Sunday, October 27, 2013

"All hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hid..." - The Very Rev. Mike Kinman

A sermon preached by the Very Rev. Mike Kinman at Christ Church Cathedral at 8 am on Sunday, October 27, 2013.
There’s a prayer we pray at the beginning of every service. It’s called the Collect for Purity. It begins like this.

Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known and from you no secrets are hid.

What amazing words. Think about what we’re saying there! Let me say it again:

Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known and from you no secrets are hid.

We open our worship. We come before God first by acknowledging that we come before God hiding nothing. Our whole heart lies open before God. Every desire we have, God knows. Every secret we have … even the ones so deeply nestled in our hearts that we don’t tell them to ourselves … they are not hidden from God.

When we stand before God in this place, we do it in a way unlike any other way we stand in any other place. We stand before God as who we are, fully, completely. All desires known. No secrets hid.

We stand before God and God sees us as we are. Every … last … little … bit.

And here’s the even more amazing thing.

We do it together.

This isn’t a prayer that we pray in a corner of our room. This is a prayer that we pray as a community gathered together. And what that means is that we believe we are called to be not just individuals that stand before God this way but a community that stands before God this way. A community that stands before God with completely open hearts, with all desires known and with no secrets hid.

As terrifying and as liberating as at once that is, we are a community that stands before God and stands with one another as who we are. A community that hearkens back to Eden before the fall. A community where we can be naked – completely open and vulnerable – and yet not ashamed.

But the prayer doesn’t stop there.

It continues.

It continues, “Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy Name; through Christ our Lord. Amen.”

If it’s possible, maybe those words are even more powerful than the first. We stand together before God, with completely open hearts, with all desires known and with no secrets hid. Think of the incredible trust that takes. Trust that God will not just accept us as we are but will adore us as we are. Trust that God’s love does not have any preconditions. Trust that we can stand that way with each other and feel that same acceptance and love from one another.

But then we take it this huge leap further. The belief that God not only accepts and adores us as we are, but loves us way too much to leave us that way. That we are asking God to take these selves that we have laid open before God and to mold them and shape them and change them … cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit.

We are saying God, here we are – triumph and tragedy, success and failure, beauty and warts – accept us, love us, but also change us. Turn us into something new. Chip away those pieces that aren’t helping us be your beloved children of God made in your image. Sandblast away those places that are keeping us from loving you and one another. Get so deep into us that the very thoughts of our hearts … the things we think and feel before we can even stop to think and feel … that even those are shaped into thoughts and hearts that glorify you.

We blow through this prayer every Sunday, and I know so often I miss its deep meaning. That together we are laying ourselves bare before God and asking God to change us. And change us for one purpose and one purpose alone … that we may more perfectly love God and sing God’s praises in the world.

This prayer is an incredible, earth-shaking statement. It’s an incredible earth-shaking statement of trust. Of trust in God and each other.

It’s a statement of trust to make ourselves so vulnerable not just to God but to each other to lay ourselves that bare. It is a statement of trust that we ask God to shape the very foundations of our being, to strip away things that we might hold incredibly dear.

It is a statement of trust in the love of Christ embodied and lived in community to not just love us as we are but to love us into being something new, something even more beautiful, to love us into being the best possible instrument to sing God’s praise.

To say this kind of trust is hard is an incredible understatement. Because at every turn, we are taught not to trust. We are taught to arm our hearts, to shield our desires and to hide our secrets deep inside … sometimes even from ourselves.

And because we do, it is so difficult for us to trust not only God but one another. Because we are so afraid – and afraid because of a lifetime of experience of being burned – because we are so afraid of opening our hearts and speaking our desires and telling our secrets, instead of trusting we shut ourselves off from both God and each other.

And changing that habit is a long, slow, tentative process. Changing that habit is why we pray this collect every Sunday. Where every Sunday we affirm that this is how we want to stand – completely who we are before God and everyone – even if that completely terrifies us and even if we only live into that in fits and start.

In many ways the church … this church … is a grand experiment in that trust. We come together week after week, month after month, year after year … and we pray this prayer. We try just a little bit more each time to be open before God and each other. To let God and each other in to see those thoughts of our hearts, to share the stories of our journeys and the desires that burn inside us. To trust God and one another enough to tell those secrets of which we are afraid, those burdens we carry because we are sure that we will be destroyed if we let anyone see.

We are a grand experiment as a community of trust … of trust in God and one another.

This is Ingathering Sunday. In a few minutes we will literally come to the table and lay our offerings of money and time and talent before God and everyone. These gifts are sign and symbol of this prayer we opened the service with. They are sign and symbol that we want to be a community of incredible trust of God and one another.

