Archive for the ‘religion’ Category

Abandon All to God

August 3, 2021

Abandon Everything to God!

Matthew 14:22-36New International Version

Jesus Walks on the Water

22 Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. 23 After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone, 24, and the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.

25 Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. 26 When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.

27 But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”

28 “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”

29 “Come,” he said.

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”

31 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”

32 And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. 33 Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

34 When they had crossed over, they landed at Gennesaret. 35 And when the men of that place recognized Jesus, they sent word to all the surrounding country. People brought all their sick to him 36 and begged him to let the sick just touch the edge of his cloak, and all who touched it were healed.


These are days of much pain, grief, doubt, and feelings of failure. As the emotional and physical pain has come, so has my heart been opened to simply being with people, without judgment. Nothing matters except God, and God only loves.

I am learning to let God love me the way God wants, be it through the hurting of my left side, the pain of surgery in my mouth, the nightmares of a suicide. It is difficult for me to surrender, and trust in God. But each day as I do, I find myself at peace.

And I know that this is a time commitment to my third act of ministry as I follow Jesus into Galilee, no longer worrying about what people think, but simply following and loving each person who comes to me, without reservation. It was rather strange after being beaten up to find no anger towards the young guy, simply compassion and forgiveness. In those moments I felt a love of God, as never before, and I knew we are to love each person no matter what. And so in the days ahead my prayer is  the Prayer for Abandonment of Charles de Foucauld:

Father, I abandon myself into your hands,

do with me what you will.

Whatever you may do, I thank you;

I am ready for all, I accept all.

Let only your will be done in me, and in all your creatures.

I wish no more than this O Lord.

Into your hands I commend my soul;

I offer it to you with all the love of my heart,

for I love you, Lord, and so need to give myself,

to surrender myself into your hands without reserve,

and with boundless confidence, for you are my

I have found that all we have to hold onto is God, and that “On the stormy tossed sea of life all we have is our fiercer loyalty to one another.” Do Gratias! Thanks be to God!



P.O. Box 642656

San Francisco, CA 94164

Trinitarian Formation–a book review

July 29, 2021

Trinitarian Formation

A Theology of Discipleship

in Light of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit

J. Chase Davis


    The Reverend J. Chase Davis presents a theology of discipleship, of growing churches, and of maintaining church membership based upon a theology of discipleship of the Trinity–the flowing of life between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

    Davis is seeking to have the theological concept of the Trinity undergird discipleship, which has been lost through the years.

    We must remember the theological concept of the Trinity itself was created much later in the history of the Church, and so is open to various interpretations.

    The criticism is that the book is difficult to read, and is written by theologians, who have little practical experience.

    Secondly, it is a theology that is limited only to those who believe in one way–and essentially sets limits to those who enter the kingdom.

    Personally, I am a Trinitarian, and my own theology of the Trinity is similar to what is presented, but I believe that Jesus is not the only way, there are many expressions of God, and that God is found in all of life.

    I live, hang out, and minister with the “Lost Girls and Boys,” ministry with these guys is not about doctrine, but about surviving moment to moment on the street.

    Fr. Henri Nouwen sums up a ministry of “Sharing Our Weakness, which  can bring us in touch with the living Christ and  with each other, and lead us to care for all people as simply human beings struggling, and hence to caring for all creation for healing is what faith is about:

Over the last few years, I have been increasingly aware that true healing mostly takes place through the sharing of weakness.

Mostly we are so afraid of our weaknesses that we hide them at all costs and thus make them unavailable to others but also often to ourselves. And in this way, we end up living double lives even against our own desires: one life in which we present ourselves to the world, to ourselves, and to God as a person who is in control and another life in which we feel insecure, doubtful, confused, and anxious and totally out of control. The split between these two lives causes us a lot of suffering. I have become increasingly aware of the importance of overcoming the great chasm between these two lives and am becoming more and more aware that facing, with others, the reality of our existence can be the beginning of a truly free life.

It is amazing in my own life that true friendship and community became possible to the degree that I was able to share my weaknesses with others.

Often I became aware of the fact that in the sharing of my weaknesses with others the real depths of my human brokenness and weakness and sinfulness started to reveal themselves to me, not as a source of despair but as a source of hope.

As long as I try to convince myself or others of my independence, a lot of my energy is invested in building my own false self. But once I am able to truly confess my most profound dependence on others and on God, I can come to touch with my true self and real community can develop.

Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!


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

P.O. Box 642656

San Francisco, CA 94164


Posting Peace

July 26, 2021


I anxiously pause and read, then pause and read again, carefully trying to parse the verbiage, analyze the tone, determine the intent, decipher the meaning, and find a way forward through the ever-expanding social media battlefield. People attack, misinterpret, and spew hatred, death threats are made.

Why are we so angry online? Why are we so divided? Galatians 5 says to us: “If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other?”

Our response to a worldwide pandemic poignantly exemplified and exaggerated the most troubling aspects of our social media communication. While the world engaged in social distancing and at-home sheltering to stop the deadly spread of the covid-19 VIRUS, the most divisive aspects of social media communication went viral. Angry partisan divisiveness and wild, unfounded conspiracy theories spread and continue to spread rapidly through social media platforms.

Dr. Bursch suggests through the Christian faith ways we can approach social media, bring it into a way of reconciliation. Christ’s ministry was one of reconciliation. He suggests the following:

1. Pray: “Rejoice in the Lord always! Take time and remember that the ministry of Jesus is one of reconciliation, and we are called to follow Jesus!

2. Practice mindfulness: Take time to be mindful in posting, pause, be aware of what you are saying, how it will affect others.

3. Tear down the walls: Refuse segmentation. : You are not an algorithm. Remember we are Spirit-led children of God, let the Spirit of love lead.

4. Trend, trend, relational: Watch commenting on local trends, they come and go.

5.Build Relationships and not a following:  Build relationships on all levels, not staying in your tribes. Discuss, learn, argue, but do so in love.

6. Engage your prophetic imagination: Let your imagination proclaim a prophecy in which social media is a tool for the reconciling love of Jesus of Nazareth, one in which that love reaches beyond the computer screens to loving our neighbor in real life.

Reconciliation is the central theme of the Gospel! Make room for the presence of the Divine, however you experience the Divine and walk-in love and reconciliation of one another!


Fr. River Damien Sims, sfw

P.O. Box 642656

San Francisco, CA 94164


Peniel August

July 25, 2021


“Where Jacob Wrestled With God!

Newsletter of Temenos Catholic Worker

August, 20021

P.O. Box 642656

San Francisco, CA 94164



Journal of An Alien Street Priest:

    As we enter August my mind goes back to the days of growing up and hearing the adults talk of entering the “Dog Days of Summer”, a time of intense heat, thunderstorms, and for us kids a fun time of playing, and chasing fireflies throughout night.

    The “Dog Days of Summer” historically comes from the Hellenic view of the star system. Sirus, ‘”Dogstar” which in Greek mythology, connects with drought, fever, thunderstorms, lethally, mad dogs, and bad luck. 

    With the drought, fire, and disease California finds the Dogstar very present with us.

    And this summer with my injuries of being beaten up I too am experiencing the “Dogstar”, and from this experience, I am learning what St. Ignatius calls the “Cannonball Moments”.

    “Cannonball Moments” are the moments, the events we can not predict or see coming, the times when we find we are simple creatures who are vulnerable, and ultimately have very little control over our lives, and must trust in God. I had my summer planned: surfing, hanging with friends and working, but suddenly all that changed–and I am on a walker, doing exercises, in a lot of pain, and taking it moment by moment.

    St. Ignatius suggests and reminds us of six ways of living with our “cannonball moments”:

1. None of us get to choose a “cannonball moment”. We are not immune.

2. Our decisions are not prophecy–our plans are subject to the “cannonball moment”, for eg. I have a friend who found she has cancer, her life has been turned upside down.

3. The “cannonball” is only the beginning, all else is unknown.

4. “Cannonballs” bring unsuspecting graces for us, for me friends who have gone out of their way to assist and love me. We learn to depend on others, for ultimately we all depend on each other.

5. “Cannonballs” call for surrender.
We ultimately must surrender to God and trust moment by moment.

6. No one can survive the “cannonball” alone.

    Every creature will have “cannonball moments”, until the ultimate one of death.     Every time I walk outside my door, tears come to my eyes as I witness individuals who live on the street, and have no one to be with them in their “cannonball moments’.

    All of us need to move out of our “Tribes,” from computer screens, and our fears to touch the lives of those on the street, and alone in hotels and shelters.

