Today is an interesting day because we begin a new year in the Diocese of Los Angeles. It is by accident that we’re here on this day because we didn’t plan it this way, but today is the 106th Anniversary of the founding of the Diocese of Los Angeles. On this day Joseph Horsefall (?) Johnson came from Christ Church in Detroit to begin the Bishop of Los Angeles.
I count it great honor that you welcomed myself and the rest of our travelers here to preach to you this day. I’m sure that you think it’s a little strange to see so many in the pulpit, and even more in a lectern. But we’re a strange group.
We’ve been traveling across the country for the last month and a half, and what we have been talking about is being the people of God. We’ve been talking about what we’re called to do as the people of creation. We’ve been talking about what it is and what our responsibility is to put away violence in our world.
In the First Lesson today it becomes very clear that God has given each and every one of us in this room dominion and authority over this world. And along with dominion and authority comes responsibility. We, we the people of God, ordained by God’s Holy Spirit in our baptism, have been given responsibility for this Church and for the world in general.
We’ve been on a journey that’s been remarkable. And in that journey, we the people of hands and healing have been talking about the kinds of violence we experience in our lives. September 11th changed our lives in many ways, and opened our hearts and minds to new and difference kinds of violence than we ever thought we would expect on our shores. But there are many other different forms of violence in this world.
You must think for a moment about the woman and her children who are beaten because of power or anger on the part of the male of the home. We can think about people who are abused because they are smaller or gentler than those who can assume authority by force of hand. We could think about the discrimination in this world where people are set aside and have perpetrated to them hate crimes because of their race, because of their gender, because of their sexuality. Violence is not something that we don’t have enough of. We have more than our share.
And I’ve learned more about violence in the last thirty days traveling with fifteen to twenty young people all the time who have been teachers about the violence in their life. In all the Lessons for today we celebrate the holiness of the Trinity, and that we see the God of our creation, the God of our redemption, and the God of our enabling sanctification. God Creator, God Redeemer, God Holy Spirit.
It’s clear from the Second Lesson that we’re charged with responsibility of making this world a better place to live in. And that the power of God dwells in each and every one of us. It doesn’t matter if we’re young, what our race is, or if we’re old. God still will hold us responsible. God will hold us responsible to be caretakers of this world, nurturing the people around us, transforming the world, and not stepping back and saying, ‘That’s happening over there; how sad. When I see my brother or sister put upon, I’m responsible.’
Yesterday, here in this city as we traveled and got to K Street we saw a man in the car next to us racing his hand to the woman seated in the seat next to him. And immediately, in union, the five people screamed, “NO!” And that’s the way it must be in all of our lives when we abuse or injure one another.
We started this pilgrimage in Las Vegas, Nevada. We didn’t go there to gamble. We went there to theologically reflect about the violence in that city and what it does to peoples’ lives sexually, emotionally, or if you think about it, how we’ve made Disneyland out of Las Vegas so parents can spend their pay checks without their children bothering them.
The group then moved on to Laramie, Wyoming. And in Laramie, Wyoming, stood in the middle of a field near to the spot where Matthew Shepherd was strapped to a fence. And they prayed there in the cold in the middle of the night in the hour that he was strapped to that fence and prayed that our community be healed from its prejudice and its hatred.
They went back in the morning when the sun would be rising, because after several hours of being out there, twenty-degree weather took their toll. And the next morning they experienced what it would have been like for Matthew, naked on that fence. And then they met with Matthew’s friends in his community, and his family, and offered hands of healing.
These three young people that stand next to me are here for a purpose because they have different perspectives on this journey of non-violent behavior than I do. Our ages are different, our plight is different. And Luis is going to share first of all a little with you about what this trip has meant to him.
Luis. I came on this trip on April 19th, after I was asked by Bishop Bruno if I would come on this journey. It was that moment that I said that I must go because my life has been transformed because my life has dealt with that violence from a very young age. At the age of eleven I lost my brother, Roberto, to suicide. And my life started speeding away, and I had to grow so quick that I lost my childhood. A year and a half later, my brother, Salvador, was shot by another youngster from another gang, and had his head blown off. Now, if that don’t hurt, I don’t know what does. That changed my life forever. And my life started speeding quicker. This journey has brought to me great joy and it has made me drop that baggage that took me fourteen and a half years to let go of that pain.
