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.
II Samuel 7:1-11
December 24, 2023 Abbey Church Abraham
Many people think that Advent is too short (especially this year.) Many of those same people consider Advent to be their favorite season – sitting in the dark, waiting for Jesus to show up. Those two actions (“waiting” and “showing up”) describe our relationship with God: God acts and we receive. God does everything – the term for that is “Grace”. Of course, whenever we speak of either God or humans, things get tricky. Yes, God does everything, but in order for us to receive the Grace to the most benefit, we need to do something (even simply waiting is doing something.)
The story of Joseph and Mary being turned away from the inn at Bethlehem is a useful focus for Advent disciplines: making sure that our lives are not so full of ourselves that Jesus has no place to go, and working at recognizing Jesus around us so that we let Him in instead of turning Him away.
So, in a way, at least from our perspective, Grace does sometimes include works. But even our works are a product of Grace: God created this beautiful universe, so we work to stop messing it up; God comes to live with us and in us, so we work to see and serve Him in everyone; Jesus is coming, so we wait in the dark.
Grace plays a big part in the collects for the Sundays in Advent. The first three mention God’s Grace specifically, and the fourth one acknowledges God’s daily presence in our lives and our desire to have a place for Jesus in them.
People have been working on figuring out the relationship between Grace and Works for a long time, and the arguments have not tended to result in good things. So, instead of trying to figure it out in this sermon, we should stick to what we know: Advent is too short. Jesus is already here, no matter what we do. AMEN
Anakin and Mussolini
March 13, 2022 Abbey Church Abraham
We know the story: Jesus was a good guy doing the right thing – healing and helping people with love and compassion; Herod was a bad guy doing the wrong thing – controlling and exploiting people with greed and fear. Our own stories are not so obvious.
Helping and healing people is never wrong, but sometimes we can do it in ways that are not best for everyone. Wielding power and authority and keeping public order and tradition in place are not always wrong – in fact, those things can be a means of helping and healing people. Many evil tyrants do not start out that way. They truly want to do the best thing for people, but allow fear or ego to take over their motives. Many people who start out helping and healing people and speaking out against corrupt and hurtful governments and traditions become evil tyrants in their own way, allowing fear or ego to take over their motives, and becoming rigid in their rules of how to be helped and healed.
We need to be always checking our motives and methods and never be smug about our correctness and our foes’ incorrectness. Healing and helping people is never wrong, but the way we go about it might need some refining. Keeping public order and safeguarding tradition is usually not wrong, unless it keeps people from being helped and healed.
We must always be open to the possibility that we are wrong and the people who oppose us might be right. It takes a lot of maturity, prayer, and advice to make sure our motives and methods are good. It is important to do the right thing, but it is even more important to do it in a way that is helpful.
We don’t have all the answers, but we can open ourselves up to the Holy Spirit so that we can be always learning. We can stop obsessing about ourselves so much so that Jesus can grow in us, helping us to be more helpful and healing. We can watch ourselves, so that when the Herod part of us takes over, we can catch it and put the Jesus part of us in its place. It takes time and effort, but God’s grace is always there to begin and complete the task. We can start by coming to be fed at this table by Jesus, who wants to fill and satisfy us and give us strength for the work ahead of us. AMEN
II Corinthians 3:12-4:2
Policy of Truth
February 27, 2022 Abbey Church Abraham
Hazrat Rabia from Basra in the eighth century has given us this beautiful prayer:
“O Lord, if I worship you because of Fear of Hell,
then burn me in Hell;
If I worship you because I desire Paradise,
then exclude me from Paradise;
But if I worship you for Yourself alone,
the deny me not your Eternal Beauty.”
Fear and hope are self-centered, while love is God-centered, but the truth is: everything revolves around God, not around us. So, getting rid of fear and even hope as motivators and living solely from love is a good thing. It is a goal we might never reach, but at least we have been given the next several weeks as a special time to work on it.
We work not to gain salvation, but rather to clear our eyes so that we can see it. Like the disciples on the mountain, when we see God, it can be confusing and scarey, because it is so different from the way we are used to living. But like Moses on the mountain, we can also be a source of God’s light to those around us, even if it is confusing and scarey for them.
All of this is a reason to keep looking at God alone, so we can always be getting more used to it. It is confusing and scarey because it is not our usual way of living (which is mostly thinking about ourselves). The more we get used to having God in the center of our lives, the more beautiful the light becomes to us, and the more we can see reality.
