A Sermon for Corpus Christ/2nd Sunday after Pentecost, June 23, 2019

A Sermon preached by The Reverend Beth Lind Foote, Interim Rector, for Corpus Christi/2nd Sunday after Pentecost, June 23, 2019

June 23, 2019

“Send out your light and your truth; that they may lead me. Let them bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling.”

This week I ran into a quote from Anne Lamott that resonated with me:

“When I was a child, I thought grown-ups and teachers knew the truth…It took years for me to discover that the first step in finding out the truth is to begin unlearning almost everything adults had taught me…Their main pitch was that achievement equaled happiness…when all you had to do was study rock stars, or movie stars, or them, to see that they were mostly miserable.  They were all running around in mazes like everyone else.”

Anne Lamott’s humor reveals uncomfortable truths. Life does sometimes feel like a confusing maze.  Mazes of achievement, mazes of responsibilities; mazes of traffic, mazes of loneliness, or or routine. Our culture says we’re supposed to navigate the mazes of our lives on our own. 

But, I wonder this morning, if, as Christians, we can break out of our cultural pattern of thinking and ask if it’s really all up to us. Where is God in the mazes of everyday life?  Do we need to seek out God? Or does God seek us out?  Does God surprise us? Does God ask us to grow and see the world differently?

In our Gospel story. Jesus meets a tortured soul, “the Demoniac” a man “with demons” who lives shackled in the tombs. Jesus asks him his name, and the man says, “Legion”, for many demons had entered him.” (In the Roman Army, a Legion was a company of 6,000 men.) 

We see Jesus in control of the situation: he negotiates with the legion of demons, and gives them permission to enter into the herd of pigs.

If we look closely at the text, Jesus has already “called ahead” to command the unclean spirit to come out of the man before he docks the boat.  And Jesus has possibly taken a detour to this side of the lake, in order to heal this man. The next thing we know, we see the Demoniac talking with Jesus,” clothed and in his right mind.” 

Jesus seeks out the lost and the tortured to lead them out from their maze of despair.

I’m reminded of our Psalm for today, #43, “send out your light and your truth that you will lead me,” which happens to be the psalm the altar party prays in the sacristy together before every Mass.  Whatever anxiety or distractions I have before 8:00 and 10:00 are given over to God when we pray that psalm together, and a sense of calm purpose comes over us. 

At the end of the story, we see the townsfolk who are “seized with great fear” and ask Jesus to leave.  He’s just too threatening. They were used to the way things were before.  The healing of the Demoniac in their midst is too much to handle.

When people are afraid they push away help, they push away newness of life, and growth. Fear prevents us from receiving the healing love of God. 

I see fear in many places recently.  Here in San Francisco, people are afraid of hosting navigation centers in their neighborhoods. 

In other parts of the country, people vote against their own interest out of fear of being “socialist.”

We live in fear of gun violence, but, as a country, we’re afraid of changing our relationship to guns.

Living in fear means we can’t imagine life being any different. 

But there is good news.  There is progress amidst the chaos.  Transformative work is happening all around us.

Here at All Saints’ we have many 12 Step Groups that meet in the Undercroft several nights a week.  People come “religiously” because they find community and healing in working through the 12 Steps together. The meetings are spirited and laughter spills out the door.

“Send out your light and your truth that you may lead me,” comes up for me as I meditate on the transformative work that’s happening in our midst, and which deserves our attention.

I recently rediscovered a book called “Breathing Underwater, the Spirituality of the 12 Steps,” by Richard Rohr.  You may know Rohr; he is a prolific Roman Catholic writer and teacher, and in this book he draws some parallels between the 12 Steps of Recovery and the Gospel.  He says addiction is a modern name for what the biblical tradition called “sin” and medieval Christians called “passions” or “attachments.”

Rohr says substance addictions are merely the most visible form of addiction, but we are all addicted to our own habitual way of doing things, and our own view of the world.  He mentions the story of the Demoniac because Jesus asks the man, “What is your name?” and the man’s problem must be correctly named before the demon can be exorcised.  Rohr says, “you cannot heal what you do not first acknowledge.”

It’s helpful for me as an Interim to consider how we can look at the way we do things at All Saints’ so that we can understand them and ask our higher power—Jesus—to lead us out of the sometimes confusing maze of patterns we find ourselves in during the Interim time.  And I want to make it clear that this process of self-examination is not a punitive thing, rather a way to open a space for God’s grace and spiritual growth.

Again, let’s remember psalm 43, “Send out your light and your truth that they may lead me.” 

I believe Jesus untangles the mazes of life.  Mazes are similar to Labyrinths, but mazes are designed to trap us.  That’s why those mazes made of hedges are so fun, we keep getting lost, until we really need to find the exit. Labyrinths have one meditative path that leads us on a pilgrimage of faith. 

I believe that is what Jesus turns the mazes of our lives into a Labyrinth, with a clear path towards God.

