Bearing Witness In A Time of Abandonment

May 25, 2017

Bearing Witness In A Time of Abandonment

Today, we celebrate the Ascension of Jesus. In Acts 1:6-10, we read:

So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” He replied, “It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority.But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. While he was going and they were gazing up toward heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. They said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”

The Ascension seems odd in our modern days time, but when we look at it from a mythological point of view we see that Jesus transcends the physical limitations of the world and becomes the transcendent Christ, the River from whom many streams flow. We feel abandoned by his leaving, but in his leaving the opportunity is offered for us to bring others into the community of faith and sharing, and of hope.

Recently I was being taken to the air port and my driver asked me if I was “homeless”, frankly, my first reaction was thinking, “What a dumb fu.. .ck you are.” but than I realized I am homeless.  My home is in Christ, it is in following him on this journey and into Galilee. It is being an evangelist, but not an evangelist that proclaims “believe in Jesus or you go to hell,” but an evangelist who proclaims that that there is one River, with many streams, and that that River calls us to “love God with all of our heart mind, strength and soul, and our neighbor as ourselves.”

The Ascension calls us in that Spirit to live simply, and share our remaining possessions, to feed the hungry, to provide health care, and housing for all. The Ascension calls us to see all creatures, and all of our environment as God’s creation and to honor both. The Ascension calls us to come out of our tribes, and to stand with one another.

We are abandoned as long as we stew in our own juices, but when we come out of ourselves we move into the witness of the love of Christ, and the rainbow of God through other faith expressions to the world.

Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!

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Witness Against the Death Penalty, Friday, September 26, Earl Warren Office Building, 350 McAllister Street, San Francisco, CA 12 Noon.

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+Fr. C. River Damien Sims, sfw, D.Min.

P.O. Box 642656

San Francisco, CA 94164

temenos.org

415-305-2124

In the Thin Places

May 24, 2017

In the Thin Places Is the Eucharist

John  16:12-15

Last week I celebrated the Eucharist and the Sacrament of Healing with an old friend who is severely ill; several days ago  as I was leaving a restaurant an older homeless man approached me for food, and so I took him back to the restaurant and sat with him as he ate, and in those moments of fellowship the Eucharist was celebrated; last night I gave two guys socks and the Eucharist was celebrated.

In all of these instances I am reminded of the thin places in our lives because they make the experience of God’s desire for each one of us, and our desire for God more possible, by capturing our attention and pulling us out of our ordinary routines and concerns.  In these moments I am reminded that ultimately all we have is God, and nothing else matters.

Last Friday night I received my Doctor of Ministry Degree from Knox Theological Seminary, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida–one of the top Evangelical seminaries in the country.

One of its top benefactors was Dr. James Kennedy. When I was a young whore on the streets of Los Angles, kicked out of my denomination, shunned by my old friends for being queer, I read one of his books, wrote him a letter–he responded with so much love, and compassion, and continued to respond through the years from my being on the streets as a whore and than  back to the streets as a priest. In the thin places he showed me love and grace. In the thin places  we celebrated the Eucharist together, for he broke bread with me in my pain.  In these two years at Knox in the thin places I have celebrated the Eucharist. I have broken bread in fellowship and God has come near. Knox Theological Seminary has met me in the thin places.

Today in Texas Juan Castillo and in Alabama Thomas  Arthur are scheduled to be executed. Let us pray for them and break bread with them in our prayers, let us break bread with their victims, and walk in the thin places of forgiveness and mercy.

One of my professors, Dr. Jonothan Linebaugh, tells us that through justification by faith we come to God as forgiven sinners.  We are on the road to salvation, and that when we come to the final judgment our Great Therapist  will gather us together and hash out everything and bring us into fellowship with the One God. As Clement of Alexander tells us “There is one River, but many streams,” in in that one River we will meet.

I have come home in these years, and have found my ministry renewed. Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!

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Friday, 12 Noon: Vigil Against Death Penalty–Earl Warren Office Building, 350 McAllister Street.

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Fr. C. River Damien Sims, sfw, D.Min.

P.O. Box 642656

San Francisco, CA 94164

http://www.temenos.org

415-305-2124

Letting Go! And Letting Christ!

May 12, 2017

LETTING GO! AND LETTING CHRIST!

