Listen to the Latest Services

Sunday, July 5
Sunday 11 a.m. Eucharist
Download service leaflet

Listen to Featured Sermons

Sunday, July 5
Independence in our Interdependence
Preacher: The Rev. Heather Erickson
Read sermon

Independence in our Interdependence

 

Last week I was on the phone with my grandmother. She’s 93. She’s lived alone since my grandfather died a couple of years ago, and in the past 3 and a half months I’m pretty sure she’s only left her house once. I’m grateful she’s safe. I’m grateful for her friend who’s been bringing her groceries. I’m grateful for my family who have been by for physically distanced porch visits. My grandmother asked me, “When will this all end?” And I wanted to be there with her, to see her in real life and give her a hug. When will this all end?

It’s been 112 days, I think, since I left my office on a Monday afternoon for what I thought would be 3 weeks of working at home. Back in March I remember talking with a friend about how resilient human beings are, and that we can do anything for a short period of time. The next few months are kind of a blur of emails, zoom meetings, distance learning schedules, some complicated art and engineering projects, lots of hand-washing and a drive-through preschool graduation. Right now, in my household it feels like things are on hold – there are promises that playdates and birthday parties and piano lessons will happen at some point when it’s “safe” – when will this all end?

It seems like something has recently shifted, though. I’m still confident in our resilience. And now I’m even more grateful for our ability to adapt and endure. And I’m frustrated with our short-sightedness and inability to take responsibility, to work together. The work of endurance is hard, though, especially amidst the uncertainty and the absence of predictability.

We’re also in this constant process of letting go – of plans, of hopes, of assumptions and expectations, of the illusion of control, of a naïveté about the systems of dominance that have shaped our modern world and perpetuated horrendous oppression and injustice.

Yesterday was Independence Day, a 4th of July unlike any other, where many of us held the celebration of the Declaration of Independence and its promises of equality, and the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, alongside the hypocrisy and abomination of chattel slavery and its effects which continue to reverberate today.

Frederick Douglass’ gave an important speech in Corinthian Hall to white members of the Rochester Ladies’ Anti-Slavery Society on this day in 1852, 168 years ago, in which he says, “What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July?  I answer: a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim.” These words were offered about a decade before the Civil War, and as the Black Lives Matter Movement reminds us, are still relevant today.

Dr. Ibram X. Kendi, in an article published in The Atlantic last year, offers a lens through which to honor the 4th of July. He writes, “We should be celebrating our disobedience, turbulence, insolence and discontent about inequities and injustices in all forms.”

In her book, Disunity in Christ, Dr. Christena Cleveland writes about power and privilege and she offers an insightful reminder of “Christ’s cross-cultural, privilege-abdicating example in the incarnation.”

The incarnation. The Holy One, birthed into this world through Mary, the Theotokos, the God-bearer.

I keep thinking that we are in the midst of birthing something new. I have hope that we are in the process of shaping a new way of being a country, and a new way of understanding and sharing power. I believe the church is being transformed as we discover new ways of connecting with each other and expressing our life in Christ. Education is changing. For many the way in which we work is changing. Our world has fundamentally shifted, and – we’re not quite there yet. The future is not quite clear. The process of laboring a new creation into the world is not usually easy, either. From my experience, there’s an intensity to it, and uncertainty. Each labor unfolds in its own way and there’s an ease that comes with working with it, responding to it and following its rhythms. During my first experience of labor, I remember reaching a point and thinking – I can’t take much more. I’m not going to be able to sustain this. The intensity is too much, and it’s constant, and I need a break but there’s no way to pause this process. It was happening whether I was ready for it or not. And just when it felt like more than I could bear, it was over. And my life has never been the same since. During my second experience of labor I remember all of a sudden realizing that I was holding back, I was fighting against it and while the intensity didn’t diminish, once I chose to work with it, there was an ease, an acceptance of the unfolding experience and once again, my life has never been the same since.

Imagine this new creation. What does it look like to you? Jesus saw a world where the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them. Imagine a world where everyone has enough food to eat and a bed to sleep in every night. Imagine a world where we recognize our interdependence and put our neighbors’ needs ahead of our own. Imagine a world where everyone has enough. Imagine a world where justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.

