Sunday, May 28, 2017

The Sunday Sermon: Living Together

Easter 7A, May 28, 2017
St. Paul’s San Diego
John 17:1-11

Community is the essence of living in residential seminary. Some have said it is like living in a fishbowl. You get thrown into this place from your previously secular life with all these other people who are very different from you and then you are expected to be formed into a new life with them, go through ups and downs with them, forge new values with them, be formed by them, give of yourself, risking enough to help form others but also learning how not to impose yourself or your privilege, and all without killing each other. It is a crucible of learning how to live together in difference. It is church times ten.

My own experience of seminary was particularly difficult, as I entered seminary at a time when the Church was still in a period of conflict, adjusting to the idea that openly LGBT people could enter ordained life in the aftermath of the consecration of Bishop Gene Robinson. I was the first openly gay man to finish my M.Div. in my seminary, although I was certainly not the first gay man to go through the program. So I felt vulnerable being completely authentic in community, having that authenticity questioned as others offered their own genuine questions about the place of LGBT people in the church. I had little exposure to that kind of difference in the place I came from.

So my bias, entering seminary, was that the one must resist the whole. The lone voice crying out must hold the group accountable. My experience is that this is not an uncommon value or belief in our progressive Christian tradition. And it can be true. Especially in the current political climate, we see a massed crowd all too ready to persecute anyone who dares to be different-- even if that difference comes from simply driving while black, or as an immigrant, or as a transgender person.

But at least for me, seminary taught me something else. It was hard, but I also got to know people I would have otherwise dismissed out of hand. And they got to know me-- some of whom would have initially preferred that I had been refused entry into seminary at all. And those turned into good lifelong friendships. And that is Church.

For me, it took going through that crucible of seminary, getting to know my community, to be formed by my neighbors, and having to live day in and day out until the preconceptions were wiped away, to realize something. There is certainly a place for the lone voice crying in the wilderness, particularly when human rights are at stake. But if everybody believes they are a lone voice crying in the wilderness, then nobody can be held accountable for anything. We deteriorate into an endless cycle of consumerism, based on personal tastes and preferences, and lose our sense of community.

As an example, one recent article on this problem noted that parents increasingly demand teachers prove that their children have done anything wrong before they will believe them. Parents increasingly throw out homework assigned to children because they don’t agree with the assignments. Teachers and schools are the oppressors, parents the lone voice in the wilderness speaking up for the poor child. It may be that there are legitimately bad teachers to be protected from, but rather than making that determination in a community setting with due process, each parent is judge and jury. Take it one step further, and privileged parents demand choice for their children’s schools, withdrawing their children from the opportunity to be educated in diverse communities and learning how to navigate difference. A fundamental building block of community, public schools, is now at risk; because trust in the community has faltered. Trust in the self is all that is left.

This is not a sermon on school choice. But whether you look to the EPA or to school choice or to gun control you find a society that is left with truth being defined only by each individual person, each consumer with the power of the almighty dollar, trained to withdraw it if we don’t like what we see, each one a lone voice crying in the wilderness, each of us intent that we know how it needs to be.

Before we get too smug about it let’s acknowledge that we are not immune. I just want to get real for a minute. In the church, it takes continuous work to resist being a part of this outside culture and claim something different. I myself sometimes fall into these patterns, and hear them from others occasionally: “If I don’t get what I want, I will speak louder. If I don’t get what I think is right, I will revoke my pledge. If I don’t get what I want, I will leave.” But that is not what the Church is meant to be.

In the gospel this week we see Jesus praying to God, a farewell prayer on behalf of us who are left behind after his departure. Jesus’ prayer is that the knowledge and love of God made known in Jesus to the disciples is made possible only by the continued protection of the unity, of the community of believers. Community, not lone rangers, are what makes the love of God known once Jesus has departed-- that they may be one.

That’s what the precious gift of being a part of the body of Christ, a member of the Church is, don’t you see? It is to be swept up in the protection of community, to be made one in this prayer of Jesus. That was what I had to learn or unlearn in seminary: that to be one in community does not mean to be uniform. That unity does not mean uniformity. Because the body consists of many members as Paul would say, this glorious body of Christ, the church, with all of its colors and textures, and voices, and opinions- do we have opinions!

No, the unity of the Church is not a monolithic block, not an imposing hegemonic burden-- but it is a moving, changing, dynamic dance as one commenter put it; one with many dancers; a song with many voices. It is authentic community that, at its best, values and protects difference.

As Henri Nouwen says, “we are cast into communities of people that we would never, in all our life, choose for ourselves.” Think about that for a minute. The community found in Church is an intentional community, made of different voices, some of whom we might not be in relationship with anywhere else.

The beauty of this whole project, you see, is that the knowledge and love of God is made known in the messiness of this unity thing. The lie given to us in the world around us is that freedom, our highly valued possession, is the ability to have an unlimited number of choices. To have the most number of personal choices, frankly you have to cut yourself off from your neighbor, so that he also may have the most number of choices - to avoid limiting the freedom of individual choice. But the truth of the love of God is that freedom is living in love, and frankly you can’t live love by yourself. Love isn’t the freedom of being able to do whatever you want. That’s a benefit that only comes with privilege. It’s a drug that’s hard to give up.

Love is a relationship. Love is living into community and diving deeper than you can go by yourself. It is being challenged by someone who has seen a different perspective than you have seen so that together you can find a fuller story of the whole than your individual pieces separately can tell-- even- and especially- when you are convinced that you already have the whole story yourself.

That looks so many different ways in the church, this living out of Jesus’ prayer that we all may be one. We who are many are one bread, one body, for we all share in one bread, one cup. The whole liturgy is an act of coming together from our different places and lives to be one, sharing ourselves with each other before we go out into the world again.

But it doesn’t stop there. The church is a place for the whole world to witness what it means to have the love of God bind up difference in community. Here at St. Paul’s, we have people who live outside talking about their faith with people who live in million dollar homes. We have straight cisgender people and transpeople and lesbians and gay people and genderqueer people, working together to discern how love pulls us all in the same direction without detracting from the very real differences between us. We have Democrats and Republicans, and even in these politically challenging times- especially in these politically challenging times- the church is the place where we look to the prayer of Jesus for unity in community, not for my opinion or your opinion to win, but instead for the knowledge and love of God to be made whole in community as we struggle with each other in love to figure out how that looks without tearing apart our relationships-- which are the point of the whole thing anyway.

That doesn’t happen by itself. Jesus ascended into the clouds. He isn’t here to do the work for us. It takes each of us, every single member of the body of Christ working in harmony in this dance to be a part of this movement of love. We focus at St. Paul’s on being out in the world, because the world needs it. But if we don’t keep practiced on the difference between the way the world works and the unity that makes love possible, then we can forget what we are out there to do.

It also means staying involved with what makes the lifeblood of the church tick, with the very places where we cultivate the skills to live in difference, to breed the humility to keep our own privilege and bias in check and to remember time and time again that the unity of our very humanity may require giving something up to be able to participate in this love project of God.

Without you it can’t happen! I frequently tell new members that Church is not a spectator sport. Coming to worship is a good start. Sometimes people in their first year at St. Paul's need to spend their first months quietly healing in the pews, and that's absolutely fine. But to truly cultivate this kind of authenticity, this kind of unity, where relationships are born across difference, where we are thrown into communities that are not our choosing, it takes involvement. We have great volunteers here. But we need all of us, and I think all of us need each other too. Getting the work done is a side benefit. The main task is to participate in this ongoing project of Jesus’ farewell prayer: that we may all be one, by finding ways to be engaged with each other, with people we otherwise wouldn't be. If you look in your bulletin today, you will see a list of all the different places you can volunteer to be a deeper part of this love project at St. Paul’s. It is who we are. If you are not already a volunteer, I hope you will express interest in serving by completing the form and putting it in the offering plate today. If you have questions, call me. It's why I’m here.

I was talking to a colleague recently who was having a similar experience to the one I had in seminary, learning about this dance of unity in the church. As a gay man, he had just began a position at a church that had several folks who were outspoken against having a gay clergy person.

One of them wanted to speak to him, and he got worried. He braced himself for an argument.

But what he received was something far different: he received a genuine inquiry about his life, what his spouse was like, and how he was adjusting to the new parish. When he was ordained to the priesthood, this would-be adversary gave him a family heirloom as an ordination gift, a Bible that had been in his family for generations

My brothers and sisters, the Church has been entrusted with a gift- that we may be one- in a way that is barely recognizable to the world around us. Treasure that gift! Deepen your relationships across every beautiful difference that we have among us. And please don’t ever forget that you are a very special people, a gift entrusted to us, each of us. Without you, we wouldn’t exist! So take care with each other, take interest in each other, and remember why we are here.

