Sermon: Josemaría Escrivá

Nearly 500,000 attended the canonization of Josemaría Escrivá on October 6, 2002

On October 6, 2002, one of my friends, Josemaría Escrivá was canonized, that is, officially made a Saint in the Catholic Church. He is not on our calendar of saints, but he is on mine. His official feast day is Saturday, June 26.

You all have heard me speak about him in the past and some of you have read his biography, so instead of me covering that again, I wanted to share with you some of what Pope John Paul II said about Escrivá to a crowd of several thousand on the day following the canonization.

“Outstanding in the founder of Opus Dei was his love for the will of God. There is a sure criterion of holiness: faithfulness in fulfilling the divine will to its ultimate consequences. The Lord has a plan for each one of us; he entrusts each one with a mission on earth. The saint cannot even think of himself outside of God’s plan: he lives only to fulfill it.

“St. Josemaria was chosen by the Lord to proclaim the universal call to holiness and to indicate that everyday life, ordinary activities, are the way of sanctification. It might be said that he was the saint of the ordinary.

“In fact, he was convinced that for anyone who lives from the perspective of faith everything offers an opportunity for encounter with God, everything becomes a stimulus for prayer. From this point of view, daily life reveals an unsuspected grandeur. Holiness appears truly within the reach of all.”

“St. Josemaria was profoundly convinced that the Christian life entails a mission and an apostolate: We are in the world to save it with Christ.

“He loved the world passionately, with a redemptive love. Precisely for this reason his teachings have helped so many ordinary members of the faithful to discover the redemptive power of faith, its capacity to transform the earth.

“This is a message that has abundant and fruitful implications for the evangelizing mission of the Church. It fosters the Christianization of the world ‘from within,’ showing that there can be no conflict between the divine law and the demands of genuine human progress.

“This saintly priest taught that Christ must be the apex of all human activity. His message impels the Christian to act in places where the future of society is being shaped.

“From the laity’s active presence in all the professions and at the most advanced frontiers of development there can only come a positive contribution to the strengthening of that harmony between faith and culture, which is one of the greatest needs of our time.”

More than once I have read what most consider his most popular of writings, The Way, a collection of 999 sayings, and through the internet, I have heard him speak at various events. What strikes me is the difference between the two. When he is speaking to others, he is compassionate and supportive, but many of the sayings in The Way can be quite hard at times. Speaking on charity, he writes, “Your charity is presumptuous. From afar, you attract; you have light. From nearby, you repel; you lack warmth. What a pity!” (#459)

Many others are similar and all the writings are clear and bold, which makes me think that The Way (and I have no way of proving this)… but it makes me think The Way was originally a collection of sayings to himself. Words he spoke to himself, to bring correction to his own life in areas he thought necessary, and it is that type of self examination / self evaluation that would make a Saint. Ever seeking to improve in the eyes of God. Such honesty with self can at times be quite painful, but as the Proverb tells us, “Iron sharpens iron”, (27:17) and we can all use honesty in our own self examination / evaluation, so that we too become the saints God has called us all to be.

Sermon: Proper 7 RCL B – “Sleep”

Photo by Matt Hardy on Unsplash

Happiness is waking up, looking at the clock and finding that you still have two hours left to sleep. — Charles M. Schulz

We used to sleep five to a bed and three of them used to wet the bed. I learnt to swim before I could walk. — Bernard Manning

Some national parks have long waiting lists for camping reservations. When you have to wait a year to sleep next to a tree, something is wrong. — George Carlin

Never under any circumstances take a sleeping pill and a laxative on the same night. — Dave Barry

I’ve always envied people who sleep easily. Their brains must be cleaner, the floorboards of the skull well swept, all the little monsters closed up in a steamer trunk at the foot of the bed. — David Benioff

Our Gospel reading from Mark began, “When evening had come, Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Let us go across to the other side.’” When it was dark, the disciples went out onto the waters. Mark gives us time and place, a time and place that are reminiscent of another time and place: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.  The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep.” (Genesis 1:1-2) The deep is what rose up in the time of Noah and destroyed every living soul except for those on the Ark. The deep is what swept down and destroyed the armies of Pharaoh. The deep is the place Jonah was cast into and devoured by the whale. The deep is the home of the Leviathan. The deep is the chaos of the world. The deep is death. And the disciples go off into the darkness and onto the face of the deep, and it is then that the wind blows and this deep, this chaos and death begins to churn, thrashing the boat and making the disciples fear for their lives. They call out to Jesus who is sleeping in the bow of the boat, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” Do you not care that we are descending into the chaos and the death? Of course he cares, so he rebukes the wind and the rain, “‘Peace! Be still!’ and a dead calm returns to the face of the deep.” The disciples then ask, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?” Who then is this that even the chaos and death obey? The disciples have not yet grasped the truth of who Jesus is, for there is only one who can calm the chaos and put an end to death. From our Psalm today:

“[The Lord] stilled the storm to a whisper
and quieted the waves of the sea.” (Psalm 107:29)

It is the Lord our God who commands the chaos and it is the Son of God that rebukes and conquers death. So why is it that Jesus sleeps?

