Kids’ sermon, August 30

We just heard a beautiful poem, full of wonderful images, like lilies and doves and flowers and apple trees. It is called the Song of Solomon because it talks about King Solomon, David’s son. People who study the Bible think it was written much later, and just used King Solomon as a character in the poem.

This is a poem about love.But not just any kind of love.This is a romantic poem. It’s the words of two people very much in love, in the spring, getting ready for their wedding. Two people who want to be as close to each other as possible. (I know; gross, right?)

In English, the language we use,there is just one word for love. That’s it: love. I saw a cartoon once where a lady got madbecause her husband said “I love lobster” and then he said, “I love you.” You could say, I love my mom, and I love gummi bears. But do you feel the same way about your mom and gummi bears? Not really!

In the language called Greek, which some of the Bible was written in, they had different words for different kinds of love .Eros is like boyfriend/girlfriend love, romantic love. Storge is like the love in a family. Philio is like the love we feel for our friends. Agape is like the love we have in a community or a team or a group of people that know each other and take care of each other. The kind of love where you share happy times and hard times, and where you try to help somebody even when it’s hard. This is the kind of love that Jesus tells us to have for each other. I don’t know what word the Greeks would use for how people feel about lobster or gummi bears! …

Okay, so coming back to this love poem we just heard. Why are we reading a love poem in church? Well, because it’s in the Bible. So why is a love poem in the Bible? A lot of people have asked that question, over the years. Some people have felt like it just doesn’t really belong here.It’s about romance… and some of it is pretty kissy-kissy… reading it might make people think about things other than God… so let’s just skip that part of the Bible. And certainly don’t read it to the children!

Other people have said, What is wrong with you? This isn’t a poem about romance at all. It’s a poem about the love between God and God’s people. The sweet, tender adoration that God has for us. And if you see something kissy-kissy there, that’s your issue.

I wonder if we can say that it’s kind of both? It’s kind of about the romantic love of two people, and also about the tender love God feels for us? I wonder if all kinds of love -Eros and Storge and Philia and Agape – I wonder if all those kinds of love, deep down, are really the same love?

At least, I wonder if all the good kinds of love we feel are really the same love, deep down. Because sometimes we get attached to things that aren’t really good for us, but it might feel like love. One word we use for that is addiction.That’s when you want something all the time, and it feels really important to you, like you need it to be yourself, and it feels like you love it; but the thing you’re attached to is unhealthy for you. Or at least it’s not truly adding anything to your life, it’s just taking your time and energy without building you up. The best example for kids might be computer or video games. Maybe you’ve felt a little bit addicted yourself, or you have a friend who’s kind of addicted. For grownups it might be cigarettes or alcohol or online shopping, or even a person who’s really exciting but who does hurtful things. People can get addicted to lots of things.

So not everything that feels like love, is good for us. Real love does good things in our hearts and minds and lives. And that’s true whether it’s the love of a friend, or a parent, or a pet, or a teacher, or a girlfriend/boyfriend someday. Real love doesn’t always feel good every minute. Sometimes we hurt each other, or we feel sad when someone we love leaves or gets sick. And sometimes we have to tell people we love something that they don’t want to hear. Like, come do your homework! …

But even if it doesn’t feel good all the time, real love is good, and we need it. Let me tell you a story about King Solomon, because it is also a story about love. Remember, King Solomon was King David’s son, and he was famous for being very, very wise. This is one of the stories that people told about how wise he was.

There were two women, sisters, who both had new babies. And one of the babies died. Very sad! So now there was only one baby, but both mothers said that that baby was theirs. The babies looked alike so nobody could tell for sure, and both women said, This is my baby. So they argued and argued, and finally they took the baby to King Solomon the Wise. They said, How can we solve this?

And King Solomon thought about it, and then he said, All right, I know what to do. We have to cut the baby in half. Each of you can have half of the baby. Was that a good solution?…

It doesn’t sound like a good solution, does it? But let me tell you what happened. One of the mothers said, All right, fine, that seems fair. But the other mother said, NO! Don’t hurt the child! She can have him. Just – let him live.

And King Solomon said, Let the baby go to this woman. She is the baby’s mother. He saw that she truly loved her baby. The other woman was so broken by her sadness and jealousy that she didn’t care what happened. But this woman loved the baby with such big, deep, strong love that she would rather let the baby go with somebody else than be hurt. (Now do you think King Solomon was wise?)

So that’s real love! And all that kind of love comes from God. That’s what we mean when we say that God is love. Have you heard people say that? God is love? The woman who draws the Sunday Papers is named Gretchen. And the way she draws God – it’s hard to draw God, nobody knows what God looks like! – so the way Gretchen draws God is as a heart with hands. Love that reaches out to us and touches the world, and our lives.

What do you think about that idea? That the love in your family, the love of your pet, the love you share with your closest friends, the love you feel for a special place like a lake or woods, the love you feel for doing something you’re really good at, all of that real, good love is holy? Comes from God? That it’s one of the ways God is in our lives, every day?

I’m going to give you all some hearts. I want to notice love in your life today, okay?Notice where there is love in your life. Put a heart on it if it’s a thing, or if it’s a person you could give them a heart. And say in your heart, Thank you, God! Thank for all the love in my life!

Announcements, August 27

SUNDAY…

Last Sunday Worship & Blessing of Backpacks, 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 a word that is both big and small: Love. Bring your backpack (or, for older students, your briefcase or laptop or …) and we will bless them as we begin a new academic year. Note: Our 8am service always follows our regular order of worship.

