Hope

Second Sunday of Advent, Year B
Isaiah 40:1-11; Mark 1:1-8
The Reverend Richard Smith, Ph.D.

[Watch a video of this sermon.]

crooked ways straight

This past week, I was walking down Folsom Street with a swaggering young businessman. Tall, good-looking, well-educated, charming, he’s got the world by the tail. He owns property on a prominent corner in the neighborhood–property he hopes to sell soon, no doubt for a fortune.

We were talking about all the changes happening in this part of town–the many new luxury condos, the upscale restaurants and coffee shops replacing the old mom-and-pop grocery stores and taquerias.

I told him I wasn’t too excited about all these changes because they come at a great price:

  • So many families, after many generations here, are being forced out, some becoming homeless;
  • More and more homeless encampments–like the ones just outside our church door. So many of the now-homeless used to have apartments and homes here but were evicted after the rents went sky high. With the homeless shelters now full, and over 1000 people on the waiting list, these people have nowhere to go but the streets.
  • I told him about the many undocumented people fleeing here for their lives from Central America, many of them like Floricel, an undocumented mother of three kids who’s been in detention for months, away from her kids, now threatened with deportation back to the country she had fled for her life.
  • And about the constant threat of more police violence as SFPD increases its use of force against young Latinos in the Mission.

Needless to say, I was a regular Little Mary Sunshine.

My businessman acquaintance was stoic. He said the gentrification was one of those inevitable things that, like it or not, we have to get used to. Then he said, “Tell me, what evidence do you see that all the old families will not be driven out by gentrification, and the entire Mission become one big Valencia Street? What evidence?”

I couldn’t think of much, other than the fierce resolve of many of us to resist all the economic and political headwinds for the dignity of struggling families that have made their homes here, have made the Mission what it is today.

I couldn’t come up with many signs of immediate relief. The cloud probably won’t lift anytime soon.

That’s just here in the Mission. I won’t mention the orange nightmare that has engulfed our country and world, bringing us to the brink of war, increasing the numbers of those thrown into poverty, threatening our civil rights and the viability of our planet. Not much evidence this dark cloud will lift anytime soon either.

In such a context, where is the hope? Where’s the hope? It’s a question we ask ourselves in these dark times, and one that threads its way all through these wintry days of Advent.

Vaclav Havel was the first president of the Czech Republic and, prior to that, a political prisoner for many years. He was no great defender of religion. He was asked about the dark years of the 80s in his country. “Do you see a grain of hope anywhere…?” He replied not with an analysis of the world but with a look into his own soul.

I should probably say first that the kind of hope I often think about (especially in situations that are particularly hopeless, such as prison) I understand above all as a state of mind, not a state of the world. Either we have hope within us or we don’t; it’s a dimension of the soul, and it’s not essentially dependent on some particular observation of the world or estimate of the situation. Hope is not a [prediction of the future]. It is an orientation of the spirit, an orientation of the heart; it transcends the world that is immediately experienced, and is anchored somewhere beyond its horizons….I think the deepest and most important form of hope, the only one that can keep us above water and urges us to good works, and the only true source of the breathtaking dimension of the human spirit and its efforts, is something we get, as it were, from “elsewhere.” I feel that its deepest roots are transcendental.

For Havel, hope is found not in the external world around us, but in the human heart. It’s what enables us, despite the bleakest of forecasts, to withstand the cruel realities of the present. Hope is that relentless and inexhaustible power we have to choose love over fear, to stand firm, to resist whatever the world may throw at us.

And, as Havel also notes, hope is something “transcendental,” “as it were, from elsewhere.”

We followers of Jesus have our own take on all this. With Havel, we say this unstoppable hope really is a transcendental thing in our hearts. But for us, it is also a gift from the One who made us, and it is grounded in an unshakeable promise we’ve been given.

In today’s gospel, Mark lifts two verses from the prophet Isaiah, part of today’s first reading. Those verses were written when most of the Israelites were captives of the Babylonians. Their homeland was no more; the Babylonian armies had destroyed it. Now they were in a strange land, enslaved by their new conquerors. Dark times.

And then, in a transcendental moment, as if out of nowhere, Isaiah proclaims that God is on the way to rescue us.

