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“Gather around the well of Christ” – The Rev. Leonard Oakes

Third Sunday in Lent

“Gather around the well of Christ”

John 4:5-42

The Rev. Leonard Oakes

The rhyme, “water, water everywhere, not a drop of rain” is true to all parts of the earth. Just a couple of years ago, California had been experiencing drought for more than five years. Farmers were losing their profit, prices of farm supplies have gone up, the governor declared to all Californians to conserve water or face fines. We all prayed for rain. Then the rain came down and the flood came up. Now, we are praying for the victims of flood in many parts of the region. Still, people with compassionate hearts continued their conversation on how to help these afflicted communities.

In other parts of the world, people have been experiencing drought for decades and they have been praying everyday. Rain did not come. But people around the world were moved by compassion and put together their resources to dig wells and build pumps to produce water. The prayers of the afflicted people were answered. By the grace of God, the hearts of the people were touched to give and extend their helping hands. They had their moments of compassionate conversation.

In other parts of the world, in the Philippines, the appointed DENR secretary ordered many mining industry to be closed due to improper management of their mining activities that resulted to the death of the people’s natural fauna and flora. The river and ocean have turned into orange or clayish color, marine and sea creatures are dying, Climate has changed into humid because of open pit mining that killed many trees fishes. The people are clamoring for Ecological and economic justice, and now, are having their moments of compassionate conversation to save the earth.

In Dakota’s standing rock Indian Reservation, people are protesting for the construction of pipelines that could possibly damage their water sources. Faith based communities and environmental activists are having their conversation with the local indigenous people to prevent this from happening amidst the pushing forces of the government to push through with the construction. This reminds me of a protests done in years past against a cellophil industry whose products have damaged the indigenous people’s water resources for their drinking and for their crops. The Indigenous leaders had their moments of conversation on how to save lives against big company profits. Indigenous children are safe again swimming in the river and irrigation waters.

All these stories I have just shared all happened on an intimate conversations surrounding the issues of water and life.

Today’s Gospel takes me back to my early life experience on a well. I remember those times when I played around our well with other kids doing hide and seek while they wait for their parents to fetch water? I remember of a public well when each member of the community made vigil to protect the well from any desecration because the well is our source of life. The Metaphor, “Don’t spit in the well where you drink from” was derived from this experience. Around the deep well, is a place where children play while their parents are lining up to fetch water. It is a place where stories of the day are heard and laughter sets the day for everyone. It is also a place where good counsels are whispered to those who are grieving. It is a place where you meet new friends. It is a place where you can find Jesus making conversation with families. I see that connection with the Gospel this morning. I would like us therefore to journey on the wonders of love set by our Lord Jesus Christ with the woman at the well. We will find out that Jesus broke every rule of old so that a new spirit of love will arise and make the things impossible become possible

At the outset, it is very important for us to understand that during the time of Jesus, Jews do not associate themselves with the Samaritans. Samaritans were traditionally enemies of the Jews. The Samaritans and Jews did not mix with each other nor intermarry with each other. Jews and Samaritans had different centers of worship. The Jews believed that the center of worship was in Jerusalem; the Samaritans believed that the center of worship on Mount Gerazim. Not only did Jews and Samaritans have no dealings with one another, even to accept a drink of water was the epitome of ritual uncleanness for a devout Jew. For a Jew to have any contact whatsoever with a sinful only made matters worse. No wonder the woman was startled when Jesus asked for a drink and the disciples horrified when they returned. To find Jesus deep in conversation with this woman while sipping water from her pitcher broke all their preconceived notions about the relations of Jews and Samaritans. You can just imagine how a Jew then would try to avoid talking to any one from Samaria. Just like when you try to avoid someone whom you have a grudge with, or someone whom you hate to even see their shadows or smell their presence. Wrinkles begin to show on your forehead, your heartbeats start to pound your heart walls, you become irritated then the feeling of hate will start your day. Do you remember any of that? Jesus broke the rule of non-association with sinners. He saw in this woman the opportunity to show the world that God is not contained in one tribe or one nation but rather God is the God of all nations and we are all His children. Jesus loved this woman at the well, and he wants us to love her as well. Jesus had compassion for  h e r    a n d  J e s u s  w a n t s  u s  t o have compassion for her as well. Jesus did not condemn her and Jesus doesn’t want us to condemn her either. Jesus wasn’t harsh with her. He didn’t put her down. He didn’t judge her. She would have been an easy mark being a an outcast. It would have been so easy for Jesus to condemn her, to reprimand her. From the first moment Jesus was with her, he sensed tenderness towards her. He didn’t seem upset by her behavior. Closely examine the story for today and you will not find one hint of condemnation of her, not one single word of criticism of her. Instead, Jesus sense her tenderness, knowing her personal tragedies. Jesus did not have that judgmental spirit to his personality. Jesus loved that woman.

You see, Love breaks every residue of evil within us, we only have to learn to open up with love then everything follows. And that is the way that Jesus feels about you and me as well. Jesus loves us in all of our sinfulness. You and I don’t need condemnation. What we need is living water. Jesus offered the woman what she really needed. She needed living water, not a condemnation. Jesus wanted to free her, forgive her, shape her life in a new direction and change her. Jesus wanted to offer this woman the living water. Jesus came into her private life and offered her the living water. And that is the way God works with you and me. A sign that God is active in our lives is when he comes into our personal lives. Jesus wants to get personal with you and me. Jesus wants to get into your private life and mine. You have a private and personal life which is contrary to the will of God. And Christ comes into our personal lives, not to embarrass us, not to judge us, not to be unkind or malicious to us. But Christ comes to free us and change us and offer us what we really need: living water. Many of us are thirsty on such living water, such love. Are you thirsty? Is there dryness anywhere in your life? Is there a part of your heart that has been burnt by the heat of someone else’s hate? Is there a part of your soul that you have failed to water and like a neglected house plant is brown and wilting. Is there a need in you for love, forgiveness, and acceptance? Do you ever thirst for something deeper and more meaningful in life? Come to the well. Meet Jesus there. He will give you living water. He will give us water that brings new life to the dead parts of our hearts and souls. Once we have drank of that water we will never thirst again for eternity. Jesus already knows you better than you know yourself. As with the woman at the well he can see the turmoil in our lives. He can see the pain of betrayal. Accept him and his gift of living water, new life, and eternal life. Like all the holy men and women we had in this Church, Thomasita Purganan, Dolores Cudiamat, Dolores Santos, Himaya Aurelio, Amparo Flores, Saniata De Santis, Elsie Martin, Maria Cappa, Carolyn Hahs, lilia lachica, Claudette Coleman, Edna lagunte, Carolyn Hahs, John Ryel, Leslie Odone, George Denison, Jim Adams, Dionisio Milanes and others who helped shape this Church. Let us continue to be faithful to our callings and serve God wherever the Holy Spirit takes us. Let the living water that is in our hearts flow like a river to those whom we meet, at a well, at a bus station, senior center, Convalescent homes, malls, at church and everywhere. May we all be drawn closer to God in our daily experiences and walks of life in this season of Lent by showing love, compassion and respect to one another. May we always be faithful to God in our quench for living water. May I invite you therefore to the well of the living where we all gather to the table of Christ and that may the Holy Communion we share quench our thirsty soul with the living water, our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

Jesus’ Baptism – and Ours – The Rev. Rebecca Goldberg

The Baptism of our Lord

January 8, 2016

Isaiah 42:1-9, Psalm 29, Acts 10:34-43, Matthew 3:1-17

Jesus’ Baptism—And Ours


Imagine for a moment, what it would have been like to be on the dusty banks of the River Jordan the day of Jesus’ baptism.  Picture John, in his rather strange clothing, with the fire of a prophet in his eyes,  earnestly calling people to repent, and castigating those who presented themselves for baptism without demonstrating the desire to return to God, and live a life that witnesses to the fruit of the Spirit.  Powerful Pharisees and Sadducees came to the river, religious leaders of the community.  The wealthy and respectable of the towns and villages probably came.  And then lots of ordinary folks,  and the outcasts, those on the margins, the despised, the lepers, poor, women, widows. Who was this, they might have wondered, who is more powerful than John, this wondrous preacher? Who could it be that was going to baptize them with the Holy Spirit and with fire?  How is one baptized by the Holy Spirit?  They must have been filled with wonder and expectation and a bit of fear as well. I know I would have been afraid.

