Sermons from Grace CathedralAuthor: Grace Cathedral
14 Jun 2021

Sermons from Grace Cathedral

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Sunday Sermons from San Francisco's Grace Cathedral, home to a community where the best of Episcopal tradition courageously embraces innovation and open-minded conversation. At Grace Cathedral, inclusion is expected and people of all faiths are welcomed. The cathedral itself, a renowned San Francisco landmark, serves as a magnet where diverse people gather to worship, celebrate, seek solace, converse and learn.

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    The Rev. Kristin Saylor

    What is the Kingdom of God like? This is a question that people of faith have wrestled with and argued about for generations. In the Gospels, Jes s devotes a great deal of time to spinning parables that compare the reign of God to images and situations taken from the ordinary lives of his listeners. The kingdom of God is like a mustard seed, a pearl, a woman who loses a coin, a sower; it is like everything imaginable and like nothing we know. The kingdom of God is a bit of an enigma - close enough for us to glimpse in our own lives, but not fully realized yet. It is the dream that God has for us, the world God longs to build among us. But, while it gets a great deal of attention in the Gospels, wondering about the nature of the Kingdom of God is not unique to the time of Jes s. These questions of authority, kingship, and God’s role in it all have their roots deep in the stories of the people of Israel, including the portion of 1 Samuel we heard today.

    Where the Gospels use parables to describe the Kingdom of God, 1 Samuel offers us a story: a story of how God’s kingdom, God’s dream - plays out on the canvas of human history, complete with plenty of plot twists and unexpected detours. In this story, tension occurs when God’s dream collides with human ambition and greed. God adapts, listens, and responds, bending the arc of human history toward justice. Here, God and the people of Israel desire two incompatible things - and through the divine engagement with that tension we glimpse what the Kingdom of God is like.

  • Posted on 13 Jun 2021

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    The Rev. Cn. Jude Harmon

  • Posted on 30 May 2021

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    The Rt. Rev. Dr. Marc Handley Andrus

  • Posted on 23 May 2021

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    The Very Rev. Dr. Malcolm C. Young, ThD

    “Holy Father, protect them in your name… so that they may be one” (Jn. 17)

    If you knew you were going to die tomorrow, what would you say to your friends? How would you say it? The last words of Jesus in the Gospel of John are not a linear argument building to a logical conclusion. Instead they have the form of an ancient rhetorical device called amplification.

    This speech and the three letters of John share a similar style of cyclical repetition. They use the same vocabulary of hyperbole and exaggeration. They draw stark contrasts between light and darkness, life and death, love and hate, good and evil, truth and falsehood. The goal is to make God’s love really live in our hearts.

    This is Jesus’ prayer to God for the sake of his friends who do not feel ready to go on without him. He says, “Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one” (Jn. 17). Different followers of Jesus have different ideas of what it means to be one. You will certainly encounter many who believe that being one means thinking and believing all the same things.

    But I believe we are one in the way a family is one. My mother’s family first immigrated to North America when her oldest brother decided to go to Princeton instead of Oxford. That was where he learned to play the ukulele and Fats Waller on the piano. He married the daughter of an Anglican bishop and had a long successful career in finance. In retirement he went sailing and took up photography. My mother’s sister on the other hand had an entirely different personality. She married a working class man. The two of them were converted in Northern England by Mormon missionaries who convinced them to move to Heber, Arizona where she was passionate about dietary supplements.

    Three totally different people – one family. That for me is what it means to be one. The calendar of saints shows this, as does the art in our Cathedral. In here we have everyone from the vast lancet window in the apse of Queen Margaret of Scotland to the tiny plate on the step below the baptismal font honoring the former Dean’s wife Janette Limmerick Bartlett. We have stained glass windows with Mary Magdalene and Bridgid, the soldier Martin of Tours along with Walter Rauschenbusch and the Christian Socialists.

    Today I want to talk about three figures at the bottom of the Theological Reform Window: a Lutheran, a Roman Catholic and a Jew. This is the first sermon in the history of the world about Paul Tillich, Karl Rahner and Martin Buber.

  • Posted on 16 May 2021

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    The Rev. Mary Carter Greene

    love one another as I have loved you.

    Did she think I had been good?


    That’s what I asked my mother that Sunday after church . . . of course you were good honey; you were made good; it’s just some of your behavior that we might revisit.


    Ah, so she’d found me out. Sitting there in that pew, in one of those awful crinkly dresses she liked me to wear, I couldn’t take the stiff collar and frou-frou accessories that itched when I brushed against them. So, giving the side-eye and seeing she was busy singing the hymn, I’d slipped them off, one-by-one, the belt, the collar and . . . this was the coup de gras, those awful white, lace socks.


