Homily: “On the Ten Maidens”

Offered by Father Matthew Dallman, Obl.S.B., for the Parish of Tazewell County, on the Twenty-Third Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 26, Year A), 2017.

Five maidens were wise, and five were foolish. The five who were wise took flasks of oil with them as they waited for the bridegroom to open the door. The five who were foolish brought no oil with them. They were too busy finding other matters important than to tend to this preparation. Asking the wise maidens to give them some oil, they were refused. Scrambling then to find more oil, by the time they returned, the door was closed to them. And despite their pleas to enter, the bridegroom does not reconsider, but instead says, “Truly, I do not know you.” They are unrecognizable to him, for if they have not taken seriously the preparations for this most significant day, their presence will not add to the festivity but detract from it.

Brothers and sisters, Saint Matthew earlier in his Gospel has already given us three clues in His Sermon on the Mount to understanding our Lord’s meaning in this parable. Read more “Homily: “On the Ten Maidens””

Homily: “On God’s Gift of Baptism”

Offered by Father Matthew Dallman, Obl.S.B., for the Parish of Tazewell County, on the Twenty-Second Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 26, Year A), 2017.

This morning at our sister church in Pekin, a beautiful little girl received the Sacrament of Baptism and was made a member of the Body of Jesus Christ. It was glorious, and it was personally gratifying because it was my first as a Priest, and second as an ordained cleric, preceded by the baptism of Anna Augspurger when I as a Deacon assisted Father Richmond. One priest colleague told me this past week that baptisms will be the happiest days of my ministry. Whether that will prove true to me, I do not yet know, but I certainly can see where he is coming from. The baptism of Anna and now the baptism of Makenzleigh have been truly glorious.

I want to share with you the words that concluded my homily this morning at Saint Paul’s. “Let us celebrate how beautiful this moment is. The beauty of this adorable little girl; the beauty of our intentions to bring her into the Christian family; the beauty of the words of prayer that surround his moment; the beauty of the sign of the cross; the beautiful simplicity of water blessed and holy, of oil fragrant and holy, and of light radiant and holy—and the beauty of this our gathering, united with the single purpose of praising, witnessing, and sharing in the love God Almighty has for each one of us—a love so mighty, so awesome, so generous—that He comes to even the smallest of dear children, calling them by their name, welcoming them into His arms, protecting them in every moment of their life. Sending out continuously light and truth to us, that by them we may be led.” Read more “Homily: “On God’s Gift of Baptism””

Homily: “On Baptism”

Offered by Father Matthew Dallman, Obl.S.B., for the Parish of Tazewell County, on the Twenty-Second Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 26, Year A), 2017.

It is my great pleasure to welcome our guests who are joining us this morning on this holy day, for this the very holy event of Makenzleigh Ann Copelen receiving the Sacrament of Baptism and being made a living member of Jesus Christ, Himself living eternally. This ritual of baptism has been performed since the very first day of the Christian Church nearly two thousand years ago. It is a Sacrament that remains central to the Christian experience, at its very core. Yet in recent decades in this country, we have seen fewer numbers of Baptisms across all Christian denominations. Whereas Baptism for many of us growing up was more or less automatic, these days it is the result more of a conscious choice. Baptism is something that my wife and I did not automatically choose for our children when we started having them twelve years ago, because at that time we long had stopped attending any church. To baptize our children did not feel right, did not feel authentic. Young adults will increasingly be faced with this kind of situation and this kind of choice. And so my first remark this morning is to applaud Nicole and Chase, Michael and Mona, for having the courage and trust to baptize young Makenzleigh.

I mentioned that Baptism as a ritual has been performed since the first day of the Christian Church two thousand years ago. It is the only Sacrament that was explicitly spoken of in the first sermon on that first day, when Saint Peter preached on the Day of Pentecost with words so powerful that three thousand souls were baptized on that day. When Jesus Christ is heard, when His truth is recognized, when His Spirit is felt, our souls are filled with light, a light that has overcome the darkness and will overcome the darkness in our lives. Saint Peter said, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” It is Jesus who brings forgiveness because it is Jesus who brings healing, and helps us to begin and continue the process of healing, of becoming whole, of becoming who we are intended by God to be, when we call upon His Name. It is Christ and His love for us that helps us to have Hope that our failings, our errors and mistakes, and yes even our darkness can become opportunities for love, occasions for grace. Jesus Christ was nailed to the Cross so that the darkness in each and every one of us could be transformed into light, a light that then shines in who we are, a light that becomes for others a guide to peace, a release from captivity, and warmth amid the cold.

