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 ToddHurrell@yahoo.com 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!

THE COMPOSITION OF THIS EXHIBITION IS ONLY PHOTOGRAPHY

KEY POINTS TO REMEMBER

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.

Yours,
Paul

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.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

The Sunday Sermon: Great Expectations


I want to register a complaint. Someone has tampered with my Bible. Just look at this Gospel reading: these verses don't describe the Jesus I like to imagine, gentle Jesus meek and mild, who came to bring love and unity, to heal all wounds and to teach us from his limitless store of patience and kindness, who tells stories of lost lambs and prodigal sons. This Jesus is impatient, driven, confrontational, and judgmental. It must be a mistake.

Or, if it isn't a mistake, maybe I need to adjust my expectations. Isaiah knew about adjusting expectations. Isaiah spoke God's truth to a people who had forgotten that they were God's people, at a time when God's word was withering on the vine and the reign of God seemed remote. The song of the vineyard is a song of dashed expectations, of sour berries instead of juicy grapes, of investments wasted, of heartbreak where there should have been joy. Israel, God's vineyard, has become a wasteland, with bloodshed instead of justice, of wailing instead of righteousness.

This isn't the only time God's people have disappointed their Creator. Scripture is one long series of dashed expectations, of God's loving care squandered in greed and selfishness, of promises broken, of peace rejected in favor of violence. The prophets, one after another, call our attention to the distance between God's expectations and the reality of God's people. And we've all been there. We've all known relationships that didn't measure up to our expectations, that disappointed us, that fell short of what we had hoped for. It's part of being human.

But in the story of God and God's people there has always also been that thread of faithfulness, the determined minority who would not allow Israel to sever herself completely from her God and who kept the promises alive. The letter to the Hebrews recites a list of the great heroes of faith, who never gave up on God, who believed in the promises even when they seemed utterly ridiculous. The passage we've just heard is the end of that list, which started where last week's reading ended, with the definition of faith as the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen, and which provided the examples of Abel, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, and Moses, as well as the rest of the cloud of witnesses in today's reading.

But above all there is Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, described by Luke as a sort of super-prophet, the Jesus we know through the healings and the parables, and the Jesus who confronts us in this inconvenient Gospel passage.

This is a Jesus who is driven and urgent. You'll recall that in previous verses he has set his face towards Jerusalem. He is dangerously single-minded in following the path God calls him to. He will go to Jerusalem to confront the unfaithfulness of Israel as the ancient prophets once did, regardless of the likely consequences. Jesus does not come to maintain the status quo, but to shake up the world, to bring a purifying fire to the earth. He expresses the same frustration as his prophetic forerunners. He knows that not all of Israel will hear his message because it has ever been thus. History proves that those who heed the prophetic voice are always in the minority. The return to God is never easy or unanimous.

There seem to be three distinct messages in this passage from Luke: the fulfillment of Jesus's fiery mission; the inevitable conflict of loyalties within families; and the inability even of those seeking salvation to understand the full nature of faithfulness. In a Gospel written by a master story-teller, this mish-mash of sayings seems clumsy and out of character, a sort of PS at the end of a long section on discipleship that hurriedly adds the rest of the sayings that must be passed on. Luke knows that these sayings are too important to omit, even if they don't flow gracefully within the story. They are important because they reveal a dimension to Jesus that we might otherwise miss.

Every human being has complexities and inconsistencies. It's part of being human, and it's part of what makes us interesting to each other. The great novelists and playwrights know this: the flawed hero is more compelling; the hidden wounds in a character draw sympathy from the reader; the multi-dimensional individual more easily becomes someone we can have a relationship with, even if they exist only on the page or on the stage.

Luke, like all evangelists, wants his Gospel story to draw us into a relationship with Jesus. He wants to paint a picture of someone fully human, someone we can imagine, someone as real to us as our own family members. The master story teller includes details that create tension, inconsistencies that ring true because we are inconsistent, flaws that are believable because everyone is flawed. In these awkward instances of impatience, of divisiveness, of judgment, the image of the man Jesus springs to life and becomes someone we can believe in, know, and love. He is entirely human. But he is unique, because, unlike all other human beings, he will not disappoint our expectations. Jesus alone lives up to our hopes for a love that will not quit, a friendship that is totally and eternally reliable. That's the divine part of him.