If the classic metaphor of spiritual writers is that life is a journey, a pilgrimage, in which we overcome various obstacles and meet many challenges to reach our ultimate destination, Isaiah and Mark flip that metaphor around. Now it is not we who are the pilgrims, the travelers. Rather, Someone else, “from elsewhere,” is making the journey toward us. God, in this revised metaphor, is moving heaven and earth to reach us: leveling mountains, sweeping away fallen branches, and straightening ways that are crooked.

This darkness? It is the darkness of the womb and not of the tomb as Gene Robinson reminded us last week.

This crazy, inexplicable, transcendent belief in what we call the coming reign of God grounds the hope we carry. This promise and the hope that rises from it will see us through, help us stand firm, resist whatever the present dark moment throws at us.

But there’s more: This hope is not just for Israel, and Israel as a people must now proclaim that hope to the larger world. Isaiah tells them, “Get you up to a high mountain, O Zion, herald of good tidings; lift up your voice with strength, O Jerusalem, herald of good tidings, lift it up, do not fear…” The imagery is beautiful and muscular. And also tender, and understandably savored by Handel and many great poets and composers. “He will feed his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms, and carry them in his bosom, and gently lead the mother sheep.” These are words about a God who comforts, protects, nurtures. Words that give light in a dark world, hope in the midst of despair.

These are words Israel as a people is to proclaim to a larger world plunged in darkness, and what we as a community in a rapidly changing and struggling community must proclaim as well–whether through Nightwalks, or the work of the Gubbio Project, or the other ministries we do here. Words and actions that proclaim hope and a promise–not because we see any evidence the dark clouds will lift anytime soon, but because we stubbornly believe the promise God has made to us, and in the capacity the Creator has given us to choose the holy even in the face of the hellish.

It’s the Second Sunday of Advent. A promise has been given to us, a vision set before us: Someone is approaching, a new world is coming to birth. The question we must answer in these dark, wintry, Advent days is whether to trust that promise, believe the vision.

This Week at St. John’s

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Badly in need of ecstasy

It’s a problem, especially in cold, gray, winter days. The “life” in your life can vanish. You can lose your purpose and passion. You go through the motions, fulfilling all your duties, but something is wrong.

So you wait, badly in need of ecstasy to pull you out of your flatlined status quo, awaken you, and restore the missing zest.

Welcome to Advent. Here’s a poem to help your journey.

The Advent Prayer
What will come
when all the days
have run upon the nights
and all men climb the tree of Zaccheus
and stretch necks beyond giraffes
to be the first to be blazed
by a star?

We are badly in need of ecstasy.
We freeze in the sun and fever in the shadows.
We die
amid the flowers of the mind.

Someone
must come to us from the future
prodigally
with rings and robes and kisses
and fall upon our self-reproach
with the tears of welcome.

The star-child is turning
in the womb of the virgin.
We dwell in readiness.
Override the babble of our words
with the raw cries of new life.

Be born, stubborn child.
We wait.
— John Shea

See you in the church on Julian Avenue.

Peace,
Richard

This Advent: Alms for Cristosal

Advent is now underway, and again this year we’ll take up a second collection each Sunday for Cristosal.

Cristosal is one of the foremost organizations seeking justice for the people of Central America. You don’t hear much in the news these days about Central America. If you did, your heart would break. As our friend, Kathy Veit, writes:

It is a crisis of violence and forced displacement on a scale seen otherwise only in official war zones. If you are unfamiliar with this crisis (it hasn’t made our front pages since 2015), this recent article provides good background: Trump Administration Suddenly Cancels Refugee Program That Saved Lives of Central American Children. This brief film also brings the story to life.
(See more of what Kathy writes about Cristosal’s work in Central America.)

Our parish has been honored to quietly accompany three young Central Americans–Allan, Mirza, and Isrrael–who fled Honduras and Guatemala for their lives. Each is here on their own, their families and loved ones far away. Allan, recently baptized, is now one of us. Mirza and Isrrael we see less often; their lives are jammed with school, more than one part-time job, soccer, and a little time to just be teenagers. But, in each case, we help as best we can: Safeway cards when the food starts to run out at the end of the month, an occasional hug, maybe a job lead.

But we also need to look at the root of the problem. What drove Allan and Mirza and Isrrael to flee for their lives in the first place? Their stories are part of a much larger one of the violence and oppression that afflicts their countries. It is this reality Cristosal robustly challenges.

