Thursday, December 7, 2017

People's Warden: December Update

Chapter Colleagues – notable updates, cathedral news and events

A.  LLC Comments, Questions and Answers
Q. Will there be any updates on what the next phase will be with Greystar? Demo date?
A. Mark Lester will be posting an update on the blog by the end of the month. Demo will commence sometime in 2019 but the start date can shift dependent upon the buyer. In my past career working with customers on new building projects (not as large as ours) was quite challenging, everyone was protective of their own little domain so seeing eye to eye was not an easy task. Read the blog and if you have more questions I am here to listen or feel free to reach out to other chapter members.

This month there has been no questions just heard a lot of chatter and rhetorical comments (not minimizing) or concerns in passing from the congregation. I believe that chapter and staff should be aware of the buzz.

  • It seems that all we do is help the homeless and not fund other ministries.
  • Are we a cathedral or a parish because it seems we just cater to the homeless and more are around campus?
  • It seems scary during coffee hour, there is quite a few homeless folks lingering around.
  • Why can I never find a sexton – there’s no toilet paper or paper towels in the bathrooms.
  • Do we allow homeless people at our events, it seems they wander in and it’s ok?
  • Attendance seems less.
  • Wonder if I should let my kids eat the food, is it safe? (ref – clean hands touching or preparing)?
  • Armed Forces Day Evensong was wonderful, they finally got someone young and energetic to deliver the sermon; reception was great too.
  • Transgender forum was informative.
  • Formation classes have been good.
  • Don’t like lay people calling about my pledge.

C. Events

  • Saturday – Dec 2 – December Nights at the Cathedral 5:00-9:00pm
  • Sunday - Dec 3 – Advent Procession 5:00 – 6:30pm
  • Tuesday – Dec 5, 12, 19 – Free Organ Recital 12:30 – 1:30pm
  • Thursday – Dec 7 – Women Together 6:00 – 8:00pm
  • Saturday – Dec 9 – Showers of Blessings - 6:30 -11:30 am
  • Sunday – Dec 10 – Alternative Gift Expo – 9:00am – 2:00pm
  • Saturday – Dec 16 – Las Posadas (bilingual service with a Eucharistic service and a traditional re-enactment of Mary and Joseph's search for shelter). A community meal with activities for children will follow. 5:00 – 6:00pm
  • Sunday - Dec 24 – Family Service – 5:00 -6:00pm

Submitted Very Respectfully,
Jennifer “Jen” Jow

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Cultivating Community: 10 Rules for Community Life

This past Sunday, we had a great forum on Family Systems Theory. When I was a seminarian, I had the privilege of working with Greg Rickel as my rector. He is now bishop of Olympia, and used these 10 guidelines as a helpful way to navigate living in community at the church we served then just as he uses them in the diocese he serves now as bishop. I think they are helpful not only in congregational life but in many facets of our lives, especially as we enter this season of so many busy events and gatherings with different types of people, family, friends, etc. Let me know what you think in the comments!

Blessings,  Jeff

Bishop Greg Rickel (Olympia) - 10 Rules for Respect, as adapted from Church of the Nazarene pastor Charles Christian

1. If you have a problem with me, come to me (privately).

2. If I have a problem with you, I will come to you (privately).

3. If someone has a problem with me and comes to you, send them to me. (I'll do the same for you)

4. If someone consistently will not come to me, say, "Let's go to Greg together. I am sure he will see us about this." (I will do the same for you.)

5. Be careful how you interpret me-I'd rather do that. On matters that are unclear, do not feel pressured to interpret my feelings or thoughts. It is easy to misinterpret intentions.

6. I will be careful how I interpret you.

7. If it's confidential, don't tell. If you or anyone comes to me in confidence, I won't tell unless a) the person is going to harm himself/herself, b) the person is going to physically harm someone else, c) a child has been physically or sexually abused. I expect the same from you.

8. I do not read unsigned letters or notes.

9. I do not manipulate; I will not be manipulated; do not let others manipulate you. Do not let others manipulate me through you. I will not preach "at you." I will leave conviction to the Holy Spirit (she does it better anyway!)

10. When in doubt, just say it. The only dumb questions are those that don't get asked. Our relationships with one another, at the end of the day, are the most important things so if you have a concern, pray, and then (if led) speak up. If I can answer it without misrepresenting something, someone, or breaking a confidence, I will.

Monday, December 4, 2017

The Sunday Sermon: Keeping the Hope Alive

It’s Advent. Advent means chocolate calendars, silly animated videos of Hershey’s kisses and dancing reindeer, premature Christmas carols, lights in the window, happy conspiracies over gifts, sparkly clothes, holiday sweets.

And now, this, courtesy of Scripture: Grim confessions. Apocalyptic prophecies. Human sin and divine anger. The Psalmist’s desperate plea for rescue: “Restore us, O Lord God of hosts; show the light of your countenance and we shall be saved.”

What is that about? Where is the joyful expectation? Where is the good news? On this first Sunday of the year of Mark, couldn’t we have heard the first verse of that Gospel? “The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ.” Apparently not: in their wisdom the editors of our lectionary decided to delay that good news announcement until the second Sunday of Advent.

Just when we were getting comfortable with the holiday routine, finalizing our lists, brushing off our decorations, we receive a jolt, as it were, from heaven itself, a reminder that Advent isn’t just business as usual, that this season holds within itself a promise that should fill us with equal measures of hope and terror. O that you would tear open the heavens and come down, O God. Well, be careful what you wish for, because today we are no longer living in what the church calls ordinary time.

Today we are hearing about a time that is difficult, suffering, fearful. We hear a longing for God to turn the world upside down. Three of today’s Scripture passages are written in a historical context of exile, defeat, despair, destruction. Humanity demands an intervention, a breaking into a world that has gone terribly wrong. Much of that rings true for us today. Much of our world seems to be falling apart. Men whom we have trusted to tell us the truth, to entertain us, to govern, have fallen from their pedestals. How interesting that in a time when “fake news” is the prevalent slogan and lies the currency of public discourse, women are finally finding the courage to come forward and tell a truth that has been suppressed for decades, the truth that powerful men have routinely used their power to treat women as sex objects. In the midst of all this grief and confusion, a light is shining out and growing stronger, and we need that light and that truth.

Advent is our time to prepare for Christmas. But the incarnation, the eruption of God into our world, is more than a chorus of well-loved carols and a daily glance at a calendar. It is an end, and it is the beginning: the end of a world that has lost its way, that is self-destructing on a cosmic scale, the people of God eating the bread of tears. This is a time for judgment of all those who have fallen short in doing justice, loving mercy, and walking humbly with God. This is the Advent of a new creation where God’s presence will be constant and God’s countenance will shine forth, where truth will be told and justice rendered, where the faithful people of God will know salvation and the promise of life immortal.

Advent is no season of passive waiting. We are to be actively preparing our hearts and the world for the coming of Christ in glory. We aren’t sitting in the doctor’s office, flipping through magazines that we would never buy, feeling bored and idle. We are waiting for the wedding day to arrive, and there’s a lot to do, cleaning house, cooking special dishes, making sure everything is absolutely at its best for the honored guests. That kind of waiting can feel all too short: we aren’t killing time, we are using every moment we have to be as ready as we possibly can for the big day.

And meanwhile, we are attentive to the signs that God is already at work, that Christ has already come to us and set in motion an inevitable chain of events. Those signs give us the hope and the determination to do what we need to do, to serve and work and proclaim as people of good news, people of Advent hope.

The promise is contained within a grim reality. The premise of apocalyptic literature like this part of the Gospel is that the worse things get, the closer we are to a new heaven and a new earth. Some extremist evangelicals want things to get worse, to force the arrival of the crisis and the end of the world as we know it, to precipitate the second coming of Christ. And we can see that things will likely get worse before they get better. More millions will die in war and from preventable diseases. Living standards will decline in the developed world. The poor will get poorer. The weather will get more extreme. More species will become extinct.

