THE BEACON: "Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works." Matthew 5:16
"This is the Lord's Table and ALL are Welcome!" Fr. Gary 2017
SERVING ALL GOD'S PEOPLE -- On Ash Wednesday while we all were receiving impositions of Crosses on our foreheads in beautiful sanctuaries like THE Church of Our Saviour, the Monks of the Community of Divine Love and Sharon Crandall and other friends were in downtown L. A. at the Twin Towers. What was that like?
Br. Dennis Gibbs: "It was yet another powerful and tender day on Ash Wednesday in the L. A. County jails as we touched about five hundred foreheads sharing God's grace in the form of ashes. Our hearts are full, our hands are black, and our feet are tired.
"Thank you to all of our friends. I know you can hear me. You always lift us up. Thank you to Sam, Eric, Sharon, Hannah, Sharon and Sister Greta. You are holy people of God and it is my honor to walk at your side.
"May God bless us all with Grace and peace and truth during our holy observance of Lent through these next forty days and beyond."
Sharon Crandall: "There's nothing like staring into the eyes of suffering, loneliness, anger, shame, or fear and seeing love mirrored back to you...'remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return'. We imposed ashes today on hundreds of men at Men's Central Jail...their names and faces imprinted on my heart..forever... extraordinary day!"
YOUR LENTEN STUDY PROGRAM: "5 MARKS OF LOVE, Living Life Marked as Christ's Own" -- I sometimes learn so much about our Anglican/Episcopal denomination by attending the weekly Forum, and last Sunday was no exception. I knew but maybe you don't that the Community of Divine Love is the first and only monastery formed in the Diocese of Los Angeles. I did not know that Society of St. John the Evengelist (SSJE), based in Cambridge, MA, played an important role in our monastery's founding. I also did not know that The Episcopal Church has 18 traditional communities for men, women or both.
Why is the above of any interest when addressing the Lenten Program? Because this six week program was created by SSJE. The Brothers "prepared this series to help us explore what it means to be marked as Christ's own through baptism... A Discipleship Offering Inspired By The (5) Anglican Marks Of Mission". So far, so good...except that I did not know what the "5 Anglican Marks" are. Here, thanks to St. Google is what I discovered. "The Five Marks of Mission are an important statement on mission which expresses the Anglican Communion's common commitment (1984) to, and understanding of, God's holistic/integral mission."
The Five Marks of Mission are:
- Tell - Proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom of God
- Teach - Teach, baptize and nurture new believers
- Tend - Respond to human need by loving service
- Transform - Transform unjust structures, challenge violence of every kind, and pursue peace and reconciliation
- Treasure - Strive to safeguard the integrity of creation, and sustain and renew the life of the earth
After viewing videos presented by two of the Brothers, our Facilitator Robin Kassabian asked each table to consider two Questions:
- Can you hear God say to you, "You are my beloved"?
- Where do you see God at work in your life?
Interesting questions to ponder, and my table of eight responded with candor and insightfulness. For what it's worth, I did OK with # 2 but flunked # 1. Nevertheless, it was an interesting way to enter Lent, and I look forward to seeing where Robin and the Brothers lead us over the next five Sundays, "same time, same station".
A CIRCLE OF HOPE, THANKS TO JUBILEE HOMES -- Last Saturday night was Jubilee's Monthly Dinner & AA Meeting for our residents, families and friends, and I was so proud to be there representing COS. Also in attendance were Advisory Board Members Roger Cairns-Berteau, Will Dumain, Sara Dooley, Fr. Gary Bradley, and 'Utility' Member Diane Rivera. As usual, Deacon Bill Doulos had accumulated an unusual array of raffle gifts (you, too, can participate in the future by contributing a Gift Card), and there were plenty of offerings of quality, used clothing. However, a highlight of the Meeting was the dinner prepared by a relatively new resident AND his own story afterward. Even as a person in recovery, I am continually moved by the Journeys candidly told at AA Meetings. As one who yearns for and believes in absolute transparency, this is as good as it gets!!!
