Monday, September 22, 2014

Can I Get a Witness!?

Was able to spend a nice long day (3 services) with the kind folks at All Saints Episcopal church in Carmel California.  Here are a few photos and a video and written copy of my homily.  Love

Oh God,
Hear us,
Speak through us,
And make yourself known to all peoples

Give thanks to the LORD and call upon his Name; *
make known his deeds among the peoples.
Sing to him, sing praises to him, *
and speak of all his marvelous works.
Glory in his holy Name; *
let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice.
Search for the LORD and his strength; *
continually seek his face.

I really could reread these verses two more time and call it a day, because really what more is there to say?  That is the core of it all.  But, you know, im up here, you guys are sitting there, so I will say a bit more.

I want to use these verses to talk about how we are all called, I want to also talk about how im called. We are all called to witness. What is a witness? Is it like witnessing a crime? You just have to be present to see it? Yes and No. The first two verses in our reading from psalm give us the perfect definition.  Give thanks to the Lord and call upon Gods name, make known Gods deeds among the peoples… Make known Gods deeds among the people. 

I’m a missionary, point plank. I say that boldly and unafraid of judgment, because I know what most of you know. Missionaries have a colonial history, hey, they still have colonial practices to this day. The show me the problem and I can fix it mentality. Let me quickly tell you why I find trouble in approaching all mission work like that.  Firstly, Im not that handy, so I cant fix a bunch of stuff. Secondly, I believe that missionaries are not always called do but are always called to be witnesses, just like everyone else.  And the role of a missionary is a bridge builder, a window opener.  I stand here in All saints Episcopal church and am able to tell you stories of how I worked in an elementary school, and lived in a monastery in a little place in the eastern part of South Africa called Grahamstown. 

I can tell you of the beautiful and intelligent children I worked with.  Or the strong and compassionate adults that I met.  What is the job of a witness? To make known Gods deeds among the peoples, all people. Ive seen the face of God, I am seeing here the face of God.  Because the same way that I am able to bring you stories from South Africa, I was able to take your stories over there.  I was able to tell my South African friends about the people who live in carmel, in Monterey, Salinas in California.  My friends, my family. 

An effective witness is able to build these connections with people across communities.  It doesn’t have to be between communities on opposite sides of the world.

 I can tell you stories of homeless peoples who set up a tent village in Chinatown in Salinas.  Or multimillionaires who go to the country club to play golf on a Saturday afternoon at Pebble Beach. But my point is an effective witness is a person who can go any, and everywhere and no matter where, make known gods deeds among the people.  An effective witness can come home and tell what god is up to over there, or over here, or down there.  An effective witness is someone who at all times and in all places can find the divine and witness to that glory. 

So I hope that after the service you will allow me to tell you some stories from my last year in South Africa. Im going back there in three weeks so the stories don’t have to stop. Come Listen to my witness, and share with me yours. 


Sunday, September 14, 2014

Talking About Forgiveness in Saint James

Today I was able to go back to a church that Ive called my home for the last few years.  Was wonderful! Well here are a couple of photos, a video recording of the sermon and my notes.  I hope you enjoy,  Take care !!!

Ever loving God,
Show us the way,
Show us your power to do
the unimaginable
bring us into the space
of Eternal love and forgiveness 

Good morning, it is a joy and a privilege to be here with you, back in Monterey and in St. James, this is a place I call home, and it is absolutely wonderful, to be back with you after so long.

I would like to open up with the alternative old test reading.  This reading comes out of Genesis, genesis 50: 15-21.   

I would like to touch on some questions today, what does it mean to forgive, where does that power come from, and where can it take us? 

So as some of you might know I am just getting back from working in South Africa.  More specifically A small town in eastern part of the country called Grahamstown where I was working in a school at a monastery.  Grahamstown is really like most small towns in the states, it reminds me a bit of Hollister and Gonzales all wrapped up in one.  Big farming communities, small schools with lots of students,  large school with small amounts students, depending on what side of the economic spectrum you and your family fall on. 

South Africa really has the same dichotomies as the US, Rich and poor, black and white, have and have not, big city and small town.  Right and wrong, wait did I just say right and wrong.  Lets pause here for a moment and talk about this dichotomy of right and wrong. 

Throughout todays old test. readings we hear a story about the Israelites, who were being delivered, by the hand of God, out of Egypt, and away from Egyptians.  Now, I bet you if you asked the Egyptians, they woulda said they was right, holding the Israelites captive in Egypt.
 Check this out, now two things were happening in the story, one the isrealites realized whose side, God was on.  I don’t know about yall , but my god, is a just God, and what does the bible tell us in romans chapter 8? If god is for us, then who can be against us!? The Israelites believed this.  They knew that their freedom was imminent, and that God supported their cause so they raced, towards the red sea. 

