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A sermon preached by CDSP student Mia Benjamin in All Saints Chapel on January 30:

In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

“But Jesus refused, and said to him, 'Go home to your friends, and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and what mercy he has shown you.'”

I was going to preach a very different sermon today. Right up until last Friday, that is. That's when I learned that President Trump signed an Executive Order suspending the entry of refugees and immigrants into the United States. His order affects the citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries, and it's still unclear whether that applies green card and visa holders. Perhaps you, like me, have spent this past weekend praying for friends abroad who are now suddenly unable to return home. American doctors, professors, students, and business owners facing exile from the homeland they have served and built and taught and healed.

I often wish, and perhaps you do as well, that following Jesus always means going off on a grand adventure and slaying the huge dragons of racism and poverty and all those big, sexy national issues that everyone is talking about. And the thing is sometimes it does. Sometimes following Jesus does mean leaving behind family, friends, and careers to move across the country. Sometimes it means getting arrested at Standing Rock, or shutting down an airport terminal, or even breaking the law. But then there are these other times Jesus refuses us. Times when Jesus asks us to start small and slow, right where we are. With ourselves, with our friends, with our neighbors.

The story we read today from Mark's Gospel is about Jesus casting demons out of a suffering man. It ends with the people of his city deciding to respond with fear. After hearing what Jesus had done, and how much one man's liberation had cost them as a community, the people beg Jesus to leave their town. And as he's getting into his boat, the healed man begs to go with Jesus. But Jesus refuses. The man asks if he can follow Jesus, and Jesus says "no, go home."

This past January intercession, several of us took a course in broad-based community organizing. As I sat through class, literally sitting there knitting hats for the big national, million-person Women's March that weekend, our instructors taught us the incredible power of starting small and slow and local. The basic building blocks of community organizing, we learned, were not taking huge, dramatic, uncompromising stands about our principles, but rather the humble steps of sharing of stories, first one-on-one and then in small groups. Through those stories, we learn what our neighbors really care about, the winnable issues they have the energy to change. In other words, we learn to look for where the Holy Spirit is already agitating folks to transform their community, and we join in with them.

So what happens when big, national stuff hurts our friends and makes us angry? I struggled a lot this weekend, this whole past week really, with not knowing what actions to take. Whom do I call? What petitions do I sign? Where's the march happening? Where can I find Jesus leading a faithful band and climb aboard? Where's the boat, I'll jump right in.

But Jesus refused, and said to me, "Go home to your friends, and tell them how much the Lord has done for you."

So here's the good news. I do have a story to tell. Many, actually. All about the ways that God has worked through Muslims and citizens of Muslim-majority countries to transform and liberate me. All about Iranian professors who taught me to write academic theses and how to make rice with saffron and potatoes. Jordanian Muslim women who taught me how to look patriarchal religious clerics in the eye and hold them to the woman-affirming words of their holy book. A young Egyptian man with a rubber bullet shard in his forehead who taught me what it really means to demand democracy. Palestinian Muslim neighbors who taught me how to love the bend my body makes when I worship God and all about the holy scent of miramiya tea.

You probably have stories, too. Stories of what God has done for you through the work of human hands. Hands that carry the wrong sort of national identification cards, or lips that use the wrong name for God. Maybe you have stories of the ways people, the ones we're told to fear, Muslims, immigrants, and foreigners, have calmed your demons and been your neighbor. Tell those stories. To your friends, to your neighbors, to the world.

Because here's the other good news in this passage. Like many of the other people Jesus heals in the Gospel of Mark, this man doesn't listen to Jesus, not really. He doesn't get in the boat with Jesus, but he also isn't satisfied with just telling his friends. This Jesus-follower travels all around the Decapolis, the region of the ten cities, proclaiming all that God has done for him. The good news, then, is that Jesus knows us better than we know ourselves. That his refusal may not be a rejection at all, but a calling to the larger gifts of the spirit we never knew we had.

There are many people in this world who are afraid of the power of outcasts with second chances. There are many who have been taught only to look to what bringing a madman in from a place of death might cost us. What does Jesus ask you to do for them? What does he refuse you to do?

My answer came to me from my college professor's daughter, and the words she asked her father to share on social media:

“Salam, Hello. I am eleven years old. I am living for a year in Iran. Me and my family were hoping that this new law would not apply to green-card holders. I was shocked when I first heard of this law. I have lived for 9 years in the U.S.A. Does that make me different from the people who are around me and are citizens? I consider myself just as American. Does it make a difference if I am Muslim? Is that wrong? I have lived and talked and laughed with the people who have supported this law. I cannot believe that they would do this to me. So I ask you to reach out. Reach out to the people and tell them our stories...I ask you all to do something about it, to help these people who have done no wrong to come home. It is not the time to stand at the sidelines and watch other people to do our work for us. And I hope with all my heart that the people that are stuck with nowhere to go, will soon find their way home.” Amen.