    We need to open ourselves to “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!


    WE ARE BEGGARS! Our work continues. We have volunteers doing outreach on the street each week, and we do counseling on the phone, on Snapchat, and by text. So please consider supporting our ministry.

    You may mail donations to:

Temenos Catholic Worker

P.O.Box 642656

San Francisco, CA 94164


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Eating Honey With God!

July 17, 2021

Eating Honey With God!


The Sheep and the Goats Matthew 25:26-31

31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”


For it is not knowing much, but realizing and relishing things interiorly, that contents and satisfies the soul,” Sally Longley


    Several nights ago I had a dream, one that has haunted me in many ways, this past week.

    I was standing on the side of a crossroads, and a caravan passed on the other side, and there were I do not know how many young men and women smiling at me from the windows of this caravan. I knew their names, Zach, Sean, Mouse, etc., the young adults whose lives I have touched through the years. And as the caravan passed a voice said to me: “Your work is not done yet, and  know you are loved, now and always.” I call that voice the Angel of Death, passes through my life, hovers over me so often, and reminds me I will die, so do the work.

    I am often asking the question, “Why did you come to Polk Street, why are you an “eccentric”?

    Many of the early mystics and desert fathers and mothers fled to the desert, not as a place of escape, but as a place of confrontation with their own inner demons and of deep encounter with the living God.

    It had been three years since I had left prostitution and was working, being very materialistic, and the demons of lack of purpose and meaning surrounded me. In my years being a prostitute, I had experienced and seen so much evil, and I had done so much to survive. So I came to the “desert of Polk Street”, which was then filled with gay bars and prostitution.

    The God of all exodus movements, who leads us through our wanderings in the desert, also provides manna for us. I found healing in walking with the young men and women in the caravan, and the ones now, I found my call, purpose.

    “We are a people of memory,” writes  Carmelite theologian and author Constance Fitzgerald. She speaks of how dwelling prayerfully in deep silence enables, “a kind of unraveling” of memory to occur in such a way that the memories are not suppressed or obliterated, but instead are “uncoupled from the self. . In a mysterious way, there is a cutting of both past and memory that is inimical to one’s personhood,” God’s spirit helps us by joining wholesome ways of being in relation to our past and creating a bank of new life-giving images and memories that we can savor.

    I have been called an “eccentric” which Chryssavigis remarks: “eccentricity means moving to the center, re-centering world on God.” It is that recentering which Jesus was talking about. His disciples argued about who was to be first, wanting to set up false boundaries of power and care. Jesus calls them to eccentricity.

    “Eccentricity means moving the center, re-centering the world on God.” Cultivating a contemplative life means we need to be counter-cultural and make space for work that only prayerfully silence can do in our lives.

    Eccentricity crosses traditional boundaries, and allows one to call everyone a “friend”. And in so doing seeing our task as giving to all from our own resources, and to love, even when we do not want to love.

    For some being a nurse, brings that silence, that centeredness, or being a bookkeeper, but work that allows one to bring God, and service to others into one’s life.

    I have been told that “you can not do this work alone,” the reality is I am not alone. Those of you who read this have given me support, some for many years, you are my community. You will never know how much each check, each email, a phone call means to me, through them you are Jesus speaking. I treasure those moments. 

     I am an introvert and need much time alone, and my call is one of not marrying, and doing my work. This ministry, “my desert” fits me, we all must find our own deserts.

    And as we encounter God through becoming attentive and beholding in wonder little-known saints, the trees, grasses, riverbeds, and the humblest and most exquisite of creatures, such as  the dragon lizard. As we listen to the wisdom all this strange and magnificent world has for us, we hear the Creator’s voice, and are drawn into relishing a honeyed feast with God. Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!


Fr. River Sims, D.Min.


We have two of these books available if any one would like one please email or text me your address and one will be sent.

Eloquence of the Shadow

July 11, 2021

The Eloquence of Shadows

Eph 1:3-14

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
who has blessed us in Christ
with every spiritual blessing in the heavens,
as he chose us in him, before the foundation of the world,
to be holy and without blemish before him. 
In love he destined us for adoption to himself through Jesus Christ,
in accord with the favor of his will,
for the praise of the glory of his grace
that he granted us in the beloved.
In him we have redemption by his blood,
the forgiveness of transgressions,
in accord with the riches of his grace that he lavished upon us. 
In all wisdom and insight, he has made known to us
the mystery of his will in accord with his favor
that he set forth in him as a plan for the fullness of times,
to sum up all things in Christ, in heaven and on earth.

