The Brakes: Learning Conflict Resolution

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“Oh, That I Had Wings Like a Dove”

 

I didn’t experience healthy examples of conflict resolution growing up. My parents were not happy in their marriage, and while there was no physical violence, wars of words were an everyday occurrence. Bullying was prevalent all through my primary and secondary education, with antagonism coming from both peers and teachers. Apparently if you wanted to motivate someone to behave and perform the way you wanted them to, there was no method more powerful than invoking fear and shame. You’re lazy. We’re just trying to learn how to live with you. You need to grow up. Why can’t you get your act together? These phrases I’ve heard and experienced my whole life.

Maybe this is why I have always had difficulty with conflict resolution. Throughout my life, I’ve wondered why there appear to be so many others who engage in conflict and emerge unscathed.

What about you? If you are like me, you may know the experience of having been bullied as a child and/or adult. You may have been singled out for ridicule based on your looks, your clothes, your interests, or your intellect. Perhaps you have been at the receiving end of verbal abuse from a teacher, mentor, employer, or someone whom you held in high esteem. Maybe you have felt dismissed by a friend, family member, or spouse, and have felt unworthy of love, respect, or dignity.

According to an article published online by Psychology Today, verbal aggression not only damages a child’s self-esteem, but also has been found to alter the development of a child’s brain. Studies show that emotional pain affects the same part of the brain as physical pain, and that verbal aggression can be internally absorbed by the body. Author Peg Streep summarized the science this way: “Words are powerful—they can lift us up and beat us down, soothe us or wound us.” Read More

Faith and Fate – Br. Curtis Almquist

Br. Curtis Almquist

Genesis 17:1-8 

The ancient land of Canaan, promised by God’s covenant to the children of Abraham, includes modern-day Israel and Palestine and territories beyond: a huge swath of geographic, cultural, and religious diversity, then and now.[i] Christians, Jews, and Muslims alike claim our heritage in the Abrahamic covenant.

A covenant is not the same as a contract. A contract is a transaction; a covenant is a relationship. A covenant presumes a transformative change can and will happen in all parties if we respect our common heritage and listen to one another. And for the world today, the stakes are so very high, don’t we know? Christians, Jews, and Muslims do not share the same faith; however we do share the same fate.[ii]

The English word “religion” comes from the Latin, religare, which means “to hold fast,” to be steadfast. Religion is a spiritual “ligament” which holds the parts together. The word religion also comes from the same etymological root as our word “rely” – rely not just on God, but rely on one another, for the love of God. I’m speaking about appropriating this “vertical” covenantal relationship with God also in “horizontal” ways with one another: to share our needs, hopes, and fears in faithfulness to one another, to do together what we cannot do alone. It is to share the Abrahamic covenant with the other Abrahamic traditions.

We here are far from Jerusalem, what the psalmist calls “the center of the world,” and right now the center stage with so many world onlookers, some of them malevolent.[iii] What are we to do? I suggest two things:

  • Listen to the other. Wherever we find ourselves in an oppositional posture, to lower our own “dividing wall of hostility” so as to be able to see and listen to the other.[iv] Not to correct them, or to change them, but to listen to them, which bequeaths dignity.
  • Pray for peace. It’s to take Jesus at his word that he has given us his peace, from the inside out.[v] Where we experience absence of peace:

Breathe in the strife; breathe out peace.
Breathe in the strife; breathe out peace.
Breathe in the strife; breathe out peace.
Breathe in the strife; breathe out peace…  

Breathe in the fear; breathe out peace.
Breathe in the fear; breathe out peace.
Breathe in the fear; breathe out peace.
Breathe in the fear; breathe out peace…

“Come, Lord Jesus.”[vi]


[i] The ancient land of Canaan includes modern-day Israel and the West Bank of the Jordan River, much of Lebanon, and portions of Syria, Jordan, and the Sinai Peninsula (now controlled by Egypt).

[ii] I am drawing on the teaching of Sir Rabbi Jonathan Sacks (1948-2020), “The Relationship between the People and God,” presented by Rabbi Sacks at the Lambeth Conference of Anglican bishops in July 2008. Rabbi Sacks served as the Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth 1991-2013.