And how the crowd must have murmured in hushed voices when Jesus himself appeared at the river.  Could this be the Messiah who had been foretold?  What need did he have to be washed from sin, or to repent?  What was happening?  John himself seems reluctant to baptize him, protesting that instead he needed to be baptized by Jesus.  And then Jesus speaks those remarkable words—“Let it be so for now, for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness’  And then, as he is coming up from the waters of baptism, the heavens are opened and the Spirit descends like a dove and the voice from heaven proclaims Jesus as the beloved Son of God, with whom he is well pleased.  What are we to make of all of this?

Some form of this story appears in all four Gospels.  The account from Matthew is the only one in which John the Baptist and Jesus have a dialogue back and forth.  Like other stories in the Hebrew Scriptures and the Gospels, such as Moses’ encounter with God at the burning bush, Ezekiel’s vision of the valley of dry bones, the transfiguration, and the calming of the storm, there are times when the boundaries between the physical world of time and space and the spiritual world are thin, and we glimpse the reality of the Holy that is at the heart of the universe.  We can sense that this is one of those times.  The gospel writer is telling his first century audience, and us, that Jesus is the one of whom John speaks, the promised One, the Messiah, who will restore us and reconcile us to God.  He is the one who the nations have longed for, God’s son, who will establish his reign, a reign that begins on earth and is fulfilled in heaven.

The story is full of wonderful imagery that would have had rich meaning for his audience–the heavens opening over the water is reminiscent of the mystery of creation, when God brought order out of the primordial chaos.  The appearance of the dove could be a reminder of the Flood, when the bird was sent out to look for dry land and was the herald of the receding waters and the restoration of the earth.  The voice coming from heaven is the voice of God that accompanied his people throughout history- through the wilderness on the journey from Egypt, the cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night, the voice that resounded in the hearts and minds of the prophets that comforted God’s people in exile, and restored their future.  In Jesus all the hopes of the people down the ages were being fulfilled.

Yet despite all the images of power and the anointing of God, we also see the wonder, the gift, and the grace of the humility of Jesus in his incarnation.  He did not need to undergo a baptism of repentance to return to God, as he was already completely and fully united to God. He did not need to be cleansed from sin.  Yet, he would be baptized to “fulfill all righteousness.” He didn’t flaunt his divine nature, or lord it over others.  When he took on our human flesh, he also subjected himself, out of love, to enter our experience, of temptation, of brokenness, of need. He identified himself with us in our weakness, and sought to share our experience. Out of obedience to God, he shared with us in the rite of baptism.  Look at this great love, this tenderness, this humility, and marvel at God’s great love for the world. His baptism not only shows forth his call from God, but also the great love God has for us, to enter fully into our human experience!

So what about us?  What does our baptism mean?  For many of us, it was a ritual that took place many years ago, when we were infants, and we probably don’t remember it. For some of us, it was a choice we made for ourselves as adults. The catechism of the Episcopal Church teaches that “Holy Baptism is the sacrament by which God adopts us as his children, and makes us members of Christ’s Body, the Church, and inheritors of the Kingdom of God.”  God in his graciousness offers us the gift of restored relationship with him through Christ.  What is required of us is that we turn to God in repentance and faith and “put our whole trust in his grace and love.”   This sacrament is for adults who can make a commitment to follow Christ, and for infants and children, who are welcomed into the family of God by those who promise to teach them the faith and nurture them in the way of Jesus.  So baptism is both the sacrament of God’s cleansing and transformation, as well as our response to the unconditional love that is offered to us.

Baptism is also our sharing in the mystery of Christ’s death and  ressurrection.  In Romans 6:3, Paul asks his hearers: “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?  That’s actually kind of scary, if you think about it! Baptism isn’t a cheerful ceremony where we are sprinkled with a bit of water and then there is a celebration afterward.  Baptism costs us our very life.  It is an immersion into the way of the Cross, the way Jesus walked, where the love of God is at the center of everything and we are willing to walk the way of sacrifice to live always in the way of love, justice, and mercy.  In baptism, the glorious mystery of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ becomes our mystery, our journey. In the waters of baptism we die to the old way of life where our own ego and its limited vision rule us, and enter into the spacious freedom of a life centered in Christ. In the waters of baptism, we share with Christ in his sacrificial life of love, service, compassion, and grace, and we are raised from sin and death into new and abundant life, both now, and in the world to come.

Finally, baptism is our commissioning to work as bearers of the Kingdom of God.  It is, in a sense, the ordination of every Christian to ministry.  Did you know that you are all ministers of the Gospel?  Those of us who have been ordained priests and deacons and stand up here in vestments aren’t the only, or the most important ministers of the Gospel.  You, the gathered people of God, are also called, as the priesthood of all believers, to share the good news of the Gospel with the world.  Without you, Christ can’t be known! You are the light of the world and the salt of the earth. That is your call in your baptism!  Look at Jacob, who is about to be baptized here today.  He is the newest minister in the body of Christ, and in a few minutes we will promise to raise him in the Christian faith and life and to support him in his ministry.  Friends, I also say to you that because of the covenant we made in baptism, we are to support and nurture each other in the Christian faith and life as we seek to grow in Christ and share the Gospel with the world.  For in baptism, we not only receive the grace of regeneration and renewal in Christ, we also commit ourselves to living the life he did, of “continuing in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, the breaking of bread and in the prayers,” to working for justice and human dignity, to care for each other and the earth, and to never forget our constant need of grace and forgivness. In baptism, we respond body, soul, heart, and  mind to Jesus’ invitation, come follow me.

So welcome into the household of God, Jacob!  Pray for us, too, and by your life may you reflect the glory and beauty of our Lord Jesus Christ forever. Amen.








In God’s will is our Peace – The Rev. Rebecca Goldberg

Proper 26, November 13, 2016

Isaiah 65:-17-25, Psalm 98,

2 Thessalonians 3:6-13 Luke 21:5-19

“In God’s Will is our Peace”

The Rev. Rebecca Goldberg


It’s been a tough, tough  week.  We’ve just endured one of the most bitter and divisive election seasons and it has left us feeling battered and bruised.  Not only has it revealed some of the deep divisions and mistrust that threaten our common life, but it has unfortunately encouraged and deepened fear and hostility, the “us and them” mentality.  Some, feeling emboldened by the hateful rhetoric that has been part of this campaign, have cruelly subjected people of color, women, and Muslims, to name a few groups, to taunts, and menacing language, and even violence. I have to say, I was deeply grieved by all of this, and felt sorrow on Tuesday night. It deeply saddens me that there are people in our country who support a vision of America that is based on fear, scapegoating, domination, and prejudice.

It’s ok to feel grief.  It’s ok to feel anger, it’s ok to feel fear.  And if you need to talk about it, please reach out to your clergy and your friends for support.

So where do we go as a community from here?  It is easy to give in to despair and fear or demonize those who supported the other side, priding ourselves on our own moral superiority. It is tempting to just become apathetic, believing we can’t make a difference in the world.  What, as Christians, are we called to do and be in the world in the midst of these turbulent, uncertain times? How are we called to love our neighbors, especially those on the other side of the political divide?.   Where is God in all of this?