These verses make us squirm a little. For some of us they may awaken painful memories of family conflicts, of being rejected or judged by the church, of the kind of single-mindedness that, unchecked, leaves devastated communities in its wake; but they add something valuable to the story of salvation. As uncomfortable as these verses are, they offer us a dimension to Jesus that allows him to be for us all that Scripture promises: a fully human and fully divine Savior, a friend and companion, a teacher and healer, a beloved who will never let us down.

St Paul's Cathedral is a community of human beings. Each of us is flawed and imperfect. But we seek to offer a space where all are welcome and all sides can be heard. We want to be available for important public conversations, and that means that we must be willing to endure conflict, to hear opinions we don't care for, to get along with people who aren't always easy to get along with. If we are to create a world where peace, justice, and righteousness prevail, we must do the hard work of reconciliation, a task that seems harder with every passing day. This encounter with the impatient Jesus reminds us that there is some urgency to our task. Just as Jesus longed to fulfill his mission, so we long for a world where all are served, all are welcome. But the prophets' voices are still heard lamenting the faithlessness of God's people, and the Kingdom of God is still under construction.

And so we will take to heart the words of the Hebrews writer, words that seem peculiarly timely on a day when the Olympics are taking place: "Let us lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith."

August 14, 2016 Proper 15 
The Very Rev. Penelope Bridges 

Friday, August 12, 2016

Pardon our dust: the Great Hall Bathroom Renovation

The unused stairway, viewed from the Great Hall level
Everyone agrees that the restrooms in the Great Hall have needed work for some time. Peeling paint and crumbling tile is not the worst of it; the fixtures are very old, and they have been a source of frustration to many.

 At last, the Great Hall Bathroom Renovation is underway! This will re-build the downstairs men's and women's rooms, and add a new, gender neutral accessible restroom on the same level as the great hall.

To facilitate this expansion, the unused stairway on the north-west side of the Great Hall is being demolished.

These photos show the "before", and the ongoing state of the work beginning with the demolition of the stairway and the old men's room.


The original men's room


Demo begins
Demo continues


Demo proceeds

The original men's room, now









Tuesday, August 9, 2016

August Chapter Musings

 During the quiet summer months, the Chapter and staff of St. Paul’s Cathedral are busy at work managing the complex, varied and interconnected aspects of Cathedral life. While Chapter meetings are often full of vibrant discussion and clarification, the August meeting this past Tuesday is truly worthy of an Olympic Gold medal! The staff, regular and occasional, Warden’s and Dean’s reports were received with little commentary and our work was completed in record time!

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

Staff reports –

  • Kathleen Burgess – Administrative Operations – Work is moving forward on the Great Hall Bathroom Remodel. New and less restrictive kitchen use policy is being developed.
  • Robin Taylor – Children, Youth and Family (CYF) – The tie-dyed Pride t-shirts are a huge hit! So too are the interesting (and growing) Lego creations on exhibit. Culmination of collaborative 4-month baccalaureate program with service in July. Camp Spirit coming in Aug.
  • The Rev Laurel Mathewson – Christian Formation – Solid turn-out for the summer book study
  • The Rev. Jeff Martinhauk – Congregational Development and Stewardship – Year-round stewardship series kicked off July 31.
  • The Rev. Canon Brooks Mason – Liturgy and Music – Taking a well-deserved and much-needed vacation. Will return later this month
  • The Rev. Colin Mathewson – Outreach, Mission and Latino Ministry – Jen Jow and Jeff Green have agreed to co-lead the Outreach Committee

Regular and Occasional Reports

  • Endowment – N/A
  • Buildings and Ground – Bob Oslie – Covered in the Administrative Operations report.
  • Finance Committee – Betsey Monsell – See Audit Committee below.
  • Audit Committee –Alan Cornell, Pat Kreder and Mark Patzman
  • Resolution to accept audited financial for 2014 and 2015 was presented, seconded and approved. BIG NEWS!! We will have our audited financials turned into the Diocese before the September 1 deadline for the first time in recent memory. Well done!
  • LLC – Ken Tranbarger – Regular report and financials submitted. Reviewing sale possibility of Laurel Bay condo.


