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Sunday, April 23
Sunday 11 am Eucharist
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Thursday, April 6
Thursday 5:15 p.m. Evensong
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Sunday, April 16
Easter Sunday Eucharist
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Listen to Featured Sermons

Thursday, April 20
Evensong Sermon
Preacher: The Very Rev. Dr. Malcolm C. Young
Sermon from Thursday's Evensong service
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Sunday, April 23
Sunday 11 am Sermon
Preacher: The Rev. Mary Carter Greene
Sermon from Sunday's 11 am Eucharist
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The Rev. Mary Carter Greene’s sermon manuscript will be available soon.

Listen to Past Sermons

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

Friday, April 14
Good Friday Sermon
Preacher: The Rev. Dr. Ellen Clark-King
Sermon from the Good Friday Service
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Good Friday 2017

I wonder what you see when you look at the cross behind me. Do you see the Son of God suffering in the place of humanity – the willing victim of the hard righteousness of his father? Do you see an innocent and good man who was crushed by the forces of power and oppression of his time? Do you see a victim of your own selfishness – a figure who your sins helped nail to the wood? Do you see yourself, battered by the violence and selfishness of our world as you hang and suffer in the midst of it?

I’m going to share with you a little of what I see – and of what I don’t. Share a little of what I believe this image tells us of the deepest being of God herself.

Firstly, I do not see the vengeance of God at work in the cross. I believe it is completely wrong – completely unethical – to see in Jesus on the cross the working out of God’s righteous wrath against humanity. However often you may have been told that God punished Jesus in our place, do not believe it. That would be the work of an unjust God – punishing the innocent in order to set free the guilty – of an angry God – demanding pain in order to satisfy some primitive blood-lust – of a child-abusing God – inflicting terrible grief on his own son in order to satisfy his own needs. This is NOT the God we believe in and follow.

Clear that image from your mind’s eye and look again.

One thing I do see is the figure of an innocent man crushed by the unjust oppressive forces of his time. I see in this crucified body the bodies of abused women, of child slaves, of tortured prisoners, of despairing refugees – of all those trampled by other people’s lust for power and control. This is a sight to make us weep, and then to make us angry, and then to make us act.

How many more in our world will die at the hands of violence in 2017? How many more innocent women and men will hang upon their own crosses this year alone?

And so I do also see in this figure on this cross a victim of my own selfishness. Of my deep-seated preference for my own comfort above the survival of others. Of my laziness in making consumer choices that answer my wants but ignore the rights of those working for slave wages or sinking under piles of toxic trash. I – all of us here – are trapped in unjust structures that we did not create. But that does not let us off the hook of working to change them whenever we can. If we do not do this – if our weeping and our anger do not lead to action – then we cannot deny our partial culpability for the crosses of our world.

And yet, like many of you, I can also see myself as the one hanging on the cross. The one who sometimes feels abandoned by God and by those I love, who is afraid and vulnerable and hurting. The one who feels helpless against the forces of hatred and oppression that constantly batter our hearts and minds and bodies. My life has been blessed and my suffering is mild and muted compared to so many. But most of us, and some in bitter destructive ways, have known the desolation that this cross signifies.

And all this leads me to the heart of what I see upon the cross. The heart of why I believe this cross, for all its terrible darkness and desolation, is fundamentally good news. I see God.

I see God. Not a God of anger and punishment but a God of vulnerability and passionate, profligate love. Not a God who is male, despite the masculinity of the figure, but a God who is human. Not a God who is helpless, despite the acceptance of suffering and death, but a God who is transformative.

And how does God transform us? How does the God who became human help us become divine? God shows us that we are not deserted, not abandoned. That however acute the pain we are going through we do not face it alone. God shows us that power and invulnerability are not the greatest goods – that they fade into nothing compared to pure profligate love. God shows us that her arms are open to embrace all of suffering humanity.

But that’s not quite enough. Lovely and inspiring, but just not quite enough. And that’s why this dark and desolate cross is not the end of the story. The crucified one doesn’t stay there, held in perpetual pain. The crucified one is also the risen one, the one who comes back to us breathing forgiveness and grace, the one who never forsakes the humanity who hurt and killed him but takes that humanity into the very being of God.

For the cross behind me is not the whole picture. It is a crucial point in a story that began with God becoming human. A story that continues with life restored and humanity carried into the heart of God at the resurrection and ascension.

So whatever you see on this cross, do not let it be all you see. Look through it as well as at it to the God who it helps define but who it does not contain. The God who created us, created you, for joy and life, not for suffering and death. The God who calls us to be people who learn from the truth of the cross but who live in the truth of the resurrection.