The Rev. Jeff Martinhauk

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Saturday at 5pm

Did you know we have a quiet Saturday 5pm Eucharist in the chapel? This may be just the service you are looking for.  Jim Greer shares more:

My grandmother use to say, those who go to church on Sunday at 10:00 am love the music and those who go at 8 love the Word, but those who go mid-week love the Lord.

Attending Sunday service at 5 pm on Saturday is not quite the same thing as grandma had in mind, but it’s similar in its intimacy between the people and their priest and the language of the scriptures and the liturgy. We’re few in number, but God’s nearness is manifest and from beginning to end, it feels as though we’re in a conversation with an old friend.

Because it is the first mass of the Sabbath, the Sunday lessons are read and the brief homily – more a chat really, suggests the Gospel’s message for the holy day.

Oh, and because there is no printed program, we get to use the prayer book again; the historic and foundational Book of Common Prayer. I sense a smiling, 16th century Archbishop Cranmer someplace just out of sight. In no time at all, we become nimble once more in flipping pages to follow and participate. Doing so brings back sweet memories of an earlier time in our lives.

I suppose a Canon Liturgist might tut-tut the relaxed and not always perfect choreography of our service, but what hiccups there are, only draws the little community closer in good humor and in affection for our worship leaders. In a way it’s like seeing a movie version of a stage play or watching a game on TV – you get to see the close-ups, warts and all. And whatever makes it human, makes it dear.

The Dean includes herself in the officiating Rota and its good and right to have her with us from time to time. Most of our celebrants, however, are retired priests who have preached, consecrated and served the Lord’s Supper a thousand times or more. Even so, we know they love to be with us, still living their vocation and saying again the sacred scripts. We, in turn, feel blessed to have and hear and receive from such elders in the faith.

As a life-long Episcopalian, I’ve had the good fortune to worship in many of Anglicanism’s great churches and cathedrals, hear their classic choirs, observe their matchless pageantry and sometimes receive the host from the high prelates of our communion. Such an experience can be spine-tingling beautiful and deeply moving. Our great services are a gift to the people and are to be honored and repeated even while remembering that the Eucharist, as invented, was first shared in a rented upper room, sitting on the floor and then on the dusty road to Emmaus. On Saturday at 5, we’re almost as simple. We pause for a while, hear again the ancient texts, say our prayers and then take, bless, break and receive the meal. It fills our hearts and sustains us as we move out again into the world.

Our little congregation is composed of 4-5 regulars, occasional attendees - some recognizable while others are not. From time to time we have vacationing folks we’ll likely not see again, and on a lucky day, a street person or someone looking for relief will join us in our fellowship.

So, if you can’t make it some Sunday morning, or haven’t been for a while or if being with us at 5 pm on Saturday fits nicely into your other plans for the day or evening, come along and join us around the chapel altar as we share the loaf and cup and give and receive God’s peace, one to another.

--Jim Greer

Monday, May 22, 2017

The Sunday Sermon: Steadfast Love, Abiding Presence

This week I received a precious gift. It's a gift I will remember and cherish. It's a gift I never wanted and wish I had never received, and yet I am grateful for it. There is no more sacred task for a priest than the task, the privilege, of being permitted to be present with a family on the worst day of their life. This was the gift, and I treasure it, even though I would have given much for it not to be necessary.

I won't go into personal details, but suffice it to say that it involved several hours at a hospital, many prayers, an emergency baptism, and a lot of tears, as well as a remarkable witness of faith by the people most deeply wounded by the tragedy. I declared, "You are sealed by the Holy Spirit in baptism and marked as Christ's own for ever," as I anointed one who was already in the embrace of God, and I understood those words in a new and profound way.

When I resumed work on this sermon, I found myself reading today's Scripture with new eyes, seeking out reassurance that my declarations of God's love and abiding presence in the midst of suffering could indeed be backed up by God's Word.

As St. Paul addresses the elite of Athens, he is dealing with an audience of intellectual, skeptical sophisticates. They take an interest in all things spiritual, but they are not committed to any given belief system. You could say they are spiritual but not religious. The streets of Athens, a multicultural center of the ancient world, are dotted with little shrines and altars to gods of all kinds and from every corner of the world, a pantheon of images made of wood, stone, and metal. And, in a kind of Pascal's wager, there is even a shrine to "the unknown god", to cover any possibility not otherwise considered.

Our world, like that of the Athenians, is filled with shrines to the idols of our culture. Sky-scraping banks. Shopping malls that look like temple complexes. Prestigious cars. Multiplex movie theaters. Football stadiums. Even magnificent church buildings. These are some of the false gods that we are tempted to worship. But Paul points the Athenians, and us, to another God, as he points to the unknown god's altar. There's a reason, he says, why you don't have a name or an image for this God.

This is a God, he says, who isn't confined to a statue or an altar. This is a God who abides among us, who is with us wherever we go. This God is as close to us as a breath; in this God we live and move and have our being. The Psalm backs this up, reminding us of the steadfast love of God that never fails. I needed that reminder this week.

Paul, a consummate evangelist, sees an opening for the Gospel. He meets the Athenians where they are, acknowledging their wisdom and claiming the unknown God as the God of Abraham and Isaac, the God of Jesus Christ, known to a people who have been liberated from slavery, fed in the wilderness, and redeemed from death.

Paul is skillful in his presentation. He doesn't attack the prior assumptions of his listeners, but he finds room for God within their context. In our current context, we are having a lot of conversations about how to bring the unchurched to church. Since we can't force people to come, we are turning towards supporting the development of faith within the non-churched lifestyle. We are creating a digital family resource called Faith2Go, we are participating in marches and parades, we are showing up to the Harvey Milk breakfast and the Navy Pride celebration, we are offering the Eucharist in a gay bar, we are live-streaming our services.

At the Democracy Now event last Tuesday, 700 people packed the cathedral and heard my unconditional welcome. At the end of the evening someone said to me, "I didn't know that churches like this existed." Like Paul, we try to tailor our medium to the potential audience, but the message itself remains the same: God loves us unconditionally and is to be found in every circumstance of our lives. The ancient Athenians continued to question Paul, as our contemporaries continue to question us, restlessly searching for an answer that will satisfy our hunger. The answer is life abundant in the risen Christ.

Paul describes a God who is far greater than any image we can invent, and who sent a human being to show us the true abundance of life through resurrection, even defeating death itself. And in John's Gospel, as Jesus prepares to go to his death, he tells his friends that even when he is gone, they will not be left alone. The Spirit is God's presence in the world, abiding within us and giving us strength and courage to bear what otherwise would destroy us.

John puts a peculiar word in Jesus' mouth: the Paraclete, translated in our reading as Advocate. The old translations had Comforter, as we hear in the traditional musical settings of this text. But the modern translation doesn't use that word because it has changed its meaning over the centuries. Forget the soft, fluffy image you may have conjured up. Think instead of something like a cattle prod, a force that pushes you to do and bear more than you ever thought possible. That's what the 16th century Anglicans meant by a Comforter.

So, in my quest to seek reassurance, I found the Gospel telling me that God's love and mercy can be found anywhere, if we only look: in the hug of a friend; in the beauty of a piece of music or a spring day; in the words of faith somehow summoned up in the midst of heartbreak.

Even the Epistle reading today takes on additional meaning, when it's viewed through the lens of personal tragedy, as we wonder why such things happen. Peter addresses a congregation that is under attack for its faith. He offers powerful reassurance and a reminder to stay the course, to go high when others go low. Peter assures us that suffering isn't something we earn or deserve. Sometimes we can do everything right and still things go horribly, tragically wrong.
And yet our Easter faith will bring us through, secure in the knowledge of God's victory over death.

Both Peter and Paul derive the courage to proclaim the Gospel from the life of Christ that lives, that abides, in them. Jesus has promised to abide with those who keep his commandment of love. When we trust that Jesus abides in us, when we live into the steadfast love described in the Psalm, we too will be strengthened to call out the idolatry of our own lives and of the culture around us, to find God in our midst, to bear what might otherwise be unbearable.

Remember the Collect we prayed a few minutes ago: "O God, you have prepared for those who love you such good things as surpass our understanding: Pour into our hearts such love towards you, that we, loving you in all things and above all things, may obtain your promises, which exceed all that we can desire." God's love exceeds all that we can desire or imagine. This is our Easter faith.

Alleluia, Christ is risen. The Lord is risen indeed, Alleluia.

