Announcements, October 29

SUNDAY….

All Saints’ Day, 10am: We celebrate this holy day by remembering the faithful departed; renewing of our baptismal vows; and, at our 10am All-Ages Worship, with kids dressed as famous saints.

 “Holy Dying: Advance Planning from a Christian Perspective,” 9am: All are welcome to a conversation about end-of-life preparation from a spiritual and practical perspective.

Remembrance Station: Our Remembrance Station hangs in our nave for the month of November. Consider bringing in a copy of a photo, note, or other token of one of those whom you remember with love, as an extension of our All Saints commemorations. On Sunday, November 22, we will commend these faithful departed to Christ our King.

 Kids’ Pledge Drive: This Sunday, the kids of St. Dunstan’s are asked to make their pledges to the church – a pledge to participate, learn, wonder, make friends, help out, and grow as God’s people. We will also have Christmas ornaments made by the children of St. Dunstan’s available, for a suggested donation of $1 each, as the kids’ contribution to our fundraising this fall.

Healing Prayer, Birthday and Anniversary Blessings: As is our custom on the first Sunday of the month, one of our ministers will offer healing prayers for those who wish to receive prayers for themselves or on behalf of others. Also, birthdays and anniversaries will be honored. Come forward after the Announcements to receive a blessing and the community’s prayers.

MOM Special Offering: This 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. MOM is always in need of quality used bedding items and towels. Thank you for all your support!

Backpack Snack Prep, 11:30am: The people of St. Dunstan’s are invited to help prepare “Backpack Snack Packs” to help local school children from low-income households to have nutritious snacks available over the weekend, following the 10am service.

Webcast of the Installation of the Rt. Rev. Michael B. Curry as the 27th Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church, Sunday, Nov. 1, following the 10am service: We plan to turn on the livestream of the service in our Meeting Room, as soon as our own liturgy concludes.

The Rev. Sybil Robinson is a much-beloved elder of our parish, an Episcopal deacon, and a retired professor of theater and drama. Sybil has proclaimed the Gospel faithfully for us for many years, even at the age of ninety. However, shortness of breath and other difficulties sometimes make the longer Gospel passages a challenge for Sybil. Starting this month, Sybil will proclaim the Gospel when the text is relatively short, and Rev. Miranda will fill in on other occasions. Please thank Sybil for the blessing of her beautiful and well-trained voice, all these years!

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

HELP WANTED…

Help Feed the Students, Sunday, November 8: St. Dunstan’s is providing dinner for the St. Francis House community, our Episcopal chaplaincy, on Sunday the 8th. Sign up in the Gathering Area to help out! We are asked to provide food for up to 15 people, and we’re invited to attend worship with the students at 5pm. Rev. Miranda will be in touch to work out whether you want to drop off your food Sunday morning, or deliver it yourself. The students thank you!

Needed – Ushers for the 2nd Sunday and 5th Sunday in November: If you are able to help out with ushering on the 2nd or 5th Sunday this month, please let Pamela in the office know at (608) 238-2781. We are also looking for help on the 2nd Sundays from December through May (Dec. 13, Jan. 10, Feb. 14, Mar. 13, Apr 10 and May 8). If you can usher one or more of those Sundays, let us know. Thanks!

Black Friday Craft-In, Friday, November 28, 1 – 4pm, St. Dunstan’s Church: This year we’ll host our second annual Black Friday Craft-In, a free public crafting event. If you’ll be in town and would like to volunteer to help out, please sign up in the Gathering Area or email Rev. Miranda at office@stdunstans.com . We can use all kinds of volunteers – whether your skill is sewing, stamping, paper crafting, saying “Welcome!”, setting up tables, or putting cookies on plates.

THE WEEKS AHEAD….

Budget & Finances Listening Session, Sunday, November 8, 9am: Do you have questions or ideas about our parish’s finances or our Draft 2016 Budget? Come meet with the Rector, Treasurer, and other church leaders between services. All are welcome.

 Sunday School, Sunday, November 8, 10am: Next week, our 3-5 year old class will learn about the building of the first Temple, while the older class will explore the story of the generous widow.

Spirituality of Parenting Lunch, Sunday, November 8, 11:45am: All who seek meaning in the journey of parenthood (at any age or stage) are welcome to come for food and conversation. Child care and a simple meal provided.

Wednesday morning women’s book group, every Wednesday, 9:30 – 11am: Starting this Wednesday, October 28th, the group is starting a new book, recommended by Father David Couper, called “Between the World and Me” by Ta-Nehisi Coates. If you need a book, please contact the office at (608) 238-2781. Come and read along, enjoy snacks and lively conversation, that is sometimes even about the book!

 Annual Meeting of the St. Dunstan’s Episcopal Church Women, Sunday, November 8: St. Dunstan’s has a very loosely organized Episcopal Church Women group (“ECW”) which has an official 20 minute meeting once a year to plan a couple events. The agenda is quite simple – 1. Decide where to go for the annual “Day Away” for the women of the parish, involving lunch and a little shopping at a destination not far from the church. 2. Decide where to have the Epiphany Lunch, usually is on a Saturday close to January 6th. 3. Decide whether and how to use the ECW’s funds. Join us in the chapel after the service on Nov. 8th.

Piece Be with You! Please join us between services at 9:00am on November 22nd for a festive, all-parish brunch celebrating the ingathering of our prayers, hopes, and financial pledges for our parish life in the coming year. We will enjoy fellowship, delicious pies, quiches and other offerings. Please sign up to bring your favorite pie or quiche. Pre-cut pies with labeled pie servers would be much appreciated.  Thank you!

 

Sermon, Oct. 25

Alternate Epistle for the day: Hebrews 3:1 – 6

We are Christ’s house if we hold firm to the confidence and the pride that our hope gives us. (Hebrews 3:6)

In the name of God, who creates, befriends, and inspires. Amen.

I’m not performing in today’s talent show, so I thought I’d start my sermon with a joke. Like most religious jokes, this one is built on stereotypes, so apologies in advance if any are needed.

So: Word has just come down from NASA that a giant meteor is about to hit the earth. No escape is possible and few, if any, survivors are expected. It’s Friday and the meteor will strike on Monday.

In one town, there’s an ecumenical group of three clergy – Baptist, Roman Catholic, and Episcopalian – which has been meeting for years for Friday lunch. They decide to meet as usual. And they get talking about what they plan to preach about on Sunday, given the oncoming end of life on Earth as we know it.

The Baptist says, Well, I’m going to preach that it’s never too late to come to Jesus. Even in the last moment, even as the meteor hurtles to earth and your life flashes before your eyes, if you just turn to Jesus in your heart and repent of your sins and accept Him as your Savior and Lord, you will be safe in His arms. Though your body may die, you will have nothing to fear. That will be my message. What about you?

