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Sunday, July 5
Sunday 11 a.m. Eucharist
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Sunday, July 5
Independence in our Interdependence
Preacher: The Rev. Heather Erickson
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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
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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, March 15
Sunday 11 a.m. Sermon
Preacher: The Rt. Rev. Marc Handley Andrus
Sermon from Sunday's 11 a.m. Eucharist
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Sunday, March 8
Love in the Time of Coronavirus
Preacher: The Very Rev. Dr. Malcolm C. Young
"The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit” (Jn. 3).
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Thursday, March 5
Seeker of Truth
Preacher: The Very Rev. Dr. Malcolm C. Young
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“Creator of the earth and skies to whom the words of life belong, grant us your truth to make us wise, grant us your power to make us strong” (Hymn 148).

Alan Jones once wrote, “When it comes to the story of my life, I want the deepest and best interpretation put on it by a sympathetic narrator.” I read this many years ago and no one could feel more surprised and honored than I do to find myself in this position tonight. Alan is the best Dean Emeritus I could imagine. At every stage he has helped me in small matters and consequential ones. He has walked in my shoes and I’m profoundly grateful for his kind encouragement and wisdom.

Alan is one of the most prominent preachers of our time and tonight as we celebrate his birthday I want to consider what God shows us through his thought and life. I believe that Alan’s power comes from his absolute dedication to truth. He courageously  teaches us that the people you have to lie to, own you. He writes that, “The truth that makes us free, is for the most part, truth I prefer not to hear.”[1]

Alan speaks in a compelling way about the truth of spiritual struggle and darkness, of uncertainty and isolation. And yet his conclusions about beauty, humility and mystery have become a deep and hopeful part of us. Let me briefly explore each of those subjects to give you a sense for what I mean.

  1. Beauty. At the very heart of Alan’s message is a simple idea. He says that “life is a gift from God. It is all a gift.” Surprisingly often on Thursday nights I imagine Alan at his first Evensong when he was only seven years old. No none could have imagined how he would serve the church over the next seventy-three years.

One of the things he learned early was that music and beauty help us to receive our life as a gift. In Alan’s thought, gratitude for our existence comes before any other story or reasoning. He points out that what we attend to most is what most shapes our soul.[2] For him it is a spirit of thanksgiving to God.

2.Humility. Alan says frankly, “I have always preached to those who have lost their way.” It just so happens that most of us fit right in to this category. You will rarely hear a preacher who is as acutely conscious of his own sinfulness and the power of sin to distort human life. Alan does not hide his own brokenness.

Alan says, “As we get older, the full truth about ourselves involves a long story of mistakes, betrayals, loves, failures…” But he also points out that over time, “our longing for truth becomes more like a longing for integrity and forgiveness than the longing to rearrange the facts of the past in our favor.” He says, “I would like to give the gift of my unguarded self.”[3]

  1. Mystery. I’ve never heard anyone point this out before but one of Alan’s most frequently used expressions is “I haven’t a clue.” Alan honors the mystery of God and the mystery that we are to ourselves. He calls God “the great incomprehensible presence within each of us” and says that we are both more and less than we think we are.[4]

Alan quotes Gary Wills who writes, “We seek one mystery, God, with another mystery, ourselves. We are mysterious to ourselves because God’s mystery is in us.” Refering to a conversation between Ram Dass and himself, the two agree that, “The name of the game we are in is called ‘Being at one with the Beloved.”[5]

Beyond his theology Alan has also taught us that, “truth-telling creates a community of trust.” And that is what Grace Cathedral is. It would be irresponsible if I did not point out some of the extraordinary things we accomplished as a community with Alan’s guidance. Lauren Artress and Alan started the worldwide labyrinth movement. During Alan’s tenure we responded valiantly to the AIDS crisis and built the Interfaith AIDS chapel. We started a yoga practice that hosts 600 people each week (perhaps the largest regular yoga practice in the world).

Grace Comm revolutionized how religion happens on the Internet and gave the Cathedral an outsized presence there. Under Alan’s leadership we started the Forum and the simply miraculous Community Preschool.

At UC Berkeley there is a plaque in memory of the architect John Galen Howard which says something like, “His monuments stand all around you.” That is true for Alan too. The garage, the crypt, the great stairs, the plaza, the chapter house, huge sections of CSB – these all consumed hundreds of hours of Alan’s attention.

What we think of as the modern Grace Cathedral would be inconceivable without him and his vision of truth as a community project requiring vulnerability and faith.