Now the second thing that was happening, as everyone was racing towards the red sea.  You member how we just said that if god is for us than who can be against us? Well, the Egyptians realized this too, they might have realized just a little too late.  By the time they caught on, they were standing on dry land, in the middle of the red sea surrounded by water, uh oh.

But my point is how do we move from being right to wrong, or from being wrong to being right?  That is, Without winding up in the middle of the red sea.

  Well lets continue through our readings today.  As weve read, our alternative old testament reading is out of genesis, and is about forgiveness.  A space, where, we have no control over, a space where, we just bring our baggage and our burdens and we hope to have them healed.   
The story out of genesis talks about the aftermath of Jacobs death in Egypt, the origins of the whole exodus story and Joseph, who was Jacobs son and joesphs brothers. 

Joshephs brothers who were told by their father, upon his death, to approach Josheph, and to beg forgiveness for their past crimes against him.  Now Joeseph, he could have scoffed at his brothers and said uh you member that one time when, but he didn’t do that.  He said Even though you intended to do harm to me, God, intended it for good. 

So again I ask the question, how do we move from being right to being wrong or from being wrong to being right.  And joseph teaches us, that persecution, it doesn’t last.  Even though his brother intended to do him harm, God used it for good.  God used it, to empower joseph, and to put him in a position of power.  From which joseph, was then able to glorified god.

Joeseph, shows us how God works, through the space of forgiveness.  Joeseph opened up a lot of space, for the holy spirit, to come in, and to help people forgive, and to bring he and his brothers back under one accord, which is really where we hope forgiveness leads us to, into the land of reconciliation. 

But what did it take?  It took humility. joespehs brothers came to him begging for forgiveness, saying we come to you as your slaves, as people who are not deserving of forgiveness.  It also took humility for josheph not to lash out, smack them upside the head when they weren’t looking, forget yall. No he showed humility, and took them in and not only did he take his brothers in, he said and I will provide for your children.

We all have a long way to go to understand forgiveness.  and when I say long , I! mean! A! long! Way to go!

 This upcoming year starting in October, I will be back in South Africa, in Capetown, big city, working with the institute for the healing of memories. This is an institute built around trying to understand forgiveness and healing and reconciliation, which, is the processes we all go through.

  South Africa, like the Us, has a long history of issues around race. Violence and persecution, hatred and just a lack of care for our fellow humans.  We have a long way to go, world wide to get a handle on this forgiveness thing.  How do we go about forgiving and healing and reconciling when we all have painful memories.  How do we bring the story of Joseph and his brothers to life? Where do we even begin? 

I think we can start like joesphs brothers did, they listened, to a person who was more wise than they, in their case it was their father, in my case and I think in most of our cases, we find that supreme wisdom comes from the women that govern our lives. My mother comes to my mind. 

But They listened, and payed attention to the story that they had been writing with their actions, and they acknowledged the fluidity, of what it means to be right and wrong.  That they thought they were right, until they were shown, to be doing wrong.  And then they didn’t hold onto their wrongness, they stepped, into the space of forgiveness, and allowed the holy spirit to wash them clean, and to reconcile their relationship with their brother.  

The institute focuses on story telling which works hand in glove with listening, working towards forgiveness and reconciliation.  All peoples, at one time or another have had difficulties being heard,  when youre not heard, youre not payed attentioned to, you feel marginalized.

  sharing stories on open ears, and if you, like me, have ever experienced that sharing first hand. And that sacred space for forgiveness flung wide open, then you, like me, know the restorative power that the simple act of sharing  and listening has.  And that is what I hope, not only as a missionary, but as a person and a witness to Gods forgiveness, to get in contact with. Its what Joseph and his brothers did. Shared and talked with one another.   And through that, they were healed.

Forgiveness, its the first, second, and the third step to reconciliation.  Reconciliation, bringing things back together under one accord.  Our gospel reading today out of Mathew illustrates this repetition beautifully.  

Peter comes to Jesus and asks him, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? I feel like Peter is saying, jesus, I know it’s the right thing for me to do, to forgive, but hey, Ive got a limit.  Im only going to forgive 1,2,3…seven times, and that’s it.  But Jesus goes mmm, Peter don’t put a limit on your forgiveness, ha forgive seven times, forgive seventy seven times.  Don’t stop forgiving, don’t stop forgiving, take that forgivness we all have been given by the grace of god and pass it on continually.