“Do not let your hearts be troubled, believe in God, believe also in me.” In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. . .John 14:1-10

Today I remember Zach, my kid, who was murdered in 2001 on this date, but in remembering him I remember the thousands of deaths I have mourned through the years, and the thousands of memorial services I have conducted.  Each death I mourned, I grieved, and in each service I shared of the resurrection.  Death is not easy, death is not beautiful, death is horrifying–only in the face of the resurrection we have hope.   When I mention Zach’s death, or the loss of someone else, people say, “I am sorry”, in a low tone of voice.  In other words–let us not  talk about it.
Death is a reality–that is all around us–if our hearts are open as we read the news  they should be breaking at the countless deaths resulting from war and starvation around the world. There are days I struggle with how we as humans are so blood thirsty and selfish, and it is in our  DNA, and than I look at the cross and see the face of Christ. This is the struggle of humanity, and Christ will have the last word. That is the hope that keeps me going.
The Angel of Death moves around me in the night. In my mind I see her, for it is the fears, and the doubts, that confront me about my mortality.  I slept little last night after a long day of listening to young men and women who live in the shadow of death on the street, and I feel my own mortality. I slept little thinking of Zach being stabbed, and dying in an abandoned building, I slept little thinking of the eighty five year old  lady who is being evicted and no where to go. And my buddy the Angel of Death sits down on my bed and we chat.
As the good Angel and I chat, I am letting go, and letting Christ.  More and more, I am simply letting go.
Letting go of my fears of death, my fears of dying alone. I will probably die  a violent death on the streets, or in a hospital, my room, or a hotel –alone.  My ministry is my call from God, and  I chose to enter into that call.  I have entered into that choice with my whole heart. It is a call in which I have chosen singleness,  in order to  “embrace the thousands,” as an old boss of mine told me I had the choice to do. But I will not be alone–Christ is always there–in season and out of season, he is present, and I feel his presence, and his love. He embraced me last night in love. I had night sweats for hours, and I was not alone.
I am letting go of the past, and the future, and living in the moment. The moment is all we have. Each day I spend hours simply listening to others, and it is the moment that matters. 
On this anniversary of Zach’s death the words of 
Carlo Carretto ring true to me:

God is thrust onward by his love, not attracted by our beauty. He comes even in moments when we have done everything wrong, when we have done nothing . . . even when we have sinned.
– Carlo Carretto, The God Who Comes 
 
(God comes . . . NOW! What is your response?)

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Father River Damien Sims, sfw, D.Min. candidate, D.S.T.

P.O. Box 642656

San Francisco, CA 94164

http://www.temenos.org

415-305-2124

Complexity

May 11, 2017

 

Complexity

“Good and bad are like black and white, convenient dichotomies. They are neat and easy ways of stepping around disorder, contradictions, and people and things that just refuse to fit neatly into the mold that our minds create for them. But they are not helpful constructions in coming to terms with the big issues: God, life, death, infinity, faith, justice, and mercy.”

-Br. Robert L’Esperance

    When we respond to the issues of life in the black and white life becomes easier, and it becomes inhumane.

For life is complex. Sexuality is complex. Our sexuality is express in so many wonderful and different ways, and yet we stigmatize, and seek to put the boundary of straight and gay around it. Queers of all sorts–gay/lesbian, bisexual, transgender, questioning are hounded, persecuted, because they are different. Individuals who are fluid in their gender are seen as “different” and persecuted. Sexuality is complex–it is to be embraced in its rain bow of colors.

Homelessness is complex– but when one follows the words of Dan Berrigan it brings life into context:

” Sometime in your life, hope that you might see one starved man, the look on his face when bread finally arrives. Hope that you might have baked it or bought it or even kneaded it yourself. For that look on his face, for your meeting his eyes across a piece of bread, you might be willing to lose a lot, or suffer a lot, or die a little, even.”

    People ask why I spend hours  cooking  meals, why I sit down in the Park, on the street, in a restaurant, and eat with people–it simplifies life–the complexity of life simply becomes two human beings on the same journey. That “meeting his  eyes” is worth everything–there is no greater “high” than one can find than looking that person in his or her eyes and seeing  the spark of life which the food gives.  And the one great lesson we learn together is when  we love God, and our neighbor–in those moments in particular each other–all will be well. Jesus summarized the Commandments in these words:

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”

    Simple, but yet calls us to embrace all of life in its complexity.

Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!

Fr. River Damien Sims, sfw, D.Min. candidate, D.S.T.