Wardens’ Reports

  • People’s Warden – Elizabeth Carey – Grateful to Mark Lester for taking over the blog post for July due to unexpected extension of vacation.
  • Dean’s Warden – Mark Patzman – Recent promotion at work (!) which amazes me since he spends SO much time on Cathedral matters.
  • Dean’s Report – Penny Bridges – Second cohort of Stephen Ministers is in training; gift received for a comprehensive audiovisual system for the cathedral and Great Hall


Old business 

  • Dashboard metrics review – Dashboard for Aug 2016 Meeting.pptx
  • 2016 Mutual Ministry Review – Scheduled for 9/17 at the Cathedral.
  • Nominating Committee Policy – Many thanks to Mark Lester (again!) for clarifying and simplifying the nominating process for future Chapter members. A motion to accept the policy was seconded and accepted. Please join the Dean and Warden’s for the Forum on Sunday, September 4 at 9 am to learn first hand about the process. Bring your questions.
  • North Park Project update – The Diocese distributed a letter via email on this afternoon (Fri 8/5) regarding the collaboration between St. Paul’s Cathedral and St. Luke’s Church in North Park. A copy of the letter can be found here http://edsd.org/courage-and-imagination-for-twenty-first-century-ministry/ This is an exciting opportunity to fulfill the guidelines of our Vision for Mission. While we will formally say good-bye to Colin and Laurel on September 25, the collaboration with them as vicars-in-charge at St. Luke’s will keep us in close connection. We also welcomed to Chapter as a new member Dexter Semple from St. Luke’s. He will fulfill the place vacated by Cathey Dawdle as an appointee of the Diocese on our Chapter.

New business 

  •  Chapter Service Forum – As noted above, schedule for September 4 at 9 am
  • Date of next meeting – September 6, 2016

Appreciations, Regrets and Closing Prayer

Until next month, I am your People’s Warden,
 Elizabeth Carey.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

The Sunday Sermon: God provides

Before I was a parish priest I served a children’s hospital as a chaplain. It was a rich experience and I was honored to be invited in to some of the most sacred moments of people’s lives. I got to see both the best and the worst of humanity working in my capacity at the hospital.

In one particular case, the parents were very wealthy. Their child needed surgery. The physician explained carefully and slowly to the parents that the OR was scheduled in order of medical need to ensure each child would receive the care that is most urgent and appropriate. Their child was third in line for the OR that day based on her current condition.

A few minutes after the conference ended, the father approached the physician alone in the hall and asked what size donation would be required to move his child to the front of the surgery line that day so his child would not have to wait.

Now a sermon on the ethics of money and health care is not really my focus today. But I hope that it surprises you that someone would ask to risk another child’s life putting their own child’s life first because they had more money. Fortunately, the Catholic hospital did not think twice about the value of the other lives involved and declined his offer. But my job then was to figure out how to comfort these angry and frightened parents who, in their fear for their own child, reached out in the only way they knew how-- the way the world has trained them. They believed their financial worth should have saved them from this distress.

I hope you don’t think I’m painting the father as a villain. I understand where he is coming from. I have lived the life of that father. In my life before being a priest, I was at the top of the food chain by all accounts-- I had a great title in a huge company, I was making lots of money, and I genuinely didn’t know that there was anything else to be had. The only thing I knew to work for was to make more money. Where in this society are we to get any different message? Sr. Simone Cambell- the nun on the bus- recently said it this way: “right now, what drives corporate America is winning. And the measure of winning is getting more money. It is a game, and the measure of your success in that game is how much more you can obtain.”

In my own life, my call to the priesthood came in part when I woke up from that game and realized that money had left me with an around-the-clock schedule- conference calls to staff in India and the Philippines in the middle of the night that would leave me exhausted, a life so full of trying to get to the next level of what Sr. Simone described that I didn’t know my own children very well. So, after getting a different message about the value of money from an Episcopal Church, I did the reasonable thing. I became an Episcopal priest.

Jesus is faced with an inheritance dispute today. We all know somebody whose otherwise happy family has been torn apart by an inheritance dispute. Jesus seems to know there would be no happy way to mediate such a dispute when asked by this bystander in the crowd. He wisely sidesteps and responds with a parable about a fool who gives no consideration to the abundance provided to him except to hoard it all for his own leisure. At the end of the passage there is an exhortation instead to be rich towards God.

Extreme examples may make it seem easy to prioritize money down. “Of course I will give up money if somebody is going to die, or at least I hope I will.” But is it so clear if it is a choice between losing money and… friendship? Family? Neighbors? Justice? Community? Compassion? What are we willing to sell? Money is not bad in and of itself. We need money, and we need to plan and save just as Joseph instructed Pharaoh to save for times of famine in the Hebrew Scriptures. But do we as Christians have a clearly defined place for money in our lives and in the life of the church so that we know when we are selling out or hoarding, and at what cost?