Brothers and sisters, we are about to witness the most important moment in the life of any Christian—when he or she becomes a Christian. From that moment of Baptism, the Light of Christ will be in Makenzleigh’s heart for ever. Baptism is a spiritual tattoo that can never be removed. Let us celebrate how beautiful this moment is. The beauty of this adorable little girl; the beauty of our intentions to bring her into the Christian family; the beauty of the words of prayer that surround his moment; the beauty of the sign of the cross; the beautiful simplicity of water blessed and holy, of oil fragrant and holy, and of light radiant and holy—and the beauty of this our gathering, united with the single purpose of praising, witnessing, and sharing in the love God Almighty has for each one of us—a love so mighty, so awesome, so generous—that He comes to even the smallest of dear children, calling them by their name, welcoming them into His arms, protecting them in every moment of their life. Sending out continuously light and truth to us, that by the light and truth of Jesus Christ, we may be led. Amen.

Homily: “On the Saints and Mission”

Offered by Father Matthew Dallman, Obl.S.B., for the Parish of Tazewell County, on the Feast of All Saints, 2017.

As the Adult Study Classes began early last month our close examination of the Gospel according to Saint Mark, I invited the classes to an exercise in which we name significant things we would lose of the Christian life if the only Gospel account of Jesus Christ that came down to us was from Mark; in other words, if Matthew, Luke and John, and for that matter the rest of the New Testament books, did not exist, only the account recorded by Mark. I was not the least bit surprised to see that each class caught on quickly to what we would lose in that scenario. The first response in each case was—we would lose Christmas, because Mark begins his gospel not with the infancy of Jesus but with his mature ministry. Quickly were named many of the rest: knowledge of Blessed Mary, important parables such as the Prodigal Son and the Good Samaritan. If we only had Mark’s Gospel, we also would not have the Sermon on the Mount, and so we would not have the Beatitudes that we hear in our Gospel lesson on this Feast of All Saints.

The Saints and the Beatitudes go hand in hand. And if we did not have the Beatitudes, then the Church would have a far less clear and defined understanding of the qualities Jesus expects His saints to have. To be poor in spirit, to mourn, to be meek, to hunger and thirst after righteousness, to be merciful, pure in heart, a peacemaker, and persecuted for righteousness’ sake—these are all qualities of being a disciple at it highest level. They have to do with being humble, sympathetic, sensitive, finding joy in humility, craving progress toward union with God, compassionate, constant in religion, prudent in search of harmony with others, and possessing the fortitude to endure suffering in a creative way. The Saints of the Church have in myriad ways attained these characteristics by the grace of God. And in the myriad ways they have done so, and through their unique personalities and gifts, they teach us how to be better disciples, because they are model Christians. Read more “Homily: “On the Saints and Mission””

Homily: “On the Wedding Garments”

Offered by Father Matthew Dallman, Obl.S.B., for the Parish of Tazewell County, on the Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 23, Year A), 2017.

Our Collect this week dates from at least the 8th century, and it is the shortest, most concise of all the Sunday Collects used throughout the year. But despite its brevity, it contains in concentrated, devotional idiom what has been called the first principle of sound theology. And because of its brevity, it can be easily memorized and used throughout one’s life, almost as a mantra or personal refrain.

That first principle of sound theology is found in the first half, in these words: “Lord, we pray that your grace may always precede and follow us.” What that says is, God acts first, and anything we do is a response to grace manifest and present, rather than being of our own design and origin.  Earlier in the church year, we acknowledged to God that in our weakness we can do nothing good without Him. It is grace before, during, and after each and every godly encounter in which we participate in our lives, from the most mundane to the most grand. It is for that reason that we must evermore be praising Him, and saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of Hosts (of power and might). We can do nothing good without God, without grace. What a humbling fact! Read more “Homily: “On the Wedding Garments””

Homily: “On the Vineyard”

Offered by Father Matthew Dallman, Obl.S.B., for the Parish of Tazewell County, on the Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 22, Year A), 2017.

We have asked God in our Collect this week to give us His mercy and forgiveness. Because forgiveness in the Christian sense happens only through the presence of Jesus Christ, in effect we are asking God to increase the presence of Jesus in our hearts, in our lives, and in our Mission. It is only through the presence of Jesus that we can be Christian, at all. The men and woman of the New Testament we call apostles and disciples only received that mission and ministry because God came down from heaven and walked among them, sharing meals, teaching and answering questions, pushing and stretching them beyond their comfort level.

Indeed, we only have a Church because by His presence among the people, the people are formed by Him. The shape of what we do as Christians is Jesus Christ. God became man so that His Church would be realized and take the shape of Him in what He did Himself in His earthly life. Christian mission is the continuation of what Jesus instituted and initiated. Mission understood any other way may do some good in the world, but it will not endure because it is not of the shape of Christ, or more specifically, of the shape of the Eucharist. Read more “Homily: “On the Vineyard””

Homily: “On the Angels”

Offered by Father Matthew Dallman, Obl.S.B., for the Parish of Tazewell County, on the Feast of Saint Michael and All Angels, 2017.