Of course, there are no easy answers, only questions, wrestling with God like Jacob did with the angel, and lots and lots of prayer and listening.  And there is the record of  Scripture, of followers of Jesus, just like us, who faced similar turmoil in their own lives.  What might it have to say to us?

Today’s Gospel reading from Luke has Jesus in Jerusalem, shortly before his arrest and crucifixion.  The audience Luke was writing to had probably already experienced the destruction of the Temple, with the oppression of Roman rule and the ever-present threat of persecution and death.  So when Jesus talks about the stones of the Temple being thrown down, and threats and wars and persecutions, and portents in the heaven and on the earth, he is telling their story, and speaking deeply to their experience. He gets it.  He knows what they are suffering, their fears, their hopes.  He tells their story, and they find their story in the Great Story.  And then he gives them hope, the assurance that when everything falls apart, the center, which is God, will hold.  He says when they are brought up before accusers he will “give them words of wisdom that none of their opponents will be able to withstand.”  He tells them “not a hair of their head will perish, and that by their endurance, they will gain their souls.”  Yes, he says, terrible things will indeed happen, and it will seem that the world as you know it is coming to an end.  But it is still God’s world, and God’s love and grace and  truth will always have the last word. Always.

So first of all this morning, I would like to assure you that the words of Scripture are just as relevant and true today as they were when they were written so many centuries ago.  Let them come to life for you, let them come to life in you!  Read them, struggle with them, wonder about them, wrestle with them as Jacob wrestled with the angel, and don’t let go until he blesses you.  For the stories in Scripture are timeless, they are our stories, and our story is woven into the one Great Story of the love of God in Christ.  Scripture is honest and raw; let it be the container of your lament, your cries of anger and despair, as well as those of hope. Scripture describes some pretty awful realities that were happening and would happen to the followers of Jesus.  They would be afraid, surrounded by uncertainty and turmoil, not knowing what they were to say or do.  Even their families might turn against them.  Yet they would not have to face the suffering in their own strength, but would be guided by the power and wisdom of the Holy Spirit.  So in these uncertain times, we, too, can take comfort that our God is a God who is active in history, who walks with us, guides us, and never leaves us.

The Gospel for today also tells us that we can’t try to overcome hatred and destruction in our own strength.   When we are living in times where it seems that fear and bigotry are winning, we are not to use our own limited knowledge and vision to overcome them, but to let the Spirit of God fill our hearts, and transform us that we may reach out in love to those who are our enemies, to those who would do us harm.  We are to let God give us the words to say, because left on our own, we tend demonize and disrespect those we don’t agree with, whose views we abhor. Well. those we don’t agree with and whose views we abhor are also created in the image of God and are our brothers and sisters!  We are told in Scripture that we are to “put on the mind of Christ.”  This means that we humbly examine ourselves, and see where we, too, have fallen short in living out the values of the Kingdom of God.

Here I am also reminded of a scene from that wonderful book by Holocaust survivor Corrie ten Boom, The Hiding Place.  In the beginning of World War II, she and her sister Betsie would often hear the planes of the German Luftwaffe flying over their Holland home on bombing runs to England.  Sometimes they would shell their city, and they would huddle in their bedroom while the building shuddered and shook. One time shards of glass exploded in their bedroom, and miraculously they weren’t hurt.  Taking Corrie in her arms and comforting her, Betsie said “You know, Corrie, the only safe place for us is in the center of God’s will, nowhere else.”   Our safety is not in political parties or programs, but in the center of God’s will. In these troubling times, we need to remember that the power of God is greater than any evil or calamity.  The power of God will give us strength and courage, and bring new life to hopes and dreams we thought had died forever.  And through the power of God, nothing in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Jesus Christ our Lord.

Finally, we must remember that this is still God’s world, and it is good.  For all the acts of bigotry and meanness, there are many, many more courageous acts of kindness, compassion, and sacrifice.  There are people of all faiths gathering in vigils to pray for peace and reconciliation in our country and in the world.  Others reach out to our Muslim brothers and sisters and make sure they feel safe and welcome in our communities.  Many have the courage to step out of their comfort zones and listen to the pain of our brothers and sisters who are angry and afraid, who feel bewildered in a diverse multicultural world, and try to understand what would lead them to support visions of fear and division.  Others, who we honor today, give their lives in service to their country, protecting the rights and freedoms we hold so dear.  For this, we thank them.  We must not ever lose hope, because, as President Obama reminded us, “the sun will still come up in the morning”.  Our hopes and dreams for our nation are still alive, and we must not give in to despair or cynicism.  So it is ok to grieve for a season, and then, following the one who came to give us life in all its abundance, we are called to go joyfully and fearlessly into the world and share the message of grace, reconciliation, justice, and the sacredness of every human being.   My friends, lift up your heads, go forth, and bring hope where there is despair, trust where there is fear, love where there is hate!  Do it for as long as you live!  And in the words of the prophet Isaiah, let us hold up a vision of the world where “the wolf and the lamb shall feed together, the lion shall eat straw like the ox, and they shall not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain, says the Lord.  Amen.



“Happiness is to know the Savior” The Rev. Leonard Oakes

“Happiness is to know the Savior”
1 Timothy 6:6-19

Happiness is seeing you all today as we come together to thank God for the enumerable blessings we received.
The great Dalai Lama said, “Happiness is to have peace of mind and to find true friendship” The great Aristotle said, “Happiness depends on the cultivation of virtue”
This nation was founded in the proposition to pursue our happiness.
“Happiness is not having what you want, but wanting what you have.” (Rabbi Schachtel) This statement is deep but filled with truth because we may have everything already but we are still not happy. We are only good in gathering what we want but forget to use them for good reasons. In other words we hoard our wealth thinking we can take them with us to the grave.

Many people in the industrialized nations, have never in history had more things. And we have the spare time to ponder and pursue happiness. Yet so many get the relationship all wrong. They still think that happiness or fulfillment can come from the accumulation of things. So we amass the wealth of the world in the expense of the poor and those without voices.

In the reading of the first letter of Paul to Timothy, Paul warns the young Timothy about this spiritual pitfall and outlines the proper relationship between fulfillment and possessions. Basically he says that it is the love of things that leads to trouble. So instead of seeking riches they and we should seek the virtues of righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, and gentleness.

In his letter, Paul did not suggest that money is evil. He says the love of money leads to evil. And Paul also advises those who are rich not to trust in their riches. But rather put their trust in God who richly provides. In fact Paul said,”we brought nothing into the world, so that we can take nothing out of it.” I am sure you have all heard that you can’t take it with you. And there is a good reason for that. But most people don’t see the reason. There are those who still hoard their wealth under their beds or pillows only to lose them when they died suddenly or when fire strikes their homes.

The story goes that there was a rich man who was faithful. And he didn’t really understand why he couldn’t take it with him. So he prayed and he said, “Lord, you have blessed me with so much. Why can’t I take just some of it to heaven with me since it was a gift from you.” God replied, “Just to teach you a lesson I will let you take one suitcase of your earthly possessions to heaven.” The man thought and then he packed one suitcase and left it in a special place so that he could grab it after he died and take to heaven. He got to heaven with his suitcase and St. Peter looked in the book and said, “Here’s your name you can go in but you can’t take that with you haven’t you ever heard you can’t take it with you?” So the man explained and St Peter nodded and said “OK. But can I ask a favor? Can I just see what you brought.” The man opened the suitcase and it was full of solid gold bricks. Peter laughed and said, “So why did you bring pavement?”

God has given us all possibilities in this world, even eternal life. What more can we ask?

