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Sunday, March 18
Sunday 11 a.m. Eucharist
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Thursday, March 22
Thursday 5:15 Evensong
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Wednesday, February 14
Ash Wednesday 12:10 Service
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Listen to Featured Sermons

Sunday, March 18
Sunday 11 a.m. Sermon
Preacher: The Rev. Dr. Susanna Singer
Sermon from Sunday's 11 a.m. Eucharist
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The Rev. Dr. Susanna Singer’s sermon manuscript will be available soon.

Sunday, March 11
Mutual Admiration Society: God and Humankind
Preacher: The Rev. Canon Mark E. Stanger
Sermon from Sunday's 11 a.m. Eucharist
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The Rev. Canon Mark E. Stanger’s sermon manuscript will be available soon.

Past Sermons

Sermons from the last six months are listed below. Older sermons can be heard through iTunes podcast.

Sunday, December 4
From Wishing to Hoping
Preacher: The Rev. Dr. Susanna Singer
Sermon from Sunday's 11 a.m. Eucharist
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“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Oh, don’t we wish?

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to get a great big dose of hope, kind of like a blood transfusion or (even better!) a bulk purchase of dark chocolate?

Something that would help us to go on, to find our way in the darkness, to come to a place where “joy and peace in believing” feel real?

Maybe that’s why some of us have come up this hill this morning – to search for some hope that is a bit more solid and lasting than what’s on offer down in Union Square.

The trouble with hope, though, is that we can’t get it by wishing.

Hope is that strange thing that we Christians call a virtue.

Which means it is a disposition of the heart, a quality of the imagination, a way of living, that only comes into being in us and in the world in so far as we practice it.

We become hope-full – full of hope – by hoping, just as we become a skilled parent by parenting, or a great tennis player by playing tennis, or a wonderful cook by cooking.

Most of us start out being terrible at hoping and we get better bit by bit, as hope itself increases in us.

And hope spills over into the world only through our concrete practices of hoping, carried out over time for the sake of making the world a more hopeful place.

Hoping is a hard thing to do, and it’s risky.

It makes us vulnerable, because hoping is about things that are terribly important, and we are likely be disappointed.

It’s so hard to hope that mostly what we do is wish instead.

Wishing is so much safer – wishing takes us away from reality, into a place of airy castles that never come tumbling down; wishing is a flirting with what might be so, a playing around the edges of new possibilities.

But as my grandmother used to say, usually as she was rolling up her sleeves and reaching for a saucepan, or jamming on her hat and heading for the door, “Well, wishing won’t make it so.”

Hoping is much more likely to make it so.

Hoping is what we do when we look up at the star of wishing as it twinkles in our sky, let it light a candle in our heart, and then start taking one step at a time, carrying the light, steadily moving forward towards the place to which it points us.

I think our God is above all a hopeful God, a God who hangs stars in our skies and then encourages us to start walking by their light towards the divine vision that they illuminate.

“In those days,” our Gospel this morning tells us, John the Baptist appeared.

And his message was like a bucket of cold water for the people who were indulging in vain wishing.

“Those days,” when John came on the scene, were bad days for the people of Israel – occupied and oppressed, crushed under the boot of the Roman Empire.

John preached the need for people to repent – do a total turn-around in their way of living – in order to respond to the kingdom of God that he saw breaking in on his people’s benighted lives.

He baptized in the Jordan to give people a tangible sign of their commitment to turning-around and beginning the practice of hoping for something new.

And a whole lot of people took him up on it, including some pretty unlikely characters – soldiers, tax collectors, collaborators, all kinds of riff-raff – all of whom John baptized without any questions asked.

But then the religious leaders showed up, and John really lit into them: “You brood of vipers!”

Because basically they were just trying to hedge their bets.

They were willing to be baptized just in case John was on to something with this vision of God’s kingdom, but what they really put their trust in was their inherited religious privilege.

“We have Abraham as our ancestor.”

