Announcements, Feb. 26

Episcopal 101, Sunday, March 1, 9am: An ongoing exploration of the Episcopal Church for new and long-time members. This month (POSTPONED from February), a whirlwind tour of Anglican history. All are welcome!

 Birthdays & Anniversaries will be honored this Sunday, March 1, as is our custom on the first Sunday of every month. Come forward after the Announcements to receive a blessing and the Community’s prayers.

 Healing Prayer, Sunday, March 1: This Sunday, one of our ministers will offer healing prayers for those who wish to receive prayers for themselves or on behalf of others.

 MOM Special Offering, Sunday, March 1: Half the cash in our offering plate and any designated checks will be given to Middleton Outreach Ministry’s food pantry.  Groceries are welcome gifts, too. Here is a list of the top ten items needed at this time: cereal, sugar, canned chicken/turkey, cooking oil, toothpaste/toothbrushes, diapers (sizes 4, 5 and 6), paper towels, and facial tissue. MOM is always in need of quality bedding items such as comforters, sheets, blankets and towels. Thank you for all your support!

Deacon Sybil Performs, Sunday, March 1, Coffee Hour: Did you know that our beloved deacon Sybil Robinson, who still faithfully proclaims the Gospel for us at the age of ninety, is a retired professor of theater and an actress? She will share two prepared pieces, one serious and one comic, for us over Coffee Hour.

Backpack Snack Pack Prep, Sunday, March 1, 11:45am: The kids and families of St. Dunstan’s are invited to join our Madison Vineyard Church neighbors in preparing “Backpack Snack Packs,” to help local school children from low-income households to have nutritious snacks available over the weekend. We’ll work in the Meeting Room at St. Dunstan’s following the 10am service.

Let’s Get Uncomfortable! Conversations about Racism and Racial Justice: Whether you’ve got lots of questions or whether you think you’ve got it all figured out, come explore more deeply with others who share your faith, in this Lenten series. This week we meet at 1pm on Sunday, March 1, and on Wednesday, March 4 at 7:15pm. Talk with Rev. Miranda with questions or for the complete schedule.

 Evening Eucharist, Sunday, March 1, 6pm: Join us for a simple service before the week begins. All are welcome.

Guest Preacher, Sunday, March 8: The Rev. John Rasmus, one of our treasured resident retired clergy, will preach about the faith and influence of John and Charles Wesley (feast day, March 3). Thanks to Father John for sharing his voice!

Bible Study, “Dwelling in the Word”, Sunday, March 8, 9am: Every second Sunday, adults and youth are invited to gather in the Meeting Room for an opportunity to engage some of the holy stories of Scripture with our minds, hearts and imagination.

Sunday School, Sunday, March 8, 10am: This week, our 3-6 year old class will begin exploring the Faces of Easter, while our 7-11 year old class will reflect on Psalm 19.

Spirituality of Parenting Lunch, Sunday, March 8, 12 noon: All who seek meaning in the journey of parenthood (at any age or stage) are welcome to come for food and conversation. Child care and a simple meal provided.

Support our Sunday School! Here are a couple of ways you may be able to help out with our growing and energetic Sunday school classes for kids ages 3-6 and 7 – 11.

1. Assist in a classroom. The teachers for our younger class are looking for helpers to help manage the room and watch over play and crafts. This is a lovely bunch of kids; wouldn’t you like to get to know them? Sign up for as little as one date for the months ahead, on the yellow sheet in the Gathering Area below the big calendar.

2. Give us your Lego. Do you have a stash of Lego gathering dust in a closet or basement? There are some great new approaches to doing Sunday school with Lego, and our older class would LOVE to try it out. If you have some Lego to contribute, please bring it in! Only actual Lego, please, but Lego in any amount and of any age is welcome.

Members of St. Dunstan’s are welcome to join the Zion City Church congregation in their weekly worship service of thanksgiving and praise on March 15.  The service is from noon to 2:00pm.  Meet at St. Dunstan’s at 11:30am to carpool, or meet at Zion City Church shortly before noon.  They are located at 1317 Applegate Road in Madison.  This is just south of the Beltline, off of Fish Hatchery Road.  Five of us attended their service in January, and came away inspired and blest!

The Stations of the Cross in Downtown Madison, Friday, March 27, 12pm & 5pm: Walk the story of Jesus’ journey to the cross on the streets of a modern city.  As we walk the fourteen traditional Stations of the Cross, we will reflect together on how we can trace those events in the geography of Madison today – our issues, stories and struggles. We will start on the sidewalk near the Federal Courthouse, across from the Overture Center, and end in the garden at Grace Church on the square. The total walk will be about 1.2 miles, and it takes about 45 minutes. Come at noon or 5pm, as your schedule permits. All are welcome.

Spring 2015 Chocolate Making: Our Spring Chocolate Event will be after Easter this year. Mark your calendars for Friday evening and Saturday, April 10 – 11. Signup sheets and order forms will be out by mid-March.

