You Can Become All Flame!

By the Rev. Darren Miner

Gospel Reading

Having just heard the story of the Transfiguration of our Lord, you might very well think that today is the Feast of the Transfiguration. Well, it isn’t! Transfiguration Day falls on August 6. Today is the Last Sunday after the Epiphany, and this day brings the Epiphany Season to a liturgical close. It does this by bringing us back full circle to the theme of manifestation. (As you may know, the English word epiphany derives from the Greek word for manifestation.) The season started on January 6, the Feast of the Epiphany, with the telling of the story of the Magi. That story focused on the manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles in the persons of a few nameless wise men. Today’s Gospel story looks at another epiphany, the divine manifestation of Christ to his three closest disciples: Peter, James, and John.

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On the mountain top, we are told, Jesus was transformed in the presence of these disciples. And they got just a glimpse of Jesus’ divine glory. In Mark’s account, which was read today, only Jesus’ clothes are resplendent. In Matthew’s account, Jesus’ face is said to shine like the sun, just as Moses’ face shone when he came down from Mount Sinai. In this vision, the three disciples see Jesus talking with two famous figures from the Hebrew Bible, Moses and Elijah. Here, I suspect, we find ourselves in the realm of the symbolic, with Moses symbolizing the Law and Elijah symbolizing the Prophets. The disciples’ vision of these two biblical figures in conversation with Jesus signifies that Jesus is the fulfillment of both the Law and the Prophets. He is indeed the long-awaited Messiah, foretold in Hebrew Scripture.

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A Divine Guide to Watching Cable News

By the Rev. Darren Miner

Bible  Readings

The readings today are a problem for any preacher. We have an Old Testament reading about prophets and false prophets, a letter from St. Paul about food offered to idols, and a Gospel story about an exorcism. There would seem to be no discernible common theme. So how should a preacher proceed? Well, the best this preacher can do is to say a few words about each of the readings and then try to persuade you that each reading is, in fact, a divine guide to watching cable news!

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Let’s Finish Mending the Nets—It’s Time to Go Fishing!

By the Rev. Darren Miner

Bible Readings

Last week, we heard the story of Jesus’ call to Philip and Nathanael, as recounted in the Gospel of John. This week we get yet another story of a call to ministry, this time from Mark’s Gospel. It takes place immediately following Jesus’ forty days in the wilderness being tested by Satan. The news of John the Baptist’s arrest signals the end of Jesus’ testing and the beginning of his active ministry in the world. And so, he leaves the wilderness behind and heads for the Sea of Galilee.

The message that he proclaims at first is one of repentance: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.” Nowadays, after having heard so many hypocritical televangelists tell us that we need to repent of our sins, we have a hard time hearing Jesus’ message of repentance with fresh ears. And so we get it wrong. We take the word “repent” to mean “to be sorry for our sins.” But that’s not the core meaning of the original Greek term. A more literal translation is “to change one’s way of thinking.” In other words, Jesus was telling those who were willing to listen that the world was on the brink of a radical transformation and they would need to change their outlook. Yes, this would undoubtedly have included being sorry for one’s sins. But the call to change one’s way of thinking includes so much more than that.

Next, we are told, Jesus begins to call a group of disciples to help him in his work, starting with the two brothers Simon Peter and Andrew. Jesus calls these fishermen to follow him and become fishers of people. And they do just that—without a moment’s hesitation! They abandon their livelihood and their families to accept the invitation of this itinerant rabbi. Likewise, the brothers James and John drop what they are doing to follow Jesus. Now, Jesus must have been an incredibly charismatic man and his invitation to join him must have been incredibly persuasive. Even so, these fishermen displayed tremendous courage, and we should give them due credit.

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God Calls, We Respond

By the Rev. Darren Miner

Bible Readings

In today’s readings, we get a kind of biblical sandwich: two stories of God’s call to ministry with a teaching about sexual morality stuck in the middle. The focus of this sermon will be on God’s call and our response, so let me deal with St. Paul’s teaching on sexual morality right up front.

Paul is writing to the church in Corinth. They have got it into their heads that, since they are saved, nothing they do here in the material world is of ultimate importance. Consequently, a fringe group in the church has begun to advocate the abandonment of sexual morality. They argue that nothing that they do with their bodies affects their souls. St. Paul thinks otherwise. In short, his teaching is that what we do here in the material world does indeed make a difference.

