Resist with pride: a call to the Jesus Movement

Bishop Marc Andrus and Fr, Tom at SF Pride

Preached at the 2017 Pride Evensong of Grace Cathedral of San Francisco, CA by The Rev. Thomas C. Jackson, President of Oasis California, the LGBTQ Ministry of the Episcopal Diocese of California,  and as Vicar of St. Cyprian’s Episcopal Church. Fr. Tom also serves as the Episcopal Chaplain at Stanford Hospital. 

Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer. Amen.

“Two are better than one,” we learn from tonight’s first reading.

I know that. I mean I really know that. It is a lesson I have learned from my life since meeting my husband at 5:45 p.m. Feb. 1, 1999, at 168 York Street in downtown New Haven, Connecticut. Since that time we have been – and this is in chronological order – recognized as domestic partners by Yale University, registered as domestic partners by the State of California, united in a Civil Union by the State of Connecticut, married at San Francisco City Hall (thank you Gavin Newsome), had our marriage annulled (by the state Supreme Court), married a second time at San Francisco City Hall, and finally had our civil marriage blessed at St. Bede’s Episcopal Church. That’s what it took to be able to legally be married to each other. Continue reading “Resist with pride: a call to the Jesus Movement”

All we need is love

I was a student in Baltimore’s Herring Run Junior High School when it happened. The Beatles became a force in our lives, launching Beatlemania, beginning the “British invasion,” and changing forever the face of American pop music. In the US they began with I Want to Hold Your Hand – which quickly topped the pop music charts. They contributed much of the soundtrack to my high school years. In my graduation year of 1967, they release All You Need Is Love, a song which became the anthem of that year’s summer of love.

Today we’re marking more love Sunday: a day when we consider how much God loves each and every one of us as well as how God calls us to a life of loving. Not the psychedelic summer of love remembered in the current exhibit at the DeYoung Museum. No: we’re talking about something entirely different.

In today’s reading from Jewish scripture, we hear the Genesis story of how God created the universe. Some people say that God only created the earth, which leaves open the question of who created everything else in the universe. Many of these folks say God must have created the earth in seven 24-hour days. But that’s a view that suffers from the heresy of confusing scripture for history. Our Bible is not a history book, at least not in the way we think of history today. It is not a modern history book with stories and ideas supported by facts which are documented in footnotes and citations. Instead, the Bible is our spiritual guide to the universe. And our scripture nourishes us – teaches us – through stories which are rich in metaphor. These are stories and sayings we can think about and argue about. Because in thinking and arguing about what God’s word means in our life we are really wrestling with angles, or perhaps with God herself. Continue reading “All we need is love”

Why bother with commandments?

Jesus said: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15)

Makes sense. But why is Jesus talking about commandments?

We’re now at the sixth Sunday of the Easter season. Next week we remember the Ascension of Jesus up into heaven and the Sunday after that is ‘hair on fire Sunday,’ or Pentecost Sunday. So this is the last Sunday when the resurrected Jesus is present with his disciples. Next week he goes away and the week after that the Holy Spirit arrives. Thus this is the week when Jesus tries to tell his followers how to become the People of God – or perhaps more accurately to become part of the Family of God. Based on the history of the people of Israel, Jesus probably though one way to accomplish this goal was to give us some commandments to follow. Continue reading “Why bother with commandments?”

Making no peace with opression

The headline on Facebook stopped me cold:

“Jerry Falwell Jr.: Trump is Evangelicals’ ‘Dream President.’”

I hesitated for a moment and then shared this story on my Facebook feed with a post that went something like this:

“He may be the dream president of evangelicals. But he is a nightmare for all real Christians.”

And then I went on about my business. A west coast Episcopal priest was first to comment: after allowing as how she shared some of my frustration she went on to say she didn’t like to ‘label’ people. And I understand where she’s coming from. After all, Jesus told us to “Judge not lest ye be judged.” But I’m still concerned by this “no label/no judgment” idea.

