Homily: “On the Baptism of Our Lord Jesus Christ”

Offered by Father Matthew Dallman, Obl.S.B., for the Parish of Tazewell County, on the  First Sunday after Epiphany: The Baptism of Our Lord Jesus Christ, 2018.

 

John the baptizer heard the Father Almighty. He heard our Father in heaven proclaim Jesus of Nazareth His beloved Son and John witnessed the Spirit of God Almighty descend upon Him like a dove. The imagery of this moment is rich. For John this was a quiet earthquake; a spiritual explosion; a silent but fiery illumination. All four of our evangelists record this the baptism in the River Jordan of Our loving Lord Jesus: Matthew, Mark, and John describe it directly, and John directly alludes to it, and presumes his readers know about it. This is not a Christian baptism, of course: for why would Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Himself fully God and fully Man, this Christ-Child through Whom all things were made, need Christian baptism, to be incorporated into Himself? Of course not. He chose to participate in this ritual of Jewish baptism to fulfill all righteousness: words of Our Lord recorded not by Mark but by Matthew.

For Our Lord to choose Jewish baptism to fulfill all righteousness is fitting for us to recognize and celebrate in this season of Epiphanytide—the season made of episodes of Our Lord showing forth Himself to the Wise Men, showing forth Himself as the King of all nations, the Lord God of all creation. And when we stretch our mind back from this season, through Christmastide and to Advent, we see like a cloud that stretches in the skies as far as the eyes can see how much Our Lord has been showing forth Himself. To Blessed Mary, His Mother; to Blessed Elizabeth her cousin, and to the babe John the Baptist in her womb; to the Jewish Shepherds, whose flock might bear the lambs to be offered spotless and without blemish in the Temple; to the Wise Men; and now a showing forth again, this time to John the Baptist as a mature man: he who, having studied the scriptures through deep prayer, and having undoubtedly been taught in a holy family by his mother Elizabeth and his father Zachariah; John the Baptist who knew his limitations, that he baptizes with water, but that the Christ was coming who baptizes with the Holy Spirit and with fire—indeed, He baptizes directly into the heart to give them power to become children of God, to be born not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but to be born of God: to the ears and heart and mind of this man, John the Baptist, came the words of unspeakable glory, words directly from heaven: “Thou are my beloved Son; with thee I am well pleased.”

These divine words heard by John have echoed within the Church, even back before God’s Incarnation to its earliest moments. Isaiah heard God tell him, “Behold My servant, whom I uphold, My chosen, in Whom My soul delights.” All faithful Jewish people studied the prophet Isaiah, his verses as common to them as the Gospel is to us. Who would be this servant of God, this suffering servant with the Spirit of God to bring forth justice to the nations? To Abraham, God said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, your beloved son, and go to the land of Mori?ah, and offer him there as a burnt offering upon one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.” In ancient Jewish tradition, this act by Abraham was also seen as a voluntary act on Isaac’s part, willingly offering himself as sacrifice. And it was on the holy mountain that Jesus went with His disciples Peter, James and John, and there He showed forth Himself in glistening white, brighter than the sun, showing forth transfigured, or metamorphosed, before them. And again, as a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice came out of the cloud, “This is my beloved Son; listen to him.” That this echoes about the Church is why we love singing “This, this is Christ the King.”

Brothers and sisters, in showing forth Himself, Jesus has opened up to us God’s dwelling place. At Jesus’s baptism, John saw the heaven opened, and Mark describes the splitting open of the sanctuary veil at the death of Jesus on the cross in the exact same way. The world has been newly created because its limits have been destroyed. Heaven and nature are singing, along with the angels, archangels and all the company of heaven. The heavenly Father spoke, just as He spoke in the creation of reality. For when the earth was without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the Spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters, God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. This is the word that God says, and our souls shall be healed. Amen.

Homily: “On the Epiphany of Our Lord Jesus Christ”


Offered by Father Matthew Dallman, Obl.S.B., for the Parish of Tazewell County, on the Epiphany of Our Lord Jesus Christ, 2017.

“For we have seen His star in the East, and have come to worship Him.” The words of the wise men, transformed and expanded into the hymn, “We three kings of Orient are,” words proclaimed around our world this evening and tomorrow, and therefore savored by Christian communities the world over—these words are our words as well. For as the wise men were guided by the star which came to rest where the Child was, so have we been guided by the Light of lights that shines in our hearts, a Light that comes to rest as the Incarnate Word that overshadows our souls, enlightens our spirit, and Who by faith we conceive in our hearts and bear in our minds. It is Christ who brings us together, because through Him have we been made and remade, to celebrate the sacred mysteries of the Epiphany—that is, manifestation or showing forth—of Our Lord Jesus Christ, showing forth to all nations of the world. There are four dimensions of our celebration this evening of this mystery—four dimensions and then a fifth, which is its invitation to us. Read more “Homily: “On the Epiphany of Our Lord Jesus Christ””

Homily: “On the Holiness of Eternal Light”

Offered by Father Matthew Dallman, Obl.S.B., for the Parish of Tazewell County, on the First Sunday after Christmas, 2017.

