Easter V Year B: Missing Body Parts

Acts 8:26-40
I John 4:7-21
John 15:1-8

April 28, 2024   Abbey Church   Abraham

There are many lists of laws and rules in the Old Testament, and they do not always match up exactly. Most of the lists work with the idea that God exists in such a different level of reality that we need to meet certain criteria in order to connect with God and not be obliterated in the process. There are certain things we must do and possess and other things we must not do and possess in order to safely commune with God. Being good to other people is high on most of the lists of things to do. Being free from involvement in things associated with beginning or ending lives is also high on most lists: recently touching a corpse or having sex or menstruating must be avoided in order to safely be in God’s presence. Being healthy is also necessary: having leprosy or missing body parts was an obstacle to communal worship.

So, our first reading this morning is surprising because it is about someone missing some body parts who had been worshiping God and came through the experience safely and positively. His story is a catalyst for all of us to reassess our private lists of rules about who is acceptable to God.

Another good reason to reassess our private holiness checklists is the fact that Jesus shows us that although God does indeed exist on a different plane than we do, God also exists on our level of reality as one of us. So, all those rules about avoiding the messy parts of physical existence don’t carry weight anymore, because Jesus lived and lives all that messiness with us. The part about being good to other people grows in importance, but even that is not necessary. The only criterion we need to meet in order to relate to God is to exist.

Our existence give us the right to commune with God, and also the right to reject God. We can be a branch on the Jesus vine and thrive, or we can go our own way and wither. What we cannot do is decide whether or not others can also be on the Jesus vine, and they cannot decide for us. We simply need to stay on the vine and make room for others.   AMEN

Advent IV Year B: Advent Is Too Short

II Samuel 7:1-11
Romans 16:25-27
Luke 1:26-38

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

New Video Series

We have made three new videos/slideshows showing various aspects of life here at St. Gregory’s Abbey. They show the good and the bad, the mundane and the sublime, and everything in between. Look for them on our YouTube Channel.

What Do You Do In The Monastery All Day? Part 1 is already live.

What Do You Do In The Monastery All Day? Part 2 is scheduled for November 8, 2023.

What Do You Do In The Monastery All Day? Part 3 is scheduled for February 8, 2024.

St. Gregory’s Abbey YouTube Channel