You Are My Sunshine! – Br. Jim Woodrum

Br. Jim Woodrum

John 20:1-18

When I began to pray with this morning’s Gospel lesson from John, I was struck at first by two sentences: “Then the disciples returned to their homes. But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb.” The feeling these sentences evoked for me was kenopsia. In his book of neologisms, author John Koenig defines his word kenopsia as: “the eerie, forlorn atmosphere of a place that’s usually bustling with people but is now abandoned and quiet—a school hallway in the evening, an unlit office on a weekend, vacant fairgrounds—an emotional afterimage that makes it seem not just empty but hyper-empty, with a total population in the negative, who are so conspicuously absent they glow like neon signs” (from Greek, kenosis “emptiness” + opsia “seeing”).[i]

Have you ever experienced kenopsia or “emptiness-seeing?” The sense of kenopsia often takes me back to a memory from April of 2019. My father had just passed away, following my mother’s death 11 months earlier. As the extended family left, leaving me behind after the funeral, I found myself sitting alone in the den of my childhood home. Surrounded by the echoes of my upbringing, I listened to the air conditioner cycle on and off, a sound all too familiar. The house smelled just as it always had, and atop the dryer lay a stack of bath towels, neatly folded, waiting to be placed in the linen closet upstairs—a task meant for a day that never came.

Despite the comfort of familiarity, an overwhelming difference cast a shadow over everything: the absence of my parents. Gone were the aromas of dinner cooking on the stove. The evening news or my mother’s favorite true crime shows no longer filled the air with sound. Though the house was crowded with remnants of my parents’ lives, it felt profoundly empty. This emptiness wasn’t just a lack of presence; it was an active, almost tangible void. The experience was as fascinating as it was sad and unsettling. Read More

The Last Breath of Jesus – Br. Keith Nelson

Good Friday
John 18:1-19:42

lanterns, torches, & weapons
a sword
a severed ear
a charcoal fire
a crown of thorns
a purple robe
a cross
an inscription
an untorn tunic
a jar of sour wine
a sponge
a branch of hyssop
a spear

These are the non-human witnesses of the passion of Jesus Christ. Most are what a materialist culture would call inanimate objects, witnesses without agency, intention, or sentience. But these disparate, created things have been joined in the devotional mind of Christians over the centuries under the banner Arma Christi – the weapons of Christ, the things he uses to conquer death. They are listed in litanies, depicted on altarpieces, and cluster around roadside shrines. The cross is given the central place, “an instrument of shameful death” transformed by Christ’s passion and resurrection “to be for us the means of life.”

In a lesser fashion, these other created things also share participation in Christ. Drawn into the purposes of the prince of Peace, these so-called “weapons” become by his passion implements of peace and Life. By their strange constellation in the same place, at the same time around Jesus of Nazareth, their Maker has conspired to set us free. Read More

It’s good to think of others – Br. Jack Crowley 

Br. Jack Crowley headshot

Br. Jack Crowley

Maundy Thursday 

John 13:1-17, 31b-35 

Well good evening everyone, it’s so good to see you all. Tonight we start our celebration of a glorious long weekend.  

I’ll start this long weekend by asking a simple question. Who’s ready to get their feet washed? Or should I ask, who got their feet ready to be washed? 

If you are anything like me, at some point every year on Maundy Thursday, I become self-conscious of my feet. I took a good hard look at my toenails. I ask myself questions like what if my feet smell tonight? Do my feet look weird? What does a normal foot even look like? I know these questions sound ridiculous coming from a man who wears sandals year-round, but it’s what I do.   

There’s just something about foot washing that’s provoking. It causes a reaction in us. Knowing our bare feet are not only going to be exposed but also handled by someone else makes us feel vulnerable. These moments of vulnerability can be powerful.   Read More

Feasting and Fasting – Br. Lain Wilson

Luke 5:27-32
Isaiah 58:9b-14

I love that, four days into Lent, four days into this season of fasting, we’re reading about a feast.

