Wednesday, October 26, 2016

The Sunday Sermon:Righteous and Justified

Two men went up to the Temple to pray. If we were to tell this story in our own context, who would these men be? One was a pillar of the community: a supreme court justice, or a bishop perhaps, a highly educated man who lived his life exactly as his faith directed; a good man.

The other was a crook and a scoundrel, who made his living through illegitimate means, maybe as a drug dealer or a corrupt cop, who swindled and conspired without compunction; by any reasonable standard a bad man.

They stood in the worship space and each reached out to God in his own way. The good man prayed in the standard form of his tradition, giving thanks for what he was and was not, and adding in a few pats on the back for his own exemplary behavior: prayer, fasting, even tithing. And why not? How many of us could claim as much?

The bad man didn't even try to follow a formula: he simply hung his head, confessed his sin and begged for mercy.

It's kind of a shame that Luke gives away the punchline to the parable right at the beginning: from the start we know who will be the villain of the piece. The Pharisee's words of prayer betray him: he's not there for a conversation with God; he's there to advertise his virtue. He's not listening for or expecting a response. He has taken care of his own salvation: follow the rules and in turn receive a gold star from the Lord. He lives in a transactional world where grace is earned, where mercy is limited, where there are insiders and outsiders, good guys and bad guys, and the people who decide who's in which group call the shots.

Is this the world of Jesus?

Or is the world of Jesus a world where there are no outsiders, where you can depend on a welcome no matter who you are or what you've done, where hands reach across barriers and class divides to join in gratitude for undeserved grace, where everyone shares freely of the abundance they receive from God, so that all may be cared for and offered dignity? A world, in short, where we overcome our differences in order to love Christ, serve others, and welcome all?

I know which world I want to live in. But right now, our world is looking a lot more like the Pharisee's version. We have unprecedented levels of division in our country. One statistic says that most Americans are opposed to the idea of their child marrying someone who votes for the other political party. We judge the people we meet on the basis of which TV news channel they watch or what bumper sticker is on their car. We don't even trust each other to respect the democratic process. And yet what we have in common is so much more than divides us.

Growing up in Northern Ireland I witnessed the deadly consequences of allowing small differences to destroy a community, as Protestants and Catholics, indistinguishable to look at or listen to, people who shared the same Christian religion, demonized and attacked each other. It was tragic.

The perils of comparing our virtue to others' sins are everywhere. I remember an interfaith clergy meeting, years ago, where we were sharing our criteria for deciding who we would allow to marry in our worship spaces (this was before same-sex marriage was on any mainline pastor's radar). One Baptist preacher put his hand up and said categorically, " I will not marry known sinners." Before we had a chance to unpack what he meant by that, a Roman Catholic priest raised his hand and said, "Um, excuse me, but aren't we all 'known sinners'?" Who's in, who's out. We need to be very careful about excluding others from our own vision of the Kingdom of God, because our vision tends to be extremely limited, unlike God's.

It's easy to slip into that Pharisaic mode of self-congratulation, especially for those of us who spend a lot of time in church. I'm reminded of the Sunday School teacher who finished up a class on this parable by saying, "Well, children, aren't we glad we aren't like that nasty Pharisee?" Wow, even the word "nasty" has been politicized this week, with the hot new hashtag of #nastywoman trending on social media. There's just no escape from the judgmentalism and divisiveness of our public discourse, is there?

In a couple of weeks the election will be behind us. I know I won't be alone in breathing a giant sigh of relief. As you know, we will offer prayers here throughout election day, until an hour after the polls close. We will also offer healing prayers at the noon service on November 9, and there will be much to heal from. Please invite your friends - and especially those who don't share your political views - to join us.

After we all take down the placards on our lawns and get back to posting cat videos on Facebook, how long will it take for us to forget that our neighbor supported the other candidate? How long will it take for those who voted for the winner to stop saying, "I thank you God that I'm not like those people" and for those who voted for the loser to let go of their anger and suspicion?

As the Cathedral for the City, this faith community has a responsibility to set an example of healing and generosity of spirit. We can invite those with whom we differ to pray with us, we can be willing to listen to the hurt, we can encourage one another to play down the triumphalism. Because it is never OK for Christians to say "Thank God I am not like those people." Those people are our neighbors. Those people are beloved children of God, just like us. We are just as broken as those we despise as tax collectors and sinners. We are just as much in need of grace and just as undeserving.

So, when you pray, beware lest your prayer turns into a speech and you start imagining that you have achieved righteousness all by yourself. Remember that it is God who acts, God who judges, God who takes the initiative in reaching out to us with unlimited love and mercy, exalting the humble and humbling the self-exalted, because all are equally unworthy and all are equally precious in God's sight.

Two final thoughts: a decade ago, when the Episcopal Church was locked in conflict over the consecration of Gene Robinson as the first openly gay Episcopal Bishop, two bishops offered reflections that deeply impressed me. Bishop Peter Lee of Virginia told his Standing Committee, "The most dangerous mindset is when we are certain that we are right. I have to keep reminding myself that we might all be wrong about this." And the other was Bishop Robinson himself who said of Nigerian Archbishop Akinola, the most outspoken of those who condemned him, "I keep thinking about how surprised Peter Akinola will be when he finds me sitting next to him in heaven."

To our merciful God be the glory for ever and ever.

October 23, 2016
Penelope Bridges

Monday, October 24, 2016

Clothing donations requested

Claudia Dixon writes
As winter approaches, our homeless neighbors who live in the park are in need of warm clothing. In addition to socks and underwear we also need: Men's and Women’s pants ( jeans, cargos), in S-M-L, Jackets, long sleeve shirts, Sweat shirts, sweaters in S-M-L.

Please bring your clothing donations to Showers of Blessings. Or, during the week bring your clothing donations to the Cathedral office during business hours. After Sunday Service bring them to the Interfaith Shelter table in the Queen's court yard.

Thank you for your help!

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

What is Día de los Muertos? 2016 update!

by Padre Bjorn Marcussen

Día de Muertos (directly translated: The Day of the Dead) has its origin in Mexico before the country was invaded by the Spanish empire.

A quick review of Mexican pictorial art and literature, including folk stories and folk songs, shows death as an omnipresent "personage." Death shows up in stories such as that of La Llorona -- the mother who walks the streets and lanes crying over the death of her baby -- or as a critic of society, and especially politicians, found every year in the papers on November 2 in the form of anonymous satirical poems called "calaveras" ("skulls").

Mexico's indigenous people viewed the world differently than their Western counterparts. The Cosmos was a complicated unity in which death was there to be lived with. The indigenous people did not have the European sense of death as deprivation and a time of judgment with rewards or punishment. In fact: This is not so very different from the worldview we meet in St. Luke's rendering of Jesus' story of Lazarus and the rich man.
Día de Muertos is really a misnomer. It should be Días de Muertos (the Days of the Dead) for it stretches over three days: October 31 through November 2. For the indigenous people of Mexico as well as for contemporary Mexicans these days are not spooked by "things that go bump in the night". Rather it is a time for celebration with the deceased loved ones who are thought to come back for a few days to unite with the living. Food that was especially loved by the departed is prepared, a ritual plate is set out for them and the living enjoy the rest of the food in a joyful mood.

One prominent feature of Día de Muertos is the Altar de Muertos (the Altar of the Dead). Its place is really in the home because it is a centerpiece of family celebrations. In U.S. churches that have become centers of spiritual and community life, Latinas and Latinos have begun building Altars of the Dead either in the church buildings or in the social halls where a community celebration is held.

The Altar of the Dead is highly symbolic. In a sense it is an allegory of cosmic harmony that reinforces the idea that the dead come to feast to console the living -- not to scare them.

The Altar of the Dead can be very primitive or highly elaborate. In poor homes it often only has two steps that signify heaven and earth. The traditional and more elaborate Altar de Muertos, which in St. Paul's Cathedral is placed to the left of the High Altar (from the congregation's perspective), is comprised of seven steps. The steps signify the following: 

  1. The first step holds one or more representations of beloved saints.
  2. Step two expresses the deceased's desire to enter into heaven. In Roman Catholic Mexico this step often has pictures of the peculiar Roman belief of purgatory, where the souls supposedly are punished to be cleansed of sin. It is peculiar, because the souls are disembodied and as such cannot feel bodily pain.
  3. On this step a bowl of salt is placed to represent the purity of the deceased children. Among indigenous Mexicans there was a belief that deceased children went to a blessed place called Chichihuacuauhco where a tree of life grew. Out of its branches came milk that nurtured the children for all eternity.
  4. Step four contains Bread of the Dead, Pan de Muertos, a special bread baked for that day with lots of rich butter and shaped round with strips of dough on top to signify both the cross and the bones of the Savior.
  5. This step holds the fruits and food especially dear to the deceased.
  6. On step six photos and other mementos of the deceased are laid.
  7. On the final step is found a cross, customarily made from seeds and fruits.
This is the traditional plan for the Altar of the Dead, but people nowadays will mix and match all the elements according to their creativity. The Altar with hold a number of Ofrendas or miniature offerings (or some not so miniature). Examples of those on community altars are several mementos and photos of the departed. On some altars there are also bottles of Tequila, Mezcal or pulque, something that a goodly number of deceased undoubtedly enjoyed while in the flesh. And sugar skulls are placed as a sign that in the midst of life death is always present. An incense cup is placed on the altar as a sign of the sweetness of our prayers that ascend to God. There are also copious amounts of yellow and yellow/red flowers on the steps that signify the sweet smells of of the heavenly kingdom. There are also often papel picado (intricately cut multicolored tissue paper) as well as candles of purple or white hue to suggest lights that lead to deceased into heaven -- again a symbolism that shouldn't be unfamiliar to Christians for whom Jesus Christ is the light of the world.

