About djgrieser

I have been Rector of Grace Episcopal Church in Madison, WI since 2009. I'm passionate about Jesus Christ and about connecting our faith and tradition with 21st century culture. I'm also very active in advocating for our homeless neighbors.

The Gates Will Always Be Open: A Sermon for the Sixth Sunday of Easter

 

When I was a student at Harvard Divinity School back in the 80s, I worked a couple of summers as a bellhop at a hotel in the Back Bay of Boston. The money was pretty good, and it was a nice break from the rarefied atmosphere of Cambridge and Harvard. Plus, the hotel was right next to Fenway Park. I worked evenings, and after punching out, I had to run to make sure I caught the last train (subway) going in. I got off at Harvard Square (this was before the redline was extended out to Alewife), and I still had a fifteen minute walk to my apartment in Somerville. The quickest way was through Harvard Yard, the historic heart of Harvard’s campus. It’s surrounded by walls with more than twenty gates. Now, some of the gates are always open, some are almost always closed, and some seemed to be closed and locked completely randomly. Too often, as I came out of the Harvard Square station at around 12:30 am, the gate closest to the exit I usually used was locked, meaning that I would have to either retrace my steps, or go all around the yard, adding five minutes to my late night walk. Continue reading

The Home of God Is Among Mortals: A Sermon for the Sixth Sunday of Easter, 2016

 

I’m somewhat curious to know how many times over the last four or five years that I’ve begun a sermon by making some sort of reference to a milestone in the life of our congregation. As we’ve worked through planning, fundraising, and construction, there have been many moments that have marked another transition in this process—from hiring an architect, to the first presentation of plans, through the revision process, then the fundraising, then more revisions as we shaped our construction project to meet our most important needs and our financial resources. Last July, we celebrated groundbreaking. On the First Sunday of Advent in 2015, we worshiped for the first time in our newly-renovated nave. Continue reading

Revealing Revelation: A Sermon for the Fourth Sunday of Easter, 2016

Today is the Fourth Sunday of Easter. It’s referred to informally as Good Shepherd Sunday, because each year on this day we hear similar readings. The gospel reading always comes from the 10th chapter of John which is Jesus’ discourse on the Good Shepherd. The Psalm appointed for the day is always Psalm 23, the best-known and most-loved of all of the Psalms. The image of the good shepherd is an important one historically, and in spite of the fact that we have come very far from the pastoral setting of subsistence agriculture in ancient Palestine, the notion of God as a good shepherd who cares for us as a shepherd cares for his flock, continues to resonate. Continue reading

Discipleship and Resurrection: A Sermon for the 3rd Sunday of Easter, 2016

 

We are in Easter tide—the fifty days following Easter Sunday that ends on Pentecost. And although Easter is the Church’s commemoration of our very reason for being, for the most part, we don’t take much notice of it, certainly not in our individual spiritual lives. While Lent is a time for reflection, repentance, and fasting, there are few, if any devotional traditions surrounding the season of Easter. That’s why, if you’re interested, some young adults in our area, led by Fr. Jonathan Melton, chaplain of St. Francis House UW, put together a devotional for the fifty days of Easter. We might reflect on how our personal spiritual lives might be different if we consciously and attentively focused on the joy of resurrection during these 50 days of Easter—the joy of a Risen Christ, but also our hope for resurrection, for the bringing together of body and soul in new beings, new creations, made alive through Christ, remade in God’s image. Continue reading

Descending Theology: The Resurrection by Mary Karr: Poetry for Easter

Descending Theology: The Resurrection

BY MARY KARR

From the far star points of his pinned extremities,
cold inched in—black ice and squid ink—
till the hung flesh was empty.
Lonely in that void even for pain,
he missed his splintered feet,
the human stare buried in his face.
He ached for two hands made of meat
he could reach to the end of.
In the corpse’s core, the stone fist
of his heart began to bang
on the stiff chest’s door, and breath spilled
back into that battered shape. Now
it’s your limbs he comes to fill, as warm water
shatters at birth, rivering every way.

Poetry for Easter: Seven Stanzas for Easter by John Updike

Make no mistake: if He rose at all
it was as His body;
if the cells’ dissolution did not reverse, the molecules
reknit, the amino acids rekindle,
the Church will fall.

It was not as the flowers,
each soft Spring recurrent;
it was not as His Spirit in the mouths and fuddled
eyes of the eleven apostles;
it was as His flesh: ours.

The same hinged thumbs and toes,
the same valved heart
that–pierced–died, withered, paused, and then
regathered out of enduring Might
new strength to enclose.

Let us not mock God with metaphor,
analogy, sidestepping, transcendence;
making of the event a parable, a sign painted in the
faded credulity of earlier ages:
let us walk through the door.

The stone is rolled back, not papier-mâché,
not a stone in a story,
but the vast rock of materiality that in the slow
grinding of time will eclipse for each of us
the wide light of day.

And if we will have an angel at the tomb,
make it a real angel,
weighty with Max Planck’s quanta, vivid with hair,
opaque in the dawn light, robed in real linen
spun on a definite loom.

Let us not seek to make it less monstrous,
for our own convenience, our own sense of beauty,
lest, awakened in one unthinkable hour, we are
embarrassed by the miracle,
and crushed by remonstrance.

John Updike, 1960.

Being known and named by Christ: A Sermon for Easter, 2016

 

One of things I love about being a priest are the strange, sometimes unsetting, often grace-filled encounters I have with people. It can happen when I’m wearing my collar, running errands before or after work. As an example, my church in South Carolina was very close to the Home Depot, and I often stopped there after work to buy supplies for a home project. Once, I was stopped by an employee in the parking lot who asked me if I would pray for him. We stopped right there, and after inquiring about what was troubling him, we shared a prayer I anointed him, and offered a blessing.

It can happen when I’m out of uniform. Continue reading