Monday, August 22, 2016

The Tuft of Flowers Revisited: Navarro River Strings Camp

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

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

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

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

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

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

Robert Heylmun

Sunday, August 21, 2016

The Sunday Sermon: The Trouble with Calls

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, August 14, 2016

The Sunday Sermon: Great Expectations


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, August 12, 2016

Pardon our dust: the Great Hall Bathroom Renovation

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

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

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

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


The original men's room


Demo begins
Demo continues


Demo proceeds

The original men's room, now









Tuesday, August 9, 2016

August Chapter Musings

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

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

Staff reports –

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

Regular and Occasional Reports

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


Wardens’ Reports

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


Old business 

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

New business 

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

Appreciations, Regrets and Closing Prayer

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

Sunday, July 31, 2016

The Sunday Sermon: God provides

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, July 28, 2016

The Sunday Sermon: Prayer: the Church's Banquet

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

July 24, 2016 
The Very Rev Penelope Bridges

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Chapter Meeting Highlights for July

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The meeting adjourned after appreciations, regrets and prayer.

-Mark Lester

Monday, July 18, 2016

The Sunday Sermon: The Challenge of God's Grace

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


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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

July 17, 2016

Monday, July 11, 2016

The Sunday Sermon: And who is our neighbor?

Luke 10:25-37

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.

Different times in human history have gone by different names: the reformation, the renaissance, the age of reason, the Enlightenment. In our own country, we have had the era of good feeling, the progressive era, the roaring ‘20s, the post-war years.

Today, we are in a fog of events that seem to be similarly defining our times. Punctuated by 9/11’s violence at the beginning of this century, we now are in year fifteen of two unending wars. Thousands of our sons and daughters have returned from those desert battlefields with wounds both visible and invisible. But battles rage closer to home. A relentless series of deaths of black men by white police officers has shaken us deeply. There is also an unending list of mass shootings that I will not even try to name. In this place just last night, we remembered those who perished in Orlando. And in our own city, four defenseless sleeping homeless persons were attacked, two of whom perished. And if that is not enough, Thursday evening in Dallas, a peaceful demonstration is interrupted by gunfire. Five police officers are dead; seven others wounded. From ISIS to a church in Charleston to Orlando to Ocean Beach and back to Dallas—and points in between, the common denominator is to hate, to dehumanize, and to seek to destroy the one who offends, who is different, who is other. I wonder, is this indeed becoming the age of hate?

If so, how do we respond? How do we live our lives? What do we do? It is tempting to armor up. And so the drones fly forth. Gun sales skyrocket. Political parties move farther apart. Shame and blame dominate the election landscape.

But in this place, on this day, we take steps in the path of that Galilean rabbi. Blessed are the meek…take up your cross and follow… it is more blessed to give than to receive. Those who want to find their life must lose their life. Jesus’ way is not the way of hate; to follow Jesus is to be in the flow and flood of God’s love.

How do we make this pilgrimage of love and following in such a precarious time? How do we do it, Jesus? That is really the question the lawyer in today’s gospel was asking, “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus gives him the basic, Deuteronomic answer pointing to the law’s summary: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” The seeker asks a follow-up question, “And who is my neighbor?” That’s it! That is the singular spiritual question for us in this age, “And who is my neighbor?” It goes to the heart of who and whose we are.

And so, Jesus tells a story. “A man was going down to Jericho…” The Jericho Road is the seventeen mile road that connects Jerusalem to Jericho. That road drops 3,600 feet in those seventeen miles. It is a steep, winding, descending, remote road that for centuries has been a place of robberies. And as happens on dangerous roads this man falls upon robbers who beat him, steal from him and leave him for dead.

Martin Luther King, Jr. talked about this man and this story in his last speech from Mason Temple in Memphis the night before his own Calvary as he called those gathered, and really us, to “develop a kind of dangerous unselfishness.” King reflected on the priest and the Levite in the story, he wondered if what was really seizing them was fear—that same raw emotion that constricts our answer to that critical question of neighbor. In his imagination, King saw it this way, … it's possible that the priest and the Levite looked over that man on the ground and wondered if the robbers were still around. Or it's possible that they felt that the man on the ground was merely faking. And he was acting like he had been robbed and hurt, in order to lure them there for quick and easy seizure. And so the first question that the Levite asked was, "If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?"