Today we observe Corpus Christi. In many Roman Catholic Churches, and our Anglo-Catholic neighbor, Church of the Advent, the priest carries a monstrance in procession through the street of the parish. The late medieval feast celebrates the Holy Eucharist and the belief in transubstantiation of the bread and wine into Corpus Christ, the Body of Christ. 

The Episcopal Church leaves the mystery of the Eucharist as a mystery. 

We affirm that in the Eucharist, God feeds us. We come with outstretched hands to receive holy food to fill an empty space that only God can fill. In receiving the Eucharist, we become the Body of Christ, the Corpus Christi, in the world.

Today’s reading about a frightened Elijah retreating to the wilderness reminds me of how much God cares for us even in our fearful moments.  Angels come to Elijah in the wilderness and feed him, twice, so that he will have strength for the journey ahead.

God asks Elijah, “What are you doing here?” and invites him to stand on the mountain before the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by. 

After great wind, an earthquake, and a fire, Elijah heard the voice of God in the sound of sheer silence.

May we, like Elijah, hear the voice of God speaking to us in the sheer silence of our hearts.  May we come to the altar of God to be fed for the journey we’re traveling together, and for the journey through the mazes of our lives. May Jesus untangle them into labyrinths of faith. May we be transformed into the Body of Christ for the world.  Amen.

A Sermon for Pentecost, June 9, 2019

A Sermon preached by The Rev. Beth Lind Foote, Interim Rector, for Pentecost, June 9, 2019

In the name of the Holy Trinity: Creator, Savoir, and Giver of Life, Amen.

On Pentecost we celebrate the birth of the church and the gift of the Holy Spirit, who comes to empower us in our ministries.  I believe the Holy Spirit is always blowing through our lives, we just need to listen to her whispers. Last Wednesday I had a couple of moments where I felt the Holy Spirit whisper a little more loudly, maybe even give me a nudge.

On Wednesday morning I took my 90 year old Dad back to Costco to replace his hearing aids that went missing. The audiologist put some special earphones over Dad’s ears, and had him sit down facing a speaker on the wall. Then she played an audio clip through the speaker. I could hear it, too.  

There was a chorus of many voices speaking all different kinds of languages at the same time.  It sounded just like the “Pentecostal sounds” we just heard when we read the Gospel together.

The audiologist said the audio clip is a compilation of voices and languages that includes all the sounds the human ear is designed to hear, and with the special earphones she could diagnose what my Dad was hearing and what he was missing.

As soon as she said that, I felt the Holy Spirit nudging me.  When this happens (very occasionally) I stop, look, and listen.  What was I supposed to notice?

As the week went on, I think The Holy Spirit was nudging me to think about: How do we listen to and hear God’s communication to us especially during a time of transition? How do we listen to the Holy Spirit so we can communicate God’s message of love to the world in our day?

My Dad left Costco saying I was talking way too loudly and he could understand so much more, which was a Holy Spirit moment of its own.

Our readings show us several approaches to this idea of listening to God’s voice and communicating God’s message.

The Genesis reading shows us the fascinating Tower of Babel story, which explains why there are different languages and different groups of people scattered all over the world, and the reason is telling. Though this story happens at the beginning of human history, I think it speaks pretty directly to us in the 21st century.  Human beings became too full of them selves, and began to see themselves as becoming as powerful as God.

So God acts, and scatters the people and adds diversity to humanity. People have to learn how to communicate with each other anew, and unfortunately, it became unlikely that they would work together again.  We’re struggling with the Babel event to this day.

One commentator I read this week says that our historic human response to the Babel event is the source of individualism, and a survival of the fittest mentality that’s so prevalent in our culture. The Babel event made us into “us” and “them,” which leads to individual and corporate sin. 

That is not what God intended for us when God scattered everyone and caused us to speak different languages. God saw that if we were all the same we weren’t going to learn anything new. God wanted to challenge us to grow and mature into the people God formed us to be: like Christ.  God wants us to love each other and build a world that embraces all humanity, and protects the beauty and diversity of God’s creation. 

Throughout history, humanity has done a fairly poor job of listening to God’s intent, and living up to God’s plan for us. That’s why Christ came to live among us and teach us how to live, and reconcile us to God’s image.

Our Reading from Acts shows us the opposite of the Tower of Babel. When the Holy Spirit whooshes in she empowers the disciples to speak many different languages so that the scattered peoples are able to hear and understand the Gospel. 

Diversity is honored, and embedded in that diversity there is one, unified message:  God’s love is active and God wants us to share it. 

The Pentecost story is about gathering many diverse peoples together under God’s flame of love, and sending us out to share it in many ways of expression.

When I first arrived at All Saints’ in February, I started to read Larry Holben’s history of All Saints’. As an Interim, it’s a pretty amazing to have a 400 page book about the history of the parish where I serve.