Tools for Tanzania Giving Opportunity: St. Dunstan’s seeks to raise $800 for a set of tools to send to our sister diocese, the Diocese of Newala in Southern Tanzania. Rev Miranda visited Newala with our diocesan team in 2013, and Bishop Oscar Mnung’a visited St. Dunstan’s last October. As partners in this “diosisi rafiki” (friend diocese) relationship, we look for ways to support one another, both in prayer and practicality. Newala is one of the poorest parts of Tanzania. It is overwhelmingly rural, and most people are small-scale farmers, working with traditional hand tools. During Bishop Oscar’s visit last fall, we learned about better-engineered, modern hand tools that would help farmers in Newala. If we can send one set of new farm tools to Tanzania, then local artisans can use them as models to adapt the tools they make for local use. Then local farmers may be able to grow more food for their families, which means more resources for their churches & communities! A set of tools, plus transport costs, comes to about $1300. We are trying to raise $800 as our contribution; our sister parish, St. Andrew’s Church in Monroe, WI, will raise additional funds as our partners in this project. To contribute, put a check in the offering plate with “TZ Tools” on the memo line. Thanks for your generosity!

Lent Letters:  It’s an ancient custom of the church for members to confess their sins to a priest and receive God’s forgiveness. Sometimes we carry old hurts or regrets that need to be told, but are hard to tell someone we see regularly. “Lent Letters” is a new approach, inspired by the tradition of sacramental confession and reconciliation in Lent.  You write a note about something you want to lay down, and sent it to another priest to be blessed and offered up. See the “Lent Letters” station in the Gathering Area, from Ash Wednesday onwards, to learn more. Rev. Miranda is also very willing to meet with you for the Rite of Reconciliation (BCP p. 447) during Lent or at any time.

 

Sermon, Feb. 15

The Rev. Miranda K. Hassett, St. Dunstan’s Church, Madison, WI

Today we come to the end of the church’s season of Epiphany, as we receive the Gospel of the Transfiguration. Epiphany always begins with two holy stories from the Gospels, the books that tell the life of Jesus. First, the three Wise Men, those patient seekers, who saw a remarkable future for a seemingly-ordinary child, and honored him with royal gifts. And second, the baptism of Jesus, now an adult – that moment when those gathered beside the Jordan saw the Spirit descend like a dove upon the stranger in the water, and heard a voice from heaven proclaim, This is my beloved son!

And we conclude the season with one more story of revelation, of seeing truth beyond what’s readily visible – Jesus’ closest friends follow him off to a nearby hillside, probably expecting to spend some time in quiet prayer. Instead they see their friend and teacher transfigured before them, dazzling white, shining bright; and then obscured by a dark cloud of holy mystery.

All of these keystone stories of Epiphany are stories of people having their eyes opened to see the holiness in what’s right in front of them – the scruffy radical from Nazareth. It is an experience that can be joyful, strange, and/or terrifying.

We use another text of revelation, of transfiguration, in the season of Epiphany – Canticle 11, the Third Song of Isaiah. We use it as our Song of Praise in this season. Here is the text:

Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has dawned upon you. For behold, darkness covers the land; deep gloom enshrouds the people. But over you the Lord will rise, and his glory will appear upon you. Nations will stream to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawning. Your gates will always be open; by day or by night they will never be shut. They will call you, The City of the Lord, the Zion of the Holy One of Israel. Violence will no more be heard in your land, ruin or destruction within your borders. You will call your walls, Salvation, and all your portals, Praise.  The sun will no more be your light by day; by night you will not need the brightness of the moon. The Lord will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory.

This text comes from near the end of the book of Isaiah. It is part of a long prophetic hymn about the restoration of Israel after decades of conquest, destruction, and exile. It holds out the promise and hope of a new season of peace, prosperity, and righteousness. The chapters that follow offer beautiful verses like this: “You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the Lord… You shall no more be termed Forsaken, and your land shall no more be termed Desolate; but you shall be called My Delight Is in Her…. You shall be called, ‘Sought Out, A City Not Forsaken.’”

All these rich and lovely images of restoration and peace focus on Jerusalem, the great City of the people Israel. Jerusalem was both the religious and political capital, the site of the great Temple, the heart of the people.  Jerusalem stands symbolically for the whole nation – rebuilding Jerusalem is rebuilding the people Israel; peace and prosperity for Jerusalem mean peace and prosperity for the whole land and its inhabitants.

In casting this beautiful image of a restored Jerusalem, the prophet, inspired by the spirit of God, isn’t just seeing beyond the ruins left by conquest; he is seeing beyond the squalor and poverty of normal life in a great city, even at the best of times. Big cities, always and everywhere, have some things in common. They’re always places of great cultural mixing, folks from all over rubbing shoulders – resulting in terrific food, art and music; and also intergroup hatreds and gang violence. Cities are always places of extreme population density, meaning crowdedness and discomfort and lack of privacy; meaning also the rapid spread of whatever diseases the human race is dealing with at the time: bubonic plague, HIV, measles. Cities are always places of extreme poverty – because if you’re poor in the country, at least you can build a shack and grow a little food; but if you’re poor in the city, you can literally have nothing. Nothing but your own labor or your own body with which to try to earn enough to stay alive. And of course population density and poverty mean that cities have also always been places of crime and danger.