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

We are mapping our congregation! Knowing who else from the St. Dunstan’s community lives or works nearby might make it easier to: 1) provide care when someone’s going through a hard time, 2) meet up for fellowship or study, 3) engage together with issues in our neighborhoods. We hope everyone will participate, even if you’re new or don’t attend regularly. “And the Word of God became flesh and moved into the neighborhood.” John 1:14

THE WEEKS AHEAD…

Lammastide Festival of Bread, Sunday, September 6: Lammastide is an ancient harvest festival that became a church festival in our mother church, the Church of England. It’s an opportunity to offer the fruits of the growing season thankfully to God. The word means “loaf mass”; it was originally held at the time of year when the first grain ripened enough to be made into fresh loaves of bread. We will celebrate the end of summer together with a Lammastide procession; themes of bread, food, welcome, and justice in our music, Scriptures, and sermon; and a festive bread-themed Coffee Hour. If you are a baker, you are invited to bring a loaf of bread – any kind! If you are a gardener or a farmer’s market shopper, you are invited to bring something beautiful from God’s Creation to contribute to our decorations – a handsome squash, an ear of decorative corn, flowers, colorful chard. You are welcome to reclaim your produce after worship.

Birthdays & Anniversaries will be honored next Sunday, September 6, 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, September 6: 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, September 6: 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 current top ten items needed: sugar, cooking oil, fruit cocktail, canned peaches, canned turkey or chicken, cereal, jelly, diapers sizes 4, 5 and 6, laundry detergent, toothbrushes/toothpaste. They are always in need of quality bedding items such as comforters, sheets, blankets and towels, too. Thank you for your generosity.

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

 Madison-Area Julian Gathering, Wednesday, September 9, 7:15-9:00pm: Julian of Norwich: 14th Century feminist? 14th Century heretic? No, although a reader might at first think so. 14th Century psychologist? Sort of . . . she understood the human heart and, through her sixteen revelations of Jesus, she understood the heart of God. Thomas Merton called her “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. 

Men’s Book Club, Saturday, September 12, 10am at St. Dunstan’s: This month the book is a mystery, The Bartender’s Tale by Ivan Doig. The action takes place in a bar called the Medicine Lodge in northern Montana, run by Tom Harry and his son, Rusty. Enter a woman from the past and her daughter and things begin to happen.

Education for Ministry Grads Invited Back!! The new EfM curriculum was put into use in 2013, and EfM participants are enthusiastic about the scholarship, relevance, and scope of the new program. We are offering a scholarship of $100 off the yearly regular price of $350 to EfM grads who would be interested in repeating any year with the new materials. There are two scholarships available at this time.

“What Am I Doing Here?” A Class For Those New to the Episcopal Church, Sundays at 9am, Sept. 13, 20, and 27. Join us for an exploration of the parts and purpose of our pattern of worship. Please pick up a copy of the book (“What Am I Doing Here?” – it’s small and blue) in the Gathering Area, and if possible, read Chapters 1 & 2 before our first session on Sept. 13. It’s an easy read and it has cartoons! Questions? Talk with Rev. Miranda or email her at revmiranda@stdunstans.com .

LOOKING AHEAD….

Diocesan Convention, Saturday, October 17, 8am – 4:30pm at St. John’s Northwestern Military Academy in Delafield, Wisconsin:  All are welcome to attend all or part of the convention! The morning will be devoted to worship and a presentation focused on taking our Church into the wider community.  The afternoon session will be the ‘business’ session. Visitors are asked to register but there is no charge unless you want to have meals at the convention. To register, fill out and mail in the form located in the Gathering Area or you can register at the convention between 8 and 9am. Also of note, travel-size personal hygiene items will be collected at Convention, to be given out through hospitality ministries around the diocese. For more information on the convention, go to http://www.diomil.org/about-us/diocesan-convention/.

 Mark your calendar! Crop Walk 2015, Sunday, October 18: St. Dunstan’s will send a team of walkers; watch for a signup soon. CROP Walk 2014 funds have been distributed to 36 pantries across Dane County through Second Harvest. About $40,000 was raised, $10,000 of that stayed in our communities and the remaining helped to alleviate hunger world-wide.

Announcements, August 20

SUNDAY AND THE WEEK AHEAD…

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

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

We are mapping our congregation! Knowing who else from the St. Dunstan’s community lives or works nearby might make it easier to: 1) provide care when someone’s going through a hard time, 2) meet up for fellowship or study, 3) engage together with issues in our neighborhoods. We hope everyone will participate, even if you’re new or don’t attend regularly. “And the Word of God became flesh and moved into the neighborhood.” John 1:14

Ladies’ Night Out, Friday, August 28, 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 Claddagh, 1611 Aspen Commons in Middleton.

Outreach Meeting, August 29, 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.

 Last Sunday Worship & Blessing of Backpacks, Sunday, August 30, 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 a word that is both big and small: Love. Bring your backpack (or, for older students, your briefcase or laptop or …) and we will bless them as we begin a new academic year. Note: Our 8am service always follows our regular order of worship.

THE WEEKS AHEAD…

Education for Ministry Grads Invited Back!! The new EfM curriculum was put into use in 2013, and EfM participants are enthusiastic about the scholarship, relevance, and scope of the new program. We are offering a scholarship of $100 off the yearly regular price of $350 to EfM grads who would be interested in repeating any year with the new materials. There are two scholarships available at this time.