The Very Rev Penelope Bridges 
May 21, 2017, the Sixth Sunday of Easter

Friday, May 19, 2017

Order of St. John of Jerusalem Folks Do More than Wear Fancy Clothes

Canon Andrew Rank, SSP, CSJ, writes,

Members of the Venerable Hospital Order of St. John of Jerusalem do more than just wear colorful dressup outfits at an annual evensong! Take the story of 101 year old Bernice Price of Hamilton, Ontario Canada :
Ask Bernice Price about her many years of pushing Hamilton city councillors to make life better for seniors and her eyes light up. 
“I was on 54 committees, but never on the payroll,” said Price, who turns 100 on Friday.... 
It was thanks to Price’s efforts that the city in 2009 adopted the Gold Age Pass which allows Hamilton resident 80 and older to ride for free on the HSR. 
Price became so well known at city hall that in 2011 then central Mountain councillor Scott Duvall presented her with a certificate that designated her as Mayor of Thirteenth Street for her outstanding performance and dedication to the City of Hamilton. 
Born in Lawrencetown, Nova Scotia, Price began what would become a life-long relationship with St. John Ambulance in 1939. 
She would join the Royal Canadian Air Force in 1940 where, as a member of the Halifax Flying Squadron, she would attend to the first aid stations. 
She achieved the rank of sergeant and became a military police officer (MP) in the air force. 
“When I became a police officer they handed me handcuffs and I said ‘if I have to use those on a girl, I won’t be doing it’,” she said. “I never, ever used handcuffs on anyone.”
But as an MP Price didn’t take any guff from the airmen and women and carried that attitude throughout her life when it came to working with politicians or trying to help others. 
She came to Hamilton after the Second World War and worked at the downtown Right House and later resumed her duties with St. John Ambulance in the nursing division.
Her many years with SJA, which included teaching numerous first aid and babysitting courses to parents, youths and children across the city, was officially recognized in 1997 when Price was inducted as Dame of the Most Venerable Order of the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem (St. John Ambulance).

This is the female equivalent of a Knight and only a few Canadians have been honoured with the recognition.... 
“She’s still feisty,” said Price’s nephew Jack Branch, who visits her each day at Grace Villa. “She’s always been a champion for the underdog.”
Click here to read the whole story!

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

The Sunday Sermon: God dwells in all creation

Easter 5A, May 14, 2017
St. Paul’s San Diego
Creation Care Sunday, John 14:1-14

It’s a regular pattern. Disaster strikes-- maybe it’s a flood. Maybe it's a tornado, or a hurricane. Maybe it's an earthquake. There are many casualties and lots of devastation. And before relief efforts can really get fully underway, voices will start assigning blame. “God has rendered judgement on America for….” and you can fill in the blank with a variety of suspected causes.

Frankly, I don’t think I believe in the same God as those folks. This kind of exclusive, judgemental, distant God sits somewhere else and doles out punishment based on some kind of rigid standard of being-- a standard of being that tends to look suspiciously like the speaker of the pronouncement and less like God, at least to me.

While my God and that god don’t look the same now, it isn’t hard to find a common historical source of that God in the Christian tradition.

One of the primary models of understanding God in both Hebrew and Christian thought has been of God as king: Jewish thought, Christian medieval thought, and at the Reformation, thinkers explored their understanding of God using the dominant governance structures of their times, namely that of a king ruling over subjects (McFague, p. 63).

If the dominant model is king ruling justly over subjects, then it follows that when the decrees of the the king are broken they merit punishment. It isn’t hard to understand how, when following our trajectory of Christianity, a very misguided pastor today might set up a God is his image to imagine earthquakes and tornados reigning down as punishment of a king who is displeased with the breaking of a perceived commandment.

We aren’t immune in the Episcopal Church from seeing God as being on our side and still seeing God as a distant other-- in fact a high liturgy can exacerbate that, creating a sense that God is to be found nowhere except for in a special tabernacle. I might joke myself that God is unknowable except for in good liturgy and in a high understanding of the sacrament. That can become an idol for us.

But we do not in this country, have pronouncements from monarchs-- or at least I hope we don’t. If our understanding of power has shifted in this age and monarchs are not relevant to us, what does that mean for our understanding of God when so much of our historical understanding is based on a power structure of God as omnipotent monarch? I would like to submit to you this morning, on this Creation Care Sunday, that it is important not to be too complacent with the image of God as King, of God as Ruler.

Theologian Sallie McFague has spent her life playing with alternatives to that model. She is very clear that what she does is play- fanciful, metaphorical, imaginative, and not prescriptive or proclamatory. We are so accustomed to wanting to hear news about God that must come from the mouth of a kingly ruler, so that we must conform to in order to please the king-- even if it is at a subconscious level-- that it is hard to hear imaginative and creative, alternative pictures of God, but that is what she offers. Instead of God as patriarch, monarch, or Father, she offers God as Mother, Lover or Friend-- not as trinitarian doctrine but as ways to break the idols we have fallen into, the idolatry of thinking we have a firm grasp on understanding God and keeping that God in our understanding rather than seeking to stretch ourselves to grow towards God.

So on this creation care Sunday, I’d like to suggest that if you are open to it that experimentation with how we view God can be a good thing. We have this story of wonderful and warm hospitality in the gospel, a story addressed to followers of Jesus about Jesus going to prepare a place to stay. This passage was in the lectionary for Friday at the noon mass, and for the folks there the opening passage about preparing a place, a house with many dwelling places evoked images of openness, inclusiveness, and receptivity. Jesus says he is the way to get there. But Thomas and Philip, perhaps hearing this as an exclusive proposition, as a kingly command, get concerned they don’t have a map to this place. In the final paragraph, Jesus relates that the way is not so much a physical map to get to a place, but something else entirely. Jesus describes a kind of interdependence with God the Father that doesn’t look at all like a king-subject relationship.

And that is what the work of McFague offers us, I think-- a glimpse into the way, the truth, the life incarnate. What she presents is the idea of the world itself as God’s body. Take a moment, if you dare, and put aside whatever picture you have of God. If you have an image of God as lord, king, or patriarch, I invite you to try for a moment to set that aside. I promise lightning will not strike. If you have become jaded of those images, and God has become a myth for you, I invite you to try suspending that for a moment, to let some playfulness enter in.

Imagine instead the world as God’s body. We aren’t saying the world is God’s body, but imagine that God’s body is like the world. Imagine that you can be in the presence of God no matter where you are, no matter what you are doing. Imagine that you can’t escape the presence of God.

This God is infused in everything, but God is not reduced to the world even though God’s body, the world, is ‘at risk.’ In the words of McFague, “The world as God’s body may be poorly cared for, ravaged, and as we are becoming well aware, essentially destroyed, in spite of God’s own loving attention to it, because of one creature, ourselves, who can choose or not choose to join with God in conscious care of the world… In [this metaphor] the notions of vulnerability, shared responsibility, and risk are inevitable. This is a markedly different basic understanding of the God-world relationship than in the monarch-realm metaphor, for it emphasizes God’s willingness to suffer for and with the world, even to the point of personal risk. The world as God’s body, then may be seen as a way to re-mythologize the inclusive, suffering love of the cross of Jesus of Nazareth.” (McFague, p. 72). Our lack of care for creation in this imagination is, perhaps, a crucifixion.

“I am in the Father and the Father is in me.” “The Father who dwells in me does his works.” “The one who believes in me will do the works that I do.”

McFague fascinates me because she takes a completely different approach to environmental justice. Most theologians take an ethical approach, that is: “What should we do to care for creation?”, or “What, in caring for creation, serves the good?” There is nothing wrong with that, but ethics is a tricky business, and most of us are at risk of running right into the same problem the televangelist runs into: do good stuff or God the king will be mad at you. (There are much more robust ways of doing ethics, of course.) Ethics is not necessarily but can also be a detached intellectual and cognitive process, removed from the emotional and spiritual drivers that I believe truly affect change.

But McFague’s approach for environmental care is not based on ethics, not based on political revolution, but based on this idea of who God is at God’s very being and what that means for discipleship and personal transformation: If God’s body is offered to us in the radical self-giving of the world, how does that inspire consumers to resist the temptation to consume more and more of God’s body, and to live more simply? That call comes not simply from an ethical mandate to conserve resources but from deep personal transformations to live changed lives that are mindful of the self-emptying love of God-- a transformation that is contagious, and spreads, and loves the world- God’s body- as neighbor, because what else might one do when faced with such a radical, self-emptying love? This is a body, a world, that gives so generously of itself, depleting itself of its own resources to those who it sustains without regard for its own sustainability! It is no wonder that McFague invokes the sense of motherhood in her terms for God (putting aside for a moment the painful experience of those whose experience with their mothers is not of a nurturing self-giving figure). But invoking that self-giving being demands an emotional response- a spiritual response- of transformation.