What I’m saying is, even before Jerusalem was conquered by her enemies  in the 6th century, the great city was no vision of loveliness, justice and peace. She was a city. Messy and risky and smelly. Like any great city today.

Canticle 11 offers us a vision of a city transformed – you might even say transfigured. Its violence and its poverty swept away; shining with the light of God, a beacon to all those dwelling in darkness, near and far.

Who here knows the name Brandon Stanton?  …  Okay, who here has heard of Humans of New York? …

Humans of New York, or HONY, is a photoblog, posted on Facebook and Instagram. It’s the work of a photographer named Brandon Stanton. He approaches people on the streets of New York City – notorious as one of the world’s most unfriendly places – and asks if he can take their photo.  And if they say yes, he uses the process of taking the photograph as a doorway into conversation. He asks them things like, Tell me about a person you admire. Or, What’s your biggest struggle right now? Or, What’s your biggest regret in life? Your biggest hope?

And he publishes a photo, or two, of each subject, and a few evocative sentences from whatever that person shared in conversation. A bright-eyed child says he wants to be an architect when he grows up. A white-haired lady holding an umbrella printed with kittens talks about her husband’s dying advice. An elderly couple remembers a night of dancing, a half-century ago. A young woman – the photo only shows her hands – talks about bathing her dying sister. An unshaven man perched in a doorway, with garbage bags of his possessions at his feet, shares memories of his father.

The photos and the words are remarkable. And so is the response. If you read things on the Internet with any regularity, you know the cardinal rule: Don’t read the comments. The comments on any story are often where the hate and irrationality and nastiness spill out, regardless of the substance of the story. But the comments on the Humans of New York posts are amazing. Partly because Brandon has established policies and norms about nasty or unkind posts; but more because the way Brandon presents his subjects invites the viewer to see and respond to their humanity. To affirm the hopes of a child, the beauty of an uncertain young woman, the value of a scarred and weary man. Unlike almost anywhere else on the Internet, the comments on HONY are uplifting. People offering affirmation, praise, hope, prayers, words of encouragement, offers of help.

Think about what it’s like to be on the sidewalk of a big, big city – remember or imagine; we’ve all seen those movies. Crushed among strangers, avoiding eye contact. Trying not to see, not to be seen, just keep moving and get on with your business. HONY, Brandon, breaks that open. Strips away the strangeness of the stranger. Reveals our shared humanity, and calls forth our compassionate response.

And amazing things can happen when we see each other. On January 19, Brandon took a picture of a young man,  an African-American middle school student named Vidal. Vidal goes to school in a high-crime part of Brooklyn – as Brandon says, “not the best place to be a kid.” Brandon asked Vidal to tell him about a person he admires. Vidal told Brandon about the principal at his school, Mrs. Lopez, and her compassionate response when kids get in trouble. Vidal said, “One time she made every student stand up, and she told each one of us that we matter.”

Brandon got interested and visited the school, and ended up profiling the principal and teachers, and their hard, passionate work to create hopeful futures for kids from poor and under-served neighborhoods. Turns out Mrs. Lopez had a dream for her students. She wanted to take every incoming 6th grade class to tour Harvard University. Many of the kids have never left New York, and she wanted them to know what it feels like to stand on the campus of one of the world’s great universities. To imagine that they could belong there.  But of course, that trip is expensive – a stretch for the budget of a small school and its families. Brandon wondered whether he could use the popularity of HONY to get them some help with that project. He created an online fundraising campaign for the school. His goal was to raise $100,000, enough to fund the program for three years. The campaign hit $100,000 within an hour, and raised $700,000 in the first four days, from 25,000 donors all over the country and the world.

The total on the campaign – which is still going – now stands at $1.3 million dollars. Incredible wealth for a high-poverty middle school in Brooklyn, which will enable them to open a lot of doors for their kids. You might have seen that just last week, Brandon, Vidal, and Mrs. Lopez took a trip to Washington, D.C., to visit President Obama.

Amazing things become possible when we see each other.

Through Brandon’s lens, New York is a city transfigured. A city Not Forsaken; a city with walls of salvation, and gates of praise; a city ablaze with the Presence of God. No longer reduced to its dirt and crowdedness, poverty and crime. A place where human hopes dwell, a place where people love and dream and remember. A place where people can, sometimes, take the risk of seeing each other, and responding to each other, to the beauty of our shared humanity.