King could see that fear and hate are inextricably connected. In this age, we are fearful of so many neighbors. And fear vanquishes any love. Fear takes us down that road to hate. Fear leads us to ignore, or despise or even hate and harm our neighbor. “And who is my neighbor?” Not the Muslim, not the gay man, not the black man, not the cop! "If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?" This is not the dangerous unselfishness that Martin Luther King, Jr. was calling the community of Jesus to reclaim. It is indeed dangerous selfishness—dangerous because all selfishness leads to division and violence. And so in this age, we practice the discipline of dangerous selfishness too often as we move to the other side of the road. We practice this selfishness when we say that what happens on the other side of the border is not our concern and build fences to try and keep their troubles their troubles. We practice this selfishness when we form our international policies around our needs. We practice this selfishness when we distress the environment and leave as our inheritance a hotter and less habitable planet.

But Jesus places another man on that Jericho road. That is good news, because he did not pass on the other side. This Samaritan does not ask the fear laced question, “what will happen to me?” As Martin Luther King suggested in his twilight night, “… he reversed the question: ‘If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?”

Now that is the right answer. That is Jesus’ question. Now, we know Jesus’ questions because we are a people of the baptismal covenant. We are asked, “Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself?” When we answer, “I will with God’s help” we say we will stop on the road. “Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?” When we say, “I will with God’s help,” we cast away our fear and embrace that dangerous unselfishness that will take us with Christ to the cross and to all that lies beyond, an empty tomb, a promised land, that place where there is no death but life ever lasting.

And so this Samaritan, who is only named as good, takes this man and his dignity off the road, binds his wounds, places him on his own animal, takes him to an inn where he can heal.

And who is our neighbor? In this community, you exercise your neighborliness in so many ways. However, we cannot be satisfied with this. We must go further. We must be dangerous. We must work for, advocate for, and stop on the road for those who need our help. And who is our neighbor? Surely all who live in this city whether or not they have a home, regardless from whence they come or the nature of their citizenship or documentation, are our neighbor. And who is my neighbor: the person living in the bushes, the homeless student at the high school, the addict in the park, the schizophrenic on the beach.

The mark of our following Jesus is simply this to be kind to the one in need, the one who can do nothing for us. Perhaps, oddly enough, Kurt Vonnegut, self-described atheist and "Christian worshipping agnostic” captured the essence of moral vision of Jesus and our call, when he was asked by a young man in Pittsburgh, “Please tell me it will all be okay,” the modern equivalent to the question asked of Jesus, to which Vonnegut responded: “‘Welcome to Earth, young man. . . It’s hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It’s round and wet and crowded. At the outside, Joe, you’ve got about a hundred years here. There’s only one rule that I know of: goddamn it, Joe, you’ve got to be kind!’” Sounds like the way of Jesus, down a dangerous and unpredictable road. Let us join Jesus; let’s go together. Those we meet are called neighbor. Let us be kind and stop. This doesn’t have to be the age of hate. It can be the dawning of a new era of love.

The Rt Rev James R Mathes 
July 10, 2106
St. Paul’s Cathedral, San Diego

Friday, July 8, 2016

Gary's story

Gary presented this story along with Colin's sermon on The Power of Story on July 5.

  Friday morning June 24th, I was at my favorite weekly event. At 8 a.m., I was breakfasting at Bread & Cie with our Dean and the cathedral’s “best and brightest” (just ask them).

About 8:35 the thought entered my mind that I should go down to God’s Extended Hand, listen to, observe and maybe learn from the assigned worship leaders.

I tried to dismiss the idea- that could be done any day- Fridays were special. Fridays were my day. The idea persisted, intensified and in 4-5 minutes I mumbled good-byes and was gone.

At God’s Extended Hand I sat at the seldom used piano by the raised stage and prepared to take notes. 9:30 came and went—no church group, no speaker, those scheduled were a no-show. I thought- I’m here today by accident, by coincidence—I’ll just leave. Then it struck me. Other than on the one day a month assigned to St. Paul’s, I’d not been there since February 4th. My presence was no coincidence.

