Archive for December, 2020

A Journey of Joy

December 31, 2020

A Journey of Joy!

Philippians 2:12: “Wherefore, my beloved, you have always obeyed…work out  your own salvation with fear and trembling.”

     Several have asked why I have not put out a fundraising letter, and the answer to that question is found in Philippians 2:12. The fundraising comes in our witness. Each day we “work out our salvation with fear and trembling,” and in this past year, it has been one of joy. 

    We have learned two things: first is to be aware of our own weaknesses. I have tried my best to be as open and honest as I can. Personally, I know how difficult I am, I know I am a bumbling fool most of the time, but I persevere. And through that to encourage others to do the same. Through listening and being present to people we invite them to share their pain and fears. Understanding comes from our own pain and fears and being open about them.

    The second thing I have learned is perseverance. To do the work, to care for people, expecting nothing in return. To encourage others to do the same. To do so using what resources we have, and if people recognize our perseverance to choose to give.

    Personally, I am “working out my salvation with fear and trembling,” and hopefully by doing so others will join me on that journey.

    This past year, a very difficult and painful year has been a journey of joy. Joy in knowing  God’s presence, in every person we encounter, however, we are received.

    We invite people to join  us in recognizing our weaknesses, and persevere in “working out our salvation.”

    And so on this last day of the year, we invite you to give through your prayers, your care, and your money, if you so choose, but most importantly I personally want to assure you we care for you and respect you. Happy New Year!

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

P.O. Box 642656

San Francisco, CA 94164

http://www.temenos.org–our pay pal can be found here.

In the Beginning was the Word

December 31, 2020

In the Beginning, Was the Word!

John 1:1-18

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God. .In him was life, and the life was the light of humanity. All light shineth in the darkness and the darkness comprehended it not.. .And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory. .full of grace and truth.”

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     Yesterday I was on a Zoom call with an older couple, and they talked of their kids, and of staying in for nearly a year, and not understanding how I could take the chances I do, “you are different.” They do not know some of the people that I do, there are a lot of “different” people in this world.

     I have heard that a lot, but that “difference” is what has set me apart in ministry, and it has taken me to places of grandeur, and sadness. I would not change a thing.

    I have “chosen the road less traveled,” out of following God. I am studied and read to the point of boredom and irritation of how individuals like myself, being disconnected from my dad at an early age, disconnected with my sexuality are doomed to a life of loneliness, isolation, etc, in a negative way. We try to put people into little boxes of understanding, and into tribes. I am not in either and have chosen not to be.

    There is another aspect to that as well, the spirituality, God’s way. And I know this is my call, that for which I was born, and find fulfillment.

    I hold the hands of people ill and dying, I have been stabbed, and shot at, being threatened. I walk with kids who to are told they are “different” and I share with them my story.

     I have thought a lot about how today I am well, tomorrow I may be ill and dying, and I know that all will be well.

    Fr. Henri Nouwen sums up how I approach my journey and teach others to do the same. There is nothing to fear.

“Remember you are held safe. You are loved. You are protected. You are in communion with God and with those whom God has sent you. What is of God will last. It belongs to eternal life. Choose it, and it will be yours. Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!
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Fr. River Damien Sims,sfw, D.Min., D.S.T.
P.O. Box 542656
San Francisco, CA 94164
http://www.temenos.org

December 30, 2020

Seeing the Fire Beneath the Ashes–Hope

December 30, 2020

Feast of the Holy Family

Gospel LK 2:36-40

There was a prophetess, Anna,
the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. 
She was advanced in years,
having lived seven years with her husband after her marriage,
and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. 
She never left the temple,
but worshiped night and day with fasting and prayer. 
And coming forward at that very time,
she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child
to all who were awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem.

When they had fulfilled all the prescriptions
of the law of the Lord,
they returned to Galilee,
to their own town of Nazareth. 
The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom;
and the favor of God was upon him.