Now, let’s look at the stories of God’s call to serve. In the story from the Old Testament, we hear about the calling of Samuel to be a prophet. The boy Samuel hears God calling him in the night. Three times, he hears the call, but each time he mistakes it for his master Eli. It is the priest Eli who eventually recognizes the call for what it is and instructs the boy how to respond appropriately: “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.” Samuel does as his master bids him, and the rest is history!

What strikes me in this story is how the discernment of Samuel’s call took place. Samuel was unable to figure out the meaning of his call on his own. He didn’t know how to respond appropriately. It took some consultation to make that clear. Often, I think, that is the case when God calls us to his service. We need others to help us understand what is being asked of us.

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Happy New Year 2018

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Happy New Year from The Episcopal Church of the Incarnation, San Francisco.

May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face;
the rains fall soft upon your fields and until we meet again,
may God hold you in the palm of His hand.

Traditional gaelic blessing

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Merry Christmas

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December 25, 2017 · 4:55 am

Wait for It!

By the Rev. Darren Miner

Gospel Reading

For the last three Sundays, I have preached that Advent is a time to rehearse the stories of the first coming of Jesus Christ, as well as to prepare ourselves for his Second Coming. That being said, today’s Gospel reading doesn’t actually focus on either the first or the second coming; instead, it focuses on the antecedent to the first coming, namely, the angel’s Annunciation to Mary and the virginal conception of Jesus.

The angel’s greeting in this story has appealed to the visual imagination of countless Christian artists, from the Middle Ages up to the present day. The museums of Europe are full of paintings of the Annunciation. Typically, you see a pale young woman in a diaphanous blue gown seated on a throne. You see an angel devoutly kneeling before her. You see a dove hovering over the scene. What you don’t see is Jesus! But in truth, the whole point of the Annunciation story is Jesus. Luke shares this early tradition, because it tells us something we need to know about the identity of Mary’s son.

We are told that Jesus is to be born of a virgin and that his father will be none other than the Lord God. The archangel Gabriel explains that the conception will take place in a spiritual manner as God’s power passes over Mary like a shadow. Now, the virginal conception of Jesus is a difficulty for some faithful Christians. And I can understand why. After all, none of us here today has ever witnessed such a thing. Nor are we expected to! The Gospel portrays the event as a one-of-a-kind occurrence. And that’s one main point of this story: Jesus is one of a kind. The other main point is that Jesus comes from God—exactly how is less important.

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Rejoice, Pray, Give Thanks

By the Rev. Darren Miner

Bible Readings

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Today is the third Sunday of Advent. It is traditionally called “Gaudete Sunday.” Gaudete is Latin for rejoice. This Sunday’s readings are noticeably less gloomy than the readings for the other Sundays of Advent—not a single mention of hellfire or the gnashing of teeth in the Outer Darkness. You will notice that the candle for today on the Advent wreath is rose-colored, not violet. And some parishes mark the semi-festive tone of the day by using rose-colored vestments and paraments. In my humble opinion, rose is just a fancy way of saying pink, and I don’t wear pink! But as you are probably not interested in my color preferences, let’s just move on and take a look-see at these “less gloomy” readings.

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The first reading from Isaiah has virtually no hints of gloom at all—just one brief reference to “the day of vengeance of our God”! This oracle is from the third section of the book of Isaiah and dates to the time of the restoration of Jerusalem, after the Israelites had returned from exile in Babylon. If you read in between the lines of this prophecy, you see that things were not as they should be. The prophet is commissioned by God to announce “good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” In other words, the people were suffering. But this situation, we are told, will not last forever! “The Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to spring up.” And on that day, the prophet will “greatly rejoice in the Lord.”

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Festival of Lessons and Carols

Festival of Lessons and Carols

Celebrate the joys of Christmas at our annual Festival of Lessons and Carols with our artists-in-residence, the ‘San Francisco Renaissance Voices,’ and organist, Vaughn Jones. The service follows the traditional Festival of Lessons and Carols made famous by  the Christmas Eve service held in annually at King’s College Chapel, Cambridge, England.

The Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols is a service of Christian worship celebrating the birth of Jesus. The story of the fall of humanity, the promise of the Messiah, and the birth of Jesus is told in nine short Bible readings from Genesis, the prophetic books and the Gospels, interspersed with the singing of Christmas carols, hymns and choir music.

Date & Time: Sat. December 23,  4 p.m.
Venue: Incarnation Episcopal Church, 1750 29th Avenue, San Francisco
Free Admission. Donations Requested.

