Come to me and rest – Br. David Vryhof

Br. David Vryhof

Matthew 11:28-30

 I can’t think of a more suitable text to ponder while in retreat than these words of Jesus drawn from the Gospel of Matthew.  A retreat is a chance to step back from our normal routines and responsibilities, to surrender our burdens and cares to God, and to receive once again God’s healing and life-giving love.  //

Close your eyes for a moment and imagine yourself coming into the presence of Jesus, who is so gentle and so humble.  Imagine him extending his arms to you, welcoming you into his embrace.  Hear him say to you, “Come to me; I want to give you rest….  I see what a heavy burden you’ve been bearing and how weary you are from carrying this load.  Let me take it from you.  Come apart for a while, and rest.”  // Read More

Faith to See Us Through – Br. David Vryhof

Br. David Vryhof

I Peter 1:3-9
Mark 14:32-42

I don’t know what keeps you going these days.  The recent mass shooting of 19 students and 2 adults at the Robb Elementary School in Uvulde, Texas, was another punch in the gut, coming, as it did, just 10 days after ten Black people were shot to death at their neighborhood supermarket in Buffalo, New York.  Both mass shootings were carried out by 18 year-olds, with legally purchased assault weapons.  We are just five months into this calendar year and already we have witnessed 214 mass shootings in this country.  Our leaders cannot seem to find a way to put an end to it.  Other nations have found ways to stop the senseless killing of innocent human beings, but we cannot.

We are suffering.  Handcuffed by partisan politics, unable to take any effective action, completely out of patience with sentiments like ‘our thoughts and prayers are with the families of those who died,’ and sick to death of the senseless killings, we… are… hurting.

Century after century, generation after generation, we human beings continue to find endless ways to inflict harm upon one another.  Suffering – so much of it completely senseless – seems to be woven into the very fabric of our existence; none of us escapes its effects. Read More

Welcome Visit – Br. Luke Ditewig

Br. Luke Ditewig

Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary to Elizabeth

Colossians 3:12-17
Luke 1:39-57

“Restore us, O God of hosts; show the light of your countenance and we shall be saved.” I love that line from Psalm 80. God, turn your face toward us. Look at us. See us. See me. A small yet significant request, to be seen. When we are seen in love, when another’s face lights up at seeing ours, we feel love.

Mary set out and went quickly to visit Elizabeth, a normal visit turned extraordinary. By divine power and blessing, now both Mary, a young virgin, and Elizabeth, a barren elder, are pregnant. They also bear the burden of public shame. The scandal since Mary claims pregnancy through the dream of an angel. Who did she think she was? The long years of ridicule for Elizabeth who had never born a child. Rumors swirled about why she was now.

Bearing children and shame, Mary goes to Elizabeth. This holy visit. They both believe, have faith in what they can’t see or explain. Both are filled with Holy Spirit. Elizabeth exclaims in a loud voice. The baby leaps in her womb. Mary sings her song. Read More

Trouble and Trust – Br. Luke Ditewig

Br. Luke Ditewig

Psalm 70
John 13:21-32

“O Lord, make haste to help me,” cries the Psalmist. … Let those who seek after my life be ashamed. … I am poor and needy. … You are my helper.” The psalmist pleads for help, protests what is wrong, and trusts God is good. This is a lament: naming suffering and believing being heard.

Tonight we pray Tenebrae, which means shadows, with words from people feeling abandoned, isolated, cut-off, and grieving. We lament like them and Jesus, troubled in spirit.

While particularly appropriate for Holy Week, lament is from the beginning. Patrick Miller wrote: “The story of God and the human creature is rooted in and shaped by the experience of pain and suffering and what God does about it, in the human voice that cries out and the God whose ears cannot miss those cries.”[i] Lament, Miller continued, is prayer and part of being human.[ii] From the cross, Jesus cried out with Psalm 22: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Trust and question in tender, wrenching symmetry:[iii]

What is your lament today? What is your suffering? What pain of others weighs on you? Name it with scripture, but words are not necessary. Perhaps you need a break from them. Gaze at something broken. Shake your fists. Stomp your feet. Groan. Roar. Cry.

God hears you. Take a deep breath. Lie down and feel your body fully supported. God hears you. In the shadows with Jesus, cry out with trouble and trust.