    Tomorrow is New Year’s Eve, we await it in hope. And as I read Anna’s story, I think of the years she waited, and how waiting is a ministry. I remember a friend  commenting with so much joy when  I was recovering from surgery that her church was praying for me, and I snapped in pain, “Prayer is only good through action.” I am so sorry for those words, I was ungracious, and a bastard to be honest. Their prayers lifted me up, their prayers were a sign of being remembered  with love. They were present with me.  So waiting is a ministry. For Anna waiting in prayer lead her to see the Christ. And for us, waiting in prayer leads us to Christ.

   My resolution this next year is simply to be a presence to people, to listen, to love, simply be a present.  This too is a form of waiting, we have no expectations, we listen, sit with each one and pray for the tree to sprout leaves of hope.

    I have given my life to knowing in the words of Danilo Dolci: “There is a fire in these people, like the fire beneath the ashes.”  I have given my life to that Fire, and see that fire in each one of you.

    So in wishing you a Happy New Year, my wish is for you to find hope in your waiting, knowing:

“For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. ..For we know that the whole creation groanth and travailed in pain together. . For we are saved by hope.” Romans 18, 22-24

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Thank you for your support in your prayers, and in your giving this past year. Each day you walk with me, and I feel nurtured and loved, so thank you. A friend has wondered how I have survived through the years without living in community—you are my community, the kids on the street are my  community, and my friends who I hang out with are my community. I have never been alone and have been blessed each day of my life. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for being my community.
Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!

Now: “May the Lord bless you and keep you. May the Lord lift is countenance upon you. And may the Lord give you peace.”

Fr. River Damien Sims

P.O. Box 642656

San Francisco CA 94164

www.temenos.org

415-305-2124

A Tale of Two Cities

December 29, 2020

A Tale of Two Cities!

I John 2:7-12

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    Fr. Henri Nouwen was a priest that I have the highest respect for. Through his writings, he shares with us his journey, openly, honestly, and painfully.

    Fr. Nouwen was raised in an upper-middle-class family, became a priest, and was gay. Being gay in the Roman Catholic Church and a priest “ain’t for pussy cats”. His was a constant struggle of reconciliation of his faith and sexuality and giving his life totally to Christ through celibacy.

      He was born and lived in the City of privilege, and of having his needs fulfilled.

 Nouwen’s life was the one given to him and is the tale of the City of the have’s. No idea of any other way of life.

    Recently there is a poem that illustrates how we live in the City of privilege, unknowingly not seeing the other City.

And the people stayed home.

And read books, and listened, and rested,

and exercised, and made art, and played games,

and learned new ways of being, and were still.

And listened more deeply.

Some meditated, some prayed, some danced.

Some met their shadows.

And the people began to think differently.

And the people healed.

And, in the absence of people living in ignorant, dangerous, mindless ways, the earth began to heal.

And when the danger passed, and the people joined together again,

they grieved their losses, and made new choices, and dreamed new images,

and created new ways to live and heal the earth fully,

as they had been healed. Kitty O’Meara

    Nouwen in his brokenness came to see the other City of disability, brokenness and came to live and work with people of disabilities, finding wholeness. Henri joined the two Cities together.

    I have written, very crudely I might add, a poem of the second City of poverty.

     On the streets, people struggle to find food, a warm place to sleep, a bathroom.

The poor, the homeless, outside, in the cold,  on the street,  shivering in the cold, hounded by the noise of cars, people fighting, and partying, constantly being forced to move by the police.

They sleep covered by their dirty blankets or without blankets on the cold concrete.

They have learned to eat the scraps out of garbage cans, the second-hand donuts and sandwiches given to them.

People on the street lose faith in the promises of government, as they become ill mentally, physically, and descend into hopelessness.

Many drink, use drugs to cope with the harshness, pain, hopelessness, and lack of hope.

They are judged, ignored by the City of privilege.

And as the pandemic ends, people in the City of privilege will go on with their old life, while the City on the Street continues to deteriorate, and become more disenfranchised.

And God still reigns, grieving, yet holding out hope as She continues to work in the hearts of all little by little, transforming their hearts into loving without expecting anything in return.

    We can join the two Cities together by opening our hearts, our doors, and loving without expectation. And love hurts, but only through love can we have community and peace.

