Announcements, April 30

“Church, Faith & Life” Parish Survey – Open Through Sunday, May 3: Thanks to all who have already taking our simple survey! If you have not, please take a few moments to fill out the parish survey about how your faith is part of your daily life, and how your church connects with your faith. The survey will close after this coming Sunday. Click this link to get to the survey: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/StDunstans2015

THIS WEEKEND… Makers’ Guild, Saturday, May 2, 2 -4pm: Bring your own current handwork – sewing, knitting, painting, beadwork, whatever! – or help out with creating “Pentecost boxes” for the kids of the parish, as we look towards the Feast of Pentecost on May 24.  All are welcome!

Episcopal 101: Anglican Prayer & Spirituality, Sunday, May 3, 9am: Join Rev. Miranda to explore the breadth of ways of prayer within Episcopal and Anglican Christianity.

Birthdays and anniversaries will be honored next Sunday, May 3, 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, May 3: 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, May 3: Next Sunday, half the cash in our offering plate and any designated checks will be given to Middleton Outreach Minister’s food pantry.  Groceries are welcome gifts too. Here are the top 10 needed items: canned meat (tuna/turkey/chicken), boxed pasta, boxed flavored potatoes (au gratin, etc.), toilet paper, sugar, oil, canned pineapple, canned fruit cocktail, saltine crackers, and dish soap. MOM is always in need of quality bedding items such as comforters, sheets, blankets and towels too. Thank you for all your support!

Spring Clean-Up Day, Sunday, May 3, 12 – 2pm (rain or shine!): Join us after the 10 am service to put some “sweat equity” into tending our beautiful buildings and grounds. Wear or bring your scruffy clothes and work gloves.  Lunch will be provided.

Evening Eucharist, Sunday, May 3, 6pm: A simple service before the week begins.

OPPORTUNITIES TO SERVE… 

Backpacks for Homeless Youth: Summer can be a difficult season for homeless teens who are supported by school staff and resources during the school year. St. Dunstan’s Outreach Committee invites the people of St. Dunstan’s to fill five backpacks for homeless teens, to be distributed through the Transition Education Program, a program of the Madison school district to support homeless kids and youth. Helpful items include light blankets, flashlights, fast food cards, toiletries, and more. Take a card from the display in the Gathering Area and bring the item(s) back by May 24th.

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

Join our Vacation Bible School Team! This year’s Vacation Bible School will run from Sunday, August 2, through Thursday, August 6, from 5:30 – 7:30pm. Whether you’d like to help with meals, tell a story or act in a drama, plan an art project or lead a game, or just be an extra big person to help manage little people, we need you. Talk with Rev. Miranda to learn more.

Hoops for Housing, Saturday, August 8: St. Dunstan’s is sponsoring a friendly community basketball tournament to raise funds for Briarpatch, which serves homeless youth in the Madison area. All ages and levels of skill are invited to participate. Each team is invited to raise $100 for Briarpatch through donations and pledges. If you’d like to help out with planning, publicity, or on the day itself, talk with Rev. Miranda or call 238-2781.

THE WEEKS AHEAD…

Racial Disparities in Dane County – Knowing, Caring, And Acting: Our conversations about racism continue on Wednesday, May 6, at 7:15pm. All interested participants are welcome. A selection of handouts from our first series of conversations is now available in the Gathering Area.

Hat and Tie Sunday, May 10: St. Dunstan’s has a long tradition of inviting folks to dress up for Mother’s Day, with a fancy hat and/or tie. If you’d like to participate, you can wear your own or borrow one from the collection at church. We will also take up a special collection for scholarships for the Diocese of Milwaukee’s camp program, Camp Webb. It’s our custom to take photos of the whole congregation after the 10am service that Sunday; we hope you’ll stay a few moments to participate.

Bible Study, “Dwelling in the Word”, Sunday, May 10, 9am: Adults and youth are invited to gather in the Meeting Room for an opportunity to engage in some of the holy stories of Scripture with our minds, hears and Imagination.

United Thank Offering (UTO) Ingathering and Blessing of “Little Blue Boxes,” Sunday, May 10:  If you took home a UTO box and put in some coins in thanksgiving for the blessings in your life, please bring it back on Sunday, May 10, for the boxes to be blessed and sent on their way.

Sunday School, May 10, 10am: Our Sunday school classes will meet next Sunday during the 10am service. All children ages 3 to 11 are welcome.

Spirituality of Parenting Lunch, Sunday, May 10, 12noon: 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.

Madison-Area Julian Gathering, Wednesday, May 13, 7:15 – 9:00 pm at St. Dunstan’s: Thomas Merton called Lady Julian “the greatest theologian for our time.” Come to one of our monthly meetings and find out why — and learn about contemplative prayer. We meet the second Wednesday of each month. We’d love to see you.

St. Dunstan’s Day Celebration and Bishop’s Visitation, Sunday, May 17: We will celebrate the feast day of our patron saint, the tenth-century English bishop and reformer Dunstan. Our diocesan bishop, Bishop Steven Miller, will lead us in worship on this special day. At the 9am hour between services, there will be time to meet with the Bishop to share any questions, hopes, or concerns about the diocese and larger church.  

Men’s Book Club, Saturday, May 23, 10:00 am, at St Dunstan’s: The book is “A Rule against Murder” by Louise Penny. The story begins in summer at an isolated luxury inn where the main characters are celebrating their wedding anniversary. Enter the wealthy Finney family and other surprising guests. When a terrible summer storm leaves behind a dead body, it is up to Chief Inspector Gamache to unearth secrets long buried and hatreds hidden behind polite smiles. As the waiters on the east coast say “ENJOY”.

Ladies’ Night Out, Friday, May 29, 6pm: Join our monthly get-together as we dine at area restaurants and enjoy good conversation among women of all ages from St. Dunstan’s.  This month we will meet at Biaggi’s, 601 Junction Road, Madison.

Parish Picnic, Sunday, June 7, 12:00pm: Come for good food and good conversation at our annual June parish picnic.  We’ll have good food and fun activities for all ages. The picnic will happen rain or shine. Mark your calendar and watch for more details!  

Vacation Bible School, August 2 – 6, 5:30 – 7:30pm (with a 7pm pickup option for younger kids): We had a lot of fun with Vacation Bible School last summer, and plan to do the same this year! Our theme will be “Message Received: Hearing God’s Call.” Using drama, art, and games, we’ll explore the stories of five people called by God, from the Old and New Testaments, and how we hear God’s call today. Dinner is included. Mark your calendar and spread the word – and if you’d like to help out, talk with Rev. Miranda!

PARISH & COMMUNITY OPPORTUNITIES… Community Teach-In: Young, Gifted & Black, Saturday, May 16, 1pm, hosted by St. Dunstan’s: The Young, Gifted & Black (YGB) coalition has gained attention locally over the past year by speaking out strongly on issues of racism and racial disparities, policing and incarceration. Several area churches are hosting “Teach-In” events with YGB, as an opportunity for them to share their perspective and concerns, and for attending church and community members to listen and ask questions. If you cannot attend the May 16 event, but would like to hear more, ask Rev. Miranda about other dates and locations.