But look what happened after Mark’s prophecy of the end times: the message of Jesus, the good news of God’s unconditional love, grew, spread, prevailed, and persevered for 2000 years. It is a message that outlives human sin and faithlessness. It survives persecution and ridicule. It persists despite the worst that humanity can do.

Now, we can’t force God’s hand. We don’t know when the end and the new beginning will come. We must simply be, watchful, hopeful, confident that God’s promises are sure, and alert to the signs that God is at work.

If you’ve been following the investigation of Russia’s interference in our electoral process, you know that journalists are watching every move the Mueller team makes and they read significance into every twitch. Anyone in community leadership knows that a small action or off-the-cuff remark can be pounced on and given significance. I remember preaching in Advent years ago and describing this as a pregnant season. Almost immediately a rumor went around the church that I was expecting a baby. So, we need to be careful about how we interpret the signs of the times.

I’ve heard it said that St Paul’s focuses too much on serving those outside, to the neglect of those inside. People in the congregation see us offering food and showers to our neighbors in the Park and they say, “What about me?” “When is someone going to care for me?” I could speak about the Stephen Ministers, Eucharistic Visitors, and small group ministries that flourish here and are available to everyone in our cathedral family, but let me also suggest that, instead of waiting for someone to take care of us, we can adopt an active ministry and start caring for others. In my experience it’s when I grasp the opportunities to share God’s love, actively participating in the transformation of the world, that I most receive love myself.

In a time when we are all suffering from crisis fatigue, it’s tempting to metaphorically put our heads under the covers, and withdraw from active resistance. It’s so tiring to keep working for justice and liberation when all we see is injustice and oppression. But this is discipleship. This is the way of the cross. This is what we signed up for.

We are called to pursue our mission of reconciliation, of building community, of opening a space for real conversation, real lament, real transformation. We are to speak the truth. We are to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the isolated, and care for each other within this community too. Above all, in this Advent season, we are to shine a light in the darkness and keep hope alive for those in danger of despairing. That was the purpose of the apocalytic writings in Scripture, and we surely need that hope today.

This will be our Advent way of waiting, our response to God’s love and compassion that we ourselves experience every day, witnessing to our confident hope that God’s justice will prevail, that love will conquer fear, and that Christ will, some day, come again in glory.

Dec 3, 2017
The Very Rev Penelope Bridges

Thursday, November 30, 2017

People's Warden Report

NOVEMBER 7 , 2017
Chapter Colleagues – notable updates, cathedral news and events

A LLC Comments, Questions and Answers
General comments from parishioners:
- Thank you for the forum regarding the CCRP and giving us an update.
- Please keep us informed of any changes since this project has been going on for so long.
- I am not good with computers and don’t attend church every Sunday to know what’s happening so thank you for the forum.
- The presentation was good but I would like a hand out next time to make notes.

Q. I heard that our server went down and we didn’t back up our system, I am not a tech whiz but shouldn’t there have been a backup or some type of IT service checking on our systesm? I heard from others that there was a lot of documents , pictures and historical stuff lost, what have we done to rectify that this situation so it doesn’t happen again.
A. I definitely am not a tech whiz, know enough to be dangerous lol. . Yes, the server crashed but no fault of any cathedral staff members. The situation is complex and way above my paygrade to explain all the details but I can give you a summary that may help you understand. When a sever is used there usually are multiple individual storage drives that houses system users data information saved (ie pictures , documents, events and calendars, templates) plus allows access for users off-site too. Initial problem was identified with slowness between programs and accessing documents which was reported to the contracted tech support service. They came out to trouble shoot and concluded it was a storage drive that crashed but all stuff was still saved; replaced drive with new one.

Several months later there was another issue with the server being very slow and hard to access saved documents; service call made found out now another drive was not working and it didn’t save all the information that was supposedly stored. The back-ups that was supposed to be saved to cloud didn’t happen either so the nightmare begins. Kathleen Burgess and the service technician spent hours trying to rectify the situation and the data couldn’t be recalled – system totally crashed. Cathedral staff spent many hours deciding on the next course of action and getting proposals on a new server. In the mean time everyone was issued a flash drive to store their data. A new server has been chosen and Kathleen will be facilitating the install, training, and ongoing service contract ( not using the old provider for new system). Hopefully, this explanation better helps you to understand the complexity of the situation. Thanks for asking!

Submitted Very Respectfully,
Jennifer “Jen” Jow 

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

The Sunday Sermon: The Living God Out There

Lutheran pastor Nadia Bolz Weber says that anytime we draw a line between us and others, Jesus is on the other side of that line.

It’s the main point of the gospel lesson today, but it’s not been an easy lesson for the church, or I would imagine any of us, to learn.

We are coming out of a period when the church was pretty complacent to be a country club. If we dare to draw a straw man of that age, the church had drawn lines around itself. Baptism was the way across those thick lines, and we were pretty clear about who was in and out. At its best, the Church performed acts of mercy towards those in need— but in many cases it was from a patriarchal perspective: those inside the Church “had” Christ and those outside the lines didn’t. The Church’s function outside the lines of the Church was to take Christ to those who we assumed had less of Christ than we did.

But inside the lines of the Church, we often looked like a country club. Many times, those of us in the mainline traditions— including the Episcopal Church— were content to sit idly by, watching while the world suffered. It didn’t threaten us too much, and we had Christ, after all, so we were happy to stay in the lines, sipping our gin and tonic.

The post-enlightenment period and reformations had their impact on the church, and the privatization of religion drove the Church deeper into itself. We followed society’s attempts to reign in the challenges of religion presented from the prior age. We believed that religion was a private affair. Church became a destination, a building where individuals came in order to deepen their own personal spiritual journeys. Society was the domain of the state, and our personal spiritual journey had little or no bearing on the world around us, outside the lines of the church— unless it was to bring them inside the church.

In the Episcopal Church, I heard Bishop Katharine say recently that she believed part of the tipping point in the change for all of that for us in the Episcopal Church was the inclusion of LGBT people— that it has helped us lose the “snootiness” that we were sometimes previously known for. Under her leadership, we rallied around a different charge. We unified around mission: we turned towards the “why” of being church, and how we are called as a people of faith to focus on those outside the lines. We focused on the Millennium Development Goals. We centered on the five marks of mission. We remembered that the word church comes from the Greek ecclesia, which doesn’t mean building but means “the gathered assembly.”

But even with that change— which I believe has been a drastic and well needed one in the church— there have been questions about whether or not we have become too much like a secular humanitarian aid organization. If we simply hear today’s passage as an exhortation to treat people well then our mission is no different from the United Way or the Red Cross. If we are simply a group of do-gooders, then why not simply join up with those larger organizations? They are, frankly, better at clothing the naked and feeding the hungry.

On top of that, here at St. Paul’s, we live and breathe and have our being in a particularly urban setting, with many opportunities to work outside the lines. But finding the line between cultivating a faith community that feels safe risking of itself and reaching out to a very diverse and sometimes unpredictable marginalized population is not an easy balance to find.

The gospel passage today is, for me, one of the most important passages in all of scripture. This text comes at the very end of the lectionary year, as we look to the reign of Christ the King. Jesus surprises his followers by letting them know that he is present with them- not within the lines, but in the least of these whom they have already been serving: in the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick, and the imprisoned.

One of the hallmarks of our Anglican heritage is our emphasis on incarnational theology. Another way to say that is that Anglican and Episcopalian belief has traditionally focused not so much on finding God “up there” somewhere, but on finding God “out there.” And that is what this passage is all about. That confuses a lot of people, especially if they come from that old church model, where God is nice and tidy inside the lines, and we’ve got a firm grip on God.

