Listen to the Latest Services

Sunday, August 19
Sunday 11 a.m. Eucharist
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Thursday, August 16
Thursday 5:15 Evensong
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Listen to Featured Sermons

Sunday, August 19
Sunday 11 a.m. sermon
Preacher: The Rev. Canon Mark E. Stanger
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Sunday, August 12
Sunday 11 a.m. Sermon
Preacher: The Rev. Jude Harmon
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The Rev. Jude Harmon’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, August 19
Sunday 11 a.m. sermon
Preacher: The Rev. Canon Mark E. Stanger
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Sunday, August 12
Sunday 11 a.m. Sermon
Preacher: The Rev. Jude Harmon
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The Rev. Jude Harmon’s sermon manuscript will be available soon.

Thursday, August 9
Evensong sermon
Preacher: The Rev. Dr. Ellen Clark-King
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There was an article in the Guardian newspaper a couple of years ago, written by a hospice nurse, on the five things people regretted most at the end of their lives. These regrets had nothing to do with barns full of stuff or any other financial or social achievements. Instead they were all about who they had been, and who they had failed to be.

The first was: I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.” People saw and deeply mourned that they had not lived true to their own truth, true to their own dreams. The second: “I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.” People, especially older men, regretted spending so much of their lives on job success and economic achievement. The third “I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.” Many felt they had buttoned down their true emotions to fit in with others and keep the peace, and so had never experienced life in an open heart-strong way. The fourth and fifth seem the simplest and saddest of all “I wish that I had stayed in touch with my friends” and “I wish that I had let myself be happier.”

“I wish that I had let myself be happier”. This evening’s two Bible readings reflect this basic truth of human existence – that meaning and value never lie in what we accumulate but in who we become. Jesus in Luke’s gospel calls it ‘being rich towards God’. Being rich towards God means being the person God created us to be – living into our own unique identity, valuing ourselves for who we are rather than what we do, expressing our feelings fully and not being afraid to love, building strong lasting relationships, and allowing ourselves to be joyful, thankful, laughing creatures.

These are the things that stop life being mere vanity and a waste of divine breath. These are the building blocks of a life that we can leave knowing our time has been blessed and we have been a blessing to others. Don’t let yourself become rich in possessions and poor towards God. Don’t allow the fog of the demands of daily living to obscure this core divine and human truth: God created you to add to the delight of the world. So, in the words of poet Mary Oliver: “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

Sunday, August 5
Sunday 11 a.m. Sermon
Preacher: The Very Rev. Dr. Alan Jones, Dean Emeritus
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Sunday, July 29
Abundance
Preacher: The Rev. Dr. Ellen Clark-King
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A few years ago I had to give a seminary class a Bible verse to take with them as they left and headed out into the world. It could be any verse from the entire Bible, so there were many tempting options. Appropriate for the end of a long period of study was Ecclesiastes 12.12: “Of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh.” Useful for ensuring they didn’t annoy people in their new parishes was Proverbs 27:14: “If a person loudly blesses their neighbour early in the morning, it will be taken as a curse.” Popular with the Episcopalians at least was Ecclesiasticus 31:28: “Wine drunk at the proper time and in moderation is rejoicing of heart and gladness of soul.” But in the end I went for my old favourite, John 10.10: “I have come that they may have life and have it abundantly.”

This call to abundance, echoed in our gospel miracle, feels extra important just now. I was very struck by something one of the participants in our civil discourse program said last week. He was talking about having conversations with people who disagree with him – in his case this meant people in the right wing – and he went on to say: “It’s when they say ‘I’m a Christian’ that I really give up. I know they’re not going to listen to me.”

What a sad reputation for us Christians to have! Close minded, afraid of argument, living in a guarded world in which we are right and everyone else is wrong. Seeing truth as a vulnerable scarcity that has to be protected from any disagreement.

Christians aren’t alone in this. We live in a world predicated on scarcity; on the need to compete for the available resources in the understanding that there is not enough to go around. The rarer something is the more value is attached to it – the more exclusive a resort the more expensive. Consumerism calls us to focus on all the places where there is not enough to go round. We look for lack and we find lack. Abundance is a wonderfully counter-cultural concept.

