Conceived for Glory – Br. James Koester

Feast of the Transfiguration

Luke 9: 28-36

One Christmas, rather than giving individual presents to members of my family, my aunt gave my family several posters to hang in our basement room. That fall we had built a very 1960’s “rec room” where my siblings and I could invite our friends and not have to worry about either noise or mess and my parents could then reclaim the living room as their space. So, my aunt decided to help us decorate the space, and hence the posters that Christmas as her gift to all of us.

There were several posters, but the one I remember best was of Michelangelo’s statue of Moses.  I remember it, not because even then I was a budding theologian, but because I found it so curious. Created in the early years of the Sixteenth Century, Michelangelo’s Moses was regarded by the artist himself as his most lifelike creation. Once finished he is reputed to have struck the statue on the knee with his hammer and exclaimed Now, speak! To this day you can see a chip in the marble on Moses’ knee where Michelangelo’s hammer is said to have hit.

But that’s not what I found so curious about this image. It wasn’t the chip in the marble. It wasn’t the power and force of the figure. It wasn’t the lifelike quality of the statue. No, none of these drew my attention. What drew my attention, and what I found so curious, and what I did not understand until many years later, and you may know this, but what drew my attention is that Moses had grown horns! Yes, there are two stubby horns emerging out of Moses’ head like horns emerging out of the head of a maturing goat! Read More

Walking the Good Road – Br. Lain Wilson

Mark 10:28-31

As the days have been getting longer, I’ve been taking advantage by going for late evening walks in the woods surrounding Emery House. Day gives way to night, and the woods are transformed. Although I’ve walked these paths dozens of times now, I feel that I encounter something new each time—grazing deer, the shape of a tree, the color of the sky. I try to walk without the aid of a flashlight, not only trusting my own experience of the trails but also being open to their illumination by a different light.

The First Nations Version (FNV), an Indigenous translation of the New Testament, renders the familiar “kingdom of God” as “Creator’s good road.” This is particularly striking in the teaching on wealth leading up to this evening’s Gospel passage, where Jesus notes that “finding and walking the good road is a hard thing for the ones who have many possessions,” and “the ones who trust in their many possessions will have a hard time finding their way onto the good road” (Mk 10:23, 25, FNV). Read More

Making It Real – Br. Lain Wilson

John 14:1-6

We all have moments when our hearts our troubled, the kind that makes our guts churn, saps our resolve, and makes us turn inward.

We mess up. We fail. Like Peter, in the passage before today’s Gospel, we make lofty promises—“Lord, I will lay down my life for you”—only to fall short.

Or we look at what is going on around us—in our community, in our country, in the world—and we despair. We despair at our helplessness and powerlessness, at all that we know to be wrong but that is beyond us to rectify.

We are limited, fallible, frail creatures. Read More

Our Utterly Unique Experience of God – Br. Curtis Almquist

Br. Curtis Almquist

John 20:19-31

The apostle Thomas is often branded as the stooge of the apostles – “Doubting Thomas” – but that is both unfair and inaccurate. In actuality, the opposite is true. There are two encounters in the Gospel, prior to what we’ve just heard, that shed light on the apostle Thomas. One scene was in Galilee, when Jesus first said to the disciples that he would return to Judea because his friend Lazarus had died. Very risky for Jesus. The disciples knew full well about the death threats against Jesus (and probably against them, too). Many of the disciples protested Jesus’ plan to return to Judea. But it was Thomas who really understood Jesus. Thomas pleaded with his fellow disciples not to desert Jesus but to stay with him. Thomas said, “Let us go that we may die with Him!”[i] Perhaps more than any other disciple, Thomas was prepared to abide with Jesus to the end. Thomas had been following a Messiah whom Thomas knew would suf­fer and die. Not true, it seems, for the other disciples.

The other scene was in the Garden of Gethsemane, just before Jesus was seized. Jesus said, “Let not your hearts be troubled….  I go to prepare a place for you… and you know where I am going….” No. No idea. It seems only Thomas had the courage to admit that the disciples were clueless. “My Lord,” Thomas says, “We do not have the slightest idea where you are going! How can we know the way?”[ii] Read More

A Place to Stand – Br. Lain Wilson

John 8:21-30

When was the last time you walked into the ocean? Or sat on the sand with the surf washing up over you? Do you remember the force of the tide, the effort needed to maintain your footing or seat, to counter the push and pull of the current against your body so that you could remain planted in the sand, firm, upright? Do you remember saying to yourself, “Okay, now, I’ve got it,” just before a wave hit you and knocked you over?

Jesus’s listeners in today’s Gospel are trying to find their footing, to find a place to stand upright. “You will die in your sins unless you believe that I am he” (Jn 8:24). His listeners are desperate, pressing Jesus for details – so desperate that, even though they don’t understand what he is saying to them, nevertheless, “many believed in him” (Jn 8:30). But the current of Jesus’s truth will be too strong for them; by the end of this chapter, these same people who believed will try to stone Jesus (Jn 8:59). Their belief is without a firm foundation, unable to brace them against the next wave. Read More

First Comes Knowledge, Then Wisdom – Br. Curtis Almquist

Br. Curtis Almquist

Mark 6:1-6

Learned people were already impressed by the knowledge of this precocious Jesus by the time he was age 12, maybe earlier.[i] Now there is something more. He is age 30 or so, and now people are asking, “Where did this man get all this? What is this wisdom that has been given to him?”[ii] In the New Testament epistles, Jesus is named “the wisdom of God.”[iii] He is called the one “in whom all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden.”[iv] Wisdom and knowledge. Knowledge is about one’s breadth of information; wisdom is about one’s depth of understanding. Jesus had become wise.

The English words “wisdom” and “vision” come from the same etymological root.   Wisdom is a kind of deep seeing, an “in-sight,” what Saint Paul calls “the enlightening of the eyes of the heart.”[v] Wisdom is not a skill, nor is wisdom learned from a book. Wisdom is a gift from God, a seedling implanted in our soul at birth that needs to be cultivated. Here are two practices that cultivate the gift of wisdom. Read More

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

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

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