Announcements, July 30

TODAY & THE WEEK AHEAD…

Birthdays and Anniversaries will be honored this Sunday, August 2, 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: On Sunday, August 2, 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, August 2, 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 are the top 10 needed items: sugar, cooking oil, cereal, meals in a box, jelly, toothpaste, toilet paper, paper towels, diapers (sizes 4, 5 and 6), and laundry detergent. MOM is always in need of quality bedding items such as comforters, sheets, blankets and towels, too. Thank you for all your support!

Starts Sunday! 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.

 Do you like kids? We are seeking a Sunday school teacher to work with our elementary school class (ages about 6 – 10), on just one Sunday a month, starting in September. You don’t have to be Biblically or theologically astute; we have a wonderful curriculum to help you be conversant with the Bible lessons. You don’t have to be creative; the kids are great at providing the creativity, and we have Lego, art supplies, costumes, games, and more, to give them something to work with. You just have to like kids and be open to spending time exploring God, faith, and the Biblical story with them. Talk with Rev. Miranda if you’d like to learn more and maybe get involved. Thanks!

Between Church, Sunday, August 2 and August 9, 9:15am: Come try out simple outdoor worship between our two regular services. We gather at the stone altar to sing, discuss a short piece of Scripture, and share blessings and concerns in prayer

 Donate to our Hoops for Housing Teams! Hoops for Housing will take place on Saturday, August 8. It is a friendly community basketball tournament, sponsored by St. Dunstan’s, to raise funds for Briarpatch, which serves homeless youth in the Madison area. Team pledge envelopes are available in the Gathering Area. Please make a pledge to support your St. Dunstan’s Hoops teams! We are also still seeking some volunteers for that day; see the signup in the Gathering Area!

MOM School Supply Drive: Although it may seem that summer has just begun, it’s never too early to start thinking about “back to school!” Once again, we will be collecting donations of school supplies to contribute to the more than 800 backpacks that Middleton Outreach will distribute in August. More information and lists of Most Urgently Need Items are available in the Gathering Space. Please plan to bring your donations by August 13. Thank you so much for your continued support of this very worthwhile community project!

THE WEEKS AHEAD…

Rev. Miranda will be away from August 10 – 18. The Rev. Paul Goddard, one of our resident retired clergy, will preach and celebrate on Sunday, August 16. Father Paul and Father John Rasmus will be available if anyone urgently needs to speak with a priest during Rev. Miranda’s absence.

Evening Eucharist Dates in August: Our Sunday Evening Eucharist will NOT take place on Aug. 2 or 19. We WILL have an Evening Eucharist on Sunday, August 23, at 6pm. Sorry for any inconvenience!

Madison-Area Julian Gathering, Wednesday, August 12, 7:15 – 9:00pm, St. Dunstan’s Episcopal Church: We welcome everyone who is interested in learning more about contemplative spirituality in the Christian tradition. We meet monthly for contemplative prayer for twenty-five minutes, after which we discuss a reading from Julian of Norwich, a 14th Century English mystic who has been called “a theologian for our time.” These gatherings are supported by the Order of Julian of Norwich, a contemplative monastic order in the Episcopal Church. We would love to have you join us.

PARISH & COMMUNITY OPPORTUNITIES…

Women’s Mini Week 2015: Mini Week will be August 13 to August 16, at Camp Lakotah in Wautoma, Wisconsin. This year’s theme is “Surprised by Joy!” For registration materials and to answer questions, visit the website: www.womensminiweek.org. More information and registration forms are in the Gathering Area.

Books Needed for Little Library! With warmer weather many more people are stopping by for a new “read” and we in need of 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!

This year’s Parish Talent Show will be Sunday, October 25! What will you share? A poem, a song, a dramatic monologue, a dance? A sample of art, craft, tinkering, building, study or science? Group acts are encouraged. Chat with your friends this summer and begin to plan and practice!

Announcements, July 23

SUNDAY & THE WEEK AHEAD…

Last Sunday All-Ages Worship, Sunday, July 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 take up our Gospel story of the miraculous feeding of a crowd of 5000 people. NOTE: Our 8am service always follows our regular order of worship.

Do you like kids? We are seeking a Sunday school teacher to work with our elementary school class (ages about 6 – 10), on just one Sunday a month, starting in September. You don’t have to be Biblically or theologically astute; we have a wonderful curriculum to help you be conversant with the Bible lessons. You don’t have to be creative; the kids are great at providing the creativity, and we have Lego, art supplies, costumes, games, and more, to give them something to work with. You just have to like kids and be open to spending time exploring God, faith, and the Biblical story with them. Talk with Rev. Miranda if you’d like to learn more and maybe get involved. Thanks!

Between Church, Sunday, July 26, 9:15am: Come try out simple outdoor worship between our two regular services. We gather at the stone altar to sing, discuss a short piece of Scripture, and share blessings and concerns in prayer. We will also meet August 2 and August 9.

Grace Shelter Dinner, Sunday, July 26, 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.

Donate to our Hoops for Housing Teams! Hoops for Housing will take place on Saturday, August 8. It is a friendly community basketball tournament, sponsored by St. Dunstan’s, to raise funds for Briarpatch, which serves homeless youth in the Madison area. Team pledge envelopes are available in the Gathering Area. Please make a pledge to support your St. Dunstan’s Hoops teams! We are also still seeking some volunteers for that day; see the signup in the Gathering Area!