But in this text, Jesus says outright to his followers, “You don’t have me. You find me in the other. You find me out there. You see me in the face of the hungry. You meet me in the crazy. You understand me when you find compassion for the needy. You love me when you have empathy for the most undeserving, the imprisoned, and the least of these. By staying open to the other, you stay open to me. I’m not yours to put inside the lines.”

God may be up there, but the way we encounter the living God is out there. As followers of Christ, we are the ones who know we have something to learn, not something to teach. And the ones who we have to learn it from are the ones who are outside of the lines. Because living into the messiness of our shared humanity is what the shift towards following Christ and out of the country club church requires. It’s the transformation that comes not from taking Christ to others, but from finding the Christ that’s already there.

If you notice, in this gospel lesson it is not a calculated decision by the disciples to give of themselves. They did not take an action in order to achieve a reward. Jesus is calling out something they already did (or did not) do. The followers who gave of themselves simply did it because it came naturally of themselves. They met Christ in the other because sharing who they were and being receptive to the other was just a part of who they were. They weren’t do-gooders on a mission. They didn’t have an agenda. They weren’t trying to save anybody. They were just being authentically human, leaning into that incarnational experience.

And that is part of what makes this lesson so complicated, so tricky, and so wonderful. “Christians are always both recipients of the gospel and witnesses to it.” It can be so compelling to want to serve in a way that creates relationships of power: “I can help you because I have something you don’t.” That is not what this gospel is about. This gospel is about giving of self because it comes naturally and it leads to relationships of mutuality: “I share myself with you and find Christ in you unexpectedly in return. And that changes me, unexpectedly!”

That doesn’t come naturally for many of us. The world wants us to be invulnerable. So living in Christian community where we grow with one another, practicing on one another, learning with one another in safe ways— that is the point of Christian formation. There aren’t any shoulds in it, because the whole point of life within the lines of the Christian community is to be a safe place to learn how to live a different way than the world teaches us how to live, to instill a different set of virtues— so we can go out and live differently in the world which will not be as easy. The life of discipleship is a journey, not a toggle, and the community of faith has to be robust enough to nurture people whoever they are and wherever they find themselves on that journey. Transformation is the point— and that happens only in relationship.

So how do we, as the church, as the ecclesia, as the gathered community of seekers of the Christ that is out there, outside the lines, both risk of ourselves and make a place that is safe enough to learn how risk? How do we, as St Paul’s, who find ourselves in an area ripe for outreach into a hurting world, both keep people safe enough to grow in formation and risk of ourselves to serve a hurting world, looking for the Christ out there? It is not an easy question.

As we wrap up this year and look towards the next, I invite you to consider how we at St. Paul’s continue to wrestle with these questions— knowing that the very nature of an incarnational God asks us to live in the messiness of no easy answers, few shoulds, and living with very few easy answers. The fruit may just be finding Jesus in unexpected places, and being changed in unexpected ways as a result.

The Rev. Jeff Martinhauk
Christ the King A, November 26, 2017
St. Paul’s Cathedral, San Diego
Matt 25:31-46 

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

Monday, November 27, 2017

CCRP/Olive Street Project Update - November 2017

This blog by LLC Manager Mark Lester is the latest in a series of Questions and Answers about the Campus Redevelopment plan (CCRP). See all entries here.  

For those of you who attended the October 8th forum presented by Dean Penny Bridges and our LLC project manager, Tom Delaney, some of this update will be old news (but not all of it). If you didn’t attend (or if you did and want a refresher), the slideshow for this forum is available here on All Our Voices.

During the week following the October 8th forum, the LLC was able to sign the final, mutually agreed, 6th Amendment to the Purchase and Sale Agreement with Greystar. When Greystar experienced difficulty finding financing for a project similar in scope to that originally entitled by the city, the LLC agreed to a concession on the purchase price. The PSA now stipulates that if Greystar’s current plan for a larger structure is approved, the LLC will receive an additional $11.51 for each square foot that the city allows beyond the previously approved square footage. If the project is approved as currently planned, the LLC’s price concession will be fully recovered.

One of the “take-away” points that Tom made at the forum was that the original timeline for the project is lengthening. The original timeline assumed that the developer would build a project in substantial conformity with the entitlements we received from the City of San Diego in 2011. Since Greystar is planning an expanded structure, Greystar will need to obtain more extensive city approvals, and this approval period will take up to an additional calendar year. So, we are now looking at construction beginning at some point in 2019. We have asked our property manager to inform the Park Chateau tenants of this, so that they will know they need not vacate their apartments as early as previously thought.

In keeping with the PSA’s terms, Greystar recently notified us that they will exercise the First Extension Option, which is for 180 days. This is beneficial to us in that an additional $600K will be added to Escrow, with half of that amount applying to the Purchase Price, and the other half being additional to the Purchase Price. There are two additional 90 day extensions possible per the PSA, and each one that Greystar elects will require an additional $300K be deposited to Escrow, with half being applicable to the Purchase Price and the other half being additional to the Purchase Price. Tom Delaney expects that Greystar will exercise at least one of these options, and possibly both. Each of these extensions adds to the cash due at closing.

Greystar continues to work on design plans that will more fully reflect our comments on the initial submission. We hope to review the revised plans at our next meeting.

And finally, Tom Delaney has been working with the city to obtain their approval of the lot-line adjustment which is required before Greystar can submit their Site Development Plan application to the city.

As ever, please don’t hesitate to ask questions about the project as they occur to you. My email is; I will respond as quickly as possible.

Mark Lester 
Nutmeg & Olive LLC, Manager 
Dean’s Warden

Alternative Gifts Expo - giving a “world of good”

St. Paul’s Alternative Gifts Expo returns on Sunday, Dec. 10, 9:00AM-2:30PM in the Great Hall, St. Paul’s Episcopal Cathedral 2728 Sixth Ave, San Diego, CA

New: a Silent Auction of the 21 piece porcelain nativity by Lenox released from 1986-2009 will be offered. Opening bids start at $400 (Fair Market Value is $1,240). Bids open at 9:30AM and close at 2PM on Dec. 10 in the Great Hall. See it on display in the Great Hall on December 10.

Coming together with common values, our St. Paul’s community demonstrates an alternative to our commercial, consumptive culture-a colorful and festive marketplace with choices of gifts that revolve around issues you care about.

Alternative gifts prioritize meaning over materials — they may include a charitable donation in honor of a family member to provide health care in Haiti, or handcrafted note cards that support a nursing college in Kenya. Donations in a friend’s honor may also provide translators to assist war-ravaged refugees seeking help with everyday government transactions.

Shoppers can also visit tables hosted by non-profit organizations that strengthen the Fair Trade practices by buying handcrafted items produced by artisans in economically disadvantaged areas of the world. When you buy Fair Trade products you are encouraging safe and ethical business practices.

Alternative gifts cost you less money, are less costly for the environment, and are less commercialized—but really, they’re all about infusing the holiday season with more: more meaning, more joy, and more fun. 

Enjoy yourself, and bring a friend and the kids! Children will find there is a selection of small priced items that make special gifts for friends or family.

Besides a wintery ambience we will be serving free-of-charge yummy Tomorrow Project soup and bread from 11:30AM-2:30PM, and we will accept Cash, Check and Credit cards for donations and products. Festive recorder music by The Granada Consort will be performed throughout the event.

