Tuesday, April 25 – Peter Skewes-Cox

This sermon was preached for the Feast Day of St. Mark the Evangelist by senior Peter Skewes-Cox. The readings for this sermon are Isaiah 52:7-10, Psalm 2, Ephesians 4:7-8,11-16, and Mark 16:15-20.

Today we celebrate the Feast Day of Saint Mark the Evangelist. Tradition holds that the author of Mark’s Gospel is the same person as Mark of 2 Timothy, Mark called “my son” by the author of 1 Peter, John Mark of the Acts of the Apostles and Mark, cousin of Barnabas in Colossians and Philemon. The Church of Alexandria in Egypt reveres Mark as the founder and first bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church, and so Mark is remembered as the founder of Christianity in Africa. By tradition, Mark was martyred in 68 by pagans celebrating the feast of Serapis, the god of Alexandria. Mark was buried under the church he founded, although the Venetians stole much of his remains in 828 and took them to St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice. Today, St. Mark’s Coptic Orthodox Cathedral in Alexandria is said to stand on the site of the original church founded by Mark which served as the historical seat of the Pope of Alexandria, head of the Coptic Orthodox Church.

st. mark's
St. Mark’s Cathedral, Cairo, Egypt

In Alexandria on Palm Sunday this year, a suicide bomber blew himself up at the gate of St. Mark’s Cathedral, killing 17 and injuring 48.

In our readings today, Second Isaiah tells us of the arrival of the messenger who brings good news of peace and salvation, who says to Zion, “Your God reigns, your Lord comforts his people, for he has redeemed Jerusalem.” The Psalmist writes of those who set themselves against the Lord and his Anointed, telling us what the Lord said to his Messiah: “You are my Son; this day have I begotten you. Ask of me, and I will give you the nations for your inheritance and the ends of the earth for your possession.” The author of Ephesians summarizes Christ’s gifts to us: “some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.”

How do we, sitting here today, in this seminary chapel in Berkeley, make some sense of all this? We listen to these readings in light of the story told in Mark’s Gospel, a story first told 2000 years ago. And as we hear this story again in this place, new Christian martyrs are made half way round the world in the place where the evangelist brought Christianity to Africa. For those of us here today, only partway through our Christian journeys, there is clearly more of our own stories that are yet to be told.

Our Gospel reading for today offers us several clues about how to think about our work here. Mark’s Gospel is thought to originally end at verse 16:8, with an empty tomb and the words to the women of a young man dressed in white who said, “Jesus has been raised, he is not here. Tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee, there you will see him.” The story ends. No post-resurrection appearances, no final words from Jesus.

Scholars speculate that Mark’s Gospel having been written first, the later evangelists found its ending incomplete and so they each wrote a longer ending, as we find today in Matthew, Luke and John. The longer ending for Mark’s Gospel that we heard today was perhaps written early in the second century, borrowing from the other Gospels to give Mark’s Gospel its own proper ending, and introducing some unique elements. Jesus makes a post-resurrection appearance to the eleven and sends them into the world to proclaim the good news, and then he is taken up to heaven. And the disciples went out and proclaimed the good news everywhere while the Lord worked with them.

As we sit here, 10 days after the Resurrection, we contemplate what is to come for each of us. Graduation in 4 weeks for some of us, graduation in one or two years for others of us, and some further years of ministry in this place for those who work here. All of us may have a sense that our stories are more like the original ending of Mark’s Gospel. What does it mean? How will the good news of an empty tomb change my life? The meaning of our stories cannot be reckoned until the stories have an end. An end that is still before us, as we sit here, contemplating an empty tomb, literally open-ended.

There are more clues in the longer ending about how we should carry out the work Jesus has given us. The longer ending makes explicit what is only implicit in the original ending. The good news of the empty tomb gives us the power to carry on Christ’s work in the world. The writers of the longer ending picked up signs of the working of the good news from the other Gospels: exorcisms, speaking in new tongues and laying of hands on the sick. All positive signs of the divine. But they added two more signs without New Testament parallels: handling snakes and drinking poison. The good news of the empty tomb gives us the power as workers of the divine to also physically handle the demonic.

Handling snakes and drinking poison comes in two ways. For many of us, our challenges to work with the demonic begin with our own personal transformation. We are empowered to be healers of others, even as we recognize that we are wounded healers, as we struggle with our battles with personal demons. We are empowered to love others even while we are having trouble loving ourselves. We are empowered to model a relationship with a living God for others, even while our own relationships are dying. We are empowered to open ourselves to the indwelling Spirit who heightens our knowledge of the Holy that surrounds us even as we struggle to stay sober, to stay away from everything that dulls our perceptions, our emotions, our pain.

Even as we do our own work of personal transformation day by day, we respond to the call for social transformation, to handle the snakes and drink the poison that threaten our common life together on this planet. The good news of the empty tomb gives us the power to confront the demons of climate change and threats to the sustainability of life on earth. To survive the toxic brew of racism and sexism, enforced gender identities and religious intolerance. To confront the demon of thinking that our material lives are governed by scarcity, not abundance. To survive the toxic brew that would keep us from welcoming immigrants and refugees as our brothers and sisters.

Sometimes we pay the ultimate price for doing this work.

On Palm Sunday, Naseem Faheem, a guard at St. Mark’s Cathedral in Alexandria, redirected the suicide bomber through the perimeter metal detector, where the terrorist detonated. Faheem was likely the first to die in the blast, as he saved the lives of dozens inside the church. A few days later, on Egyptian national television, the country watched an interview with his wife who said: “I’m not angry at the one who did this, I’m telling him, ‘May God forgive you, and we also forgive you. Believe me, we forgive you.’”  The headlines summarized the response: Forgiveness: Muslims Moved as Coptic Christians Do the Unimaginable.[1]

One observer commented: “The families of the martyrs are promoting a worldview that is 180 degrees contrary to that of the terrorists. The great majority of Egyptians now carry deep respect for the Copts, who are viewed as patriotic people of faith.”

A local Bishop summarized the message of hope for Egypt: “When people see this attitude from Christians and the church, they ask themselves, ‘What kind of power is this?’ But with this witness we must also declare the message of Christ, which we are fulfilling—literally.” He said, “We may not see the response immediately. But we will in the near future.”

The story in Egypt is open-ended. The longer ending has not yet been written.