Lammastide Festival of Bread, Sunday, September 6: Lammastide is an ancient harvest festival that became a church festival in our mother church, the Church of England. It’s an opportunity to offer the fruits of the growing season thankfully to God. The word means “loaf mass”; it was originally held at the time of year when the first grain ripened enough to be made into fresh loaves of bread. We will celebrate the end of summer together with a Lammastide procession; themes of bread, food, welcome, and justice in our music, Scriptures, and sermon; and a festive bread-themed Coffee Hour. If you are a baker, you are invited to bring a loaf of bread – any kind! If you are a gardener or a farmer’s market shopper, you are invited to bring something beautiful from God’s Creation to contribute to our decorations – a handsome squash, an ear of decorative corn, flowers, colorful chard. You are welcome to reclaim your produce after worship.

Madison-Area Julian Gathering, Wednesday, September 9, 7:15-9:00pm: Julian of Norwich: 14th Century feminist? 14th Century heretic? No, although a reader might at first think so. 14th Century psychologist? Sort of . . . she understood the human heart and, through her sixteen revelations of Jesus, she understood the heart of God. Thomas Merton called her “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.

Men’s Book Club, Saturday, September 12, 10am at St. Dunstan’s: This month the book is a mystery, The Bartender’s Tale by Ivan Doig. The action takes place in a bar called the Medicine Lodge in northern Montana, run by Tom Harry and his son, Rusty. Enter a woman from the past and her daughter and things begin to happen.

“What Am I Doing Here?” A Class For Those New to the Episcopal Church, Sundays at 9am, Sept. 13, 20, and 27. Join us for an exploration of the parts and purpose of our pattern of worship. Please pick up a copy of the book (“What Am I Doing Here?” – it’s small and blue) in the Gathering Area, and if possible, read Chapters 1 & 2 before our first session on Sept. 13. It’s an easy read and it has cartoons! Questions? Talk with Rev. Miranda at (608) 238-2781.

LOOKING AHEAD….

Diocesan Convention, Saturday, October 17: This year’s Diocesan Convention will be held at St. John’s Northwestern Military Academy in Delafield, WI. A number of resolutions inviting our Diocese into engagement with some of the big issues of our General Convention this summer will be addressed. Mark your calendar if you would like to attend.

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!

IN THE COMMUNITY…

Lotsa Loot Rummage & Bake Sale, Friday, August 28 and Saturday, August 29, 8am – 3pm both days at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, 4011 Major Ave., Madison: Come enjoy reasonably priced goods in a broad selection of donated items and also two large book collections, one of mysteries and one of politics. Proceeds go to support such efforts as: Porchlight, Salvation ARMY, St. Stephen’s Food Pantry, a motorcycle for a Tanzanian priest, and a donation for rebuilding black churches burned by arson. Thanks so much for your support of St. Luke’s.

Announcements, August 13

TODAY & THE WEEK 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.

 Rector’s Discretionary Fund Offering, Sunday, August 16: 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.

Information Sessions on Education for Ministry, Fall 2015 Enrollment, Sunday, August 16 at noon and Monday, August 17, 7-8pm at St. Dunstan’s: Education for Ministry (EfM) is a four-year distance learning certificate program in theological education based upon small-group study and practice. EfM groups meet weekly from September through May with a trained mentor. Members sign up for one year at a time (a continuous four-year commitment is not required). Groups at St. Dunstan’s are tentatively scheduled to meet Monday evenings and Thursday mornings.

Evening Eucharist Dates in August: Our Sunday Evening Eucharist will NOT take place on Aug. 2 or 16. We WILL have an Evening Eucharist on Sunday, August 23, at 6pm. Sorry for any inconvenience!

THE WEEKS AHEAD…

Education for Ministry Grads Invited Back!! The new EfM curriculum was put into use in 2013, and EfM participants are enthusiastic about the scholarship, relevance, and scope of the new program. We are offering a scholarship of $100 off the yearly regular price of $350 to EfM grads who would be interested in repeating any year with the new materials. There are two scholarships available at this time.

Vestry Meeting, Wednesday, August 19, 6:45pm: The Vestry is the elected leadership body of our parish. Any members are welcome to attend our meetings, to observe or raise questions or ideas.

Grace Shelter Dinner, Sunday, August 23, 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.

Ladies’ Night Out, Friday, August 28, 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 Claddagh, 1611 Aspen Commons in Middleton.

Outreach Meeting, August 29, 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. Optional potluck breakfast, 8am.

Lammastide Festival of Bread, Sunday, September 6: Lammastide is an ancient harvest festival that became a church festival in our mother church, the Church of England. It’s an opportunity to offer the fruits of the growing season thankfully to God. The word means “loaf mass”; it was originally held at the time of year when the first grain ripened enough to be made into fresh loaves of bread. We will celebrate the end of summer together with a Lammastide procession; themes of bread, food, welcome, and justice in our music, Scriptures, and sermon; and a festive bread-themed Coffee Hour. If you are a baker, you are invited to bring a loaf of bread – any kind! If you are a gardener or a farmer’s market shopper, you are invited to bring something beautiful from God’s Creation to contribute to our decorations – a handsome squash, an ear of decorative corn, flowers, colorful chard. You are welcome to reclaim your produce after worship.

Men’s Book Club, Saturday, September 12, 10am at St. Dunstan’s: This month the book is a mystery, The Bartender’s Tale by Ivan Doig. The action takes place in a bar called the Medicine Lodge in northern Montana, run by Tom Harry and his son, Rusty. Enter a woman from the past and her daughter and things begin to happen.