The Feast of Saint Michael and All Angels has historically in English tradition been an occasion for great celebration and revelry. Coming as it does in the heart of the harvest season, food always played a significant role in the popular piety surrounding this feast. This explains in part why the nickname for this feast in English tradition is “Michaelmas.” There is a play on words in there, because while “Michael” in this pronunciation refers of course to the Archangel Michael, or more traditionally, “Mick-aye-el,” it also refers to a now archaic word in the English language, “mickle,” which means “much” or “large amount.” There is no more efficient way to a person’s heart than through the stomach, and so the culinary plenitude associated with this feast, along with the linguistic playfulness of “mickle”-mas are two reasons why it has been disproportionately celebrated in English Christianity, particularly in the Medieval centuries. Is it any wonder, then, why God has guided us to our post-Mass celebration we today christen as the first annual “Tazewell Parish Pie-Luck”? Everlasting God, you have ordained and constituted in a wonderful order the ministries of angels and mortals . . .” and pies both savory and sweet, I am sure the compilers of our Prayer Book thought to include.

We celebrate today the Holy Angels, who always serve and worship God in heaven, and help and defend us mortals here on earth. Read more “Homily: “On the Angels””

Homily: “On Being Called to the Vineyard”

Offered by Father Matthew Dallman, Obl.S.B., for the Parish of Tazewell County, on the Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 20, Year A), 2017.

It is typical to preach on the appointed Gospel Lesson of the day, and if possible to touch base as well with the other appointed lessons; and as you know, I typically like to frame my preaching in the context of the prayer of the Collect of the Day. Today, however, I will devote nearly all of my sermon to our Old Testament lesson and more broadly to what the Book of Jonah can teach us. I said the word “nearly” because I did want to make a couple of points about our Gospel lesson because it pertains to our Mission to Tazewell County. Notice that it is God who recruits workers into the vineyard, not the other workers. They go about their work as God would have them do in the vineyard, and while they are doing so, it is God who is finding more workers. This should be a great relief to us. It is God who gives the increase, who sends more labors into the harvest, who recruits workers for the vineyard—not us, at least directly. When God decides that He needs more laborers, more workers, our all-powerful Lord Jesus will call people to that work, to join us. This should relieve all Christians of anxiety they might feel as they look around and see fewer people in the pews.

Now, to the main part of my homily. Read more “Homily: “On Being Called to the Vineyard””

Homily: “On Forgiveness”

Offered by Father Matthew Dallman, Obl.S.B., for the Parish of Tazewell County, on the Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 19, Year A), 2017.

We have in our Lessons today a coordinated presentation of the scriptural basis for the Church’s doctrine of Forgiveness. There are other biblical passages that could also be looked at if one were to want to fashion a comprehensive and detailed list of all verses that relate to forgiveness. But certainly for purposes of our understanding of the Faith and our prayer life, these passages more than suffice.

Almost. All I would want to remind us is just how central forgiveness is to the Incarnation of Christ, indeed the whole mission of Jesus of Nazareth. It is central because He said it is, when after supper he took the cup of wine; and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, and said, “Drink this, all of you: This is my Blood of the new Covenant, which is shed for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins. To see the relationship between the Church’s doctrine of forgiveness and the Eucharist is not intuitive, but must be seen as a strong, even profound relationship, because of the actions and words of Jesus on the night before He died and the authority that moment receives in the liturgy of the Church. Read more “Homily: “On Forgiveness””

Homily: “On Serving God in Others”

Offered by Father Matthew Dallman for the Parish of Tazewell County, on the Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 18, Year A), 2017.

Let us hear words from the Book of Proverbs: “Toward the scorners he is scornful, but to the humble He shows favor.” Those words from the end of chapter 3 form the basis for our Collect this week. It is an ancient Collect, dating at least from the 7th century. Through the workings of translations over the centuries, that proverb shows up in our Collect as, “As you always resist the proud who confide in their own strength, so you never forsake those who make their boast of your mercy.”

This also shows up in the Epistle of James as a succinct and useful summary: “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” The proud have closed themselves off from God—God does not love them any less, but the proud have opposed themselves to God in their self-centeredness. We cannot be self-centered if we hope to enjoy God’s grace, and be led by grace in our lives. This is why we ask in our Collect for God to give us the ability to trust in Him with all our hearts—trusting in Him in a way that leaves nothing out; trusting in Him in a way whereby we give ourselves, our bodies as a living sacrifice to God. Toward the scorners He is scornful, but to the humble He shows favor. Read more “Homily: “On Serving God in Others””