A few years ago, I was visiting my brother in Hawaii. My brother is a marine biologist. We were out on his boat and came across a milk jug that was mysteriously floating through the bay. Without hesitation, my brother cut the engine, jumped into the bay, and called for a knife-- I had no idea what was going on. He dove down and came up with a giant turtle. It was entwined in fishers line attached to the floating milk jug. The line had been there so long there were grooves on the turtle’s shell. My brother struggled in the water to hold this terrified giant turtle still while working to free the line with a knife, and in the process cut himself. But then the turtle went free. That was a holy moment for me, and God was there, both in the suffering of the turtle, in the willingness of my brother to risk himself for the turtle, and in the new life this turtle now had. There aren’t any shoulds for me in that story. I care for creation simply because that story is beautiful. It’s a love story. It demands my all, my love, and my own self-giving- my own mothering, if you will.

We will go across the street into the park in a moment to perform a liturgy of blessing for creation. There is a view that a blessing sets something apart as holy. I think that view is problematic and perpetuates the dualism of the monarch/subject problem. Barbara Brown Taylor in her book An Altar in the World describes the act of blessing as “seeing things from the divine perspective, participating in God’s own initiative, and sharing in God’s own audacity.” If we have the imagination to try on the idea of the world as God’s body, then as we go across the street and bless the park, we are calling forth the holy that is already present in that park. Because God dwells in all of creation: in the mountains and beaches; in the birds and the bugs; in me, and in you too.

The Rev Jeff Martinhauk

Harwood, John T. “Theologizing the World: A Reflection on the Theology of Sallie McFague.” The Anglican Theological Review., accessed 5/13/17.

McFague, Sallie. Models of God: Theology for an Ecological, Nuclear Age. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1987.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

The Sunday Sermon: With Glad and Generous Hearts

The new Alien movie is scheduled to be released in a couple of weeks. "Alien Covenant" is the sixth in the series, which began with a young Sigourney Weaver back in 1979. I will not be going to see the new movie. Horror stories, and even less horror stories set in space, are not my thing. But I am going to make a prediction about this movie, based on everything I know about the genre of horror and suspense: at some point, maybe more than once, a character will become separated from the group and something horrible will happen to him or her. The enduring cliché for suspense is "Don't go out there alone!". There is safety in numbers: it's when we go off on our own that bad things happen, that we are no longer safe. I'm sure each of us can come up with an example from cinema or literature.

Scripture encourages us to stick together, to live in community, to form bonds of affection and partnerships in ministry. Jesus sends the disciples off in pairs; the apostles gather together after the crucifixion for comfort and security; and the people of God are often referred to as a household or a flock.

On this Good Shepherd Sunday, the fourth Sunday of Easter, we immerse ourselves in this image, reveling in the comforting notion that we are all in this together and that our ultimate safety rests in being gathered together under the gentle guardianship of the Good Shepherd himself. Our Episcopal theology even states that Communion is not Communion unless at least two people are present: the body of Christ is by definition a corporate body. As a theological reflection that I read suggested, the Christian faith isn't personal and Scripture never says it is: believers are always part of a community. And that's a good thing, because we already know from popular culture, "Don't go out there alone." Our life as church is a communal life, a life where the priority is the health of the whole body rather than individual cells. Our abiding motivation should be, not "What's in it for me?", but "What's best for the Church?" That can be a challenge, as Scripture makes clear over and over.

The brief, idyllic period of Christianity that chapter two of Acts describes is one of communal living in the extreme. The three thousand people who were converted by Peter's Pentecost sermon had all things in common and shared all their resources. They spent their days in the temple and took care of those in need. And the community of believers grew, day by day. Surely, if this had continued, the whole world would have become Christian within a generation, private property would have become obsolete, and the Kingdom of God would have been fully inaugurated.

But this ideal didn't last very long. Just a couple of chapters in people started holding back their resources; the authorities started to persecute them; and conflicts developed within the community. Nevertheless, the church even today looks back on that beginning as the purest form of our faith, and in our baptismal covenant we promise to continue in the apostles' teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in the prayers. Those activities continue to form the basis of all that we do as church, the body of Christ, the flock of the good shepherd.

I am always surprised by this Gospel passage, with its abrupt shift of images, from Jesus as the shepherd to Jesus as the gate to the sheepfold. You have to imagine an open-air corral, big enough to hold several flocks, with no door but simply a gap in the wall. As night falls all the shepherds in the area bring their sheep to the corral, and then they set up camp in the gap, literally placing their bodies between the sheep and any danger outside, and of course ensuring that no sheep goes out there alone. When morning comes, each shepherd gives the distinctive call that his flock recognizes as his, and the flock follows him out to the green pastures and still waters for another day of abundant life.

What does abundant life look like? I know what it doesn't look like.

  • Abundant life doesn't mean going bankrupt paying for treatment of a life-threatening illness.
  • Abundant life doesn't mean living in fear that you will be denied government services or healthcare because of who you are.
  • Abundant life doesn't mean being publicly shamed because your parents couldn't pay your lunch money.
  • Abundant life doesn't mean losing your job and going into debt because you couldn't pay bail for a trivial offense of which you weren't convicted.
  • Abundant life doesn't mean watching your child starve to death while people across the world, across the continent, or across the city live in luxury.

We who are privileged have a lot of work to do, to ensure that all our neighbors have a chance to experience abundant life.

But the ability to enjoy abundant life doesn't always depend on your physical state or circumstances. When I visited a remote corner of South Sudan four years ago I got to know people who suffered from malaria, who had lost children, who lived in daily apprehension of terrorist raids, and who were the most grateful and joyful Christians I have ever met. They lived life in its abundance despite facing challenges that would utterly crush most of us.

And so it can be for us, when we see our legislators passing measures that will make poor people poorer, sick people sicker, marginalized people more oppressed and minorities demonized. Even in the midst of discouragement and outrage, life in its abundance is present when we follow the one who laid down his life for us as the shepherd lays down his body for the sheep. When we devote ourselves to the apostles' teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers, when we create community and share resources, when we eat our food with glad and generous hearts, we will be able to claim life in its abundance. We will never have to go out there alone, because our shepherd will always be there ahead of us, leading the way.

The first letter of Peter addresses a situation where the community of faith is being abused and persecuted, and yet they are called to rejoice because they are in the care of the shepherd of their souls. They can choose their response to injustice and persecution, a response for dignity, compassion, and life.

The great civil rights leader Howard Thurman told the story of taking his young daughters to Daytona Beach, Florida, where he had grown up. They walked from the church to the river where baptisms traditionally took place, and on the way they passed a white public school with a playground. His daughters wanted to play on the swings, and he had to tell them they couldn't, because only white children could play there. And then he said this: "It takes the state legislature, the courts, the sheriffs and policemen, the white churches, the mayors, the banks and businesses, and the majority of white people in the state of Florida - it takes all these to keep two little black girls from swinging in those swings. That is how important you are! Never forget, the estimate of your own importance and self-worth can be judged by how much power people are willing to use to keep you in the place they have assigned to you. You are two very important little girls."*

Jesus said, "I came that they might have life, and have it abundantly." The good shepherd leads us out into an uncertain and perilous world, and we get to choose, even in the valley of the shadow, we get to choose: to live abundantly, to break the bread and enjoy the fellowship and care for our neighbors, and to praise God always with glad and generous hearts.

Alleluia, Christ is risen. The Lord is risen indeed, Alleluia.

May 7, 2017 The fourth Sunday of Easter
The Very Rev Penelope Bridges

* Howard Thurman, "With Head and Heart: the Autobiography of Howard Thurman" (New York: Harcourt, Brace & Co., 1979), 97

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Instructions for Life

Several years ago I was asked to deliver the Baccalaureate address for my school. I was honored of course but what do you say to young people that they’ll actually hear and put to use? “Hang on tight” came to mind, and “check the label”, and of course “Broken hearts mend”. But something happened as I wrote and I realized I was writing for me. I was writing instruction, yes, but they were for me. For every time I feel broken, or pressured, or unloved. Because we all feel that way sometimes, and wouldn’t it be great to have an instruction manual for comin’back, gettin up, and walkin’ around? Yeah, I got you.

I hope I will be forgiven for what I am about to say but while I love words, I don’t usually like poetry without music. It is perhaps that I am too simple-minded; that I need to be hit over the head and often poetry simply isn’t direct enough. That said, I have been moved and I think spiritually directed lately by an excerpt from the great American poet Mary Oliver’s work Sometimes. In the fourth stanza she gives us quite the gift…:

Instructions for living a life:

Pay attention.