Healing the Heart of Democracy: An Evening of Music & Reflections by Parker Palmer and Carrie Newcomer, Saturday, June 6, 7:30pm, at the Monroe Arts Center in Monroe, WI: This is a remarkable event that invites us to reflect together on seeking the common good across all that divides us, as our nation moves into another highly-charged political season. Rev. Miranda plans to attend and would love for some other St. Dunstanites to join her. Carpooling is possible (Monroe is about an hour away). Tickets to the event are $10 adults, $5 for 18 & under, and assistance is possible if the cost is prohibitive. Talk with Rev. Miranda to learn more, or read about the event here: https://www.monroeartscenter.com/eventdetails?eid=121

Calling all Church Women! Women’s Mini Week 2015, August 13 to August 16, at Camp Lakotah in Wautoma, Wisconsin: You are invited to the 39th Annual Women’s Mini Week. This year’s theme is “Surprised by Joy!” For registration materials and to answer questions, visit the website: www.womensminiweek.org or email us for an invitation at womensminiweek@gmail.com. More information and registration forms are in the Gathering Area.

Sermon, April 19

Today’s Scripture lessons have a lot to say about what faith looks like, feels like, in daily life, and in life’s inevitable hard times.

In our text from the Acts of the Apostles, Peter is preaching to some of the Jews of Jerusalem, and calling them to faith in Jesus. Listen to what he says about the fruits of faith: “Repent and turn to God, so that you may be freed from your sins, so that you may be refreshed by God, and so that you may be part of the great work of salvation and restoration which is God’s eternal and ultimate intention for all creation.” Forgiveness, refreshment, and hope. Is that what faith feels like?

Psalm 4 is one of my favorites, a psalm for hard times and long anxious nights: “Answer me when I call, O God; you set me free when I am hard-pressed… God does wonders for the faithful; when I call upon God, God hears me. O God, you have put gladness in my heart; I lie down in peace, at once I fall asleep, for only you, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.” Trust. Peace. Assurance – blessed assurance. Is that what faith feels like?

In the third chapter of the first letter of John, the author says that belonging to God, being God’s children, helps us to know and do what is right, much as a human parent guides and forms a child to have an inner sense of right and wrong. The author goes on say that the heart of right action is love. Knowing God as a loving parent, and feeling able, with God’s help, to do the right thing, and the loving thing – is that what faith feels like?

In the 24th chapter of the Gospel of Luke, the disciples have just received news that two of their members have encountered the risen Jesus on the Emmaus road. Now Jesus appears among them, puts their fears to rest, lets them touch him and eats some fish to satisfy them that he is not a ghost. Then he opens their minds to understand the Scriptures, and sends them out to proclaim the good news and continue his mission in the world. Connected with the Bible, our holy text, reading it and talking about it and playing and struggling with it, in such a way that our engagement  feeds our sense of mission and purpose in the world – is that what faith feels like?

Refreshment. Hope. Peace. Confidence. Love. Purpose. Power. Is that what faith feels like?

Not all the time. Not for me. On a good day, when I’m grounded in God, sure of who I am and whose I am: Yes. That’s what faith feels like. Over the arc of my whole life, looking at God’s work in me and through me: Yes. That’s what faith feels like.

In any given moment of any given day, dealing with a stressful email exchange or worrying about how to muster resources or volunteers, or rushing to rearrange the furniture between events, or dealing with the demands of parenting growing kids: Not really. My faith doesn’t always feel like that. Not every moment. Not even every hour. Not even, always, every day.

I know, though. I know that all of that is available to me. I know that sometimes, that’s what faith feels like. That it’s calm in the midst of the storm, trust in the face of fear, hope when the world seems to be crumbling around us, direction when the way is uncertain. I know that because I’ve had those moments myself, and because of the witness of other people of faith, including some in this room right now, who testify that the resources of their faith were there for them, in their time of need.

“Resources of faith” seems like a suspect phrase. It smacks of the therapeutic mindset that’s become dominant in American culture, the mindset that assumes that the goal of human life is happiness, and that our griefs and struggles and hurts can be, should be, solved, resolved, or medicated away. “Resources of faith” sounds both therapeutic and consumerist: like we’re coming to church for what it does for us. Like we might quit church like quitting a therapist who we feel isn’t helping us with our issues; or maybe like we come to church like coming to that acupuncturist, because we really feel better for a few days, or at least a few hours, after each visit.

But I think we do come to church for what it does for us. And I think that’s OK. In fact, I think it’s the point. Jesus teaches his followers to meet together, to care for and support one another; he gives them the gift of God’s Holy Spirit, to teach them and lead them and work in and among them, and stir up in them the God-given gifts and skills that enable them and empower them to do God’s work and witness to God’s love. In our baptismal covenant, we promise to be faithful in worship and fellowship, love and serve our neighbors, strive for justice and human dignity – WITH GOD’S HELP. That’s the deal. With God’s help. And one of the Scriptures often read when the church ordains someone to the priesthood, calls people like me to the work of equipping the saints for the work of ministry. That’s y’all: the saints.

So God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit and me: it’s our job to nurture, strengthen, and support you, as God’s beloved children. It’s our job to make sure that the resources of our faith are real and present and available to you. Because it is hard work, maintaining calm in the midst of the storm, trust in the face of fear, hope when the world seems to be crumbling around us, direction when the way is uncertain; it is hard work – but we don’t have to do it alone. We have each other, and we have God. We will, with God’s help.

Since last September, I’ve been participating in something called the Missional Leadership Cohort, a program offered by Luther Seminary in St. Paul. It’s a two-year peer learning program; there are twelve of us, all Episcopal priests who are fairly early in our ministries. We have met together twice, will meet twice more. We are reading together, learning together, talking together about the challenges and opportunities facing our churches, and The Church, the Episcopal Church, mainline Protestantism, American Christianity…  all of the above.

The goal of the program, I would say, is to help and equip us, the participating clergy, to look at the challenges facing our individual parishes in light of the great sea change in American culture and religion of the past half-century; and to undertake thoughtful, playful, innovative ways to tackle those challenges, in light of that big picture, with all its change, loss, and opportunity.

Some of you are wondering, what challenge does she mean? What’s the big challenge at St. Dunstan’s? And in fact there isn’t any one thing. We are basically healthy, for now. But that sea change will wash over us, just as surely as it will over every other church in the nation; and now is the moment to start imagining a resilient, engaged, joyful, purposeful future for St. Dunstan’s.

Back in January, when I was posting those Facebook pictures of the beach in south Texas, I was gathered with the other Missional Leadership Cohort folks for study and conversation and prayer. The purpose of that gathering was for each of us to discern, with God’s help, one question or area of inquiry, in our parish contexts.  And what I felt called to focus on, friends, is … what faith feels like.  For you. For us. Whether and when and how God and the Spirit and the resources of your faith are available to you, present to you, in daily life, and in life’s inevitable hard times.

Here’s another way to map what I’m wondering about. Here’s your church: this gathered community of study and prayer and fellowship. And here’s your faith: this thing inside you that’s been shaped over your lifetime by people you’ve met and things you’ve read and churches you’ve belonged to and encounters with God. And here’s your daily life: the places you go, and the people you interact with, and the ways you spend your time in work and play and service and rest.