And that is the very question Jesus asks in the gospel today.

This passage serves as a bridge between two important sections of this chapter in Luke. Just before this section, Luke has had Jesus remind us that the call to follow Jesus is not going to be easy. He says things like, “"I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that can do nothing more” and "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat, or about your body, what you will wear. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing." Luke’s gospel isn’t real high on money because Luke is preparing his audience to go out and be in a real-world struggle with real-world costs, to work for the kingdom that Jesus is proclaiming where it means something-- it really means something- to be the beloved community of God. Sitting around building bigger barns for bigger crops just isn’t Luke’s priority.

And in the section after, Luke has Jesus move on to reminding his followers that God provides no matter what. If they are going to go out, they have to be reminded that it isn’t the stuff in the barns they need to stock up on. It is that God is with them. The God that took them through the desert and provided manna will continue to provide. This God is a God that is looking out for you, and you’ve got to remember that even when it's hard and when you get scared and go back and think you might want to build a big barn to store stuff instead of going out in the world doing the work of the kingdom.

Luke isn’t talking to some far away audience long ago. Luke is talking to you and to me here and now. Because this God is a God that has got you. And this God has got me. And this God has got us tight. And this God is never gonna let us go. But if we’re so worried about how much we’ve got in the barn, or building a bigger barn, or who has a bigger barn than us, or whatever, than it's really hard to see the amazing things God is doing right here and right now. And it's really easy to sell out, and to pursue things that don’t matter. But God provides what does matter.

And that’s why we have to talk about money now and always in the church, not just during a fall campaign. And it's why we as the church have to talk about Stewardship not as fundraising, but Stewardship as how we care and make decisions about what God is providing for us, not just in money, but in relationships, in community, in the earth, in our bodies, and yes, in money. Every week the whole second part of this service is about reflecting on what we have been given. We offer all of our lives and all of our labor to be swept up and we give back to God at this table each week as we receive yet again. We don’t believe anything is really ours to begin with. “All things come of thee o Lord… And of thine own have we given thee.” We give to God what God has provided us. If it is your practice to give online instead of in the plate, then I invite you to pull this card out of the pew rack, and give of yourself in worship by saying a prayer of thanks for some element of your life over it and drop it in the plate so that some part of you comes forward in the liturgy to be blessed and offered up in the Great Thanksgiving. It's important.

This is not pray and prosper. Those are the ministries that say God gives because you have been good. That view has no room for grace, because if you aren’t good or if you don’t pray, then God doesn’t bless you.

But God doesn’t work that way- in fact God works exactly the opposite way. It’s prosper and pray. God doesn’t give because we have been good; God gives because God is good. God gives in ways that may be surprising, and may require some searching. What does prosper really mean for us as Christians? Our call is to stop chasing long enough to find those gifts, reflect on our lives and then to make sure our lives are reflective of that giving. “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Do not be afraid little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” God is good. God has got you, and God is not gonna let go.

You know, at the hospital I was always amazed. The ones who excelled at coping, who were able to be grateful even in the midst of sorrow-- to grieve even while keeping faith-- they could be poor, or have money, or come from anywhere. But I was always inspired by their sense of gratitude. Their child could be so sick and they would find something to be thankful for. Some might say, “I am so glad my child has somebody to sit with them, because those children next door are all alone.” Or some would say, “I am very sad my child is sick, but I am so grateful that we have such good doctors.” Or some would even say, “I am so glad I have had the privilege of just having these few days with such a beautiful human.” Gratitude didn’t negate the tragedy of what some of them endured, or take away anger, or grief. But it opened a window into the blessings that came despite the tragedy, and helped remind them of just where and how our generous God stands with us, always.

The Rev. Jeff Martinhauk 
Proper 13C 
Luke 12:12:13-21 
St. Paul’s Cathedral, San Diego 

Thursday, July 28, 2016

The Sunday Sermon: Prayer: the Church's Banquet

What do the following things have in common? The church calendar. A speech at the Republican National Convention. Chapel chairs. The Lord's Prayer in Spanish. The weather. Dvorak's String Quartet number 11. The office hours for the veterinarian. The hospitalization of a cathedral member. They are all thoughts that scampered through my head during my morning meditation one day this week. I struggle to focus on God alone for ten minutes at the start of my day. My mind rarely cooperates. I am no prayer expert. But I keep trying. I have to believe that God appreciates the effort. And I know that this tiny drop of silent prayer in my day is something that I need. I need the discipline of prayer, even when I'm no good at it. I need those moments alone with God, even and especially when my busy mind is offering constant distraction.

