This morning, we announced a new partnership to provide housing for those who are most vulnerable in our community. At our parish conversation about the partnership I talked about the way we welcome the homeless in our midst as being directly tied to the way we worship.
The Cathedral is committing to the work of a new Tabernacle – we will create a place of safety for the Body of Christ. It is imperative that we who seek Christ’s Presence see him revealed in those too easily ignored.
Every celebration of the mass is an act of faith in which our eyes see with the soul’s longing for God. The way we encounter those in need is as much an act of faith. Christ is revealed to faithful eyes. It is easy to scoff at the Body of Christ veiled beneath the form of simple bread. It is just as tempting to scoff at the Presence of Christ in someone who is too easy to dismiss because of poverty.
Yet, beneath the surface, waiting for faithful eyes to see, is new life – is the source of our salvation. In the Eucharist we receive Grace upon Grace. In serving those most in need we receive grace as well – we find that the space of relationship becomes hallowed ground where new life is born. In those relationships we find ourselves broken open and reformed with the gold of sympathy and genuine love filling in the cracks.
Whether we see or not, that grace, that genuine Presence is there – God’s promise is alive. Yet it is in receiving that Communion fires in us new hope. It is in reaching out our hand in love to one whom others avoid that hope breaks us open for grace to find a home. Beneath lowly forms God makes Himself known.
Each Sunday, as Communions are administered, I kneel in my stall. This morning I was powerfully struck that I was kneeling before the Christ at the Altar and I was also kneeling before the Body of the Faithful who came by one by one. The Christ before whom we kneel would, I think, welcome us kneeling before one another on occasion as we see within each other grace swelling and shining forth.
In our parish conversation, one of our most dedicated volunteers, related that hers is a ministry of small things. She provides newspapers to the women who stay with us on Monday nights. She hands out aspirin, makes coffee, folds pillowcases, and more. She also mentioned one powerful act of love (which she would not claim as such).
She talked of rubbing lotion onto the feet of the women – many of whom are on their feet all day long. I couldn’t help but be transported back to the moments when costly oil was being rubbed on the feet of Jesus. I could not help but think of the complaints of the money about to be spent on “expensive” housing for the homeless – a waste surely?
So often, the eyes of faith see a chance for love where others only see a need to be met and in those moments, adoration begets adoration, and love begets love.
As Saint John’s embarks on this partnership, we are announcing to the congregation, the city, and the diocese that we place our ministry with those most in need at the very heart of our congregation’s life and witness. It is at much at the center of our life as the Tabernacle. This project will announce that something crucial and life-changing is happening here at Saint John’s. Something glorious is happening in the heart of the city and in our hearts.
Saint John’s Cathedral is physically a large building. By its presence, it symbolizes both the glory of God and of the Church. The money and talents expended on the building are a tangible manifestation of our longing to honor God and to meet God in the beauty of holiness. By consecrating part of our property for ministry with the homeless we are meeting Christ in another way –in a way that is as beautiful as our worship.
Nothing will give me greater joy in ministry here than elevating the Host at Mass and looking just past it and seeing, through the Cathedral’s open doors, a project rise that will mirror the action at the Altar. The Body will be held with love and will be Present among us in the way it always is – changing and challenging those who see with faithful eyes.
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The Rev'd Canon Dane E. Boston said:
Dear Father Robert,
This is indeed an exciting announcement. Your opening paragraphs immediately brought to mind a passage from a sermon of E.B. Pusey that has meant a great deal to me for many years, and with which I am sure you are familiar:
“But if we would see Him in His Sacraments, we must see Him also, wherever He has declared Himself to be, and especially in His poor. In them also He is “with us” still. And so our Church has united mercy to His poor with the Sacrament of His Body and Blood, and bade us, ere we approach to receive Him, to remember Him in His poor, that so, “loving much,” we, who are otherwise unworthy, may be “much forgiven,” we, “considering” Him in His “poor and needy,” may be permitted to behold Him; and for Him parting with our earthly substance, may be partakers of His Heavenly. Heal love to Christ must issue in love to all who are Christ’s, and real love to Christ’s poor must issue in self-denying acts of love towards them. Casual alms’-giving is not Christian charity. Rather, seeing Christ in the poor, the sick, the hungry, the thirsty, the naked, we must, if we can, by ourselves, if not, by others, seek them out, as we would seek Christ, looking for a blessing from it, far greater than any they can gain from our alms. It was promised of old time, as a blessing, “the poor shall never cease out of the land,” and now we know the mercy of this mysterious blessing, for they are the Presence of our Lord. “The poor,” He saith, “ye have always with you, but Me ye have not always,” not in bodily Presence, but in His poor, whom we shall ever have.”
The full text of the sermon can be found here: http://anglicanhistory.org/pusey/advent1848/4.html
My prayers are with you and the people of St John’s Cathedral as you serve Christ where he has declared himself to be: both in his self-offering on the altar and among “the least of these my brethren.”
Robin Hunt said:
Yesterday, the Canon Steward announced the “Come and See” initiative and shared his dream of increases in attendance at services as well as in the number of services on Sunday and maybe even Saturday night. This and the home for the homeless are wonderful aspirations for Saint John’s to realize.
That said, a rather pedestrian eye looks through the Cathedral’s open doors at the projected housing site and sees a significant decrease in parking in a lot shared with a liquor store — even on Sundays now, thanks to a liberalizing of state blue laws. I used to live three doors south of the Cathedral. Now as then, parking is often a challenge in that crowded, urban neighborhood.
Unless there is a yet unmentioned intention to start a bus ministry, please don’t neglect an opportunity to plan affirmatively for the Cathedral’s parking needs, current and anticipated, and to minimize our burden on our residential neighbors.