Sunday, January 22, 2017

The Sunday Sermon: Get out of the boat

My brother, who lives on the west coast of Scotland, has a boat. He has sailed for years and even taught sailing for a while. Whenever I go to visit him I love going out for a sail with him. Sometimes we sail over to the Isle of Cumbrae, a small island whose distinguishing feature is the exquisite Cathedral of the Isles, the smallest cathedral in Europe. The little harbor is popular and there often isn't a place to tie up on the pier, so we tie up to a buoy, lower the inflatable dinghy and row to the shore. Every time, I find myself challenged by the agility needed to climb in and out of the dinghy. It's never graceful and sometimes I've come close to tumbling into the water. Getting in and out of the boat isn't easy. There's a point where you have to let go and launch yourself forward. It takes ... commitment.

"Follow me." That's it. That's Jesus's whole church development plan. Not, "Sign onto this doctrine" or "promise to keep these rules," but follow me. There is no Alpha program, confirmation class or church shopping for the fishermen he targets. They hear the call, they get out of their boats, and they follow, not knowing where they are going or what Jesus is offering. They join the Jesus Movement, which literally moves them away from all they have ever known, simply obeying the call, and trusting that they will learn who Jesus is and what he promises as they walk the roads of Galilee together. Their obedience predates their understanding. Their obedience even predates their belief. Follow me and discover fullness of life. Follow me and learn what love means. Follow me and bear witness to the healing that comes from a loving touch. Follow me and be the unique and wonderful human being you were created to be. Follow me to the Cross and learn what lies beyond. But first, you have to get out of the boat. And that's not an easy step.

When we join the Jesus movement, we had better be ready for anything. Qualifications are irrelevant. The brothers were fishermen, not evangelists. They were as unqualified as we are. What did it mean to fish for people? Why did they follow him? He wasn't the only traveling evangelist in Galilee at that time. How did they know that he was the real thing? They didn't even think about it. They immediately left their nets. They left their old lives behind. They didn't grab a net or a length of fishing line and a hook in case they needed to fall back on their craft. They didn't limit their involvement to weekends or spare change. They simply got out of the boat and followed Jesus. Right from the start of the story it is made absolutely clear that you can't be an incremental Christian: it's all or nothing.

In the Revelation to John, the writer speaks dismissively of luke-warm Christians who say, "I am rich; I have prospered; and I need nothing." If we don't need God, we have missed the point. When we see our faith as an activity or a feeling, we haven't got out of the boat. Jesus isn't asking us to subscribe to a program or make a donation to a good cause; he is asking us to walk away from our old lives and put ourselves entirely in his hands, to enter into a committed relationship of trust, to make our faith the center and touchstone of all that we do and all that we are.

The Sea of Galilee is teeming with life, and so it was in the days of Jesus. If you owned a fishing boat, you could easily support a family. Why would anyone leave a secure way of life for something as uncertain as a traveling preacher? There must have been something remarkable about him, something that spoke of abounding joy, of light in the darkness, of dreams fulfilled. Sometimes the only way to find joy, to find love, is to step out from certainty into the unknown. This is the essence of vocation: called to take a chance for the sake of transforming the world. Or, as Frederick Buechner puts it, "Vocation is the place where our deep gladness meets the world's deep need."

We all like to feel we have some control over our lives. But any apparent certainty in our own lives is simply an illusion. In the end we have no control over the big things: the circumstances and length of our lives. The stock market? It could be sunk by a single Tweet. My home? An earthquake could flatten it. And a deadly diagnosis or fatal accident could bring all my plans to a sudden halt. In the end nothing is sure except God. The only safe bet is to take a chance on God, and for Christians that means following Jesus, and that means get out of the boat.

When I made a commitment to tithe off the top of my income to the church I was taking a chance on God taking care of me. When I answered the call to come to San Diego from Virginia, I took a continent-wide leap of faith. So far, whenever God has called me to jump out of the boat, God hasn't let me down.

We now know that the world didn't end on Friday. The three million people who participated yesterday in women's marches across this country and the world affirmed our determination to stand for justice, dignity, and equal rights, and now we move forward. In the coming years we are likely to see some profound changes in how national resources and individual freedoms are administered in this country. Right now I don't expect many of those changes to be changes that I will welcome. But that doesn't change my call to follow Jesus. And it doesn't change who we are, as Christians, as Episcopalians, as St Paul's Cathedral. It only makes it more important that we get out of the boat and follow the call to serve.

If answering the call means taking a chance on God, what chances might we as a congregation be called to take in the years ahead? What safety nets will we leave behind in order to fish for people and bring light out of darkness? The new political climate suggests that this may be a time when our discipleship will carry a cost. If we see draconian cuts to government programs such as public broadcasting, healthcare, the National Endowment for the Arts, and climate change research, we must step forward to protest, to support a free press and the arts, to care for those who will be bankrupted by medical costs or, worse, simply die for lack of treatment. The church will be at the forefront of such efforts, and the church is all of us.

The Lutheran martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote about the cost of discipleship. Reflecting on the call of the disciples, he says, "Until that day, everything had been different. They could remain in obscurity, pursuing their work as the quiet in the land, observing the law and waiting for the coming of the Messiah. But now he has come, and his call goes forth. Faith can no longer mean sitting still and waiting - they must rise and follow him. .. they must burn their boats and plunge into absolute insecurity in order to learn the demand and the gift of Christ."

Today this rings especially true for us who call ourselves followers of Jesus. It's intimidating and challenging, but the reward - the peace that passes all understanding - is incalculable and eternal.

On this Cathedral Day we should take a moment to reflect on where we are and how far we've come. Isaiah's words echo for me today: the people who walked in darkness have seen a great light. Three years ago there was a fair amount of darkness surrounding the cathedral's identity and administration. Today the light is shining out. We are more visible to the city, both physically because of our lights and politically, because of our involvement in the community. Staff and Chapter have worked hard to bring transparency to our operations: ministry leaders know their budgets and can work with them. Each month Chapter members and executive staff receive no fewer than 12 reports. Our financial systems are running well, the accounts are in order and our 2015 audit was clean.

Now we are ready to take the light out into the world. We can see Jesus beckoning us to follow him, to commit ourselves to ministry. Matthew tells us that Jesus set out to cure every disease and every sickness among the people. The deadliest sickness in this time and place is fear. Fear drives people apart. It fosters violence and hatred. So, our mission must be to overcome fear and bring about reconciliation between those who have been infected. Today, Jesus is calling St Paul's. Follow me, he says. Follow me to where the people are living in fear, and bring them out of darkness into light. We hear the call, and we are ready to get out of the boat and follow.

January 22, 2017
Cathedral Day and the 3rd Sunday after the Epiphany
The Very Rev Penelope Bridges

Lights! Camera! Action! A new ministry at St Paul's

(Stock photo)
Lights, Camera, Action—an update on the sound system, and a call for volunteers!

In 2016, St. Paul's Cathedral received a generous anonymous gift for the purpose of upgrading the Cathedral sound system, adding six remote controlled cameras for recording and live-streaming our services and concerts, and installing a 10 ft. LED video screen on the wall of the Great Hall.

The sound system upgrade will allow us to enhance our ministry within the Cathedral: microphones will work as they should—without static, and we've included a state-of-the-art hearing-assistance system with 10 new receivers to share with our parishioners and guests. The system will also include an iPad-operated remote control, allowing an audio volunteer to monitor the sound levels within the Cathedral and ensure the volume remains consistent at a comfortable level.

Expanding on our existing video ministry, we've also been gifted with six pan-tilt-zoom cameras located within the Cathedral to further enhance the way we share our liturgy with our home-bound parishioners and neighbors. As of now, our goal has been to record the video of the sermons only, and that will continue to be one way we share our message. But with the additional cameras and studio quality video switch, we'll be able to create professional quality programming to include the entire service, as an immersive worship experience. Studio quality microphones have also been installed above the choir, the main nave and font to ensure we accurately capture all aspects of our liturgies.

Working closely with our donor, the professional design team of PDI, our SPC team, including Martin Green, Brooks Mason, Penny Bridges, Bob Oslie and Kathleen Burgess and Lisa Churchill, we have created a flexible and robust system that will meet the needs of the Cathedral for years to come.

