Br Roger Stewart

Thursday at Volmoed – Sermon for the Third Sunday of Easter

Scripture Readings

I am intrigued by the resonances I find between two of the readings our Sunday lectionary invites us to consider this morning. Both the passage from Acts and that from the Gospel of John tell us stories of significant encounters with Jesus by men who would later have an important role in establishing the early Church.

In Acts, Saul who would become the apostle Paul is initially set on persecuting followers of Jesus, and goes to considerable lengths in his determination to do so. In John’s Gospel, the apostle Peter is floundering about, seemingly at a loss as to what to do after his denial of Jesus before the crucifixion. Both Saul and Peter are with others when Jesus meets them, but Jesus seems to be confronting each of them individually, as if those with them fade into the background for the moment.

Both encounters have extraordinary aspects, a light from heaven in one, a strange catch of fish in the other. I’m not sure what to make of these aspects, but I suspect they might somehow find echoes in our own lives of extraordinary experiences we perhaps have had of God, experiences that are difficult for us to put into words without seeming to diminish their significance for ourselves, a significance that is no less real for being usually less dramatic.

Sermon for Transfiguration Sunday by Br Daniel

Gospel : Matthew 17:1-9

Br Daniel
Br Daniel

I absolutely believe in the power of a hug. There are few things that give as much immediate comfort as a sincere hug. And of course, there is the old saying that goes: “Seven hugs a day for good mental health.” And now we understand why there are so many problems during Covid: nobody may give hugs, anymore!

So, why do I talk about hugs?

Because, ‘Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John and led them up a high mountain, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them … and they were afraid … and Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Get up and do not be afraid.”‘

The Second Sunday After Christmas

Scripture Readings

Unusually, the various lectionaries I consulted regarding the scripture readings for today all had different opinions. As I was reading through the various options, it seemed to me that several of the gospel choices suggested a larger story when taken together. So, rather than select one gospel reading to focus on, I will share some thoughts about three of them and the conversation I imagine them to be having amongst themselves.

Second Sunday of Advent – Sermon by Br Daniel

Scripture Readings

Brother Daniel
Br Daniel

Todays’ Gospel begins as follows:

In the fifteenth year of the reign of Emperor Tiberius, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was ruler of Galilee, and his brother Philip ruler of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias ruler of Abilene, during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John, son of Zechariah in the wilderness.

However, I want to paraphrase this:

“Despite Tiberius being Emperor of Rome, Pontius Pilate, Herod, Phillip and Lysanias being provincial governors, and despite Annas and Caiaphas being the high priests, God chose to speak to a nobody named John, living in the desert.”

Thursday at Volmoed – Sermon for the Twenty-Third Sunday After Pentecost (Proper 26B)

Readings for Sunday

For the past several weeks of our journey through Mark’s Gospel via the Sunday lectionary, Jesus has himself been on a journey, his increasingly bewildered disciples following him to Jerusalem. Between last Sunday and this coming one, the lectionary skips over quite a lot of what happens after Jesus arrives in Jerusalem. This Sunday’s gospel reading describes an encounter that takes place after an extended series of disputes between Jesus and various factions constituting much of the religious leadership of Jerusalem.

In some ways, this encounter reminds me of one Jesus had while still on the road with a young man concerned about eternal life. In that case, it seems to me that Jesus’ first response is almost dismissive, until the young man stands his ground and insists that his question be taken seriously. It is then that Jesus really looks at him, and when he actually sees him, he loves him. Of course, Jesus then tells him the last thing he wanted to hear, but that’s another story.

Thursday at Volmoed – Sermon for the Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 22B)

Readings for Sunday

Given that the Pharisees supply an answer to their own question readily enough when Jesus prompts them to do so, they certainly don’t seem to have been seeking enlightenment from Jesus. If, as Mark tells us, their question was asked as a trap, it doesn’t appear to have been much of one.

However, I’m told that marriage had come to be regarded mostly as a legal arrangement between families, and divorce raised the question of how that legal arrangement could be terminated. It seems this was a hot topic of debate among religious scholars of the time.

The Pharisees were trying to catch Jesus in a position of unorthodoxy. There was also a deeper trap: John the Baptist had literally lost his head by directly challenging the divorce and remarriage proceedings of King Herod.

Thursday at Volmoed – Sermon for Trinity Sunday by Br Daniel

Scripture Readings for Trinity Sunday

Brother Daniel
Br Daniel

The desert father, Evagrius of Pontus, once observed: “God cannot be grasped by the mind. If he could be grasped, he would not be God.”

This coming Sunday is Trinity Sunday, and Evagrius might have had this in mind when he made the above statement.

It is certainly true that the doctrine of the Trinity – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – has been the source of much confusion, misuse, and controversy through the ages.

Day of Pentecost – Conversation with a Benedictine monk

I recently came across a 2016 podcast in the On Being series by Krista Tippett, in which she interviews Br. David Steindl-Rast, a Benedictine monk at the Gut Aich Priory in St. Gilgen in Austria and a teacher and author on the subject of gratitude, who is the founder and senior advisor for A Network for Grateful Living. A Benedictine monk for over 60 years, Br. David was formed by 20th-century catastrophes. He calls joy “the happiness that doesn’t depend on what happens”. And his gratefulness is not an easy gratitude or thanksgiving — but a full-blooded, reality-based practice and choice.

Why do I share this at Pentecost? Because he defines “spirituality” from “spiritus” that means “life”, “breath”, “aliveness”. Spirituality is aliveness on all levels. It must start with our bodily aliveness. But of course, when we say “spirituality”, we also mean aliveness to interrelationships, aliveness to our confrontation with that great divine mystery with which we are confronted as human beings and which we can look away from or forget or be dead to. We come alive to it. When people are grateful, they come alive.