We have a responsibility to each other, and we’re in this for the long-haul. Leaning into the discomfort, renewing our minds, opening our hearts, taking action that makes our interconnectedness – our interdependence – visible, this work is tremendous and important. It is holy. And I believe that this work will change us, it will transform us, and we will become a new creation, a beloved community. This work will also exhaust us and deplete us if we approach it alone. Jesus invites us: Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

Years ago, when I first started paying attention to this invitation, I imagined picking up a harness of sorts that I expected to be heavy, only to discover it became lighter as I lifted it up onto my shoulders. Then at some point, I began imagining a yoke built for two, with Jesus shouldering one side as I took my place next to him, teammates working together side by side, knowing that when I grew tired, he would be there to support the weight and carry me through. Recently I’ve been imagining a different kind of yoke – one that doesn’t make any sense or seem in the least bit practical – it extends out in every direction connecting person to person – a bit like how I’ve been envisioning church during these last few months of virtual gathering –  a network of sorts, each of us connected to each other. An interdependent chosen family of people linked together. There are so many of us, connected in all directions, the yoke stretching beyond the limits of our vision. It’s massive and yet there’s a lightness, an ease and flexibility to it, because it’s the body of Christ. The church – where together, with Christ moving in us and through us and among us, we can do far more than we could imagine.

Sunday, June 28
Pride Sunday
Preacher: The Rev. Altagracia Perez-Bullard, PhD
Read sermon

From today’s Psalm:

1  I will sing of your steadfast love, My God [O Lord], forever;

with my mouth I will proclaim your faithfulness to all generations.

2  I declare that your steadfast love is established forever;

your faithfulness is as firm as the heavens.  AMEN.

 

Good Morning and Happy Pride Day!

If this were any other Pride Day, this would be the point where we would have hooting and hollering, we’d be cheering with the festiveness this day has come to represent for the community of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, Asexual, and other sexual minorities, also known as the LGBTQIA+ community.  I trust some of you are shouting in your homes, and I know that my heart is filled with memories of Pride Days gone by…especially my first Pride March: the beauty and the spectacle, the empowerment and of course, the music and dancing.

Today marks the 50th anniversary of the first Pride March, the Christopher Street Liberation Day March, held on the first anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising in New York City. And although for all of our well-beings, we are not having Pride Marches, we are indeed witnessing, and some of us participating in various ways, in the ongoing struggle, the ongoing movement for human rights, as people march in the streets across the nation and the world, demanding that black and brown bodies be treated with the dignity and respect that is the right of every person.

And for those who know history, we understand that the demand for equal rights and protection under the law being made today is another manifestation of that demand made in the Village 51 years ago. The Stonewall Inn catered to the most marginalized in the gay community, a description that sounds painfully familiar: people of color, gender non-conforming folks, homeless youth and transgender people, who survived on the streets hustling what they could, even their own bodies. Faced with yet another violent police raid, where the primary transgression was their very existence as LGBTQ persons, the queens rose up, as others before them sat-in, and fought back, leading to three days of rioting, which galvanized and organized LGBT societies into activists. Today we remember and celebrate Marsha P. Johnson, who was part of the Stonewall Riots, an advocate for justice and equal rights, and Sylvia Rivera who together with Marsha established STAR (Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries) to help homeless young drag queens, gay youth and trans women.

They represent a prophetic move embodying God’s truth, a self-evident truth declared although not yet realized in this nation’s founding documents, that all “are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”  And as Jeremiah attests to, and we ourselves have witnessed, a prophetic word is not welcome when it calls us to account for our transgressions against each other, when it calls out injustice and unfaithfulness to God’s word and will for us. False prophets may declare prosperity and peace, but while God’s children, and especially the least of these, the marginalized and the oppressed, are crushed with reckless disregard for the sanctity of their lives, we will know no peace. No justice, no peace.

For those of us who believe, who know and understand the wisdom and the power of Jesus, who seek to live in a Kin-dom of abundant and everlasting life, where justice and righteousness are the watch words and peace and love are enjoyed, we have our marching orders here in the 10th chapter of Matthew. I invite you to read it to understand the times in which we are living and the call of God to live as faithful disciples, students of the Good News.

In today’s gospel reading we are both encouraged and challenged. Jesus after describing the hard road that awaits those who follow him, encourages them, reminding them that as they seek to speak and practice justice, heal and care for the wounded, be and learn from the marginalized, they will be a blessing and they will be blessed. They will be blessed by those who welcome them, providing hospitality, however basic, even offering them a drink of water, which in the desert is no small thing.