The Roman Catholic says, Well, I’m going to preach on the Sacraments and remind my people that, having been baptized into our Holy Mother Church and having faithfully received the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ in the Mass, and having confessed their sins and been absolved, they are assured of everlasting life in God and have nothing to fear from the meteor. What about you?

And the Episcopalian says, Well, I’ll probably just preach on whatever is in the lectionary.

I’m leading with that joke today because it’s true – we Episcopalians tend to be lectionary people. The lectionary is our three-year cycle of readings from the Bible for every Sunday. And for most Episcopal priests and preachers I know, it tends to be our starting point, even if we then turn to current events or theological quandaries. Usually what we read and reflect on together on Sunday is what the lectionary offers us.  Sometimes we only read two or three of the texts, instead of all four – Old Testament, Psalm, Epistle, and Gospel. Sometimes I shorten a text, to help us focus. Sometimes I lengthen a text, to give us more to sink our teeth into.

But this week, I messed with the lectionary. I swapped out the assigned text from the letter to the Hebrews, which was more of that letter’s long and detailed explanation of Jesus’ divine priesthood, for another passage from the same letter, which isn’t included in the lectionary cycle. I tweaked the lectionary because I wanted to tell you all about a word I discovered earlier this fall – or rather, a family of related words. And it starts with the word “house,” as in, “We are Christ’s house.”  The same word can be translated as “house,” “home,” or “household.” Now, we’ve been using that Greek word a little bit around here – who remembers it? …

Great! You get a prize! Yes, Oikos. Like the yoghurt. I’ve been trying out that word here – and some of you are kindly humoring me and trying it out too – as a description of our life together as a church.

Lots of churches and pastors use the phrase “church family.”  I do myself, sometimes. But I’ve heard folks make the case that “family” isn’t the best metaphor for our life together as a church, for a number of reasons. Families are hard to join, like we don’t want our church to be. Family can be a painful word for people who come from families with a lot of brokenness or conflict, or people who don’t feel like it applies to them. The “family” metaphor can also carry the implication that what we do is get together to share the occasional meal, be nice to each other, and avoid talking about sex, religion, or politics… just like Thanksgiving, right?

Oikos is an unfamiliar word. But its very unfamiliarity gives us the chance to explore and develop meaning. I talked about this word back in July. Here’s some of what I said back then:  “The first-century household, or oikos, was a lot bigger and more complex than our modern nuclear families. You’d have many generations living together, and possibly several branches of the family. 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. 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.”

I like “oikos” better than “family” because it’s bigger, and it’s messier, and it includes the idea that we’re all trying to function together in some way. For a lot of us, our family may be spread across the country or even the world; we only get together once or twice a year, if that.

An oikos is a bunch of people sharing a common life, a big complex unity encompassing various tasks, functions and missions, and people with various stakes and connections and roles. And I think that’s a pretty good description of a church community.

That word “oikos” is all over the New Testament, but you can’t really find a better example than the text from the letter to the Ephesians that I preached on back in July, one of my favorites:  “So then you are no longer strangers and guests in the oikos, but you are… members of the oikos of God, an oikos built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Jesus Christ as the capstone. In him the entire oikos, being connected together, is growing into a holy temple to God… In whom you also are being-together-home-builded – that’s the Greek verb! – into an oikos for the spirit of God.”

 

Okay. Oikos. A wonderful word and image that we’re trying on together, as a way to think about what this thing is that we constitute by gathering week by week, building relationships, sharing our resources, praying and singing and talking and eating together.

Now, there’s another word that shows up in the Greek New Testament that comes from “oikos.”  Here it comes: “oikonomia.” We have a common English word that comes directly from this word. Who can guess? Oikonomia…

Yes! YOU get a prize!  Oikonomia is the base for our English word “economy.” The root of economics, of all the ways we use our resources and reflect on using our resources – the root is the oikos. How you run your household.

In the oikonomia of your oikos, you would want to provide for the members of the household, making sure people have what they need to eat, and be decently clothed, and go about their business. You’d want to have a reserve against hard times. You’d want some funds for the poor and to contribute to civic needs. You’d want funds for the education of younger members. You’d want funds available in case any members of the household has new endeavors or projects in mind. There might be times when the household needs to expand – maybe to build a new wing, to accommodate a growing family. Those are some of the ways you’d run your oikonomia, using the income and assets of the household to meet the household’s needs.

Our church oikonomia is not really that different. We check on our resource flow, month by month, income and expenses, making sure we’re on solid ground and that our use of resources is what we expect and intend. And we plan our oikonomia every fall when we form a budget. Vestry member and retired businessman Lynn Bybee tells me that  a budget is just a kind of plan – a plan for using your resources to accomplish your goals.

Today you’ll receive a little packet that outlines our plans for next year’s budget, here at St. Dunstan’s, and invites you to make a commitment to supporting those plans. We’re beginning our giving campaign – a four-week period in which we are all asked to make a statement, a pledge, of the financial gifts we intend to give to St. Dunstan’s in the next calendar year, 2016.

Pledges in any amount are welcome. Truly. Pledging even a dollar a month tells us that you care, that you’re committed, that you have a stake in the flourishing of this oikos.

That said, your Rector – that’s me – and your Finance Committee and Vestry do have a financial goal this year that we’re placing before you. It involves a bit of a stretch. We would love to increase our pledged giving by 8%.

We’ve balanced our budget for two years now, after several years of steep deficits. And we’ve managed to add members, programs, and energy while living with a tight budget.

But we’ve done so, to an extent, by using funds outside our annual budget: special funds designated for particular purposes, and money from diocesan new ministry grants.  A lot of those designated funds are scraping bottom. And we can’t keep getting new ministry grants for ministries that aren’t new anymore, but have become just part of what we do.

We have the opportunity to keep growing – in membership, yes, but also in our capacity for ministry, our vitality, our spiritual depth and engagement with God’s mission. But our tight budget is becoming a constraint. We’ve outgrown it already, really.

Your leadership believes that it’s time to commit to growth by funding a budget that will sustain and expand what we’re developing here.  A budget that fully funds some of the engaging and effective things we’re already doing, like our new youth group, Sandbox Worship and our monthly young adult meetups. A budget that supports some of the new ministries we’d love to get underway, like a children’s choir and support for hungry kids in our community. And a budget that helps our lively, busy parish system run more smoothly by adding a few more hours of staff time, to develop our ministries and take some of those “somebody has to do it” type jobs off the shoulders of volunteers.

There’s an outline of that budget, that plan for using our resources to meet our goals, in the pretty little booklet in your Giving Campaign packet. It’s a new practice for us to present a draft budget to the congregation before the Giving Campaign like this. I hope you’ll take time to read and reflect on the possibilities and hopes presented there.

