Archive for August, 2016

The Host

August 15, 2016

THE HOST–THE ASSUMPTION OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY

LUKE 1:39-56

Mary was a fourteen or fifteen year old girl, she could have seen herself as a victim, but instead trusted in God and transformed history in her person.

This is being written and shared because of some recent events that have brought me back into my PTSD mode and meeting a minister of a denomination that removed him because of his sexuality, and he has lost his family, his way of life.  It brings back memories, and a reminder that the world we live in is not San Francisco–where despite all of her problems she is still the best and most open place to live.

The Host, that little wafer, in Greek means victim–Christ is the victim who enters our body in Communion and comforts as the One in triumph, as the Victor.

People often asked me, “Why do you do what you do?”  And I give an answer, but the reality is that because of my own experience God called me to this ministry–a call that if I did not answer would leave my life without meaning.   I was a victim for most of my  life of homophobia. I can  not go back to high school reunions because of the hell I experience in being “different”, the thoughts of suicide, of depression, something which I could not express because to express my true feelings in that area of the country and at that time would have been certain rejection; the depression and thoughts of suicide I experienced in my fifteen years of ministry, for the same reason in the church. The six months of Gay reparative therapy given to me by my denomination–all a result of being a victim; I still have trouble sitting in the sanctuary of any church because of flashbacks, it was in my coming out that  God transformed my life.

It was in my four years on the street as a prostitute where I allowed my body to be  used, and I experienced abuse, and saw violence daily that I was transformed through the power of the Holy Spirit into a new creature.

While a victim, I still made those choices, and I am fully responsible for my actions, it was only in slow process of coming out that transformation took place. Being a victim does not make one not responsible or is an excuse for harm done.  Christ died for us while we were yet sinners, he has  freed us from out guilt, but not our responsibility. When I hear confessions I tell the person that forgiveness is never truly complete until we accept responsibility for our actions.  We grow from our scars. I came back to ministry, to the priesthood only because of this call of God that would not let me go, a call to minister outside the gates. Ministry is not  a job, or a romantic dream for me, but it is that to which I have to do to find completeness in life.  It is never easy.

The scars do not go away, PTSD is a real part of  my life, but in the transformation of my life I find fulfillment in walking with the those who are experiencing what I have and do. It is in the healing of working with them that I find the resurrection.

People tell me all the time “you are different,” and it hurts, until I realize that I have always been different–I simply was in the closet, and it is fun, damn fun being “different”, and I urge people to come out of their various closets and acknowledge their differences because it is fun and changes the way one looks at life. One becomes “real” in coming out of the closet.

The Christ that I experience is the one who has been in the valley with me and led me to the banquet, and one aspect of that banquet is to give myself away.   In the words of Margery Williams from The Velveteen Rabbit:

“Wasn’t I real before? asked the little Rabbit. You were Real to the Boy” the Fairy said, “because he loved you. Now you shall be real to everyone.”

That is the call of Christ to all of us–to give ourselves away–to be real to everyone!

Temenos Catholic Worker

P.O. Box 642656

San Francisco, CA 94164

www, temenos.org

415-305-2124

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

Fire of Life

August 14, 2016

FIRE OF LIFE–Luke 12:49-53 “I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing”.

Yesterday we attended the  farewell party for our friend Bishop Karen Oliveto, the new United Methodist Bishop of the Rocky Mountain Conference. She is the first out Lesbian Bishop in the United Methodist Church that is being torn about over the ordination of queers. The person who introduced her commented, that the “days ahead will not be easy because the fires are already burning.”

I was once told that my ministry would be like staring down at many trains coming at me at one time. In other words our ministry would be one of being a fire because our call is to stand as a tree bending in the storm.  That is Karen’s ministry. Many will like her, many will not, most want care,  but she will stand alone. So it is with me I stand alone for the most part.

For us our  theology is summed up in the words of Jesus: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your soul, your mind, and your strength, and your neighbor as yourself, ” and Romans 5:1-11.  At the heart of our theology is that in  being justified by faith we are children of God, and we do not judge but we love our fellow creatures.  Regardless of race, creed, religious affiliation, sexual orientation we are all children of God. When we treat people with love, we serve God, whatever face God takes for us.

 

Life is unsettled, we are always going to struggle, and in that struggle we find life, and in finding life we move into the reign of God. We are pilgrims on the way. But in that unsettleness and struggle we can do so in love.

Someone said last night that “people talk about you a lot, actually they gossip,” and my response was: “Talk is like thunder, loud and formless.” it is the actions that matter, and so it is in the actions of loving our neighbor that we find God.

Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!