In him we were also chosen,
destined in accord with the purpose of the One
who accomplishes all things according to the intention of his will,
so that we might exist for the praise of his glory,
we who first hoped in Christ. 
In him you also, who have heard the word of truth,
the gospel of your salvation, and have believed in him,
were sealed with the promised holy Spirit,
which is the first installment of our inheritance
toward redemption as God’s possession, to the praise of his glory.


     The feather above is symbolic of the connection between God, the bird, and humanity, we are in unity with one another.

    We are in unity with one another in our suffering, when we separate ourselves from the pain of others, we become zombies.

     These past weeks have been ones of baring pain I have never experienced in my life and one of journeying in the shadow. I see myself as a nomad. For nomads, the journey is not the destination. Nomads are always on the move and always remain in the present.

     I am beginning to understand, that in place of my annoyance, and fears, that I am trapped in the now. I need to make friends with who I am right now- a pilgrim on the journey towards being a “limper’ like Jacob, and a nomad. I must be fully attentive to the present.

    The name of our newsletter is “Peniel”, the place “where Jacob wrestled with God.”

I am wrestling with my shadow and in some ways, similar to that of Jacob, and he emerged with a limp, and I have often wondered how he coped with that limp through the years.

    As Sally Longley tells us: “To honor and accept’s one’s own shadow is a profound spiritual discipline. It is whole making and thus holy and the most important experience of a lifetime.”

We all fight  our shadows, but only in bringing them to light do we find wholeness. For me, my life has always been full of shadows, and in bringing them to light I find in the scars a way to know God more fully.

    John Chryssavgh tells us: “the demons fight hardest when God is near:  “the darkness of the shadow is in direct proportion to the brilliance of light.”

    And so for now I have faith that “All wounds will flower,” and the present moment is our home.

    The words of Thomas Tobin, sj remind me of my own experience of life:

“Through all of them (the events of his life) I have felt God’s guidance. Although I must admit I didn’t always or ever often, recognize it at the time. But in the end, I’ve ended up somehow where I ought to be in God’s good pleasure.”

And I know in the words of Jame Liette, “Jesus shed his blood for all people. No matter what, you’re precious.”


Father River Damien Sims, sfw

P.O. Box 642656

San Francisco, CA 94104


Beautiful Words of Life

July 8, 2021

Beautiful Words of Life!

“So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared.

The sun rose above him as he passed Peniel, and he was limping because of his hip. ..


I was raised singing a hymn, entitled “Beautiful Words of Life. “SpeakEasy”, for whom  I write book views, gave me a copy of the NIV translation entitled Beautiful Words of Life. It is a translation that has not been a favorite because it is often used in the conservative views on queerness.

On June 20, while working the Haight, I was assaulted, my ear required surgery, and now am working with damaged ligaments. It was brought to the hospital for me to review.

This Bible has beautiful graphics, its print is very readable, and truly is the “Beautiful Words of Life.” During my hospitalization the book brought comfort, courage, and strength in the mids of fear and pain.

Sr. Maria Romero Menses, sums up where my journey is in the moment: To remain at peace. it is necessary to love while suffering, and to suffer while loving.”

Through the years there has been much suffering, but the pain experienced now is the most intense pain ever experience; the nightmares wake me up in sweat and fear; my fears of never getting better, and dying come all the time.

We pray every day the prayer from The Book of Common Prayer:

Grant me the grace of your Holy Spirit that I may be devoted to you with my whole heart, and united to others with pure affection, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

And we remember the words of Fred Rogers: “Discovering about ourselves is a life time work, but it is worth the effort.”

The demons enter, but I fight with Jesus to cast them out and continue to follow Jesus following him into Galilee, now with a limp. Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!


Our work continues, I listen to people when they call, snap chat or text,  and we have someone taking out food, needles, and socks twice a week.


My personal thanks to those who have assisted in my care, taking me to the hospital, visiting, bringing food, etc:

David Alban, Larry Purcell, Bill and Dina Tiege, Michael Sims, Matthew Lasky, Evangelina Montenegro, Brandon Olaya, Carla Olaya, Ferney Olaya, and Tim Olivia.