PARISH & COMMUNITY OPPORTUNITIES…

Lotsa Loot Rummage & Bake Sale, Friday, August 28 and Saturday, August 29, 8am – 3pm both days at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, 4011 Major Ave., Madison: Come enjoy reasonably priced goods in a broad selection of donated items and also two large book collections, one of mysteries and one of politics. Proceeds go to support such efforts as: Porchlight, Salvation ARMY, St. Stephen’s Food Pantry, a motorcycle for a Tanzanian priest, and a donation for rebuilding black churches burned by arson. Thanks so much for your support of St. Luke’s.

Diocesan Convention, Saturday, October 17: This year’s Diocesan Convention will be held at St. John’s Northwestern Military Academy in Delafield, WI. A number of resolutions inviting our Diocese into engagement with some of the big issues of our General Convention this summer will be addressed. Mark your calendar if you would like to attend.

 Mark your calendar! Crop Walk 2015, Sunday, October 18: More information will be coming. CROP Walk 2014 funds have been distributed to 36 pantries across Dane County through Second Harvest. About $40,000 was raised, $10,000 of that stayed in our communities and the remaining helped to alleviate hunger world-wide.

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!

 

Hoops for Housing: Success!

Thanks to all the volunteers, donors, and participants in Saturday’s Hoops for Housing basketball tournament and kids’ fair at Westmoreland Park! We had a great time and raised over $2000 for Briarpatch Youth Services, which serves the needs of homeless teens in Dane County.  Biggest thanks go to the 11-year-old member of our congregation who brought us this idea, told us why it mattered, and led us all along the way to this great event.

Sermon, August 9

Almighty and everlasting God, who didst enkindle the flame of thy love in the heart of thy holy martyr Jonathan: Grant to us, thy humble servants, a like faith and power of love, that we who rejoice in his triumph may profit by his example; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

One of the interesting questions I get, now and then, from folks who have come to the Episcopal Church from other traditions, is: How do y’all handle the matter of saints? As a church, we have a calendar of commemorations, people to honor on particular days of the church year. And at St. Dunstan’s, we’ve got our little wall of holy people, back there overlooking the baptismal font; our iconostasis, the name they use in the Orthodox churches. In a couple of months we’ll celebrate All Saints’ Day, one of the great feasts of the Christian year. So clearly we have some practice of honoring saints, more so than most Protestant churches. But the definition of a saint, what makes somebody a saint, is nowhere near as clear as it is, for example, for our Roman Catholic brothers and sisters.

We Episcopalians and Anglicans tend to live with, and in, the tension between the two ancient definitions of sainthood. The one we see in the New Testament, which uses “saints” to mean the whole fellowship of believers, called and holy. And the one that evolved in the early centuries of the church, which uses “saints” to mean those special individuals whose lives and often deaths bore witness in a particular way to their faith, virtue, and courage. Our church’s Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music, the body that oversees our calendar of commemorations, has been wrestling with this conundrum for several years, trying to find a clear and theologically-grounded way to explain why we name and set apart certain people for remembrance, while we still affirm that every Christian life can and should show forth the love of God in Christ Jesus. The Commission’s solution is to hold up the idea of witness. That the people we hold up and honor are people who demonstrated, lived out, witnessed to their faith, in a way worth honoring and remembering. In a way that may inspire us as we strive to live our faith in the face of today’s challenges.

The introduction to our latest volume of commemorations, called “A Great Cloud of Witnesses,” says, “Following the broad stream of Christian tradition, there are no formal criteria for defining saints. Rather, sanctity is celebrated locally by a decision that [certain] individuals… shine forth Christ to the world… As illustrations, they mirror the myriad virtues of Christ, in order that, in their examples, we might recognize those same virtues and features of holiness in people closer to our own times and stations and neighborhoods. And, seeing them in those around us, we may be more able to cultivate these virtues and forms of holiness—through grace—as we strive to imitate Christ as well.”

Today I’ve got a new picture to add to our wall, our iconostasis. (No, it’s not Art Lloyd, though it’s a kindred spirit.) This is Jonathan Myrick Daniels – known to his friends as Jon. He died fifty years ago this month, on August 20, 1965. His feast day on our calendar is August 14, the date of his arrest. Jon was born in 1939 in Keene, New Hampshire. He became Episcopalian as a young man, after struggling with faith in his teens. He attended the Virginia Military Institute, where he was valedictorian of his graduating class in 1961. He received a fellowship to study English literature at Harvard, but he discerned a call to ordained ministry and left Harvard to study at my alma mater, the Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Massachusetts, then known as ETS.

In 1965, Jon Daniels was 26, and America was torn by a deepening struggle over civil rights. In March of ’65, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. called for people to come to Alabama to help, to stand with African-Americans in their fight for freedom. Who went to see the movie Selma, earlier this year? On March 7, civil rights activists had tried to march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, as the first step of a march to state capitol in Montgomery to highlight the disenfranchisement of African American voters. As you may have seen in the movie – or, for some of you, on the news, fifty years ago -the marchers were beaten back by so-called law enforcement. King’s call was for allies, black and especially white, to join the marchers for a second attempt.

