By Dennis Moran
Our church is unique because most Episcopal churches are named after a saint. Ours isn’t. Fr. John Benz thought he was being pragmatic when he named us. He didn’t know that he gave us a multi cultural and historical name. Our name, Almaden, comes from an Arabic word, correctly pronounced in Arabic, al-ma-had-in. Around 700 A.D., the Moors carried the word across North Africa into southern Spain. From there, the name was brought to the new world into Mexico then north to here. We were multi ethnic and didn’t even know it. A mine is a source of wealth. I would suggest that you are the wealth in this mine because God’s Spirit is inside you.
What was mined here? It was a vermillion colored rock the Ohlone Indians called “mohetka”. The rich color was religious for them. They would grind it into a powder, mix it with animal fat and put designs on their bodies for protection from evil and direction from the Great Spirit that is in everything.
When Andres Castillero saw the mercury sulfide ore in 1845, he saw something different: wealth. The Mexican government was offering $100,000 to anyone who found mercury because mercury was used to separate gold from the quartz. Castillero suspected it to be cinnabar.
Cinnabar is another Arabic word meaning ‘dragon’s blood’. When it was heated to 675 degrees, it created the pungent smell of evaporating sulfur. A mirror-like liquid called mercury was left. After condensation, it was poured into a vat and the impurities would float to the surface. The refiner would scrape these off, and when he saw his own image in it, he knew it was pure. Mercury’s value is that it was used to extract gold and silver from the native ore and mercury made the Gold Rush and Silver Comstock Lode in Nevada possible.
When I designed the multi ethnic symbol for the front of the altar, I made it with a reflective acrylic to symbolize the Almaden mercury. Impurities are removed from gold, silver and mercury using the same methods.
Malachi 3:1-4, describes God as being like a goldsmith that refines the gold with fire. We are the gold and God, the refiner, allows us to have our own trial by fire so that we see our character defects come to the surface. Then we can eliminate them to better reflect God’s image in our lives.
One night, Mary and I entered a restaurant. We found Ron Howie and Melinda Jennings there. We talked, they left and we sat down to order. When it was time to pay our bill, the waiter said, ” You don’t have to pay. That guy with the mustache paid for you.” Ron and Melinda were reflecting God’s love in their mirrors by paying it forward. Thus we are all mirrors to one another and we teach those around us by our example. By paying it forward, like Ron and Melinda, we have an opportunity to reflect God’s love to others. Think about your own image. What does your reflection look like?
When I designed the mirror image for the front of the altar with the multi cultural names of God, my intention was that when someone stood in front, they would see their own image in the dove shape. Because the image on the altar is low, this doesn’t happen. That motivated me to create this picture, “An Unfinished Portrait of God”.
The background is Super Nova 2006X from the NASA website and is about 50 million light years away from Earth. That means that what exists in space now is not what we are seeing in Hubble. Instead we are looking at the past.
This picture is not complete. What is needed to complete the image is YOU.
You can make ‘paying it forward’ a part of your reflection to others in the way you use your time, talent, and treasure. What can happen when you incorporate this into your image?
The Reflection of Ralph Borge
From Ralph’s reflection I learned more about drawing from him than anyone else.
As he grew up, Ralph had a talent for drawing. He was drafted during World War II. He carried a sketchbook with him and drew at every opportunity. He could ‘out Rockwell’ Norman Rockwell. After being discharged, Ralph and his generation had determination to make their lives meaningful. So he enrolled in California College of Arts and Crafts to perfect his talent. When he and his peers took a class they would compete to see who produced the best work. If you entered that classroom, you would sense a intense electricity of learning in the air and it was contagious. Those veterans raised the quality of work produced to a higher standard.
He began painting and became a respected artist in the Bay Area. He gained national recognition and was interviewed in Time Magazine. He started teaching drawing classes at the college and continued that atmosphere of intense electricity of learning to his students. He was paying it forward.
Many of Ralph’s students became successful fine artists, graphic artists, fashion designers and interior designers. Ralph’s reflection was reflected in their work. Some even became teachers, re-creating the intense learning atmosphere of Ralph’s classes. They, in turn passed Ralph’s reflection forward to their students.
Ralph has passed on to the other side. He is no longer here, but like Super Nova 2006X, his reflection continues to shine. When we cross to the other side, none of us knows what awaits us. I would suggest to you each of us has in our own mirror those gifts of time, talent and treasure that we can perfect and reflect forward to others. We can show others how to use the best that is in them by our example. In our real world, this is one way we create eternal life.
How do you know what God’s plan is for you? Paul offers a suggestion in Romans when he says, “Present yourself as a reasonable, holy and living sacrifice to God.” As Samuel you say, “Here I am, Lord.”
Will the path be easy? Not necessarily. You will find bumps in the road. How do you deal with them? Paul offers an answer in 1 Thessalonians when he writes, “Finally in all things give thanks.” That means I thank God, not only the positives in my life, but also the negative reflections. When we recognize God working in them, we allow God to use them for our growth. God gives us the gift of time to perfect our image.
I leave you with a final thought:
Yesterday is history.
Tomorrow is a mystery.
Today is all the gift from God you have.
That’s why they call it the present.