In the Gospel of the Transfiguration, Peter, James, and John, and we with them,  witness the dazzling fulness of divine grace present in their friend Jesus, who usually just looks like an ordinary guy. And what about the rest of us ordinary folk? If a city can be transfigured into a haven of plenty and peace – if a man can be transfigured into a icon of God’s glory – can you or I be transfigured too? Do we, might we, shine with divine light, once in a while?

Paul thinks so. In today’s Epistle, in language so beautiful that it’s been woven into our Eucharistic preface for Epiphany, he writes, ‘For it is the God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.’

God shines in our hearts; and makes us shine with the light that comes from encountering the fulness of divine love made known to us in Christ Jesus. Elsewhere, in the letter to the Romans, Paul writes,  “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” (Romans 12:2) Our translators here have gone for the rhyme, conformed/transformed. But that word, transformed? It’s the same Greek verb as “transfigured,” in today’s Gospel. Be transfigured by the renewing of your mind.  

When our guest iconographer was with us last month, he talked about holy images in Eastern Christianity and traditions about how the faces are painted. They’re not painted as if there were a light over here, casting highlights and shadows. Instead, they shine gently with their own light. In the understanding of the iconographic tradition, holy people glow from within. Holy people glow from the inside. God shines in our hearts.

But it can be hard to see that light, to notice that glow, in each other, and maybe especially in ourselves. We need a mountaintop moment when the veil of ordinary sight is ripped away and we see clearly, for a moment, the staggering beauty of something so familiar, so humble. We need poets like the voice of Canticle 11 to cast a vision of what could be, if we scrubbed the streets and threw open the gates and lived into our wildest hopes. We need a new way of seeing, a fresh lens, like Brandon’s work with HONY, to help us notice that that stranger on a park bench, or a doorway, or the next office over has a story, and a heart, and a beauty all his own.

I think one of the holiest things we can do, as a church, as a community of faith, is to look at each other with those eyes. Witness to the light that shines from your neighbor’s face, and life; and name it, speak it. Because we often can’t see our own light.  Be the Humans of New York comments section for each other: offering affirmation and praise, hope and prayers, words of encouragement, offers of help.

And I think another of the holiest things we can do as a church, as a gathering of God’s people in this time and place, is to look at the world with those eyes. With eyes that see beauty and hope and possibility in the mess and struggle and ugliness around us. With eyes that see even in stranger the truth of our common humanity, the light of divine grace stirring in each soul. With eyes that are eager to see, that search passionately and persistently, for glints and sparks and divine twinkles that show us God’s transfiguring and transforming grace always already at work, waiting for us to notice, and catch up, and join in.

Announcements, Feb. 19

 Last Sunday All-Ages Worship, Sunday, February 22, 10am: We will begin the season of Lent with the Great Litany procession, the gospel of Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness, and an all-ages sermon on fasting. Our 8am service will follow our usual Lenten order of worship.

Spirituality and Poetry, Sunday, February 22, 9am: Come for an exploration of the themes of Lent in poetry.  We meet in the Chapel Meeting Room between services.

 Grace Shelter Dinner, Sunday, February 22, 7pm:   Every fourth Sunday, a loyal group of St. Dunstan’s folk provides dinner for residents at the Grace Church shelter, and breakfast the next morning. See the signup sheet in the Gathering Area to help out.

Lets Get Uncomfortable! Conversations about Racism and Racial Justice: Whether you’ve got lots of questions or whether you think you’ve got it all figured out, come explore more deeply with others who share your faith, in this Lenten series. We will offer the same material at two different times, for your convenience – Sunday afternoons at 1pm, starting Feb. 22, and Wednesday evenings at 7:15pm, starting Feb. 25.

Coffee Hour hosts needed for most of March!  Please consider being a coffee host. Sign-up sheets for upcoming months can be found in the Gathering Space. Thanks for lending a hand.

Episcopal 101, Sunday, March 1, 9am: An ongoing exploration of the Episcopal Church for new and long-time members.  This month (POSTPONED from February), a whirlwind tour of Anglican history.  All are welcome!

 Birthdays & Anniversaries will be honored next Sunday, March 1, as is our custom on the first Sunday of every month.  Come forward after the Announcements to receive a blessing and the Community’s prayers.

 Healing Prayer, Sunday, March 1: Next Sunday, one of our ministers will offer healing prayers for those who wish to receive prayers for themselves or on behalf of others.

 MOM Special Offering, Sunday, March 1: Next Sunday, half the cash in our offering plate and any designated checks will be given to Middleton Outreach Ministry’s food pantry.  Groceries are welcome gifts, too. Here is a list of the top ten items needed at this time: cereal, canned fruit (no peaches/pears), sugar, canned chicken/turkey, cooking oil, toothpaste/toothbrushes, fruit juice, diapers (sizes 4, 5 and 6), paper towels, and facial tissue. MOM is always in need of quality bedding items such as comforters, sheets, blankets and towels. Thank you for all your support!