Vendors Include:

  • Equal Exchange/Fair Trade- Chocolate, Coffee, Tea, olive oil, nuts, and more
  • Around the World Gifts- Fair Trade products that include decorative gifts, bags, accessories
  • Kitchens for Good- Kitchens for Good is a social enterprise with the mission to break the cycles of food waste, hunger, and poverty through innovate solutions in workforce training....Their products feature condiments and spicy jellies that boast a unique and delicious flavor, featuring a spicy kick and local craft beers.   
  • Episcopal Refugee Network- Donations to assist San Diego refugees from war-torn regions
  • Mission in Maseno (Kenya)- handcrafted note cards benefitting the AIDS/HIV hospital and small nursing college 
  • Haiti Health- Donate to help purchase blood pressure medications for Dr. Bart Smoot’s Blood Pressure Clinic Plant with Purpose- Donations to renew the earth with gifts of trees, chicks, family gardens, bunnies, tee shirts Golden Rule Boutique- Handmade clothing Fair Trade products for the betterment of children, women and families Nonviolent Peaceforce- Buy a Peace Bond or potholder to support this group’s training of civilians to provide unarmed civilian peacekeeping in violent areas of the world
  • Tomorrow Project- Fabulous soups (enjoy a cup for lunch!), spice rubs, and rice mixes train and empower low-income women for work readiness
  • Fair Trade Décor-Decorative home items and personal accessories that provide legitimate and sustainable means for people around the world to pull themselves out of poverty
  • Vida Joven de Mexico- Donations to provide Mexican children 3-18 years who have been abandoned or have a parent in jail with love, protection, and education
  • Malia Designs- Fair trade producer groups who offer marginalized people in Cambodia exposure to Western Markets to keep a sustainable income through sales of silk items, unusual bags, and wallets
  • Lumily- Works directly with partner artisans in Guatemala, Mexico and Thailand to pay a fair wage, give hope, and provide a percentage of profit back to the artisan community through sales of jewelry, large and small bags, key chains, and clothing
  • Melinda’s Homemade Jams in support of the Cathedral Memorial Organ
St. Paul’s Youth are also part of the Alternative Gifts Expo. Hand-made knitted and crocheted items will be available.

--Paula Peeling

Monday, November 20, 2017

The Sunday Sermon: Read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest

All summer and fall, in our Old Testament readings, we have been hearing an outline of the beginnings of the people of God, a whistle-stop tour through the first books of the Bible, starting with Genesis back in June on Trinity Sunday with the creation story and racing through the highlights of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, and Joshua, until at last we come to Judges.

You probably haven’t heard too many sermons on Judges. In fact, you may never have read Judges. Until I started to read through the Bible for the first time, the only thing I knew about Judges was the story of Samson, the strong man who was tricked by the seductive Delilah into revealing the secret of his strength, received an unexpected haircut, and pulled down the pillars of the temple on himself. Exciting stuff. But there is a lot more to this seventh book of our Bible: there are other heroes including Ehud, Gideon, Jephtha, Jael, and of course Deborah, each of whom acted to rescue Israel from her enemies and from her own waywardness. And today offers the only opportunity in our lectionary for us to pause and reflect on this book.

Our Collect for the day addresses God who “caused ALL holy Scriptures to be written for our learning.” So let’s take a look at what the book of Judges can offer us: how might we hear, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest this obscure portion of Scripture?

The time of the Judges was a chaotic time in Israel’s early days. It was a time of transition from a nation in exile to a nation of settled rule. Israel went through repeated cycles of sin and redemption. The nation would do what was evil in the sight of the Lord, adopting the false gods of their neighbors, God would punish them by sending an enemy to conquer and subjugate them, a hero or judge would rise up and restore the nation, but after that person was gone the cycle would resume again. Times of cultural transition are messy. You take two steps forward and then a step back. We know something about cultural transition. You pass marriage equality and then anti-LGBT laws start popping up. You make real strides in recognizing the equal worth of women and minorities, and the next thing you know, white male privilege reasserts itself. Each step towards a more just society seems to trigger a backlash of violence and toxic fear. The story of Judges mirrors our own time in more than one respect.

The world of Judges is a world hostile to women. We read today of the judge and strategist Deborah, who leads the defeat of the enemy army, heroically assisted by the woman Jael who gruesomely assassinates the enemy general; but later in the book we read two stories of dreadful abuse against women, women who never receive the dignity of a name.

Jephthah is another of the judges. He has risen from humble, illegitimate beginnings and become a guerilla leader against the enemy of the moment. He vows that, if he triumphs, he will sacrifice to God the first living thing that greets him on his return home. That living thing is his virgin daughter, and yet he goes through with the terrible burnt sacrifice. The moral climate of the land is so damaged that Jephthah is regarded as a national hero in spite of this crime.

The second story, of the Levite clergyman and his concubine is frankly horrific. The woman is a trafficked person with no agency and no voice. When her master is threatened with violence, he agrees with his host that it makes sense to offer the woman up to a murderous mob, whereupon she is horribly violated and left to die. Her master now decides to be outraged, and with a symbolic act too revolting to repeat, he calls Israel to vengeance. Intertribal war ensues, and at the end, because all the women of the tribe of Benjamin have been slaughtered in the war, the elders of the nation take 600 virgins by force and hand them over to the remnant of the Benjaminite army, to rebuild the population.

Can you discern any parallels with our time? Human trafficking is globally the third largest illegal industry, and San Diego is a center of that industry. Conspiracy among powerful men to silence and possess vulnerable women is just now being recognized as a major, national sin. The begetting of violence by violence, leading to genocide and the letting go of any pretence of decency is the story of multiple nations in our time.

Women are still overlooked, silenced, trafficked, and undervalued. An article this week about the gunman in the northern California rampage described the murder of his wife and the hiding of her body under the floorboards. It was a long article but it never gave his wife the dignity of a name. And just a couple of days ago I read a first-person account written last year by a Belgian woman describing how, starting at age six, she was sold and used by a ring of pedophiles which included some of the most prominent men in Europe.

The very last sentence of Judges comments on the utter lack of moral compass in the land and suggests that the fundamental issue is the lack of a king, the Biblical editor taking advantage of the violence to justify the introduction of the absolute rule of monarchy. The manipulation of chaotic times of transition in order to grasp absolute power is an all-too-familiar story of our time.

It seems hopeless, both for ancient Israel and for us.

And yet, when we read on into 1 Samuel (with a detour through the book of Ruth, a story of three virtuous women) we read of an episode in the time of the judges where a woman - Hannah - was cared for by husband, priest, and God, and given a much-loved child who became one of the greatest prophets of Israel. So, in the broad scheme of things, the message of Scripture is that no time is beyond redemption; God’s promises hold through the worst that humans can do; and the prophetic word is ultimately never silenced.

Returning to Deborah’s story, we now understand that God’s gifts can be put to good use under the most unlikely circumstances, as a woman rules and triumphs in the midst of the misogynistic mayhem.

Deborah is entrusted with much, just as the two good slaves are in the parable that Jesus tells in the Gospel. The contrast between those two and the third slave reminds us that we get to choose what we do with our gifts. Israel was blessed with the land of promise, but the story of Judges is a story of repeated cycles of misusing that gift and being brought back to faithfulness by unlikely people raised up to use their gifts. God gives us the freedom to get it right or to get it terribly wrong, to live in joy instead of fear, to espouse peace and justice rather than violence and oppression.

We are blessed with many resources at St Paul’s. No matter how chaotic and uncertain the times, we are called to stretch ourselves, to take calculated risks, to emulate the wise stewards who dared to invest and grew their master’s treasure. We are to grow the Kingdom, to cultivate community so that the culture of violence is defeated, all voices are heard, and there is no longer any threat of outer darkness.

Scripture itself is our treasure, given to us to use or misuse. We could read Judges and conclude that it’s OK for clergy to have and to murder concubines, that mass rape is reasonable, and that a powerful man is obliged to kill his only child rather than break a promise to God. Or we could read it as part of the messy, mixed-up story of the people of God, a reminder that humanity can sin horrendously, accepting outrageous behavior as the norm, if we don’t remain faithful to the essential nature of the God who calls us into freedom and life.