Through entrusting a portion of our gifts back to God in this community, we are saying that we deeply want to be that community where we can be naked and unashamed. Where we can be who we are and yet at the same time even ask God to change and shape us.

Through entrusting a portion of our gifts back to God in this community, we are saying that one of those deep desires of our hearts is that this be a community where we don’t need to hide anything anymore … and where we have relationships of not just deep support but deep accountability in letting Christ shape us into something even more beautiful, even more profound, even more earth-shattering than we already are.

When we lay our gifts on that table we are saying that who we believe we are as Christ Church Cathedral is that community of trust where we will speak plainly and listen deeply to one another. Where together we will look for where God is trying to help us love God better and praise God louder.

When we lay our gifts on that table, we are saying that we are not going to hold anything back. That we are going to trust God and one another with everything we are and all that we have. That, in the words Robert Franken used several weeks ago, we are going to give God permission to use us without our consent.

When we lay our gifts on that table we are saying together as Christ Church Cathedral that we are before anything else the Body of Christ. And we believe that means we are a community of divine freedom, a community that lays itself open to God’s power working in us, a power that can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine.

When we lay our gifts on that table we are saying as one body that we are Christ Church Cathedral. And that together we stand before one another and before our God in trust and together we sing:

“Almighty God to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hid: Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy Name; through Christ our Lord. Amen.”

Some words from Sr. Warden Bob Schleipman.

Good Morning;

I would like to take a few minutes to discuss the events of the past couple of months pertaining to the request of Pursuit Communities to use half of Schuyler Hall for worship services on Sunday mornings.

First, Chapter recently enacted a new Mission Statement for the Cathedral. “We seek a deeper relationship with God and each other in Jesus Christ thorough:
*Celebrating the sacraments faithfully
*Proclaiming the Gospel boldly
*Embracing diversity joyfully
*Serving all passionately as a Cathedral

Pursuit Communities is a downtown non-denominational church and a conservative church with different views of the Gospel than our Cathedral church. Dean Kinman was willing to welcome them in the hopes of our parishioners and their congregants having a dialogue whereby our parishioners could provide them with the knowledge that our Mission Statement is a living document and Chapter is living into the statement when making decisions and policy; specifically, to be an INCLUSIVE church.

At the September Chapter Meeting some members were troubled with this initiative. Therefore, at the October Meeting, Jennifer Grant, Tom Gardner and Timothy Smith volunteered to discuss issues with the leadership of Pursuit Communities.

Remember, this was all exploratory – NO decisions were made about the use of space by Pursuit Communities. NO meetings have been scheduled.

Meanwhile, telephone calls, emails by the score, were received by the Dean, Wardens, and members of Chapter denouncing this issue. Mike Kinman led a discussion about the initiative at a forum last Sunday after the 10 AM worship Service and also made a video presentation in an effort to talk one on one with parishioners. It became apparent by the Dean, Vicar and Wardens that what we were discerning were feelings of ANGER, HURT, AND WORSE: FEAR! We realize that many gay parishioners have been ostracized and shunned by their former churches and communities but were accepted and welcomed by the Cathedral congregation. Their fear of losing such brought about the emotions just outlined.

Dean Kinman called a meeting of the Executive Committee this past Thursday to discuss
Making a decision on this initiative. The Executive Committee decided to recommend to Chapter to end the initiative. Then, in an act of SHARED LEADERSHIP which has been Mike’s mantra ever since he has been the Dean of Christ Church Cathedral, all Chapter members were queried via email to approve or disapprove of the Executive Committee’s termination of this issue. The Chapter unanimously voted to terminate.

I would like to invite you to take a look inside the Chapel and notice the names and dates of the deceased in the Columbarium. There are many young men who died of AIDS during the 80’s era. Once stricken with Aids, death followed. A number of those stricken with Aids, came to this Cathedral to die, to die with dignity. They were accepted, and welcomed by this congregation.

Those sick with AIDS knew this Cathedral was a HAVEN. And today it is still a haven for those in distress and will be haven in the future.

This altar is where we partake of the symbolic body and blood of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. This altar and holy communion is open to ALL, the rich and poor, gays and straights, male and female, people of all races and ethnicisities.

God Bless this Cathedral and God Bless this congregation and clergy.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

God never says "This has nothing to do with me." - The Very Rev. Mike Kinman

A sermon preached by the Very Rev. Mike Kinman at Christ Church Cathedral on Sunday, October 20, 2013.