What does prayer look like to you? Do you have favorite prayers that you memorize or read? Do you pray through a list of names? Do you read Scripture and meditate on its meaning for you? Perhaps you say Morning Prayer or Evening Prayer as prescribed by the Book of Common Prayer. The writer Anne Lamott says there are, essentially, only three prayers: Thank you, Help, and Wow; but somehow we manage to expand those three phrases into whole books full of prayers.

Episcopalians are perhaps especially attached to well-crafted prayers. After all, we are formed by the grace and elegance of the Prayer Book, and it sets a high bar. Do you take care with your words when you engage with God? Do you ever feel that your own words aren't adequate? I've been trying to memorize the Lord's Prayer in Spanish. I want to get it right, to say exactly the right thing, which is ridiculous, because it's impossible to translate exactly what someone speaking Aramaic 2000 years ago would have intended to say. But nonetheless I want to pray the way El Libro de Oración Común dictates, because in some sense that's the "right" way to pray.

At yesterday's Stephen Minister training class, we talked about prayer. We practised praying for one another and we learned how to build a prayer. I think it's fair to say that most of the class found it to be a challenging exercise. Many of us prefer to use someone else's words, written down and preferably published. Perhaps we are afraid to say the wrong thing, in case - what? In case we offend God? In case we are struck by lightning? In case God turns away from us? There are recent examples of very public prayers that were poorly expressed, to say the least, and we don't want to risk that. Whatever the reason, we are shy about extemporaneous prayer. So we take refuge in safe prayers, tried and true, scrubbed and polished.

These are tumultuous times in our world. Every day there is news of another mass shooting or bombing, and our poltical system seems to be spiralling down into some kind of alternate reality.

What can we do when the world is going to hell in a handbasket? I see a lot of calls on social media for prayer, and I see an equal number of rants that prayer isn't going to change anything: what's needed is action. But prayer isn't only words or silent meditation. There are times when the prayer book isn't enough, when prayer should be passionate, incoherent, even ungrammatical. Times when all we can do is weep or rage or stand before God in silent shock. Prayer doesn't have to involve words to be genuine, profound, and transformative.

Prayer can be action. Standing in Tiananmen Square in front of a tank can be a prayer. Throwing your body between a bullet and its intended victim can be a prayer. Nursing someone dying of an infectious disease can be a prayer. Stepping onto the college campus for the first time can be a prayer. Singing in the choir or handing out bulletins can be a prayer. Voting can be a prayer. Naming your children to protest the state of the world, as Hosea did, can be a prayer.

When someone tells you that prayer is not enough, consider all those methods of prayer. Just as our concept of God is often too small, so is our concept of prayer. It's not a laundry list or a magic formula. It's a way of saying that I am with God and God is with me. We have a living relationship and nothing will break us apart. My prayer is my participation in a conversation that is ongoing, among the persons of God and between God and creation.

In Luke's Gospel, Jesus is a person of prayer. It may be assumed in the other Gospels, but Luke makes a point of telling us that Jesus regularly took time away for private prayer, and we are not told the content of his prayer. Except for the passage we just read, when the disciples let their curiosity get the better of them. Like good Episcopalians, they want to know the secret of "good" prayer. And the words Jesus gives them have become the most universal Christian prayer of all.

The Lord's Prayer works because it meets us where we are. It doesn't set high bars for us to meet, but it covers all the bases. Praying "thy Kingdom Come" is a reminder that we are committed to the transformation of the world. Asking for our daily bread reminds us to give each day full attention, not to hoard our resources but to be ready to ask again tomorrow and the next day and the next. Forgiveness by God is measured against our own efforts to forgive: no cheap grace here, but a strong incentive to practice a Christlike quality.

When we ask that we might be spared the time of trial, we echo Jesus's own very human prayer in the garden before his arrest: "Father, if it's your will, let this cup pass from me; but yet not my will but yours be done, for yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory." We pray for deliverance from evil, in whatever guise it may appear: in greed, discrimination, abuse, violence, manipulation, disease, and so much more. We need that prayer today more than ever, with all the pressure to give in to fear and build walls between ourselves and the rest of humanity.

The Lord's Prayer is a prayer all Christians can share, regardless of denomination or theological position. A worship service without it feels incomplete, and it unites a disparate congregation at a wedding or a funeral.