And the question, my question, as part of my project, which I hope will become our project, is this: What are the connecting lines between those three sites, church and faith and life? And could they be stronger? Is our life as a church strengthening your faith; and is your faith strengthening you for daily living?

Does what we do together at church, as a church, feed and strengthen your faith? Does it give you a stronger sense of the resources of faith, of refreshment, hope, peace, love, confidence, power and purpose, as more than just words? as things you feel and know and do?  as spiritual practices that offer you grounding and grace? AND does your faith strengthen you for life? Is it giving you what you need to be the person you want to be, in the face of the distractions and demands, stresses and stumbling blocks of daily living, and in the face of life’s inevitable hard times? Does your faith help open your eyes to notice God’s presence in your church, your home, your workplace? To know deeply that you’re never going it alone, but that, in the ancient words of a Celtic prayer, the divine presence stands behind you and before you, beneath you and above you, in quiet and in danger, in hearts of all that love you, and in the words of friend and stranger?

Those are the questions I have for you, right now. And I think this might be really important, this business of the intersection of church, faith, and life, so I really want your answers. Your input, your feedback, your perspective, your ideas.

So I’m going to ask a lot of questions based on these core questions, over the next few weeks. First of all, there’s going to be a survey! A dozen questions. Check the boxes. That sort of thing. A link will go out by email tomorrow, in a special message. I hope all of you will take it. And if you really don’t like computer surveys, we have a few print copies available as well. The survey will be running for a couple of weeks, then some other ways of exploring these questions will follow. Some write-on-the-poster type stuff, as we’ve done before. Some focus group type stuff.

All to evaluate where we are now, to develop some sense of how those church/faith/life connections are for us, today. I hope that those data will offer some direction, some areas of opportunity where we could shape our life as a community of faith to help us live our daily lives more fully and confidently as children of God. The next step, in the fall and winter, will be to try some things –  don’t ask me what, I really don’t know yet! – but to try some things, and evaluate them together, and see if we can move the needle. If we can walk together towards becoming more and more a church that equips the saints for the work of ministry, for the hard and lifelong work of being God’s people in and for the world.

Let me close by anticipating, and addressing, one concern. We are blessed at St. Dunstan’s with a lot of people who care urgently and passionately for the needs and well-being of the poor, oppressed, and marginalized, in our community, the nation, and the world. People who experience the call to witness to God’s love as a call to serve and advocate for those in need. I’m with you, friends; I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I’m afraid that to some of those folks, this question, this project, may sound troublingly inward-focused, like some self-indulgent Christian navel-gazing. Now, at that same retreat in Texas in January, I saw a quotation from a great sermon that speaks to this better than I can. This sermon was preached by Bishop Mariann Budde, at the occasion of her consecration as bishop of Washington, DC, in 2011. She told her new diocese, 

You have called me as your bishop at a time when the first priority for the Episcopal Church is the spiritual renewal and revitalization of our congregations,… not as a retreat from social and prophetic witness, but in order to be more faithful to that witness, with greater capacity not only to speak but to act in God’s name… [We live] in a time of deep spiritual longing yet [shallow] spiritual grounding, and that’s as true within our congregations as outside them… God is calling all of us first to take our own life in Christ seriously. To tend to that life, to re-learn or learn for the first time the core spiritual practices that define a Christian. God is calling us to strengthen the ministries of our congregations, not for the sake of the buildings alone, for all that we might love them, but for what our churches are for:  [to be the] spiritual base camps where we gather for inspiration and renewal and strength, and from which we go out to help Christ heal and reconcile the world.

That’s the endgame, friends, that’s the big picture: not just to become a church where members get their spiritual needs met, reliably and effectively, though that would be a good and holy thing; but to become a church that sends its people out, not just members of a church but disciples of Jesus,  strong and confident, hopeful and purposeful, to do justice, love mercy, seek and serve Christ in all people, and build the kingdom of God.

As we undertake this season of inquiry and conversation, I invite your participation. I invite your input, your insight, your curiosity. I invite your help. And I invite you to bring an open mind and heart to this work of wondering, seeking, and building.

May the Holy Spirit guide and strengthen us, that in this, and in all things, we may do God’s will in the service of the kingdom of Christ. Amen.

Announcements, April 16

THIS WEEKEND… Sunday School, Sunday, April 19, 10am: This week, our 3-6 year old class will learn about the Eucharist and some of the things we use in church, while our 7-11 year old class will work with the story of Jesus on the road to Emmaus.  All kids are welcome, & parents can come too if they like!

Rector’s Discretionary Fund Offering, Sunday, April 19: 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. We have had many requests for help with utilities and other needs in this season. Please give generously, and thanks!

Racial Disparities in Dane County, Sunday, April 19, 1pm, and Wednesday, April 22, 7:15pm: Our second series of conversations about racism will focus closer to home, as we study the Race to Equity report and other indicators of racial disparities in Dane County, and begin to look for ways we can help create a fairer future. We will meet on Sundays at 1pm and Wednesdays at 7:15; specific dates will be discussed and posted. All interested participants are welcome. A selection of handouts from our first series of conversations is now available in the Gathering Area.

Evening Eucharist, Sunday, April 19, 6pm: A simple service before the week begins.

Check out our new Thank You Board! St. Dunstan’s Church gets a lot of thank-you notes, for sharing our resources, our time, and our facilities with the wider community. Read some recent notes here. Feeling grateful for some person or group at St. Dunstan’s who has touched your life or blessed our life together recently? Write a thank-you note on the whiteboard and let them know.

Ushers & Greeters Needed! These are two simple roles that are very important to helping welcome visitors and newcomers, and making our worship run smoothly. Once a month, could you commit to coming to church fifteen minutes early and helping out?  Serve with a family member or friend. Just one more team of both ‘Ushers & Greeters would fill out our schedules.

United Thank Offering: The United Thank Offering (UTO) is a church-wide Episcopal ministry that invites people to take home a “blue box”, and put in a coin or bill when we have a moment of gratitude for the many blessings of our lives. We will gather in our “blue boxes” on Mother’s Day, May 10. The funds collected are given to mission and development projects all over the Anglican world, including in our companion diocese of Newala in Tanzania. For more information, visit the UTO station in the Gathering Area.

Laundry Help Needed! Due to a broken wrist, Joanne Reis needs to take a sabbath from her faithful work keeping our acolyte and MC robes clean and ready to use. We are seeking someone willing to help out with this job for the rest of April, through May and June, until Joanne’s wrist has healed. The job is simple: check on the robes, either after the 10am service on Sunday or early in the week; make sure they are hung neatly on their hangers. If any robes have dirt, wine spots, or candle wax, take them home and wash them (wash cold, dry low, hang to finish drying). Joanne or any Altar Guild member can provide instructions for removing wine and wax stains. If you’re willing to help out, talk with Rev. Miranda. Thanks so much!

THE WEEKS AHEAD… Thursday Evening Worship in Easter Season: Following the resurrection of Jesus, many of his friends encountered him – at a shared meal, on a lakeshore, walking along a lonely road. In Easter season, at the Sandbox, our Thursday evening informal worship & supper gathering, we’ll be sharing stories of where we’ve encountered Jesus on our journeys. Come hear about another person’s life of faith, or share a part of your own. All are welcome. Worship is at 5:30pm every week, with a simple meal provided afterwards.

