Passion – How Love and Suffering Coexist – Br. Curtis Almquist

Br. Curtis Almquist

John 12:20-36

“Jesus says, “Very truly I tell you…” This is like a teacher getting the attention of the class by saying, “Listen up!”[i]  Various other versions of the Bible translate Jesus’ attention-grabber here as “Believe me,” or “I assure you,” or “I can guarantee this truth,” or “I tell you for certain…” Does Jesus have your attention? We are primed to know this is very important what Jesus is about to say; however we have to do some homework to make sense of its importance.

Two things. Jesus describes how a grain of wheat must die to bear fruit. A farmer would tell us that as long as a tiny grain of wheat keeps on being a kernel in the head of a stalk of wheat, it remains just that: a lone kernel of wheat among many such kernels. It’s only when a grain of wheat is detached from the head and buried in the ground that it can germinate and produce a whole stalk of wheat. Jesus describes this process as a grain of wheat “dying.” Of course Jesus is speaking metaphorically. What does Jesus mean? Because he has signaled that this is very important: a grain of wheat needing to “die” to bear fruit? Jesus is speaking both about generosity and about suffering. Read More

The Journey from Darkness to Light – Br. Jim Woodrum

Br. Jim WoodrumIsaiah 49:1-7; Psalm 71:1-14; 1 Corinthians 1:18-31; John 12:20-36

When praying with our scriptures appointed for this evening, one word kept grabbing my attention and has stayed with me now for several days.  It is something that I have spent a lifetime trying to evade but continues to show up and rear its head at me no matter how much I try to control it, manipulate it, and cover it up.  I have a personal and intimate knowledge of it, yet I know it to be a pervasive reality in all of humanity and I suspect that every one of us here has an intimate knowledge of this word.  The word is:  shame.

Wikipedia defines shame as:  a painful, social emotion that can be seen as resulting “…from comparison of the self’s action with the self’s standards…,” but which may equally stem from comparison of the self’s state of being with the ideal social context’s standard. Both the comparison and standards are enabled by socialization. Though usually considered an emotion, shame may also variously be considered an affect, cognition, state, or condition.[i]

From the beginning of the canon of scripture, it only takes three chapters for shame to appear in the human condition.  The last sentence of Genesis chapter two reads:  “And the man and his wife were both naked, and were not ashamed.”  In the course of chapter three we read that Adam and Eve act on their temptation to do the one thing their creator has told them they must not do, eat the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.  Their eyes are opened and they hide themselves.  When God moves through the garden and cannot find them he calls out to them, “Where are you?”  The man answers, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.” And from that moment, shame enters the human condition and continues to show up continually throughout our existence. Read More

The Hour Has Come – Br. Keith Nelson

Br. Keith Nelson

John 12:20-36

“Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it yields a rich harvest.”[1]

This one phrase from John’s Gospel encapsulates the essential sprit of what we call the Paschal Mystery – Christ’s Passion, Death, and Resurrection to New Life. On this Tuesday evening in Holy Week, these words are also something like a “preview of coming attractions,” awakening our hopes and grounding our intentions as we prepare for the single, liturgical arc of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and the Great Vigil of Easter.

We believe that our sincere and wholehearted participation in this liturgical drama is one of the central means by which we participate in the saving work of Christ. This is the unfolding drama of how, in his own particular life and flesh, Jesus underwent the human experiences of suffering and death and was, in defiance of all expectation, raised from death by the One he called Father. As a liturgical tradition, we do not simply re-enact or reminisce about very significant events that happened long ago in ancient Palestine. No. To see what we are doing as pious commemoration would be to keep the Crucified at a safe distance in the historical past, separate from ourselves. Rather, the unboundaried space opened to us as the assembled body of Christ invites us truly to enter the sacred, inner dynamic of the events by which we have been claimed and marked as His own forever. On a personal level, this week invites us into a more intimate, transformative encounter with the mystery of our own suffering, death, and resurrection. Each of us has undergone, and will yet undergo, countless passions, deaths, and resurrections – in churches, yes, but also in hospitals and office buildings, by bedsides and firesides, under the open sky and around kitchen tables. Though these experiences are potential fountainheads of meaning through our union with Christ, many of them go unnamed as such and so their graces remain unrealized. In the chapter from our own Rule entitled “Holy Death,” we receive this reminder: “Week by week, we are to accept every experience which requires us to let go as an opportunity for Christ to bring us through death into life.”[2] This is the paschal mystery writ small, in lowercase letters, across the individual history of every child of God. The small mystery enclosed within one’s own skin is grounded afresh in the Great Mystery of Christ’s Body by reading our small print alongside the bold, capital letters of this week’s unitive liturgical action. Read More

Now, Now, Now – Br. James Koester

James Koester SSJEIsaiah 49: 1-7
Psalm 71: 1-14
I Corinthians 1: 18-31
John 12: 20-36

I’ll tell you a secret about me. Maybe those of you who have listened to me over the years can guess what it might be, but maybe not. It is not some earth shattering secret. I am not about to tell you some deep dark secret from my past. Rather it is about the way I approach scripture, and increasingly the way I approach life.  Read More