On the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem there's a Carmelite convent where the Lord's Prayer is displayed in more than one hundred languages, a vivid illustration of the commonality of Christian prayer across the globe. At a conference I attended in May we were invited to say the Lord's Prayer in the language most comfortable for us. It was wonderful to hear the murmuring and the cadences of English, Spanish, Maori, Mandarin, and perhaps other tongues, all expressing the same intimate relationship with Abba, our Father.

Whatever is best in human relationships, suggested by Jesus as the warmth and self-giving of a close parent-child relationship, our relationship with God is like that only much more so. God knows what we need and God provides it, even when we ourselves don't know what it is that we truly need.

We need to be persistent in prayer, not because we will wear God down, but because it's a relationship worth pursuing, whether or not we feel like it, whether or not it seems like God is paying attention, whether or not our prayers are answered as we wish. The exercise itself is worth while because it is through prayer that we become able to perceive God's action and presence in the world and in our lives. By being persistent, we come closer to God because God models persistence. God is persistent in loving us whatever we say or do. God never gives up on us, and so our response is to be equally persistent.

Our relationship with God through Christ is where all relationships begin. When we pay attention to that relationship, to that commitment, we will be better equipped to deal with everything else that comes our way, whether betrayal, loss, fear or anxiety. In this anxious and fearful age we need prayer more than ever, to keep our roots strong and nurture us through uncertainty and change.

I will keep on struggling through my morning meditation, fielding all those stray thoughts and worries and dragging my attention back to God; I will keep on for as long as it takes, which means as long as I live. Prayer is a conversation that never ends, a door that never closes, a practice that humbles our pride, calms our fears, and carries us into the presence of the one who loves us more than we can imagine.

July 24, 2016 
The Very Rev Penelope Bridges

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Chapter Meeting Highlights for July

Summer may be here, but the Cathedral’s board of directors, or Chapter, continues to meet. People’s Warden Elizabeth Carey was traveling at the time of the July 5 Chapter meeting, so I volunteered to provide the update this month.

Bishop Mathes joined us for dinner, prayer, and the first hour of our formal meeting, and it is always good to have him with us. In addition to giving us an opportunity to check in with him, he offered high praise for the way the entire St. Paul’s community is living into the role of a modern cathedral, citing specifically the recent outreach to the city at the time of the Orlando tragedy. He also encouraged us to redouble our outreach both to the city and the diocese, and to this end the Chapter passed a resolution to provide increased support to St. Luke’s, in North Park, as part of our ongoing relationship with that congregation.

Following Bishop Mathes’s departure, Chapter had an opportunity to discuss and ask questions about any of the regular reports that are submitted to it on a monthly basis by clergy, the wardens, and other staff and ministry leaders. Perhaps the most important item out of these reports was from Treasurer Betsey Monsell, who told us that audits had been completed for 2014 and 2015, and that the auditor provided an unqualified, or clean opinion. This is huge, since it “closes the book” on the period of our less than adequate financial reporting following our transition to fund accounting. We now know precisely where we stand, and clear, accurate and appropriate financial records are maintained.

Chapter reviewed the latest “dashboard metrics.” We have been working on an online dashboard that will allow us to keep an eye on the pulse of Cathedral activities, insofar as they can be measured. We hope to be able to share some of these metrics with the congregation in the near future.

Two members of Chapter, Joan Reese and Alan Cornell, were nominated to serve on a subcommittee to consider any additional entitlements for additions to the Cathedral that might be needed along with the plans for development of the Olive Street parcel. Joan and Alan will work with both Cathedral staff and LLC managers to this end.

It was reported that a facilitator has been engaged to work with the Dean and Wardens as they begin the process for a Mutual Ministry Review. Mutual Ministry Agreements are a standard part of the letters of agreement that rectors and deans in this diocese (and throughout most of TEC) enter into with their respective vestries/chapters. Reviews of both the clergy and vestry, based on these agreements, are to be conducted annually.

A draft version of a procedure for Nominating Committees to follow when developing slates of Chapter candidates was presented and discussed; with feedback from our Chancellor, Andrew Brooks, it was returned to the subcommittee that developed it, for revision. It will be reconsidered at our next meeting.

The date of the October meeting was pushed back one week, until October 11, due to a scheduling conflict with the Diocesan Clergy Retreat.

The meeting adjourned after appreciations, regrets and prayer.