Thursday, April 13
Maundy Thursday Sermon
Preacher: The Rev. Dr. Ellen Clark-King
Sermon from The Solemn Liturgy of Maundy Thursday
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Maundy Thursday 2017

I wonder if you remember the first table you used to eat at? Ours was what would now be called mid-century modern – rectangular, wooden, standing in a small 1960’s dining room. It was set with three places – one for mum, one for my brother and one for me – and my brother and I used to fight about whose turn it was to set it. It was the place where we were fed physically – my mum, though she doesn’t believe it, was a great cook – and it was the place where we formed our family identity as we talked and disagreed and shared our lives together.

Can you see anything of your first family table in the table that we gather round today? It’s not easy: this one is so high and so formal and covered in a far grander cloth than anything we had at home. But it’s the same focal point, the same gathering point for our church family as that small dining table was for us. It’s the place where we are fed. It’s the place where we are drawn closer to one another and to the God who feeds us. It’s the place where we form our family identity in a family that is open to all.

There’s a phrase that I and some others use at the invitation to communion – the invitation to come and be part of the family gathered at this table. It comes from St Augustine originally, and is said while the priest holds up the consecrated bread and wine. It goes like this: ‘Behold what you are, become what you see.’

Behold what you are – this bread and wine is, in some mysterious way that the best theologians struggle to explain, this bread and wine is the body and the blood of God. The God who became human that we might become divine. But it is not only the bread and wine that is the body of this God. We too are that body. Behold what you are. You are the body of Christ in the world. There is nothing holier than you at this service, or at any Eucharist, or in the whole world. This is your truest, best, most innate and most inalienable identity.

Behold what you are – and become what you see – this innate identity is still something that we need to learn to live in to. And today’s service tells us a great deal about what it is that we are living, what we are leaning in to.

If we are to ‘become what we see’ we need to follow the same path that Jesus took – a path that is both radically beautiful and radically uncomfortable. We see this in the foot washing. Here is a leader, the person with power within his group, the president, if you like, getting down on the ground to take on the most menial of roles – washing someone’s dirty foot. Here is power lived out as service. Here is leadership lived out in humility. Can you imagine what our world would look like if our leaders today acted this way? If they – and we – grew to become what we see?

But Jesus’ path did not end there, it led somewhere even more radical – and far darker. It is this part of the path we recall this evening when we strip all the colour and light from the cathedral at the end of the service. The darkness and the silence that finishes our worship signifies the darkness and the silence that were closing in around Jesus. He accepted betrayal, abandonment, despair and death in order to be the love the world needed for its healing. He chose us above himself. He chose love above survival.

What would our world look like if we truly became what we see? If we truly followed the commandment to love one another as Christ loves us? It is so far from our lived experience that it’s hard to visualize. But it would certainly mean we could no longer scapegoat and despise people different from ourselves – whether by race, religion, gender, sexuality or immigration status. It would mean we could no longer justify supporting policies which left the poorest of the poor more vulnerable, or ignoring systemic violence in places too remote and destitute to threaten our own interests. It would mean we would need to be gentler, to be kinder, to be willing to risk our own well-being for the well-being of all God’s children.

The table that we gather round today forms us as family – it draws us together and reminds us of who we truly are. As we together eat the food God offers so we together open ourselves to the transformation God offers. We, like the bread and the wine, become Christ’s body for the world. We become the people called to love each other with Christ’s love – to take the risk of choosing love above all else. Tonight, in this service of joyful celebration and pain-filled abandonment, tonight behold what you are and begin to become what you see.

Tuesday, April 11
Chrism Mass Sermon
Preacher: The Rt. Rev. Marc Handley Andrus
Sermon from Tuesday's Chrism Mass
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The Rt. Rev. Marc Handley Andrus’ sermon manuscript will be available soon.

Sunday, April 9
Humility Bridge
Preacher: The Very Rev. Dr. Malcolm C. Young
Sermon from Sunday's 11 a.m. Eucharist
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Malcolm Clemens Young                                                                           Isaiah 50:4- 9a

Grace Cathedral, San Francisco, CA X12                                                 Ps. 118, Ps. 31:9-16

Palm Sunday (Year A) 11:00 a.m. Palm Procession & Eucharist           Philippians 2:5-11

Sunday 9 April 2017 With Passion Narrative Mt. 27:11-54                    Matthew 21:1-11

 

“Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus…” (Phil. 2).

 

We all need a kind of homing instinct, an intuition to remind us where we come from and how to return. The Bar-Tailed Godwit is a bird known for flying nonstop across the Pacific Ocean. It nests in Alaska and then flies to Australia or New Zealand. Creatures like Sandhill Cranes, Monarch butterflies and honeybees can navigate by the sun and stars, and even recognize landmarks.

Perhaps to compensate for not having the enigmatic abilities of wild geese or gray whales human beings have our own mysterious gift in the maps we make.[1] We orient ourselves in time and space and meaning through stories. In all of history no story has done more to help human beings understand their situation than the last days of Jesus. The actions and words of Jesus show us the reality of our own situation. They remind us of where we are, who we are and to whom we belong.

