaries of righteousness and peace. Read More

What sort of man is this? – Br. Lucas Hall

Br. Lucas Hall

Matthew 8:23-27
Amos 3:1-8, 4:11-12

“What sort of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him?” That question, I believe, strikes at the heart of Matthew’s gospel. Matthew’s intent in all his gospel is to focus on Jesus as the fulfillment of the prophets. He deliberately emphasizes the ways Jesus inverts expectations of the looked-for messianic figure, and seems to quite delight in tying these inversions together. When we compare this with our first reading from the prophet Amos, we see the lines of comparison Matthew draws; he does not view Jesus as simply another prophet. In Amos, God acts, and speaks, and the prophets listen, and prophesy to these acts. Here, Matthew depicts Jesus as the one who speaks and acts. And this message, this action, this intent is not simply to Israel, nor is it simply to humanity; the winds and sea obey, or more literally from the Greek, they hearken, they listen and follow.

It should be no surprise that Matthew views Jesus in this way; the idea that he has command over all Creation puts us in the mind of even the Genesis creation stories, where all is brought into being by the proclamation of God. It should be noted that these creation stories have a highly theological purpose; they closely line up with other similar stories among various contemporary religions, but they affirm the creation comes from a singular God. The various aspects of creation are not treated as individual beings to pay homage to, but equally created, and so equally under the sway, of the one God. And so Matthew depicts Christ in this way. Read More

Crowded healing – Br. Jack Crowley

Br. Jack Crowley headshot

Br. Jack Crowley

Mark 5:21-43

One of the many things I love about Jesus is that he knew how to work a crowd. Jesus dealt with crowds all the time. Crowds to be fed, crowds to be healed, crowds trying to anoint him king, crowds trying to arrest him, and finally a crowd who crucified him. Jesus knew crowds.

These crowds were not just crowded with people, they were crowded with meaning. Everywhere Jesus went, people tried to figure out what Jesus meant. Jesus’ words, actions, and very being were jammed with meaning. The crowds around Jesus unloaded all sorts of expectations, baggage, and misunderstandings onto what Jesus meant. Yet through it all, Jesus just kept on healing.

Jesus kept on healing, because healing cuts through the crowd. Healing has the power to unite a crowd. Healing even has the power to make us love a crowd.

Our Gospel this morning is a perfect example of the power of healing. We are told by the Gospel writer that Jesus was being followed by a large crowd and that the crowd was pressing in on him. That’s a powerful image. Read More

Fallible Giants: Peter and Paul – Br. David Vryhof

Br. David Vryhof

Ezekiel 34:11-16
II Timothy 4:1-9
John 21:15-19

We stand today in the presence of two of the giants of our faith: the Apostles Peter and Paul.  No one has had a more profound influence on the Christian faith and on the Church than these two men.  Both of them have their own feast – Peter on January 18 for his confession of Jesus as the Messiah and Paul on January 25 for his conversion – but they are commemorated together on this day, June 29, because of the Church’s tradition that they both died as martyrs in Rome during the persecution under Nero in the year 64.  Today we observe them as martyrs for the faith.

They are very different figures: Peter was a simple man, not highly educated and possibly illiterate, a fisherman from Galilee.  Paul was an extremely well-educated, cosmopolitan Jew who was also a Roman citizen.  He was from a notable family line and had received an excellent education.  The two men didn’t always agree.  Peter was the chief ambassador to Jewish believers, while Paul focused his efforts on winning Gentiles to the faith.  Peter was centered in Jerusalem and the surrounding area, while Paul’s missions extended throughout Asia Minor and even to Rome.  One of their most heated conflicts was around the question of whether Gentile believers ought to comply with Jewish law.  Yet, their commitment to Christ and to the proclamation of the Gospel enabled them to overcome their differences.  Both were zealous to the end.  The tradition holds that Peter was crucified, upside-down, and that Paul, because he was a Roman citizen, was beheaded rather than crucified. Read More

Captives to Truth – Br. Lain Wilson

Feast of Irenaeus of Lyons

2 Timothy 2:22-26

“And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kindly to everyone, an apt teacher, patient, correcting opponents with gentleness” (2 Tim 2:24-25).

I’m not sure “gentle” is how I’d first characterize Irenaeus, the second-century theologian and bishop whom we remember today. In his great work Against Heresies, he sought to combat the heterodox versions of Christianity that surrounded him in a point-by-point refutation of their beliefs. At the same time, he laid out a Christian vision that affirmed the authority of the apostolic tradition and succession, the goodness of creation, and the relevance of the Hebrew Scriptures, a vision that would largely carry forward into the era of councils and creeds and orthodoxy of subsequent centuries.

The heresies Irenaeus faced are different than those that face us, but I think he speaks to us today in two important ways.