I looked at the faces of their guests—I saw pain, resignation, fatigue and despair. I could not leave. I’d been “apostle”- sent out. Their doorman conferred with me and I said I’d fill in unprepared—I’d lead a prayer and give a ten minute talk.

Be authentic, be real, speak from your heart, be direct, don’t talk down to these people- engage them: those thoughts crowded my mind. So I opened by asking, “What are you grateful to God for this morning?” Smiles and voices followed. “My two grandkids.” “Another day alive.” “My boyfriend.” “God’s Extended Hand and one solid meal a day.” And finally, “I’m grateful for my struggles.” That’s profound. Look up Romans 5:3-5 when you get home.

Then I borrowed from the “Orlando Strong” service Father Jeff composed and held at Flicks video bar in the heart of Hillcrest. The refrain in its Prayers of the People was “I will make of the outcasts a strong nation.” I had the guests repeat that twice and told them that God loves imperfect and broken people—the hungry , unhoused, mentally ill, chemically addicted, differently abled, deficient and damaged. I’m in there somewhere.

I continued: “God so loved the world” must not be read “God so loved the rich, the WASPs, the smart, well-schooled and powerful…” And I said- God loved Gary- orphaned, raised in foster-care, a kid who couldn’t dribble a basketball or hit a baseball, a bookish loner with Coke bottle glasses and poor attire.

I told them you folks are exiles, outcasts and throwaways to many politicians and much of the public. Yes- we recycle cans, we throw away people, and some of those killed and wounded at Pulse, Orlando’s gay night club were seen that way too; less-than and disposable. And I said “Black Lives Matter” didn’t emerge from thin air, without cause. Closing, I asserted that we cannot, must not, wait for the influential, rich and powerful to affirm our worth. Hell will freeze over. Homeless or homosexual or otherwise a stone the builders rejected, less- than, outcast—we can affirm one another.

A smile, a greeting, a touch, the sharing of food and beverage—simple acts of kindness are a good start. “I will make of the outcasts a strong nation.” Two Fridays ago I was apostled—sent out—with good news to share and yes, sent to cast out demons. Hopelessness, resignation and fearfulness are demonic.

Driven, prodded and empowered by the Holy Spirit I was able to evoke moments of gratitude, smiles and laughter from the battered guests at that run-down mission. The takeaways: First, we are all called to be disciples and apostles. The sending forth didn’t stop at 70 and didn’t end on Pentecost. And second, God can use any of us—we have only to listen, say “Yes”, and go forth. Amen.

Gary Owen

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

The Sunday Sermon: The Power of Story

What a beautiful passage in today’s Gospel. It details the the next chapter in Luke’s steady development of Jesus’ followers from a small band of disciples to today’s seventy ambassadors, to the many thousands who, in Luke’s Book of Acts, will be empowered by the Holy Spirit to share God’s Good News with the world. The Jesus movement is growing, Luke wants us to know, and there is an even more abundant harvest in store. Join us!

Yet it’s less clear how we might go about being the Lord’s laborers in the harvest today, especially because many of us have a lot of baggage around the term “evangelism”. Images of frothy-mouthed preachers disturbing the peace on street corners make our spines tingle. But it’s too bad we’ve let the hysterics of some take away the words we might otherwise say to those searching for hope in this hurting world. Because the fact is, God gave us two means to share God’s Good News -- word and example -- but not so we could choose one rather than the other, but so that our words would inspire our actions and our actions exemplify our words.

I know, I know -- I like the quote misattributed to St. Francis, too: Preach the Gospel at all times -- use words when necessary. The problem with the quote’s attribution to Francis -- besides the fact that it doesn’t show up in any of his biographies for two hundred years after his death -- is that our beloved saint often preached in as many as five villages a day! And he backed up those words with some pretty impressive actions as well.

But why do we hang on to this quote so dearly? I think it’s because we want to live a Christian life but we don’t want to talk about it -- at least not in San Diego in 2016 -- because not only is it not cool to talk about being Christian, depending on the context it can be downright offensive. And we’re Episcopalians! We have vergers who bow to us before we walk anywhere. We like being polite.