MOM School Supply Drive: Although it may seem that summer has just begun, it’s never too early to start thinking about “back to school!” Once again, we will be collecting donations of school supplies to contribute to the more than 800 backpacks that Middleton Outreach will distribute in August. More information and lists of Most Urgently Need Items are available in the Gathering Space. Please plan to bring your donations by August 13. Thank you so much for your continued support of this very worthwhile community project!

THE WEEKS AHEAD…

Evening Eucharist Dates in August: Our Sunday Evening Eucharist will NOT take place on Aug. 2 or 19. We WILL have an Evening Eucharist on Sunday, August 23, at 6pm. Sorry for any inconvenience!

Birthdays and Anniversaries will be honored next Sunday, August 2, as is our custom on the first Sunday of every month. Come forward after Announcements to receive a blessing and the community’s prayers.

Healing Prayer, Sunday, August 2: 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, August 2: 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 are the top 10 needed items: sugar, cooking oil, cereal, meals in a box, jelly, toothpaste, toilet paper, paper towels, diapers (sizes 4, 5 and 6), and laundry detergent. MOM is always in need of quality bedding items such as comforters, sheets, blankets and towels, too. Thank you for your support!

Madison-Area Julian Gathering, Wednesday, August 12, 7:15 – 9:00pm, St. Dunstan’s Episcopal Church: We welcome everyone who is interested in learning more about contemplative spirituality in the Christian tradition. We meet monthly for contemplative prayer for twenty-five minutes, after which we discuss a reading from Julian of Norwich, a 14th Century English mystic who has been called “a theologian for our time.” These gatherings are supported by the Order of Julian of Norwich, a contemplative monastic order in the Episcopal Church. We would love to have you join us.

PARISH & COMMUNITY OPPORTUNITIES…

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.

Women’s Mini Week 2015: Mini Week will be August 13 to August 16, at Camp Lakotah in Wautoma, Wisconsin. This year’s theme is “Surprised by Joy!” For registration materials and to answer questions, visit the website: www.womensminiweek.org.  More information and registration forms are in the Gathering Area.

Books Needed for Little Library! With warmer weather many more people are stopping by for a new “read” and we in need of 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!

This year’s Parish Talent Show will be Sunday, October 25! What will you share? A poem, a song, a dramatic monologue, a dance? A sample of art, craft, tinkering, building, study or science? Group acts are encouraged. Chat with your friends this summer and begin to plan and practice

Sermon, July 19

Follow Jesus together, into the neighborhood; travel lightly. That’s the prescription – or the marching orders – for the Episcopal Church, offered by the Task Force to Re-Imagine the Episcopal Church, based on Jesus’ sending forth of the disciples to proclaim, heal, and serve, in the tenth chapter of Luke’s Gospel. You’ve heard me talk about it in several sermons now. And our current, soon-to-retire Presiding Bishop, Katharine Jefferts-Schori, made this prescription the theme of her sermon at General Convention, the triennial gathering of bishops, priests, and lay people from all over our church to worship and pray and talk and shape our church’s future.

In a sermon studded with Star Trek references – our outgoing Presiding Bishop is kind of a geek! – Bishop Katharine laid out how these words might guide our church into a more vital, engaged, hopeful future. She concluded her sermon by returning the theme: Follow Jesus into the neighborhood. Travel lightly. All around me people were standing up, applauding her, her words, her vision, her years of faithful leadership; and I was clapping too, but I was also saying to myself, She forgot the Together! The “together” in “Follow Jesus together” – she left it out. She wasn’t the only one. Somebody had buttons made up for Convention, a set of three – Follow Jesus. Into the neighborhood. Travel lightly. Again: No “together.”

Maybe it sounds nitpicky, but I think the “together” is really, really important. It’s there because Jesus sent the disciples out in pairs, not alone. The Biblical warrant for the buddy system. And I know in my own life of faith, the “together” part matters a lot. As the pastor here, and as a paid staff member, my relationship with this church is somewhat different than all of yours’; but it’s not entirely different. You are my primary faith community, y’all, and I rely on you. Worshiping with you regularly, joining our voices in song and prayer; studying Scripture together and sharing conversations, casual or deep; encouraging and sometimes challenging each other as we seek the best ways to live out our faith in the world – I am a better Christian and a better human being because of this community of faith. Because I belong to you. You support me, you hold me up, you hold me accountable. I hope that the same is true for many of you.

The word “religion” has a somewhat murky etymology but the strongest theory I’ve heard is that it comes from a word for binding a bunch of sticks together into a bundle. Think about how easy it is to break one stick. Then think about how hard it is to break a bundle of sticks, all bound together. That’s us – ideally: just a bunch of sticks for God, fragile on our own, strong together.

Today we are celebrating a baptism, welcoming Lorne into the household of God. Baptism is one of the great sacraments of the church, those outward and spiritual signs by which we mark and acknowledge inward and spiritual graces. Lorne already belongs to God; he is already part of this fellowship of faith; but in baptism we name and welcome him as a fellow member of Christ’s Body, the Church, an inheritor – and builder – with all of us, of God’s kingdom.  And by the grace of the Holy Spirit, the things we say here today become true, or more true, or differently true – that Lorne belongs to Christ; that Lorne belongs to us; that we all belong to God; and that with God’s help, we will pray, repent, proclaim, serve, and advocate God’s Kingdom towards its fulness.