You’ll hear more in the days ahead.

When we pass the hat a second time each Sunday of Advent, please give from your heart.


Wednesdays in Advent: Evening prayer at St. John’s

A candle-lit, quiet, prayerful way to end your workday, deepen your Advent prayer, settle into the evening, and prepare for Christmas.

When: Each Wednesday of Advent, beginning December 6th, 6pm
Where: St. John’s, in the nave (unless otherwise specified)
Join us!


December 12: Celebrate Our Lady of Guadalupe

From our friends at the Latinx Episcopal community of Our Lady of Guadalupe (now located at Holy Innocents on Fair Oaks):


12/15: An invitation from our friends at CARECEN

In our accompaniment of two of our refugees, Isrrael and Mirza, St. John’s is privileged to partner with CARECEN (Central American Resource Center). Here’s an invitation to their festive holiday party for the families and individuals they serve, including Isrrael and Mirza .


1/27: The Gubbio Project!

We are excited to have been at St. John the Evangelist for two years and to celebrate we are hosting a brunch for you and the guests!

Details: There will be 50 seats for supporters and 50 for guests.
Tickets are $40 and will buy you and a homeless guest a ticket.
Date: January 27 at 11 AM

Click here to request ticket information


You don’t have to be a bishop…

…to have your very own St. John’s MORE LOVE tee shirt!

Last Sunday, Senior Warden Diana McDonnell presented Bishop Gene Robinson with one of our stylish St. John’s tees–one he is sure to love not only because of its timely message but also because it’s purple, the color code for a bishop.

But bishops aren’t the only ones who look great in these shirts!

And you can now have your very own! See our tee shirt sales rep Timm Dobbins!

A visit from Bishop Gene Robinson

This last weekend, Bishop Gene Robinson joined us for the Liturgy in which he delivered a powerful sermon, then, afterward, led a forum covering many topics, including his current work at the Chautauqua Institution, the ways we can fight for ours and others rights in the current political darkeness, and how he survived the many death threats at the time of his installation as bishop. He’s the real McCoy!

Read the story in this week’s Bay Area Reporter.

And here are a few photos, thanks to Susan Hansen, Kathy Veit, and Sarah Lawton.

Powerful sermon

Blessing the new banner made by Timm Dobbins

Giving communion to Audrey and Elena

Leading a forum after the Liturgy


And in case you missed it…

Here’s a closeup of the beadwork on the new banner Timm Dobbins made and gave to us this last weekend. A labor of love to honor our 160-year anniversary.


Tuesday, December 5
5:45am – 1:00pm Sacred Rest
7:00pm – 9:00pm Mission Dharma (Nave)
Wednesday, December 6
5:45am – 1:00pm Sacred Rest
1:00pm – 3:30pm Custodial Service, Entire Building
6:00p – Evening Prayer
Thursday, December 7
9am – Morning prayer with the Gubbio Project
6pm – Bishop’s Committee
Friday, December 8
5:45am – 1:00pm Sacred Rest
noon-11p – Volxkuche
Saturday, December 9
5-11am Julian Pantry (food distribution at 10am)
10:00am – 1:00pm Custodial Service Entire Building
Sunday, December 10
10:15am Choral Eucharist
12:30-6pm Indivisible
Monday, December 11
5:45am – 1:00pm Sacred Rest
6:00pm – 9:00pm Danzantes Xitlali (Nave)
7:00pm – 9:30pm Lone Rangers meeting (Library)See our entire calendar here.
Readings for next Sunday (Reading them in advance can make the Liturgy more powerful for you!)The Rev’d Richard Smith, Ph.D., preaching and presiding

The fourth-quarter rota is here.

This Week at St. John’s

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The neutral zone

Last Sunday, the Church year ended, and Christmas won’t be here for over a month, so now what?

Now it’s that in-between time, an awkward neutral zone of hope and fear. Old familiar ways have ended, and a new world is coming to birth. But that new world is not at all clear. Will it be kind and beautiful, or brutal and grotesque? We can’t say for sure; times like this are full of both possibility and peril, of chaos and new creation. It’s possible to get shipwrecked.

