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.


What’s Happening at Grace Cathedral?

The Annual Meeting of the congregation

Annual Meeting of the Congregation

Sunday, January 26

The Annual Meeting of the congregation

A one-of-a-kind live musical performance and meditation experience

Grace Cathedral Sound Bath

Monday, January 27

A one-of-a-kind live musical performance and meditation experience

Organist Robert McCormick plays one of America's great organs

Organ Recital with Robert McCormick

Sunday, January 26

Organist Robert McCormick plays one of America's great organs

The head of the Ritual Center at the Shalom Hartman Institute on the current political situation in Israel and Palestine

The Forum with Dr. Rani Jaeger: Israel, Palestine and the US

Sunday, February 2

The head of the Ritual Center at the Shalom Hartman Institute on the current political situation in Israel and Palestin...

Alonzo King creates new work performed by LINES Ballet to mark his Artist in Residency

Alonzo King LINES Ballet World Premiere

Friday, February 7

Alonzo King creates new work performed by LINES Ballet to mark his Artist in Residency

Indulge in an evening of Mardi Gras revelry to support Grace Cathedral


Tuesday, February 25

Indulge in an evening of Mardi Gras revelry to support Grace Cathedral

Listen to Featured Sermons

Wednesday, January 22
What Is Your Calling?
Preacher: The Very Rev. Dr. Malcolm C. Young
“The Lord called me before I was born, while I was in my mother’s womb he named me” (Isaiah 49).
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Malcolm Clemens Young Isaiah 49:1-7

Grace Cathedral, San Francisco, CA 2A5 John 1:29-42

Vine Sermon – Relationshift Series on Vocation

Wednesday 22 January 2020

What Is Your Calling?

“The Lord called me before I was born, while I was in my mother’s womb he named me”

(Isaiah 49).

What do you do? Whether you are just starting out, or you have been retired for too many years to count, whether your primary occupation is caring for another person or you are doing finance for a technology company, whether you are just passing through or you think you have found your life calling – today, for the next half hour, I want you to step out of ordinary time to think about where you are in life, who you are and where you might want to be.

Jude asks a tough question, “How do you build a bridge to your dreams or even to your true self?” This sermon series is called “Relationshift” and today we are considering what Christianity teaches about work.

The Ancient Greek or Stoic ideal was the upper class man who had leisure time dedicated to fashioning himself, shaping himself physically, intellectually and aesthetically. For them the only purpose of the vast humanity which works was to make this aristocratic existence possible.1

In contrast to this, Christianity asserts that to be human necessarily means to be in relationship with others, and with God. Even God works. And the highest form of human existence is to work alongside the one who is not a stranger, but the Holy One, who is closer to us than we are to ourselves. Jesus takes this idea further. He teaches that in contrast to the opinion of the world, the greatest leader does not lord it over others but rather will be the “servant of all” (Mk. 9:35).

The New Testament uses the Greek word klēsis for calling and in nearly all cases it simply means to be called to live as a child of God in the way of Jesus. There have been historical epochs when we have strayed from this idea. In Medieval times it became more common to regard religion as something that was chiefly the business of priests and monks. They were the ones, who in the language of the time, “had a calling.”

During the Reformation, Martin Luther (1483-1546) sought to correct his through a very powerful idea. He believed that all people could in effect dedicate their whole life to God in a way that was similar to how monks lived. Not everyone had to make lifetime vows of chastity, poverty and obedience, but they could still do everything for the glory of God. One could have a family and work life with God at the center.

Thomas Cranmer (1449-1586) the author of our prayerbook devised a whole system of daily prayers and readings for ordinary people based on the daily services in monasteries. At Grace Cathedral we pray in this way several times every day.

In Reformation times just about everyone worked as a farmer, with a few skilled artisans and a handful of professional people. Then the Industrial Revolution fundamentally changed our lives. Trade and specialization led to scientific and efficiency breakthroughs that have altered the face of the globe. We live in a time when many people worship “work.”

Juliet Schor points out that Americans have been adding dozens of hours at work each year and that over decades this has accumulated to the point where we work far more than recent generations.2 It has gotten to the point where we are on the verge of breaking natural systems with the rationale that we are creating jobs and wealth.

