Not Waving But Drowning – Br. Geoffrey Tristram

Twenty years ago Carl McCunn, a wildlife photographer, travelled into the remote heart of Alaska, intent on spending several months close to nature, hunting and fending for himself.  But he miscalculated.  He ran out of food, and the weather turned exceptionally bad.  He became weaker and weaker, and recorded every day in his diary his growing despair and crippling frostbite.

But friends, who were wondering how he was managing, asked State Troopers to fly over his camp to see if he was OK.  Carl ran out, full of excitement, when he heard the plane, and he wrote in his diary that he was so elated to see the plane that “I recall raising my hand, shoulder high, and shaking my fist – it was like a little cheer.”  That was a big mistake – for that was the signal for “All OK – do not wait” – and the plane circled around, the pilot waved and flew off, thinking all was well. Carl had given the wrong signal.  Three months later he was dead.

There is something haunting in this story.  For me, it is a metaphor of life lived in isolation, where your signal of distress is either not noticed or misunderstood.  A friend of mine who is a doctor said that isolation is probably the most common disease in America today.  So many family units are fractured and more people live alone today than ever before in American history.  The lack of interpersonal relationships causes severe loneliness to millions.  Please look at me.  Talk to me. Read More

Sermon at the Eucharist of the Resurrection in honor of Br. John Mathis SSJE (1923 – 2011) – Br. Geoffrey Tristram

We come together today to give thanks to God for John.  We give thanks that after a long life of many struggles, but also many blessings, God has now called John home.

As I was praying over today’s Scriptures, one line in particular from St. John’s Gospel stood out for me: “Jesus said, ‘anyone who comes to me I will never drive away’.” And that for me is an apt way of describing John’s remarkable ministry. Like his Lord he would never ignore or turn away from someone in need, however desperate their lives had become.

The first time I met John was thirteen years ago, when I first visited the monastery.  He was walking slowly towards Harvard Square in his own rather distinct habit: those blue denim farmers’ overalls!  When I introduced myself, his whole face lit up with that wonderful smile – which has given hope and encouragement to so many over the years. Read More

Called to Life – Br. Geoffrey Tristram

Luke 5: 1–11

This evening I am so full of thanksgiving that after more than a year we brothers are able to welcome you back to our Tuesday evening Eucharist. It is so appropriate that our Gospel today is all about vocation: about how God calls us to life.

The monastery is here because in 1866 Richard Meux Benson, Charles Grafton, and Simeon Wilberforce O’Neil answered God’s call and founded the Society of St John the Evangelist.  We are all here tonight because in different ways we too have heard the call of God in our own lives and have said yes. Read More

Here Am I, Lord – Br. Geoffrey Tristram

“They heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden at the time of the evening breeze, and the man and the woman hid themselves from God.  But the Lord called to the man, and said, ‘Where are you’?” (Gen 3:8-9)

Those words, “Where are you?” send a shiver through me.  They express in just three words something of the terrible existential loneliness, the alienation of life lived cut off from God.  These words perhaps also express something of the pain and sadness of God when he loses his children, when they break their relationship with him.  God’s plaintive cry ‘where are you’ is his heart-broken response to what Milton in Paradise Lost calls “man’s first disobedience.”

But there are three other words which are spoken time after time throughout Scripture.  And these words, coursing through Scripture like a drum beat, are full of hope, full of promise for the mending of our relationship with God, and of the return of prodigal humanity to the loving heart of God.  These three words are words of faithfulness and obedience, words which will allow God to redeem that which was lost, and bring all of humanity back into relationship with him.  These three words are “Here am I.”  If “Where are you?” are the most tragic words in Scripture, then “Here am I” are the most hopeful. Read More

Be Perfect – Br. Geoffrey Tristram

Matthew 5:48

One of the happiest times of my life was the five years I spent as a teacher in a large Anglican high school in England. It was wonderful to be able to help young men and women grow and mature into adulthood. One of the greatest challenges though was not the children but their parents! It was a very academic school, and some children were put under an awful lot of pressure to perform by parents who made a tremendous fuss if their child dropped a grade. It could have a really crippling effect on a child to have every piece of work examined forensically by a judgmental parent. And a child could begin to feel that her parents’ love was dependant on how well she performed at school.

In our Gospel reading today (Matt. 5:38-48) there is a sentence which sounds horribly like some of those demanding parents: “Be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matt 5:48)

“Be perfect? How can I be perfect?”

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God's Work of Art – Br. Geoffrey Tristram

Epiphany II

Four times a day when I was at seminary in England we were called to chapel by the sound of a bell.  And on that bell were inscribed, in Greek, the words “faithful is he who calls.” (1 Th 5:24) Faithful is he who calls.  And our readings today on this second Sunday of Epiphany are all about being called.

In Isaiah we read, “The Lord called me before I was born.  While I was in my mother’s womb he named me.”  Called into being – and named.  That is what God has been doing from the beginning of Genesis, where he called the creation into being and then named it.  “God called the light Day and the darkness he called Night.”

