Br Roger Stewart

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.

Easter V on Thursday at Volmoed

Scripture Readings

This morning, we have a different agricultural image to consider. Last week, it was sheep farming; this week, it’s vine growing, which is somewhat more familiar to us, here in this part of the country. In today’s metaphor, Jesus says that he is the vine and his disciples are the branches, and by extension so are we, who have been brought to life by him.

Sermon for the Second Sunday of Easter – Thomas the Realist, by Br Daniel

Readings for Today

Brother Daniel
Br Daniel

So, Christ is Risen!

Christ is risen, indeed, and the Easter cry isn’t only for Easter, of course. For while each and every Sunday is a celebration of the resurrection, we have 49 days between Easter and Pentecost in which to focus our attention on the resurrection and all that God accomplishes through it.

At the same time, I am also mindful, on this day and with this text, of what God does not accomplish and, I suspect, so are all of us. We are in the midst of a seemingly endless pandemic, our economy is dismal, we are swamped by crime and corruption, infrastructure is collapsing around us, thank goodness not so much in our part of the world, and each one of us has personal difficulties or tragedies to contend with.

And so, sometimes we come to church on Easter or in the weeks after, and our alleluias ring hollow and Easter acclamations wear a bit thin. If this is you, or if you think it might characterize some of your friends and family, then the story of Thomas is right on the money!