The Accident of Faith – Br. James Koester

Fabian of Rome

Matthew 10:24-30

Fabian, whose feast we keep today, is probably not someone many of us spend time thinking about. Somewhat obscure, at least to our mind, he’s none the less a fascinating character, who intrigues me.

Born about the year 200, probably outside Rome, he became Bishop of Rome in the year 236 as a result of a series of accidents. Eusebius of Caesarea gives an account of his election.

Fabian, we are told, was visiting Rome the day the Roman Church was gathered to elect a new bishop. Curious, Fabian joined the crowd. Eusebius goes on to say: a large number of eminent and distinguished men were in the thoughts of many, Fabian, who was present, came to no one’s mind. But suddenly, it is said, a dove fluttered down from above and settled upon his head, plainly following the example of the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Saviour in the form of a dove. At this, as if moved by one divine inspiration, with the utmost enthusiasm all the people with one soul cried out “he is worthy”, and then and there they took him and set him upon the bishop’s throne.[1] Read More

Responding to Christ Within – Br. Michael Hardgrove

Luke 1:39-56

Mary must have been terrified to find out that she would give birth to and raise the Messiah, who was to be named Jesus. Mary’s response to God is a trusting and faithful one: Be it unto me according to your will. She then made the difficult journey through the Judean hill country to see her relative, Elizabeth. Elizabeth, miraculously pregnant with John the Baptist, feels the baby leap for joy in her womb, and she is filled with the Holy Spirit. This moment of recognition by another person, that what the angel had told her to come, was in fact true, must have been a moment of unbelievable joy. You can almost picture Mary as a teenage peasant girl, jumping for joy as she proclaims this prayer of praise and adoration, thanking God for fulfilling His promise of salvation for His people.

For Mary there is a profound recognition that the long-awaited Messiah was coming into the world; that He was growing in her womb. In this season of Advent, we await the coming of Christmas, where we celebrate and give thanks for the birth of God as a human being, among human beings, and we also, like Mary abide in the faith of the Lord’s promise to us – the coming of His kingdom into the world, where the errors of humanity will be reconciled through the Grace of Jesus Christ.

What does it mean for us, to proclaim the same joyous prayer as Mary herself did? It’s a prayer of exultant thanksgiving, thanksgiving for the indwelling God of our salvation. Mary was literally growing God the Son in her womb, but we can humbly petition God, as we do in the Angelus – “be it unto me according to your word,” and ask Christ to increase within us. We await the coming of Jesus Christ, and we believe that when He returns He will create a new heaven and a new earth. We don’t know if we will live to see it, but like our ancestors, we maintain hope, and we spread the Good News, the hope of the Second Coming of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. By doing so, we allow Him to work through us to bring about His kingdom on earth – just as He did through Mary.

Mary’s response to God was an ecstatic “YES!” from the depth of her soul, trusting in God’s goodness and in the fulfillment of His promises. During this Advent season, I encourage you to pray with the Magnificat and ask yourself, “what is God asking of me?” “What is God asking me to fully embrace with joy and gratitude?” When we ask Jesus this question, and hope for a response, either as an inner knowingness, or perhaps as some external sign, we can be certain that whatever our Lord asks of us, He does so knowing that what he has planned for His children is far better than we could ever hope for or imagine. Amen

Build upon a life of faith – Br. Michael Hardgrove

Matthew 7:21-27

In the Gospel today, Jesus exhorts both the crowd and his disciples to live a life of faith that is “founded on rock.” The analogy that Jesus gives us is to build the foundation of one’s house upon the solid rock which lays far beneath the softer levels of sandstone above it. Jesus is telling us that so much of what we believe holds up and maintains our lives and our societies, are in fact nothing more than shifting sands, that we must dig past, deeper, and deeper, until we reach the solid core of God’s deep love for us; the true source of salvation, of unity, and of life everlasting. This is the rock upon which Jesus calls us to trust in, to build our life of faith on.