True happiness is found in acknowledging that God has already given us all we need. But Paul goes on to warn that the love of earthly wealth leads to trouble. It is not wealth itself that is evil. It is the love of it that leads to evil. Out of love for wealth people do things that lead to evil.
You see, what God has created good, most people have it all backward. They love things and use people. The things on this earth were put here by God for us to use not to love. And the people were put here for us to love not to use. So we should love people and use things.

To use people and love things is an alteration of God’s plan. It puts things backwards. We were not made for that. We were made to love God and our neighbor. To do otherwise will lead to destruction and pain.

Paul tells us to seek after the virtues which go along with serving God. We should strive for “righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, gentleness.” We should value faith and take hold of eternal life. In the end that is what endures.

You can’t take money and gold to heaven. But at the same time it is not those things that bring meaning to this life. Knowing who you are and finding peace: those kinds of things bring happiness. Loving your neighbor and serving God bring you Joy whether you have money in the bank or not. Our feeding the shelter program started with sharing our few resources in our love to serve those who are without on things we enjoy such a food and happiness.Such program grew because we shared them to those who have the means to share their resources to us such as St. Mary the Virgin of San Francisco. They have the money, we have the people to serve. Our common denominator is Love. Our health wellness gained recognition from the Diocese when we shared our resources of Medical professional volunteers who are happy to serve the low income and uninsured members of the community.

Our fellowship time together brought us all to Develop deep relationships with each other, our family and friends in the spirit of happiness.

Jesus may have all the wealth he needed. He was rich beyond earthly standard but he gave up the glories of heaven. He found completion and fulfillment in following his Heavenly Father’s will and giving of himself to save us.

It all comes down to one question: What are we living for? Why do you get up in the morning? Why do we go to work or school or wherever it is that we go? Do you go to school so that you make more money when you get out? Do you work each day so that you can make more money?
Or do you get out of bed and do those other things so that you can love God and your neighbor. Do you go about your daily activities with the idea that you are seeking to live righteously. Do you value the people you meet and not the things you acquire.

Paul said, “There is great gain in godliness combined with contentment.” You may not get rich serving the Lord. Then again you might! In the end it doesn’t really matter. But through a godliness of life that is content with what God has provided there is great gain. Through faith we can know the gift not only of life after death but of peace and joy in this world.

On Sunday school, I learned this song, “Happiness is the Lord” let me sing it for you:

Happiness is to know the Savior
Living a life within His favor,
Having a change in my behavior
Happiness is the Lord
Real joy is mine
No matter if teardrops start,
I’ve found the secret —
It’s Jesus in my heart!

Happiness is to be forgiven
Living the life that worth the living
Taking a trip that leads to heaven
Happiness is the Lord, Happiness is the Lord.

Happiness is all around us, if we only look.
May the Love of God lead us all to happiness. Amen.

“Light, Cracked bells, and resurrection” Rev. Rebecca Goldberg

The Third Sunday in Easter,
April 10, 2016
Acts 9:1-6, (7-20) Psalm 30, Rev. 5:11-14
John 21:1-19

Light, Cracked Bells, and Resurrection.

It has been a couple of weeks of roller-coaster emotions for the disciples. They have gone from the triumph of Palm Sunday, to the mysterious last meal in which Jesus told them to eat bread and drink wine in remembrance of him, and that the bread was his body and the wine his blood! What was that all about? Then there was the anger, the betrayal, the sorrow, the fear and bewilderment of Good Friday. Were all their hopes for the kingdom of God going to end up in the grave? And then, on Sunday, those strange and disturbing reports from the women that Jesus was no longer in the tomb, that he had risen! Still incredulous and fearful of the religious authorities, they gather and Jesus appears to them and shows his hands, feet, and wounded side. Then the Scripture says, the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. (John 20:20).
Then more time goes by, and they must have begun to wonder what’s next? What does he want us to do? How will we live when Jesus is no longer physically here with us? Joy and faith might have become mingled with questions, uncertainty, and doubt. Gradually the immediacy of Jesus’ presence began to fade away, and they may have begun to wonder what had really changed. In today’s gospel, Peter, who is still living under the shadow of his denial of Jesus, may be at a loss as to what to do next. So he does what he knows, he goes back to his work, to fishing. It seems like it is back to business as usual.
Have you ever felt that way? We just celebrated the joy of Easter, with baptism, with flowers adorning the church, with lots of people, and joyful music that sent our spirits soaring. And yet, life, with its demands, its sorrows, its problems, its fears and disappointments, still waits for us. Easter is here, and the bills still have to be paid, we still have to deal with the disagreeable boss or neighbor. Easter is here, and still we may know illness, or depression, or fears about our future. Easter is here, and yet people we love dearly still die, and from the deepest part of our being we cry out in pain and longing, why? Easter is here, and still there is war and religious violence and poverty and homelessness. Easter is here, and yet sometimes we forget, and it seems like it is just business as usual. Have you ever felt that way? I know I have.
Well, friends, what happens next in our Gospel passage for today says a resounding NO, it is not business as usual. For what happens next is great good news, Easter is here, and everything has changed! Easter is about the presence of Christ with us always. Easter is about hope. Easter is about transformation.
Going back to the story, the disciples have been fishing all night, and have caught nothing. At just after daybreak, Jesus stands on the beach, watching them. How he must have loved them, and longed for them to know his presence, and to know the joy of resurrection. Then, as he did in his prior days on earth, he tells them where to cast the net and soon it is teeming with fish, overflowing, abundant. How the weary hearts of the disciples must have been stirred with hope- can it be, no it can’t be- it is the Lord! The always tempestuous Peter, realizing he is naked in the presence of Jesus, hurriedly puts on some clothes and then dives into the sea! The scene is one of joy, hilarity and hope, with the boat creaking, the nets groaning under the weight of the fish, the bright sun on the glittering water. Then he invites everyone to the wonderful beach breakfast, complete with a fire, bread, and fish. Again he breaks the bread and gives it to them, and it is Eucharist, and they know him once more.
And that’s how Jesus comes to us. He comes to us in the midst of our messy lives. He doesn’t wait until we feel ready, or worthy, or our faith is strong enough. Notice he didn’t ask the disciples if they believed he could fill their nets with fish. He simply told them where to cast their nets. He loves us and shares our laughter, our pain, our joys, our sorrows, our fears, the things we are proud of, the things we are ashamed of. He comes in the midst of the chaos of trying to juggle family, and work, and multiple responsibilities that make us weary and can burn us out. He comes to us in the long nights when we can’t sleep because we are worried how we are ever going to pay the bills and help a child who may be struggling in school. He comes to us when we are devastated with grief, wondering how we are going to go on after we have lost someone precious and dear to us. He spreads his table in our hungry hearts and shares the bread of life with us, and his presence, which is stronger than death, comforts, feeds and sustains us. Easter is about the presence of Christ with us, always.
Easter is about hope. Because Christ has overcome death and the grave, we, too, will rise into new and glorious life with him. In the wonderful hymn “Jesus Christ is Risen Today.”, the people sing: “Soar we now where Christ has led, Alleluia! Following our exalted head, Alleluia! Made like Him, like Him we rise, Ours the cross, the grave, the skies, Alleluia! In sharing our human nature, Christ is forever joined to us, and in his resurrection, our human nature is healed, restored, and transformed into the glorious image of God that was intended from the beginning. Notice that his wounds are part of the glorified body of the resurrected Jesus. So, too, there is hope for us. All of our wounds, and struggles, and weaknesses somehow become part of the new creation we become in Christ, and are redeemed. And this new hope is not just for the next life. It begins here, and now. Christ’s presence with us, that is stronger than death, gives us hope where once there was only despair. Christ’s presence with us gives us the strength to face fear, suffering, and even death with courage, because we know that he has been through the worst that the world and the powers of evil could do and arose triumphant. Christ’s presence with us helps us to move boldly into the unknown, knowing he walks with us and goes before us.
Finally, Easter is about transformation, about healed, changed, empowered, and restored lives. In our reading from Acts, Paul is dramatically changed from a zealous persecutor of Christians into a believer who would go on to share the message of God’s wonderful salvation to much of the known world of the time. Peter is finally able to move beyond his denial of Jesus, which probably haunted him, and accept the forgiveness that was there all along. How gracious Jesus is in asking Peter three times to profess his love for him. thus freeing him from the pain and shame of the earlier denials! No strings attached, no questions asked, just the invitation to love and follow him.
Well, friends, Jesus is ready to heal and transform us, too. The great good news of the Gospel is that no matter how broken we may feel, no matter what we may have done or failed to do, we have a special purpose in the Kingdom of God, and Jesus needs us, all of us, to carry his message of love, forgiveness, and reconciliation to our world. He is ready to help us to move from living in the confines of fear into trust and faith. He is ready to touch us and reach those wounded places inside that we hide and transform the wounds into sources of joy. He is ready to help us forgive ourselves and others, and to change resentment and mistrust into respect and kinship. We don’t have to try to make ourselves worthy, or put on a holy façade to come to him. We come with open hands and hearts, wounds, faults, and gifts and all, and he welcomes us gladly. In fact, the wounds are part of the joy. Leonard Cohen, in his song Anthem, writes: “Ring the bells that still can ring, forget your perfect offering, there is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.”
That’s how the light gets in. This, sisters and brothers, is the Easter message, the presence of the Risen Christ in the everyday, ordinariness of our lives, the hope his life, death, and resurrection bring us in the here and now, and the wonderful transformation that comes through faith. I hope this community at Holy Child and St Martin will continue to be a place “where the light gets in,” and people are drawn to the beauty of life in Christ. So people of God, ring those cracked bells, and let the light pour in, Allelulia, Alleluia, Alleluia, Christ is risen, the Lord is risen indeed, Alleluia!