I don’t think  Lorne’s parents did this on purpose; but our Epistle today, our Scriptural lesson from the letters of the early Church, is one of the best possible readings for baptism – and for talking about Christian “together” – ness. The letter to the Ephesians may have been written by the apostle Paul, near the end of his life, or by a disciple of Paul in the late first century, writing after Paul’s death, and influenced by Paul’s thought. It’s fair to say that it’s a Pauline letter, either way.

Baptism, unity, and the “together”-ness of the church, are core themes of this letter. Last week the lectionary gave us some of the introduction. At our “Between Church” worship, we reflected on that text together, using the Message, a modern-language Bible paraphrase: “Long before God laid down the earth’s foundations, God had us in mind, and had settled on us as the focus of divine love, to be made whole and holy by God’s love…. It’s in Christ that you, having heard the truth and believed it, found yourselves signed, sealed, and delivered by the Holy Spirit.” Wonderful, exuberant language about God’s desire to make us one with God and each other.

And today’s Ephesians text contains one of my favorite verses in all of Scripture, one of the ones I carry in my head and heart as a source of comfort and inspiration: “So then you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. In him the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also are built together spiritually into a dwelling place for God.”

The author is addressing a particular situation here: the urgent issue of divisions and conflicts between Jewish and Gentile Christians. The two groups had different backgrounds and cultures, and different ideas of what a faithful life looks like. The author of the letter to the Ephesians says,Your differences must not divide you, when God in Christ has made you one; honor one another and work this out.

But these are words that speak beyond their original context. We separate ourselves so often, so easily, from God, and from the communities that support and challenge us. In the words of the old hymn, “Come, thou Fount,” we are all “prone to wander, Lord, prone to leave the God we love.” These verses in Ephesians speak to those who are far off and those who are near – I might feel go from feeling far off to feeling near – to God, to human fellowship – within the space of a few hours. I often feel myself a stranger, uncertain of my connectedness or my belonging; I often make myself a stranger, separating myself the better to live out the double-edged virtues of individuality, competence and self-reliance. I’m hoping this isn’t just me – that some of you are thinking, Hey, me too!, and not just, Man, she really needs help!

This verse from Ephesians speaks insistently to that part of me that feels like a stranger, that even, at some level, likes being a stranger. So then you are no longer a stranger. You belong. You belong to God, and you belong to a community. Belonging brings inconveniences and obligations, no question about it. Bearing one another’s burdens sounds great as long as you’re the one with the burden to unload. Community sounds great until real differences emerge and the going gets tough. But belonging brings so many blessings, too. And it is the gift and challenge of the baptized life. Episcopal ethicist and scholar William Stringfellow writes, “There is no unilateral, private, insulated, lonely, or eccentric Christian life. There is only the Christian as the member of the whole body; the vocation for every single Christian is inherently [embedded in the life of the church]; baptism signifies the public commitment of a person to humanity.” [An Ethic for Christians and Other Aliens in a Strange Land, p.61]

This text from Ephesians offers us three different metaphors for the togetherness we share, the togetherness into which we welcome baby Lorne today. First, we are citizens. Fellow citizens with the saints, the holy ones. This metaphor invites us to consider our Christian togetherness through the lens of civic engagement. What do we do as citizens?

[Show symbols: newspaper, ballot, tax form]

Citizens have rights and privileges – it was a big deal to be a citizen in the first-century Roman Empire, as it is for immigrants to the U.S. today. Citizens also have obligations, whether we fulfill them or not – to contribute towards the needs of the whole, to pay attention to what’s going on in, to participate in envisioning and working for the common good. Citizenship involves participation in the big, shared, contentious, ongoing conversation about what the Body needs, as a whole, and how to best use our resources, so that the goods of our common life are available to all. So that’s one aspect of our Christian togetherness: thinking of ourselves as citizens of God’s commonwealth, called to participate in building a better society.

The second metaphor offered by this text is that of bricks of a building.  “In Christ the whole structure is joined together…” Call up in your mind an image of a bricklayer building a wall – mortar, brick, mortar, brick, lining them up, pressing them together. Many small parts becoming a new thing together.

[Show Lego bricks] 

This image of togetherness is an image of subsuming my self, my separateness, into something greater, something new. For this text, for this vision, we are all just bricks in the wall – and that’s a good thing!

This image reminds me of a story our junior warden Rob shared as part of our giving campaign, a couple of years ago, about working on an Appalachian Service Project site and trying to finish the roof on a house before the week ended. They were so close – then the last day, it rained. Rob told us that was a powerful moment of realizing that it wasn’t about his team. Their accomplishment, their satisfaction. The next team would finish that roof. The important thing was being part of that larger mission. So that’s another aspect of our Christian togetherness: allowing ourselves to be small pieces of something bigger.

The third metaphor for Christian togetherness offered by this text is that we are members of a household. In Greek, the word is oikos – and yes, you’ve been hearing me use it lately, though I had no idea it was coming along in this Ephesians text. I’ve been trying it on as an alternative to the “church family” language we often use to describe our common life. Family, for us twenty-first century Americans, evokes the nuclear family unit – a parent or two, a kid or two – living in a home by themselves.

[Show toy house, put people figures in it]

The first-century household, or oikos, was a lot bigger and more complex. You’d have many generations living together, and possibly several branches of the family. [Start putting other critters in/around house]

You’d have servants and shirttail relations and close friends and apprentices and all sorts of folks, living an ordered and interdependent life together, day by day.