Never to be forgotten OR topped is the Circle established at the end of the Meeting, with everyone holding hands and reciting either the Serenity Prayer or the Lord's Prayer. What an inspiring experience; you all ought to try to attend one of Jubilee's Dinners some time.
THE POWER OF PILGRIMAGE: ANNUAL MEETING SUNDAY BROUGHT HOME TO US WHY MAKING PILGRIMAGE TO THE HOLY LAND HAS ADDED SO MUCH TO OUR JOURNEY -- I commented last week about our many visits to the Garden of Gethsemane, and what those visits have meant to us. I did not go on to comment on our many trips up Mount Tabor, but in many ways Mount Tabor has been more important in our lives than any other place in the Holy Land. Fr. Gary testifies that he was spoken to at 12,500 feet In the Altiplano of Peru; we were farther way at 1,886 feet and the voice was The Rev. Canon Denis O'Pray's, but the impact of the message was the same, we think.
Our Back Story: Our first Pilgrimage was in 1998 under the leadership of Jim Person, our Choir Director, and we were also blessed to have Canon Denis & Lyn O'Pray making their first Pilgrimage, too. In addition, there were 21 other COS Pilgrims, and none of them had been to the Holy Land either. Fr. Denis later wrote a wonderful statement about why to make Pilgrimage after we returned, and it is repeated below.
One of the highlights of anyone's stay in the Galilee is a visit to Mount Tabor and the Chapel of the Transfiguration, designed by Italian Franciscan Monk Antonio Berluzzi. Located at the eastern end of the Jezreel Valley, you can see the mountain from very far away because it rises like a volcanic shaped mound from the valley floor. However, because the road up to the top is so narrow and steep, no buses are allowed. Rather, you must get into Mercedes taxis driven by crazy Palestinian Israeli drivers. If you didn't believe in God when you started, you certainly do after arriving safely at the Chapel.
The day we visited, Jim, being the great Travel Agent he was, had arranged for no one else to be there so we had the Chapel to ourselves. Although maintaining that Jim was in charge and he was just a Pilgrim like the rest of us, Fr. Denis never let us down when a homily was in order. This day, he was particularly moved and delivered a message which changed the trajectories of both of our Journeys.
Basically, what I heard through my non-seminary trained ears was "Episcopalians will never have a bumper sticker on their car proclaiming that 'I Have Found HIM!". Rather, just as Jesus responded to Peter, James and John, we will not be building a temple here and sitting down to celebrate the appearance of Elijah and Moses. The Journey has just begun, and it will continue into perpetuity. To this day I do not know why this resonated with me, but it did; and I have quoted that experience many times, and it is foundational in why I love being an Episcopalian. Now that I reminisce, I think The Rev. Canon Denis O'Pray ought to consider leading one last visit called "The Homily Pilgrimage". If he did, no matter what my age and stage, I would have my deposit immediately in the mail. THANK YOU, FR. DENIS. YOU CHANGED OUR LIVES!
"TOO LATE TO THE HOLY" Reflection by The Rev. Canon Denis O'Pray (Rector Emeritus) -- "I made my first trip to the Holy Land after nearly 25 years of ordained ministry; too late to inform and shape a quarter century of preaching, teaching, and spiritual growth. I've been an expatriate Christian most all of my life, only recently journeying to the land of my spiritual birth. Imagine being an American and never walking on American soil! Imagine what one gains by being in the land where our salvation was accomplished and where our saviour walked and talked and ate and prayed. If I had the means, I would send every aspirant for Holy Orders to the Holy Land to meet the holy people who still struggle there to realize Christ's kingdom of peace and justice. So, too, would I encourage every Christian to go home at least once in a life time. But for clergy it is a must. A visit to the Holy Land will animate every thing clergy must do. They will never be the same and neither will their ministry."
"WHEN WE RISE" -- Last week ABC Television and Disney did a remarkable thing. They dedicated 8 hours of prime time to showing a made for TV mini-series entitled "When We Rise", a docu-drama chronicling the rise of the Gay and Lesbian Community in San Francisco. To be honest, The ratings were disappointing, BUT what we learned about the history of the challenges the LGBT Community faced was not only extremely informative but also disturbing. How could we have been so oblivious to the tragedy that was and is the AIDS EPIDEMIC?!
