Ash Wednesday

Ash Wednesday Sermon Preached at St. Alban’s El Cajon 2016

In ancient Israel the symbolism of ashes was understood to be a forceful reminder of the pervasiveness of human sin and of the inevitability of human death. What is the message from the early church? I think it is instructions for everyday living. The message is about personal piety, charitable donations, and private prayer. This is about the religious practices of everyday life of Judaism. Isaiah calls us to sincere deeds of unselfish personal sacrifice, not false humility disguised by fasting. Isaiah, Paul, and Matthew are asking us to examine our personal piety.

  • As many of you know I hang out with the homeless. One of my friends there came to the camp all chopped up, face, hands, and head. We asked what happen? He said that he got drunk and fell onto the channel rocks. He tried not too but just could not stop and went over the edge. After a long silence I said why didn’t you not just sit down? He had no answer, but said that he will try that the next time he was in that situation. Weeks later he was healed and looked good. Then two days later he was all beat up again. The first thing he said to me was, “I forgot to sit down.”

So like my friend that forgot to sit down, I ask you to remember to sit down and go to that special private place in your heart. Remind yourselves that in that secret room of your heart there is reward and rest. What a loving God we have. (Verse 14 of the psalm 103 suggests that a father’s compassion is related to his understanding of the child’s frailty.)


Paul calls on the Corinthians, “We entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Cor 5:20b) You know that Christ thought with a human mind, worked with human hands, and loved with a human heart. Yet was without sin. We have this good news. We have this great high priest that understands us. We know that we can turn to him and find forgiveness and love.


I bid you a holy lent of praying, fasting, and loving completely. Especially loving completely, and remember to sit down and go to that secret place in your heart, where your treasure is, and be with God. Amen



Reflections of a Deacon in Lent

During the time that I have been ill, I have had time to think about the mission of a deacon and my mission. Leander S. Harding wrote a book called ” To Persevere in Love: meditations on the ministerial priesthood” in his book he talks about the guidance of the Holy Spirit and Bishops. He points out that the bishop is a successors of the apostles. The bishop delegate some aspect of their ministry to deacons and priest. Deacons are given a special responsibility for the poor, the sick, and the lonely and assist the bishop and priests in the preaching of the word of God and the administration of the sacraments.

I got to thinking again about my mission. I feel a call to preach and serve the church. I also have a strong call to serve the whole church. I understand that my ordination means that I am to be an icon of Jesus Christ who came to serve and not be served. I would hope that my calling may be so that many may be called.  Whenever I read the gospel in the Eucharist my hope is I remember that the symbolism of my reading is that of Jesus in the synagogue at Nazareth opening the scroll of Isaiah and saying, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has called me to preach the good news to the poor.”

Soon we will be washing feet in holy week and again I hope I remember that  I am an icon of Christ as he washed the feet of the disciples on the night that he was betrayed. I would hope that in this season of lent that I will keep the image of Christ the servant. I so want to be in the midst of his people and hopefully stirring them up to servanthood. Always remembering Christ death and resurrection and never forgetting Jesus Christ concern for the poor,feeding and healing. His cross that makes no sense to the world. Even in this enlighten and highly sophisticated intellectual world. The words of Paul are still true, “the cross of Jesus Christ is foolishness to Greeks and a stumbling block to Jews but to us who are being saved it is the power of God and the wisdom of God”(1 Cor 1:18)

If I understand my ordination as carrying the charism of the order as a witness to the charitable deeds of Christ but also of his saving death and mighty resurrection. I ask the question, “Do I really feel that I have died and that my life is hidden with God in Christ?” if the answer to this question is yes then my task is laid out before me. I am to fed the hungry, clothe the naked, heal the sick and preach the good new to them. If the poor are not reconciled to the Father in one body through the cross, if not then I leave them hungry and naked still in their sin. I want to show that what I preach is what I live. That I have died with Chris and been born anew from above, and hopefully evident as much by who I am as what I say.

Pray for me my brothers and sisters.



This morning I was reflecting on the Lenten messages of the past. How so many times the message was give up something until it hurts, but this year I am thinking about giving away things like good thoughts, smiles food and clothing.

During my sickness and recovery I have been studying Paul. I read many books and journals. Books on perching Paul and the historical Paul. It is in Paul’s letters to the Corinthians that he ask’s the church in Corinth to give of themselves and goods to the church in Jerusalem.

Christ showed the way. It is God’s grace that he shared a love that does not hesitate of offer itself in sacrifice for the beloved. Charity, love, is sharing in all things with everyone. Love breaks down walls and eliminates distances between people. Just think about the mystery of Jesus being born of the Virgin Mary, truly human in very way except sin. Jesus worked with human hands, thought with a human mind, acted by his human choice and loved with his human heart.