Deacon Sybil Performs, Sunday, March 1, Coffee Hour: Did you know that our beloved deacon Sybil Robinson, who still faithfully proclaims the Gospel for us at the age of ninety, is a retired professor of theater and an actress? She will share two prepared pieces, one serious and one comic, for us over Coffee Hour.

Backpack Snack Pack Prep, Sunday, March 1, 11:45am: The kids and families of St. Dunstan’s are invited to join our Madison Vineyard Church neighbors in preparing“Backpack Snack Packs,” to help local school children from low-income households to have nutritious snacks available over the weekend. We’ll work in the Meeting Room at St. Dunstan’s following the 10am service.

Help feed the students! St Francis House Dinner, Sunday, March 1: St. Dunstan’s will provide dinner for the St. Francis House community in a few weeks. We are asked to provide food for up to 15 people, and we are invited to attend worship with the students at 5pm.  Vegan and gluten-free options are welcome (that’s easier than you think: a veggie stew over rice, bean chili …). Please sign up in the Gathering Area if you can help with the meal, or contact Rev. Miranda at 238-2781.

Evening Eucharist, Sunday, March 1, 6pm:  Join us for a simple service before the week begins.  All are welcome.

Support our Sunday School! Here are a couple of ways you may be able to help out with our growing and energetic Sunday school classes for kids ages 3-6 and 7 – 11.

1.  Assist in a classroom. The teachers for our younger class are looking for helpers to help manage the room and watch over play and crafts. This is a lovely bunch of kids; wouldn’t you like to get to know them? Sign up for as little as one date for the months ahead, on the yellow sheet in the Gathering Area below the big calendar.

2. Give us your Lego. Do you have a stash of Lego gathering dust in a closet or basement? There are some great new approaches to doing Sunday school with Lego, and our older class would LOVE to try it out. If you have some Lego to contribute, please bring it in! Only actual Lego, please, but Lego in any amount and of any age is welcome.

Members of St. Dunstan’s are welcome to join the Zion City Church congregation in their weekly worship service of thanksgiving and praise on March 15.  The service is from noon to 2:00.  Meet at St. Dunstan’s at 11:30 to carpool, or meet at Zion City Church shortly before noon.  They are located at 1317 Applegate Road in Madison.  This is just south of the Beltline, off of Fish Hatchery Road.  Five of us attended their service in January, and came away inspired and blest!

Mishpack Summer Youth Mission Trip Registration: Mishpack this year will be July 17 to August 2.  If you are currently a high school student, you are eligible to go on Mishpack. Contact Fr. John or JonMichael Rasmus for details, or talk with Rev. Miranda.  Interested students will need to register by the end of March.

Lent Letters:  It’s an ancient custom of the church for members to confess their sins to a priest and receive God’s forgiveness. Sometimes we carry old hurts or regrets that need to be told, but are hard to tell someone we see regularly. “Lent Letters” is a new approach, inspired by the tradition of sacramental confession and reconciliation in Lent.  You write a note about something you want to lay down, and sent it to another priest to be blessed and offered up. See the “Lent Letters” station in the Gathering Area, from Ash Wednesday onwards, to learn more. Rev. Miranda is also very willing to meet with you for the Rite of Reconciliation (BCP p. 447) during Lent or at any time.

Announcements, Feb. 12

Family Field Trip to MOM, Saturday, February 14, 12:30pm: The kids and families of St. Dunstan’s are invited to visit the MOM (Middleton Outreach Ministry) food pantry, to learn more about how they – and we – can serve our neighbors in need. We’ll tour the pantry and sort food donations from our parish food drive. Dress warmly as it can be cool in the building.

 Sunday School, Sunday, February 15, 10am: Our class for 3 – 6 year olds will receive the Parable of the Sower, and our older class (7 – 10 years) will explore the Gospel of the Transfiguration of Jesus. All kids & parents welcome!

Rectors Discretionary Fund offering, Sunday, February 15: Half the cash in our collection plate, and any designated checks, will go towards the Rector’s Discretionary Fund this day and on every third Sunday.  This fund is a way to quietly help people with direct financial needs, in the parish and the wider community.  

Christian Formation Committee Meeting, Sunday, February 15, 11:45am:  All are welcome to join us as we plan programs for learning and spiritual growth for all ages, for Lent, Easter, and beyond.

Evening Eucharist, Sunday, February 15, 6pm: A simple service before the week begins. All are welcome.

Explorers Meeting, Sunday, Feb. 15, 6:30pm: The Explorers meet to bounce around big ideas. This month we’ll talk about the Task Force to Reimagine the Episcopal Church and their ideas. All are welcome!

Young Adult Meet-up at the Vintage, Sunday, February 15, 7pm: The younger adults of St. Dunstan’s are invited to join us for conversation and the beverage of your choice, at the Vintage Brewpub on South Whitney Way.   Friends and partners welcome too.