When Jesus told us not to judge one another he meant just that: we are not to judge other individual people. So all those folks you know who are sure they know the individuals who are going to hell are doing exactly what Christians are supposed to do. Continue reading “Making no peace with opression”

What “comes with” baptism as a Christian?

Peter said to them, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you, for your children, and for all who are far away, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to him.”

Today we hear St. Peter talking urging people to be Baptized “so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” But what does that mean to a Christian – to you or to me – living here in 21st century San Francisco? Why is baptism important? How should baptism change our life?

One of my colleagues, Fr. John Kirkley over at the Church of St. James, tells the story of the first time a Yankee traveler ordered breakfast down south. Once his order arrived he called the waitress over and started to complain. “What’s this on my plate?” he asked. “Why those are grits, sir” came the reply. But I didn’t order any grits,” the man argued. You see he was worried he would be charged for something he did not order. “Oh honey, you don’t order grits – they just come with.” Today we need to consider what “comes with” baptism as a Christian.  Continue reading “What “comes with” baptism as a Christian?”

The importance of doubt in a spiritual life

While wrestling with this week’s scripture I found a series of pithy sayings online all of which were supposed to present the correct “Christian” view of doubt. My flat out favorite was the one that showed a picture similar to the one on the cover of today’s worship book. Underneath the text read: “Doubt for one minute and they never let you forget it.” The rest of the quotes which were supposed to present the correct “Christian” view of doubt fell into two different schools of thought which were diametrically opposed to each other.“Cast out doubt. Cultivate Faith” was an early winner from the ‘No Doubt allowed’ side. “Doubt you doubts before your doubt your faith” came in a close second.

The ‘Doubt-full’ side of this debate held that doubt is a good for your soul. “Doubt is not the opposite of faith; it is one element of faith,” wrote Pail Tillich, one of the most influential theologians of the twentieth century. I think American novelist and non-fiction writer Anne Lamont hit it out of the proverbial park when she said: “The opposite of faith is not doubt but certainty.”

Continue reading “The importance of doubt in a spiritual life”

Searching for a new creation in Jesus Christ of justice, love, & peace

Some years ago a there was an interesting auction in Paris. It was back in 1993, when two tiny slivers of olive wood were sold for more than $18,000. You see, accompanying the two slivers of wood were two certificates from the Vatican that ‘authenticated’ the wood as fragments of the true cross – the actual cross upon which Jesus died. The certificates were from 1855 – but they still carried a great deal of weight.

But you and I, we have not studied, prayed, and worshiped our way through 40 days and nights to be left on Easter contemplating two small slivers of olive wood. We’re looking for something more. For this year, we decided we would take on Justice instead of giving up something for Lent. In so doing, we started searching for a spiritual path as 21st century San Franciscans. We have not traveled through a Justice Lent for an icon of two small pieces of wood that point to the crucifixion instead of the resurrection. Yet what are we to see in this Easter story?

It feels like every few years, some high-ranking church leader somewhere slips into unintended controversy for appearing to deny the reality of the Resurrection. The hapless theologian’s name is in the papers and all over the blogosphere. “Devout” members of their church and churches everywhere are scandalized. There is sometimes talk of excommunication, even if the cleric doesn’t belong to a church that practices excommunication.

On closer examination, it usually turns out that the offending cleric did not actually deny of the physical resurrection of Jesus. Instead, they expressed a vague – you might even say muddled – statement of uncertainty about the exact relevance and meaning of the resurrection in our 21st-century world.

Here’s what’s amazing: if we carefully examine our sacred stories of the Resurrection, we find an abundance of precedent for confusion and muddled thinking. The remaining eleven Apostles – the first bishops, as many believe – prove this point. According to Luke, upon hearing the news of the empty tomb, they reject the women’s testimony out of hand as “an idle tale” and pay no further attention to it. They simply cannot believe their ears. Continue reading “Searching for a new creation in Jesus Christ of justice, love, & peace”