Jesus made himself poor, not because he was seeking for himself, but because as Saint Paul say’s”that by his poverty you might become rich”. Play on words? I don’t think so. I think this Gods logic. The logic of love in the incarnation and cross. Paul states that we were set free, not by Christ’s riches but by his poverty. Paul is very aware of the “unsearchable riches of Christ” (Eph 3:8) “he is the heir of all things” (Heb 1:2) In that Christ chose to comfort us, to save us, to free us from our misery.

So what is this poverty by which Christ frees us and enriches us? First it is his way of loving us, he’s way of being our neighbor. If I follow Christ this lent in this kind of poverty I will be rich in Christ. Some where (I can’t remember where) I read that the real poverty is not living as children of God and brothers and sisters of Christ.

The next question that came to my mind was, “How do I take this message to my community ?” It is not easy to talk about human resources and distributive justices in this corporate society. During this election year it is even more difficult. I know that the Gospel is the real antidote to spiritual destitution and I am called on to proclaim the liberation news that forgiveness for sins is possible, God is greater than our sins, and that he freely loves us no matter what, and that we are all made for communion and eternal life. This should be good news to our brothers and sisters experiencing darkness of soul, hunger, and homelessness. But it is only good news if we feed, house and provided Christian community to all. Bottom line for me is to imitate Christ as best I can. This lent can be for all of us a time of self-denial becoming more responsible for the destitution around us and remember that social justice is our calling.



Second Sunday in Advent

Dec. 6th 2015

Second Sunday in Advent

Good morning! There is no way that I can start my sermon without saying something about the shooting in San Bernardino. I like you am very saddened and very upset. Jesus said “Do not be afraid” strategic action is called for but not at the expense of our values as Christians.

“The voice of one crying out in the wilderness. Prepare the way of the Lord”

St. Andrew and Jesus were both followers of John the Baptist.

John the Baptist who I believe was the first New Testament mystic, in a long line of the Jewish mystics, having a strong experience of God. John’s experience of God was so convincing that he took it upon himself to challenge the imperial and Jewish authorities a choice that would in the long run would cost him his life. He called the people to repentance, a call away from the vision of imperial Rome and the temple domination system. Next week you will hear John the Baptist say to the crowd, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?”

  • Susan Tobi’s first sermon at St. David’s

John calls for repentance (Greek metanoia) that is a change of heart. Not “I am sorry, please for give me”. But a change of how the heart is effected by an experience of God[1].

It is widely accepted that fasting in the wilderness brings a person into that space the Celtic’s call the thin place, a place that many have encountered God.

So how does all of this relate to St. David’s parish and the people in this community? My answer is very simple, “Try not to conform to this world” and set aside a time for the thin space. In a world that wants your support for war on terrorism, and criminalization of the homeless. A world of politics that seems void of spiritual values. A world that commercializes Public Radio Stations, Thanksgiving and Christmas, a world of corporations that claim to promote the American Way and have their headquarters in other countries.

This imperialism is not of land acquisition but of world commercialization. Jim Wallis in his book, “God’s Politics” asks the question, “When and how did the religion of Jesus become pro-rich, pro-war, and only pro-American” leaving many people to think that Christians are anti-intellectual, literalistic, self-righteous, judgmental, and bigoted[1]. Here is a clear call to enter into the thin place with your intellect”. This is a call to speak up when Christianity is misrepresented. We no longer have the choice to be quite. We no longer can just come and worship. We can no longer hid behind the church flag and the pretense of the established religion of the United States.

Joan Chittsiter’s spoke to the National Catholic Reporter origination this past Oct. Her speech was based on Mark 10:49 and entitled, “Take courage, get up, He’s calling you.” It was a rousing calls to action; “rise up, confront today’s challenges, seize today’s opportunities and build a new world[2]. Today as always we must be holy, bold and persistent”.

I am asking you to commit yourselves to adult theological re-education as a way of reclaiming the richness of Bible study and Christian tradition. Take classes at the school for ministry or EFM. We need thinking adult Christians to carry the message. Where better to find such people than St. David’s a community of people living a prophetic life.

This is the time for action. Bind yourselves into a community of teachers that encourage spiritual practices of tradition, such as contemplative prayer, reading the Bible, and reading of devotional classics that remind us of the presence of God in the dailiness of life. As Marcus Borg in his book “Jesus” wrote, “ Practice is about paying attention to our relationship to what is, the sacred”[3].


You are the church! So keep emphasizing compassion, justice, and peace as your central values for a Christian life. I was encouraged by John Koenig book “The Feast of the World’s Redemption” [4] as he characterized the Eucharist in the early church as a people of praise. I quote “Here we may detect a primal pressure toward missionary behavior, for the church’s regular expression of gratitude clearly put it into an expansive frame of mind characterized by a strong desire to share its gospel treasure”.