[iii] The Holy Land is a tiny pinpoint on the world map; however the psalmist proclaims (48:2): “Beautiful and lofty, the joy of all the earth, is the hill of Zion, the very center of the world and the city of the great King.”

[iv] In Ephesians 2:14-17, we read that Christ Jesus “is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us…”

[v] John 14:27.

[vi] From 1 Corinthians 16:22, the Aramaic word Maranatha: “Come Lord Jesus.”

In the Midst of Fear

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Let it go

- at least for now -

In the Midst of Fear

Br. David Vryhof


You may know what it is to be sailing through life in radiant sunlight when, swiftly and unexpectedly, a storm arises, and you suddenly find yourself swamped by mighty waves and tossed about by terrible winds. Perhaps it’s an unexpected calamity – a health issue, an accident, some kind of assault, or some other unforeseen suffering – that affects you or your loved ones. Or maybe it’s tragedy on a national or global scale that frightens you: the threat of violence, political upheaval, or environmental disaster.  Or perhaps it’s something that hasn’t happened, but could happen. There is much to be afraid of in life, and at times our fears can seem truly great, and we can feel so weak and small in the face of them.

Fear is no respecter of age, gender, or social standing. Fear may be the most common experience we share with all of humankind: the consuming, crippling, sometimes irrational visitation of fear. Fear arrives when we face impending danger, pain, evil, confusion, vulnerability, or embarrassment. Whether the threat is real or imagined does not matter. What does matter is our sense of powerlessness. We don’t feel we can control this thing that threatens to swamp our lives and cause us to sink. Whatever its source, our fear is real.

Jesus speaks a great deal about fear and anxiety, which is quite revealing. He would have learned about fear in part from the Hebrew scriptures. The scriptures he would have known – what we call the “Old Testament” – are replete with messages about worry and fear. We are told very plainly that we do not need to be afraid because God’s steadfast love and unfailing faithfulness will provide for us. Fear’s tight hold on us is loosened, the Bible assures us, when we put our trust in God.

I sought the Lord, and he answered me,” the psalmist says, “and delivered me out of all my terror” (Psalm 34:4).

Jesus would have known these words, just as he would have known the words of the prophet Isaiah: “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.  For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior” (Isaiah 43:1-3).

Jesus would also have learned about fear from his own life. I am not talking about the fear he observed in other people, but about his own personal fear, what he experienced. We don’t know the specifics of what Jesus feared, but we do know that Jesus lived a fully human life and experienced the full range of human emotions, and therefore he must have been acquainted with fear. We see him withdrawing to pray in solitude as he wrestles with his own calling and with the challenges he and his followers face. We catch a glimpse of real fear when he prays in the Garden of Gethsemane for the cup of suffering to pass him by (Matthew 26:36-46). We can trust that when Jesus talks about not being afraid, he is speaking about fear from the inside-out, autobiographically.


Jesus would have learned about
fear from his own life.

 

 

 


Jesus was able to speak reassuringly about fear because he had taken to heart the words of scripture and learned to trust in God. In prayer he received the assurance that he was not alone, that God would always be with him, strengthening him to face every trial. He wanted others (including us) to know the inner freedom and deep assurance that comes from trusting in God. Over and over again, his message was “Do not fear.” He promised his followers that his power, his provision, and his presence would be with them (and us) always, to the end of the storm, and to the end of life.

If your life now is swamped with fear, or if you are afraid about an incoming storm, remember this: our fear is not an obstacle to God but rather an invitation from God to take Jesus at his word. We need not be afraid. Jesus knows every reason why we could be afraid; he’s been there. For us, fear can seem such an immovable impediment. But it is no obstacle for God. Our fear presents an opportunity to experience first-hand God’s presence and power and provision by trusting in God’s promises.

Our fear is God’s invitation, and Jesus will make good on his promise to be with us always. Let Jesus have the last word: “Do not fear, for I am with you, always” (Matthew 28:20).


Our fear is God’s invitation.

 

 

 


To Consider:

What fears are storming in your life right now?  Can you imagine that Jesus might have known a similar fear?

Can you recall a time when a particular verse or image from scripture helped you to face your fear in a difficult situation? What words comfort you?

When angels appear to human beings in the scriptures, their first words are almost always, “Don’t be afraid.”  Who are the “angels of consolation” who have helped you face your fears in life?  A particular friend or relative?  A mentor or teacher or pastor?  How have they been able to comfort you?

