The Capacious Heart of Bishop Hilary – Br. Curtis Almquist

Br. Curtis Almquist

Hilary of Poitiers

1 John 2:18-25

In the calendar of the church we remember today a fourth-century bishop named Hilary of Poitiers, what is now central France. Hilary was pilloried. Bishop Hilary was rejected and betrayed by a good many people, including those closest to him. Bishop Hilary was convinced that the love of Jesus and that Hilary’s own love for Jesus needed to be capacious to encompass all those whom Jesus loves, including those who so meanly rejected Hilary.

The Greek word “epiphany” means manifestation, which is a clear revelation. The church’s observance of the season of Epiphany is inspired by the wise men from the east who visited the Christ Child.[i] They were foreigners, most likely not Jewish, and yet they were received, honored, and remembered. From the very start, Jesus consistently bequeathed dignity and showed the warmest welcome to the widest cast of people, not just to kindred spirits, not just to those with gold, frankincense, and myrrh, but also to those among the least, and the last, and the lost. Lepers come in many forms, and Jesus was at home with everyone. Read More

Recognizing the Lord – Br. Geoffrey Tristram

Br. Geoffrey Tristram

Sirach 48:1-11
Matthew 17:9-13

The prophet Elijah is one of the great figures of the Bible, and straddles both the Old and New Testaments. In our first reading today from the Book of Sirach, we have this great paeon of praise for Elijah: ‘How glorious you are Elijah in your wondrous deeds’. There is also a profound hope that he would come again, to prepare the way of the Lord. This hope grows through the Hebrew scriptures, and culminates in the very last verses of the Old Testament, in the Book of Malachi: ‘Lo I will send you the prophet Elijah before the great and terrible day of the Lord comes.’  And to this day, when Jewish families celebrate Passover, they leave a place at the table for Elijah, and at one point a son goes to the front door to see if Elijah has come.

In our Gospel reading from Matthew, the disciples Peter, James and John are coming down the mountain having just experienced the glorious Transfiguration of Jesus. At the Transfiguration they saw Elijah, as well as Moses, who were talking with Jesus. As the disciples walked down the mountain they questioned Jesus about Elijah. They wanted to know why Elijah had not come earlier, as promised in scripture, preceding the coming of Jesus. Jesus told them that Elijah had already come, but that people did not recognize him. ‘Then the disciples understood that he was speaking to them about John the Baptist.’ John came preaching repentance and prepared the way for the promised Messiah. In this way, he was fulfilling the role of Elijah, but the religious leaders simply did not recognize him. They did not recognize him. The scriptures are full of this theme of failing to recognize the one who is in their midst; of not truly seeing; of spiritual blindness. Of course, Jesus’ enemies did not recognize who he was. Remember all those chapters in John’s Gospel, where the Pharisees keep asking him hostile questions about his identity. ‘Where are you from? Who is your family? How do you know so much – you’ve never been taught. You are not yet fifty; how have you seen Abraham?’  Finally, in chapter 8: 25 in exasperation, ‘Who are you?’  as the prologue to John puts it, ‘He was in the world, yet the world did not know him,’ 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

Light of the World – Br. Curtis Almquist

Br. Curtis AlmquistRevelation 3:1-6, 14-22

It’s remarkable that our first lesson, from the Revelation to John, includes one of the most tender passages in the whole of the scriptures. The Book of Revelation, which is so full of nightmarish-like scenes depicting the cosmic battle between good and evil, includes a momentary truce, where we hear these very inviting words attributed to Jesus:

“Listen! I am standing at the door, knocking;
if you hear my voice and open the door,
I will come in to you and eat with you, and you with me.”[i]

Where I first learned this passage from scripture was not with my ears but with my eyes: from the painting of William Holman Hunt entitled “The Light of the World.”[ii] You, too, may have been a child when you first saw a reproduction. The original 1850’s painting hangs in the chapel of Keble College at Oxford University. William Holman Hunt produced a later version in 1900, which toured the world and now has its home at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. Since that world tour, a century ago, this painting has been reproduced innumerable times in Sunday School papers, in illustrative Bibles, and in devotional literature the world o’er. The painting has also been a source of inspiration for many poets on both sides of the Atlantic, such as Alfred Lord Tennyson.[iii] Read More

Great Dinner – Br. Luke Ditewig

Br. Luke DitewigLuke 14:15-24

The kingdom of God as a great dinner, as banquet, is an old image. 700 years before Jesus, Isaiah wrote that one day God would make a feast of rich food and well-aged wines for all peoples. At that time, God would also destroy death and wipe away all tears.[i]

Over time, a few groups reinterpreted Isaiah’s vision inserting limits, saying it was not for everyone but rather for good religious folk, those who kept all the religious laws, not for unbelievers, not for foreigners.[ii] Likely some reclining at the dinner with Jesus were expecting him to affirm the reinterpretation: Blessed are the righteous, those who keep the rules, who (like us) will be worthy to be welcomed to God’s party.[iii]

Instead, Jesus tells this story. “Someone gave a great dinner and invited many.” One invites, get confirmations, and from that number prepares appropriate food. When the food is ready, guests are invited a second time to come over, like as we say “now come to the table.”

Contrary to all custom, the guests refuse, giving ridiculous excuses. “I bought a piece of land, and I must go out and see it.” Yet anyone would look at a piece of land extensively before buying. “I bought five yoke of oxen, and I have to go try them out.” Yet oxen must work well together yoked. It would be foolish to buy without testing them first. The third says, “it’s my wedding night. I can’t come.”      These are not: I’m so sorry. Something I couldn’t have foreseen just came up. These are absurd. They are offensive, public insults to the host.[iv]

For good reason, the master of the house became angry. One rightly expects retaliation, or cutting off relationship, or withdrawing and stewing. When you or someone you love is insulted, threatened, hurt or attacked, what stirs in you? How do you want to respond, or what do you find that you do with your anger? Right the wrong with revenge. Fight back with force. Wound with words. Hit to hurt. Shame. Read More