The Altar of the Dead comes as a gift to the Cathedral from the Latino community of St. Paul's Cathedral to remind us that death is not a perpetual absence but a metaphor for life that is constantly renewed.

The Day of the Dead will be celebrated by our Spanish-speaking congregation on Sunday, October 30 2016 at 1 pm. The community -- whatever language they speak and whatever culture they are from -- is invited to bring mementos or pictures of their departed loved ones and friends to place on the steps of the Altar of the Dead on that Sunday. We hope you will join us for Mass in Spanish!

Originally posted Oct 2013, this is revised annually

Sunday, October 16, 2016

The Sunday Sermon: Vida Joven Day

Six words: Love Christ, Serve Others, Welcome All.

These six words, the mission statement of our cathedral, also encompass our purpose here today. For we are celebrating Vida Joven de Mexico, our foster home in Tijuana, MX. We support Vida Joven to love, protect and educate some 30 - 35 children. These children have been abandoned, either because their parents are in prison, or incapacitated by drugs. Last year I talked about one of our kids, Rosario, who arrived at the casa having wandered the streets of Tijuana at a very young age, all alone at 2 o’clock in the morning . Now Rosario is doing well, has new glasses, has caught up to her peers socially and loves school. Just one of our success stories, which include housing and educating these kids, and even sending three of our older girls to University.

It is thanks to Stephen Velez-Confer and many others, some of whom are here today, that Vida Joven exists at all. The devoted and dedicated people who had started the house by sheltering a number of kids who were incarcerated with their parents in prison, had run out of steam and fundraising ideas, and wanted to retire. The house was in danger of closing, until, as our former dean Scott said, “I sent a van load of bleeding heart clergy and sharp pencilled business people down to assess the situation. They came back saying, ‘after much prayer we have determined that we must take this on.’ ” So we did, and now we celebrate.

Today’s celebrations include a forum in which Beth Beall, our program director, will show us life at the home, through pictures and discussion, followed by a q&a session led by Silvia, our house director and chair of the Mexican board of directors. Sylvia’s niece, Marcia, will join us in the pulpit in a few minutes to tell us about the work of the past year, and where we hope to go from here. And Amy Dagman has worked all year with the children to produce a wonderful art show, located in the sixth ave courtyard, near the Guild room. The art is for sale. Finally, there will be great food, both at the forum and after the 10:30 service. So today we have a fiesta in honor of Vida Joven and its mission.

The mission of the home is to love, protect, and educate every child who comes to Vida Joven. Some have called Vida Joven, formerly known as Dorcas House, our flagship outreach project. For ten years now, we, and many others throughout the diocese and beyond, have worked to ensure its viability. It takes much work, persistence and a lot of prayer to keep our home open.

And our Gospel today focuses upon the importance of two things: prayer and persistence. “Jesus told his disciples a parable about their need to pray always and not to lose heart.” The parable is a call for us to be persistent in prayer and action. After all, the annoying widow pushed and pushed until the judge finally threw up his hands and granted her what she wanted. The widow’s persistence alone seemingly leads the judge to act justly. But Jesus indicates that God is the unseen actor. “Will not God grant justice for his chosen ones who cry to him day and night?” (Luke 18:7).

The point is that only God can bring about justice in an unjust world. That is why we must pray and not give up in our work. As we contemplate our own prayer habits, let’s look at some prayers written by the children of Vida Joven.

Lord, I ask that you cleanse our hearts.
Lord, I ask that you give us one more day of life and strength.
The Lord loves you, and I love you.
Dear God, watch over Silvia.
The Lord calms our pain.
Lord have mercy on those who need you.
Lord I call on you for the Mothers of the House. I love them.
Lord bless our families.
To my family, I love you very much.
Heal with much love.
Jesus argues, if an unjust judge can be moved by persistent petitions to help a stranger for whom he has no regard, how much more "will God help his own chosen ones who cry to him day and night!”

Therefore, always pray and don't lose heart.

So this parable is intended to be an encouragement for us to pray continually and persist in our work.

Now, I would like to introduce Marcia Laborin, Sylvia’s niece, who will tell you more about the wonderful work of Vida Joven, but before I do, I ask you to remember: In Tijuana
6,000 children live on the street
80,000 do not attend school
400 used to live with their parents in prison
Vida Joven is changing those horrific numbers, one child at a time.

Jeremiah 31:27-34, Psalm 119:97-104, Luke 18:1-8
The Rev. Canon Joan Butler Ford

Thursday, October 13, 2016

October Chapter Musings

I find myself traveling back to Boston (again). This time for a more upbeat reason – to attend my daughter’s first Parents and Family Weekend at Wellesley College. For much of the summer, I made this same trip multiple times for a different and somewhat more somber reason – to be present to my elderly mother-in-law in her declining moments. The traveling is taking its toll not only on me, but also on the cathedral community, as I have been neglectful of my duty to report the goings-on at Chapter meetings each month. I only had to miss the July meeting but have found it difficult to embrace the task of communicating the many and wonderful and challenging things being discussed each month. Each monthly meeting is a stunning reminder of how engaged, passionate, and professional the group of volunteer members of Chapter is! Mea culpa out of the way, I can move on the task at hand.

The usual battery of reports was presented. Here is a quick update:

Staff reports 

  • Kathleen Burgess–AdministrativeOperations–Kathleen applied for and we have received a grant from the Department of Homeland Security for financial assistance in securing our campus. Additionally, our insurance company has paid us a claim for reimbursement of the appreciation paid on the underfunding of the pension contributions that we had to make in arrears. RobinTaylor–Children,Youth and Family(CYF)–Robin commented on the success of Homecoming/Youth Sunday on Sept. 18. 
  •  The Rev Laurel Mathewson–Christian Formation–N/A
  • The Rev. Jeff Martinhauk –Congregational Development and Stewardship–Jeff has been extremely busy with the preparations for Homecoming, ramping up for Stewardship and preparing for the transition of the Mathewsons. Daniel Love is the new Time and Talent Coordinator. Watch for a soon-to-come advertising push for the Armed Services Evensong on Nov. 13. The preacher will be the Bishop-elect of the Armed Services of the Episcopal Church, Carl Wright.
  • The Rev. Canon Brooks Mason–Liturgy and Music–The liturgy and worship ministries are gathering new members, which will be extremely helpful for meeting the demands of the cathedral’s busy and fulfilling worship life. 
  • The Rev. Colin Mathewson – Outreach, Mission and Latino Ministry - Reports transitioning most duties to new oversight. Latino Ministry continues to grow strong. Looking forward to National Latino AIDS Awareness Celebration on Oct 15. , 5 pm, at the Cathedral.

Regular and Occasional Reports 

  • Endowment–N/A
  • Finance Committee–Betsey Monsell– Cash position is very good for this time of year.
  •  LLC – Ken Tranbarger – Laurel Bay condo has an offer – should close by late November/early December. Greystar is finalizing plans and has made a second installment to escrow. Once Chapter approves the plans the escrow is non-refundable.

Wardens’ Reports

  • People’sWarden–Elizabeth Carey–Nominating Committee is at work–receiving Appendix I initial applications through Oct. 23. Please contact with questions.
  • Dean’s Warden – Mark Patzman – Discussed MMR results. All agreed is was a worthwhile exercise.
  • Dean’s Report – Penny Bridges – A full accounting of much of the action mentioned above. Additionally, Peggy Druce has died – a date for her requiem service has not yet been set.

Old business

  • Mutual Ministry Agreement–Dean Penny, Mark Patzman (Dean’sWarden) and I (People’sWarden) finalized the details of the MMA, which is renewed annually. Chapter reviewed the items and voted to accept the terms of the Chapter obligation.
  • Safe Church Policy Update–I think I spaced out at this point because I have no notes!

New business

  • Chapter endorsement on Ordination to the Priesthood–Chapter supported Jacqueline Bray Pippin, Chris Harris and Richard Lee in their desire to be ordained to the Priesthood. Chris’s ordination will be Dec. 10 (St. Bart’s in Poway) and Richard’s Dec. 17 (Good Sam in UC). Jacqueline’s has yet to be determined.
  • Resolution to accept DHS grant–approved
  • Resolution to accept denominational health plan–much discussion about this changing benefit for both lay and ordained staff. Chapter approved resolution.
  •  Resolution to dissolve the Cathedral Center for the Visual and Performing Arts–Erin Sacco Pineda was able to arrange a waiving of past due fees to the state (for the past 20 years!) resulting in an approx. $14K savings. The CCVPA will continue to operate as a vibrant ministry of the cathedral. 