That word, oikos, household or home, is all through this text, much more so in Greek than in English – six times within these four verses. I tried to translate verses 19 through 22 so you can hear it: Therefore you are no longer strangers and guests, people who stay in a household but don’t belong; but you are citizens together with the holy ones and members of the household of God, a home built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Jesus Christ as the capstone, in whom the entire home, being connected together, is growing into a holy temple to God. In whom you also are being-together-home-builded (that’s what my Greek literal translation says!) into a home-place, a household, of the spirit of God.

Early Christianity was sometimes in tension with family and household relationships. Sometimes a whole household would join the new faith together, but sometimes they wouldn’t; and then, becoming a Christian could mean splitting from your family, and taking on your Christian community as your new family. That’s still true, if less dramatically – there are people in this congregation for whom their faith is tied up with family identity, something they share with their loved ones. And there are people here for whom their faith is a source of separation and strain from those they love.

The point of this image of church as oikos, church as household, church as home – is this: whether you come to church with your family or not, your church is another family, another household. This is Christian together-ness visioned as intimacy and complementarity. Living closely, sharing life’s ordinary moments and extraordinary occasions, with a motley crew of people of all sorts, some more like you and some less, some closely related and some less, some beloved and some less, but all living that shared, ordered life as a household, an oikos.

Citizen of a commonwealth; brick in the temple wall; member of the household of God – these are all my hopes and prayers for Lorne, as we name, bless, and welcome him today. These are my hopes for each of us, and all of us, that we may indeed find in God’s church, here or elsewhere, a commonwealth worthy of our engagement; a temple to which we can gladly lend our strength; and a place to call home.

Announcements, July 16

SUNDAY and the WEEK AHEAD…

Between Church, Sunday, July 19, 9:15am: Come try out simple outdoor worship between our two regular services. We gather at the stone altar to sing, discuss a short piece of Scripture, and share blessings and concerns in prayer. We will also meet July 26, August 2 and August 9.

Rector’s Discretionary Fund Offering: Half the cash in our collection plate, and any designated checks, will go towards the Rector’s Discretionary Fund this Sunday 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.

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

Younger Adults Meet-up at the Vintage, Sunday, July 19, 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.

MOM School Supply Drive: Although it may seem that summer has just begun, it’s never too early to start thinking about “back to school!” Once again, we will be collecting donations of school supplies to contribute to the more than 800 backpacks that Middleton Outreach will distribute in August. More information and lists of Most Urgently Need Items are available in the Gathering Space. Please plan to bring your donations by August 13. Thank you so much for your continued support of this very worthwhile community project!

Black Raspberry Picking Time! The black raspberry bushes at St. Dunstan’s, along the east edge of the property (behind the church), are full of ripe berries. Wear jeans, long sleeves, and bug spray, and come pick a pint or a quart! Friends welcome. Bathrooms/water are only available when the church is otherwise open.

HELP NEEDED…

Cat-Sitter Needed: A member of our parish will be in nursing home care for several weeks and is seeking a temporary home for her playful, sweet gray kitty, Greta. Greta is young, healthy, and social. She has not lived with other cats since being adopted, so that might or might not work well. She would prefer not to live with dogs. Food, litter, toys would be provided, and any pet deposit costs could be covered. Please contact Rev. Miranda at 238-2781 or revmiranda@stdunstans.com if you could help out.

Seeking Craft Project Preppers! Would you like to help support our Evening Church Camp in early August, but can’t attend? We are looking for two people to help gather materials and prepare simple craft projects for the kids (Paper Beads and Sunbutter Birdseed Pinecones). The projects are already planned and instructions are available; any expenses can be reimbursed. If you’d like to help, talk to Rev. Miranda at church, by phone at 238-2781.

Pledges welcome for St. Dunstan’s Hoops for Housing Team! Hoops for Housing is a friendly community basketball tournament, sponsored by St. Dunstan’s, to raise funds for Briarpatch, which serves homeless youth in the Madison area. Our team hopes to raise at least $100 through pledges and donations for Briarpatch Youth Services. Hoops for Housing will take place on Saturday, August 8. Please plan to attend and enjoy a fun day at the park! Questions? Talk with  Rev. Miranda.

Books Needed for Little Library! With warmer weather many more people are stopping by for a new “read” and we in need of 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!

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

THE WEEKS AHEAD…

Ladies’ Night Out, Friday, July 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 the Nile at 6119 Odana Road in Madison.

Last Sunday All-Ages Worship, Sunday, July 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 take up our Gospel story of the miraculous feeding of a crowd of 5000 people. NOTE: Our 8am service always follows our regular order of worship.

Grace Shelter Dinner, Sunday, July 26, 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.

SUMMER OPPORTUNITIES…

Summer Evening Worship, Thursdays at 5:30pm: Our Thursday evening “Sandbox Worship” will take place outdoors whenever the weather permits. Come at 5:30pm for a shared meal (provided), simple evening worship, and then hanging out around a fire for conversation and s’mores. “Summer Sandbox” will begin on June 18. All ages are welcome.

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.

Women’s Mini Week 2015: Mini Week will be August 13 to August 16, at Camp Lakotah in Wautoma, Wisconsin. This year’s theme is “Surprised by Joy!” For registration materials and to answer questions, visit the website: www.womensminiweek.org. More information and registration forms are in the Gathering Area

Sermon, July 12

I want to tell you the story of Michal, daughter of King Saul, wife of King David. The lectionary gives us the end of her story; she is not mentioned again. But let’s go back to the beginning. Back to First Samuel 18, when David is first taken into King Saul’s household to serve him, after the defeat of the Philistine giant Goliath and the rout of the Philistine army. If you heard that story here a few weeks ago, you remember that it ended with Saul’s ambivalence and jealousy. He was glad to have David as a military leader, because of David’s successes; but he envied David’s popularity and feared that David would try to take his place. Remember the women of Jerusalem singing and dancing,  “Saul has killed his thousands, and David his tens of thousands”?  Remember how much King Saul loved hearing that? …. The text tells us, “All Israel and Judah loved David; for it was he who marched out and came in leading them.”