Faith, is anything but easy. In this world that has fallen so far from God’s original plan of peace, generosity, and unity – where the innocent suffer exploitation and oppression, where war, violence, and abject cruelty are the lived experiences of the majority of God’s children – it’s easy to lose hope. When we feel our faith lacking, when we feel that we can’t trust in Jesus’ promise of liberation for the oppressed, when we feel hopelessness as we look at the state of the world, we must keep digging. When we read the newspaper, and our senses tell us, surely God is not here, we must maintain our faith in the Good News of Jesus Christ. If we fall prey to hopelessness, how can He use us to build up His kingdom which is to come? He needs us to fulfill His earthly mission; to continue His work. Read More

Trust and Strive: Embodying Christian Endurance – Br. Keith Nelson

Luke 21:5-19

Jesus says: Not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your souls.

 Endurance is intimately associated in the New Testament with the posture of active waiting for the “day of the Lord.” In today’s gospel reading from Luke, Jesus draws our attention to the urgency, the sense of responsibility, and the vigilance that the day of the Lord awakens in those who are waiting for it in faith. This is a theme we’ll hear a lot more about in a few weeks, during the season of Advent.

But after introducing this theme in today’s reading, Jesus places the “day of the Lord” in the background, and directs our gaze to the foreground of Christian persecution. Jesus prophesies about the challenges Christians will suffer at the hands of both public authorities and those people closest to them in their web of human relations. This is a shift from “out there” in space and time to “right here,” to up-close and personal events involving everyday encounters, that must take place first. Read More

Faith to See Us Through – Br. David Vryhof

Br. David Vryhof

I Peter 1:3-9
Mark 14:32-42

I don’t know what keeps you going these days.  The recent mass shooting of 19 students and 2 adults at the Robb Elementary School in Uvulde, Texas, was another punch in the gut, coming, as it did, just 10 days after ten Black people were shot to death at their neighborhood supermarket in Buffalo, New York.  Both mass shootings were carried out by 18 year-olds, with legally purchased assault weapons.  We are just five months into this calendar year and already we have witnessed 214 mass shootings in this country.  Our leaders cannot seem to find a way to put an end to it.  Other nations have found ways to stop the senseless killing of innocent human beings, but we cannot.

We are suffering.  Handcuffed by partisan politics, unable to take any effective action, completely out of patience with sentiments like ‘our thoughts and prayers are with the families of those who died,’ and sick to death of the senseless killings, we… are… hurting.

Century after century, generation after generation, we human beings continue to find endless ways to inflict harm upon one another.  Suffering – so much of it completely senseless – seems to be woven into the very fabric of our existence; none of us escapes its effects. Read More

Take Him at His Word – Br. Sean Glenn

Br. Sean Glenn

Acts 13:32-43
Luke 14:7-14

In your days I am doing a work you will never believe, even if someone tells you.[1]

Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.[2]

Easter has always captivated my imagination—even in my days as an angry atheist, convinced that such miraculous events are of course impossible.

Yet, in this season of my life, marked as it is by bereavement, scarred by the awful and unanticipated absence of my late parents, Easter—with all its accompanying hope and joy—has been less a consolation and more a taunting insult, a vexation, a catalyst for all kinds of cynicism, doubt, and anger.

Of late, I have refused to be comforted, closing off the precincts of my heart to any touch of joy or hope. I have refused to be comforted, content only to bear my tears, anguish, and sense of injury. In your days I am doing a work you will never believe, even if someone tells you. Read More

Jesus, the Prism of God’s Light – Br. Keith Nelson

2 Corinthians 4:1-6
John 14:6-14

How does Jesus show us the nature of God? One resounding answer is: as Light. Reflected light, shimmering into the world we see and know, igniting into conscious awareness. The primordial light shining in the darkness of John’s Prologue; the light that replaces that of sun and moon in the eternal city of the Revelation to John; the light of Christ we kindle at Easter; the “light of the gospel of the glory of Christ.”

Philip says to Jesus, “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.” Philip is done with all the poetry; all the elusive and allusive imagery John’s Jesus has woven to evoke, to awaken, to captivate, to bestow the relational knowing of God found in and through himself. Philip wants a clear shaft of light outlining a straightforward vision. Before Jesus leaves them, Philipp wants just a single flash of definitive truth.

