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Pastoral Letter, March 30, 2023

To the Saints in San Carlos

March 30, 2023

Another week in northern California; another atmospheric storm.

Another week in America, another mass shooting. A personal friend of mine is the headmaster of a school near the school where the shooting took place. He wrote to me and a number of mutual friends yesterday:

"It has been an awful week here in Nashville, and the most difficult days of my career . . . we have many overlapping connections between our two communities. I have not met the Scruggs family but we have children the same age and many common friends. Nashville is a big city but feels very much like a small town at a moment like this. The first of the funerals is on Friday, and I fear that this event will shape the Nashville community for years to come."

There was a mass killing just over the hills from us a month or so ago. These tragedies are touching all of us - it is just a matter of how close they come to us and those we love.

We pray for the victims of this violence, the staff and children of the Covenant School in Nashville, as we pray for the victims of violence everywhere every Sunday in church.

Meanwhile, spring continues to unfold and there is much for which to be grateful. The water reservoirs of our state are full. We pray that our hearts may likewise be filled with love, with compassion and with penance in this difficult time, as we prepare for Holy Week and Easter.

Take a look at our new website:

This coming Sunday will be Palm Sunday. Readings:

Philippians 2:5-11

Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,

who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited,

but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness.

And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death-- even death on a cross.

Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name,

so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,

and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

John 12:12-25

The next day a great crowd who had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying, "Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!" And Jesus found a young ass and sat upon it; as it is written, "Fear not, daughter of Zion; behold, your king is coming, sitting on an ass's colt!"

Last Sunday's sermon:

Sermon for the Fifth Sunday of Lent

March 26, 2023

Bach, Lincoln, Roosevelt, Jesus Servant Leadership

We celebrate the birthday of Johann Sebastian Bach this week. He was born in Eisenach, Germany on March 31, 1685. The music of no other composer has done more to manifest the glory of God. He once said, “I play the notes as they are written, but it is God who makes the music.”

Bach came from a musical family. His father was a string player, town piper, and court trumpeter. All of Bach’s siblings played music. He learned Latin and sang in the school choir, but when he was nine, he lost both of his parents and went to live with his older brother who taught him how to play the clavichord and to write music, even though ledger paper of that time was costly.

He had a beautiful singing voice, which meant he could go to school for free as long as he sang in the boys’ choir. But his voice changed, so he quickly became an organ virtuoso. He was also something of a rogue, often leaving on foot for faraway towns to see new church organs. He earned a stipend teaching the boys choir, but he didn’t really like it, and once got into a fight with a bassoon player in the street. He was even chided for “making music with a stranger maid” in a town church.

His compositions were complicated, and sometimes unwieldy, requiring many more instruments than people were used to. During his lifetime, even though he received commissions and was able to make a living, he wasn’t fully appreciated. At the time of his death, his sole estate was listed as “5 harpsichords, 2 tule-harpsichords, 3 violins, 3 violas, 2 cellos, a viola da gamba, a lute, a spinet, and 52 ‘sacred books.’” His eldest son immediately began selling off most of his music, piece by piece, after Bach’s death. Scholars estimate that we are missing hundreds of his compositions.

For 150 years, Bach’s grave at Old St. John’s cemetery in Leipzig went unmarked. His remains were removed in 1894 and moved to a vault inside the church, but that building was destroyed by bombing in World War II. In the 1950s, his remains were moved to St. Thomas Church.

My topic this Sunday is servant leadership; a topic suggested by the obvious great contrast here between the prophet Isaiah who speaks of a servant “who will not will not cry or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street;” and the Gospel writer John who tells us of the enraged Jesus who chases the money changers from the temple with a whip.

Almost all Christian scholars agree that this section of Isaiah and several others, called the Servant Songs, foretell the life and death of Jesus, the servant of God who is obedient unto death.

On the other hand, John here tells us that Jesus, certainly early in his ministry, had a wider range of leadership styles. I’ll talk more about this in a few minutes.

First, I want to talk about two events in history, American history, that pertain to the subject of servant leadership and that took place about this time of year: In American history, late winter and early spring has often been bittersweet. Two great wars, the greatest wars in terms of cost and casualties, came to an end about this time of year; our own Civil War and World War II. On the one hand, therefore, it was a very happy spring. Yet two great national leaders, two presidents, died in that spring, suddenly and unexpectedly: President Roosevelt of a heart attack or stroke; Abraham Lincoln of an assassin’s bullet.

Lincoln was shot in Ford’s Theater in Washington on Good Friday, April 15, 1865 and died the following morning. FDR died in Warms Springs, Georgia on April 12, 1945. Easter had already occurred that year, on April 1, 1945. So two great funeral processions took place amid flower blossoms, leafing trees and the beauty of spring in Washington, when Washington is one of the most lovely cities on earth. Neither president was buried at Arlington – that great cemetery was in its early years then and was just a temporary resting place for thousands of common soldiers who had died in the battles near the nation’s capital, including Confederates. When their generals starting dying off in the 1880s, many wished to be buried there with their soldiers and that is how it became the great and prestigious place it is now.

Something everyone should do is be in Washington for one of these occasions, for the funeral of a president; or just visit Arlington when the weather is nice to see the soldiers in dress blues and white gloves, hear the clip clop, clip clop of the hooves of finely caparisoned white horses and feel the 21-gun salute resound over the hills of the National Cemetery.

All this all happened in 1865 and 1945 in the spring: the great procession in Washington, the lying in state in the Rotunda, followed by a train ride back to Springfield, Illinois for Lincoln and up to Hyde Park, New York for Roosevelt. There, their national leadership came to an end; but of course, it continues. They continue to inspire.

Many people at the time remarked on how serving as president had aged Abraham Lincoln. Anyone can look at his photographs and unmistakably see it. That he died on Good Friday elicited thousands of articles, poems and sermons comparing him to Jesus. Roosevelt likewise dramatically aged in office. Of both presidents it can certainly be said that they died in their nation’s service. They were servant leaders.

Today we like to call our elected leaders public servants. Even the few kings and queens left on earth speak of themselves as serving their people by carrying out their royal duties.

We gather here every Sunday to honor and worship a different kind of leader. Jesus refused political leadership and thus remains a religious leader who inspires people of all nations. Precisely because he was not a national leader, precisely because he was not a king, he could exhibit and exercise a multiplicity of abilities. He could heal infirmities, forgive sins, feed multitudes, even chase people out of the temple precincts with a whip. But his most important leadership act was dying that we may live.

Thus, Jesus remains available to all, to all races, all nationalities, young and old, men and women. He was and is the ultimate servant leader. He is still with us.

Isaiah 42:1-4

Behold my servant, whom I uphold,

my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my Spirit upon him, he will bring forth justice to the nations. He will not cry or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street; a bruised reed he will not break, and a dimly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice. He will not fail or be discouraged till he has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands wait for his law.

John 2:13-22

The Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers at their business. And making a whip of cords, he drove them all, with the sheep and oxen, out of the temple; and he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables.

- Pastor Richard Hyde Community Church of San Carlos

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