Each one of us were called into being by God – and given a name to show that we have a unique and special vocation.  “The Lord called me before I was born.  While I was in my mother’s womb he named me.”  We are not just anybody – not just a number, a statistic.

We are each unique.  We are, each of us, as the Psalmist puts it, “fearfully and wonderfully made.” (Ps 139:14)

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Come Alive in Christ – Br. Geoffrey Tristram

I love cities. They can be so full of life and excitement: but they can also be suffocating, claustrophobic.  I was once staying with my brother Michael in a small apartment in the middle of Manchester, England, one August weekend.  It was hot and oppressive. So we took off into the country, the lovely Peak District, which is a bit like the hills of Vermont.  We climbed for hours up to the top of one of the highest hills called Kinder Scout. We were exhausted, but wonderfully exhilarated.  We drank in the air in great thirsty gulps and as we breathed we felt intoxicated by the fresh air and the amazing views…and we started leaping around and shouting and screaming with sheer delight.  A couple of hikers below us looked up and I think they probably thought we were drunk.

Today is the Day of Pentecost. On this day the gift of divine power came down upon the disciples, and there was no mistaking it, for it was accompanied by an experience which pounded their senses.  Divine power was invading them.  An intense catastrophic experience; a rushing wind, tongues of fire; a power beyond human lives invading human lives. Tongues like fire rested on each of them and they then began to speak in other languages.  It must have been an extraordinary scene, the disciples as amazed as everyone else.  Perhaps they were leaping around in their ecstatic state.  No wondered some scoffed and said, “They are filled with new wine!” (Acts 2:13) Read More

Follow Me – Br. David Vryhof

Mark 1:16-20

Today we observe the feast of St Mark the Evangelist.  An evangelist is, by definition, “a bearer of good news,” and Mark the Evangelist declares his good news in the gospel that bears his name.  Mark’s gospel, thought by many to be the earliest of the four gospels and presumed to have been written before the fall of Jerusalem in 70 A.D., presents Jesus as the Son of God and bears witness to the mighty works that he did.  For those who have eyes to see, Mark wants us to know, these mighty acts are signs of God’s power and evidence of the coming of God’s kingdom.

Early in his gospel the evangelist describes the calling of Jesus’ first disciples.  This account, which we have just heard read, is part of Mark’s “good news,” so let’s reflect for a few moments on the story, and see what good news there might be for us in it.  Read More

Called to Serve – Br. David Vryhof

a sermon based on John 13:1-17, 31b-35

Old Testament scholar Walter Brueggemann once suggested the following definition for the word “vocation.” A vocation, he said, is “a purpose for being in the world that is related to the purposes of God.”

There can be no doubt that Jesus had a deep sense of vocation, a sense that his purpose for being in the world was directly related to the purposes of God. Again and again, he repeats the claim that he has been sent into the world by the Father – not to do his own will, but God’s will; not to accomplish his own purposes, but God’s purposes. The words that he speaks and the deeds of power that he does are signs of God’s light and life breaking into the world. He knows the Father and has come to reveal the Father’s will to those who believe, so that they may have power to live as “children of God.” He has come to “lay down his life” in order that they might have “eternal life.” He has come, not to be served, but to serve.

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Called by God – Br. James Koester

Br. James Koester

Isaiah 6: 1 – 8 (9 – 13); Psalm 138; 1 Corinthians 15: 1 – 11; Luke 5: 1 -11

Did you hear it? Did you hear that just a moment ago?

No? You didn’t?

I thought I heard something. Maybe I am hearing things!

There! There it is again! Did you hear it this time?

Ah you, you, back there. You heard it too didn’t you?

So I’m not hearing things, or rather I really am hearing things.

There, there it is again! Very faint. Almost a whisper.

James. James. James

There you heard it too this time, didn’t you?

That’s the problem isn’t it? It always seems to be a whisper. It never seems to be a shout. Or, at least, not for me. For whatever reason, God never seems to shout when trying to get my attention. God always uses his “inside voice” as my mother used to call it: “Jamie,” she would say, “use you inside voice,” whenever I shouted, or spoke too loudly or cried out something. That’s the voice that God always seems to use, at least with me: his “inside voice”. Shouting, and calling, and crying out, and throwing people off their horses is great stuff, but that’s not how I hear God. I hear God in a whisper; in a look; in a turn of the head; in a subtle expression on a face. That’s how I hear God. Not in shouts and cries and loud calls.

It seems that it was easier for those first disciples. It seems that Jesus spoke to them, spoke to them directly, and in no uncertain terms. To Simon Peter and his companions today he says: “Do not be afraid: from now on you will be catching people.”[1] In other places, Jesus was even more specific. He says to those two followers of John the Baptist, Andrew and his companion: “Come and see.”[2] And to Matthew as he sat at the tax booth “Follow me.”[3] It would have been so much easier if that were the case for me. Instead with me there is just a small voice saying over and over and over: James, James, James. Read More