Come Holy Spirit,
and kindle in us the fire of your love.
Take our minds and think through them.
Take our lips and speak through them.
Take our souls, and set them on fire.
God never says, “This has nothing to do with me.”

God never says, “This has nothing to do with me.”

This week, I met an amazing man. A man who moved me to tears. A man who helped me see the deep beauty that will always come when we stop telling ourselves the comfortable lie of “this has nothing to do with me.”

His name is Nicholas Hitimana.

Nicholas and his wife, Elsie, are the founders of Ikirezi, a cooperative in their native Rwanda that helps widows and orphans of the Rwandan genocide extract and market essential oils from the plants they grow. It is an amazing social enterprise that helps these women restore their dignity, improve their livelihoods and rebuild their communities.

But that wasn’t what was most amazing about Nicholas.

Nicholas and Elsie were newlyweds in 1994 when the genocide broke out. The Rwandan genocide was a mass slaughter of one so-called ethnic group, the Tutsis, by another so-called ethnic group, the Hutu. I say so-called, because really the distinction is not genetic. Hutus and Tutsi are the same people. For centuries they shared the same religion, language and culture. It was only when Belgian colonists came that they separated the two groups into a privileged, aristocratic group of cattle herders – the Tutsi – and a peasant group of farmers – the Hutu.

And so even though anthropologists agree there is no real difference between Hutu and Tutsi, this division into privileged and not – and how each lived into that role – created a rift between the two groups. And in the early 1990s, that rift began turned into an earthquake, culminating in the slaughter of a million people – nearly 20% of Rwanda’s population – in a 100-day period.

Nobody knew how artificial yet real the distinction of Hutu and Tutsi was better than Nicholas and Elsie. If you asked them, they were husband and wife. But if you asked anyone else, Nicholas was a Hutu. Elsie was a Tutsi. And now they found themselves fleeing for their lives, driving north toward the Congo to escape the slaughter.

The hills and forests of Rwanda are some of the most beautiful parts of God’s creation. But as they sped toward the border, they saw this picturesque landscape littered with bodies by the side of the road. And suddenly, they came to a screeching halt. There was a line of vehicles being made to stop at a checkpoint. And as they got closer and could peer ahead they could see what was going on.

The Interhamwe Militia – the Hutu power movement behind the genocide – had set up this checkpoint. It was very simple. Everyone got out of their vehicle and stood next to a measuring stick. Tutsis were supposedly taller than Hutu. If you were shorter than the stick you lived. If you were taller than the stick, you died.

Nicholas and Elsie looked at each other. They knew Elsie was taller than the stick … but they also knew that Nicholas, even though he was a Hutu, was taller than the stick as well.

They prepared to die.

Then something happened that Nicholas only can call a miracle. As their vehicle was approaching the checkpoint, the executioners got word that there was a bus of Tutsis ahead on the road. They jumped in Nicholas and Elsie’s car and ordered them to drive. They were waved through the checkpoint, drove right past the measuring stick, and after dropping the Interhamwe off further on, they were able to continue safely into the Congo.

But Nicholas and Elsie’s journey was just beginning. The rift that had torn their people apart, that had nearly killed them both and that had killed countless people they loved, was tearing their marriage apart as well. Because as artificial as the distinction between Hutu and Tutsi was, every time Elsie looked at Nicholas, part of her felt that his people had killed her people. That his family had killed her family.

Now if ever anyone had the right to say, “That had nothing to do with me!” it was Nicholas. After all, he was fleeing for his life, too. He would have been killed at that checkpoint also. If anything, he had helped save her. He wasn’t the bad guy here. It wasn’t his fault.

But he also knew it didn’t matter. He knew that it didn’t matter that he hadn’t personally done anything wrong. He knew that it didn’t matter that he in fact had tried to do everything he could to save his wife. Even though the distinction between Hutu and Tutsi had no basis in biology, it was still real enough to tear them apart. His people had killed her people. And even though he hadn’t personally picked up a machete or uttered one racist slur, even though in many ways the whole idea of being a Hutu was some sort of fiction, he was one, and he knew what he needed to do.

And so Nicholas took Elsie’s hand in his, looked in her eyes, and said:

“On behalf of my people, I apologize to you. I am so very sorry for what we have done to your people. On behalf of my people, I apologize to you, and I beg your forgiveness.”

These were not easy words. This was not “OK, I’ll apologize, whatever, can you just get over it?” Nicholas had had an epiphany. That wherever there is brokenness, God never says “this has nothing to do with me.” And neither should we. That the sins of our people, whomever “our people” are, are our sins, too. And the opportunity for reconciliation is ours as well.

