Thursday, June 22, 2017

Save the Date: Light up the Cathedral /Interfaith PRIDE Celebration!

Save the date:  July 12, 7pm

Metropolitan Community Church Founder, the Reverend Troy Perry to keynote this year's Light Up The Cathedral- An Interfaith PRIDE Celebration!

St. Paul's Episcopal Cathedral and San Diego Pride will celebrate the history of Pride in San Diego on July 12th at the "Light Up The Cathedral Interfaith PRIDE Celebration! In a show of solidarity and to highlight the history of the connection between the LGBT Community and the role played by affirming faith based organizations in the 1974 LGBT protest, Metropolitan Community Church, Dignity and The Imperial Court de San Diego will be honored. To highlight the faith connection the Rev. Troy Perry, Founder of Metropolitan Community Church and internationally acclaimed Human rights activist will be our keynote speaker!

Rev Troy Perry, Founder of
Metropolitan Community Churches and Gay Rights Activist

In 1974, when homosexuality was still a criminal offense, three local LGBT activists, Nicole Murray Ramirez a drag queen, Tom Homann, a civil rights attorney and Jess Jessop, a Vietnam war vet and peace activist who would later found The LGBT Center, went to the local police department seeking a permit to hold an LGBT Pride March in the streets of downtown San Diego to commemorate the 1969 Stonewall riots and make a public demonstration for civil rights and equality for LGBT people. The sergeant at the desk refused their request and told them " there will never be a homosexual event in San Diego." That sergeant's comments were the spark that lit the fire of an organized March on the sidewalks of downtown San Diego to City Hall and set the stage for what would become San Diego Pride.

There were only 3 organizations holding public meetings at the time because of the law. As a result of the connection and partnership that developed between these three activists, the San Diego community found safe affirming meeting spaces to organize more than 200 people to a Sidewalk March through downtown In protest to demonstrate and acknowledge the existence and civil rights of the San Diego LGBT Community at City Hall, many with paper bags over their heads to hide their identity for fear of arrest. The following year 1975 a permit for a parade was issued and today San Diego Pride is the largest one day event in our City!

Please join us and The Gay Men's Chorus, numerous faith leaders, dignitaries and community personalities as we recognize Rev Troy Perry of MCC, Fr. Don Greene of Dignity and Nicole Murray Ramirez of the Imperial Court de San Diego and present them with the Light of Pride honor and Light up the Cathedral for Pride!

Ministry Updates: FOMOS

Jen Jow shares with us some ministry news

Friends of Military Outreach Service (FOMOS) - update by Susan Astarita Ministry Leader

Main Project is with Amikas (women vets with children) Emergency Sleeping Cabins which is the size of tiny homes.

Next steps: Amikas is preparing a draft strategic plan to field one model Emergency Sleeping Cabin community. The group will be seeking political and financial support for this next step in solution of homeless challenge. FOMOS/AMIKAS received good support from the Bishop, Hannah Wilder, Nancy Holland and others in the Dioceseas well as Dean Penny, Jen Jow, and the cathedral community. We will be looking for continuing support as we take next steps.

Our May 21 forum and Soldier’s story presentation postponed until November time period around armed forces Evensong.

Planning begins for events around Evensong including veteran’s arts exhibit, possible forums and other associated events. Susan A met with Tony La Bue , Daniel Foster and Ric Todd re the arts project.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Chapter Q & A

Jen Jow shares Chapter Question and Answers

 A LLC Questions and Answers
No questions this month!

B. Cathedral Sunday Bulletin and Announcement Questions
Update provided by Jeff M. – Communications Dept.
Q. Why has the outreach ministry section been left out of the announcements and the contact information? That was vital information because it was used as a resource guide, especially for those who didn’t use a computer or have access to one.
A. The old list of ministries on the back of Cathedral Life was very confusing to newcomers.
• There wasn’t room for an explanation of what the ministries did – how would a newcomer know which one to call?
• Some ministries listed were very active, and some rarely met at all
• Calling through staff ensures every call receives appropriate and pastoral follow-up without adding work for non-staff ministry leaders
• Growing number of ministries kept length difficult to manage
In short, there were lots of problems with that list.