Jesus tells peter a story, about a slave and his master.  The slave couldn’t afford to pay the master back.  Something like 10 thousand talents, Im not sure what the exchange rate between talents and dollars is, but its way more than what he had. So the master forgave his servant of his debt completely, I wish someone would forgive my student loans like that, But what did the servent do?  He took that forgivness, and He went and searched out someone who owed him, 100 denari  and jesus said the servant went and grabbed him by the throat, straight up put him in a choke hold trying to get his money back. 

The master found out about this, this shakedown and was like the nerve of this guy, I just forgave his entire debt and then he goes and beats someone up trying his money back. So the master took his servant and through him in jail where he was tortured until he could pay off his debt. 

And jesus says, so my heavenly father will do to every one of you, if you don’t forgive your brother and sister from your heart. 

So we started our time here together asking the questions what does it mean to forgive, where does that power come from, and where can it take us. 

We acknowledge the fluidity of wrong and right.  What once was wrong may now be right, and what once was right may now be wrong.  We know that this flux or this change happens in the space of forgiveness.  And we are only able to forgive, because we all have been forgiven.  And that forgiveness will take us into a space of reconciliation. 

If we make the sign of the cross and think about reconciliation.  First we move up and down, reconciling ourselves with God and then we move from side to side, reconciling ourselves with each other.  First, reconcile with God, and then use that spirit that God gives us, to reconcile with everyone else. 


Sunday, September 7, 2014

Telling Stories at St Judes the Apostles, Cupertino Ca

Today I had the lovely privilege to be able to preach at Saint Jude's in Cupertino Ca.  Gorgeous day, Gorgeous people! Well here are a few pictures and a video of my sermon and then the written copy of it.  Happy Sunday!

Story Telling 

Creator God,
We thank you life,
And for happiness,
And compassion,
We acknowledge you as the author of all of our stories
And we give you praise.

Good morning, today I would like to talk about stories.  Telling stories, receiving stories, what role do stories play in your life.  My name is Maurice Dyer I am a missionary of this diocese, Ive just finished up my first year working in South Africa, apart of the Episcopal church’s missionary program, the young adult service corp.

I was in a small town in the eastern cape of the country called Grahamstown.  This is a very small town of stark contrasts, when standing in the town center, you could be in any small town, anywhere in the Us.  There’s a grocery store, city hall, police officers giving out parking tickets.
Ive gotten one, and let me tell you, paying off a ticket runs a whole lot smoother over there than it does here.  In and out of the traffic department in 5 minutes, still had to pay an arm and a leg though, but I think that part of getting a ticket is universal. 
Back to the stark contrasts of living in Grahamstown, standing in the city center, which is in a bowl with surrounding hills, look to your immediate left and right, and you would see private schools where kids wear very nice suit and tie uniforms or if you look the other way you see one of the best colleges in the country, Rhodes University. But if you take a step back and look up towards those hillsides, you see hundreds and hundreds of brightly colored dwelling places.  If you look up that way you look up into what is called the township, the part of town where the majority of people live.  Its not where you’ll see the money, or where you will  see opportunity or access.

But you will see thousands and thousands of people who are trying to get by.  Trying to feed themselves, trying to feed their families.  It’s a tough life up there, not one that I think many of us could flourish in.  its not a life that many people who live there can flourish in. 
But people do, I know them, Im friends with them.  But for an overwhelming majority of folks who live there, life is very simple.  They aren’t worried about luxuries or distractions.  They are focused on needs.  Needs verses wants.  A battle I’m sure most of us have had to deal with, at some point in our lives, to one degree or another. 

While I was living in Grahamstown, I stayed at a monastery.  Talk about living a simplistic life. I found that there.  It’s a different kind of life than what I was talking about earlier.  But living a simple life based around praise and worship.  5 times a day, starting at 6am you can hear chapel bells. 
Summoning you.  You walk in, and you sit down, and you’re there in that moment, im not worried about whats happening on facebook or checking my phone or day dreaming about what tasks I need to accomplish in the rest of my day. In that moment you are, I am, where I am. 
The majority of the services done at the monastery are in song.  Did you know that choirs originate out of monastic communities?  From there it pervaded into the rest of the church body, that’s why, early choral music, and a lot of choral music today is religiously inspired.
 But while we are in the chapel we stand in community with each other, singing in one unified voice.  Let me tell you there is nothing more beautiful than hearing the Lord’s Prayer sung in harmony. No matter what issues I’m going through, when I am singing that Lord’s Prayer in harmony, all is well.
  Now, I had my voice part; I liked to take the high parts, cuz I like to sing in falsetto, hit everybody with those beyonce notes. 

And after chapel where I spent the majority of my days, like most of us, is at my job,  I worked at the holy cross school.  This is the school that was started by the brother monks, and is located on the same property as the monastery.
 It’s a small school, kindergarten through 3rd grade, with about 14 kids in each class. The school in its current capacity has been around for the last 4 years. 
Being that it is a small, and a new school, the teachers and the staff are very involved with the kids, their lives, and in there physical and mental growth. 