A story tells of a young man who applied for a job as a farmhand. When the farmer asked for his qualifications, he responded, “I can sleep when the wind blows.” This puzzled the farmer, but he liked the young man and hired him. A few days later, the farmer and his wife were awakened in the night by a violent storm.

They quickly began to check things out to see if all was secure. They found that the shutters of the farmhouse had been securely fastened. A good supply of logs had been set next to the fireplace. The farmer and his wife then inspected their property. They found that the farm tools had been placed in the storage shed, safe from the elements. The tractor had been moved into the garage. The barn was properly locked. Even the animals were calm. All was well. And they found the farmhand sound asleep. The farmer then understood the meaning of the young man’s words, “I can sleep when the wind blows.” The farmhand did his work loyally and faithfully when the skies were clear, so he had faith that whenever a storm would blow in, all would be well. He was not afraid and so he slept in peace.

Jesus slept when the wind blew, because he knew that all had been cared for by his Father. He knew that God’s purposes were being fulfilled and that his Father was with him. As the Psalmist says:

Where shall I go from your Spirit?
    Or where shall I flee from your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, you are there!
    If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!
If I take the wings of the morning
    and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
even there your hand shall lead me,
    and your right hand shall hold me. (Psalm 139:7-10)

Jesus slept, even when the chaos was blowing and the smell of death was in the air because he had faith in… because he knew of the Father’s presence and the loving hold that that the Father had on his life. And here’s the Good News: Jesus slept because he knew of the Father’s presence and Jesus slept so that we could also know of the Father’s presence… so that we could see that we have no need to be afraid of the chaos or even death itself. Jesus slept so that we would know that we could sleep.

There will always be storms, chaos, and death, but these things do not have the final word. Jesus is the final word and he declares, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.” (Revelation 22:13) And his end is life eternal.

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
    will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress,
    my God, in whom I trust.”

Because you have made the Lord your dwelling place—
    the Most High, who is my refuge—
no evil shall be allowed to befall you,
    no plague come near your tent.
For he will command his angels concerning you
    to guard you in all your ways. (Psalm 91:1-2, 9-11)

Yes, Jesus calms the storm, but you have been set free so that you may sleep while it is blowing.

Let us pray: O Christ Jesus, when all is darkness and the storms rage, and when we feel our weakness and helplessness, give us the sense of Your presence, Your love, and Your strength. Help us to have perfect trust in Your protecting love and strengthening power, so that nothing may frighten or worry us, for, living close to You, we shall see Your hand, Your purpose, Your will through all things. Amen.

Sermon: Evelyn Underhill

Photo by Levi Meir Clancy on Unsplash

Duties of state. We’ve probably discussed these in the past. Duties of state are those ordinary tasks which come about due to our various states of life (i.e. husband, employee, friend, mother, etc.) If you are employed to deliver the daily paper, then one of your duties of state is to deliver the paper, but it actually goes beyond that, for included in that is the commitment to do it well and to the best of your abilities. So a newspaper boy’s duty of state says that he’ll get up every morning, deliver the paper, insure that it doesn’t land in the neighbors yard or in the sprinkler, and that it won’t arrive at 7 p.m. instead of 7 a.m.

The trouble with these routine items is that over time, they can sometimes become so familiar that we no longer attend to them as we should. If you stay late at work everyday, while at the same time ignoring the needs of your family, then you are not fully attending your duties of state. At other times, we can become bored and even begin to resent those duties. There are any number reasons that this can occur, but in failing to meet our duties, then not only are we failing those around us, but we are also failing God.

The 18th century French Jesuit priest Jean-Pierre de Caussade, wrote The Sacrament of the Present Moment. There he states, “No moment is trivial, since each one contains a divine Kingdom, and heavenly sustenance.” He also writes, “To discover God in the smallest and most ordinary things, as well as in the greatest, is to possess a rare and sublime faith. To find contentment in the present moment is to relish and adore the divine will in the succession of all the things to be done and suffered, which make up the duty to the present moment.”