Prodigal in loving

“Loving and Forgiving are you O Lord”
(Jos 5:9a, 10-12; II Cor 5: 17-21; Lk 15:1-3, 11-32)
The Rev. Leonard Oakes

Let us Pray: “Thank you Lord for the rain to quench your creation. Thank you for the Sun to brighten our days. Rejoicing with you and the rest of your creation, visit us always with your love and grace.”

Today’s parable is so famous that song writers, book writers and biographers write and publish similar stories of many men and women. This is the story of human kind. A story of Jealousy, of selfishness, of Love and Forgiveness.

Jealousy is everywhere, in the animal kingdom and in those in power.

In the Old Testament, the story of Cain and Abel relates a jealousy that ended in tragedy when Abel’s offering pleases God more than that of Cain’s offerings and as a result, Cain was indignant and killed his own brother. This passage is where the famous saying came, “Am I my brother’s keeper” where one denies the existence of another and chooses hate rather than love.

Jealously among the disciples of Christ in the New Testament was also very evident. In many occasions, Jesus rebuked his disciples because of envy and jealousy among themselves and those who do similar power of healing Jesus does to the people.

In the history of human kind, Leaders of Nations go against leaders of other nations because of jealousy and envy of powers.

In human families, greed, envy and jealousy often end up in tragedy and broken relationships and kept themselves in perpetual distance.

In our Church and every other Church and religious groups, there is jealousy and envy over leadership and accomplishments. There is selfishness where one tends to grab more attention and disregards others. It often leads to destruction of one’s personal life such as the saying, “Divide and conquer” to destroy one person or groups and use the name of God in vain to protect their image and to support their reasons.

We have forgotten about the Love of the Father and the presence of forgiveness that the Father has expressed in the story. The prodigal son may have spent all he had but after realizing all that, he repented and asked his father’s forgiveness and wanted to be loved again.

Most of the time we criticize someone who had done similar things and not realizing that we are pushing the person or persons against the wall, giving them no choices but to feel guilty and outcast. Each of us somehow have had our wrong decisions in life, but we don’t need another guilty feelings inflicted upon us. We have forgotten about love and forgiveness. For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten son, so that whoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life. If God has forgiven us all of our sinfulness, how much more should we forgive others.

The other side of story in the Gospel can also be seen this way:
The end of the parable story is incomplete because we never knew if the older son celebrated with his brother and father. The loving father says, “We must celebrate and rejoice.” One may think it was a happy ending. Another thinks, in the end, there was a perpetual distance between the two brothers.

The unclear ending of this parable draws attention to the decision which the older son must face. The choice whether to celebrate or not celebrate with his brother becomes a key to unlock the meaning of the parable. The decision of the elder son which is left hanging in the air suggests that this parable is about the willingness to accept the brother who has come home. It asks us: Are we willing to rejoice in the good fortune of others?

When someone comes to our midst and contribute good things that glorify God, don’t we celebrate and rejoice for that is a sign that the presence of God is in our midst?

The parable then clearly invites us to avoid jealousy in our own lives. But if we can not avoid that, we must understand the root cause of jealousy. The parable gives us the answer. The older son is unable to accept the love that his father has for him even when it is clear that the father loves him when He says, “My son, you are here with me always and all I have is yours.” And yet, for some reason, this elder son will not believe in the father’s love. Because he will not accept the gifts that flow from that love, he ends up being jealous of his brother.

We can surely avoid jealousy in our own lives if we only accept the love God that has for us and the gifts that God has given us. Even though our gifts might seem less than the gifts of others, we need to accept that the gifts that we have been given are valuable and important.
Even then, sometimes we think: If God loves someone so much, there will not be enough love left over for me. But the parable clearly says this is wrong. The father is excessive in loving, prodigal in loving. The parable assures us that with our God there will always be enough love for all of God’s people.

This story invites us to claim the love that God has for us and the gifts that God has given us. It invites us to be thankful for our gifts and to accept, whatever those gifts are, they are a sure sign of God’s unfailing love for us. If we can be thankful for the gifts we have received, we can avoid jealousy in our lives. When we claim God’s love, our response to someone’s success or exaltation will be joy rather than envy. We will be able to celebrate with them, because no matter how much someone else can be blessed, we will know that we are never left out. With our God, there is always enough love to go around. Let us all be new creations and be ambassadors of Christ. Let us always be loving and forgiving. Let us not waste our time and life destroying anyone’s life just because we always want to be the center of attention. Let God be glorified always and not our selfish ways. Let us be welcoming and rejoice when you see new and old faces that come our midst, for they were sent by God.

We are so blessed to have elected members of the Bishop Committee and have appointed chairs and co-chairs for our various ministries in this Church. I have seen compassion and dedication in their hearts just as those who have served in those capacities in the past.
These leaders know the needs of the church and the people, and are resolved to be more welcoming, giving of their time, talents and resources with a goal that all our members feel a part where they belong and able to shine the lights that were given them and in the years to come, become a self sustenance, self reliant, self governing Church. I ask you all therefore to always be loving and forgiving and roll up your sleeves and be ready to plant the seeds of love and forgiveness in this God’s Holy Place and People. Amen.

“Manaoag: Come and See!”

“Manaoag: Come and See!”
The Rev. Leonard Oakes

Good morning! Magandang umaga sa inyong lahat! Naimbag nga agsapa yo Amin. Welcome to Holy Child and St Martin.

I can feel the air being filled with joy today! The Love of God is in our midst in this house of prayers for all faith. We are glad that you are here. Let me tell you that there’s plenty good rooms in God’s house and all are welcome!