In this morning’s Gospel, Jesus tells us of the unjust judge. The unjust judge hears the woman begging for justice, but it does not concern him. The unjust judge instead says “this has nothing to do with me.” And in fact it is only when she begins to annoy and embarrass him that he grants her justice just to get rid of her.

“OK, here it is, whatever, just leave me alone?”

That is not the kingdom of God. That is not how we as followers of Jesus are called to behave.

The God we praise never says “this has nothing to do with me.” The God we praise looked at a sinful and broken humanity and didn’t say “too bad, that’s not my fault.” but instead became human in Christ and took all that brokenness upon Godself. And in so doing showed us the way to freedom and peace and even deep joy.

As followers of Jesus, we are invited to walk in the footsteps of Christ … and of Nicholas. To look at the deep brokenness around us and to absolutely reject the temptation to say “well I didn’t do it. This has nothing to do with me.” And instead to say, “on behalf of my people, I apologize to you, and I beg for your forgiveness. Can we move forward together.”

I mentioned that Nicholas moved me to tears. It wasn’t his story of the conversation with Elsie that did it, it was this:

I heard Nicholas’ story at a conference that Tom Manche, Celeste Smith, Betsy Clark, Tricia-Roland Hamilton and several others of us attended in Nashville this week – a national conference for Magdalene and Thistle Farms, these amazing ministries that take women out of lives of prostitution and drug abuse and help them find new life and new hope.

The vast majority of women who are prostitutes in America were first sexually abused between age 7 and 11, first began using alcohol and drugs at age 12 or 13 and began prostituting at age 14. They have all been beaten and raped and bought and sold. It takes a community to put a woman on the streets and a community to keep her there. And we live in a culture that allows it and even sanctions it.

This ain’t Pretty Woman, and Richard Gere’s smile and platinum card isn’t enough to magically make it better.

Nicholas had first met the women of Magdalene in 2008 when a group of them women had traveled to Rwanda to meet the women of Ikirezi. Together, they had shared some of the most powerful gifts they had – their stories freely told.

After telling us the story of his journey with Elsie, Nicholas said, “Oh, there’s just one more thing.”

And he asked one of the women from Magdalene whom he had met on that first trip to Rwanda to step forward.

He took her hand and he looked deeply into her eyes.

“My sister,” he said. “For most of your life, men have bought and sold you. Men have beaten and raped you. Men have used and abused you and left you for dead.

“On behalf of all men, I apologize to you, and I beg your forgiveness.”

That is when the tears came to my eyes. I began to weep because I knew I was watching Jesus. I was watching someone take the sins of the world on his back, and even though he personally had done nothing wrong and had done so much right, be willing to bear those sins for the cause of love.

We’ve been talking this month about how “we are Christ Church Cathedral” and what this means. At our best, I believe this is what it means. It means following Jesus in taking the sins of the world on our backs. It means acknowledging our privilege of race and class and education and sexual orientation and any other privilege we might enjoy, and recognizing that having the mind of Christ is realizing that privilege is not something to be grasped but rather to empty ourselves for the life of the world.

It is those of us who are white looking into the eyes of those who are black and brown who have suffered and are suffering still so much discrimination and pain and saying “on behalf of all white people, we apologize to you and ask your forgiveness.”

It is those of us who have homes and bank accounts looking into the eyes of those who have neither and saying, “On behalf of all of us who are the haves, we apologize to you who are the have-nots, and ask your forgiveness.”

It is those of us who are heterosexual looking into the eyes of those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered and saying “On behalf of all straight people, we apologize to you and ask your forgiveness.”

It is those of us who are men looking into the eyes of women whom we objectify and commodify every day in ways small and large, from the Maryville rape to the truck stops on Broadway to the covers of our magazines and the side comments in the company breakroom saying with Nicholas, “On behalf of all men, I apologize to you, and beg your forgiveness.”

As long as those of us with privilege say “this has nothing to do with me,” we are the unjust judge. But it is not the fear of being that unjust judge that motivates us. Neither is this act of contrition some unhelpful, self-flagellating beating ourselves up and wailing. It is a standing with and reaching across the chasm.

We take the hand and look in the eye and bear the burden and ask for forgiveness because as we do, we become the Body of Christ given for the life of the world. We do this because Jesus shows us that it is in giving our lives away in this way that we find the deepest beauty and the deepest joy.

We do this because whether we personally have done anything wrong or not, when we have privilege the real privilege is the opportunity to reach out in love across the chasms and rifts, to with Jesus take the sin and brokenness of the world on ourselves, and together to begin a future where there is no slave or free, no Jew or Greek, no male or female but one great fellowship of God throughout the whole wide earth.