We are committed to responsible use of our shared resources here at St. Dunstan’s, and when we revisit these plans in December and adopt a final budget for 2016, it’ll be a sustainable budget. We won’t aim higher than we can responsibly afford.

But your leadership has been talking about this for months, and we agree, we don’t know what we can do until we tell ourselves what we could do. Our pledges and weekly offerings make up 94% of St. Dunstan’s income in 2015. So it really is up to us.

Here’s the other thing I want to say about that word oikonomia:  it’s usually translated in the New Testament as “stewardship.” That word we use in the church to remind ourselves that we are given responsibility by God to use our resources wisely and hopefully. In the first letter of Peter, the author writes, “Like good stewards of God’s diverse gifts, serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received.” I can’t really offer a better stewardship sermon than that call to share in stewardship, to offer the diversity of our gifts to one another for the building-up of the whole and the living out of God’s call.

Speaking of building up, I want to tell you about one more word that’s related to oikos and oikonomia. A verb, oikodomo – to build.  Makes sense, right? An oikos is a building, among other things. As in English, the word is used both literally and metaphorically, to mean both building in the real-world sense, and building up, strengthening, encouraging, supporting. In the first letter to the Corinthians, Paul writes, “Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up” (1 Cor 8:1). In addition to passages like that, the word also shows up in texts like the Ephesians passage I read you earlier, and in First Peter: “Like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house”  (1 Pet 2:5).

That image is used a lot in early Christian writings – of each believer as a stone in a structure that God is building. I love that picture of each of us, in our distinctness, being picked up by God and assembled together, stone by stone, to create holy and new and capacious. Today’s passage from Hebrews is alluding to that image: “We are Christ’s house – his home, his oikos – if we hold firm to the confidence and the pride that our hope gives us.”

So that’s the family of words and ideas that I wanted to set amongst us today. Oikos – household. Oikonomia – stewardship. Oikodomo – to build up one another; and to be build into something greater than ourselves.

Sisters, brothers, children and elders, uncles and aunts, servants and guests, all who stand together in this oikos today: May we know ourselves and each other as a household of God. May we serve one another, as good stewards of God’s diverse gifts. And may we, full of confidence and hope, be built together into a holy dwelling for God’s spirit, a home for Christ himself. Amen.

Sermon, Oct. 18

This sermon was preached by the Rev. John Rasmus, a retired priest who makes his home at St. Dunstan’s. 

Have pity upon me, Have pity upon me, O ye my friends for the hand of God has touched me.

A few Sundays ago Miranda spoke in her sermon about story, about how our lives are part of a great story and that story is reflected in the great story that God is telling — the old, old story of Jesus and His love.

This morning I would like to speak more about that story in my life.  I begin by reminding you of these words from the Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien.  Sam and Frodo have found themselves walking alone, the fellowship of the ring has been broken, Gandalf has been lost in the mines of Moria, Boromir has betrayed the fellowship and has died at the hands of the orcs; and now Sam and Frodo have found themselves on the dark and dangerous road to Mordor.  As they walk along Sam turns to Frodo and says, “I wonder what sort of tale we’ve fallen into.”  And that is the question isn’t it for each of us.  Just what sort of tale is this?  Is it as Macbeth says, “A tale told by an idiot full of sound and fury and signifying nothing?”  Or is there something more and deeper into which we have fallen.  A tale of meaning and life, a story of fellowship and community, a story of life and love.  Let me share a moment in my story and how once I found my story tied up with a greater story.

There are three threads that are woven together to make this story.  The first thread is about what was happening in my life and in my father’s life.  I have told you before about how in 1965 my father was dying of colon cancer and I went often to visit him during that time of his dying.  But my dad had made a promise that he would make it to my high school graduation.  It had been a hard and difficult struggle.  I want to return to the conversation I had with my dad on April 10, 1965.  On that day when I walked into my dad’s room he began to weep.  After a moment or two he regained his composure and said to me, “Johnny, I just can’t make it.”  We both wept together.  Then my dad said, “Johnny I want to place you and Mary Ann, my sister, into the hands of my best friend.”  He paused and I spoke up, “That’s OK dad I have come to love Geneva and Alfred and I’ll be OK with them.” My dad looked at me intensely and then said, “Oh, Johnny, I’m not talking about guardianship, no, I want to place you in the hands of the best friend I have ever had and that is Jesus.  I love you so much that I could not let you go without you in His hands.”  That evening after that conversation my dad he slipped into a coma from which he would never wake up again.  My dad’s voice would grow silent.  That is the first thread of my story and my dad’s story, but let me move to the second thread – the thread of my community of faith.

The day I had that conversation with my dad, April 10, 1965, was the day before Palm Sunday — Holy Week.  And that week had always been a precious time to me.  I attended all of the services every year — Wednesday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday.  And I should tell you that on Holy Saturday in those days there was no Easter Vigil.  The Holy Saturday service consisted of an Old Testament reading and an Epistle, but no Gospel, no Eucharist.  Jesus was in the tomb and He too was silent. And this Holy Week was especially hard on me.  For my dad was dying, was already in a coma, and my Savior was dying on a cross for me — the One who as my dad’s friend, the One who gave His life for me.

One other thing I was a lector at the Cathedral in Eau Claire, and in late March, the lector’s schedule came out for April.  And I was scheduled to read the Old Testament reading on Holy Saturday. That year Holy Saturday was April 17, 1965.  It was just seven days after my dad had slipped into a coma, seven days since I had had that last conversation with him.  Now at that time the readings were always in the King James Version of the Bible.

And so now the third thread — the scripture that I read that night.  Let me read that lesson as I read it on that evening from the King James Version of the Bible.  The reading scheduled was from the Book of Job — the same book from which our Old Testament lesson comes this morning. I am reading from the 19th chapter beginning at the 21st verse, “Have pity upon me, have pity upon me, O ye my friends; for the hand of God has touched me.  Why do ye persecute me as God, and are not satisfied with my flesh?  Oh that my words were now written, oh that they were printed in a book.  That they were graven with an iron pen and lead in the rock forever.  For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth; and though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh I shall see God.  Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold and not another.”

The third thread was those words of Job, those words from scripture, but words that were so meaningful to me that night and still are for I was living that story and that was my dad’s story.  My dad had struggled for 16 years with Multiple Sclerosis and now colon cancer.  His flesh was being destroyed, and yet my dad’s faith in his Lord Jesus was as unwavering as Job’s had been in God.  He knew that his redeemer lived and he knew that he would see God and know him and be known by him. And as I read those words that night in the Cathedral I wept. I knew that this great story was my story.  That I had been invited into a greater story.  There was a larger story, and I was being called into that greater story.  It was not a story that was a walk in the park, rather it was a story of pain and sorrow, trials and even danger, a story told amidst a great storm, but it was the story that God was telling in me and through me and it was also about Jesus and His love.  God had planted eternity in my heart, and God’s story was being written in my heart as it had been written in the hearts of so many others before me, as it was being written in my father’s heart.