Date of next meeting – November 1, 2016
Appreciations, Regrets and Closing Prayer
Friday, October 14, 2016 

Elizabeth Carey, People's Warden

Monday, October 10, 2016

The Sunday Sermon: Courageous Journeys

The gospel lesson this morning presents a community in an in-between space. As lepers, these ten travelers were ritually impure. We don’t really know what leprosy meant-- it was likely a combination of what we consider to be many skin afflictions today-- but until the afflictions were healed the persons afflicted were prohibited from certain ritual or community activities according to ancient purity laws. They were in-between.

It is important to note that this lesson is a great example for us of how Jesus was a practicing Jew, and as such observed the purity laws. Jesus sent the lepers to the priests to become ritually cleansed, which was just the thing to do in Jewish custom at the time.

But what we don’t know much about is the lepers’ state of mind as they started their journey towards the priests for ritual cleansing. We don’t know how long they had been impure, or to what extent their daily life had been affected by their ritual impurity. Whatever the impact had been, it is clear that going to the priest as Jesus asked was the step that would remove the restriction and allow full participation in community life again.

I can only imagine what that must have felt like. “I have this skin malady, but Jesus has just said that the priests will restore me to full participation?” Whoopeee! And as they went I imagine their excitement about their restoration of ritual purity grew as they walked. Then-- they found that their physical bodies were healed. That, it seems to me, would be truly amazing. I think I might have double-timed it down to the priest to make sure my leprosy didn’t come back before I could get my “ritual purity card” back. What if I get sick again? I better hurry-- I don’t want to miss this opportunity!

But one of the ten lepers, an outsider, a Samaritan, realized something. He realized that he must stop and turn back to the one who had brought this about, and give thanks. He realized that healing had happened there on that road in that in-between space. So he stopped and gave thanks to Jesus for it. And Jesus uses a different language to describe what happens to him as a result of his gratitude-- he is “made well” for it.

God is generous in this text to all ten lepers. All of the lepers receive a generous gift-- they are healed and made clean. But only one is “made well.” The Samaritan was made well only when he stopped, turned, and gave thanks for what the others took for granted from this generous God. Giving thanks makes us well at some much deeper level.

Today is the beginning of the Courageous Journeys campaign. We will, over the next six weeks, begin to give thanks together for the ways God has been generous with us at St. Paul’s Cathedral. This year we are stopping, pausing, and looking back-- we are giving thanks back to God for the many ways and many times God has been generous with us, and also reflecting on how the people of St. Paul’s have been courageous enough to recognize God’s generosity in the midst of the journey.

There is so much to be thankful for at St. Paul’s! I have been amazed, for instance, to learn that the first pipe organ in San Diego was procured by this congregation in 1887. Our first land was donated by Alonzo Horton-- the same Horton of Horton Plaza-- who allowed the mission to become a parish with his generous donation of property; and we bought our first sound movie projector in 1948. Now we have one of the largest organs in San Diego used throughout the week to play beautiful music to glorify God in the midst of a thriving music ministry. We steward this amazing space filled with shifting light and stained glass designed by Frohman, Robb, and Little, who also designed the National Cathedral. And soon we will be able to live stream sermons as they happen thanks to the generosity of a donor, which will allow us to evangelize in whole new ways.

But this congregation’s courageous response to God’s generosity has always included the mission of God in pastoral and relational ways, too. In 1899, we offered ourselves as a place for a funeral when a policemen died, and over 2000 attended. In both World Wars, we took a position of peace while supporting our men and women in uniform, as our clergy took up regular eucharistic services in the chapel at the Naval Hospital. Realizing an emerging need for senior housing, the idea for what would become St. Paul’s Senior Services was approved by our vestry in 1953, which continues its role in housing seniors in need to this day. Our deans have supported the baptismal call to respect the dignity of every person as the movement towards Women’s Ordination moved forward in the 1970s and as the Church began to recognize the full sacramental worth of LGBT persons. We hosted the Integrity convention for LGBT inclusion in the church in 2003, and have brought thought-leaders in the Church to the city for conversation and dialogue over the years. Dorcas House, now Vida Joven, has been a vital partnership for the cathedral as we have partnered to meet the needs of children along the border of Mexico.

And now we continue in that trend as we deepen our role as Cathedral for the City-- this year alone we held three memorials for a city reeling from tragedy in Orlando, including one in a gay bar. Our Showers of Blessings ministry to bring showers to homeless neighbors celebrated its first anniversary in April. The youth of the congregation began a garden and started cultivating bees, and Simpler Living started a community supported agriculture initiative to keep our environment sustainable. We continue in partnerships with Episcopal, ecumenical, and interfaith organizations throughout the city to help those who are in need, marginalized, and forgotten-- and this congregation won’t stop until we have celebrated the abundance of God so resolutely that all have homes, all have the care they need, and all are loved with the respect and dignity that they are endowed with at their creation by the loving, generous God we believe in.

Yes, we have a generous God. We have a long tradition of responding courageously in gratitude to the generosity that God has poured out on us at St. Paul’s cathedral. But we aren't finished. God isn't done with us yet! The plans for the new building are moving along, which will give us much needed space in a few years. So next year that means we have to start preparing for construction, but that doesn’t mean we will cut back. We have big plans at the Cathedral!

The Vision for Mission plan is in full swing. Next year we plan to hire a part-time youth minister. To keep all of our members nourished and continue to nourish our newest and spiritually hungry young people, we need to make sure our youth have somebody who can support them.

We will also re-tune our Saturday night service. Our Sunday services are beautifully traditional. To meet a changing world, we will start working with our millennials to see what their worship needs are and how we might best begin preparing the church for a generation whose worship needs may be very different from our current services-- without impacting our current wonderfully high Anglican liturgy.

And finally, as a Cathedral for the City, we have a distinctively outward focus. We have a dedicated core of long-time members who pour themselves into our mission, but we have to continually invest in deepening our inward relationships and constantly welcome in the stranger. We will invest next year in a small group ministry to ensure that our relationships with each other remain strong and nourishing so that we remain fed to do the work in the world we are called to do.

As we go through these weeks, pray and give thanks, I invite you to reflect on your own journey. Give thanks and reflect not only on how God has been generous in your life individually, but I ask you to reflect on our common life as well. We will have information on budgets and spending and all the reasons that secular non-profits use when they ask you to give. But the Church is not a secular non-profit. The Church is Christ’s, and you are a member of that body by nature of your baptism.

This is your community. As you pray on how much to pledge, don’t give because you should. Don’t give because of duty or guilt, even.

As we move forward, I ask you to reflect on who God calls us to be. How shall we live as a people of God? How shall we reflect the love of God and the call of Christ? How shall we carry forward the tradition of the generations before us? And then make a pledge that reflects that vision courageously so that we might turn towards the One we serve, give thanks, be made well, and continue on the journey that has already been so richly blessed and wonderfully empowered by the One who we serve.

The Rev. Jeff Martinhauk

Sources Consulted:

Feasting on the Word, Year C, Vol. 4. Ed. David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor. Louisville, Kentucky: John Knox Press, 2010.  

Sunday, October 2, 2016

The Sunday Sermon: Our family, creation.

What can we say about a man who preached to the birds, who picked worms out of the road so they wouldn't be trampled by traffic, and who, when he was dying, insisted on being stripped naked and laid directly on the ground so that he could be at one with his beloved Mother Earth? We can say he was a saint. We can say that he was perhaps not quite sane. And perhaps we can say that Francis of Assisi was the first Christian environmentalist. Francis regarded the whole of creation as his family, and 800 years later, we are learning more and more about the intimate connections between all living things; we are learning just how perceptive our crazy saint was.

In Genesis, God commissioned human beings to subdue the earth and have dominion over all the creatures. In Francis' day it was safe to speak without qualification of dominion over the earth because humankind didn't have the technology to do real damage. Major environmental change was caused only by natural catastrophes such as earthquakes, volcanoes or tsunamis.

Not until the industrial revolution of the 18th and 19th centuries did human beings start to get the idea that we could actually override nature, that we could tame the earth and force it to do our bidding. We started to believe that dominion meant totalitarian control and the freedom to do anything, no matter how abusive, to Mother Earth. This kind of power, this kind of hubris would have had no place in Francis's world.

God placed us in charge of the creation, a sacred trust, and how have we repaid that trust? We have hunted species to extinction. We have created chemicals that kill indiscriminately, whether insects or plants, human beings or microbes. We have irrevocably altered ecosystems with dams, with mountaintop removal mining, with carbon emissions, with nuclear explosions. We have created designer animals for food and as pets; we have even started to create designer human beings.

