Grace Cathedral is an Episcopal church in the heart of San Francisco.
We are a warm congregation, the seat of the Diocese of California 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

A special live-streamed Memorial Evensong for those who lost loved ones during the pandemic

Memorial Evensong for Those Who Have Died Since the Onset of COVID-19

Sunday, August 16

A special live-streamed Memorial Evensong for those who lost loved ones during the pandemic

Be mesmerized by the music of Fanny Hensel in a special performance by Susan Jane Matthews for the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment

Music of Fanny Hensel: Celebrating the Centennial of Women’s Suffrage

Friday, August 21

Be mesmerized by the music of Fanny Hensel in a special performance by Susan Jane Matthews for the 100th anniversary of...

Experience movement, meditation and one another in our new Yoga on the Labyrinth podcast

Yoga on the Labyrinth: Online

Tuesday, August 11

Experience movement, meditation and one another in our new Yoga on the Labyrinth podcast

Join The Vine for a live service

The Vine: Online

Wednesday, August 12

Join The Vine for a live service

Experience one of the most beautiful and prayerful liturgies in the Anglican tradition.

Thursday Evensong: Online

Thursday, August 13

Experience one of the most beautiful and prayerful liturgies in the Anglican tradition.

A live broadcast of our Choral Eucharist service

Online Live Stream: Sunday Choral Eucharist

Sunday, August 30

A live broadcast of our Choral Eucharist service

Listen to Featured Sermons

Sunday, August 9
"Nothing to Fear"
Preacher: The Rev. Dr. Scot Sherman
Read sermon

The other night my wife and I watched the musical Anni–(which seemed right for ‘Fogust’ in SF “The Sun’ll come out …in October!” Something to lift our spirits. I learned that it’s based on a comic strip Little Orphan Annie, begun back in the 20s, written by Harold Gray, a right-wing populist believed poor should pull themselves up by their bootstraps, loathed FDR and the new deal. But when Thomas Mehan adapted it for Broadway in 1970s, he subverted Gray’s politics. Anni is compassionate toward the homeless, and she’s rescued from the murderous orphanage director by none other than FDR himself! Musical ends with a rousing number, “we’ll have a new deal for Christmas!” We ended the day, toes tapping, reminding each other: “We have nothing to fear but fear itself!”

Well, that didn’t last long; we were back to our doomscrolling ways by bedtime, which is why I so need to hear today’s gospel, as someone still learning to live in faith, not fear.

Now, not all fear is bad. Chanequa Walker Barnes is a public theologian and clinical psychologist, just published an essay entitled “The Fear God Gives Us”, distinguishes healthy vs unhealthy fear:

“Unhealthy fear is fear that is afraid of itself, fear that has morphed into anxiety, will even refuse to adapt to clear and present danger and will belittle and attack those who do.”

Think of the irrational and defiant resistance we’re seeing to wearing face masks. She contrasts this with healthy fear, “function of God-given limbic system of the brain, capable of 1500 different biochemical responses to threat! From dilating the pupils, decreasing the sense of pain, even producing more blood clotting platelets in case of injury.” IOW, fear triggers the limbic system, makes your stronger, faster, more focused. What may have evolved to save us from saber tooth tigers, now kicks in when we face stressors like saber toothed economic instability, lack of medical coverage, saber toothed racism, raging wildfires, or a once in a century health crisis storm whose waves are battering the entire world.

It is REASONABLE to be afraid in this world! We just marked the 75th anniversary of nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki this week; the same week former secretary of defense William perry writes in a new book, “we stand today in greater danger of nuclear catastrophe than we faced during the cold war.” Fear is not just REASONABLE, if I weren’t afraid of what’s happening in the world right now, honestly, I’d look into getting a CAT scan.