We looked around at other churches and found almost uniformly that only staff were listed, and adopted that as our standard. We are working on a separate piece that will list all ministries and their non-staff leadership to be used as a time and talent resource for ensuring that people can find ministries that suit them. Our new Church Management System, Realm, will also provide tools for ensuring that church members can connect to ministry leaders when they need to.

It should start coming on-line in June with full rollout by the end of the year.It is a work in process!

 We will keep on making improvements, some of them liked and well received—others less so but may be necessary on a path to someplace hopefully calling us all into greater collaboration and work for our common mission.

The Sunday Sermon: Entertaining Angels Unawares

How appropriate that, on the day when our secular culture celebrates fatherhood, we read in Genesis of God's promise to Abraham that he would be the father of nations. This is the story that puts the twinkle in his eye that ultimately becomes the whole chosen people of God.

Three strangers come to Abraham's desert camp, out walking in the midday sun when any sensible person is, like Abraham, taking a nap in the shade. Who are they? The narrator tells us it is the Lord who appears, but what Abraham sees is three men, and no further clues are offered. On this first Sunday after Trinity, we are immediately reminded of God in three persons. And the promise they bring is clearly from God, a followup to the promise Abraham received in the previous chapter.

Father Abraham demonstrates impeccable middle-eastern hospitality, setting a high bar, by the way, for fathers to come. Water for dusty feet, a seat in the shade, a special feast to welcome the visitors. Imagine for a moment this 99-year old man tottering back and forth in the sun, to invite the strangers in, to bring water, to tell Sarah to get cooking, to pick out a calf for butchering, to serve the feast. And he stands by to wait on them while they eat. This is a lot of work for random strangers, and it carries an important subtext: the stranger who comes to your door is sacrosanct, because, as the letter to the Hebrews will put it centuries later, some who have welcomed strangers have entertained angels unawares.

The conversation is surprising. Where is your wife, Sarah? Evidently Abraham and Sarah are known to the travelers. And then the prophecy, and Sarah's snort of laughter.

Laughter is not common in Scripture. We have nothing in the Gospels about Jesus laughing, and almost all Biblical references to laughter are about someone sneering or mocking. But not here. Overhearing the strangers' prophecy from her spot behind the tent, Sarah can't help but laugh aloud, in disbelief, in awakened hope, in embarrassment, in sheer astonishment. Her laughter says, "Are you kidding? Me, a dried up old stick, have a baby? And look at him - he's an old man."

But, as we learn again and again in Scripture, nothing is too wonderful for the Lord. And later, after the child is indeed born, she names him Isaac, which means laughter, and she laughs again, in joy and triumph, singing, "God has brought laughter for me; everyone who hears will laugh with me."

After the mysterious strangers leave Abraham's camp, the next stop on their journey is Sodom, where they are to carry out God's punishment on the city for unspecified sins. Abraham's nephew, Lot, has learned from his uncle and, like Abraham, he goes over the top with hospitality. But the citizens of Sodom demonstrate their sinfulness by violating that sacred law. Contrary to popular belief, their sin is that they do not honor the stranger, and for this sin the city is destroyed. It is made really clear that abuse of hospitality is a cardinal sin in our story of salvation. And the thread continues in the ministry of Jesus.

In Matthew's Gospel, Jesus addresses hospitality from the other side, focusing more on the guest than the host. He sends out the disciples, two by two, to test the hospitality of the people they meet. He tries to prepare them for anything, but anyone who has ever answered the call to discipleship knows that we will encounter situations we could never have anticipated. (When I answered the call to come to St Paul's I didn't imagine that I would be using a bullhorn to bless marchers in Balboa Park and hosting press conferences.) The disciples are to go out among the people, taking no baggage and depending on those they meet for hospitality. Those who respond generously to the needs of the disciples will receive the peace of Christ. Communities that don't offer hospitality to the stranger - well, they will suffer the fate of Sodom. Only those who open their hearts to hear the good news of the Gospel from the stranger will know God's peace.