A new presence in our sanctuary: The Virgin of Guadalupe is a depiction of Mary, the mother of God, based on an appearance of Mary to a Native American peasant in Mexico in the 16th century. This manifestation of Mary is very important to Latino Christians, Catholic and Protestant alike, and she is a powerful symbol of God’s grace coming to the poor and marginalized. We welcome the Virgin to join our collection of holy images near the baptismal font at St. Dunstan’s, as a sign of hospitality to Latino visitors and members.

Shrove Tuesday Pancake Supper, Tuesday, February 17, 5:30 – 6:30pm: Great food and fellowship! Join us and bring a friend for a tasty meal. Suggested donation of $5 per adult, $10 per household, kids eat free. If you’d like to help or contribute, signup in the Gathering Area!

Ash Wednesday services will be at noon, 4pm, and 7pm on Wednesday, February 18. The 4pm service is especially intended for kids and families.

 Ashes To Go, Wednesday, February 18, 8 – 9am and 2 – 3pm: Our drop-in “Ashes To Go” station will be at Old Middleton Road & St Dunstan Drive, besides our signboard and Little Free Library. Pull over on St. Dunstan Drive or park across the street on Stonefield Rd. Imposition of ashes, prayer, and warm beverages will be available.

Last Sunday All-Ages Worship, Sunday, February 22, 10am: We will begin the season of Lent with the Great Litany procession, the gospel of Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness, and an all-ages sermon on fasting. Our 8am service will follow our usual Lenten order of worship.

Spirituality and Poetry, Sunday, February 22, 9am: Come for an exploration of the themes of Lent in poetry.  We meet in the Chapel Meeting Room between services.

 Grace Shelter Dinner, Sunday, February 22, 7pm:   Every fourth Sunday, a loyal group of St. Dunstan’s folk provides dinner for residents at the Grace Church shelter, and breakfast the next morning. See the signup sheet in the Gathering Area to help out. To learn more, talk with Rose Mueller at 608-836-1028.

LENTEN OPPORTUNITIES

Lent Letters:  It’s an ancient custom of the church for members to confess their sins to a priest and receive God’s forgiveness. Sometimes we carry old hurts or regrets that need to be told, but are hard to tell someone we see regularly. “Lent Letters” is a new approach, inspired by the tradition of sacramental confession and reconciliation in Lent.  You write a note about something you want to lay down, and sent it to another priest to be blessed and offered up. See the “Lent Letters” station in the Gathering Area, from Ash Wednesday onwards, to learn more. Rev. Miranda is also very willing to meet with you for the Rite of Reconciliation (BCP p. 447) during Lent or at any time.

Lets Get Uncomfortable! Conversations about Racism and Racial Justice: Whether you’ve got lots of questions or whether you think you’ve got it all figured out, come explore more deeply with others who share your faith, in this Lenten series. We will offer the same material at two different times, for your convenience – Sunday afternoons at 1pm, starting Feb. 22, and Wednesday evenings at 7:15pm, starting Feb. 25.

Lenten Virtual Book Group – CRAZY BUSY: A [mercifully] short book about a [really] big problem, by Kevin DeYoung. Rev. Miranda invites members and friends to a “virtual book group” this Lent, beginning the last week in February. We’ll read along together during Lent and share reactions and reflections on a Facebook group. (If you’re not a Facebook user, you would have to join Facebook to participate.) A $10 donation to defray the cost of the books is welcome, but not required. You can also check the libraries for the book or buy it for your e-reader.  Look for “Lenten Reading Group – Crazy Busy” on Facebook and ask to join up!

Have you been baptized? The Prayer Book tells us, “Holy Baptism is full initiation by water and the Holy Spirit into Christ’s Body the Church.” From the earliest years of Christianity, the season of Lent (which begins March 5) was when new Christians studied the faith and prepared for baptism at Easter. If you have never been baptized, or aren’t sure, and would like to learn more about this rite, please contact Rev. Miranda at  238-2781.

 

Sermon, Feb. 8, 2015

I am no one’s slave, but I have made myself a slave to all, so that I might win more of them to the way of Christ. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law, so that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law, so that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, so that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that I might by all means save some.  – 1 Cor 9:19-22

In these chapters of the first letter to the church in Corinth, the early Christian leader and church planter Paul is defending himself against questions regarding his authority and motives as an apostle as Christ. And in the course of this rather cranky passage, he offers this clear and powerful statement of what Anglicans, many, many centuries later, will name as the vernacular principal.

Vernacular is a good fifty-cent word. It means the language spoken by ordinary people, in the course of their ordinary lives. The language in which you function normally and comfortably, not a second language or an unfamiliar jargon that leaves you floundering, uncertain of meanings, how to understand or make yourself understood.

The Vernacular Principal is one of the great pillars of the Protestant Reformation: That worship should be in the language of the people. This principal is stated very plainly in the 39 Articles, the historic statement of the doctrines of the newly-formed Church of England, the mother church of the Anglican way of Christianity, to which we belong as Episcopalian Christians. The 39 Articles define a space for Anglicanism between the extremes of continental Protestantism and Roman Catholicism. Article Twenty-Four is titled,  “Of speaking in the Congregation in such a Tongue as the people understandeth.” And the Article states, in wonderfully emphatic 16th-century English: “It is a thing plainly repugnant to the Word of God, and the custom of the Primitive Church, to have public Prayer in the Church, or to minister the Sacraments, in a tongue not understanded of the people!”