I’ve been thinking about and struggling with all this for some time, at least since Chris Harris left us and I became the staff liaison for outreach and evangelism at the Cathedral. And then I stumbled on God’s Extended Hand, a scrappy nonprofit located in a dilapidated building on 16th and Island downtown that somehow manages to feed seventy or more unhoused and hungry people twice a day, seven days a week. It also allows dozens of people -- women and children first -- to sleep safely on the dining room floor every night.

Now you probably haven’t heard of them because they require something most of us are at best annoyed by -- God’s Extended Hand requires everyone who wants a meal to listen to thirty minutes of preaching first. I heard a gasp -- I know! If the Cathedral’s sermons started going thirty minutes each week, I don’t think we could convince y’all to come even if we served shrimp and champagne afterwards! Well, when I heard about this requirement, I wasn’t impressed either -- but I did appreciate their daily meal schedule and wanted to check them out before I referred any hungry people down there. And after Pastor Curtis took me on a tour and told me he was always looking for more preachers, I was surprised to find that I wanted to try preaching there myself. I think I thought that I could at least give these poor folks a break by not preaching for half an hour, and I could tell them God loves them -- who knows how much fire and brimstone they were getting from the other preachers -- and the whole thing couldn’t be that bad for everyone involved.

But I didn’t want to do this on my own, so I called the guy I always call when I’m in a lurch and need to hear the word “yes” -- my friend Gary Owen. Poor guy. Such a good sport! He is doing some darn good work for God in the world -- I can attest to that. So Gary and I have been sharing a pulpit at God’s Extended Hand for several months on the second Thursday of the month from 9:30-10 am. You should come by -- it really is a sight to see.

I bring this all up because I have a hypothesis about this false choice we’ve been presented with between sharing the Good News by word or example -- I submit for your consideration that when we share our personal stories we naturally combine our words with our actions in quite persuasive ways. So let’s try this out -- Gary’s going to come up and share a recent personal story with you. I invite you to notice the ways that his story uses words to bring alive an experience he had of the Holy Spirit that led to surprising and inspired action.
Gary Owen's story is here.
Thank you, Gary! So how might you share your personal stories of God working in your life with those around you? We humans are natural storytellers, and our stories will use words to describe and explain our actions in persuasive ways, ways that others won’t argue with because they are stories about us. The stories will just happen to be about God, too. Tell a personal story this week in person or online -- for indeed, the Kingdom of God has come near -- near enough to taste, touch, eat, smell -- near enough for a who, what, where, when, why, and how -- near enough to share with this hurting world that needs to know that God has not forsaken us -- not now, not ever, no exceptions.


The Rev. Colin Mathewson
3 July 2016

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Education for Ministry: Fertile ground to grow your faith

“Will you continue in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in the prayers” (Baptismal Covenant, BCP 304).


Every baptized Christian is called to ministry. What is yours? Education for Ministry (EfM) is a program of the School of Theology at the University of the South (Sewanee) that provides the foundational education to assist you in discerning and carrying out your ministry. Like the mustard seed (Luke 13:18-19), we need fertile soil to grow. EfM is that fertile soil and we are the mustard seeds. Learning scriptures, church history, and theology is the light shining on the soil, warming it so the seed will sprout.

The EfM program develops an informed and knowledgeable laity through a series of four, one-year seminars. A small group seminar (maximum of 12 participants and two mentors) is the nucleus of the EfM program. Likened to the original house churches of the first century, our group conducts all four years concurrently in the same seminar. Year one students study the Hebrew Bible; year two the New Testament; year three is church history; year four wraps it all together with theology. Additionally, there are several interlude periods when all four years will study from the same material which is linked to that year’s theme. Themes from past years include: Living Faithfully in Your World (2013-14), Living Faithfully in a Multicultural World (2014-15), and Living as Spiritually Mature Christians (2015-16). The theme for next year will be Living Our Journey Into God. From mid-September through mid-June, we meet at on Tuesday evenings for fellowship over a meal, to discuss our studies, and to reflect theologically. Participants will spend on average between two to four hours weekly preparing for the seminars.

