Overlightened by Good News – Br. Jack Crowley

Br. Jack Crowley headshot

Br. Jack Crowley

John 20:1-9

Don’t worry, each of these sermons is only five minutes long. You won’t be here all day. There will be plenty of time for the garden party.

One of my favorite parts of today’s Gospel passage is how it is overshadowed by good news. Overshadowed is probably not the right word, so I’ll make one up, maybe overlightened would be better.

The good news of Jesus’ resurrection overlightens the bad news of how this Gospel passage starts. That morning started really dimly. The only thing the Beloved Disciple knew that morning was that Jesus was dead and his body was missing.

So he ran. The Beloved Disciple ran, but he did not run away. He did the opposite. He ran to the tomb.

I always try to imagine how the Beloved Disciple’s felt during that run to the tomb. At some point in life, we all get acquainted with that feeling of anxiety and excitement swirling together. That feeling that makes your leg wobble, but you keep moving because sometimes that’s the only thing you can do.

The race to the tomb was an act of desperation, an act of faith, and an act of life. We all have our own race to the tomb. More importantly, we all have our own race to the resurrection. Our own jagged journey to the realization that life continues after death. This is not it. This thing of ours keeps going after we die.

Can you imagine the joy the Beloved Disciple must have felt when he realized what had happened? The good news that Jesus had in fact risen. The Beloved Disciple realized not only what had happened, but what Jesus’ resurrection implied. We too will rise again.

Until we get there, we too have lives to live. Lives mixed with action and contemplation. Lives full of running and realization. The good news is that we know the good news. We have time. We have time and more than a lifetime to figure it all out. What we cannot get done now, we will get done on the other side of this life.

Of course this does not mean we get to be lazy. The Christian life is a demanding life. It’s a life that demands meaning, and for us to make that meaning with God, ourselves, and one another. We must do this every day of our lives and beyond.

Remain – Br. Luke Ditewig

Br. Luke Ditewig

Acts 1:15-26
John 15:1, 6-16

St. Matthias

Today is the feast of St. Matthias who replaced Judas among the twelve apostles. Matthias had been with them since John baptized Jesus in the Jordan. He witnessed Jesus’ ministry with the crowds, heard the teaching, witnessed healings, had his own personal and communal experience of Jesus. Probably he was one of the 70 whom Jesus sent out and later was at the crucifixion. Hardly anything is written about him. The apostles selected two candidates. They drew lots thereby choosing Matthias.

The group probably wasn’t seeking a big personality. They already had that in Peter, James, and John. Now they were amid grief and change as Jesus had ascended back to heaven. Instead, they likely sought stability, one who had stuck it out with them and whom they trusted would remain. Remaining with through grief and loss is hard.

In language from the gospel, Matthias chose “to abide in Christ” and this company of friends. Abide can mean to live in, to make yourself at home. Abide also means to remain or to stick with through challenge. Jesus says the Father stuck with me. I’ll stick with you no matter what. Abide in my love, Jesus says. Remain with me.   Read More

Ash Wednesday Hangover – Br. Jack Crowley 

Br. Jack Crowley headshot

Br. Jack Crowley

Luke 9:18-25

The Thursday after Ash Wednesday feels like a hangover. Shrove Tuesday is full of excitement and pancakes. Ash Wednesday is solemn and full of reflective work. Then this Thursday comes along, and it doesn’t even have its own nickname. It’s just the second day of Lent.  

In any journey, there’s always that feeling when the initial excitement of something beginning has worn off and you get a sense of how long the journey is actually going to take. It’s that part of a hike when after a mile or two you get a glimpse of the mountaintop through the trees and say oh wow, that’s a long way from here. 

Six weeks from today, we Brothers will be sitting up here waiting for our Superior James to wash our feet. In between this Thursday after Ash Wednesday and Maundy Thursday, there will be six weeks of daily life and all the joys and challenges that goes with it.  