Which is why this miracle story of the feeding of the 5000 is such a wake-up call for us. It is, par excellence, the miracle of abundance – one boy’s small picnic satisfying the hunger of a multitude. It is also the most often repeated miracle story in the gospels. John’s gospel alone has two versions of it, and it is the only miracle which appears in all four gospels. This is significant, the repetition tells us, think about this. This is more than a sweet story to tell to children – this has something to teach us, this matters.

Ok, so what does it teach us? Something about old-fashioned, under-rated, un-cynical, un-ironic faith and trust. Significantly it is a child who facilitates the miracle. A child who offers all that they have, meager though that is, without worrying about whether it will be enough. A child who knows that they can’t solve the whole problem but who doesn’t let this knowledge stop them doing what they can. A child who has yet to learn the limitations of the world and who does what is right just because it is right.

We can get caught up on the logistics of this miracle – did Jesus miraculously multiply those loaves and fishes, or did the child’s generosity lead everyone to share the food they had been saving for themselves? I am rationally inclined to the latter, but as a true fan of the miracle of the incarnation I won’t rule out the former – when God becomes human anything can happen! But, in either case, knowing the how is not the point.

The point is knowing that where God is there is abundance. To be with God is to be satisfied. To be in God’s commonwealth of love is to be in a place shot through with, characterized by, overflowing with abundance. This is the point that is to change us, and give us a now model to live by.

If we stay in a world-scape of scarcity we can find ourselves repeating the sort of behaviour that King David showed in our first reading. That self-regarding desperation to satisfy our own needs and desires that treats others as if they are means to our ends rather than full human beings in their own right. The selfishness that eyes the whole world as a resource to be exploited rather than a gift to be cherished. That sees worth and beauty as in such short supply that we need to snatch them for ourselves and gobble them up and to hell with whoever stands in our way.

So how do we live differently? How do we take abundance rather than scarcity as our starting point? Without just taking a Polyanna view of reality and closing our eyes to the real shortages and deprivations that do exist? It ain’t easy, but it is important and challenging and holy and central to our choice to follow Christ.

First of all we consider what it takes for us to be satisfied. Not to be replete, not to have everything we could possibly want – my own list is pretty endless!, but to have enough – to be enough. And we live accordingly. Seeking out the things that really fill our hearts and give joy to our lives – friendship, love, meaning, purpose, a relationship with the divinity who creates and delights in us. Refusing to believe that happiness lies in acquiring more and more and more stuff.

Think back. What is your happiest memory? One that still makes your soul smile? I may be wrong, but I’m betting it is to do with relationship or nature or accomplishment and not the moment when you bought your favourite dress or car or latest Apple gadget. One of mine is walking on a sunlit hilltop with the wind blowing my hair every which-way and my husband’s hand in mine. That was a moment of true abundance!

Secondly, we open our eyes to see the five thousand, the many millions, around us and to feel their needs as our own. We see the hunger of the world and at the same time we see the wealth of the world. So we give, knowing there actually is enough for all; we campaign, helping others see there is enough for all; we recycle, take transit, have shorter showers so there will continue to be enough for all. Each individual action may seem vanishingly small, compared to the needs of our world. But that is how living abundantly happens: not through grand gestures, but by living day by day, at ninety degree to our culture.

And to make that living strong and joyful we do a third thing – we offer everything to God. That’s the scariest part, the wonderful, mystic, non-sensible part. Like the child in the miracle story, we take all that we were relying on to feed us and we put it into God’s hands. Trusting that we will still be given all that we need in return. Echoing my favourite words from the English marriage service: “All that I am I give to you, and all that I have I share with you.” Knowing we are offering ourselves to one who loves us and cares for us more completely and thoroughly and gently than even our beloved partners and friends.

And lastly, we come to this table. Where a small piece of bread and sip of wine are enough to bring God’s life to life in us. Where the holiest of food is shared with any who hold out their hands. Where, in a true image of abundance, all are fed and no one, no one, is denied.

Sunday, July 22
Our Favorite Fictional Character
Preacher: The Very Rev. Dr. Malcolm C. Young
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Our Favorite Fictional Character

“[Y]ou who were once far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace…” (Eph. 2).