Seminar groups work under the leadership of mentors who serve as enablers and administrators. Mentors are not teachers who impart information to a class in the traditional sense. Instead they manage the group dynamics, guide the discussion of lessons and theological reflections, and administer logistics with Sewanee. Rather, the role of the teacher is engineered into the program materials as well as being heavily shaped by your fellow participants. Bringing the light of what we learn to share in an intimate group setting each week allows for insights and growth — new affirmations and understandings — that can sustain and support us in our lives as Christians living day-to-day in the world while simultaneously teaching us to listen to the Holy Spirit’s guidance for our personal ministries.

EfM is not a program for ordination, but rather a series of lay education seminars conducted amongst a small, tight knit community. Neither is EfM a Bible study. While the readings during the first two years are centered on the Bible, more important is the development of skills in theological reflection. In learning to think theologically, we examine our beliefs and their relationship to our culture and the tradition of our Christian faith, making us more effective ministers in the world.

Finally, EfM is not for everybody. While it may be easier to think of EfM as four one-year units rather than a full four-year program…it is still a commitment. It is important that potential participants seriously consider whether they will have the time to devote to the program. As previously noted, students need to be able to commit to regular attendance and active participation, which will include several hours weekly of preparation. The group relies on each member for it to achieve its full potential. Absences diminish that potential. Participants must also commit to developing and maintaining a healthy group dynamic that values a diversity of opinions while respecting the dignity of every human being.

For the interested or just curious, talk to one of the experienced EfM folks (Brother Albert Francis, Fred Smith, Lisa Churchill, Gordon Shugars, and Agnes West-Kohler are a few recent graduates) at Saint Paul's or visit the EfM web site. There you’ll find lots of information, including sample lessons.

A new EfM year will begin in early September. The incoming group of participants is already 50% booked. Registrations close in early August or when all available seats are reserved. For more information contact Mark Patzman at EfM.stpauls@outlook.com.

--Mark Patzman


Texts
Year 1 The Hebrew Bible
A Short Introduction to the Hebrew Bible John J. Collins

Year 2 The New Testament
Introducing the New Testament Mark Allan Powell

Year 3 Church History
Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years Diarmaid MacCulloch

Year 4 Theology
Theology: A Very Brief Introduction David Ford
Mysteries of Faith Mark McIntosh
The Christian Moral Life Timothy F. Sedgewick
My Neighbor’s Faith Peace, Rose, and Mobley

Interlude 1 Transformed Lives: Making Sense of Atonement Today Cynthia Crysdale
Interlude 2 Care for Creation Delio, Warner, and Wood

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Orlando Strong

I’ve had Eucharist in a bar before.

But this was different, and I was nervous.

This week, we decided that the next step in healing would be for us to offer ourselves to the community and take church to the streets. We did that by having a communion service in the gay bar in Hillcrest, Flicks. Thanks to Integrity co-conveners Joe Letzkus and Dan Piper, it went well. Joe used to own Flicks and the new owner, Jeff, was excited at the possibility of offering something to the LGBT community to help heal. We did not want to re-create the prayer service and requiem we so beautifully presented at the Cathedral by the choir, but instead wanted to help the community begin to turn from grieving to move forward without fear into the journey after Orlando.

We met with the owner, Jeff, on Friday- the same day a marine stationed at Camp Pendleton had been caught posting images with guns on social media directing threats to the gay community. Jeff relayed the concerns of many of his patrons who have expressed fear at being out and about in the Hillcrest area since the Orlando shootings and threats like the one Friday.

It was obvious: it was time for the Cathedral for the City to do what it does well. We needed to go into action to remind those around us that love, not fear, wins; to support our community and help be a part of the healing process. It was a wonderful experience. The support from the community was overwhelming. Dan talked to Al at SignDiego, who was so happy we were doing this event that he donated a banner to hang above Flicks to advertise it. Jeff, the bar owner, talked to some of his suppliers who matched register sales for the evening and donated them to Lambda. Susan Jester put the word out and the LGBT press picked it up instantly. Fox 5 covered the event on the evening news that night.

