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  • Writer's pictureFr. Daniel S.J. Scheid SCP

What is Father Dan Thinking? 1-21-24

This is the manuscript of my sermon last Sunday,

regarding All Saints’ Meal Ministry.

 

Fr. Daniel S.J. Scheid, SCP

2 Epiphany, Year B – January 14, 2024

All Saints’ Episcopal Church, San Francisco

“No one is dying of hunger on Haight Street”

 

The word of the Lord was rare in those days; visions were not widespread. Then the Lord called, “All Saints’! All Saints’!”

 

And All Saints’ said “Here I am!” and ran to Father Dan and said, “Here I am, for you called me.”

 

“I did not call,” said Father Dan; “lie down again.”

 

It happened a second time, and then a third, and finally Father Dan, who was still learning their culture, perceived that the Lord was calling the congregation.

 

“If he calls you again,” said Father Dan, “you shall say, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.’”

 

Now the Lord came and stood there, calling as before, “All Saints’! All Saints’!”

 

+++++++

 

No one is dying of hunger on Haight Street.

 

Not today; not during the Covid shutdown when we closed our parish meal ministry; not during the decades in the first half of All Saints’ history, before our parish meal ministry opened; and not in the foreseeable future.

 

No one on Haight Street is holding out an empty bowl amid a throng of starving people, jostling one another in the hopes of a ladleful of thin gruel for himself and for his hollow-eyed child.

 

There are plenty of calories to go around on Haight Street. No one is dying of hunger.

 

+++++++

 

No one was dying of thirst at the wedding in Cana of Galilee.

 

Sure, the wine had run out, but there was one-hundred-fifty gallons of water there for the drinking.

 

What did Mary of Nazareth, the mother of Jesus care?

 

“Let them drink water!” she might have said, like an infamous namesake on her way to the guillotine, some seventeen-centuries later.

 

There was plenty of liquid to go around in Cana. No one was dying of thirst.

 

But, you see, Mary of Nazareth knew something.

 

Mary knew that a wedding calls for something more, something beyond a drink that merely mollifies a dry and thirsty throat.

 

A wedding is a celebration centered on love. It’s a ritual that brings people together for the shared purpose of witnessing love.

 

A wedding is a feast.

 

A wedding is a party.

 

And for us Episcopalians in the Anglo-Catholic tradition, a wedding, like the Eucharist, is a sacrament, a sure and certain sign that, when we ask, God answers the invitation; God shows up.

 

Since God is the God of abundance, and not the God of mere-ness, then of course they needed more wine in Cana.

 

Plain old water just wouldn’t do. Mary knew this.

 

Neither would a second round of the same common wine that the wedding guests got drunk on in the first place. Mary knew this, too.

 

Mary knew that when Jesus gets involved, the wine will be good.

 

God showed up in Cana.

 

Jesus, the Son of God and son of Mary, revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.

 

+++++++

 

All Saints’ meal ministry, the Saturday morning brunch served in our parish hall for fifty years, fed hungry people.

 

Haight Ashbury Community Services, HACS, the non-profit arm of All Saints’, made up of members of our congregation and of community volunteers, provided welcome calories for people who wanted a hot, fresh, carefully-prepared meal, week after week, for half a century.

 

And, I’m told, our meal ministry was so much more than common calories.

 

As so often happens when people gather for the shared purpose of sharing a meal, a community was built.

 

People staying in our parish – (that’s the geographic area, the neighborhoods circling All Saints’, remember) – people who were pensioners or poor, homeless or under-housed, vagabonds or travelers, lonely or lost, finding their feet after one of life’s many stumbles or stumbling still – people found in us a place that was safe, welcoming, and compassionate; a place that alleviated loneliness.

 

The meal ministry volunteers found this in us, too.

 

The meal was important, of course, but even more so, I believe, was the solace-seeking community this weekly meal created on both sides of the serving table.

 

No one was dying of hunger on Haight Street. But many were dying in spirit from the stress and the solitude and the stigma that comes with being poor or lonely or homeless or useless or addicted or mentally-ill or a dirty-kid or a Dead-head, tripping through the Haight on hippie pilgrimage.

 

Over fifty years ago, the Lord called, “All Saints’! All Saints’!”

 

And All Saints’ said to the Lord, “Here I am!”

 

All Saints’ answered. All Saints’ showed up. And because All Saints’ showed up, Jesus showed up, too. The food was abundant, and the wine (metaphorically-speaking) was good.

 

+++++++

 

Alas, this meal ministry and the community it built screeched to a halt, like so many other things, during the Covid-19 shutdown, when not so much as a brown paper bag with a bologna sandwich and banana passed through the bars of our gates.

 

I’ve learned some things since I arrived, nearly three years ago.

 

I learned that our parish kitchen needs some updates to be code-compliant. The good news is that we’ve the plans and the approval. But we still need a bid and a contractor to do the work.

 

I learned that our street parishioners still want a hot, fresh, carefully-prepared meal on the weekend. No one else in our neighborhood feeds folks a hot meal on the weekend. There are plenty of common calories to be had; no one is dying of hunger on Haight Street. But there’s no place to gather for building community around the shared purpose of sharing a meal.

 

I learned that our parishioners who live more predictable, stable lives – our housed neighbors, merchants, and the like – want a place to volunteer. Many have told me something like, “I’m an atheist, but I’d like to serve soup when you open back up.” One benefit of Haight Ashbury Community Services – HACS – is that it can receive donations and help from people who’d rather not support a church.

 

And I learned that our All Saints’ membership, with a few notable exceptions, had little connection with the meal ministry then, and those who have joined us since the shut-down have no connection with our meal ministry at all. It’s a memory for some, and a nice bit of lore for others. Were we to do anything like this, it would be as if we were starting a new parish ministry from scratch: hot, fresh, and carefully-prepared – just like the food we used to serve.

 

And so, one-upping old Eli, the short-sighted priest, I am calling you.

 

I am calling you to restart this weekend meal ministry.

 

I am calling for the formation of a task force to champion and steer the kitchen renovation project.

 

I am calling for the formation of a HACS standing committee, made up of passionate and capable members of this congregation and of the parish community – people who have a stake in what we do – to champion and steer this new weekend meal ministry.

 

I am calling you, once we open, to volunteer regularly; to show up – to become part of the community built around the shared purpose of sharing a meal.

 

And I am calling you not just to stick to the safe side of the serving table, but to let us fill your own plate so you can sit with your neighbors and eat.

 

That’s what we do in the Eucharist, isn’t it? This spiritually-significant act of communing with our neighbors should come as naturally to you in the parish hall as it does in the sanctuary. If not, you’ll grow into it with practice.

 

+++++++

 

God called Samuel, and Eli finally figured it out and told Samuel to listen and respond. Samuel listened and responded, and God was with Samuel throughout his ministry. Samuel became, the scriptures say, a trustworthy prophet of the Lord.

 

I believe God called All Saints’ fifty years ago. All Saints’ listened, and God was with All Saints’ throughout our meal ministry. All Saints’ became a trustworthy place for people to gather.

 

Is God calling All Saints’ right now?

 

I believe God is.

 

Do you hear it?

 

And if you hear, then have faith and remember – it’s not common calories or plain old water when God shows up at the party. When Jesus gets involved, the wine will be good and the loaves and fish will be abundant, and there will be plenty of disciples to prepare and serve, and to clean up afterward.

 

“If he calls you again,” said Father Dan, “you shall say, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.’”

 

Now the Lord comes and stands here, calling as before, “All Saints’! All Saints’!”

 

What say you?

 

+++++++

 

God’s blessings and peace,

 

Dan +

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