Archive for June, 2019

Christ has Set Is Free!

June 28, 2019


Reflections for Sunday, Pride Sunday, July 30, 2019

Christ Has Set Us Free And Gives Us Courage for the Journey!

“For freedom Christ has set us free, stand firm, therefore and do not submit to the yoke of slavery. . Only do not use your freedom for an opportunity of fulfilling your own desires, but through love serve one another, for the whole law is summed up one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Galatians 5:1; 13-14.

“Caring is the first way to our own aging  self, where we can find the healing powers for all those who share in the human condition. No guest will ever feel welcome when the host is not at home in his own house.. .”


On September 11, 2011, the World Trade Center  was bombed, and the first civilian casualty identified was Father Mychal Judge, a sixty eight year old gay Franciscan priest who entered the building the help victims.  The Apostle Paul reminds us that this act was not a yoke of slavery, but a freeing power of the Spirit, which enables  each of us to love even the neighbor whose hatred tries to block the spread of the good news. Father Judge ministered to people of all faiths, nationalities, on that day and throughout his ministry.

Yesterday a lady of 85 stopped by, and asked me about the Accessibility Area at Pride, and reflected sadly how she felt left out, because of all the young people dancing and partying–“no room for us  old people”, she said. I simply asked: “Tell me why do you think they can be there as free as they are?,’ and I continued, “because you and your brothers and sisters in the past sixty or so years have lifted the torch of freedom, and you bear on your body physical scars from that fight  The torch is being passed, but you are still a light that shines as you sit in our area as one who gave her  all.”

I am reminded of Fr. Henri Nouwen’s words, himself a gay priest, who suffered emotionally by being in the closet of the Church, and whom the Roman Catholic Church never acknowledges even today his sexual orientation, :

“There can hardly be a better image of caring than that of the artist who brings new life to people by his honest and fearless self portrait.. .While growing in age (Rembrandt) he was more and more able to touch the core of the human experience, in which individuals in their misery can recognize themselves and find “courage and new youth.. . .We will never be able to really care if we are not willing to paint and repaint constantly our self-portrait, not as morbid self-preoccupation, but as a service to those who are searching for some light in the midst of the darkness.” 

All three of these gay men are examples of living out the Gospel of love in the midst of hate, and they continually repainted their portraits into one of being a light in the world and living out the words of Galatians:

“Only do not use your freedom for an opportunity of fulfilling your own desires, but through love serve one another, for the whole law is summed up one word:

“You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Galatians 5:1; 13-14″.

Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!

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

P.O. Box 642656

San Francisco, CA 94164



June 25, 2019


The rewards for an outward show of piety all too easily can become illusory. True holiness is an inward quality to be treasured in the heart.

-Br. David Allen

To really care is to try to move from our typical human characteristics of back biting, complaining, and move out into caring about people. Judgements destroy!

I have found that if you feed one person a day, give them a pair of socks, and as you do look into their eyes, without judgment, your heart is transformed.

Our true holiness is measured by our hearts, and our actions in caring reflect our heart. We can not change the world, when we die, we will be forgotten, but our heart will fly as fire fly’s into the heavens. Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!

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

P.O. Box 642656

San Francisco, CA 94164


June 20, 2019



Luke 8:26-39

Last night I viewed Emanuel the documentary about the murders in Charleston, S.C. in June of 2015. It is a story of tragedy, hate, and forgiveness.  One activist commented, commented that if he had , any thoughts of activism over the event, they  were “knocked down” by the forgiveness of the relatives of the nine murdered. The act of forgiveness took the air out of his sails.

These men and women, represent the best of our faith. They call us to move beyond our own fears and live out the teachings  of Jesus in the pain and struggles of life.

Sunday I am preaching at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, 1755 Clay Street in San Francisco, CA, at 8:00 a.m. and 10:00 a.m. This will be the official kick off of our twenty fifth year celebration of ministry. This sermon is a summary of these years, and what they mean not only personally, but for those we serve, have served, and will serve:

On a hot humid Marin wood night last August two friends and I were  playing “Capture the Tiger” around 1’O Clock in the morning. As I ran from the woods into a clearing, I stopped as a full moon opened up the darkness into a beautiful arcade of light, and I observed thousands of fire flies, climbing a ladder towards heaven. It was a magical moment! It was one of self-revelation.