“Dream on!” retorts John, “Wishing won’t make it so. All that counts in God’s eyes is whether you move from wishing to hoping, and make a real change in the way you live your lives.”

That was “in those days,” but what about “in these days”?

“These days” – which are dark days, whichever way you look at them.

I’m not talking about party politics here, because I don’t need to.

I’m talking about the nest of vipers that is visible to all of us, now we’ve collectively lifted up the rock.

I’m talking about the deep fault-lines that divide us, that separate us by race and class, by ethnicity and education, by sexual orientation and religion, by wealth and poverty, by where we live, by age and gender.

“These days” are days of division and bitterness, days of conflict and uncertainty, days when the lives of black and brown people and the water rights of native people and the dignity of working people are being thrown under the bus, days when our highest ideals are crumbling in our hands, days when it seems like money can buy anything at all except what we really need, days when the sheer magnitude of the world’s problems overwhelms us.

And “in these days” we need to move from hand-wringing and hopelessness, from closing our eyes and retreating into our relative privilege, towards repentance and active hoping.

That star of wishing needs to come down to earth in our lives and become the candle of hope – a living flame that needs sheltering and care, and which is a whole lot more trouble than just wishing on a star.

Because real hope cannot be bought, except with the currency of vision and action.

Real hope only happens when we live hopefully, through particular actions, for the sake of a compelling vision of the way things could be different.

The virtue of hope that we are cultivating can only become a force that shapes our Christian character, and a force in the world that changes everything, through specific actions done by particular people, by us.

Today God jumps-starts this work by providing us with the compelling vision we need, the bright star towards which we are called to walk, cradling our fragile little candles of hope.

That vision is found in Isaiah’s picture of the righteous branch of Jesse, the leader who stands as a sign to the nations.

A leader whose justice and righteousness, whose breathtaking integrity, is in absolute contrast – not with any singular political leader (let’s not succumb to crass and easy finger-pointing here) – but with ALL political systems, ALL economic systems, ALL social systems whose aim is division in order to conquer, and domination of some by others.

The vision offered to us this morning stuns us with its inclusion, with its overcoming of differences and hostilities that we can so easily think of as “natural” and insurmountable.

The image of the animal kingdom that Isaiah uses (wolf and lamb, leopard and kid, lion and cow lying down together, and a little child leading them), is even more powerful when we apply it to the human world:

“Black and White shall live as neighbors, Native American and Asian-American and Latino shall dwell in harmony. The farmer and the technologist and the manufacturing worker shall find prosperity together; the Muslim and the Christian shall set up shared communities; men and women, straight people and queer people shall come together for the common good; and a little child shall lead them. They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain.”

Our desire for that kind of unity across difference has to be more than wishing.

Our hope for the life-giving freedom of God’s kingdom has to lead us to practice resisting the death-dealing structures of the world.

Having glimpsed God’s promise, we need to turn ourselves around and move from wishing to hoping, by finding the particular actions that each of us is called to practice.

Peace on earth is an enormous star of a Christmas wish, but living peacefully where we find ourselves is a manageably difficult Advent hope, which we can tend with particular actions, with particular people, in particular places –places like Grace Cathedral.

I remember more than twenty-five years ago, when I served as clergy here, the children and young people of the cathedral wrote a play and performed it here in the Nave.

They portrayed a group of lost children on pilgrimage, searching for a bright-feathered bird that had led them up a mountain to a ruined temple.

They walked down the aisle wondering if this could be the place where they would find their bird.

They met the Dean on the altar steps, where they sat and talked together about their hopes and dreams, and suddenly the bright bird flew out of the pulpit (on a long kite-pole!) and danced above their heads.

I wonder what it would be like if the memory of those children could lead us?

It’s been a long time since I served here, and so I hesitate to say “us,” and “we,” and to speak about specifics, but perhaps you might indulge me because of my great love for this cathedral, and my high estimation of what could be possible here?

Because I wonder if, “in these days,” Grace Cathedral could become one particular place in the world where wishing really is turned into hoping by the lives of hopeful people?

