Have you heard the news? – Br. Geoffrey Tristram

Have you heard the news?  The papers are full of it.  They’ve been full of it every day in 2010.  And it’s mostly been bad news.  The terrible sufferings in Haiti after the January earthquake, and then the hurricane: the homelessness, the cholera.  And the seemingly endless cycle of violence, of suicide bombings – in Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine.  The plight of the Palestinian people and all who face injustice in the Holy Land.  The frightening escalations of war-like rhetoric, and threat of a nuclear attack in Korea.  And then this year, the appalling financial crisis , with so many suffering anxiety and loss – the loss of jobs, the loss of homes through mortgage foreclosure.  And then anxiety about our nation which seems so polarized between blue and red states, between wealthy and poor.  More and more bad news.

Such a diet of bad news, day after day, can profoundly affect the way that we see our own lives.  We can look back over 2010 and pick out the bad news – for ourselves, our families, our work, our homes.

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Longing for the Salvation of Christ – Br. James Koester

The Third Sunday of Advent

Isaiah 35: 1-10
Psalm 146: 4-9
James 5: 7-10
Matthew 11: 2-11

Several years ago one of my favourite newspaper columnists[i] wrote about how she loved going to Church on Christmas Eve, especially if there was a light snowfall that night. She wrote about how she loved to hear the nativity story and sing the Christmas carols familiar from her childhood. She wrote about how she would line up with the other members of the congregation and kneel before the altar, decorated with poinsettias, and receive Communion. She wrote about all this and then ended her column wondering why she bothered because even though she had grown up an Anglican, she had long ago stopped going to Church a long time ago because she didn’t believe a word of what was said in Church on Christmas Eve, or any other day for that matter.

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Longing for the Peace of Christ – Br. David Vryhof

Advent I

Today marks the beginning of the season of Advent, and thus the beginning of the Church’s year. Advent is a time of waiting, of longing, of anticipation. We are awaiting the coming of Christ. Over the next four Sundays, we will try to put into words what that means for us; we’ll describe what we are longing for and what we can expect to receive from the Christ who comes to us. The series is called, “Longing for Christ,” and the four parts are these:

I will be speaking today on the topic, “Longing for the Peace of Christ.”
Next week, Br. Geoffrey will speak about “Longing for the Judgment of Christ.”
Br. James will follow in week three with “Longing for the Salvation of Christ,”
and Br. Mark will complete the series by speaking on “Longing for the Light of Christ.”

_________

Human beings share a universal hope and longing for peace. It is a desire which seems to be deeply rooted in who we are. There are exceptions, of course: people so deeply damaged by life that their capacity to love and be loved is all but extinguished; wounded people whose lives are marked by hatred and fear, who wish others ill and who strike out at them with violent words and actions. But this is a distortion of what we are meant to be, a sign of our brokenness and of our separation from God. We were made to live in peace with one another and with the whole creation, and this desire is still present in most of us. We hope and long for peace.

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Here Be Dragons – Br. James Koester

Br. James KoesterFeast of the Baptism of Our Lord: The First Sunday after the Epiphany

Isaiah 43: 1 – 7; Psalm 29; Acts 8: 14 – 17; Luke 3: 15 – 17, 21 – 22

Did you notice it? Did you notice something different this past Christmas? There was something palpably different with our Christmas celebrations this year and I believe it had to do with the crèche.

It’s not, I think, that the crèche itself that was especially unusual. We have had unusual and thought provoking crèches in Christmases past. Some of you may remember the year we had the Holy Family as street people seeking shelter from the wind in the back corner of the chapel with Mary looking like one of the bag ladies we often see in Harvard Square. There was also the year that Mary was faceless, and in place of her face was a mirror so that when you gazed at her you saw your own reflection and somehow you knew that you too were meant to bear, and carry and give birth to the Incarnate Son of God in our world today. You may remember the year we had the almost life sized iconographic depictions of the Mary and Joseph and the Christ Child with the ox and ass peering over the stall. And last year we had that wonderful shadow-box Nativity scene carved from a single piece of wood. No, we’ve had unusual crèche scenes before, and oddly enough the crèche we had displayed this year was not all that unusual. No, what was unusual about this year was not the crèche itself, but rather how it demanded you to encounter it. Read More

God's Epiphany – Br. Geoffrey Tristram

Br. Geoffrey Tristram

“Wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, asking ‘Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews?  For we observed his star in the east, and have come to pay him homage.”

Who were these extraordinary people?  Only Matthew mentions them, but they have worked on the imaginations of centuries of worshippers.  By the 5th century these wise men had become kings.  By the 8th century they each had a name, and by the 14th century one was Asian, one European and one African, to represent the three continents of the known world – so Christ reveals himself, his Epiphany – to the whole world.