The theologian Karl Barth (1886-1968) points out that in our world millions do mindless, soulless work that is fundamentally dehumanizing.3 He wonders if we might work in such a way that provides us with enough of a living to really live for the sake of the community of God.

In our readings the Prophet Isaiah speaks about the way that the Lord called him before he was even born. That God shaped his abilities to speak and to convince others making his “mouth… like a sharp sword.” He writes that, “God has become his strength” (Isa. 49). In Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians Paul writes that God has chosen us out of the world to be called saints or holy ones (1 Cor. 1:1-9).

The Gospel of John tells the story of how John first recognized Jesus. God speaks to us both in our hearts and in outward events. This is true of John who explains that, “the one who sent me… said to me… this is the Son of God” (Jn. 1). When Andrew and Simon with hearts full of questions feel the tug of God, Jesus says to them “Come and see” (Jn. 1).

In my twenties I worked as a management consultant. It was the perfect life. I had more money that I have ever had. I lived on the beach in Southern California. My colleagues

were fascinating people. But I began to feel a nagging dissatisfaction that arose both out of the events in my external life and what was happening my heart. As part of my research I was asked to go along with lies that other consultants had told to gain access to a company’s secrets. I had other moral concerns about my work.

In my heart I also realized that life is precious. We only have one chance to be alive. I was reading about Martin Luther King Jr. and I began to ask myself what is worth dedicating your life to. I was fortunate in having church along with good friends and mentors who helped me find the path I am on now.

The theologian Karl Barth points out that the primary truth of our life is that we are limited creatures. In our time the world “limit” almost always has a negative connotation. For him though it is what makes possible our distinctiveness and achievements. We exist in time. Our life is on loan to us for a brief moment. He says it is like we are lost in a vast desert or on a tiny island.4

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791) used to go to bed every night thinking about his death, that on the next day he might “cease to be.” And yet he called this the key to his happiness. He had a deep faith that God had given him precisely this chance.5

Huge numbers of people have come before us but they are dead now, as we will one day be. In short, this is our time, our age, briefly given to us as a gift from God. We exist with just these technologies, in this particular social circumstance, with our race and family background and age. We have been given just this particular body, this disposition, this mind, our own unique form of creativity. The question is what are we going to make of it?

Our limitations are not a mistake, they are what makes us, us. We do not do this work alone either. God stands on the threshold of our consciousness. God reaches out a hand to help us. God meets us in the unique opportunities and places of our life. God is our partner in every good work that we undertake.

God has known you since before you were born. God calls to you now. Come and see. 1 Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics III.4 The Doctrine of Creation. Tr. A. T. MacKay, T. H. L. Parker, H. Knight, H. A. Kennedy, J. Marks (NY: T & T Clark, 1961) 474. 2 Juliet Schor, The Overworked American: The Unexpected Decline of Leisure (NY: Basic Books, 1992). 3 Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics III.4 The Doctrine of Creation. Tr. A. T. MacKay, T. H. L. Parker, H. Knight, H. A. Kennedy, J. Marks (NY: T & T Clark, 1961) 532. 4 Ibid., 571. 5 Ibid., 589.

Sunday, January 19
Sunday 11 a.m. Sermon
Preacher: Alonzo King
"I relax, and cast aside all mental burdens Allowing God to express through me his perfect peace, love, and wisdom."
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Thank you Dean and thank you everyone at Grace who have been so warm and so inviting, it has been a wonderful time that LINES has been here and it’s not over. We are thrilled to be here.

I would like to start with an affirmation by Yogananda. I’m going to say it and if you could repeat after me.
“I relax, and cast aside all mental burdens
Allowing God to express through me his perfect peace, love, and wisdom.”