Today we are sending out disciples from St Paul's, as Matt and Katie McGinness leave San Diego for a new life in Hawai'i. We will offer them a special blessing at the end of the service. Terri Mathes just read a lesson in our pulpit for the last time this morning, before she and Jim depart for Virginia in just a couple of weeks; we will offer them our blessing on July 1. I sincerely hope that neither the McGinnesses nor the Mathes's will ever be dragged before governors and kings! In this city church we are constantly welcoming new members and saying goodbye to people we have come to love. We can think of all those who leave us as missionaries, to be sent with our blessing, carrying the peace of God with them to their new communities. And conversely, we can think of our many visitors and newcomers as holy strangers, messengers of the Gospel, sent to test our hospitality and to share good news if we are willing to hear it.

This week St Paul's was given an unusual opportunity to share the good news through the press conference we hosted, in which we were able to say to a wide audience that we are Christians who welcome everyone and rejoice in diversity, in contrast to those who call themselves Christians but who judge, condemn, and abuse those whose sexuality places them in a minority.

Each of us individually is a missionary, as we go about our daily lives in the office, in school, or in the community. We may feel rather ill-equipped to share the good news: Episcopalians generally don't get much training in sharing our faith stories.

But fear not: the cathedral staff is working on the introduction of small group ministry, which I hope will become the basic structure of all that we do here at St Paul's; and this ministry, this way of being, is intimately connected to the practice of holy hospitality.

Do you remember who welcomed you when you first came to St Paul's? For a lot of people, it was Deedra Hardman. Her mantle has passed to Pat Kreder and to our greeters' corps who watch for visitors and guide them to worship. I am struck by the number of people who, years or even decades later, remember who it was who ministered to them when they entered the cathedral for the first time. Hospitality matters, and it makes a deep impression. Wouldn't you like to be remembered in the same way? I invite you to think about how you show hospitality to our visitors here each week, and to do what you can to ensure that they will have warm memories of you in the years to come.

It's time for us to take hospitality to the next level, to what we might call radical hospitality. This means embracing those who come into our midst and taking the risk of giving them leadership roles, taking seriously their diverse gifts, and, crucially, being willing to change who we are for the sake of enriching our community. This is challenging, because it means giving up control, stretching our comfort zone, allowing transformation to take place. A lot of congregations and clergy never get there. I feel some resistance to radical hospitality myself. But the ability to stretch is actually in our Anglican DNA, thanks to the first Queen Elizabeth; and when we dare to be stretched, we will experience a holy transformation.

One way to practice this diversity in community is to form intentional small groups that pray, study, and share together, accepting that not every member will like every other member, that all of us will sometimes feel uncomfortable, but committed to giving every person a voice and vote, sacrificing our own comfort to make room for the other in our midst. Church isn't all about making friends, although that can be a wonderful side benefit. It's about being the body of Christ, about rubbing shoulders and sharing the table with people we don't understand and don't get along with. It's not like inviting friends to a dinner party in your home, because this isn't our house, this is God's house, and we are all equally guests and residents.

Everything we say about hospitality and the church also applies to our civic communities: cities, states, and nation. We are called to welcome the stranger and to open our hearts to the possibility - even the likelihood - that our community will be changed. This is a good thing: communities benefit from a diversity of leadership, from the combined creative power of multiple cultures and perspectives. We are made stronger by our diversity. In this week's dreadful fire in a 24-story apartment building in London, dozens of people perished. Fire alarms and sprinkler systems didn't work. The death toll would have been even higher if some of the residents, Muslims observing Ramadan, hadn't been up extra early to eat something before sunrise, which meant they discovered the fire and knocked on their neighbors' doors to wake them up. The beautiful diversity of that community saved lives on Tuesday night.

Stephanie Spellers, Canon for Evangelism and Reconciliation in the Episcopal Church, offers us this prayer*:
"May our hearts open to the spirit of God.
May we move beyond our fears, reaching out in trust, openness and welcome.
May our yearning for transformation create a space where God can pour more love, more trust, more compassion into us.
And may we extend the same compassion and radical welcome into the world, all for the sake of Christ."