[i] Patrick D. Miller, “Heaven’s Prisoners: The Lament as Christian Prayer” in Lament: Reclaiming Practices in Pulpit, Pew, and Public Square. (2005) Eds. Sally A. Brown and Patrick D. Miller. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, p16.

[ii] Ibid, p17

[iii] Ibid, 21

Ask, Search, Knock – Br. Keith Nelson

Br. Keith Nelson

Matthew 7:7-12

Ask… and it will be given. Search…and you will find. Knock…and the door will be opened for you.

What prevents you from asking, searching, or knocking?

It might be literal lack of clarity. Who should I ask? Where should I search? Is this the right door, or is it that one?

It might be an emotion on the fear continuum: anxiety; suspicion; pessimism; insecurity; loneliness. What if I hear “No” in reply? What if I spend all that energy searching but find nothing helpful, nothing worthwhile? What if I knock and that door remains shut tight, with not a light to be seen behind the dark window panes as night falls?

It might be a well-intentioned desire for independence or self-sufficiency; or the desire to appear competent or smart. What if I can just figure this out by myself? That way, I won’t have to be a burden or impose my question or need on someone else…

It might even be fear of the very gift, opportunity, or invitation we long for.  What if I hear “yes” in reply? Am I ready to walk through that door if it does open? What would I do or say next? Read More

And They Told Him All – Br. James Koester

Br. James Koester,
Superior

Mark 6:30

I love the Gospel of Mark because of its breathless character. We seem to race from one place or event to another, with little time in between, and less time to catch our breath. In a few short chapters, Mark crams in the whole of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.[1]

That breathless quality is displayed in abundance in this morning’s reading as we race around Galilee, following Jesus and the disciples, after the first apostolic mission, when they were sent out two by two, and [given] authority over the unclean spirits.[2]

With so much packed into the reading, the preacher or reader would be forgiven if their attention was drawn to the latter part of the passage, the feeding of the 5000. My attention though is drawn to the beginning, to the regathering of the band of disciples with their leader, following their missionary travels. The apostles gathered around Jesus, and told him all that they had done and taught.[3] That is what arrests my attention this morning. I can see this scene perfectly clearly, because I know from experience what that was like Read More

Loving Arms – Br. Luke Ditewig

Exodus 14:21-15:1

Tonight’s first lesson is the rescue at the Red Sea. Remember the story. Through Joseph, sold by his brothers into slavery, God saved our family from famine by bringing them to Egypt. Later expanding in number, they were made slaves and remained so for 400 years. Freedom seemed impossible.

Through a burning bush, God sent a shepherd, Moses, to say: “Let my people go.” When Pharaoh refused, God turned the river to blood, sent frogs, gnats, flies, and more. God’s people packed their bags and ate a meal of lamb with its blood above their doors so that “death’s dark angel [would] sheathe his sword” and pass over them. Finally, fed up, Pharaoh said: Go. Our people fled into freedom!

Soon they found themselves on a dead end at Red Sea with Pharaoh’s army approaching. Trapped between water and the enemy, our people panicked: Why did we leave if only to be slaughtered out here?

Moses said: “Do not be afraid; stand firm and see the deliverance that the Lord will accomplish for you today … . The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to keep still.”[i]

A pillar of cloud blocked the Egyptian army’s view. Moses raised his staff, stretched out his hand, and as we heard read today, God drove back the sea, turned it into dry land, and the people walked right across. The Egyptians pursued them, also coming into the sea on the dry ground. God clogged their chariot wheels, let the waters return, tossing them into the sea. God saved our people and destroyed the enemy.

The Exodus is the story of epic escape, freedom from slavery. The Lord—and only the Lord—saves. Humanity cannot save itself. Deliverance is definitively divine. While wonderfully good, this is hard news. Like our ancestors, we desperately try to save ourselves. We want to work our way out. We resist asking for and receiving help. We complain, deny and don’t trust. The Exodus reminds us of this somber truth: we cannot save ourselves. We are like slaves in Egypt and dead-end at the Red Sea. We need a savior.

Listen again to Moses: “The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to keep still.” Like Psalm 46: “Be still, and know that I am God.”[ii] We often shoot off panicked prayers, frenzied, striving and scared. How can we be still?

Stop. For a minute or for a few. Stop what you’re doing. Stop the noise. Disconnect from devices. Take deep breaths. Go outside to breathe fresh air. Shake out the panic, or walk or run. Gently sway, rocking, calming yourself. Gaze at something beautiful: light and shadow, tree, bird, or you own hand. Pray your desire: “Let me be still, and know that you are God.”

