Being Found

Homily for Sunday, January 6, 2019
The Epiphany
Matthew 2:1–12
Preached at St John’s, Newtonville

Rainer_Maria_Rilke2C_1900As a young man in his early twenties, the poet Rainer Maria Rilke traveled with his girlfriend and her husband to Russia.  Whether it was the Russian land or people, or Rilke’s encounter with the Orthodox Church, or perhaps his travel arrangements that led to an extraordinary burst of creativity, we don’t know.  What we do know is that upon his return, over the course of 25 days, Rilke wrote his Book of Hours, 67 poems that grew out of his prayer at that time.  They are wonderful!  Here are the openings lines of #45:

You come and go. The doors swing closed
ever more gently, almost without a sound.
Of all who move through quiet houses,
you are the quietest.  (I, 45) Continue reading

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Looking on the Infant Jesus

Homily for December 24, 2018
Christmas Eve
Luke 2:1–20

Nativity stained glass-St. Mary Star of the Sea Duluth MN

The Nativity, stained glass, St. Mary Star of the Sea, Duluth, Minn.

In “Five Minutes That Will Make You Love Classical Music,” a New York Times piece from this past September, the Times asked eighteen different people—critics, composers, performers, conductors—which five minutes of classical music would they play to help somebody fall in love with classical music.  On the list were pieces such as the Finale from Stravinsky’s Firebird suite, the final Trio from Strauss’ Der Rosenkavalier, and “Liebestod,” from Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde, among others.

In addition to these “warhorses” that I might have expected were others that caught me by surprise.  From Ravel’s Shéhérazade was the ridiculously beautiful aria “L’indifférent.”  It’s absolutely gorgeous, with a text perhaps too racy to share from the pulpit on Christmas Eve…  Anna Clyne’s Lavender Rain, a piece for violin written after the death of her mother, is 4 ½ minutes of music so simple—an ascending and then descending scale, basically, with a few chords for color—that it shouldn’t move one to tears, but it does.  And Couperin’s Les Barricades Mystérieuses, in an arrangement for winds, is a playful series of dissonance and resolution that, again, is so simple that it shouldn’t be so beautiful, but it is. Continue reading

Lord of our lives

Homily for Sunday, November 25, 2018
Revelation 1:4b–8
Last Sunday After Pentecost—Christ the King Sunday

Soldiers_in_trenchThis past Veterans’ Day WBUR aired a special called “Exploring the Poetry of War.”  Host Deborah Becker and guests Robert Pinsky, a poet on faculty at BU, and Brian Turner, who wrote poetry about his Army service in Iraq, discussed things like: what should be considered essential literature about war, like the memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant, or You Know When the Men Are Gone, by Army wife Siobhan Fallon.  They shared with each other their favorite war poems, like Wilfred Owen’s “Dulce et decorum est,” or “Facing It,” by Yusef Komunyakaa.  They talked about the senselessness of war.  And they talked, too, about how it is that beautiful words could possibly go together with horrific violence.  At one point Becker asked Turner: “Why did you use poetry to describe what happens on the battlefield?”  Turner replied: Continue reading

For All the Saints

Homily for Sunday, November 4, 2018
All Saints’

OrdoCalendarIt is easy to forget, when we are here on Sundays, that the Church’s calendar is quite busy during the week.  And when I say that the Church’s calendar is busy during the week, I don’t mean our mid-week meetings or Wednesday evening services, or all the activity with the Food Pantry and Birthday Wishes.  When I say that the Church’s calendar is quite busy during the week, I mean that the Church’s liturgical “Kalendar” is filled with the commemorations of saints.  For example, this week Tuesday is the feast day of William Temple, the Archbishop of Canterbury during the war.  Wednesday is the feast day of Willibrord, an 8th century missionary and the first Archbishop of Utrecht in the Netherlands.  Saturday is the feast day of Leo the Great, a fifth century Pope best known for his concise statement of Christ being two Natures in one Person.  And—if you really get into it—you can go online and google “Episcopal saints calendar” and explore those saints whose commemorations have been proposed but who yet await official approval.  On that list are all of the above commemorations plus… Lili_uokalaniThursday is the commemoration of St. Elizabeth of the Trinity, a Carmelite nun and mystic from the turn of the last century, and Friday is of Louise DeKoven Brown, an early 20th century American philanthropist, social reformer and suffragist.  Save for tomorrow, every day this week is the feast day of a saint; indeed, of the 30 days in November, 25 are saints’ days.  (November has some great saints: Lili’uokalani, the Last Monarch of Hawaii; St. Herman of Alaska, a Russian Orthodox monk and missionary to Alaska; the writer C.S. Lewis, and also Sojourner Truth.)  These and other saints give witness to the many ways in which the Spirit manifests the life of Christ in the Church’s members. Continue reading

Consecration Sunday

Sermon given by the Rev. Skip Windsor
Pentecost XXIII
Mark 10:46–52
October 28, 2018

Come Holy Spirit, come. Come as the wind and cleanse. Come as the fire and burn. Convert and consecrate our lives to our great good and your great glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Skip WindsorIt is a pleasure to be with you this morning and I would like to thank your rector, Todd, for the invitation to be your preacher today on this your Consecration Sunday.

This Sunday comes in the midst of stewardship season recalling for me the words of a clergy colleague who started his stewardship sermon to the congregation with some good news and some bad news.  The good news is that they had all the money they needed to operate the church.  The bad news was it was in their pockets! Continue reading

Pay attention!

Homily for Sunday, April 1, 2018
Easter Day
John 20:1–18

empty_tomb-Saint_James_the_Greater_Catholic_Church_(Concord,_North_Carolina)Long before John crafted his resurrection story—an 18 verse masterpiece that includes an empty tomb, a missing body, a foot race, angelic messengers, a woman weeping, a case of mistaken identity and a joyful reunion—the Holy Trinity was wondering how to best script and cast the resurrection story. Continue reading

Crushing Disappointment

Homily for March 29, 2018
Maundy Thursday

Next to the blackboard in the Latin classroom at Newton South is a poster with the quote that some say is the most beautiful in all of Latin: “Forsan et haec olim meminisse iuvabit”, which means: “Perhaps one day the memory of even these things will bring pleasure.”  The quote, from Vergil’s Aeneid, is delivered aboard ship by Aeneas to his companions after a series of crushing disappointments: the long and tragic war with the Greeks, the death of Aeneas’ wife as she and Aeneas fled Troy, leaving their homeland, arduous sea journeys, the failed founding of not one but two cities, plagues, the jealousies and intrigues of the gods, and finally—the circumstance that led to Aeneas delivering his famous line—as they drew near to Italy so that Aeneas might found Rome in accordance with a prophecy, jealous Juno sent a devastating storm that sank some of the fleet and drove the survivors away from the coast:  “Forsan et haec olim meminisse iuvabit,” said Aeneas then to his companions.  “Perhaps one day the memory of even these things will bring pleasure.”

Mount Feake CemeteryAs I consider Jesus at the institution of the Eucharist, which we remember this evening, I can’t help but think of all that had happened to Jesus to this point in his life.  Though at first Jesus had high hopes for his ministry and for making converts and for establishing the Kingdom of God, by this time on that Thursday evening long ago, it would have been difficult not to see his mission as a failure.  Gone were the crowds that had followed.  He had established no kingdom.  The religious authorities were closing in to arrest him.  One of his inner circle would soon betray him.  Another would deny knowing him, not once but three times.  The rest would desert him in his moment of need, and…  Jesus intuits, he knows, that he would soon die the painful and humiliating death of a criminal on a cross.  Imagine the crushing disappointment Jesus must have felt this evening… Continue reading