This time of year, we’re still in January; it is a boon in the way it is structured, because we come out of the joy of Christmas and the celebration of Christ, and we step into the new year with support and cheering assistance so that we can renew ourselves. We look at ourselves, and this is where resolutions arise, and we say we too want to renew in the new year, and usually that means some cleaning. It’s always easy to look at someone else and see what needs to be repaired, but when it comes to ourselves, it’s not so easy. And so that introspective look of impersonal analysis that examines our habits, and sees where we are going, what we’re becoming – it’s a great opportunity to look at that and say, do I like what I’m becoming and where I’m going. That introspection, buoyed by this new year, can help us to change; and we human beings, individuals changing ourselves, are helping the entire world – that is how we assist.

There is a story that is common in India where they talk about going to the Ganges. And that if you bathe in the Ganges that your sins are washed away. The joke is that when you step toward the Ganges all your negative habits and negative ways of thinking, they leave because they don’t want to get into those holy waters. So when you step into the holy waters you are refreshed and you feel new and you feel rebirthed and clean. And when you get out of the water, those habits are waiting. And as soon as you get out, they jump right back on you. They call them the monkeys. The monkeys that are waiting in the trees after you get out of the refreshing dip in the Ganges. And so, too, that is like us – we begin with this firm conviction, we go forward with zeal, and inevitability, the monkeys come and jump on our back again.

I watched the Martin Luther King, Jr. speech that he gave at Grace, last night. It was incredibly powerfully moving and I wanted to read some words from it: Dr. King said that “Man must seek to develop his inner powers in a brilliant manner, no matter how small it may be according to the world’s standards. He must see that it has cosmic significance if it is for the upbuilding of humanity. He must come to see that whatever he is called to do is significant, if it is for the making of a better world. So, if you can’t be a pine on the top of the hill, be a scrub in the valley – but be the best little scrub on the side of the rill. Be a bush if you can’t be a tree. If can’t be a highway, just be a trail. If you can’t be the sun, be a star. For it isn’t by size that you win or you fail, be the best of whatever you are. And this determined push to the end of self realization, this inward drive to develop one’s inner powers is the length of a human being’s life.”

It’s beautiful. And in it’s deeper meaning, it’s pointing to the fact that we are souls. And that when we human beings who have our essence disguised in these bodies, and we identify with these bodies, when we delve into the senses like food, you identify with the body, you’re locked in, but in reality Christ has told us who we are and what we are. His words in John, “Ye are gods.” – “Know ye not that ye are gods and that the kingdom of Heaven resides within you.” Not outside somewhere to run to, but within you. Very deep, profound statement.

Many physicists have said that this cosmos looks more like a grand mind, than just a working machine. The brilliance of an unimaginable, Omnipotent mind. In our struggle to claim our real identification, we have mentally separated ourselves from that mind. That Omnipotent mind is just beneath the surface of our minds. Just behind the darkness of our closed eyes. Yogananda, author of Autobiography of a Yogi says, “We are waves on the vast ocean of that omnipotent mind.” But we are like bottles of ocean that are corked and we have to uncork that bottle and dissolve back into that Magnificent Ocean. We can tap into that ocean because thoughts are universal. We think, individually, that we’re thinking about our own little thoughts in our own little world – no, we plug into that limitless realm of thought. Whether it’s negative or positive, God was the creator. Good or bad, He created all of creation. And so, we have the ability, as waves, to find the way where we can relax, and let go. Find that identity – and how is that found? It’s akin to the way salmon have to go back to their spawning grounds – swimming upstream against the current, a rushing roaring, impossibly difficult, current. We have to travel against that stream to return back to bliss.

Dr. King said, “While the Montgomery boycott was going on, India’s Gandhi was the guiding light of our technique of nonviolent social change. Gandhi referred to his form of nonviolence as satyagraha meaning truth-force or love-force.” Each of these great mighty men were using love as the transformative force to help mankind. Gandhi, in his literature on nonviolence, says that it’s not just about saying I’m nonviolent, but it’s actually to begin to love that person and realize that that person is merely playing a role. And I read recently that he said, “Even if a vegetarian admonishes a meat eater for eating meat, that is violence.” Dr. King goes on to say, “I came to see for the first time that the Christian doctrine of love, operating through the Gandhian method of nonviolence, was one of the most potent weapons available to oppressed people in their struggle for freedom.” And the question arises, who is not oppressed on planet earth? There is the schisms, there’s the war, religious sectarianism, the greed, materialism, the boomerang of evil, but they both talk about how that can be transformed through love. The application is that everyone of us has some form of oppression inside of us – again those monkeys – that we too, through our behavior and the way that we think, want to eradicate. Because it helps the world, it helps mankind, or humanity, I should say.

