Ashes to Go.

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Pastor Steve on the 66 Quintara bus

Ashes to go.

(Originally published on February 21, 2013 at ELM's blog here: Guest Blogger: Cary Bass)

This past Ash Wednesday, I had a real experience with public on-the-street street ministry on behalf of my internship congregation, Christ Church Lutheran.  For the first time in the life of the congregation, Pastor Steve Sabin (at right) decided to try Ashes to Go on the street in San Francisco.  It was an interesting experiment in being public witnesses to God's call.

We started out from our midday service, and without removing our vestments we waited for the 66 MUNI bus.  Even before the bus arrived a woman asked for imposition of ashes.  Steve performed the rite, "Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return," and blessed her and she went on her way.

Distributing ashes at 9th and Irving

When the 66 bus arrived we hopped aboard it and traveled to 9th and Irving Street (at left) in the Inner Sunset, a district with trendy shops and eateries adjoining the UCSF Medical Center.  As we arrived we started to stand on the same corner that some people who were getting signatures for a petition.  We decided it would probably be better to move to a different corner so as not to create too much competition among those looking to engage the public in some manner or another.

Surprisingly enough, one gentleman who was signing people up for Greenpeace crossed over to our corner to engage us in conversation about what we were doing.  Although he wasn't interested in receiving ashes, he was familiar enough with the practice, having been brought up Roman Catholic.

Our reception was phenomenal.  Over the course of an hour and a half, we had over fifty people come up to us to receive ashes in the form of a cross on their forehead. People from all walks of life, young and old, men and women, of all different colors. Roman Catholics as well as non-Roman Catholics, people who weren't sure they were going to make it to church later, people who hadn't been to church in years.  A number of people who chose not to receive ashes made it a point to inform us that they were happy to see us there.  A few people who didn't receive it thanked us for reminding them that it was Ash Wednesday and they would be making it to worship services later. People were also surprised that we were there, not looking for something in return but in order to give something out.

We certainly garnished a lot more attention than those looking for petition signatures on the other corners.  And by the time we left 9th and Irving at 2:45, the other corners had cleared out.

Distributing ashes at Castro and Market

After that, we made our way to Castro and Market to try our luck in the heart of San Francisco's historic "Gay district."  There were no small number of people who were skeptical about our presence there, especially in a place where the presence of clergy in public traditionally meant that they were going to be yelled at in public to repent of their sins or face certain damnation.  Nobody, was, however, outright hostile, and there were at least twenty people who came by in the Castro to receive ashes from us as well.  One woman who had already had a cross on her forehead even mentioned that she had gotten it at St. Francis, my home congregation!

The truly high point of the day was when we boarded the final bus to take us the last stretch of the trip back to church.  The driver saw us and right away asked for Steve to provide him with the rite, "Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return."

ELM has provided this grant to enable this congregation, a fairly high liturgical one with a relatively small attendance, to have an intern, and I am learning so much about parish life by being the Vicar at Christ Church Lutheran.  But my spirit truly soars when I am out in public on the street doing public ministry.  Ashes to go is a great witness on the street to the public of what being Christian is all about.

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Sermon Luke 3:7-18

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3rd Sunday in Advent

3rd Sunday in Advent (Photo credit: @bastique)

Here is the sermon I preached last Sunday, both via video and transcript (after the jump). 

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San Francisco Conference of ELCA Churches

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sanfranciscoconfws.jpgSo, I'm working on the San Francisco Conference of Lutheran Churches website as my likely internship project.  And it's very interesting going; as I've never worked in Wordpress before, but there are a lot of similarities with movabletype, which is what my website is designed in.

Please forgive the color scheme; I did not design that. I'm sure it will be something that will be transformed into something considerably  That will be a later change.  At present, I've been including a calendar of events, in order to make it somewhat more useful. 

Most pages will also have worship times as well as direct links to conference churches' websites and/or location.

One one page I have created a Google map page so people can more easily find whatever church they would like to visit. 

The ultimate goal for this is twofold. So that people may find a suitable Lutheran church to fit their own identity and spiritual needs, and for outreach and evangelism for those affected by negativity in other Christian churches and/or other faith origins. There is an incredible variation in churches in San Francisco; and almost everyone can find a spiritual home. 