Faithfully fulfilling those duties of state, even the most trivial, becomes a sacred act because we recognize the moment as a gift from God. Evelyn Underhill, who we celebrate today, also understood this. In her book, Life as Prayer, she wrote: “Never let yourself think that because God has given you many things to do for Him…pressing routine jobs, a life full up with duties and demands of a very practical sort—that all these need separate you from communion with Him. God is always coming to you in the Sacrament of the Present Moment. Meet and receive Him there with gratitude in that sacrament; however unexpected its outward form may be, receive Him in every sight and sound, joy, pain, opportunity and sacrifice.”

Underhill believed that we should be so filled with God’s Holy Spirit that we give over our lives to His service, not just in church and ministry, but in the ordinary as well, and that if we are faithful, we will encounter God.

Think about the woman in our Gospel reading today. There are many things that are taking place in this incident, but consider the fact that she was performing a very simple task—going to the well to draw water. This was a task she performed everyday, if not multiple times per day, yet in going about her day-to-day business, she encountered God. The same can be true for us, so I have an assignment for you today: at some point today, you are going to be performing some chore, something you do all the time, perhaps even something you don’t really think about as you go about it. In the middle of that task, I would like you to pause for just a few moments and ask, “Where is God in this?” “How can I please Him through my work?” In doing so, you might not only discover the desire to perform the task better, but you might also discover joy in the process.

Enjoy the gift of each “now” the Lord gives you.

Sermon: Proper 6 RCL B – “The Chambered Nautilus”

A clown is out surfing in his full clown costume one day. Suddenly he’s attacked by a great white shark.

The shark takes one bite, quickly realizes his error and swims away.

As the shark rejoins his friends below the surface, one of the them asks him, “Why didn’t you just kill that thing?”

The attacking shark replies, “It tasted funny.”

On the fifth day, “God said, ‘Let the waters swarm with swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the heavens.’  So God created the great sea creatures and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarm, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind.”

The variations and number of God’s creation on this day were so great that we still have not even discovered them all. When it comes to the sea, perhaps the most feared of them all is the Great White Shark (even if they don’t like funny tasting clowns), but there are many other creatures that just go about their business: everything from the Blue Whale that can weigh as much as 330,000 pounds to the tiniest single cell organisms (and lets not forget the Leviathan!) There are so many, so today I want us to consider just one: Nautilus pompilius, also known as the Chambered Nautilus. You’ve got a picture on the cover of your bulletin of one’s shell that has been split. They’ve been around so long that they are included in the fossil record.

One variety can grow up to 10 inches in diameter and live for up to 20 years. They live in the Pacific between Japan and Australia, spend most of their time at 1,000 feet (but can dive to 2,000), and according to one, eat “anything that smells,” because it is through various chemical signatures that they locate their food. Alive… well, they almost look as scary as a Great White Shark, but it is for the beauty of their shells that they have been highly prized for centuries, and you’ll see the shell in art, incorporated into drinking glasses, and other decorative items.

As the creature grows, it develops the various chambers. Its body moving into the larger one as it ages. The empty chambers then are used for buoyancy and to regulate depth by filling them with water or air, and it was the understanding of how the shell and chambers are formed that inspired the poet Oliver Wendell Holmes to write a poem, The Chambered Nautilus (source). Holmes saw the growth of the soul and spirit within the growing chambers of the nautilus. He begins:

“This is the ship of pearl…”

From there he describes how the nautilus spends its life toiling to create for itself a larger and more perfect and glorious home, which is not known until the creatures death, but even so, it persists in that work of growth. Holmes then takes the imagery further, to speak to us about our spiritual “home”:

“Through the deep caves of thought I hear a voice that sings:—
Build thee more stately mansions, O my soul,
As the swift seasons roll!
Leave thy low-vaulted past!
Let each new temple, nobler than the last,
Shut thee from heaven with a dome more vast,
Till thou at length art free,
Leaving thine outgrown shell by life’s unresting sea!”

The nautilus grows, creating and recreating a home for itself that is larger and more glorious than the last. We are to do the same, so that when the Lord comes, he will find within us a mansion prepared for himself, but it does not end with the individual, for we are to grow in the image and likeness of God, so that the kingdom of God may also grow. So that a home is created as a sanctuary for every living being. As Jesus said in our Gospel, “The kingdom of God… is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.” How are we to understand this and apply it?

