The Journey of Healing and Faith – Br. Jack Crowley 

Br. Jack Crowley headshot

Br. Jack Crowley

Luke 17:11-19

Our Gospel this morning is a story full of healing and faith. The action begins with Jesus on foot making his way towards Jerusalem. As Jesus enters a village, ten lepers approach him. These ten lepers are respectful of Jesus and do not get too close to him. They cry out to Jesus saying “Jesus, master, have mercy on us”. These men are sick and outcasts in society, they are begging for help.  

Jesus tells these ten sick men to go show themselves to the priests. They do as they are told by Jesus and begin their journey. Then as these ten men are making their way to the priests, they are all healed. Now this is where the story gets interesting. One of these ten healed men turns back around. He makes his way back to Jesus. He throws himself at the feet of Jesus, praising God and thanking him for his healing.  

Jesus is clearly pleased by this man’s gratitude but also wonders aloud where the other nine men he healed are. How come they haven’t come back to give thanks? The story ends with one of the most beautiful lines in the Gospels. Jesus tells the healed man at his feet to “Get up and go on your way, your faith has made you well”.   Read More

Encountering Satan, Demons, and Unclean Spirits – Br. Curtis Almquist

Br. Curtis Almquist

Luke 11:14-26

The drama of this Gospel story hinges on Jesus’ encounter with Satan, demons, and unclean spirits. In our own time and place, these “evil spiritual realities” are largely relegated to Hollywood and to children’s fantasy literature such as the Narnia Chronicles, Lord of the Rings, and Harry Potter. We are products of the Enlightenment, so-called, a culture not schooled in the discernment of good and evil. And yet, you can hardly turn a page of the Bible without encountering the battleground of spiritual forces. Saint Paul writes, “For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but… against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”[i]

The early experience of monasticism in the Egyptian desert gives repeated accounts of the monks being in constant battle between good and evil, and it is we who are being fought over. The fourth-century monk, Evagrius Ponticus, gave the warning: “Stay watchful of gluttony and desire,” he warned, “and the demons of irritation and fear as well. The noonday demon of laziness and sleep will come after lunch each day, and the demon of pride will sneak up only when you have vanquished the other demons.”[ii] Read More

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

God’s Life is Still In Us – Br. Keith Nelson

Acts 20:1-16

There is a common physiological phenomenon that occurs to many people as their bodies cross the threshold from a waking state into deep sleep. An involuntary twitch of the muscles, called a hypnic jerk, wrenches the body awake. This is often preceded by a distinct sensation of falling that can be quite horrifying. Scientists don’t really understand it. It may be that our daytime motor control is exerting a last burst of effort for dominance as our muscles enter full relaxation on the cusp of dreaming.  It may even be an evolutionary echo: our brain mistakes this necessary muscle relaxation for the experience of falling out of a tree, and sends a sudden flash of warning to the body. Whatever the cause, there is something deep, something primal in us, that resists relinquishing control as we approach the mysterious, nightly death of sleep.

In tonight’s passage from Acts, we hear about a boy named Eutychus and an unexpected fall. Eutychus falls asleep and falls to his death from a third-floor window. This tragic accident interrupts the bigger story with a profusion of small details. It happened “On the first day of the week, when we met to break bread,” Luke writes. The furniture is different, but we have been here before. Paul breaks open the word in an upper room in Troas, just as Jesus did in Jerusalem on the night before he died, and again after his Resurrection. Paul’s destination, too, is Jerusalem. As the gravity of his self-offering becomes clear, the power of the Lord’s resurrection flashes forth within and around him. Read More

The Risk of Vulnerability – Br. David Vryhof

Br. David Vryhof

(The Sending of the Seventy)

Luke 10: 1-11, 16-20

Given what the gospels report about Jesus’ twelve disciples – how they were often slow to comprehend the message of the kingdom, and repeatedly failed to live by its principles – it seems to me that Jesus is taking quite a risk here in commissioning these seventy to go out as his representatives.  If the twelve he had chosen to be his closest friends and companions were having trouble grasping the message, how was this lot supposed to get it right?  What training did they have?  Who was going to supervise them or hold them accountable? How could he be sure they were capable of representing him, or that they would be faithful to his message?  Had he had a chance to test their theology?  Had he checked their backgrounds?  Had he measured their commitment, or tested their reliability?  But here he is, entrusting them with the message of the kingdom and empowering them to heal in his name.