We began by expecting a small group—and planned to use only a small room on the side of the bar. By the time of the service Wednesday night, Jeff had donated the entire facility for use of the service because the excitement had grown so quickly. A freelance USA Today reporter was in the bar Tuesday tweeting about the event, excited about the possibilities. By the time we started, we had half of the room filled with Cathedral folks, and the other half were ready to participate in something bigger than any one of us. Some came just to watch, others were cautiously participating, others were moved to tears.

Amazingly, the passage the Holy Spirit chose through the lectionary was 1 John 3:13-16, which begins: “Do not be astonished, brothers and sisters, that the world hates you. We know that we have passed from death to life because we love one another.

And that’s it, really, isn’t it? There are so many messages thrown at us in the world that want to respond to brokenness with hate, with hardness, with rigidity. But in the end, they come up empty. Over and over again the story of the people of God is vulnerability in the face of hatred, of love and risk and hope even when we are hated, when dirt is thrown in our face, and even when we are killed. That takes courage instead of hard-heartedness. That takes love. And that is the path to life and out of death.

And that is how love wins. We won’t go back into the closet. We won’t be afraid. The Church’s job is to be right there in the middle of that, showing how to love. St. Paul’s does that and did that by showing up at Flicks Wednesday night. I am so glad to be here with you as a part of this branch of the Jesus movement, responding to the needs of the city and shining light on a world that wants very much to be reminded that love wins!

The Rev. Jeff Martinhauk





Monday, June 20, 2016

The Sunday Sermon: We are not alone

"Jesus asked the man, 'What is your name?' And he answered 'Legion', for many demons had entered him". The demons have indeed been legion this week. We are all still reeling from the Orlando attack, and in the midst of that horror, our local community dealt with two terrible events close to home: a shootout at a shopping mall in Eastlake had members of our congregation in lockdown in their own homes, while another cathedral family awoke to news that two of their neighbors in Del Cerro had been assaulted, one killed, in a home invasion. Further afield a talented young singer and a British member of Parliament were both murdered, and Los Angeles police arrested a heavily armed man who was apparently headed for the city's Pride Parade. I could go on, but that's more than enough.

We have been through the whirlwind, the earthquake, the fire this week. We have suffered through tragedy and outrage. We have expressed grief and anger, solidarity and determination in and with our LGBT community. And now we come to church, seeking peace, seeking healing, seeking to listen as the body of Christ. What might God say to us today after all the noise and turmoil, in the sound of sheer silence?

The prophet Elijah is excluded from the structure of privilege because he speaks the truth. In a culture whose leaders have abandoned all sense of decency, the one who dares to call the people to account is a hunted man, he is alone and afraid. So, what does he do?

Elijah hides. He goes into a cave, a closet, to escape persecution. He wants to die because he is so alone and so afraid. Have you ever been in that cave? That's not where you belong, and it's not where Elijah belongs. He belongs in the midst of his people, speaking God's truth and living out his call to be who God has made him to be. And so God comes looking for him. God comes to him in the dark, speaking his name, calling him to be courageous in spite of his fear. And God gifts Elijah with a demonstration of the mystery of divine power. It is not in the wind, it is not in the earthquake, it is not in the fire or in the hail of bullets. God's power is in the still, small voice of peace. True power doesn't reside in violence, in bombastic rhetoric, in the competition to see who can accumulate the most weapons. We do not change the world by arming or isolating ourselves. We change the world by being present to those who are afraid, by offering love to those who feel unlovable, by standing for connection and relationship in the face of those who would divide us. God did not make us to be alone. God made us for love, and love wins.

The Gerasene demoniac in Luke's Gospel had to stay among the tombs. He wasn't safe in a village or town. He had to keep himself hidden in case his behavior upset someone and caused them to hurt him. He was so afraid of who he was that he behaved in socially unacceptable ways. Perhaps he even hurt people as he fought the demons inside himself. Was it mental illness? Was he so internally conflicted that he endangered himself and others? Whatever the demons that tormented him, he was alone, exiled from his community, condemned to camp out in a graveyard and gaze across the Sea of Galilee at his home village, so near and yet so far. Nobody should ever have to shut themselves away, exile themselves, for fear that the revelation of their true self will bring them harm. And yet, many of our LGBT friends continue to live in exile, in places cut off from home and family, for fear of that revelation.

