Troubled into Life – Br. Keith Nelson

Br. Keith Nelson

John 12:20-33

The arrival of Jesus’s “hour” is a pivotal moment of transition in John’s gospel. Like road signs advertising a major attraction miles in advance, significant mention has been made of this hour throughout the gospel. In chapter 2, when the mother of Jesus urges him to change water into wine at a wedding, he initially demurs, saying, “My hour has not yet come.” In chapter 7 and again in chapter 8, Jesus is teaching in the temple and the Judean authorities try to arrest him, but “no one laid hands on him, because his hour had not yet come.” In chapter ten, we encounter a different kind of foreshadowing. Jesus calls himself the good shepherd, declaring, “I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice.” Here in chapter 12, with the arrival of Greek Gentiles who wish to see Jesus, the much-anticipated hour has indeed arrived. Every word, gesture, and action of Jesus from this moment on will be charged with new meaning in light of his coming death and glorification.

But even as Jesus moves with confident purpose toward this climactic event, we receive a precious detail about his innermost experience that belies his calm exterior: “Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say – ‘Father, save me from this hour?’ No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.” The word translated soul is important here. It is psyche, from which we get our English word psyche. But it is the same word translated “life” a few verses prior, when we heard Jesus say, “Those who love their life [psyche] lose it, and those who hate their life [psyche] in this world keep it for eternal life.” The life that is clung to and lost is psyche. The life that is held provisionally, offered up, and thus transformed into something greater is psyche. This psyche is individual; particular; dependent; fragile; and ultimately comes to nothing without God. The greater Life which touches and transfigures it is, in Greek, zoe. When Jesus says, “I am resurrection and I am life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live,” this is zoe. My point here is that Jesus is troubled in his psyche – his individual, particular, dependent, and fragile human life. In this, he shares so much of what is ours.  Though he knew himself to be held within the greater life, the zoe of the Father, Jesus knew as well what it was like to feel troubled –  at the core of his finite being. Read More

We have seen his glory! – Br. David Vryhof

Br. David Vryhof

Mark 9:2-9

What do we make of a story like this?  Jesus leads three of his closest friends up a high mountain and there he is transfigured before them!  His clothes become dazzling white, whiter than anyone on earth could bleach them!  Moses and Elijah, representing the law and the prophets, suddenly appear beside Jesus, speaking with him!  A cloud overshadows them all, and a voice booms out of the cloud, “This is my Son, the Beloved.  Listen to him!” No wonder the poor disciples are terrified!

What do we make of a story like this that describes a theophany so extraordinary, so spectacular, so dazzling, so supernatural, that it defies logic.  The whole experience lies so far beyond anything any of us has or ever will see or know, it is almost impossible to imagine.

For a few brief moments, the veil is lifted and the disciples see the radiant glory of God beaming from the person of Jesus.  And then it is over, as quickly as it began.

The remarkable incident described in today’s gospel reading calls to mind the earlier story of Jesus’ baptism in the River Jordan by John the Baptist (Mark 1:9-11).  There, too, a voice from heaven rumbled out of the clouds, though this time the message was directed to Jesus himself: “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”  It was a message of love and affirmation, which confirmed his identity as God’s Beloved Son, and signaled the start of his mission. Read More

An Irresistible and Radiant Humanity – Br. Keith Nelson

Br. Keith Nelson

Isaiah 52:7-10
John 1:1-14

Merry Christmas. As is true of every holy feast of the church, each of us brings a different collection of needs, hungers, questions, and reasons to give thanks. You are here, probably, to listen – for the first or the five-thousandth time, to “hear the good news of the messenger who announces peace, who brings good news, who announces salvation,” in the words of Isaiah. But, probably, you are also drawn to see. To see and exclaim, even before hearing, even in the midst of many cares and sorrows: How beautiful. How beautiful: the messenger’s feet upon the mountains. How beautiful: the holy arm which the Lord has bared. My God, how beautiful: this Child we have sought with the eyes of our hearts for so long.