-Mark Lester

Monday, July 18, 2016

The Sunday Sermon: The Challenge of God's Grace

St Paul's welcomed the Rev Michael Kinnamon for both the forum and the sermon on Pride Sunday.


Grace and peace to you in the name of our savior, Jesus Christ! I give thanks for the ministry God has done through the St. Paul’s community, including your ministry to the homeless, your support of Dorcas House, your concern for the environment, and your active, outspoken welcome of persons who identify themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, or queer. The original St. Paul instructed the Romans to “welcome one another, just as Christ has welcomed you, to the glory of God.” I understand that you take this to heart by making sure there are no “visitors” at St. Paul’s. Thank you for making me, and others, feel at home.

Of course, I think you’ll agree that if through this cathedral people are welcomed, the needy are served, and justice is done, it is not our accomplishments we celebrate, but God’s gifts for which we give thanks. In this sense, the Pride parade yesterday, seen through Christian eyes, was not simply a celebration of gay rights and dignity, but a testimony to the welcoming, liberating grace of God.

It was with this in mind that I decided, when your wonderful Dean first invited me, to preach about grace. But then came Orlando, a horrifying assault on the LGBTQ community, followed by Dhaka and Istanbul and Baghdad and Baton Rouge and Minneapolis and Dallas and Nice and the brutal murders of homeless men here in San Diego. And so I need to preface my sermon by reminding us that grace is so precious because the world remains so broken. One thing I love about the Episcopal Church is your insistence on taking seriously the whole Christian tradition. That tradition, on the one hand, is realistic: It knows about the depth of sin and the toll it can take on the human family, on God’s creation. We should never “get used” to the violence and exclusion of this world, but neither should we be caught off guard by it. The world is, by no means, as God would have it. The Christian tradition is realistic about this. The church has a heavy agenda as participants in God’s mission.

On the other hand, Christians are also insistently hopeful, trusting that the Holy Spirit is at work around us. If you didn’t see the presence of the Spirit when Ireland voted to approve same sex marriage, or the Boy Scouts changed their membership standard to exclude exclusion on the basis of sexual orientation, or the Roberts’ court ruled that same sex couples have a Constitutional right to marry in all fifty states, then you may not have been paying enough attention! Realistic and hopeful. Actively lamenting the tragedy of human sin; actively celebrating the presence of God’s grace. End of preface.

***

I don’t think I’ve ever started a sermon with an axiom before, but here goes: If you want to be sure of being wrong, try to determine the boundaries of God’s grace. We learn in scripture that Israel’s identity was rooted in a special relationship with God, the One who had delivered them from bondage. But listen also to this word from the Lord as delivered by the prophet Amos: “Yes, I brought Israel up from the land of Egypt. But didn’t I also bring the Philistines from Caphtor and the Arameans from Kir? Are you not like the Ethiopians to me?” What a shocking thought that must have been! Almost as shocking as the Book of Ruth in which the instrument of God’s saving work is a Moabite woman, or the Book of Jonah in which the prophet learns to his horror that God cares for the people of Ninevah with the same generous compassion that God has shown toward Israel. How, he frets, can God be so indiscriminate?!

Please say it with me: If you want to be sure of being wrong, try to determine the boundaries of God’s grace. One of the seminal memories in the development of early Christianity is that recorded in the passage we heard from Acts 10. Peter, you recall, has a dream that challenges his inherited notions of what is clean and what is unclean; and it opens him to associate with, of all things, a Gentile. “I now understand,” says Peter, “that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears God and does what is right is acceptable to the Lord.” Finally, he goes to the great council in Jerusalem where he tells them, “Yes, I know what parts of scripture say about Gentiles. But, you see, there is this man Cornelius–and the Spirit is in him.” We know what parts of the Anglican Communion have said about sexual orientation. But, you see, there is this bishop named Robinson– and the Spirit is in him.

Communities throughout history have set up boundaries to determine who is in and who is out, who is worthy and who is not. But, as Peter learns, God’s grace doesn’t operate according to rules of our devising. And, thus, our identity, as those who live in thankful recognition of such grace, should be marked by an expanding sense of wholeness, not fearful, defensive contraction.

This brings us to our other reading for this morning, what may be the most astonishing text in the entire New Testament. The key figure, as recorded in Mark 7, is a Gentile woman of Syrophoenician origin–the ultimate outsider, little more than a dog in the eyes of many of the contemporaries of Jesus. And, in fact, when she pleads with him to heal her daughter, Jesus responds with an anti-Gentile cliché: “Let the children [that is, the descendants of Abraham] be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children’s food [the good news of God’s grace] and throw it to the dogs”!