Dr. King’s call was much-discussed at ETS. One day at Evening Prayer in St. John’s Chapel – where today there hangs an icon of Jon Daniels, surrounded by other martyrs of the world’s long struggle for freedom and equality – during Evening Prayer, Jon heard the Magnificat, Mary’s prayer of joy and hope. And it spoke to his heart in a new way, a transformative way. He wrote later: “As the lovely hymn of the God-bearer continued, I found myself peculiarly alert, suddenly straining toward the decisive, luminous, Spirit-filled “moment”… Then it came. ‘He hath put down the mighty from their seat, and hath exalted the humble and meek…’ I knew then that I must go to Selma.”

Jon joined a group of other ETS students on a weekend trip to Alabama, to help with community organizing work there. But Jon missed the bus home – and took that as a sign that he should stay longer. His friend Judith Upham, who took this photo of Jon, back at ETS, wrote later about how they spent their time: “After the march, Jon and I just hung around, doing what we could to help.” If a demonstration needed marchers, they marched. They helped students complete college applications, played with children, helped voter-registration efforts, visited schools. They attended the local Episcopal church every Sunday and spent about an hour each week lobbying the rector to act, without success. Upham says, “He was too steeped in the ways of the South, and he had his job to consider.” Upham concluded, “We were in our 20s, young and naïve, assuming that if people knew the right thing to do, they would do it.” It also was, she said, “one of the few times in my life I was 100 percent positive that I was doing what God wanted me to do. If it cost me my life, that was all right. After all, there are worse things than death.”

On Aug 13, 1965, Jon Daniels, with about 30 others, went to Ft. Deposit, AL, a small rural town, to picket segregated businesses. On Aug 14, they were all arrested, and taken to the nearby Hainesville jail. They were held for 6 days. On August 20, they were released with no warning – meaning there was no ally ready to pick them up and take them to safer territory. Friends have described it as a set-up. It was a hot bright day, 100 degrees, and a sense of danger hung heavy around. A small group – Jon Daniels, a white Roman Catholic priest, and two black protesters – approached a small store, hoping to buy a cold drink. They were met at the door by Tom Coleman, an unofficial sheriff’s deputy, wielding a shotgun. Words were exchanged. He threatened them, then pointed the gun at one of the black protesters, a young woman named Ruby Sales. Jon Daniels stepped between Ruby and the gun. Coleman fired. And on a dusty road in Hainesville, Alabama, Jon Daniels gave his life for a friend, for the world, for Christ.

Jesus says, The bread that I give for the life of the world is my flesh.

The author of the letter to the Ephesians says, Be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

In the weeks before his death, Jon Daniels wrote, “I lost fear… when I began to know in my Bones and sinews that I had been truly baptized into the Lord’s death and Resurrection, that in the only sense that really matters I am already dead, and my life is hid with Christ in God.”

The shooter, Coleman, got off on self-defense, through an absurd claim that Daniels had pulled a knife. But Jon’s death drew national attention to the protests. In particular, it mobilized the Episcopal Church to engage the civil rights movement, to take seriously the struggle for freedom and justice, and join God’s work by supporting that struggle. Jonathan Daniels is still remembered and honored for having shown the church where to stand – as close as possible to those facing unjust oppression. Judith Upham said later, “I know that Jon’s legacy made a huge difference in theological education,… in terms of how do we practice what we say we believe.”

Why honor, why remember Jon Daniels? There are a lot of names on our calendar of witnesses. Most of them don’t get a Sunday sermon, in this church or any church. Jon Daniels became an important witness for me for various reasons – a fellow alumnus of my seminary, and a child of New Hampshire, where I served for three years. But I think there are good reasons to hold up his witness. Not just because Miranda likes him, but because his story indeed speaks to the ongoing struggles of our time and place.

I preached about Jon three years ago, in 2012. It was interesting looking back at that sermon. I alluded to the ongoing existence of racial inequity, but my only concrete example was the shootings at the Sikh temple. We continue to see the murder of those who seem racially or ethnically other, around our country. But since 2012 we have also become much more keenly aware of the real and lasting and life-compromising forms that structural racism takes right here, in our beautiful, beloved Madison.

The Race to Equity report, released in 2013, showed us a stunning reality. The United States has some of the worst racial disparities in the world, measured in things like differences in arrest and incarceration rates and educational outcomes across racial groups. Wisconsin has some of the worst disparities in the nation; and Madison has some of the worst disparities in the state. What that means, friends, is that by some measures, Madison has one of the biggest gaps in wellbeing, opportunity, and quality of life between racial groups, and especially between whites and blacks, of anyplace in the world.

And it’s not just that communities of color here fare about the same as communities of color elsewhere, and that the gulf exists because Madison is such a great place for white people. No. The data show that Madison is an actively bad place to be African-American. Jobless rates, poverty rates, and other measures of wellbeing for African-Americans in Dane County are all markedly worse than national averages for the same population.

I know that it continues to be uncomfortable, for some of you, to hear these issues held up in a sermon, as demanding Christian engagement and response. I truly honor that each of us has to work out for ourselves where the rubber of the Gospel gets traction on the roads of our lives, and when, where, and how we’re called to live out the faith we claim. At the same time, the many discomforts that the issues of racial equity stir up for us may be discomforts with which we need to get comfortable. Because racial inequality and systemic racism have been identified by our denomination and diocese as matters of urgency for our common life as followers of Jesus.