I’m beginning to feel the warmth flame of fire out of the burning bush, for God is present today in our celebration. Let us give God the praise and the glory. (Applause) Yes Lord, we have come to gaze upon you in this Holy Place, that we might behold your love and your glory.

On our Church website you will read a motto that says, “Come, See, Be renewed, Be empowered and Be a part of a community of Love and Hope.”

“Come and See” are invitations of something very interesting, something that is out of the ordinary. When someone asks you to “come and see”, the question that always come to mind is, “what is it there to see? Is there something worth coming here to see? Is there something worth to prove?” We invite people to “come and see” because there are wonderful blessings being transformed and shared happening in our midst. We are called by God to a wonderful cause and we are unable to keep that among ourselves alone because the blessing overflows freely out from our heart to the rest of the people around us and beyond.

Such invitation reminds those of you who have been following Our Lady of Manaoag for years, that the name Manaoag meant, “To Call, to Invite, Come and See!”
You came into this space today because God sent you here to come and see the miracle that is about to happen when God made it possible for Jesus and his Mother Mary to bring Love and joy in this very diverse community.

You might be wondering how in the world did the statue of Our Lady of Manaoag get to Holy Child and St Martin Episcopal Church? Let me tell you at the outset how the Lady brought miracles to those who have had healing and answered prayers from her place of origin until she found us here.

An excerpt from the Book of Manaoag tells us that, {Folk tradition has it that the Blessed Mother showed herself to a middle-aged farmer and gave him a message on where she wanted her church to be located. The meeting was dramatic. She showed herself on a low tree amidst the glow of heavenly light.

It is said that the man was on his way home from a grueling day in his farm. Foremost in his mind of course, was his family. He worried about his home and his crops which he knew would be laid to waste anytime the raiders come for another attack. Faced with this hopeless prospect, he resorted to the wellsprings of his faith. He has been taught by the good Padre to have full trust and faith in the goodness and mercy of God and in the protection offered by the Heavenly Mother. These thoughts came to him. He sighed resignedly to Virgin Mary and somehow his fears vanished as he continued his slow pace homeward.

As he followed the path from the hill in the deepening dusk, he became aware of a mysterious light coming from somewhere. He turned to the west to assure himself that he was not being deceived, and sure enough he saw that the sun has set. He made a full stop and turned his gaze to the light – – a tree nearby. Instantly, he recognized the radiant face of a woman holding an infant in her arms. Unable to grasp the significance of the phenomenon and overcame by superstition, he wanted to run. In a moment of hesitation he heard a sweet voice called out his name. He stood transfixed at the smiling face of the mysterious lady. He knelt down. She continued in her singularly sweet voice, “Son, I want a church here in my honor. My children shall receive many favors in this place.”

We can surmise that such joy from the extraordinary experience would not remain locked up in the breast of the man but would overflow to others. Conceivably, he told his tale to his wife and children then to his close relatives and friends. But when he went to tell it to the Padre, he got a different reception. The old Padre not only did not believe him but went on to insinuate that the man was suffering from hallucination that was induced by the extreme heat of the day.

We can imagine the dismay of the man about the reaction of his spiritual counselor. He and his fellows in the settlement have been monitored on the love and veneration of the Blessed Lady of the Rosary and in a moment of truth, should be asked to reject the revelation of Herself. And yet he was a witness of it all!

Nevertheless, the story spread fare and wide. People in the neighboring settlements heard of it and they came to verify it. These went home not only assured in the truth but they also felt that their petitions have been answered. The pilgrimages to the Lady developed into a tradition, They felt they had to make a visit to the Shrine at least once a year to fulfill a vow, make new petitions to Her, and offer the devotion.}
Last year, Pope Francis visited the Philippines and stopped by the place where the shrine is. The following month, the place was consecrated as the Minor Basilica for Our lady of the most holy rosary.

I had a similar revelation when my friend Erly mentioned about the Lady of Manaoag community and later introduced me to JR who was so moved that a priest like me would welcome another faith tradition. I wrote an email to Bishop Marc Andrus, Bishop of the Diocese of California. I related to the good bishop about the time when The Holy Child Jesus/Santo Nino was first introduced in this place and miracles happen as membership increased. I also told him about the time when this Church welcomed San Martin the Porres and Senor De Los Milagros or Lord of Miracles and how our Peruvian families were welcomed in this place. The Bishop was happy to know of the inclusion of Our Lady of Manaoag and have given me the approval to welcome such community.

Yes, Miracles continue to happen in this Church. The love and respect that we share will surely heal us because we welcome all God’ s people.

There is life among us shared in every moment we come together for worship. There is something worth coming to see in this blessed place;

We have invited people to “Come and See” So that in coming, we may be renewed and empowered as a community of love and hope.

There are more miracles to come and I tell you my brothers and sisters in Christ, there is nothing that we cannot do because God is with us! If God is with us, who can be against us? No one, because we all take it to God in prayer.

By welcoming all, May we all constantly be renewed, Be empowered and continue to be a part of a community of Love and Hope.” May we all continue to bear fruit.
The Gospel today tells us that we are each a fig tree planted by the Lord to bear His fruit. He gardens us; He nurtures us; He cares for us with Word, Sacraments, and the Grace to seek His Presence in others. But we must produce. We are living on God’s time, not our time. How well are we using this time? That is the challenge of today’s Gospel reading.
Today’s gospel is all about that lack of action. We are compared to barren fig trees, trees that produce no fruit. God is that patient gardener who keeps fertilizing, and cultivating, and hoping that Someone would act to build God’s Kingdom. Now the actions that build God’s Kingdom are actions that we are all called to do.
The challenge then that I give to each of you here today is this:
identify one action, one action which you can do that will build God’s Kingdom. Choose one action which will move the world a bit closer to unity, to peace, to justice. It might be picking up the phone to call a relative from whom you are estranged and simply letting that person know that the door is still open to reconciliation. It might be reaching out to someone in your neighborhood who is in need—a person who you have thought for some time could use some help, but so far you have never acted to help. It might visiting someone at home or at a nursing home. It might be welcoming all others who come to our midst as one great thing that we should do, able to risk our vulnerability, our comfort zones for the sake of uniting all in the love of God. HCSM represents not only one tradition but many. In order for us to prosper and grow just as God wants us to be, we need to be able to respect each other and celebrate our common faith in the One God who is father of all.
If we need to bear more fruit in this age, we should be able to expand our tents because there is plenty good room in God’s glory train.

Now is the time for action. Now is the time to do at least one thing to produce fruit, so that there might be at least one fig on the branch of the tree which was previously barren. Any action we do builds God’s Kingdom. I know that it’s Everybody’s job, and I know that Anybody can do it. But Somebody has to do it. That Somebody is you and me. And so today, I say, “Mother Mary, the mother of our Lord Jesus Christ, you are welcome in this place. Forgive those who deny your presence and teach us to Love God, ourselves and our neighbors. Intercede for us with The Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Feast of the Holy Child – The Rev. Leonard Oakes

Feast of Holy Child
2nd Sunday after Epiphany
January 17, 2016

The Rev. Leonard Oakes
God reveals himself in many ways and forms. In the Old Testament, God revealed himself as the creator of all that live upon the earth and in the heavens. God revealed himself as the Spirit hovering above the face of the water. God created us in His own image. God revealed himself to Moses in the burning bush and in the liberation of Israel from their bondage in Egypt when they crossed the Red Sea to the promised land. God revealed himself to Israel as the liberator, great provider. In the New Testament, God revealed himself in the person of Jesus Christ, His only begotten Son whom God sent to save the world from our sinfulness and restore us back to Him. God revealed himself through a messenger proclaiming that a Child Jesus, the Holy Child of God will be born and be among us. The child grew up in wisdom and grace and elevated the people’s understanding of God by showing them that everything is possible with God when we love God, love ourselves and our neighbors, that God is not confined in one’s country and territory, that God is a universal God where there is neither Jews nor Gentiles but only One God for all and that includes all, regardless of color, ethnicity, race, age, gender and whatever background one may have, for God loves us all.