As we sit here today in this seminary chapel in Berkeley, we contemplate the work we are all called to do. To speak in new tongues, to heal the sick. And to handle snakes and to drink poisons and yet carry on.

Today we remember the life and witness of St. Mark, as evangelist and martyr.

And we remember Naseem Faheem, whose life and witness also makes him evangelist and martyr.

Amen.

[1] http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2017/april-web-only/forgiveness-muslims-moved-coptic-christians-egypt-isis.html

Monday, April 24 – José Daniel Pinell

This sermon was preached on Monday, April 24 for Genocide Remembrance by first-year José Daniel Pinell. The readings for this sermon are: Isaiah 2:2-5, Psalm 70, Revelation 7:13-17, and Matthew 2:13-18.

This is a story of escape, a story of forced migration, a story of massacre. Reading this horrific story, it is hard not to think of our current migrant situation. As the story tells us, some managed to escape to safer lands, others were not so lucky. Jesus, the migrant, is forced to flee Bethlehem with His mother and father. They are able to flee with the help of an angel of the Lord, who warns them in a dream to take the child Jesus and flee to Egypt. And as with millions of migrants before them, and millions of migrants after them up to this date, the Holy Family is forced to flee their land in the middle of the night.

Today we are commemorating the victims of Genocide. We are living in unprecedented times of forced migrations. The Syrian refugee situation is a major humanitarian crisis, with over 5 million registered migrant refugees. These number don’t include the over 400,000 that were killed as a consequence of the Syrian civil war. And south of our border, we encounter the humanitarian crisis of the unaccompanied minors who are venturing into foreign lands, in a treacherous and unforgiving journey from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador. In the first year since the crisis broke the news in 2014, it is estimated that anywhere from 60,000 to 90,000 unaccompanied minors were crossing our borders. Anywhere we look, the crisis is almost impossible to make sense of, the lost of life too high, our regard to human life too low, and sometimes we are tempted to look away lest we become overwhelmed and too disturbed. Like today’s Gospel story, sometimes we don’t know what to do or think about the horrors of state sanctioned persecution and the senseless violence we see at the fringes of our lands.

In today’s Gospel story, Herod becomes infuriated once he finds out that he was fooled by the wise men. A few verses before today’s reading, we see Herod troubled over the news of the birth of Jesus, and how all Jerusalem became troubled with him. They became troubled because of the unpredictable, jealous and schizophrenic character of Herod. They probably thought, “What would Herod do this time?” Herod, in his fury, sets out to massacre innocent male children in Bethlehem from 2 years and younger. His power threatened, his urge for self protection knows no bounds and is willing to sacrifice innocent children to keep his throne. In this manner our nation can also act like Herod. In the name of self protection, many in our nation are calling the government to close our borders to thousands of refugees seeking shelter in our country. We don’t know what these children will grow up to be! They say, sure, most of them will probably not turn out to be a threat to our society, but just in case! We are willing to sacrifice thousands to an uncertain fate in our self made altar of protection and safety. Power and privilege are intoxicating, and once it is tasted by a nation or a king, we are willing to sacrifice God’s creation to keep it.

Now, as our New Testament professors are quick to point out to us, outside of the biblical text, there is no evidence that Herod ever ordered this massacre. For this reason, some scholars doubt the historicity of these accounts. Other scholars, however, point out to how the story is in alignment with Herod’s character, who at one point arrested many Jewish leaders on false charges and ordered them to be killed when he died, so that people would shed some tears at his death. Some scholars also point out that since we are talking of the death of a few children, since Bethlehem’s population was not large back then, it is not unlikely that this act would not have been recorded during such violent times.

My point here is not to argue the historicity or not of the accounts, but to propose that perhaps one of the reasons it was not recorded outside of the gospels is history’s tendency to easily forget and label as insignificant events like these. History is more prone to remember the leaders who are killed, the war heroes and religious heroes who died for a nation. Perhaps history had much more “significant” things to report than the death of a dozen or so innocent children. Perhaps this is the same tendency we have whenever we ignore the cries of the Rachel’s weeping over their little ones being washed on the shores of foreign lands.

Perhaps this is why so many of us in the privileged and developed world are willing to shut our hearts, our doors, and our borders to the overwhelming lamentations of those fleeing violence and poverty. Today’s Gospel reminds us that there are no insignificant little ones who are not worthy to be remembered, even if they are not great in numbers. Today’s Gospel reminds us of the horrors that can be pursued in the name of self protection and security. Today’s Gospel also reminds us of the dangerous and unsafe life many people in the margins go through, where one’s home is ever fleeting, and one’s seeking of a better life is seen as a threat to other people’s ways of life.

As some of you know, this past Thursday I received a letter from immigration telling me that my application for permanent residency had been approved. After 14 years of waiting as an undocumented immigrant I finally took a big sigh of relief. I felt blessed. I felt joyful. I also felt a little guilty.  Why me, Lord? As I was in fellowship with some friends this past Sunday morning, including one who is still an undocumented immigrant, I felt a sense of guilt for being so blessed while others still suffered in the shadows. Why me, Lord? We met this undocumented friend when he was in Juvenile Hall in San Francisco, while doing ministry outreach among the incarcerated. When he was released from Juvy he moved out to a transitional home we used to have in the mission, and he lived there for a couple of years. He got clean from drugs, got a job, started attending church, and got baptized. We witnessed how God transformed the life of our dear friend. Before he was released from Juvy, however, the judge informed our friend that now that his fingerprints were in the systems, he would never be able to “fix his papers” that is, he would never be able to get documents in this country. Our immigration system leaves no space for grace. It has little room for reconciliation.

I felt guilt, then, this past Sunday, as I told the news to my undocumented friend “ya me aprovaron los papeles!”, my papers have been approved. I remembered that unless our current immigration laws change, he would most likely never have this opportunity. My joy was cut short. Why me, Lord? I wonder if Jesus felt the same way years later, as he learned the family story of his escape to Egypt, and the fate of those who stayed in Bethlehem and did not make it. I wonder, as He was discerning His call of Who He Is, the Son of God, I wonder if He prayed to His father and asked, “Why me, Lord?”

Now, to those of us privileged enough to be sitting here without fear of deportation or living in the shadows, it is not my purpose to instill guilt in your hearts. But are we asking the question, Why me, Lord? Why am I so privileged? I hope you look back at history straight in the eye and ask of it the reason of why we stand in privilege while others stand in misery.

