Sermon for 5th Sunday after Epiphany

Readings for the day

Some passages in the Gospels all but preach themselves… today’s passage from Mark is not one of those passages… Some passages grab us with inspiring prose… and also, today’s passage is not one of those… I find this passage from Mark pedestrian at best. And as I looked around the internet at other people’s sermons for today, I discovered that I’m not alone. For many this Gospel passage seems to sit somewhere between dull and annoying.

December 2023/January 2024 News

Having entered the monastic community on 15 July last year, Mpumelelo Khambule completed his six-month Postulancy and was clothed as a Novice in the habit of the Order on Saturday 20 January. The happy event was witnessed by numerous people from the residential and dispersed Volmoed community. John and Isobel de Gruchy also represented the Associates of the Order. Two members of the Community of Jesus’ Compassion (CJC) in KZN, Mo Yeki and Sr Ntombi, travelled to Volmoed for the occasion. CJC is the religious community with whom Br Mpumelelo lived for a time before joining our monastic community. They nurtured his initial discernment of a monastic vocation, and so it was wonderful that they could be with us as he entered the next stage of his initial monastic formation. Mati Mzamo, a friend of CJC who used to spend time at our former monastery outside Makhanda (Grahamstown) in the Eastern Cape, has relocated to the Western Cape and it was lovely that she could also attend Br Mpumelelo’s clothing ceremony.

Thursdays at Volmoed – Sermon for the Conversion of St Paul the Apostle

Scripture Readings

Today in the Church calendar is the feast day of the Conversion of St Paul the Apostle. Last Thursday was the feast day of the Confession of St Peter the Apostle. What with one being designated the apostle to the Gentiles and the other the apostle to the Jews, the week in between has been dedicated to an intensification of prayer for Christian unity.

The story of Paul’s conversion is very prominent in the New Testament. The story itself is told three times in various ways in the Acts of the Apostles, the last of which telling we heard this morning. We also heard Paul allude to it in his letter to the Galatians, as he does in several of his other letters.

Sermon for the First Sunday after Christmas

Scripture Readings

The Gospel of John has no shepherds directed by angels nor magi guided by a star. There is no baby born to bewildered parents. Instead, we are given what seems closer to a God’s eye view of the Christmas story. The eternal Word of God, the One through whom all things were made and by whom all things are sustained, came into the world, becoming flesh and blood and living among us, in the form of Jesus Christ. The details of how it all came about seem not to matter much to John the Evangelist, the mystic who seems more interested in what it all means.

Feast of Holy Innocents – Volmoed 2023

Readings for the day

Today a few things come together that may not seem to have much in common. We are in the Octave of Christmas. And today is the Feast of the Holy Innocents, which is part of Matthew’s story of Jesus’ birth. It is also, as chance would have it, the twentieth anniversary of my Monastic Profession in the Order of the Holy Cross.  

1st Sunday of Advent 2023 

Readings for the day

Well – happy new year! That big event coming up where all the world watches a lighted globe drop atop a building at Times Square and fireworks at the V&A waterfront, or in various places (and, giving my ancestors their due) celebrates Hogmanay, is all an imposter. In the Church Year – the one that matters – the first Sunday of Advent is the beginning of a new year, the true new year… The church has no grand title for the year of our Lord 2024. It’s just humble year B… but a new year nonetheless… 

Now if we go hang about the Whale Coast Mall, everything will assure us that this season is all about getting ready for Christmas, the coming of Jesus into the world. I’m not sure our retailing brothers and sisters are all that clear about Jesus’ role in the season. But it is beautiful and comforting to have decorations and Christmas Trees strewn about, so I’m all for it. This world could use a little comfort. 

November 2023 News

November saw two distinct improvements in the transport infrastructure affecting movement to and from Volmoed. First, a bridge over the nearby national road was repaired, allowing traffic to move along that road again, thus reducing traffic volumes that had made travel along the lengthy unpaved detour road not only unpleasant but dangerous. Second, movement along the main road through the bottom of the valley became possible again, once the single-lane bypass around the damage resulting from the storm of late September was completed.