And that’s how God revealed himself here at Holy Child and St. Martin. As a symbol of the presence of God and his miracles.

St Martin Parish during the 60’s was used to be a very popular and people filled parish with a lot of young people in their Sunday School and in their acolyte ministries. But diversity was not popular in this place then. 98 % were Europeans, and the other 2 % were one Japanese/Chinese family, who happened to be the Children of Elsie and Ernest Ching, and another black family have been attending their Sunday school. During the late 80’s however, part of the property of the Church where the houses around the corner are now situated has to be sold to support the salary of the priest and also to pay some of their loans from the Diocese. After which, the number of membership declined for many reasons, until only about 30 or less members were faithfully worshiping here.

On the other side of San Francisco, a group of about 50 or more Filipino families have been worshiping in an in law space at St. Barnabas started by then Fr. Sancho Gaerlan and succeeded by then Fr. Vito Villalon. It was said, “St. Barnabas congregation have the people but they are in need of a bigger space, while St Martin has the space but is in need of people.” Bishop William Swing saw that need. And because the bishop has the authority over mission stations, he made the two congregations agree to merge in Daly City during the early 1990’s and there emerged the name Holy Child and St. Martin. Now some of the original St. Martin’s didn’t like the idea of having St. Martin after the name Holy Child because they were here first, hence it was suggested that the name should be St. Martin and Holy Child. But theologically, God, the Holy Child should precede first before a disciple or Saint Martin. This idea was not acceptable to some and they left. But there were those who stayed and faithfully served this church. Since then, this church grew up in number until today. Look around you, see the diversity that God made us. The beauty of our diversity is when we all work together for the glory of God. That each culture is recognized and lifted in our midst. One does not dominate the other, but rather it is our joy to have another more in our family. There’s a plenty good room in God’s house. I want you all to remember that, plenty good room in God’s house and it is our joy to welcome more. Let us welcome all with genuine heart and continue to respect and recognize each other in all our doings for the glory of God. God turned water into wine!
And so today, I greet you happy Santo Nino Fiesta day!

The story of Santo Nino came to us in many different ways. I was reading the article of our brother Gino Soberano on the origin of Santo Nino. In his article he wrote, “Sto. Nino originated in Europe in the early 15th century. It spread its popularity throughout the Christian world including the Philippines after Ferdinand Magellan had discovered the Island in 1521. It was later discovered that the reason the Island of Cebu in the Philippines accepted and welcomed the group of Ferdinand Magellan was because they introduced the Holy Child Jesus in that community, which they relate of their own belief of a child saving that island from disasters. The Holy Child traces its roots in a small town in Prague where the Holy Infant image was molded in a wax form and given as a gift to an Empress. Even Queens possessed this Holy image. From generation to generation, it has been told that in different places in Europe and in many different countries, the Holy Infant Jesus worked miracles where he was honored and adored. He turned barren towns into prosperous cities. He turned Churches alive with people, he cured many diseases.”

In 1993, the Holy Infant Jesus Replica was airlifted from Manila to San Francisco and was officially enthroned by Bishop William Swing of the Episcopal Diocese of California on that same year With The Rev. Vito Villalon as the Vicar. Mng. Gino revealed to us of an inscription he once read, “The more you honor me, the more I will bless you.”

In April of 2005, the church was devastated with fire coming from the office of Fr. Rico, the Vicar at that time. It was the night before Easter Sunday. My memory of that devastating moment is still vivid. A church neighbor, Nollet Mata called me on the phone at around 11 PM. His voice was filled with worries as he reported to me, “Fr. Leonard the church is on fire” I immediately called fr Bayani who was living in Vallejo and informed him of the incident. I rushed to the church and saw the fire and smoke from the church office. I was enveloped with fear and started to shiver as I prayed to God to spare the church. I Introduced myself to the Fire battalion chief as the assistant priest of the church. He asked me to come with him and walked me through the smoke into the church. I saw the unimaginable shattered and melted windows and interior part of the church. I knelt at the altar for brief prayer and as I rose, I noticed the Santo Nino has never been damaged or burned nor any slight melt happened. I had goose bumps. I’ve never been that much of a santo Nino fun until I myself had witnessed the miracle that just happened in my very eyes. He transformed me that day. I remember what my mom told me that the sto. Nino is a patron of water. That to me and the rest of us is a miracle that happened in this Church.

Yet, a miracle continues to happen in this Church. People have been healed and touched. With your presence and more others to come, bringing forth your talents, time, treasures and skills before God in this Church is certainly a miracle worth celebrating. Because this Church is Alive! There is life among us shared in every moment we come together for worship. This church was baptized with both the baptism of fire and water and we live to witness and share that miracle.

What happened here during that Good Friday night needs to be shared. We need to share the love of God in sparing us from dissipation and restored us to become more stronger and blessed. We need to share the love, the joy and the light that we receive from God. Sharing the grace we enjoy to those who are deprived of having them; the poor, the unemployed, the homeless and the uninsured. We are bound to share the blessings of our Health and Wellness Ministry to the rest of the community. Such is the outward visible sign of the inward grace that we receive from God. We have become the beacon of hope in this place, sharing the stories of those who are lost and bringing them to light.

God continues to be with us because we recognize his presence and his love. Miracles will continue to be revealed in this place where new wine, new spirit of love is shared. Just like what the Gospel tells us today. Jesus turned water into wine.

I remember in seminary when we had a regular morning Eucharist. The celebrant found that the wine have been emptied and didn’t know what to do. He prayed and after prayer, he asked the sacristan to get Coca Cola and gin tonic, mixed it and used it as the Eucharistic wine. Turning drinks into Eucharistic wine.

A small boy was asked by a visiting relative if he attended Sunday school.
When he said he did, he was asked, “What are you learning?”

“Last week,” came the reply, “our lesson was about when Jesus went
to a wedding and made water into wine.”

“And what did you learn from that story?” the relative inquired.

After thinking for a moment, the lad answered, “If you’re having a
wedding, make sure Jesus is there!”

It is indeed when Jesus is present in our midst that things become possible. When Mary found about the lack of wine, she immediately thought about Jesus and said to the attendant to just do what Jesus wants him to do. Jesus revealed his glory – and his disciples put their faith in him.
Jesus’ turning water into wine is itself a picture of all that he came to do. Jesus takes what is and shows us that it has the possibility to become something else. Something that is renewed and reenergized. That which is tired, worn out, devoid of joy, empty, and lacking purpose can be transformed. It can be turned into something rich, fragrant, and ripe with the fullness of joy through his presence, through his care.

The miracle in Cana also tells us that Jesus can bring new life. He can fill the emptiness in our lives – he can take whatever it is that we bring to him – no matter how little – or how much – and utterly remake it – giving to it a good taste which is beyond the best that we ourselves are capable of providing.

It is when we recognize the presence of God in our midst and do what is pleasing in God’s sight, that God reveals himself to us. May we continue to make miracles in this place and beyond, by sharing our stories, our compassion and love for all. Amen.

“New Year, New challenges” – The Rev. Leonard Oakes

New Year’s Vicar’s  Message
January 3, 2016
I greet you all with a Happy New Year!

Although I spent my time in bed beginning on New Year’s Eve, I hope you had a wonderful time with yourself, your family and friends welcoming the New Year with Positive Thoughts and resolutions.