I wonder if this cathedral could become a sanctuary on a holy mountain, a place in which people of all kinds could come together to practice the virtue of hope by learning how to listen and speak across divisions, by sharing God’s vision and acting on it together, by really meeting each other in their differences?

I wonder if the Peace exchanged in worship could become peace that is put into the hands of every person who enters these doors, and many, many who remain outside them?

I wonder if, because we practice taking the risk of coming forward each week with open hands, trusting that God will come to meet us here and feed us with God’s very self, we could learn to take the risk of meeting strangers with equally open hands?

I wonder if the star of wishing could come down to earth right here, and become a candle of hope lit in all of our hearts, whose flame we tend, and whose light we carry out into the darkness of our world?

“May the God of hope fill us with all joy and peace in believing, so that we may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Sunday, November 27
Sunday 11 a.m Sermon
Preacher: The Very Rev. Dr. Alan Jones, Dean Emeritus
Sermon from Sunday's 11 a.m. Eucharist
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The Very Rev. Dr. Alan Jones’ sermon manuscript will be available soon.

Sunday, November 20
Remembering Christ and Each Other
Preacher: The Rev. Tyrone Fowlkes
Sermon from Sunday's 6pm Service
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Sunday, November 20
Christ the King
Preacher: Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori
Sermon from Sunday's 11 a.m. Eucharist
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Sign seen recently outside a bookstore:

Post-apocalyptic fiction has been moved to our current affairs section…


It certainly feels that way to a lot of people, and not just on the left coast. Many are concerned that it’s not fiction – the end times are here, and judgment is raining down. Fear and violence and evil behavior are evident in abundance. It just might be less stressful to know that an asteroid was likely to strike the earth a month from now than it will be to sort out what kind of government and public policy we’re likely to see in 2017.

It may not be coincidence that our lectionary always brings us grim words of judgment and warning in election season. Jeremiah’s challenge to shepherds is hardly timid: “YOU’VE scattered my sheep and you’ve failed to attend to them – so now I’m going to attend to YOU!” says the Lord. It reminds me of what my mother used to tell us about her father warning his children, “we’re going to have words, and you’re not going to get to use any of yours!” Jeremiah speaks to all of us shepherds, as keepers of our brothers and sisters.

Yet there is always a promise of healing and hope, and never-ending reminders that the current travail is never the last word. All may not be right with the world, but God is at work, especially in the brokenness. Leonard Cohen’s death brought reminders aplenty. In a life haunted by depression and darkness, he gave us the great affirmation of Hallelujah[1] as well as the poignant and pointed Anthem of a prophet:

Ring the bells that still can ring

Forget your perfect offering

There is a crack in everything

That’s how the light gets in.[2]

It’s time to ring the bells: bells of alarm, like those that rang here in 1906, demanding response to earthquake, fire, and disaster; church bells calling us to prayer for a divided and warring nation, or tolling the death of precious human beings – and their hopes; even the quiet tinkling as doors open to announce unexpected visitors. The bells draw attention to cracks gaping wide with pain and yearning, inviting us to enter and keep them open – toes stuffed in doorways, bodies levered into gaps in the seismic rubble, hearts offered for healing wounded and despairing souls – like the hearts of today’s ingathering.

We don’t have to look very far to discover the pain. It’s sitting here this morning – hopes dashed, fears for the future, anger at unholy words and actions. There is a lot more in the city outside these doors, and in the nation east of here.

Human pain and despair generate familiar responses – like those of Jesus’ companions on Golgotha. Some lash out with hateful mocking or vengeance, attempting to mask their own pain. Some see their own failings and believe disaster is well-deserved judgment. Others simply stand in solidarity, like the weeping women keeping vigil at the foot of the cross. And some run and hide, trying to avoid or ignore the suffering. Most of us have played all those parts at one time or another. The hardest may be finding some hope in the promise Jesus makes to his fellow felon — that before the light fades they’ll both be in paradise.