P.O. Box 642656

San Francisco, CA 94164

http://www.temenos.org

415-305-2124

Loving

May 8, 2017

Loving

John 10:11-18

This photo of the tents was taken in Hemlock Alley yesterday.  I have photos–not on my I Phone–of tents in the same place taken over twenty years ago.

I no longer take volunteers out with me for longer than an hour, primarily because of the shock they feel when they see people living in our alleys, but more importantly the stress it puts on me personally when they are confronted with the way I work with people–they come from the perspective of their way of life, of being able to fix, of the way ministers should work with people–and face the reality of the street. They face the shock of seeing what seems an

impossibility.

The perspective that I work from is simply Love. Love without judgment or expectation.  My Bible was handed to me many years ago by a fifteen year old homeless youth–a beautiful Bible combined with the Book of Common Prayer–he told me he “creatively acquired it” from a store as a gift for me. I treasure this book, I use it, it communicates love to me, and in times when I am at my lowest, I hold this book and remember that love. To him he was “creatively acquiring it” as a gift for his friend; I have been warned about not returning to my hometown, because it might be dangerous–I am queer; So we each have different perspectives, there is no one way. For me the Bible tells of Jesus of Nazareth who is the Good Shepherd and receives us without judgment.

When we meet people on their level in love, without judgment relationships change in a myriad ways, and blossom. 

Dr. Will Tuttle writes:

The calling we hear today is the persistent call to evolve. It is part of a larger song to which we all contribute and that lives in our cells and in the essential nature of the universe that gives rise to our being.

It is a song, ultimately, of healing, joy, and celebration because all of us, humans and non-humans alike, are expressions of a beautiful and benevolent universe.

It is also a song of darkest pain and violation, due to our accepted practices of dominating, commodifying, and killing animals and people.

We are called to evolve through loving and listening and waiting.

Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!

Fr. River Damien Sims, sfw, D.Min. candidate, D.S.T.

Temenos Catholic Worker

P.O. Box 642656

San Francisco, CA 94164

www. temenos.org

415-305-2124

 
 

Transformation

May 7, 2017

writing life?

The reign of God has begun. The revolution has begun. God is at work in our world, through those who have grasped the vision. You and I are part of it. We are called to live its values and to invite others to do so as well.

-Br. David Vryhof

Philip Workman Memorial Banquet

Protest Against the Death Penalty

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

At Noon

Stanyan and Haight Street

in front of

Golden Gate Park

“Justice Comes With Mercy”

Contact Fr. River Damien Sims

franciscansagainstdeathpenalty@gmail.com

415-305-2124

Vegetarian Pizza to Be Given In Philip’s Memory to the Homeless

Philip Workman experienced transformation in his life through his experience with Christ. That transformation lives on in the lives he  touched during his time in prison and in the ten years that have passed. His witness lives!  On this day we remember the tenth anniversary of Philip’s death, and we come together to protest the death penalty.

Fifteen years ago I stood by the bedside of the man who murdered someone close to me and administered the Sacrament of Reconciliation and the Eucharist. As he lay dying we both experienced the transforming power of God in our lives.  My life is continually being transformed with being touched by his life,  for in the midst of the pain of the death of my son and   much anger, much hate-I came face to face with Christ on the cross and I was changed.  The transformation has been in seeing life as of supreme value and that no human has the right to take another human’s  life.  We find life by giving life. Join us in protesting the death penalty. Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!

PENDING DEATH PENALTY SENTENCES FOR MAY–PRAY-WRITE LETTERS OF PROTEST TO GOVERNOR OF RESPECTIVE STATES:

10: Ronald Philips–Ohio

16: Georgia–J.W. Ledford

Texas-Tilon Carter

24:  Texas-Juan Castillo

25: Alabama–Thomas Arthur

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PHILIP WORKMAN MEMORIAL BANQUET–Order of Service

2017

Call to Remembrance:

Today we come together to remember those on death row, and that justice is best sought through mercy rather than vengeance. We remember Philip Workman today because he is one example of how one man can be transformed on his life’s journey.  Philip was executed on May 9, 2007 for a murder that occurred decades earlier, despite doubts about his guilt.  During those years on death row his life evolved into one of service to his  fellow inmates and to people outside the walls.  Philip puts a human face on the death penalty. The pizzas we give  today are given in honor of his last request of providing his final meal of a vegetarian pizza to a homeless person. Philip is everyman on death row.

Come, let us celebrate with loud voices of praise,  to the God of many faces.  Let us celebrate the promise of the glorious liberation, that we have through the love of God, however God comes to us.