The immediate benefit of these improvements, apart from ease of access to areas beyond the valley from Volmoed, was that people from those areas could once again come to Volmoed relatively easily. There has been a noticeable increase in attendance of the Thursday and Sunday morning church services since, with those who had found themselves unable to come to Volmoed after the storm expressing their delight at being here again.

Thursdays at Volmoed – Sermon for the Feast of St Andrew

Scripture Readings

Today is the Feast Day of St Andrew, one of the twelve apostles who formed the inner circle of Jesus’ disciples as recorded in the Gospels. Andrew is most commonly identified as the brother of Simon Peter. I wonder if he ever got tired of that. Peter and Andrew are often associated with James and John, who were their fishing partners before responding to Jesus’ call to follow him. The four of them shared many experiences with Jesus, but sometimes it was just the three – Peter, James and John – without Andrew. I wonder how he felt about that. I feel sad for Andrew that he missed out on the Transfiguration.

Andrew is perhaps more highly regarded in the Eastern Orthodox church than in the West. The Eastern church has given him the honorific Protokletos, the First-Called, based on the account early in John’s Gospel in which John the Baptist points out Jesus to two of his own disciples, one of whom is Andrew, who immediately goes after Jesus and spends the rest of the day in his company at his invitation to come and see. Andrew then goes to find his brother Simon, tells him he has found the Messiah, and takes him to Jesus, who gives him the name Peter.

As one of the Twelve, Andrew was given authority by Jesus and sent out to proclaim the good news in word and deed, sharing peace with those who would receive it. Andrew continued doing this after Jesus’ death, resurrection and ascension. Throughout the rest of his life, Andrew is said to have travelled far and wide, sharing Jesus’ teachings, and his influence endured long after his death.

October 2023 News

Gradual recovery from the devastating storms of late September continues, within the Western Cape generally as well more locally within the Hermanus area and specifically in the Hemel-and-Aarde Valley including here at Volmoed, where efforts are underway to clean up the riverbanks (which has also provided material for neighbours to use in repairing roads on their properties) though the main access road onto the Volmoed property remains impassable. The lengthy detour along a dusty unpaved road with increased traffic volumes is still necessary for travel into Hermanus, though work on opening the main road through the bottom of the valley has begun. The electricity supply remains somewhat unstable, and there are water restrictions for townspeople as the water supply is still constrained.

Br Roger travelled to Mariannhill Monastery Retreat House in Pinetown KZN to attend the annual meeting of the Council for the Religious Life, together with representatives from most of the other religious communities in the Anglican Church of Southern Africa, as well as the Liaison Bishop who facilitates the interaction between the Council and the institutional Church. The meeting took place over two days in early October, and included reports from each community about its life and work, as well as discussion of challenges that exist within communities and between communities and the church. We also prayed and ate together and had times of fellowship, all of which strengthened the supportive relationships among communities.

Sunday Sermon – November 5 at Volmoed

Readings for this day :: Gospel for this day

A few things come together this week – in a random sort of way… It is the week of All Saints Day. In fact, many churches keep All Saints on this very day. All Hallows or All Saints Eve, Halloween as it is popularly known, was also this week; a day built around bringing many fearful superstitions to life. While many congregations keep All Saints on a Sunday, nobody seems to move Halloween… 

It is also the conclusion of the Colloquium here at Volmoed – a colloquium that has been considering faith in an age of darkness, fear, anxiety, doubt… It might not seem like the most obvious pairing, but just as Halloween pairs well with All Saints Day, I think the Colloquium pairs well with All Saints. Darkness makes the Saints seem brighter. And without a dose of darkness, All Saints runs the risk of being a shallow, triumphant and unnourishing sort of pudding. 

So, let’s add a dolop of darkness.