In two weeks we will start a new church year with the season of Advent. As a sort of new year’s resolution, I invite you to consider taking today’s collect seriously and starting to read the Bible in a new way, absorbing the whole story of the people of God, warts and all, and allowing yourself to fully digest the essential message of the God who made us for love, and who longs, who aches, for us to embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life.

November 19, 2017
The Very Rev Penelope Bridges

Monday, November 6, 2017

People's Warden Report (October)

A. LLC Questions and Answers

Q. When are we (congregation) going to get an update on CCRP and timelines?

A. Dean Penny and a couple of LLC members delivered the current state of the project and next steps at the forum on Sunday October 8th at 9:00am.  You can see the slides here.

Q. Do the tenants get enough notice to find other living arrangements when demolition starts and how much notice would it be 60-90days?

A. The intent is 60- 90 days so tenants aren’t having to scramble to find somewhere to live and then try to come up with deposits for their new place. The cathedral and the LLC wouldn’t want to just boot someone out in 30days and say “ sorry about your luck” they want to give ample time so things go smoothly for all parties .


Q. Has there been any discussion about how parking would be handled during demolition? Where would we park since it is so hard to find parking already?

A. This subject has been in multiple discussions and no finite answer as of yet. There certainly are a few options that has been entertain which is ask St Paul’s Senior Services if we could park in their lot – (33 spots) on Sunday’s; speak to Hornblower and ECS Safehaven who have a small lot which is located about ½ block south from cathedral and see if we could park there on Sunday’s Another idea that has been tossed around is to offer shuttle service from these areas so it isn’t such a long walk .During the weekday I believe that it will be everyone including staff has to go find it on the street (not 100%) on that.

Comments from parishioners re Homecoming

a. Had a great time at the “Homecoming “ brunch and didn’t mind donating $5.00 for food. Why don’t we ask for a donation for some events more often other churches do? Liked the set up family style and got to talk to people I really didn’t know.

b. Couldn’t really hear the video in the back but liked the set up and the enthusiasm of everyone at my table.

c. Is it possible to intermingle the choir and alter guild people into all the tables instead of having a designated table for them? Maybe reserve several seats at each table for them knowing that they have to disrobe and get there after everyones seated? It would be nice to get to know them too.

d. Great having hostesses positioned at the East and West doors to Great Hall to direct traffic; it took away not knowing what to do once inside.

e. I didn’t know about the brunch until someone at the South door exit handed me a booklet and asked if I was going.

f. The $5 donation was worth the food I received – the only negative was that the salad was mushy and not a lot of meatballs (…..Misa service.)

g. I didn’t get to speak to many ministry leaders because I had to leave at 12:30 but I liked the set-up of the event and the video was entertaining.

h. Thank you for including us Evensong service attenders.

Jen Jow.

The Sunday Sermon: For All the Saints

A couple of weeks ago I returned to Yale Divinity School to celebrate the 20th reunion of the class of ‘97. It was a joyful time of reconnecting with old friends, worshiping together, and witnessing how, thanks to many generous gifts, the YDS campus has been transformed from the derelict state it was in when I was a student there. It’s almost like the school has been raised from the dead.

The Div school is built around a grassy quadrangle, with cloistered walkways and the classic white, steepled Marquand Chapel in the place of honor at the eastern end. As I pushed open a door to enter the quad for the first time in about a decade, I felt the presence of the saints: beloved teachers and mentors from my time at Yale who have since joined the great cloud of witnesse:

Brevard Childs, legendary Old Testament scholar, read his lectures from handwritten notes in a small notebook, always beginning with a prayer of his own composition.

Marilyn McCord Adams, my first spiritual director, a specialist in medieval philosophical theology, loved to wear her biretta and designed a liturgy for the feast of the Assumption of Mary, which we celebrated with incense and chant in the quintessential New England puritan space of the chapel.

Rowan Greer, a bookish bachelor priest, brought his golden retrievers to work, and in class read Scripture passages, translating on the fly from his copy of the New Testament in Syriac.

David Bartlett, who died just before our reunion, was the most liberal Baptist I ever met and taught us joyfully to preach God’s unconditional love, his booming laugh echoing down the Div School hallways.

Each of us has our own personal canon of saints, the people who have reflected God’s love to us in endlessly quirky ways. Someone has defined a saint as someone who lets the light shine through, just as our stained glass windows let the light shine through, in unique and beautiful ways.

Look around you: have you ever paid close attention to the saints who surround us in this place? As you probably know, the lower level of windows tells the story of St Paul, panel by panel, from his witnessing of Stephen’s execution through his conversion and all his adventures up to his own execution in Rome.

If you are able to look higher up at the clerestory level without getting a crick in your neck, you will catch glimpses of a whole company of illustrious individuals, from Abraham (back left for the congregation) through the Old Testament prophets to the four evangelists on this north side, and from Peter and Paul through the history of the church, via St George and Queen Elizabeth the first to Bishop William Ingraham Kip in that southwest corner. Who? Bishop Kip was the first Episcopal Bishop of California, who celebrated his first worship service in this state here in San Diego in 1854, just 15 years before the founding of the parish that today is St Paul’s Cathedral. Brooks Mason has a small collection of binoculars which he will make available after the service, so that you can get a closer look at our resident saints.

We are surrounded by the saints, and not just on holy ground, but throughout our lives, if we are blessed. Today’s celebration of All Saints is sandwiched between the Requiems for two people many of us dearly loved, the Rev Canon Alden Franklin, commemorated Friday, and Rosemary Bolstad, whose life we will celebrate on Monday afternoon. Our columbarium in the back there is a constant reminder of those whom we have loved, the people who mentored us in the faith and whose good stewardship and generosity in their time ensured that St Paul’s can continue to change lives and be a force for good in our own time.

As we each ponder our financial pledges for the coming year, we can give thanks for the benefits we receive today from those who came before us, and we can in our turn give generously to ensure that St Paul’s will be here for future generations. The writer of the book of Wisdom reminds us that trust in God is a sign of the righteous soul, and that we can trust in God to watch over us as we strive sacrificially to cultivate community in this place and to help our city of San Diego to reflect in some way the holy city of God as envisioned by John in his revelation.

The psalm proclaims boldly that the earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it: that’s something to reflect upon in our practice of stewardship. It insists that God is in charge, even when current reality suggests otherwise. I see plenty of evidence that God is actually in control: God’s grace is to be found everywhere.

I see it in the faith of a resilient friend in the face of chronic illness.
I see it in the legacy of a distinguished and beloved teacher.
I see it in the strong community of this cathedral congregation.
I see it in the dedication of volunteers providing showers and service to our neighbors who sleep outside.
I see it in the prayers that we offer for one another, day in and day out.
I see it in the positive energy of our fall stewardship gatherings and in the steadily growing pile of completed pledge cards.
I see God in charge when faithful people step forward to train as Stephen Ministers or to serve on Chapter or diocesan committees.
I see God in charge when a Listening Hearts session enables someone to find clarity in their vocation.
I see God in charge when the church fills up for a Requiem of a beloved fellow parishioner or priest.

Our neighbors in Mexico make the most of this season in their observance of el Día de los Muertos, or the Day of the Dead, which corresponds to All Souls Day on November 2. You can see the special ofrenda or altar our Misa members have built up here, with photographs of loved ones whose graves are perhaps far away, and offerings of food and flowers. Traditionally, families take picnics on November 2 to the graves of their loved ones. They bring flowers and fruit, they sing and dance, rejoicing that they can in some way be once again close to those who have gone beyond the veil. Maybe that’s what we should be doing today. Maybe we should have planned a fiesta down there in front of the columbarium, with songs and celebrations to remember how much we loved and were loved by those whose ashes rest behind those marble panels. In a sense I think that’s what we are doing, in our dignified Anglican way, when we celebrate the heavenly banquet of the Eucharist in the same sacred space as the columbarium.