And yet, as writer William Bridges puts it, “The neutral zone provides access to an angle of vision on life that one can get nowhere else. And it is a succession of such views over a lifetime that produces wisdom.” (Transitions: Making Sense Of Life’s Changes (p. 142). Da Capo Press. Kindle Edition.)

Our scriptures offer many stories of risky and wonderful times like this: Abraham and Sarah leave their homeland not knowing where they will end up; Mary lets go of her identity as a solitary individual to embrace the risks and uncertainties of marriage and parenting; Jesus withdraws to the neutral zone of the desert only to discover a whole new sense of himself as God’s beloved child and prophet.

Perhaps their stories are like ours in this moment of transition for our parish, and of my own transition into retirement.

It’s an awkward time, this neutral zone, one we’d like to get over quickly. William Bridges continues:

People often ask whether there isn’t some way to speed up transition, to get it over sooner; when they do, they are usually thinking of the time in the neutral zone when very little seems to be happening. As does any unfolding natural process, the neutral zone takes its own sweet time. “Speeding things up,” hitting the fast-forward button, is a tempting idea, but that only stirs things up in ways that disrupt the natural formative processes that are going on. Far from bringing you out of the neutral zone sooner, such tactics usually set you back and force you to start over again. Frustrating though it is, the best advice is to opt for the turtle and forget the hare.

So welcome to this risky and wonderful season, these dark and murky days of Advent. Embrace them. Jan Richardson’s blessing might help.

Blessing the Door
First let us say
a blessing
upon all who have
entered here before us.

You can see the sign
of their passage
by the worn place
where their hand rested
on the doorframe
as they walked through,
the smooth sill
of the threshold
where they crossed.

Press your ear
to the door
for a moment before
you enter

and you will hear
their voices murmuring
words you cannot
quite make out
but know are full of welcome.

On the other side
these ones who wait—
for you,
if you do not
know by now—
understand what
a blessing can do
how it appears like
nothing you expected

how it arrives as
visitor,
outrageous invitation,
child;

how it takes the form
of angel
or dream;

how it comes
in words like
How can this be?
and
lifted up the lowly;
how it sounds like
in the wilderness
prepare the way
.

Those who wait
for you know
how the mark of
a true blessing
is that it will take you
where you did not
think to go.

Once through this door
there will be more:
more doors
more blessings
more who watch and
wait for you

but here
at this door of
beginning
the blessing cannot
be said without you.

So lay your palm
against the frame
that those before you
touched

place your feet
where others paused
in this entryway.

Say the thing that
you most need
and the door will
open wide.

And by this word
the door is blessed
and by this word
the blessing is begun
from which
door by door
all the rest
will come.

(Richardson, Jan. Through the Advent Door: Entering a Contemplative Christmas. Wanton Gospeller Press. Kindle Edition.)

See you in the church on Julian Avenue.

Peace,
Richard

THIS SATURDAY! Advent Cleaning Party 

Sr. Warden Diana McDonnell and Timm Dobbins invite you to come spruce up the sanctuary in preparation for Advent and the visit of Bishop Robinson. We need people to dust the window sills, polish the altar/lectern/pulpit, sweep down cobwebs, and other small chores inside.

We hope to be done by noon, so come for an hour or the whole morning!

When: Saturday, December 2, 9:00 a.m
Where: St. John’s


THIS SATURDAY! Sara Warfield to become a priest!

[Click the invitation to enlarge it.]

THIS SUNDAY! St. John’s to host openly gay Bishop Gene Robinson

On Sunday, December 3, Bishop Robinson helps us begin the Advent season. He will preach at our usual 10:15am Liturgy. His sermon topic: “Jesus Doesn’t Need Any More Admirers!”

After the Liturgy, he’ll lead us in an “Everything you’ve wanted to ask Bishop Robinson but never had the chance” forum.

Spread the word. Bring your friends.


This Advent: Alms for Cristosal

Advent begins this Sunday, December 3rd and, again this year, each week of Advent we’ll take up a second collection for Cristosal.

Cristosal is one of the foremost organizations seeking justice for the people of Central America. You don’t hear much in the news these days about Central America. If you did, your heart would break. As our friend, Kathy Veit, writes:

It is a crisis of violence and forced displacement on a scale seen otherwise only in official war zones. If you are unfamiliar with this crisis (it hasn’t made our front pages since 2015), this recent article provides good background: Trump Administration Suddenly Cancels Refugee Program That Saved Lives of Central American Children. This brief film also brings the story to life.
(See more of what Kathy writes about Cristosal’s work in Central America.)