While we run, fight, and hide, we were also created for stillness. Nightly we surrender to sleep. Whether bird, dog, or human, we can calm ourselves and one another. Imagine a bird gathering her young under the shadow of her wings. Imagine an adult picking up a child and rocking until the child relaxes in loving arms.

Dear children of God, we have a savior who knows our necessities and our weaknesses.[iii] When there is no way out or it appears we are at a dead end, our God continues coming to save. “The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to keep still.” God invites our still surrender, and when we cannot, we may find ourselves being picked up, held and rocked in safe, loving arms.


[i] Exodus 14:13-14

[ii] Psalm 46:10

[iii] Collect for the Sunday closest to July 20: “Almighty God, the fountain of all wisdom, you know our necessities before we ask and our ignorance in asking: Have compassion on our weakness, and mercifully give us those things which for our unworthiness we dare not, and for our blindness we cannot ask; through the worthiness of your Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.” Book of Common Prayer

Divine Provision – Br. Luke Ditewig

John 6:30-35

Bread is ordinary, daily, for most people necessary nourishment, and a key symbol of our salvation. Remember the unleavened bread of the Exodus. God delivered our ancestors from slavery in Egypt. Pushed out, they had to leave quickly, without time for their bread to rise or make other provisions. All they had was their daily dough, and they could not prepare it as they were accustomed. They had to leave “before it was leavened, with their kneading bowls wrapped up in their cloaks on their shoulders.”[i]

Remember manna in the wilderness. God provided ancient Israel with bread from heaven in the wilderness for forty years. Our parents asked: “What is it?” God said take a measure of this bread from heaven every morning. More will come tomorrow. Don’t hoard it. I will give you enough.[ii]

Remember earlier in the Gospel of John, Jesus turned a few loaves and fish into a meal for thousands. Followed by a crowd, Jesus raised the question of how to feed them. The disciples said: “Six months wages would not buy enough bread.” Jesus said: “Make the people sit down. … Jesus gave thanks and distributed the food, … as much as they wanted.”[iii] Read More

Learning to Fly Solo, but Not Alone – Br. David Vryhof

Acts 5:12-26

This spring we’ve watched as a pair of morning doves built a nest on the outdoor crucifix located in our cloister garden.  Nestled on the shoulder of the crucified Jesus, the mother sat motionless on her eggs for days and days.  At last the chicks emerged.

I had the extraordinary good fortune to be watching the nest this past Monday evening.  The two chicks are now adolescents, about 2/3 the size of their adult parents and darker in coloring.  They were sitting side by side in the nest, eagerly looking out on the world.  Their mother appeared and, standing on the head of the crucified Jesus, she fed them.  Then she flew off and perched nearby where she could keep a close eye on them.

You could tell there was something happening.  The young birds began rocking back and forth in the nest, as if working up their courage to leave the warmth and security of the nest.  Finally, one of them took the leap.  It flapped wildly around the cloister, unable to control its flight, banging into the walls and ceiling until it finally fell stunned to the floor.  The second one readied itself for its first flight, rocking in the nest before finally launching its body into the air.  Like the first, it flapped wildly about, crashing into the ceiling and walls, and then landing on the floor.  It waited for a bit, then took off again, this time successfully navigating its way through the arches and out into the garden. Read More

Asking in Faith – Br. Sean Glenn

Matthew 7:7-12

Much of God’s provision for us is mysterious, dark, and frustratingly hidden. I know this has been true in my own life, and I suspect it is probably true for many of us. Times when it’s hard to take Jesus at his word when he says, “Ask, and it will be given you.”

Not only now, in this time of seclusion, isolation, and separation, but in many parts of my life it has been tempting (and I use the word tempting with all of its sinister weight) to read the world and not see God’s provision whatsoever. I admit that this is frighteningly easy, at least for me.

Yet, in hindsight all of these situations that I have read as set-backs or crises—graves for my soul and my character—have really in fact been rich times of provision. And always right under my nose. And I am put in mind of these temptation as we continue our Lenten walk together.

It occurs to me that so often it is easy for us to talk about the disciplines we engage during Lent as “curbs”—to use a word that we brothers have used in our Rule to contrast the living reality of our life and the disciplines that form it. We say that the disciplines of our life are not mere curbs. And so then, what are they? Read More