This morning I want to move you from guilt to conviction. Guilt paralyzes people, conviction moves them into action. This morning I want to move you from shame and survivor’s guilt to the freedom found in forgiveness and reconciliation. I want to move you from simple inspiration to self emptying sacrifice. I want to move you and exhort you, my dear brothers and sisters, to the imitation of Christ, who being in the form of God, took human shape and emptied himself, seeing equality with God something not to be grasped at. God took human form, as an infant was the sole survivor of the massacre at Bethlehem, grew up in the wisdom of God to serve and live with those in the margins, those whom society ignored, those whom history had little regard to. He lived and then He died for our sins. He died at the bloodthirsty hands of a power hungry empire. And on the third day He rose again, showing us the way of discipleship: come, follow me and die, for whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

Come then, let us follow Jesus, and let us find him in the stranger among us, in the migrant who lives in the shadows, in the midst of the cries of Rachel for her little children. If you seek Christ, this is where you will find Him.

Wednesday, April 12 – Kathleen Moore

This sermon was preached on Wednesday of Holy Week by first-year Kathleen Moore. The readings for this sermon were Isaiah 50:4-9aHebrews 12:1-3Psalm 70, and John 13:21-32.

It’s Wednesday in Holy Week. Welcome to the party.

The drama of the unfolding narrative of Holy Week draws me in every year, as each step brings me closer to the emptiness of Holy Saturday, when the power of absence does indeed make my heart grow fonder – when I am made to imagine this world, this life, this heart – without Jesus Christ. And I am made to feel a renewed and overwhelming sense of Easter joy that this was only an exercise of imagination.

But Holy Week, in its intense focus and structure, can also cause me to lose my balance. To turn entirely inward. To confuse Christ’s suffering with my own. To fall prey to feelings of powerlessness — and to fixate on the seemingly insurmountable sin of this world, of humanity. To throw up my hands in despair. To remember only Christ’s death, only Christ crucified. To forget the living Christ. To forget that I am living. To forget God’s mission. To be afraid.

After all, it is so easy to see ourselves and our world in the story. We continue to betray, to deny and to murder one another — in London, in Syria, in Egypt, in San Bernardino. We are the disciples at supper in John’s Gospel, looking around at one another, wondering “Lord, who is it” who will betray you? And perhaps thinking, “maybe it is me.” We are the authorities waiting in the wings. And, we are Judas son of Simon Iscariot.

You feel that?  That queasy feeling of unbalance? That feeling of being, perhaps, “troubled in spirit,” as Jesus is in today’s Gospel reading? Jesus knows he is going to be betrayed – by a disciple. By a friend. Jesus knows that Satan has entered the room.

And these are terrible things — terrible things we watch unfold in the world, in our lives, and in our Holy Week narrative. And I think it is a particularly sharp sense of these “terrible things” this Lenten season that has had a quotation from writer and theologian Frederick Buechner haunting me. He says, “The grace of God means something like: ‘Here is your life. You might never have been, but you are, because the party wouldn’t have been complete without you. Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don’t be afraid. I am with you.”

Terrible things will happen. But we are at the party. We are surrounded by a “great cloud of witnesses.” Look around. We are at supper, next to our friends. We may be Judas, but we are also Peter and the rest of the imperfect disciples. We are all over this story. As Pastor Nadia Bolz-Weber wrote, “It would have happened like this even if the Jesus event were happening now instead of then. Even if we knew everything in advance – were we the ones on the street we too would shout ‘Hosanna’ and a few days later shout ‘crucify him.’ And that’s the good news when it comes down to it. Because these people of the Holy Week story are we people. And we people are the likes of which God came to save.”

We people are at the party, we people are those God came to save, and that is something to celebrate, even on this Wednesday in the middle of Holy Week. This is likely obvious to most of you, but I am just coming to understand it: to acknowledge the terrible and give it voice is not to deny, diminish or discredit the beautiful. And the other side is true too: to remember that the beautiful is right here for us does not deny the reality of the terrible – even during Holy Week. The level of personal misery we are able to achieve does not correspond to whether we are “doing Holy Week right.” In fact, to give ourselves only to one side of our complex, broken, beautiful world and of this complex, broken, beautiful story — invites us to give in, to become passive, to become paralyzed, to become, in a sense, “dead.” Even in this middle of the story, with Judas headed out into the night, can we be present with the living Jesus of today’s Gospel?  Can we accept the Holy Week invitation to life?

It is Wednesday in Holy Week. Jesus is at supper with his friends. One of them will betray him. “Beautiful and terrible things will happen.” Welcome to the party.

Image: “Who Among Us” by Debra Hurd.

 

Monday, April 10 – Peter Homeyer

This sermon was preached on Monday of Holy Week by Peter Homeyer. The readings for this sermon were Isaiah 42:1-9, Psalm 36:5-10, Hebrews 9:11-15, and John 12:1-11.

Last week the Church Pension Group made a presentation here at CDSP. The Church Pension Group, as you probably know, provides financial securities for employees of the Episcopal Church. It is considered a great success. They are one of the most solvent pension funds in the country and our national Social Security system is modeled on them, as the presenter made sure to remind us. They offered an evening full of solid financial advice. Pay yourself first. Make sure you have good contracts and records. Track credit scores. Invest in your future. Smart, reasonable advice. Of course, Judas’ advice was reasonable as well.

I mention this because, what do we do when there is no time for the power of compound interest to save us? When there are no more tomorrows, when it is time to say goodbye, investing in the future makes little sense. And that’s what I’d like to talk about today: when time becomes short, we stop asking, “How much does this cost?”, and start asking, “What will I miss if I don’t do this right now?” Goodbyes insist on extravagance.

But before I continue, would you please join me in prayer? May the words of my mouth, and the meditations of our hearts be pleasing in your sight O Lord, our rock and our redeemer. Amen.

Does anyone remember the tv show, “Blue’s Clues”? “Blue’s Clues” was a children’s show from about 20 years ago. It had two main characters, an animated dog, “Blue”, and her human companion, Steve. Steve was played for a number of years by Steve Burns and he liked to make charity appearances while he was a member of the cast. One of his favorite causes was the Make a Wish Foundation, where he would show up as a surprise guest at an event for a child with a life-threatening illness. Steve says that all of these appearances had one thing in common: as soon as he arrived, no matter how terrible the situation, both the children and their families, worked desperately hard to take this chance and make each other happy.