Our parish has been honored to quietly accompany three young Central Americans–Allan, Mirza, and Isrrael–who fled Honduras and Guatemala for their lives. Each is here on their own, their families and loved ones far away. Allan, recently baptized, is now one of us. Mirza and Isrrael we see less often; their lives are jammed with school, more than one part-time job, soccer, and a little time to just be teenagers. But, in each case, we help as best we can: Safeway cards when the food starts to run out at the end of the month, an occasional hug, maybe a job lead.

But we also need to look at the root of the problem. What drove Allan and Mirza and Isrrael to flee for their lives in the first place? Their stories are part of a much larger one of the violence and oppression that afflicts their countries. It is this reality Cristosal robustly challenges.

You’ll hear more in the days ahead.

When we pass the hat a second time each Sunday of Advent, please give from your heart.


Wednesdays in Advent: Evening prayer at St. John’s

A candle-lit, quiet, prayerful way to end your work day, settle into the evening, and prepare for Christmas.

When: Each Wednesday of Advent, beginning December 6th, 6pm
Where: St. John’s, in the nave (unless otherwise specified)
Join us!


12/4: St. John’s Book Club to read Anne Lamott’s Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers


At our next meeting, we will discuss Anne Lamott’s Help, Thanks, Wow:  the Three Essential Prayers, a book which promises to “get us through tough times, everyday struggles, and the hard work of ordinary life.”

When: December 4, 7:30pm
Where: Leah and Cecil’s


12/15: An invitation from our friends at CARECEN

In our accompaniment of two of our refugees, Isrrael and Mirza, St. John’s is privileged to partner with CARECEN (Central American Resource Center). Here’s an invitation to their festive holiday party for the families and individuals they serve, including Isrrael and Mirza .


1/27: The Gubbio Project!

We are excited to have been at St. John the Evangelist for two years and to celebrate we are hosting a brunch for you and the guests!

Details: There will be 50 seats for supporters and 50 for guests.
Tickets are $40 and will buy you and a homeless guest a ticket.
Date: January 27 at 11 AM

Click here to request ticket informaiton


RESCHEDULING: St. John’s celebrates 160 years!

Our 160th Anniversary Celebration will be rescheduled to coincide with the Grand Opening of our new garden, sometime this Spring, date TBD.

A truly festive celebration with each other and our extended family to mark an amazing 160-year journey! Spread the word!

Tuesday, November 28
5:45am – 1:00pm Sacred Rest
7:00pm – 9:00pm Mission Dharma (Nave)
Wednesday, November 29
5:45am – 1:00pm Sacred Rest
1:00pm – 3:30pm Custodial Service, Entire Building
Thursday, November 30
9am – Morning prayer with the Gubbio Project
Friday, December 1
5:45am – 1:00pm Sacred Rest
Saturday, December 2
5-11am Julian Pantry (food distribution at 10am)
10:00am – 1:00pm Custodial Service Entire Building
3pm – Sara Warfield’s ordination to priesthood, Grace Cathedral
Sunday, December 3
10:15am Choral Eucharist
12:30-6pm Indivisible
Monday, December 4
5:45am – 1:00pm Sacred Rest
6:00pm – 9:00pm Danzantes Xitlali (Nave)
7:00pm – 9:30pm Lone Rangers meeting (Library)See our entire calendar here.


Readings for next Sunday (Reading them in advance can make the Liturgy more powerful for you!)

The Right Rev’d Gene Robinson, preaching
The Rev’d Richard Smith, Ph.D., presiding

The fourth-quarter rota is here.

Grieving with Hope

THE TWENTY-THIRD SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST
November 12, 2017
The Rev. Dr. John H. Eastwood

Grieving-with-Hope

But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about those who have died, so that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. 14For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have died. 1 THESSALONIANS 4:13-14

Our lessons today are about the Advent theme of Christ’s final coming in judgment, the so-called second coming at the end of time. We hear a portion of Paul’s letter to the church in Thessalonica which is dominated by the expectation of Christ’s return in glory. Christ had promised to return and gather up the faithful, living and dead, and bring a new era of God’s reign. A life of living fully in God’s eternal joy was what they were waiting for. But as the days and weeks progressed, the church folk were getting restless and beginning to wonder when this was going to happen. As time passed, their hope began to wane. Some had stopped working and were just waiting. They were grieving, as Paul writes, as a people without hope. They were left only with their sadness, a people without hope.