 Year C Proper 6 June 18 2017 
The Very Rev Penelope Bridges

*Stephanie Spellers, "Radical Welcome", p. 158, Church Publishing, 2006

Friday, June 16, 2017

People's Warden Reports

Jen Jow writes,

Quarterly update from chapter meetings held in April, May, and June. If you are interested in comprehensive chapter minutes it is available by request at the front office.


• The big take away in April’s meeting is chapter approved a “Safe Church Policy” which St Paul’s has never had before. The policy is very straight forward and provides the cathedral a guideline to follow. Many months and hours were dedicated to this project by several chapter members and Dean Penny. Details of this policy is available by request at the front office.

• Lay delegates to the Convention of Episcopal Diocese of San Diego in November,2017 (alphabetical order): Elizabeth Carey, Lisa Churchill, Susan Hubert, Mark Lester, Auggie Matt, Marshall Moore, Joan Reese. Alternates: Rob Donaldson, Bill Eadie, Vicki Hppenrath, Jen Jow, Susan Mcclure, Mark Patzman, John Will

Update on Cathedral Campus Redevelopment Project (CCRP) by Dean's Warden Mark Lester.  

• New Audio Visual Equipment: Have you seen the new giant monitors located in the Great Hall? With the new equipment we can live stream and if events or services overflow we can seat people in the Great Hall and they can view/hear what is happening in the cathedral. The sound quality of PA system has greatly improved too.

• Relaunch of the Peace & Justice Ministry : email address where people can send ideas for peace and justice-oriented activities. Marshall Moore is chair of this ministry and will monitor the email address and bring possible items to the attention of executive staff for consideration. See blog for more information

Quarterly Chapter Key points and updates was presented in staff reports.

Kathleen Burgess – Director of Adminstrative and Operations
➢ Security Grant: Environmental & Historic Preservation (EHP) document that was being reviewed by FEMA for our security Grant was final approved. The caveat came with special conditions, the sub-recipient will install all equipment so its installation does not damage or cause the removal of character-defining architectural features and can be easily removed in the future.

➢ ACS & Shelby (Church Software): Decided to go with a combination of two different company’s offerings, ACS Technology’s Realm for our membership and facilities management needs and Shelby Next Financials for financial products. Conversion will be in a few weeks.

➢ AUDIO Visual Project: The sextons, Bob and I have had some basic training on the new audio and visual system installed in the Great Hall. Thank you to volunteer Todd.

➢ Cathedral Floors: once the paperwork with the insurance company is settled (thank you to chancellor Andrew Brooks for looking over the documents), we will receive the funds from the insurance company and can begin the work of repairing the floors in the cathedral.

Jeff Martinhauk – Director of Congregational Life
➢ Easter Appeal : for the first time in recent history to all active household on record. We had soft numbers and the response was not encouraging, Easter Plate was soft too.

➢ Legacy Dinner planned for June 3 in the Great Hall. Invitations and cultivating new members (10 new to date) to the legacy society.

➢ CAT Scan Launched: Takes temperature of the overall health and vitality of the congregation, discovers where members would like to go in the future an identifies the critical success factors for improving organizational climates. This scan was done a few years back and it’s time again to take another pulse check. Overall data will be sorted and delivered in a diagnostic format for the staff and People’s Warden to review and evaluate sometime the first week of July.

➢ Cathedral Life and enews redesign launched in May.

➢ KPBS: 2 ad runs completed/ 2 more to run ( 1 in fall, 1 right before Advent)

➢ Greeters at 10:30am are now using a new scheduling (Ministry Scheduler Pro) which allows automated scheduling, replacements, and reminders. Also, gives me/cathedral visibility into how volunteers are being utilized, possibly migrate this tool to other ministries. Recruited 4 new greeters and need 3-4 more volunteers to have a good pool (allows for rotation).

➢ Pride planning: Off to a great start and plan to partner with Diocese this year and trying to include other parishes in the planning as much as possible. Not going to have a booth at the festival this year and try something new to by celebrating Pride at the cathedral. Plan to have a DJ , dancing, and other “fun’ stuff to catch people on their wary from the parade to the festival and let them know that St Paul’s welcomes them. Next meeting June 14 @6:00pm at the cathedral.