In his forward, Larry Holben writes about the way All Saints’ has been challenged to transform itself many times, and that embracing diversity has always been a strength of All Saints.’  In the 1950’s Father Leon Harris reached out to a Haight-Ashbury Community that had become more diverse after WWII, and brought people together under the Anglo-Catholic style of worship. He famously reached out to the Hippies in the late 1960’s. But then, when the Haight went through its rough times with crime and heavy drugs, there was a deep trough in membership at All Saints’; the church almost closed.

Rev. Lloyd Prader and  Neil Little reached out to the LGBTQ community, which built up the All Saints’ community again, continuing under Rev. Kenneth Schmidt.  The AIDS crisis was a major blow for All Saints’ but the parish ministered to their members and stood by the needs of the neighborhood. 

All Saints’ has successfully listened to the promptings of the Holy Spirit in the past, and that is what we are called to do now in our Transition period.

It takes a lot of time and energy to do this sort of listening to the Holy Spirit, and we will be doing more intentional parish listening through all parish meetings in the coming months.  We’ll review the past and celebrate our history and our ministries.

And we’ll do serious work on who we are now as a parish without your Rector of thirty years. The identity of the parish and the identity of the Rector became tightly woven together over the years.  We need to untangle that, with the help of the Holy Spirit.

At our Vestry Retreat last Saturday our Vestry began some of this discernment work on a leadership level. It takes more time than we thought to have these conversations, and I was very pleased by the Vestry’s willingness to engage and by their level of mutual respect.  I believe the Holy Spirit was drawing us out and encouraging us, like a good coach does.  I’m grateful for the work we’ve begun to do together.

My other nudge from the Holy Spirit happened after Wednesday’s 6:00 Mass. We had a visitor is a professional coach of Episcopal clergy. She came to the Bay Area from Seattle for a silent retreat at Mercy Center in Burlingame starting that evening.  She had a hunger for taking the Eucharist before starting her retreat.  She did a Google search to find an Episcopal Church that held a mid-week evening Eucharist in San Francisco, and guest what: All Saints’ came up as the number one hit on her search!  She also read my statement on the website about the Interim time being a time of renewal and congregational growth, and was very interested in talking more about that.  In turn, I was thrilled to meet her, and may use her coaching services.

Again, I felt the Holy Spirit giving me a nudge.  Stop, look, and listen. This is what I heard: Our improved online presence is working well enough that she could find us.  Our online presence is a ministry of communication that’s become extremely important. I also heard that our Wednesday 6:00 Mass is something significant we can celebrate. And sometimes the Holy Spirit sends along a particular person as their messenger.

In our Gospel reading, the Risen Christ stood among the disciples and said, “Peace be with you…As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”  He breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit,” and left them with a message to continually forgive others as they went out into the world with God’s message of love. 

I believe the Holy Spirit blows through our lives and through All Saints’ all the time, and we need to be ready for her nudges. Stop, look, and listen! 

Come Holy Spirit!  Come refresh and empower us for newness of life.  Amen.

A Sermon for Easter IV, May 12, 2019 on Julian of Norwich for Mother’s Day

A Sermon preached by The Rev. Beth Lind Foote, Interim Rector, at the 8:00 Mass, May 12, 2019.

This last Wednesday we had a special 6:00 Mass to honor Julian of Norwich, whose Feast Day was May 8, and I preached about her theology of God’s motherly love.  As the week went on, I realized that we are celebrating Mother’s Day today, and that the people at 8:00 might enjoy hearing about Julian. Our first reading this morning was “A Song of True Motherhood,” by Julian, and I’d like to share some more about her this morning.

Imagine living in the Lady Chapel for the rest of your life.  That’s probably about as much living space Julian of Norwich had as an anchoress, or recluse, in her cell attached to the Church of St. Julian in Norwich, England in the 14th Century.  And maybe she had a cat to keep her company.  There are lots of icons that show her with a cat.  But we don’t know.

We don’t know a lot about Julian of Norwich, but she was the rare medieval female mystic whose voice has come down to us and she speaks powerfully to us here in the 21st century.  Julian’s work, Revelations of Divine Love is considered the first book published by a woman in English.

Julian was born in the English town of Norwich in 1342.  Norwich was a prosperous town in the extreme East of England, closer to the Low Countries and Scandinavia than London. With a population of 13,000, it was the second largest city next to London at the time. Norwich was known for the valuable wool trade and for fishing.  During Julian’s lifetime, the entire city was surrounded by a tall, thick medieval stone wall that protected the city.  Mary Rolf writes in her work, “Julian’s Gospel, “Growing up in a walled city must have had a lifelong influence on Julian’s understanding of what it meant to feel enclosed, safe protected.  The “holy city” would figure strongly in her Revelations as a metaphor for the inner sanctuary of the soul itself.”

In 1349, when Julian was a child, the Bubonic Plague swept through Norwich.  Scholars agree that at least half the population of Norwich perished, and it would never regain its position as the second-largest city in England.