So Saul is keeping David around, on the principal of, Keep your friends close and your enemies closer. But having David close by has its disadvantages. Because two of Saul’s children fall in love with David, the dashing, handsome young warrior, musician, and heartbreaker. 1 Samuel 18 tells us that Saul’s son Jonathan loved David as his own soul. Jonathan’s soul was bound to the soul of David, and he made a covenant with him.  And Saul’s youngest daughter, Michal, also falls in love with David. Now, Saul thinks maybe binding David to his family can work to his advantage, by increasing David’s loyalty to him and his house. He thinks, I’ll marry David to one of my daughters, and he’ll keep going out to fight the Philistines for me, and eventually the Philistines will get lucky and kill him, so that I don’t have to. The text puts words to Saul’s thoughts: “Let me give [Michal] to him so that she may be a snare for him, and that the hand of the Philistines may be against him.”

Now, David has always been well-endowed with hubris and self-esteem, but becoming the king’s son-in-law is a big step even for him. Saul’s servants are sent to tell him, “See, the king is delighted with you — [that’s a lie!] — and all his servants love you [that’s probably true!] — now then, become the king’s son-in-law.” And David replies,  “Does it seem to you a little thing to become the king’s son-in-law, seeing that I am a poor man and of no repute?” Among other things, he’s worried about being able to pay a suitable bride-price for the very important wife he is being offered. And Saul tells him, “Oh, don’t worry! …. All I want for a marriage present from you is the foreskins of a hundred Philistines.” And David says, Oh, is that all? …  1 Samuel 18 tells us, “David rose and went, along with his men, and killed one hundred of the Philistines; and David brought their foreskins… to the king, that he might become the king’s son-in-law. Saul gave him his daughter Michal as a wife. But when Saul realized that the Lord was with David, and that Saul’s daughter Michal loved him, Saul was still more afraid of David. So Saul was David’s enemy from that time forward.”

Saul makes up his mind to get rid of David. But Jonathan and Michal are determined to save their beloved. Jonathan tells David, My father is trying to kill you; run away, hide nearby, and I’ll see what I can do. And Jonathan talks to Saul and reminds him of David’s loyalty  and all that he has done for Saul; and Saul decides not to kill David: “As the LORD lives, he shall not be put to death.”  But not long afterwards, a dark mood comes upon Saul and he changes his mind again. One evening while David is playing music for him, he tries to stab him with a spear. David escapes to his home, but Saul sends assassins to kill him next time he steps outside. This time it’s Michal who saves David; she helps him escape out the window, then creates a “dummy” David in the bed, the classic pillow-under-the-covers thing, plus some goat hair on the pillow. She used the “dummy” to put off the assassins – claiming David couldn’t come out because he was sick – long enough for David to get well away. When her father asked why she had helped David, choosing loyalty to her husband over loyalty to her father, she claimed that David had threatened to kill her.

The Scriptural text tells us far more about the love between David and Jonathan – using some of the most emotionally intense language found in Scripture – than it tells us about David and Michal’s marriage. It seems likely that David cared far more for Jonathan than he did for poor Michal. The text tells us twice that she loved him; it never claims that he loved her. He flees their home apparently without a backward glance, though he has a heart-wrenching farewell scene with Jonathan.

 

David flees to one neighboring land, then another; and as he travels, he gathers followers. Saul, more and more fearful, begins to slaughter anyone he suspects of supporting or helping David. The situation escalates into full-on civil war. It’s really exciting stuff – I commend it to you! I would love to tell you about the time King Saul stopped to pee in a cave, and David was hiding in the same cave. I would love to tell you about the rich and grumpy man Nabal, and his clever, beautiful, and opportunistic wife Abigail, who brought supplies to David’s troops against her husband’s orders, and, when he conveniently died ten days later, became David’s second wife. I would love to tell you of how King Saul, desperate for guidance and receiving no word from God, sought out a medium, a witch, at Endor, who summoned the ghost of the prophet Samuel to tell him, God is done with you; David will be king. But there’s too much story, not enough time, for one Sunday morning. Still: if you love Game of Thrones, the drama, intrigue, violence, and betrayal, I commend the books of Samuel and Kings to you.

During David’s absence, Saul had taken poor abandoned Michal and given her as a wife to another man, probably someone whose loyalties he hoped to secure in the face of David’s threat. Here’s how David finally claims his kingship: Saul and Israel’s army are fighting the Philistines, again. (In this time and place, as in many times and places, the king also served as general of his army, leading them in battle; this will be a plot point in another story in a couple of weeks!…)

And in this battle, the Philistines win. Saul’s sons are killed – including Jonathan. Saul throws himself on his own sword, committing suicide, to avoid the shame of being killed by the enemy. When David hears of it, he sings a great song of grief about the death of these valiant warriors, Saul the King, anointed of God, and his beloved friend Jonathan. Soon thereafter the people of Judah anoint David as their king.