But Jesus doesn't want anyone to live like that. Jesus asks the man his name, because he wants to enter into relationship with him. And when the man is unable, for fear of the demons, to reveal himself even to Jesus, Jesus expels those demons. He sends them packing in a sensational act that grabs the headlines. How often does good news hit the headlines? How often do we hear about the healing rather than the attack, about the reconciliation rather than the revenge? And then the people ask Jesus to go away. They can't deal with that much power, that much change, so they ask him to leave. And Jesus moves on to heal others, but not before he tells the healed man to share the good news with others. "Go home," he says, "and declare how much God has done for you". And so a deeply traumatized individual is restored not only to health but to his community, because God does not mean for us to be alone.

Last Monday afternoon I heard an interview from Orlando on NPR. The interviewer encountered two young Latino men who were on their way to a gay bar. The interviewer asked one of them, "Aren't you afraid to go to a gay bar tonight?" The answer was, "Yes, I am afraid tonight, but I don't want to be alone in my fear." And so the Orlando LGBT community was gathering, just as the community gathered here, at the Center on Sunday and Monday, and at St. Paul's on Wednesday, to gain strength and comfort from one another. God does not mean for us to be alone.

And we, here, are not alone. We have this strong and loving cathedral community surrounding us, praying for us, visiting us, caring for us. Our pastoral care committee meets regularly to make sure our homebound and infirm parishioners are receiving visits and the sacrament. We pray each day in the chapel for long lists of names for whom prayers have been requested. We send notes and cards to those who have lost a loved one or who cannot come to church. We offer special liturgies in times of crisis and tragedy.

Our Stephen Ministers provide a special and very focused ministry for anyone who is going through a difficult time, whether it be coming out, a transition to retirement or parenthood, a challenging diagnosis, a bereavement, or the day to day stress of caring for someone with a progressive illness. Stephen Ministers are lay people who discern a call to caring ministry. After an application process, interview, and references, they commit to 50 hours of classes. Once they are commissioned they are assigned one or sometimes two care receivers, and they meet regularly, one on one, for totally confidential conversations, about once a week, for up to two years. Meanwhile, every Stephen Minister is also assigned to a small peer group for regular supervision and continuing education. We have trained and commissioned eight Stephen Ministers already and have just begun training another class of six.

I know that the healing power of Christ works through our Stephen Ministers. I see the Holy Spirit working in the ministers as they go through training and as they practice their ministry of compassion. It's remarkable how often the Stephen Minister who is available is just the right match for a potential care receiver whom we have identified. And the care receivers themselves experience the unconditional love of God through the care and dedication of their fellow Christians. This is what it means to be the body of Christ. This is how we change the world.

But even a great ministry can get stuck in assumptions, and we have to be ready to adjust as we grow and learn. For example, the Stephen Ministry organization tells us not to pair a male Stephen Minister with a female care receiver, to avoid inadvertent infatuation, but they don't give room to consider the situation when the Stephen Minister or care receiver is gay. So we are adapting the ministry structure to our local situation. God continues to speak to us in new ways, to enlarge our vision and open our eyes, and we are to be open to that growth, something the church has not traditionally been very good at. The church's history is more a history of exiling, shackling and isolating troubled souls rather than seeking to bring them God's love. But we can change, and we are changing.

No matter how hard things get, we will never have to hide out like Elijah or the Gerasene man, alone and embattled, wanting to die because there is nobody to care. There is always someone to care here.

And the work we do through our pastoral care ministries doesn't stop here at St Paul's. Love that is shared multiplies beyond itself. Jesus sent the healed man out to share the good news of God's love. Those who receive love have more love to offer. We invite others to come experience the welcome of St Paul's. We get out on the 10:00 news and talk about God's healing love, and more people come to check us out. Last Wednesday we had 195 people here for the Prayers for Pulse, and a lot of them were new faces. We shared some love on Wednesday, and it will change the world, incrementally to be sure, but we can and will do our part for the healing of everyone's demons and the reconciliation of all people to each other and to God through the gracious and sacrificial love of the one who brings us together today, our Savior, Jesus Christ.

June 19, 2016 Proper 7 
The Very Rev Penelope Bridges