It’s difficult to imagine the trauma of a child living through the Plague. No doubt she lost family and friends.  There must have also been the guilt of surviving when so many around you had died. It must have branded Julian with the connection between suffering and the need to pray.

Julian grew up in the midst of this trauma as an upper middle-class woman who was well-educated in her native English, but not considered high educated because she did not learn Latin, which was the language of the elite, and the male clergy.

At the age of 30, Julian became gravely ill.  On 8 May 1373 she was receiving the last rites in anticipation of her death. The priest held a crucifix above the foot of her bed, and she began to lose her sight and felt physically numb, but gazing on the crucifix she saw the figure of Jesus on the Cross begin to bleed. Over the next several hours, she had a series of fifteen visions of Jesus’ suffering, and a sixteenth the following night.

Her visions brought on a sense of great peace and joy.  “From that time I desired oftentimes to learn what was our Lord’s meaning,” and I was answered in ghostly understanding:  “Wouldst thou learn the Lord’s meaning in this thing?  Learn it well.  Love was his meaning? Love was our Lord’s meaning.”

Julian completely recovered from her illness on 13 May. She wrote about her visions, what she called her “shewings,” shortly after she experienced them.Her original manuscript no longer exists, but a copy survived, now referred to as her Short Text.

Twenty to thirty years later, perhaps in the early 1390s, she began to write about the meaning of her visions, now known as The Long Text.  After her visions, Julian became a recluse, or anchoress, living in a cell attached to the Church of St. Julian.  Becoming an anchoress, a recluse, was a solemn thing. You took a vow in the presence of the Bishop in a ceremony that was like a funeral, because you were renouncing life outside the cell. In many cases anchorites/anchoresses were bricked into their cells.  But records show that sometimes there was more freedom, and sometimes there was a small community of recluses who retreated together.  One hopes that you got along with your fellow recluses.

There was usually a window between the church and the anchoress’s cell where she could visit with people who came for prayer and advice.  Medieval people supported their local anchoress or anchorite and in turn they prayed for and counseled the local people.  Julian became well-known in her own time as a mystic, spiritual counselor, and a person of great wisdom.  Margery Kempe, one of the other few well-known medieval English mystics, wrote about visiting Julian.

As we heard in our first reading, Julian’s mystical theology made a daring comparison of divine love to motherly love.  According to Julian, God is both our mother and our father. In her fourteenth revelation, Julian writes of the in domestic terms, comparing Jesus to a mother who is wise, loving and merciful. Julian compares the bond between mother and child as the only earthly relationship that comes close to the relationship a person can have with Jesus.Julian also wrote about Jesus metaphorically in connection with conception, nursing, labor, and upbringing, and she saw him as our brother as well.

Julian lived in a time of great turmoil and suffering, but her theology was optimistic.  She spoke of sin being “behovely,” or lovely, something for us to embrace because it can bring us closer to Christ. 

In our time, when we are worried about so many things going wrong in the world, I find Julian’s trust in a loving God, who loves us like a good Mother, to be comforting and affirming of our faith in Christ.  Julian is best known for the message she received from Christ, “All shall be well and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.”  May it be so.  Amen.

A Sermon for Easter III, May 5, 2019

A Sermon preached by The Rev. Beth Lind Foote, Interim Rector

Several years ago while I was serving at St. Anne’s, Fremont, we took a field trip to the local multiplex to see “Risen”, a movie about the Easter story from the perspective of a jaundiced Roman tribune played by Ralph Fiennes. 

The Tribune supervised the crucifixion of Jesus—just another day on the job for him.  When the tomb is later found to be empty, Pilate charges the Tribune to find the body of Jesus.  The Tribune finally hunts down the disciples in hiding and walks into the room where the Risen Christ is meeting with Doubting Thomas. 

Movie snob that I am, I was not expecting much from “Risen.” But I gasped when the Tribune recognizes the Risen Christ as the man he’d seen dead on the Cross.  It is life-changing for him.

“Risen” was just good enough that it made me really consider what it would have been like to be one of the people who saw the Risen Christ. 

The 21st Chapter of John we heard this morning is an addendum to John’s Gospel, and it’s almost like a stand alone parable. We find the disciples back in Galilee fishing.  What are they doing there after the Resurrection?

Lately I’ve been dipping into the work of best-selling author Brene Brown, who researches vulnerability and shame. Her book, “The Gifts of Imperfection” really spoke to me in the last few years, and I’m currently reading her book, “Dare to Lead.”  I highly recommend her work.

Brene Brown says that Shame is not the same thing as guilt, but they do overlap.  Guilt is about something we did, shame is about who we are.  Both immobilize us because they leave us feeling vulnerable in our deep human imperfection. These feelings are painful.  And so we avoid feeling shame and vulnerability at all costs, and continue on our usual path.  We keep on fishing.

Brene Brown says it’s human nature to avoid these difficult states of mind.  It takes courage as she says, to “dare greatly,” even if we know we will experience failure. She calls embracing the hard stuff and doing it anyway, “whole-hearted living.”