Be astonished.

Tell about it.

See now, right off I’m in, as I had no idea there was an instruction manual for living a life! Had I known this a long time ago things might have gone a little differently. I find I know so very little. In my 20’s I thought I knew everything, and in my 30’s I realized I didn’t know everything but somehow still valued the goal, and now in my 40’s I am perfectly content to know next to nothing…but these three things…pay attention…be astonished…tell about it…I know these to be true.

So what does it mean to pay attention? Scripture tells us “We must pay the most careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away.” You all know how to pay attention. But I know many of you, and I know your version of paying attention and Mary Oliver’s version are often at odds with one another. You are barraged in your daily lives with demands for attention. Your significant others, your parents, brothers, sisters, friends, teachers, professors, pets, television shows, sporting events, homework, deciding what to have for dinner, and then breakfast, and then lunch and of course dinner again (my fave so I said it with it)…

But where and when do you begin to draw lines? How do you know how to prioritize? Simple…pay attention. Simple yes…but not easy. And it takes practice. Is your heart full when you are with him? Do you feel safe and relaxed when you are with her? Are you balanced? Are you laughing? Pay attention. Feelings are not facts but they are, I believe, God’s traffic lights. They direct us perfectly and yet we ignore them. Pay attention to your feelings. Sadness, for example, is a part of life and a signpost directing us to feel, to allow, and to be simply human. Peace and joy are God’s gifts to us and we pay attention when we accept them. Pay attention to the cries of others, the laughter of children, the wind, the trees, the sun, the rush of accomplishment and the devastation of mistakes. Pay attention to the world around you and the suffering of those in need. Take the time and pay attention. And while we are called to simply pay attention, we must choose to be astonished.

I want to let you in on a secret that used to embarrass me but not any longer. I have in my house several objects that I believe to be imbued with magical powers. Two specifically are boxes in which I place dirty things, I push all these strange and mysterious buttons, and soon thereafter, the dirty things are clean. I know not how this happens. But I choose to believe it is magic. I choose this because it makes the world a more welcoming, exciting place. I choose to be astonished. It is a choice after all to find the world and all its trappings astonishing. The morning sun on our faces, clean dishes in the dishwasher, anesthesia, fried chicken, antibiotics, a friends hand in ours, warm chocolate chip cookies, mountains, the way our dog’s fur feels after a bath…choose to be astonished and the world is a place of never-ending wonder.

Now, when Mary Oliver says to tell about it I am certain she means to share our truth. So often we hide our pain, our suffering, our fears. We hide our joy, we hide our laughter. Share your truth! Tell about it. My truth is that 18 years ago as I lay in a hospital bed and the priest came to give me my last rites, I said no to leaving the fight. And I said no two years later and a year after that. And with God’s help and a slew of angels in the guise of doctors, nurses, friends, therapists, teachers, professors…I was able to survive to tell about it. I had been given the gift of immediacy…knowing that paying attention, being astonished and telling about it are what we have. Tell your story to others because it is in the living, in the sharing that you allow for a community to truly be built around you and there is nothing that will make you happier than being an integral part of a community.

Pay attention to your better angels and don't allow your inner demons to shout them down. Be astonished because I promise you every day there is something to be astonished about. And tell about it because there's nothing more powerful than sharing your truth.

Have a beautiful and blessed Sunday my friends.

--Andrew Troi blogs at

Thursday, May 4, 2017

The St George's Day Sermon: Jesus First

April 30, 2017
St. George’s Day Evensong
St. Paul’s Cathedral

Matthew 10: 16-22

Come Holy Spirit: Touch our minds and think with them, touch our lips and speak with them and touch our hearts and set them on fire with love for you. AMEN.

This is always quite a day. A bit of a parade, Banners, bag pipes, choirs, anthems, and such. I have so often encouraged folks who are not a part of the Episcopal Church to come to this service because of the pageantry, the fun and the beauty. I mean: how many times to you get to experience a slain bread dragon as a part of a church procession and then eat it at the reception following?

On this side of the pond, our commemoration of the patron of England and our rejoicing in all things Anglican is a celebration of what we see as good and hallowed in our heritage. A brief survey of the centuries would surely touch on Augustine of Canterbury, Julian of Norwich, and George Herbert. We would note the importance of the Magna Carta and common law. And we would certainly give thanks for common prayer and the Anglican worship and music that imbue this very service.

As a relatively new nation, with a great deal of pride in our own history, we anglophiles readily associate with British history, culture and custom. After all, which one of us would not die to live at Downtown Abbey? We take the Facebook quiz wondering which character we are most like! And now, even as we grieve the last season—what will we do without Cora’s rapier repartee, we now are saved by the first season of The Crown and Victoria. And so we do well to remember this day our shared English heritage and how it has blessed and given to our church and our culture. We are proud of our Anglican identity and association; we are proud of our heritage as citizen of these United States. Whether we are English, Welsh, Scottish, or United States citizens, it is good to love one’s country.

And yet, even as we rejoice in national heritage and identity on this day, there are troubling signs around the planet of a strident resurgence of nationalism which divides rather than unities. There are forces that are drawing factions and creating a withdrawal from common interests. In an age when so many challenges are global, we need to be very careful with national pride and ambition. Today, we celebrate our Anglican heritage. But we need to be careful that this does not weave into some of the darker chapters of both US and British history where this pride bleeds into a not so subtle sense of superiority of race which was at the heart of British Colonial oppression and at the core of US slavery, imperialism and Jim Crow. Throughout our shared history, we have much to celebrate, but we also have much to mourn. We need to be careful.

A quintessential part of being Anglican and Episcopalian is to love our country so much that we call each other and our leaders to our highest ideals. Think of William Wilberforce fighting the slave trade, Bishop George Bell’s speech on the floor of the House of Lords criticizing the bombing of German cities in World War II, Presiding Bishop John Hines marching with Martin Luther King, Jr. in Selma. Think of our church standing up for LGBTQ rights at tremendous cost. Think of us standing up for neighbors who are fearful because of their immigration status. At the core of our heritage stands one who is not English, one who is not documented—a refugee and ultimately a convicted criminal—Jesus of Nazareth. We stand with him and all he teaches us—all he calls us to be.

We stand with him just as a saint of another age did. We remember St. George, not because he slayed a dragon, but because he stood up with Jesus and claimed his faith in face of brutal persecution. He was absolutely clear about his singular allegiance to Jesus as Lord. And so he was martyred in the Diocletian persecution. He was a man who could be described as a lover of country with loyalty to the emperor serving as soldier and tribune. But when Diocletian tried to purge the army of Christians through arrest and execution, George stood up for his faith and his Lord Jesus.

Where do we stand? Where are our allegiances? Parades and banners, political parties and pageantry are seductive. We can get caught up in passions of power and be overwhelmed with fear and suspicion of the other. Or we can say centered in Jesus and connected to the whole human family.

Today, we celebrate who we are as Anglicans. We love what we should love about this heritage. But let us rejoice and give thanks for the Asian, the Mexican, and the First Nations of this land. Let us rejoice in who we are but confess our own sins of pride and hubris. Let us stand with Jesus who calls us to love our neighbor.

Last summer, both major presidential candidates endorsed American exceptionalism, the belief that this nation has a special responsibility to the world. The new president in his inauguration echoed and amplified this notion with the phrase, “America First.” This is not a new idea but one that has warped both British and American core values of human dignity for generations. Rome First didn’t work, England First didn’t work, Britain First didn’t work, and America First will not work. As St. George demonstrated and witnessed with his life, for us it must be Jesus First! The Jesus Movement is a movement of love that does not divide but unites. It is selfless and giving. It is about hope not fear; love not hate.

On this day, we will sing two national anthems. We will remember the queen and a star spangled banner. Some of us may note that those rockets’ red glare were fired by the Royal Navy just weeks after burning the Capitol and White House. Don’t worry: all is forgiven!

It is good to love our country. After all, we pray for the queen, the president, and all in authority, even as we call them to goodness and generosity. God bless the queen; God bless the United States. And yet we then remember St. George and close with the immortal hymn, Jerusalem. William Blake’s anthem which has been appropriated as the veritable hymn of England is not satisfied with the way things are but rather calls us to a higher place, the image of New Jerusalem where creation will be made new.

And so, let us strive for that common place which brings together all the nations and peoples of this world into one. Let us seek a kindred understanding and heart that love our distinctive character as English, as African, as Native American, as Mexican as….whatever…and calls us to being neighbor, brother and sisters, the family of God. For St. George, for us and for all the saints, it is Jesus First.

