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.
The Rev. Canon Mark Stanger
The First Sunday of Advent
The Rev. Anna Rossi
Beyond COVID fears and family drama, many US Americans wonder: how can you square the Thanksgiving extravaganza and the reality of Indigenous experience — including genocide and land theft? In today's readings Jesus stands before Pilate to testify to the truth. His faithful witness leads us through our doubts and dilemmas to a highly nuanced grasp of truth. We can't deny history, but we can construct a more just future and witness to a complex truth. We can extend our tables and expand our minds, to celebrate Thanksgiving, as well as Native American Heritage Day.
The Very Rev. Malcolm Clems Young, ThD
“For the Lord… with the archangel’s call and with the sound of God’s trumpet, will descend from heaven and the dead in Christ will rise…” (1 Thess. 4).
Yesterday in the brilliant fall colors and dazzling warm light of Los Altos we buried my friend Jim McKnight in the columbarium of our old church. Jim and I had a strange relationship. He is my parent’s age. We first met when he was in his fifties and full of wisdom. And yet he had just been ordained the year before and so he didn’t know what I did about running churches.
For ten years he was my assistant rector. I don’t know if I’ll ever work so closely with anyone again and we accomplished such surprising things together. He had a wry sense of humor, loved opera. He was humble, dutiful, faithful, very orderly, methodical, detail-oriented, kind, thoughtful, a little high-strung, kind of tense.
Jim was still fairly corporate. He would have joked that he was a little neurotic but he wasn’t. I still carry lots of advice from him in my thoughts but the first thing that comes to mind is how he said, “trust the process.”[i]
[i] I suppose he was the Felix Unger and I was the Oscar Madison in our odd couple.
The Very Rev. Malcolm Clemens Young, ThD
“Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God” (Jn. 11)?
One of my most vivid Pandemic memories Pandemic involved shopping for survival supplies at Smart and Final in the Outer Richmond. Raise your hand if you remember doing something like this. At that point we didn’t feel confident that grocery stores would remain open or that there would be enough food. Do you remember those lists of disaster supplies on the Internet (tarps, water storage containers, tools for turning off the gas, etc.). One included a shovel for burying bodies in the backyard.[i]
We heard the constant ambulance sirens in New York City and about refrigerator trucks filled with corpses. Indeed family members and friends were dying. Do you remember we also went through a period when it seemed like a third of all workers would lose their jobs. Then there were the days after the rioting when downtown San Francisco looked like a war zone. Then the wildfire darkness descended on us.
Because we are trying so hard just to keep going and to help the people who depend on us, we forget just how traumatic our experience of COVID was. But now we are beginning to come out of our caves. Something in us had died. And now we are wondering if we might be able to really live again. My sermon comes in three parts: 1. Believing and Seeing, 2. Feeling and Showing, 3. Acting and Being Helped.
[i] We wiped down our groceries but didn’t yet know that we should be wearing masks.
The Very Rev. Malcolm Clemens Young, ThD
If you want to get something out of spiritual life try giving more to it. In piano lessons, at football practice, in Latin class, at work, in graduate school and your hobbies we learned that the more we put into an activity, the more we get out of it. This is true for church also. We have to work for God, in order for this to really work for us, for God to work on us.
One of the things that has pleased me most in recent years is the new life I see around people associated with the Cathedral’s Stewardship Committee. They have a difficult task and it has really brought out the best in them. They share a common spirit. They know that the Cathedral helps to keep their cup filled spiritually, so that they can do ministry out in the world.
Next week we will make promises as part of the baptism service. Our spiritual lives will not be complete if we cannot find a way to serve God’s church. I wouldn't ask us to do this if I was not sure that this service can enrich and transform our lives, in a way that we may not even be able to imagine right now.
The Old Testament book of Ruth interrupts the account of tribes, nations and empires with a story about one single family and its struggles.[i] Naomi, her husband and two sons are environmental refugees. Famine forces them to flee their home and move to the country of their enemies. After they arrive the husband dies and the two sons marry women of that country named Orpah and Ruth.
After the sons die their mother Naomi announces to these daughters-in-law that she is going to return to her own country. The three clearly love each other and weep. Orpah decides to stay and Ruth chooses to go with Naomi to the country of her enemies where they speak a strange language and follow different traditions. She says, “Where you go, I will go; Where you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people and your God my God” (Ruth 1).
In Israel the two women are starving. But there is a tradition that might help them, that of the family redeemer. After a man’s death a nearby relative will marry his widow, caring for the family and the land. The problem is that Ruth is a foreigner and the books of Ezra and Nehemiah prohibit marrying outside of Israel. So in Ruth’s case the nearest relative refuses to marry her. But Boaz generously marries Ruth. They have a son and the two women are saved from disaster.
But that is not all. The story ends in a genealogy which shows that this son is the grandfather of David, the greatest king of Israel and ultimately a lineal descendent of Jesus, the savior of the world.
But there is still more to this. So many people say that the story is about loyalty. But really Naomi didn’t have a claim on Ruth. Nor was Boaz required to marry a foreigner. These were acts of great generosity. In fact the book follows a very tight structure. The first chapter is about terrible death and loss, and Ruth’s generosity in the face of disaster. The last chapter is about the new life that comes from Boaz’s generosity.
It is important to notice also that at first the book seems to have nothing to do with God. The narrator never mentions God. In the first chapter Naomi cries out that, “the Almighty has dealt bitterly with me” (Ruth 1). And yet God acts behind the scenes. Through ordinary, plain people, through an immigrant and the one who helped her, but above all through human generosity, God puts in motion a plan to save the world.
I have another challenging friend who talks about money all the time. That friend is Jesus. Jesus encourages generosity. I said that there were two reasons to give money to the Cathedral. The first reason is that you need it. The second is that the Cathedral needs it too. The Cathedral wouldn't need our money at all if together we had a different idea of what church should be.
Let me explain. In the 1980's Robert Bellah and some of his colleagues at UC Berkeley wrote a book called Habits of the Heart. In this sociolo
The Rev. Canon Mark Stanger
We have a lot of questions for God and God seems to have a lot to tell us. But the bible is full of questions from the all-knowing God and from Jesus directed toward us. The divine questions are aimed straight at our distress, lament, pain, avoidance, pride and fears. Our answer might best be action.
Great to have this archive of sermons
I love having access to this sermon archive and listening to sermons I have missed or want to relive. I can not stress enough how worthwhile it is to listen to Alan Jones's past sermons. Even with 2 years since he retired they are so powerful and insightful.
I live in LA and visit Grace Cathedral every time we are in the City. So glad to have access to these inspiring sermons!!! I listen in the car on the way to work every morning and it always helps me start my day with gratitude. Thank you!!!!
Inspiration available at any time!
The May 26 sermon is labeled as being that of Jane Shaw; however the speaker is not Jane Shaw. Great sermon from whom?