And all this manipulation of the environment is coming back to haunt us, in allergies, in lethally resistant strains of bacteria, in climate change, desertification, and rising sea levels.

But God lovingly created human beings with an incredible capacity for learning and for inventiveness. In our unending quest to understand our world, we are now learning more and more about the checks and balances built into our world, and we are starting to appreciate what Francis meant when he sang of our mother earth, of our brothers sun, wind, and fire, our sisters moon and water. All of creation is intricately connected, and just as we care for our human families and our furbabies, we must also care for our nature family.

We are coming to understand that we need to change our attitude to dirt. My mother used to talk about "good, clean dirt", meaning natural dirt, the kind of dirt that nurtures life, as opposed to something like motor oil. It sounds like an oxymoron, but there is wisdom in the saying.

Take the humble germ, for instance. We're just starting to learn about the microbiome, the amazing multitude of microbes that live in our bodies: millions of non-human organisms that actually make up part of who we are. We are discovering that without the proper population of those microbes we fall prey to all kinds of ailments whose origins have been a mystery. Those ailments may include autoimmune diseases such as lupus, and ulcers. In other words, we actually need germs in order to be healthy. So it's OK if your dog licks your plate, or if your toddler eats a cookie she found under the sofa. Too much hygiene is bad for your health.

We've learned from the experiment over half a century in Yellowstone National Park, where, in response to ranchers' complaints, wolves were eradicated, which led to overpopulation of elk who ate all the young trees, which caused erosion and damaged the landscape. When wolves were reintroduced in recent years the balance shifted again and the landscape started to recover, benefiting the humans who live there.

The natural world, on every scale, is indeed part of our family. And living in harmony with that family is a faithful way to live, because the whole creation belongs to God, who entrusted it to us in love. All the earth is sacred ground and reverence towards it gives honor to the creator.

As people of faith, God's people, we revere the products of the earth that are central to our sacramental life. Jesus took bread and broke it; he took wine and shared it. When we follow his example, opening the table to all who come, we are acknowledging our connection to all living things, and we are renewing our covenant with the earth, the ancient covenant that God made with Adam and Eve in the beginning.

When we welcome new members into the church, our baptism service asks us to make several promises, including a promise to honor the dignity of every human being. At the last General Convention of the Episcopal Church, an additional promise was approved, one that expands our previous covenant to include the wolves, the microbes, and our mother earth: "Will you cherish the wondrous works of God and protect the beauty and integrity of all creation?" The response of course is "I will, with God's help."

I think Francis would have approved of that promise.

Our care and protection of all creation must begin with the way we respect the dignity of other human beings. The suffering of the world's poorest people - whether through hunger, disease, or oppression - has a direct relationship to the greed and luxury practiced in the developed world. As long as we pursue a way of life that demands ever-increasing production and consumption, we will continue to perpetuate the tragic inequities of our world. Francis of Assisi was uncompromising in his commitment to simplicity of life, one of the things that make him a saint.

In a time when public rhetoric encourages us to fear difference and to withdraw into homogenous enclaves, an inspiring story comes out of Omaha, Nebraska, where people of the three Abrahamic faiths have come together in something called the Tri-Faith Initiative. Christians, Muslims, and Jews pooled resources in 2011 to buy a 35-acre parcel of land, a former country club. Members of Temple Israel completed their synagogue on the property and opened their doors in 2013. The American Muslim Institute will complete its mosque next year, and Countryside Christian Church is currently raising funds for its new building. A shared community center will be the final component. The land is already being used for interfaith gatherings, and the three congregations are developing a network of relationships and shared ministries.

Last week I attended an interfaith meeting at the San Diego Islamic Center. We aren't at a point of planning a shared worship space, but I did have a conversation with the Imam about a joint book study to read Michael Kinnamon's forthcoming book on fear and faith.

This week the shooting of a distraught African man by an El Cajon police officer brought an ongoing national crisis into our own community. We grieve the death of Alfred Olango even as we grieve the climate of fear that causes police officers to literally shoot from the hip and that causes us to lock our doors against those who seem different. But our faith demands that we acknowledge our connection to one another, that we open our doors and our hearts to hear different voices, to learn new ways to care for our community, to use our God-given intelligence and creativity to build a more peaceful and abundant world for all of creation.

Bringing our pets to church is one symbol of our connection to all other creatures, an acknowledgment that without them our lives are impoverished.

And so we echo the beloved saint today as we offer praise to God for the earth and all her creatures, for all whom we call family, human and non-human alike. All praise and thanks be to God: creator, redeemer, and sustainer of all.

October 2, 2016 St Francis (transferred)
The Very Rev. Penelope Bridges

Thursday, September 29, 2016

A Word from the Dean: Cathedral Transitions

On September 25, we celebrated the ministry of the Rev. Colin and the Rev. Laurel Mathewson among us. They came to the Cathedral as young laypeople in discernment; we sent them off to seminary; and we welcomed them back as transitional deacons, celebrating their ordination to the priesthood and the growth of their family over the last three plus years. Colin and Laurel have contributed immeasurably to our life at St. Paul’s, and we now have the privilege of sending them forth to their next adventure in ministry at St. Luke’s. As you know, Colin will continue to serve as the pastor to our Spanish-speaking members for at least the next six months.

As we live into the Vision for Mission we continue to develop two critical ministry areas: Outreach and Mission is a significant part of our life with a lively and devoted committee of true servant ministers; while Formation, particularly for children and youth, has flourished over the last couple of years, taking its place as a multi-generational dimension of our life together. Colin has overseen our Outreach and Mission ministries as well as the Children, Youth, and Families ministry area, while Laurel has been the go-to person for adult formation activities. Who will succeed them in these roles?

Happily, the Holy Spirit seems to have provided for our needs. Over the summer I became acquainted with a young man, recently arrived in San Diego, who was seeking a call to serve the church in this area. David Tremaine holds a Master of Divinity degree from Virginia Theological Seminary; however, he is not at this time planning to be ordained. David is discerning his call to ministry and is currently exploring the possibilities of serving as a lay teacher and leader in the Episcopal Church. He has significant experience with outreach ministries, having worked for the best part of a year in an outreach center in Florida; and he has planned and taught adult formation classes as well as overseeing a Sunday School program for children. David is excited about the ministries we are developing here at St. Paul’s, and he brings a reflective, theologically informed approach to his work. I am delighted that David has accepted my invitation to serve as our Director of Outreach and Formation. He will be here about three days a week and will report directly to me as a member of our executive staff. Robin Taylor will report to him (although Robin is such an outstanding director of CYF ministries that she hardly needs oversight!).

David will work with our Outreach committee and will take on the task of planning, recruiting, and implementing our adult formation activities. He is able to start work before Colin and Laurel leave so that he can spend time with them and provide a seamless transition.

I have every hope that with David on our team, our outreach and formation ministries will continue to go from strength to strength. I hope you will offer him a warm welcome on his first Sunday with us, October 2.

This transition means that we will have two priests full-time on staff, myself and Jeff Martinhauk. Jeff will continue to oversee community life activities, which will include evangelism. Canon Brooks Mason will oversee pastoral care. We will all take a turn with preparing families for baptism as well as the regular liturgical roles of presiding and preaching, and we will have a monthly guest preacher spot, allowing us to develop our relationships with other churches and the broader community. The Mathewsons will be part of that guest preacher program, and with the Bishop’s permission David Tremaine will also preach from time to time. Please pray for us all in this time of transition and possibilities!

Monday, September 26, 2016

Book Review: Waging Peace, by David Hartsough

David Hartsough will be at the Cathedral on October 8-9. He will give a peace workshop on Saturday the 8th @ 1-4 pm; and the Sunday forum on the 9th @ 9 am.  The Rev Canon Richard Lief shares this review of Hartsough's book.

WAGING PEACE: Global Adventures of a Lifelong Activist
David Hartsough with Joyce Holliday
2014 – PM Press - pp. 243

Non-violence works, if we give it a chance and are willing to promote and live it. Waging Peace is primer for all who seek peace in our war-worn and tragic world.

Author  David Hartsough, whose parents were devout Quakers, is a man with a mission – a mission to be involved where there is injustice anywhere in the world, where there is an opportunity to influence change.

In Waging Peace David shares his life’s adventure. Over the last fifty years he has led and been engaged in nonviolent peacemaking in the United States, Kosovo, the former Soviet Union, Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Iran, Palestine, Israel, and many other countries.

He is the executive director of Peaceworkers in San Francisco, and has a BA from Howard University and an MA in international relations from Columbia University. He is a Quaker and a member of the San Francisco Friends Meeting.

Born in 1940, David has dedicated his whole life to be where he can make a difference. In his forward to Waging Peace, John Dear describes David: “He’s so humble, simple, and gentle that no one would know the powerful force that moves within him.”

David Krieger, president of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, says that David’s “…guiding stars have been peace, justice, non-violence and human dignity… He has lived his nonviolence and made it an adventure in seeking truth, as Gandhi did.”