The Rt Rev James R Mathes

Monday, April 24, 2017

Was it Fate, Timing, or a God Thing?

Have you ever question how or why certain situations appear at your front door (metaphorically speaking). Lately, this has been happening to me whether it’s my impeccable timing or just cause. Here are a few stories that I want to share.

Initially the weekend of April 8th-9th I was supposed to be up in the bay area visiting my uncle, but plans changed. With the change it allowed me to participate in our monthly Showers of Blessings and it was my first Sunday to go get sliced bread donated by Bread and Cie for our homeless guest. Also, I was able to join in the celebration of our 2nd year anniversary of Showers of Blessing; Claudia Dixon brought 2 cakes to celebrate the occasion with the First United Methodist and our homeless guest.

Was that a fate thing?

On Palm Sunday, April 9th I attended the 8am services and then stood in the courtyard chatting with others prior to the forum. The forum was our last week of our interfaith book club session held in the Great Hall and the people who attended were muslim women, different age groups and cultures , definitely a diverse group. Towards the end I sat next to Don Pelleoni and we started discussing a little about the book and the word “Fear”. We have known each other for a bit and served on chapter together but had not had one on one time. It was a great to be able to share our beliefs and experiences. We both have busy lives and its hard to find time to fit stuff in but I felt we stopped and took that moment to spend time to get to know each other better .

Was that fate or timing?

The Samba dancers and the congregation, and clergy were processing into the courtyard from the Palm Sunday march. After a few pictures were taken people were headed inside for service. I lingered in the courtyard by myself repositioning my signup table. As I was about to leave I was looking for my sunglasses and couldn’t find them so I thought I must have left them on the pew.

I started to enter the cathedral but something caught my eye on the sidewalk, there was this young gentleman pushing a woman (looked like his mother) in a wheelchair looking lost. I asked if they needed help and he responded that his mother wanted to go inside but they were only going to spend 5 minutes. I opened the cathedral doors and escorted them inside towards the back and gave them a bulletin; it was around 11:30am.

I stood in the back for a moment to make sure they were okay and heard them speaking in another language I thought was Spanish, I went over to ask and was going to tell them about MISA service it was. He replied that is was

Arabic, some strange thing came over me and I presided to tell them about communion or if they wanted just a blessing what to do at the altar.

Normally I wouldn’t get into people’s space not knowing their beliefs. He turned and asked his mother in Arabic and she said yes she would like to go up for a blessing. About 5 more minutes went by and I notice he was getting antsy, he called me over to say they were going to leave because he had lots to get done today and his mom couldn’t swallow a wafer anyways.

I felt a strange nudge (had to be the holy spirit- or I call it a God thing) and told him give it a few more minutes and communion was about to start. When it was time I speedily escorted them down the aisle passing everyone and made it to the far left altar ; Rev. Collins was posted there so I gave him the run down of her not speaking English and she couldn’t swallow a wafer but could he give her a blessing .

I was trying not to be intrusive standing to the side, but when he put his hands on her and gave a blessing she looked very peaceful and that was what she needed. It warmed my heart knowing she got what she needed from the blessing and that her son agreed to wait a few more minutes. We quickly walked back down the aisle and I held the doors open so he could wheel her out and right as we exited the last doors she looked up at me and said “ Thank You” and gave me a big smile. What a moment I had just then with her, I went to the greeters table to get them a card with our service times but within those few seconds they were gone.

Was that a God thing?

Have a Happy Easter everyone!!!



Jennifer Jow
People’s Warden and Outreach Chair

Sunday, April 23, 2017

The Sunday Sermon: Our Wounded Savior

Alleluia, Christ is risen! The Lord is risen indeed, Alleluia!

There's a Thomas in every crowd. Join a board, attend a dinner party, sign up for the local basketball league, and when conversation begins you will more than likely find a Thomas. Thomas is the one who asks questions, who wonders aloud about the implications of a decision, who isn't afraid to show that he doesn't understand the issue. Think about the times in the Gospel when we hear from Thomas: "Let's go with Jesus to Jerusalem and probably get killed together." "What do you mean, you are the way? How can we know the way when we don't know where you are going?" And now, "How do we know this is the Jesus who was crucified and has risen?"

The Thomases of the world do the rest of us a great service. When Thomas says, "I don't understand- please explain again," he's probably speaking for half the people in the room, but he's the only one brave enough to admit his bafflement. It's way past time to set aside the jeer of "doubting Thomas", just as last week at the Easter Vigil our Bishop urged us to rehabilitate Mary Magdalene.

Thomas wants proof, and the proof is in the wounds. The one who comes to save him and us still has the nail holes in his flesh. He is not flawless, not pretty, but eternally marked by torture. Jesus is forever changed by his experience of the worst that humanity can do. And yet he says, "Peace be with you" to the faithless friends who abandoned him to his suffering. He insists that Thomas fully acknowledge the wounds, that he even touch them. Would you touch them? How would it feel to share the peace with one whom you betrayed, who carries the scars of that betrayal? The pain of fully understanding what Jesus has endured for us must change us as it changes Thomas. Once we have touched those wounds, we can no longer be passive or detached. Of course, we don't have the opportunity today to touch the wounds of Jesus. But we do have opportunities to touch the wounds of those in whom we see Jesus. We can touch the wounds of the body of Christ as we encounter it in our world today.

On Wednesday I attended an event hosted by the San Diego Organizing Project at our Lady of Guadalupe church in Barrio Logan. The event was called Faith Not Fear, and it brought together people of many faiths to express our support and solidarity for refugees and immigrants. I was pleased to see Sheriff Gore, SDPD Chief Shelley Zimmerman, and various elected officials there, as well as our own Bishop Mathes, RC Bishop MacElroy, and Imam Taha.

A number of faith leaders and community members spoke, and it seemed to me that they touched some of the wounds of Christ. They spoke of the dangers of driving while black or brown and of the school-to-prison pipeline. A courageous young woman, a so-called Dreamer, spoke of her experience growing up undocumented. We heard the pain of exclusion, of being thought "less than", of living in constant fear that a loved one could simply disappear, picked up and deported without warning. We heard the anger that grows in response to living with injustice and discrimination.

A priest shared a collection of statements made by his parishioners expressing their fears and anxieties, and we lit candles to drive away the darkness and rekindle hope.

All of this took place in a church decorated for Easter, with images of the wounded and risen Christ all around us.

Thomas touches the wounds of Christ to convince himself that this is indeed the risen Messiah. And, being convinced, he immediately worships his Savior as God. Events like the one I attended on Wednesday allow us likewise to touch those wounds, to recognize the suffering of the body of Christ in our community and to seek and serve the Christ in our wounded neighbors. But beyond that touch, the touch that makes real, there is desperate need for the touch that heals, and that is our true task.

The English scholar NT Wright calls on us to see that healing mission as the proper and natural expression of our basic discipleship. We are, he writes, "the community that feels the pain of the world, the depression and the worry and the anger and the exclusion and the hopelessness that are the daily lot of those around; and thus the community that, being itself healed by the wounded healer himself, can pass on that healing to its neighbors."*

Wright offers us "a vision of a Christian community, and hence of a Church, a country, and a world, purified and transformed by the fire of God's wounded love."*

When did the suffering of the world first make its mark on you? I remember a moment when I was pregnant with my first child, watching the news on TV of a young Israeli soldier who had been killed. I felt the pain of that soldier's heartbroken mother. Somehow, for the first time that I remember, I touched the wounds of a stranger. My own embryonic motherhood was touched by her agony. Looking back 30 years, I recognize that moment as a moment of grace, a moment when I became more fully human than before, a moment when Jesus breathed the Spirit into me and invited me into a new kind of life.

Just as the Lord we follow is wounded and remains wounded even after his resurrection, so we carry our own wounds into our life as a people transformed and redeemed. Just as the scars Jesus carries add a strange beauty and power to his message - a constant reminder for us that he has indeed suffered for us - so our own scars add authenticity to the message that we have for the world: the good news that all people, no matter how scarred, how disfigured by sin they may be, are beloved of God and carry the image of Christ within them.

And it is when we allow others to touch our own wounds that we most nearly resemble our wounded Savior. When we, as members of a community of love, share our fears, our failures, our secret conviction that we are not enough, we share the wounds of Christ and we give our brothers and sisters in faith an opportunity to offer the healing touch and so to live into the church's mission. This was the gift we received at Wednesday's Faith not Fear event from those courageous witnesses.