Other thing I found in this journey was that I discovered my childhood again. And to find it again in this pilgrimage has just incredible is just incredible. But it’s not……It must be God, God’s healing hands sending me guardian angels to help me guide myself through life.
Bishop Bruno. A man of twenty-five years old, a man, a father of three, corrected the course of his life from being a violent gang member to being the Warden of the Cathedral Congregation in Los Angeles. A man who has three children here who sit in this front row with their mother who’s grown in a different way and become more than anyone could ever have imagined. Luis knows who he is and to whom he becomes.
Ann has a story from a different perspective to share with us.
Ann. Love is God’s greatest gift to us and it’s on this trip that I’ve learned to express love in the way it was meant to be. Before we left I knew that I would gain from this trip. I knew that I would gain something, but I had no concept of how deep it would go and how much I would be changed. These people I’m with—we’ve formed a community of love and support which has held us up—we’ve been on the road for five weeks!—and our love is still as strong as when we started—if not stronger. And it’s through this love that we are changing everyone we meet, if in the slightest way we can bring a little bit of our love into another community it makes all the difference. Because I believe it is my, it is my firm belief, that only through love and patience and understanding can we heal the world.
Bishop Bruno. The perspective of understanding what true love is, living in community with people on a van that holds fifteen persons, eating together with them every meal, disagreeing with them, and still be able to come out the other side, is really important.
We move on in our journey, and we go to places like Omaha, Nebraska, and talk about what violence is being done to the world by family farms being dissolved, what violence is being done to the world in Detroit and Chicago, and we find that we’re not the only ones on this pilgrimage. We find that the Episcopal Church is the counseling agency for all the public high schools in the city of Chicago, and have developed a model plan that is transforming that school system.
When we get to Detroit we have experiences that we never imagined. We’ve been in mostly inner-city churches by this time in dialogue with young people, but we sit down at a table with young people and have dialogue, young people of Arab nationalities, who are Islamic and Christian, and talk to us about the abomination of the War and how pained they are for the loss of Jewish, Christian and Islamic life. So they taught us that the extension of hands and the power that we as individuals can make a difference.
But the strangest thing in Detroit happened when we went to a suburban, white Detroit congregation and met a strange man who was very different. Lester will share that with you.
Lester. I wonder what it would be like if all of us in this Cathedral knew each other by name. I grew up in South Africa under the system of apartheid, a system of separateness. And in Detroit I met a man called Art who was a previous member of the Ku Klux Klan. By introducing ourselves by name we hugged each other, and really encountered Jesus, you know. And even now today, every time my fellow pilgrims or somebody calls my name, it is strong Jesus saying “I love you, I’ve here for you”; it’s Jesus saying, “I forgive you.” Forgive yourself. Be gentle with yourself.” And for me that is the sledgehammer that breaks down our barriers we create, our walls we create of hatred, of pain, you know, of separateness, of apartheid. So every time I hear my name, or we call each other by name, it is God saying, “You know, I created you, I formed you, I named you in your mother’s womb.” And God is saying that she loves us.
Bishop Bruno. God is saying that she loves us. God is saying that God is our parent. We journeyed on from Detroit and went to New York City. We spent a day with the Episcopal Church in New York City. We went to St. Paul’s, and you should all be proud of your church. You should be proud of the hand that’s been extended to all the people who’ve grieved there. We lost parishioners when people who’ve helped our Diocese who flew into that building or were in the offices of that building, and so we went there to pray. And our lives were transformed. And we realized how important each of our two hands are. As Luis taught me on this trip, I looked at my hands front and back, and I tried to remember who they reminded me of. My father, my mother, whether they were hands of violence or joy, Luis reminded me that they were hands that could love or could pull a trigger in anger.
