It’s a blessing to join Dean Sawyer and Deacon Soriano in welcoming the Gathering to St. John’s for this most welcome, blossoming tradition of an Advent service by and for the AAPI community and its friends in and around the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles.

Kathy and I are just back from a quick trip to London in connection with the archbishop of Canterbury’s Michael Ramsey Prize, which is a story for another occasion. But a few days’ drenching by our shared Anglican heritage makes me think tonight of a certain fourth-generation Welshman named Mark, a young priest in the Church of England. Fourth generation means that Mark’s family have been in Wales for the better part of a century. He’s as British as I’m American.

But as some of you know – since he was here earlier this year to meet with priests serving at our Chinese language congregations, other colleagues, and me — the Rev. Mark Nam is also of Chinese descent. He’s British, and he looks Chinese, and so he’s conscious each day of people assuming he comes from somewhere besides his native land. Our eloquent preacher Sharon, a third-generation Japanese American, just shared an Orange County iteration of the same dispiriting story.

Four generations of people’s rootedness in a place, working hard, paying their taxes, raising their families, keeping Great Britain great – and yet still, because of the way he looks, Mark’s made to feel that he doesn’t belong and fears the same will be true of his and his spouse Kayi’s three fifth-generation, 100% Welsh offspring.

While this suggests that the Gathering’s work may never be done – that the weight of white supremacy, prejudice, fear, and sheer incuriosity is forever – I don’t mean to be discouraging. Advent is our time of expectation and preparation, of waiting for a culmination of something that’s just on the verge, but not quite yet – so as our worship continues, I offer a trinity of questions about getting ready for the kingdom of God.

Where are you really from? That’s the question Mark gets all the time. I know it’s familiar to many of you. The answer he is living out is that he from the heart and mind of the most high God, placed right in his questioner’s face, established there by God for God’s divine, justice-making purposes. Sharon has described her faith journey in similar terms.

What is the church to do? Among other things, model the image of God by how we choose leadership – meaning more AAPI and other people of color as bishops and cardinal rectors.

What are the prophets to do? Take issue when anyone says that equity, diversity, and inclusion are political. They are not – they are human rights issues, dignity of every human being issues, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness issues. In our country, it may get worse before it gets better. But pluralistic democracy is coming. The tyrants, the enemies of democracy, will try to stop it, but by the grace of God, they will fail, as darkness always fails before the light of the Prince of Peace.

Since in Advent, we await the kingdom of God, I’ll close with a proposed definition, with apologies to Jesus Christ, since this is usually his line. The kingdom of God is like a great city where strangers greet one another in church or in school, at Starbucks or at work, and no matter how they look, one says to the other, “You look like you must be from Los Angeles. Me, too. Let’s sit down together and share our sacred stories.”

— My remarks tonight at The Gathering: a Space for Asian Pacific American Spirituality’s Advent service at St. John’s Cathedral. The Rev. Katherine Feng celebrated Holy Eucharist, Sharon Matsushige Crandall preached, and the Rev. Joshua Wong presided. Joyce Swaving offered a magnificent gathering prayer of her own composition. Under Dustin Seo’s direction, four cellists from Laós Chamber Music were music ministers. A light supper followed.