Thomas showed his brothers and sisters that the Lord they followed was still their Lord, despite the scars of his suffering. He led the way in worshiping the risen Jesus as God. Today we follow that same Lord, and we give thanks for his wounds, for they remind us of our own wounds and the wounds of the world, and they call us into solidarity with all the wounded and into our mission to touch, to love, and to heal.

Alleluia, Christ is risen! The Lord is risen indeed, Alleluia!

April 23,2017 Second Sunday of Easter
The Very Rev Penelope Bridges

* N.T. Wright "The Crown and the Fire: Meditations on the Cross and the Life of the Spirit" page 116. 1992: Eerdmans.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Welcoming All

The Rev Jeff Martinhauk shares, 

Tomorrow we will welcome four new members into the congregation!

There have been many more new members in the congregation over the past several months, but in the changing world around us, lives are busy, and expectations from the church are changing. So is the way people relate to church membership. We are working to create new ways to respond to those changes.

We make a big deal at St. Paul’s out of “Welcoming All.” I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately. The celebration of new members is a good time to have some reminders on what Welcoming All looks like in practice. One thing I love about St. Paul’s is that “Welcoming All” is not just my job or just the greeters’ job-- it is everybody’s job. We are all in this together.

We have so many people that go above and beyond in welcoming it makes my heart sing! There are some things I wonder if we might think about to continue that journey. For example: how important is it for us to wear name tags as newcomers work on becoming new members? Long-timers have a few newcomers’ names to learn as they arrive constantly, but each week newcomers struggle to learn hundreds of names as they try to incorporate. How will we help them? (If you need a name tag, order one at the Greeters’ table, “Welcoming Central”.)

Coffee hour can be intimidating as well. The Greeters are focused on identifying newcomers so that we capture their information for welcome letters and formal institutional processes. But I wonder what we can all do to identify anyone-- long-timer or newcomer- who is standing at coffee hour looking for Christian fellowship?

Speaking of Greeters, did you know that newcomers often make up their mind whether or not they will return in the first ten minutes of their visit! We are working on making sure we have Greeters at all our services to make sure that those 10 minutes are full of friendly faces to give directions, answer questions, and just be helpful-- but we are in need of more greeters. We need Greeters especially at 10:30, and I would love to be able to add greeters to the Evensong service as well. If you are interested, please email me at We try to limit service to one Sunday a month. I wonder what you might be able to do before the service to be intentional about Welcoming All to make those first 10 minutes count?

But beyond the “standard” hospitality of hand-shakes and name-tags, the real focus of Welcoming All is to communicate to people that they belong. There is so much pain in the world, so much exclusion- even in churches- that if we are not instruments of God’s unconditional love, how can anyone understand that St. Paul’s is a safe space, a place of hope, a place where you can just be who God made you to be and heal? And that job starts with name tags and handshakes but must move beyond to something deeper.

It is for that reason we have changed the structured incorporation process starting last fall. The institutional church of the 1950s focused on belief first: people came to church and expected to be told what to believe. That is not the case anymore, and is not in line with our Anglican heritage of Elizabeth I’s not wanting to “create windows into men’s souls” -- where common worship holds us together instead of confessional belief. And so we have shifted our newcomer program to focus on belonging first: the newcomer’s class starts with a modified spiritual autobiography course now. We have just finished a series of that modified course and the feedback was great.

The “What is an Episcopalian” course will still be offered for Confirmation, to be timed with bishop visitations, because let’s face it: if you have not been Episcopalian there are a lot of questions you might have: “What is a patten, a verger, a purificator, the crazy bishop’s hat” and so forth.

But my hope is that we as a community will continue to deepen our ownership for each other’s spiritual lives, and for the lives of those who seek welcome from us. That may mean things like inviting newcomers to your home for gatherings you already have scheduled with long-time members, or to lunch after church, or other ways of intentionally Welcoming All as we informally gather and share stories as a church community. It may mean risking relationships with new people who may or may not stay around as long as others, sharing long-time relationships with them-- but getting a different kind of “payback” in that vulnerability and self-offering. I have to wonder if that isn’t what the call of the gospel is about, really? We strive to Love Christ, Serve Others, and Welcome All, and the riches of radical hospitality continue to make St. Paul’s what it is and who God has called us to be. Thanks be to God!

Thursday, April 20, 2017

News from Vida Joven/Dorcas House

Vida Joven de Mexico is a foster home/orphanage in Tijuana, Mexico that loves, protects and educates up to 35 children who have been abandoned, abused and neglected. With an enormous outpouring of support from the St. Paul’s community and beyond, the program has been delivering on this promise since 2006. For many years the fundraising mechanism in the US has been known as Dorcas House and the successes, measured in lives impacted across the border, have been numerous. Appropriately on Valentine’s Day in 2015 during Diocesan Convention, the Episcopal Diocese of San Diego voted to formally support Vida Joven/Dorcas House. Thus a non-profit was born and has thrived in its independence.

Due to the on-line nature of our operations and the wide-spread geographic makeup of our board of directors, it has become clear that maintaining an office for Vida Joven is an unnecessary luxury. Our monthly board meetings are now held exclusively at Good Sam in University City, due to its relative ease of access for many board members. In fairly short order a new mail receiving system has been set up and a few file drawers and shelves have been carved out in a home office and, Voila! Vida Joven, while evolving operationally, stays much the same!

We will continue to receive some mail going forward through the Cathedral office. With regular (but less frequent) trips to Bankers Hill, coinciding with a weekly deposit at our bank in Hillcrest and occasional meetings in the area, our close relationship with the Cathedral will continue as we evolve ever farther away from the original home base. Our ability to grow and expand has been possible due to that connectedness for which we are grateful.

I remain a member of the St. Paul’s community through all of these changes - active in the choir and on the Finance and Endowment committees – so my ability to directly serve the Cathedral if/when necessary will not change. These are exciting times in the life of Vida Joven de Mexico as we continue to pursue a better life for the children in our care in Mexico.

Thank you for your continued prayers and support,

Elizabeth Carey
Director of Operations
Vida Joven de Mexico

Friday, April 14, 2017

The Good Friday Sermon: A Better Way

It was an unspeakably violent and depraved act. The rulers of an oppressed people inflicting an agonizing death on the innocent. What were they thinking? Where was their humanity? As we once again grieve the passion and death of Jesus two thousand years ago at the hands of the Romans, in collaboration with a corrupt religious establishment, we must also grieve the outrageous acts of our own day. There is little difference between the actions then of Pontius Pilate in Jerusalem and the actions in our day of Assad in Damascus against his own people.

El muerte del inocente en la Cruz fue un acto de violencia indescriptible. Tenemos que lamentar los eventos del pasado y del presente. La violencia del gobierno de Syria contra su propia pueblo no es diferente de la violencia de Poncio Pilato contra nuestro Señor.

The faces of the dead and dying in Syria haunt my memory, with bloody noses and pale faces, eyes open and staring, the massacre given pointed focus by the image of Aya and Ahmed, 9-month-old twins, lifeless in the arms of their devastated father. Unspeakable.

Las caras de los niños muertos se permanezcan en mi memoria.

As we come to the Cross tonight we cannot pretend that violence against innocents is something confined to history books or the Bible. It is here, with us, now, in the news reports, in the statistics of child abuse and domestic violence, in the living memories of native Americans and European Jews, and still, as it was 2000 years ago, in the daily lives of the Palestinian people.

Sabemos que la violencia contra los inocentes ocurre en nuestro era, en nuestro mundo.

We come to venerate a single Cross. Imagine, though, if we were to erect a cross for each one of these victims. There would be a forest of crosses, each bearing silent witness to a life cut short.

Podemos imaginar un bosque de las cruces, cada uno de las cuales da testimonio de una vida terminada de repente.

Our culture responds to such tragedy by calling for retaliation, punishment, answering one attack with another. In Syria, an air strike to destroy the base whence the chemical attack originated. In Afghanistan a bomb dropped with almost unimaginable reach and power. A message sent. More lives lost. America's status restored. But the dead are still dead. We have apparently restored some kind of balance, but what balance can exist while violence is the answer to violence? How is an airstrike justified while we refuse to open our doors to the victims of the attacks?

Atacamos al instalación militar y matamos a más personas. Este no es la respuesta. Y todavía no queremos abrir nuestras puertas a los víctimas.

There is a better way. This death, this man hanging broken on a Cross, shows us a better way. Jesus said, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." His way is the way of the cross. It is the way of repudiating violence, of choosing out of love to submit to the worst humanity can offer, even though it means death. For this is not the end. Good Friday is not the end. The way leads us through suffering, even through the Cross, and we pause here tonight to weep, and to acknowledge our own complicity in all such violence, but there is more. We look beyond the Cross, beyond the darkness and the horror, and we see a glimmer of light, an empty tomb, a new dawn, a promise extended and kept, life that rises up from the grave.