It’s with that spirit of daily life that makes the readings for two day of Lent perfect. In our Gospel this morning, Jesus tells his disciples that anyone who wants to follow him must “take up their cross daily.” I love how Jesus uses that word daily. Jesus didn’t have to include that word daily. Jesus could have just said that anyone who wants to follow him has to take up their cross. The fact that Jesus purposefully put in that word daily gets at something important to the Christian experience.   Read More

On Shepherds and Sheep – Br. Jim Woodrum

Br. Jim Woodrum

Matthew 18:12-24

Many of you are aware of my special affinity for angels. These mysterious figures make appearances throughout scripture, filling the depths of my imagination with stories of their continuous worship in heaven, particularly as described in the Revelation to John. If there were a runner-up for the affections of my heart, it would probably be shepherds. The primary responsibility of these country-dwellers was the husbandry and protection of flocks of sheep entrusted to their care.

In Luke, chapter two, we learn that shepherds were the first to receive the news of Jesus’ birth, announced to them by a multitude of angels. In just under two weeks, we may soon find ourselves singing a popular Christmas carol that begins: “While shepherds watched their flocks by night, all seated on the ground, the angel of the Lord came down, and glory shone around.”[i]

Throughout scripture, we encounter numerous references to shepherds. For example, the renowned King David of the Old Testament served as a shepherd for his father Jesse’s flock during his youth. King David, who was not only a shepherd but also a skilled musician and credited as the author of the Psalter, likely penned the words found in Psalm 23:

“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not be in want. Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”[ii] Read More

Life Giving Choices – Br. David Vryhof

Br. David Vryhof

Matthew 7:21-27

In Matthew chapter 7, Jesus concludes his famous “Sermon on the Mount” with a series of contrasting images:

13-15       There is a narrow gate and a wide gate, says Jesus.  The narrow gate leads to a hard road, while the wide gate opens to an easy road.  The first leads to life, while the second leads to destruction.

15-16       There are good prophets and false prophets, says Jesus.  The false prophets are those who come “in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.”  You will be able to distinguish between them by their fruits, he assures us.

16-20       Similarly, there are good trees that bear good fruit and bad trees that bear bad fruit, Jesus tells us.  The good trees remain and continue to produce good fruit, but the bad trees are cut down and cast into the fire.

21-23       Then, Jesus says, there are those who say to me “Lord, Lord” and who do the will of my Father in heaven, and there are those who say, “Lord, Lord,” but do not do the will of the Father.  The first group will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the second group will be sent away. Read More

Falling and Rising – Br. Geoffrey Tristram

Br. Geoffrey Tristram

Philippians 3: 4b-14

A visitor to a monastery went up to the abbot, and asked him, ‘What do you monks do all day? The abbot replied, ‘We fall down and we get up again. We fall down and we get up again.’ I think that is a pretty good description not just of the monastic life, but of the Christian life itself. It describes I think each one of us who try to follow Jesus Christ. As we try to live this life, we inevitably fall, mess up, we make mistakes, we sin, we fall short. But what is also true about this life of discipleship, is that when we do fall, Jesus is always there ready to pick us up. That is the paradigm of the Christian life: falling and getting up again, dying and being raised to new life.

Many years ago, I spent time living in a monastery in Belgium. It was very influenced by the Eastern Orthodox Church, and the monks had adopted many Orthodox practices. The one I loved most happened during Lent. Whenever we entered the church during Lent, each of us, including the oldest monks, would not just bow to the altar, but we would fall down onto our hands and knees and touch the ground with our foreheads, acknowledging that we are but dust. But we didn’t stay there! Having acknowledging our fallenness, we immediately jumped up, because Christ has raised us up. I used to love doing that! Read More

Chosen to Share – Br. Luke Ditewig

Br. Luke Ditewig

St. Mary Magdalene

John 20:11-18

“I have seen the Lord.” Today we celebrate Mary Magdalene. After his resurrection, Jesus first appeared to Mary. Jesus first sent Mary to share the good news.