With the new equipment and opportunity, we also have a new need for volunteers to help in this exciting minstry. We will start with the 10:30 a.m. service, so we will need volunteers at that service to run the wireless control system, monitoring volume levels for 4 - 5 microphones at time. This position does not need any advance technical skills, but more important is the ability to be proactive in monitoring the sound within the cathedral and making subtle changes as needed. If you're not sure this is for you, but you have an interest, please contact me today and I'd love to talk with your further about it.

The second position we have is for an video technician to operate the video switch. This is a more advanced position and will require more advanced skills and an ability to create video transitions that will be recorded and streamed live to our home-bound parishioners and neighboring community.

This is a new ministry at St. Paul's Cathedral, and we anticipate it will take time to fully grow into the opportunities both in technical skills, how we create the programming, and then share with the community. This system is a great gift to our Cathedral, and we hope to gather a team of many volunteers. If you'd like to be involved, I encourage you to talk with me to learn more how you can participate. No matter your skill level, the desire to be part of the team and learn is paramount, and we'd love to have you.

Praise be to God for this opportunity and may we be faithful in learning how to fully utilize this new technology for his Glory!

Respectfully submitted,

Todd Hurrell
Parishioner and Team Leader

Sunday, January 15, 2017

The Sunday Sermon: remember who you are made to be

Today we will bless the bees, so I thought it only fitting to start by telling the story from a movie about bees.

The Bee Movie was a kids movie from 2007, an animated movie about a bee named Barry. Bee life, according to this movie, was monotonous. Most of the bees loved it. It was very ordered and structured, you know all part of a hive mind. All the bees conformed. Barry, however, couldn’t quite fit in. He wanted to see what was outside the hive, he wanted something more.

In a complex series of events, Barry broke the rules, and all of bee-dom broke down. Barry succeeded in getting what he wanted by breaking the norms and getting his individual needs met. He did the unthinkable and talked to a human. In the process, he realized that humans were exploiting bees and taking their honey, and he shared that with all the other bees. Bees stopped working, and as a result, pollination did too. The world became a dreary place without having flowers and green living things to enliven human and bee existence.

Fear not, the movie wraps up with Barry realizing what has happened and recruits the bees to go and get the little remaining pollen in the world, which happens to be all at the Pasadena Rose Parade, and uses it to pollinate the world so that things can get back to normal with one difference: this time bees and humans work side by side respecting each other instead of bees being taken advantage of by the humans.

I have to say that the first time I saw that movie, I did not like its message.

It drew up for me the idea that an individual, if seeking to meet his or her own needs, must conform to some sort of community norm-- because Barry the Bee kind of broke the whole world by not conforming to the bee’s hive mind. I am an old enough gay man to remember having to push through that kind of foolishness in order to peacefully exist in my own identity as who God made me instead of who the hive thinks I should be. I have served in African American parishes and heard the origin stories of how they were born out of the strife of fighting for acceptance in white communities that demanded conformity. I have watched as friends have been treated differently in the church because they are women, told they were not suitable to be clergy because they were not male. The only way that we have made any progress in the church and in the world is to stand up and be like Barry the Bee, and I have to say I resented the implication that doing that might break down the global ecosystem.

But as I reflect on Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, I think I might be understanding the point they were trying to make.

My advisor in seminary, who is now the dean there, told me once that the benefit of individualism was that we learned to value each person because of their differences. The downside is the breakdown of community because we all think we have been wronged if we do not get what we desire. (She probably said it much more eloquently than that.)

Consider that in today’s world we have “filter bubbles” set to our individual preference on our devices that keep us from interacting with people different than us. We have news channels that reinforce only what we want to hear. We have entertainment shows like Duck Dynasty or Big Bang Theory that reinforce our values so that even in entertainment we will not be assaulted by difference. And of course technology makes it easy to block that uncle who we disagree with on Facebook. An article in the Atlantic   on Friday argues that three important institutions that have held society together for the last 20 years are breaking down. Public schools used to be places where we learned how to behave in community, but we increasingly have choice in school so that individual families can avoid being with others who are different. The military has long been a place where people from any and all walks of life learn how to get along so that they can trust each other with their lives, but increasingly our defense is contracted to corporations, who hire to fit a corporate culture, homogenized to avoid having to do the messy work of teaching how to trust difference. Finally, the article argues that churches-- yes, even us-- have begun to reinforce personalization and individualism. And the breakdown of community, as we know, has lead to higher rates of mental illness, depression, feelings of isolation, and even violence. We have made a lot of progress towards breaking down the behemoth of the hive of 1950s suburban hegemony, but we have perhaps done it by building walls around each of us individually instead.

So in that context, I guess I can have a little more appreciation for the creators of the Bee Movie, because I think the way that movie develops, where the individual is so concerned with self that he undermines the whole, is what Paul is concerned about in this letter to Corinthians. The church in Corinth is falling apart because they aren’t able to work together, with each member most concerned that he is getting fed, or that his gifts are being used to the fullest.

In this opening of the letter, Paul reminds the Corinthians not only that they are one together, but that they are united into a much larger body in the whole church, and that they in turn are connected to the much larger church of all Christians- even connected to us here today.

It reminds me of his letter to the Galatians, where he wrote what would be used in the early church as the Baptismal formula. “Many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.” That is a reference to the diversity of the early church and it's not figurative. In the first house churches of the 1sr century, the Jews and Greeks, the free and slave, the male and female were all treated in very different and hugely unfair and awful ways outside the church by the Roman Empire. But when they stepped into the church and literally donned their baptismal robes, that faded away and they would be connected in Christ Jesus and literally step into equality, being on an even playing field as one body in Jesus Christ, one body with many members, different people from different places, experiences and gifts- no longer in a hierarchy of oppression but a part of one beautiful and diverse living organism.

This is no uniform body of conformity. This is a tapestry woven of different threads, some old, some new; threads of different colors, lengths, and textures, all pulled together to make a beautiful image-- and if we could get far enough back from this tapestry, we might see the picture forms an image of the face of God.

Because that is the job of the Church. At baptism, you go down into the water and die to that old self, and rise-- not alone but a part of something bigger. You are called by name at baptism by the God that knew you before you were born, in your mother’s womb, the one who made you, and rise in baptism marked as Christ’s own to be a member of this larger body where you are loved, beloved, and a part of something important.

St. Pauls, we've got a beautiful building. But the church isn’t a building. It is this body of Christ-- all of us, together, one in Christ, that is the Church. It isn’t a place. It isn’t even an idea. It’s us, together, across time and space. And you were called by name to be a part of it.

I tell people often in baptismal preparation-- if you are baptized, prepare to be loved. And prepare to be hurt. Because this isn’t about you, even though it is. This is about you turning into something more. The church will hurt you. But it will also love you. But if you only focus on the hurt, you will never get to the love. If you only ask why the church doesn’t work with the efficiency of a business, you will never see the tenderness it offers to each one who lags behind-- which may not matter to you until it is you. If you only focus on how you are the one left out, you may miss the opportunity to reach out and feel the hands around you wanting to pull you back in and offer compassion, even if it is offered not in the way you want it but in the way you need it. If you only pledge because you approve of the line items in the budget, you may miss what it means to connect your life and labor to the family of God around you and be swept up into a life of love with all that you have. And even when the church fails at any of these, I choose to believe as one who has been hurt by the church that its failures stem from the very human attempt of striving to be what it is, a family of love. And all of us can relate to that.

But St. Pauls, we got this. We got the love that allows us to be a close-knit body. We can be the hands that show up when the person next to us needs an extra pair, no matter how different the person is with the need. We had somebody in the hospital last week and another member was there. I’ve heard more than once how help was needed and somebody showed up at just the right time. I’ve been there when you show up because a loved one in the family has died. We are connected.

Being the church isn’t about what we get done, or how much money we can raise, or even how beautiful the worship is. Those are means to an end. Being the Church, being the body of Christ is remembering that each of us is important not just because of who we are, but because of who we are connected to. Like we did last week, just look around and it's easier to remember.

On this Martin Luther King day, I want to leave you with some words from that great man, whose dream has grown and blossomed so much that some of the gendered words now sound jarring. Who knew that resistance and nonviolence was only possible in the context of unity among those who have the strength to live for each other. He said:

MLK - Remaining awake through a great revolution
“We are challenged to develop a world perspective. No individual can live alone, no nation can live alone, and anyone who feels that he can live alone is sleeping through a revolution. The world in which we live is geographically one. The challenge that we face today is to make it one in terms of brotherhood.