A friend once asked me, “What is your legacy going to be?” and in those moments in the school yard in Marin Wood, that legacy was clarified, which together I share with you. It is our legacy.

We  see it in the faces of the thousands of young men and women whose lives I have encountered on the streets of San Francisco. The fire flies will continue to swarm after we are gone, and like them we will pass on, but our legacy continues. The majority of the time I never know if I really touch any one’s life. But occasionally—I get a glimpse, for example one after noon I received a phone call from a woman, who told me she was the foster mother of Sam, who is now 22. Nine  years ago his mother left him at my place. She was prostituting that night. Sam shared with me how his mother would loan him to various men whom he called his “grandfathers”, for which he was asked to perform sexual favors. I called CPS and he was picked up. His foster mother shared that he had just gotten married and  graduated from college. He had an excellent job. This lady thanked me.  The majority of the time I measure my worth in my commitment to  faith and ministry.

Darrell Smith reflects: “‘Clarity comes in living’.  If we really want to understand something–if we really want to get something inside us, we must be willing to live it out.”

And watching those fire flies describes how I am living out my legacy. And this legacy has become your legacy as well..

This legacy is summed up in the words of Madeleine L’Engle:

“Half the world is starving; the other half is on a diet. We are not privileged because we deserve to be. Privilege accepted should be responsibility accepted.”

Personally I have attempted to accept that challenge, and you have joined me in that journey. Our privilege summons us to share, until all are privileged.

First the legacy is that of a clown. Many times people laugh at me with curiosity as wearing a colored clergy shirt with jeans, or another style of pants, or wear a black clergy shirt with multi-colored pants, for I never ever wear all black.  

The collar is a symbol of my call to preach the Word, and Administer the Sacraments, but on the dark side for thousands, it is a symbol of sexual abuse, and darkness;, and yet  that collar is a symbol of the best in  ministry, and my   desire is to remind others of that goodness. So I become  are a clown in my  everyday dress, for I  have found that being a clown is what truly being diverse means. We are all different and so we need to celebrate our diversity.

Secondly, together we administer the Word and Sacraments. Each week on Wednesday, all of us as the living Great Cloud of Witnesses, join together in Golden Gate Park where as your representative I celebrate the Eucharist with homeless young men and women; every hospital bed I sit beside, every person who pours their heart out in pain to me, you are present, every memorial service, baptism, and wedding that is celebrated or conducted, your presence is supports me. 

In the food we offer we are doing far more than simply giving a meal, we are preparing the Eucharist. For in preparation I pray the Eucharistic Prayer, and you are present in spirit, and our food becomes the Body and Blood of Christ.

St. Francis was once asked “When do you preach the gospel?” and he replied, “I preach the Gospel, using as few as words as possible,”, and that is what I do, I preach with my  actions, I preach with my presence late at night. I  preach with being available twenty four hours a day. And St. Luke’s Episcopal Church walks with me on this journey.

Dallas Willard tells us: “No one has ever been argued into the Kingdom of God, We are loved there.” And I have found that as Carter Heyward says, “Vulnerability. . .is the willingness and ability to be seen as well as to see, to be touched as well as to touch. Vulnerability is the giving up of control.”

My prayer is that we may become like the Velveteen Rabbit who after many years of being loved by children, becoming ragged, from their hugging, asked his Fairy a question: “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.”

Finally, the day will come, when I will pass on into eternity, my ashes will be placed in No. 45 in the St. Luke’s Columbarium  and in our present season it is either a blessing or curse to have that number, so you can argue over what it means for me  to be buried in that space and keep our  service lively  and my memory laughing , and remember that  our legacy will continue in the fire flies of the thousands of lives we have touched, and the lives they will  touch.

This past twenty five years I have tried to live out the summons of Jesus to:

“Go and sell all you own, pick up your cross, and follow me,”

There has been much joy in seeking to follow that call, and  you have walked with me these past eight years on that journey.

