All of these sermons were delivered in the Abbey Church. To make it easier to find a certain topic or lectionary day, click one the blue tags below (Holidays, Sundays Year A, Sundays Year B, Sundays Year C). The sermons are posted in order of their calendar date, so not all in the same lectionary year are together – keep scrolling down, and you will find more from earlier calendar years.
Baptism Year B (first Sunday after Epiphany)
January 7, 2018 Abbey Church Abraham
No matter how it is described, we really don’t understand the creation of the world. The Biblical account that we just heard in our first reading is beautiful and true, but we still can’t ever fully comprehend it: God spoke, and everything was made. The current scientific account is also beautiful and true, but we still can’t ever fully comprehend it: dark energy and the quantum foam that permeates the universe causes things to constantly pop in and out of existence.
The two baptisms described in our second reading this morning are also things we can’t ever fully understand: how can water be a channel of God’s grace?
The Baptism of Jesus we heard about in our gospel story this morning is also something we don’t understand: why does God in the flesh need to be baptized and have the Holy Spirit come to him?
We don’t understand these things, and maybe we can’t understand these things, but that is ok. We can still try to live in the mystery of these things. We can be thankful for, and wisely use and protect the wonderful universe that God has created. We can realize that we need to change our lives from self-centeredness to God-centeredness, and that we need the grace of God and the Holy Spirit in and around us in order to change and keep changing. We can follow Jesus into and through baptism, even if we do not understand everything about his own baptism. Then, we can follow Jesus in the rest of his life, and even if it does not include crucifixion, it will include death – and only then can we also follow Him in resurrection.
We don’t understand all these things, but that’s ok – we live by faith, not by sight. AMEN
Epiphany 2018 – first profession of Br. Armand Koss
Paul just told us in our second reading that “through the church the wisdom of God in its rich variety might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.” That is good to hear, but it would also have been good to have heard that the wisdom of God is being made known to the rulers and authorities in earthly places, as well as in heavenly places, because we all have been given at least a little authority over some earthly things, and we sorely need the wisdom of God in order to wisely and justly fulfill our duties as stewards instead of as the capricious tyrants that we usually are. Matthew told us a story this morning about one capricious tyrant who was not pleased to be told of the light shining in the darkness, showing the way to be free of our own tyranny.
We are like Herod in Matthew’s gospel story this morning, because like him, we don’t want to give up the rule of our own petty worlds. But we must, because before we can bring the good news of the light shining in the darkness to others, we ourselves must wake up to that light. We must listen to what Isaiah told us this morning and “arise and shine, for our light has come.” We must “lift up our eyes and look around, for the glory of the Lord has risen upon us.” We must abdicate our pathetic little thrones and freely allow God to rule our lives so that we can become truly alive and fully human the way we are created to be. Once that happens, we can then be light bearers to others who are in their own dark worlds created either by their own self-centeredness and self-righteousness or by that of others around them. We can be like the wise men, leading others to Jesus by our own search.
Of course, we swing back and forth between the light and the dark; sometimes joyfully letting God reign in our lives, at other times miserably and mistakenly living under the false assumption that we can do a better job and so pushing God off the throne of our hearts. We don’t usually push God away on purpose. Instead, we most often crowd God out of our lives by cramming so much of our own self-importance inside us. It might be better to say that instead of chasing God away, we block our view of God, because God is always there, waiting for us to stop dreaming about ourselves so that we can open our eyes and see the real world bathed in the glory of God. When we do that, we also see ourselves bathed in the glory of God as we are meant to be.
That is why we are here today. We are practicing opening our eyes, our hearts, and our lives to God by seeing God in the scriptures, in the bread and wine, and in each other. Once we get used to seeing God in those things, we will start seeing God in all things and treat every person and object with the same respect that we give to things in the church. (The monks will remember that Benedict tell us to do just that.) We know we don’t do that, or actually it is better to say that we know we don’t do that yet or we don’t do it all the time or consistently yet, so we need to keep practicing opening our eyes to God not only when we gather together, but also in our own daily private prayer, scripture reading, work, and encounters with other people. If we do these things mindfully, with good intention, constancy, and perseverance, and of course, relying solely on the grace of God, we will slowly start seeing Jesus more fully in everything the more we train our eyes away from ourselves. We will see his star rising and slowly loosen our grip on our own petty kingdoms so that we become less like Herod and more like the wise men – joyfully and freely bringing him our treasures as he becomes the treasure that we bring to others.
