Grace Cathedral is an Episcopal church in the heart of San Francisco.
We are both a warm congregation and a house of prayer for all people.
We welcome visitors from all over the world.
To support the health of our community the cathedral is closed,
but love, peace, hope and the arts live on at Grace.
Join us online and stay connected.

 

Grace Cathedral is Gathering Online

Sunday programs for children and teens

Zoom Time for Families with Children

Sunday, April 5

Sunday programs for children and teens

Join us for morning prayer on Zoom

Morning Prayer: Online

Monday, April 6

Join us for morning prayer on Zoom

Holy Eucharist with the Blessing of Oils and Renewal of Baptismal and Clergy Vows  

Chrism Mass: Online Live Stream

Tuesday, April 7

Holy Eucharist with the Blessing of Oils and Renewal of Baptismal and Clergy Vows  

Celebrate the mystery of the Resurrection with us

Easter Sunday Choral Eucharist: Online Live Stream

Sunday, April 12

Celebrate the mystery of the Resurrection with us

Listen to Featured Sermons

Sunday, March 29
Sunday 11 a.m. Sermon
Preacher: The Rev. Dr. Ellen Clark-King
Sermon from Sunday's 11 a.m. Eucharist
Read sermon

Between the words that are spoken and the words that are heard, may the Spirit of God be present.

 

What is your greatest fear right now? Is it the loss of someone you love who is vulnerable, the loss of your own job and any vestige of financial security, the loss of your own health, or the loss of the world as it used to be just a few short weeks ago? My greatest fear is coronavirus getting into my mother’s senior home in England and her dying without me having any way to say goodbye.

 

It seems like anyone who isn’t afraid at the moment isn’t awake. And, to be clear, fear and distress are allowed, expected, even healthy in situations like these. God’s people have always expressed the full range of their very human emotions to God. From the rage and despair of the psalms – My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?  – to Jesus weeping, maybe even ugly crying, at the grave side of his friend. We are a people who know what it is to walk through wilderness, to walk through despair, to walk through death and to be accompanied by God for every single step. We are a people who know what it is to walk through the bleakest shadow and to find new light on the other side.

 

I’ve always thought there is something deeply ironic in today’s readings coming at this point in the church year. We’re still deep in Lent, we haven’t even reached Passiontide yet, let alone the new life of the resurrection. But God’s promise of new life doesn’t wait for us to get to the crucifixion or to the empty tomb, It doesn’t wait for the end of a pandemic. it comes to surprise us with joy before we could ever expect it. It breaks into our quiet time of discipline, preparation and separation with a shout of new possibility, new hope, new life.

 

Our Hebrew scripture reading and our gospel tell us of two different ways that God gives new life, each of which we need to hear and cling to in the midst of this pandemic.

 

Lazarus first. He is called out of the cool quiet safety of the cave in which he sleeps in death into the fierce light of life, into the painful joy of his sisters, into noise and hubbub and renewed responsibilities and relationships and life. Let’s be clear Lazarus was not taking physical isolating to extremes, he was dead. God’s fierce gift of life in Christ reaches across that narrow barrier and calls this man to return. To return and then one day to die again.

 

I do not think we can expect ourselves or our beloved ones to be called back to this life from being dead three days. That sharp divine focus on one life seems now to be a broad divine panorama of all lives. God’s voice doesn’t now call one person back from death – but calls all of us back from the many small deaths that keep us from living free, loving, joy-filled, purposeful lives. The death that is despair – I doubt I’m the only one who has woken in the night to cry into my pillow, the death that is indifference – surely those old folk don’t mind dying so that my prosperous life is secure, the death that is hate – let’s make this virus an excuse for yet another brand of racism. Hear Christ’s voice calling you to come out from those small deaths, follow that voice into the light of hope, of cherishing the other, of deep love for all fragile humanity.

 

And then there is the new life that comes to that valley of the dry bones. That wasteland of a society that had turned away from God’s call to justice and to love and had lost its claim to humanity in the process. A society that no longer has the softness of flesh, the vulnerability of blood, the potential of muscle; one that has been reduced to hardness, to scarcity, to the unyielding breakable insufficiency of bone.