Thank you for sharing this legacy with me, and thank you for tending to this fire fly on his journey.

As we continue into Pride month, with our Pride Festival  next Sunday I would like for us to share in the “Responsive Reading for the National Weekend of Prayer for LGBTQ Justice” let us pray:

Pride Responsive Reading

Reader: As we celebrate LGBTQ Pride month, we are grateful for the gift of our lives and the gift of others in our lives.
All: Each of us is created with dignity and worth.

Reader: We are called to love each other and to do nothing to others that we would find hateful to ourselves.
All: We honor the many ways that people live and love.

Reader: We repent for the times when our faith traditions have named lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer people unworthy.
All: Love does not exclude. We are all worthy.

Reader: We suffer when LGBTQ persons are oppressed, excluded, and shamed by religious people who overlook the fundamental call to justice in our scriptures.

All: True justice flourishes when we can live with authenticity and integrity.

Reader: May we work to build a community where LGBTQ people are celebrated as full and equal members, recognizing their many gifts.
All: We celebrate sexual and gender diversity as a blessing that enriches us all.


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

P.O. Box 642656

San Francisco, CA 94164



Village of Dad’s

June 17, 2019

A Village of Fathers

    This is Father’s Day.  A day in which we remember our dad’s. We do not appreciate our dad’s enough, Joseph is never fully appreciated, we hear about Mary, but not the father of Jesus.

    Today I was going down the street, and one of my guys from the Haight yells at me. “Shadow” runs over and hands me a package, and insists I open it, and there  was a piece of hand made jewelry. He said, “This is Father’s Day, and you are the closest person I have ever had who is a dad to me.” The brightness in his eyes, tore my heart to pieces as I cried. I forget sometimes that the reason I love the title “Father” is not because of the prestige, but because it reminds me I am a parent, brother, friend, to so many young men and women. Parenthood, family, is not about blood, but love.

And I am a part of a village of dad’s that all children have, who have help raise us up, and continue to father us. To my mind come a number of father’s:

    My biological dad, who signed the adoption  papers, when I was four so that my adoptive dad could adopt me, and give me a life in which he would raise me and provide for my education. My adopted dad nurtured me in the faith, lived a life of prayer, and of hospitality, forming me into who I am;

    The pastor’s who shaped my life from an early age: David Richardson, my child hood pastor, taught me how to look at the Bible as a book written by men, but inspired by God, and how humans impose their own interpretations around sexuality, women, and other social issues, that are not Biblical, or even present in the Bible. He and my father taught me to love the Scriptures, not as a judgmental book, but as one that demonstrated  the love of God; District Superintendents The Reverends Eldridge Barkley, and Jack Montgomery, Jr., the first gave me my first church assignment, and the latter ushered me through my ordination process, Fr. Louie Vitalize who supported me, pastored me, encouraged me my first fifteen years here in San Francisco;

    And the father’s of my  faith: St. Francis of Assisi, teaching me to live simply, to love nature; John Wesley, founder of Methodism, a hero of mine, from whom I learned that Christ comes in many faces to humanity; St. Damien of Molokai, giving me a vocation to prostitutes and homeless street youth, always teaching that they come first, and are Christ present in our midst; and Peter Maurin, co-founder of the Catholic Worker, who taught that ministry is one on one, that for everyone to be fed, housed, clothed, each of us must do our part.  We are to live simply, so that all may live.

    Father’s Day is reminder that we need our dad’s;  And we are a part of the Village of Dad’s called to nurture, teach, and love children and youth.

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

P.O. Box 642656

San Francisco, CA 94109


June 15, 2019


Not Me but God

2 Corinthians 5:14-21 English Standard Version (ESV)

“14 For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; 15 and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.