Given Gandhi’s book, All Men are Brothers, by his parents, on his 14th or 15th birthday, Hartsough was inspired with Gandhi’s experience - that nonviolence is the most powerful force in the world and that it could be a means of struggle to liberate a country. David was 15 when he met Martin Luther King, Jr.

David’s adventures in nonviolence are engaging and inspiring in their call to nonviolent action for the betterment of everyone on the planet. He co-founded the Nonviolent Peaceforce, which is recognized by the United Nations. He has met with people in all walks of life who have shared their yearning for peace and justice. And he has met with people in power – memorably with President Kennedy who responded and acted favorably on David’s thoughtful and encouraging viewpoints.

I was captivated by David when he spoke several years ago at a conference I attended, sponsored by the San Diego Peace Resource Center. Among the many personal stories he shared, there was one that particularly inspired me. When he was 20, he was trained to participate in a lunch counter sit-in in Arlington, Virginia. It was in the early days of the Civil Rights Movement.

He had just been reading Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount: “Love your enemies… Do good to those who hate you” when he heard a voice behind him say, “Get out of this store in two seconds, or I am going to stab you through the heart.” The man had a terrible look of hatred on his face, and a knife one half inch from David’s heart. Did Jesus mean to include this man?

Grateful for his training of the past two days, David turned around and tried his best to smile and said, “Friend, do what you believe is right, and I will try to love you.” The man’s jaw and hand dropped, and miraculously, he turned away and walked out of the store.

Chapter 14 of Waging Peace gives practical application and encouragement. Topics include: 1) transforming our society from one addicted to violence and war to one based on justice and peace with the world; 2) a proposal for ending all war: an idea whose time has come; 3) resources for further study and action: what you can do; 4) ten lessons learned from my life of activism.

As Episcopalians we are engaged in seeking the Christ in all persons, and respecting the dignity of every human being. I am grateful that David Hartsough continues to live and promote his life of nonviolence as he seeks peace and justice world-wide. Waging Peace is a primer which deserves to be read, marked, learned and inwardly digested – and most of all, with the help of God, lived.

The Rev. Canon Richard C. Lief,
Honorary Canon
St. Paul’s Episcopal Cathedral
San Diego, California

Monday, September 19, 2016

The Sunday Sermon: Faithful in Much

"There was once a rich man who had a manager". So Jesus begins the parable of the dishonest steward. Now, we've all heard lots of Jesus's parables, and they often begin, "There was once a man ... Or a king ... Or a father". Usually, that character in the story turns out to stand for God. So, when we hear those words at the beginning of today's Gospel, our minds might leap to an assumption that this rich man with the servant will turn out to be a good guy, a powerful figure exhibiting both justice and mercy.

But if we start with this assumption, this story is going to lead us into very murky waters indeed. How can God be portrayed by someone who commends his spendthrift steward for his malpractice? Commentators have tied themselves in knots, trying to figure out what Jesus is trying to say in this parable, because casting the rich man as a proxy for God doesn't work.

So let's start over. Let's instead imagine the rich man as a business tycoon, someone who isn't too concerned about honesty, someone who uses the law for his own profit rather than the common good, whose only priority is his own advancement and who, when one of his protegés shows ingenuity in getting himself out of a tight place, slaps him on the back and congratulates him for being a chip off the old block. I imagine we can all think of someone in our life or in the public eye who might fit this mold.

Now the story works: it's a story about a couple of rascals, deeply enmeshed in a rotten system. In ancient Israel, the people were forbidden by Jewish law to charge interest on debt. Naturally, then as now, those who lacked scruples found ways around the law, perhaps in this case by charging interest in kind rather than coin. So a tenant farmer who owed 50 jugs of olive oil to his landlord might find himself owing a lot more if he had a bad harvest and couldn't deliver. And of course, the middle man, the steward, had to take his piece of the action, even though he wasn't strictly entitled to it, and so he might add another 10% for his margin.

Now, imagine a sort of sub-prime situation where tenants couldn't pay their accumulated debts and the steward was facing ruin and disgrace. If he simply slashed the interest and his own cut off the tenant's account, his boss could hardly object (since it was against the law), and the steward would be seen as a hero by his neighbors.

As I said, a rotten system then. We have our own rotten systems now, such as the deplorable practice in some municipalities of charging people compounding fees and additional fines if they can't pay a traffic ticket or if they can't make it to a court date, so that they end up owing thousands of dollars and being thrown in jail for a very minor infraction. Both are systems that prey on the poor and push them further into poverty.

So this isn't a parable that describes the kingdom of heaven. It's about the sleazy side of human nature, the sharp practice and skirting of the law that goes on all around us, that makes idols of profit and of outwitting the little guy. This isn't how our world should operate, but all too often it does operate like this, and all too often we can get caught up in it. And Jesus tells his disciples that there is something to be learned even from crooks: just as you can use God's gift of ingenuity to save your own skin, so you can use that same gift to share the good news of the Gospel.

It's like exercising a muscle: the more you use it, the stronger it becomes. When you start down a dishonest path you can easily slide deeper and deeper into the muck - the story of Walter White in the TV series Breaking Bad is a powerful example - but when you start down the path of faithfulness, of trustworthiness, you can develop that muscle and find that you can be faithful in the big things as well as the little things. This week a Methodist pastor in Flint, Michigan, confronted a presidential candidate visiting her church and told him that he was abusing her church's hospitality by turning a learning opportunity into a political speech. I cannot imagine that Pastor Faith Green Timmons, who by the way is a fellow alumna of Yale Divinity School, found the courage to speak truth to power like this without having exercised that muscle of faithfulness in small and not so small ways throughout her ministry.

There is no consensus among Biblical scholars about how to interpret the parable of the dishonest steward. I choose to see it as Jesus describing the way things are, rather than the way things ought to be. The pairing of the parable with Jeremiah's lament for the nation suggests that we should view the parable as a commentary on the contemporary culture.

Jeremiah contemplates a nation that is defeated and lost, sold out to foreign interests and false gods. In his time Israel had been invaded, her leaders sent into exile and slavery. Jesus too lived in Israel at a time when the nation was struggling under oppressive rulers, with draconian laws and even religious leaders who showed no compassion for those in need, who had forgotten what it meant to be faithful.

We might add our own voices to lament our nation's lack of faithfulness: the ever-increasing gap between rich and poor, the crippling debt that burdens college grads, the thousands of families rendered bankrupt by medical bills, the diabetes, obesity, joint damage, and hypertension that result from an oversupply of cheap processed food produced by an industry that must grow at all costs, not to mention the xenophobia and racism and sexism and brazen lying that seems ever more a part of our daily discourse.

In many ways our own society is as corrupt as the one described in Luke's Gospel, as doomed as the one Jeremiah mourns. And what are we going to do about it? Will we break free of our deadly obsessions with wealth and personal security and power, and instead live into God's dream of abundance, of generosity, and of vulnerability? Because I think this is how Jesus wants us to live.

Love Christ, Serve Others, Welcome All.

The dishonest steward does have one valuable lesson to teach us. When the crisis hits, he shares the wealth. He forgives debt - even though it isn't his debt - and he demonstrates generosity with the resources that the master has entrusted to his care. How might we, as St Paul's Cathedral and as faithful individuals, demonstrate generosity with the resources God has placed in our hands?

One faithful response is to make full use of the gifts and possibilities around us. We can make the most of our land resource, with the Cathedral Campus Redevelopment Plan. We can invest in our future by building a strong program for our children and youth as well as supporting our elders. We can make use of the latest insights regarding evangelism and formation to grow disciples in this new century in partnership with St Luke's. We can cherish the land and our natural resources: soil, wind, sunshine, water, even bees.

But what about the corruption and brokenness that we see in the world?
What is the faithful response to the hateful rhetoric and lies of those in the political process?
What is the faithful response to a world where children are bombed out of their homes, where the mentally ill are left on the streets, where guns are touted as the answer to every threat?
We ourselves must be the faithful response. We are to give ourselves away, to speak truth to power, to decline to be part of the web of sharp practice. We are to demonstrate that the fullness of life is found, not in material wealth or cheap tricks, but in the practice of integrity and kindness, and in the joy of serving our neighbors.

On Thursday I attended a luncheon hosted by the local Rotary clubs, honoring two San Diegans who, throughout their long lives, have exemplified the virtues of integrity and service. It was inspiring to hear of the courage and determination of Leon Williams and our own Lucy Killea, who have influenced generations of younger community leaders and helped to change our city for the better. Both Lucy and Leon have made good use of their God-given intelligence, ingenuity and shrewdness over the decades. They could have made use of their gifts to accumulate great wealth, but they chose to turn away from that idol to instead serve their neighbors.They have been faithful in much. As we dedicate ourselves on this Homecoming Sunday to the many ministries to which God has called us, may we also be faithful in much.