In the celebration of the sacrament on this day we are proclaiming that death doesn’t have the last word, that we are still connected to the saints, even through the impenetrable mystery of the grave, even when we are so bereft that we can’t imagine life going on.

In the Gospel story of the raising of Lazarus, God in Jesus confronts the reality of death with us. Every painful detail of loss is here: wrenching grief, blame, decomposition, the physical separation of the dead from the living. We learn that God grieves when we grieve, that we are not alone in our loss. Jesus walks through the whole experience with his friends. He grieves with the sisters. But then he insists on opening the grave. He speaks to the dead man. And Lazarus comes out. Jesus wins the victory: death is defeated, and all tears are wiped away.

Throughout John’s Gospel, glory and death are closely entwined. In the raising of Lazarus we see the glorification of God. In the death and resurrection of Jesus we see the glorification of God. We glorify God when we affirm and celebrate the victory of love over death. We glorify God when we live as if death has no power over us, as if the resurrection is a promise we can take to the bank, because it is. The saints knew that, and today we honor all the saints who live on in our hearts and in the loving heart of our good and generous God. Amen.

All Saints Sunday, November 5, 2017
The Very Rev Penelope Bridges

Monday, October 30, 2017

The Sunday Sermon: The 500th anniversary of the reformation

Soli Deo Gloria!

Today, our past, present and future meet, as we commemorate the 500th Anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, that began in earnest when a young Augustinian monk, Dr. Martin Luther, posted 95 theological points that he wanted to dispute, within the Catholic Church that he served --points on which he thought the church needed reform. We can think of him putting pen to paper, inking the thoughts of his heart that he anguished over even as he wrote them, and then striding to the church door, mallet in hand, as he struck the blows that would echo down through the centuries, from Wittenburg, on that crisp All Hallows' Eve- - October 31st, in the year 1517 - -even echoing down to us, here and now...

The church door was the local bulletin board for what was happening in the University town of Wittenburg. Luther, 33 years old and on the teaching faculty, knew that the next morning, All Hallows' Day, would bring everyone to church to pray for all the blessed saints - a perfect time for his concerns to get the most attention! Luther, of course, couldn't know that certain of his friends would take his posting from the door, and carry it off to the local printer, where, by means of Johannes Gutenberg's invention, the movable type press, multiple copies of his disputations were made and very quickly distributed, throughout Germany, and from there would impact the entire world! Luther couldn't possibly have known that the posting of his concerns would mark the start of a movement that would cascade down through history, from that moment on, changing everything!

The printing press had much to do with what followed, of course. It is regarded as the single most important invention of the 2nd millennium, and it played a central role in the emergence of the Renaissance, the Reformation, the Enlightenment, and the Scientific Revolution, as well as laying the foundation for the emergence of the Modern Era with a knowledge-based economy, and the eventual spread of information, that led to the invention of cyber-space & of the instantaneous, universal communication that we all use, today! It was a world-changing moment of theological and technological co-emergence!

Education wasn't readily available, then, though forward looking Luther advocated education for both boys and girls! He was able to get an education himself, due to his father, Hans Luder's success, in copper mining. Hans wanted his son to study law and bring the prestige of the Law Profession into the family, though Martin had little desire to go in that direction. Margaretha, his mother, encouraged him to follow his own conscience.

Luther's young life was preoccupied with the impossibility for a sinner to earn salvation on his own merits, only to "fall into the hands of a righteous and angry God." This drove him to study theology - really as the result of a trip home to Mansfeld from the University of Erfurt, in a terrible storm. Thunder and lightning flashed all around him in the forest, & he was in danger of being thrown from his frightened horse. In terror for his life both in this world and the next, he cried out: "Help me, St. Anne, and I will become a monk!" He survived, and entered the monastery at Erfurt, where he had his "tower experience." It was there that Luther was set free from his struggle for justification, by the truth he found in Paul's letter to the Romans: righteousness isn't earned by works of the Law. "It is the free gift of God's grace, by faith in Christ, through Jesus' death on the cross, that redeems us from Sin."

Teaching that Scripture is the source and norm for faith and life, Luther translated the Bible into the people's language so they might read it, and receive the Gospel. He taught that all baptized believers are a royal priesthood, as you all so wonderfully proclaim in an abundance of ministries within the cathedral and our surrounding community. And yet, Luther would remind us, that: we are simul iustice et peccator. I.e., we are at the same time saints & sinners. He preached an ethic of works of love for our neighbors, in re-sponse to God's love & empowered by the Holy Spirit, as we live a Christ-centered life.

Those who accept these teachings, as well as Luther's catechesis on the Ten Commandments, the Apostles' Creed, the Lord's Prayer, & the two sacraments of Christ's presence - conjoined by God's Word, in with and under - water, bread & wine; those believers came to be called Lutherans, even though Luther insisted on Christian or Evangelical as the only acceptable names for believers in Christ. Luther said that all Christians ought to remember their baptism daily, as a daily dying to sin, and a daily rising to new life in Christ. And, whenever he found himself in trouble, he would say "I thank God I am baptized," since this sacrament confers the gift of salvation! I once heard a Lutheran col-league say - "I have baptized 200 and more, in my years of ministry, and not one of them was baptized a Lutheran! They were baptized Christians, all!" Luther did not intend to start a new expression of church - and yet it emerged, out of his Theology of the Cross.

Luther wasn't the only reformer, of course, nor was he the 1st - John Wycliffe in England, & Jan Hus on the continent were forerunners, & many paid the ultimate price of martyr-dom. The English Reformation took place independently of the European Reforma-tion, yet there were points of contact as the movement gained momentum. Truly, the Holy Spirit worked in many & various ways in those days, to reform Christ's Church.

Through the years, and as we have entered the 21st Century, we have seen many changes - among them, the church becoming more welcoming and inclusive, and how all these changes will be ordered, within our communities. In keeping with the motto: Ecclesia Semper Reformanda, the church must always be reforming - Who will be Reformers of the church in coming years? What co-emergence of theology and technology may lead to another 500 years filled with renewed missional vitality, in Christ's Church on earth?

God has need of you, & me, & of many, to do the ongoing work of Reformation! For we are all God's hands in the world - equipped & sent out to do God's work & will, today!

It is interesting to note that within 200 years of the beginning of the Protestant Reformation, the Catholic Church reformed many practices from within, answering many of Luther's points of disputation. We have come a long way since the Catholic Church ex-communicated Luther for the content of his theological writings, demanding that he recant. "Here I stand! I can do no other!" his voice rang out, as he resolutely stood his ground. Today, Lutherans and Catholics are agreed on Justification by Faith Alone, and that good works will surely follow... even as our ecumenical dialogues toward unity continue... Let me now close with another quote from Luther: "Soli Deo Gloria - to God alone be the glory - as God calls, gathers, enlightens and sanctifies the whole Christian church on earth, and keeps us all united with Jesus Christ, in the one, true, faith." For at the foot of the cross, we all stand together, on level ground. This is most certainly true!


500th Anniversary of the Reformation
October 29, 2017
The Rev. Dr. Carol Worthing

Monday, October 23, 2017

The Sunday Sermon: A Bonhoeffer Moment?

Proper 24A, October 22, 2017
St. Paul’s Cathedral, San Diego
Ex. 33: 12-23; Matt 22:15-22

In the gospel for today, the Pharisees set up a trap for Jesus. It’s a trap many of us find ourselves in today. They want Jesus to choose between church and state. Because Jesus has been critical of the religious establishment, they are trying to set him up- to trap him. They ask him if it is lawful to pay a poll tax that was very unpopular with Jesus’ followers; unpopular because it was a huge financial strain. If Jesus answered that it was legal to pay, he would lose his following and popular authority. But it was a tax imposed by the Roman authority, so if he answered that it wasn’t legal, the Roman authorities would have his head for sedition. Either answer would end Jesus’ growing authority and threat to the religious establishment. Jesus, of course, outsmarts them and finds an answer that evades their trap. But the question it presents is really the question of the relationship between God and empire, between church and state.

