Redemption Song – Br. Jim Woodrum

Isaiah 40:1-11; 2 Peter 3:8-15a

If you love domesticated animals like cats, dogs, and horses, or even some unconventional critters like monkeys, beavers, and squirrels, you have probably run across a website called ‘thedodo.com.’ The Dodo serves up emotional, visually compelling, and highly sharable animal-related stories and videos with the aim of making the care of animals a viral cause. The videos that bring a tear to the eye of a sensitive guy like me are the dog rescue videos. There are countless versions of this scenario: someone comes across a mangy, emaciated pup, that is tired, scared, weak, and not far from death. Animal rescuers are called to gather the animal, carefully and patiently doing what is necessary to subdue it while protecting themselves from the pups self-preserving, fear-filled growls, yaps, and snaps. Ultimately, the animal resigns and is taken to a veterinarian for rehabilitation with the hopes of finding it a forever home. The dogs are bathed, shaved, treated for mange, parasites, and other injuries, fed and nourished. Each video is a brief time-lapse record of its recovery, ending with the dog fully recovered, happy, and unrecognizable from the condition it was found in; it’s disposition one of unreserved love and affection. Read More

A Day of Small Beginnings – Br. James Koester

Br. James KoesterFeast of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist

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

It doesn’t take much: a young girl, barely a teenager, lowering her bucket into the village well, listening for the splash when it hits the water[1]; an old man, hands shaking with age, alone in the sanctuary of the Lord, spooning incense onto the red hot charcoal of the altar brazier[2]. It doesn’t take much, and suddenly there is a moment, a movement, a presence, a strange voice, a greeting: ‘Greetings, favoured one! The Lord is with you’[3]; a command and a promise: ‘Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will name him John. You will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He must never drink wine or strong drink; even before his birth he will be filled with the Holy Spirit. He will turn many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. With the spirit and power of Elijah he will go before him, to turn the hearts of parents to their children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.’[4]

It doesn’t take much, a young girl, barely a teenager, going about her daily chores; an old man, whose hands tremble with age, performing a duty he had done, perhaps countless times before, yet something is profoundly different. Read More

Peace, Comfort, Hope – Br. James Koester

Br. James KoesterIsaiah 40: 1 – 11
Psalm 85: 1 – 2, 8 – 13
2 Peter 3: 8 – 15a
Mark 1: 1 – 8

Each year I get a little crankier and a little more annoyed by Christmas.

Now, don’t get me wrong, before you write me off as some kind of a monastic Scrooge, let me explain what I mean.

If truth be told, I actually love Christmas. I love the lights, and the tinsel, and the tree. I love the decorations, and the carols, and the crèche, and the baking, (perhaps especially the baking!). I love Christmas. What makes me cranky, and annoyed, is that what many people really just want are the lights, and the tinsel, and the tree. What many people really just want are the decorations, and the carols, and the crèche, and the baking. What many people really just want is the baby and the celebration. What many people don’t want is a saviour. But isn’t that the whole point of Christmas? And you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.[1]

For many, Christmas is about a cute, pudgy, sweet smelling baby, nestled in a bed of clean straw, in a romantically quaint, clean, rustic looking barn, amidst softly falling snow, much as we had yesterday. What they don’t want, is a saviour. And they don’t want a saviour, because that would suggest that we need saving. That would suggest that life isn’t all that we so often pretend it to be. And who wants to admit that life, especially my life, is not perfect, or that I can’t fix it? Read More

Making Sense of Your Destiny – Br. Curtis Almquist

Br. Curtis AlmquistNativity of St. John the Baptist
Preached at Emery House
Isaiah 40:1-11 • Acts 13:14b-26 • Luke 1: 57-80

Zechariah, a priest of the temple, and his devout wife, Elizabeth, are childless and elderly when they are visited by the angel Gabriel and told they will be parents of a son. Their son will become a great prophet, and herald the coming of the long-awaited Messiah. How can this be? About six months later Gabriel appears to a relative of Elizabeth who is an unmarried young woman named Mary. She is told that she is going to bear the Messiah. How can this be? Elizabeth does indeed give birth to a son, John, and Mary gives birth six months later to a son, Jesus. If we work our ways backwards in the western calendar of the church, with the birth of Jesus being celebrated on December 25th, the birth of his cousin John would be celebrated six months earlier, today, the 24th of June: John, the miracle son of Zechariah and Elizabeth, who were old enough to be his great grandparents. Jesus, the miracle son of Mary, almost too young to be a mother, and her fiancé, Joseph, who becomes Jesus’ stepfather. Read More

Frail Flesh and Family – Br. Luke Ditewig

Br. Luke DitewigIsaiah 40:1-11; Acts 13: 14b-26; Luke 1:57-80

Zechariah and Elizabeth are quite elderly when the angel Gabriel visits and says they will have a child. Zechariah doesn’t believe it. He becomes mute, unable to speak, for nine months until their son’s birth. About six months later Gabriel appears to a relative of Elizabeth, an unmarried young woman named Mary.  Gabriel tells her she will have a son, the Messiah. Joseph, her fiancé, also receives a startling visit from an angel. Elizabeth does give birth to John, and Mary gives birth six months later to Jesus.

We will celebrate Jesus’ birth in six months on December 25th. So today, June 24th, we celebrate John’s birth. John was born to barren Elizabeth and Zechariah, who were old enough to be his great grandparents. Jesus was born to virgin Mary, almost too young to be a mother, and her husband-to-be, Joseph. These are improbable parents, impossible births, and wondrous stories.  Read More

The Good News of Repentance – Br. David Vryhof

Isaiah 40:1-11; Mark 1:1-8

There are times in our lives when we recognize that there is an obstacle that is separating us from God.

Sometimes it is an obstacle of our own making, something we have done or said, perhaps a choice that we made that now we deeply regret.  We may feel guilty, or ashamed, or afraid.  We may be reluctant to show our face before God.  This thing that we have done has become a barrier between us and God.

Sometimes it is something that has happened to us, perhaps something that we don’t understand or don’t feel we deserved, and because we can’t make sense of it we fault God, and there is born in us a new fear or anger towards God, and a reluctance to trust that renders intimacy with God impossible. 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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Nativity of St. John the Baptist – Br. Curtis Almquist

Luke 1: 57-80

Almighty God, by whose providence your servant John the Baptist was wonderfully born, and sent to prepare the way of your Son our Savior by preaching repentance: Make us so to follow his teaching and holy life, that we may truly repent according to his preaching; and, following his example, constantly speak the truth, boldly rebuke vice, and patiently suffer for the truth’s sake; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. Read More