Register here   A free reception follows the service.

About San Francisco Renaissance Voices

San Francisco Renaissance Voices made their debut in 2004 with a “standing room only” performance of Victoria’s Requiem and quickly became a favorite of San Francisco Bay Area Early Music audiences.

SFRV has consistently earned praise for their “gossamer sound … a sound something akin to spiritual levitation” as well as recognition for their imaginative programming and christened the Bay Area’s “hipper than thou” Early Music ensemble by San Francisco Classical Voice and in 2010 SFWeekly chose SFRV as the “Best Classical Music” for their Best of San Francisco edition. SFRV is the San Francisco Bay Area’s professional mixed-voice ensemble dedicated to performing and exploring the a cappella choral music of the Renaissance particularly lesser-known and rarely-performed works, as well as exploring music from this period outside of the traditional European canon.

SFRV’s Opera Early & Ancient San Francisco mini-series seeks to present to audiences operatic and related works from the Medieval through Baroque periods and has included such works as the “technicolor” production of Hildegard von Bingen’s Ordo Virtutum (“Hildegard’s little-performed musical mantra rang out anew” – Los Angeles Times) and the west coast premiere of William Boyce’s Solomon (“The performance was often exciting and even eye-opening … a performance other groups struggle to achieve on record” – San Francisco Classical Voice).

Katherine McKee, Music Director
Ms. McKee joined San Francisco Renaissance Voices in 2007 as Alto Section Lead and was quickly asked to take on the responsibilities of Assistant Music Director as well. She became the group’s second Music Director starting for our 2014-15 Season.

Ms. McKee holds a Bachelor’s degree in Music Education and a Master’s degree with honors in Choral Conducting from the New England Conservatory and has directed choirs, community orchestras and opera, and school groups since her college years. In the Boston area she directed the children’s, youth and adult choirs at Hanscom Air Force Base’s Protestant Chapel, taught stringed instruments and conducted orchestras in the Somerset (MA) public schools and served as assistant conductor for the Jamaica Plain Symphony Orchestra. In New York she founded and directed the chamber group Premier, which focused on newly composed works for a cappella voices, and served as an assistant conductor for the Gregg Smith Singers and at St. Bartholomew’s Church.

In the San Francisco Bay Area she has served on the conducting faculty of the San Francisco Boys Chorus, as chorus master, prompter and music director for San Francisco Lyric Opera, and as music director of Holy Innocents’ Episcopal Church in Noe Valley. Currently, she is director of music at St. Bede’s Episcopal Church in Menlo Park.

As a singer she is much in demand as an oratorio soloist, and appears regularly with the San Francisco Opera Chorus, American Bach Soloists, San Francisco Renaissance Voices, and the chorale of Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra. Ms. McKee teaches private vocal students who perform throughout the Bay Area including members of the San Francisco Symphony Chorus, San Francisco Opera Chorus, San Francisco Choral Society, Woodminster Theater, and Lamplighters Music Theatre.

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Make Straight in the Desert a Highway for Our God

By the Rev. Darren Miner

Bible Readings

It’s already the second Sunday of Advent—how time flies! For many of us, this season is a frenzied time of Christmas shopping for friends and family. But there is more to this season than that. It is a time to pause and to consider the two advents of Christ: the first in Bethlehem some 2000 years ago and the second, when Christ will come again in power and great glory. And as we consider, we also prepare.

Like our ancestors in the faith, Christians today look to prophecy to guide us in our preparation, to point us in the right direction. And like our predecessors, we find that God’s oracles can speak different messages in different times. Today, we heard an excerpt from Isaiah chapter 40 and an echo of that same scripture in the Gospel reading from Mark.

Isaiah spoke of a voice crying out to prepare a highway in the desert for our God. The ravines are to be filled in. The hills are to be leveled. And when this roadwork is done, God’s glory will be revealed to all. (It sounds a bit like a press release for Caltrans!) When these words were originally prophesied, the Jews were living in exile in Babylon, pining for the day they could return home. With this oracle, Isaiah prophesied the eventual vindication of the Jews. A highway would be made through the desert separating Babylon and Jerusalem, and God would lead his people home in glory. (Interestingly, Isaiah doesn’t make it clear who exactly was supposed to build this divine highway, whether God’s angelic minions or the Jews themselves.) This prophecy would seem to have been fulfilled with the Jews’ return from exile and with their rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem. But then again, maybe not!

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