“From the smallest of all the seeds on the earth….” The seed that was the smallest, that is, the one that humbled itself the most, was God—Jesus—who was born in a manger and who then humbled himself even more, to death on a cross, and then like a seed that was laid to rest in the earth: Joseph of Arimathea “went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus.  Then he took it down and wrapped it in a linen shroud and laid him in a tomb.” We know not how it all happened, but on the third day, Jesus rose from the dead, and from him, from that smallest and humblest of all seeds and all beginnings has grown the greatest of all sanctuaries for every living soul: the Church, but the Church only grows if we—in union with one another—like the nautilus, continue to grow, ever seeking to be more like Jesus.

Is the church perfect? If I’m a part of it, most definitely not! As Archbishop Michael Ramsey stated and something we always need to be reminded of, “The Church is not the society of those labeled virtuous.  It is the mixed community of sinners called to be saints.” However, as we seek and discover greater perfection in our own life, creating and recreating our spiritual homes, then we also assist in growing and perfecting what Christ Jesus began when he called twelve—not so virtuous—fellas to follow him. The Church will not reach perfection until the end of days, however, through our good work, it will continue to grow and provide a home for those who are called.

For us to spiritually grow is the will of God. C.S. Lewis, in The Problem of Pain, states, “To ask that God’s love should be content with us as we are is to ask that God should cease to be God.” God is working within us, growing us, so that we might be like him and with him, and so that the Kingdom of God might be fulfilled. Like the nautilus, always be in that process of creating and recreating your spiritual home that you might participate in the greater work of the Church.

Let us pray:
Heavenly Father,
look upon our community of faith
which is the Church of your Son, Jesus Christ.
Help us to witness to his love
by loving all our fellow creatures without exception.
Under the leadership or our Bishop
keep us faithful to Christ’s mission
of calling all men and women
to your service so that there may be
“one fold and one shepherd.”
We ask this through Christ, our Lord.

Sermon: Columba

“St Columba Bidding Farewell To The White Horse” / 1925 – John Duncan

Locals were burying a man near a river when a monk came along. The monk inquired as to how the man died and was told that he had been attacked by a creature and dragged under the waters. Later, a companion of the monk was swimming in the same river when a large creature approached him. The monk seeing this, made the sign of the cross over the creature and cried out, “Go no further. Do not touch the man. Go back at once.” The creature obeyed. We know the monk as St. Columba (b.521), the river as Loch Ness, and the creature… yep… the Loch Ness monster. This was the first written account of someone spotting the now legendary creature. True or false? I’ll let you decide.

Columba is highly revered, although I’m guessing that he may have been difficult to live with, especially in his early years. One of his biographers writes, “Of all qualities, gentleness was precisely the one in which Columba failed the most.” He was responsible for a battle that cost 3,000 lives, he got into a legal battle over the copyrighting of the Psalms, and he was required to go into exile. However, that exile landed him and twelve companions on the shores of small island, Iona, which would become one of the most powerful monasteries in existence. Given his growing reputation (dramatically improving by this point), Columba would not only be the Abbot over the monks of the monastery, but he also had authority over the Bishops of Scotland, even though he was only a priest.

There is much to learn about Columba and the monastery at Iona, but as I was reading on him this week, I just kept coming back to the legends, which—whether true or not—probably speak a great deal about the real Columba, so… one more.

In the year 597, Columba was seventy-seven years old. During the Easter season of that year, he felt that he was near death, but did not want to die during Easter so as to grieve his fellow monks during such a festive time. Later that year, when he knew his time was imminent, he went to say goodbye to some who worked in the fields, but because he was so tired, he was unable to walk and was therefore carried in a cart.

He spent time with the monks and blessed them and after awhile began the journey home, but he became so weary that he was required to stop along the way. It was then that his favorite horse, a white one, came galloping up to Columba and placed his head on Columba’s chest and shedding tears, as if aware of his friends nearing death. Columba’s companion tried to shew the horse along, but Columba said to him, “Allow this lover of mine to shed his tears on my chest. For this horse, being an animal, understood instinctively that I was going to be with my Lord, yet you as a man could not foretell this.”

Columba returned to the monastery that day, but died in the chapel, shortly before the night prayers began.

When the seventy disciples retuned, Jesus said to them, “Do not rejoice… that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” Columba was not without his faults—the same holds true for all of us—but we can give thanks that his name was written in heaven and that he kept the faith alive and assisted in it prospering in Scotland, which in turn, helped restore Christianity following the Dark Ages.