I will be providing updates as this project unfolds. 
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Sermon on Luke 21:25-36 "Signs and Wonders"

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You can listen to this sermon here: Signs and Wonders

My notes are after the jump. 
Video is here: 

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A prayer for World AIDS Day

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Closing PrayerHere is a prayer I wrote and presented for Wednesday's Interfaith World AIDS Day Service at St. Mark's Lutheran Church in San Francisco. I kept the language as broad as I could, so it could be meaningful to people of other faiths. I also wanted to hold onto my Lutheran piety in its style and formation. 

A prayer for World AIDS Day 2012:

The Creator be with you all.

And also with you.

O Divine Creator, from whom justice and love are the cornerstones of the foundation of your people of faith.

We give you thanks that you provide light and guidance to help us along our pathways, and we t
hank you for all the advances that we gain in the study of HIV and AIDS, its research, its prevention and the maintenance of those affected by it. Be with us as we take this walk together, and let us continue to reach out to each other seeking common ground in our similarities and finding blessing in our differences, as we are all of us your family. Give to us, your people, that guiding light that we may better and more ably walk with those who are all too often left to walk alone, give us the strength to help call others in our faith to do the same, in lovingkindness and mercy. Remind us that we are each of us but human beings who need each other. Awaken our world to the knowledge and science that we need to prolong life and give our leaders the willingness to share the science and healing with those most often hardest hit communities and nations. Above all, buttress us with encouragement and the wisdom that we can improve the quality of life for all those who are suffering, and grant us endurance in the hopes that the cure is right around the corner. We humbly ask all of this in your holy name, in whatever name we come to you, in honor and glory, forever.

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A safe place amid turmoil

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I delivered this sermon today at The Heritage Lifecare Community a senior living facility near Fort mason in San Francisco. It's shorter than most of my other sermons and I am probably somewhat louder and more intentional with my phrasing, because it is a senior living facility and they prefer a shorter sermon, and I wanted to be sure everyone could hear me.  Today's gospel text s from Mark 13:1-13

You can listen to the sermon by clicking here

(The text of the sermon is below)

Sermon Audio for Mark 12:38-44

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And here is the audio of my sermon from Veteran's Day / Pentecost 25, "Not a Stewardship Sermon."

You can find the Mark text here

You can listen to this sermon here.

All of my past sermons are located at the Christ Church Lutheran sermon page

Not a stewardship sermon

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The text (from 

Mark 12:38-44

As he taught, he said, "Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, and to have the best seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets!They devour widows' houses and for the sake of appearance say long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation."

He sat down opposite the treasury, and watched the crowd putting money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which are worth a penny.Then he called his disciples and said to them, "Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on."

On face value, you might read this gospel reading and think, "Oh, how wonderful this good little widow is, putting all of her money into the offering and not thinking about herself at all."


This is especially true given the time in the year this reading happens to come for many churches, which is in the midst of their stewardship series.

"See if we would all just put everything we had into the basket and not worry about where things come from then the church wouldn't ever have to worry about its budget for the coming season and we would be able to do all the things we want to do; hire a secretary and a groundskeeper, have our own school, wire our own internet, hire a professional website developer." 

Yes, it all sounds pretty good.

Here is the gospel text for Sunday, October 21, 2012:  Mark 10:35-45 James and John

How is it that James and John haven't quite figured out what it is that Jesus is all about? After all this time of walking with him, learning about service and hierarchy, position and power, James and John still think they can beat the other disciples and jockey for the primary seating positions in the kingdom.  

It's not about that...

Listen to my sermon here: Sermon on Mark 10:35-45.

Icon of James and John © Nicholas Papas from Come and see icons.

What God has joined

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Here is my sermon from this past Sunday, on Mark 10.2-16


I have an awful lot of Law in it, apparently, and Gospel doesn't come quickly enoug for some listeners.  So if you're listening to it, once you get past the fun beginning, don't worry about the rambling journey I make in much of the middle. Bear with me, I get to a wonderful point in the end. 

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I *am* Cary Bass
Written by Cary Bass
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