Monday, January 03, 2011

Notes from Sunday's Homily

This morning I took a look at the CNN news ticker, noticing that all the stories were discouraging, here’s just a sampling...
Latest news

  • 200,000 affected by Australia floods
  • Birds fall dead from Ark. sky
  • Foot-and-mouth spreads in S. Korea
  • Deputy killed in shootout in Ohio
  • Raunchy videos shown to Navy crew
  • Fire shuts ride at Florida theme park
  • 3,605 Iraqis killed in 2010
  • 4 dead after fire on Russian plane
  • Death toll from storms rises
Closer to home...
  • Man fatally shot in Tenderloin on New Year's Day 9:05 PM
  • Homicide up in S.F.
  • North Beach fire leaves 48 homeless in S.F.
  • 7-member family, 2-bedroom apt.
The stories of our faith stand out, give meaning and hope not because they avoid real world challenges like these, all the stories of Christ nativity are told in the midst of difficult, and discouraging political, economic and social realities --- the stories of our faith nurture and stimulate within us, as for generations of believers new possibilities. If we read the stories of our faith closely, not with a fundamentalist, literalist approach (things had to happen this way) but with open, generous, and inquiring eyes we can discover safety, peace and comfort in surprising places, wise strangers are bringing us important gifts, and within us there is an eager, rebellious, creative character full of questions for history and the status quo.

Perhaps with a bit more awareness, attentiveness to the bad news around us, and an equal focus on the stories of our faith we may discover what good news might be taking shape within us, and around our little faith community. Too often people of faith look like those funny images of ostriches with their heads in the sand, or the fundamentalist, reactionary religionists are putting on a history play in costumes of scared villagers with pitch forks and torches ready to burn the unbeliever or supposed sinner. In this new year of 2011 we don’t know what the story of St. Cyprian’s will be, but my hunch is, if we strive together to be present to our local context, to the people and circumstances around us, doing our best to listen closely not just to familiar voices but those of strangers as well, if we are equally attentive to the stories of our faith from scripture and history we will find that in midst of all kinds of calamities and challenges new hope, new possibilities, good news will take shape in us and around us.

Last week, I went to visit one of our long time members at Laguna Honda hospital --- now I don’t know if you’ve ever been to Laguna Honda, but when I first visited there a few years ago within a few months of first moving to San Francisco I was very discouraged and depressed by the dilapidated building, you could tell by looking around that at one point it was probably state of the art, but that would have been in the 1930s at the latest. When I went back last month, I didn’t notice the building so much, because I could see signs that the new building was on the horizon at near completion, I did notice the people more, and the care that seemed to be going on all over the place. My mind and heart shifted a bit from being appalled by the conditions, to being moved by the compassion --- and then this last week entering that new hospital, something shifted again --- the place is amazingly beautiful, state of the art, clean --- the people seemed as though they were still getting used to the place, figuring out how to use the new equipment, how to get around. But I was encouraged also to recognize that even in the finest of facilities, people can feel lost, ignored, unloved and uncared for ---

The good news must be grounded in reality, in order for us to really know hope, joy, and the blessings of Christ’s presence we need to be present to the conditions of our own lives, we don’t want to be like ostriches with our heads in the sand, or lost in some reactionary historic drama. We can be a community who bring light, life and hope to others by taking time to notice what’s happening around us, listening to the stories of our faith, and imagining new possibilities for ourselves and others.

So what will 2011 bring for St. Cyprian’s? Let’s strive to be a people who are honest with one another about the conditions of our lives both personally and together, lets notice and pay attention to the circumstances, challenges, hopes and dreams of ourselves and others beyond our walls and let’s spend time being nurtured by the stories of our faith.

As the great theologian Howard Thurman proclaimed,

When the song of the angels is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flock,
The work of Christmas begins:

To find the lost,
To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry,
To release the prisoner,
To rebuild the nations,
To bring peace among brothers,
To make music in the heart.

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