John the Baptist came with a confronting message for the dominant society; should we not do the same? Did not Mary also with what we call the Magnificat. Lets us be as one crying out in the wilderness. Denouncing the dominant society.

I would like to ask you to carry the message of God’s kingdom, only insofar as you accept it, enter it, live it, and there by establish it[5]. God’s kingdom is collaborative relationship. My evangelical friends would say, “The kingdom’s train is entering the station. Be on it or be under it”. But I say God’s train is entering the station that is the people of God they are the train and it is God that is the track. I have every confidence in you that you are not lacking in any spiritual gifts and you will actually grow God’s church in this place. The loving worship in this place will spill out into the whole neighborhood.

My hope is that you will find a path that is luminous, and numinous. Yes numinous mysterious, holy, and divine.

Prepare the way of the Lord make his paths straight. And all flesh shall see the salvation of God. Proclaim the good news to the whole creation[6].


[1] God’s Politics, Jim Wallis, Harper Collins

[2] Chittister: Confront challenges, seize opportunities, and build a new world Sr. Joan Chittister speaking at the NCR conference at Dominican University Oct. 24. (NCR photo),

[3] Jesus A New Vision, Marcus J Borg, Harper San Francisco, 1987

[4] The Feast of the World’s Redemption, John Koenig, Trinity Press, 2000 pg.102

[5] “In other words, not a realized, but a realizable eschaton or, better, a collaborative eschaton. ” Excerpt From: John Dominic Crossan. “The Power of Parable”, iBooks.

[6] Mark 16:15Second Sunday

I need a break

I need a break and I have a story to tell you.

The other day I had an afternoon visit to a homebound person and a visit to a rest home. Then it was on to serve at the Wednesday evening service at St. Alban’s. I made the service on time. After the service I did not stay very long. I was dead tired, grouchy and hungry. I had not eaten since breakfast.

Turning right on Magnolia I headed north to the freeway on ramp. But there on my right was a Rubio’s a fish taco would taste good. So I pulled into the parking lot.

I place my order got my number sat down at a table close by. My taco came quickly and I started to feel better. Then it happened a middle age woman came up to my table and asks if I was a Roman Priest. I said no and she said, “Thank God” and sat down. She talked on and on. I was grouchy and all I did was nod my head. After my taco was cold she got up thank me profusely and was gone. No sooner had I pick up my cold taco than a young man asked if he could share my table. I looked around and there were only two other people in the place. I said sure and started to eat my cold taco. He talked me through my taco and his taco plate plus a few more minutes. He got up thanked me for my time and help.

I got up went to my car and got on the freeway. On the ride home I was thinking about those two people and their need for conversation. I gave neither any advice or help I just sat there. I don’t think that either person would have sat down to talk if I had not had my collar on. The truth is that a collar will bring hurting humanity to you and you will have to face it and very cold tacos.

Deacon Phil

Welcome Church at Wells Park

Today was my first trip to Wells Park, for Welcome Church. When I arrived the chairs and tables were set up. I was very impressed how the set up was handled. There were about twenty people around the area. Some eight to ten of them joined  the service. The unity of the minister’s and the joy of the people make this Church a fun place. Open air, the sound birds make for a welcoming place. The Eucharist is a small but vital part of the Welcome Church and everyone takes part, in the bread and grape juice. After the service food is handed out and the meal continues. Then one hour later as if nothing had happen there it is park again. I can’t remember anyone’s name but that will come with time. Then some of the homeless may not be back; changing faces always. Change and loss are a part of the life of the homeless and those who greet them. More to come as I work in my Spring Mission.

St. Alban’s in the Rain

            Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful.

Enkindle in us the fire of your love.

   Send forth your spirit and we shall be created

and you shall renew the face of the earth

On this Sunday remembering the baptism of Christ,the heaven was opened and John saw the Spirit (πνευμα) of God descending like a dove and alighting on Jesus.(Matt.3:13-17) I awoke with a flash,sprang from my bed. A large smile on my face and jumped into the shower, ready to meet the day!

No, I dragged myself from a dead sleep and slugged thru a very wet morning. Arriving in El Cajon about 30 minutes before service and met with Fr. David. Then to church, where the joy and brightness warmed me. I was raised in this parish and it had been many years away. I was an acolyte in the old church building but never in the new church building. The altar I served at when I was a boy is now a side chapel. I have tried to think of the names of the boys and girls that were in my Sunday school class, but can’t come up with one name, I will have to work on my memory. I will spend the next few months with the people of St.Alban’s. Even if this morning started out slow I look forward to my time with the family of St.Alban’s.

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