  1. Each of us is our own favorite fictional character in a story that we tell about ourselves every minute of our lives. We find this drama endlessly interesting. The story we tell inside our hearts may be preventing us from reaching our potential. It could be destroying us, or it might be the only thing keeping us alive. That interior monologue may so fill us with joy that it transforms the lives of all those around us.[1]

This week my wife Heidi gave me an early anniversary gift. She put together a thick binder with 125 letters I wrote during our courtship. They opened a window into the inner stories I told my twenty-three year old self. Back then I worried about whether I was the intellectual equal of my fellow classmates. I doubted that I would ever be able to support my family and most of all I dwelled on my parents’ opinions of me.

We spend an enormous amount of energy trying to prove that the story we tell ourselves is an accurate one. We want others to believe it and frankly we want our story to be right. Still the philosopher Martha Nussbaum says that, “we love made-up people, people we have made up to be the people we can love.”[2]

To be human means to be always in danger of creating an idyll. That is, a private and constructed reality, over and against the common social world that surrounds us. My friend and teacher Margaret Miles described her parent’s Christian fundamentalism as, “a private, carefully sheltered, unrealistic and frayed idyll.” She writes that because of all the commonsense assumptions of our shared social world, it takes incredible strength to sustain an idyll. Idylls tend to collapse not because they are illusory, but because they require an enormous amount of energy to maintain.[3]

Sometimes what seems most real isn’t. Over the past two years many of us have begun to answer the personal question, “how are you?” with a report on what the politicians are doing. Collectively we have been contributing to a shared dys-idyll nightmare which reinforces the sense that the only thing that matters happens in Washington, DC.

Perhaps the simplest definition of a Christian is a person who agrees to have her story corrected through the presence of the living Christ and the church. Prayer extracts us from the grips of our own idyll and brings us back to reality. Prayer gives us the chance to step back from this fictional character who claims all our attention so that we can see other people as children of God.

  1. Our Gospel today reports on outer events that give us a picture of what might be happening in the hearts of Jesus’ disciples. You may have noticed that verses have been excerpted out of the reading in order to fit a regular worship service. I will try to fill in what we missed (and encourage you to read them at home).

The narrative begins at a high point. After having been sent out in twos Jesus’ friends have met with remarkable success. We do not have many opportunities to see them at work apart from Jesus. They have been healing and teaching with great success and probably relish telling him their stories.

He recognizes their need for rest so they try to withdraw to a “deserted place by themselves” (Mk. 6). But the crowds follow them wherever they go. They do not even have time to eat. Rather than feeling frustrated Jesus has compassion on them, “because they were like sheep without a shepherd.” The Greek word for feeling compassion, splagxnizomai means the kind of love that grabs in the guts.

Jesus simply loves these sheep and so he asks his disciples to help feed them. Even after their great successes they respond with sarcasm. “Are we… to buy two hundred denarii worth of bread?” After the five thousand have been fed and twelve baskets of leftovers have been collected Jesus leaves everyone to pray on a mountain alone.

He rejoins the terrified disciples on a boat in the midst of a great storm. In the calm that follows the disciples, “were utterly astounded, for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened” (Mk. 6). Then Jesus returns to healing the people of Gennesaret.

A story that began with triumph and success collapses into misunderstanding and fear. Rather than working with Jesus for the sake of God’s Realm the disciples step back into passivity and fear as they watch him work alone. He has been teaching, but they seem incapable of learning. Despite the abundance, the healing, and being saved from the storm their interior monologue resists being changed.

  1. Karl Barth. Some of you remember that I have been systematically studying the life work of Karl Barth (1886-1968) a twentieth century Swiss Reformed Theologian. Between the end of World War I and his death in the 1960’s Barth wrote an incomplete thirteen volume, 9,000 page systematic approach to theological knowledge.

My primary advisors and teachers were shaped through their opposition to Barth’s ideas. My dream is that by really understanding his perspective, I will be better informed in what I believe and teach. I should mention that I have not yet met a single person who thinks this is a good idea. Finishing the fourth volume (CD II.2) I want to report on my progress.

As a Reformed theologian following in the footsteps of John Calvin, Barth values God’s sovereignty above everything else. God creates, sustains and redeems us. God, “governs and determines everything.”[4] We have no power to compel God. God can never owe us. Furthermore we have not learned to say the word “God” correctly if we speak only in abstractions as if we can stop being totally dependent on God.

