You Are a Spice Rack – Br. Lain Wilson

John 7:37-52
Psalm 7:6-11

I’m sure most of us have spices in our pantries that just don’t get used that often. For me it’s fennel seed. I don’t really know what to do with it, and I’m happy using all the other, familiar spices.

And I’m sure that most of us can agree that cooking with just salt and pepper can be fairly boring.

As rich as the psalmist’s conception of God is, his descriptions of fellow people often feel a bit like salt-and-pepper cooking to me—simple binaries, like “righteous” and “wicked,” or types—the faithless friend. Of course, this isn’t what the Psalms are about; nevertheless, I often can’t help feeling a bit dissatisfied.

This morning’s Gospel reading displays a different dynamic. John describes the crowd as divided into at least three groups, in addition to the various authorities (who are themselves divided), and Jesus and his followers. This is a dramatic scene, with different beliefs, commitments, values, and desires demarcating the lines between and within the groups.

Nicodemus represents this. He’s a Pharisee and leader (Jn 3:1; Jn 7:50), who lays claim to “our law,” committed to both its authority and limitations. He’s also possibly a secret follower of Jesus, having come to him under cover of night earlier in the narrative. What he shows us here is not that his identities are exclusive, but that their coincidence, mixing, and expression make him an individual, set apart from the group. They give him agency, make him able to reach out, to speak for, to meet and relate with others in a different way. Read More

The Capacious Heart of Bishop Hilary – Br. Curtis Almquist

Br. Curtis Almquist

Hilary of Poitiers

1 John 2:18-25

In the calendar of the church we remember today a fourth-century bishop named Hilary of Poitiers, what is now central France. Hilary was pilloried. Bishop Hilary was rejected and betrayed by a good many people, including those closest to him. Bishop Hilary was convinced that the love of Jesus and that Hilary’s own love for Jesus needed to be capacious to encompass all those whom Jesus loves, including those who so meanly rejected Hilary.

The Greek word “epiphany” means manifestation, which is a clear revelation. The church’s observance of the season of Epiphany is inspired by the wise men from the east who visited the Christ Child.[i] They were foreigners, most likely not Jewish, and yet they were received, honored, and remembered. From the very start, Jesus consistently bequeathed dignity and showed the warmest welcome to the widest cast of people, not just to kindred spirits, not just to those with gold, frankincense, and myrrh, but also to those among the least, and the last, and the lost. Lepers come in many forms, and Jesus was at home with everyone. Read More

Expansive Love – Br. Luke Ditewig

Br. Luke Ditewig

Matthew 2:14-21

Fiber, beads, pigment, wax, wood, copper, historic rosters and photos, digital image and database software. We Brothers played with these and more for a week of creativity. Diverse mediums for diverse persons, each in the image of our Divine Maker.

Matthew opens his telling of the good news with a genealogy notably including four courageous women: Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and Bathsheba. Their stories and that of sinful husbands Judah and David are scandalous. All four are foreigners. Jesus’ bloodline is not only Jewish but also Canaanite, Moabite, and Hittite. Jesus came for the world from the world.[i] Read More

What is it Like Being You? – Br. Jim Woodrum

James 2:1-13

In the year 2006, author John Koenig began a writing project based on his observation that there were no words to describe certain common existential feelings and emotions. These holes in the language inspired him to research etymologies, prefixes, suffixes and root words which resulted in a weblog of neologisms and their definitions (a neologism being a newly coined word or expression that has not quite found its way into common use).  John defines the word lutalica as: the part of your identity that doesn’t fit into categories. Koenig posits that when we are born, we immediately get labeled, categorized, and put into box for the convenience of never having to go to the trouble of looking inside. In this way, we lose a sense of who we are and begin searching elsewhere for our identity. In regards to this dissonance, he writes: “We all want to belong to something. But part of you is still rattling around inside these categories and labels that could never do you justice.”[i]

In our reading from the Letter of James, the author has given us an admonition about distinctions. It is not about the eradication of distinctions. Distinction in the basic sense is simply the quality or state of being distinguishable. If we take a good look at the world around us we can see the rich diversity of God’s creation, and we show forth that same diversity. In Genesis we read that on the sixth day of creation, God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness.” That word ‘our,’ points to the complex creation of a God whose very nature is diverse. Read More