To Try:

Set aside time this week for a period of prayer in which you speak aloud your deepest fears to God and listen for God's reassuring words and comforting presence within you.

Carry in your heart a mantra which you can repeat to yourself whenever you feel afraid, such as Whenever I am afraid, I will put my trust in you” (Psalm 56:3:) or “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” (Psalm 46:1)

Keep Awake – Br. Luke Ditewig

Br. Luke Ditewig

Matthew 25:1-13

Jesus taught with many parables, stories that catch attention. Ten young women waiting for a wedding party, waiting into the night. Five thought ahead and brought extra oil for their lamps. Five did not. When the groom, presumably escorting the bride, was late, they all fell asleep.[i] When the couple arrived, those who thought ahead used their extra oil. Those without had to go get more oil. Late, they were shut out of the party and told “I do not know you.” Pay attention. Don’t get left out. Don’t be forgotten. Keep awake, for you do not know the day nor the hour.

All ten of the young women, wise and foolish alike, fell asleep in the night. Half brought extra oil. It seems like the point is: Be prepared, for you don’t know the timing. Being thoughtful, wise, and planning ahead is being engaged, aware, and alert. Perhaps this is being awake: alert and engaged to God, self, and neighbor for a late parade to the party.

This story comes amid others with a similar theme. The previous story says be at work for the master returns at an unexpected time. [ii] Don’t beat fellow slaves and get drunk. The master will throw that one out. The next story says risk investing whatever amount the master entrusts to you.[iii] Don’t hide the talent you’ve received. The master will throw that one out. Keep awake. Be faithful at work. Be prepared for the best. Invest what you’re given. Be alert and active. Jesus is coming, and you don’t know when.

These stories grab our attention with hard words like the shut door. Some preachers use them to stoke fear. What will happen to you at the end of time? Will you be left behind? Shut out? Thrown out? Stock up on oil, whatever that is, to make sure you get inside, to save yourself.

Over and over through the arc of scripture God says: “Do not be afraid.” God goes to extraordinary lengths to seek and save the lost. Even when it seems too late, God still hears our cries and comes. This parable gives warning but not to fear. It urges to live for the party, not just to plan to attend later, but to live now alert and generous. God’s kingdom, the new way of living, is not a ticket to exit later, but a life of celebrating through sharing now.

In the last part of this chapter, we hear about Jesus coming in glory. [iv] “When I was hungry, you gave me food and when I was thirsty you gave me something to drink.” What? When? “When you did it to the least of these, you did it to me. And when you didn’t do it them, you didn’t do it to me.” How we live now matters. Be wildly generous like a late groom who parades the bride through every street.[v] Be faithful and give your work your best. Risk using all God has given you for good. Care for the poor, the sick, the hungry. Listen for God’s invitations.

How might you be asleep, distracted, absorbed, or afraid? Keep awake for Jesus is coming. You may not know what you need. Ask for help. Make attention your intention and your petition.

I suggest two prayers. First, we will later sing:

Redeemer, come! I open wide
My heart to Thee, here, Lord abide
Let me Thy inner presence feel
Thy grace and love in me reveal.[vi]

Second, pray the prayer we use in Holy Baptism for yourself:

Heavenly Father, thank you that by water the Holy Spirit you have bestowed on me your servant the forgiveness of sin, and have raised me to the new life of grace. Sustain me, O Lord, in your Holy Spirit. Give me an inquiring and discerning heart, the courage to will and to persevere, a spirit to know and to love you, and gift of joy and wonder in all your works.[vii]

Do not be afraid. Live remembering your baptism and dressed for the wedding banquet. Feed. Clothe. Love. Pray. Pray with grateful trust to keep awake.


[i] Kenneth E. Bailey (2008) Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes: Cultural Studies in the Gospels. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, p271.

[ii] Matthew 24:45-51

[iii] Matthew 25:14-30

[iv] Matthew 25:31-46

[v] Bailey, p272.

[vi] Lift Up Your Heads, Ye Mighty Gates” by Georg Wessel (1590-1635); tr. Catherine Winkworth (1827-1878)

[vii] The Book of Common Prayer, p308. Thanks to the Rt. Rev. Mariann Budde for the suggestion to pray it personally.