But this is not the way John’s Jesus reveals God. Instead, the words and the works of this Jesus are like the sides and angles of a prism. The clarity of a prism enables a beam of invisible, light to pass through. But it also refracts that light into something new: the visible color spectrum. “No one has ever seen God,” we read again in John’s Prologue. “It is God the only Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, who has made God known.” Jesus refracts the Father’s invisible light, scattering constellated colors that draw our eyes toward their source. It is the interplay of the pattern that beckons us – through dots we can connect, the words and works of Jesus that reveal the truth in the measure we can receive it. Receiving the light is the long slow work of conversion, not epiphany. Read More

Faith Seeking Understanding – Br. Geoffrey Tristram

Br. Geoffrey Tristram

John 20: 19-31

The story of Jesus’ appearance to Thomas is one of the most moving in all the Gospels. And for me, the most powerful evocation of the scene is found in that amazing painting by Caravaggio, called, ‘The Incredulity of St Thomas.’. If you don’t know it I really recommend it for a meditation. Jesus is standing in the room with Thomas and two other disciples. He has just said, ‘Peace be with you’. And now, in the painting, (although the text does not tell us whether this happened), Jesus grasps Thomas’ hand and thrusts it deep into the wound in his side. Thomas and the other disciples stare with utter astonishment.  But Jesus looks tenderly at the amazed face of his friend, as he first uncovers his wound. As Jesus pulls back his robe to show the wound, it catches a ray of brilliant sunlight, and the whole scene is bathed in this light. It is a poignant moment of enlightenment, and of coming to faith for Thomas.

It was seeing Jesus’ body, in all its brokenness and woundedness which brought Thomas to belief. But this beautiful story is not a story of proof but a story of love. For me, the story of Thomas is not primarily a story of a sceptic who comes to believe because his list of doubts is answered; not an intellectual assent to something proven. The story of Thomas is rather the story of a man who comes to believe not because he has enough proof, but because he has actually touched the mystery of divine, self-sacrificial love. Read More

Bold, Brash, and Incredibly Audacious – Br. James Koester

John 11:32-44

I have always loved these two days, All Saints and All Souls. They evoke something deep within me, that I often have difficulty putting into words. This is especially true as I get older. Somewhere, deep in my soul, I feel as if I am letting out a great sigh, not so much of contentment, although I am content, but of consent, because these two days put into words, what I believe to be true in the very depths of my being.

The history of these two days is actually quite fascinating. It takes us from the earliest days of the faith to the magnificent Hagia Sophia in Constantinople, from the Pantheon in Rome to the trenches of France. Since the earliest days of the Church, Christians have attempted to put into words not simply what we know from experience, but what we know in the very depths of our being, to be true.

What we know from experience is that death is real. Yes, we do our best to deny it, delay it, and pretend it didn’t happen. We mask it with make-up and hide it away with polite euphemisms. Yet in the end we cannot outrun it, and like Jesus, can only weep[1] when faced with it. Once however, our tears are dry, we are left trying to put into words another reality: having lived and loved on earth, do the dead continue to live and love in that place where they can no longer be seen?

For some the answer is a resounding ‘no’. Death is the ultimate disaster because it is the end of all things. All that is left are our memories, like the lingering scent of someone’s cologne. Anything else is wishful thinking.

For the Christian, the resurrection of Jesus challenges the notion that death is the ultimate disaster, for in Jesus, life is changed, not ended,[2] and death becomes not the end, but a door, not a wall, but a gate, not the end, but a new beginning. It is this which we proclaim on these two days, as we put into words our belief in the intercommunion of the living and the dead in the Body of Christ.[3]

We do so, not as wishful thinkers denying, delaying, and pretending that death does not happen. We do so with the stink of death in our nostrils. Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord already there is a stench because he has been dead four days,”[4] or, as the King James Bible puts it, “Lord … he stinketh.” She says this, having just made her great confession of faith, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world.”[5]

Martha’s great confession that Jesus is the Messiah, is an affirmation that the long-awaited messianic age, when the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, [and] the poor have good news brought to them,[6] has arrived, with the coming of Jesus into the world.

In the face of so much contradictory evidence, such a claim is bold, brash, and incredibly audacious. Yet that is the claim we make as Christians. Evidence to the contrary, these are the very things we see happening today. The blind do receive their sight, the lame do walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf do hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them. If these are not true, then Jesus is not who Martha claimed him to be, and we of all people are to be pitied, for if Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation has been in vain and your faith has been in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified of God that he raised Christ—whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised. If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have died in Christ have perished. If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.[7]

And we make this claim, not for ourselves alone, but for all those whom we love, but see no longer.[8] And that is the crux of these two days. We are making a bold, brash, and incredibly audacious claim, not simply for ourselves, but for countless women and men who have lived lives of faith, or even just attempted to, in ages past.