It seems that Jesus was willing to take chances. He was willing to place heavenly treasure in fragile earthen vessels.  He was willing to turn them loose, to send them out, to let them speak, without being certain of the outcome.  And, not surprisingly, he’s still doing that today – sending each of us out to be messengers of that Good News; asking us, despite our weaknesses and shortcomings, to be his ambassadors in the world; proclaiming, through us, that “the kingdom of God has come near.”

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Ask, Search, Knock… and Wait – Br. Keith Nelson


Br. Keith Nelson

Matthew 7:7-12
Ask, and it will be given you.
But… what if it isn’t?

Search, and you will find.
But… what if I don’t find anything?

Knock, and the door will be opened for you.
But… what if the door just stays shut?

These are reasonable responses to this teaching of Jesus. The kind of asking, searching, and knocking Jesus is talking about summon us to a vulnerable stance. While we may recognize that vulnerability is necessary for any form of genuine connection, we will usually choose the least vulnerable way of getting our needs met whenever humanly possible. At its core, vulnerability is the experience of uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure.[i]What if I ask, and my request is denied – or even worse, met with a deafening silence? What if I search and I come up empty-handed, exhausted and looking like an idiot for investing myself in such a lost cause? What if I knock until my knuckles bleed and the door doesn’t budge? Thenwhere will I be?

These are supremely reasonable responses if we take our vulnerable human experiences of denied requests, fruitless searches, and closed doors and project them onto our life with God – particularly our life of prayer. These “what if” responses might cause us to entirely forsake asking, searching, or knocking for what we need. We might prefer always to pray for the needs of others. We might prefer to rest in a form of pseudo-contemplation that says, “Whatever youwant, God” rather than actively stay put in the excruciatingly particular vulnerability of our needs – until Godgives us the genuine freedom of contemplative detachment. 

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Go Open – Br. Luke Ditewig

Br. Luke Ditewig

Mark 6:7-13

Jesus sent out disciples two by two and gave them authority over unclean spirits. Jesus “ordered them to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts.” Jesus sent them out with authority and in need, with power and weakness. They needed hospitality from those to whom they were sent. They had to receive and rely on others.

Jesus revealed God not as distant and self-reliant but vulnerable and personal, coming as a baby and dwelling by growing up, living closely with us. In his longest recorded personal conversation, at a well in Samaria, Jesus began by asking for a drink. He was thirsty and had no bucket. Jesus offered good news and connection with his own need.

Hospitality, offering radical welcome, is not only for us to give but essential for us to receive. We Brothers welcome many alongside us in the monastery each week, and this is God’s house. We are all guests receiving God’s sustenance. As a frequent host, it’s hard and healing when I choose to receive hospitality. Being reliant and cared for as a guest furthers my conversion. 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

Respond While There's Still Time – Br. David Vryhof

davidv150x150When Jesus speaks to the people, he uses metaphors he is sure they will understand.  In today’s gospel he uses the image of a door that is partially opened and about to be closed.  He urges his audience to strive to enter this “narrow door” while they have the opportunity, because there will come a time when the door is closed to them and they will no longer have access through it. Read More

Jesus’ Revelation to Infants – Br. Curtis Almquist

curtis4

Matthew 11:25-27

‘At that time Jesus said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants…’

Who are “the wise and intelligent” to whom Jesus is referring?  Any one of three groups who held power.  One, the scribes and Pharisees who were the educated, Jewish elite.  Second, the Greeks, whose intellectual prowess was recognized even by Rome.  And thirdly, Rome, which was the occupying and controlling force in Palestine.  To a Roman ear, when Jesus, the peasant, prays aloud to the God whom he calls “Father,” – Papa – I thank you, Papa, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things – his revelation – from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants – Jesus is an idiot to the Greeks[i], blasphemous to the Jews, and treasonous to the Romans because Caesar, only Caesar Augustus, was called “God from God.”[ii]

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