The gospel lists this triad: the prophets, the righteous and the little ones, and they can describe different members of the community, but they also describe the interrelated aspects of our discipleship. One scholar describes them this way: the prophets bring “proclamation and miraculous demonstrations of divine power,” the righteous demonstrate an “enduring pursuit of justice and of the healing and restoration of relationships,” and the little ones, the vulnerable, discounted, devalued, show that this whole enterprise is God’s mission, we are “wholly dependent on God’s power and presence.” (Saunders)

That last group, the little ones, might come as a surprise. We might have expected “the wise ones,” or “the holy ones,” (Saunders) but instead it reflects reality, how God’s mission is lived out in the world: change does not, and never has come from some hero, some eloquent speaker, some person in power. What was true in 1857 is true in 2020, in the words of Frederick Douglass: “Who would be free, themselves must strike the blow.” Or in the words of June Jordan, “we are the ones we have been waiting for.”

Here lies the encouragement and the challenge. Reading this gospel in today’s context, we are invited to understand that this is about us coming and going. That we are to live into our call to be prophets, speak truth, show miraculous power, what God can do through us; to be righteous and give ourselves to the enduring pursuit of justice and healing; to be the little ones, vulnerable, learning, growing. And that although it will not be easy we will be welcomed and refreshed, those who will minister to us will be blessed as we are blessed by their ministrations.

But we are also invited to understand that we are called to welcome and minister to the prophets, the righteous and the little ones. Those who have felt the movement of the Spirit and are encouraged and bold, demanding their humanity be recognized and accorded the dignity and justice that are their inalienable right as the children of God.

Welcome those involved in the Black Lives Matter movement, who seek justice from the systems that are sworn to serve and protect, welcome those involved in the Poor People’s Movement, who seek to unite us across lines of difference as we demand good and just salaries, health care, education, environmental care from institutions created to serve the common good, welcome those who continue the fight for LGBTQ rights, because the right to marry, and now, thank God, the right to work without suffering discrimination, is only the beginning of insuring equal rights.

We are to welcome these prophets, these righteous, these little ones:  Not tolerate, and not suspect, or judge, or fear, but welcome, because we who seek to live into God’s will understand that by welcoming these strangers, we may be entertaining angels unaware. (Hebrews 13:2)

In these welcoming and refreshing encounters we, “us and them,” we, will be blessed and we will be a blessing. These relationships will strengthen us, feed us, and help us to grow. Together we will learn to live more fully into God’s call for us, that we would be fully human, humane in our treatment of one another and of all God’s creation, that we might have life and have it more abundantly. (John 10:10).

So today we remember and celebrate those who have gone before us and all those who journey with us in seeking justice. Let us remember and celebrate our call to be righteous and prophetic little ones, relying on the power of God to transform us and through us the world. Let us welcome one another, and keep the feast. May the party begin!

Sermons from the last six months are available below. You can also listen to our sermons as a podcast, Sermons from Grace, wherever you get your podcasts!

 

Sunday, May 24
Easter 7
Preacher: The Rev. Dr. Ellen Clark-King
If ever there was a festival that speaks to the heart of our current lived experience it was the one we celebrated on Thursday and remember in our readings today.
Read sermon

Easter 7 2020

If ever there was a festival that speaks to the heart of our current lived experience it was the one we celebrated on Thursday and remember in our readings today. In case you missed it (and it’s pretty easy to miss not having any cards or presents or chocolate attached to it) it was the Feast of the Ascension. The day when we remember Jesus withdrawing his physical presence from his friends and from the world in general. Sound sort of familiar? No more face to face talks, no more sharing of bread and fish with friends, no more wandering through towns and villages. A real withdrawal

There’s a Facebook joke going the rounds that calls the ascension the beginning of Jesus working from home. But that image is I think deeply wrong. Jesus’ home isn’t away from us in heaven – it’s here with us through the presence of the Holy Spirit. Not in some form of spiritual zoom link but a living divine presence of God that is never socially distanced or unavailable to us. To me the ascension is not about Jesus leaving the world and going home to heaven but about something far theologically richer and stranger. It is about humanity going home to God.