16 From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.[a] The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling[b] the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

“Compassion lies at the heart of our prayer for our fellow human beings. When I pray for the world, I become the world; when I pray for the endless needs of the millions, my soul expands and wants to embrace them all and bring them into the presence of God. But in the midst of that experience I realize that compassion is not mine but God’s gift to me. I cannot embrace the world, but God can. I cannot pray, but God can pray in me. When God became as we are, that is, when God allowed all of us to enter into his intimate life, it became possible for us to share in his infinite compassion.
In praying for others, I lose myself and become the other, only to be found by the divine love that holds the whole of humanity in a compassionate embrace.” Fr. Henry Nouwen

“Today we are witnessing an immense longing for relational, mutually empowering feminine qualities at every level of our society . . . which have become far too warlike, competitive, individualistic, mechanistic, and non-contemplative. (Tuesday)

In blessed Mother’s view, all are lovable; all souls are accepted, all carry a sweetness of heart, are beautiful to the eyes; worthy of consciousness, of being inspired, being helped, being comforted and protected—even if other mere humans believe foolishly or blindly to the contrary. —Clarissa Pinkola Estés (Wednesday)

My God is an incarnate feminine power, who smells like vanilla and is full of sass and truth, delivered with kindness. She’ll do anything for her creation; her love is fierce. She weeps when we do and insists on justice. She is God. She is Love. —Jacqui Lewis (Thursday)

The feminine . . . is shifting the global paradigm from one of dominance and individualized salvation to one of collective awakening and service to all beings. —Mirabai Starr (Friday)” Daily Meditations by Richard Rhor


Second Corinthians 5 calls us to be an Ambassador for Christ, “making his appeal through us.”

The appeal is one of  loving ourselves and our neighbor. Jesus lived a life of love, even to the point of death.

Yesterday as I went to the post office I bought an individual a sweat shirt, gave another  socks, another  food, and a person walking by said: “I see you are doing your job today.” The truth is it is not just my  job, it is the job of all of us, it is being an “Ambassador for Christ.”

We are all called to be an “Ambassador for Christ,” and if that would happen, there would be a new attitude on our streets, our state, our nation, and our world. If each one of us would feed one person a day, give one person a day a set of  clothes, insist they get medical and mental health treatment, give of our money for housing, the world would be changed. In the twinkling of an eye, we would live in a new world. Our political leaders and candidates  would certainly be talking about homelessness and climate change, rather than ignoring the questions.

Personally I believe when  we enter  into ourselves, spend twenty minutes a day alone, going for a walk, sitting, swimming, any activity one can do alone, and simply stay in silence, our lives would change, for we would see our own neediness, our own fears, our own struggles, and in doing so see them in others, and enter into new relationships with all. We would live without fear. We need to recover the divine feminine within us, and in so doing  we recover  love for our fellow human beings and creation. Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!

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

P.O. Box 642656

San Francisco, CA 94164


Health Care for All

June 14, 2019

Health Care On the Margins

“The smallest things become great when God requires them of us; they are small only in themselves; they are always great when they are done for God, and when they serve to unite us with Him eternally.”
– François Fénelon (1651-1715), Letters to Men and Women

Proverbs 8:22–31

22 s“The Lord tpossessed2 me at the beginning of his work,3

the first of his acts uof old.

23  Ages ago I was vset up,

at the first, wbefore the beginning of the earth.

24  When there were no xdepths I was ybrought forth,

when there were no springs abounding with water.

25  Before the mountains zhad been shaped,

abefore the hills, I was brought forth,

26  before he had made the earth with its fields,

or the first of the dust of the world.

27  When he bestablished the heavens, I was there;

when he drew ca circle on the face of the deep,

28  when he dmade firm the skies above,

when he established4 the fountains of the deep,

29  when he eassigned to the sea its flimit,

so that the waters might not transgress his command,

when he marked out gthe foundations of the earth,

30  then hI was beside him, like a master workman,

and I was daily his5 idelight,

rejoicing before him always,

31 jrejoicing in his kinhabited world

and delighting in the children of man.

        Recently I read a book entitled Writing On the Margins by Lisa Marie Hickens. It is an introduction to using the Bible as you read through it as your journal.

    The Bible has been a daily part of my life for as long as  I can remember. My dad read the Bible to me from the time I was four, I grew up reading the Bible every night with him. Through the years the Bible has chastised me, brought comfort to me in the ups and downs of life. What my dad taught me, what my pastors taught me, what seminary taught me, and what I have learned through living with the Bible is that at its heart is Jesus who summarizes  all Scripture in these words:

“Thou shalt love the Lord your God, with all of your heart, your mind, and your soul and your neighbor as yourself.”