Herman Melville dedicates an entire chapter of his novel Moby Dick to the inconspicuous rope that lies in the bottom of the whaling longboat. It is attached to the harpoon and waiting to be deployed. He describes its width, length, strength, how it is manufactured and the strategies for its use.

Finally he writes about its danger, “the whale-line folds the whole boat in its complicated coils, twisting and writhing around it in almost every direction. All the oarsmen are involved in its perilous contortions… when the line is darting out, to be seated in the boat” is like being inside a steam engine almost caught and pummeled by its massive gears and pistons – only the boat is also rocking wildly and unpredictably.

Melville writes, “All [people] are enveloped in whale-lines. All are born with halters round their necks; but it is only when caught in the swift, sudden turn of death, that mortals realize the silent, subtle, ever-present perils of life.”[2]

We have had hundreds of people here for seventeen funerals this year. What has struck me in talking to these visitors is that death seems like such a tremendous surprise to them. They cannot see the rope coiled at the bottom of their lives. Because most of them are not people of faith, the best that they can offer to others and themselves is something like, “we’ll have great memories of this friend that we loved so much.” They say, “no one will ever forget that time in Paris,” when we all know that we will.

This feels especially tragic to me. These friends feel no sense of larger purpose, no real meaning in their actions. For them there is no eternal life, no possibility of reconciliation, nothing holy. For them there is nothing to pray to. The universe just feels like an empty room too large for us even to hear an echo.

Our life in Christ offers so much more. Jesus shows us a new way of coming close to God. He introduces us to a new form of relation with each other. To the church at Ephesus the Apostle Paul writes, “remember that you were… without Christ… having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who were once far off have been brought near….” (Eph. 2:11-12).

To the church at Philippi Paul explains that we have a new purpose – to be fully transformed into God’s children. He writes, “Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself… he humbled himself and became obedient even to the point of death” (Phil. 2).

The Greek word kenosis means to empty one’s self out. We need to let go of our ego’s unrelenting and outrageous demands in order to make a place for God. This transformation begins with humility.

Karl Barth (1886-1968) the most prominent theologian of the twentieth century writes that in this “self-emptying” and “self-humbling,” “Christ is Christ and God is God. In it alone can Christians be Christians.” We do not become Christians by knowing something that others do not know but by putting other people first.[3]

This morning we stand with the crowds who welcome Jesus to Jerusalem. Later we will witness the horrifying story of his humiliation and death. We do this not just as spectators, but to choose a humbler path so that our lives will be transformed. This story is how we find our way home to God. It has important implications for the world now.

Last week I spoke with the Berkeley sociologist Arlie Hochschild about the profound political divisions in our country. According to a Pew study, in contrast to previous times, the most politically engaged Americans see the “other party” not just as wrong, but as, “so misguided that they threaten the nation’s well-being.” She talked about an empathy wall which she defines as, “an obstacle to deep understanding of another person, one that can make us feel indifferent or even hostile to those who hold different beliefs,” or grew up in a different setting.[4]

As she outlined the qualities that define this division (Republican/Democrat, Fox News/CNN, Northern-Coastal/Southern-Central, etc.), I realized that as Christians in Northern California we stand with one foot on each side of the wall. We have a special responsibility as a kind of bridge for healing division.

But this means that we need to become clearer on what makes our faith different from a secular agenda. This week I had the chance to talk to fellow clergy about this question. The importance of humility for Christians lies at the heart of their response. The world looks very different to people who believe in Jesus’ teaching about the Kingdom of God.

Let me share the three elements that these clergy believe distinguishes their faith from today’s secular liberalism. First, Phil Ellsworth from St. Stephen’s Belvedere observed that the, “dead aren’t that important in the liberal project.”[5] Tradition matters greatly to us. G.K. Chesterton writes, “Tradition means giving a vote to the most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead…” At Grace we try to see a bigger time horizon altogether. We have a sense for the ongoing presence of the saints and this makes it easier for us to imagine the generations to come.[6]

The second thing the clergy said was that in their experience the secular world seems more dedicated to winning arguments or simply “making it so” through force. The clergy think that our churches care more about invitation and relationship. We believe that sin has a hold on us and we are seeking to be transformed by God through the example of Jesus.

The final point my friends mentioned distinguishing us from secular people is that we do not believe that it is up to us to save the world. We have very important responsibilities as God’s stewards but God is ultimately the one in charge. This is a very different orientation to the universe. We do not regard the world as something that we have made. For us creation is a gift that we need to care for.