Sometimes mourning can be like that. Darkness all around, everything seems overwhelming for a time. I know what that is like. In those first days after Judy died in mid-January, I could not break into a smile. Life alone without her seemed grim. I was entering into a dark, uncharted territory in my life. After 46 years together, I was alone, without my partner to love and to support, and to feel her warmth and loving care in return. The future seemed bleak.

And so it was for the Thessalonians. But, Paul had a tip-off from Timothy, who had recently visited, about how the people were feeling, and so Paul put on his pastoral hat. He wrote words of comfort and encouragement, placing the strengthening meaning of Christ into their grieving. He reminded them that God had been through what they were going through. In the death and resurrection of his Son, those who believed could find the basis for their hope, a “steadfastness of hope” as Paul puts it earlier in his letter. Here the Thessalonians could find the source from which to draw comfort, encouragement, and faith in the face of their loss.

“Blessed are they who mourn.” Have you ever wondered what Jesus meant by these words? In my experience, I have had to find the meaning of those words, too. One day, in passing, my daughter asked me the question I am asked frequently by friends. “Are you okay?” I don’t like that question. I don’t feel okay sometimes, and I didn’t then. She wondered what was going on. Later, when we had time to talk, I explained that sometimes I feel like I am walking down a road in a fog. As the road goes downhill, the fog darkens. As the road goes uphill, it lightens. That’s the sadness, and that’s how some parts of my days are, but, there is something else about this fog. I see light coming through down the road, sometimes there are glimmers of light, at other times there are times of peace and serenity. After traveling this road for some months, I now see that while the fog remains, it is lighter, and the light is stronger. There is sadness as well as joy, a meaningful life we lived and a new life yet to come. In the end, as the wise ones say, joy follows sadness.

I think for us, in our day, it is important to understand the importance of mourning, and, unlike the people in that long-ago time, have a sense that good news can follow sadness. I was reminded of this by a doctor I see regularly. In our office visits, he is usually quiet, says very little. In March, I saw him and I disclosed to him that my wife, also a patient of his, had died. He asked how I was doing. After I shared with him how I was trying to manage this new life, he said “Pay attention to your grief. Take it seriously. Too many people today don’t do that. Denial is the way people handle it often. It is not healthy. It won’t go away. It will come back and haunt you!” I left his office with that sobering message feeling encouraged.

Mourning is not simply a personal experience. We mourn as a society, don’t we? The headline in a New York Times article recently read “In Places of Worship Scarred by Bullets, Long Memories, and Shared Pain”. The article chronicles the places of worship where we mourn the losses due to gun violence in our culture – a Sikh temple in Wisconsin, an AME church in Charleston, South Carolina, Sutherland Springs, Texas and other houses of worship. “Every time this happens we feel the pain again”, said a priest of one of the congregations. Grief remembers other griefs. Violence in all its forms – guns, racial hatred, hatred of gays, and other forms – cause us to mourn for safety and peacefulness on our streets, in houses of worship and all public places.

But do we mourn in hope, or simply grieve like the people in our scripture today who are sad but have given up that anything can be done? That is a question that confronts us all. And our answer, here at St. John’s, is in being a place of safety, sanctuary, and in our providing for ministries like the Gubbio project for the homeless and Night Walks in protest of street violence. That is what it means to grieve as a people with hope!

Clarence Jordan offered an interesting reflection on “Blessed are those who mourn.” He said, “real mourners grieve over injustice in God’s world. There are ‘fake mourners’ who say ‘Sure, the world’s in a mess, and I guess maybe I’m a bit guilty like everybody else, but what can I do about it?’ What they’re really saying is that they are not concerned enough about themselves or the world to look for anything to do.” His point is that mourning elicits courageous, hopeful engagement. When we, at St John’s join with other congregations and walk the streets of the Mission on our regular Night Walks, we do so not simply in sadness for those who have been killed or wounded on our streets. We do so in hope that awareness of the problem is raised and that we witness to the fact that there is plenty to be done with our policing and community support for reforms in justice about gun violence and its root causes. Jordan, clearly not a fake mourner, warned:

You’d better watch out when a fellow gets that certain gleam in his eye and a certain set to his jaw. He’s getting ready to ‘mourn.’ And he’ll be awfully hard to stop because he will be receiving tremendous strength and power and encouragement from seeing his mourning become deeds.