Temenos Catholic Worker

P.O. Box 642656

San Francisco, CA 94164

415-305-2124

http://www.temenos.org

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

Continuously Come to Me

August 13, 2016

CONTINUOUSLY COME TO ME

EZEK. 18:1-10; 13B, 30-32,  Matt. 19: 13-15

Fr. Greg Boyle at his ministry Homeboy’s tells young men and women who have trouble living with their past  to see that God already accepts them as God’s own, even when they can not forgive themselves.

Last night forty five year old “G” came to my door drunk wanting a pair of socks, his code word for that he wanted to talk.  He was crying about being a failure, on the street since he was 16, and always drinking, using drugs. He said, “I am no good for nobody.” He talked of his relationship to God, and of being “saved”, and I pointed out to him that sometimes all we can do is take the good we do in the moment, as a sign, and that God’s grace is so awesome that we are forgiven.  Forgiveness comes with the price of Christ’s blood, not with what we do.None of us  have to earn his or way into God’s love, that is the gift.  We do what we can in response.

In the end  what matters is God’s grace, we have been bought with the price of Christ’s blood, we have been redeemed, freely, and generously. In coming to understand that we will give our lives away for Christ.

Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!

Temenos Catholic Worker

P.O. Box 642656

San Francisco, CA 94164

415-305-2125

http://www.temenos.org

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

 

We All Belong

August 11, 2016

Today through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snap Chat, it is easy to make judgments and express our opinions without thinking of the other person.  We do not have to look them in their face and see the pain our comments cause. Social media presents each us as we are–and that means we are all different. The question this raises is to whom do we belong?

Br. James Koester presents a message to us about belonging in this comment:

“I don’t know about you, but this is a question I reflect on a great deal in one way or another: to whom do I belong? Where do I belong? What does it mean to belong? Whose am I? This, in a sense,, was the question posed to Jesus and His answer, though ambiguous was clear.  We may have responsibilities to Caesar, but we belong to God.”

We belong to God and to  each other. As we face the question of the vote on the death penalty that is the question that we raise–to whom do we belong?  And the message we find in Jesus is the Cross–where he made all things new, where the law is summed up in him, “You shall the love the Lord your God with all your heart, your soul, your mind and your strength and your neighbor as yourself?”

We all belong together!

YES ON 62!–PASS OUT FLYERS, AND TALK TO PEOPLE, LET THEM SHARE WITH US!

FRIDAY, AUGUST 12, 2016–CORNER OF POLK AND CALIFORNIA

NOON-1:00 P.M. OR AS LONG AS YOU WANT TO STAY. FLYERS PROVIDED.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CALL FR. RIVER AT 415-305-2124

 

Finding Happiness In Making Others Happy

August 10, 2016

FINDING HAPPINESS IN MAKING OTHERS HAPPY

St. Mary MacKillop gives a good philosophy of life in her statement when someone asked her what made her happy:  “Find happiness in making others happy.”

St. Mary gives a good summary of the solution to our social problems–and for what will make us happy–we can find happiness, satisfaction in helping others be happy.  By centering ourselves on the person in front of us without regard to expectations and giving of what we have so that they might be taken care of we can let go of our own fears, and on discontentment, and know that there is enough for all.

When we seek the happiness of another we do not see mental illness, race, creed, social standing, sexual orientation or any of the “isms” we see the beauty of the other person.

Jesus calls us to go after the one who is lost, to become children, wide eyed,without looking at the status quo or our fears of people. He calls us to become like children “ignored” not using our titles, status, for praise and self gratification.

We find happiness when we stop seeing people as numbers, as those who have to fit in to a certain category for help, but as human beings on a journey, struggling where they are, and that is where we meet them.

People often asked me: “What make you happy?”  What makes me happy is the joy of talking to a person, listening, feeding people who have little, taking them to the hospital, sitting with them.  What makes me happy is simply making others happy.  For when we make people happy they make the changes that they can make in their lives.

There are no black and white answers, when people asked “how did you know you wanted to be a priest?”, all I know it was that  “still small voice” that spoke to me when I was 12–I simply followed,  no black and white answers, what makes me happy is not black and white, not scientific. There are no guarantees with people, there are no guarantees in life, only in the words of Sr. Mary: “Find happiness in making others happy.” This afternoon “J” stopped by for some food, and some socks. He is 45, and I have known him since he was 23. He was a sex worker at that time, and a heavy speed user. He continues to use, but he has tried program after program and stops for awhile, than returns to using,   and so now he talks about the part time job he gets occasionally  and how much he makes  pan handling. and always asked me for a loan, “until  I get it together.” J always gives me the warmest of smiles, and he is happy in the moment, and he moves on to try again.  And I am happy as well. St. Mary guides me for I find “happiness in making others happy,”  Try it!