Game Night, Friday, April 24, 6pm: Join us for an evening of games for all ages. Friends, partners, kids all welcome. Bring a snack to share, or come as you are!

Ladies’ Night Out, Friday, April 24, 6pm: Join our monthly get-together as we dine at area restaurants and enjoy good conversation among women of all ages from St. Dunstan’s.  This month we will meet at Abuelo’s at 2229 Deming Way in Middleton. Here’s the website: http://www.abuelos.com/locations/middleton-wi. For more information, to join the reservation or to arrange a ride, please call Debra Martinez at (608) 772-6043.

Outreach Committee Meeting, Saturday, April 25, 8-10:30am: All are welcome to join our conversations about how St. Dunstan’s can best serve the world with our resources and our hands. We begin with an optional potluck breakfast at 8am.

Sunday, April 26, 9am: “Sing THAT one at my funeral!” Many of us have a list – on paper or in our heads – of hymns and songs we’d like sung or played at our funerals. Bring one of your favorites (or an open mind, if you don’t have a “list) and we’ll talk together about what those songs mean to us and the ideas about life, death, and resurrection they contain. This is our Spirituality & Poetry session for April. Simple funeral planning forms will also be available to complete here or take home.

Last Sunday Worship, Sunday, April 26, 10am: Our Last Sunday worship is intended especially to help kids (and grownups who are new to our pattern of worship) to engage and participate fully. This Sunday we’ll explore the image of Jesus as the Good Shepherd. After worship, at 11am, we will have a combined coffee hour and all-ages formation time, as we dream up some new visions of church. NOTE: Our 8am service always follows our regular seasonal order of worship.

Sunday, April 26, 11:45am: Wills for Young Families. Attorney and St. Dunstan’s member Mark Rooney will offer a gentle and user-friendly introduction to this topic, as a special gathering of our regular parents’ lunch group. 

Shelter Dinner, Sunday, April 26, 7pm: Every fourth Sunday, volunteers from St. Dunstan’s Church provide dinner for residents at the Grace Church shelter, and breakfast the next morning. It’s a simple and meaningful way to help out some of our Madison neighbors, and there’s always room to get involved. See the signup sheet in the gathering area to help out.

DeCanstruction, Sunday, April 26, 7:30pm: Help take apart the giant sculptures built from cans and boxes of food, as part of this year’s CanStruction competition, a food- and fund-raiser for Middleton Outreach Ministry. This year’s CanStruction will take place at West Towne Mall, and structures can be viewed there all week, starting Monday, April 20. To help with the “de-Canstruction” work, you must be reasonably able-bodied (but not everybody has to do heavy lifting). Sign up if you’d like to join this year’s team, and work alongside other St. Dunstan’s folks and friends from Madison Vineyard Church.

Spring Clean-Up Day, Sunday, May 3, 12 – 2pm: Join us after the 10 am service to put some “sweat equity” into tending our beautiful buildings and grounds. Wear or bring your scruffy clothes and work gloves. Lunch will be provided!

Hat and Tie Sunday, May 10: St. Dunstan’s has a long tradition of inviting folks to dress up for Mother’s Day, with a fancy hat and/or tie.  If you’d like to participate, you can wear your own or borrow one from the collection at church. We will also take up a special collection for scholarships for the Diocese of Milwaukee’s camp program, Camp Webb. It’s our custom to take photos of the whole congregation after the 10am service that Sunday; we hope you’ll stay a few moments to participate.

Sermon, April 12

Jesus said to Thomas, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.” Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.  (John 20:29-31)

Today’s Gospel text comes from the Gospel according to John. John is the longest and latest-written of the four Gospels, and arguably the most complicated  in terms of material, authorship, and dating… and I freely admit it’s the gospel that I’m least comfortable with.  It differs in many ways from the other three Gospels, the books of the Bible that tell the events of Jesus’ earthly life. John’s Gospel covers some of the same terrain, the author was clearly familiar with the other gospels. But he also introduces other characters, and tells of other events, not included in Mark, Matthew, or Luke.

The author of John’s Gospel uses language in distinctive ways, rich, strange, symbolic, philosophical, sometimes paradoxical. The introduction to the Gospel of John in my trusty Harper-Collins study bible notes that in John’s Gospel, “instead of speaking in parables and short sayings [as he does in the other gospels], Jesus speaks in long, difficult monologues about himself, his relation to God, and the need to believe in him.”  The lectionary will bring us some of those speeches later in the Easter season.

John’s Gospel is also notable for having the strongest sense of hostility between Jesus and the Jews, perhaps because it was written in a context in which the Christian and Jewish communities were in the process of splitting apart, painfully and acrimoniously.

John’s Gospel has a strong strain of dualism – drawing stark distinctions between spirit/flesh, light/dark, heaven/earth, above/below, of this world and not of this world. That’s one of the aspects of John’s Gospel that I struggle with, since my sense of the teaching and mission of Jesus has a lot to do with transcending those dualisms, reconciling heaven and earth, insiders and outsiders, spirit and flesh.

I know some of you visited the St John’s Bible, the contemporary hand-written and illuminated Bible project, while it was on exhibit at the Chazen earlier this year. The main image for the Gospel of John is a striking one: a figure all in gold stands against a dark, murky background. It’s hard to make out any details of the figure, to resolve it into clarity – partly because the outlines of the figure are roughly-scrawled, not precise; and partly because the figure is gilded with real gold, which, under the lights of the gallery, makes it almost dazzlingly bright. In that combination of brilliance and obscurity, the artist has really captured something of the character of the Gospel according to John.

Why does the gospel bear the name of John? Throughout the gospel, it refers often to “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” This nameless character pretty clearly fills the space occupied in the other Gospels by John, son of Zebedee, one of Jesus’ closest friends. Long tradition assumes that the special language used for that disciple in this Gospel, means that he was also its author – or perhaps that the book was composed from traditions about Jesus that were passed on by John to the early Christian community that crafted the Gospel.

To be honest, this is another aspect of John’s Gospel that I struggle with a bit: this sense of there having been a BEST disciple. Here’s an example I noticed during Holy Week: in Mark’s Gospel, the earliest gospel, Peter is the only disciple who follows Jesus after his arrest; he follows him all the way to the High Priest’s courtyard – you know the story.

Here’s John’s version: “Simon Peter and another disciple followed Jesus. Since that disciple was known to the high priest, he went with Jesus into the courtyard;…  Peter was standing outside at the gate, so the other disciple spoke to the woman who was guarding the gate, and brought Peter in.” In other words, according to John, Peter only gets into that courtyard because John knows some people. Moments like this can make the voice of John’s Gospel come across as pretentious rather than profound, like that guy at the graduate student party who throws around a lot of big words to make sure you realize how brilliant and special he is.