Fearing a Risky Call – Br. Lain Wilson

Genesis 46:1-7, 28-30
Matthew 10:16-23

Almost exactly two years ago, a long period of uncertainty ended in clarity. Clarity that God was calling me here, to this community. And while that clarity was a relief, what I didn’t expect was that that would be the easy part. Leaving my job, packing up my apartment, saying goodbye to my friends—all these practicalities showed that responding to God’s call was definitive, transformative, and risky.

Our Gospel lesson today sits in the middle of what’s called the “Missionary Discourse.” Jesus’s disciples have answered his call, and Jesus has told them that they will share in his ministry of proclaiming the good news, healing the sick, raising the dead, cleansing lepers, and casting out demons. But he also tells them that they will share in his sufferings: betrayed and arrested, hated and beaten. These disciples are risking all when they say yes to Jesus.

What is an acceptable risk? In my own answer to God’s call, I didn’t face betrayals, beatings, or hatred of all. But I did face the unknown—what if this doesn’t work out? What if friends or family don’t understand what I’m doing? Part of me—a lot of me—was afraid of the unknown, afraid of what the answer to these questions might be. Is the risk worth it?

Jesus calls us to risk all, but he also offers us a simple assurance: “have no fear.” “Have no fear.” This is the same assurance God gives to Jacob as he uproots his family and all his possessions to join his son Joseph in Egypt: “Jacob, Jacob . . : do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for I will make of you a great nation there” (Gen 46:3).

All this may strike us as strange or difficult to live into. Fear is a natural, human reaction to risk. But I think Jesus’s point is not that we should be fearless, but that that fear shouldn’t dominate our lives and thoughts. “Jacob, Jacob . . . I myself will go down with you to Egypt, and I will also bring you up again” (Gen 46:4). We can feel fear, but not let it dominate because, if we live into God’s call to us, God has promised to be with us. “Have no fear. . . . I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Mt 10:26, 20:20)

What is God calling you to today? How does saying yes to God unsettle your life, your sense of security? What are you afraid to risk? Hear Jesus’s words—“have no fear”—and know that he will be with you, always.

Amen.

I Will Not Leave You Orphaned – Br. David Vryhof

Br. David Vryhof

Acts 17:22-31
I Peter 3:8-18
John 14:15-21

The Gospel passage we’ve read this morning is part of the “farewell discourse” of Jesus in the Gospel of John.  In John’s account, Jesus speaks these words to his disciples just after the Last Supper, before he is betrayed and arrested, brought to trial, and put to death.  It’s a lengthy discourse, spread over four chapters, offering further teaching, reassurance, and prayers.  The farewell discourse is packed full of theology, and it can be challenging for readers to understand all that Jesus is saying.  Some readers may feel like they’re pushing through a lengthy theological lecture, interesting at points, but definitely heavy-going.  There’s a lot here.

Tucked into these chapters of theological discourse is a short phrase that catches my attention.  Jesus says to his disciples, “I will not leave you orphaned.”

What prompted him to say that?

If we view this Final Discourse as a lengthy theological lecture, we’ll miss the significance of this phrase and of this entire section.  We shouldn’t imagine Jesus standing like a teacher at a lectern, explaining to his sleepy disciples complex theological concepts that he thought they ought to know.  Rather, we should picture him surrounded by his closest friends, speaking to them with great compassion, care, and concern.  This is a very intimate conversation, not a theological discourse. Read More

The passion and struggle of Good Friday – Br. Jack Crowley

Br. Jack Crowley headshot

Br. Jack Crowley

Good Friday is a long night. Good Friday is a long night dominated by grief and passion. Good Friday is a solemn start to a glorious weekend.

We all know the joy we are going to feel Easter morning. In about 36 hours, we are going to be right here again. We’ll be ringing bells and proclaiming the resurrection of Christ. We know what’s going to happen.

But tonight, we take the time and space to remember what it was like for those followers of Jesus who didn’t know what was going to happen. We remember what it was like for them on that fateful Friday in Jerusalem when Jesus was crucified. They didn’t know Easter was coming. They didn’t know they would find the stone rolled away from the tomb, they didn’t know they would find folded linen, they didn’t know Jesus was going to come back.