David Tremaine – Director of Outreach and Formation
➢ Outreach: St. Paul’s was again represented in the annual Earth Fair in Balboa park with a table sponsored by C4CC in collaboration with Simpler Living. Phil Petrie and Simpler living worked with the C4CC and the communications to come up with a clear message about our mission as it pertains to creation care.  See photos.

➢ Showers of Blessings: Celebrated its 2-year ministry anniversary by providing showers to 23 people, haircuts to 16 people and breakfast to 85 people, totally 105 plates of food. We have also spent the month of April continuing to collect clothing for distribution at showers of blessings and had several large donations which have helped keep our clothing supply well stocked.

➢ Formation: Lenten Book Discussion and weekly small group discussions. Overall, the turnout was very good (about 70 people per week), the group was positive and we were able to create a space where people could enter into deep and meaningful dialogue across faith boundaries. It was a joy to put together and a blessing to be a part of every week. In the summer I hope to continue that dialogue in some way, and work with our faith neighbors to continue to build on the foundation of fellowship which we developed in the last couple of months.

➢ May and June Forum series: Simpler Living on Creation Care and Earth Stewardship, focusing specifically on solutions to Climate Change. Peace and Violence in our culture and our faith.

➢ Children, Youth and Families: Podcast, the “Faith To Go” for parents to engage children of all ages in faith discussion at home, so far it is running relatively smoothly. Posted opening for a Director of CYF position which we are hoping to fill soon, is vital for the life of our community as a whole and especially for the life of the CYF community and the youth group.

Betsy Monsell, Finance Committee
➢ Cash position is very good for this time of year – staying in the black.

➢ Working with Kathleen Burgess to evaluate SDGE bill and identify where we could save more dollars during peak time usage. She has already reached out to SDGE and will have more details at next meeting.

Brooks Mason, Director of Liturgy and Music – nothing new to report

Dean Penny Bridges
➢ A full accounting of much of the action mentioned above. Additionally, Chris Wells has passed away and a memorial service was held at the cathedral at the end of May.

➢ Delighted to receive from Joanne Roberts a box of historic materials pertaining to the cathedral: news clippings, programs, and photographs of St. Paul’s activities in the 1940’s to 1970’s. Her parents were very active at St. Paul’s. She even had an old church sign which is now, along with the papers, in our archives office.

➢ Attended planning meetings at the LGBT Center for the San Diego March for Equality on June 11. Wayne Blizzard will be taking this over from me, but I have been the only faith leader present at the first two meetings, and it’s significant that Pride and the Center, the co-hosts, are including the faith community. St. Paul’s will be a sponsoring organization. This doesn’t carry any financial responsibility but we will recruit marchers.

June 11, Equality March: Clergy and parishioners had a procession from the cathedral to the starting point at Sixth and Juniper. I was called to officiate a blessing at the starting point prior to the event march. More pictures on our Flickr page.

The Swan: Vigil Against Conversion Therapy

Our own Rev. Jeff Martinhauk spoke at the Vigil Against Conversion Therapy at St Paul's on Thursday night:

I want to briefly remind you of an old fairy tale by Hans Christian Anderson.

If you remember, this tale starts with a mother duck waiting for her brood to hatch. Each duckling hatches, and the mother ironically chides them to remember the world is much larger and more diverse than they can imagine in their little home.

When the last egg hatches and is a misfit, an ugly duckling, he is an outcast. He endures suffering and abuse at the hands of the other ducks and animals on the farm. Being different is not acceptable. A spiteful duck warns: “He is so big and ugly he must be turned out. I wish his mother could improve him a little.”

The mother tries to make sense of the difference: “He has remained too long in the egg,”she says, “and therefore his figure is not properly formed.” But it is no consolation to the rest of the animals, and the ugly duckling is bitten, and pushed, and made fun of because he is not the same.

He goes through abuse after abuse, and finally leaves his family seeking solace and peace. Time after time the duckling does not fit into what is “normal.” He can’t lay eggs. He can’t behave like a cat. He can’t become a hen. He can’t do anything that the other animals seem to be able to do naturally, despite their attempts to change him into what they believe he should be.

