We visited Saint Thomas’ Anglican Church in San Francisco today, driving once again from the valley sun into the misty fog enshrouding the City by the Bay.
Saint Thomas’ is a small church, one central aisle, a simple stone altar with a French tabernacle in the center. It probably seats around eighty souls, one hundred if we squeeze them in. The sage green tiles and white painted walls that arch to a vaulted ceiling with skylights remind me of a Tuscan chapel. It is a bright space, even on a gray day like this, and the pretty country Madonna and Child on the pedestal on the Gospel side is a contemplative one, gazing over us. Yellow flowers bunch in a vase at her feet, next to a flaming blue votive. Large bouquets of white and gold and fuchsia stand on classic pedestals on either side of the altar. A crucifix rises above the tabernacle, reminding us of God’s great sacrifice and great act of redemption, of life and love.
From a small choir loft over the narthex entrance four or five voices join and soar to sound like twenty, and our organist trills jeweled notes through the air. The brisk tempo of the hymns and the liturgy call us to join the great dance, to fly with the angels in this luminous sanctuary.
Our good Deacon McNeely preached on the healing of the man who was both deaf and dumb (Book of Common Prayer Gospel reading for Trinity 12, Mark 7) Not only could this man not hear, but he could not speak. His friends brought him to Jesus, and Jesus said, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.” The first words the man heard were from Jesus Christ. The first words were, “Be opened.” And “straightway his ears were opened and the string of his tongue was loosed, and he spoke plain.” (Mark 7)
Can we hear? Do we speak? Are we deaf and dumb? Do we simply hear the Word of God for our own benefit, another product to consume? Or do we speak of God’s great acts too? Are we opened or are we closed? Are we alive or are we dead?
Such a simple choice. Such an important one, I thought. To be open to God. To be open to hear and to be open to express him in our lives.
I received the bread and wine, Christ’s Body and Blood, in the Eucharistic sacrifice, the great action celebrated at the Holy Table by a priest in the succession of Saint Peter, dating back through two thousand years. I stood with the rest of my parish family, the Body of Christ, my palm open to receive the Host, the Son of God. I stood with all other Christians in time, open to God’s power.
In that moment of union, I could hear, see, taste, touch, the presence of Christ. My tongue was loosed. “Thanks be to God,” I prayed.
As I work on the last edits of my third novel, Inheritance, I pray that God will guide me, loose my mind and heart, as I choose the words to speak of his glorious acts, in the past, the present, and the future.
Saint Thomas’ Anglican Church, 2725 Sacramento St., San Francisco,http://www.anglicanpck.org/, Sunday Mass, 10:00 a.m.