“Now it is true that the geographical oneness of this age has come into being to a large extent through modern man’s scientific ingenuity. Modern man through his scientific genius has been able to dwarf distance and place time in chains. And our jet planes have compressed into minutes distances that once took weeks and even months. All of this tells us that our world is a neighborhood. “Through our scientific and technological genius, we have made of this world a neighborhood and yet we have not had the ethical commitment to make of it a brotherhood. But somehow, and in some way, we have got to do this. We must all learn to live together as brothers or we will all perish together as fools. We are tied together in the single garment of destiny, caught in an inescapable network of mutuality. And whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. For some strange reason I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. And you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be. This is the way God’s universe is made; this is the way it is structured.

“John Donne caught it years ago and placed it in graphic terms: "No man is an island entire of itself. Every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main." And he goes on toward the end to say, "Any man’s death diminishes me because I am involved in mankind; therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee." We must see this, believe this, and live by it if we are to remain awake through a great revolution.”

Be awake, St. Pauls. Come and see and remember who your God has made you to be.

Blessing of the bees

The blessing of our Cathedral BeeHive, on the roof of the office building.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

The Sunday Sermon: Ministry in Public

Matthew's story of the baptism of Jesus has some unique quirks. For example it's the only version that has John and Jesus having a conversation. Even though Matthew has said nothing about them being cousins - that's Luke's story - John clearly recognizes Jesus as someone sent from God, someone who is better equipped than he to forgive sins. I can't help but notice the implication that the person doing the baptizing doesn't necessarily have to be the holiest person in the room.

This baptism is a public act, as baptism should be, and everyone present experiences the public epiphany, or revelation, of God's announcement: this is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased. But only Jesus sees the dove, hovering over the face of the water as the Spirit hovered in creation, and understands that he is receiving the Spirit, that he is commissioned to be the main actor in a new creation. This part of the experience is a private epiphany, for now at least.

Why does Jesus need to be baptized? John's resistance echoes our own questioning about baptism. If baptism is for forgiveness of sins, why do we baptize infants who have not sinned? Why do we need baptism if we believe in a God who loves all, forgives all, and accepts all?

As Episcopalians we can appreciate the importance of ritual. Human beings use all kinds of rituals to mark significant moments. We pray at birth and at death; people who usually eat their meals without a thought often stop to say grace before Christmas dinner, and even the dinner itself is often a ritual, with specific food, the best china, and certain stories told year after year.

We use rituals to mark a new beginning like the inauguration of a president or a rite of passage like graduation. The baptism of Jesus by John marks a public beginning to Jesus's public ministry. And, just as the ministry of Jesus is public, so is the ministry of those who are part of the Jesus movement. Being a Christian isn't a private existence. We are to participate in public worship and public life. We are to do public acts of compassion and to witness in public to what is right and what is wrong: the baptismal promises make that pretty clear. Every time we witness a baptism or renew our promises, it's a reboot, a jump-start to re-energize our ministry in the world.

Theologian Stanley Hauerwas says Christians are called to be "people with virtues sufficient to witness to God's truth in the world." One of the functions of the church is to form us into such people, and Baptism is the first step in that formation.

Each of the Scripture passages we heard today contributes to a picture of baptismal ministry. Isaiah speaks God's word to the people of God. "I have given you as a covenant to the people, a light to the nations, to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness."

This is our call: to bring light, to heal, to liberate. How do we live it out? Not by building walls, creating divisions, or disenfranchising the poor, but by freeing those who are held captive by sin, by insisting on justice for all, and by lighting up the world's dark places.

The tempestuous drama of the Psalm reminds us of the tremendous power of God, a power that makes creation possible. We sing of the presence of God in each of the elements, elements also present in baptism: the earthiness of the human being, the water, the fire and wind of the Spirit. The wildness of the psalm's language reminds us that baptism isn't meant to be a polite sprinkling but a drowning, a dramatic and risky act that symbolizes a violent death and at the same time proclaims that death is not the end.

Ours is a dramatic faith: drowned and resurrected through baptism, singed and blown away by the Spirit, partaking of the dismembered and remembered body of our God in the Eucharist, this is not a call to live quiet, self-effacing lives. Our God, the God who shakes the wilderness and strips the forest bare; our God wants us to be dramatic, to be radical, to take risks and step out of our comfort zones, to shake up the world and turn the usual order upside down. We are to stick our noses into other people's business, to demand the truth and agitate for accountability. We are to ask awkward questions of ourselves and others: whom does this action benefit? How are lives being transformed? What are we giving up so that our neighbor may live?

Today we embark on the season after Epiphany. Only two days ago we celebrated the arrival of the wise men at the manger, - maybe you missed it - and now it's gone. The tree, the wreaths, the stable, all gone. The world has left Bethlehem far behind and the wise men have been banished along with all the other Christmas paraphernalia. But the last line in the Epiphany Gospel always lingers in my mind long after January 6: "They left for their own country by another road." It carries a sense of traveling through unknown territory, even after you have encountered Christ, and that's a feeling many of us in the church are all too familiar with these days. It sometimes feels like we are spending all our days trying to find our way home by another road, often through hostile territory. But we don't travel without a guide.

Last week I visited with a friend who is in the last days of her life, and we talked a little about the Epiphany story and about that feeling. The journey through the end of this life is one that we travel only once. We are unusually blessed if we can reflect on it while we are in the midst of it and comment, as my friend did, that it's "an interesting experience." That comment speaks to deep faith in the divine shepherd who leads us home.

In our journey through the church year, we observe this season with a Eucharistic prayer that says we give thanks to God, because in the mystery of the word made flesh, God has caused a new light to shine in our hearts, to show our knowledge of God's glory in the face of Jesus. The wise men saw the face of Jesus in the stable, and they carried the new light with them in their travels through strange lands. We now carry that light in our time.

Maybe the light has grown dim for you, given the fear and anxiety that is everywhere in our world. Like a fire that burns low, we need to nurture the light, to gently hold it and coax it to burn bright. It's hard to go out into the world and serve others when we ourselves are tired and discouraged. So, our first task in this Epiphany season is to nurture the flame in ourselves and in one another, starting right here in our own cathedral community.

Last week you may have heard me speak of our formational theme for this year: to grow and develop as a community of reconciliation. At last week's adult forum we touched on several dimensions of reconciliation, and they all came down to a common denominator: relationships. Relationships with each other, relationships with God, relationships with our own deepest selves. The general confession that we usually say on a Sunday morning, when we don't have the baptismal covenant, gives us words to express our desire to be reconciled with God. It is followed immediately by the assurance of God's forgiveness and then by the exchange of the Peace, which offers an opportunity for reconciliation with our neighbors, so that we can approach the altar for Communion with a clear conscience. But we often forget that the purpose of the Peace is reconciliation, and we use that moment to greet our friends and family rather than deepening relationship with others. So I want to offer you an opportunity, right now, to strengthen our community through relationship, to nudge that light in your heart to burn a little brighter.

Look around you: left and right, in front and behind, across the aisle. Do you see someone you don't know, or barely know? Reach out a hand right now to that person. Introduce yourselves and take just one sentence each to say what brought you to St Paul's this morning. Go ahead. It won't hurt. I'll wait.

As we walk this Epiphany journey in relationship, I hope you will grasp more opportunities to nurture the light in your heart, to own your identity as the Lord's beloved, and to boldly witness to God's dramatic and transforming love. Amen.

January 8, 2017 The Baptism of Christ 
The Very Rev Penelope Bridges

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Meet Our 2017 Chapter Nominees!

The Annual Meeting is in a few weeks, so it’s time to meet our Chapter nominees. Read all about them below, and come to a meet-and-greet during coffee hour on both January 8 and 15. Then, please join us for the Annual Meeting in the Great Hall at 12:00 p.m. on January 22.

Martin Nace Hall
In 2005 I first visted St. Paul’s Cathedral at the invitation of my banker and good friend Deedra Hardman. I was moved when I heard the choir sing, when a woman presided over the Mass and when a gay priest delivered the sermon. I prayed about the invitation to participate fully in the worship “wherever I found myself on my spiritual journey” for several weeks and ultimately received my first communion at the altar of St. Paul’s. After more than 25 years of searching, I had found a sanctuary where the diversity of God’s human creation assembles to worship. I was confirmed by the Bishop in 2006.