In our Collect, we have acknowledged to God and affirmed it to be true that our loving Lord, the God of all creation, the maker of heaven and earth, of all that is, seen and unseen, has poured upon us the new light of His incarnate Word. And this incarnate Word is Jesus Christ, the newborn King. Upon the announcement of His birth by the archangel Gabriel, the Angels sang triumphantly. Upon the announcement of His birth, the Light of Heaven came into our world of darkness and confusion. Upon the announcement of His birth, all of the world is at peace: the conditions of our time and space are transcended, forever giving us a window to heaven in the embrace of Blessed Mary, Blessed Joseph her most chaste spouse, and the Christ child.

For in the embrace of this Holy Family we see love itself dynamic, love itself embodied, love itself pure and holy. It is in this holiness of the Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ that we share each Christmastide—the holiness of this eternal Light—as so how fitting our Collect is, that we ask God to grant that this light, enkindled in our hearts may shine forth in our lives. For we are taught by our loving Lord Jesus not to hide our light under a bushel, but to put the light on a stand, that it gives light to all in the house. Read more “Homily: “On the Holiness of Eternal Light””

Homily: “On the Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ”

Offered by Father Matthew Dallman, Obl.S.B., for the Parish of Tazewell County, on the Eve of the Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, 2017.

It is with joy and thankfulness in my heart that I wish you all a merry Christmas on this most solemn feast of the Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ. And a merry white Christmas, assuming the roads do not get too slippery. This holy night is shining with the brightness of the true Light, and what wonder it is to consider how indeed this Light is for the whole world—how one by one through the time zones of our world, thousands of churches and religious communities gather to sing, to pray, and to celebrate the wonderful and inexpressible mystery of the Blessed Virgin Mary conceiving the Son of God Almighty, bearing in her pure womb the Lord of Heaven, and giving birth to the world’s Redeemer amid the choir of holy Angels filling the air with the hymn of glory. Jesus Christ, eternal God and Son of the eternal Father, desiring to consecrate the world by His most loving presence, was born of the Virgin Mary in Bethlehem of Judah, and was made man. Read more “Homily: “On the Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ””

Homily: “On Witnessing the Light”

Offered by Father Matthew Dallman, Obl.S.B., for the Parish of Tazewell County, on the Third Sunday of Advent (Year B), 2017.

Stir up your power, O Lord—our Collect begins—and with great might come among us. As a bread maker, I find a particular poignancy to those words “Stir up.” When I am preparing to make bread—and this is something that takes about 24 hours as I make bread the old fashioned way—the first thing I do is take yeast culture that lives in our refrigerator, which is called “the mother,” and with a wooden spoon, stir it up. This brings oxygen into the mother, waking it up a little bit. Immediately there is an aroma of yeasty goodness, which is the primary sign that mother is healthy. Now, God is always active, is always awake, so the analogy falls apart pretty quickly. Yet Jesus is the Bread of Life, with a divine power to come among a mother with bountiful grace to transform water, flour, and salt into delicious sourdough loaves—and many more wondrous miracles—so this analogy is not wholly off the mark. This, at least, is the witness of your local sourdough baker.

In the wonders of His love, and in creating new heavens and new earth through the Incarnation of His Son, that there may be rejoicing in Jerusalem, which restores the fortunes of Zion, there was a man sent from God, whose name was John. Read more “Homily: “On Witnessing the Light””

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 Transfiguration”

Offered by Father Matthew Dallman for the Parish of Tazewell County on the Last Sunday after Epiphany, Year A, 2017.

When relationships take a turn, there is often a feeling of loss. This applies to the regular, even every day, moments such as when a person leaves in the morning to go to work or leaves on a several-day long trip; the other person not leaving has that bittersweet feeling. On a larger scale, when a person changes jobs or retires from a job, the people remaining often experience a sense of loss or even a disorientation. Still more this is true about when a loved one dies—even the most faithful Christian will experience a profound sense of loss, an emptiness, some sort of vacuum. To provide some sort of offset to loss, we try to compensate with expressions of love. Kisses and hugs abound before the person leaves for work or a long trip; a going-away party often ensues for those changing or leaving their job; and in the case of death, a visitation and proper funeral are the means for the family and friends to express their love for the deceased as well as for each other in this time of grieving and loss.

The Church is taking a turn starting this week, the turn to the season of Lent, beginning with Ash Wednesday. We are moving from the glowing, light-filled seasons of Advent, Christmastide, and Epiphanytide into something starker, even grittier. Here too, though in a different way than the other examples, there is a dislocation. The wee baby Jesus, beheld in supernatural admiration by His Mother Mary, gives way to the fully mature and adult Jesus who is squarely facing his mortality, firmly on pilgrimage to Jerusalem by way of Cross. Read more “Homily: “On Transfiguration””

Homily: “Even of the Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ”

Offered by Father Matthew Dallman for the Parish of Tazewell County on the Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, 2016.

This indeed is a moment of tremendous holiness. For to us a child is born; to us a son is given. And in this birth of a child, on this night when a son given to us, let us not overlook the truth, but celebrate it. Let us not lose focus amid the warm moments of Christmastide—the family feasts, the exchanging of presents, the sugar cookies—but keep our attention firmly on the fundamental reality of Christmas: that God has come to earth and Mary is Mother of God.

Read more “Homily: “Even of the Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ””