“That they may all be one. As you, Father, are in my and I am in you, may they also be in us… so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one.”
As convoluted as today’s gospel may sound, some say that John chapter 17 – from which today’s gospel is taken – is the most important passage, not only in John, but in the entire New Testament. Some say that John 17 is the most important passage in the entire New Testament because John 17 – in particular the portion of it read today – tells us that the point of Jesus’ life, the whole reason the Son became incarnate, is to make us one. One with each other, one with the Father, one with the whole world: “That they all may be one.” Continue reading →
Sermon for Wednesday, April 13, 2016
Wednesday in the Third Week of Easter John 6:35-40
It is not easy to understand John when John is read in the liturgy: John tends to write in long, wordy passages that are difficult to understand in their entirety, much less when they are divided into the bite-sized chunks favored by the lectionary.
Which is exactly the case for today’s reading from John chapter 6. Today’s reading from John 6, from the so-called “Bread of Life Discourse,” is long and wordy and, when a few verses are excerpted from the whole to be read in the liturgy, those few verses are difficult to understand. Continue reading →
Every year, I marvel at the genius of the Church’s liturgical calendar, with its amazing gift of extensive readings from the Gospel according to Saint John throughout the Great Fifty Days of Easter. This Gospel in particular has been rightly called the “spiritual Gospel” because it is the key to the deepest meaning and significance of God’s unique and definitive self-revelation in Jesus the Christ. Very often, it is this Gospel that illuminates the true significance of events related in a more prosaic way in the synoptic Gospels of Mark, Matthew, and Luke. Rich in symbols and symbolic prophetic-acts, Saint John’s Gospel continually relates the “signs and wonders” inherent in the Incarnation, Ministry, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ taken as a seamless whole. And this morning’s Gospel lection is no exception. Continue reading →
Exodus 16:2-4, 9-15
Perhaps it’s an example of clergy cynicism best left behind at those shadowing gatherings of the ordained that, like trips to the dentist, one endures, but never welcomes. Nonetheless, I will take the plunge this morning and share with you a remark that I have heard on several occasions at such events, especially when the sensitive subject of “average Sunday attendance” is raised for report or discussion. And the matter creeps into discussions frequently these days when so many other activities compete for our attention on Sunday mornings—to which Christian’s still refer, without even a hint of irony, as the “Lord’s Day”—in our increasingly secular, competitive, and consumerist culture. The remark is often made when clergy are bemoaning low attendance at Sunday services, and it usually goes something like this: “I wonder just how many people would come to Church on a Sunday morning if we advertised in the local press that each and every communicant would receive a one-hundred dollar bill at the altar rail. I’ll bet that attendance would skyrocket!” To which the more cynical among us—who shall, of course, remain nameless to protect the guilty—have been known to respond: “Why one-hundred dollars when fifty or twenty would likely do just as nicely!” Continue reading →
Yesterday one of Trinity’s members, Audrey, was Confirmed by Bishop Gates at the deanery service held at the Church of the Advent downtown. It was a beautiful service and a wonderful day for Trinity. And I’m going to get back to talking about Confirmation and the tools we used to help Audrey prepare – tools that are useful for all of us – but first I want to talk about Studebakers.
Every Tuesday I drive my son Shaw to Dorchester for a choir rehearsal at All Saints, Ashmont. Almost every Tuesday, parked across the street from the church, is a 1963 Studebaker Lark. When I first saw it, I was incredulous: a Studebaker, parked right on the street in Dorchester! Even though Studebakers ceased production shortly before I was born, I recognized it instantly as a Studebaker. It has that Studebaker grill: an open “mouth” canted ever so slightly forward and set between horizontal pairs of headlights. The body is so “Studebaker:” a little too short in length for its height – but still dignified, not unlike a porkpie hat. And then there is the slightly rounded and squished trunk – on the Lark, looking like the back half of a giant hamburger bun – that is so Studebaker-y. Even though I hadn’t seen one in years, the moment I saw it, I knew it was a Studebaker.
This morning’s sermon is not about the Beatles. This morning’s sermon is about the tension – the creative, dynamic tension – that exists between our interior, contemplative life and the Church’s active mission “to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ.” I am going to say how these two dynamics – contemplative and active – are not at all incompatible, but rather are two lungs through which healthy disciples breathe.
But I am going to begin with the Beatles, two of whose titles tell us about the writings of John and Luke. “The Long and Winding Road” offers an image to help us better understand Luke. “Come Together” (“right now, over me”) gives us an image to better understand John. I’m preaching about these two authors because – as the keen-of-eye may notice – with the exception of the epistle lesson on Easter Day, every one of our scripture lessons during the Easter season comes from either the author of John or Luke. (Remember that the author of Luke is also the author of Acts.) Continue reading →
“If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”—John 20:23
One of my favorite northern renaissance artists is Pieter Bruegel (the Elder). In particular, I love his peasant scenes in which scores of people are scattered about, with each person or group of people doing something different. (These paintings are kind of like a 16th– century Dutch “Where’s Waldo?”) Bruegel is an artist whom, no matter how often I may have seen one of his paintings, each time I come back to it, I almost always see something new.
John’s Gospel is kind of like a Bruegel painting. In John there is so much going on, that no matter how often I may have read John, each time I come back to him, I almost always see something new. This morning’s lesson from John 20 is no different. At first glance, this passage is about faith and doubt. But the more I look, the more I see, and the more questions I have. For example, why in some translations does John specify that it was “after eight days” that the disciples were again together? Why would Jesus say to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side?” (Couldn’t Jesus simply have shown them his hands and feet, as he did in Luke?) And why does Jesus say, “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained?” Continue reading →