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




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