Theologian Jurgen Moltmann argues that the church has fallen prey to Caesar by limiting itself to filling roles that the state cannot play. The church has been glad to fill the gap of focusing on private, inward experiences, for example. This weakened church also does things like provide fellowship and warmth, or meaning- things that the state can’t do and which don’t threaten the state.

While none of these are inherently bad things for the church to do, these are primarily functions of civil religion. They are functions of a church that is complicit with the state. The Church was not born out of complicity with the state (as the question from the Pharisees shows us), and a church of civil religion comes out of a long and complex history of the church betraying those roots and bedding the empire, which is ironically the very thing Jesus was trying to avoid in his answer to this question.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a theologian during World War II who was deeply troubled by the Church’s complicity with the state during the rise of the Nazi party.

I do not know if we are in a Bonhoeffer moment. But one article I read this week suggested that we may be, and that we do not need to be facing a Hitler-style attack on US democracy in order to be in a Bonhoeffer moment. The author suggested that the
ground may be slipping out from under our feet:
When mass murders occur in elementary school, houses of worship, music festivals, night clubs, shopping malls, and parking lots;
When Neo-Naazis surround a church chanting “blood and soil” and “Jews will not replace us” and when those protesting hate are run over or shot;
When courts find that voting law revisions have racist overtones;
And when Christian leaders respond with contradictory visions of gospel, church, and state;
Are we in a Bonhoeffer moment? If we are, what does that mean for the relationship between church and state? Is civil religion enough to stop the evil?

Bonhoeffer is so powerful I just want to read to you a quote from his 1942 Christmas letter:
“Evil always carries the seeds of its own destruction, as it makes people, at the least, uncomfortable. Against folly we have no defense. Neither protests nor force can touch it; reasoning is no use; facts that contradict personal prejudices can simply be disbelieved — indeed, the fool can counter by criticizing them, and if they are undeniable, they can just be pushed aside as trivial exceptions. So the fool, as distinct from the scoundrel, is completely self-satisfied; in fact he can easily become dangerous, as it does not take much to make him aggressive. A fool must therefore be treated more cautiously than a scoundrel; we shall never again try to convince a fool by reason, for it is both useless and dangerous.”
For Bonhoeffer, the answer lies in making our entire lives an answer to the question and call of God, because there are too many sacrifices required for us to live any way except through complete faithfulness. Reason fails because it doesn’t accomplish anything; it’s discarded by its opponents. Moral intensity fails because it gets trapped in minutiae. Conscience fails because there may only be bad choices, so we may not escape this with a clean conscience. And those who want to bury their heads in the sand just get numb to the pain of the world around them- not making any real change. It’s faithfulness that is the only answer.

The Church may be nice and we may need a rich inward life, a life of fellowship, and a strong institution to do that. But if we have those things without remembering that we are here to build the kingdom of God, to work for the Kingdom of God where love is embedded into the way every system, every relationship, every kingdom, every empire, every nation works, then we aren’t doing our job. In baptism, we Covenanted to put God’s law of love above any other law, and be joined as citizens of the Kingdom of God above any other nation or kingdom. That is what the Church’s primary purpose is-- to effect God’s law of Love, even and especially when Caesar, or any other nation or power or province, threatens it. How serious and faithful are we willing to be about that?

“Give to God what is God’s,” says Jesus in his answer— and the joke’s on the Pharisees because there is nothing that doesn’t belong to God, even the coin to be given to the emperor. How often we want to separate Caesar from God, just like the Pharisees, or claim God when it is convenient.

We, the Church, aren’t very good at this faithfulness thing. We forget, and we succumb to partisan politics. We try really hard to make that question- the one the Pharisees’ asked Jesus about Caesar or God- we work to make it benefit the Democrat or the Republican platforms. “God’s on our side,” we pronounce, instead of asking, “How can we get on God’s side.” God has a side. But if one party or another happens to be on the same side, it doesn’t mean that the party that has been blessed now and forever! How do we as faithful people get on God’s side on issues where love is at stake while claiming our citizenship in the Kingdom before anything else? It’s hard, and we won’t always do it well. Maybe that’s why people get skeptical when the Church moves out of the realm of civil religion. But as both Moltmann and Bonhoeffer pointed out, to stay out of it altogether is to abrogate our whole mission as a Church.

Even though we will do it imperfectly, and even though we will disagree in the Church on how to do it, the beauty is that God is still faithful! That’s the point. God doesn’t stop working on this broken world, and our call as the Church is to come back here, over and over again, and to remember, and to go out there, and to help others remember, and to proclaim it, and to use that restored faithfulness to see the God in others, and be changed, and to let that change spread in the world, even when its hard, and even when it requires hard choices, and even when it may mean we have to give up our own principles and certainty, and even when we are made uncomfortable in looking for God in the other. That is just part of living a faithful life.

Are we in a Bonhoeffer moment? If we are, what sacrifices will we make to be faithful to God’s law of love? I believe that if this is a Bonhoeffer moment it may be a very different kind than the kind Bonhoeffer himself faced, or that at least we have a window yet to treat it differently. Of course we have to speak truth to power, and all the rest, but this last story is what is on my mind this day:

There is a new show I can’t wait to see. I’ve only seen the trailers. It is from a comedian I love, Sarah Silverman. Sarah Silverman, in past shows, is known for being ruthless in poking fun at everyone. She is hopelessly liberal.

But in this show she does something different. She goes out into rural America. She talks with people who have very different views from her on things like guns, gays, and God. And then she makes friends with them. I’m still not really sure how she does it. But it is beautiful. I’m not sure any minds are changed, but that is not really the point. The vitriol is changed. Relationships are formed, and the anger is sucked out of the room. And community is built. How can evil survive in those circumstances?

The Rev. Cn. Jeff Martinhauk

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

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

The Sunday Sermon: The Danger of Shiny Objects

It’s a well-worn story line: a partner in a relationship disappears without trace. Time passes, and the partner left behind eventually moves on with his or her life, perhaps remarrying or pursuing a different lifestyle. But then the missing partner returns, and drama ensues. We’ve all read books and seen movies with some variation of the plot. But the common ancestor of all those stories is found in the 32nd chapter of the book of Exodus, the story of the golden calf. As happens so often, our Sunday lectionary only gives us part of the story. So let me give you the bigger picture.

Way back in chapter 24, the Lord invited Moses and his deputy, Joshua, to come up the holy mountain and receive the ten commandments carved in stone. Well, off they go into the clouds that wreath the mountain and that’s the last anybody sees of them for a long time. Do you remember how long they spent on the mountain? 40 days and 40 nights, is what we are told, and knowing how often that formula shows up in Scripture we can safely assume that the phrase is a Biblical way of saying “a good long chunk of time”. In fact, the ensuing eight chapters consist of a very, very long set of instructions for how, when, where, and with what to worship the Lord. Reading those chapters, I can see that it would feel like a very long time.

So Moses has disappeared and nobody knows if he will ever come back. He isn’t answering texts; smoke signals aren’t getting through the cloud. What to do? The people of Israel are milling about in their camp in the desert, day after day, getting bored and restless. Rumors, start to fly: Moses is dead. Moses has abandoned them. Fake news abounds: God is an illusion. The Exodus was all a conspiracy by the Egyptians to commit genocide. Things start to fall apart.