Opening Prayer  

God of compassion You let your rain fall on the just and the unjust.

Expand and deepen our hearts

so that we may love as You love,

even those among us

who have caused the greatest pain by taking life.

For there is in our land a great cry for vengeance

as we fill up death row and kill the killers

in the name of justice, in the name of peace.

Jesus, our brother,

you suffered execution at the hands of the state

but you did not let hatred overcome you.

Help us to reach out to victims of violence

so that our enduring love may help them heal.

Holy Spirit of God,

You strengthen us in the struggle for justice,

help us to work tirelessly for the abolition of state-sanctioned death

and to renew our society in its very heart

so that violence will be no more. Amen. (Sr. Helen Prejean)

The Invitation to Holy Communion

Sisters and brothers, this is the joyful feast of the people of God!  They will come from east and west, from north and south, from the highways and byways, from wealth and from poverty, from the Tenderloin and Market Street, from the benches of Golden Gate Park and from the Castro, and sit at table with his disciples, he took the bread, and blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him. This is the Lord’s Table, mysterious in its grace and transparent in its hospitality, caring not for gender, race, class, sexual orientation, faith tradition, or marital status, exclusive only in it’s fierce commitment to all people.

Gracious God, pour out your Holy Spirit upon this gift of pizza, so that it may be- come the body Christ. And in eating it may we see and experience your Love.

This pizza we break is your body and in sharing with everyone, we remember that we have been transformed through this Sacrament—and that in eating this pizza we become-Christ’ presence to others. See who you are, become who you see!

Sharing of Pizza—The Body of Christ
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Fr. River Damien Sims, sfw. D.Min. candidate, D.S.T.

P.O. Box 642656

San Francisco, CA 94164

http://www.temenos.org

415-305-2124

franciscansagainstdeathpenalty@gmail.com

Real Presence

May 5, 2017

John 6:52-59

St. Jutta

“All my treasures are yours, and yours are mine.”

St. Jutta said that three things bring us closer to God: painful illness, exile from home, and voluntary poverty.  I have found that all three have  brought me to experiencing Christ as my friend and support. Ultimately when all else is gone Christ is all we have.

Dorothy Day once pondered the question of how we know we are praying to the real God.  Her answer was  that we know we are praying to the real God  when we serve the poor and when we receive the Body and Blood of Jesus in the Eucharist .  Being grounded in the reality of the poor and the Eucharist serve as a corrective to any tendency to flee to an  idealized world or  to an idealized the view of ourselves.

Grounded in the Eucharist and practicing mercy day in and day out are the two means of grounding our very being in God. Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!

Fr. River Damien Sims, sfw, D.Min. candidate, D.S.T.

P.O. Box 642656

San Francisco, CA 94109

415-305-2124

http://www.temenos.org

Blue Ocean Faith

May 4, 2017

A Book Review and Commentary on Blue Ocean Faith–by Dave Schmelzer

This book is an evangelical approach to evangelism in a world where the institutional church is failing. It reaches out to a new generation through a faith that is:

1. Centered in Christ–not tied down by doctrines, but centered in Scripture based on reason and experience;

2. Centered in the community;

3.  Spiritual development through looking at all sides with child-line simplicity and openness;

4.  Third way in controversial issues;

5. Ecumenical;

6.  Joyful engagement with the secular.

On paper this sounds beautiful, fulfilling, but when it hits the road and one reads of queer youth experiencing bullying in high school, and abuse at home, one reads of queers being murdered in our nation and other nations of the world as a result of their sexuality the approach of the “third way” comes across as avoidance of the pain in our communities. This approach tells us to avoid “controversial issues,” ie sexual orientation. Take it from one who has and experiences homophobia it is psychologically, physically, and emotionally destructive.  It is easy for people who are straight to talk–they have never experienced the pain.  Christ did not make anyone feel good–he was crucified.

Stephen Hill reminds us that “Religion is hanging around the cross, Christianity is hanging on the cross.”

Our calling is to be  salt in the world. We are to permeate the world with the love of the Christ who tells us the Great Commandment is “You shall love the Lord your God with all your soul, mind, and strength and your neighbor as yourself.”  To follow Christ means to hang on the  cross, where all are welcome. To open our arms universally welcoming all! Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!

Fr. C. River Damien Sims, sfw, D.Min. candidate, D.S.T.