Book Review: Seeking the Triune Image of God

June 23, 2021



Jeffrey D. Hill

Hill takes the theological concept of the Trinity and applies it to what it means to be made in the image of God, and explains how the Trinitarian viewpoint is an explanation of the salvation story.

Jeffrey Hill teaches this is more than a theological  concept but a reality and one can encounter the true God in seeing all three aspects of his expression and see the wonder in that expression.

The criticism is he does not apply the theology of the Trinity to the disenfranchised, and like so many theologians he stays in his head, and speaks to people his age.

The organized Church is dying because  it has failed to encounter Christ in the homeless, and all who are disenfranchised throughout the world. Good book, but not very deep.

Fr. River Damien Sims

God’s Will A Book Review

June 21, 2021

A Book Review of

God’s Will

By Matthew John Echan

As I read this book my mind went back to not teenage years, for the book is set near Piedmont, Missouri, on the St. Francis River, where there are memories of canoeing, skinny dipping, swimming, and passing many a summer day; and the memory of having to rescue someone out of the river in the spring, when the water was high and gushing; my first parish in college was near Piedmont, surrounded by oak and cottonwood trees; and yet there is the dark side, about which this book takes us into.

It is set in a Baptist Children’s Home-Mount Zion, where youth who could not be “controlled” was sent for reformation.

One young man describes their tactics when he tells us:

    “No, I don’t think they need drugs. They rule by fear, and they use force and inhumane punishments to brainwash us. You either become one of them, or you suffer the consequences.”

Along with preaching about hell, about the consequences of the sins of sex, drinking, and drugs and their sex is of only one kind–straight and absolutely no oral.

Sam, 14, from Orange County California, is bought to Mt. Zion for two reasons he was stealing, smoking pot, and the greatest sin of all—masturbation–this in 1995.

Sam struggled for nine months, being “saved a number of times,” and finally being kicked out for being caught masturbating a tenth time, and the Director called him a “fag” as he was leaving.

    As he rode to the airport Sam reflected:

“I was angry at Mount Zion for thinking they could get away with branding shame on my face, and cursing my name. Angry at myself for letting them. And angry at God for not shutting the place down. The only real takeaway I could see was I never gonna trust Christians again, and the rage I felt inside to prove I wasn’t a waste of a  bunk felt like an answer to all my prayers. The cure to my weakness. Any other lesson was lost on me.”

It is a gut-wrenching novel about the perils of faith bereft of love.

As I read the novel there was a mixture of emotions, many good, and many very, very bad.

For I was always seen as “a misfit”, in a segregationist community, where I supported everyone; always suspected of being “a fag”, of being “different.”

When beginning the journey to ordination I played the game and played it damned well and was ordained.  But I was always a “misfit” and as depression overcame me, and I finally expressed doubt about my sexuality, and the church’s position I was sent to a similar treatment center, well-known for making adults “straight.” People wonder why I am always suspicious of therapists–this is why.

I played the game and returned to ministry,  and then a young 18-year-old church member shared with me of being gay, and I quoted the church’s position and offered to get him counseling, and he left my office and shot himself. From that moment on I could never keep my mouth shut. I was immediately removed from ministry.

I wound up on the streets of L.A. as a whore, and one among all the “misfits.” The greatest gift I could have received.

    I worked my way back out, but being the misfit I am could not stay in traditional society, and I knew that I was called to work with the misfits,  and so came to San Francisco. The gift given to me by God was an ability to work with the “misfits”, to meet them where they are.

    Through the years there have been so many young men and women who have been in religious and secular programs finding themselves rejected and thrown away. They were “misfits”. So lost, beaten over the head for not fitting in, believing as they are “told” to believe, but could not adjust. I have met them, and received them for their giftedness, and reminded them of that giftedness.

“Social misfits” are defined as people who do not conform to traditional, societal, and cultural views of what is normal or acceptable” (Webster Dictionary). Dr. Seuss defines misfits in another way: “Why fit in when you are born to stand out.” And in this society, it is dangerous not to “play the game.”

I have learned a long time ago that I can “pass” and find ways of promoting, and relating to everyone; but ultimately I have to walk alone, for I am a misfit. I will always speak my truth.