And though at that moment there seemed to be a great darkness all about me I began to believe and trust that there was a redeemer who would stand on the latter day — that I was not destined to darkness and sorrow, but life and love and redemption!!  There was grace and I was invited into a life of grace, into a future and a hope.  That at the end of it all there was not only sorrow and sadness, but resurrection and victory.  And it was not that I had sought God out, but rather that God was seeking me, holding onto me when I was barely holding on. For Jesus has come to seek and save that which was lost.  He came for me.  He also comes for you.  He came that we might have life and have it abundantly.  And God has written His story in my heart, a story of human brokenness, spiritual blindness, struggle and sorrow, but also of hope and joy and peace and trust and love.

And I also believe that this is possibly what is going on in that Gospel story this morning as well.  I concede that James and John may be looking for special recognition, but I am convinced that what they are really asking for is to have a part in the story that Jesus is living.  They want to stand with Him; they want their lives to matter — to have meaning.  And they have discovered that thrie lives have more meaning when they are with Jesus.  They wanted to belong to the community of those who were with Jesus.  And they wanted a significant part to play — “Can we be there Jesus, one on your right hand and one on your left in your kingdom?  We want to be baptized with the batism with which you are baptized.  We want to be with you in your kingdom!!”  I believe that is the hunger and the deire of these two men.  They want to have a significant part in the story that God is telling in Jesus!!

And I am also reminded of the end of the Narnia stories which is a story that is an echo of the story God is telling.  Let me share a part of that.

“And Aslan turned to them and said, ‘You do not look so happy as I mean you to be.’  And Lucy said, ‘we’re so afraid of being sent away, Aslan.  And you have sent us back into our own world so often.’  ‘No fear of that, ‘ said Aslan. ‘Have you not guessed?’  Their hearts leaped and a wild hope rose within them.  ‘There was a railway accident,’ said Aslan softly. ‘Your father and mother and all of you are — as you call it in the Shadowlands.  The term is over; the holidays have begun.  The dream is ended; this is the morning.’  And as he spoke he no longer looked to them like a lion; but the things that began to happen after that were so great a beautiful I cannot write them.  And for us this is the end of all stories, and we can most truly say that they lived happily ever after.  But for them it was only the beginning of the real story.  All their life in this world and all of their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page; now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has ever read; which goes on forever; in which every chapter is better than the one before.”  And so C.S. Lewis ends his story of the Last Battle.  And I often cannot read this without tears, for that too is my dad’s story now and someday it shall be mine as well.

We are all invited into the story that God is telling, a story of victory in the face of disaster; the story of life in the face of death, the story of wholeness and holiness in the face of sin and death.  Job shouts it out to his friends. “I know my redeemer lives.”  I know my redeemer lives.  It is God’s story and we have been invited.  That is the tale that we have fallen into. God is weaving together the threads of our lives into a beautiful tapestry, into a great story and God has given us a part to play.  May we find our place in that story; may we fall more deeply in love with Jesus as we enter into life with Him.  We are loved.  You are loved. Shalom.

Announcements, October 22

SUNDAY….

Giving Campaign Kickoff & Fall Talent Show, October 25, 11:30 – 1pm: Our fall Giving Campaign starts with a Talent Show, at which members of St. Dunstan’s will have the opportunity to share their skills. A light lunch will be served. Come see the accomplishments of fellow parishioners and enjoy the show!

Nursery Care Available This Sunday: We will have child care available in our downstairs nursery this day, as well as in the “play corner.” In future we will plan to have nursery coverage on Sundays when there is neither Sunday school nor all-ages worship.

Bread for the World Blessing of Letters: Sunday we will bless the letters (emails, calls, and Tweets) our members have sent to our elected officials in the past two weeks, urging them to remember the hungry, and specifically, to continue supporting the WIC program. Bring your letter, or fill out a slip that indicates the contacts you have made, and put that in the Offering Plate to be blessed.

 Honoring Our Saints: Please fill out a Saint Form, in preparation for All Saints’ Day, which we will honor on Sunday, Nov. 1. Saint Forms are in the Gathering Area, with a collection box. You can also email Rev. Miranda at revmiranda@stdunstans.com with the name of the person you want to remember in love, and a few words about why he or she is so important to you. We will also be hanging a Remembrance Station in our nave for the month of November. Consider bringing in a copy of a photo, note, or other token of one of those whom you remember with love.

St. Dunstan’s Finances-At-a-Glance: As we approach our fall Giving Campaign, our church finances should be clear to all members. Take a look at our display in the Gathering Area. More detailed financial reports are available on request; speak with Rev. Miranda or a vestry member, or call the church office (238-2781).

Grace Shelter Dinner, Sunday, October 25, 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. 

Help Feed the Students, Sunday, November 8: St. Dunstan’s is providing dinner for the St. Francis House community, our Episcopal chaplaincy, on Sunday November 8th. Sign up in the Gathering Area to help out! We are asked to provide food for up to 15 people, and we’re invited to attend worship with the students at 5pm. Rev. Miranda will be in touch to work out whether you want to drop off your food Sunday morning, or deliver it yourself. The students thank you!

 THE WEEK AHEAD…

Needed – Ushers for the 2nd Sunday of the Month: If you are able to help out with ushering on the 2nd Sunday of the month, or even just occasionally, please let Pamela in the office know. Thanks!

 Left Unsaid: Remembering our Beloved Dead at Sandbox Worship, Thursday, October 29, 5:30pm: Maybe there’s something you didn’t have a chance to say. Maybe you thought you’d said it all, but as the years pass, you’ve discovered more. Come for an evening framed in prayer, a space to speak the words you want to say to one of your loved ones who has gone on before, as we anticipate honoring our beloved dead on All Saints Day (Nov. 1). After worship, we’ll share a simple meal. All are welcome. Questions? Talk with Rev. Miranda.

Makers’ Guild, FRIDAY, Oct. 30, 1 – 3pm: Everyone who enjoys working with their hands is invited. We will get acquainted with our church’s new-to-us digital cutter, and start preparing some craft materials for our Black Friday Craft-In event (Nov. 27). You can also bring your own holiday crafting projects to show off and work on – or bring your holiday crafting dilemmas and we can brainstorm together! Friends are welcome too.

All Saints’ Day, Sunday, Nov. 1, 10am: We will celebrate this holy day with an opportunity to remember the faithful departed; renew our baptismal vows; and, enjoy kids dressed as famous saints at our 10am All-Ages Worship.

