JESUS IS HERE!
Sermon preached at High Mass to commemorate the 100th anniversary
of the laying of the Foundation Stone of All Saints’ Church, San Diego
by the Rector Emeritus, Fr Tony Noble
Sunday June 10th 2012
Ephesians 2:19-20 “So then you are no longer strangers and sojourners, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the cornerstone.”
“On June 10th, 1912, just before 5 pm, a procession formed in the “old” chapel. A surpliced choir of 14, mostly young women, was followed by clergy and 2 prelates, Bishop Graves and Bishop Johnson. A crucifer led the procession to a temporary platform where a crowd of 200 witnesses was waiting. All joined in singing the great hymn, “The Church’s One Foundation”. A cornerstone, donated by Mr Kleinschmidt, had been prepared, and a bible, a prayer book, and some records of the time had been placed inside it. Then Bishop Johnson seized a trowel and sealed the opening of the stone, dedicating the new church to God. The other clergy spoke, the procession returned to the chapel………and there was an informal party at a parishioner’s home that night.”
This quote is from Dr Stephen Cox’s marvellous history of All Saints’, recently published. So it was that exactly 100 years ago the foundation stone of this church was laid, dedicated to All Saints. You will notice some familiar things in that report:
+ a crucifer
+ a surpliced choir
+ and a party afterwards ?
Some things never change!
One can imagine the excitement and hopes that filled the hearts and minds of our ancestors in the Faith, 100 years ago today. 5 months later the church was complete. Referring to that, Stephen makes this significant comment:
“All Saints’ had not only made itself independent, it had created an enduring monument, a church that would transmit its idea of worship to generations of men and women who had no knowledge of its history.”
How true is that!!
In our traditional worship, in our Anglocatholic tradition, in our ceremonial and wonderful music, All Saints’ does indeed transmit its idea of worship.
Of course, it is not All Saints’ idea of worship…….it is the idea of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. But not just an idea – for worship is at the heart of the Church and its life. And through its worship the Church conveys its Faith and the Truth of the Gospel.
“God is Spirit”, said Jesus to the Samaritan woman, “and those who worship Him must worship in Spirit and in Truth.”
For 100 years All Saints’ has worshipped, not just in Spirit – but in Truth.
The Truth of the Gospel that we find in our Anglocatholic Faith and Tradition.
Since that day 100 years ago, succeeding generations of parishioners have beautified this church, not just by their worship, but by the addition of beautiful things. All Saints’ now stands as a beautiful church which invites people to worship in Spirit and in Truth.
That, of course, is the purpose of a church – to draw us from the mundane cares of this world, that we may be lifted into the presence of God. And more especially, the presence of Jesus Christ, our Great High Priest and the Word made Flesh.
In this church, everything leads up to the altar, where the ultimate worship is offered, to the crucifix which looms above and reminds us of the cost of our salvation, and to the tabernacle, where Jesus is especially present for us always in the most holy Sacrament of the altar.
And if our eyes are distracted in our gaze we will see the shrine of Mary, reminding us of the centrality of the Incarnation. Indeed, the only justification for building a church is because the Word was made flesh and dwelt amongst us.
From the moment Mary said, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord”, God has made Himself known to us in created things. Mary’s “Yes” to God was the answer to Solomon’s prayer when he blessed his great temple in Jerusalem.
“But will God indeed dwell on earth?” he said. “Behold Heaven and the highest heaven can not contain Thee, how much less this house which I have built.”
But God did indeed dwell on earth! Thus he can dwell in a house of prayer under the new Covenant.
The early Christians never had that luxury. They had to celebrate Mass in secret, in the catacombs and in their own homes. Finally, thanks to Constantine, the persecution of the Church ceased. Grand basilicas were built in Jerusalem, Bethlehem and all over the Mediterranean. These were copies of pagan temples, and also the image of the heavenly Jerusalem we find in Revelation.
With what joy those early Christians made vestments and ornaments for their altars. And burned incense not to the emperor, but to the only one who was divine – Our Lord Jesus Christ.
Like those early Christians, the history of All Saints’ these past 100 years has not been all plain sailing. As I read Stephen’s history, I thought that the history of All Saints’ could be described as snatching resurrection from the jaws of defeat!
That is why the text from Ephesians is so relevant. For here strangers and pilgrims “become fellow citizens with the saints”. So they called this church, All Saints’.
When St Paul wrote to the Ephesians perhaps he had the temple in Jerusalem in mind when he described the Church as a structure joined together, growing into a holy temple, built upon the foundation of the apostles, with Jesus as the cornerstone. Little did those San Diego Episcopalians 100 years ago imagine how that would become true. For we fulfil not only their hopes – but what St Paul declared to the Ephesians.
Another thing our ancestor could not have imagined was the internet ?
Like many of you, I have become an enthusiastic and diligent user of it. I am often amused by the various pics I get with a funny caption. Recently a priest in the UK sent me a pic of a shelf in a British supermarket. The sign above said “Water” – but the shelves were filled with wine (Aussie wine, of course!). The caption read:
“Jesus was here!”
Of course, whenever we celebrate Mass Jesus turn wine into His Precious Blood, and bread into his Sacred Body. So the caption, “Jesus was here!” is rather true of All Saints’ Church.
Whenever we have come together in this church – Jesus was here!
Whenever you came to worship, no matter how distracted you were –
Jesus was here!
Whenever you prayed for yourself, or someone you cared for, no matter how feeble your prayer – Jesus was here!
Whenever you lit a candle at Our Lady’s shrine – Jesus was here! And Mary too!
Whenever you came to confession, or were anointed for healing, or were baptised, confirmed or married – Jesus was here!
And, of course, whenever you came to Mass, and came up to the altar to receive Holy Communion – Jesus was here….really here!
And when a stranger or visitor comes here to Mass. What they should be able to say is “Jesus was here!”
For 100 years Jesus has always been here.
And Jesus will always be here – for you, and I, and the whole community.
Hopefully for another 100 years!
Yes, we must always be able to say, “Jesus was here!” – because Jesus always IS here.