There are different ways to hear that promise – it isn’t only an assurance of heaven after they die. Might it be an ironic claim of solidarity, a tiny community of resistance in the face of the worst the world can muster? ‘Brother, we’re in this together.’ There’s a tiny crack in the doom descending, and companionship offers glimmers of hope.

What’s your version of hope for the future? When Congress meets? In four more years? Right here, right now?

I think it always comes back to solidarity. However deep the despair, hope emerges in insisting that we make this journey together, whatever comes. Jesus offers abundant witness. He may go apart to pray and sleep peacefully in a stormy boat, but he’s always there when the chips are down. He goes looking for underdogs and outsiders, offering food, healing, friendship, and hope in the face of every kind of abuse, exclusion, and injustice. Even in his own extremis, he confronts the gaping hole of despair with a spark of hope.

Christians have been mocked for worshiping a ‘god of the gaps,’ as though God’s role were to do the magical stuff that we don’t yet understand. Jesus does something far more radical, choosing to be present in the gaps and in the cracks and brokenness of existence: even there in the valley of the shadow of death we are beloved, befriended, accompanied, and never abandoned.

We’re meant to be similar shepherds, and all we really need is to claim our own belovedness, and know we’re made in the image of God. We discover more about belovedness in the diverse images of God around us, all of them (and us) yearning for somebody who dares to stick his foot in the crack, or insert her shoulder to stop a closing door, or offer a heart and ear to the suffering.

The fissures in our communities are deepening and darkening. Reports tell of more hate speech and violence than after 9/11.[3] When a BART passenger can scream at another for speaking a foreign language on her phone, when houses of worship are tagged with words of hate and exclusion, when fear abounds in the hearts of those who don’t fit some putative norm as a “real American,” we should be ringing the bells. The fear is real, and it is rampant in this land. Yet the unholy and unlovely behavior being unleashed is itself often driven by fear – fear of displacement, unemployment, and being disregarded. The great tragedy around us is that fear has pitted people and groups with profoundly similar yearnings against one another. Who doesn’t long for meaningful employment and the dignity of being recognized as a valued member of the community? Who doesn’t want to build close and loving relationships, and live in harmony? We all yearn for enough to satisfy the most essential human needs and longings, and enough more for a feast. At some level, most of us recognize that variety and diversity is essential, for living in an echo chamber is ultimately sterile – what does it generate but boredom, psychosis, and deeper fear? Together we CAN transform disaster into communities that care for the fearful, and attend to those fears in life-giving ways.

Life in Christ, life in a community of hope, is never a zero-sum game, and the kind of love that casts out fear only creates more abundant life and possibility.

Ring the bells! Hear their urgent warning and their profound hope. We can learn to put ourselves in the crack and find ourselves and others mended. Reach across some broken relationship in your life and ask to hear the lament or the fear behind it. The next time you witness a breach of human decency, step in and stand with the fearful. Remember that you don’t stand alone. Open your heart to see the humanity of those who frighten you, whether somebody asking for a handout or insisting you are wholly wrong. Each one bears the image of God, each one bears a potential blessing, each one deserves our regard and solidarity in the midst of brokenness. Remember that when we come to the Peace. Reach into the gap and offer the hope of presence, notice the beloved image of God, seek to heal the breach, and keep your foot in the door!

Is it easy? No, but it gets a bit easier with practice, and with solidarity. Notice the cracks, and walk into them looking for light. Demand light, and beat on the doors of heaven until you find it. It’s long past midnight, and the light is coming. Ring the bells!




Sunday, November 20
Searching for a sermon in troubled times
Preacher: The Rev. Canon Dr. Randal Gardner
Sermon from Sunday's 8:30 a.m. Service
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Canon Gardner preached this sermon without a manuscript to upload.

Sunday, November 13
Veterans Day and The Aftermath of the Presidential Election: Some Thoughts for The Royal British Legion
Preacher: The Very Rev. Dr. Alan Jones, Dean Emeritus
Sermon from the Royal British Legion Service of Remembrance
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This is a service of remembrance. And remembering is a hazardous and unreliable business. It’s easy to edit things out and re-vision history. We can demonize the past or sentimentalize it.  We can edit out the nasty bits or concentrate on the awful bits. But the fact that it is hard doesn’t  let us off the hook of the necessity of remembering.