Our General Convention, our church’s legislative gathering, which met earlier this summer, passed a resolution [A182] that acknowledged that many Episcopalians find it challenging to understand or know how to respond to systemic racial injustices; that affirmed that the Gospel, our Baptismal Covenant, and the Five Marks of Marks of Mission call the Church and its members at every level to find more effective and productive ways to respond to racial injustice as we love our neighbors as ourselves, respect the dignity of every human being, and seek to transform unjust structures of society; that directs the Church at every level to commit to further study, teaching, training, and shared prayer and practice that specifically addresses racial injustice; and urges the Church at every level to increased engagement with civic conversations about racial injustice. Our Convention also committed two million dollars to this work, over the next three years.

I do believe, wholeheartedly, that this is one of the great projects – possibly THE great project – that God has for God’s churches in this nation, in this time: striving for more fairness and flourishing for all God’s children, and especially for African-Americans, who have struggled under the burden of racism in its many forms for so long. I also believe, wholeheartedly, that not everybody here is called into that work; and that even for those who are, there are many ways and levels at which to engage. A life like Jon Daniels’ draws our eyes and minds and hearts to the urgency and depth of the matter; it doesn’t lay out a course to follow or a model against which to measure ourselves. Being called into engagement with the corporate sin of structural racism doesn’t mean being called to take a bullet.

And here I’d like to circle back around to the ambiguity of sainthood. Earlier I named two types of saints: ordinary saints like all of us, claimed and called by God to live out holiness in our own simple and humble ways; and extraordinary saints like Daniels, who lived and died publicly, powerfully, prophetically, as witnesses to the love and mercy and justice of God. It turns out that the line between those kinds of saints, those definitions of sainthood, that line is much finer than it seems, once we’ve packaged up those extraordinary lives and put them in the pages of a book.

Jon wrote a lot, during his time in Alabama. About what he was doing and thinking and feeling. And his journals reveal a young man who was both extraordinary and ordinary. Who found the work of following the Gospel sometimes exciting and sometimes boring; sometimes clear-cut and sometimes messy; sometimes joyful and sometimes heartbreaking; sometimes remarkable and sometimes trivial.

Listen to Jon’s own words about the ambiguity and necessity of sainthood… “There are good [people] here, just as there are bad [people]. There are competent leaders and a bungler here and there. We have activists who risk their lives to confront a people with the challenge of freedom, and a nation with its conscience. We have neutralists who cautiously seek to calm troubled waters. We have [people] about the work of reconciliation who are willing to reflect upon the cost and pay it. Perhaps at one time or another, the two of us are all of these. Sometimes we take to the streets, sometimes we yawn through interminable meetings, sometimes we talk with [other white folks] in their homes and offices… sometimes we confront the posse, and sometimes we hold a child. Sometimes we stand with men who have learned to hate, and sometime we must stand a little apart from them. Our lives in Selma are filled with ambiguity. We are beginning to see the world as we never saw it before. We are truly in the world, and yet ultimately not of it. For through the bramble bush of doubt and fear and supposed success we are groping our way to the realization that above all else, we are called to be saints. That is the mission of the Church everywhere. And in this, Selma, Alabama, [and Madison, Wisconsin] is like all the world: it needs the life and witness of militant Saints.”

When Jon delivered the valedictory speech at the Virginia Military Institute in 1961, an official introduced him, saying, “This young man has not only been outstanding as a member of the cadet corps, he is an outstanding man, and you will hear of him later on, as the years go on.” Jon ended his speech with a few words for his classmates that I’d like to claim, and offer, as his words to us. He said, “My colleagues and friends, I wish you the joy of a purposeful life. I wish you the decency and the integrity of which you are capable. I wish you new worlds and the vision to see them.”

Let us pray.

O God of justice and compassion, you put down the proud and mighty from their place, and lift up the poor and the afflicted: we give you thanks for your faithful witness Jonathan Myrick Daniels, who, in the midst of injustice and violence, risked and gave his life for another; and we pray that we, following his example, may make no peace with oppression, and may live with purpose, decency, and integrity, striving to bring into being the new world of God’s justice and mercy; through Jesus Christ the just one, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Sources:

A detailed account of Jon’s arrest and death 

The Race to Equity report

Judith Upham shares some memories

A collection of Jon’s writings from his time in Alabama

Jon’s valedictory speech

Announcements, August 6

SUNDAY & THE WEEK AHEAD…

Last Between Church, Sunday, 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 this 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!

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.

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!

Rector’s Discretionary Fund Offering, Sunday, August 16: 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.

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.

Education for Ministry Begins Enrollment for Fall 2015: Education for Ministry (EfM) is a four-year distance learning certificate program in theological education based upon small-group study and practice. EfM groups meet weekly from September through May with a trained mentor. Members sign up for one year at a time (a continuous four-year commitment is not required). Groups at St. Dunstan’s are tentatively scheduled to meet Monday evenings and Thursday mornings. Information sessions for those interested are being offered at St. Dunstan’s Episcopal Church on Sunday, August 16 at noon and Monday evening, August 17 from 7-8.

Education for Ministry Grads Invited Back!! The new EfM curriculum was put into use in 2013, and EfM participants are enthusiastic about the scholarship, relevance, and scope of the new program. We are offering a scholarship of $100 off the yearly regular price of $350 to EfM grads who would be interested in repeating any year with the new materials. There are two scholarships available at this time.

Vestry Meeting, Wednesday, August 19, 6:45pm: The Vestry is the elected leadership body of our parish. Any members are welcome to attend our meetings, to observe or raise questions or ideas.

Outreach Meeting, August 29, 8-10:30am: All are welcome to join our conversations about how St. Dunstan’s can best serve the world with our resources and hands. We begin with an optional potluck breakfast at 8am.