We continued our journey and we came to your fair city. And we entered into dialogue with your scholars here, your Cathedral scholars, other young people. We went to the Pentagon and visited the point of the death of Christopher Newton, one of our congregants in Pales Verdes. And one of our friends took us through that place on a special tour and talked to us about her feelings that day, as thirty minutes before the plane hit, she hit the office that was dead center where the plane went in. She talked about the losing of her friends, the anxiety that it caused, the six hours of gridlock. And I have to tell you that that one of the most moving experiences of my life because I could not understand how anybody could get through that.
But then I began to think about my mother. I began to think about Dorothy, what a wonderful woman she was. I remember when I was four or five years old and I was having a night tear. Any of you adult men who have worked in industry know what anxiety attacks are. That’s what a night tear is, but for kids. Any of you adult women who have ever worked in industry or who had to take care of a family and work in industry know what those panic attacks are. That’s what a night tear is to a child. And I’ll never forget waking and screaming at that early age and my mother’s arms enveloping me and saying to me, “Johnny, it’s okay. Johnny, it’s okay.” My mother had a habit of making pet names for people she loved, and she called me Johnny, but she called God, with me, Goddy. And she said, “Johnny, Goddy loves you.” And to this day when I’m thinking about the pain of my life, or I’m thinking about having taken life and shooting and killed people in my life, or holding dying children in gangs, I think about the fact that Goddy loves me.
I want you to reach to the person next to you, and I want you to entwine your hands with that person next to you. If we think about the position prayer that my mother taught me in those early years, that’s the symbol of how we are supposed to be in relationship with God. But we can be pulled apart from that relationship easily. But when we link our hands one with another, nothing can pull us asunder. That’s what the community of faith is about.
Why am I up here? Because all these young people, and these people, and those people, brought me here to be their voice. And I’m telling you that you need to be the voice of this world and help us to abolish the violence and anger of our lives. No, it’s not an easy job. It takes a whole community of faith to raise children up, and to build new scholars and new priests like these people will some day be. It takes hundreds of people to help people rise to build edifices like this that can be symbols of our faith and love where we can gather. And it takes linking our hands together and being one with another, knowing who we are and to whom we belong.
And I have to tell you something. As you keep your hands held together, I know the secret of how to continue to do that. It’s not only community, but it’s remembering that Goddy loves you, and it’s remembering what these young men will teach us and how.
Jesus loves me. Oh, yes he does.
Jesus loves me. Woooo, yes he does.
Jesus loves me. Oh, yes he does.
For the Bible tells me so………..
Amen. Amen. Amen.
Jesus loves me, loves me so.
Ask me know I know
And I’ll tell you, tell you, tell you
The Bible tells me so.
Jesus tells me how I need to pray
Because Jesus loves me so.
Jesus loves me, this I know
For the Bible tells me so.
This old ? here below
They are weak but he is strong.
Yes, Jesus loves me
Yes, Jesus loves me
Yes, Jesus loves me
He never leaves me
He’ll not forsake me
He’ll be there until the end
He’s just that kind of friend.
I’m so glad I know he’s that kind of friend
That will be right there, yes he will
Thank you, Jesus. Yes. Yes.
He’ll be there. He’ll be there. He’ll be right there. He’ll be there.
Don’t you worry. Don’t your worry. Don’t be afraid.
Because my God, my God, will never fail be there.
I’ll be …… there. (repeat)
I’ve seen a lot of fake (?) there.
But I can’t find nobody like Jesus.
I can’t find nobody like Jesus.
I can’t find nobody. I can’t find no body. I can’t find nobody.
No, No, No. Nobody. Nobody.
No, No, No, No. Nobody. Nobody.
He’s better than be ?
Be ready when you are.
He’s better than coke?
He is everything.
He’s better than Campbell Soup
Humm, hummm, good.
He’s better than Maxwell House
He’s good to the last drop.
He’s better than ? ? five
He’s better than
Hey, you can’t see him, but you know he’s there.
Be there, yeah, yeah, be there. Be there, yeah, yeah, be there.
Remember, Jesus loves you. Use your hands to heal another human being and love them. Amen.