When I look at the Gospel reading for today, I see Martha, Mary, and Lazarus doing everything they can to make Jesus happy. The Gospel has been very clear in the last few chapters that many people are looking to do Jesus harm. Just before our reading, John says that Jesus could no longer walk around openly because it was too dangerous and that it was common knowledge that the chief priests and the Pharisees wanted him arrested. In that world, at that time, this was as certain a sentence of death as any
diagnosis of terminal illness.

Martha, Mary, Lazarus, and Jesus are close, more than just disciples and teacher. They  are the first people John describes in his Gospel as loved by Jesus. In the shortest verse of the Bible, Jesus weeps after Martha and Mary rush to him following his arrival after their brother’s death. And, of course, Jesus, greatly disturbed, greatly upset, performs a miracle for this family, bringing Lazarus back to life.

Now, in these last moments, understanding what little time is left to them, each in their own way, expresses their indulgent love for Jesus. Living just a scant two miles from Jerusalem, and with the inevitable confrontation with the authorities just days away, they host a dinner for this dearest friend. Martha: exerting a powerful influence through her kitchen. I think of my own grandmother, who made her presence known at family gatherings from the kitchen with her singing, beautiful table arrangements, and little treats with individual guests in mind. Lazarus: literally returned for the dead. He is all smiles at the table, joining in the eating, storytelling, and joking. And Mary: unable to restrain herself, pouring out on Jesus an oil which costs as much as a worker would make in a year. Then, in a culture which demanded modesty from women, she uncovers her hair, unwinds her braid, and wipes his feet with it. It is easy to imagine this cleaning as a mixture of equal parts expensive perfume and precious tears.

A few years ago a teenage boy at church contracted cancer. At first, the doctors gave him  a 90% chance to recover. But as the months flew by, his odds slipped lower and lower,  until one day, almost 9 months after that initial diagnosis, his doctors recommended him to the Make a Wish Foundation. Just a few weeks later the whole family was on a plane, headed for Disney World. The pictures I saw from that trip are still with me. In each of them some family member poses with this slim, ghost of a young man while they all, frantically, feverishly smile for the camera and each other. When they returned home he quickly became bed ridden. And as he grew ever weaker they crawled right into bed with him, wrapping their arms and legs around him like a blanket. Taking turns soaking up the intimacy of touch.

When I think about this story of Martha, Mary, Lazarus, and Jesus I see an invitation on how to experience this coming week. No clever combination of securities will slow the inevitable, exhausting arrival of death. The Last Supper, the Foot Washing, the Night in the Garden, the Arrest, the Betrayal by Peter, the Stations of the Cross, and the Crucifixion are coming. Embrace them. Let down your hair and be fully present to them. Crawl into bed with them. Cry a little. Pour yourself out until your world is filled with the fragrance of this extravagant goodbye.

In the name of the One who comes not to destroy the law, but to fulfill it.
Amen.

Tuesday, March 14 – Marguerite Judson

This sermon was preached for Tuesday, March 14 by Marguerite Judson. The texts for this sermon are: Isaiah 1:2-4, 16-20, Psalm 50:7-15, 22-24, and Matthew 23:1-12.

We’re in trouble. Again!

The Holy One is taking us to court. Our sacrifices at worship are offensive. Our attempts to figure out just what God is asking of us are not working!

And it’s just as true now as when today’s lessons were written. No matter whether we reflect on the passage from Isaiah, the portions of today’s Psalm, or Jesus’ conversation with the disciples (of which we hope we are one!) about knowledgeable and rigorous religious obedience, it’s clear that we are in trouble!

When we look at the first chapter of Isaiah, we find all the legal setting for the Holy One taking the community of faith to court. Creation itself is called to witness. Our rejection of the Holy One who loves us is laid out. Not just rejection…but despising God, being completely estranged from the One who created and loves us.

I think it is important to also look at the verses which were skipped in today’s lesson. What evidence does the Holy One bring against us in Isaiah? How is it obvious that we have rejected God?

As God’s words are so vividly paraphrased in The Message,

“Quit your worship charades. I can’t stand your trivial religious games: Monthly conferences, weekly Sabbaths, special meetings— meetings, meetings, meetings—I can’t stand one more!

Meetings for this, meetings for that. I hate them! You’ve worn me out! I’m sick of your religion, religion, religion, while you go right on sinning. When you put on your next prayer-performance, I’ll be looking the other way. No matter how long or loud or often you pray, I’ll not be listening. And do you know why? Because you’ve been tearing

people to pieces, and your hands are bloody.

I watch the news and I see it happening, “…you’ve been tearing people to pieces, and your hands are bloody.”

I reflect on the ways I judge other people, condemning them for their use of political power, and discover that I am tearing people to pieces in my heart.

This weekend I did the Creating a Culture of Peace training which made it painfully clear how important it is to have compassion or empathy for opponents. I experienced how compassion is necessary to build justice, it is essential when I strive to “cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow.”

Thanks, but it’s much easier to focus on what YOU, and other people, are doing wrong!

But still the Holy One offers mercy, invites us to reason it out, to examine what we are doing in the light of what God calls us to do. If we change our ways, God will wash away our sins. If we keep going the way we’ve been going, the natural consequence is to be destroyed by violence. The violence which flows from injustice.

The lessons don’t get any easier to take when we turn to the Gospel of Matthew.

It is important to remember that Jesus tells the disciples to do what the scribes and Pharisees teach.

You might, like me, get caught up on the criticism “do what they say, not what they do” but that’s not the point. None of us is perfect; not scribes, Pharisees, bishops, arch deacons, professors, seminarians, people of faith, searchers, political activists, or family members.

But we might get side tracked by how good we look while we’re doing good!

I am reminded of a vivid lesson at a week-long training I attended 20 years ago as I started doing fundraising. Someone who was raising money for a university spent months and months with one donor, discussing, planning, and finalizing a very large gift. Once the donor signed on the dotted line, then this fundraiser worked with a fundraising team to do a special dinner at which everyone could celebrate

what a big difference this gift would make. Speeches were made, pictures where taken…all of the donor and the dean. The fundraiser was NOT in the picture.