PARISH & COMMUNITY OPPORTUNITIES…

Diocesan Convention, Saturday, October 17: This year’s Diocesan Convention will be held at St. John’s Northwestern Military Academy in Delafield, WI. A number of resolutions inviting our Diocese into engagement with some of the big issues of our General Convention this summer will be addressed. Mark your calendar if you would like to attend.

 

Sermon, August 2

Today at 5:30pm we begin our Evening Church Camp! We expect around 25 kids from St. Dunstan’s and beyond. The theme of our Church Camp this year is “Message Received: Hearing God’s Call.” And we will work with five wonderful stories from the Old and New Testaments, about people who received a call from God, and how they responded. For some reason, the story of David, Bathsheba, and Nathan isn’t on the list. Even though God definitely had a message for David, and David received it…

We were meant to have the first half of this story last week, but I took the liberty of skipping it then, and adding it to today’s lesson. It makes for a long reading, but certainly not a boring one. The story hangs together better when you hear it in one piece, and besides… I really could not figure out how to preach a children’s sermon on this story. Some concepts need to be explained by a parent…! Like adultery and premeditated homicide.

It’s not a particularly pleasant story, and at first glance it’s not perhaps particularly edifying. In reflecting on it together today, I’d like to look at Nathan, the prophet. His voice and his role. The great prophet Samuel has died; Nathan follows him as the prophet who speaks God’s words, welcome and often unwelcome, to the King.

Nathan’s words to the King on this occasion are certainly unwelcome. We don’t know exactly how the word of God came to Nathan on this occasion. Perhaps it came in a vivid dream, as it had before. Perhaps he simply heard the chatter on the street about this nasty business with Uriah’s wife, and his righteous anger boiled up within him, the spirit of God driving him to the palace to confront the king.

He surely knew the risks. David could easily have had him thrown in prison, or quietly killed. Remember King Herod summarily executing John the Baptist, a thousand years later and three weeks ago in the lectionary? How easy for David, powerful and successful, having once turned from righteousness, to shrug off God’s words and follow the path of self-will. But as far as we know, Nathan doesn’t hesitate – or hesitates only long enough to figure out the best way to show the King his sin. Nathan goes to the king and tells him to his face: You. Are. That. Man.

The court history contained in the books of Samuel and Kings gives us three stories about the prophet Nathan; this is the second one. We had the first one as a lectionary text a few weeks ago. King David wanted to build a temple, a fancy house for God –  or rather for the Ark of the Covenant, a powerful symbol of God’s presence for the people Israel. Nathan says, Sounds great, God will like that, go for it.

But then Nathan receives God’s word that night:  “Tell David the King that it is not he who will build me a house, but I will build him a house. Now therefore thus you shall say to my servant David: Thus says the Lord of hosts: I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep, to be prince over my people Israel…”  Let’s just remind the King who’s steering this bus, shall we?… And Nathan carries that word to the King.

In that story Nathan speaks for God, simply conveying God’s message to the King. That’s the formal role of a prophet, the official definition: one who receives and speaks God’s word. But in today’s story, Nathan enlarges that role. Confronting David for his treatment of Bathsheba and Uriah, Nathan again speaks for God; but not just for God.

Nathan confronts David with the theft and rape of Bathsheba. And in doing so, he speaks for her. Bathsheba is voiceless and almost without agency, in this story. The only action she takes is to send that message letting David know that she is pregnant. Other than that, she is taken; she is sent home; and once Uriah is dead, she is taken again. Bathsheba’s consent, her yes or no to David, isn’t recorded – because it isn’t relevant. Women had little standing or voice to claim their own bodies. Consider: our society, even now, is still struggling to fully understand that in the hands of a powerful or influential man, a woman may appear to go along with things, yet still feel violated – and deserve our sympathy and outrage.

Nathan is outraged about Bathsheba. His parable casts her as the little lamb, sweet, innocent, beloved. And what happens to her at David’s hands is like a death. Like being slaughtered, and devoured.  An interesting side note: The third story of the prophet Nathan, found in the first chapters of the first Book of Kings, has Nathan working with and advocating for Bathsheba. King David is on his deathbed and his son Adonijah has decided he would make a great king, so he’s more or less declaring himself king, with a great banquet with all his friends and supporters. David had sworn that Solomon, Bathsheba’s second son, would be king. Nathan goes to Bathsheba and says, Listen, if this happens, if Adonijah claims the kingship, you and your son Solomon are as good as dead. And he strategizes with her to approach David and remind him of his oath to make Solomon his successor. Pressed by both Bathsheba and Nathan, David rallies to declare Solomon the next King and arranges to have him anointed and crowned.

The Biblical text is clear that God favored Solomon as King. (By the way, this is why, within the terms of the text, the baby had to die – David and Bathsheba’s first son. Solomon, King of Israel, couldn’t be illegitimate. He couldn’t be that baby.  If that detail makes you stop and wonder, don’t wonder what kind of God kills a baby for its parents’ sins. Wonder how long after David and Bathsheba’s wedding baby Solomon was really born.) So: The Biblical text is clear that God favored Solomon as King. But it doesn’t tell us that Nathan was acting on God’s prompting in approaching Bathsheba and working with her to ensure that Solomon is able to claim his throne. Nathan has just never forgotten, in all these years, how much David owes to Bathsheba. And that the promise of the throne to Solomon was compensation of a sort for Bathsheba’s struggles and losses.