We grieve as those with hope.

Similarly, that is the way Henri Nouwen ended his little book entitled “In Memoriam.” He went to the side of his dying mother as a son and as a priest in the last days of his mother’s life. He read psalms to her, gave her the last rites, celebrated the Eucharist at her funeral, and prayed over her grave. It was a time of safety until he could discover the “strange joy” as he put it, of becoming a “man alone in a new way.”

In closing, Henri wrote these words, about the way losses can bring hope, and hope can bring important new deeds. They are very important to me as I hope they are to you.

Mother’s death is God’s way of converting me, of letting his Spirit set me free. It is all still very new. A great deal has happened in these weeks, but what will happen in the months and years ahead will be far more than I can now understand. I am still waiting, yet already receiving; still hoping, yet already possessing; still wondering, yet already knowing. . . I know that I must be patient and allow her who taught me so much by her life to teach me even more by her death.

AMEN

This Week at St. John’s: Sheer gifts

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Sheer gifts

Gratitude is in the air these days, from our recent parish retreat to this week’s national holiday. All those people and things you love? Sheer gifts. In your saner moments you remember this, and all you can say is Thanks.

But it’s not always as easy as it looks.

There are, shall we say, those funkier days with bitterly cold rains, some trauma or other, a friend’s hurtful remark, a rapidly depleting checking account, physical pain, another hateful orange nightmare on the political front. In such moments, gratitude can be the last thing on your mind, can even seem phony. “Thanks for what?” you hear yourself say angrily.

Time to grab gratitude by the tail. Do this by consciously grabbing ahold of some small gift, the simplest of things: you opened your eyes this morning and–voila!–you could see! Not everyone can do this, no law requires it, but there you are with those eyeballs scanning the world around you as you–miracle of miracles!–climb out of the sack, stand on your feet, and stumble around for your slippers. Each simple movement of yours a gift, a miracle not to be taken for granted.

Keep going: the morning shower, your coffee the way you like it, your love for your kid, the food you like, the artfully sculpted clouds outside the window. Don’t stop: the wisdom and good friends the years have brought you; your top three favorite books; your magical, crazy cat. Keep it rolling: your old friend’s sick but hilarious joke, a thought-provoking article in the morning paper, the Muni train arriving on time.

And so on.

Now: Notice the change that rises in your heart, the new lightness in your step, the fresh new sense of being yourself. Even on the grayest day you are blessed beyond words–yep, even when you’re pretty sure God is rudely ignoring you. (“I thank God that He hasn’t given me all the things I’ve prayed for,” C.S. Lewis once wrote, “because as I look back now I realize it would have been disastrous to have received some of them.”) The bleaker moments also have their gems. How many can you spot?

There’s much, much more. If you don’t short-circuit the process, if you keep the magic going, you may before long stumble across the Creator of Heaven and Earth, the One who formed your inmost being, who is crazy about you, “loves you as a mother”, and who is with you every step of the way. That gratitude you initially grabbed by the tail is starting to overwhelm. It is time to pray.

So here’s a prayer of thanks for the flawed, spotty, and dotted beauty that surrounds us every day. (It’s more fun to read it out loud for its outrageous rhythm and images and sounds.)

Pied Beauty
BY GERARD MANLEY HOPKINS

Glory be to God for dappled things –
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced – fold, fallow, and plough;
And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spare, strange;
Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
Praise him.

See you in the church on Julian Avenue.

Peace,
Richard

This coming Advent and Cristosal

Advent begins December 3rd, when, once again, our hearts turn to Central America. And again this year, each week of Advent we’ll take up a second collection for Cristosal.

You don’t hear much in the news these days about Central America. If you did, your heart would break. As our friend, Kathy Veit, writes:

It is a crisis of violence and forced displacement on a scale seen otherwise only in official war zones. If you are unfamiliar with this crisis (it hasn’t made our front pages since 2015), this recent article provides good background: Trump Administration Suddenly Cancels Refugee Program That Saved Lives of Central American Children. This brief film also brings the story to life.
(See more of what Kathy writes about Cristosal’s work in Central America.)