In final despair, he is ready to die. He sees some royal looking birds in the distance. He plans to fly to them, expecting them to spurn him the way he has been spurned all of his life.

He gets to them, and they rush towards him, these beautiful and majestic swans. “Kill me,” cries the ugly duckling. But as he hangs his head down in despair ready to be killed, he catches his own reflection. He is all grown up-- a beautiful and majestic-- dare we say fabulous?- swan, staring back at him. And children come to the pond and throw bread for him to eat, and cry out, “the new swan is the most beautiful of all!” And the old swans bow their heads before him. And the not-so-little-anymore bird says to himself, “I never dreamed of such happiness as this, while I was an ugly duckling.”

My friends, there are no ugly ducklings. In my tradition, the Christian tradition, it is in the waters of baptism that we claim the fabulousness that was endowed into each of us in our creation, and affirm the fabulousness that is endowed in everyone else too. As the ugly duckling’s mother said, “The world is a very big place.” There is room for all kinds of people.

There are no ugly ducklings. And let me tell you, we have some fabulous swans. And we are here, and we must never forget, that we are here to raise our wings and fly to anybody who doesn’t know yet just how fabulous they are. So let’s keep showing up where those who are outcast and tortured and picked on and told that they don’t belong and who have started to believe it themselves are. It is our job to make sure they know that they are loved and wanted and fit in just as they are, and that they are welcome, no matter what their gender identities, sexual orientations, or how else they don’t fit into somebody else’s ideas and expectations-- because they- we- are beautiful. Thanks be to God.

Monday, June 5, 2017

The Sunday Sermon: Breathe on us, Breath of God (with video)

"Breathe on us, breath of God,
fill us with life anew,
that we may love what thou dost love;
 and do what thou would'st do."
             (The Hymnal 1982, #508, alt.)

You may have heard it said that in the story of the Acts of the Apostles, the principal character is the Holy Spirit. The Pentecost story we just heard certainly gives the Spirit a leading role, as she drives the bereft and defeated friends of Jesus out into the city streets to babble, to rant, to sing and shout of the mighty acts of God. As Episcopalians who are fond of calm and order, we can probably relate to the skeptics who accused the disciples of being drunk!

It is not in our character to lose control, to be slain in the Spirit, to be caught up in ecstasy in public places. Perhaps we are the poorer for it. On this day of all days we should welcome the prophetic voice who speaks out to disturb and discomfort us; because, who knows, we might hear a word from God that makes sense to us in a new way, as those Jerusalem pilgrims once heard and understood the message of the Gospel in their own languages.

Our tradition tends to value the inner ecstasy, the contemplative transport of delight, gained from listening to a sublime piece of music or seeing the stained glass colors reflected in a sacred space. The enthusiasms of our early lives are tamed and channeled, sometimes to our detriment. The church where I first served as a priest had a tradition that on Easter Day, after both main morning services, members of both choirs would gather in the choir loft as the service ended, to sing Handel's Hallelujah Chorus as the postlude. Members of the congregation and clergy would join in if they wanted to. We made a joyful, untidy, uproarious mess of the great music. It was all very satisfying at the end of a long and intense Holy Week.

My sons sang in the choir at the time, and on the way home on this particular Easter Day one son, probably about ten at the time, told me that he felt like he had drunk three Cokes and two Mountain Dews. He was high on music and joy. I remember looking in the rearview mirror and telling him, "Never forget this feeling. Never forget that you can get this high from singing great music. You won't need drugs if you have this." He was really intoxicated with the Spirit.

Imagine if we could all experience that intoxication. Imagine a church where everyone spilled out of worship overflowing with joy and excitement about the Gospel. Imagine how we would seem to the other brunch-goers, the other park wanderers, our neighbors and co-workers, our fellow shoppers at Vons or Ralphs. Maybe they would sneer. Maybe we would find the cathedral packed next week with people clamoring for baptism. I wonder what it would take for us to allow ourselves to be swept up in the Spirit.