It seems to me that Peter and the disciples go back to Galilee to the comfort of what they know—fishing on the Sea of Galilee— and as usual, they aren’t too good at that, either.  They’re flawed individuals, like us, and I have a feeling they are overwhelmed by what has happened to Jesus, and their role in it.  Did they measure up?  Did they love their friend Jesus enough to save him from a gruesome death?  I’m sure they were feeling guilt, and shame, especially Peter.

Here, in the 21st chapter of John, the disciples experience the same amazing catch that they experienced at the beginning of the Gospel of John. I noticed that John says they caught 153 LARGE fish.  That’s important because the large fish were sold to the Romans; they would have only kept the small fish for themselves.  Out of despair the disciples experience abundance again.  It’s through that miracle of the amazing catch that they recognizes the man on the beach as the Risen Christ.

They share the abundant meal on the beach.  And then it all comes back to Peter. Maybe it happened when he smelled the charcoal fire; remember he was warming himself around a charcoal fire when he denied Jesus three times. He remembered his betrayal. He feels ashamed, and vulnerable.

What does Jesus do? Jesus guides Peter to counter his three denials with three “I love you’s,” absolving Peter of his guilt and shame. It’s simultaneously consoling and challenging.

The Risen Christ turns Peter’s attention from ruminating on the mistakes of the past to a new call to lead the church in the future. He ends with a new call for Peter, “Follow me.” 

The Good News of the Resurrection is challenging. It turns the world inside out. Jesus took one of the worst things in the world (the Roman Cross) and turned it into one of the best (the Tree of Life). He recruits Peter, who denied him three times, to be the cornerstone of the church.  We see it also in our amazing reading from Acts, the conversion of Paul.  Jesus chose Saul, who persecuted the early Christian movement to preach the Gospel to the Gentiles.

I also find some resonance with our Interim period. Even positive change can be a lot to take in. Like the disciples, we would prefer sometimes to keep fishing and have the safety of familiarity.

The Good News turns the world inside out.  The Risen Christ calls us to leave our tombs as well, and step out into the unknown.  To live “whole-heartedly” as Brene Brown says, and to risk failure for the sake of the Gospel.

At the end of the movie “Risen,” the Tribune has a one on one conversation with the Risen Christ as they look up at the night sky.  Jesus asks the Roman, “what can I do for you?” and the Tribune says, “I want to leave behind so much death.”

So for me, this Easter Season, I realize that the Resurrection has a real effect on my life, and on the life of our church.  There’s so much to “feel bad” about in the world; and I tend to build up defenses against it all.  It’s a kind of negative loop that can repeat over and over.  I yearn to let go of that.

I believe the Risen Christ meets us where we are, in those times when, like Peter and the disciples, we keep fishing over and over in the same way and expecting a different result. And we continue to have empty nets because we do not have Jesus with us. 

The Risen Christ understands this predicament and absolves us of our sin and calls us to freedom, and like the Tribune, to “leave behind so much death.”  He points to the other side of the boat and says, “put down your nets over THERE for a catch.”  There are new ways of freedom when we follow Jesus.

In the Season of Easter we leave off the Confession of Sin as a sign of our salvation by the mighty power of the Resurrection. Christ is Risen, the work is done. The Resurrection frees us from sin and death, and offers us a way to follow him in freedom and newness of life.

Amen.

A Sermon for Easter, 2019

A Sermon preached by The Rev. Beth Lind Foote, Interim Rector, on April 21, 2019

Good Morning!  The Lord is Risen!  The Lord is Risen Indeed!

I am very glad that we are here together at All Saints’ on this beautiful Easter morning. 

The question I’d like to explore this morning is, How did we come to know that the Lord is Risen?  And what does it mean to us today?

In today’s Gospel we hear that “Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb.”

Naturally, Mary Magdalene went to tell Peter and the beloved Disciple that Jesus’ body was gone.  They run to the scene and check it out.  They seem to spend a lot of time noticing the condition of the linen wrappings, and that the body is not there. John says, “Then the disciples returned to their homes.”

What?  They returned to their homes? That could have been the end of the story.  We might never have heard that Christ is Risen.

Mary Magdalene tried to tell her male colleagues what she experienced. They took in the information she conveyed, but it didn’t make sense to them so they decided they were done. They went home. 

But Mary Magdalene stays.  There is a pause in the story.  John writes, “But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb.”

Let’s step back for a moment.  John’s Gospel is the most mystical of the Four Gospels and it shows us a slightly different Resurrection Story. The other three Gospels show us Mary Magdalene, and other women returning to the tomb.

But John’s Gospel is different.  It is set in a garden.

The story of humanity’s relationship to God began in a Garden, the Garden of Eden in Genesis.  Here the relationship between God and humanity begins again, in a garden. There’s definitely some symmetry between the two.