Este muerte nos muestra un camino mejor, el camino del amor que se somete a lo peor de la humanidad. Más allá de la Cruz vemos una luz, una tumba vacía, una vida nueva.

The world's story is that violence is stemmed by violence. Our story is that violence is not only stemmed but entirely defeated by love, a love that is stronger than death. Once, a corrupt administration condemned an innocent to a cruel death. But in so doing, that government condemned itself, because a new administration was born out of the injustice, an administration of compassion, of generosity, of service, its emblem the empty cross, transformed from instrument of death to token of immeasurable love. And so we venerate the cross tonight, praying in the words of the ancient hymn:

Bend thy boughs, O tree of glory, thy relaxing sinews bend;
For a while the ancient rigor that thy birth bestowed, suspend;
And the King of heavenly beauty gently on thine arms extend.

Esta noche Veneramos la Cruz y esperemos que los almas de los inocentes matados llegan en el abrazo del Salvador sufriente, y que todos que lloran ahora puedan ser consolados por el sacrificio de nuestro Señor Jesucristo.

May the souls of all murdered innocents be gathered into the arms of the one who suffered so that all might know the fullness of life; and may all who weep tonight find comfort in the awful beauty of our Savior's sacrifice.

Good Friday Liturgy, April 14 2017
The Very Rev. Penelope Bridges

Good Friday meditation: this is what you get for saying "yes"

So this is what you get for saying yes.

The fruit of your body, the apple of your eye, bloodied, broken, gasping his last breaths while the brutal world, uncaring, continues its business.

Once, an angel visited a girl, its bright wings overshadowing her innocence. Dazzled by divinity, she said yes, and innocence departed. She endured the doubts, the taunts, the suspicion of her neighbors, because she had said yes. She risked being discarded by her fiancé and losing all social status, because she said yes. She carried the body and blood of God's son, holding him safe until she could deliver him, her great and unique gift, her child, God incarnate, the hope of the world, because she said yes.

This girl once sang a defiant song of triumph, spellbound by the angel's glory, affirmed in solidarity with cousin Elizabeth, fulfilled in the swelling that promised a healthy baby. My soul magnifies the Lord, she sang. My spirit rejoices in God my Savior. Where is that savior today? As Jesus croaks his last words, words of abandonment, from the Cross, Mary is left to wonder about broken promises, the promise God made to Abraham and to his seed for ever. How have the mighty been cast down? Where do the rich go hungry while the poor are filled with good things? This is not the vision the angel offered, this shame and loneliness and pain.

What mother hasn't known the secret grief of giving birth, the letting go of the most intimate bond, the ache of seeing the child grow up and away, reaching out to stretch, to risk, to fail or succeed without her gentle hands to steady, to caress, to heal?

And for Mary, now, all that love and care and grief comes to this, the bloody Cross, the jeering soldiers, the crushing of joy and hope, ah such a hope.

The Syrian mother cradles her child, poisoned by gas. The Sudanese mother buries the baby whom she could not nurse because she herself has nothing to eat. The Baltimore, or St Louis, or Atlanta mother screams her grief at city hall's door, her teenager lying cold and still in the city morgue with police bullets in him.

We say yes to new life, but the world has other ideas. Our children are exposed to danger, to injustice, to the brokenness of humanity and we cannot protect them. But we can stand with the mothers in their grief. We can hold accountable those in positions of power. We can engage in the vocation of the church, to bring about reconciliation among all people and with our God. And even as we join Mary in her agony, we can remember that this is not the end of the story. God's promises are sure, and all generations have and will call Mary blessed. Her son is broken today, but he will rise again. He will defeat the principalities and powers, he will bring new hope to those who are in despair, he will light the darkness for multitudes yet to come. The lowly shall be lifted up and God's mercy will endure.

All this shall come to pass, because she once carried the body and blood, because she once risked her future for an angel's word, because she once, in innocence and gentle obedience, said yes.

The Very Rev Penelope Bridges

The Maundy Thursday sermon: A new commandment

 When death came it was an invisible enemy, striking down adults, children, animals. It must have been like God's destroying angel, invading bedrooms and bomb shelters, catching the first responders as they raced to save lives and in the process lost their own. There was no Passover for the people of Khan Sheikhoun in Syria.

And on Palm Sunday, as Christians across the world sang Hosanna, "Save us Lord," the bombs exploded in Tanta and Alexandria, Egypt, one in a front pew of the church, the other outside the door, killing and maiming dozens, not only the faithful and their children, but also the professionals assigned to protect them from just such an attack. No Passover protection there either, for the Coptic Christians in their holy places.

When the people of God escaped from slavery under Pharaoh, they knew they were not yet safe. Pharaoh, an unpredictable, dangerously volatile leader, had changed his mind before, and he would probably change it again. It took a national catastrophe, the killing of the first-borns, to distract Pharaoh enough that he finally let the people go. The headlines were filled with terror and death: the mass departure of the Hebrew slaves wasn't the big news of the day. And after their on-the-hoof dinner, they slipped away into the dark, equally afraid of what was behind them and what lay ahead, not knowing where they were going, only knowing that somewhere out there in the wilderness was freedom.

Last Sunday the headlines were once again all about terror and death. Our observance of Palm Sunday would probably not have gained much media attention except for the fact that our Coptic cousins in Egypt had been attacked in the context of the very same worship that we were undertaking a few hours later, and so our voice was sought out. How tragic, how deeply ironic, that as we prepared to commemorate the brutal execution of an innocent man of faith, we gained public attention because of the horrific attack that killed dozens of innocent people of faith. In the very land where the people of God once celebrated the first Passover, the angel of death spread its wings, even as we began our week's journey to the Passover of the Lord. And tonight, hours after our military has deployed a bomb of obscene capacity, we re-enact the first Eucharist, the last meal of a condemned man, a meal shared with friend and enemy alike.

Tonight's Hebrew Scriptures and New Testament readings telescope as much as a thousand years into a few minutes. At one moment the people of God are eating their last meal in captivity, bags packed, sandals on, ready to hit the road, humming the Psalm as they go: I will lift up the cup of salvation ... you have loosed my bonds ... Praise the Lord!

And in the next moment Jesus is washing the dusty feet of his friends as they gather to relax in the holy city, the destination of their ancestors, and he is offering them bread and wine for body and blood, as a symbol of the death that he will now suffer on their behalf, the firstborn of God himself willingly shedding his blood so that God's people may once and for all pass through the valley of death to the land of promise. As Paul reminds us, "As often as you eat this bread and drink this cup you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes."

Jesus gives new commandments in place of the perpetual ordinance of the Passover: "Do this in remembrance of me;" "Love one another as I have loved you." A perpetual ordinance of love.

We cannot escape the sharp juxtapositions of our story: firstborns killed to save God's people. An innocent executed for the sins of humanity. An intimate dinner with a traitor at the table. A congregation that proclaims its trust in God in the midst of anxiety and fear.

Our faith is never tidy: reality intrudes no matter how hard we try to shape our practice with beauty, with carefully rehearsed words and movement, with familiar ritual.

We celebrate the Eucharist tonight, welcoming all, coming to the altar rail with friends and strangers, with the people who annoyed us today and the people we annoyed. We share a symbolic meal, the wafers equally tasteless for everyone, a reminder that the Eucharist isn't about flavor but about coming together before God as one people. But then, after the Eucharist, we will celebrate a real meal together. Our soup supper continues our sacramental gathering, and we will celebrate the wonderful diversity of gifts and personalities in our congregation as we sample the different varieties of soup, knowing that the gift lies in the distinctiveness of each recipe. Think what we would lose if we mixed all the soups together, just as our community would lose if we insisted on a homogeneous congregation. We are one body, but that doesn't mean we are all the same.

The third component of our gathering tonight, the mutual washing of feet, weaves yet another strand into the rich tapestry of our life together. In this intimate ceremony we serve one another as Jesus served his friends and even his betrayer. It may well be that you or I have at some point betrayed or let down the person who washes our feet. It can be excruciatingly uncomfortable to be served in this way. As Jesus points out, your feet may be clean, but that is not why we do this. As we wash each other's feet we wash the feet of the refugees fleeing Pharoah. We wash the feet of Syrian children and Coptic clergy. We wash the feet of all the saints who have witnessed to the power of Christ in our lives. And we wash the feet of Christ himself, who loved us and gave himself for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

The Very Rev. Penelope Bridges
13 April 2017