Christmas, for Christians in the West, is the foremost opportunity to re-embrace the Medieval impulse to look and to touch; to show things of great meaning first, then to tell as commentary on the showing. So for the next hour, and the next eleven days of Christmas after that: Look! Touch! Taste! Smell! Clap and point and jump up and down at every shiny, lovely thing. We need to engage these impulses in acts of worship. It is easy in this world to forget the path to this holy ecstasy, this self-spending in the pursuit of meaning rather than luxury and waste. Read More

Conceived for Glory – Br. James Koester

Feast of the Transfiguration

Luke 9: 28-36

One Christmas, rather than giving individual presents to members of my family, my aunt gave my family several posters to hang in our basement room. That fall we had built a very 1960’s “rec room” where my siblings and I could invite our friends and not have to worry about either noise or mess and my parents could then reclaim the living room as their space. So, my aunt decided to help us decorate the space, and hence the posters that Christmas as her gift to all of us.

There were several posters, but the one I remember best was of Michelangelo’s statue of Moses.  I remember it, not because even then I was a budding theologian, but because I found it so curious. Created in the early years of the Sixteenth Century, Michelangelo’s Moses was regarded by the artist himself as his most lifelike creation. Once finished he is reputed to have struck the statue on the knee with his hammer and exclaimed Now, speak! To this day you can see a chip in the marble on Moses’ knee where Michelangelo’s hammer is said to have hit.

But that’s not what I found so curious about this image. It wasn’t the chip in the marble. It wasn’t the power and force of the figure. It wasn’t the lifelike quality of the statue. No, none of these drew my attention. What drew my attention, and what I found so curious, and what I did not understand until many years later, and you may know this, but what drew my attention is that Moses had grown horns! Yes, there are two stubby horns emerging out of Moses’ head like horns emerging out of the head of a maturing goat! Read More

Look to the Glory – Br. James Koester

Acts 1: 1-11

Growing up as I did in the 1960’s, my world view was pretty consistent. What I saw on TV, as I sat cross-legged in the Davin School gym as each Apollo mission took off into outer space, or splashed down after a successful mission was the same as I saw each Sunday, gazing up at the stained glass window over the altar at St. Mary’s Church. There was Jesus, blasting off into heaven, vapour trails around his ankles and awestruck or bewildered disciples kneeling, watching in amazement as this first century space mission took off into orbit. It all made perfect sense to me at the time, and I must confess, that is the image of the Ascension that first comes to mind as I ponder the mystery of the feast each year.

But we need to remind ourselves, the Ascension is not rocket science. Jesus is not some first century astronaut. We’re not looking at a space mission or vapour trails. The disciples are not the earth bound mission control team of NASSA. The Ascension is much more than that, because the Ascension as we see it in stained glass is not about some exploration of limitless space, but the reality of the limits of language.

What the disciples experienced that day, was so profound, that language and art have failed over time to convey the depths of the reality. When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight.[1] Even Paul struggles with how to convey the mystery of the Ascension when he says simply God raised [Jesus] from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places.[2] Read More

We Stand on Holy Ground – Alleluia! – Br. Geoffrey Tristram

 

Br. Geoffrey Tristram

Matthew 28: 1-10

Today is Easter Day; the glorious culmination of these days of Holy Week. Today, our Lord Jesus Christ has been raised gloriously from the dead.  Today is a day for rejoicing. Alleluia! Christ is Risen!