My role in the school was a jack-of-all-trades, anything from being the permanent substitute teacher to the librarian.  I often joke with the schools principle Kary, that my resume after having that job would be stacked, because Ive got experience working with kids, running an office and because we managed our own modest budget, I now have experience in high, finance.  

But the real story is the kids.  These kids are phenomenal.  Never in my life have I met such strong souls.  Most of the children come from surrounding farms.  Farms that are really run like plantations.  With a white land owner and all the other people of color having very little in the way of ownership over their homes and the spaces that they use. 
So the school serves these workers children in the hope to break the cycle of no education, which leads to no agency and really no future beyond the farm. 
But man, these kids, they, have really, seen, some stuff.  In a classroom of 14, seven of them are girls and 5 out of that seven, have experience violent, sexual trauma coming from abuse from an adult living in their community.  And none of the kids are even over 10 years old.  
 I say that at the school we invest in the children. Our time and our love, but we also invest a lot of money into each of them. Taking them to the doctor to get a shot or a check up, or to the dentist to get a cavity filled in.  Or investing to get some of these kids the proper psychological help that they really need, at this crucial time, in their early childhood.  
And granted, not all the children will make it to high school or to college, but our school, is a foundation phase school, and we believe that when the children leave the holy cross school, they will be able to count and have a strong foundation in reading and writing not only in English, but more importantly in their home language Xhosa. 
Xhosa It’s a beautiful language, ill share with you a tongue twister that I learned from the kids.  Its about a skunk who travels through green grasses and gets its throat cut. Kinda morbid but 5 and 6 year olds taught it to me so listen, Iqaqa lizi qiqa qiqa.  It really is a powerful language.
Anyway, We are talking about stories, and South Africa like most other places in the world has issues around story telling.  Who can and can’t tell them, whose stories we will listen to and affirm and validate.
  I know we all, have experiences, when talking with people, where we find that one person, who likes to over talk us and wont let us get out a word, or finish a thought.  And we know how that makes us feel, frustrated, not listened to, not important.

Imagine that feeling ten fold. Where its not just you as a individual who feel invalidated but as a people, as a cultural or ethnic group, when your collective narrative as a people is ignored and marginalized. Story telling right, that’s, what we are talking about!
 Well south Africa like the US. Has issues around race.  We lack the language to express ourselves when race comes up; we lack overall the capacity to understand different experiences from our collective own, because people, are afraid of other people.  Some times with good reason, sometimes needlessly.  And because we all lack the ability to share our stories with one another we will remain this way. 
In todays gospel reading it says just like every Sunday, love our neighbor as ourselves, because love is fulfilling the law. What’s some major ways you can show someone that you love them? Taking the time, to listen to them, taking the time, to speak with them, just taking the time. 

I will only be in the states until the beginning of October when ill go back to south Africa for my second year as a missionary.  I am going to take up a new post with the Institutte for the healing of memories. This is an institute based around healing and reconciliation of the past and the present. 
I will be doing work with their youth programs, the aim of these programs are to educate, young folks, about the past.  Having the understanding, that in order, for young people, or anyone for that matter, to be able to respond sensitively, and relevantly to the impact, of past suffering, they must be knowledgeable about the history of segregation and oppression.  

There are also workshops that I will be involved with for the general public, adults, that are centered around what we’ve talked about here today, story telling, and using the power of stories, to open up spaces, for us to develop the language that is needed for authentic healing. 
There is a saying that I learned in South Africa, As long as the lion doesn’t have a story teller, the story of the hunter will always glorify the hunter. .. What being a missionary is about, What the institute represents is telling stories of the lion and being a platfor to hear and share stories.  Because the more we hear stories that are different from our own, we start to see a fuller image of all that god is in all of god’s creativity and diversity and love and compassion.
This, is very worthy work that is being done, and as we talked about earlier we show love through presence and time and a sharing of our resources. 
We are not all called, to do the same thing, and to be frank, we cant all just do one thing.  We have to support each other using the gifts that god has blessed us with.  God is blessing me with time, and youthful energy and a passion for this work. Ahh Im just on fire.  God may have placed in your heart a passion for this work but not the time or the ability to travel to do it. However, God may have provided you with the means to support this ministry financially.  I have to raise $8,000 to support me while I am back in SA.
My monthly stipend to support my self, my medical care, my plane ticket is where the initial monies will go to.  I pray that something I said really sticks with you and ignites a flame, not only in your heart, but, under your booty. The time is now, support work that will make a difference. 

As I conclude I would like to leave you with a saying, from the late great Nelson Mandela. For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.