But the last of Saul’s sons, Ishbaal, remained on the throne in Jerusalem; so more years of war follow, with David’s house growing stronger and Saul’s house growing weaker. Sometime during those years, in a moment of tentative peace, David asks Ishbaal to give him back Michal as his wife. I can imagine a couple of reasons for the request: because of the dishonor of having his wife given to another man; because of the potential power of having a wife of Saul’s line, and the possibility of one day being able to put a son on the throne of Israel who would combine the lineages of David and Saul. I can’t really imagine that David’s feelings for Michal were a third reason, because nothing in the text suggests he ever had any. Ishbaal agrees to David’s demand; Michal is taken from her second husband, Palti. The text tells us, “Her husband went with her, weeping as he walked behind her, all the way to Bahurim,” until Ishbaal’s general ordered him home. So Michal is given away a third time, taken from a husband who loved her and given to one who, like her father, sees her only as a pawn.

Finally a couple of enterprising warriors take it upon themselves to assassinate Saul’s son, King Ishbaal. David is not grateful; he still respects the house of Saul, and, frankly, would prefer to manage his own affairs; he has the assassins publicly executed. But when all the tribes of Israel come to him and say, Now you can be our King, he doesn’t object. So the kingdoms of Judah and Israel are united, with David as their great King. A great King who takes more and more wives and concubines, and begets a great many children.

And as kind of a gesture of national pride and unity, David and his army set out to bring the Ark of the Covenant to his new capital city, Jerusalem. Remember the Ark? From either the book of Exodus or the Indiana Jones movie? Not the one Noah built. The one crafted by Israel’s finest craftsman, during the wilderness years, to hold the stone tablets on which Moses had received the Law of God. A holy box to hold the world’s holiest treasures, stone tablets engraved by the hand of God. And as they enter Jerusalem in triumphal procession with the Ark, David and those who are with him are so filled with holy joy that they dance wildly, with all their might, to the music of lyres and harps, tambourines and castanets and cymbals. And David danced and leaped the most wildly, the most fervently of them all, dressed only in a simple linen skirt. I think we can take it as the intention of the text that the linen skirt was pretty skimpy, and that David was putting on quite a show, and probably really didn’t care. After all, if being King doesn’t mean you can dance naked in the streets now and then, what’s the point?…

Michal daughter of Saul looks out of the window, and sees David leaping and dancing before the Lord; and she despises him in her heart. She hates him, bitterly. And when he comes to the house, she confronts him: “My goodness, the King of Israel certainly honored himself today, showing off his privates like any vulgar fellow for the eyes of any cheap servant girl!”  David says, “I was dancing to please God, lady, not you – the God who chose ME over your father to be King of Israel, you may recall.” The text tells us that from that time on, Michal had no child. At my first reading, I thought, She is punished with barrenness? – that’s not fair! – and I saw other commentators make the same reading. But the text doesn’t say she was barren, just that she never had a child. I think it’s quite possible that this was the last time David and Michal spoke. That she lived out her lonely life unloved and untouched in some corner of David’s household, watching the rest of his wives and concubines talk and laugh and fight and nurse their children.

So what’s going on here for Michal, as her heart turns against a man whom she once loved? She has been through so much… Years of coldness, betrayal, loss, and never having what she actually wanted. Of course she’s jealous – that remark about the servant girls tips her hand about how much she minds all David’s romantic conquests. She’s also contrasting her husband with her father, Saul’s dignity with David’s extravagance. David is one of those people who is just – very. He’s extravagant in relationships. He’s extravagant in emotion – these flares of anger, joy, grief, desire. He’s extravagant in his ambitions. He’s extravagant in his piety. Michal just wishes he would act like a king. And David says, Deal with it, lady. I am who I am, and God likes it.

So why tell Michal’s story?… If this chapter, 2 Samuel 6, were all we knew about Michal, we would think she was proud and judgmental and kind of a witch. When we know the fulness of her story – beginning with her unrequited love for David; continuing with her using her intelligence and influence to save him, only to find herself abandoned; being given to another man who loves her, then taken again, as a pawn, into a household where she is now one of many, many wives – we get the fulness of the pathos of Michal. This is a sad story about a miserable, lonely life.

Why does the Deuteronomist tell us this story? The Deuteronomist is shorthand for the author/editor – singular or plural – who composed the books of Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings, sometime in the sixth century before Jesus. There may have been many people involved in the work, over many years, but there’s quite a strong narrative voice, actually, across those books; so we call that voice the Deuteronomist.

If all the Deuteronomist wanted us to hear was that Saul’s royal line ended with Michal, we might only get this part of the text. But the Deuteronomist gives Michal a backstory – not a lot of detail, but enough to be evocative. Enough to trace the contours of a life. And I think the Deuteronomist gives us all that because the larger story the Deuteronomist is telling us is about the failures and risks of human power and human institutions. About the way that ordinary people, and even not so ordinary people, get caught up- and ground up – in the machinations of the powerful and the ambitious. About how people lose control of their own lives, and suffer and struggle, because those in power, and those who seek power, are busy doing their thing and don’t count the costs.

Feminist Biblical scholar Alice Ogden Bellis describes Michal as both symbol, and a victim, of the conflict between her husband and her father. Another commentator, Katharine Sakenfeld, writing about Michal, concludes, “I mourn with Palti over Michal’s fate.”