As Nicholas asked the woman for forgiveness, a deep silence overtook the room. We knew we were in the presence of something amazing. And we knew we needed to be a part of it.

And as many of us wiped away tears, I looked at Nicholas’ face. And it was full of pain. These were not throwaway words. He was truly feeling the pain men had caused her. He was bearing the sin, and you could feel it.

But there was something else in his face … and it was deep joy. Because he was bearing the pain not out of a grudging sense of responsibility or a neurotic need to self-punish but out of deep love. Of deep love for a sister. Deep love for a sister that made bearing the pain not a chore but an honor. Deep love that gave his life more meaning that it had ever had before. Deep love that opened a door for God’s kingdom to come on earth as it is in heaven.

God never says, “This has nothing to do with me.” And that is the life God invites us into as well. A life of bearing pain that we did not cause but is ours to carry nonetheless. Bearing it for the sake of justice. Bearing it for the sake of love. Bearing it for our own healing and the healing of the world. Bearing it for our own deep joy.

God never says, “This has nothing to do with me.” And this is the life God invites us into as well.



Tuesday, October 15, 2013

"Molecules of Christ Church Cathedral" - the Rev. Canon John Kilgore

A sermon preached by the Rev. Canon John Kilgore at Christ Church Cathedral on Sunday, October 6, 2013.
Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice.

Last weekend I was in Virginia, sitting out on the deck in the Shenandoah mountains, a beautiful autumn day with a clear blue sky. The leaves were changing, early color, but clearly the fall season. And I looked up and said, ‘That’s why it’s fall!’ A puff of wind had dislodged a whole bunch of yellow leaves from a tree and they twirled and sailed and tumbled onto the side of the mountain. And we commented that those leaves were about to have their molecules recycled and to become something else again. Perhaps another tree, a squirrel, a bear, a human, some water or air. Then we conjectured what those molecules might have been before. Perhaps the molecules in those leaves were once a dinosaur walking on this very spot of earth. Who knows what they were.

It really is interesting to consider this cycle of life. We are made of substances, bone, muscle, blood, that are comprised of molecules. Molecules are the smallest particles in a chemical element or compound that have the properties of that element or compound. Molecules are our building blocks, our leggoes, if you will. They are made up of atoms held together by chemical bonds; atoms being, carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen. And combinations of those atoms are molecules. Molecules can be very small, such as helium which is a one atom molecule; a bit larger such as oxygen which is two atoms of oxygen together; even larger such as carbon dioxide which is one atom of carbon and two of oxygen; or a protein which is a long chain of hundreds or even thousand of atoms. A molecule is the smallest particle that is that particular substance. There are molecules of air, molecules of water, molecules of carbohydrates, proteins, DNA. Molecules have energy and resonance and attraction. And they are recycled over and over and over, throughout the eons. Molecules may be broken down into atoms or they may coalesce into larger molecules. But the same substances in this earth, molecules, atoms, are being recycled over and over and over again.

Did you ever think about the fact that the molecules in you might have been a dinosaur or a leaf or water in a stream? Interesting thought! And what your molecules and atoms might become in the future… We are all the same stuff just recycled over and over and reorganized into different groupings. The particular grouping today is what we are.

And we in the church are a bit like that. Different gatherings, different collections, different rearrangements of people who gather together at any one time. Look at this collection of people here today. Look around! Really. Even those of you who don’t like to pass the peace, look around! This is the church. This is God’s people. And we come in many sizes and shapes and styles and collections and, over the years, we get reorganized. Over and over.

And, yes, we come in many shapes and styles. Two Sundays ago I was in Barcelona, Spain and I wandered into a Serbian Orthodox Church. Orthodox worship is very different from ours. Our service is kind of linear. We have an outline of the liturgy, a pattern, a structure, people sit in pews, and have a set way to do it. Orthodox liturgy is much more... meandering... is perhaps a good word. The priest is up front, at times in the inner sanctum behind the rail, at times out front. There are many candles, incense in several places, flowers, shrines and icons all surrounded by lots and lots of real beeswax candles sometimes dripping over onto the floor and flaming up. At this church there were loaves of bread and bottles of wine with flowers and cookies and candy for the children sitting near the back on a small low table that was, at one point in the service, processed around and censed with incense and holy water. There are no pews except for a few benches around the edge for those needing to sit. Most of the room was open with people standing, talking, milling around, genuflecting before icons and kissing them, moving from place to place within the sanctuary. People were hugging one another, talking; and kids were doing their thing. Chaos but also very formal. Very high levels of ritual, processing around in a very structured way swinging incense, ringing bells, with a small choir of eight chanting in the corner the entire time. There was something ethereal, mystical, enchanting about it. All the while the congregation was disorganized milling, wandering, communing one with another and with God, and praying. Clearly God was present, and was praised.

