Grief and Gratitude

Homily for Thursday, April 13, 2017
Maundy Thursday
John 13:1-17, 31b-35
Preached by the Rev. Todd Miller

1200_thomas_shawWhen our former Bishop, Tom Shaw, was diagnosed with the brain tumor that would take his life, he said that his first reaction to the news was gratitude:  “Thank you, God, for this extraordinary life that you’ve given me.”

Tom’s reaction to the news of his terminal condition reminds us that there is a very short distance between grief and gratitude.   Most of us most of the time, when we are faced with a loss, tend to take the long road between the grief and gratitude – the road of shock, anger, denial, depression, and bargaining – before arriving at acceptance and maybe gratitude.   But the distance between grief and gratitude is actually very close. Continue reading

From Grief to Thanksgiving

Homily for Sunday, October 9, 2016
Twenty First Sunday after Pentecost
Luke 17:11-19

“’Were not ten made clean?  But the other nine, where are they?”

christThis morning, I’m going to preach two homilies.  First, I want to speak to today’s Gospel text, and then I want to say a word about the Blessing of the Animals that we are about to do.

We preachers can easily turn this morning’s gospel – the story of Jesus healing the ten lepers –  into a pedantic reminder of the importance of saying “thank you.”  When we do, our homilies often come across as lengthier, maybe slightly more refined, versions of what our mother told us when we were kids:  “Remember to say ‘Thank you.’”  More creative preachers might point out that the leper was a Samaritan – an outcast – and say something about Luke’s concern for the marginalized.

I have preached both of those sermons, and I want to do something different this morning. Continue reading

Nurturing the Gift of Gratitude

Sermon for Sunday, September 21, 2014
Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost

GROUP01As many of you know, I was for several years a brother in a monastery.  Because monastic blood runs deep, the brothers in the order would sometimes get together with brothers from other nearby monasteries , just to get to know each other.  In these gatherings, I came to understand one of the truisms of the monastic life:  that each community has a set stock of characters who – though they are different people with different names – are in a way the same person.  For example, each community tends to have a brother who is the “wise sage,” and most every community has a brother who has a gift for making people laugh.  Each community tends to have a kindly brother loved by all, as well a resident curmudgeon.  Each community seems to have a brother who, though he may not have much education or be particularly bright, can speak truth in a way that no other brother could.  Each community seems to have somebody who, while he is quite high maintenance, is nonetheless fiercely loved – “high maintenance, but worth it.”  And each community seems to have a person whose failings and shortcomings are visible to all save perhaps himself, and who is sometimes treated as a scapegoat, but whom the brothers (begrudgingly) acknowledge shows them something about themselves.  (“He’s the one who is going to help you get to heaven,” is how it’s often put.)

Each community has particular characters that tend to be found in every other community.  And just as each community has particular characters that tend to be found in every other community, so are their particular behaviors that are found across communities.  Which brings us to today’s readings. Continue reading