The early church saw Christ as the second Adam, who gives humanity a fresh start by reuniting heaven and earth in the person of Jesus.  Here we have the second Adam appearing in the Garden, emerging from the Tomb.

Gardens are places where we connect with nature and the earth.  In the Celtic tradition, the presence of Christ is found most commonly through nature, because through Christ all things were made, especially the Earth.  Celtic spirituality saw places in nature as “thin places” where the veil between heaven and earth was thin, and we can suddenly be in God’s presence.

The Garden in John’s Gospel is a “thin place” where Mary comes into the presence of the Risen Christ, and has an extraordinary personal encounter with him.

Mary Magdalene weeps, and then looks into the empty tomb.  There she sees two angels in white who ask her a silly question, ”Woman, why are you weeping?”  She tells them why, and then she turns around and sees someone standing there.  It is Jesus, but “she does not know that it was Jesus.”  He asks her the same silly question, ”Woman, why are you weeping?” Consumed by grief,  “She supposes that he is the gardener.” Then Jesus said to her, “Mary!” and she recognizes him. “Rabbouni!” she says.  “Rabbouni!”  OMG, it is you.

John gives us a remarkable personal encounter between Mary Magdalene and the Risen Christ.  In a way, it’s a “nevertheless, she persisted” moment.  While Peter, and the beloved disciple look for the body of Jesus and do not find it, Mary weeps for the person of Jesus, and he finds her in her tears.

This scene makes me wonder, how many times have I missed seeing Jesus when I have been too quick to judge and too busy to pause and enter into a moment of deep reflection, and maybe painful emotion.

There’s a lot of action in the first half of our Gospel passage:  Mary runs to Simon Peter and the beloved disciples, they run back, then they go home.  That business, that action is what we are mostly good at.  It’s often too much to ask of us to take time to stop and wait in the moment.  So we do not understand.  Like the disciples, we return to the comfort of what we know.

In a society like ours where weeping is looked down upon, I think that tears are a sign that the spirit is breaking through to us.  “Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she stood weeping, she bent over to look into the tomb,” and through her tears she sees beyond the obvious.  In her weeping, her heart is opened to see the Risen Christ.

Karoline Lewis, a Lutheran professor of preaching wrote recently,  “At a certain point, the reason for Holy Week (and Easter) then ends up being this — to teach us to detect the holy when the world denies it. To show us that the holy is present when most will resist it. To witness to the holy in those places and spaces where the holy is deemed not to be and not to belong.” 

We are called to open our hearts and see the Risen Christ in places and spaces where the holy is deemed not to be and not to belong. 

In the past few days, we saw the holy present itself in the young people of Paris singing Ave Maria as Notre-Dame burned.  The spirit still moves through a society that is highly secular.  Where do we see the Risen Christ here at All Saints’ in our highly secular place and time?  This is a question for us as we move forward in our Interim time together.

Mary Magdalene had an open heart.  She wept with grief for the loss of Jesus.  She wept with love.  It is through love that we reenter the garden that is so green with possibilities for hope and growth.

Jesus said to Mary Magdalene, “go to my brothers,” Jesus entrusted her with the Good News of the Resurrection and he empowered her with the truth.

Notice that John writes, “Mary Magdalene went and ANNOUNCED to the disciples.”  She spoke with the authority of love.

She was the bearer of the Good News, and it was heard then, and today we heard the Good News from Mary Magdalene in the midst of our liturgy in 2019.  Alleluia, Alleluia!  The Lord is Risen Indeed.

Amen.

A Sermon for Maundy Thursday, April 18, 2019

A Sermon preached by The Rev. Beth Lind Foote, Interim Rector

With a last name like Foote, I’ve decided that God has called me to wash feet on Maundy Thursday.  But I also have a deep appreciation for feet. As some of you know, I walked the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route in Spain. The Camino begins in the French Pyrennes and goes 500 miles to Santiago de Compostella, where the bones of St. James, one of Jesus’ disciples, are buried in the Cathedral. 

Walking 10-15 miles a day with a pack on my back, my feet became very important to me.  They negotiated rocky Roman roads, trudged up mountains, slipped and slid through miles of mud and across endless flat wheat fields. They carried my weight plus the weight of my pack, and by the end of the day my feet had taken a beating. Every morning I rubbed Vaseline on them to reduce friction and prevent blisters, and I paid attention to hotspots as they developed.  But whatever I did, I got some blisters anyway. I came to the conclusion that blisters are part of life, and are a message from God that we need to slow down.

From the time we take our first steps as a toddler until we finish walking in old age, feet carry us through life. As I walked the Camino, I found great solidarity with people who lived before the invention of modern transportation.  For most of human history, to travel meant that you walked.

Once or twice a fellow pilgrim along the Camino offered to massage my feet, and I struggled with it. It’s a little different when you go for a pedicure, I think. What’s the etiquette around having a stranger massage your feet? It seemed too intimate of a thing, although a few times I accepted the offer, and it was glorious.