Sermon: Proper 5 RCL B – “When God is Not Enough”

A story by Leo Tolstoy tells of an older sister from the city coming to visit her younger sister in the country. The older sister talks of how much better city life is, but the younger maintains that it is country life that is best and that her husband is a good man and that because they lived in the country and had a simpler life, there was no way her husband, Pahom, could be tempted by the devil. Pahom says that the only problem country farmers have is that they don’t have enough land, but agrees that he could not be tempted. Unfortunately, the devil, who had been lurking in the kitchen, hears this and devises a scheme to trap Pahom, and it comes in the form of a unique offer from a large landowner: for 1000 rubles, Pahom can buy all the land he could walk around in a single day. Only catch: he had to be back at his starting point by sundown. At sunrise the next day, Pahom starts walking.

By noon, he had covered a great deal of ground, but not until late in the afternoon did he realize that he had perhaps gone too far in order to get back by sundown, so he picks up his pace even more. When the sun begins to sink, Pahom begins to run, but just as the sun begins to dip below the horizon, Pahom sees the place where he began, so with everything he had left, he sprinted as fast as he could, and just seconds before the sun disappeared below the horizon, Pahom staggered across the finish line. He then collapsed and died on the spot.

His few servants dug him a grave: a bit over six feet long, three feet wide and six feet deep. The title of Tolstoy’s story: How Much Land Does a Man Need? Turns out, not very much.

I suppose most of us really do have fairly simple needs. There are the basics: food, shelter, etc. And although we may each have a different understanding of how we’ll go about meeting those needs, they are for the most part within reason. However, when those basic needs are met, then our eyes and minds begin to look further and instead of seeking to fulfill our needs, we look to satisfy our wants. Those are OK as well, as long as they are within reason, do not deny others of their basic needs, and don’t consume us in our pursuits of them. It is when we go outside those types of parameters that our wants can lead us to greed, coveting, and then to other more grievous sin. We’ve talked about that in the past: that state of mind when we are never satisfied and can never have enough, no matter how much we have. However, this corrupt appetite for more is not limited to land or things or money, it can also play itself out in relationships, stimulation, thrills, physical perfection, achievements, all sorts of ways. It is as though our minds get bored, and like Pahom in his quest for more land, we will pursue the fulfillment of the appetite regardless of the cost. When we reach such a state, we will never be satisfied. It… fill in the blank for yourself… will never be enough. Hold that thought…

These past couple of weeks, during Morning Prayer, we have been reading from the first chapters of the Book of Deuteronomy. In chapter four, we begin to hear the teachings forbidding idolatry and the Lord comes right out and says why: “Take care, lest you forget the covenant of the Lord your God, which he made with you, and make a carved image, the form of anything that the Lord your God has forbidden you.  For the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.” And anyone that has been following along with us in Morning Prayer can tell you, that in the next few chapters, God says, “If you do this, I will blow you up.” But, that was not a deterrent. There was Baal and Asherah and all the other gods of the lands they entered into and the people began to worship them as well. Why? Because they believed that these gods would offer them additional benefits. These were fertility gods, thought to bring rain and crops and all sorts of other benefits. They were the gods of the people in the lands they came into, so they wanted to get along. The Israelites did not cast out the One True God, Yahweh, aside however, Yahweh, did not see it this way. He saw it is a complete rejection of Himself, because in their hearts and in their minds, the people were saying, “The One True God… is not enough.” He is not enough, so we have to have all these others in addition to Yahweh, a bit like an insurance policy, in case Yahweh doesn’t come through.

Throughout the biblical history, this attitude of God not being enough and needing to be supplemented to fulfill both needs and wants has been a problem. God wasn’t enough for Adam and Eve, they wanted more, so they ate the fruit. God wasn’t enough following the Exodus, so they made for themselves the Golden Calf. As we just said, God wasn’t enough while they were in the land, so they worshiped the foreign gods. God wasn’t enough to lead them, so they called for the anointing of a king so that they could be like everyone else. There was Yahweh and there were all the rest and Jesus says, “If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand.” When God’s people decide in their hearts and in their minds that God is not enough, then their house is divided, and it cannot stand.

For us today, I do not believe that we intentionally or even consciously declare that God is not enough, but through our actions or inaction towards God, we are saying it. By placing our wants ahead of those things that God desires of us, we say that God is not enough for me to have fulfillment in my life. By not making time for the worship of God, we are saying that God is not enough for me to make a sacrifice of parts of my life for Him. By not making time for prayer, we say that God is not enough for me to commune with. Whenever God and our obligations to Him are pushed to the side in favor of anything else, we are saying that God is not enough and our house is divided. It is not that God does not want us to truly live—he wants us to have life and have it abundantly!—he desires that we have joy and enrichment and fulfillment, but we must take care that the pursuit of those things does not relegate God to a secondary concern in our lives that will divide our house. “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness—do not be divided—and all these things will be added to you.”