For the past 10 years, I have been involved with various ministries in the Cathedral including: the “Fun” Committee/planning events like Home Coming picnic, Zydeco dinner, Soup Supper; the Stewardship Committee/planning nd hosting stewardship receptions, mailing letters; the Eucharistic Ministry/serving communion to shut-ins; the Cathedral Visitors Ministry/visiting parishioners in their nursing home or at hospital; Ashes to Go Ministry/dispersing Ashes on the streetcorners of downtown San Diego; St. Paul’s LGBT Pride Committee/planning the walk, checking into the parade at 6 am to hold our place in line, carrying the Episcopal flag in the parade.

The Strategic Goal on which I would most like to serve as Chapter Liaison is the Cathedral for the City. I have a passion for the mission of C4CC and have volunteered in these activities for some years now. It is very rewarding to see the faces and hear the expressions of the people you encounter on the streets of the city when you bring Christ’s message that “all are welcomed at St. Paul’s Cathedral”. In my life outside of the cathedral, I am the Director of Catering and Conference Services of a resort and have more than 25 years experience in the position with Hyatt Hotels, Noble House Hotels and Hilton Hotels. My duties include creating a marketing plan and budget that produces $8M in revenue annually. It is my responsibility to direct the sales and service efforts of a team of managers and to keep the team focused on sales and service goals. I am disciplined with respect to maintaining expenses and achieving a planned budget.

Around San Diego, I have been involved with the following boards and event committees:

• Cruise 4 Kids for the Teddy Ball and the Bunny Ball 
• San Diego Human Dignity Foundation’s events committee 
• SDGBA’s Charitable Foundation Scholarship Grant Committee 
• Mama’s Kitchen Board

Susan McClure
I enrolled my son as a Boy Chorister in 1986 and was recruited to assist with vestments and such. By 1989, I joined the Cathedral Choir and 2 other children had joined the Choristers/St. Cecelia Choir. With the choirs alternating services at that time, we were at the Cathedral almost the entire day on Sundays. My husband, Mark, became a Sunday School teacher in the early 90s and we transferred our membership to the Cathedral because we were there almost every day of the week. We have worshipped under 4 Deans and 3 Bishops. I don’t always agree with everything that might be most popular but that hasn’t interfered with making many good friends over the years. The St. Paul’s community has helped to raise our children and become our home.

I appreciate the diversity and programs. I have been involved in many different ministries over the years including:

• Cathedral Choir, Choristers and St. Cecelia Choir (  I have given the St. Cecelia Cross since 1994 to girls who have remained loyal to the choir through senior year of high school )
• Teen groups through 2002 
• As a career Occupational Therapist, I have an interest in disability awareness around the Cathedral campus including starting an awareness ministry in 2003 
• Early contributor of the Organ Restoration Fund and the Cathedral Lighting project 
• Assisting with St. George’s Day since 1987 
• Providing rides to others for Cathedral events 
• Regular attendee of Women Together 
• 2007-2009 involved with Diocean Refugee Network and the Sudanese population at St. Luke’s in North Park 
• Marriage Encounter and Cursillo 

I feel called to be a Chapter Liaison to either the Music or North Park projects. I would also like to ensure accessibility for the disabled throughout the campus.

Having considered Chapter service several times over the years, the timing just wasn’t right. Now, however, with child-rearing, parent-care and other full time obligations in the past, timing seems good to put energy into Chapter. I have a long history and involvement at St. Paul’s and accept people for themselves. Over the years I have learned that even if I don’t always agree on everything, my caring of my fellow parishioners and longtime friendships are what is really important. I respect the many people who have contributed their time and talents to make St. Paul’s the church it is. I also very much listen to what I feel are God’s messages to me and try to live my life accordingly.

Marshall Moore
I was introduced to St. Paul’s by my wife, who had preceded me to San Diego by a couple of years. The music, the liturgy and the space combine to make, for me, a remarkable spiritual experience. More importantly, of the several churches I’ve known, SPC is the first which truly “walks the talk” of forgiveness, acceptance and inclusion.

I was fortunate to have served on the Vision for Mission Committee. For the past two years I have chaired the HR committee. In that capacity, I led the efforts of several others in various hiring activities, the hiring of Jeff Martinhauk and Kathleen Burgess being the most significant. Additionally, I have served as a Greeter and been involved with the Showers of Blessing ministry. Most recently I have served on the Stewardship Committee. I feel most called to serve as Chapter Liaison to Outreach and Justice which is at the core of our faith and is where we “walk the talk”.

I have an appreciation for the inner workings, both issues and decision making, of churches having served on vestries of two other parishes (both small and large). I have an MBA so understand financial constraints and considerations. Service has always been at the heart of my religious experience. My childhood family was a critical part of a tiny parish so I learned the importance of service. There are exciting times ahead for SPC and I would hope that my experience and thoughtful consideration could help as we continue on this journey of faith.

Bruce Warren
I first came to SPC in 1961. For 20 years was married, raised two children in the church, then divorced and left the church. About 5 years ago I returned to the cathedral and found a different congregation. I felt welcomed.

During my early years at SPC, I was on the Building Committee and was involved in the early days of St. Paul’s Manor (now St. Paul’s Senior Services). More recently I have been involved as a committee member for Dorcas House, a docent, a Stephen Minister and a lector. My background and experience suggest that I would be a good fit serving a Chapter Liaison to Outreach and Justice, Cathedral Campus/Grounds, or Music/Arts. This experience includes land-use planning and entitlement and governmental regulations. I have served on many community planning groups and several non-profit boards.

I feel called to serve on Chapter because I enjoy the spiritual benefits of St. Paul’s and believe it would be good to be back in the system that keeps the cathedral working, working with and meeting new people and being of service.

Dexter Semple (bio below)  is the diocesan representative to Chapter, and is not subject to election at the Annual Meeting.  He was elected by the diocesan convention in November, and his bio is listed for informational purposes only.

Dexter Semple
I immigrated to the US from Guyana at a young age. Two years ago I moved to San Diego and have been an active member of St. Luke’s since. There, I serve on the Vestry as well as on the Communications and Usher ministries. My appointment as a Diocesan representative to the Chapter will help to cement the growing relationship between St. Luke’s and St. Paul’s.

Friday, December 30, 2016

The Christmas Eve Sermon: Do not be afraid

Christmas Eve, 2014
St. Paul’s Cathedral
San Diego, California

Isaiah 9: 2-7
Luke 2: 1-14

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

I had another sermon written for tonight. I suppose it was a good sermon. It was your run of the mill, feel good Christmas Eve sermon. You would probably tell me at the door it was a good sermon and forget about it before you got home. It was warm and fuzzy. Some of you may be saying, “wait a second; that is exactly what I came for—check please!” But you see, that sermon was fit for an ordinary Christmas Eve. Perhaps I can use it another year, but not tonight. I just don’t think this is an ordinary Christmas.

There is so much anxiety out there. Our lives feel so unsettled. And one could say we are doing it to ourselves. We are so plugged into news, much of it manufactured, and too much of it false news. Almost all of it raises emotions—and not in a good way. Throughout the election, we felt edgier and edgier—and Twitter is not helping. Truth be told: we simply live in a fearful age. And I think this has been building for a long time. Imprinted on the psyche of most of us here tonight, being born and raised in a nuclear age punctuated by the Cuban missile crisis, the arms race, whose sign was a fallout shelter, we are preconditioned to be fearful. Our nightmares included mushroom clouds. As those fears faded, they were replaced by a changing economic environment, a warming planet, Al Qaeda and ISIS. Fear has become such a constant that it almost doesn’t register even as our fears define our lives.

Travelers in first century Judah, while not knowing this age, would connect to those same feelings. Luke tells the story of Christmas by firmly placing it in time, in a specific fearful time, during the registration of Augustus, when Quirinius was governor in Syria. Today, our decennial census is something routine—but not so with that ancient census. Indeed, during the census of Quirinius, Judah suffered a rebellion led by Judas the Galilean. With these details, Luke reminds us that Jesus’ birth occurs in a time of rebellion, oppression, violence, terrorism, and suffocating poverty. Indeed, the very circumstances of Mary and Joseph’s travel underscore the brittleness of life for so many—poor travelers, giving birth to their child in a dirty grotto, using a manger for a first bed—tough living with much to fear.

We are told that, not far away, there are the shepherds—the first century equivalent of parking attendants or night watchmen. They are suffering life at the lowest level. Our common bond with those shepherds, with all common folk around Bethlehem and even with Mary and Joseph is being citizens of a fearful time.