“Holy Dying: Advance Planning from a Christian Perspective,” Sunday, Nov. 1, 9am: All are welcome to a conversation about end-of-life issues from a spiritual and practical perspective.

Backpack Snack Prep, Sunday, November 1, 11:30am: The people of St. Dunstan’s are invited to help prepare “Backpack Snack Packs” to help local school children from low-income households to have nutritious snacks available over the weekend, following the 10am service.

Webcast of the Installation of the Rt. Rev. Michael B. Curry as the 27th Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church, Sunday, Nov. 1, following the 10am service: We plan to turn on the livestream of the service in our Meeting Room, as soon as our own liturgy concludes. Bishop Curry, currently Bishop of the Diocese of North Carolina, is the first African-American to be elected Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church. On-demand video after the event will be available at this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X5YZtmFkNyU

 

Announcements, October 16

SUNDAY….

The Rev. John Rasmus is our preacher on Sunday, October 18. Father John is a priest associate of this parish, having retired to Madison after serving in the Diocese of Eau Claire.

Words in Season Poetry Performance: Over coffee hour on Sunday, we’ll hear some poems performed by members of the parish. Watch for the next Words in Season event if you’d like to get involved next time!

THE HUNGER WEEKS: October 18th is Bread for the World Sunday! This year the focus is on federal support of Child Nutrition, especially the WIC program. At 9:00 am, between services, further information about these nutritional programs will be presented in the Chapel, and there will also be a chance to discuss church groups’ work to influence public policy. Following the 10:00 am service, those wanting to write their Congressional representatives will meet in the Chapel to write their letters. Further information, writing materials and sample letters will be provided.

THE HUNGER WEEKS: CROP Walk for Hunger, Sunday, October 18: We have a great team gathered for this year’s CROP Walk! All money raised is used to fight hunger and a percentage of the money stays right here in Dane County being distributed to the food pantries. You can write a check to support our walkers, with CROP on the memo line, and put it in the offering plate. Thanks for all your support!

Sunday School, Sunday, October 18, 10am: Our 3-5 year old class will be learning about the Tabernacle in the Wilderness, while our 6 – 10 year old class will talk about finding greatness in serving others.

Rector’s Discretionary Fund Offering, Sunday, October 18: As on every third Sunday, half the cast in our collection plate, and any designated checks, will go towards the Rector’s Discretionary Fund. This fund is way to quietly help people with direct financial needs, in the parish and the wider community. Please give generously.

Evening Eucharist (BCP), Sunday, October 18, 6pm: Join us for a simple service before the week begins. We use the Book of Common Prayer for this liturgy. Our seasonal worship books are based on the prayerbook, but if you miss holding the little red book, you may enjoy attending these bimonthly services.

Younger Adults Meet-up at the Vintage, Sunday, October 18, 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.

 St. Dunstan’s Finances At a Glance: As we approach our fall Giving Campaign, our church finances should be clear to all members. Take a look at our display in the Gathering Area. More detailed financial reports are available on request; speak with Rev. Miranda or a vestry member, or call the church office (238-2781).

THE WEEK AHEAD…

Vestry meeting, Wednesday, October 21, 6:45pm. Any members are welcome to attend.

Giving Campaign Kickoff & Fall Talent Show, Sunday, Oct. 25, 11:30 – 1pm: Our fall Giving Campaign starts with a Talent Show, at which members of St. Dunstan’s will share their skills. A light lunch will be served. If you’d like to contribute to the performances or gallery, sign up by Sunday, October 18!

Left Unsaid: Remembering our Beloved Dead at Sandbox Worship, Thursday, October 29, 5:30pm: Maybe there’s something you didn’t have a chance to say. Maybe you thought you’d said it all, but as the years pass, you’ve discovered more. Come for an evening framed in prayer, a space to speak the words you want to say to one of your loved ones who has gone on before, as we anticipate honoring our beloved dead on All Saints Day (Nov. 1). After worship, we’ll share a simple meal. All are welcome.

Makers’ Guild, FRIDAY, Oct. 30, 1 – 3pm: Everyone who enjoys working with their hands is invited. We will get acquainted with our church’s new-to-us digital cutter, and start preparing craft materials for our Black Friday Craft-In event (Nov. 27). You can also bring your own holiday crafting projects to show off and work on – or bring your holiday crafting dilemmas and we can brainstorm together! Friends are welcome too.

Ladies’ Night Out, Friday, October 30, 6pm: Join our monthly get-together as we dine at area restaurant and enjoy good conversation among women of all ages from St. Dunstan’s. This month we will meet at the Freehouse Pub, 1902 Parmenter in Middleton.

All Saints’ Day, Sunday, Nov. 1, 10am: We will celebrate this holy day with an opportunity to remember the faithful departed; renewal of our baptismal vows; and, at our10am All-Ages Worship, with kids dressed as famous saints. Come at 9am for our Christian Formation hour: “Holy Dying: Advance Planning from a Christian Perspective,” a conversation about end-of-life issues from a spiritual and practical perspective.

Sermon, Oct. 11

Last Sunday, we meet Job. He’s a blameless and upright man, who worshipped God faithfully, ran his household well and wisely, and lived with justice and generosity. And he is wealthy and prosperous –  as our story begins, he owns 7000 sheep, 3000 camels, 500 yoke of oxen, and more. He was known as “the greatest of all the people of the east.”

Now, Satan, the Accuser, has been strolling around taking a look at humanity. And God says, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man who fears God and turns away from evil.” And Satan says, Well, yeah! Look how good he has it. How long would his piety last if he lost all these good things? And God says, You’re on. But don’t hurt Job himself.

Satan does his worst. On one terrible day, one messenger after another comes to Job. His slaves and oxen are lost to raiders. His camels are seized by an enemy army. His sheep are struck by lighting. And a great wind shakes the house where his sons and daughters are gathered – the roof falls upon them, and all are killed instantly. Job says,  “The Lord gave, and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.”  God is very proud of Job’s pious stoicism, and brags about it to Satan. And Satan says, “Skin for skin! People will tolerate a lot as long as they remain unharmed. Let me afflict Job’s body too, and we’ll see how his piety stands up.” And God says, You’re on. So Satan covers Job’s body with oozing sores.

The book of Job was probably written roughly 500 years before the life of Jesus, by one dominant voice, perhaps weaving together older sources. The author starts with this set-up of a sort of pissing context between Satan and God, then launches into 35 chapters of a profound theological exploration of suffering in the context of faithfulness. It’s an amazing book.

How do I, personally, read the Book of Job as Scripture? I don’t know if there was ever a Job. If there was, this chronicle of his suffering was written long after he lived and died. I do believe, very much, in the wisdom and divine inspiration of this author, this text.  Every time I revisit Job, I find inspiration and delight in the many passages that describe God’s power in the beauty and wonder of the natural world. Some of the loveliest nature poetry in the Bible is found in Job. And every time I revisit Job, I am reminded of the wisdom it carries about what to do, and what not to do, in the presence of suffering. Job is a master treatise on that topic.