The Spirit continues to cause holy mayhem throughout Acts, but this is nothing new; the Spirit has been a key player in the salvation story from the start. Remembering that the Bible uses the same word for spirit and for breath, we start with Genesis: in the beginning, the Spirit or breath of God swept over the face of the deep. The Spirit brought creation to life and continued to hover, guiding Noah to land, lighting bushes on fire, sending Samuel to anoint David, filling Elijah with courage and power, raising up dry bones in the desert for Ezekiel. Isaiah proclaims the word of the Lord, in a speech adopted by Jesus as his mission statement: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, ... he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and release to the prisoners." (Isaiah 61:1)

Imagine if we could bring this good news to all those who live in captivity today, those held captive by poverty, war, mental illness, despair, and fear. Our tradition of sacred song provides us with the words we need to summon the Spirit into our midst. Are we brave enough, rash enough, to sing them with a genuine desire to be caught up in the Spirit's creative work?

"Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me.
Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me.
Melt me, mold me, fill me, use me,
Spirit of the Living God, fall afresh on me."
           (Lift Every Voice and Sing, #...)

What if we sang that song every day and meant it just as much as we mean the welcome we offer before Communion every Sunday?

The Spirit moved over the waters in the beginning of creation. There was chaos, disorder, darkness, and then there was light, light by which to discover and unfold the beauty of creation. As another hymn puts it,

"Praise the Spirit in creation, breath of God, life's origin:
Spirit, moving on the waters, quickening worlds to life within,
Source of breath to all things breathing, life in whom all lives begin."
               (The Hymnal 1982, #507)
The hymn optimistically makes "worlds" plural, but as of now we only have the one precious, beautiful, life-giving world, given into our hands to care for and to preserve. As the saying goes, there is no Plan-et B. The Spirit gave us life, the Spirit gave the world into our care, and what are we doing to show our love and appreciation? How does God want us to live? What is the Spirit saying to us today?

It seems pretty clear, from all that we have learned, that the Spirit is telling us to change our ways, to reduce our waste, to curb our appetite for luxury and comfort, to share what we have so that all of our brothers and sisters may know the fullness of life in the Spirit. It's my Pentecost prayer that all the nations of the earth will join together in this effort, and that we who are sometimes called a Christian nation will take a leadership role in the Spirit-led work of creation care.

Today is one of the great baptismal feasts of the Church, a day when we graft new Christians onto the body of Christ. The Spirit is a major actor in this sacrament, as we anoint the newly baptized, saying, "You are sealed with the Holy Spirit and marked as Christ's own for ever." You will notice that we have added a promise to the baptismal covenant, a promise to cherish the wondrous works of Creation. Each us is one of those wondrous works. As St. Paul reminds us, each of us is gifted, each of us brings something to the table for the common good. The church is a kind of living potluck. We don't get to dictate who brings dessert and who brings salad, but we trust in God to make sure we have all we need, and in joining the church we make a commitment to offer our gifts, to be used for the health of the whole body.

Paul was writing to the Corinthian Christians to correct their misapprehension that some gifts were more valuable than others. We know better. We need all the gifts: gifts of hospitality, of listening, of physical strength, of prayer, of service, of music, of generosity, of advocacy, of friendship, of discernment, of evangelism, of teaching, even of stirring things up so that the Spirit can do her disruptive and creative work. Nobody has all the gifts; all are valuable, all are part of the body. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.

I read recently that Durham Cathedral in England has 800 volunteers. I know for a fact that Durham's average Sunday attendance is a lot lower than ours, and yet they have 800 volunteers who do everything from embroidery to weeding to taking visitors on guided tours. There are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. One Lord, one Faith, one Baptism, one God and Father of all.

Jesus breathed on his disciples and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit." On this Pentecost Sunday may the holy breath of Jesus, the Holy Spirit, descend upon us and intoxicate us with joy.

June 4, 2017: the Day of Pentecost
The Very Rev Penelope Bridges

Sermon by The Very Rev. Penny Bridges, June 4th, 2017 from St. Paul's Episcopal Cathedral on Vimeo.

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