Most of the time our Christian focus is on how Christ transforms us – how God chose to sanctify our bodily reality by becoming flesh like us; how in Jesus we see a new openness of loving, forgiving being; how through death and resurrection Jesus broke chains of violence and death to offer us new life and freedom. But the ascension offers us a new perspective – that it is not only we who are changed by Christ’s loving presence among us. God is also changed. The passionate intimate relationship that Christ formed with humanity works its transformative power both ways – on God as well as on us.

For Christ doesn’t return to God unchanged. Jesus does not shed his bodily existence and leave it behind but takes it with him into the heart of God. All the resurrection stories tell us of Jesus’ continued embodiment – the food he shares on the beach, the scars that Thomas hardly dares to touch. His body is part of who he is. It is not abandoned and left behind but transformed to become part of who God is.

So as a result of the ascension, right at the heart of God, is our humanity. Right at the heart of who God is there is the experience of death, of suffering, of laughter, of embracing friends, of loneliness, of sleepless nights, of shared jokes around a table, of tears, of regret, and of hope. All the chaotic loveliness and pain of human life is not shrugged off and discarded but brought into the heart of God’s being. God is different because God became human and never left that humanity behind.

In fact, the ascension is the first step in the completion of what began with the incarnation. God became human to show us how to be human and to show us the invincible strength of God’s love for us. But there is more, wonderfully more! God became human to make us one with God. As Jesus says slightly later in this chapter of John’s gospel: ‘As you, Father, are in me, and I am in you, may they also be in us.’ This is our eternal destiny, to be not only saved but to become one with the God who saved us.

This is pretty mind blowing. Really, think about it. You who, like me, have failed at so many things. You who, like me, have snapped at your partners or children or friends. You who, like me, have stood to one side while we see others suffer. We are the ones God chooses to bring into the divine being, who God chooses as dance partners for the music of eternity. For those of us sick of seeing our own face gazing back at us from our computer screens, remember how beloved that face is to God.

The second step in the completion of the incarnation is the one we celebrate next week – Pentecost, the coming of the Holy Spirit. As I said, this is not some spiritual zoom connection to make up for the fact that we can no longer meet Jesus face to face. The Holy Spirit is the transformed life of God in the heart of all that is. The Holy Spirit is the point of connection that holds us together as a community of faith even when we are physically separate. The Holy Spirit’s presence in, between and around us means that God is still in the heart of our human experience, just as our human experience is in the heart of God.

The ascension can easily feel like a festival of withdrawal, of absence. Of God finished with the incarnation returning to the state God was before – more remote from this world, more detached from our concerns, more absent than present. A God choosing to work from home. But this is actually the reverse of what is happening. God is allowing our experience into the heart of who God is, God is welcoming humanity into the dance of divinity, God is receiving us in Christ and allowing Godself to change. God is letting the loving, intimate relationship established in Christ transform divinity as well as humanity.

As we look to a God who allowed us into the very heart of who God is, allow that same God into the very heart of who you are. Know your value, your infinite worth. Know your connection to all those God loves. Know your connection to the divine dance of life. Allow yourself to rest this week safe in those sheltering arms. Allow yourself to dance this week as if only God is watching. Allow yourself to be this week who you truly are – a sibling of Christ, a child of the divine, a holy temple of the Holy Spirit.

And know that if Christ is working from home it is because Christ is here working in us, dwelling with us whose humanity ascended with him to heaven.

Sunday, May 17
No One is Lost to God
Preacher: The Rt. Rev. Marc Handley Andrus
Just as Jesus is the bread and basis of life, Jesus is also the connection that binds us to one another, to the earth, and to God for all eternity. We are connected, and God never loses us.
Read sermon

The Right Rev. Dr. Marc Handley Andrus preaches extemporaneously.

Sunday, May 17
Thirty, Flirty and Thriving
Preacher: The Very Rev. Dr. Malcolm C. Young
“Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you…” (1 Peter 3).
Read sermon
Sunday, May 10
Sunday 11 a.m. Sermon
Preacher: The Rt. Rev. Marc Handley Andrus
Read sermon
Sunday, May 3
The Wood Between the Worlds
Preacher: The Very Rev. Dr. Malcolm C. Young
“I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (Jn. 10).
Read sermon

Many of us at home right now expect to sip a little wine or juice and to enjoy some bread as we pray together online. Is this real communion? In what sense are we celebrating the Eucharist? What are we all doing together right now anyway? My sermon this week comes in the form of three questions: Where are we? Who is God? And what are we learning?

