I have been captivated recently by the icons of Maxim Sheshukov, a Russian iconographer who works in a traditional style but whose icons often depict themes or events from Scripture rarely depicted in icons – Zacchaeus in the sycamore tree, or Judas accepting the bag of silver, or the slaying of Abel by Cain, for instance. One icon that has been much fodder for my prayer depicts Christ, his figure almost whimsically tall and slender and slightly bent at the shoulders, standing before an equally tall, dark, and very narrow door. The wooden panel on which the icon is painted is tall and narrow, and is itself highly suggestive of a door. The background is a simple, quiet yellow ochre, the color of sand or wheat. Christ’s right hand – or more precisely, his outstretched, right pointer finger, seems to rest on the face of the door, pointing toward it, perhaps giving it the gentlest tap imaginable. His left hand holds a thin, narrow scroll, its words concealed from view.[i]
The Third Sunday of Advent
Isaiah 35: 1-10
Psalm 146: 4-9
James 5: 7-10
Matthew 11: 2-11
Several years ago one of my favourite newspaper columnists[i] wrote about how she loved going to Church on Christmas Eve, especially if there was a light snowfall that night. She wrote about how she loved to hear the nativity story and sing the Christmas carols familiar from her childhood. She wrote about how she would line up with the other members of the congregation and kneel before the altar, decorated with poinsettias, and receive Communion. She wrote about all this and then ended her column wondering why she bothered because even though she had grown up an Anglican, she had long ago stopped going to Church a long time ago because she didn’t believe a word of what was said in Church on Christmas Eve, or any other day for that matter.
I wonder how the other disciples felt when Jesus called Levi, a tax collector, to become one of the twelve. I can imagine them rolling their eyes and shaking their heads and thinking, “What is he doing? If he wants this movement to go anywhere, why would he choose someone who will be distrusted and even hated by the people because of his association with Roman oppression? This is not going to make our life any easier!” Some of them – maybe all of them – must have questioned Jesus’ judgment. I doubt that Levi was a popular choice.
Maybe you can think of someone in your life that you would just as soon not have in your life: an obnoxious co-worker, perhaps, or a constantly complaining neighbor, or an impossible boss, or a disreputable or embarrassing relative. Maybe you’ve found yourself wanting to distance yourself from them. Perhaps you find yourself thinking, “My life would be so much easier if he didn’t work here, or if she wasn’t part of this committee, or if I didn’t have to deal with them.”
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?
Delivered by Br. David Vryhof.
We hear that John and Jesus meet up with one another along the Jordan river. This must have been shocking for both of them. John and Jesus are cousins, and both of them are now about 30 years old, which is well advanced in years for that time – and they have known each other since their infancies.