So in today’s story Nathan speaks for God; Nathan speaks for Bathsheba. And Nathan speaks for Uriah – who has also been rendered voiceless by this time. Uriah, a strong man, an ethical man, a straightforward man.  I like Uriah; don’t you? Sleeping at the palace gates with the servants, because he just doesn’t feel right about enjoying the comforts of home while his comrades in arms sleep on the ground out at the front? Poor Uriah. And poor General Joab, forced to risk and sacrifice his men because of the lusts and fears of his king, the king who stayed home at his comfortable palace in Jerusalem instead of coming out to lead his troops as a king ought to do.

Uriah stands for all those – soldiers and civilians – whose senseless deaths testify to the selfishness and hard-heartedness of their leaders, of those who command them and determine their fates. Don’t mishear me; there are noble deaths on the battlefield, no question. But Uriah’s death is not noble. It is a shame and a disgrace. Joab’s bitterness shows us that plainly. And Nathan tells it like it is, telling David: You murdered this man. Sure, you used the sword of the enemy to do it; but the blood is on your hands.

Nathan speaks for God, for Bathsheba, for Uriah. And Nathan speaks for the people. He sees, or God sees, or both Nathan and God see, that this a watershed moment in David’s kingship. Waaaay back in 1 Samuel 8, when Israel was calling for a king, even before King Saul, the prophet Samuel warned the people what kings do. Kings take. They take your sons as guards and warriors. They take your daughters as servants and cooks and concubines. They take your wealth to arm their troops, decorate their palaces. They take the best of your crops and your flock, for their banquet tables and storehouses.They take the best of your land to give away to their courtiers. You will become no better than slaves to the power, ambition, and greed of this King you want so badly. And the people say, Fine, whatever. Give us a King.

Samuel’s prophecy is the mirror that Nathan holds up to David today. You have become a taker. You have become that kind of king. For all your piety and righteousness, you have set your foot on a very slippery slope. Nathan’s words to David tell him that he has wounded his relationship with God, AND his relationship with his own people. He is in real and imminent danger of becoming the kind of king whose authority has everything to do with power and fear, and nothing to do with righteous rule and divine call. He calls David back to the straight and narrow path, to being the kind of King David intends to be, wants to be, a king chosen by God, beloved of God, ruling for God.

Nathan the prophet steps up to the risk and responsibility of speaking truth to power. I used to have a bumper sticker that said that: Dare to speak truth to power. It’s the kind of bumper sticker you have in your twenties, or your seventies. I can’t think of many times when I’ve lived up to its challenge.

But Nathan: he’s the real thing. Speaking truth to the greatest human power of his time and place, with insight, courage and savvy.  Speaking for God,  and also for those who couldn’t speak for themselves: Bathsheba, silenced by her gender and status; Uriah, silenced by his murder; the people of the kingdom, who had no approval polls or votes  to convey their dismay or concern to their king.

The prophet Nathan is an icon of a very important concept  for us as people of comparative privilege – mostly white, mostly straight, mostly educated,  mostly middle class or above.  The prophet Nathan is an icon of allyship.  Of being an ally to those without voice, without power.

Canadian educator Anne Bishop defines being an ally this way:  “People acting as Allies work to support diverse groups in [the] community with which they may not necessarily identify as members… Allies are people who recognize the unearned privilege they receive from society’s patterns of injustice, and take responsibility for changing these patterns. Allies include men who work to end sexism, white people who work to end racism, heterosexual people who work to end heterosexism, able-bodied people who work to end ableism, and so on.” (Source) 

Nathan is an ally. He is a man of education and status. He holds an important, recognized and respected position. He has the ear of the King.  And he chooses – in this story – to use the advantages, the privileges of his position, to say some uncomfortable things on behalf of others.  On behalf of women, the victims of war, and the common people, all of whom – for various reasons –  had very limited scope to speak for themselves.

Being an ally often means helping to elevate the voices of those who are trying to speak their truth and their needs  in the public square, but aren’t getting heard. But it can mean speaking for those who really are voiceless,  because of their vulnerability or marginalization – like modern-day slaves, undocumented workers, refugees…

Being an ally means looking beyond the boundaries of our comfortable worlds and lives, and listening to voices we don’t usually hear,  sometimes voices that are uncomfortable to hear,  because they show us the dark side of our worlds and lives.  I’m sure it would have been easier and more comfortable for the prophet Nathan to just shrug this business off. Boys will be boys, kings will be kings. What can you do?

Being an ally means taking with utmost seriousness the Gospel’s mandate to see ourselves as brothers and sisters to people of all backgrounds and circumstances. To serve Christ, the Lord we love and follow, in our care for the excluded and the beaten-down.  In the words of one of our hymns, we sing and pray, “Save us from weak resignation to the evils we deplore.” In our Prayers of the People, we use the words  of another Biblical prophet, Jeremiah,  to ask God to help and inspire us to work and pray for the good of the city where we dwell, – the city, nation, world –  for only in its peace shall we find our peace.

Being an ally means noticing, caring, engaging.  Not with everything at once; there’s so much, I know that. But with something. As you are called.

Nathan heard his call from God. Message received.  He knew for whom, and to whom,  he was called to speak,  and what he needed to say.  David heard and received God’s message because Nathan first heard and received God’s call.   What call do you hear? Where is your care for a friend or family member, or the deep insistent tug of some struggle in our world,  calling you into allyship,  with a voice that might sound suspiciously like Jesus?

What’s your call?