    Problem was, having refused to carry a purse, I had nowhere to put the irritating frills.


    I did what I thought any sensible and respectable daughter of my mother would do and rolled everything up purposefully into a ball which I carried out like a champ as we left the church that day.







    Mother wanted me to be a lady. And I wanted to be myself. In our brief seven years together, we would come to an agreement of sorts that who I should be was ultimately less about wearing the kind of clothes she liked and more about being the best version of myself I could be.


    That was the message I’ve carried with me anyway all these years.


    love one another as I have loved you


    Like an elder guiding a child, Jesus taught us how to be in relationship.

    Jesus gave that as his take-away message in this portion of his Farewell Discourse


    In stark contrast to the longstanding and unfair standards for motherhood, and the impossible straights mothers have endured during Covid, Jesus’s call to love, while implying its share of sacrifice is not a call for a selfless love – it is not a command requiring a dissolution of self for the other, but a grounding love that begins with God and a love that is communal.


    Yes, we are relational and as Jesus’s story reveals, relationships are full of loss and potential.





    In my mother’s story, letting me emerge meant some loss for her – I wouldn’t be her “little me”. . , and her letting go of that, so that I might thrive, seems an act of love. . . a redirection of her own wishes so that mine might emerge and our relationship might flourish.


    Any of us who has cared for children has encountered our own agenda presenting itself in our relationships.


    But of course, Jesus’s directive to love isn’t for parents alone! It is for all of us in all kinds of relationships and contexts.


    And before the message seems overly domesticated, please note that while it is a simple love we are called to, it is also radical.


    On the one hand, what Jesus calls us to is ordinary or at least instinctive for us – like a child needing to assert herself and yet wanting to please her mother . . . it is our nature to need other people and we thrive on interpersonal response.


    This need for each other made social distancing during Covid tremendously hard on us.


    But beyond the pandemic, deep social and racial traumas demand our attention too.



    Four hundred years into it, white supremacy kneels on, unrestrained capitalism warms our planet, burns our throats and coaxes our children into addiction, and for what . . . so that eight men can possess more wealth than 3.6 billion people combined do?


    These truths require a radical love.


    The love of this kind calls for communal and sacrificial work to change systems of power and privilege.


    It requires relinquishing outdated and narrow views of the world and ceding space for others.


    There will be loss and there is potential.


    After fourteen months of isolation, as our world opens up again, we have a chance like never before to apply the law of love John’s Gospel presents.


    Over these many months, we’ve loved each other by staying apart. But in our physical distance, a collective spiritual upwelling of truths has boiled over that demand society’s reckoning with them.






    We’ll need to make room for healing along the way before the joy of Easter’s new life is apparent.


    There seems a kind of numbness to what had been outrage and a flatness to what may be new life.


    I felt it last weekend at an outdoor gathering of friends. Finally, vaccinated, we could be together in person . . . but being together didn’t bring the exuberance I had expected . . . there was a palpable remove . . . My friends described feeling worn out when they had hoped to feel unfettered and activated.


    Last Monday the New York Times published an article titled, “There’s a name for the Blah You’re Feeling: It’s Called Languishing.


    “Languishing,” the author explains, “is . . . the void between depression and flourishing—the absence of well-being. You don’t have symptoms of mental illness but you’re not the picture of mental health either . . .”








    The desert mothers and fathers in the 4th century – early Christians who had lived as ascetic monks called such a state of spiritual misery Acedia – a state of restlessness and an inability to pray or work a state that led to hatred of nearly everything.


    Kathleen Norris, wrote in her book Acedia, “For grace to be grace, it must give us things we didn't know we needed and take us places where we didn't know we didn't want to go.”


    We’ll come through this time. Let’s continue together.


    Grace Cathedral is calling 2021 the year of healing. What might that healing look like for you? How might we heal together so that we can love as we are called to love?


    Let’s begin with prayer, personal and communal, to bring us into the awareness of the very love we need in order to meet the reality of our social and spiritual crises.


    It is a love offered to all of us . . . mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, friends.





    We’ll be regathering soon. What a blessing it will be.


    Come however you are feeling. We want to know how you are.


    Come however you like to dress. We want to see you thrive.


    Together we will encounter God’s love and bring it to the world.


    I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.










    Jesus said to his disciples, “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete. This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you.

    I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing;
    but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.”

  • Posted on 09 May 2021


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