For centuries reformed theologians argued that God had chosen and set apart some people from before the beginning of the world, and then they agonized over those left out of the divine plan. Karl Barth seems to have a different idea in mind. He writes that the whole gospel is about election. Jesus does not leave people out so predestination, “is not a mixed message of joy and terror, salvation and damnation,” but rather “a proclamation of joy.”[5]

This “love of God is His grace… It is love which is overflowing, free, unconstrained, unconditioned… It is love which is patient, not consuming the other but giving it place.”[6] For Barth, the world was created not so that we would be God’s slaves but because God desires to be the “companion of [each person]. Against our No [God] places his own Nevertheless… the creature’s opposition to [God’s] love cannot be any obstacle to [God].”[7]

We are not disinterested spectators. God’s love is not abstract, not something that we deduce from the laws of physics, but individual and personal. No believer should ever regard another’s example of unbelief as permanent.[8] Faithful people need to constantly proclaim in personal terms that those in our lives are “not rejected” by God.[9]  Jesus is the only one chosen by God, but through him all creation is made free.

Barth goes as far as to say that even Judas, the one who rejected Jesus and conspired with those who arrested him, never stopped being an apostle. We are like the disciples who experience such great things and repeatedly hear Jesus’ teaching, only through fear to fall short in understanding and faith. God’s abundance and grace is for us as it was for them.

  1. Study Hall. A while ago a friend of mine named James and I were discussing Julian Barnes novel, The Sense of an Ending. We talked about going back to the people we knew in our youth and seeing things through our adult eyes. He told me this story.

In high school study hall James met a boy who mostly kept to himself. But when the two of them started talking about music, books and philosophy it almost felt like time stopped. They became close. One Friday James gave his friend the John Knowles novel A Separate Peace and inscribed it inside the front cover.

The next Monday his friend approached him to talk, “My parents said that we can’t be friends.” And that was it. They didn’t speak again, until twenty years later when circumstances brought them together. At that time James first visited his now adult friend’s house. It was as if nothing had changed. In fact the friend’s wife kept repeating how great it was to meet someone who meant so much to her husband and that he frequently talked about his high school friend James.

So what happened back then? James always thought it was because he was African American. I wondered if the parents thought the boys were romantically interested in each other. But it was for neither reason. Last week I talked about how vulnerable children are. The friend’s parents had been in the process of splitting up. They didn’t want anyone to know and so they kept James’ friend isolated during his high school years. Only recently did James realize what his small kindness really meant. Sometimes it takes half our life for our story to be made true.

The Austrian poet Rainer Maria Rilke writes, “I circle around God, around the primordial tower. / I’ve been circling for thousands of years / and I still don’t know: am I a falcon, / a storm, or a great song?”[10] We too circle God sometimes drawing closer to the truth in the great song of our prayer. What is your story? What do you tell yourself about the fictional character that is you?

Our story and the story of every unbeliever is not final. The disciples of Jesus hardened their hearts and resisted but ultimately God won them over. They rediscovered their power in the hope of Jesus’ message. Likewise let your story of reconciliation and forgiveness and above all your joy transform everyone you meet.

[1] Margaret Ruth Miles, Augustine and the Fundamentalist’s Daughter (Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, 2011) 23.

[2] Margaret recommended this book to me so many years ago and it continues to influence my understanding of emotions and reason. Martha Nussbaum, Love’s Knowledge: Essays on Philosophy and Literature (NY: Oxford University Press, 1992) 326.

[3] Margaret Ruth Miles, Augustine and the Fundamentalist’s Daughter (Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, 2011) 30.

[4] Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics II.2 The Doctrine of God tr. Bromiley, Campbell, Wilson, McNab, Knight, Stewart (NY: T&T Clarke, 1957) 7, 5.

[5] Ibid., 13.

[6] Ibid., 10.

[7] Ibid., 28.

[8] Ibid., 327.

[9] Ibid., 322.

[10] Rainer Maria Rilke, “Ich lebe mein Leben in wachsenden Ringen,” Rilke’s Book of Hours: Love Poems to God tr. Anita Barrows and Joanna Macy (NY: Riverhead Books, 1996) 48.

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