We come in many shapes and styles. About a month ago my cousin Ronnie in Joplin got married for the first time at the age of 53. It was in a small rural church. One of those small square white nondescript buildings that you see when you drive through the countryside. It was about as far to the other end of the spectrum as you can be! Very simple, no idea of the sacraments, no altar, a few silk flowers for the wedding, a pretty informal event but lovely and loving and a tender ceremony of two people before God who love each other and God and are committing themselves to both. No ritual. Scripture and spontaneity.

Ronnie’s church of God. The Serbian Orthodox Church in Barcelona. Christ Church Cathedral here in St. Louis. A downtown urban Cathedral that grew from Christ Church at Third and Chestnut streets, only a few blocks away. Begun in 1829, consecrated in 1834 by the Reverend Benjamin Bosworth Smith; moved to Fifth and Chestnut in 1839 consecrated by Jackson Kemper. A famous name. Twenty years later there were so many communicants that we needed a larger building and in 1859 this plot of land at Thirteenth and Locust was bought and this Gothic-style stone building was begun. The Civil War slowed the construction, the chapel was completed first, and in 1867 on Christmas Day the first service was held. A hundred forty six years of Christ Church Cathedral. And it became the Cathedral of the Diocese of Missouri in 1880. The Tuttle Building was later added, the bell tower in 1910, major repair and remodeling in 1949 and 1960. And here we are today! Look around, again. At the building. At the people. Christ Church Cathedral 2013!

Like molecules rearranged again and again and again. We are this collection of God’s people at this time called Christ Church Cathedral 2013. And thanks be to God for the diversity, for the good works, for the homeless ministry, the Saturday breakfast, for the care of each other in need. Thanks be to God for the worship, for the liturgy, vergers, acolytes, altar guild, money counters, the music and choir and canon precentor, the Shepley music series and Evensong. Thanks be to God for those who tend the building, the sextons, the garden committee, Cathedral Chapter. The clergy. And thanks be to God for the worshipers. All of you here in the pews. And thanks be to God for what Christ Church Cathedral is becoming in the community: a gathering place for downtown events, book signings with famous people, gatherings to talk about homelessness in St. Louis, candlelight vigils memorializing school violence, Good Friday Blues at the Foot of the Cross, art exhibits such as the Icons exhibit two years ago, celebrations of African American history and Martin Luther King Day speeches, blessings of animals, asperging runners with holy water at the Susan Komen race. And now the home of a new starter school and Magdalene House for women with troubled lives. Christ Church Cathedral 2013! We are on the move! Alleluia! Molecules reorganized over and over. We are this particular group of molecules and individuals organized thus today. Here we are today. And thanks be to God.

So how thankful are we and how do we say those thanks? How well do we give those thanks? So often we pray for something. So often we ask God for something. So often we are in petition to God for getting us out of a jam, for healing, for companionship or love, or for one in need. Our prayers are always some way. One of my best friends in the world who preached my ordination and my partner Ray’s funeral, who has been a profound inspiration in my life is Father John Andrew. Rector Emeritus of St. Thomas Church Fifth Avenue in New York City. I have learned so much from him. Unbeknownst to him, he taught me a lesson. I suspect almost everyone here says grace before meals. Short or long. Most of us give thanks and pray before the meal. Father John Andrew, always, after the meal, stands, and quietly behind the chair where he has eaten, says a brief prayer of thanks and makes the sign of the cross for what he has been given. What he has eaten. After the meal as well as before. He remembers to give thanks, after the meal.

In the gospel reading today, there were ten lepers who approached Jesus. Keeping their distance, they called out, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” They were made clean and went on their way. But one of them, when he saw he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice. He prostrated himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him. Jesus asked, were not ten made clean? The other nine where are they?

It is stewardship season at Christ Church Cathedral. We are all asked to fill out our pledge cards and to give as able. Better yet, to give as we are thankful. We are Christ Church Cathedral 2013, different than other places, molecules reorganized into this. Wonderful stuff is going on here. We are blessed. We have been healed, we have eaten the meal. Will we give thanks after the meal? Will we be the nine lepers or the one? Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back praising God with a loud voice. Jesus concluded this story saying, ‘Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well.”


Sunday, October 6, 2013

"Faith conquers fear." - The Very Rev. Mike Kinman

A sermon preached by the Very Rev. Mike Kinman at Christ Church Cathedral on Sunday, October 6, 2013.