Having our feet washed on Maundy Thursday brings up some of the same concerns.  Many of us are hesitant to have our feet washed because we have to reveal our feet—a part of ourselves that is so important, but also reveals our vulnerabilities. We like to keep our feet under wraps. Feet are metaphors, perhaps, for our souls.  And there could be some connection between the English words soul and the soles, of our feet.

Tonight we celebrate the Last Supper, and the institution of the Eucharist.  But in the Gospel of John, which we read tonight, there is no sharing of the cup at the Last Supper.  Instead we see Jesus washing the feet of the disciples.  It’s confusing.

But I’ve come to believe that Jesus was a master of confusion.  Jesus knew that to learn something new, people must go through a period of confusion and reintegration. Maybe Jesus would be at home as an Interim.  We Interims tend to cause confusion and, with hope, reintegration, and growth.

Jesus confuses me and causes me to reintegrate his presence in my life on a regular basis. Who would have thought that God would enter human time as a baby born to an unwed teenager?  And who would have thought that Jesus, the Son of God, would die as a criminal on the Cross?  Jesus confused his disciples. He ate with tax collectors, treated women as equals, healed lepers and those possessed by demons.  On his last night with the disciples, he confuses them again by taking the role of a lowly servant—and washing their feet. 

Jesus is teaching them about a new kind of authority.  After God has given all things into his hands, he takes the role of someone with the least amount of authority, a lowly servant.  He uses those hands of ultimate power to wash the feet of his friends.  To serve.

It’s no wonder that Peter says, “you will never wash my feet,” he is embarrassed for Jesus. In a society built on honor, lowering yourself like that was shameful. But Jesus insists that this is the very definition of what it means to follow him. This is the exercise of authority like no other, the kind of power that will change the world.  The authority of love.

Our journey through Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Vigil takes us along the path the disciples walked so long ago: through confusion and sorrow, and finally to the joy of the unexpected Resurrection.  It’s a journey of transformation through the portal of death to unexpected new life.

Every year we’re invited to walk this path of transformation together, and it begins with an invitation by Jesus to become closer to him and each other through the simple act of foot washing.

Jesus teaches us to be servants to each other, and also to be vulnerable enough to accept the care of others. One thing I learned from my mother’s slow heath decline this past year was her ability to accept help with grace, and thanksgiving.  She was a favorite of the staff in the skilled nursing unit because she always said thank you, and honored the work of those who nursed and served her on a daily basis.

Jesus teaches us how to exercise the authority of love, rather than of oppression.  We need more of this kind of leadership in the world today.

Jesus leaves us with the words, known in Latin as the Maundanum, or Commandment. Maundy Thursday is an English adaption of Maundanum: “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another.  Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.  By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” 

Tonight we begin our walk of transformation to the Cross, and through the Tomb, towards Easter, and the joy of receiving God’s love for us.  Please come forward to have your feet washed in holiness.  Amen.

Interim Rector’s Annual Report, March 17, 2019

A Sermon by The Rev. Beth Lind Foote, Interim Rector

It’s a joy to be here with you at All Saints’ as your Interim Rector. 

Though I have only been here about month, I am settling in, and getting to know you all better.  I was not here in 2018, but I’m providing a report on my time so far, and my report today incorporates elements of my first sermon here on February 10, 2019.

I have some history with All Saints’. In 2005/06 I had the good fortune to be a field ed student here, and have The Rev. Kenneth Schmidt as my field ed supervisor. Kenneth was an excellent mentor to me as he was to so many seminarians, and I was very fond of him. 

I also led a parish retreat up at the Bishop’s Ranch in 2014, about my pilgrimage experience on the Camino de Santiago. And the last time I preached here was Holy Week, 2015, right before I went back to the Camino to complete the last 100 miles.

One of the things the walking the Camino taught me was to keep walking, and that walking solved just about everything.  The Camino taught me that one day at a time is sometimes all you need to do, and that by putting one foot in front of the other, you will arrive at your destination. God is with you every step of the way.  And the journey itself is really the point.

I’ve taken some of my Camino experience into my specialization in Interim Ministry, and I know we can bring it into our Interim time together.

I enjoy doing Interim work because it’s a constant learning experience. And I’m on a bit of a learning curve entering into an Anglo-Catholic parish, but I’m feeling more and more at home here, and I want to thank all of you, and especially our Sacristans and altar party for welcoming me into this beautiful place.

All Saints’ Anglo-Catholic style is distinctive.  But every parish has its own culture and approach to worship, and when I enter into any parish as an Interim, I have to learn how things are done in that particular context. It is part of my Interim role to understand church culture and reflect back to the parish what I see with my “fresh eyes.”

My “fresh eyes” will be joined by your active participation in our Interim process. In the coming months, we’ll reflect on who All Saints was in the past, and who All Saints is today. And, most importantly, who All Saints’ wants to become in the future. Because as Rob Voyle, one of my mentors in Interim ministry says, “the church is going to spend the rest of its life in the future.”