Let us pray: God, our Father, may we love You in all things and above all things. May we reach the joy which You have prepared for us in Heaven. Nothing is good that is against Your Will, and all that is good comes from Your Hand. Place in our hearts a desire to please You and fill our minds with thoughts of Your Love, so that we may grow in Your Wisdom and enjoy Your Peace. Amen.

Sermon: Feast (Eve) of Corpus Christi

Photo by Mateus Campos Felipe on Unsplash

The Church Year is something that liturgical churches are very aware of. In it we have the various seasons: Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Holy Week, Easter, Pentecost, and the season after Pentecost. We also know that contained within those seasons are various other feast days and celebrations, for example, this past Sunday was Trinity Sunday. We also know that within Holy Week, there are other significant days: Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, etc. and it is on Maundy Thursday that we celebrate the giving of the Holy Eucharist, because it was on the Thursday before his crucifixion that Jesus celebrated the Eucharist for the first time with his disciples in the upper room. With that in mind…

In the year 1192, a young girl, Juliana, was born in Belgium, and she later had a younger sister Agnes; however, their parents died and the two were left orphans, so they were taken to an Augustinian monastery to be raised. Later, Agnes died leaving Juliana alone with the Augustinian sisters. At the age of 16, Juliana began to have the same vision over and over, both during the day and at night: she saw a bright moon with a dark spot on it, but she did not understand its meaning until Jesus explained it to her.

Jesus said that the moon represented the Church Year and that the dark spot was a missing feast day that he wanted to see instituted: a feast day in celebration of the Holy Eucharist. As there was already Maundy Thursday, Juliana asked why another was needed and was told that people would soon begin to forget or disbelieve the Real Presence of Jesus in the Sacrament and that there was also to be a joyous celebration—not something that could take place during Holy Week—of the sacrament. Hearing this, Juliana went on a mission to establish the feast, but the idea was not popular and she only saw it celebrated once in her lifetime. But, if God wills it… as it turns out, one of Juliana’s friends whom she consulted about the entire matter before her death was Jacques Pantaléon, who would later be known as Pope Urban IV. It is good to have friends elevated to such high positions and Pope Urban would eventually establish the Feast of Corpus Christi across the Church and it would continue in the Church of England, even after the split from Rome.

There are few Protestants who believe in the Real Presence and there are many within the catholic tradition who simply believe that the bread and wine remain bread and wine, but… they are wrong. From St. Justin Martyr’s First Apology (FYI: his feast day was yesterday): “We call this food Eucharist, and no one else is permitted to partake of it, except one who believes our teaching to be true and who has been washed in the washing which is for the remission of sins and for regeneration [i.e., has received baptism] and is thereby living as Christ enjoined. For not as common bread nor common drink do we receive these; but since Jesus Christ our Savior was made incarnate by the word of God and had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so too, as we have been taught, the food which has been made into the Eucharist by the Eucharistic prayer set down by him, and by the change of which our blood and flesh is nurtured, is both the flesh and the blood of that incarnated Jesus.” And Jesus could not have been any more clear: “Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.  For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.  Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.” (John 6:54-56) In the past, Christians were put to death as cannibals for believing and saying such, but we as God’s people know that the Real Presence of our Savior is truly present, hidden within the bread and the wine; therefore, let us always approach this most wonderful sacrament with joy and awe and wonder and fear, for it is Jesus himself that is being given to us.

Sermon: Trinity Sunday RCL B – “Nicodemus Hour”

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A young mom brought her two boys to church. The boys were old enough to know that they needed to sit quietly during the service and young enough to not quite be able to pull it off. As the sermon began, the fidgets set in. About half way through, the boys were about to enter into full on youngsters, so mom leaned over and quietly spoke to them. Next thing you know, the two boys were sitting quietly, with their hands in their laps. Following the service, another mom, who had witnessed the exchange, but who had not been as successful came up to the mom of the two boys, with admiration in her voice, asked what she had said to settle the boys down so quickly. “I just reminded them,” she said, “that if they weren’t quiet, Fr. John would lose his place and have to start all over again.”

Listening to someone talk can at times be completely engaging and at other times… bring on the fidgets. I always thought it would be nice to have Professor Slughorn’s hourglass to judge these things by.

For those who don’t know Professor Slughorn, he was Harry Potter’s potions professor at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, and in his office he had a most peculiar hourglass. It is not in the books, only the movie, but the professor describes it to Harry by saying, “A most intriguing object, the sand runs in accordance with the quality of the conversation. If it is stimulating the sand runs slowly, if it is not….” Well, he doesn’t finish the sentence and I won’t spoil the movie, but you get the idea. At the end of that scene, the sand isn’t running at all. I suppose that would be a useful tool in preaching.