September 18 2016
The Very Rev Penelope Bridges

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Lights, Music, Camera … Our Sound and Video Ministry is Changing

(Stock photo)
Dean Penny writes,

We have long used technology in the cathedral to amplify speech, record services, aid the hearing-impaired and make our sermons available online. St. Paul’s recently received an extraordinarily generous gift from a donor who wishes to remain anonymous, with the stipulation that it be used to enhance our sound, recording, and broadcasting capabilities.

Parishioner Todd Hurrell and facilities manager Bob Oslie are working with our music and liturgy staff and Pacific Design & Integration, Inc. to design and install a system that will use the latest technology to provide excellent sound quality for both speech and music, to film events in the cathedral from various angles, to live-stream services, and to allow large-screen television viewing in the Great Hall.

This will be a giant step forward in our technological support. The new sound technology, using “Tectonic Plate” speakers, cuts through an echoing acoustic such as we have at St. Paul’s to provide clear speech. Together with the latest design in hearing-aid support, this should make a great difference to the ability of the congregation to hear and understand the spoken word in our services. The installation of a panel of flat screens in the Great Hall, discreetly covered by a curtain when not in use, will allow us to screen movies and webinars in a more professional way. The ability to record our wonderful choirs and organ, along with the recording and livestreaming of our services, will permit us to reach more people both in and beyond San Diego.

Todd is gathering a small group of volunteers who will be trained in the use of the new equipment. If you have an interest in participating in this important ministry of pastoral care and evangelism, please contact Todd at for more information. We hope to have the new system installed and operational soon after Thanksgiving.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

The Sunday Sermon: Fifteen Years Later

My fellow resident assistants and I had stayed up late the night before preparing for the arrival of 90 college freshmen who would be coming in a couple days, so the knock at the door around 6:30 in the morning was unwelcome. The professor who lived in our dorm, Mary, said “Colin, I think you’re going to want to see this. Two planes have crashed into the World Trade Center. Julie may be down there.”

My girlfriend Julie had graduated the year before and worked in downtown Manhattan, so I groggily checked my email -- and sure enough, about an hour before she had sent me a note: “I just saw a plane crash in the building next to us. I’ll call if I can but the phones aren’t working. Going home now.” I tried calling her cell but the circuits were busy.

In shock I took a shower, deliberately taking my time as my mind tried to make sense of what had happened and what its effect would be on Julie and on the people of New York. When I finally made it down to Mary’s apartment and saw the image of the burning buildings, and not long after, their collapses in real time -- as I listened to an hysterical Julie sharing her first-hand experiences with the horror of the day when her call finally came through -- it soon became clear that this day would make its mark on all of us, on some its ultimate mark. Nearly 3,000 people died in Manhattan, the Pentagon, and Shanksville, Pennsylvania, including some 400 first responders, on September 11.

It’s been fifteen years since these nonsensical acts of violence. I can’t make sense of them any more today than I could then. But God gave us minds so that we might try.


I think today’s Scripture readings track the complexity of the journey that each of us, and the nation as a whole, has been on. Our reading from Jeremiah is one of divine judgment: the prophet sees a “fruitful land” made into a “desert, and all its cities were laid in ruins before the Lord, before his fierce anger.” According to Jeremiah, this angry and powerful God had sent the Babylonians to destroy Jerusalem as punishment for their misdeeds. Sure, God had relented before destroying them all, but I think this prophecy’s message to Jews and to us so long after can still be eye-openingly simple: divine justice is scary. Better to follow the good path, because you, your family, and your nation might not otherwise be safe.

But surely in the 21st century our empirically-trained, post-Enlightenment selves don’t buy that line of thinking, right? Indeed, besides a particularly contemptuous remark by Jerry Falwell in the days after 9/11, few would say then or now that God had anything to do with these attacks. But if we’re honest with ourselves, I think more of us might say that divine justice was involved in Osama bin Laden’s death. And more of us still say with some frequency, perhaps even without really thinking about it, “Everything happens for a reason” -- this idea that there is an underlying thread of intelligibility, of sense-making, to what happens to ourselves and others in this life.

But 9/11 didn’t happen for any particular reason, or at least any reason we humans could ever comprehend. It’s like trying to understand a recent cancer diagnosis in a dear friend who has young kids and who is my age. We can all think of plenty of tragedies that aren’t going to make sense to us from our mortal vantage points.

Why insist, then, that this world ought to make sense? Because if it doesn’t, this life can feel quite terrifying quite quickly. But maybe it’s time that we have the courage to stare reality in the face and accept the danger inherent in our daily lives, a danger that no wall or TSA agent or antioxidant smoothie can ultimately save us from. The reality that we are smaller and more vulnerable creatures in a wilderness that is larger and more threatening than we would care to imagine. Accepting our existential vulnerability and need for help can free us from the illusion of control and self-constructed safety over this unpredictable world around us.

Now all this is tender territory for all of us and shrouded in mystery to be sure. But I invite us to consider seriously today’s Gospel of diligent searching of the lost until they are found. The stories point to a God out there who loves each of us so much that God will seek us out, however scared and lost or forsaken we may feel, and bring us home in joy. And just in case you think you might be the exception -- that God won’t bother to seek YOU out, too -- pay attention to what happens in the story. The shepherd leaves all 99 sheep to seek the one that is lost -- which, frankly, doesn’t seem like a great idea . . . I’d probably be happy with a 99% success rate personally -- but 99% isn’t good enough for God. Each of us is included in this Good News.

Now what this doesn’t mean, as we already know, is that God will protect us and those we love from terrorism and cancer and car accidents. There are natural laws that govern this life, and there is the gift of free will -- which, frankly, doesn’t always seem like the best idea either -- for it is a gift that leads to great, great suffering in this world and reveals the evil that is among and within us. It just so happens, however, that our free will also leads to great and glorious examples of loving sacrifice that reflect what is divine in our nature. Apparently, God thought that the profound love made possible by our free will was worth the disaster it would sometimes wreak.

But the beauty of loving sacrifice doesn’t make it any easier to be the daughter of Robert Parro, an Engine 8 New York firefighter who was my age when he died rushing up the North Tower’s stairs trying mightily to save lives as the building collapsed. It didn’t make Mary’s grief any easier as Jesus hung on the cross. If we can’t depend on divine protection from the natural laws and human sin of this world, what can we rely upon? God’s promise to us is that we will never be forsaken, we will never be lost to God, we will never cease to be sought, in this life and in the life to come. Every sheep counts and is precious in God’s sight.

You might think that you don’t like God’s approach as I’m describing it and might wish that God threw more laser-guided lightning bolts that picked off the bad guys with precision while shielding us from harm. In other words, you might wish God would take a more powerful and straightforward approach to meting out justice in this life and spend a bit more time protecting the rest of us.

But I’m not convinced that God is choosing the weaker path. It’s just that God works through the human family and its limited faculties to help us make the sense we can in the aftermath of tragedy. Take the 9/11 Memorial at Ground Zero. When I visited in April it was clear that this site had been constructed with the same sense of sacredness and painstaking care as the National Holocaust Museum or Arlington National Cemetery. What was most striking to me was the way in which the memorial ushered us down literally to the foundations of the stricken buildings, exhibiting to us the very place where the first bolts had been pounded into solid Manhattan bedrock. I believe that meticulous and loving exercise of sifting through the wreckage to the very profundities of the destruction -- knowing all the while that so many thousands had died everywhere they stepped -- left this memorial’s makers with a perspective more nuanced and constructive than our nation’s first responses to the terror.
The new Tower in New York (photo ©SForsburg)

 And while America’s longest-running war, by a long shot, marches on in Afghanistan, back in New York there lie two gaping and hauntingly beautiful holes where the Twin Towers once stood, a memorial that has fully plumbed the depths of the tragedy and honored its victims -- and there is a rebuilt tower that soars 1,776 feet into the sky, declaring for this century that we strive to be a nation independent from the colonizing and controlling power of fear. The renewed possibility that this tower represents sits next to the pain of 9/11 without trying to replace, deny, or forget it. That is beautiful, even if it still falls short of making sense of this tragedy.

God’s gift of our minds, and particularly our imaginations, make all this inadequate and beautiful sense making possible. Consider Hamilton, the wildly popular Broadway musical. It follows the life of Alexander Hamilton, a less-remembered founding father who emigrated to New York as a teenage orphan. The play is an ode to New York and to America, and it grapples with the question of how each of us will be remembered, especially in the wake of tragedy. In the moments before his duel with Aaron Burr, Hamilton ponders the terror of leaving this life too soon, even as he begins to trust the larger human family to carry on his work:
Legacy. What is a legacy? It’s planting seeds in a garden you never get to see
I wrote some notes at the beginning of a song someone will sing for me
America, you great unfinished symphony, you sent for me
You let me make a difference
A place where even orphan immigrants
Can leave their fingerprints -- Hamilton, “The World Was Wide Enough”
We humans of every faith and creed can trust each other to carry the tune and to pick up the parts of the great unfinished symphony to which we belong only for a time. Each of us will be remembered and thus honored, and maybe that’s enough -- perhaps it is the only sense we can make of the nonsensical. So today we remember the victims of 9/11. Every day God remembers them and holds them in God’s arms.