Mia Benjamin '19 is an MDiv student from the Diocese of Massachusetts.

Earlier this month, the CDSP Community Leadership Team passed a resolution calling on the entire CDSP community to stand in solidarity with "water protectors from the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and their allies, who are defending sacred lands against the construction of the DAPL [Dakota Access Pipeline]." Read the entire resolution.

Phil Hooper, a first-year MDiv student who organized the effort, writes, "Our response was a natural outgrowth of CDSP's commitment to the issues of creation care and social justice. I was inspired by the Episcopal Church's decision to publicly stand with Standing Rock, and there was clearly a desire among the CDSP community to affirm that position. Our formation as seminarians needs to translate into a public witness of faith, and this was a time to speak out."

Alison Fisher, also a first-year MDiv student, compiled a list of national and local public officials and employees of Energy Transfer Partners, LP, the company that owns the Dakota Access Pipeline. At a community Eucharist, CDSP students and community members pledged to advocate on behalf of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe by contacting legislators and stakeholders. 

"The CDSP community is committed to caring for the earth and its inhabitants," says Fischer. "Our priority was to honor Standing Rock with effective protest and we felt that documented communication to government officials would be productive."

The Celtic Cross Mission Society, a student group that coordinates grants for outreach, made a $1,000 donation to the Diocese of North Dakota to assist with its work to oppose the pipeline.

On October 22, more than a hundred people gathered at CDSP for a day of theological reflection, worship and exploration of the church's response to climate change:

The Rt. Rev. Dr. Katharine Jefferts Schori, the current St. Margaret’s Visiting Professor of Women in Ministry, gave an address titled "Creation and the Effective Word: Holy Storytelling, Creation, and God’s Mission." Read her address.

Professor Cynthia Moe-Loebeda gave an address titled "Truth-telling, Inequity, and Christian Action." Read her address.

The day culminated with a liturgy to bless CDSP’s new installation of solar panels led by Bishop Jefferts Schori and Bishop Marc Andrus of California. The panels, installed on Easton, Parsons, and Shires Halls earlier in 2016, make up the largest solar installation of any theological seminary in the United States.

Watch videos of the event:

The Lawrence Kristin Mikkelsen Preaching Scholarship at CDSP, established by St. John’s Episcopal Church, Aptos, California, is awarded to a CDSP student who has demonstrated outstanding promise as a preacher and a commitment to social justice and human dignity. The 2016 recipient of the scholarship is Aaron Klinefelter '18, who preached this sermon at St. John's on October 23: 

Holy Spirit, come. Calm our tempest and trouble our waters. Give us eyes to see and ears to hear. Amen.

Once upon a time, there was a woman who came to visit a new church. She was wearing a bold red hat with the words “Make America Great Again” emblazoned across the front. She came up for Eucharist and weeping she took the bread and wine giving thanks and praise for God’s deep and abiding love and forgiveness.

Standing in the back of the nave, sipping on their fair trade coffee in environmentally sustainable recycled, compostable paper cups, several church leaders gathered to whisper gossip about this unexpected visitor. “What was she doing here?” “How could she be supporting him?!” “It’s just deplorable!”

Once upon a time, there was a young man who came to a new church. He was wearing a Black Lives Matter t-shirt. During the Prayers of the People he tearfully called out a lament for the young, unarmed black men who have been shot this last year.

During coffee hour, several seasoned vestry members were discussing his “political statement” and whether or not the church should be supporting this kind of behavior. “We welcome everybody, shouldn’t we just be saying, All Lives Matter?” “He should keep his politics private and not try to indoctrinate others, church is about feeling God’s love.”

One of these scenarios, or both, might make you uncomfortable. The nice thing about being a guest preacher is you get to say outlandish things and then leave. But in all honesty, these little vignettes make me uncomfortable too.

The 2016 Alumni Convocation on October 13 will include a forum from 3-4:30 pm with the Rev. Canon Rosa Lee Harden ‘99, one of the founders of SOCAP, which Harden describes as “a network of heart-centered investors, entrepreneurs, and social impact leaders who believe in an inclusive and socially responsible economy to address the world’s toughest challenges.”

SOCAP holds an annual conference in San Francisco that draws about 2500 attendees for presentations, conversations, and entrepreneurial pitches. The community that gathers each year for the event, says Harden, “is dedicated to accelerating a new market at the intersection of money and meaning.”

At CDSP, Harden, who is also canon for money and meaning at All Souls Cathedral in Asheville, North Carolina, will be joined by both her husband and SOCACP co-founder, Kevin Jones, and their colleague, Tim Soerens. The trio will lead a conversation about how Christian leaders and congregations can help build thriving neighborhoods and become financial anchors for communities in need by paying attention to what they do with all of their assets, including money. “If you come to this symposium,” says Harden, “be prepared to consider what it might look like if you, and your congregation, used all of your assets to love your neighbor as you love yourself.”