Temenos Catholic Worker

P.O. Box 642656

San Francisco, CA 94164

415-305-2124

http://www.temenos. org

The Steep Ground of Truth

August 6, 2016

THE STEEP GROUND OF TRUTH–THE FEAST OF THE TRANSFIGURATION–BOMBING OF HIROSHIMA  and NAGASAKI

Luke 9:28-26

At the Feast of the Transfiguration Jesus ultimately stood alone as the fulfillment of the Law.  He fulfills the Law in love–all else fell aside.

The Transfiguration is symbolic of transfiguration’s within our lives.  It is ultimately about relationships where we are treated to little glimpses of of one another’s souls and come away awed by the sheer luminosity of the experience. Many years ago we met Dr. James Kennedy through correspondence and he touched our soul; He was the grace of God to us in a time when we needed to find that grace. A young sixteen year old  who has been working with us all summer sent us an email thanking us for a  “hell of a fun summer, and I think I can believe in the Jesus you talk about, he’s fun;” in all of our guys on the street we encounter that luminosity. 

Transfiguration comes when we open ourselves to God’s love, to being willing to change, and to love people for who they are, not from our own expectation.

It has been seventy one years since the first atomic bomb was let go on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  Destruction unknown was let go, and now terrorizes the world. Innocent people, victims of their own government as well as ours suffered much. In remembering them we should open ourselves to let God’s love transfigure our lives into lives that give life, that work for peace, justice, and equality for all.  Let’s accept our differences as God’s gifts, and give praise for that creation. Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!

Temenos Catholic Worker

P.O. Box 642656

San Francisco, Ca 94164

http://www.temenos.org

Fr. River Damien Sims, Director, D.S.T., D.Min. Candidate

Death and Discovery

August 5, 2016

DEATH AND DISCOVERY

St. Afra

“Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. . .” Matt. 16:24-28

Life is so fragile.  For those in other places of the world it is indeed fragile as they see “the flame of the sword, the flash of the spear;” and for the homeless in our country it is very fragile, with much suffering, fear, and uncertainty.  For those living in comfort of housing, money,and  recreation it is easy to forget for a time  how fragile life is.

The answer of Jesus to the mayhem of death is simple. What can I give in exchange for my life? It is my life.  If I wish to save it, I have to give it up, if I wish to possess it I must give it away.

St. Afra was a prostitute when she was sent to her death with the words on her mouth: “Let the body which has sinned suffer; but I will not ruin my soul by false worship.”

I was a prostitute for four and a half years, and that experience changed and shaped my life, God used that experience to transform my life, and it has never been the same since.  The best friends I have ever had were during that time–because we had no one else. From that experience I learned two things: that life is only worth living when you give it away, when you take up the cross, and that there is a greater truth to the black and white truth.

It is a long learning curve, but in the words of Sterling Hayden one thing we have learned is:

“What does a man need – really need? A few pounds of food each day, heat and shelter, six feet to lie down in, and some form of working activity that will yield a sense of accomplishment. That’s all – in the material sense. And we know it. But we are brainwashed by our economic system until we end up in a tomb beneath a pyramid of time payments, mortgages, and preposterous gadgetry, playthings that divert our attention from the sheer idiocy of the charade.”

Sterling Hayden

Money, and the things money buy enslaves us.  Money is a tool, a gift, to be used so that others might have as well. Each day as I walk out the door I am overwhelmed by the numbers of people sleeping on the street.  That would be remedied if all of us took what we need and shared the rest. Our greed destroys us as well as others.

Secondly Martin Luther King Jr. points out:

“Reconsider your definitions. We are prone to judge success by the index of our salaries or the size of our automobiles rather than by the quality of our service and relationship to mankind.”

Martin Luther King Jr.

Success is measured by our faithfulness to our path.

Finally, being a prostitute taught me that the there is a greater truth to be seen other than that of the black and white. My guess is that St. Afra had no other way to make a living and lived her life in love of others. The greater truth was her need for survival.  Two nights ago late at night one young prostitute asked me for  the Eucharist and we spent an hour talking and celebrating the Eucharist. The greater truth was not her act of how she made a living,  but her act of conscience.

Taking up the cross has been my experience of learning to live simply, to value success in faithfulness, and to see the greater truth of respecting how others live their lives, and seeing within their lives the hope of faith, the hope of finding more creative ways of living.  When we bring our judgment, we close the door shut to communication and growth. My kids call me a straight edge because I do not use alcohol and illegal drugs, and they do not judge me, and so I do not judge them, and hopefully we will meet in the middle. Taking up the cross for me ain’t easy. Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!

Temenos Catholic Worker

P.O. Box 642656

San Francisco, CA 94164

http://www.temenos.org

415-305-2124