We Christians belong to a story that has been told for millennia and will be told yet again. It is the story of a victim of unspeakable tragedy who discovered, for all of us, that senseless violence is not the final word. Rather, Jesus experienced God’s love, God’s ultimate power, as mightier than death. That’s the love that’s seeking you out, and me -- that’s the Shepherd who, if we let him, will pick us up in his arms and carry us home.

The Rev Colin Mathewson
11 Sept 2016

Friday, September 9, 2016

Call for Photos: This means you!!!!

Ric Todd asks everyone to pull out their iphone or a camera and submit photos for 
St. Paul's Cathedral Photo Exhibition October 1 – 31, 2016

"EYES TO SEE, Love, Care and Compassion!"

This Exhibition: A call for all members of the St. Paul's Community to participate and submit as an inspiration and sharing the beauty of their surroundings, spiritual lives, a counterbalance to hate, prejudice & fear and the wonders of love, its many forms of compassion, beauty environmental settings and contrasting lovable and unlovable settings. It can be both representational and abstract, both realistic and impressionistic. The purpose of the exhibition is drawn from theme, "LOVE, CARE and COMPASSION." We only ask that you use the simplest tools: YOUR EYES and a CAMERA and with standing in the 21st Century our mobile phones or tablets, which are at a pocket and hands reach as our eyes and mind!



EXHIBITION DATES: October 1 – 31, 2016
EXHIBITION VENUE: St. Paul's Cathedral Nave & Chapel
SUBMISSION DATES of Artwork for EXHIBITION: September 19, 20, 21, 2016 in the Cathedral Nave 10 AM – 3 PM on each of the above days, work will be accepted.

You may submit no more than TWO FRAMED PHOTOS for this exhibition, the emphasis is on the work and not on the matting and framing used. All submitted work must be equipped with proper hanging hardware attached to them. We also request that you create a label for each submission and tape it to the back of the submitted work. Please include the following information on each label:

1. Your Name
2. Title of the Image, if it has been given a title
3. Your address, phone and e-mail
4. If the is or is not for sale
5. Brief statement about the piece and its relationship to the theme

Restroom Renovation update

Progress continues on our restroom renovation. Demolition is complete, and we are moving along quickly. Things are on schedule to complete the project by the end of October, unless special orders for tile hold us up a little.

Upstairs will be two accessible, gender neutral restrrooms behind that temporary wall

Framing for the new bathrooms upstairs

The door to the street from the landing level of the former staircase
will be sealed, and remain for external appearances only.

Downstairs framing is also underway

Sunday, September 4, 2016

The Sunday Sermon: Bring on the Revolution

Dear Philemon,

You might be wondering where your servant, named Useful, has got to. Well, he's been with me, taking care of me in jail, and now I'm sending him back to you, even though he has indeed been very useful to me. You're probably pretty annoyed with him for disappearing - and the law allows you to punish him severely - but, as your spiritual leader, I want to hold you to our Christian standard of behavior and remind you that, just because you are legally permitted to do something, it doesn't follow that it's the right thing to do.

You may think of Onesimus as less than you, because you own him in the eyes of the law, but we obey a different law, the law of the God who says that all people are equally worthy and all people deserve dignity. I want you to remember that when he comes home. And I want you to remember that, in baptism, we all received a new kind of life. The old ways of being no longer apply, even though we still live in the Empire. So I want you, not only to forgive him, but to welcome him as you would welcome me, even though such a welcome will scandalize the neighbors. I want you to take a step back from the power and privilege you enjoy and consider a different way of life. I know I'm asking a lot, but this is what you signed up for when you had your whole household baptized.

I know you will do this for me; I even dare to hope that you will make me proud by freeing Onesimus, recognizing him as a full citizen and an equal. For in Christ there is no slave or free, no distinction between one of God's children and another.

I remain your father in Christ and sign off, confident that you will do the right thing.


I wonder if we can grasp how revolutionary Paul's letter was in its time. Everyone in his world accepted slavery as the natural order of things. Some people were free citizens, entitled to vote, to wield power, to control their own lives, and other people, often minorities from other parts of the world, were lesser beings, whose voices didn't count, whose children were counted as property, whose lives were entirely in the hands of their owners.

Philemon had the power of life and death over Onesimus (whose name means useful) and his fellow slaves. By sending him back, Paul was taking a huge risk and, by agreeing to go back, presumably carrying this letter, Onesimus was risking everything. To forgive a runaway and, even more, to treat him as a brother was unthinkable. It could start a revolution. Other slaves would think they could get away with insubordination. The whole social order could be turned upside down and minorities might take over. They could end up, to use a contemporary image, with a taco truck on every corner.

Paul, of course, was following Jesus's lead in advocating social change as radical as the smashing down of a pot on the potter's wheel and its reshaping from scratch as something completely different. In the Gospel passage we just heard, Jesus uses the metaphors of major construction projects and military confrontations to get across the extent of the change he sought to bring about in the world.

But, two thousand years on, we still haven't managed to turn the world upside down. The Roman Empire is no longer, it's true, but slavery is still a flourishing institution, even here in San Diego, where human trafficking is such a serious issue that we have a special task force focused on it. And even where we don't have slaves as such, we still have a divided society, where some people are obviously privileged and others oppressed. The Black Lives Matter movement has brought that out into the open. The cases of Brock Turner, Ryan Lochte, and other young white men guilty of everything from violent sexual assault to vandalism and cheating, let off by the courts and the media, while people of color are subjected to indignity and injustice even by public servants, let alone public opinion, offer ample evidence that we have not yet achieved the egalitarian society to which Jesus and Paul call us.

The transformation of the world into the Kingdom of God is still a huge project, as revolutionary as ever, and it is our job as followers of Jesus to do what we can to tip the scales, to bring about a world where we no longer have to teach the Philemons to let go of their power and privilege.

Now, as an incurable optimist, I believe there are signs that the needle is creeping in the right direction, and much of the violent and divisive rhetoric that we are hearing is a reaction to that shift. The world is in fact changing in profound ways.

In recent years we have seen a major shift in this country over social norms. The increased acceptance of openly LGBT people in our major institutions, the passage of marriage equality, the achievement of improved minimum wage and labor laws that protect workers, the ascent of women and people of color into positions of national and corporate leadership, all these are signs of justice rolling down, signs of a more perfect Union, signs of the Kingdom inexorably advancing.

But look back at Jeremiah's image for a moment. The destruction of the imperfect pot is a violent act. The remaking of creation is tumultuous, chaos preceding new creation as it must. The violence that we are witnessing across the nation is a desperate attempt to stop the change, to stop the landslide running down the mountain. But it can't be stopped. In my most hopeful moments I see the hate speech and open racism and sexism as the death throes of an old way, a way where a few hold all the power and privilege and the many live in oppression.

Paul pushed against this pattern in the Roman Empire by asking Philemon to take back Onesimus without penalty and promote him to equal status. We push against the pattern today by treating all our neighbors with love and respect, by standing up for the voiceless and the oppressed. Jesus calls us, individually and corporately, to take up our cross, our particular vocation, with care and reverence, with strategy and planning, so that we can be a part of building a Kingdom that will last.

In our local context, we can build for the future at St Paul's. The Cathedral Campus Redevelopment Plan, which will provide us with expanded program space and resources for future ministry, is part of that. The Vision for Mission is our strategic plan to advance it. Our burgeoning Children, Youth, and Families ministry is an investment in the kingdom future ahead of us. Our involvement in the North Park Project with Colin and Laurel is a bold experiment in the church of the future.

God, the divine potter, shapes and reshapes communities, and we have a hand in that shaping too. St Paul's has been shaped by several courageous moments in its past, and we will hear more on this theme later in the fall at our annual congregational gatherings. Taking our cue from God we too must be ready to reshape where necessary. What worked in the past probably won't work in the future, and we are already seeing the potter at work here.

The history of St Paul's is a history of constant and positive change. Someone recently lent me a copy of the parish's 1966 brochure for capital campaign which resulted in the construction of our current administration building. There was a committee of 54 individuals. How many of those 54 do you think were women? How many had brown faces? That's right: not one. And I would bet that not one was openly gay either. There were three women pictured in the brochure (they were in charge of the food): Mrs Michael Ibis Gonzalez, Mrs William A Reilly, and Mrs C. Rankin Barnes. I wonder what their actual names were. I can't imagine a committee like that today. In 50 years much has changed, and it will continue to change as we move forward with the Vision for Mission and the building program, which will empower our ministry of discipleship and service.

Jesus tells us to carry our cross and follow him. The cross we are to take up is the cross of seeking justice for our neighbors. It's the cross of witnessing to pain and suffering, not turning away from it but seeing it, feeling the tragedy, allowing ourselves to share in the pain of those who are treated as less than human.