May this be our goal for the next several weeks: looking less at ourselves and more at God, so that when Easter finally arrives, it is the most real one we have ever experienced. AMEN
Epiphany II Year C
I Corinthians 12:1-11
January 16, 2022 Abbey Church Abraham
We are all important. We are all created by God. We are all made in God’s image. We do not need to do anything to become important; we already are. We are all so important, God gives each of us important things to do. That makes all of us more important. We do not need to be successful in the tasks that God gives us. In fact, we really have no idea of how to be successful in those tasks – only God knows, and God simply wants us to do the tasks. God simply wants us to be ourselves.
Our second reading from Paul to the Christians in Corinth gives a list of tasks that some people have been given. Our task might not be on that list, but that does not make it any less important than the tasks that are on that list. The Gospel story tells of people doing tasks: Mary telling Jesus what people need, Jesus telling people how to meet that need, people doing what Jesus told them to do, and Mary telling them to do whatever Jesus tells them. The outcome of the tasks were not dependent on the people doing them – God changed the water into wine, the people simply had to fill the tanks.
Sometimes we do not know what our tasks are. That is ok, we will find them eventually. Many times, we are doing them and do not even know it – we just need to make sure we are not doing things that hinder our Godgiven tasks. Such hindrances would be things like hate, greed, and self-righteousness.
So, even when we are not sure what our tasks are, we still need to remember that we are important, simply because God made us. God loves us, like Isaiah describes in our first reading. God is giddy about us, like a couple getting married are giddy about each other. In fact, even when we are not doing the tasks we know we should do, and even when we are actively and intentionally doing those things that hinder our God given tasks, God still loves us. God is grieved about how we are hurting ourselves and those around us, but God’s love for us never diminishes.
So, as Mary said: “Do whatever he tells you.” And until we figure out what that task is, it is ok to simply “Be whoever he made you.” AMEN
July 18, 2021 Abbey Church Abraham
We’re one, but we’re not the same. That does not mean that we should cultivate eccentricities, or allow them to grow into problems. As we grow in Christ (if we are truly growing) our differences become ever greater gifts to the whole, rather than becoming messes that others have to clean up. And true growth in Christ means that he is the foundation – not our own whims and desires. Not allowing our own self-centered impulses to control our lives is not equal to squashing our personalities, nor is it self-hate. It is actually deep self-love: learning about the many aspects of ourselves and laying them on the foundation of Jesus, so that they grow into blessings that help ourselves and the world around us, rather than allowing them to grow into monsters that hurt ourselves and the world around us. Building ourselves on the foundation of Jesus rather than on our own egos also allows and helps other people to grow into their best selves, because it frees them from always having to fearfully clean up the tragedies that our unsaved monsters make.
As we all grow individually, we all grow together in Christ: our healthy differences blending together, making up for each other’s deficits as they make up for ours. The Holy Spirit then fills the structure. But the Holy Spirit has been there all along as the one who builds: it all comes about by Grace. The Holy Spirit shows us our strengths and weaknesses and gives us the ability to lay them all on the foundation of Jesus so that they can be healed.
We’re one, but we’re not the same. And we are not completely there, yet. We all have a lot of growing to do, as individuals, as groups, and as the Church in its universality through time and space. God is infinite, so we might never reach the point where we do not need to grow into a fuller temple. That is ok, we can keep giving each other the slack to grow, as they give us, and we give ourselves. With constancy and joy, every day and every moment we lay our peculiar selves down on the foundation of Christ. And every day and every moment the Holy Spirit works on us and fills us. Every day and every moment. AMEN
September 6, 2020 Abbey Church Abraham
The first part of this morning’s gospel reading is more helpful than the next-to-last part: try to take care of problems privately before they become too big. That is easier said than done, because what might seem to be an offence that another person is committing is not wrong in that person’s eyes. It might be an offence only in our own eyes. So, at least by confronting people privately, we get a chance to learn that we might in fact be the one who is wrong, rather than the other person. We then have a chance to either correct our perception of the other person’s actions, or at least learn to live with them. Going to a person privately to confront them about a problem is difficult, and so it gives us a chance to ponder if the problem really is big enough to do anything about, or even if it can even be changed at all. We learn to accept the fact that sometimes the best thing to do is in fact to sweep things under the rug. That’s life.
The middle part about using a group to discern wrongdoing and confront the wrongdoer is a little better, because it relies on collective discernment and wisdom in how to confront the person and correct the problem. Even then, actions and intentions can be misinterpreted by the group, but it is not as common as one person misinterpreting another person’s actions.
The next-to-last part about group decisions having eternal consequences is really frightening. Yes, we have the Holy Spirit to guide us. But honestly, we are not really all that good at following or even listening to the Holy Spirit. The fact that our group decisions have eternal consequences should make us veer far to the side of forgiving rather than condemning. We should always remember that we need to correct problems, rather than punish people. Punishing people solves nothing and only makes thing worse.