So what are FDR and Jesus going on about? What is bad fear? The disciples are terrified of a storm, incidentally, their 2nd traumatic boating incident; in the 1st, recorded in Mt 8, there’s a storm and Jesus is asleep; their fear isn’t just for the storm; the fear is that he doesn’t care that they’re going to perish. This time, he sends them away while he deals with the crowd he’s just fed; they find themselves adrift in a storm. He put them there! Now he’s nowhere to be found. They are abandoned and afraid. Then, he comes to them, across the water, saying “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.”  Take courage because “it is I” the Greek phrase [ego eimi] the words used to translate the divine name revealed to Moses, “I am.” I am! There’s a resonance here that identifies Jesus as the son of God, the one performing and revealing the will of God. Then he tells them not to be afraid, and calms the storm.

We get this same story in Mk and Lk, but only here do we get this detail about Peter’s walk. The late Swiss theologian, Ulrich Luz, said that Peter is the “archetypal disciple”—he’s us, his stumbles are a picture of all our stumbles—the 1st to believe Jesus is the Messiah, he gets the meaning so wrong that he’s rebuked with a “get thee behind me Satan”; called to watch and pray with Jesus at his darkest hour, he falls asleep; bragging that he will never deny Jesus, his hits a triple denial before the cock crows. And here, he steps out in faith, but he gets spooked by the wind and sinks, until Jesus takes him by the hand.

Notice Jesus’ question to Peter. (Jesus is like a good spiritual director, or therapist—just when you want them to explain something they ask you a great question…it’s so exasperating). “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” He uses a word there than can also be translated “hesitate” the kind of personal confusion that prevents action or commitment. This is bad fear—incapacitating fear under which he sinks, under which we sink, because we don’t believe God is present and able to save.

It is a holy moment, not only for Peter for all of them. When Jesus calmed the storm in the 1st story, they ask “who is this?” This time, they worship and confess “Truly you are the son of God.” Matthew is giving us this question as well.

Are you flooded by fear, and is it causing you to doubt God’s love? To hesitate to love? Are you cultivating a mindset of scarcity and anxiety, or of abundance and trust?

Do you see how Jesus dispels the illusion of abandonment that feeds the neurosis—he moves towards Peter, towards us with God’s gracious and loving presence. He invites them into a spirituality that learns to move through fear into the security of God’s loving, mothering arms.

That’s the wisdom that enables Joseph to persevere thru enslavement, resist cynicism and bitterness, forgive his brothers and see God’s purposes for justice at work; it’s the faith that enabled Paul to see past imprisonment, death threats, and rejection to believe that God’s faithfulness was good news for all people.

It’s what gives me courage. Grace Cathedral has been my sponsor for ordination (for which I am incredibly grateful). I’ve entered the transitional diaconate in a season when churches can’t gather physically, in a time where there were already deep, troubling  questions about the future of the church. I don’t have all the answers! But, thanks to this gospel, I know the way forward from little faith, doubt, and fear: it is to fix our eyes on one who is ever present, ever moving towards us in love, saying, “Courage, I’m here, Do not be afraid.” Amen.

Sunday, August 2
Pentecost 9
Preacher: The Rev. Dr. Ellen Clark-King
Read sermon

I dare not face my brother in the morning,

I dare not look upon the things I’ve done,

Dare not ignore a nightmare’s dreadful warning,

Dare not endure the rising of the sun.

My family, my goods, are sent before me,

I cannot sleep on this strange river shore,

I have betrayed the son of one who bore me,

And my own soul rejects me to the core.

 

This is the first part of British poet Malcolm Guite’s poem on Jacob wrestling with God. It speaks to me at this time of confronting racism, of the fear sparked by Covid 19, of isolation from my faith community. Many of us who are white dare not look upon the things we’ve done, or the things done in our name. Many of us struggle to sleep through the night in these Covid days. Many of us feel from time to time that we are at odds with ourselves, fundamentally out of sorts, fundamentally wrong, that our own soul rejects us to the core.

And in this time of anxiety and separation my own soul cries out, where is God? Usually I find God in the community I worship with every Sunday but that is denied us. Usually I find God in the bread and wine that strengthens my soul, but that is denied us. The places that previously were abundant feel scarce, the promise that we will all be fed with food that satisfies us to our core feels a lie, the God who was present from the beginning of all things feels absent.