And so we are about to hear a person promise to diligently work on seeing God in the things around him – specifically in the daily, extremely boring round of monastic life; and in the people around him – specifically the extremely boring monks in this monastery. Hopefully, God has already given him one of the most important and merciful gifts we can ever receive: the gift of disillusionment, because if we are living with romantic ideas about monastic life (or life in general), we aren’t living in reality, and so often when those idealized, unachievable illusions are shattered, so is the person holding them. Monastic life is just life, and monks are just people (the same can be said about any life and any person, business, church congregation, etc): we will be disappointed by them, and we will disappoint them. So it is a choice to be either suffocated by the monastic schedule, or to use it is a support to build a wonderful life. It is a choice to be either wearied by the monks around us, or to grow in understanding of their struggles and gifts. The choice is not made at a profession ceremony – it is made every day and every moment. Every day we wake up and say: “Today is the day I am a good monk (or parent, or spouse, or employee, or employer). Every night we say: “OK, I failed today, but tomorrow by the grace of God I will try again.” God will and does give us the grace of growing in love, peace, and joy. It takes time, and we all know how difficult it is, so let’s give ourselves and each other the time and space to grow into the star leading people to Jesus. It’s all about him; it’s never about us, anyway. May this first profession of monastic vows be a blessing to not only the one making the vows, but to all of us hearing them, and to the entire world. AMEN
Br. Armand Koss will profess first vows at 11:00am Eucharist Saturday, January 6, 2018 (Epiphany).
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Amos 5: 18-24
I Thessalonians 4: 13-18
Matthew 25: 1-13
November 12, 2017 Abbey Church Abraham
All of our Bible readings we heard this morning speak of the appearance or return of the Lord. They all seem a bit scary, and in fact they are used to scare people a lot of times. Most of us have probably heard some preacher at one time or another using these very scriptures to frighten someone into doing something, and doing it now, before Jesus comes back and it is too late. The motives behind those urgent sermons might be good, but the method seems to be a bit different from what we heard the Apostle Paul say. In his letter to the Christian in Thessalonica, writing about the return of Jesus, he tells the listeners to encourage, or console or comfort one another with these words. He did not intend for his words to frighten.
Not only the words that we heard from Paul, but also the story from Jesus in the gospel reading has been used to scare people into acting the way the preacher wants them to, so that Jesus would not reject them when he returns. The way the story is made scary is: Jesus is cast as the groom, people whom the preacher thinks are saved are cast as the wise bridesmaids, and people whom the preacher thinks are not saved are cast as the foolish bridesmaids whom Jesus shuts out of heaven because they aren’t ready when he comes back. In all honesty, that’s a good casting of the characters in the story. The one flaw in that rendition is the part where Jesus shuts the foolish bridesmaids out of heaven. In reality, Jesus does not shut people out of heaven, Jesus brings people in. It is we ourselves who shut ourselves out of heaven, and unfortunately, many times when we turn from heaven and make our own hell, we bring the people around us in to hell with us.
Hell is all about thinking we don’t need or deserve the oil or keeping the oil all to ourselves; heaven is about sharing it. But, there is also the question: if we are always sharing our oil with the same persons who never get it for themselves, are we in some way keeping them from the joy of accepting heaven? The oil is never of our own making, of course – it only comes from God, and is always freely and lovingly given. Of course, people who think they have not been given any oil are wrong – God is pouring it out upon them as much as all other people, but we all need to open up to receive it. And anyway, at the end of the story, Jesus says nothing about having enough oil; he just mentions the importance of being awake – and both groups in the story were asleep. So who knows? All we need to know is that God gives us all we need for life and joy, and what he gives us is God’s own self, poured into us until it overflows into the world around us, making heaven for us and the people around us. May we freely open up to accept God’s gift of Self, and freely open up to give it to others. We need to be familiar with what Jesus is like before he returns, so that instead of being frightened and blinded by the amazing awesomeness, we are ready to add our shine to His and to all others who are His lamps around the world. So why not, as Paul says, encourage one another with these words? AMEN
The prophet Jeremiah told the truth about the situation his nation was in, and he got in a lot of trouble for doing that. He was alternately persecuted and consulted by the religious and political leaders who knew he was telling the truth but dared not publicly agree with him. This morning we heard him complaining to God for putting him in this uncomfortable and dangerous situation. Immediately before our reading, Pashur the priest had put Jeremiah in the stocks for the night for warning that Jerusalem would be destroyed by the Babylonian army, and immediately after our reading, King Zedekiah sends another priest (also named Pashur) to ask Jeremiah to pray to God to make the Babylonian army go away, because the king knew they would destroy Jerusalem.
Our gospel reading talks about Jesus putting his disciples in much the same situation as God put Jeremiah. He warns them that they will meet with danger and be persecuted for bringing the truth of Jesus to the world around them, but he also tells them not to worry about it, because God will carry them through to safety. We may never be in physical danger because of our allegiance to Jesus, but if we are doing it right, we will arouse the suspicions of the people around us who owe their allegiance to other things like money, or power, or reputation. We won’t blindly follow any party line, so we will be accused of being dangerous and stupid by those who do. But all of that is ok, because we have work to do bringing the joy, peace and healing of Jesus to the world around us. Our individual tasks as members of Christ’s body are important and necessary in order that all the other tasks of the other members around the world and throughout time can be fulfilled and fall into place.
Like Jesus and Jeremiah, we need to speak the truth, even when other don’t want to hear it. We need to speak the truth humbly, and then we need to live it as best we can. And the truth is: God is love, we are all infinitely loved, and we are to love ourselves, our neighbors, and God. May we not shrink from this task of loving. We might not do it very well or often, but Jesus slowly transforms us into his love every chance we give him. May this gathering be one of those opportunities to grow in Jesus. AMEN