One way to read the Book of Job is as an extended poetic debate over the idea that good things happen to good people, and bad things happen to bad people.

We know better, just like the Biblical tradition knew better. But still, so easily, we fall into that way of thinking, when we’re not paying attention, or when we’re anxious or sad or uncomfortable or struggling to make sense of something difficult. Our inner six-year-old wants order and justice and reason. We slip into the Bad Things Happen To Bad People mindset when we blame victims. When we worship and justify the successful. When we feel unworthy of good things that come our way, or try to figure out what we did to deserve the bad stuff. When we tell the person staring tragedy in the face that everything happens for a reason – which when you scrape it down a layer, either means that you had it coming, or that this tragedy is just a blessing you haven’t recognized yet.  Because you are a good person, and bad things shouldn’t happen to good people. We KNOW that’s not the deal – that, rather than an ordered, balanced, cause-and-effect world, we live in a world that is messy, confused, broken.  And yet.

Job stubbornly, angrily, faithfully, refuses this logic, the logic of good following good, bad following bad. He says, again and again: I am a good person, and bad things happened to me. He says, again and again: God is God, God is great, all-powerful and transcendent. I won’t quit God, I’m not abandoning my faith; but I’m also not just going to accept this crap. I have the right to cry out to God in my anger and dismay, even though I don’t expect God to answer.

So all this terrible stuff happens to Job. And some friends hear of his misfortunes, and they travel to come and visit with him, in his time of need. At first they just sit silently with him for seven days. They should have stuck with that approach… because once they start talking, their presence is less helpful.

His friend Eliphaz starts off:  Job, you must have sinned in some way that you didn’t realize, because bad things don’t happen to good people. So these misfortunes are God’s punishment, to set you right again.  He says, “How happy is the one whom God corrects! Therefore do not despise the discipline of the Almighty.”  (5:17)  Later in the book his friend Bildad tries another tack: if Job isn’t particularly sinful, then some universal human sinfulness must be to blame. “How can a mortal be righteous before God? If even the stars are not pure in God’s sight, how much less a mortal, who is a maggot, and a human being, who is a worm!…”  (Job 25:5-6)

And Job says, You guys are really crappy friends, and you’re speaking from your own fear and discomfort. “You see my calamity, and are afraid” (6:21).  And also, if God is watching us that closely and judgmentally, and won’t even “let me alone so that I may swallow my spittle,” then I’d rather be dead, thanks. (Job 7:16-19)

Bildad has another explanation to try out: Okay, Job, so you say that YOU’RE righteous. Maybe it was your children who sinned, then, and that’s why God killed them. So your kids were the problem. And since you are a pure and upright person, you’ll be fine. God will restore you. “See, God will not reject the blameless person… he will yet fill your mouth with laughter, and your lips with shouts of joy.” (Job 8:20-21)

Now, it’s not necessarily wrong to tell someone that there may be healing and joy beyond their current suffering. But it’s a matter of timing and tone. Bildad is speaking to Job in the absolute depth of his suffering and grief, so his words come across as dismissive. Also Bildad has seriously missed the boat on Job’s grief about his lost children. “They probably weren’t very good children anyway.” Seriously…

Job says, You’re trying so hard to make human sense of this situation, but look, we’re talking about GOD, here. God who alone stretched out the heavens; who made the Great Bear, Orion and the Pleiades; who does magnificent things beyond understanding. Your human moral logic doesn’t apply to God. (chapter 9)

So then Job’s friend Zophar chimes in:  SHAME ON YOU for talking about God like this! God knows best. If you weren’t guilty before, you are now, for being so demanding and presumptuous towards God the Almighty.  Eliphaz chimes in on the same note – he accuses Job of doing away with the fear of God.  “Your own lips testify against you!”  (15:1-6) Both friends are saying, You shouldn’t be talking back to God like this.  You’re just a human. Forget your grievance, and repent.  “Agree with God, and be at peace; in this way good will come to you… [Then] you will pray to him, and he will hear you.” (22:21) “[Then] You will forget your misery; you will remember it as waters that have passed away.” (11:13-16) If you just accept your suffering, everything will be fine. It’s your anger that’s keeping you away from God. Also, says Zophar, WHY ARE YOU SO MAD? (15:12-13) – “Why does your heart carry you away, and why do your eyes flash?”  We’re just trying to help. Jeez, Job, we’re your friends!…

Job is getting PISSED now.  “Look, my eye has seen all this; my ear has heard and understood it. What you know, I also know. I am not inferior to you. But I would speak to the Almighty, and I desire to argue my case with God.  As for you, you whitewash with lies;  all of you are worthless doctors!  If you would only keep silence, that would be your wisdom!…” (chapter 13) “Miserable comforters are you all! Have windy words no limit? or what provokes you to keep on talking?  I also could talk as you do, if you were in my place; I could join words together against you, and shake my head at you.” (16:2-3)

Job sees very clearly that his friends – his “friends” – are struggling to make sense of his suffering in ways that will let them hold it at arm’s length. That will let them reassure themselves that Job somehow brought all this upon himself, meaning they don’t have to accept the fear and uncertainty of disordered moral universe.  He nails their lack of empathy with one pithy remark: “Those at ease have contempt for misfortune.”  (12:5) Yeah. That rings true, doesn’t it? Job sees it in his friends’ words and behavior. I see it in all the heartless words words we say and policies we put in place directed at most vulnerable among us. Those at ease have contempt for misfortune.

And Job accuses his so-called friends of misrepresenting God in their efforts to defend God from Job’s anger:  “Will you speak falsely for God?… Do you think God is going to appreciate that? … Your platitudes are proverbs of ashes.” (13:7-9, 12)

Your platitudes are proverbs of ashes. Everything happens for a reason. God doesn’t send us anything we can’t handle. How happy is the one whom God punishes. Humans are maggots; shit happens; just accept it. Don’t let it bother you so much. Everybody has their cross to bear. It’ll make you stronger in the end. Just look on the bright side, shake it off, move on.

Proverbs. Of. Ashes. Empty of compassion or comfort.

Also, says Job, your Good Things Happen To Good People logic is crap because the wicked prosper ALL THE TIME. “Why do the wicked live on, reach old age, and grow mighty in power? Their houses are safe from fear, and their children dance around.”(21:7, 9, 11).  Job says, Look, what happened to me is not a fluke. Your whole premise is flawed.  All you have to do is look around to see that the idea that good things happen to good people, and bad to bad, is intellectually and morally untenable.