The apostles said to the Lord, "Increase our faith!" The Lord replied, "If you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, `Be uprooted and planted in the sea,' and it would obey you. 

Think back for just a moment to when you were a child. What was that thing that you wanted to do but you were scared? You wanted to do it, you wished you weren’t afraid, you hated that you were afraid but you couldn’t help yourself. The fear was there.

You wanted to do it and you were scared and someone – maybe a parent or an aunt or uncle or brother or sister or maybe a friend, but someone looked in your eyes and said “It’s going to be OK. You can do it.”

“Trust me.”

Was it diving off the high dive at the neighborhood pool? Taking the training wheels off your first bike? Your first day at a new school? Going away to summer camp or asking that boy or girl you liked to dance?

What was it for you? Take a moment to think about it? Do you have the picture in your mind? Can you feel the tightness in your chest? Maybe even just the memory makes your palms sweat a little bit?

What was it for you? (members of the congregation shout out examples -- riding a bike, getting their driver's license, going to a friend's birthday party)

For me, I was in eighth grade, and I was at my friend Wells’ birthday party at Justin’s Water World in Tucson, one of those places with the really big water slides. We were there with all our friends, and we had waited in line and gotten to the very top of the tallest slide and it was just about my turn to go down.

This is probably a good time to mention that I was pretty terrified of heights. And I’d been sweating it out as the line snaked up and we kept getting higher and higher and higher. I kept looking down and thinking, “man, it didn’t seem this high when I was down there looking up!” But now I’m at the top, and I’m looking into that hole I’m supposed to launch myself down and I’m thinking:

“This is crazy … I’m going to die!”

And now the lifeguard is telling me it’s my turn, and I’m about to be in a panic because I’m not sure if I’m more terrified of plummeting to my death through this gaping watery hole in front of me or having the slow death of a thousand humiliations of walking back down past most of my eighth grade class whom I was sure would have excruciatingly long memories about this.

And right behind me in line was my friend Wells. And I turned around to him and I didn’t have to say a word. He could see it in my eyes. And he just looked at me and, very quietly so nobody else could hear but me, said: “You can do it. Trust me. I’ll be right behind you.”

I launched myself down that slide not because I wasn’t afraid. But because in that moment, I trusted my friend. I trusted him that if he said I would be OK, I would be OK. I also trusted him that he would be right behind me. And he was. I went down that slide not because I wasn’t afraid but because my trust in my friend was greater than my fear. My faith was greater than my fear.

I must have gone down that slide a dozen more times that day. And each time I enjoyed it more. I felt like a conqueror. And I was. I had conquered fear. But I had not done it alone. What had led me to conquer fear was trust. Trust in a friend. Faith conquers fear.

You can do it. Trust me. I’ll be right behind you.

Faith conquers fear.

Jesus’ disciples say to him, “Increase our faith!” Man, they sure knew what to ask for.

The kind of faith they’re talking about is not just some intellectual pursuit. The kind of faith the disciples are talking about is the trust that enables us to face our deepest fears and not let the fears beat us down. The kind of faith they are talking about is the kind of trust that lets us live as conquerors of fear not as those conquered by it.

It is the kind of trust that turns us from admirers of Jesus to followers of Jesus, able to change the world and be changed ourselves because we believe him when he looks in our eyes and quietly says:

You can do it. Trust me. I'll be right behind you.

Faith conquers fear.

Jesus is right that just the tiniest bit of this kind of trust can do extraordinary things. Just the tiniest bit of this kind of trust in Jesus can set us free to live extraordinary lives.

But trust is hard for us. In fact, trust might be harder for us today than in any time in our nation’s history. There is no time that we have been more bombarded with messages from advertisers who are trying to manipulate us for their own purposes. There is no time that we have been more privy to and aware of the betrayals of trust from our leaders and their own survival and profit-driven ulterior motives.

Just a generation ago, the most trusted person in America was Walter Cronkite – the man who gave us the news, defined our reality, who said, “and that’s the way it is ...” and believed that’s the way it was … because we trusted Walter Cronkite.

They did a survey of who the most trusted public figure in America in 2013 is. Do you know who it is?

Tom Hanks.

Do you know who is number two? Sandra Bullock.

Number three? Denzel Washington.

Number four? Meryl Streep.

The most trusted public figures in America are not our leaders and decision makers. They are not the people who are giving us the news and information on which we are to make our decisions. They are actors. People we know primarily from the fictional roles they play.

Thank God number five was a poet, Maya Angelou, that at least gives me some degree of hope. At least we can still trust a poet to be a truth teller!

