The Good News of Hope – Br. James Koester

Romans 8:18-25

I know that I have told this story before, but I’ll tell it again, partly for those who have not heard it, but mostly because tonight there is a significant point to it.

Years ago, as a young priest, and new to the practice of preaching on a regular basis, two members of my congregation approached me one Sunday after church. They were puzzled by something and wanted to ask me a question. Both Robin and Ann came from the Baptist tradition, and they had a concern about the lectionary. What would happen, they asked, if I felt it important to preach from a different passage of Scripture, than the one assigned by the lectionary. Would I be free, they wondered, to change the reading, or preach from a different text?

Nearly 40 years later, I can’t remember what I said in reply. I do remember the question. It has stuck with me all these years, and keeps cropping up every so often. Today, if one of you were to ask me the same question, I know exactly how I would answer.

The question, for me at least, is not what I would do if I felt it important to preach from a different passage, than the one assigned by the lectionary. The question for me is, what do I do when the lectionary points me in a direction I might not choose to go in, or would prefer to avoid? Because that’s the case tonight. If it were up to me, the gift and promise of hope is not something I’d gravitate to at this particular time. Yet tonight, of all nights we hear, in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.[1] Read More

A Feast of Strength – Br. James Koester

St. Michael and All Angels
Revelation 12:7-12

I don’t know when it began, perhaps the first time someone put an angel on the top of a Christmas tree. Delicate, covered in lace and flounce, sometimes with a magic wand, they may be beautiful, but they have little in common with the angels of scripture, or the iconographic tradition through the ages. These angels as ornaments are likely to shatter with one tap, or smash into tiny pieces unless handled with care and caution. Not so the angels we hear of today. Armed for battle with sword, shield, helmet and staff, clothed in armor, these, dare I say it, muscled and chiseled messengers from God, as icons depict them, are far from the delicate beings hopping on toadstools, dancing on pins, or decorating trees. These are the angels engaged in the cosmic struggle between good and evil. These are the angels of Genesis, Revelation, and John. Read More