Like Martha, we too confess that [Jesus is] the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world. In making that confession we say something specific about the dead. We boldly, brashly, and with incredible audacity claim that the dead are raised to life. This does not deny the reality of death. After all, even Lazarus stinketh.

Such audacity claims for the dead, and for us, that death is not a disaster, nor a wall, nor the end. It claims that death is a door, a gate, and a new beginning.

And so, we come to these two days, All Saints’ and All Souls’. While the stink of death is in our nostrils, we say: I believe in the resurrection of the body.[9] In the face of overwhelming grief, whether it be from COVID, or the trenches of France, we say: I believe in the resurrection of the body. When someone we love dies, at a great age, or a young age, ripe in years, or full of unrealized promise, we say: I believe in the resurrection of the body.

I love these two days, not because I am a romantic, lost in wishful thinking, pretending that death is not real, but because I am a realist, who has smelt death. I am a realist who has smelt death, and who with Martha knows Jesus to be the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world, even while someone I love, but see no longer stinketh.

The world stinks right now, and the answer to that stench is not wishful thinking. The answer to the stench is Jesus Christ, the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world, who cries out in the face of all the stench and grief of the world, “Take away the stone … Lazarus, come out! … Unbind him, and let him go.”[10]

Today and tomorrow, as we remember the countless saints and souls, known and unknown, who have lived lives of faith, or simply tried to, we do so with the echo Martha’s confession, and the sound of Jesus’ command, ringing in our hearts, as we proclaim boldly, brashly, and with incredible audacity, in the face of all the stench, I believe in the resurrection of the body, and once more Lazarus emerges from his tomb, and we take from him the rags of death.

I love these two days, because somewhere deep in my soul, I breathe out a long sigh of consent, as I say once again, I believe in the resurrection of the body.

Solemnity or Major Feast Day: All Saints’ Day (Transferred)

[1] John 11: 35

[2] Episcopal Church, Book of Common Prayer, Church Publishing Incorporated, 1979, page 382

[3] Episcopal Church, Lesser Feasts and Fasts, Church Publishing Incorporated, 1997, page 410.

[4] John 11: 39

[5] John 11: 27

[6] Luke 7: 22

[7] 1 Corinthians 15: 14 – 19

[8] Episcopal Church, Book of Common Prayer, Church Publishing Incorporated, page 504

[9] Episcopal Church, Book of Common Prayer, Church Publishing Incorporated, page 96

[10] John 11: 39, 43, 44

Holy Cross Day – Br. Todd Blackham

Isaiah 45:21-25
Philippians 2:5-11
or Galatians 6:14-18
John 12:31-36a
Psalm 98 or 98:1-4

I was a teenager when I found it.  A simple silver cross only about an inch and half tall.  Plain, unadorned, simple slightly rounded arms smooth and finely wrought.  I found it in a little silver shop in an old mining town in Colorado.  I wore it for years, first on a little box chain, then re-strung a few times, leather cords, braided hemp, wooden beads, but always that simple silver cross around my neck.  It was, beyond language, a token of great importance for me.  Something that I couldn’t articulate at the time, an attraction, a reminder, an anchor.  This constant companion that would make itself known to me on a cool day when I might slip it under my shirt and I feel the cold metal pressed against my breastbone.  Or in a daydream I’d find myself toying with it with my fingers, sometimes compelled to bring it to my lips for a kiss.  It was precious to me.

And one day, after returning home from travel I noticed it wasn’t around my neck anymore.  It wasn’t in my pockets or my suitcase either.  It was gone.  I had lost it.  And, truthfully, I was heartbroken.  For months I checked other coat pockets, inside shoes, anywhere it might have ended up but I never saw it again.  Now, it’s not that it was such a costly item that I missed it; nor was I somehow superstitiously clinging to it for luck.  It was simply because of the joy and delight I had found in it, all the things that I couldn’t speak it spoke to my heart in close proximity.  Ineffable strength and peace.  That’s perhaps one of the first times I found the power of the cross. Read More