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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.
Many of Abbot Andrew’s sermons are posted on his blog.

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Proper 20 Year B: Tough Work If You Can Get It, And You Can Get It If You Try

Jeremiah 11:18-20
James3:13-4:3,7,8a
Mark 9:30-37

September 23, 2018   Abbey Church   Abraham

Jeremiah was given a tough job, and he was rewarded for his efforts by being jailed and ridiculed and eventually dragged off to Egypt – a place where he warned people to not go. His tough job was that of merely telling the truth. He, like almost everyone at that time and location could see that Babylon would soon conquer his nation, as it had conquered all other nations in the area. Even though everyone saw what was happening politically and militarily in the region, many people in power kept their power by assuring others that God would protect their nation, since it was chosen by God. Jeremiah asked the uncomfortable question of why the people in power were praying to false gods rather than the God whom they publicly claimed would help them. He also pointed out the uncomfortable truth that since they had secretly turned their backs on God, God would publicly turn his back on them. We heard a bit of Jeremiah in the first reading this morning talking about his difficult job. He asks to see God’s retribution upon the people who have made his life so hard. Hopefully Jeremiah calmed down later and did the Christian thing by forgiving his persecutors, just like all us Christians here always do.

James (whom we heard in our second reading) was given a tough job, and he has was rewarded for his efforts by having his letter belittled by Martin Luther. His tough job was one of telling people that faith produces works. Most of the bitterness of the Reformation has now settled down, so most people on all sides can see James’s point, but there are still some people either using his letter as a weapon against people with whom they disagree, or trying to explain away the parts of it that don’t agree with their party line. Hopefully the many people from so many different denominations that gather together here won’t ever start a fight: Lutherans with copies of the Letter to the Romans, Catholics with copies of the Letter of James, Anabaptists refusing to join the fight, and Calvinists standing back watching, knowing that the outcome is preordained anyway.

Jesus (whom we heard in our Gospel story) was also given a tough job and he was rewarded for his efforts by being crucified. Jesus was surrounded by disciples who don’t seem to have understood him, but who are we to judge – we still don’t really understand Jesus. The resurrection maybe did compensate for the hard time Jesus had, but we are still making his life rough by doing exactly the same stupid things the disciples did, and worse.

The tough jobs we have talked about this morning involve telling people things that might make them uncomfortable. Many times we find ourselves in the same situation – something needs to be said, and no matter what we say, someone will take it wrongly or as an attack, or misinterpret it. We all sometimes need to do the talking, and we all sometimes need to do the listening, and we all do both jobs well sometimes and badly other times. That’s ok, no one is perfect, and usually we all eventually settle down and get along with each other.

Probably, none of us is ever going to be given the job of saying things of such importance as Jeremiah or James or Jesus. When we do sense the need to say something about something, we need to do it humbly, realizing that we could be wrong, and also realizing that just because we don’t like something, that does not make it wrong or bad or stupid. Most people already know all of our preferences, and they really don’t want to hear about them again. It is also important to remember to listen to other people, because even if we disagree with them, they might be right and we might be wrong. It is especially important to remember to listen to people who have said things in the past with which we disagree, or who come from groups with which we tend to disagree, because sometimes they just might say things that need to be said, even if they say it in harmful or hurtful ways. The Kingdom of God comes to the little child (full of questions), not to the people at the front of the line yelling out answers. So, with Jeremiah and James looking on and joining us, we come to this table to be fed by Jesus. He is the one we really need to listen to, and he does tend to use the unexpected person or event as his mouth.   AMEN

Proper 8 Year B: Exit Finite; Enter Infinite

Wisdom 1:13-15,2:23-24
II Corinthians 8:7-15
Mark 5:21-43

July 1, 2018   Abraham   Abbey Church

The little girl and the woman in our gospel story this morning were both healed by Jesus, but it is a safe assumption that they both eventually died. Humans die. Jesus died. Jesus is fully human, as well as fully God. In some unexplainable way, that means that God had also experienced death. Impossible, but true. But, since Jesus is fully God and fully human, it also means that he not only experienced death, he also experienced fully human eternal life.