Laurence Binyon wrote For the Fallen, while sitting on the cliffs in north Cornwall, in 1914.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.

So, what  do we think we’re doing when we remember our war dead? Whatever it is it’s not a trip down memory lane.  Novelist William Faulkner warns us “the past is never dead; it is not even past.” Another way of putting it is “The present is what the past is doing now!” On this solemn occasion, we are invited to interpret our present reality by remembering and honoring the past. So, what is there to remember?

In 1918, on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day in the eleventh month, the world rejoiced and celebrated. After four years of bitter war, an armistice was signed. The “war to end all wars” was over.  In 1921, an unknown World War I American soldier was buried in Arlington National Cemetery. Similar ceremonies occurred earlier in England and France, where an unknown soldier was buried in each nation’s highest place of honor (in England, Westminster Abbey; in France, the Arc de Triomphe).

If the idealistic hope had been realized that World War I was “the War to end all Wars,” November 11 might still be called Armistice Day. But only a few years after the holiday was proclaimed, you remember,  war broke out again  in Europe. Eventually, congress was requested to make this day an occasion to honor those who have served America in all wars. In 1954 President Eisenhower signed a bill proclaiming November 11 as Veterans Day.

It would be easy to sentimentalize and/or demonize – the bravery and the courage, the idiocy and the cruelty of that war. All the war dead are all memorialized today; and, what is very painful is that what we remember  intensifies our fears and hopes about our present crises and miseries – the millions displaced and on the move in our own time. Aleppo – just to mention one place of horror.

Great and searing  poetry came out of that war to end all wars. Perhaps the most famous? In Flanders Fields by Major John McCrae

In Flanders fields the poppies blow

Between the crosses, row on row,

That mark our place; and in the sky

The larks, still bravely singing, fly

Scarce heard amid the guns below

And there’s Wilfred Owen’s angry and heartfelt poem:

So Abram rose, and clave the wood, and went,

And took the fire with him, and a knife,

And as they sojourned  both of them together,

Isaac the first-born spake and said, My Father,

Behold the preparations, fire and iron,

But where the lamb for this burnt-offering?

Then Abram bound the youth with belts and straps,

And builded parapets and trenches there,

And stretched forth the knife to slay his son.

When lo! an angel called him out of heaven.

Saying, Lay not thy hand upon the lad,

Neither do anything to him. Behold,

A ram, caught in the thicket by the horns;

Offer the Ram of Pride instead of him.

But the old man would not so, but slew his son,

And half the seed of Europe, one by one.

Owen also trained young men for the Front. To Osbert Sitwell – July 1918 — “ I see to it that he is dumb, and stands to attention before his accusers. With a piece of silver I buy him everyday, and with maps make him familiar with the topography of Golgotha.”

So, how do we honor the dead – especially in tense and divided times?  In three ways – by remembrance, by probing the past and, above all, by honoring and not wasting the sacrifice of the slaughtered and wounded. How should we interpret our own time? In the light of history, how should we live?

The best way we can honor the dead is to get back in touch with our deepest selves, with our souls. Tragedy ensues when human beings assume that a man, a woman, has no soul – that is to say, that life has no intrinsic meaning, no value. Human beings  become disposable – bodies on the rubbish heap of history. And that’s how many human beings on the planet feel today. The soul has gone out of their world. There is no justice, no peace, no food, no water, no health care, no schools, no common humanity.

George Orwell saw the absence of soul in himself and the people around him – writing at the end of the 1930s (another ominous time for the world).

“I thought of a rather cruel trick I once played on a wasp. He was sucking jam on my plate, and I cut him in half. He paid no attention, merely went on with his meal, while a tiny stream of jam trickled out of his severed esophagus. Only when he tried to fly away did he grasp the dreadful thing hat had happened to him. It is the same with modern man. The thing that had been cut away is his soul, and there was a period – twenty years, perhaps – during which he did not notice it.” 