 

  1. Where are we? In C.S. Lewis’ book The Magician’s Nephew a middle-aged adult has discovered rings that will transport the wearer into other worlds. He tricks Polly, a young girl, into testing the rings and she disappears from our reality. Then he offers her friend Digory the chance to follow her with the rings that will bring the two home.

 

Digory valiantly agrees. Taking the ring, immediately our world vanishes and he finds himself, “in the quietest wood you could possibly imagine. There were no insects, no animals, and no wind. You could almost feel the trees growing…very much alive.” “When he tried to describe it afterward Digory always said, “It was a rich place: as rich as plumcake.””

 

The story goes on, “The strangest thing was that, almost before he had looked about him, Digory had half forgotten how he had come there… He was not in the least frightened, or excited, or curious. If anyone had asked him, “Where did you come from? He would probably have said, “I’ve always been here.” That was what it felt like – as if one had always been in that place and never been bored although nothing had ever happened.”[i]

 

This wood between the worlds is a liminal place. The various pools of water in the landscape are each gates to different realities. We find ourselves in a similar place. Worshiping online with doors open to everywhere in the world. We are waiting with growing impatience in a place that is no place, where nothing really happens.

 

Of course, it might not be fair to put it in precisely this way. As the pandemic unfolds we have gone through various stages in our shared, spiritual unconscious. At each phase we never really leave the previous ones behind. First, we felt confused about the nature of the virus and what it would mean for us. We still don’t know when we might go back and how normal it will really be.

 

Then, we were shocked by the severity of the disease and our measures to prevent it. We felt afraid for our loved ones and ourselves. We worried that the healthcare system or even our society would break down, that if things went really wrong there would be no one to help.

 

One might think of the economy as the shared activity that makes us feel our own dignity, worth and value. We panicked as we felt this part of ourselves threatened. Although theoretically we know that we will die, our society hides death. COVID19 draws the reality of our death closer to us.

 

So we’ve responded by hoarding, insider trading, price gouging, defying stay at home orders, buying more guns, protesting and suing the civil servants who are trying to protect us. But far, far more frequently we have been rushing into the face of danger to help, cheering hospital and other essential workers, looking out for our neighbors, giving blood and taking time with our families. We are giving money to churches and social service nonprofits. I think that this horrifying experience of death is mostly making us more humane.

 

So these earlier stages are still with us but mostly we feel in between worlds. We know we cannot go back to what was before but we feel impatient with how things are now. And we have questions. When the people of Israel were brutally defeated and sent faraway into exile they cried, “How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a new land” (Ps. 137:4)? And that is our question too.

 

  1. Who is God? Today is Good Shepherd Sunday. Every year we set aside a whole feast day dedicated to the simple idea that Jesus continues to be present in our life as the Good Shepherd and that at our best moments we can hear his voice. For homework this week I encourage you to memorize today’s Psalm 23.

 

The twentieth century theologian Karl Barth (1886-1968) regarded this short poem as the clearest example of what it feels like to be reconciled with God.[ii] You might look at it as a summary of what Jesus refers to as “abundant life.” When God is our shepherd we shall lack nothing, our souls shall be revived, we will be guided along the right paths. Even in the “valley of the shadow of death” God is with us (Ps. 23). We shall be comforted, even anointed. We will always have a home in God.

 

Jesus says “amēn, amēn, lego humin hoti ego eimi hē thura.” “Very truly I say to you that I am the gate for the sheep” (Jn. 10).[iii] Our situation in the wood between the worlds gives his statement a new meaning for us. Jesus is the threshold, the place in between that we pass through on our way out for nourishment and on our way back to safety.[iv]

 

The word liminal comes from the Latin word limen and means threshold. Jesus occupies the space and time of the liminal. All human cultures use ritual to make space to move us between different worlds. I have many conversations with wedding couples about how we have so few rites of passage that we hardly know what to do with the ones we have. Baptisms, graduation, weddings, retirement parties, prayers at the time of death help us to gracefully enter a new form of being.

 

When church works well we do this every day. Among our other ministries we create and modify rituals that draw people into places like the wood between the worlds. And sometimes this is not comfortable.

 

Let me return to my initial question about how we receive communion at home. There is a widening church divide in opinion about what happens in online worship. Some say because of the situation that has been forced on us we must observe a kind of fast from the sacraments, by simply not having communion. In fact, if ordinary people at home can’t receive bread and wine, no one should. Many of these people want to protect the purity of the Eucharist and the traditions around it. They worry that the authority structure is too far away from people’s homes to oversee what used to be the primary rituals of common or public worship.