Dr. King and Gandhi were looking to remove oppression from the world and how to rid the world of evil by helping their brothers and sisters. The Gita says that a lot of the struggle is actually karmic. There is personal karma, there’s karma in families, there is karma in cities, countries and there’s world karma. Karma is really the law of retribution, what you put out, returns to you. The old testament, when they are talking about karma, they say “God is an angry god and he seeks revenge.” It’s impossible for God to be angry. It doesn’t make sense, it’s an aberration. God is love. God is unconditional love. No matter what mistakes we make, no matter what bad habits we have – God is unconditional love. But the old testament was referring to the law of cause and effect. The law that was created by God and God is above the law. Yoganada says, “Since God is not bound by his cosmic law, devotion is also necessary to summon his attention. Devotional demand is greater than law, than the law of cause and effect, because it touches the heart of God and makes him answer his naughty and good children alike. Law is based on mathematical precision – justice weighted according to the law of cause and effect. Devotion is based upon claiming God as your own true love. Law is exacting in it’s demand, but love presupposes God’s mercy and thereby attracts his response whether or not the full measure of the law has been met.” That’s tremendous – that love is above the law.

Dr. King says, “If you can understand and feel, even in the midst of those critical and often physically painful moments, that your attacker is as much a victim as you are, that he or she is a victim of the forces that have shaped and fed his anger – then you are well on your way to the nonviolent life.” Seeing roles – every person has to play their role. This is teaching us how to see people. When people identify as this age, race, sex, religion, we must respect that. But we have to see people no matter how they appear or behave, as souls. Souls with roles – we all have our roles to play. And this brings the Shakespearean statement, “All of life is a stage” into a true reality. Some play huge roles on earth, others small personal roles. But, all souls are equal. So whether it’s on the big stage of the planet with the entire world watching, or in a little village, the soul shines. All souls are equal.

A few definitions of the soul. This self, soul, is never born, nor does it ever perish, nor having come into existence, will it again cease to be. It is birthless, eternal, changeless, ever the same, unaffected by the usual processes associated with time. It is not slain, when the body is killed.

The universal everything is made of the singular consciousness of God. When a spark of that consciousness is individualized by God, it becomes a soul, capable of ultimately expressing the God image in which it is made. In essence, the soul is perfect and complete. An exact reflection of God’s ever existing, ever conscious, ever new bliss.

A land, a country, a nation, is conserved through it’s masterpieces of humanity. And so, again, our work is to realize that we’re not weak, whining mortals, we are immortals. A difficult task. Often people say, “I feel I have a great purpose to accomplish in life” and that is true, that purpose is to find out who and what we really are. And Christ tells us who we are when He says, “Know ye not that ye are gods.”

I’d like to close with what is known as the quality that God cherishes most, humility. By Andrew Murray, “Humility is Perpetual quietness of heart. It is to have no trouble. It is never to be fretted or vexed, irritable or sore; to wonder at nothing that is done to me, to feel nothing done against me. It is to be at rest when nobody praises me, and when I am blamed or despised. It is to have a blessed home in the Lord, where I can go in and shut the door, and kneel to my Father in secret, and am at peace as in a deep sea of calmness, when all around and above is trouble.”

I would close with one last affirmation by Paramahansa Yogananda, if you could repeat after me.

I am submerged in eternal light.
That light permeates every particle of my being.
I live in that light.
The divine spirit fills me, within and without.
I am submerged in eternal light.
That light permeates every particle of my being.
I live in that light.
The divine spirit fills me, within and without.

Discover Grace

Happy New Year!

Christmas at Grace

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 celebrating Christmas with us

We are grateful that thousands of people came to Grace Cathedral from around the city and around the world in December to attend our concerts, sing, celebrate, worship and reflect. Please enjoy a slide show that captures the joy and wonder of our concerts, services and community.

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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