    Nouwen calls us to gain the heritage of our birth:

Born to Reconcile

If you dare to believe that you are beloved before you are born, you may suddenly realize that your life is very, very special. You become conscious that you were sent here just for a short time, for twenty, forty, or eighty years, to discover and believe that you are a beloved Child of God. The length of time doesn’t matter. You are sent into this world to believe in yourself as God‘s chosen one and then to help your brothers and sisters know that they are also Beloved Sons and Daughters of God who belong together. You’re sent into this world to be a people of reconciliation. You are sent to heal, to break down the walls between you and your neighbors, locally, nationally, and globally. Before all distinctions, the separations, and the walls built on foundations of fear, there was a unity in the mind and heart of God. Out of that unity, you are sent into this world for a little while to claim that you and every other human being belong to the same God of Love who lives from eternity to eternity.

    Little by little, one step at a time, tossing one starfish back into the ocean at a time.

“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.” Margery Williams

Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!

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

P.O. Box 642656

San Francisco, CA 94164

http://www.temenos.org

The Feast of the Holy Innocents

December 28, 2020

Feast if the Holy Innocents

“And when they were departed, behold the angel of the Lord, appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother and flee into Egypt and be thou there until I bring thee word. .Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth and slew all the children that were Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under. . .”

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     The past three days we have seen so many “holy innocents” on our streets, sleeping on the sidewalk, the hard concrete, wearing dirty clothes, and no place to take a bath. They sit alone, many in fear of the strangeness that now engulfs all of us. Food, clothing, and support are difficult to find;. there are many who are child trafficked, with San Francisco, being one of the major cities for this activity;  each year young boys and girls simply disappear, assumed they are running away, never to be seen again, when they have been picked up to be sold across the world as prostitutes; so many others cast aside because they do not meet the criteria for professional support,  too difficult to work with–all “holy innocents”.

    And then across the world, millions are destroyed and harmed because of our national policies and lack of humanity–all “holy innocents.”

    We walk by them on the street, we turn our heads away, we read articles in the newspaper as simply statistics, we fail to hear their cries and say, “let the institutions do it.” We also tell ourselves, “human beings, they never change, so why even do anything.” Apathy leads to the death of the soul.

    We are all responsible. On my desk, there sits a starfish, picked up on the beach, and it is a reminder that as we walk the beach of the world, our responsibility is simply to pick up one at a time that has washed ashore and throw her back in.

    The one fact of life learned through the years, is that Christ comes to each of us, as we see his broken, face in front of us. And in throwing one starfish at a time back into the ocean, we save him, his broken body, and our lives take on meaning, purpose, and love for humanity. Christ is present and becomes so real, even in the most painful experiences.  Don’t think about it–do it, and do it in all of your love! Give your life away! And you will gain eternity!

Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!

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

P.O. Box 642656

San Francisco, CA 94164

http://www.temenos.org

415-305-2124

Holy Communion and the Streets

December 27, 2020

Holy Communion and the Streets

“Put on, therefore,  as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; forbearing one another, and forgiving one another. .And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness. .” Colossians 3:12-14

(Sunday, December 27, 2020-up early, I work at a hospital tonight)

    I received a note from a long time supporter, whom I met in 1997  or 1998, and she wrote: “River, I first met you in 1997 or ’98 when I was in San Francisco for meetings to plan an Urban Ministry Conference for the PCUSA. And after all these years your ministry is still growing and gaining strength.. .”

    The strength she is talking about is not in numbers but in the growth of our faith in Jesus of Nazareth as that which holds all of life in his hands and gives strength in the best and worst moments.

    There is strength in holding the hands of a person dying without the support of family around, holding his hand and seeing in his eyes the peace which comes from knowing he is not alone; there is strength in the young man who once tried to stab me calling me to apologize and tell me as a result of that experience he had changed his life around. There is strength in talking to a young man on Snapchat who has received a positive diagnosis of the virus and supporting him and him finding hope.

    And on Christmas Eve night as we lifted the bread and the cup in thanksgiving, and shared the body and blood of Christ to young men and women in the cold of Golden Gate Park, the image above comes to mind, in our brokenness, in our sinfulness, in our violence, and weakness, there is hope, and Christ reigns. “And I will raise you up, And I will raise you up, And I will raise you up!  Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!