For me, nothing captures this passage from Luke quite like the scene by the Renaissance painter Paolo Veronese. He turns Luke’s “great banquet” into a wild party. The enormous canvas of The Feast in the House of Levi bursts at its seams with dozens of figures: the disciples and Levi, as well as entertainers, soldiers, children, slaves—even a cat and a dog.[1] Jesus is a still, calm center in the midst of riotous humanity.

The scene is seductive—outstretched arms and turned bodies invite us in, like a friend who opens a place in a circle for you to join. The scene invites us in, to join the throng of “tax collectors and sinners” whom Jesus comes to call. The key question of this scene isn’t that of the authorities—“why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” (Lk 5:30)—but the one that Jesus leaves unvoiced—“why don’t you join us?”

Imagine for a moment how those at the banquet might have felt. Tax collectors and sinners were the outcasts and the undesirables, cut off from community. Jesus does not seek to segregate and excise them, as others do, to tell them they are unworthy of his ministry and friendship. He calls them. He claims them. Read More

An Irresistible and Radiant Humanity – Br. Keith Nelson

Br. Keith Nelson

Isaiah 52:7-10
John 1:1-14

Merry Christmas. As is true of every holy feast of the church, each of us brings a different collection of needs, hungers, questions, and reasons to give thanks. You are here, probably, to listen – for the first or the five-thousandth time, to “hear the good news of the messenger who announces peace, who brings good news, who announces salvation,” in the words of Isaiah. But, probably, you are also drawn to see. To see and exclaim, even before hearing, even in the midst of many cares and sorrows: How beautiful. How beautiful: the messenger’s feet upon the mountains. How beautiful: the holy arm which the Lord has bared. My God, how beautiful: this Child we have sought with the eyes of our hearts for so long.

Christmas, for Christians in the West, is the foremost opportunity to re-embrace the Medieval impulse to look and to touch; to show things of great meaning first, then to tell as commentary on the showing. So for the next hour, and the next eleven days of Christmas after that: Look! Touch! Taste! Smell! Clap and point and jump up and down at every shiny, lovely thing. We need to engage these impulses in acts of worship. It is easy in this world to forget the path to this holy ecstasy, this self-spending in the pursuit of meaning rather than luxury and waste. Read More

Of Kitchens and Christmas – Br. James Koester

John 1:1-14

Memories are a powerful force in the human psyche. They have the ability to trap and imprison, but they have also the ability to liberate and free. They have the power to make one weep in despair or grief and to laugh with the delight of a child. They have the power to shape and mold a life and in hindsight to help make sense of all that was and is, and even is to be. As we all know, it doesn’t take much to trigger a memory: a sound, a taste, a smell, an image, even just a word or phrase and suddenly we are back there as if it were happening this very instant.

I have one such memory that crops up in my mind and heart on a regular basis and it happens many days at Morning Prayer. I had no idea at the time, that the event itself was to be a harbinger of things to come. As a memory it continues to delight and console, and even assure me.

I couldn’t have been more than 9 or 10 and my mother and I were alone in the kitchen. I can’t remember what we were doing, but we were doing something together, and we were talking as a 9-year-old boy talks with his mother, or at least as this 9-year-old boy and his mother did. I was puzzled and I wanted to know something. The burning question I had, had something to do with church. (It’s okay of you want to roll your eyes at this point.) We had been to church as some point before this conversation, and it had been a Morning Prayer Sunday (if you have been an Episcopalian for more than 50 or 60 years, you’ll remember those). We had sung the Te Deum, and what I wanted to know, and what had puzzled me, was what exactly did we mean when we sang: When thou tookest upon thee to deliver man: thou didst not abhor the Virgin’s womb.[1] I knew what all the words in that phrase meant except one, and I wanted to know what was meant by the word abhor. Read More

Wake up and watch – Br. Geoffrey Tristram

Br. Geoffrey Tristram

Mark 13:24-37

Today is Advent Sunday – the first day of a new Christian year. It is, as the Scriptures urge, a time to wake up. To shake ourselves, to take stock of our lives. And to do it NOW! There is an urgency to Advent. Urgent, because God is working his purposes out in our world and in our lives.  Advent proclaims loud and clear that there IS a purpose to our lives, and that there will be an end, and that that end is coming ever nearer. For that reason, Advent has always traditionally had as its themes, the ‘four last things’; death, judgment, heaven and hell. These sober realities are coming nearer to us each one of us. Or as a friend of mine used to put it with a bit of a grin, ‘None of us gets out of this alive’! So, Advent is a serious and challenging season, and challenges us to take stock of our lives, and to do it NOW.