 

Others though believe that the spirit is calling forth something new in the church. Safe in-person Eucharist practices may even be two years away and people are finding that they are experiencing, with others online, Jesus in the bread and wine at home.

 

You can see the tension between these two understandings even in our prayers at Grace Cathedral. The first prayer after communion seems to gently remind people that they cannot really have communion outside of church. It says “since we cannot receive you sacramentally, come spiritually into our hearts.” The second option says simply, “Come spiritually into our hearts, and unite our entire selves to you.” It leaves open the question of what a sacrament is and what happens when we have bread and wine at home in this context.[v]

 

My forum guest this week the former Harvard Divinity School professor Margaret Miles says that these times are even changing what we mean by bodies and being together. She goes on to say that in response to terrible religious wars, Richard Hooker proposed a solution. Rather than asking everyone to share exactly the same beliefs we should gather on the basis of being willing to participate. Instead of asking, “do we believe the same things,” we should be more inclined to ask simply “shall we worship together?” Perhaps this is the question we should be asking today.

 

  1. What are we learning? In the world we are learning that it is possible to have air clean enough for people in India to see the Himalayas again, that people can stop fighting in Yemen and Ukraine, that we are capable of making dramatic positive changes to our environment.[vi] We are learning that our leaders can work together to pass stimulus plans, house the homeless and feed the hungry. Most of all we are realizing that we are one human family and that each one of us has a role in a unified effort to overcome the coronavirus.

 

More particularly at this church we are learning that we should offer something more online than just a video of what we usually do in person. We are learning that as a species, a church and individuals we are capable of massively more change than we realized before. We understand in a far more profound way why in-person connection matters so much. And finally we are learning that when we pray together online, God is really present with us.

 

Brothers and sisters to be modern is to insist on an explanation for everything. But we are more than modern. Before closing I want to share one fragment from a Wendell Berry poem called “Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front.”

 

“So, friends, every day do something / that won’t compute. Love the Lord, / Love the world. Work for nothing. / Take all that you have and be poor. / Love someone who does not deserve it… / Expect the end of the world. Laugh / Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful / though you have considered all the facts… Be like the fox / who makes more tracks than necessary, / some in the wrong direction. / Practice resurrection.”[vii]

 

Welcome to this liminal place out of space and time with doorways into new realities. Welcome to this cathedral however you might be experiencing it right now. Welcome to the place where we lack nothing because we experience the Good Shepherd’s abundant life, where we hear his voice reminding us that we were made to love a

[i] C.S. Lewis, The Magician’s Nephew (NY: Harper, 1955) 32.

[ii] Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics IV:1 The Doctrine of Reconciliation, tr. G.W. Bromiley (NY: T&T Clark, 2004) 608.

[iii] Ellen Clark-King has a prayer about the gate through which our words pass. We have come to love it: “Between the words that are spoken and the words that are heard may God’s spirit be present.”

[iv] Matthew Boulton, “Lectionary Commentary for the 4 Sunday of Easter Year A,” SALT, 27 April 2020. https://www.saltproject.org/progressive-christian-blog/2020/4/27/abundant-life-salts-lectionary-commentary-for-easter-4

[v] Prayer of Spiritual Communion (for Presider and All):
Beloved Jesus, we believe that you are truly present in the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar. We love you above all things, and know that you are with us. Since we cannot now receive you sacramentally, come spiritually into our hearts. Now and always we embrace you and unite ourselves entirely to you; never permit us to be separated from you. In your most holy name. Amen

Or…

Gracious God, we love you above all things, and are grateful that you are with us. Come spiritually into our hearts, unite our entire selves to you and never permit us to be separated from your presence. We pray this in the name of your son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

[vi] William E. Swing, “Our Inner Pandemic,” Talk to the Members of Burlingame Country Club during the Coronavirus Pandemic, April 2020.

[vii] Wendell Berry, Collected Poems: 1957-1982 (San Francisco: Northpoint Press, 1984) 151.