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

P.O. Box 642656

San Francisco, CA 94164

http://www.temenos.org

To Be Continued

December 26, 2020

To Be Continued

The Feast of St. Stephen

Acts 6:8-16; 7:54-59

Matthew 10:17-22

      You gotta love the Bible it gives us angels one day and a sweet baby, and the next gnashing of teeth and innocent bloodshed.

     Yesterday as I served food, and talked to people in the doorways, I thought of the contrast of my closest friends, donors, colleagues, and myself. I spent Christmas Eve in Marin hanging with friends, eating great food, sharing gifts, and for this young man and his friends, Christmas is on the streets in the cold rainy weather, each one thanked me for the only gift they received this year, many had only had the sandwiches I brought.  They were all positive, appreciative, and thankful. After I was finished I went to the local store and bought some great food, to fix for my Christmas dinner. What a contrast.

    I came home to my several hundred Christmas cards, and to the threats of death sent as well, calling me every name in the book. I went out later to sit with a family whose son had recently died and then come home to Facebook messages from several young friends telling me how much they hate me now. And I wonder is it worth it? Why not just go away and live a life out of the eye of people, simply live and die? There are times frankly I feel like a failure with people.

     Central to the Stephen story is another passage: “Do you not know that you are  the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in  you?” I Corinthians 3:16.  It is hard to hear this message of hope when faced with a pandemic, struggling for money, and fear of being homeless and the acid test of that belief must be a confrontation with murderous thugs salivating to hurl boulders and smash our broken, bloody limbs to the road.

    Stephen speaks for all of us, he does not let the worst prevent his bold proclamation of who he most deeply is. He relies on “it will not be you who speak but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.”

    Yesterday’s shining infant still shines through our fears and the brutality of life.

     For me, I look at the faces of the young men and women on Haight, and Polk, and will continue. For me, I will continue to proclaim the grace and wonder, power, and forgiveness of the Gospel. And the story continues as the Holy Spirit fills us in unmartyed ways, less dramatic days and the story continues for those who face martyrdom as well. Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!

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

P.O. Box 642656

San Francisco, CA 94164

http://www.temenos.org

Happiness

December 25, 2020

Happiness

“Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God, and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.” I John 4:7

    From time to time I will be asked “Are you ‘happy’?” most of the time with an intensity of desperation, wanting assurance.

    The dictionary defines happiness as “a state of pleasant emotions such as joy, and amusement, satisfaction, justification, and triumph.”

    For example, I was ecstatic yesterday, having breakfast and sharing gifts with Brandon and Aaron, and then spending the rest of the day shopping with their mother, Carla, simply ecstatic. It was my Christmas with my bros and their mom. I felt an awesome warmness of the heart. 

    Today I will be content, and happy in a sense in sharing food, gifts, and friendship on the street with my guys. There is also a sadness to see them sleeping in the doorways, alleys, open to the virus, lack of health care, and for the most part alone, separated from family. It is never easy, and when it becomes easy I quit.

    In the worst of times, we can be content. For our lack of contentment, even happiness is our inability to hear what God is saying in his incarnation–to hear the sweet music that God is not a Sunday God, but is present every day of our lives, God is here to multiply our happiness, our contentment even in the worst of times. The Incarnation is the promise of God’s presence to love us, to care for us, and be with us no matter what.

    The words of William Saroyan remind me that contentment, even happiness comes “In this time of your life, live–so that in that wondrous time you shall not add to the misery and sorrow of the world, but shall smile to the infinite delight and mystery of it.”

So am I happy–yesterday I was with my family, my bro’s; today I will be again with my family on the street, Amen, and Amen!

    May you have a blessed Christmas Day! May you feel the wonder of the presence of God around you, today, and every day, giving you hope and meaning, and the promise of eternity! Amen.

Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!

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

P.O. Box 642656

San Francisco, CA 94164

http://www.temenos.org

Sloughing Towards Bethlehem! Merry Christmas!

December 24, 2020
Death Penalty Protest.jpg

Sloughing Towards Bethlehem!

“And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, Let us now go even to Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. And they came with haste and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen as it was unto them.” Luke 2:15-20.