So why do I tell Michal’s story? Why make space on a Sunday for this ultimately rather unhappy story? Well – a couple of reasons. For one thing, often people look casually at some of the awful stuff that happens in the Old Testament, and they are put off because they think that the text talking about that stuff means that the text thinks it’s OK. In fact, the text often doesn’t think it’s OK. The Deuteronomist thinks Michal had a miserable life, just like we do. Maybe he judges her a little harshly for turning against David here; but he also gives us all that context to understand her heart. I think that’s a really really important point for our engagement with the Bible in general and the Old Testament in particular: Yes, it tells about some awful stuff. Why is it telling about it? Not because it approves. The Biblical text contains much more complexity and narrative sophistication than you might realize. The Bible often doesn’t think that the terrible things it’s describing are OK.

For another thing… Ellen Davis, who was my amazing Old Testament professor at Duke, wrote a book called Wondrous Depth, advocating preaching the Old Testament. And in it she says that there are two kinds of Christians. One kind sees us as profoundly separated from the Old Testament. Set apart by an enormous gulf – in Davis’ words, “a vast chasm whose dimensions are not just historical but also moral and theological.” In this view, the Old Testament is interesting but also alien and dubiously relevant to Christian life. Lots  of folks take that perspective, consciously or unconsciously – including many, maybe most, Episcopalians.

The other kind of people see the Old Testament as “an urgent and speaking presence” that “exercises shaping force on Christian lives.” They see the Old Testament as a compendium of stories of human and divine relationships that have never lost their power and relevance.

The reason Michal’s story is compelling is that it’s not so strange or unthinkable. The stories of women never allowed to make their own choices, controlled by husbands, fathers, pimps or politicians – those stories still happen. The machinations of those seeking political power, and those victimized by their ambition – those stories still happen. The stories of relationships that start out sweet, then turn first sour, then bitter – those stories still happen.

The Deuteronomist tells us the story of Michal, among so many others, to teach us that kings aren’t the only people that matter. To history, to God. To teach us to hear and attend to stories like hers – the stories of those struggling in the brutal currents of human history – and to care about what happens to their lives and their hearts. That, too, is the message of the Prophets, who hold the greatest accountable for the wellbeing of the least.  That, too, is the message of Jesus, who once and for all placed God among the powerless and insignificant.

Two weeks ago, while I was away, Father John preached to you about a Gospel story that takes place a thousand years after the time of King David: the woman with the flow of blood, who has lived with this shameful affliction for many years, endured much under many doctors, spent all she had, and found no relief. Desperate to relieve the pain and uncleanness of her body,  the embarrassment and isolation of her condition, she approaches Jesus in the crowd, touches his clothing – and feels herself immediately healed. The bitter darkness she carried so long – released. She is made whole. The Gospel text doesn’t give the woman a name; she is often just called “the woman with the flow of blood,” which is hardly how anyone would want to be remembered. What if we were to name her, the better to celebrate her hope, her courage and her healing? What if we were to name her… Michal?

Announcements, July 9

TODAY and the WEEK AHEAD…

Between Church: You’re invited to a simple outdoor worship between our two regular services. “Between Church” will meet from 9:15 to 9:45am, every Sunday in July. We’ll gather at the stone altar to sing, discuss a short piece of Scripture, share blessings and concerns in prayer, and sing some more. Come as an enrichment to regular Sunday worship, or just enjoy this simple service as your summer worship.

St. Dunstan’s is recruiting a basketball team (or two) for Hoops for Housing! Members, friends, and family – all welcome, and players can be of all ages and skills. Each team will have 4 – 6 members, and is asked to raise at least $100 through pledges and donations for Briarpatch Youth Services. Hoops for Housing will take place on Saturday, August 8. It is a friendly community basketball tournament, sponsored by St. Dunstan’s, to raise funds for Briarpatch, which serves homeless youth in the Madison area. Team pledge envelopes are available in the Gathering Area; sign up & start gathering a team! Questions? Talk with  Rev. Miranda.

Black Raspberry Picking Time! The black raspberry bushes at St. Dunstan’s, along the east edge of the property (behind the church), are heavy laden with ripe berries. Wear jeans, long sleeves, and bug spray, and come pick a pint or a quart! Friends welcome. Come anytime, but bathrooms/water are only available when the church is otherwise open.

THE WEEKS AHEAD…

Post-General Convention Information Session, Wednesday, July 15, 6:30pm at St. Dunstan’s: Come and learn about the actions and decisions of the General Convention.

Men’s Book Club, Saturday, July 18, 10am at St. Dunstan’s: “Masters and Commanders: How Four Titans Won the War in the West, 1941-1945” by Andrew Roberts. This is an epic joint biography of four titanic figures – a President, a Prime Minister, and two Generals, who shaped the grand strategy of the Allies during World War II. Great read. Have fun!

Rector’s Discretionary Fund Offering, Sunday, July 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.

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

Younger Adults Meet-up at the Vintage, Sunday, July 19, 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.

Ladies’ Night Out, Friday, July 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 the Nile at 6119 Odana Road in Madison.

Grace Shelter Dinner, Sunday, July 26, 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.

SUMMER OPPORTUNITIES…

Summer Evening Worship, Thursdays at 5:30pm: Our Thursday evening “Sandbox Worship” will take place outdoors whenever the weather permits. Come at 5:30pm for a shared meal (provided), simple evening worship, and then hanging out around a fire for conversation and s’mores. “Summer Sandbox” will begin on June 18. All ages are welcome.

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.

Women’s Mini Week 2015: Mini Week will be August 13 to August 16, at Camp Lakotah in Wautoma, Wisconsin. This year’s theme is “Surprised by Joy!” For registration materials and to answer questions, visit the website: www.womensminiweek.org. Talk with Rose Mueller or Connie Ott to learn more. More information and registration forms are in the Gathering Area.