We know little of her story, but Jesus chose Mary. Jesus cast out from her seven demons. She experienced release and freedom, love and compassion. Mary traveled with and followed Jesus, witnessing his ministry. Receiving much, she kept coming, as she did even to the tomb.

Weeping, Mary did not recognize nor fear angels as most do. She did not recognize Jesus when he appeared. When Jesus called Mary by name, she turned and recognized him. It’s a brief and beautiful portrait. Hearing, turning, she was found again, seeing her Savior and friend. Jesus sent Mary to tell others the good news of what she saw and heard from Jesus.

Mary Magdalene is, especially for John, the prime example for us of being a Christian. First, Jesus chose Mary and healed her. She followed along and witnessed his teaching. Jesus continued to come, surprise, and reveal including amid deep grief. Jesus sent Mary to share what she knew, first to a small group of men huddled in fear. Mary was apostle to the apostles.

How did you come to know Jesus chose you? How have you experienced healing, divine compassion, and love? How is Jesus further being revealed now, showing up including in your need? Keep sharing the good news of how you see Jesus as did Blessed Mary Magdalene, whom we remember today.

What Are You Looking For? – Br. Curtis Almquist

Br. Curtis Almquist

John 1:29-42

We could infer from this Gospel account that John and Jesus had met for the very first time the day before, when John baptized Jesus. John had said, “I myself did not know him.” Not so. They did know one another. They were cousins. They would have known each other since their births, their impossible-to-believe births, which had been predicted by angels. Angels, no less! Jesus, born to an unmarried mother who insisted she had not had a sexual union; John born to a mother who was old enough to be his great grandmother.

If it was important enough for Mary, while she was pregnant, to travel the 90 miles from Nazareth to the Judean hills to see her pregnant Aunt Elizabeth, John’s mother, it is unimaginable that they would not have visited each other after the births of their miraculous sons.[i] Visited many times. No one in the world could understand one another like these two couples could: Mary and Joseph, and Aunt Elizabeth and Uncle Zechariah. These two boys, Jesus and John, had to have known one another, and probably looked to each other, befriended each other, confided in each other, shared the burden of their imposed identities with one another. Both of them loved going into the desert. Maybe they camped together? They were cousins, virtually the same age, the only child of their parents. Neither son had married; neither had pursued a profession that was identified; neither, it seems, had found their voice to fulfill the “angelic predictions” until rather late in life. Both of them, at the time of this Gospel account, were about age 30. They had to have known one another. And known each other very well. Read More

Called and Sent: Becoming Apostles – Br. Keith Nelson

St. Andrew the Apostle

Deuteronomy 30:11-14;
Romans 10:8b-18;
Matthew 4:18-22

In the Eastern Church, St. Andrew is known by the title Protokletos: St. Andrew, the First-Called.

In this first week of Advent, the first week of the liturgical year, today’s feast provides a simple but profound opportunity to return to first principles.

In a contemplative spirit, we can pause to reconsider some fundamental questions about what it means to be called by Jesus, and what it means to be sent.

Through whom did Jesus first call you? Read More

The One Thing Necessary – Br. Keith Nelson

Luke 10:38-42

In the world of spiritual care, there is an oft-quoted adage. It seems especially common in the world of hospital chaplaincy:

“Don’t just do something. Stand there.”

I first heard it from the novelist John Green, whose experience as a hospital chaplain shaped his authorial approach to empathy. During my own months as a chaplain intern last Fall, this deceptively simple reminder kept me centered in the demands of my role. While I in fact did, and said, and asked many things, it was ultimately just standing or sitting there in loving availability that God would use to open a healing space in a patient’s experience.

Allowing ourselves to be loved by God, as Jesus did, also requires some degree of just sitting there, as Mary of Bethany did in Jesus’ presence. But consenting to this transformation at the core of our being is anything but passive: it is our single greatest challenge. To the world, that process looks like nothing. But to Jesus, it is the one thing necessary.

In Luke, we encounter two women who respond in love to the presence of Jesus in their home. The fact that they are women is crucial to Luke’s exploration of genuine presence. Read More