In our first reading, Solomon says that we are created as the image of God’s eternity, but we choose death through envy. God creates us for eternal joy, but we desperately want so much less, so we kill our eternal joy and try to fill the void with other things, doing anything we can to fill that infinite space with the finite things around us – even if that means taking them from other people. And so sin and death enter the world.

The things around us are not bad; they are good. They are just not God. Anything that is not God is less than God. So, we should take Paul’s advice from our second reading this morning. He is writing to people who have more than they need, asking them to give to people who have less than they need. They are not forced to do so; it is voluntary – giving must be voluntary in order to negate lifekilling envy. Giving is what God does.

It is not easy on the surface, but in terms of eternal joy, it is worth it. Letting go of our finite resource of things, time, and energy opens us up so that the infinite joy of God can fill us. We don’t always freely give of ourselves all the time, and we all know it. That does not mean we are evil. It means we are tired and worried. Jesus knows that; he was also tired and worried, and so doesn’t mind it sometimes when we just give up and have to let Jesus give through us (but even doing that is a form of giving: giving up our self-righteousness). It takes time and work, but mostly it takes grace. So it is a good thing that God is gracious and that God gives. God gives eternal life, and every time we refuse it, God offers it again.   AMEN

Proper 4 Year B: Have Fun With It

Deuteronomy 5:12-15
II Corinthians 4: 5-12
Mark 2:23-3:6

June 3, 2018   Abbey Church   Abraham

Our scripture readings this morning speak of creation and Sabbath (or in other words: “work and rest”). Sometimes, people say that Christians should meet for prayer on Saturdays rather than on Sundays, because Moses says that people are supposed to meet for prayer on Saturdays. They are wrong – Moses says to rest on Saturday – we just heard that. Prayer can and should be any day including the Sabbath. Christians meet on Sunday to remember and proclaim the resurrection of Jesus. Most Christians also do not work on Saturday (depending on what one classifies as work). And if Christians do work on Saturdays, they are not disobeying Moses, because Moses was giving God’s law to a specific group of people for life in a specific place. Maybe a Jewish Christian currently living in Palestine should be obliged to observe the Sabbath, but there are hints in the New Testament that they are not obligated to do so.

Having said all that, Christians should both pray and rest from work. Both things show our total dependence on God alone. Resting from work reminds us that everything comes from God – no matter how hard we work, we can not guarantee any material gain. Prayer reminds us that everything comes from God – no matter how hard we work, we can not guarantee anything. All is gift.

Yes, we should work. Yes, we should pray. And yes, we should at times rest from work. We really shouldn’t rest from prayer, but we should realize that resting from both work and intentional prayer in order to simply enjoy the universe around us is itself a form of prayer (gratefully having fun in the beautiful creation of God.)   AMEN

Here, There, And Everywhere: Ascension Day 2018

Acts 1:1-11
Ephesians 1:15-23
Luke 24:49-53

May 10, 2018   Abbey Church   Abraham

The ascension of Jesus (no matter if it occurred on the evening after the Resurrection or forty days later, and no matter if he went up, or out, or wherever) brings about the close of one era while preparing the beginning of another era. In one way, the works of Jesus are now over, but in another way, the works of Jesus are just beginning with the works of the church. One body of Christ was taken from the earth and replaced with another one. We are given the job of being the body of Christ: “the fullness of Him who fills all in all”, as Paul puts it in our second reading this morning.

It seems difficult to fill our own little corner of the planet with grace and love, much less the entire expanding universe. Paul prays that his readers might understand a little of this when he asks that their minds might be enlightened to see the glory they will inherit – the glory of a world in harmony under Christ and in Christ. Honestly, being enlightened that much seems more than anyone could really handle. Jesus, being fully human, knows that we could never endure such enlightenment on our own, or do his work by ourselves, so he tells his disciples to go back to Jerusalem and wait for the Holy Spirit before they attempted any of it.