    A week ago Sunday I experience extreme pain, and on Monday morning  I ran to Kaiser, where within two hours they had me in a dentists chair to treat me for an abscess; In the last year and a half I have had surgery, within a week of when I was diagnosed. All of my life I have had health care, and mental health care provided for me. 

    Through the years I have sat in the hospital with street youth for hours, the majority never get treatment on the streets, mental health treatment  is non-existence. As I walk past people living on the streets, going to my doctor, the hospital, and therapy, I am reminded how privileged I am. I am reminded of a quote by Madeleine L’Engle:

“Half the world is starving, the other half is on a diet.

We are not privileged because we deserve to be.

Privilege accepted should be responsibility accepted.”

     For those of us who have a place to call home, and health care, we need as Pope Francis tells us “to see the person. . .go to the margins,” and enter into their experience. Life is ultimately unfair, but where it can be, it should be. Making the world a more just and healthy place means listening to people’s stories.

    Supervisors Matt Haney and Hilary Roen are asking the Board of Supervisors to put on the ballot a measure to provide free mental health care to all in the City of San Francisco.

    This proposal is a higher path to justice and compassion for every citizen in San Francisco. This is a witness for the nation.

    Personally if this goes to the ballot I will campaign for its passage.  I have seen, and see suffering every day that this bill can provide health care and relief for. 

    As people of faith, and especially for those of us who are privileged, we are called to walk with people on the margins, and experienced their suffering and in doing so to try to equalize their care with ours. Privilege brings responsibility. Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!


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

P.O. Box 642656

San Francisco, CA 94164

http://www.temenos. org


Truly of God

June 12, 2019

Truly of God

Matthew 5:17-9

“Jesus said to his disciples: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law but to fulfill the law.”. . .

    For as long as I can remember the Book, the Bible, has been the central guide of my life. My dad read his Bible every night, he taught me the central element of the Bible is love, and that it is fulfilled in Jesus of Nazareth. We are called to make choices, and through the years the choice I made in using the Bible as my guide has been the choice of seeing Jesus, as the heart of the Bible, who calls us to love one another. To make a choice between seeing the Word etched in the stone letter of the law, as St. Paul put it, or the ministry of the Spirit. It is not always straight forward.

    Margaret Funk in her book, Renouncing Violence, examines how to discern whether our actions are truly of God or serving an egotistical outcome. Funk says if our course leads to mercy and compassion, we can feel confident it is of God.

    I spent Saturday, with eighteen year old Brett, who has aged out of foster care, abused by his parents, and is now on the streets. He has been raped a number of times, each time ignored by the police because of “lack of proof”; and his struggle to get mental health treatment hits a brick wall. As does the struggle of so many others.

    I have a dream of medical/psychological  folk–psychiatrists, physicians, dentists, counselors, and psychologists in our City, in our nation, opening themselves to providing services to three people– each for free–to the low income and the homeless. I see medication provided, and in  that dream I see  lives changed leading to health and wholeness.

    In the past year and a half I have had some major medical issues, this last week, I have had some major dental surgery done, and as I walk the streets, I feel guilty, I sometimes cry, because those around me on the streets, those I serve each day, like
Brett have no access. So many  fallen through the cracks. I simply make a phone call, go to my physician or dentist, and am served. Thousands on the street do not have that privilege.

    Jesus makes many consequential choices that ultimately lead to his death. He heals on the Sabbath. He dares to touch lepers and even the dead. He eats with sinners and outcasts. Each time he chooses mercy and compassion over self-preservation and self-gain.

    “Jesus .. .attracts those in need of healing, those who see him as a source of life and wholeness,” Funk writes.

Do we draw others in the same way? Do we reach out into the margins and touch the face of Jesus? Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!

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

P.O. Box 642656

San Francisco, CA 94164


Being Soul Friends on the Margins

June 9, 2019


Being Soul Friends on the Margins of God

John 14:15-26 English Standard Version (ESV)

Jesus Promises the Holy Spirit

15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper,[a] to be with you forever..  ……………………………………….