Although we’ve had to wear masks for much of the time, this has been a wonderful Holy Week. But during the week, my mind went back to a very special Holy Week I had, many years ago, when I was rector of a parish in England.  What made it especially memorable was that I had invited a friend of mine to come and stay with me for the week.  Richard and I used to teach together, and it was great having him to stay for Holy Week and Easter. But Richard was not a person of faith. It was a very strange experience to be immersed in all the preparations and liturgies of Holy Week, and then to go home to someone who wasn’t really very interested. Perhaps some of you know that experience, with perhaps a spouse, a child or close friend. In fact, quite a lot of my friends don’t believe in God, and I sometimes feel a bit of a failure: these friends who know me so well – so why don’t they believe? I can’t be a very effective evangelist, and I’m a priest as well! Read More

You Are the Glory of God -Br. Curtis Almquist

Br. Curtis Almquist

John 5:30-47

In a few moments, when our attention shifts to the altar, we will sing, “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of hosts. Heaven and earth are full of your glory!”[i] God’s holy, holy, holiness is invisible, transcendent, infinitely beyond our capacity to apprehend. But then there is God’s glory. God’s glory teems through creation, from the tiniest of creatures to the greatness of the mountains, in color and scent, in size and texture, in harmony, in the whistling wind, and in the light of day and stars at night. Traces of God’s glory appear to us in beauty so magnificent. Mechtild of Magdeburg, the 13thcentury German mystic, said “[God’s] glory pours into my soul like sunlight against gold.” The Jesuit priest and poet, Gerard Manley Hopkins, said of God’s glory:

“The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil…”[ii] Read More

God’s Grandeur – Br. James Koester

John 17:20–26

It is easy to get lost these days, and in many ways all of us are lost. We are lost in fear, worry, concern, and anxiety. We are lost in sorry, sadness, and anger. We are afraid of the future and worried about the present. We are concerned about those we love, and anxious about ourselves.

All of these are normal and natural feelings, and I do not for a minute want to suggest that there is something wrong with you because you feel one or other, or all, or more of these things. Finding ourselves still in the midst of a pandemic after more than two years, watching the news from Buffalo, and Uvalde, and seeing our leaders incapable of doing anything that looks remotely like gun reform legislation is enough to make anyone’s stomach clench in knots in grief, pain, anger, and sadness. Seeing the images from Ukraine or the effects of the climate emergency overwhelm us with feelings of helplessness and hopelessness.

All of us no doubt, are actually sadder, angrier, and feel more helpless than we often care to admit. I know I do. That is the reality of life at the moment and the disorientation of this season is profound. Read More

The Praise of God’s Glory – Br. James Koester

Ephesians 1: 11 – 14

There is a phrase that appears twice in today’s lesson from the Letter to the Ephesians that immediately grabs my attention. We read, as I said, not once, but twice the praise of his glory. On the first occasion we hear so that we, who were the first to set our hope on Christ, might live for the praise of his glory.[1] A few verses later we read this [being marked by the Holy Spirit] is the pledge of our inheritance toward redemption as God’s own people to the praise of his glory.[2]

It is this image of living for the praise of God’s glory that attracts me, and it is what, I think we hint at, when we say in our Rule that God chooses us from varied places backgrounds to become a company of friends, spending our whole life abiding in him and giving ourselves up to the attraction of his glory.[3] Read More

It’s Glory O’clock – Br. James Koester

Fifth Sunday of Easter

Acts 11: 1 – 18 
Psalm 148
Revelation 21: 1 – 6 
John 13: 31 – 35

There’s that word. I wonder if you noticed it this time. It’s not a very big word. In fact, it’s just three letters long. It’s a pretty common word. We use it a lot. But, John doesn’t. At least not in this context. And when he does, it’s huge! Cosmic events are unleashed when Jesus utters one, tiny, common word. Now. Now. Now.

When [Judas] had gone out, Jesus said, ‘Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once.[1]

Jesus has used this word in John’s gospel once before. He used it in the previous chapter, just after his encounter with the Greeks.

Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, ‘Sir, we wish to see Jesus.’ [2]

In response to their request we wish to see Jesus, he says much the same as he does in today’s gospel.

‘Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say—“Father, save me from this hour”? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.’ Then a voice came from heaven, ‘I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.’[3]

Read More