But even though I struggle with John’s Gospel, I don’t dismiss it, and I don’t want to suggest that you should. The lectionary always brings us a lot of John’s Gospel in Easter season – because John has such a keen sense of Jesus’ divinity and cosmic nature. Remember how John’s Gospel starts: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. All things came into being through him… And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” John has the strongest sense, of the four Gospels, of Jesus as a divine personage or being who existed before and exists beyond the earthly life of Jesus of Nazareth.  And the many theological discourses in John provide rich material for reflection about who Jesus was and is, what his life and ministry mean, and what God is doing in and through Jesus, for the world. So in the season when we celebrate the risen Christ, we receive John’s words to help us see Jesus not just as a wise teacher, a compassionate miracle-worker, a courageous advocate, but as God incarnate, the eternal Word become flesh.

Today’s Gospel passage always comes to us on the second Sunday after Easter… which means it’s one of those passages that the preacher has to find something fresh to say about, year in, year out, for two or three or four decades.  There are several reasons this Gospel story always follows on the heels of the Resurrection. First and maybe most familiar, this text includes what is generally know as the “doubting Thomas” story. Widely preached as a reminder to us not be doubtful, like that skeptical jerk Thomas. I have some issues with that interpretation, but that’s not this year’s sermon.

A second reason this text is important for the church is that this is John’s account of the bestowing of the Holy Spirit, the gift of God’s spirit to the disciples and the Church – his equivalent of the Pentecost story. Six chapters earlier, in John 14, in what’s known as the Farewell Discourse, Jesus’ long final speech to his disciples, Jesus told them that God would give them the Spirit:  “I have said these things to you while I am still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you.” And here in John 20, Jesus himself gives the gift of that Spirit, breathing on and into the disciples.

That verb, “breathing on”, turns out to be pretty interesting. The author of John’s Gospel, who wrote in Greek, would have known the Greek version of the Hebrew Bible, known as the Septuagint. In the Septuagint, that somewhat unusual verb is used a couple of places – in Genesis 2, when God breathes the breath of life

into the first human being, and in Ezekiel 37, the story of the Valley of the Dry Bones, as God instructs the prophet to call the breath of life into the dead bodies scattered before him: “Come, breath, from the four winds and breathe into these slain, that they may live” (Ezekiel 37:9). I’m sure the author of the Gospel of John  was intentionally evoking those scriptures in using that verb here; so when you visualize Jesus breathing on the disciples, it’s not just a little *huh*. This is power and purpose. This is the breath of life, a divine wind, a gust of holiness, filling their lungs and giving new life to their weary and fearful spirits.

The third reason this scripture comes to us every year, I think, is that this scripture addresses us. Listen again to John 20:31 – “These things are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.” The “you” in that sentence is YOU. And me. John is speaking to all the Christians in other times and places who are removed, in geography and time, from the immediacy of the first community of believers and their first-hand knowledge of Jesus. In a sense, this verse boils down the whole purpose of John’s Gospel:  to encourage readers and hearers to believe and trust in Jesus, the Messiah and Son of God. The authors of the other gospels, known to us as Mark, Matthew, and Luke, are conscious of those who will come after; that’s why they’re writing gospels.But in these verses,  John is the most direct about it. He does what’s sometimes known as breaking the fourth wall.

The fourth wall is an idea from theater. Visualize it: the setup of the stage has three walls, the back and sides, and the audience is positioned as if we were looking through an invisible fourth wall. We watch through that fourth wall, seeing everything, moreso even than the characters in the story, but separate, outside the story, looking on. The fourth wall is the invisible barrier that forever separates the audience from the stage, or, making the jump to literature, that separates the reader from the narrative. And most of the time it stays intact: we watch or listen or read, and the story maintains its integrity and separateness, until the curtain comes down or we close the book and walk away.

But sometimes, the fourth wall is intentionally broken. The actors or the author address us, the viewers or readers. They speak from the stage or the page or into the camera, cross the invisible boundary that separates us, and involve us in the story. It’s a move that brings into the open what has previously been understood but unstated: that the text – be it story, play, or film – is an object that will be circulated, performed, read, viewed; and that there are readers and viewers out there, who are receiving and responding to the text.

One famous example familiar to many comes from J. M. Barrie’s story, Peter Pan. In both the book and the play, there’s a moment when Tinkerbell, Peter’s fairy friend, is dying after having drunk poison; and all the children of the world are asked – called – to clap their hands if they believe in fairies, in order to save Tinkerbell. Peter addresses all the children who might be dreaming of Neverland, and shouts to them: “If you believe, clap your hands; don’t let Tink die!” It’s a sweet moment – and if you’ve had the blessing of reading this story to a child young enough to respond to Peter’s call, you’ve seen the intensity in their face, the conviction in their eyes, as they clap fervently for Tink’s life.

At the risk of likening the Gospel to a fairy story, John’s move here is not entirely different. He’s inviting, even challenging, his readers to respond, and not just to respond, but to believe. He’s saying, I can’t give you an encounter with the risen Christ; but I can give you the testimony of those who knew him, who loved him and followed him and came to see him as Master, Messiah, Lord and God.

Here as he approaches the end of his gospel, his account of the life and significance of Jesus of Nazareth, John breaks the fourth wall, looks straight into the camera, and says: This story is about you too, and it’s for you, too. Its challenges and puzzles, they’re yours as much as ours. Its promise, its hope: they’re yours too. Read, and let the story enter you, like that breath of life; wonder, and pray, and believe: so that you may join us, across time and space, in the fellowship of those who follow and trust in Jesus Christ, and so that you, too, may receive the fulness of life in God.

And that’s why, ultimately, I don’t really see John as the pretentious jerk at the campus party. Yeah, he uses a lot of big words, and he seems to think he’s got hold of something that nobody else really understands. But I think he wants us to understand.

Because after he’s been holding forth for an hour, there’s this moment when he actually looks at you, really looks at you,  and says, Listen, this thing I’m talking about: it’s just been really life-transforming. It means everything to me. It’s given me purpose and hope and joy, even when things are really hard. And I just want to share it.  I’d like you have it too.

So, this first Sunday after Easter, let’s meet John’s eyes, take his hand. Bust through that invisible wall, and share, across two thousand years, the wonder and struggle and joy of the life of faith.

Announcements, April 10

Spring 2015 Chocolate Making is postponed. New dates to be determined.

THIS WEEKEND… Episcopal 101: Holy Times & Seasons, Sunday, April 12, 9am: An ongoing exploration of the Episcopal Church for new and long-time members. All are welcome!

Sunday School, Sunday, April 12, 10am: This week, our 3-6 year old class will explore Jesus as the Good Shepherd, while our 7-11 year old class will play with John’s story of Jesus’ appearance to his disciples after he rose from the dead. All kids are welcome, & parents can come too if they like!

 United Thank Offering: The United Thank Offering (UTO) is a church-wide Episcopal ministry that invites people to take home a “blue box”, and put in a coin or bill when we have a moment of gratitude for the many blessings of our lives. We will gather in our “blue boxes” on Mother’s Day, May 10. The funds collected are given to mission and development projects all over the Anglican world, including in our companion diocese of Newala in Tanzania. For more information, visit the UTO station in the Gathering Area.