Our parish has been honored to quietly accompany three young people–Allan, Mirza, and Isrrael–who fled Honduras and Guatemala for their lives. Each is here on their own, their families and loved ones far away. Allan, recently baptized, is now one of us. Mirza and Isrrael we see less often; their lives are jammed with school, more than one part-time job, soccer, and a little time to just be teenagers. But, in each case, we help as best we can: Safeway cards when the food starts to run out at the end of the month, an occasional hug, maybe a job lead.

But we also need to look at the root of the problem. What drove Allan and Mirza and Isrrael to flee for their lives in the first place? Their stories are part of a much larger one of the violence and oppression that afflicts their countries. It is this reality Cristosal robustly challenges.

You’ll hear more in the days ahead.

When we pass the hat a second time each Sunday of Advent, please give from your heart.


12/2: Advent Cleaning Party

Sr. Warden Diana McDonnell and Timm Dobbins invite you to come spruce up the sanctuary in preparation for Advent and the visit of Bishop Robinson. We need people to dust the window sills, polish the altar/lectern/pulpit, sweep down cobwebs, and other small chores inside.

We hope to be done by noon, so come for an hour or the whole morning!

When: Saturday, December 2, 9:00 a.m
Where: St. John’s


12/2: Sara Warfield to become a priest!

[Click the invitation to enlarge it.]

12/3/17: St. John’s to host openly gay Bishop Gene Robinson

On Sunday, December 3, Bishop Robinson helps us begin the Advent season. He will preach at our usual 10:15am Liturgy. His sermon topic: “Jesus Doesn’t Need Any More Admirers!”

After the Liturgy, he’ll lead us in an “Everything you’ve wanted to ask Bishop Robinson but never had the chance” forum.

Spread the word. Bring your friends.


Wednesdays in Advent: Evening prayer at St. John’s

A candle-lit, quiet, prayerful way to end your work day, settle into the evening, and prepare for Christmas.

When: Each Wednesday of Advent, beginning December 6th, 6pm
Where: St. John’s, in the nave (unless otherwise specified)
Join us!


12/4: St. John’s Book Club to read Anne Lamott’s Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers


At our next meeting, we will discuss Anne Lamott’s Help, Thanks, Wow:  the Three Essential Prayers, a book which promises to “get us through tough times, everyday struggles, and the hard work of ordinary life.”

When: December 4, 7:30pm
Where: Leah and Cecil’s


1/27: The Gubbio Project!

We are excited to have been at St. John the Evangelist for two years and to celebrate we are hosting a brunch for you and the guests!

Details: There will be 50 seats for supporters and 50 for guests.
Tickets are $40 and will buy you and a homeless guest a ticket.
Date: January 27 at 11 AM

Click here to request ticket informaiton


RESCHEDULING: St. John’s celebrates 160 years!

Our 160th Anniversary Celebration will be rescheduled to coincide with the Grand Opening of our new garden, sometime this Spring, date TBD.

A truly festive celebration with each other and our extended family to mark an amazing 160-year journey! Spread the word!

Tuesday, November 21
5:45am – 1:00pm Sacred Rest
7:00pm – 9:00pm Mission Dharma (Nave)
Wednesday, November 22
5:45am – 1:00pm Sacred Rest
1:00pm – 3:30pm Custodial Service, Entire Building
Thursday, November 23
9am – Morning prayer with the Gubbio Project
Friday, November 24
5:45am – 1:00pm Sacred Rest
2:00pm – 3:00pm Daniel Gonzalez/Organ
Saturday, November 25
5-11am Julian Pantry (food distribution at 10am)
10:00am – 1:00pm Custodial Service Entire Building
Sunday, November 26
10:15am Choral Eucharist
12:30-6pm Indivisible
Monday, November 27
5:45am – 1:00pm Sacred Rest
6:00pm – 9:00pm Danzantes Xitlali (Nave)
7:00pm – 9:30pm Lone Rangers meeting (Library)See our entire calendar here.
Readings for next Sunday (Reading them in advance can make the Liturgy more powerful for you!)

The Rev’d Dr. Jack Eastwood, preaching and presiding

The fourth-quarter rota is here.