The gift of the Holy Spirit that the disciples were to wait for is often a puzzle to Christians, or should be. The readings today do not clear up many of those questions, but it does seem clear that the Holy Spirit is a gift who enables us to spread the gospel. Often it seems that the Holy Spirit is more of a burden than a gift – when we want to spread the gospel our way instead of God’s way. Many times we are like the disciples and we want to know “when the kingdom will be restored to Israel?”, or in our words: “when will justice and peace flourish?”. Jesus says that’s not for us to know – we are instead to wait for the Holy Spirit. So, maybe the Spirit is a gift who lets us know and do what we need to know and do.

Before he sends them back to Jerusalem, Jesus tells the disciples that they are witnesses to what he has said and done. We need to continue that witness – bringing to the world the Jesus that we know, not the Jesus that we don’t know. We also need to stop staring into the sky and instead wait for the Spirit to tell us what to do.

So, Jesus is gone, but also still very much here. He is Lord and head of the church, he is beyond time and space, yet fills time and space. His power is limitless, and he is in us. The one who holds all things together is now as close to us as we are to each other, and as close as he was to Joseph and Mary growing up, and to John as he leaned against his breast, and to Mary and Martha as they sat around the house. As we wait for the Holy Spirit to tell us what to do, Jesus is still with us, and he will be with us as we do his work, guided by his Holy Spirit.   AMEN

Easter III Year B: See It, Be It

Acts 3:12-19
I John 3:1-7
Luke 24:36b-48

April 15, 2018   Abbey Church   Abraham

 

There is a phrase in our second reading this morning that always catches me, either when I hear it or read it.: “…when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” I used to think that maybe the words had been transposed in some ancient manuscripts so long ago that we now just assumed that the order in our current Bibles is the correct version. I really thought John should have said: “…when he is revealed, we will see him as he is, because we will be like him.”, because God’s job is to make us holy, and then when we are holy enough, we will see everything, including God, as it really is – without the bias and filter of our own sinful greed and fear.

Yes, it is God’s job to make us holy – it’s all grace. And yes, the holier God makes us, the more we see things as they really are (always about God, never about us). But, the holier God makes us, the more we are expected to grow and cultivate the growth – actively doing things to receive the holiness that God is pouring upon us. It’s all grace, but faith and works are also part of the picture.

So, we need to work on seeing God as God really is, and dong that involves also seeing creation as it really is. We need to see everything in its true relationship with God, rather than in its false relationship to us. And of course by “seeing” it is implied that we start living in the truth and treating everything as it truly is in relationship to God, not as it might affect us. There are many ways to do that, and the classical Christian disciplines of fasting, prayer, scripture reading, going to church, etc. are helpful for many people. Other people might need to try something else, but the important thing is that we start seeing things and living life as it really is: without us as the center, but rather with God as the center. Freeing ourselves from the center of the universe is indeed liberating.

So, as we start to see God as God really is and ourselves as we really are and the rest of creation as it really is, what we are doing is actually becoming like God in at least one aspect, because God always sees the truth. It’s all grace, so eventually God will give us a glimpse of Godself as God really is, but God knows that we just can’t handle the truth yet. God is waiting for us to grow to the point that God can safely show us the truth without completely shattering us. At some point in eternity (which encompasses all points), God will be revealed to us, and “we will be like him, for we shall see him as he is”.   AMEN

Baptism Of Our Lord Year B (First Sunday After Epiphany): We Don’t Understand And That’s OK

Baptism Year B (first Sunday after Epiphany)
Genesis 1:1-5
Acts 19:1-7
Mark 1:1-4

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

Shining Star, No Matter Who You Are; Shining Bright To See Who You Can Truly Be: Epiphany 2018 – first profession of Br. Armand Koss

Epiphany 2018 – first profession of Br. Armand Koss
Isaiah 60:1-6
Ephesians 3:1-12
Matthew 2:1-12

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

Proper 27 Year A: Encourage One Another With These Words

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

Proper 7 Year A: Job Description

Jeremiah 20:7-13
Romans 6:1b-14
Matthew 10:24-39

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