The Gospels are full of this sense of urgency. Jesus’ words are so often full of this urgency. We hear it whenever Jesus encounters men and women. Jesus doesn’t just wander around Galilee uttering timeless, philosophical dictums or epigrams. He is not essentially a philosopher – he is a prophet. He speaks OUT, he speaks hard things which challenge, and shock, and outrage.  He tells a parable and immediately says, ‘What do you think?’ How will you respond? Now. He challenges, and confronts, and brings judgment, now. To one he says, ‘Change your life.’ To another, ‘Repent. Follow me. Sell everything you have. Leave your mother and father and family. Come. Now.’ Read More

A Feast of Strength – Br. James Koester

St. Michael and All Angels
Revelation 12:7-12

I don’t know when it began, perhaps the first time someone put an angel on the top of a Christmas tree. Delicate, covered in lace and flounce, sometimes with a magic wand, they may be beautiful, but they have little in common with the angels of scripture, or the iconographic tradition through the ages. These angels as ornaments are likely to shatter with one tap, or smash into tiny pieces unless handled with care and caution. Not so the angels we hear of today. Armed for battle with sword, shield, helmet and staff, clothed in armor, these, dare I say it, muscled and chiseled messengers from God, as icons depict them, are far from the delicate beings hopping on toadstools, dancing on pins, or decorating trees. These are the angels engaged in the cosmic struggle between good and evil. These are the angels of Genesis, Revelation, and John. Read More

Look to the Glory – Br. James Koester

Acts 1: 1-11

Growing up as I did in the 1960’s, my world view was pretty consistent. What I saw on TV, as I sat cross-legged in the Davin School gym as each Apollo mission took off into outer space, or splashed down after a successful mission was the same as I saw each Sunday, gazing up at the stained glass window over the altar at St. Mary’s Church. There was Jesus, blasting off into heaven, vapour trails around his ankles and awestruck or bewildered disciples kneeling, watching in amazement as this first century space mission took off into orbit. It all made perfect sense to me at the time, and I must confess, that is the image of the Ascension that first comes to mind as I ponder the mystery of the feast each year.

But we need to remind ourselves, the Ascension is not rocket science. Jesus is not some first century astronaut. We’re not looking at a space mission or vapour trails. The disciples are not the earth bound mission control team of NASSA. The Ascension is much more than that, because the Ascension as we see it in stained glass is not about some exploration of limitless space, but the reality of the limits of language.

What the disciples experienced that day, was so profound, that language and art have failed over time to convey the depths of the reality. When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight.[1] Even Paul struggles with how to convey the mystery of the Ascension when he says simply God raised [Jesus] from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places.[2] Read More

We Stand on Holy Ground – Alleluia! – Br. Geoffrey Tristram

 

Br. Geoffrey Tristram

Matthew 28: 1-10

Today is Easter Day; the glorious culmination of these days of Holy Week. Today, our Lord Jesus Christ has been raised gloriously from the dead.  Today is a day for rejoicing. Alleluia! Christ is Risen!

Although we’ve had to wear masks for much of the time, this has been a wonderful Holy Week. But during the week, my mind went back to a very special Holy Week I had, many years ago, when I was rector of a parish in England.  What made it especially memorable was that I had invited a friend of mine to come and stay with me for the week.  Richard and I used to teach together, and it was great having him to stay for Holy Week and Easter. But Richard was not a person of faith. It was a very strange experience to be immersed in all the preparations and liturgies of Holy Week, and then to go home to someone who wasn’t really very interested. Perhaps some of you know that experience, with perhaps a spouse, a child or close friend. In fact, quite a lot of my friends don’t believe in God, and I sometimes feel a bit of a failure: these friends who know me so well – so why don’t they believe? I can’t be a very effective evangelist, and I’m a priest as well! Read More