After the forum, Alumni Convocation attendees are invited to a reception before Convocation Eucharist at 5:45 pm. Former Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori ’94, ’01 will preach at the service, and CDSP President and Dean W. Mark Richardson will preside. Harden, the Rev. Rodney Davis ’09, and the Rev. Canon Caryl Marsh ’77 will receive honorary degrees. Davis is a retired associate justice on the California Court of Appeal and Marsh is a former member of CDSP’s board and the retired rector of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Salt Lake City.

Register now for Alumni Convocation 2016. Questions can be directed to the Rev. Laurel Johnston ’06, director of alumni affairs and major gifts officer, at 510-204-0740 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Dean Richardson preached this sermon at the funeral of Bob Rybicki, CDSP's director of operations and personnel management, on September 10, 2016 at Grace Cathedral, San Francisco.

We come together today in memory of the Rev. Bob Rybicki, priest of the church. We are here as Bob’s friends to support especially his husband Lee Ng. And we gather here in this place, in the context of the faith of the church, as a people of hope in God’s future, trusting that God is transforming and drawing all things into God’s own presence more fully and deeply.

Our scriptures readings today are about hope in God’s future. And about hope, the writers of Sacred scripture, including St. Paul in today’s reading, provide us only with picture language, words that depict and point but never define the mode in which God’s promise is fulfilled, as if to say that what we trust in is not our highest imagination about what is possible but God’s transformation of all things. 

So I begin this morning with the picture language of Paul. Bob was an urban creature through and through, whether in the streets of Chicago or the streets of the Bay area, but let your thoughts turn for a moment to Paul’s agrarian image of ‘sowing’. Essentially Paul is saying, one’s life now is like a seed, given away, placed in the soil.  Sown in our weakness and finitude, sown in the complex soil of a city and its struggles and all the struggles of history. The words of Paul are an echo of Jesus’ own words to his friends:  except a grain fall to the earth it abides by itself alone, and it does not bear much fruit. When it dies it bears much fruit.

It is as if, spiritually, our lives are to be in a continuous posture of being given away, sown into the soil of life surrounding us.  I want later to think of this in terms of God’s future in which we place our trust, but first in terms of what God is doing through our lives now, the present effects of our lives thrown into the soil of our own time and place. Bob planted his life into many places as if to give himself away in the service of life itself:  into his marriage with Lee, his friendships (he loved his friends—Barbara Kimport, you come to mind when I think of the reciprocity of this friendship), and into a professional life dedicated to God’s mission in the world. The planting of himself that I knew began barely two years ago in the fall of 2014. And what I witnessed over two years many of you have known for much longer.

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Video of the day's events

Join us at CDSP for a day of theological reflection, discussion and worship as we explore the church’s response to the crisis of climate change. Speakers will include former Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, who is the current St. Margaret’s Visiting Professor of Women in Ministry; Bishop Marc Andrus of California, CDSP President and Dean W. Mark Richardson, and Professor Cynthia Moe-Lobeda, professor of theological and social ethics at CDSP and Pacific Lutheran Seminary of California Lutheran University.

Jefferts Schori will deliver the keynote address, titled “Creation and the Effective Word:  Holy Storytelling, Creation, and God’s Mission,” and Moe-Lobeda will give an address titled “Truthtelling, Inequity, and Christian Action.”

The day will culminate with a liturgy to bless CDSP’s new installation of solar panels led by Bishops Jefferts Schori and Andrus. The panels, installed on Easton, Parsons, and Shires Halls earlier in 2016, make up the largest solar installation of any theological seminary in the United States.

“This Fragile Earth” is designed for both laypeople and clergy who are active in environmental ministry and want to explore new opportunities for reflection and Christian action on behalf of our planet.

Registration is $35, which includes lunch. Register online now.

Schedule for This Fragile Earth:

10 am:  Welcome from Dean Richardson

10:10 am:  Opening Devotion with Bishop Andrus and Bishop Jefferts Schori

10:30 am:  Keynote Address from Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori:  “Creation and the Effective Word:  Holy Storytelling, Creation, and God's Mission”

11 am:  Q&A  

11:30 am:  Address from Professor Cynthia Moe-Lobeda:  “Truthtelling, Inequity, and Christian Action”

Noon:  Q&A   

12:30 pm:  Lunch

1 pm: Panel: Action and Advocacy with Bishop Marc Andrus; Lewis Maldondo, lay Christian activist, All Souls Berkeley; and Mark Carlson, director of the Lutheran Office of Public Policy for California. Dean Richardson moderating.

2 pm:  Final responses

2:30-3:30 pm:  Blessing of the Solar Panels, led by Bishops Jefferts Schori and Andrus