First, the truth matters, and it is worth arguing for and defending. We, like Irenaeus, live in an age of contested truth. Irenaeus makes clear his intent to address this head-on in the opening sentence of Against Heresies: “Inasmuch as certain men have set the truth aside, and bring in lying words and vain genealogies . . . and by means of their craftily-constructed plausibilities draw away the minds of the inexperienced and taken them captive, [I have felt constrained, my dear friend, to compose the following treatise in order to expose and counteract their machinations].” Read More

Age of Anxiety – Br. Jim Woodrum

Br. Jim Woodrum

Job 38:1-11
Mark 4:35-41

In 1947, a friend of the composer and conductor Leonard Bernstein suggested that he write a piece of music based on W.H. Auden’s epic poem, “The Age of Anxiety.” Despite critics deeming the poem as Auden’s “one dull book, his one failure,” it won the Pulitzer Prize in 1948. The poem’s subject is four strangers who meet in a New York bar during wartime and contemplate their lives and the human condition.[i] The title of the poem evokes a theme that permeates society, both ancient and modern: anxiety. Just saying the word can make your muscles tense up.

Two definitions of anxiety resonate deeply with me. First: “an apprehensive uneasiness or nervousness usually over an impending or anticipated ill: a state of being anxious.” We’ve all experienced anxiety of this sort, say, before a job interview, exam, wedding, or while awaiting a medical diagnosis and its implications for our future. For me, I remember the anxiety of preparing a meal for thirty people for the first time, my first sermon, or getting the call that my father had suffered a fall while I was away on mission in Texas—a fall that ended his life. What is something that has caused you anxiety in recent memory? Read More

The Blood of a Blessed Martyr – Br. Lucas Hall

Br. Lucas Hall

Feast of St. Alban

Today we mark the feast of St. Alban, the first martyr of Britain. In the third century, Christians were subject to various persecutions in the Roman Empire, and the story goes that the then-pagan Alban, living in Roman Britain, hosted a Christian priest in his home who was fleeing persecution. Impressed by the priest’s devotion to prayer, Alban joined him, and converted. When it came to light he was hiding the fugitive priest, Alban donned the priest’s robes and went to death for him. He refused to partake in a pagan votive offering, saying, “I worship and adore the true and living God, who created all things.” For this, he was beheaded on a hilltop at the town that now bears his name.

I must admit, I cannot speak solely of Alban today. Partially, it’s because this early Church martyr calls to mind the Church’s general age of martyrdom, when the experience of persecution necessitated developing a theological understanding of the concept. But it’s more personal than that. You may know that we brothers take initial vows for a  few years before taking life vows. Today is the anniversary of my initial vows. And earlier this week, the anniversary of my life vows, was the feast of Bernard Mizeki, another martyr. By happenstance, or something more, I cannot encounter these martyrs without thinking more broadly of their witness to the vocation of the Church, my own included. Read More

The Treasures of Life – Br. Curtis Almquist

Br. Curtis Almquist

Matthew 6:19-23

At the beginning of the Gospel according to Matthew, we learn of the wise men who came from the East to pay homage to the infant, Jesus, predicted to be the “king of the Jews.” We read they bring with them treasure-chests of gold, frankincense, and myrrh as gifts for the newborn.[i] We are never told what happened to all that gold, frankincense, and myrrh; however we can infer something based on this Gospel passage we have just heard. Jesus, Mary, and Joseph did not keep these treasures.

This same Greek word for “treasure” is used by Jesus in the Gospel lesson appointed for today: “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth… but rather store up for yourselves treasures in heaven.”[ii] A treasure is what we could supremely value in life. Many things could be treasured, not just tangible things symbolized by the gold, frankincense, and myrrh, but also the treasured intangible things that may come from our race or ethnicity, our gender, our education, our good looks, our age, our fancy title. Whatever. Treasures in life come in many forms.

Two things to remember about life’s treasures: Read More

A Clear Witness – Br. Lain Wilson

Luke 12:1-12

We remember today the southern African missionary and martyr Bernard Mizeki. Born in modern-day Mozambique, he came to the Christian faith while a young man in South Africa, where he was baptized in 1866 by Father Puller of our Society. In 1891, he traveled to Mashonaland, in the northeast of modern-day Zimbabwe, to serve as a missionary to the Shona people.

In the year of his death, 1896, rebellion against the British South African Company spread to the Shona people, and Mizeki resisted orders to escape to safety. Resentment and violence served as a backdrop to Mizeki’s own death that June at the hands of one of his adopted kinsmen, the tension between traditional religion and Mizeki’s work spreading the Gospel message coming to a tragic head.

Martyrs capture our imaginations. We may read about the great martyrs of the early church who endured shocking, inhuman treatment, and we can wonder at their strength of conviction, at their fearless resolve, at their seeming superhuman capacity. They were very close, in time and culture, to Jesus and his words from our Gospel lesson: “do not fear those who kill the body, and after that can do nothing more” (Lk 12:4). As we read about these martyrs, it is easy for us to wonder at and admire them . . . and at the same time to handle them with a critical distance: then and now, them and us. Read More