Year 2016 promises us at Holy Child and St. Martin with a very prosperous and wonderful year to celebrate as a community. It promises us new ideas, improved leadership on both Lay and Clergy, and renew our relationship with God, ourselves, our community and the rest of God’s creation around us.

Let us begin the year with a challenge that requires positive attitudes for the greater glory of God. Let us challenge ourselves with a goal to accomplish these challenges:

First, I challenge you all to step up and be leaders beginning today. The task of the Church is not to maintain it but to propagate the Good News of God by raising good leaders and that all members will participate in the various tasks ahead. I thank all those who have already stepped up for they have advanced our ship to the path God wants us to be. But it is not enough that only few are doing such work. We need a collaborative energy to accomplish all things. I encourage you to pray that the Holy Spirit will touch and ignite the gifts that are in you and let them shine.

Secondly, I challenge all the leaders of the various ministries in this Church to open wide the door for all to have a part of. There’s indeed plenty good rooms in the glory train. I challenge the Men’s Group to continue what you have started and plan to make your programs better.
I challenge the Episcopal Church Women (ECW) to welcome new leaders to move your bus forward. We have a lot of young mothers who are full of talents and enthusiasms. Encourage them and let them lead the way. I encourage the young mothers and singles all to step up and maintain your respect to those who have been there, but be resolved that what you have to bring is to glorify God. I challenge all the Youth in this Church. You may have many extracurricular activities in school and have even accepted works to help your tuition and other expenses, but let me remind you not to slowly drift into the unknown where God is only a second choice for you and that you only need God when you are in trouble. So many things take us away from our giving back to God. Make it a point that you give back to God and the community. Better is a one day in your house than thousand elsewhere says the lord. We have opportunities for you to reach out to the poor and the needy if you only find time to be part of them. We don’t want you to lose your way and find yourselves into oblivion where emptiness and depression will enfold you and corrupt your Godly mind. As your Vicar and Pastor, I pray what your parents pray, that you will someday become a successful persons with a happy family of your own. I thank the Seniors for what you are currently doing, but I challenge you to widen you tent and be inclusive. Make it a point where you can go out for a lunch or dinner sometime and get reconnected. I ask you to help us guide our young ones. You have been there and you have so much to contribute with your wisdom.

Lastly, I thank all the pledgers and donors that benefit our church programs and administration. Without you and without God touching your hearts to give, we would not be able to get to where we are going. I continue to pray that your hearts will be filled with the Love of God because you care. I thank all the Clergy that God sent in our midst. God knows our needs and so He keeps sending us Angels, to lighten our burden and to share our care to all. I also thank all the volunteers who have given and continue to give their time and talents to move our various programs forward. May each day and moment you give serves as your prayer and thanksgiving to God who gave you life and the reason to live. I also thank all our community partners and the Diocese of California for the guidance, collaboration and support they provide to keep us all woven as a beautiful tapestry of God.

And finally, my family and I would like to thank you all for the love and the care you so continuously share to us for all these years. I can only magine 18 years ago when God sent us here to part of this wonderful family, and the 7 years that God called me to serve HCSM as your Vicar. God indeed is with us! Thanks be to God! To God be the glory, forever! Amen.

“We await for the birth with sheer gladness”. The Rev. Leonard Oakes

Christmas Eve Homily
December 24, 2015 at 7 PM.

In every drama or a play like the one our pageant casts did wonderfully tonight, there is a beginning, a development, a climax, an ending and recapitulation. The story of the birth of Christ is the beginning of the story told of old that a child will be born and be called Emmanuel, God with us, the son of the living God is with us. The story developed when this prophecy of old came true in the birth of Jesus Christ in Bethlehem of Judea. This story was further developed when the rumor came to the ears of Herod the king who became fearful and threatened of the presence of this new kid in town. He had asked everyone who may have a knowledge where to find this child who will be born king and will be the savior of all. Wisemen from the East came and inquired from Herod about the star they have seen and have been following from afar. Herod had asked them to find the star, and if found, to return and report to him so that he too could go and worship him. But the men were wise enough to know that Herod has dark plot to kill and eliminate the child. Herod was indignant and uncertain on what to do to save his honor and glory. A lot of things were playing in his mind. What if the child will take over my throne? What will happen to me? NO! Not on my watch! So the horrible things happened. King Herod ordered all first born male to be killed, hundreds and thousands of them in all of Israel. I have seen that place called hades or hell just outside the walls of jerusalem where it was told that blood of children flowed in the Kidron valley, the valley of death. What horrid deed had he done? Slain all first born children to save his name and pride. That is the sad story behind the birth of the one who is to come, the light of the world, the son of the living God, the messiah, the savior, the Christ. The development of the story lead into the climax when this Child grew and became a teacher, healing and opening the eyes of the blind, even raising a dead man into life. Until at last he was crucified died and was buried. But his death was the price of our sins and once again we are made one with God. The ending of the story is his resurrection and ascension to heaven where he seated at the right hand of God the Father. His death and resurrection are the focal point of our faith, where if the crucifixion did not happen, there will be no resurrection, but he has to resurrect so that we too become partakers of the eternal life he has promised. The ending is not like those in the movies. There has to be a recapitulation of this story as we await for his coming again. Jesus said he will come again at the end of the world, we do not know when? Thus, we do this the whole year round so that we won’t forget the reason why we are here in the first place. So that we may continue to walk humbly with God. Because if we forget, there will be chaos in this world especially now that every thing seem to have camouflaged the meaning of the birth of the light who was sent to be among us and dwell with us, our Savior Jesus Christ. People have continuously eat of the apple in the garden because they want to become god and eradicate God from the face of the Earth. Consumerism have changed the plot of the story. It is slowly drifting into the abyss because people are letting it happen in exchange of being nice and accommodating to other non believers whose aim is to erase God in history. There are about 2.5 billion Christians in the whole world celebrating at this moment the gift of God in this light who is with us, who is one of us, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We celebrate because we believe. In celebrating, we become vigilant of the Second Coming.

Let us not therefore allow ourselves to fall into the same pit those self seeking and self centered powers continue to do to eliminate the Christ in our lives. Let us not allow ourselves to be part of the ideology of consumerism by trying to retract the focus of the reason of this season but rather we keep our lights shining among people so that God in heaven will be glorified and not ourselves.
Last night, our youth, representing the Asian Commission in the Diocese of California, brought love to the shelter residents at St. Mary’s Catholic Cathedral in San Francisco. We have seen the people’s faces the smiles and hope in life because of people like us and those support such movement to feed and reach out to the poor and the homeless around us.

Let us all share God’s love to all with unceasing prayers and honor God in the most high. That is the message of Christmas; to share God’s love and be of service to each other and to everyone. Let us hold our children and our grandchildren close to our hearts and treasure them. Let us again and again be gathered here at Church and in our homes to celebrate the Love and the joy of the birth and renew our commitment to each other and the world around us. Please keep in your hearts and minds those who are without in the world. Pray they too will have a glimpse of what we enjoy. Give love this Christmas and everyday. To love and be loved is the duty we have as people of God. Let us wait for the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ with sheer gladness and great expectations!

Let me offer you a Christmas song tonight with all my heart in it. You may sing it with me to make the night feel better:

Have yourself a merry little Christmas,
Let your heart be light
From now on our troubles will be out of sight

Have yourself a merry little Christmas,
Make the Yule-tide gay,
From now on, our troubles will be miles away.

Here we are as in olden days,
Happy golden days of yore.
Faithful friends who are dear to us
Gather near to us once more.

Through the years
We all will be together,
If the Fates allow
Hang a shining star upon the highest bough.
And have yourself A merry little Christmas now.

Kindly turn to the person next and around you and just give them a big hug and a smile greeting them, “Merry Christmas”