23 Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. 24 Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me.

25 “These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. 26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.


Today is Pentecost and many churches will be celebrating with balloons, confetti and other ways to demonstrate the coming of the Spirit.

     When the Spirit overcame people on that first Pentecost, and everyone heard the various languages become a single language, that was symbolic of the love of God flowing through those who followed Jesus. It was a transformation which put soul into the lives of people. The soul of caring for people. Jesus promises the Holy Spirit in our gospel and tells the apostles they will be taught how to love.

    Beatrice Bruteau tells us, the essence of the first Pentecost in these words: “If we cannot love our neighbor as our self, it is because we do not perceive our neighbor as our self.”

    Paul in Acts 17:27 said: “There is an urgency that compels me to go to Jerusalem to finish the job God gave me which is to share his extravagant love.”

The church as we know it is dying.  Our numbers are small, our buildings are becoming tombs.  We talk of  hiring people to raise money, rather than look deep within ourselves to find the Spirit that gives life. The church as become a social club. Like Paul we are called to go to our Jerusalem’s to share the “extravagant love.”

Pentecost calls each one of us to conversion, to a transformation in sharing that “extravagant love,” in becoming “soul friends”.  In opening ourselves up to the Spirit, and to conversion, we will move out in the midst of people on our streets who are throw a ways, and be about the business of being soul friends. It is painful, dangerous, and nasty, but that is what the Holy Spirit transformed the early Church into doing–their lives, their witness of compassion and caring changed the world.

On this Pentecost let us remember “No matter how you are feeling; Get up; Dress up; and never give up.” Be transformed into soul friends. Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!

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

P.O. Box 642656

San Francisco, CA 94164


Does It Really Matter?

June 6, 2019

Does It Really Matter?

30 But on the next day, desiring to know the real reason why he was being accused by the Jews, he unbound him and commanded the chief priests and all the council to meet, and he brought Paul down and set him before them.

23 And looking intently at the council, Paul said, “Brothers, I have lived my life before God in all good conscience up to this day.” And the high priest Ananias commanded those who stood by him to strike him on the mouth. Then Paul said to him, “God is going to strike you, you whitewashed wall! Are you sitting to judge me according to the law, and yet contrary to the law you order me to be struck?” Those who stood by said, “Would you revile God’s high priest?” And Paul said, “I did not know, brothers, that he was the high priest, for it is written, ‘You shall not speak evil of a ruler of your people.’”

Now when Paul perceived that one part were Sadducees and the other Pharisees, he cried out in the council, “Brothers, I am a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees. It is with respect to the hope and the resurrection of the dead that I am on trial.” And when he had said this, a dissension arose between the Pharisees and the Sadducees, and the assembly was divided. For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, nor angel, nor spirit, but the Pharisees acknowledge them all. Then a great clamor arose, and some of the scribes of the Pharisees’ party stood up and contended sharply, “We find nothing wrong in this man. What if a spirit or an angel spoke to him?” 10 And when the dissension became violent, the tribune, afraid that Paul would be torn to pieces by them, commanded the soldiers to go down and take him away from among them by force and bring him into the barracks.

11 The following night the Lord stood by him and said, “Take courage, for as you have testified to the facts about me in Jerusalem, so you must testify also in Rome.”

We human beings tear each other up. We expect answers, our answers, or our “tribe’s answers and every one else is wrong. Our answers come as we go deep into ourselves, and ask ourselves the question: “What am I afraid of?”, and when we face that we move out and know all of us are afraid, and can walk together as family.

The Reverend Audrey Miskelley gives a good summary of this Scripture in its contemporary context:


“Do we know when something is broken? Do we know when someone is broken? Do we know when we are broken?

In our church language we speak about “this broken world” that we live in. It’s not hard to see the brokenness. It’s probably harder to agree on what is broken and what is not broken. It’s probably near impossible to agree on how to “fix” what’s broken.