I am at home with the “skaters”, the homeless youth the “druggies”, the “pimps”, “the murderers”, and “thieves”  because there is no fakeness, and God smiles on each one of them offering his love.

And it is with those who are the most condemned, I find my gift of ministry. For I preach a Gospel of the limitless love of God, a God who loves us no matter what we do, a God who will walk with us, and bring us. home. Nothing scares me, and I condemn no one.

I am always asked for examples of “success”, my examples of success are young men and women who have found an understanding that God walks with them and loves them no matter what. And whether they feel it or not I will love them, with all of my heart, soul, and strength.

I have baptized hundreds, and when I celebrate the Eucharist I cry when I see those who hate the institutional church receive the Body and Blood of Christ.

There were two Scriptures that Sam held onto throughout his experience:

“Such was his purpose and good pleasure, to the praise of the glory of his grace, his free gift to us of the Beloved, in whom, through his blood, we gain our freedom, the forgiveness of our sins.” Eph. 1:6

None of the trials which have come upon you is more than a human being can stand. You can trust that God will not let you be put to the test beyond your strength, but with any trial will also provide a way out by enabling you to put up with it.. “I Corinthians 19:13. Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!


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

P.O. Box 646256

San Francisco, CA 94164


Radical Grace

June 19, 2021

Radical Grace

Justice for the Poor and Marginalized-

Charles Wesley’s View for the Twenty-First Century

    The theology of John and Charles Wesely has shaped my life from my early childhood. My ministry is centered in this theology, I am who I am because of being raised and trained in this theology.

    Kimbrough, Jr.’s book is a refreshing read, bringing the theology of Charles Wesly to life in the twenty-first century.

    Radical grace is expressed through Christ’s followers seeking justice for the poor.

    Wesley grew up in a world of an emerging industrial revolution with rampant unemployment, economic displacement, widespread illnesses and poor medical care, the Poor Tax, and workhouses. The sin of greed or self-accumulated wealth at the expense of others, often a cause of poverty, was readily evident in eighteenth-century English society. He opposed poverty, hunger, and slavery.

    We cannot equate the “new poor” of the twentieth-first century with those of the eighteenth, as Jose Miguez Bonino observes, “The contemporary poor clearly represent a different poverty in a different world from Wesley’. While our poor suffer just as those of eighteenth-century Britain, ours are in a qualitatively different condition in their social prospects, expectations, and attitudes.”     The dissimilarities between the twenty-first and the eighteenth centuries are very great. Not only has economic globalization caused by the displacement of peoples and recession among nations, but there are vast regions of the world today where seemingly endless wars have ravaged the land and the people, resulting in hunger, displaced populations, rampant disease and sickness, and especially the abuse of women and children. Natural disasters–earthquakes, droughts, hurricanes, typhoons, and tsunamis-have devastate and sometimes completely wiped out cities and populations,  leaving only death, hunger, sickness, and poverty in their wake. Many of the populations affected are much larger than anything the Wesley’s confronted in their day. Displaced people rose to 82.4 million in the past year, 1 percent of humanity is displaced.

    So how can Wesley’s approach be relevant for today? Its relevance is that as Jesus said, “the poor are with us always,” and Wesley reminds us that the poor are with us because we fail to live out the Gospel message.

    Wesley’s message rings out loud and clear to our age, and to our failure as the Church:

    1. Charles lived by the reality that there was no privileged class in God’s realm, and he challenges the church to be courageous and step beyond the boundaries of its walls and hierarchies in order to actualize acts of compassion and justice. Fr. Henri Nouwen says: “To die to our neighbors means to stop judging them, to stop evaluating them, and thus to become free to be compassionate. Compassion can never coexist with judgment because judgment creates the distance, the distinction, that prevents us from really being with the other.”

2. Charles calls Christians to develop a lifestyle of commitment to the poor. In everything we do, in the way we live, the welfare of the poor should be at the heart of our concern and activities.

3. Wesley summons us to be friends with the poor. We meet people where they are. One of the biggest criticisms I have received through the years is I am friends with the “poor”, with the youth on the street. I hang out with them, and I treat them as equals. We must be friends, we must not talk down or tell others how to live.

    How do we implement a theology of radical grace that seeks justice for the poor and marginalized? Charles Wesley offers a practical approach motivated by divine love:

`1. Labor for the Poor: Around our neighborhood, the doors of churches are locked, and have security systems; and across our country that is the way it is. We should labor for the poor, we should feed the poor, we should work for justice for the poor, and we should work with them on their level, and befriend the poor.