The theological warrant for this core principal goes back much earlier than the English Reformation, to the Incarnation, to Jesus himself: God become human, not as some universal everyman, but as a human living in a particular setting, speaking the language and wearing the clothing of his time and place and people. Jesus himself was an act of translation, a vernacular moment within the life of God. And Paul takes up that theological theme in his deep commitment to meeting people where they are, speaking to them in terms they can understand, framing the good news of love and transformation that he carried with such conviction in terms of their language, their concerns, their convictions.

Now, the central issue in the 39 Articles was the use of Latin as the language of worship, in a country where the common people spoke English. But the vernacular principal is about much more than simply translating our prayers or theological terms into local languages, Maori or Kikonde or Korean. There are many, many linguistic communities within a language like American English. We all know this: we have different ways of speaking depending on who we’re with and where we’re from, our jobs and professional vocabularies,  the formality or informality of the setting, and more. And then there are all the non-linguistic languages we use: Musical and symbolic and ritual vocabularies. Social patterns, norms, and beliefs about the world.

This kind of translation has happened throughout Christian history. It’s not unique to Anglicanism, but our tradition names it clearly as part of our way of being. We Anglicans are a people who expect, when we gather to worship God together, to be able to understand, respond and participate. And so over five hundred years and in countries and cultures all over the world, Anglicans and Episcopalians have adapted our core practices and teachings into local customs and idioms, opening the door into new ways of being Anglican. That work of adaptation to local contexts is so central for us that a recent book on the Episcopal Church states,  “If it’s not translated, it’s not yet Anglican.”

If it’s not translated, it’s not yet fully Anglican.

Now, I’ve just preached for three pages on the centrality of translation for the Anglican Christian way, our living-out, as a global and local church, of Paul’s commitment to being all things to all people. And some of you are undoubtedly thinking, Okay, but. So why do we worship in this odd and distinctive building, instead of just meeting in the coffeeshop up the road? Why are you wearing that white robe and the thing around your neck, which you call a stole, though you did not steal it, and a funny piece of white plastic around your neck under that, instead of the normal uniform of an educated forty-something mom in Madison, Wisconsin? Why do we use funny words like “Eucharist,”  instead of, I don’t know, “holy snack of Jesus”?

The vernacular principal doesn’t stand alone. It exists in dynamic tension with our identity as a church grounded in Scripture, sacrament, and tradition. As a church entrusted with ancient, holy, and powerful treasure to carry into new cultures and futures.  The proud forty or so of you who made it here last week in the snowstorm will remember the catchy definition of Anglicanism that I shared: the embrace of apostolic catholicity within vernacular moments. Let me try to capture the sense of that statement in a language understanded of the people: Anglicanism is the embrace of ancient traditions, practices and symbols, carried forward into the present and adapted to local and current contexts.

We’re not a church that just throws out the old stuff in favor of the new. We don’t have a worship leader in jeans, giving friendly faith chat followed by praise songs that sound like pop music. That works for some people, some churches. It’s not our gig. We are most fully Anglican when we hold what is modern, ordinary, daily, familiar, concrete, and what is ancient, lovely, mysterious, otherwordly, and odd, and bring them into conversation. Allow them to speak to each other. The ancient in the present, and vice versa. The holy in the ordinary, and vice versa.

For Paul, being all things to all people didn’t mean that his preaching sounded like every other voice in the culture around him. He had a core message that he carried wherever he travelled, and wove into all his letters. Things like his conviction that what matters most is not who or what you are when God comes to you, but what you become afterwards. Like his conviction that how people treat each other within a Christian community is one of the most important ways we can witness to God’s love. Paul has core messages that he’s always proclaiming. But he’s also always looking for the best, most effective way to speak those truths to the people among whom he finds himself. Translating the good news into the local language and worldview, so it can be “understanded of the people.” Paul was a good Anglican in so many ways!…

As I talk about these two core elements of the Anglican way, tradition and translation, the word “balance” keeps wanting to come out of my mouth, and I keep resisting it. Balance implies something settled, equal, resolved. But we are talking instead about a living, productive tension between receiving from the past and renewing for the present. That tension IS the life of our churches, the heart of our Way.

And it’s never resolved, never finished. It’s never been finished in two thousand years of Christian history, in five hundred years of Anglican history. The 1979 Book of Common Prayer, the foundation of our worship, was a pretty radical work of translation and adaptation when it was new; today, many things about it feel dated. Even when we work out a way of being, a way of worshipping or gathering or structuring our life together, that works really well for us,  it’s not the way things will be for always and everyone. Because we are Anglicans, and that’s just not how we roll.