And yet, it is into their world of darkness that a child is born. It is a moment that could pass unnoticed. But this is God’s most gracious offering placed not in the midst of beauty, but in the darkest darkness. It is not given first to the most blessed, but to the most marginalized. Nevertheless, it is so cosmically transformational that angels must tell the story. And an angel goes to those shepherds. Those shepherds, like us, are children of fear…it is their heartbeat and it is their default. And so, when the angel appears, they are afraid. And so are we… we are afraid of what we see and hear. We are afraid of what our politicians say. We are afraid of what our nation is becoming and who will be marginalized. We are afraid. And that is why no simple Christmas sermon will do.

When the angel comes to the shepherds, the angel is surely coming to us. We need this birth. We need to hear what the angel says. This is really it. The angel’s message is the proverbial spiritual ball game.
Do not be afraid; for see-- I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.
The good news that the angel brings is that we do not have to live this way. We do not have to live in fear: do not be afraid. The incarnation, God enfleshed in Jesus, changes everything. This is the unanticipated and unexpected humility of God. God’s love for the world—for us—is so profound and complete that God would come and be with us even as a helpless child. Fear is simply knocked off the stage. Our Advent hope is not in vain. And so shepherds go, in that hope. With their sheep, staff, and robes, they are both characters in the story and messengers in their own right.

On this night, we can similarly be set in motion. We can become characters of the story of a new birth that vanquishes fear and changes everything. And so, we come to this holy place and sing the carols of joy. Incense is lifted heavenward with our prayers. We hear Luke’s precious words of the first birth. Then through the Eucharist, we connect the story of this baby with the Christ he will later present, enflesh through his teachings, miracles and finally the cross and empty tomb. To go to the manger is to go the cross. It is to worship God who is all in—with us, in our joy and in our suffering, our life and in our death. And after “Silent Night” and a refrain of comfort and joy, we like those shepherds of old, will go into the night. We go with spiritual courage because our resolve is fragile and fear still reigns out there. Fear continues to be cultivated by the principalities and powers. Scapegoating and fear mongering remain political fodder. Terrorists still bid to do harm. The poor still suffer, which is where we come in as tellers of the story and participants of the story of the manger. “The people who have walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness--on them light has shined.”

And so leaving the manger, we will look for Mary and Joseph again on the road. Perhaps we will see them in the 60 million refugees around the planet who yearn for safety and home, some in our own city and county. With them, we will practice the spiritual discipline of neighborly love. We will not be afraid. We might sit down with other travelers at table when they are ridiculed because of their race, or gender or sexual orientation. We mean what the banner in front of this cathedral says. We will not be afraid. And we will see them in those who practice different faiths, whom some wish to register in a new and subversive census. Secure in what we have seen within this manger, we might even say, I too am a Muslim; register me. We will stand in love. We will not be afraid.

Dear ones, it is this simple: unto us a child is born. Hope does not come through a political campaign or a business plan. Hope comes with this child and birth—the transforming gift of God found in a most unlikely place. Do not be afraid anymore. Dismiss the power of fear with the overwhelming power of God’s love. Take your angelic role as a messenger of God. Tell the story of glad tidings. Be and live the story of good news. Do you hear the heavenly host? They are praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!" Do not be afraid.

Michael Gerson, “Where is God?” The Washington Post, December 23, 2016

Monday, December 26, 2016

The Christmas Sermon: The Light Shines in the Darkness

Alleluia, unto us a child is born. Come, let us adore him.

"In the beginning was the Word".This morning's reading from John's Gospel transports us to the realm of the transcendent, the mystical. It stands in contrast to the vivid, real-world story-telling of Luke, that we heard last night, with the manger and the shepherds. And yet the morning light brings this world into sharp relief, even as we meditate on the Word made Flesh, full of Grace and Truth. This is the rhythm of our faith, from poetry to prose, from prophecy to politics, from glorious vision to grim reality and back again.

The world is very present this morning. We know, today, that there are children who didn't waken this morning to piles of presents and adults who aren't surrounded by loved ones. We know there are people grieving for those they've lost since last Christmas and families in homeless shelters and whole communities displaced from their homes by war or famine or genocidal persecution, and many, many people anxious and afraid of what the year ahead may bring.

As someone has said, each of us is an innkeeper who decides if there is room for Jesus. I am grateful every day for this inclusive cathedral community that flings open the doors to all who come. As a congregation we have decided that there will always be room for Jesus here at St Paul's.

The pictures of Syrian children haunt me today. The darkness that John names is real for them. They are the most tragic victims of our time, slaughtered by a ruthless regime and its allies. The Holy Family image that is most vivid for me this Christmas is the news photo of a Syrian couple, refugees fleeing Aleppo, the woman completely wrapped in her cloak, the man carrying an infant carrier, covered with a blanket, in one hand and an intravenous drip, obviously connected to the unseen baby, in the other. The utter vulnerability of the little family is heartbreaking. I wonder if they found an innkeeper ready to open the door to them. I wonder if that baby is still alive. And I wonder, is that child any less valuable than the child whose birth we celebrate today? If we are commanded to love our neighbor as ourselves, shouldn't we love that baby as if he were baby Jesus? The sadness is overwhelming.

And yet, in the midst of the sadness, we celebrate. We celebrate the visits of the angels. We celebrate the sharing of the good news with humble shepherds. We celebrate the offer of salvation to all people. We celebrate the coming of a particular child into this dangerous world, because his coming assures us that the light shines still, that the darkness has not and cannot overcome it.

We gather here today and every Sunday to find respite from the world's disappointment and noise, to take a few moments to listen for God's voice, to receive a scrap of bread, a sip of wine, as gentle reminders that we are promised a seat at God's banqueting table. We gather to gain strength from one another in the prayers and the fellowship, to feed our souls with the beauty of music and pageantry.

St Paul's is good at that, the sacramental nourishing, the respite, the fellowship. But we have so much more to offer. This cathedral community is dedicated to making a difference in the world. Our mission, love Christ, serve others, welcome all, is like a bow on a beautifully wrapped Christmas present. It says that there is something special here, but you have to unwrap the present to learn just how special it is. Just this year we have seen our outreach efforts grow and blossom, as we offered our Showers of Blessing to the homeless every month; as we included support for refugee families in our Advent program; as we provided clothing, shoes and furnishings for the residents of shelters and transitional housing. This year we inaugurated a community garden and an urban bee colony; and we hosted memorial services for victims of gun violence, specifically Orlando and Sandy Hook. This year we stood up with our neighbors of other faiths to call for our city leaders to treat all people with dignity and compassion in a season of hateful and divisive political rhetoric.

We woke up this morning in the light, not only the light of a new day but the light of a new creation. We know that on the other side of the globe it is night, the darkness has temporarily taken charge. But we know that the light will shine there again, because the darkness cannot overcome the light. And the darkness of the sins of humanity cannot overcome the light of God's love as we know it in Jesus Christ, the Word who has become flesh. And this light shines for all people, no exceptions, for, as Isaiah sings, all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God.

Last night we heard the angel say, "Behold, I bring you good news of great joy". Today that good news is living in our hearts, planted by our experience of warmth, of community, of giving. We share the good news when we share what we have received here: we can offer a welcome, we can provide a family, we can learn to receive and to give with joyful and grateful hearts. Above all, we can share the hope that has been born in us through the incarnation of God's son on earth. For unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given, and the government shall be upon his shoulders. And he shall reign for ever and ever. This is our Christmas hope.

Alleluia, unto us a child is born. Come, let us adore him.

Christmas Day 2016
The Very Rev. Penelope Bridges

Monday, December 19, 2016

The Sunday Sermon: let the light find you

I had a friend once who worked very hard to make sure that all of his plans went the right way. He followed all the rules. He worked hard. He found a spouse. He had children. He saved money. He did everything he was supposed to.

But one day, his world came crashing in, and his life fell apart. The best-laid plans didn’t hold up, and his relationships turned out to be superficial. It turned out his family needed him in a way that he hadn’t been available because he had been so busy trying to play by the rules, trying to work hard. His relationship faltered because he hadn’t been available to be present to more important things.