And one of the people on the fundraising team realized: I hate this…I can’t do a job like that, to always be on the sidelines, and NOT be in the picture. So he resigned.

How am I, how are we, like that team member? Must we be recognized by other people for the good things we do? How loudly must I proclaim being on the right side of an issue?

Our goals may be good, our actions could be right, but our focus may be wrong.

During this lent, may our prayer be:

Lord, help us to hate sin. Pour out your healing love, that we may turn to you. Help us to quietly and fiercely, learn how to seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow. For we long to walk closely with you and with your beloved people; all people to whom you give the gift of life; all of creation which sings your glory; and with the angels and saints – past and future – among whom we now stand. In your holy name we pray. Amen.

Tuesday, February 14 – Janet Wild

This sermon was preached on Tuesday, February 14 by third-year Janet Wild. The texts for this sermon are: Genesis 6:5-8, 7:1-5, 10; Psalm 29; and Mark 8:14-21

I’d love to be up here today preaching a sermon on St. Valentine or Valentine’s Day. However, with the unsettling news and tales of suffering that surround us right now. I’m going to talk instead about love and faith in a confusing time. It’s challenging to be a Christian, to follow Jesus and live out our faith in the best of times, the worst of timesi. To continue on even when we are disheartened and overwhelmed. So we arrive once again at a time where we must ask ourselves, how can I be a good disciple? How can I continue on even when I don’t understand or know what the path ahead will be?
Cyril and Methodius trusted in their faith, became missionaries and fought to spread the
word of God in the common language of their people. These brothers gave up their life of
privilege to serve the Slavic people. In their time, the clergy believed the only true languages of the church were Greek, Hebrew and Latin. They challenged and thwarted the brother’s at every turn. The brothers were undeterred, and in order to move forward they traveled to Rome for the Pope’s approval, which they received and where they were also made Bishops. Cyril died before he could return home. Methodius returned to Moravia, continued to be harassed and was eventually imprisoned. Nonetheless, he was able to translate the bible and Byzantine ecclesiastical law into the Slavonic language, and to continue his missionary work. You have to know these two brothers didn’t always know where they were going. But ultimately they followed what they knew to be true in their hearts and continued on no matter what the circumstances. In our time, how are we responding in the midst of political unrest and confusion? Do we know what is in our heart?
In today’s gospel from Mark, I imagine Jesus, rolling his eyes at the apparent cluelessness of the disciples. They didn’t know how to be good disciple’s either. Here they are worrying about bread and Jesus had just fed thousands, twice! He had calmed the water. He had walked on it! And here they were again, doubting and worrying and missing the bigger  symbolism, the connection that Jesus was offering them. Jesus wanted them to learn and then in turn be able to teach others. Imagine Jesus here right now. Would he be rolling his eyes at our lack of trust or would he be like a parent telling us the same story one more time?
I recently saw a movie called “The Visitor,” in which a college professor, Walter, comes home to find a couple, Tarek from Syria, and his girlfriend from Senegal, both illegal
immigrants, living there. Walter understands they have been tricked into thinking they had rented his apartment and lets them stay, in a very short time their lives become intertwined- Tarek teaching him to play drums, expanding his world farther by introducing him to a drumming circle, living, eating and laughing together. When suddenly Tarek is arrested and ultimately deported. Walter’s life is irrevocable changed and he can’t un-see his expanded world. He does the only thing he can think of to honor his friend, as illogical as it might seem, he goes down into the subway to play drums as he knows it’s something Tarek always dreamed of doing. After the last few days of immigration raids, I find myself thinking about this movie and wondering how I will respond as people in my life face the same uncertainty. What does it mean to be a disciple of Christ in this situation?
As we move forward in our own time, these are the questions that we must answer – the
ones that we must find in our own hearts. We live as part of the Jesus movement, even when we’re not completely sure where we are going or how we will get there. We can reach out like the brother’s Cyril and Methodius did, building our communities based on a shared experience and language. We can learn, as they did how to hold to our values and strengths while still growing, changing and moving forward. In action, this means coming together as partners in community organizing, marching not only to raise money for valuable causes but also to gather in numbers that create impact and give us the feeling of solidarity with our neighbors.
Participating, leading, and connecting in this way is being a good disciple. We will learn to see the world around us with clear eyes. We’ll learn from the disciples, who didn’t understand or trust in the miracles and teachings of Jesus in their time. They were caught up in the details of the day to day and completely missed the bigger story. Are we doing
this in our current overwhelm?
We need to wake up and pay attention to the world around us. Our heads are down and
we’re just plowing forward. We don’t see what’s going on with our neighbors, what’s happening all around us. We keep our world small in the hope of avoiding pain and suffering. In turn we loose connection, love and community. Jesus taught us that this is what we need.
As good disciples we will strive to see the love and miracles around us at all times. Like the character, Walter, we will step out of our safe and unconscious paths through the world in order to connect, learn and give back in the only ways that make sense. We’ll follow what we know in our heart to be true – and this will be our Jesus Movement.
And Jesus, like the unconditionally loving parent, will continue to tell us the story so we
in turn, might be grounded, heartened and continue on.

Monday, February 13 – Peter Homeyer

This sermon was preached on the Feast Day of the Rev. Absalom Jones on Monday, February 13 by second-year Peter Homeyer. The texts for this sermon are: Isaiah 11: 1-5, Psalm 137: 1-6, Galatians 5:1-5, and John 15:12-15.

Anyone here ever feel like the writer of Psalm 137?  Like you need to grieve a little, “to sit down and weep”?  That it is painfully obvious that our choices for ourselves and how to live our lives are being held captive by the powers of this world?  Have you wondered, “how shall we sing the Lord’s song”, when what we see around us are restrictions on the most basic recognition of our lives: like who we can love or where we can travel?  I know I have.

Today we remember a man who lived in a time of oppression more profound than that experienced by many of us and as deep as that of the Israelites when they were carried into captivity.  Today we honor Absalom Jones.  Born into slavery in Delaware before the Revolutionary War, he eventually became the first African-American Episcopal priest, and his lifelong song of praise to the Lord remains an inspiration for all those who find themselves bent under the yoke of oppression by those who will not grant them the basic dignities of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

But before I continue, would you please join me in prayer?  May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be pleasing in your sight o Lord, our rock and our redeemer.  Amen.