So if the word “balance” comes into it at all, let your mental image be not a set of scales settling out to equilibrium, but a tightrope walker with a pole – Tradition, Translation – making minute adjustments with every step, every breath, in order to stay on her feet and keep moving forward.

Dwight Zscheile, a priest and professor at Luther Seminary, and the leader of the Missional Leadership Cohort program that I’m doing right now, states in his book “People of the Way,” “The Church must ask itself, ‘Are we worshipping in the language of the people, or are we asking them to worship in a foreign tongue?’ This doesn’t apply only to [those] whose first language is not English. It also applies to younger generations, and newcomers to church, who need expressions of Episcopal worship and life that resonate with their native ways of speaking and being together.”

As Anglican Christians we are fundamentally committed to the ongoing, puzzling, paradoxical work of discerning, with the power of reason and the wisdom of tradition and the guidance of the Spirit, the sweet spot between translation and tradition for us, in our time and place. For the people who are coming to our doors now and for the people beyond our doors to whom we wish to speak good news.

Last Saturday I attended an event here in town featuring Nadia Bolz-Weber, the famously-sarcastic Lutheran pastor, writer, and speaker. She shared about her theology and ministry, and the liturgy and public presence of her parish in Denver, the House for All Sinners & Saints. I had been back in Wisconsin for exactly 36 hours after my trip to Texas for my Missional Leadership Cohort retreat, where we were grappling deeply with these questions of translation and renewal, so I noticed immediately how much Nadia was talking about the same issues, the same work. Though she uses a different metaphor: instead of translation, over and over again, she spoke about sewing things together. She said, “To be a church today is to take scripture and tradition and people’s lives, and sew them together, and make things jive.” Being church is about faithfully stitching together Scripture and world and self; faith, practice, current events and daily life.  And she shared with us many wonderful examples of how the House of All Sinners and Saints, over their years together, have lived this out, through many mistakes and failures and things tried once, revised, and tried again. Until they have developed some robust and lively, holy and powerful and delightful ways of quilting together tradition, word, symbol, and world.

On Good Friday, their liturgy includes laying flowers at the foot of a cross. The first year they wondered afterwards, What do we do with the flowers? So they took them to the scene of a recent street shooting, said a prayer together, and left them there. Now they do that every year; there’s always a recent act of violence to remind us that every day is Good Friday.

Shrove Tuesday is coming up in a couple of weeks. Episcopal churches generally celebrate with pancakes, a custom based in the old practice of getting rid of all the fat and sugar and meat in your kitchen before entering the great fasting season of Lent, which begins the following day.  Nadia’s church, the House of All Sinners and Saints, celebrates Shrove Tuesday by going to a bar and giving out donuts, for free. All evening. Box after box of donuts, with a sheet of simple suggestions for practicing Lent. That’s how they’ve translated the customs of Shrove Tuesday, into the language of twenty-first century indulgence.

There were lots of other examples in Nadia’s talk. One or two that we might try adapting here; and many more that simply stand as examples of bold experimentation with translating tradition into the language of a fresh context; with stitching together Scripture, faith, and life, into an eclectic patchwork that is creative, intentional, and sacred.

Sometimes the Holy Spirit is not subtle. The vernacular principal has been coming at me from a lot of directions, the past couple of weeks: conferences and talks and books I’m reading and even today’s Epistle. I think the Holy Spirit has something she wants me, and us, to hear. And I think that word is a word of encouragement.

I hear all of this as an endorsement of a path that we are already on. St Dunstan’s is a church that is already pretty thoughtful, and pretty engaged, and pretty creative about seeking new intersections of faith and life. We have tried quite a few experiments in translation, and many of them have even worked pretty well, and are worth repeating or improving upon. (And we learn from the ones that don’t work, too!…)

Just last week, we celebrated the feast of Candlemas. In medieval churches, candles would be blessed and taken home to burn in times of sickness, storm, or crisis. I invited the congregation to come up with some ideas for how to translate that custom into our modern world. And one of our members suggested that, next year, we invite folks to bring in their emergency flashlights, to be blessed alongside the candles, connecting the spirit of this traditional rite with something real and meaningful in our lives.

So when I hear some of the best and brightest voices in our churches talking with urgency and hope about this kind of work – the work of honoring tradition by helping it speak into the present – I hear it as an encouraging and joyful reminder of how necessary and holy this work is. I hear it as grounding this work in Scripture and theology and the Anglican way, and in the very nature of God incarnate.

I hear it as encouragement for us to continue on the path boldly, being willing to try things, to be playful, to risk a little, to make mistakes, to fail; to reflect, listen, learn, wonder, and explore. And I hope you hear it in that spirit too, as I pass all this on to you. I am proud that St Dunstan’s is a vibrantly Anglican congregation, actively engaged with the work of translation, of sewing together past and present, church and world, holy story and daily news, into the brightly-colored, strong, and beautiful quilt that is our life of faith together at St. Dunstan’s.