Or my other friend, who worked very hard to ensure that she got everything done in a different way. She worked very hard to be present to everyone’s needs in her family while also trying to manage a successful career. She spread herself so thin that she was exhausted. She tried to meet every expectation laid upon her, a different set of rules, and in so doing always felt insufficient at all of them, sort of stretched too thin. One day her life fell apart when she realized none of it was making her happy.

Sometimes the best laid plans, following the rules, meeting the expectations-- it just doesn’t seem to work out that well.

We think that following the rules is always the way to fix our problems. But sometimes it doesn’t work. This time of year in the children’s hospital where I used to work, there would always be a set of parents who would go through a series of devastating setbacks as they worked really hard to follow the rules, take the prescribed regimens of physical therapy or medication, and try to get home before Christmas. And when following the rules sometimes did not get them home in time for Christmas, there would be a sense of unfairness, of loss: “Dr. - I did what you said! Why can’t we be home for Christmas!” Following the rules just doesn’t always land you where you hope it will.

I so want Christmas to be a time of relief from that rat-race of chasing expectations. But sometimes the postcards and trying to live into a picture-perfect idea of what this season might look like ends up adding a kind of pressure that doesn’t help. How will I get the cards out? What if the kids don’t care about the traditions? How will I find all the money I need? How will I get the cookies baked? Where will I find the time to do it all? But also: What if I’m alone? What about the ones I’m reminded of this time of year that I can’t be with? What if the joy isn't there? The expectations we have set for the holidays don’t always align with the reality.

We’ve got families in the congregation who have loved ones in the hospital this Christmas, who are grieving this Christmas, and who won’t have the Norman Rockwell postcard Christmas. The darkness that comes at this time of year can take its toll, and the difficult fact is that darkness comes into our all our lives at sometime or another, and no action on our part can prevent it.

In today’s gospel, I imagine Joseph trying to do the right thing to break what must have been a dark moment in his life. With his fiancé pregnant, the kind thing to do for both of them was for him to leave quietly without making a big fuss, and he was going to follow the rules and do just that. Joseph had the best intentions to take what he perceived to be a bad situation and follow the rules that would make the best of it.

But then this angel broke in, unexpected, and told him not to follow the rules-- not to leave Mary-- and to risk it all to stay with her.

How reckless! How messy! How culturally inappropriate! This is not the postcard answer to the scandalous situation they found themselves in. This is a messy answer that is only going to make it messier. I can't imagine this solution getting through committee, much less General Convention.

But that is the point. We like our pictures of Christmas that are cute, and gentle, and orderly. But this-- this is grace breaking into this world, setting the stage for the messy incarnation to come, an incarnation of God into a child in a dirty manger surrounded by filthy barnyard animals who probably haven’t had any vaccinations and are going to get that baby sick!

This is grace, taking this man Joseph by the throat and saying, “Everything you know tells you to leave this woman quietly, but I’m telling you not to.” This is grace, saying, “Do not be afraid. This is hard stuff, but take courage, because even though it will be worse before it gets better, and you will flee into the night in the very next chapter of Matthew-- you will leave your nation to go to Egypt because they are trying to kill this baby, the very one you yourself are trying to leave now, I am with you. And though it isn’t going to be easy, you’ve got to step up and have faith, and love.”

Because that’s what grace is. It’s that messy breaking in, it’s love! It’s the voice that comes in the middle of the night and tells you that even though it is going to cost you, you are loved enough yourself to risk going out and loving somebody else, even if it isn’t in your plan, even if it breaks a few rules. Do not be afraid.

There was a time, once, a few years back, when I was lost. I felt like life was so dark. I remember working so hard to get out of it, to find the light. I met with my spiritual director at the time, who said to me, “Stop working so hard to find the light. Let the light find you.”

We want so much to work to find the light, hoping that if we follow the rules we can get there. But that’s not grace. That's control. Grace isn’t about finding the light.

Grace is the light that finds you. Grace is the light that breaks in when we least expect it, though we may be so busy working on our own plans that we miss it. Grace is God’s invitation for risky and messy love in God’s own self-- a light so powerful that we can risk to love without fear. Grace comes not in a booming voice but in a small, still whisper. Grace comes not in a majestic Christmas portrait but in a messy and dirty manger, one that we may well walk by without a second thought because we think it doesn’t fit the rules we have built to hold it.

I love this story of Joseph, this final advent moment before the incarnation next week. It is so powerful in its call to move us out of complacency, to listen in the darkness, to prepare the way for the light, to listen for the voice that is always beckoning us to love. Whether or not we have ears to hear, even when it doesn’t match our rules, our expectations, is up to us.

We have a tradition in my house this time of year. We usually watch this movie, The Polar Express. I don’t know how many of you have seen it, but it is the story of a boy’s journey to believe.

The movie begins with the boy doubting his belief in Santa. Just when he is tossing and turning in his bed, something happens on the street outside, and a train appears from out of nowhere. He is invited on board, but he asks the conductor where the train is going. The conductor responds, “One thing about trains: It doesn’t matter where they’re going. What matters is deciding to get on.” He struggles with whether or not to board the train. What a difficult choice! This mysterious train from nowhere-- full of intrigue, yet he knows nothing about it. Is it safe? What if it goes someplace dangerous? He refuses. But what if it goes someplace wonderful? As the train pulls away, he says yes and boards anyway.

It turns out to be a life changing adventure. He meets many people. He has lots of joyful and scary experiences. And in the end, he discovers that he believes, all stemming from his decision to take a step onto this mysterious train that appeared from nowhere that is leading to an unknown destination, breaking all the rules he knows.

The thing is, when the train came to his town in this mysterious adventure, the adults all slept through its arrival, even though it was loud and noisy and shook the whole house. The train didn’t fall into their expectations, their rules. They missed the opportunity to go to a new place, even though that journey required risk and uncertainty.

But the boy, he listened. He risked. He was willing to receive the gift that was so freely offered in this mystery that came to him. My wish for all of us is that the train wakes us up, shakes us, and startles us into getting onboard to a destination we’ve never dreamt of before.

In the words of poet, author, and pastor Peter Traben Haas on this Advent season as we come to its end,

You now enter the deepest days of darkness.
Take time to recall through story and song the message of my descent to you in love.
While it's an ancient story told with the poetry of a different era, remember this: I surprise with wonder. I make the impossible, glorious.
Watch. Wait. Wonder.

The Rev Jeff Martinhauk
18 Dec 2016

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

The Cathedral Paulcast: Subscribe today!

Did you know that St. Paul’s Cathedral has a podcast? Subscribe today!

Join hosts Robin Taylor, Director of Children Youth and Family Ministries, and David Tremaine, Director of Outreach and Formation, as they reflect each week on the Christian Education and Formation offerings at St. Paul’s Cathedral. This is a mobile resource for all ages, aimed at creating space for theological education and reflection throughout the week, at home or on-the-go.

Subscribe through your favorite podcast player and tune in to these weekly conversations as we explore different topics throughout the year and bring together all the formational offerings in one place for quick and easy listening.

New to podcasts? Read on for directions about how you can listen and subscribe!

On your desktop or android phone, follow this link to listen to episodes:

On your iPhone:

  •  click on the “Podcasts” app to open it
  • at the bottom of the screen, click on “search”
  • in the search bar, type “the cathedral paulcast”
  • You will see a list of “Podcast Episodes” and below that you will see “Podcasts” with one podcast listed.
  • To subscribe to the podcast, click on the one podcast listed under “Podcasts,” which will be listed as “The Cathedral Paulcast, St. Paul’s Cathedral”
  • Once you click on the podcast, it will take you to a new screen with a description of the podcast and the episodes listed below.
  • You will also see a box labeled “subscribe.” Click on that “subscribe” box.

To Listen to the podcast on your iPhone (after you have subscribed):

  • Click on the “Podcasts” app to open it.
  • At the bottom of the screen, click on “My Podcasts.”
  • There you will see a list of the podcasts you have subscribed to, including “The Cathedral Paulcast.”
  • When you click on “The Cathedral Paulcast,” you can then click on “unplayed,” which will list all of the episodes that you have not played since you subscribed to the podcast.
  • Click on an un-played podcast episode to listen.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Christmas at St. Jude’s Homes

No season evokes remembrances like Christmas. For many of us, it is the memories of childhood and surprises under the tree or the day at our grandparent’s home. The Christmas recollections which bring us the most happiness are those from 1964 to 1969 when we had three Oregon nursing homes under the patronage of St. Jude. Altogether we served more than two hundred residents in three units. The units were about ten miles apart. The St. Jude's Home in Sandy Oregon was where the brothers lived, in the second floor monastery.