Just over a year ago I had the good fortune of worshipping for a few weeks with the congregation of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Inglewood, CA.  The church, like the city of Inglewood, is predominately African-American.  They offer weekly Bible study, which I was able to attend a few times.  On Sunday mornings the room was packed and lively discussion buzzed around from participant to participant.  People talked not only about that day’s passage, but how it related to their own lives.  In each class, no matter the scripture passage we were studying together, eventually someone in the room would give a little chuckle and say, “Sounds like you got a life lesson on the difference between Chronos time and  Kairos time.”

Chronos, is the Greek word for chronological or sequential time but Kairos measures time differently.  It is not any particular amount of minutes, hours, days, or years.  It is indeterminate in length, measuring instead transformational change.  The members of Holy Trinity understand this to be God’s measurement of time.  And working in God’s time, means putting aside the schedule and the timetable.  Working in God’s time takes patience and humility.

Absalom Jones understood kairos time.  In the United States before the abolishment of slavery, babies born to female slaves were the property of their masters.  Absalom Jones at sixteen was sold away from him mother and sister and moved with his new master to Philadelphia.  Later, when, he met his wife, Mary, he carefully saved his money not to buy his own freedom but first obtain her liberty.  He did this to make sure that his own children were born free, breaking for one family, a cycle of bondage which passed from generation to generation.

At church Absalom Jones suffered through the kind of faulty thinking which Paul warns the Galatians to abandon.  After his own manumission, he and other freed blacks in Philadelphia tried to join a local church, but once inside they were told they could not worship with the other members.  They could not sit or kneel with the rest of the congregation, but would need to segregate themselves to the balcony.   Instead, after completing their prayer, Jones and the others walked out.  Not welcome to participate as full members in the white church, they established their own black congregation, independent of white control.   This church became a gathering place for those speaking out against slavery and it was here that Jones was ordained as a priest in 1804.   Unlike the Galatians, or the members of the white church, Reverend Jones was not to be fooled: differences to the exterior of our bodies are not material in our relationship to God.  

Does anyone know when it became permanently illegal to import slaves into the United States?

January 1, 1808, 20 years after the ratification of the Constitution.  Many people were not sure it would happen at that time.  The way the Constitution is written, this prohibition could not be made before 1808 but did not specify that the international slave trade must be abolished, simply that it could be.  When Congress did pass a bill outlawing the international slave trade, Reverend Jones gave a sermon entitled, A Thanksgiving Sermon.  Using Exodus 3:7-8 as his text, he reminded listeners of the, “nearly 400 years” the people of God lived, “degraded and oppressed” by the Egyptians, when “all was misery.  all was grief.  all was despair.”   But even during that time, “God was not indifferent to their sufferings”, open to, “every tear they shed… every groan they recorded”.  And, in due time, in Kairos time, we might say, God came down to them and transformed their lives.

Reverend Jones did not live long enough to see God manifest herself by ending slavery in this country.  During his lifetime the number of people living in bondage increased ten-fold.  There was good reason to sit and weep.  To forget how to sing the Lord’s song.  But, instead, in his Thanksgiving Sermon, Reverend Jones suggests a celebration.  An annual gathering on January 1st as a time to: (1) celebrate the partial victory represented by the end of the international slave trade; (2) show gratitude for allies still struggling alongside them: (3) pray for further heavenly influence; and (4) encourage virtuous living in the face of hardship.  

These components are just as relevant in our own time, as we sit and weep in a land for from what we imagined God had in store for us.   We must remember God’s past presence with us.  We must support each other to bring about God’s justice.  We must remind each other of the standards of gentleness, mercy, compassion, and conviction God asks of us.  And we must cry together to the Divine One for intervention. These are the notes of the song faithful in all times and in all places.  As Reverend Jones reminds us,

“the history of the world shows us the deliverance of the children of Israel from their bondage, is not the only instance in which it has pleased God to appear on behalf of oppressed and distressed nations, as the deliverer of the innocent and of those who call upon his name.”

– Absalom Jones, 1/1/1808
In the name of the Great Liberator.  In God’s time.  Amen.

Thursday, February 2 – The Rev. Tripp Hudgins

 

This sermon was preached for the Feast of the Presentation (Candlemas) on February 2 by the Rev. Tripp Hudgins. The texts for this service were: Malachi 3:1-4, Psalm 24:7-10, Hebrews 2:14-18, and Luke 2:22-40.

Let us pray.

The Lord be with you.

And also with you.

Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief.

Make these words more than words and give us all the Spirit of Jesus. Amen.

So, brothers and sisters, especially you students in the Intro. to Homiletics course, this is what it looks like when you have prepared one sermon for Candlemas only to have anarchists and outraged students set fire to campus the night before you are scheduled to preach.

Candlemas, indeed.

Lawyers gather in airports to help refugees and immigrants.

People fill city streets in protest across the globe to draw attention to the plight of women in this nation and the world and how our new President might be a threat to women.

With a media cycle with the shelf-life of a politicians tweet, this preacher finds it challenging to stay focused…

…to keep up

…to discern the Spirit.

…and if, by chance I do, is there anyone who will listen?

But here we are…

…and so it continues.

“All Americans, not only in the states most heavily affected, but in every place in this country are rightly disturbed by the large numbers of illegal aliens entering our country.

“The jobs they hold might otherwise be held by citizens or legal immigrants. The public services they use impose burdens on our taxpayers. That’s why our Administration has moved aggressively to secure our borders more, by hiring a record number of new border guards, by deporting twice as many criminal aliens as ever before, by cracking down on illegal hiring, by barring welfare benefits to illegal aliens.

“We are a nation of immigrants, but we are also a nation of laws. It is wrong and ultimately self-defeating for a nation of immigrants to permit the kind of abuse of our immigration laws we have seen in recent years, and we must do more to stop it.”

~ Pres. Bill Clinton, State of the Union Address, 1995

The politics of 1995 were not the politics of our day, but the rhetoric sounds eerily familiar. Familiar enough, at least. In this same address, President Clinton spoke of the pressures of globalization and the pressures on the American worker and middle class families.

These policies did not begin with him. Nor did they end there.

And so it continues.

Maybe you have heard about the Twitter feed, @StLouisManifest, where its authors share pictures and names of the Jewish refugees aboard the S.S. St. Louis who, in 1939, were turned away from New York harbor with the Statue of Liberty in plain sight. Each tweet is a photo, a name, and information about how that person died in Europe during World War II.