Ushers & Greeters Needed! These are two simple roles that are very important to helping welcome visitors and newcomers, and making our worship run smoothly. Once a month, could you commit to coming to church fifteen minutes early and helping out?  Serve with a family member or friend. Just one more team of both ‘Ushers & Greeters would fill out our schedules. See the signup sheets in the Gathering Area for more information.

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

THE WEEK AHEAD… Vestry meeting, Wednesday, April 15, 6:45pm. Any members are welcome to attend.

Thursday Evening Worship in Easter Season: Following the resurrection of Jesus, many of his friends encountered him – at a shared meal, on a lakeshore, walking along a lonely road. In Easter season, at the Sandbox, our Thursday evening informal worship & supper gathering, we’ll be sharing stories of where we’ve encountered Jesus on our journeys. Come hear about another person’s life of faith, or share a part of your own. All are welcome. Worship is at 5:30pm every week, with a simple meal provided afterwards.

Sunday School, Sunday, April 19, 10am: Next week, our 3-6 year old class will learn about the Eucharist and some of the things we use in church, while our 7-11 year old class will work with the story of Jesus on the road to Emmaus.  All kids are welcome, & parents can come too if they like!

Racial Disparities in Dane County – Knowing, Caring, Acting: Our second series of conversations about racism will focus closer to home, as we study the Race to Equity report and other indicators of racial disparities in Dane County, and begin to look for ways we can help create a fairer future. The next series will begin on Sunday, April 19, at 1pm, and Wednesday, April 22, at 7:15pm. All interested participants are welcome. A selection of handouts from our first series of conversations is now available in the Gathering Area.

Evening Eucharist, Sunday, April 19, 6pm: Join us for a simple service before the week begins.

Rector’s Discretionary Fund Offering, Sunday, April 19: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. Please give generously.

Game Night, Friday, April 24, 6pm: Join us for an evening of games for all ages. Friends, partners, kids all welcome. Bring a snack to share, or come as you are!

Outreach Committee Meeting, Saturday, April 25, 8-10:30am:All are welcome to join our conversations about how St. Dunstan’s can best serve the world with our resources and our hands. We begin with an optional potluck breakfast at 8am.

Sunday, April 26, 9am: “Sing THAT one at my funeral!” Many of us have a list – on paper or in our heads – of hymns and songs we’d like sung or played at our funerals. Bring one of your favorites (or an open mind, if you don’t have a “list) and we’ll talk together about what those songs mean to us and the ideas about life, death, and resurrection they contain. This is our Spirituality & Poetry session for April. Simple funeral planning forms will also be available to complete here or take home.

Sunday, April 26, 11:45am: Wills for Young Families. Attorney and St. Dunstan’s member Mark Rooney will offer a gentle and user-friendly introduction to this topic, as a special gathering of our regular parents’ lunch group.

DeCanstruction, Sunday, April 26, 7:30pm: Help take apart the giant sculptures built from cans and boxes of food, as part of this year’s CanStruction competition, a food- and fund-raiser for Middleton Outreach Ministry. This year’s CanStruction will take place at West Towne Mall, and structures can be viewed there all week, starting Monday, April 20. To help with the “de-Canstruction” work, you must be reasonably able-bodied (but not everybody has to do heavy lifting). Sign up if you’d like to join this year’s team, and work alongside other St. Dunstan’s folks and friends from Madison Vineyard Church.

Spring Clean-Up Day, Sunday, May 3, 12 – 2pm: Join us after the 10 am service to put some “sweat equity” into tending our beautiful buildings and grounds. Wear or bring your scruffy clothes and work gloves. Lunch will be provided!

Parish Picnic, Sunday, June 7, 12:00pm: Come for good food and good conversation at our annual June parish picnic.  We’ll have good food and fun activities for all ages. The picnic will happen rain or shine. Mark your calendar and keep an eye out for more details!

PARISH OPPORTUNITIES… Books Needed for Little Library! With warmer weather many more people are stopping by for a new “read” and we have few books to supply the library. If you have books to donate, please bring them to St. Dunstan’s and put in the labelled box in the Gathering Area. Thanks!

Easter Sermon

Today we have heard the Gospel of the Resurrection according to Mark (Mark 16:1-8). Mark, the earliest Gospel, doesn’t tell of encounters between the risen Jesus and his friends; we never see the resurrected Christ, in Mark’s account. Mark knew about those encounters; he believed in a resurrected Jesus; but he made a literary choice to end his Gospel like this: with the bold, joyous proclamation of the angel, and with the uncertainty, confusion, and fear of those charged with the good news.

I think Mark’s Gospel is particularly apt for talking about the Resurrection. Because for a lot of folks, the idea of somebody literally coming back to life, after being dead – and dead for several days, mind you, not just coding on the operating table in a medical drama – that idea, in our modern, rational, post-Christian world, is frequently met with an uncomfortable silence and retreat – conversational, if not literal.

Resurrection is the church’s fancy word for rising from the dead – both the great single event of Jesus’ return, and the life beyond death that we believe awaits all God’s children, however you draw that circle. (Our church tends to draw it pretty widely.)

And resurrection is hard to talk about, hard to preach about. It’s Easter Sunday, after all – many of you are here as guests, visitors, seekers. Some of you may have drifted away from church and just don’t know whether you can swallow all this stuff anymore. Some of you have never really been part of a church, and wonder what it’s all about, what we’re all about. Resurrection is not the easiest place to start. But it’s Easter Sunday, after all – resurrection is kind of the main idea here. So.

What are we talking about when we talk about resurrection? Well, there’s the most literal meaning: rising again from the dead. Scripture and tradition teach us that Jesus, raised from death by the power of God, has defeated death, once and for all. In the language of our Easter Troparion, which we’ll sing later, Jesus “tramples down death by death.” The famous verse John 3:16, which was our Gospel a few weeks ago, says that God sent God’s son into the world so that those who trust in him shall not perish, but have everlasting life. And today’s lesson from the prophet Isaiah, an Old Testament text which the Church reads in light of the life of Jesus, says, “God will destroy … the shroud that is cast over all peoples, the sheet that is spread over all nations; God will swallow up death forever.”

Of course people still die, in their earthly bodies. The Bible’s authors knew that just as well as we do. But Jesus talked a lot about eternal life, a new life in God beyond our earthly existence. So it became the conviction and teaching of the church that physical death is not an absolute ending, but leads into another kind of life. The resurrection of Jesus opens the door to the resurrection of everybody.

In 1 Corinthians 15, in the verses following today’s Epistle, Paul writes about the centrality of the Resurrection for Christians: “If there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised; and if Christ has not been raised,… then your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead.”

Here’s the thing: it’s easy for us modern, rational, post-Christian Christians to think think that people 2000 years ago were superstitious and naive and didn’t really understand death as we do, so it was easier for them to believe that somebody would come back from death. Not true; if anything, they were probably more in touch with the realities of death than we are, in our world where death is handled by trained professionals, behind closed doors.

People knew perfectly well, in the first century, that people die and their bodies decay. Remember the story in John’s Gospel of Jesus raising his friend Lazarus from the dead? They warned Jesus, “Lord, it’s been three days; when you open the tomb, it is going to smell.”