From the very beginning in 1958 our policy was, along with treats and whatever came in the boxes of incidental gifts from parish guilds who signed up earlier in the year. We opened each wrapped gift marked "for a man, for a woman," marked and rewrapped it to be sure we didn't give a baldheaded man a comb or a diabetic a box of chocolates.

We would start buying specific items for residents in early November. They ranged from dusters and music boxes to electric razors and bedroom slippers or a stuffed animal. Once there was an elderly man named Joe who had a broken leg. Joe believed he would never walk again. Poking out of his Christmas bag that Christmas Eve was a shiny black and silver cane that spoke louder to him than all the encouraging remarks from the nursing staff. By the week before Christmas there was a large grocery bag for each of our 215 residents with his or her name on it. On Christmas Eve the brothers would load up a van and take the bags to their rightful nursing home.

On Christmas Eve, after finishing our regular day of work, we piled into cars, loaded the portable field organ in to one of our vans and drove off to our most distant nursing home. We started at five o'clock. Residents waited in the living room. Trolleys laden with hot chocolate, cookies and other treats stood by. Fr David or Brother Christian played the small pump organ and we all sang the familiar Christmas carols. Someone read the nativity story and we offered the Christmas prayers.

Imagine the Christmas trees in our nursing homes, depending on the size, with 95, or 53 or 62 bags of gifts underneath with each resident's name to identify the particulars. You had to distribute the bags of gifts as quickly as possible. Many had no families and they doubted if there would be something for them. You could see the worried concern until a brother placed the right bag on the right lap. The party ended with the singing of "Silent Night." We then helped folks back to their rooms, put them to bed or made them comfortable in an easy chair and assisted unwrapping the packages before departing for the next place to repeat the program.

Those parties became so popular that residents who had the option of being with relatives often asked families to pick them up Christmas morning. Off-duty nurse's aides sometimes volunteered to help out. The last stop was St. Jude's Home in Sandy, where we had the Christmas program in the chapel.

Every year a local pharmacy donated small boxes of Russell Stover chocolates. Those were the first found, opened and eaten. You felt good to the bone seeing the looks of genuine surprise and delight on the faces of the frail elderly. Tucking them into bed surrounded by treats and new things perhaps brought a flashback to a far distant, early time in their lives when something similar happened.

The Brothers had a break and then gathered around our own tree in the large common room upstairs. If there were any priests resident in the home, we invited them to join us. One in particular was a stroke patient who weighed over 200 pounds. There was no elevator in the building at that time so the only way he could get him upstairs was if four stout monks lifted him, wheelchair and all, up the stairway! It was a time of fellowship and merriment as we opened gifts, enjoyed some Christmas cheer and had some food. Near midnight we gathered in our chapel along with members of our mission congregation from the community for a reverent midnight Mass.

On Christmas day, though still tired from the night before, we relieved as many staff members as our numbers allowed to be with their families. Christmas was always the quietest day in the year in our nursing homes. Those residents who could, visited relatives or friends. The rest enjoyed a special breakfast and dinner with as many seconds as desired.

It may not have come close to Bob Hope entertaining the troops at Christmas, but we will always remember the peace and good will which prevailed being with the residents on Christmas Eve. We were their family and they were our community. It brought home Jesus' insight "it is better to give than receive," and his words, "In as much as ye have done it unto the least of these, ye have done it unto me." It was as close as we will ever come to kneeling in the stable on that first Christmas.

  The Rev. Canons Andrew Rank and Barnabas Hunt

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

The Sunday Sermon: The season of Hope

Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul
And sings the tune without the words
And never stops at all.
New Englander poet Emily Dickinson knew the power and necessity of hope, in a land where winter seems to go on for ever.

Today we face a mess of contradictions. It's the first Sunday of Advent, the start of a new church year, and yet our calendars are old and tattered, the days continue to get shorter and cooler, the world is full of signs of endings - a lame duck administration, falling leaves, the publication of end of year lists. Are we at the beginning or the end? Our scripture readings don't do much to resolve the confusion.

If you aren't familiar with the church's peculiar logic, here's a summary of how our Sunday readings are structured. We have a three year cycle, each year focusing on one of the first three Gospels (I've never understood why it isn't a four-year cycle with the four Gospels, but like I said, peculiar logic). On this first Sunday of Advent, as we begin year A, we start hearing each week from Matthew's Gospel. The Old Testament reading is selected to match or contrast with the Gospel. The Psalm is a congregational response to or meditation on the Old Testament reading.The second reading is usually from one of the letters by Paul and others, and often runs sequentially from week to week through the highlights of one letter, although in Advent the second lesson jumps around to pick up various Adventish themes, today's theme being "Watch out! Wake up! Jesus is coming!"

Now you might think that we would start at the beginning of Matthew's Gospel and go forward, but no. Today we jump right in near the end, to the teaching Jesus offers his disciples after they arrive in Jerusalem and just before he is betrayed and arrested. It's not until the fourth Sunday of Advent that we find ourselves at the beginning of the story, with Matthew's unique portrayal of Joseph, that most patient and forgiving of fiancés.

Today is all about being ready for the unexpected. In our culture, Christmas is anything but unexpected. We've been seeing signs of its approach for a month or so already. And it's not just Christmas. We try to insulate ourselves from the unexpected and unplanned in every part of our lives, from the sensible such as signing leases, to the fanciful such as reading our horoscopes. We buy insurance policies. We check the weather forecast. We plan budgets - something we've been very occupied with at church lately. We design career paths and family structures and vacation schedules. We make Christmas present lists and wills.

But, as the saying goes, life is what happens when you are making other plans. A young girl in ancient Palestine was visited by an angel and the world turned upside down. Three years ago I was preparing to start a Doctor of Ministry degree at Virginia Seminary, and God called me to San Diego. Three Sundays ago I gave Communion to a member of our choir who was his usual cheerful self, and the next day we learned that God had called him home. That same week our entire nation was stunned by an electoral upset that nobody saw coming. And, try as we may, we cannot know or predict when the kingdom of God will be fully inaugurated.

We live in a time between times, a time when Jesus has visited the earth but has still to return to claim it for his own, a time when we have seen the ultimate gift and we have witnessed humanity's rejection of it. Advent is about living in the time between the times, living in expectation, in tension, experiencing painful reality while placing our trust in the new creation that God has promised will some day come to be.

Sometimes it feels like we take two steps forward and then one and a half steps back. We celebrate marriage equality, and up spring so-called religious liberty laws designed to discriminate. We get within spitting distance of electing a woman as president, and instead face a real possibility of seeing reproductive choice restricted across the land. We take strides towards racial equality and then see young black men shot and native Americans driven off their own sacred lands. It's easy to feel helpless, to feel that there's nothing we can do to move the needle back towards equity and justice.

What we can do is live in hope that it will happen, that God is in charge, that whatever happens to us individually, or as a congregation, or as a generation, the Kingdom is coming ever closer, the plan of salvation is, ever so slowly, inching towards its fulfillment. Advent is, above all, a season of hope, and that is the message that is woven through these readings. We hope with Isaiah and the Psalmist that the world will know peace. We hope with St Paul that our leaders will set an example of honorable living, and that we will put behind us the xenophobia, greed and discrimination of our history. We hope with Jesus that, whatever happens to upset our carefully laid plans, we will continue to prepare the world to be a better place, worthy of the presence of God, a safe and welcoming home for the vulnerable, the refugee, the oppressed, in a world better than the one that begrudged the Christ child a bed, the one that stands by while a government bombs its children in Aleppo or fires smoke grenades at young water protectors in North Dakota.

We can be better than this, with God's help.

Last week our ingathering of pledges was moving and impressive. It was wonderful to watch everyone, old and young, streaming up to the altar to make our commitments. But we haven't yet reached the level of giving that we are hoping for. We have great plans for next year at St Paul's. We want to expand our youth ministry and launch an alternative worship service to bring the good news to people who aren't attracted to our traditional services. But we may have to put those plans on hold, and Chapter will need to be prepared to make tough budgeting decisions, in case our hopes don't materialize. But my hope remains strong. Now more than ever, we need strong leadership from our faith communities. We need to be able to feed the hungry, house the homeless, speak for those without voice, teach our children what it means to love your neighbor as yourself.