 

Ezekiel may have been speaking of what he saw in his own time and people. A people defeated by their own inner demons as well as by outside forces of oppressive, aggressive empires. We need to speak of what we see in our own time and our own people.

 

We are a profoundly broken society, broken long before Covid-19 came along to highlight our deficiencies. We choose leaders for ourselves who consistently put the economic prosperity of large companies above the basic needs of the poor. We rate our own safety as more important than the well-being of others and use fear as a reason to hold children in cages. We fail to weep whenever we see a fellow human being sleeping in dirt on a street corner. This is us – me as well as ‘them’ as well as you. Our society. Our responsibility. Our loss of humanity to become bare cold bones.

 

But we are not a forsaken society. New breath, new gentleness, new vulnerability, new life can come to this bleak valley, to these stripped bones.  Can these bones live? Yes they can, now as then! It is beyond time to open ourselves to God’s breath in us. To the breath that brought us life in the first place. To the breath that speaks words of love and forgiveness. To the breath that breathes in every human being, every living creature, and that unites us more closely more fiercely than our shared vulnerability to Covid 19.

 

How to do that? How to let the prophetic breath of God into our society’s dry bones? How to let the life-giving voice of Christ into our personal little deaths? It is only through the second that we can do the first. To let Christ call us from our small deaths of selfish choices, our small deaths of fearful living, our small deaths of hopelessness. To decide to live as if each person mattered as much as we do. To decide to live as though we truly believe in a God who can bring forgiveness out of judgment, abundance out of scarcity, hope out of despair, life out of death.

 

And to live like this without denying the storm of emotions that sweep through us on a daily basis. The fear, the despair, the anger, the longing for life to be otherwise. Bring these to God. Speak these to others. Know your humanity, and in knowing your own, know the humanity of every person who shares this world with you.

 

I’ll leave you with the words of Australian poet Michael Leunig

 

When the heart

Is cut or cracked or broken

Do not clutch it

Let the wound lie open

 

Let the wind

From the good old sea blow in

To bathe the wound with salt

And let it sting

 

Let a stray dog lick it

Let a bird lean in the hole and sing

A simple song like a tiny bell

And let it ring

Thursday, March 26
Giving Your Life
Preacher: The Very Rev. Dr. Malcolm C. Young
Sermon from Thursday's 5:15pm Evensong Service
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“And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself” John 12.

 

This poem is called “Ask Me,” by William Stafford (1914-1993):

“Some time when the river is ice ask me

mistakes I have made. Ask me whether

what I have done is my life. Others

have come in their slow way into

my thought, and some have tried to help

or to hurt: ask me what difference

their strongest love or hate has made.

 

I will listen to what you say.

You and I can turn and look

at the silent river and wait. We know

the current is there, hidden; and there

are comings and goings from miles away

that hold the stillness exactly before us.

What the river says, that is what I say.”[1]

 

Is what you have done your life? What difference have those who love you and hate you made?

Jesus says, “Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life” (Jn. 12). He puts into question what it means to live or die. He makes us less certain what our life really is. I believe that it takes someone with the power of Jesus to dispel our most persistent illusions. Some fantasies can be so widespread within a culture that it can take generations to understand the truth.

On August 18, 1967 at Boston’s Fenway Park Red Sox outfielder Tony Conigliaro was at the plate facing California Angels pitcher Jack Hamilton. On the first pitch Hamilton threw a fastball that crushed the left side of Conigliaro’s face. Conigliaro never completely recovered from his injury. He left baseball in 1975 and died at the age of forty-five. That moment changed Jack Hamilton forever too.

In 1990 when Conigliaro died, Hamilton gave an interview with the New York Times in which he recalled what happened that day. “I’ve had to live with it,” He said,”I think about it a lot. It was like the sixth inning when it happened. I think the score was 2-1, and he was the eighth hitter in the batting order. With the pitcher up next, I had no reason to throw at him.” Hamilton remembers visiting him in the hospital that afternoon. He also remembers wondering whether he should return to Fenway for the next series of games that season.