Especially moving was a segment in the second episode in which a doubter of the dimensions of the Epidemic is challenged to walk thehalls of a San Francisco hospital after the Epidemic has gained traction. She is overcome by the numbers, the suffering and the death right before her eyes. Later Sue and I were discussing what we had seen that night, and it suddenly occurred to us that when we joined COS in 1992, this parish had an AIDS MINISTRY which must have been exposed to exactly the same scenes. In their case, they were among several other Episcopal parishes who prepared lunches and delivered them to L. A. County Hospital. There, they served the hundreds of patients with AIDS whose only hope was the Hospital, and they witnessed exactly the same things as the lady above.
This Ministry ceased operating some time ago, but we remembered that Carol Hill and Bev & Jerry Harris were active sandwich makers so we called them. There is a lengthy story to be told here, a story of love, compassion, courage, bravery, of what it means to care for the least among us regardless of the risks involved. However, to do the story and the players justice, we need to do some more interviewing to gather all of the facts. In our minds, the AIDS Luncheon Ministry is one of the most significant Outreach Ministries this church has engaged in over the last 25 years of its 150 year history. In the meantime, while you wait for this definitive history, find a way to watch "When We Rise"; most of you will be amazed as we were about what you didn't know.
IN MY LIFE TIME!!! -- "When We Rise" rekindled a belief I have expressed to some of you before during one of my pontifications. In spite of all the negatives which seem to be coming at us from all quarters, we need to remember HOW MUCH PROGRESS HAS BEEN MADE IN OUR LIFETIMES! Case 1) WOMEN: When Sue and I graduated from college in the early '60's, the opportunities available to women were four -- marriage, teaching, nursing or, in my sister's case Sawyer Business School where she learned to take short hand. In my business school class there was one woman, and the people of color were five guys from India! Case 2) SMOKING: Everyone smoked when I was growing up. In fact, I remember Kent Cigarettes hiring freshmen to hand out 'three packs' to every guy on my floor, most of whom did not smoke. There was a point in my life when, if you didn't smoke, you were excluded from many relationships. Case 3) BREAST CANCER: Breast cancer was NEVER spoken of. Going back to the '30's my parents remembered that cancer itself was considered to be some sort of a social disease in Iowa. A person suffering cancer 'took to his or her bed'. Case 4) DRUNK DRIVING: My DUI in 1974 cost me a modest fine but nothing more. MADD had not yet organized. Case 5) PROSTATE CANCER: God forbid any man would ever mention prostate cancer, and colonoscopies were a procedure to fear. Case 6) ALCOHOLISM & DRUG ADDICTION: My mother died of alcoholism at 59. This was in 1970, and we had no idea what to do as she drank herself to death. In 1991 Sue organized an Intervention with a professional, and she and he saved my life. Today, most people recognize addiction as a disease, and society is treating the addicted and the disease accordingly.
I count all of the above as great blessings, some of them personal, which we have received, and they help me to endure the many other things I find so disturbing around me.
THIS IS MY SONG --
This is my song, O God of all nations,
a song of peace for lands afar and mine.
This is my home, the country where my heart is,
here are my hopes, my dreams, my holy shrine,
but other hearts in other lands are beating
with hopes and dreams as true and high as mine.
My country's skies are bluer than the ocean,
and sunlight beams on clover leaf and pine;
but other lands have sunlight too, and clover,
and skies are everywhere as blue as mine.
O hear my song, thou God of all the nations,
a song of peace for their land and mine.
This is my prayer, O Lord of all earth's kingdoms:
Thy kingdom come: on earth thy will be done.
Let Christ be lifted up till all shall serve him,
and hearts united learn to live as one.
O hear my prayer, thou God of all the nations;
myself I give thee, let thy will be done.
Words: Vv. 1. 2. Lloyd Stone & V. 3. Georgia Harkness
Music: Finlandia, Jean Sebelius
HAVE A BLESSED LENT