At least we get some consolation at the end of our reading: Jesus is with us, but only if we gather in His name. Gathering to condemn is not gathering in Jesus’s name. Gathering to heal and forgive is. AMEN
Proper 14 Year A
I Kings 19: 9-18
August 9, 2020 Abbey Church Abraham
In our gospel story this morning, Peter and the other disciples are doing exactly what they are told, but run into trouble anyway, and Peter follows Jesus’s instructions, but still becomes frightened. That’s life: even the best people living the best lives will have problems. In our story, Peter is rescued by Jesus. In our own lives, sometimes people are not rescued.
Many people say the existence of random desperation is a sign that either there is no God, or that if there is a God, it is an evil one who doesn’t care about suffering. We can’t blame people for thinking that way – they have a good point. Other people say that random suffering is actually not an indicator of the lack of a good God, but rather is an indicator the our good God is a lover, rather than a control freak. If God is not a controller, but rather a lover, that means that instead of changing our situations, God goes through the situation with us. We don’t know why tragedy happens to some and not to others – all we can really count on is that God loves us and is with us always and everywhere, even in our desperation.
Like Jesus on the cross, God does not always intervene and save us. On the cross, God did not save himself, because God is a not a controller. God suffers with us, as a lover does. That sounds comforting when we are safe, but not so much when we are hurting. Maybe the thing to do is to remember that although God does not always put an end to bad situations, God instead makes something completely new out of them – better than what came before and always much better than we could have imagined. But the fact remains that crucifixion comes before resurrection.
We don’t know why some people suffer so much and others don’t. Our job is to help others as much as we can. And it is quite alright to have faith in God while at the same time questioning God for allowing the suffering. We will suffer at times. Even worse, people we love will suffer, and sometimes won’t get better. God is with us and goes through the pain with us. It is not easy – it’s just the way it is. We will soon be up here to meet God our lover at the table. The time here is intimate as we join our lover in a meal and bring our bodies together in a union that is physical as well as spiritual. That is the perfect time for bringing our hurts, questions, and complaints to God, as people do when sitting down to a meal together or whispering to each other while making love. We might not get the answer we want, but we will be held close and offered a place to rest in the arms of the God who loves us and will never leave us. AMEN
July 12, 2020 Abbey Church Abraham
Everything we have is a gift – that’s “Grace”. We have to take what we are given and build a life out of it – that’s “Works”. Grace vs Works has been a topic throughout Christian history, and unfortunately, many times people have lived as if the two can not exist together. They can and should, and monastic life is a good example of the fact that grace should be a catalyst for good works, and good works are met with grace.
We have been given the opportunity to live here in a monastery (Grace). We then have to use monastic life intentionally and mindfully for it to come to any good (Works). All the tiny rules of refectory jobs, all the discussions, all the early mornings in church followed by gathering in the church throughout the day, all the private prayer and scripture reading, all the do’s and don’t’s, and all the grating characteristics and habits of the other monks: all of that is an opportunity to clear away the rocks and weeds of our own pettiness and whininess so that the seeds of God’s love can grow in the good soil of our cleansed hearts.
It takes a long time, and is tedious, and we can’t see our own progress, so the tools of perseverance and not comparing ourselves with others are important helps in preparing the soil of our lives. We will progress at times and fail at other times, but we won’t give up, because God never gives up – that’s Grace. May we work with the grace that is given to us. We are worth it. AMEN
January 5, 2020 Abbey Church Br. Abraham
It has taken two generations of stars to make us humans. In the words of Chrissie Hynde: “we’re special…so special”. But instead of treating ourselves and others and the world around us as the amazing stardust that we are, we so often treat each other like dirt. We don’t even treat our dirt very well. Still, God thinks we are special enough that he became one of us. We share DNA with God! God inhabits the material universe, making all of it a holy temple! Infinity flows throughout finitude! God is transcendent, immanent, and embedded in our world!
And we did not like that, so we killed Jesus. So, God solved that by raising Jesus from the dead, pulling us up into his resurrection. We are special because of creation, incarnation, and resurrection.
We need to remember that, and stop treating ourselves, others around us, and the things in our world so poorly. When we see someone whose life, words, and actions are causing others pain (bullies, business people, political figures, religious tyrants), we need to not only do what we can to stop the wrongdoing, but also have compassion on all involved (victims as well as perpetrators). Dehumanizing and damning the wrongdoer is in itself wrongdoing. After all, they are just as special as we are, and are caught in the same web of fear and sin as we are. They need help escaping evil just as much as we do.
God has wonderfully created, and yet more wonderfully restored, the dignity of human nature. May we take that to heart, and live as if it were true – because it is. AMEN