From Ash Wednesday 2021:  An Interfaith Service:
Homily from Rev. Dr. Dennis from First Congregational Church in Santa Barbara

A woman I knew was fond of quoting someone who had said, “Human extremity is God’s opportunity.”  In 12-step language, after hitting bottom we just might “Come to believe in a power greater than ourselves.”  However we speak of the matter, stuff happens despite our objections or presuppositions and our agency is challenged.

When we gathered for this occasion last year, our shared reality was different.  Sure, we had issues with people in high places and a sense of outrage about inequality and injustice—all from a space of perceived safety and relative security.  We either ignored or discounted nature.

Nature can tame us, can return us to dust, because its creativity knows no bounds.  It doesn’t help that we cannot see the perils, only the results of their incursion into “our” space.  And that is a hard lesson. 

So, nature has “smitten” us.  And then the related financial hit and economic woes added to our Job-affinity.  Thing One and Thing Two cooperated in revealing Thing Three: systemic racism in all its grotesque manifestations.  Ashes anyone?

Our national hubris about exceptionalism has been outed as myth.  Our personal sense of innocence has been found wanting.  The wings of our imagined superiority have been clipped and our delusions of grandeur run off the cliff and smoldering still in the ruins of pretense below .

Yes, we are different people this year; our minds and spirits await new life which is equitable, joyful, and compassionate.  But it requires a long walk, separately and collectively, to get through this dark valley.  Let us face our fear and move forward in solidarity as the Spirit empowers.


May all that is unforgiven in you
Be released.

May your fears yield
Their deepest tranquilities.

May all that is unlived in you
Blossom into a future
Graced with love.    (John O’Donohue)


Not Just Any Sunday Morning

Tim and Elaine are cooking bacon

I can smell it two backyards away

I put our cushions on the patio

promising space for tea and poetry


I remember feeling this innocent

safe and content

an ordinary November twenty-second


 a single bullet

 our world tilted on its axis

spun us like blindfolded children

when we stopped reeling

we faced another direction

dizzy disoriented

 we removed the blindfold

our innocence

our orientation and direction

forever changed

 the morning wakens around me

I no longer smell bacon

 Mary Heumphreus

November 22, 2020


SA Homily 3rd Sunday of Ordinary time. CYB Jonah-Corinthians-Mark 1
Rev. Dr. Cynthia Yoshitomi

Let us remember on this Sunday of the Word of God, that our Holy Scriptures, both Hebrew and Christian are a dialogue between God and his people.

Our Readings today emphasize the Themes of Repentance and the Urgency of Time. 

In the Book of Jonah, the Sea Elephant in the Room is missing—the Whale. If we remember our bible stories, this is Jonah’s second chance at following God’s will.  Jonah escapes God’s First Ask by going to Sea in the opposite direction of Nineveh—gets swallowed by a whale—gets spit out on dry land to reconsider the urgency of God’s request to tell the people of this exceptionally large, diverse city the error of their ways and Repent.  We are told that the entire city hears Jonah and repents in one day. Surely this is a lesson in listening to God the first time around.  The people say: Teach us your ways, O’Lord. We are listening.

From Paul, we hear that Time is Running out. He then gives good advice for his time, on how to live through a world that in its present form is passing away and  quickly moving toward a world promised by Jesus, the Christ. Paul wants the people of Corinth to get ready for a transformation God has in store for them, but at the same time they must give up their own agendas that will get in their way. The people say: Teach us your ways, O’Lord. We are listening.

In Mark’s Gospel the Urgency to follow God, is always there. Mark never gives up on the urgency.  Scholars tell us that the theme of Jesus’ preaching changed after John was arrested and killed.  Over the course of what was actually a few weeks, Jesus began to see a ministry for himself, but his preaching remained much like John the Baptist, “The Time has Come, The Kingdom of God is very near.  Repent and believe in the Promise of this good news.” The people say: Teach us your ways, O’Lord.  We are listening.

This Sunday in the universal church is given over entirely to the word of God so that we can appreciate the inexhaustible riches contained in the constant dialogue between God and his people.  One of the final acts of the risen Jesus before his ascension was to appear to his disciples to break bread with them and open their minds to understanding the Sacred Scripture.  To them, amid their fear and bewilderment, he unveiled the meaning of the paschal mystery that we celebrate today:  That in accordance with the Father’s eternal plan, he had to suffer and rise from the dead, in order to bring repentance and forgiveness of sins. He then promised to send the Holy Spirit who would give them strength to be witnesses of this saving mystery.  (Luke 24-49)

The relationship between the Risen Lord, the Community of Believers and Sacred Scriptures is essential to our identity as Christians.  Without trust in the God who open our minds to them, it is impossible to understand the Scriptures in their depth.  Yet, the contrary is also true:  Without the Scriptures, the events of the mission of Jesus and his Church in this world would remain incomprehensible.  Saint Jerome once claimed that: “The ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ.”

The Gift that the Contemporary Catholic Church gives to much of the Sacred World of Religions, is that we Teach our people to take the word of God in Context not Literally. For that we ought to be grateful, because it will help us listen more attentively to the Holy Spirit.   The people say: Teach us your ways, O’Lord.  We are listening.