The current political climate ramps up violence and division, feeding the fear of those whose social power is eroding. This is deeply immoral and cynical, and no faithful Christian can be a part of it. Those of us with privilege, and that's most of us in this congregation, must be prepared to heed the call to take a step back, to share our power, to relinquish the privilege that keeps others in chains. We must put ourselves in the place of Philemon and hear the voice of Jesus calling us to free all who are enslaved and to work against the wicked culture of oppression wherever it manifests itself.

The collect we prayed at the beginning of the service reminds us that God resists the proud who confide in their own strength alone. If we are to be on the side of God, if we are to be part of the Jesus movement, we will learn to trust in God's mercy, to us and to those we have unwittingly wronged, and we will acknowledge the equal dignity of every human being. Only by doing so will we all, some day, be freed.

The Very Rev. Penelope Bridges
4 Sept 2016

Monday, August 22, 2016

The Tuft of Flowers Revisited: Navarro River Strings Camp

You may know Robert Frost’s poem The Tuft of Flowers, but if you don’t, I commend it to you. The scene is a hay field in the late morning when the speaker has gone to turn the newly mown hay. The mower, having been there at dawn to complete his work, has gone his way. The speaker finds, thanks to a determined butterfly, that in the middle of the field of cut grass, the mower did his job well, leveling all of the hay, but on purpose left standing a single tuft of flowers.
“The mower in the dew had loved them thus,
By leaving them to flourish, not for us,
Nor yet to draw one thought of ours to him,
But from sheer morning gladness at the brim.”
On Thursday evening, I came upon a tuft of flowers. Not real flowers, metaphorical ones, notes on a page, the cello line of the third Brandenburg Concerto. J.S. Bach was the early morning worker who left us the splendor of that concerto, not with any thought of ‘ours to him,’ but with the same motives that the mower had, simple beauty.

The cello and I are fairly recent friends. It’s true that I played the cello in my 20s, but frankly, I remember next to nothing about how I played in those days, perhaps one benefit of a poor memory. When I began (again) last July, I brought the ability to read music, and I knew the names of the strings. So within twelve months to be sat down in front of a composition by Bach didn’t fill me with confidence.

“Come on, Robert, here’s the cello score. We’re going to sight read it so get your cello and join us.” That was from another cellist named Shirley from California’s gold country. Okay, I thought. It’s been a friendly and supportive group and no one at camp rose to be critical of the musical efforts of others. So I sat down and shared the score with her and about ten or fifteen others of us, forming a small chamber orchestra.

There is no easy Bach. Anyone who has ever attempted playing his music knows that, and I was sure that I couldn’t read the score, much less keep up with the group. Fine, I would play what I could and stop when I couldn’t. I’d listen to the ensemble. That would at least be instructive. But we started slowly, counting two measures of 4/4 time, and we read through the first movement. Then we read through it again, this time up to tempo.

I was keeping up! I was reading the score, and I was keeping up! The third time through, I was playing the music, not merely sawing out the notes on the cello. By the time we got to the final chord, I understood what Bach saw when he wrote this work. The beauty of sharing it with this small impromptu chamber group, and with Bach, filled me with inexpressible joy.
“But glad with him, I worked as with his aid,
. . .
And dreaming, as it were, held brotherly speech
With one whose thought I had not hoped to reach.”
I sat there beaming, perfectly ecstatic, reveling in the epiphany of the moment. The woman who had organized our playing looked over to see me grinning like an idiot. “I think Robert would like to play it again,” she said. And she was right. And so we did.

I suppose this all sounds a bit syrupy and gushy, but some of our dearest, deepest emotions, when we own up to them, often do sound that way when we try to tell them out loud or write them down. I can only say that I cannot remember any musical experience before in my life that produced the level of elation I experienced that evening, of being able to play the music of perhaps our greatest composer, coupled with genuine gratitude for Bach’s genius, for the music that reaches across nearly three hundred years, and for his bequeathing us his gift of a tuft of flowers.

Robert Heylmun

Sunday, August 21, 2016

The Sunday Sermon: The Trouble with Calls

You may have heard by now that y’all are sending Laurel and me somewhere new -- at the end of September the Cathedral is sending us to St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in North Park two and a half miles away. The Bishop had something to do with this new thing -- as did Dean Penny -- as did both of us -- and as did others across the diocese and the wider church. We are sad to be leaving this faith community that has shaped us as Christians, partners, parents, and priests, and on our last day, September 25, we will have a chance to share a more personal reflection on our time at St. Paul’s and what it has meant to us.

In the meantime, Jeremiah’s call story from the Hebrew Scriptures that we heard this morning has had me considering what a call means to God and to each one of us. Laurel and I certainly feel called to this new adventure in North Park, but the path that led us here nearly ended months ago in Portland, Oregon and later in Washington, DC. We experienced heartbreak, relief, a lot of anxiety, moments of insight and the peaceful consolation, downright exhaustion, coincidences of timing that couldn’t have just been coincidences, exhilaration and joy. And we, like Jeremiah, can now report after-the-fact that God has been with us the whole time, leading us and guiding through all the ups and downs. But the journey was a rough one. I imagine many of you are in the midst of your own similar journeys of discernment -- my prayer for you is that the clarity of resolution refreshes you soon. Have faith fellow travelers!

Of course, and thank God, my family and I haven’t arrived at some destination but rather have been invited to serve for several years at a waypoint on the side of the road. It feels great to know where we’ll be for a while, and we are deeply grateful that our move to St. Luke’s allows us to stay in San Diego, where my parents live, during this special time while our kids are so young.

This new call from God that has caught us up is not just ours to claim -- it is a call from God to many of us in the diocese to explore together what else church can mean for people who are not here right now, and don’t plan to be at any church today. The folks at home right now reading the newspaper, or playing beach volleyball, or getting their first grader ready for her soccer game, or going on a hike, or sleeping in after a late night -- the man who is driving to work for the day in the family’s only car, leaving his partner and kids with no way to get to church -- the newly arrived refugee who is busy navigating the complexities of a culture we take for granted. Who are these folks? Are they too, like each of us, in need of God’s Good News? How might we share this Good News in a way that they can experience its goodness, so that they might realize they cannot live without it? Do these folks, like we do, struggle with despair and loneliness, existential confusion and loss, life-draining relationships and addictions that they can’t seem to shake? I think they do. What form of church might serve them?

That’s the call Laurel and I are hearing from God at St. Luke’s -- pick a zip code, 92104, and figure out how to create brave and grace-filled spaces for the 44,590 residents of North Park, where the median age is 35 and where almost a third of those residents identifies as nonreligious or unchurched.

Now how to reach and share God’s Good News with those 12,000 unchurched folks across the park from us is a genuine question to which we have no easy answer. We’ve got some hunches and we’d love to hear yours. I admit that these days I’m oscillating between excitement and terror as I wonder this challenge through my mind. So please keep us in your prayers, and please begin to pray for those who have not heard Good News from God or anyone else lately.

I’ve found comfort in Jeremiah’s response to God’s call to him -- "Ah, Lord God! Truly I do not know how to speak, for I am only a boy” -- you don’t mean me, right?! -- hoping beyond hope the Almighty meant the message for the kid next to him. Jeremiah had no clue how he was going to serve as a “prophet to the nations,” but he muddled through and God provided what he needed for his task.

I wish I could say that God’s calls are reserved for prophets, but I’m no prophet -- or for priests, but I was called to parenthood and marriage before my ordination. I get why Jeremiah tried to slip his way out of his call because our vocations tend to be life-changing -- and who wants that sort of trouble in their lives?

The gift though, as you know, of living out our calls is that we can see and feel clearly that our lives matter, and that what we do with our lives matters. It is a great and satisfying feeling when we see our work coming to fruition -- even if it’s as small as getting a kid ready for bed or taking our partner out for a surprise birthday dinner. We matter in the lives of others, especially when we are living out God’s dreams for us.

Here is what is so easy to forget in a society that reminds us every day that we are unworthy: not only do our lives and what we do with them matter to those around us, but our lives, each one of our lives, matters profoundly to God. And not just the fact that we’re breathing -- God cares about how we are experiencing this life we have been given. God’s call to each of us is our personalized, unique, and utterly important invitation to become fully who each of us was created to be. Each day that we walk the particular path God has designed for us we are fed. Now our vocations are not easy -- look at Jesus’! -- but they are what we need for our souls to survive and thrive in this world.

I shared with y’all a couple months ago how I’d recently realized that justice work was central to my priestly vocation. As I’ve tried to start living this out it’s been a real pain - rearranging my schedule for more night meetings is inconvenient, trying to figure out how I can best contribute is complicated, and speaking truth to power is downright scary. And yet it is how God designed me -- doing this work makes me tick. It feeds me. It gives me that deep, deep joy that only comes when we are doing what God meant for us to do.

But really, the whole call process is a pain. Who wants their life changed?

God’s business is transformation -- the death to self to make room for life with God. Discover how God made you, find out what makes you tick, and live it out as boldly as you can. You will be given what you need for the journey, though you may not know where you’re going or how to get there. And as you watch your life change carry this message of hope, this Good News, to the neighborhood around you.