In the course of arguing with his friends’ wrongheaded assurances,  Job has a few unshakeable convictions of his own.

First: there is a God. And God is good, even though God’s goodness may sometimes be too big and slow and mysterious for us to understand.  Job is honest about feeling alone, abandoned, unheard by God: “I cry to you, and you do not answer me; I stand, and you merely look at me.” (30:20; see also 21:8-9; 9:11) But Job is certain that God is there, even in the darkness and emptiness.

Second: Job won’t accept the idea that he somehow had this coming – because of secret sins, or unconscious sins, or just general human wormyness.  Job says, I’m a good man. I have lived a righteous, generous life.  “My heart does not reproach me for any of my days” (27:6). I don’t deserve this, and I’m not going to make what happened to my family OK by fitting it into somebody’s comfortable moral scheme.

Third: Job insists that his relationship with God is strong enough that he can cry out to God, protest, and demand an answer.  He says, “I will NOT restrain my mouth; I will speak in the anguish of my spirit; I will complain in the bitterness of my soul.” (7:11; 10:2 & elsewhere)

Job wishes for a third party mediator – an umpire, in one verse! – who might help him take his case to God. But there isn’t anyone who can take that role and hold God accountable: “Who can say to God, ‘What are you doing?’” (9:12)

But despite the massive asymmetry of the relationship, Job keeps asking, seeking, demanding an answer.  He says, “Would God, in the greatness of divine power, come down and argue a case with me? No. But he would give heed to me.” (ch 23) He would hear me. That’s all I need. I just want to know that God hears.

The debate between Job and his who-needs-enemies friends rages on until it is suddenly and dramatically ended when God appears, and answers Job. God’s answer is … complicated. It’s full of images of nature and vivid descriptions of monsters. That’s another whole sermon – maybe in another three years.

But God does address Job’s friends and all their “good advice.” God makes Job’s friends apologize for being such jerks and for speaking wrongly about God. God says, Job was right. Job was right to cry out to God in grief and anger. Job was right to insist that God was all-powerful, but – and – that divine order doesn’t conform to our human understandings. Job was right to hold fast to righteousness, even when everything fell apart.

What can we carry away from the Book of Job? For one thing, lots of good advice on how NOT to talk to your friends in hard times. Avoid those platitudes of ashes!  In chapter 30 Job talks about what he did in such situations:  “Did I not weep for those whose day was hard? Was not my soul grieved for the poor?” (30:25) So simple: Just be present to the suffering. Stop trying to distance it or make sense of it,  and share the pain.

For another thing, the book has a clear message on how to to talk to God, in your own hard times. The text stresses that Job was right, all along. He blames God, rages at God for the unfairness and bitter pain of his situation; and his pious friends condemn him for it, but God does not.

He speaks of feeling distant from God, abandoned; he wishes he had never been born, or that he would fall over dead on the spot; and his pious friends condemn him for it, but God does not.

He expresses a confidence in his own righteousness that borders on arrogance, and questions God’s righteousness – I mean, look at the world! – and his pious friends condemn him for speaking in this way, but God does not. God justifies Job.

I think there’s a strange and profound comfort here. There are no easy answers to the why of human suffering. But there is a God who hears. A God who lets us weep and rage and throw things, when that’s what we need to do. A God who, like a loving parent, when we have finally wept ourselves quiet, can gently remind us of the big picture beyond our current distress.

Job trusted in that God, even in grief, even in despair, even in bitter anger.  May we, too, be sustained by such a paradoxical and unshakable trust, in our days of loss and struggle.

Announcements, Oct. 8

THANKS to all our Grounds Helpers! Many hands helped with our Parish Work Day last Sunday, and with overseeing the Edgewood High School volunteers on Wednesday. We got nearly all our tasks completed, which is terrific! Thanks to all who planned, fed, directed, and worked.

THIS WEEKEND… 

Outreach Committee meeting, Saturday, October 10, 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.

THE HUNGER WEEKS: Outreach Hour, Sunday, October 11, 9am: Percy Brown of the Middleton-Cross Plains Area School District will talk with us about the face of poverty and hunger in Middleton.

Sunday School, Sunday, October 11, 10am: This week our 3-5 year old class will be learning about the Ten Best Ways, while our 6-10 year old class will dig into Jesus’ challenging conversation with a rich young man.

Spirituality of Parenting Lunch, Sunday, October 11, 11:45am: All who seek meaning in the journey of parenthood (at any age or stage) are welcome to come for food and conversation. Child care and a simple meal provided.

St. Dunstan’s Finances At a Glance: As we approach our fall Giving Campaign, our church finances should be clear to all members. Take a look at our display in the Gathering Area. More detailed financial reports are available on request.

Sign up for this year’s Parish Talent Show, 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.

THE HUNGER WEEKS: Pledges Wanted for CROP Walk for Hunger, Sunday, October 18: We have a great team gathered for this year’s CROP Walk! All money raised is used to fight hunger and a percentage of the money stays right here in Dane County being distributed to the food pantries. You can write a check to support our walkers, with CROP on the memo line, and put it in the offering plate. Thanks for all your support!

THE WEEK AHEAD… 

Christian Formation Planning Meeting, Wednesday, October 14, 7pm, in the Godly Play classroom downstairs: At this meeting we’ll discuss and plan our formation programs – opportunities to learn and grow in faith and fellowship, for all ages – for Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany (November through January). If you’d like to be part of the conversation or have an idea you’d like to run with, you are welcome to attend and participate!

Madison-Area Julian Gathering, Wednesday, October 14, 7:15 – 9:00pm: A Julian Gathering is open to everyone. They are for all who want to deepen their life of faith through the practice of contemplative prayer, for beginners as well as those already practicing.

An Evening of Storytelling at St. Francis House, Friday, October 16, 7-8:30pm: All friends of the House, our Episcopal campus ministry at UW-Madison, are welcome. Speakers will share memories of St. Francis House over the years, including of our own Father Art Lloyd.

Words in Season, October 17/18: Dear performance and poetry loving members of St. Dunstan’s, join us for a seasonal celebration of words and the spirit. Daniel Hanson and Evy Gildrie-Voyles are gathering a group of all ages to perform poetry relevant to the seasons four times this year. The first will be in October. We will meet on Saturday October 17th at 10am at the Church for a brief rehearsal and perform Oct. 18th in the Gathering space after the 10 o’clock service (roughly 11:15am.) All ages are welcome. No memorizing is necessary.

Men’s Book Club, Saturday, October 17, 10am: This month’s book is “The Wright Brothers,” by David McCullough. On a winter day in 1903, in the Outer Banks of North Carolina, two unknown brothers from Ohio changed history.

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/.