    These are fearful days. Last week a loud, beeping of dread came on my phone, announcing the “shelter in place,” orders reminding me of Orson Welle’s radio broadcast, War of the Worlds. Scary, bringing much darkness and fear into our lives.

    The story of the shepherds reminds us it is moving beyond our fear in serving others, that we find the light.

    William Saroyan reminds us: In the time of your life, live–so that in that wondrous time you shall not add to the misery and sorrow of the world, but shall smile to the infinite delight and  mystery of it.”

    And Dorothy Soelle echoes the same message:

“The frightened shepherds become God’s messengers. They organize, make haste, find others, and speak with them. Do we not all want to become shepherds and catch sight of the angels?

I think so. .Because the angels sing, the shepherds rise, leave their fears behind, and set out for Bethlehem, wherever it is situated these days.”

    We all slough towards Bethlehem in our fears, doubts, and being naysayers, but when we run, with the wind behind our backs, caring for others without judgment we enter Bethlehem and encounter the living Christ!  May you have a blessed Christmas!  Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!

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

P.O. Box 642656

San Francisco, CA 94164

www.temenos.org

415-305-2124

Trust

December 22, 2020

TrustLuke 1:46-55

“46 And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord,

47 And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.

48 For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.

49 For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name.

50 And his mercy is on them that fear him from generation to generation.

51 He hath shewed strength with his arm; he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.

52 He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree.

53 He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away.

54 He hath helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy;

55 As he spake to our fathers, to Abraham, and to his seed forever.”

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    I remember so clearly many years ago, my last psych evaluation before ordination, and the psychologist looking me in the eye and saying: “You have a special gift, you are able to let kids into your life in a way where they can talk to you as a peer, and yet you are still the adult, a painful gift, but one that will give you great ministry if you embrace it,” and then a supervisor a couple of years later telling me when I was in a relationship, “You will need to make a choice, the one or the thousands,” and I chose the “thousands.”

    I look at nearly 400 Christmas cards taped to the bookcase, all written with kind words of praise, and I have no regrets.

    Joseph Thompson wrote: “The wisest path is to surrender to the will of the “only wise God” when it is revealed to us. Mary was confused by her encounter with the angel
Gabriel but wisely said: “Here am I,” nevertheless. Indeed, having wisdom does not mean having all of the answers.
Wisdom resides inactively waiting for the word of God to come to us at the appointed time. It involves trusting enough in God’s provision that we can say “yes” to God’s call.”

     And the words of Henri Nouwen, “You have to start trusting your unique vocation and allow it to grow deeper and stronger in you so it can blossom in your community. . .Look at Rembrandt and van Gogh. They trusted their vocations and did not allow anyone to lead them astray. With true Dutch stubbornness, they followed their vocations from the moment they recognized them. They didn’t bend over backward to please their friends or enemies. Both ended their lives in poverty, but both left humanity with gifts that could heal the minds and hearts of many generations of people. Think of these two men and trust that you, too, have a unique vocation that is worth claiming and living out faithfully.”

     Yesterday I listened to parents whose fifteen-year-old son had died of the virus, I took turkeys and a pecan pie to three friends from all walks of life who have been supporters through the years, last night spent time talking to kids on the street. On Christmas Eve, I will have lunch with a friend in Marin, and then spend the night and Christmas Day hanging on the street giving gifts and time to my friends, and my family. This is not work, but much joy.

    At the moment I am very sad, so much pain on the streets, so much untimely pain and death, very sad, it takes everything for me to keep going. There is also joy as well.

    This is what ministry is about–letting people enter your life, and suffering with them, giving your life away.

    Margaret Williams sums for me what ministry is about:

“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.” The Velveteen Rabbit

    And so I want to give thanks to all of you who have supported this ministry, and me through the years. My measure of success is not in numbers, but in walking with people as their friend, and their priest, whether they know that or not. Mary the Untier of Knots is always working on my knots, and in this year of the pandemic, I give thanks for you, and for these moments. This is all we have, embrace this Christmas with joy, love in whatever way you can, but love, not only your friends but everyone. Thank you!

Deo Gratias! Thanks to God!

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

P.O. Box 642656

San Francisco, CA 94164

http://www.temenos.org

415-305-2124