Another important aspect of our work together will be studying our neighborhood, and how we fit into it today, and in the future.  I’ve already met with a small group of our immediate neighbors at their request, to discuss how we as the church can be of service to our block of Waller Street.

In the fullness of time, we’ll form a search committee and construct a parish profile, then ultimately open the search for your next Rector.  But that will not be our focus for the next few months.  We will need some time to settle in and get to know each other first, and do some work of discernment.  The Interim time is a time of discovery, and it’s a pilgrimage of discernment we do together. 

Being an Interim also involves being a loving pastor. I’m a good listener. I want to meet you for coffee, for walks in the park, or whatever works for you. Thank you to those who have already met with me!  I’ve enjoyed our time together.

I’ve quickly learned that the All Saints’ leadership team has been working hard for the last year.  I want to thank our Senior Warden, Jean McMaster, and our Jr. Warden, Larry Rosenfeld, for taking on a very large responsibility and challenge.  The All Saints’ staff, Bill Visscher and Agustin Maes, have also put in extra work this past year to keep All Saints going on a day to day basis.  I’d like to thank them as well.

I also want to thank The Rev. Tom Traylor for his faithful service to All Saints.  He has served as an Associate here for sixteen years, and he truly held the parish in love through a difficult period. 

I am grateful for Tom’s friendship and mentor ship as I’ve been learning the liturgical ropes.  I am thankful that he has stayed on several weeks longer than originally planned after my mother’s death on February 28. We will recognize Tom at the Annual Meeting after Mass.

All Saints has not had an Interim period for 30 years, and many of you have not known any other Rector other than The Rev. Kenneth Schmidt, who was a gifted man, a fine priest, and who was much beloved.

There’s a significant shift in any organization when a leader leaves after 30 years. The significant shift here at All Saints’ became more of a loss because of the level of uncertainty you experienced with the illness and absence of your Rector before his retirement.  

Because of the length of the last pastorate, and the way it ended, our time of discernment will include some more focused reflection on what kind of organizational systems have developed in the parish.  We will do some Appreciative Inquiry, which celebrates what is life-giving, and working well, and we will spend some time assessing how we can become as healthy as possible before entering into a search process for a new Rector.

A healthy parish communicates clearly and well. One of the first things I’ve done as Interim is bring our communication systems up to date. 

Our website and our Facebook page have been updated, and will stay current. An updated web presence helps us be present in the world as it is today. Everyone looking for a church does one thing first:  they look at the church’s website.  It is vitally important that we keep it current and accurate.

In the next few weeks you will be receiving an All Saints’ weekly email newsletter that will provide news, photos, schedules, and an ongoing pastoral letter from the Vestry and me on our journey together. The weekly email newsletter is a powerful communication tool used by many other churches in our diocese. 

This is an important change for All Saints’ on several levels.

As we move forward, we need clear communication channels internally among All Saints’ members, and externally beyond the front gates. The email newsletter is also something we can share with newcomers as an introduction to our community.

Change is challenging for all of us.  For Episcopalians, change can be daunting. Episcopalians place value on tradition, order, and stability.  We tend to look to the past and to our history for comfort, meaning, and authority.  This is true for me as well.

Being grounded solidly in tradition is a good thing, but, at the same time, change is a part of life, and, how we meet it is a sign of our health.  The Good News is, we don’t have to do it alone.  We have each other, and we have Jesus with us, who calls us to newness of life.  That is what the Resurrection is about.  The Holy Spirit is blowing us into a new phase of life as a parish, and, as they say at St. Dorothy’s Rest, we need to keep our sails unfurled.  We will be praying about this regularly as we move further into our Interim time together.

As we move forward, we will probably feel some turbulence along the way.  We’ll probably feel some discomfort, sadness and grief, a sense of awkwardness. There will also be epiphanies, joy, and growth. My hope is that, together, we can experience a renewed sense of spaciousness and freedom. Let’s keep breathing. I like to remember that the Holy Spirit is also known as the Comforter, and she is here with us along our journey, as well as propelling us forward. 

I have a few comments about our readings for the Second Sunday in Lent.  In Genesis, we heard the story of the ancient covenant between Abram and God.  God tells him “Do not be afraid, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great, and God shows Abram the stars and says, “So shall your descendants be. And he believed the Lord.”  Abram is an example of faith for us in uncertain times. 

Our Gospel this morning talks about Jesus’ concern for the people of Jerusalem, and his desire to protect them under his wings like a brooding hen.  I find both of these stories comforting and challenging because they ask us to allow the living God to be active in our lives rather than over-think everything ourselves. 

On my first Sunday here we had the wonderful story of Jesus saying, “Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.”  It remains The Good News for us today: 

We are underway.  God is with us.  There is overwhelming grace up ahead. There will be newness of life, and renewal for All Saints’.

Love and Blessings, Beth+