 

But in the desert darkness one has found me,

Embracing me, He will not let me go,

Nor will I let Him go, whose arms surround me,

Until he tells me all I need to know,

And blesses me where daybreak stakes it’s claim,

With love that wounds and heals; and with His name.

 

That is how Guite’s poem continues. In the desert darkness one has found me. In the Covid darkness one has found us. The one who finds us even when we are lost from ourselves. The God of Jacob and Rebecca, the God of Paul, the God embodied in Jesus. Not the safe, tame, easy, domestic God we sometimes seem to picture but the wild, dangerous, disturbing, fierce God whose blessing is more like a full on football tackle than a gentle caress.

And God’s blessing is not a simple putting to rights of what was wrong – wrong in ourselves or in our world. And, to be completely honest, I get pissed with God about that. I’m tired. Tired of trying and failing and trying again to be the person I’m supposed to be. Tired of seeing the world suffer and not knowing how to put it right. Tired of hearing the daily rising Covid death toll. Tired of seeing the natural world get slammed by humanity’s greed. I would love God to reach down from some celestial sphere and put me and everything else to rights!

But God’s blessing wounds as well as heals. It’s not a magic spell that sends out a Harry Potter style patronus to chase all our demons away. It’s a calling and a discomfort at the same time as paradoxically being our deepest security and most powerful source of peace.

Its wound is to our complacency, our blindness to wrongs, our willingness to let injustice and suffering continue through our inaction. Its wound is the healing wound made by the unpleasant medicine or the surgeon’s knife – the wound that that causes pain to bring great healing. The wound that may, like Jacob, make us limp for a while but which frees us to move forward.

And it is not all wound. It is not all demand and wrestling and painful action. It is also sweet balm for the weary soul. It is a blessing that tells us, in the midst of all our doubts and weariness, that we are not in this alone. That, as well as being cherished adults called to action, we are beloved children called to rest in out heavenly mother’s arms, as safe as a babe at the breast. It is a blessing that allows us to put down our burdens when we are weary and rest, knowing that God still holds all this world in an embrace of love.

I have found that balm in unlooked for places. In seeing more people wearing masks to keep other people safe – a sign of loving community that echoes the time we could gather on Sundays. In the bright red blossom on the Australian gum tree outside my study window – a small part of the beauty that God entrusts to our care. In the tender trust of being allowed to gaze upon my friend’s beautiful new baby – a sign of the new life and potential that is still being born amongst us.

Jacob wrestled with his God. He did not pretend all was well with himself but opened himself up to wounding and healing. And in that wrestling he received both but, most importantly, the healing to move forward. To see past his shame and tiredness. To see hope in love renewed. To accept the embrace of the God who is strong enough to hold all our anger and fear and who will never fail to bless. And God’s name? God’s name is Love.

 

I dare not look upon the things I’ve done,

Dare not ignore a nightmare’s dreadful warning,

Dare not endure the rising of the sun.

My family, my goods, are sent before me,

I cannot sleep on this strange river shore,

I have betrayed the son of one who bore me,

And my own soul rejects me to the core.

But in the desert darkness one has found me,

Embracing me, He will not let me go,

Nor will I let Him go, whose arms surround me,

Until he tells me all I need to know,

And blesses me where daybreak stakes it’s claim,

With love that wounds and heals; and with His name.

Discover Grace

Memorial Evensong

Message from the Dean

Coronavirus Update

Memorial Evensong for Those Who Have Died Since the Onset of COVID-19

Join Grace Cathedral in a special live-streamed Memorial Evensong for those who have died since the onset of COVID-19.

Grace is Serving the Community: An Update from Dean Malcolm

The coronavirus has created great hardship across our community and the world, and Grace Cathedral is taking action. In this personal address from inside the cathedral, Dean Malcolm Clemens Young shares highlights of our work distributing resources, building new bridges with God through technology and supporting those in need.

Living Faithfully with Covid-19

In light of the shelter-in-place recommendations extended through the end of May, Grace Cathedral will remain closed until further notice. During this unprecedented moment we see a unique opportunity to experience community, faith and one another in new ways. We invite you to join our live stream services, online events and virtual gatherings

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