The concentration camp in Auschwitz.

A small village bombed into rubble.

A stand of trees in France.

A name. A face. Families, adults, children…all turned away from our shores. So many to die in the violence of World War II.

Still recovering from an economic depression (25% of the labor force unemployed), US immigration quotas of the time were draconian. Add to that the political strife of global warfare (“they might be spies”) and you have yet another example of our continuing struggle and shame as a nation.

Political disagreements rage in the courthouses, Congressional conference rooms, and airport terminals of our nation, a nation founded on the profits made on colonial violence and slave labor.

We debate about national identity; yet we are who we have ever been.

We debate about the national best interest; yet we are who we have ever been.

We pick sides. We always pick sides…we are who we have ever been.

…And so it continues.

There was also a prophet, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, having lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped there with fasting and prayer night and day. At that moment she came, and began to praise God and to speak about the child to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.

What did she say about the child? We don’t have her words, but in your imagination, what were her words? They were about the redemption of Jerusalem. How so?

I doubt they were polite words.

I doubt they were a-political.

This is Luke’s gospel, after all. “Woe to you who are rich now…” are words that usher out of Jesus’ mouth right after he proclaims who is blessed in the Kingdom of God. Jesus’ first public act of ministry in Luke’s Gospel is to proclaim the year of the jubilee. It almost gets him killed.

And Mary, she sings. And O how she sings. She sings rebellion. She sings redemption.

Perhaps she had met Anna before at the Temple.

Maybe years before as a little girl and Anna pulled her aside and said,

“Here, let me teach you a song. I think you will need it.”

So Anna sees the child messiah and, praising God, begins to tell all who were seeking the redemption of Jerusalem about God’s promise fulfilled in their sight.

Follow the story! Follow your imagination…

She tells them:

“Here is a light to enlighten the nations!”

“Here is the glory of Israel!”

“Here is the promised Son of David!”

“Here! Now!”

“You crazy old woman, sit down,” someone shouts from across the plaza.

And so we are faced with a familiar truth.

Not all are seeking redemption, not for Jerusalem, not for the United States.

Not even for Berkeley.

Some are not interested in redemption.

Some cannot imagine redemption.

Some cannot believe in it.

There are warmongers and faithmongers alike profiting on the troubles in the world.

Redemption flies in the face of such profit.

But Anna still has a word. She still goes out into the streets. She leaves the Temple to tell those who would listen, those seeking redemption, those seeking reconciliation, truth…light…that the child is here.

She offers a word of redemption. She proclaims Christ Jesus.

“There. Is. Light.” She stands erect in the plaza with so many gathered about.

Jesus is present.

“At that moment she came, and began to praise God and to speak about the child to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.”

 

Tuesday, January 31 – Marguerite Judson

This sermon was preached for the Commemoration of the Rev. Samuel Shoemaker on January 31, 2017 by third-year Marguerite Judson. The texts for this day were: Isaiah 51:17-52:1a, Psalm 130, 1 Corinthians 5:6-8, and Luke 4:40-44.

Today we remember Sam Shoemaker. As a Princeton student teaching Business courses in China and trying to start a branch of the YMCA, Sam discovered just how inept he was at conveying his faith. He then became deeply involved in the Oxford Group, trained at General Seminary, and was ordained as an Episcopal priest in 1921. He began serving as the Rector of Calvary Church in Manhattan soon after, then at Calvary Church in Pittsburgh starting in 1952. As Holy Women, Holy Men encapsulates his ministry as priest and evangelist, they note that Sam is “remembered for his empowerment of the laity.”

Yes, he learned to communicate his faith! And he helped hundreds of people equip themselves for lives of service. He nurtured an explosive growth in membership at Calvary Church in New York, where his church was the headquarters of the Oxford Group in the US in the 1930’s. He published 30 books and tons more essays and sermons; he preached weekly on the radio after moving to Pittsburgh.

Another ministry, Faith at Work, grew out of Shoemaker’s passion for personal witness and the ways he transformed the church newsletter. The group began in 1926 at Calvary in NY and helped a number of normally reticent Anglicans talk publicly about their faith. On Thursday evenings through about 1936, lay persons both presented their witness of their life as Christians and were trained to witness in the work world.

What has touched me more deeply has been the way in which Shoemaker’s leadership of the Oxford Group, with its emphasis on Confidence, Confession, Conviction, Conversion, and Continuance, bore such amazing fruit. How a couple of their small Bible study groups for drunks in the early 1930s – one at Calvary Episcopal in NY, the other in Akron, Ohio – quietly morphed into the powerhouse of Alcoholics Anonymous, Al-Anon and dozens of other 12-Step programs which today help millions of people of any faith – or none – step free of addiction to substances and processes.

Sam Shoemaker was the pastor of and a lifelong friend to Bill Wilson, AA’s co-founder, over the decades in which those early gatherings started shifting from Oxford meetings just with other drunks to freestanding meetings in what became Alcoholics Anonymous.

It is fascinating to me, to see how deeply the 12 steps are rooted in the Christian principles Shoemaker highlighted: surrendering to God, asking for help, facing our failings, making amends for wrongdoing, and the practice of daily prayer and meditation.

And, most profoundly, putting the needs of the other ahead of one’s own needs. What we aspire to in mutual service in the body of Christ is blazingly clear in the fact that the most important person in any 12 Step meeting is the newcomer.

One of the crucial things that Bill Wilson and those early members discovered was that they could stay sober only by helping other people; other drunks who were hurting as badly, or maybe worse, than they did with their few hours, or days or weeks of sobriety.

People who said, with the psalmist: Out of the depths, I cry to God for help; none of us can face your judgement. But I wait for you, God, my soul waits for you in the midst of endless longing and desperate hope for an end to my anguish.

And that’s what those in today’s Gospel reading were saying; those who were sick with every imaginable and unimaginable ailment, what they must have said as their friends brought them to Jesus.

This Gospel reading is from very early in Jesus’ ministry. He has come out of the wilderness; he returned with authority and started healing people in Galilee. He pissed off his hometown of Nazareth, then went 40 miles (about 2 day’s journey away) to Capernaum, a fishing village on the north of the Sea of Galilee.