Skepticism and even cynicism have become our default positions. Worse than that, in many quarters, skepticism and cynicism have even become synonymous with not only intelligence but wisdom.

If you trust you are a sucker. President Reagan helped launch us on this course with “Trust but verify,” which, come on, if you’ve gotta verify, you’re really not trusting at all! The cheated spouse “should have seen it coming if you’re gonna marry a guy like that.” Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Don’t want to be proved an idiot? That 90s TV show the X Files gave us the mantra for a generation:

And yet as Christian people we are invited to be bizarrely different. In this era of Ponzi schemes and single digit approval ratings for Congress, when we trust Forrest Gump more than President Obama and Jon Stewart more than Brian Williams, when trusters are suckers, we are invited to join with the disciples, walk right up to Jesus, look him in the eyes and say “Increase our faith!” Help us to to trust you more.

And we have to do it. We just have to. If we don’t do it, there is little point in us being here beyond just an hour or so of sanctuary and beautiful music in a beautiful space. Jesus is calling us to do extraordinary things. Jesus is calling us to be his hands, feet, eyes, mouth and ears as he takes this broken world – starting with each and all of us – and makes it whole.

And we look at these things – not just the huge societal things of healing our divides of race and class, ending the culture of violence and giving every one of God’s children enough food, shelter and health care to be a thriving part of society. But the things in here, too.

Things like conquering our own sense that love is something we have to earn and that we’re never quite good enough to believe it won’t go away. Conquering our own fears of abandonment and failure. Conquering whatever fear it is that holds us back from diving off that high dive or trying that new experience or taking the training wheels off that bike or launching down that water slide. Conquering whatever fear holds us back from being the glory of God that is a human being fully alive.

Take a dollar bill out of your wallet, if you’ve got one. Flip it over. What does it say .. right above the big ONE and under The United States of America.

In God We Trust.

This is either a statement of deep faith or an instance of incredible irony. Because our wealth, whether we think we have a little or a lot, our wealth is the way we hedge our bet. Our wealth is our ability to provide for ourselves so that we don’t have to depend on anyone else – including God. Maybe especially God.

And yet our wealth is also our greatest opportunity to proclaim the truth of what is written on this bill. To proclaim that it is in God and not in the money that we do indeed put our trust.

We have been together for nearly five years here at Christ Church Cathedral. And I have always said the same thing about giving. I care more that we give than where we give it to. Yes, I hope that we give to Christ Church Cathedral to be a part of expanding the amazing things that God is doing here, but far more than that I want us to give as an act of liberation. I want us to give because Jesus is responding to our cry and is increasing our faith. I want us to give so that what is written on our money is a statement of fact and not of irony.

Dahn Gandell challenged us last week to give hysterically – to give to that point where it seems crazy. She was absolutely right. Because it’s when our giving – be it to Christ Church Cathedral or St. Patrick Center or the LGBT Center or Magdalene St. Louis or Grace Hill or whatever ministries of the Gospel we believe God is calling us to be a part of – it’s when our giving goes beyond the threshold of what we know we can do with ease, when it gets to that point where a voice inside us is saying “this is crazy” … that is when Jesus steps in. This is when we really start building that relationship with Christ.

Because it isn’t until we’re faced with the thing of which we are afraid. Because it isn’t until we’re looking down the gaping hole in front of us and thinking “this is crazy!” that we even think to turn around for help to the Jesus who has been behind us all along.

And here’s the thing. When we do turn around, Christ is there. And we won’t even have to say a word because he will see it in our eyes. And through the voices of this community, through his word in scripture and through his still, small voice in our hearts in prayer, Jesus will look deep into our eyes and say “You can do it. Trust me. I’ll be right behind you.”

We are Christ Church Cathedral. And as Christ Church Cathedral we can do extraordinary things and follow Christ into extraordinary places. We can give hysterically and be conquerors of fear rather than those conquered by fear.

We are Christ Church Cathedral. Each of us and all of us. And this moment and every moment is a chance for us to face our deepest fears and together to hear the voice of Christ saying “You can do it. Trust me. I’ll be right behind you.” And to launch ourselves into that fear not because we’re not afraid, but because in that moment our faith has been increased and we trust Jesus.

We trust Jesus that because he says we will be OK, we will be OK.

We trust Jesus that because he says he’ll be right behind us, he’ll be right behind us.

We are Christ Church Cathedral and we do the extraordinary not because we are not afraid but because our trust in Jesus is greater than our fear. Our faith is greater than our fear.

We can do it. In God we trust. Jesus is right here with us.

Faith conquers fear.