2. Be a Just Steward: Give priority to the poor in budgetary planning as individuals and as a church.

3. Feel the Care of Others: Charles Wesley speaks of feeling the care of others. This is different from merely caring for others. It means establishing a relationship with the poor, which is impossible without personal contact. We will not feel the care of others if we do not visit them and befriend them.

4. Make Friends With the Poor: It is not easy when one has housing, food, the ability to travel, etc., but one can simply come to understand our own poverty, and the reality the time will come when we will die the same way–without nothing. We can move into friendship in sharing with what we have, and in the moment. It is difficult for me every day to come home to a warm room, food, and the ability to do pretty much whatever I choose. I live simply, but materially have everything I desire. And yet I am the poorest of the poor. And I always put these kids first. We are not as different as we think we are.

5. Preach the Gospel to the Poor: St. Francis once said: “Preach the Gospel. .using as few as words as possible.” While actions speak louder than words, Charles took every opportunity to preach the Good News of Jesus Christ.

    Charles believed in universal salvation, but also that knowing Christ brought fulfillment to one’s life.

6. Welcome Everyone to the Lord’s Table:

    The Wesley’s taught everyone should be welcome at the Lord’s Table.

     Holy Communion is the sacrament of love, the communion, and fellowship of the body of Christ, and involves participation in the sacrifice of Christ and sharing the resurrected life. As Petros Vassiliadis says: “It is only  through the eucharist that the church becomes the church in its fullest sense.” It is the determinant of the churches and the Christian’s identity. Thus Holy Communion is an eschatological meal. It always involves a becoming. And it should not be denied to anyone for any reason.

7. Pursue “Gospel-Poverty”:

    This idea is found  in only one of Charles Wesley’s texts; it is a response to Acts 4:36-37: “Thus Joseph, who was also called by the apostles Barnabus (which means son of encouragement), a Levite, a native of Cyprus, sold a field that belonged to him and brought the money and laid it at the apostle’s feet.”

“See here an apostolic priest,

Commissioned from the sky,

Who dares of all vain self divest,

The needy to supply!

A primitive example rare

Of gospel poverty,

To feed the flock one’s only care,

And like the Lord be” (C. Wesley).

    Wesley calls this “A primitive example of rare of gospel poverty.”

    Gospel poverty refers to complete self-divestment. Gospel poverty is daring to give up all in order to supply the needs of others. He relates Gospel poverty to the pursuit of perfection:

“Wouldst thou require what cannot be?

the thing impossible to me

Is possible with God:

I trust thy truth to make me just,

Th’ omnipotence of love I trust,

The virtue of thy blood.

“Ye shall be perfect” here below

He spoke it, and it must be so;

But first, he said, “Be poor;

Hunger, and thirst, repent and grieve,

In humble, meek obedience live,

And labour, and endure.

Thus, thus may I the prize pursue,

And thu’ appointed paths pass thro’

To perfect poverty:

Thus, let me, Lord, thyself attain,

And give thee up thine own again,

Forever lost in thee.”

    Where do Christians and the church begin with these radical ideas of Charles Wesley? We begin by examining how attached we are to worldly things and by considering of what we may divest ourselves for the sake of serving the poor and the marginalized. This can only be done only if we remember our need for gospel poverty and pray faithfully Wesley’s words:

O may I ever be?

The least in my own eyes,

Retain my poverty,

And labour for the prize!

        We are confronted with the words of Thomas a Kempis on our journey, and where we are we in following Jesus and radical grace:

“Jesus has many lovers of His heavenly kingdom, but few bearers of His cross. He has many seekers of consolation, but few of tribulation. He finds many companions at His feasting, but few at his fasting. All desire to rejoice in Him; Few are willing to endure everything for him. Many follow Jesus as far as the breaking of bread, but few to the drinking the cup of his passion. Many reverence his miracles, but few will follow the shame of His cross. Many love Jesus as long as no adversaries befall them. Many praise and bless him so long as they receive some consolation from Him. But if Jesus hides and leaves them but for a brief time, they begin to complain or become overly despondent in mind.”

Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!


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

P.O. Box 642656

San Francisco, CA 94164