Luke quickly draws our attention to Jesus’ healing ministry. In Capernaum, Jesus made more trouble by healing during the Sabbath service, and then privately healing Simon’s mother in law (also during the Sabbath). Finally, as our lesson starts, the sun sets, the Sabbath is over and more and more people flood to Jesus for healing.

The thing I noticed about today’s Gospel lesson is how freely Jesus heals everyone. He does not ask for confessions of wrongdoing, or promises of good behavior, or public statements of faith – in fact he wants all those unruly demons to keep silent about who he is.

There is a wonderfully absurd generosity in how Jesus heals! Willy nilly, without hesitation, restriction or bargaining. He just heals people. He pours out God’s transforming love on everyone who asks for it.

And in 12-step meetings, people ask for help from “God as you understand God.” In meetings, at any hour of the day, in almost any country in the world, God is there, being anonymous, not asking for public statements of faith. But loving, and healing, and healing, and healing those who cry out for help.

Pouring out love through doors opened by the faithful service of Sam Shoemaker who, among other things, was part of the healing of those first few drunks who experienced just how generous God can be as they learned to surrender, ask for help, and serve others in need.

May we ask freely and joyfully for our own healing! Amen.

 

Monday, January 30 – Mia Benjamin

This sermon was preached at the Monday Eucharist service on January 30, 2017 by first-year Mia Benjamin. The texts for this sermon are: Hebrews 11:32–40, Psalm 31:19–24, and Mark 5:1–20.

In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

“But Jesus refused, and said to him, ‘Go home to your friends, and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and what mercy he has shown you.’”

I was going to preach a very different sermon today. Right up until last Friday, that is. That’s when I learned that President Trump signed an Executive Order suspending the entry of refugees and immigrants into the United States. His order affects the citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries, and it’s still unclear whether that applies green-card and visa holders, although it’s still affecting them. Perhaps you, like me, have spent this past weekend praying for friends abroad who are now suddenly unable to return home. American doctors, professors, students, and business-owners facing exile from the homeland they have served and built and taught and healed.

I often wish, and perhaps you do as well, that following Jesus always means going off on a grand adventure and slaying the huge dragons of racism and poverty and all those big, sexy national issues that everyone is talking about. And the thing is sometimes it does. Sometimes following Jesus does mean leaving behind family, friends, and careers to move across the country. Sometimes it means getting arrested at Standing Rock, or shutting down an airport terminal, or even breaking the law. But then there are these other times Jesus refuses us. Times when Jesus asks us to start small and slow, right where we are. With ourselves, with our friends, with our neighbors.

The story we read today from Mark’s Gospel is about Jesus casting demons out of a suffering man. It ends with the people of his city deciding to respond with fear. After hearing what Jesus had done, and how much one man’s liberation had cost them as a community, the people beg Jesus to leave their town. And as he’s getting into his boat, the healed man begs to go with Jesus. But Jesus refuses. The man asks if he can follow Jesus, and Jesus says no, go home.

This past January intercession, several of us took a course in broad-based community organizing. As I sat through class, literally sitting there knitting hats for the big national, million-person Women’s March that weekend, our instructors taught us the incredible power of starting small and slow and local. The basic building blocks of community organizing, we learned, were not taking huge, dramatic, uncompromising stands about our principles, but rather the humble steps of sharing of stories, first one-on-one and then in small groups. Through those stories, we learn what our neighbors really care about, the winnable issues they have the energy to change. In other words, we learn to look for where the Holy Spirit is already agitating folks to transform their community, and we join in with them.

So what happens when big, national stuff hurts our friends and makes us angry? I struggled a lot this weekend, this whole past week really, with not knowing what actions to take. Whom do I call? What petitions do I sign? Where’s the march happening? Where can I find Jesus leading a faithful band and climb aboard? Where’s the boat, I’ll jump right in.

But Jesus refused, and said to me, ‘Go home to your friends, and tell them how much the Lord has done for you.’

So here’s the Good News. I do have a story to tell. Many, actually. All about the ways that God has worked through Muslims and citizens of Muslim-majority countries to transform and liberate me. All about Iranian professors who taught me to write academic theses and how to make rice with saffron and potatoes. Jordanian Muslim women who taught me how to look patriarchal religious clerics in the eye and hold them to the woman-affirming words of their holy book. A young Egyptian man with a rubber bullet shard in his forehead who taught me what it really means to demand democracy. Palestinian Muslim neighbors who taught me how to love the bend my body makes when I worship God and all about the holy scent of miramiya tea.

You probably have stories, too. Stories of what God has done for you through the work of human hands. Hands that carry the wrong sort of national identification cards, or lips that use the wrong name for God. Maybe you have stories of the ways people, the ones we’re told to fear, Muslims, immigrants, and foreigners, have calmed your demons and been your neighbor. Tell those stories. To your friends, to your neighbors, to the world.

Because here’s the other good news in this passage. Like many of the other people Jesus heals in the Gospel of Mark, this man doesn’t listen to Jesus, not really. He doesn’t get in the boat with Jesus, but he also isn’t satisfied with just telling his friends. This Jesus-follower travels all around the Decapolis, his local region of the ten cities, proclaiming all that God has done for him. The good news, then, is that Jesus knows us better than we know ourselves. That his refusal may not be a rejection at all, but a calling to the larger gifts of the spirit we never knew we had.

There are many people in this world who are afraid of the power of outcasts with second chances. There are many who have been taught only look to what bringing a madman in from a place of death might cost us. What does Jesus ask you to do for them? What does he refuse to allow you to do?

My answer came to me from my college professor’s daughter. I’ll end with the words she asked her father to share on social media:

“Salam, Hello. I am eleven years old. I am living for a year in Iran. Me and my family were hoping that this new law would not apply to green-card holders. I was shocked when I first heard of this law. I have lived for 9 years in the U.S.A. Does that make me different from the people who are around me and are citizens? I consider myself just as American. Does it make a difference if I am Muslim? Is that wrong? I have lived and talked and laughed with the people who have supported this law. I cannot believe that they would do this to me. So I ask you to reach out. Reach out to the people and tell them our stories…I ask you all to do something about it, to help these people who have done no wrong to come home. It is not the time to stand at the sidelines and watch other people to do our work for us. And I hope with all my heart that the people that are stuck with nowhere to go, will soon find their way home.”

Amen.