All they knew was that after years of witnessing countless miracles, teachings, healings, feedings… Jesus was dead. Dead. Not just wounded or away on a mountainside, just dead like a plain old human being, and seemingly gone forever. Read More

Do Not Be Afraid – Br. James Koester

Matthew 1: 18–25

I know this is not a fair question, but I’ll ask it anyway. Had I asked you five minutes ago, to tell me the story of the birth of Jesus, my hunch is it would have gone something like this:

One day an angel appeared to a young girl and told her she with be the mother of God’s son, even though she was not yet married. Before her marriage, she and her fiancé travelled to the town where his family came from. Because there were so many people in town at the time, the only place available for them to stay was the stable at one of the local inns. It is there, she gave birth to her baby boy, whom they named Jesus. After the birth of the baby, some shepherds found them, and told them they had been instructed by some angels to look for the baby.

You get the picture.

The story of the birth of Jesus that is imprinted on our minds and in our hearts, is the story that Luke tells us. That’s the story of carols and hymns, stained glass windows, great works of art, and countless Christmas cards. That’s the story we think of when we think of Christmas. That’s the story we will hear in a few days’ time.

But that’s not the only story. That’s not the only version. Read More

Take courage … I am with you … do not fear – Br. James Koester

Br. James Koester,
Superior

Haggai 1: 15b-2:9

I want to begin by saying how glad I am to be back among you, and to express my gratitude to the Brothers for the opportunity to be on sabbatical for the last 10 weeks, and especially to Brother Keith who covered for me. I also want to say thank you, to all of you who have held me in your prayers these last weeks, as I did you in mine.

My time away was extraordinary. I was able to see members of my family, some of whom I have not seen since before 2019. I spent time in Oxford, which, as you know is where the community began in 1866, and is a place over the last years I am coming to know well, and where I feel at home. The Sunday before I left Oxford, I preached in Father Benson’s former parish, standing in the pulpit where he once stood, which for me is always a thrill.

The bulk of my time away however I spent walking in Wales. The experience was exhilarating; the scenery spectacular; the people constantly generous. Even on the day, which my sister described as level 2 fun (in other words, not fun at the time, but fun in hindsight) when it took me 8 hours to walk 9 miles, which included the equivalent of 82 flights of stairs, and along paths far too close to the cliff edge for my liking, I never once thought of giving up, or wondered why on earth I was doing this. Every afternoon at the end of my walk, I was simply glad of a beer, a hot shower, a good meal, and a comfortable bed. Every morning, except for a few days when it was pouring rain; the day of the Queen’s funeral; and a couple days when all I wanted to do was sit in a coffee shop with my novel, I was ready to head out once again and walk. Of a possible 190 miles, I walked 135 of them, so I’m totally thrilled. Read More

The Hour Has Come – Br. Geoffrey Tristram

Br. Geoffrey Tristram

John 12: 20-36

‘The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified’. I find our Gospel reading today, on this day, this Tuesday in Holy Week, to be really moving.  We are in company with Jesus as he gets ready to die. He is fully prepared. As Son of God he knows that his death will bring life and salvation to the world. But he’s also Son of Man, he is just like us: flesh and blood. He is fearful. ‘Now, my soul is troubled he says’. We hear similar words in the other Gospels, “I am deeply grieved, even to death; (Matthew 26:38)

Each day of this Holy Week, Jesus draws closer to his death. We meditate again on his gracious words and actions, culminating in that glorious final commitment from the Cross, ‘Into your hands O Lord I commend my spirit’.  In doing so we can I believe be strengthened to prepare for our own death. Jesus was fully prepared for his death, and we should be too. There is something rather important being said in the Great Litany in the Book of Common Prayer when we pray to be ‘delivered from dying suddenly and unprepared.’ It is good to be ready, to be prepared for when our own death comes. St Francis of Assisi could speak of death as ‘Sister Death’, because she was for him a familiar and welcome companion. It is said of Pope John 23rd -good Pope John- that as he lay dying of a rather terrible stomach cancer, he told his secretary, ‘My bags are packed and ready to go.’  In the Rule of our Society we read, ‘We are called to remember our mortality day by day with unflinching realism, shaking off the sleep of denial.’ (Chapter 48).  Death for the Christian is no enemy, is not to be feared, but is rather a kind angel waiting to lead us into the presence of our heavenly Father. Read More