In order to understand this disturbing passage, we need to acknowledge how the basic sickness of human society has much to do with “zero-sum thinking,” what some call the  “economy of scarcity.” Racism, sexism, class prejudice, homophobia–all those attitudes which force some people to live as underdogs in our midst–get their impetus from this idea that there is not enough wealth or respect or power or grace to go around. In order for me and my group to be up, someone else has got to be down.

But, says Jesus throughout the New Testament, it is not this way in the household of God. In the household of God, there is more than enough forgiveness and joy for everyone. In the household of God, where there are no “visitors,” no one need go hungry because even the crumbs of God’s banquet are satisfying.

The irony, of course, is that this outsider must remind Jesus of his own message. Okay, the nourishing food of the gospel may have been served to others first, but (notice the imagery) it spills over the table, and there is more than enough for everyone. For far too long, Christians have used the gospel to declare that God loves especially us and our kind. But the logic of the gospel is that God has been gracious, not only to us, but even to us–though we may have gone to work in the vineyard (you remember the parable) late in the afternoon.

If you want to be sure of being wrong, try to determine the boundaries of God’s grace. You know as well as I that the Bible is frequently used to validate our various prejudices, to pronounce with certainly that God’s favor is here and not there. But it is a monstrous misuse! Taken as a whole, scripture repeatedly exposes the narrowness of our affections and the pettiness of our exclusions, including those sometimes found within scripture itself.

Let’s come at this another way, with specific reference to our focus on this Pride Sunday. Recent years, as we noted earlier, have seen a tremendous change in public attitude toward persons whose sexual orientation or gender identity is not that of the majority. For which we say, “Thanks be to God!” That’s the hopeful side; now the realistic. Far from being in the vanguard of such social change, such social liberation, much of the church in this country continues to regard the newly-public support for gay rights as a sign of moral relativism that must be opposed in the name of biblical truth. Gracious welcome is treated as a sign of weakness, as if those with firm convictions about the gospel will always want to draw firm boundaries to exclude persons who are different.

Thus, friends, it is crucial for us to say “No!”. If you want to set boundaries on God’s favor, if you want to treat people as categories instead of looking for the Spirit at work in them, then you are sure to be wrong! You have missed the good news.

I was privileged to preach at Riverside Church in New York City on the 25th anniversary of Stonewall. It was a joyous service! And at its conclusion, a thousand persons in the congregation, maybe more, left to join the parade through mid-town Manhattan. But the previous evening, I had gone with a group from Riverside to Yankee Stadium for the closing of the Gay Games (a kind of parallel to the Olympics), where throughout the festivities the church was, understandably, the butt of jokes, not a source of inspiration. It was incredibly painful.

Allow me one other memory. Twenty-five years ago, I was the search committee’s nominee to be the General Minister and President (to translate that into Episcopalese, the Presiding Bishop) of my denomination, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)–a nomination that was defeated at our General Assembly (the only time that has happened) because I was a member of GLAD: Gay Lesbian and Affirming Disciples. During the period between the nomination and the assembly, I had a number of interesting encounters–including an invitation to speak at a forum hosted by our church’s right-wing group, where I was received as warmly as President Obama would be at a convention of the NRA.

I have to tell you, however, that we immediately found common ground, because the moderator began by declaring that “Homosexuality is the defining issue of our age.” And I told him: “For once, I think you’re right!” This struggle is an opportunity to proclaim again, in our generation, the superabundance of grace. Paul faced the challenge of exclusivity, the push to put limits on grace, over the issue of circumcision. Peter faced it over questions of what is clean and unclean. Our 19th century ancestors faced it over slavery. During the past century, our churches have wrestled with it over questions of racial justice and the role and status of women–struggles, I add, that are clearly not finished. And now it is our turn to keep faithful witness to the One who has made us as we are, who values us all equally, and who loves without limitation.

Those of us who marched yesterday under the glorious banner of St. Paul’s Cathedral were not there as single-issue people, but as gospel people. It is not simply the rights of an often-excluded and demeaned community that we proclaim, but the wondrous news of the unboundaried grace of God–to whom be the glory forever and ever!


The Rev. Michael Kinnamon, Ph.D.
St. Paul’s Episcopal Cathedral San Diego

July 17, 2016