In conclusion, Alan likes to tell the story of the playwright Arthur Miller writing about his wife Marilyn Monroe as she slipped into a terrible period of depression and paranoia. One evening watching his drugged and sleeping wife. Miller wrote, “I found myself straining to imagine miracles. What if she were to wake up and I were able to say, “God loves you darling” and she were able to believe it! How I wish I still had my religion and she had hers.”

In response Alan writes, “God loves you darling comes closer to the absolute truth than any phrase I know.”[6] Thank you Alan for what you have taught us about gratitude and beauty, for your vulnerability, for opening a door to the greatest mystery. Life is a gift from God. It is all a gift.

 

[1] Alan is citing Michael Venture speaking in the Sun in September 1999. Alan Jones, Living the Truth (Boston: Cowley Publications, 2000) 101, xi.

[2] Ibid., 122, 153.

[3] Ibid., 85, 120.

[4] Ibid., 23.

[5] Ibid., 134, 53.

[6] Ibid., 9.

Sunday, March 1
Sunday 11 a.m. Sermon
Preacher: The Rev. Canon Jude Harmon
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Thursday, February 27
The Spirit Descending
Preacher: The Very Rev. Dr. Malcolm C. Young
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“And immediately he saw the heavens opened and the Spirit descending upon him like a dove…” (Mk. 1).

Waiting for jury duty this week a new friend asked me why I got ordained. It is the most obvious question, and that I didn’t feel ready to answer shows that I’ve been spending a great deal of time with people who already know me here. But the short answer to his question is that I am deeply, unequivocally, incurably in love with God. I want to know about God, read about God, hear people’s experience of God, encounter God myself, all the time.

This is true every day, but over the years, that point of contact seems to grow stronger and more steady. I was ordained a priest a this time of day exactly twenty-five years ago. It feels like yesterday. I spent that afternoon walking and praying in the green Berkeley Hills as a Pacific storm swept through the Golden Gate. Then in that warm redwood chapel, St. Clement’s Church, where I had gone to church in college, with everyone there – my family, friends from middle school every stage of my life, I knelt on the red carpet. All the assembled clergy put their hands on my shoulders. Afterwards old retired priests asked me for my blessing. It was a day filled with moments when heaven opened up and the spirit descended like a dove.

At that point I had no idea what I was getting into. Since then I’ve felt God’s spirit descend in so many ways. It happened we taught children Christmas carols at pageant rehearsals, after sleeping on the marble floors of St. Paul’s Cathedral in Boston for a youth group event, while keeping vigil at Stanford Hospital with an old Marine veteran and then with a twenty year old girl. The weddings and baptisms have been magical. I rmember the first board meeting of the little school we started, playing the clarinet in the church band, the hospitals, prisons, courtrooms, government offices and schools I visited on official church business. 1300 ordinary Sundays were transformed because every Sunday is a feast of our Lord.

Bill Countryman, the retired New Testament professor at our Berkeley seminary says that a priest is anyone who points out what God is doing and draws our attention to the love of Jesus. He goes on to say that even people who would never consider getting ordained do work that is priestly.

He writes, “By priest I mean any person who lives in the dangerous, exhilarating, life-giving borderlands of human existence, where the everyday experience of life opens up to reveal glimpses of the HOLY – and not only lives there but comes to the aid of others living there.”[1]

At that time and over the years I continue to take great pleasure that today is the feast day of the poet and country parson George Herbert (1593-1633). I delight in his poems and in his whole approach to the spiritual life. In that time of intense political and religious conflict leading up to the English Civil War, George Herbert continued to emphasize that beauty matters, that God can be experienced in simple things, that worship is the way to finding and fulfilling our true self. “He writes “All things are of God… and have God in them and he them in himself likewise.”[2]

We sing as a hymn George Herbert’s poem “The Call.” The last stanza goes like this “Come, my Joy, my Love, my Heart: / Such a Joy, as none can move: / Such a Love, as none can part: / Such a heart, as joys in love.”[3]

But George Herbert also said, “The country parson preacheth constantly, the pulpit is his joy and his throne.”[4] With this in mind I better stop. But before I do let me implore you to fall in love with God. Look around. See the spirit descending on you. And every day in prayer, in acts of mercy and kindness, walk more deeply into the divine mystery.

 

[1] L. William Countryman, Living on the Border of the Holy: Renewing the Priesthood of All Believers (Harrisburg, PA: Morehouse Publishing, 1999) xi.

[2] “All things that are of God (and only sin is not) have God in them and he them in himself likewise.” George Herbert, The Country Parson, The Temple ed. John N. Wall (NY: Paulist Press, 1981) xv.

[3] Ibid., 281.

[4] Ibid., xiii.

Sunday, February 23
Sunday 11 a.m. Sermon
Preacher: The Rev. Canon Dr. Rowan Williams
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