This year’s Parish Talent Show will be Sunday, October 25! What will you share? A poem, a song, a dramatic monologue, a dance? A sample of art, craft, tinkering, building, study or science? Group acts are encouraged. Chat with your friends this summer and begin to plan and practice!

PARISH & COMMUNITY OPPORTUNITIES…

Books Needed for Little Library! With warmer weather many more people are stopping by for a new “read” and we in need of 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 an “Oikos Team” to Help St. Dunstan’s Welcome Newcomers: The people of St. Dunstan’s talk a lot about feeling that St. Dunstan’s is their “church home,” with a strong and welcoming community. The word “oikos”, in the Greek New Testament, is the word for “household” – as in, “you are now members of the household of God” (Ephesians 2:19). Would you like to help visitors and newcomers feel a sense of welcome and belonging in this “oikos,” this household of God? As a member of the Oikos Team, you’ll be matched with a person or household new to the church, to help them connect and get to know our parish. We’re not trying to manufacture friendship, but to be intentional about planting the seeds of community. You’d only be “matched” with one person or family at a time, and it won’t be a major time commitment. If this sounds like something you’d enjoy, talk with Rev. Miranda at 238-2781. We hope to have all kinds of folks and families on our Oikos team.

Announcements, July 2

SUNDAY and the WEEK AHEAD

Between Church, starts Sunday, July 5! You’re invited to a simple outdoor worship between our two regular services. “Between Church” will meet from 9:15 to 9:45am, every Sunday in July – and maybe August too. We’ll gather at the stone altar to sing, discuss a short piece of Scripture, share blessings and concerns in prayer, and sing some more. Come as an enrichment to regular Sunday worship, or just enjoy this simple service as your summer worship.

Birthdays and Anniversaries will be honored Sunday, July 5, 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, July 5, 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, July 5, 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 are the current 10 most-needed items at the pantry: sugar, cooking oil, cereal, meals-in-a-box, jelly, toothpaste, toilet paper, paper towels, diapers (sizes 4, 5, and 6), and laundry detergent. MOM is always in need of quality bedding items such as comforters, sheets, blankets and towels, too. Thank you for all your support!

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

Madison-Area Julian Gathering, Wednesday, July 8, 7:15-9pm: Julian’s era was one of turmoil and crisis. Contemporary reports indicate that at least half the population of Norwich died from the Plague. Meanwhile, disease killed the cattle and harvests failed. In the larger world beyond Norfolk, the Hundred Years War between England and France raged on, and the Great Schism split the Church in 1377 with one pope in France and the other in Rome. Does this chaos sound familiar? In the midst of all of this, Julian came to believe unshakably that “all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.”

St. Dunstan’s is recruiting a basketball team (or two) for Hoops for Housing! Members, friends, and family – all welcome, and players can be of all ages and skills. Each team will have 4 – 6 members, and is asked to raise at least $100 through pledges and donations for Briarpatch Youth Services. Hoops for Housing will take place on Saturday, August 8. It is a friendly community basketball tournament, sponsored by St. Dunstan’s, to raise funds for Briarpatch, which serves homeless youth in the Madison area. Team pledge envelopes are available in the Gathering Area; sign up & start gathering a team! Questions? Talk with Rev. Miranda.

Books Needed for Little Library! With warmer weather many more people are stopping by for a new “read” and we in need of 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!

GENERAL CONVENTION…

Bishop Michael Bruce Curry from North Carolina Elected 27th Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church! On June 27, 2015, The Rt. Rev. Michael Bruce Curry, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina, was elected the 27th Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church on the first ballot. Bishop Curry, 62, is the first African-American to be elected Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church. The election occurred during the 78th General Convention of The Episcopal Church. Of the 174 votes tallied, Bishop Curry received 121 (89 needed to elect). Following his election by the House of Bishops, Bishop Curry’s election was overwhelmingly confirmed by the House of Deputies, 800 for, 12 against. Bishop Curry was ordained Bishop of North Carolina on June 17, 2000.

 
THE WEEKS AHEAD…

Outreach Committee Meeting, Saturday, July 11, 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.

Post-General Convention Information Session, Wednesday, July 15, 6:30pm at St. Dunstan’s: Come and learn about the actions and decisions of the General Convention.

Men’s Book Club, Saturday, July 18, 10am at St. Dunstan’s: “Masters and Commanders: How Four Titans Won the War in the West, 1941-1945” by Andrew Roberts. This is an epic joint biography of four titanic figures – a President, a Prime Minister, and two Generals, who shaped the grand strategy of the Allies during World War II. Great read. Have fun!

Ladies’ Night Out, Friday, July 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 the Nile at 6119 Odana Road in Madison.

SUMMER OPPORTUNITIES…

Summer Evening Worship, Thursdays at 5:30pm: Our Thursday evening “Sandbox Worship” will take place outdoors whenever the weather permits. Come at 5:30pm for a shared meal (provided), simple evening worship, and then hanging out around a fire for conversation and s’mores. “Summer Sandbox” will begin on June 18. All ages are welcome.

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.

Women’s Mini Week 2015: Mini Week will be August 13 to August 16, at Camp Lakotah in Wautoma, Wisconsin. This year’s theme is “Surprised by Joy!” For registration materials and to answer questions, visit the website: www.womensminiweek.org.  More information and registration forms are in the Gathering Area.