As I think on such an hourglass and consider some of the conversations I’ve had, I can see the sand flowing freely with some and at other times, not even a whisper of movement. What’s interesting though, is the time of day when most of those conversations occur. Have you ever noticed? Early in the morning, I don’t even talk to the cat. In the middle of the day, I can be a bit keyed up. I try to slow down when I’m with folks, but there’s always that invisible hand on my back, pushing me just a bit to get to the next thing. That’s probably true for most, but at night, when we’ve met our responsibilities and filled our duties for the day, then it seems we can get down to the real business of actually living and having those deep, intimate conversations where the sand in the hourglass slows perceptibly, because the world and our minds are just a bit more hushed.

Think of those conversations you’ve had with one you love. You can stay up all night talking and feel more rested in the morning than if you’d had eight hours of sleep. Later at night is the time when we speak most intimately to one another and I believe that it is also the time when we speak most intimately with God.

I am not suggesting that you start laying in bed at night to pray, because 9.9 times out of ten, you’ll just fall asleep, but in the evening, when the day is done, it really is a good time to settle in with God to have one of those intimate conversations. Those conversations with God, at that time of the day, even have a name: the Nicodemus Hour. (Source: Behold, God’s Son, Christoph Cardinal Schönborn, p.165)

“There was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews. He came to Jesus by night and said to him, ‘Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God.’”

There is so much to learn from the words of Jesus that follow. He expresses the deepness, even unto death, of God’s love for us, but today, instead of looking at the words, I want us to look at the setting and the event.

Christoph Cardinal Schönborn says that Nicodemus came at night for one of two reasons: he was afraid of being found out or because he understood that this was the time of day when individuals can finally sit together, mostly uninterrupted and have those intimate conversations. Perhaps he came for one reason or the other or both, but it is the intensity of the conversation, the revelation of God’s truths, the exploration and explaining of the mysteries of God that are the most important, and it demonstrates to us that if we hope to even to begin to understand those mysteries ourselves, then we too need those Nicodemus Hours with Jesus.

Take for example today: this is Trinity Sunday. I’ll never forget Melba Marshall. She lived in Deer Lodge, Montana and I met her my first year out of seminary. In the midst of a very pleasant conversation, she casually said, “Explain to me the Holy Trinity.” My answer today is probably no better than it was sixteen years ago, and it wasn’t very good then. Why? Because the Holy Trinity is not something you explain. The Holy Trinity is only something you know and you only know It because you’ve spent a Nicodemus Hour, that intimate time with Jesus. Billy Graham said, “Can you see God? You haven’t seen him? I’ve never seen the wind. I see the effects of the wind, but I’ve never seen the wind. There’s a mystery to it.” It is in that intimate time with Jesus that the mysteries of God take on flesh and blood, so that we can at least ‘feel’ them, get a sense of them and perhaps for a moment or two, know them.

Today, I encourage you: spend a Nicodemus Hour with one another. Get to know each other outside of the busyness of the day, so that you might be more intimately bound together as the Body of Christ. But I also encourage you to spend that Nicodemus Hour with Jesus, for it is there that you may truly encounter God. Perhaps you will spend the night talking or maybe you’ll spend time, hunkered down in the stillness of the night, just being together, for the pure joy of each other’s company, but one thing is certain… the sand in the hourglass will stop flowing.

Let us pray:
Glory be to the Father,
Who by His almighty power and love created me,
making me in the image and likeness of God.

Glory be to the Son,
Who by His Precious Blood delivered me from hell,
and opened for me the gates of heaven.

Glory be to the Holy Spirit,
Who has sanctified me in the sacrament of Baptism,
and continues to sanctify me
by the graces I receive daily from His bounty.

Glory be to the Three adorable Persons of the Holy Trinity,
now and forever.


Sermon: Pentecost RCL B – “Truth”

Samantha came home from a date, rather sad.

She told her mother, “David proposed to me an hour ago.”

“Then why are you so sad?” her mother asked.

“Because he also told me he is an atheist. Mom, he doesn’t even believe there’s a Hell.”

“Marry him anyway,” mom replied. “Between the two of us, we’ll show him how wrong he is.”

There have been many who have been proven wrong on some very large scales:

In 1934, the president of IBM said, “I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.” And in 1977, the founder of DEC said, “There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home.” On that same note, in 1966 it was predicted that remote shopping (online shopping) would flop because “women like to get out of the house, like to handle the merchandise, like to be able to change their minds.” Hello, Amazon. In 1876, the telephone was said to have “too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication” and as late as 1981 it was predicted that cell phones would absolutely not replace landlines. The list goes on. In many respects, it seems that making a prediction or stating what you consider to be a truth is a bit like daring someone to prove you wrong… and there are more than enough folks who will take you up on the dare. The same is true with our faith. How so?