Death was no mystery to the early Christians. They had to reconcile belief in eternal life beyond the grave with the obvious truth of bodily decay. Searching for an image to help us come to grips with the paradox, Paul offers the everyday magic of a seed sown in the earth giving rise to a plant:  “So it is with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable, what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. It is sown a physical body, it is raised a spiritual body. Listen, I will tell you a mystery!  We will not all die, but we will all be changed… For … this mortal body must put on immortality.”

Paul’s poetic reflection on the mystery of resurrection is echoed in the Eucharistic prayer we use at funerals: “For to your faithful people, O Lord, life is changed, not ended….” With two thousand years of theology and science at my back, I don’t feel that I can really do any better than Paul at putting words to strange and elusive hope of the resurrection of the dead.  The belief that those who have left this life and this world live on, in and with God, is not amenable to proof or explanation. It’s one of the things we take on faith, no more and no less than the church did in Paul’s time.

So that’s one of the things we’re talking about when we talk about resurrection: Death still happens, but Jesus’ rising from death means that death doesn’t have the same grip, the same claim on us, that it had before. That we don’t have to fear death, trusting that those we love, and we ourselves, will have everlasting life in God.

But that’s only part of what it means to be people of the resurrection. Indeed, we are missing out on a good deal of what our faith offers us, and asks of us, if we think of resurrection as an idea that only comes into play in the face of death.

What about resurrection in the face of life?  As a daily orientation, a way of being? A few verses farther along in that same chapter, the apostle Paul writes, “I die every day!” There are so many areas of our hearts, our lives, our world, in need of transformation. Renewal. Resurrection.

A few weeks ago, I dug into the meaning of another of those words we use in church and don’t examine nearly often enough: salvation. I looked at the Greek verb behind that English word, sozo – and all the ways it’s used in the New Testament.

Sozo can mean to save from a dangerous situation. To heal. To make well. To restore. To deliver from an ordeal. To rescue. To free. To keep, preserve, or protect.  And it’s used in situations ranging from real-world illness, danger, or bondage, to the metaphorical and spiritual conditions that mirror those outward realities.

What the centrality of that word and concept in our Christian scriptures says, to me, is that this is God’s intention, God’s desire, God’s purpose for each and all,

in individual lives and human history. Sozo: what God does, stirring mysteriously in human hearts; acting in the spaces left by our freedom, our wills, our choices; subtly bending history’s long arc. To free, to heal, to make well, rescue, deliver. To save.

The word Sozo was on my mind again this week as I reflected on resurrection.

Resurrection faith is much more than simply believing that Jesus rose from death, or even that we will rise from death. It’s believing and trusting that this is the kind of God, God is: the kind of God who acts, sometimes invisibly, sometimes dramatically, to bring wholeness from brokenness, freedom from bondage, life from death.

The tenth-century theologian Symeon wrote that when Jesus becomes fully alive in us, “everything that is hurt, everything that seemed to us dark, harsh, shameful, maimed, ugly, irreparably damaged, is in Him transformed and recognized as whole, as lovely, and radiant in His light.” That’s resurrection faith. (Read the whole poem here.)

The 20th-century theologian and leader Martin Luther King, Jr.,  wrote, “I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right, temporarily defeated, is stronger than evil triumphant.” That’s resurrection faith.

And living as people of resurrection faith means seeking resurrection in this world, this life. Expecting renewal, reconciliation, restoration. And more than seeking and expecting: colluding with it. Becoming a co-conspirator with God in the ongoing always-and-everywhere work of transforming the world towards hope and healing, justice and mercy, love and delight. That’s what church is all about, what we’re all about. Bearing witness to resurrection. Being agents of transformation.

In a few moments, we will renew our baptismal covenant, affirming again the promises that are made every time a child or adult is baptized in an Episcopal church. We renew our baptismal intentions at Easter because one of the ancient meanings of the baptismal rite is passing through death into new life in Christ. And also because this day, Easter Day, is a wonderful time to re-commit to the practices that sustain and strengthen us as people of resurrection. People who seek and strive and hope for new life, not only in the next world, but in this one, here and now.

Alleluia! Christ is risen.

Announcements, 4/3

Maundy Thursday, Thursday, April 2, 6pm: in our Maundy liturgy, we will walk through Jesus’ final evening with his friends before his arrest, including a simple shared meal, foot washing (optional), and the stripping of the altar. Please bring 30 pieces of change (dimes, nickels, pennies) – or just a handful. People of all ages are welcome in this liturgy.

Good Friday Liturgies, Friday, April 3, 12 noon and 7pm: A solemn liturgy recalling Christ’s death on the cross. Our 7pm service is followed by the Good Friday Wake, a one-hour vigil, gathered around an icon of Jesus in the tomb. Reflect on the poetry, art, and Scripture of Jesus’ death and the grief of his friends. Hot cross buns and tea will be served.

Friday, April 3, 4pm, Children’s Good Friday Service: This service is best for kids ages 3 to 10. We will walk the Stations of the Cross together, exploring the story and what it means to us.

Easter Vigil, Saturday, April 4, 8pm: One of Christianity’s most ancient and beautiful liturgies: fire and water, music and art, darkness and light, death and resurrection! Please bring bells and noisemakers. We will use INCENSE at this liturgy. The Great Vigil liturgy is appropriate for adults, youth, and older kids; it is about two hours long.

 Easter Sunday, Sunday, April 5, 8am & 10am: Celebrate Easter with the St. Dunstan’s community! After each service, there will be an Easter egg hunt for children. Visitors and guests are very welcome!

Birthdays and Anniversaries, Sunday, April 5: It is our custom to use the first Sunday of each month to pray for those with birthdays and anniversaries in that month. Please come forward when invited, during the Announcements, to receive the congregation’s prayers and good wishes.  Some people choose to put a donation in the little wooden church in thanksgiving for the occasion; those donations are passed on to charitable causes in the wider world.

Healing Prayer: On first Sundays, during Communion, one of our ministers will be available for those who seek prayers for themselves or on behalf of others.

Evening Eucharist, Sunday, April 5, 6pm: Join us for a simple service before the week begins.

Spring 2015 Chocolate Making Sign Up: Our Spring Chocolate Event will be after Easter this year. Mark your calendars for Friday evening, April 10, 6-8pm and Saturday, April 11, 9am-12noon. An order/signup sheet is in the Gathering Space, below the big calendar. Sign up by April 5 (Easter Sunday)!

Holy Week Offerings:  As is our custom, offerings made during our Holy Week services will go to support particular agencies and ministries. Maundy Thursday offerings will go to Domestic Abuse Intervention Services (DAIS) here in Madison. Good Friday offerings will go to the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem and the Middle East. Easter Vigil offerings will go to Episcopal Relief & Development. It is helpful to our tellers, who count our donations, if you indicate on the memo line which agency you are supporting. Thank you for your generosity.

THE WEEK AHEAD…

Thursday Evening Worship in Easter Season: Following the resurrection of Jesus, many of his friends encountered him – at a shared meal, on a lakeshore, walking along a lonely road. In Easter season, at the Sandbox, our Thursday evening informal worship & supper gathering, we’ll be sharing stories of where we’ve encountered Jesus on our journeys. Come hear about another person’s life of faith, or share a part of your own. All are welcome. Worship is at 5:30pm every week, with a simple meal provided afterwards.