Now,  we’re noticing the “absence of soul”.

Yet people long for soul, that is, for responsibility for their lives because they are of infinite worth, even if they daren’t believe it.  Even as they don’t know how to go about having a soul. Religion is vital because it provides the window of transcendence – in spite of its failures, it opens us up to a deeper reality.

Mary McCarthy’s reaction to Hannah Arendt’s  Eichmann in Jerusalem (1963) is telling. She found it “morally exhilarating. I freely confess that it gave me joy and I too heard a paean in it – not a hate-paean to totalitarianism but a paean to transcendence, heavenly music, like that of the final chorus of Figaro or the Messiah. As in those choruses, a pardon or redemption of some sort was taking place.” Evil cannot and must not be sentimentalized or whitewashed but  neither should it be thought of as inevitable.  To acknowledge that you have a soul is to know that compassion and forgiveness, love and  redemption have the last word. These are the values we need to inject into our political discourse.

Having a soul is a way of talking about call to be human. Being human isn’t simply a biological fact; it’s a vocation, a skill. It’s a question of how you see the world and interpret it. What’s happening to and in the world? It’s looking for its soul. We’re looking for ours! Looking for our common humanity. And war and violence – even in the midst of their horror – show up in stark detail  our common humanity.

        G.A. Studdert Kennedy – a great chaplain in WWI:

“On June 7th, 1917, I was running to our lines half mad with fright, though running in the right direction, thank God, through what had once been a wooded copse. It was being heavily shelled. As I ran I stumbled and fell over something. I stopped to see what it was. It was an undersized, underfed German boy, with a wound in his stomach and a hole in his head. I remember muttering, ‘You poor little devil, what had you got to do with it? not much “great blonde Prussian” about you.’ Then there came light. It may have been pure imagination, but that does not mean it was not also reality, for what is called imagination is often the road to reality. It seemed to me that the boy disappeared and in his place there lay Christ upon the cross, and cried, ‘Inasmuch as ye have done it unto the least of these my little ones ye have done it unto me.’  From that moment on I never saw a battlefield as anything but a crucifix. From that moment on I have never seen the world as anything but a crucifix.”

This lens – the lens of the cross – the lens of sacrificial love –  is a way of looking at this day of remembrance. Its  stark realism promises hope not despair.

This month is the one hundredth anniversary of the Battle of the Somme. It finally concluded in November 1916 (begun on July 1).  By the end (141 days), the British and French had advanced only 6 measly miles.  The final casualty count was a staggering 1.1 million:  420,000 British, 203,000 French, and 465,000 German. Britain’s most notorious military engagement – remembered as its greatest military disaster – the sacrifice of a generation – a bloody defeat in a futile war. Mythologized and overanalyzed  as well. A defining battle in European history – a clash of empires. Field Marshal Haig was subsequently nicknamed “The Butcher of the Somme” not by the Germans, but by his own men. That slaughter touches us today. And there’s a personal connection here – the thread of history. Remember: “the past is never dead; it is not even past.”

There’s one family, represented here today, by a good friend – the grandson/grandnephew of five brothers who fought in that terrible war (like my own grandfather). Dickie (one of the five brothers) was assigned to the Western Front where he was eventually promoted to Captain.  On the eve of the Battle of Poelcapelle October 1917, he sent this short letter home:

“This is just a short note in case of anything happening. But whatever does happen, it is all for the best and only what God wills for us… I am going in, putting all my trust in God, and may He do what he wills. I will try and do my bit and take things as they come … the one thing I am sorry for is that I have not had much chance of showing how grateful I am to you all for what you have done for me. I shall never be able to make up for all, but only hope you will take the wish for the deed. … You must try to take things as they come as well. Though I know how very much harder it will be for you all … Please don’t be too upset if I do go, as it really is all for the best. … I could go on writing forever, but just remember how proud I am to do my bit, and keep up the tradition of the family.”