P.O. Box 642656

San Francisco, CA 94164

http://www.temenos.org

415-305-2124

Full Circle

May 4, 2017

Full Circle

I watched a movie, entitled “Circle”–a story about how the internet has taken over our lives. As I watched that movie, I thought of how my life has come in a full circle these past months.

Yesterday my dissertation was sent to  the publisher entitled, Cooking with the Fallen One’s. In the past year as I have worked on it, I have looked at my life and ministry. I ran across a quote by Mark Twain which describes the experience of the past months, and the way I view ministry:

“Nothing that grieves us can be called little: by the eternal laws of proportion a child’s loss of a doll and a king’s loss of a crown are events of the same size.”
Mark Twain

The past few days this paper has been the center of my world–unimportant to any one else–yet  just as important as the king losing his crown. That for me sums up my ministry–treating each person as if what they are experiencing or struggling with is as important, as an event in the life of a king or president. I remember a few years ago a fifteen year old friend called me crying over losing his girlfriend, and I listened for an hour. After I hung up my intern that summer said, “That was a waste of your time, you have more important things to do, than listening to a  kid and his love life”, and I replied that for that young guy that was the most important situation in the world for him, and so it was for me, for he was the most important person in the world to me in those moments.  And in writing this paper I renewed my commitment to personal ministry–one on one and personal contact. We have moved away from personal interaction through social media, email, Facebook, etc, and in so doing we have destroyed our personal connections–the connections that in our struggle together bring us wholeness. Social media in all its forms  is useful, but the face to face, the personal contact of listening, looking at each other in the eye brings us true freedom.

Sending the paper to the publisher signified for me the end of an era–I will never get another degree. I will never be formally in school again. It is sad, because I have always loved going to school.  I will take courses occasionally, but I have come full circle.

I have come full circle in the reality is that all any of us have is the grace of God.   A friend commented I seemed more free, and I am, for I what I have come to understand in my experience at John Knox Seminary is that we are all sinners, and that the grace of God, in the death and resurrection of Jesus frees us. Frees us to live in his grace, and knowing that we are simply called to aim for the target, and ultimately all will be well. As my professor J. Linebaugh commented, “There will be a great therapy session at the end of time, and God will be our therapist,” which means we should love each other and let God take care of the rest.

Fr. River Damien Sims, sfw, D.Min. candidate, D.S.T.

P.O. Box 642656

San Francisco, CA 94164

http://www.temenos.org

 

Clinging to Hope

May 2, 2017

Clinging to Hope

John 6:30-35

The stone in this cross in the photo was given to me by a young man on Haight Street, four years ago. Through the years many a person has reached out and clung to that cross for hope. Two people held it as they died, another afraid to death after a beating held it, others have caressed it through the years. And I have clung to it in the past four years: after being raped, waiting to hear on a diagnosis, laying in the hospital from being stabbed, and after being a shot at, and it stays close to my heart each day, as I cling to the hope that cross offers. The hope of God’s presence, and the hope of life beyond death.

What the cross says to us is that an innocent man was nailed to it, nailed to it by people who were not bad, but afraid, and he suffered, died, and rose again for  the sins of humanity, and from that dying offers the hope of new life–not simply in eternity, but in the hear and now as we live among each other.

Br. David Vryhof, of the Society of Saint John the Evangelical, tells us:

“What is the way that Jesus himself went?  What is the say he sets out for those who would follow him?  The way of dying and rising.  It is the only way to God.  For Jesus and for many of his followers down through the ages, including Philip and James, whom we remember today, this death was literal as well as metaphorical.  But for most of us, the way of dying and rising is an internal process of transformation.”
“Inner Transformation” calls us to see this act of Jesus as setting into place the New Commandments of loving God and our neighbor as ourselves. Last week a young man commented as I vigil ed against the death penalty: “Jesus was innocent, rapists and murderers are not and deserve the  death penalty.” What he failed to see is that “Christ died for us while we were yet sinners,” and there is no mention of the particular sin for all of us are equal in our sinning, for all sin is destructive to life. Only in the transformation of love can new life spring forth. We all deserve justice and in the eyes of Christ we all deserve mercy.

Philip Workman Memorial Banquet

Protest Against the Death Penalty

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

At Noon

Stanyan and Haight Street

in front of

Golden Gate Park

“Justice Comes With Mercy”

Contact Fr. River Damien Sims

franciscansagainstdeathpenalty@gmail.com

415-305-2124