In the face of “the silent, subtle, ever-present perils of life” the story of Jesus shows us our way home. Jesus reminds us through his words and example that God longs to fill each of us with the Holy Spirit. We just need to empty ourselves in humility first. In a world of empathy walls we have the chance to be empathy bridges.

Like the Godwit soaring above the Pacific Ocean we have found a kind of homing instinct, an intuition to remind us where we come from and how to return.

 

[1] Edward F. Mooney, Lost Intimacy in American Thought: Recovering Personal Philosophy from Thoreau to Cavell (NY: Continuum, 2009) 31.

[2] Herman Melville, Moby Dick, or The Whale (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1979) 284-88.

[3] “Any “mind” which is not directed to it, however exalted or penetrating it may be passes by Christ and therefore passes by God, and is therefore an un-christian “mind.” Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics Index with Aids for the Preacher ed. G.W. Bromiley and T.F. Torrance (NY: T&T Clark, 1977) 369-70.

[4] Arlie Russell Hochschild, Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right (NY: The New Press, 2016) 5-6.

[5] Phil Ellsworth, Anna Haver, Paul Alleck, etc. Fresher Start, Grace Cathedral, 6 April 2017.

[6] G. K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy, Chapter Four.

Tuesday, April 4
Choosing Joy
Preacher: The Very Rev. Dr. Malcolm C. Young
April 4th Yoga introduction
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Every day I ride my bike up Pacific Avenue to the Cathedral. At the crest of the ridge and for one block going down hill I have the chance to see the most beautiful view of the sky, the East Bay Hills, the bay, Yerba Buena Island and the Bay Bridge. What amazes me is that even during foggy August, when on the surface the days seem totally alike, that scene looks different each time and moves my heart in an entirely unique way.

So often though I miss the whole thing. In effect racing down and then trying to catapult myself up the next hill, I choose not to be joyful. That is partly why I feel so inspired by Darren’s theme for the week. “How do you choose joy?”

When I was studying religion at Harvard University I had a teacher named Annemarie Schimmel. I’ve talked about her here before. She had a thick German accent and lectured with her eyes closed. She was a world expert on the Sufi mystical poet Jalal ad-Din Rumi (1207-1273).

Rumi lived in Anatolia Turkey in a community where he was friends with Muslims, Christians and Jews. Across eight centuries and massive cultural and technological change we still recognize the way he constantly chose joy.

What I love about Rumi is his openness to every source of religious wisdom and his sense of playfulness. He feels a shocking closeness and intimacy to God who he calls “the Beloved.” God does crazy things to get our attention and to be with us.

God exists beyond our judgments. Rumi writes, “Beyond our ideas of right-doing and wrong-doing, / there is a field. I’ll meet you there./ When the soul lies down in that grass, / the world is too full to talk about. / Ideas, language, even the phrase ‘each other’ / doesn’t make sense any more.”[1]

Rumi writes about “aching” for joy, for the Beloved. We are like people going from room to room looking for a beautiful diamond necklace without realizing that it is hanging around our own neck. He writes, “In truth everything and everyone / Is a shadow of the Beloved, / And our seeking is His seeking / And our words are His words… / We search for Him here and there, / while looking right at Him. / Sitting by His side, we ask: / ‘O Beloved, where is the Beloved?’”

Rumi’s vivid, crazy, inspired experience of joy is an essential part of my spiritual life. It has led me to some unexpected places. After a long day of interviews, and a celebratory dinner the search committee from Grace Cathedral asked me if I had any questions.

I said, “Is Grace Cathedral a joyful place?” From the look on everyone’s faces and a protracted silence I could see that I had asked an embarrassing question. Finally, one of them said, “We’re not joyful yet but we want to be.”

Every time I practice yoga here you’ll smile or you won’t, you’ll just be yourself and I see the image of the divine in you. Some of us are professional dancers with perfect balance and sculpted bodies, others have incredible expertise from years of yoga practice, still others of us are completely new to yoga or older with more broken bodies – but there is something incredibly beautiful about what we do together.

Quite simply you are making Grace Cathedral more joyful. Thank you for choosing joy.

Darren’s Theme: Choosing Joy

From joy springs all creation.

By Joy it is sustained.

Toward Joy it proceeds

And To Joy it must return.

—Mundaka Upanishad

Sorrow prepares you for joy. It violently sweeps everything out of your house, so that new joy can find space to enter. It shakes the yellow leaves from the bough of your heart, so that fresh, green leaves can grow in their place. It pulls up the rotten roots, so that new roots hidden beneath have room to grow.

—Rumi

[1] Coleman Banks, The Essential Rumi (HarperSF: San Francisco, 1995) 36.

Sunday, April 2
Sunday 11 a.m. Sermon
Preacher: The Rev. Mary Carter Greene
Sermon from Sunday's 11 a.m. Eucharist
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The Rev. Mary Carter Greene’s sermon manuscript will be available soon.

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