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 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 the Good Soil”

Offered by Father Matthew Dallman for the Parish of Tazewell County, on the Sixth Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 10, Year A), 2017.

In our Collect this morning, we petition God to receive the prayers of His people who call upon Him so that they may understand and know what they ought to do. It is a simple request, but we should not be deceived by its simplicity and think it a mundane sort of question. Rather, let us regard this petition as a noble inquiry, one we should always be making, even daily—after all, our Collect contains the two central questions of serious discipleship asked by the first disciples to Saint Peter on the Day of Pentecost. The first was, “What does this mean?” and the second was “What shall we do?”

We could do far worse than make for ourselves a habit of asking these two questions whenever we are in prayer, or reading the Bible, or reflecting on a sermon. Asking these two questions are part of our responsibility, our responsiveness, to God and His loving initiative of coming to us with His Word. The first Christians’ response to God’s initiative on Pentecost was to ask these two questions—What does it mean? What shall we do?—and so we can see that part of the Gospel pattern we are to perceive and make our own is to ourselves ask these questions when we are presented with, or caught by, God and the claim He makes on us and our lives. Read more “Homily: “On the Good Soil””

Homily: “On the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist”

Offered by Father Matthew Dallman for the Parish of Tazewell County, on the Feast of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist, 2017.

We heard these words in our second reading: “Before His coming John had preached a baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel.” This is what Saint Paul tells us, as recorded by Saint Luke, the author of both the Gospel by His name and the Acts of the Apostles. Jesus was coming into the world—coming into relationship with the world (he already was in relationship because all things are made through Him, so we mean coming into relationship in the sense of being able to be recognized and to be available through sure and certain means); He was coming into relationship, and coming into the hearts of people. And before Him, ahead of Him, as the forerunner, was John, son of Elizabeth and Zachariah—indeed, a holy family the members of which the Church has long venerated as Saint Elizabeth, Saint Zachariah, and Saint John the Baptist, the nativity of whom we celebrated today.

Saint John is a major saint of the Church. He plays a major role in the economy of salvation—that is, how salvation actually works not as an idea or good-feeling sentiment, not as the theme of a social club, but as an actual reality that has happened, and is happening, and, God-willing, will continue to happen to actual people in actual lives. Saint John is the first person we meet in the Gospel of Mark, he is introduced at length in the Gospel of Matthew, he is prominent in the Gospel of Luke, and his ministry is raised to the status of a mystic in the Gospel of John. Read more “Homily: “On the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist””

Homily: “On Corpus Christi”

Offered by Father Matthew Dallman for the Parish of Tazewell County, on the Feast of Corpus Christi, 2017.

The Church has celebrated and experienced a dramatic turn of events over the last month. We celebrated the Ascension of Our Lord to the Right Hand of the Father. We prayed for the Gifts of the Holy Spirit, and indeed with the Coming of the Holy Spirit on Whitsunday, the Day of Pentecost, God gave them to us in His abundance. We then celebrated the revelation of God as Holy Trinity—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, which orders our prayer life and worship. And today, we celebrate the Feast of Corpus Christi, Latin for the Body of Christ; indeed, we celebrate, we reflect upon, and we adore the Eucharist. Read more “Homily: “On Corpus Christi””

Homily: “On Pentecost”

Offered by Father Matthew Dallman for the Parish of Tazewell County, on the Feast of Pentecost, 2017.

Although the Church in the West over the last century or two has not always treated this way, the Day of Pentecost is a celebration in the church year the theological importance of which is only surpassed by Holy Week culminating in Easter. Granted, its festivity usually comes in behind that of Christmas. Christmas even outpaces Easter Day in that regard. But just like the fable of the tortoise and the hare, Easter as a whole ends up taking the prize because whereas Christmas is twelve days, Easter has fifty.

The culmination of those Fifty Days is the Day of Pentecost, a day on which God taught, and teaches in the present tense, the hearts of His faithful people by sending to them the light of His Holy Spirit. Again it is worth bearing in mind that the biblical understanding of the word heart is much more than our emotions, but indeed refers to our entire being, the arena in which we encounter God—where He lives in us and where God speaks to us. Read more “Homily: “On Pentecost””

Homily: “On the Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ, Easter Sunday”

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

It is a great joy to share with you all in the heavenly peace brought into the world by Jesus Christ, on this the day of His resurrection. I want to welcome especially our visitors to this holy space on this most holy of occasions. It is a blessing to have you with us. You are always welcome to pray with us in worship of Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. And we invite you to pray for us, as this church and our sister church continue to discern in joy and humility the mission that God is calling us to perform in Tazewell County and in the world.

The Church as a whole—all two billion plus of us Christians alive today, along with the great cloud of witnesses of the faithfully departed along with the countless Christians yet to be come—is always on mission. Our mission is to proclaim the Resurrection of Jesus Christ to the Right Hand of the Father—in the words of Saint Paul, to proclaim “that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.” Our mission indeed is to be alive to God in Christ Jesus — alive to God as He lives and moves and has His being in and through all of His creatures, both great and small. Read more “Homily: “On the Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ, Easter Sunday””

Homily: “On Being Salt and Light”

Offered by Father Matthew Dallman for the Parish of Tazewell County on the Fifth Sunday after Epiphany (the Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time) Year A, 2017.

We continue today exploring the Sermon on the Mount. As I said last Sunday, Jesus speaks to all people—which is to say that Christianity is not a secret club of the spiritually elite, but a public religion by which the true light of the world shines forth for all to see by the grace of God. And at the same time, although Jesus died for the sins for the whole world, in His life he barely saw fit to visit much more than 20 square miles of it. He made Himself available to large crowds of people, yet it was to twelve men, along with about sixty additional men and women, that he gave His most potent teaching, His most concentrated spiritual direction. There are always crowds around Jesus, but it is only His disciples that come to Him—those who truly hear the voice of their Good Shepherd, and know Him by hearing His voice.

It is fitting that we are hearing this portion of the Sermon on the Mount in this season of our Annual Church Meeting, a season when, in addition to conducting the canonical business required of us, we are also focusing on Mission. The Christian Mission is to proclaim the resurrection of Jesus Christ—to proclaim Christ Crucified, and do so in our lives, in our families, in our homes, in our neighborhoods, in our workplaces. Indeed it is fitting because the two primary images given to the Church by Jesus in this portion of the Sermon on the Mount are two images of Mission. The first is “You are the salt of the earth.” And the second is “You are the light of the world.” These are to tell us what we are, as therefore what we are to be. Read more “Homily: “On Being Salt and Light””