Today, we will say the Nicene Creed: “I believe in God, the Father Almighty…”, then we will say the Confession and receive the absolution that is promised by God, and a bit later we will receive the Body and the Blood of Christ, food for the soul and for our salvation; we will speak all these things that are truths, and in doing so, we are daring the devil and the world to prove those truths wrong. And you know what? The devil and the world go to work on us immediately. No sooner have we walked out the doors, than they both go on full assault.

It can begin by the insertion of events that may not cause you to full on doubt, but that do rob you of a little bit of peace that you experienced while here. It can come in the form of small questions to what we believe: “Ya know, that ‘born of the Virgin Mary’ business seems just a bit too far fetched. It’s nice at Christmas, but… eh.” Then we run up against some of the bigger problems: “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” “Good… all except for Bob, because God and all the angels know that Bob is unforgivable.” And then there is the one that trips most everyone up: “Almighty God have mercy on you, forgive you all your sins….” Absolution of our sins. We can never really believe that one.

You know the game Jenga? It is the one with the stack of blocks built into a tower. The objective is to strategically remove blocks from the tower to destabilize it without making it fall in hopes that those you are playing against will make a mistake and bring the entire thing down.

We’ve come in here and we’ve spoken the truth about who we are and what we believe, but no sooner have we left the building—if not sooner!—than the devil and the world begin to play Jenga with our lives. Like Samantha and her mom who intended to prove there was a hell to the unsuspecting David, those that would come against us have taken the dare and one piece at a time they will seek to bring us down, but… the only way they can truly accomplish this is if we believe them instead of believing the truth spoken by the God who created us, and we know this truth because our Creator has given us a part of Himself. God has given us His Holy Spirit. Jesus said, “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth.”

I believe that I’ve shared this with you before. It was said by, the Patriarch of Antioch, Ignatius IV of the Greek Orthodox Church while speaking to the World Council of Churches in 1968: “Without the Holy Spirit God is far away. Christ stays in the past. The Gospel is simply an organization. Authority is a matter of propaganda. The Liturgy is no more than an evocation. Christian loving is a slave mentality. But in the Holy Spirit, the cosmos is resurrected and grows with the birth pangs of the Kingdom. The Risen Christ is here. The Gospel is the power of life. The Church shows forth the life of the Trinity. Authority is a liberating service. Mission is a Pentecost. The Liturgy is both renewal and anticipation. Human action is deified.” This is the Spirit that was given to us by God and it is this Spirit that speaks the truth into our souls and minds. Those that would sow seeds of doubt into our beliefs and our faith are very much aware of this Spirit. They know of the strength and courage that this Spirit provides to us, therefore, they enter in to crush that truth. They cannot destroy the truth, so they spread lies, whisperings that take hold within us, causing us to question the things we hold most dear and the promises of Christ. So what are we to do?

Remember Peter: he and the others are out on the lake when they see Jesus walking on the water. They think it is a ghost, but Jesus says, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” Jesus has spoken a truth. So Peter says to Jesus, “If it’s you, tell me to come to you on the water.” Jesus said, “Come.” So Peter stepped out of the boat and he too walked on the water, but then the wind blew and the waves rolled and the doubt entered in. Peter began to sink. Yet Peter kept enough sense about him to turn to and call out to the only one who could save him, “Lord… Jesus.. save me!” We know that he did and I can imagine Jesus laughing and smiling broadly when he said to Peter, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?”

Through the gift of the Holy Spirit, we have been given the truth about our faith and the truth about who we are—sons and daughters of God—when you begin to sense those seeds of doubt being planted, like Peter, call out, “Lord, save me.” Lord, save me from those who would seek to hide the truth from me by spreading lies within my soul. Lord, save me by kindling the fire of your Spirit that is within me, so that all doubts are burned away. Pray, “Lord, save me,” and he who died for you will hear you and he will reach out his hand and snatch you out of the grasp of those who would come against you.

Let us pray (a prayer of St. Augustine):
Breathe into us, Holy Spirit,
that our thoughts may all be holy.

Move in us, Holy Spirit,
that our work, too, may be holy.

Attract our hearts, Holy Spirit,
that we may love only what is holy.

Strengthen us, Holy Spirit,
that we may defend all that is holy.

Protect us, Holy Spirit,
that we may always be holy.