I often find myself “sighing heavily” when I listen to folks who are talking about the many problems that we face; as a nation, a city, a church and they don’t seem to be able to get out of the “who’s at fault” stage of the conversation. I don’t argue that knowing how something broke is important information and knowledge, but, seems to me this line of conversation isn’t about looking for possible answers; it’s about looking for possible targets.

I am reminded of my childhood when I was pretty sure that I’d be the first one (of six) to loudly proclaim that “it wasn’t me,” it was never me, and always one of my brothers! And then as a parent myself, to work at looking past “who did it” to the more helpful conversation about making better choices and the consequences – usually unintended – of actions. I continue to learn as I go and hope that so do my kids and my grandkids too.

I cannot fix what is broken in the world, or in another human being, but I can be mindful of how I act and react. I believe to my very core that if each person in the world focused more attention on how they are, and how what they do affects those around them, we’d be less broken. I believe that more people than not do not make choices to purposefully hurt another person but rather make choices without any thought as to how those around them are going to be affected by that decision.

I believe that we often, sadly, act solely in our own “best interest” and give no thought to the poor person standing next to us, much less someone farther away.

I believe that our brokenness is related to our selfishness.

In a world that is all too willing to dismiss entire populations of people because they are…name your category – our brokenness will unfortunately continue to increase.

I wonder, do you recognize what is broken in you?

I wonder, in those intimate conversations that we each have with God, do we ask for guidance to help us in our brokenness?

One of my favorite prayers: Help me gracious God, a sinner. Amen.


Interim Rector, St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, San Francisco, CA 94109

Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!

Fr. River Sims, D.Min.


Joys and Sorrows of Life

June 3, 2019

Joys and Sorrows Kiss

Joys and Sorrows Kiss

“When we speak about celebration we tend rather easily to bring to mind happy, pleasant, gay festivities in which we can forget for a while the hardships of life and immerse ourselves in an atmosphere of music, dance, drinks, laughter, and a lot of cozy small talk. But celebration in the Christian sense has very little to do with this. Celebration is only possible through the deep realization that life and death are never found completely separate. Celebration can only really come about where fear and love, joy and sorrow, tears and smiles can exist together. Celebration is the acceptance of life in a constantly increasing awareness of its preciousness. And life is precious not only because it can be seen, touched, and tasted, but also because it will be gone one day. When we celebrate a wedding, we celebrate a union as well as a departure; when we celebrate death we celebrate lost friendship as well as gained liberty. There can be tears after weddings and smiles after funerals. We can indeed make our sorrows, just as much as our joys, a part of our celebration of life in the deep reality that life and death are not opponents but do, in fact, kiss each other at every moment of our existence.” Henri Nouwen

John 16:29-33

“Yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me.” (32)

On June 4, I was ordained into ministry. The memories I have of these years are of the hands  held, the people  comforted, the weddings, the funerals, the confirmations and the baptisms, joys and sorrows, all meet as one. I have never known any other job but ministry. From the  time I felt my heart “strangely warmed” at age 12, I have been driven to follow the One who goes before us into Galilee. People asked why I have never gotten married or had a relationship, it is because I have had one relationship to which I have given my  all.  Through the ups and downs of life, my ordination is the seal of that relationship, that covenant between me and Christ. I had a friend who was interested in me, and sought to court me, when same sex marriage became legal sent me a wedding certificate which declared my marriage to: “Jesus.”  She added: “You are legal now. Congratulations!

Last March on a warm night I was knocked down, and beaten.
Three ribs were broken. All I remember were the words spoken, rebuking God, demanding I deny Jesus, and my ministry, criticizing my ministry etc., and in the pain, the  fear of death, all I could see in the face of the one beating me was the broken face of Jesus. And I loved him, I cherished him,  because he was Jesus. In those moments the joys and sorrows of life kissed, as I see them kiss now in every moment of life.

In those moments ministry changed for me, as I let go of judging other people, and understood the words of Paul Tillich for the first time: “The first duty of love is to listen.”

And so as I begin another year, whether I am rich or poor, sick or in heath, have friends, or do not have friends, looking  to Jesus the Author and Finisher of my faith, remembering  that “The first duty of love is to listen.” I commit myself to listening.

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

P.O. Box 642656

San Francisco, CA 94164