Meanwhile, look for the signs of hope, that thing that perches in the soul and never stops at all. Hope in a family rehoused after being homeless. Hope in the birth of a beautiful child. Hope in a moment of tenderness between friends. Hope in a prayer for healing. Hope in a prisoner freed. Hope in the graceful letting go at the end of a long life. Even though the days continue to shorten and the world continues to thrash about in violence and injustice, we hold to hope, because we know how the story ends, we believe the promises, and we are getting ready for the one who is coming into the world. Come, let us walk in the light of the Lord.

November 27, 2016
First Sunday of Advent
The Very Rev. Penelope Bridges

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

ALternative Gift Exp Returns Dec 11!

St. Paul’s Alternative Gifts Expo returns! 
Sunday, Dec. 11, 8:30AM-1:30PM 
The Great Hall, St. Paul’s Episcopal Cathedral 
 2728 Sixth Ave, San Diego, CA

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-1PM, 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
  • 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
  • Ten Thousand Villages- a myriad of unusual small gifts from the Fair Trade communities across the globe
  • 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 Simpler Living, and Children, Youth and Families also are part of the Alternative Gifts Expo. Both will provide small-priced items for children to give or receive.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

The Sunday Sermon: Christ, a different kind of King

Today is Christ the King Sunday. While Christ the King is an established part of our tradition, it is not really that old. It was begun in the early part of the 20th century and there is some debate about why it began. But in any event, it is a day we use now at the end of the liturgical year to celebrate our allegiance to Christ, looking back to his birth 2000 years ago even as we look forward to his coming again, very similar to how we will begin the new church year next week with the beginning of Advent.

Let me just be real honest with you. I don’t like this day. I don’t like the title “Christ the King.” I don’t like the triumphalism of a victorious king who conquers. It is a part of the church’s history, but it isn’t one that I think is reflective of the Christ who actually appeared to us 2000 years ago. And don’t get me started on the second coming.

It is Christ, after all, who told Pilate point blank that if he had been of this world he would have had armies and angels and whatnot to back him up and take Pilate out to defend himself (At least in Matthew and John).

But his point, of course, was that his kingdom was not of this world, and that’s why armies were not something he was interested in. We got instead this man who offers himself to die on a cross without committing a crime, killed at the hands of the political leaders of this world. I can't think of too many political leaders who run on that platform.

My New Testament professor used to talk about this a lot in seminary-- because this was really very confusing to the disciples. They expected their Messiah to be someone who would use the political system of the world to transform it; who would take Caesar by the throats and kick him to the curb to put in place the things that they wanted. But instead they got this Jesus who died at Caesar’s hands. That was a profound reshaping of what it meant to be the King of the Jews-- so much so that the title is thrown at him by the Romans as a sarcastic insult- this alleged king can't even save himself when he hasn't done anything wrong. Some king.

But it seems that still today, we want somehow for God to win through the political system, or through military power, or through money and wealth, or any of the other influences that Caesar represents. We have in Christ a king who wins a different way.

We have in Christ one who hung out not with the elite, but with those on the margins and so even at the end in today’s reading is crucified with criminals.

We have in this Jesus somebody who, when he encountered people who were not inclusive, did not call them names but educated them. Remember the story of “who is my neighbor” and the good samaritan? It was an outsider who was the most neighborly.

But this Jesus also had an edge. Luke’s version is not in our Sunday lectionary, but Jesus calls out Pharisees and Lawyers (sorry lawyers!) for craving recognition in the community without having compassion for those in need.

And so, here not in Palestine but in the US, not facing Caesar but in the aftermath of a contentious election; I think perhaps it is prudent to wonder: what does it mean to follow a crucified Jesus today?

I have been re-reading parts of a book by the creator of the Stanford Prison Experiment. That was an experiment in 1971 that would never be allowed today because it wasn’t ethical, but pulled volunteers-- so-called “normal” male college kids-- into a two-week simulation, with some playing guards and some playing inmates. What the experiment discovered is that systemic and situational influences have profound impact on how people behave. The experiment had to be cut short because the guards became abusive and the prisoners became depressed; they all fell victim to the system of what it is like to be in a real prison. For some in the experiment, there were life-long psychological implications. The sub-title of the book is Understanding How Good People Turn Evil, and it covers situations ranging from the Stanford Prison Experiment to the Holocaust, from McCarthyism to the Apartheid.

There were two things that struck me. First, the people caught up in those systems did not have any idea how horrible their actions were when they were happening- the situational factors around them normalized what was going on. Second, almost all of us think “that kind of thing happens to those people but I would never fall subject to it.” But the truth is, study after study finds that most people get wrapped up by situational forces and cannot resist.

I am not a psychologist. But I fully believe that we are wrapped up in those kinds of systems right now. In fact, we always have been, us humans. It’s not a democrat or republican or independent thing. The dynamics of division are a malevolent system that have us - all of us - wrapped around its finger, just like all those other systems I just named.

My favorite moment in this election season was a Saturday Night Live skit that made fun of the systems that we have erected. It portrayed a game of jeopardy with two lower income African Americans and one lower-income white man and highlighted how strange it was that this election pitted them against each other when they have so much in common. All three characters were grossly overdone stereotypes of different lower income demographic groups, but the skit cut through the systems of division we live in to highlight that it is the poor who are losing in the current systems on both the left and the right.

(I'm not suggesting we should be color blind or that racism isn't a real and present danger or that there isn't a real systemic problem of racism to address. But the question is whether we will allow the systems to perpetuate deeper division between the most vulnerable among us- and who benefits from that.)

As Christians, we claim a system that is not of this world. We claim a ruler who wins not because they get the most votes or because they hold title to an office or because they have money or because they have political power.

We claim to live our lives by the baptismal covenant, we claim that we died to any other allegiance at baptism as secondary; and we claim that our way is the way of the one who respects the dignity of every human being, who values all life, not just our own; and who endowed all creation with value just because it exists. We can be both for the ending of systemic racism and on the side of the working white family in the hills of Appalachia.

There are economic powers at play in the system at world that want us to believe that hoarding wealth, greedily clinging to what has been given to us-- is the only way. But on today, this day of Christ the King, we claim another way. We celebrate with the ingathering of pledges that the way of life is to give, to sacrifice, and to offer of our lives and labor because compassion, love, and justice are the system we claim instead of greed, scarcity, and violence.

And while political leaders, democrat and republican-- and even whole countries-- will come and go-- as Christians we place our trust in the one who never fails, who comes and stands with us, this broken, messy, even crazy human family-- even if though it killed him to do it.

And it is only because of we stand with that very God who lives in that kind of kingdom that we can continue to choose a different system; we can live by a different way, a way that values love while also holding each other accountable; a way that looks to build bridges without giving up on our common dignity; a way that sees protest as a part of the prophetic tradition of standing up for those who are voiceless; and who listens to to the other as a part of this beloved human community.

The act of following Christ the King pulls us out of the partisan ideology that the world says we must have and sets us firmly into our identity in baptism. But it is not passive. In fact, it is riskier than anything else we may do in this world. Our king, Christ the King, got killed for it. To be Christian is not to escape politics but to deeply engage politics. We are called to transform the systems of this world, not ignore or avoid them.

The theologian Jurgen Moltmann says it this way:
"Faith, wherever it develops into hope, causes not rest but unrest, not patience but impatience. It does not calm the unquiet heart, but is itself this unquiet heart in man. Those who hope in Christ can no longer put up with reality as it is, but begin to suffer under it, to contradict it. Peace with God means conflict with the world, for the goad of the promised future stabs inexorably into the flesh of every unfulfilled present.”
The Dean said last week: we treat others not because they deserve to be treated well, but because of who we are. As followers of Christ, a different kind of king, we offer witness to the world of a different system, a way forward, one that's neither red nor blue but bathed in the light of God; a chink in the armor of a world that wants so much to be broken open in love that it cries out in agony under its own weight.

And that is why the Church exists: to call out in praise and thanks: Holy, Holy, Holy; you alone, God, are the most high. Not anybody or anything else. Service, protest, contemplation, action, or praise- let everything we do be to break open this world and be a part of the coming of your kingdom, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven, just let us be a part of your kingdom; your paradise, in this hour, we pray.

Maybe Christ the King Sunday isn’t so bad after all.

 The Rev. Jeff Martinhauk 
Christ the King C, 
November 20, 2016 
St. Paul’s Cathedral, San Diego 
Lk 23:33-43