What fascinates me about them is what it is which caused these men who were probably wealthy, well-respected, comfortable – what made them leave their homes, and go on this long, dangerous journey?  The poet W. H. Auden put it this way, “We three know that this journey is much too long, that we want our dinners, and miss our wives, our books, our dogs.  But have only the vaguest idea why we are what we are.  To discover how to be human now, is the reason we follow the star.” Read More

The Flight into Egypt – Br. Eldridge Pendleton

Br. Eldridge PendletonJeremiah 31: 7-14; Psalm 84: 1-8; Ephesians 1: 3-6, 15-19a; Matthew 2: 13-15, 19-23

I have been reading Tracy Kidder’s Strength in What Remains, the story of a young Burundian Tutsi who fled for his life to the United States after great suffering and months of running and hiding during the genocidal holocaust that swept through Burundi and neighboring Rwanda fifteen years ago.  Throughout the long months of massacre in which he lost members of his family, friends and neighbors, Deo Gratias, for that is his name, lived in the forest a hunted man, constantly on the run, starving and sick, until a friend and former classmate at medical school (and, ironically, a Hutu, the ethnic group responsible for the slaughter), saved his life by helping him get a visa and a plane ticket to the United States.  Deo arrived in America virtually penniless, and without a job or the ability to speak English.  He barely survived.  Then a series of miraculous encounters involving a former nun, a lawyer, a childless couple and Dr. Paul Farmer turned his life around and enabled him to get a degree from Columbia, finish medical school, and embark on a project to build a free clinic in a remote area of Burundi that would not only minister to the sick but also bring peace and reconciliation to the warring ethnic factions of that region.  Experiencing years of such abject tragedy could easily have embittered him, but instead it had the opposite effect.  This is an amazing story of one man’s determination to work wonders against all odds, and how his personal dedication and sense of mission have inspired others and liberated them from fear and violence.

I came to this story of the Holy Family’s flight into exile in Egypt with the modern story of Deo’s escape to the United States fresh in my mind and remembered the many millions who have had to undergo similar traumatic moves to flee evil and death.  Read More

God Has Spoken to Us By a Son – Br. David Vryhof

Isaiah 52:7-10; Hebrews 1:1-4; John 1:1-14

A Christmas story – not from Dickens, but from Kierkegaard:

Once upon a time, there was a powerful and wise king who fell in love with a beautiful maiden who lived in his kingdom.  The king’s problem was this: how to tell her of his love?  He called for the best and brightest of his consultants and asked their advice.  He wanted to do this in the best and most proper way – and, of course, he hoped his love would be cherished by the maiden and returned.  But when all of his advisors had had their say, the king was left disappointed.  For every one of them had counseled him in the same way.  “Show up at the maiden’s house,” they said, “dressed in all your royal finery.  Dazzle her with the power of your presence and with your riches.  Overwhelm her with expensive gifts.  What girl could resist?  Who would reject such an opportunity, or turn away from such an honor?  Who would possibly refuse a king?  And if need be,” they added, “you can always command her to become your wife.” Read More

Christmas Eve Sermon – Br. Curtis Almquist

Br. Curtis Almquist

O God, you have caused this holy night to shine with the

brightness of the true Light: Grant that we, who have known

the mystery of that Light on earth, may also enjoy him

perfectly in heaven; where with you and the Holy Spirit he

lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.

This great olive-wood crèche scene which trails down the center of the chapel came to us through the craftsmanship of Palestinian woodcarvers in Bethlehem.  Aside from the baby Jesus, whom we’ve all come to adore, my favorite piece is the biggest camel, with its majestic green saddle skirt, and the wise man at its side.  The Gospel tradition tells the story of wise men, living in Arabia, who brought treasure chests full of gold, and frankincense, and myrrh to present to Mary and Joseph, parents of this infant child Jesus, who was prophesied to be the Messiah.[i] There’s no record that the wise men were Jewish.  They were among the many, “outside the household of faith,” who were awaiting the coming of the Messiah.  They reportedly followed the sign of a star which led them to Bethlehem.   Today we would probably call these wise men “astrologers” or “shamen” or “soothsayers.”  There’s very little recorded about their encounter with the Holy Family.  We read that they shared in the homage and joy of all those around that original crèche.  However there’s no record that they “changed religions” upon meeting Jesus.  (Maybe so; maybe not.  We know even among our Jewish and Muslim sisters and brothers that Jesus is revered, and so, perhaps this was the case for these “wise men.”  We don’t know.)  We do know that King Herod was quite threatened by the birth of this so-called infant king, a potential rival.  And Herod wanted a full report from the wise men after they had visited the newborn child.  Herod was up to no good, a realization the wise men woke up to in a dream.  The Gospel record reports that they avoided Herod by changing their course of travel, and “went to their home country by another way.” Read More

Becoming John-like – Br. James Koester

Feast of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist

Isaiah 40: 1-11
Psalm 85: 7-13
Acts 13: 14b-26
Luke 1: 57-80

Six months ago we celebrated the birth of a baby. And not just any baby, but a particular baby whose birth and life and death and life changed the course of world history. But the birth of that baby did not just change world history; it also changed the lives and histories of countless women and men throughout the centuries, including each one of us. None of us here in the chapel tonight have had our lives untouched by the One whose birth we celebrated last December. Even the most skeptical and cynical, the most casual, or simply the most curious here tonight have been changed in incalculable ways by that birth. If that were not true, why are you not home making supper even as we speak?

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Saint John the Evangelist, the Beloved Disciple – Br. Curtis Almquist

Br. Curtis AlmquistShed upon your Church, O Lord, the brightness of your light, that we, being illumined by the teaching of your evangelist John the Beloved, may so walk in the light of your truth, that at length we may attain to the fullness of eternal life; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

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