In the following battle, Dickie was shot and fell in the mud.  His body was never discovered.

Here’s a very different experience. Lieutenant John Brande Trend wrote a letter to the Times Literary Supplement  from the Somme (published on  July 20, 1916) thanking the editors for an eloquent article on Mozart’s Magic Flute! It was as if to say, even from the depths of hell, no matter what happens, we still live in a world which plays the music of mozart! He wrote,  “in the middle of this bustle and clatter, and the revolting ugliness of the business  came una marcia per il fango (from The Marriage of Figaro) – one is inexpressibly revived and cheered at being reminded of anything so beautiful as one of Mozart’s operas . . . . “ Strange, elitist? Maybe, yet a reminder of the  beauty still present in the midst the horror. The longing for soul cannot be completely obliterated – even in these strange and trying times.

There was also an article from October 5, 1916 about war and art – reminding readers never to lose sight of our common humanity. “We have seen the German prisoner in the Somme films —  what a pathetic and helpless human being he is . . . [but] then he comes to life, and in his loneliness and helplessness [his humanity shines through]. One of these prisoners, sitting dazed among his enemies, a mere lost part of a broken machine, is offered a cigarette  by an English soldier. In a moment his face is beautifully lit, lit with the sudden glory of the truth that [we are all human] and our humanity is triumphant over any process that would make us less than human.”

So we honor the dead, we acknowledge the sacrifice but we do not glorify war and, above all, we dare to celebrate our shared and common humanity. We honor that longing for soul!  We honor their sacrifice by honoring the deepest part of ourselves. We resist amnesia!

One of the five brothers I mentioned, — Dickie’s brother —  Dom Ambrose, served as a chaplain on the western front.  After the war he returned to England and eventually became Abbott of a Benedictine Abbey in south London. This poem is one that Dom Ambrose wrote for his brother Dickie’s eulogy:

The legions start with rhythmic gait

To claim their meed of victory.

Through Flanders, home of memories,

they pass. No clink of hoof or chain,

nor echo of sharp-voiced command

attends their coming home again.

But home again they march today

In serried ranks through London streets,

And we shall stand in awe and see

The faces that we knew so gay

Look out to us, as who should say:

“Is it so long that we are dead,

That ye could not remember us?

Ye live and love and laugh: oh see

Our lonely, our forgotten bed

Of clay. We won the Victory

That ye enjoy. At least this day

We claim  no thing that gold can buy,

But memory, your memory!”

Don’t let us forget! Memory! Amnesia is bad for the soul and our world is in danger of the violence and terror that comes from the loss of memory. We need to learn from history how to live now because “the past is never dead; it is not even past.”

What about the chaos of world politics? Religion – spaces like a great cathedral —  raise one important question – that of the call to sacrifice and a rejection of the current consumer culture, which understands itself only through the lens of economics. Remember George Orwell writing in The Road to Wigan Pier (1937): the weakness of a Socialism, committed, as it claimed, to justice and liberty but also to seeing the world only through the eyes of economics and the hope of a materialistic Utopia, “proceeded on the assumption that man has no soul.” On the other side, we see the weakness and terror of Fascism coming from the Right, which offers tyranny is exchange for safety – it plays  upon our need for authoritarian nationalism.

SO, don’t let’s waste this vital day, which helps us not only to get in touch with our souls but get in touch with each other and re-imagine a world of justice and peace ! In the light of all we are called to remember today, how should we live now?  Today is a great gift. A time to reconnect with each other, to reconnect with our souls.  Remember: “the past is never dead; it is not even past.”

At least this day

We claim . . no thing that gold can buy,

But memory, your memory!”

May they rest in peace.

In gratitude to them, may we rise with grace and courage to meet the present challenges, to fight for justice and peace and for the common good.

May it be so!

The Very Reverend Alan Jones, PhD, OBE, dean emeritus of Grace Cathedral, San Francisco. A sermon preach at the Royal British Legion Remembrance Day Service, November 13, 2016.

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