Humble Recognition – Br. Jim Woodrum

Matthew 8:5-17

In our lection from Matthew this morning we observe something in Jesus that is rarely expressed in the gospels: we see a display of emotion.  Other instances include Jesus feeling compassion: as in the hungry crowds who endlessly follow or seek an audience with him.  Or in the case of the rich young ruler who when asking what he must do to inherit eternal life, the gospel of Mark says that Jesus loved him before telling him to go and sell all his goods then follow him.  With all the dinner invitations Jesus received, I am sure there had to be some merriment and laughter during his ministry and I wish we had a confirmation that Jesus did in fact share a good chuckle with his friends.  We know that in John’s gospel, Jesus wept in grief over the sadness surrounding the death of his friend, Lazarus.  Today, we hear that Jesus was amazed.  What is it exactly that could amaze the incarnation of God?

In this story we observe two men, from two cultures, sharing the same geography.  Both men are powerful; both men have authority; both men have a following.  From the outset, it may look as if the only thing different about them are how they look.  One man is a Roman centurion, an enforcer of the Roman occupation of Palestine, a Gentile dressed in the finest uniform of the Roman army which displays his elite social status.  The other man is an itinerant rabbi, a teacher and reformer, a Jew dressed in the clothes of nomad.  The one thing they have in common is humility.

Jesus has displayed his humility in the willingness to reach the most disenfranchised of his people.  In the reading just prior to our gospel this morning, we observe Jesus grant the request of a leper who asks to be made clean.  Lepers were outcasts of society due to the vileness of their disease which was highly contagious and for which there was no cure.  Jesus not only confronts the man who requests to be healed, but actually touches him in the process.  This alone would have made Jesus ‘unclean’ in the eyes of the temple leaders and unfit to enter the temple.  Yet Jesus heals him and tells him to go show himself to the temple leaders and to give his gift in thanksgiving Read More

These Desperate and Opportune Times – Br. Curtis Almquist

Trinity Sunday
Genesis 1:1—2:4a
Corinthians 13:11-13

Saint Augustine, the African bishop and theologian of the early 5th century, spent many years writing about God as a Trinity of Persons, a mystery which both consumed his attention and yet eluded his understanding.[i] So the story goes, he was walking by the seaside one day, meditating on the Trinity, how God could be One essence, and yet, at the same time, three Persons. He came onto a little child. The child had dug a small hole in the sand, and with a seashell was scooping water from the ocean into the hole. Augustine watched him for a little while and finally asked the child what he was doing. The child answered that he wanted to scoop all the water from the sea and pour it into the hole in the sand. Augustine felt impelled to correct the child. “That is impossible,” Augustine said. “The sea is too large and the hole is too small.” And now it was this child who was impelled to correct Augustine. The child said, “That is true, but I will sooner draw all the water from the sea and empty it into this hole than you will succeed in penetrating the mystery of the Holy Trinity with your limited understanding.” Augustine turned away in amazement, and when he looked back, the child had disappeared. Augustine had been put in his place, not a bad place, but simply in a place of recognition that he, too, was a child of God, a God whom he would mysteriously experience but never fully understand. Read More

The Epiphany Revelation – Br. Curtis Almquist

curtis4

Matthew 2:1-12

These wise men who had come from the East, who are they?  The New Testament Greek name for them is “magoi” or, as we would say, “magi,” which means occult prac­tition­ers, fortune tellers, wizards, priestly augurs , and magicians.[i]  (The English word, “magician,” comes from the Greek, magi.)  The Greek name magi also includes astrologers , and so it’s no wonder that they reportedly saw a certain star rising, knew it was significant, and followed it.  What was this star?  There’s been endless speculation down through the centuries, some of it based on the Zodiac; some of it based on astronomy.  Maybe the star was a supernova, maybe a comet, maybe a “planetary conjunction” (some astronomers dating Jupiter and Saturn and Mars passing each other around the birth year of Jesus)?  The Gospel according to Matthew makes neither explanation nor apology for asserting that they followed a star. Read More