Although Hamilton probably thought about this day many times his recollections were almost completely wrong. The accident didn’t happen in the sixth inning but in the fourth. The score was not 2-1 but 0-0. Conigliaro wasn’t the eighth hitter but the sixth. It wasn’t even a day game so Hamilton couldn’t have visited him in the hospital that afternoon, and there were no other games in Boston that year for him to wonder about whether or not he should go back there.[2]

It should come as no surprise to us that our memories are unreliable, that we get important details wrong. A cognitive psychologist asked forty-four students the question, “How did you first hear the news of the space ship Challenger explosion.” He asked them the morning after the explosion and then two and a half years later. Although they described the memories as vivid during this second interview, none of their memories were completely accurate and one third of their memories were what the researcher called “wildly inaccurate.” Many of these students couldn’t believe that their revised memories were wrong. “This is my handwriting, so it must be right,” said one student, “but I still remember everything the way I told you [just now]. I can’t help it.”[3]

In modern times there are so many subtle ways of not believing in God. One of them is to understand ourselves as a kind of videotape that summarizes our past, to think that in a significant sense we are our memories. If this is the implicit picture that someone has of himself, a psychologist’s claims that the tape is unreliable can seem like an attack on a person’s identity.

For me this way of understanding our selves is in contrast with the Bible. According to Christian tradition we do not have an existence that is independent of God. Who we are does not derive from who we were. Our life is not something that came about accidentally because of the lust or love of two other human beings a long time ago. We don’t earn our life. Instead we constantly derive our life from God. Who we are is a gift from God that we receive every day.

This means that you are fundamentally safe. You do not need to worry about losing your job, your spouse, your health, the respect of the other kids in school. The self that you are is not something that you achieve through some kind of work. It is not something that comes into existence because of what you think. This self is safe from the world

Perhaps what Jesus means is that the part of ourselves we are so afraid of losing isn’t really us anyway.

The novelist Ernest Hemmingway writes about a father in Spain who wanted to be reconciled to his runaway son. The father takes out an advertisement in the Madrid paper El Liberal. It says, “Paco, meet me noon on Tuesday at the Hotel Montana. All is forgiven! Love, Papa.” Paco was a common name in those days. When the father showed up he found eight hundred young men looking for their fathers.[4]

The way that Jesus speaks through the Bible is like this. Right here we have a whole sworld full of Pacos, of children returning to their father. We are not our memories, our thoughts or even our actions. Like California pitcher Jack Hamilton we will make minor mistakes and some terrible life-changing ones.

But none of this changes the truth. You can ask me if what I have done is my life or about the influence of people who have loved and hated me. But that is not what I am. We are children of God who Jesus calls to return. And one day he will lift us all up into the fullness of divine joy.

 

[1] Published in Twentieth-Century American Poetry, Ed. Dana Gioia, David Mason, Meg Schoerke (NY: McGraw Hill, 2004), 530.

[2] Elizabeth Loftus and Katherine Ketchem, The Myth of Repressed Memory: False Memories and Allegations of Sexual Abuse (NY: St. Martin’s Press, 1994), 75.

[3] Ibid., 91-2.

[4] Thomas Tewell, “The Things We Dare Not Remember,” Thirty Good Minutes, 16 November 2003. http://www.csec.org/csec/sermon/tewell_4707.htm

Discover Grace

Happy New Year!

Carnivale 2020

Above the Fog

In the "Year of the Body" at Grace Cathedral, you danced with us as we explored what it means to have a body, move through the world and ensure that everybody counts.

Thank you for a wonderful evening of Mardi Gras revelry!

We are so grateful for our generous sponsors and friends who made this evening possible. With the help of our incredible trustees, gala committee and guests, we came together to support the cathedral’s inspired services, programs and experiences in education, social justice and the arts.

Listen to the first season of our new podcast!

Above the Fog is the podcast series from Grace Cathedral that shares the city’s stories with a new lens. Your guides will be the city’s artists, thinkers and doers together with cathedral voices who will inspire you with what’s meaningful about life.

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