Sunday, April 26
Sunday 11 a.m. Sermon
Preacher: The Rev. Dr. Ellen Clark-King
Easter 3
Read sermon

There’s something wistful and nostalgic about today’s readings. They casually refer to a whole lot of normal life that we have lost for now. Those joyful baptisms so many churches would have been celebrating this season. The sheer normality of walking with a friend and allowing a stranger to join us. The pleasure in sharing a table at an inn. Most of all perhaps the rich soul-feeding ordinariness of breaking bread together, both in our homes and in our churches. So much loss.

We are not going to stroll into a neighborhood pub and encounter a friendly stranger, let alone Jesus, any day soon. We are not going to break bread together at the dinner table or the altar table any day soon. But we are still going to encounter the Risen Christ in other places and other ways. Not all is loss, not all is lost.

One of these ways of encounter ties Easter and earth day together. Sallie McFague, eco-theologian extraordinaire, called the created world God’s body. She teaches that God is present in every atom of every organism throughout this planet. Not that God is contained by the world but the opposite – the world is contained by God. This world is holy not just because it is God’s creation but because it is God’s dwelling place.

So do not be surprised to encounter the risen Christ as you take your daily walk, or even as you gaze out your window. In anything you see that speaks of new life, new growth and hope, the Risen Christ is present. A child skipping, a flower budding. In anything you see that speaks of continuity, of life that lasts beyond human years, the Risen Christ is present. An old twisted tree, one bright star. In anything you see that speaks of beauty and celebration, the Risen Christ is present. Shared laughter, a glorious sunset. As Gerald Manley Hopkins wrote: “The world is charged with the grandeur of God. It will flame out, like shining from shook foil.” Open your eyes to see those flames of divine promise.

But, before we fly too far away on the wings of poetry, we might ask how COVID 19 fits into this worldview? How can this benighted virus be part of the body of God? For it isn’t something sent from outside to punish or teach us, it isn’t divine revenge for our mistreatment of the divine creation. It is somehow part of our embodiment, part of God’s embodiment. An embodiment in which suffering and death are somehow as essential a part of the gift of life as joy and birth, in which even the body of our risen savior bears dreadful scars. Which doesn’t mean we shouldn’t rage against it – like all suffering we should do our human best to bring it to an end. And like all suffering we know it will be unable to defeat the love and life that is present in the risen Christ.

All who suffer are part of God’s body, part that we must give especial care. To paraphrase John Chrysostom, if you don’t see Christ in the unhoused person on the street what is the point of seeing Christ in the chalice? Our broken communion practice, our inability to eat and drink together, only reflects our broken unjust society, our unwillingness to share God’s abundant gifts and see the risen Christ in every human face.

We need to be open to encounter the risen Christ in the other, in the poor and the emotionally needy, in the jogger who runs too close and isn’t wearing a face mask, in our partner who has stacked the dishwasher wrong for the 11hundredth time! It is only then that those moments we spend contemplating the consecrated elements can truly bring us closer both to one another and to the risen Christ. Behold what every human being is when you see that bread and wine, pray to become the love that every human being needs as you gaze upon them.

And also behold who you are in that bread and wine. Our deepest self is the other place where we encounter the Risen Christ. Most simply, most essentially, deep within us. Each one of us is also a creature charged with the grandeur of God, each one of us is part of God’s body. When we feel an impulse to reach out in love, when we are surprised by a moment of joy, when we know the depth of grief and yet continue to breathe, then we are encountering the risen Christ in our own being.

So please, dear God breathed bearers of the Risen Christ, be gentle with yourselves through these hard weeks. Don’t beat yourself up for another night watching comfort TV rather than scrubbing the bathroom or learning a new language (Parks and Rec is currently my favorite). Don’t work 12 hours a day just because your home is now your office. And if you can’t work, don’t for a second believe your worth is any less than when you could – your value does not lie in your productivity but in your unique presence in the body of God. The risen Christ lives in you – see and honor your own divine essence along with that of the earth, the Eucharist, and your neighbor.

Those two companions on the road to Emmaus had the luxury of encountering the risen Christ in ways that are closed to us for now. But we are no less in the presence of the Risen Christ than they were – even though like them we may find it hard to recognize at first. Truly look at this world, at your neighbor, at yourself and see the presence of the risen Christ in each one. Gaze at Christ in this sacrament of the altar and also gaze at Christ in the sacrament of creation and of humanity – yours included. There, hidden in the everyday encounters of our restricted lives, is the God who broke through death to be with us and to love us for always and forever.  Amen.

What's Happening at Grace Cathedral?

Connect with Us