Madison-Area Julian Gathering, Wednesday, April 8, 7:15-9pm, at St. Dunstan’s: The Madison-Area Julian Gathering will begin meeting again after our winter break.  Please come and bring Spring with you!

Episcopal 101: Holy Times & Seasons, Sunday, April 12, 9am: An ongoing exploration of the Episcopal Church for new and long-time members. All are welcome!

Sunday School, Sunday, April 12, 10am: This week, our 3-6 year old class will explore Jesus’ Jewish roots in the story of the Synagogue and the Upper Room, while our 7-11 year old class will play with John’s story of Jesus’ appearance to his disciples after he rose from the dead. All kids are welcome, & parents can come too if they like!   

Books Needed for Little Library! With warmer weather many more people are stopping by for a new “read” and we have few books to supply the library. If you have books to donate, please bring them to St. Dunstan’s and put in the labelled box in the Gathering Area. Thanks!

Calling all Church Women! Women’s Mini Week 2015, August 13 to August 16, at Camp Lakotah in Wautoma, Wisconsin: You are invited to the 39th Annual Women’s Mini Week. This year’s theme is “Surprised by Joy!” For registration materials and to answer questions, visit the website: www.womensminiweek.org .

Your help is needed to complete the Community Build at Canstruction® Madison 2015!  You can be a superhero by purchasing a “Can of Hope” for our Superhero Phone Booth which will be built in the mall center court. For every $10 donation, you can submit one name to be featured on the label of a Superhero Can. One can make a difference®.  One Can® to prove that every act of kindness makes a difference. Thanks to a generous donor, the first $5,000 in donations will be matched!  Give hope today.

Maundy Thursday

Preached by the Rev. Miranda Hassett, April 2, 2015

We recently created some new welcome leaflets for our church, and one of them is titled, “What do Episcopalians Believe?” Seeing a photo on Facebook, one member of our congregation quipped, “We believe in food.” She’s right. We do. We believe in food. We believe in preparing good food, sharing it with each other, eating together.

We also believe in this holy meal we share every Sunday, the Eucharist. If you come from another church or tradition, regular Eucharist might not have been a thing; and in the years before the 1979 Book of Common Prayer, in many parts of the Episcopal church Eucharist was monthly, not weekly. But since the liturgical renewal of the ‘60s and ‘70s,  celebrating the Eucharist has become central to the lives of our churches, as it was in the earliest days of the church. We believe in this holy and symbolic meal by which we follow Jesus’ instructions, every week, to do this in remembrance of him.

Now, when I say symbolic, I don’t mean that the Eucharist is symbolic of Christ’s presence. It is not exaggerating to say that wars have been fought over whether the Eucharist is rightly described as symbolic, and what that means. In our church, our understanding, our teaching, is that in the sacrament of the Eucharist, Jesus is not just present symbolically, or in memory. There is something more than mere symbol or memory going on. Jesus is present in reality, in some way that is mysterious, ineffable, and true.

My daughter occasionally likes to hold a tea party, as one does, and when she pours tea from her pink plastic princess teapot into my pink plastic teacup, she will often remind me that the tea she is pouring is NOT, as a parent might mistakenly believe, pretend; instead, she says, it is invisible but real. Invisible but real. That is more or less what our church teaches, what I believe, about the presence of Christ in our sacrament of Holy Eucharist.

So when I say that the Eucharistic meal is symbolic, I don’t mean it’s symbolic of Jesus. I mean that it’s symbolic of a meal. Remember the little holy wafers many churches use? – we use them now and then. Someone quipped once about those wafers, “I can believe that it is Christ,  but no one will convince me that it is bread.” Now, most of the time, we use something rather more like real bread here,  but still, that little morsel of bread and sip of wine isn’t much like a real meal.

One of the things we do on Maundy Thursday is connect those dots again, as we re-tell the story of the first Last Supper, when Jesus gathered with his friends for one more meal together. That really was a shared meal, sitting or lying around a table together, laughing, telling stories, sharing memories and hopes, singing songs, and eating.

In the early decades of the church, the Eucharist was celebrated that way – as a community meal with a special meaning and holiness. The community meal became separated from the ritual meal fairly early on, however, apparently because of class differences within the churches. Listen to what Paul writes in the eleventh chapter of the first letter to the church in Corinth: “I cannot commend you, because when you come together, it is not for the better but for the worse…. For when you come together as a church, it is not really to eat the Lord’s supper. For when the time comes to eat, each of you goes ahead with your own supper, and one goes hungry and another becomes drunk. …. What! Do you not have homes to eat and drink in? Or do you show contempt for the church of God and humiliate those among you who have nothing? What should I say to you? Should I commend you for this behavior?…  My brothers and sisters, if you are hungry, eat at home, so that when you come together, it will not be for your condemnation.”
It seems that everyone was brown-bagging it, bringing food from home, and the rich brought lavish meals – including beverages – and the poor sometimes had nothing, and people were not sharing; and this was creating divisions and ill feelings within the Christian community which were hurting their Eucharistic fellowship.  Can you imagine that? It would never happen at St. Dunstan’s! …

So over time, the church’s leaders said, we can’t do this anymore. Sharing a holy ritual meal is fine, but sharing an honest-to-God supper with each other, across all our differences of circumstance – that’s just too complicated and hard. What a sad and human story. And so the Eucharist became separate from the meal, became this attenuated little ritual feeding, a bite and a sip.

But we put it back together, the meal and the Eucharist, once a year, at Maundy Thursday.  And we celebrate the Eucharist in the context of our conversations, our sharing with our neighbors, passing the bread and wine just as we pass the olives and the grapes, sharing Christ’s body and blood with the person with whom you’ve just been chatting about weather and family and garden plans. This one evening, once a year, we restore an ancient unity, the sacrament of the holy meal and the holiness of an ordinary meal in fellowship.

We’ll take a little time now, before we continue in our worship, for more conversation at table. I invite you to share memories of a shared meal that’s important to you – a time when people gathered at table to share food and companionship. It might be a particular memory that comes to mind, or it might be something that’s a regular part of life, something you do every year with family or friends that’s important to you. What’s special about it? or memorable? A sacrament is the outward sign of some inward grace or blessing; would you describe the meal you remember as sacramental? …

Maybe another year:

Eucharistic Universe

Our Universe is Eucharistic in its nature. Since the “great flaring forth” 13.7 billion years ago, all beings have been engaged in the exchange of energy. Everything arises, has its manifest time, and then surrenders itself to become food for another to arise into being. Each of us enters into a sacred trust upon receiving the energy given us; if wise, we use that energy for the furthering of the Universe adventure, then relinquish our life so that others may come into being. From stars to mites, everything eventually becomes good food so that life might continue.

 

We might describe the miracle and mystery of photosynthesis with curiously familiar language: a prokaryotic cell learned to eat the sun, storing that life energy to later release it to another so that life might continue. Is that not what we do in our liturgical ritual: eat of the Son that we might remember life was given in order to give us life?

-Sister Catherine Grace CHS

http://www.edgeofenclosure.org/lentvb.html