Aaron, the priestly brother of Moses, has been left in charge, and he starts to panic. He needs to re-establish control over this mob, he needs some kind of supernatural authority on which he can stand. So he has the people give up something they value: their treasure, the gold jewelry which, you’ll recall, they stole from their slavemasters on their way out of Egypt. Aaron melts down the gold, puts it in a mold - or carves it into shape as one translation has it, waves his hands over the fire, pronounces a formula, “These are your gods, O Israel”, and in an impressive-sounding ritual pulls out of the hat, so to speak, a golden bull - a young one, a symbol of power and fertility and, not coincidentally, of some of the local gods. The people are easily persuaded to worship this object, and the celebration turns pretty rowdy.

But up on the mountain the Lord, who sees all, notices what’s going on and tells Moses of the people’s perfidy. “Your people,” says God, in the time-honored way of an angry parent, “Look what your children have done. Get out of my way while I smite them.” Moses cleverly turns the tables: “why does your wrath burn against your people?” he says, and he appeals to the Lord’s honor - don’t give the Egyptians a reason, he says to doubt your word. And his persuasion works, and the Lord relents. The Lord listens to the faithful and turns from judgment to mercy.

That’s where our lectionary stops, but you’ve got to hear the rest of the story. Just as a parent closes the front door on the police officers, having successfully persuaded them that the teenager was just being high-spirited, and then proceeds in private to castigate the kid up one side and down the other, so Moses, having turned away the deadly wrath of God, hurries back to the camp, which by this time is in an uproar, so noisy that it almost sounds like a battle. He storms into the midst of the party and gets the revelers’ attention by smashing the stone tablets, the symbol of the unique covenant Israel has just made with the Lord. Then he grabs the golden idol, grinds it up, mixes it with water and makes the ringleaders drink it, thus ensuring that it will be thoroughly defiled by passing through their guts. When Moses confronts Aaron, we hear the feeblest excuse in all of Scripture: “I just threw the gold in the fire, and out came this calf!”

Moses and Aaron give us two beautifully crystallized examples of leadership: how to do it and how not to do it. The good leader humbles himself to protect his people from the external threat and then whips them into shape behind closed doors. The weak leader refuses to take responsibility for his failure. But more than that, here is a story that speaks to all of us today.

It speaks of our failure to remain faithful to a God whose voice we cannot hear in the noise that we ourselves generate.

It speaks of our readiness to put our trust and our energy in material things rather than in our covenanted relationships.

It speaks of our squandering of our treasure in pursuits that damage our relationship with God.

It speaks of our dogged rejection of the grace and generosity of our God, who once offered the people Israel the priceless gift of a law to live by, and who now offers each of us a free seat at the banqueting table.

And it speaks of God’s willingness to forgive our most egregious betrayals and welcome us back as beloved children.

“Rejoice in the Lord always,” urges St Paul. “Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and thanksgiving let your requests be known to God.” We can rejoice, always, that ours is a God who listens to the prayers of the faithful; who relents from giving us what we deserve and instead gives us what we need, and more than we need; who showers us with blessings and abundance, and who asks only that we accept the invitation to cultivate holy community, investing our treasure in the work of the Kingdom, and inviting others to join us at the wedding feast.

The Very Rev Penelope M Bridges
October 15, 2017, Proper 23

Saturday, October 14, 2017

CCRP presentation

At the forum last week, Tom Delaney gave us an update about the Cathedral Campus Redevelopment Project, and the Nutmeg development.  As currently planned, this would include apartments including low income housing, Cathedral program space, and Cathedral parking.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

The Sunday Sermon: The Easy Yoke

It was a chilly February evening in Alexandria, Virginia. The church was full and warm. I knelt before the bishop, and my priestly colleagues gathered around me. Warm hands pressing down on my head, my shoulders, my back. Bishop Theuner began the ordination prayer, and at the appropriate moment, all others lifted their hands while his remained. I felt the weight of all those hands lift off my shoulders, and immediately felt a lighter, gentler weight settle in their place, although there was nothing there. I remember thinking, “this is the yoke,” and feeling intensely grateful for the gentleness of the yoke of Christ.

There have been a few times in the intervening 20 years when that yoke hasn’t seemed quite so gentle. I think my esteemed clergy colleagues here will appreciate that. We could all tell tales ... and for that reason, among many others, I am deeply grateful to our staff clergy and to our non-stipendiary clergy who participate in leadership at the cathedral, and who continue to wear that yoke willingly and joyfully. And I give thanks today for the long and faithful priesthood of our brother Alden Franklin, who “slipped the surly bonds of earth” late last Tuesday, on the eve of St Francis Day.

For a more challenging view of the yoke, I recommend the poem by the 17th century poet priest George Herbert. Its title is The Collar, and that’s a deliberate double-entendre recalling both what the Brits call the dog-collar (ie the clerical collar) and the old word for rage or tantrum, choler (pronounced like collar).

We are all about collars today, as we celebrate both clergy appreciation day and the blessing of the animals, in honor of that gentlest and most extreme of saints, Francis of Assisi. The irony of our celebration is not lost on me: we remember the saint who worked to bring peace during the Crusades, in a week when we are heartbroken and outraged by an act of unthinkable violence during a concert in Las Vegas. Francis learned early in his life that violence is never the answer, that taking up arms is an act that leads to death, not life, that human beings who are seduced by a culture of arms become corrupt, diminish their humanity, and lose sight of the teachings of the Prince of Peace.

What kind of madness leads someone to stack armloads of weapons in a hotel room and open fire on a crowd of strangers who are simply enjoying an evening of music? The compulsion to fire bullets ever faster, ever farther, ever more destructively is a kind of addiction, and it afflicts thousands of our fellow Americans, with the result that this country is in the midst of a public health crisis, far more serious than our local Hepatitis A outbreak, and which is not being addressed by our national leaders.

When the teenage Francis put on his shiny new armor and trotted off to fight against the citizens of the neighboring town, he had to be able to look his enemy in the eye before he could injure him. Surely that was a more civilized way of life. But even so, after being captured and held to ransom for a year, Francis saw the light and embraced peace-making instead. Recuperating from the illness he had contracted in prison, he discovered the gentle joys of God’s creation, and in the tranquility of the Umbrian countryside he heard the voice of Jesus, whose yoke is easy, whose burden is light, saying, “Build my church”.

Francis refused the priesthood, although eventually he did consent to be ordained a deacon. He didn’t want to be tempted by power or to rise through the ranks of the church. He dedicated himself to leading a revolution from the bottom: his order of the Friars Minor or Little Brothers owned no property, ate what they could beg from day to day, resisted institutional order and material security. They followed the example of the creatures: the birds who neither sow nor reap, the forest animals which take only as much as they need, dependent on God’s daily provision of the bare necessities of life.

From Francis and his brothers we learn simplicity of life. We learn to take Scripture seriously - to follow Jesus wherever he leads, to set our hands to the plow of the Gospel and not look back. And we learn to broaden our compassion, to open our hearts to the small, the overlooked, the forgotten. We learn to love the animals around us. We adopt from animal shelters, we cherish the small mammals, birds, reptiles, and fish in our care. We feed them, keep them clean and safe, pay for medical treatment when they get sick, and finally, when the time comes, we repay their trust in us by giving them painlessly back to their Creator, even though doing so breaks our hearts.

The gentle yoke of Jesus guided Francis of Assisi from youthful foolishness to a single-minded devotion to the purest principles of the Gospel. He willingly accepted that yoke as he accepted his call to build the church by building a community of love, and he found great joy and contentment in answering that call. We too can accept the yoke that is easy, and cultivate community right here. We can answer the call of Jesus to come to him and lay down our burdens of ambition, anxiety, and judgment. For God knows we are weary of living in this culture of fear; we are tired of the violence, the meanness of spirit, the multiple addictions that beset us. We want, like Francis, to be peacemakers in this troubled world. Take his yoke upon you and you will find rest. Francis found his rest when he gave his life to the Prince of Peace. What is to prevent us from doing likewise?

Octóber 8, 2017: celebrating St Francis and Clergy Appreciation Day
The Very Rev Penelope Bridges