THIS MONTH AT ST. DUNSTAN’S… 

THE HUNGER WEEKS: Bread for the World Sunday, October 18: We are invited to participate in Bread for the Word’s annual Offering of Letters, to advocate to our politicians for programs that will reduce hunger in the United States and around the world. This year’s legislative focus is child hunger, and especially ongoing funding of the WIC program. Letters will be gathered in next Sunday, October 25. Letters, emails and phone calls are all encouraged, so that a strong Christian voice for the hungry is heard in Washington! Come at 9am for a presentation on Bread’s work and a discussion of Christian advocacy in the public square.

Sunday School, Sunday, October 18, 10am: Next week our 3-5 year old class will be learning about the Tabernacle in the Wilderness, while our 6 – 10 year old class will talk about finding greatness in serving others.

Rector’s Discretionary Fund Offering, Sunday, October 18: As on every third Sunday, half the cast in our collection plate, and any designated checks, will go towards the Rector’s Discretionary Fund. This fund is way to quietly help people with direct financial needs, in the parish and the wider community. Please give generously.

Evening Eucharist (BCP), Sunday, October 18, 6pm: Join us for a simple service before the week begins. We use the Book of Common Prayer for this liturgy. Our seasonal worship books are based on the prayerbook, but if you miss actually holding the little red book, you may enjoy attending one of these bimonthly services.

Younger Adults Meet-up at the Vintage, Sunday, October 18, 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.

Left Unsaid: Remembering our Beloved Dead at Sandbox Worship, Thursday, October 29, 5:30pm: Maybe there’s something you didn’t have a chance to say. Maybe you thought you’d said it all, but as the years pass, you’ve discovered more. Come for an evening framed in prayer, a space to speak the words you want to say to one of your loved ones who has gone on before, as we anticipate honoring our beloved dead on All Saints Day (Nov. 1).  After worship, we’ll share a simple meal. All are welcome. Questions? Talk with Rev. Miranda or Sharon Henes.

Ladies’ Night Out, Friday, October 30, 6pm: Join our monthly get-together as we dine at area restaurant and enjoy good conversation among women of all ages from St. Dunstan’s. This month we will meet at the Freehouse Pub, 1902 Parmenter in Middleton.

Black Friday Craft-In, Friday, November 28, 1 – 4pm, St. Dunstan’s Church: Tired of the mall? Make stuff. Give it away. This year we’ll host our second annual Black Friday Craft-In, a free public crafting event. If you’ll be in town and would like to volunteer to help out, please sign up in the Gathering Area. We can use all kinds of volunteers – whether your skill is sewing, woodworking, stamping, paper crafting, smiling at people and saying “Welcome!”, setting up tables, or putting cookies on plates.

IN THE WIDER CHURCH & COMMUNITY… 

Purple Ribbons for Domestic Abuse Awareness Month: The purple ribbons on our altar this month remind us to hold in prayer victims, survivors, and perpetrators of domestic abuse.  To learn more & find out about events this month, explore the website of our local agency, DAIS: abuseintervention.org .

Alleviating Poverty: Who’s Responsible? Great Madison Poverty Forum, Sunday, October 11, 6:00 pm – 8:00 pm, High Point Church, Micah Center at 7702 Old Sauk Road in Madison: Come and join this two-hour highly interactive forum with diverse leaders from Madison’s faith community. The discussion will include: learning about poverty in Wisconsin, consideration of the theological role of the individual and collective responsibility for alleviating poverty and seeking common ground for solutions. Please RSVP by October 8 at: http://www.wichurches.org/madison-poverty-forum-registration/

Community Panel Discussion, Monday, October 12, 6:30pm, Archer Rooms, Middleton Public Library: In collaboration with UW-Madison’s Go Big Read selection, “Just Mercy” by Bryan Stevenson, the library will host a community discussion on racial disparities in the criminal justice system. Panelists include: Chuck Foulke, City of Middleton Chief of Police; Dr. Ruben Anthony, CEO of Urban League of Greater Madison; Percy Brown, Director of Equity, MCPASD; Dave Mahoney, Dane County Sheriff; Josann Reynolds, Dane County Judge; and a representative from Middleton High School’s Student Voice Union. All are welcome.

Opportunity to serve – Support our local refugee community:  The Recipe Club, sponsored by the Lutheran Social Services (LSS), is an opportunity for refugee women, mostly from Iraq and Afghanistan, to get out of the house and come together socially with other women, and share recipes of their native dishes. One of the biggest barriers to attendance is transportation. LSS is looking for volunteers who have time available between 9:30 and 11:30 on Friday mornings (just for about 6-8 weeks) that would be willing to pick these women up in their homes and bring them to The Recipe Club, then take them home afterwards. The volunteers would be welcome to stay for the club and learn about the different dishes and cooking techniques the women share, or they could also use the hour to do other things.

Sung Evensong at St. Andrew’s Church, Thursday, October 22, 7pm: St. Andrew invites their fellow Episcopalians to a liturgy of Choral Evensong. The lessons are those appointed for St. James of Jerusalem (Feast Day – October 23).  The chancel choir of St. Andrew’s augmented with friends of choir members will sing.  A small recorder ensemble will provide the prelude and postlude. Come experience the mystery and glories of this cherished Anglican service. A reception will follow the service giving all an opportunity for conversation and connection.

Sermon, Oct. 4

Today we celebrate the Feast Day of St. Francis of Assisi. Francis turned from his life as a wealthy young man, living in Italy in the early 13th century, to found a monastic order devoted to living simply and prayerfully, and serving the poor. We’ll honor Francis’ memory later at our Blessing of the Animal service, but I’d like to tell you a story about Francis right now.

This is the story of Francis and the Wolf of Gubbio. The earliest version was recorded not long after Francis’ death. This version comes from the Taming the Wolf Institute, which teaches conflict resolution.

[Read the story here: http://tamingthewolf.com/saint-francis-and-the-wolf/ ]

… I use that story to introduce or re-introduce a word:  stewardship. It’s a word that gets used out there in the world, but we use in the church in some particular ways. In a lot of churches, “stewardship” is kind of a euphemism for asking for money. There are some good reasons for that – it frames the church’s need for financial support from its members in terms of our mindful use of the resources God has given us. But it’s not so good to talk about stewardship as if was only about money, or to use that word to mask our discomfort with talking about money.

When I came here, we had a stewardship committee that ran the annual pledge drive every fall.  And right away, they told me, We don’t like that name. We don’t like the way our church is using “stewardship” as if all it means is people’s financial support for the church. People’s giving to the church is tremendously important – more on that in a few weeks! – but it is absolutely not the only thing we mean by “stewardship.” So we renamed the committee – today we have a Finance Committee and a Giving Campaign Committee.

AND we re-introduced the idea of Stewardship to the congregation. Instead of talking about stewardship only in October and November, when we’re asking for people to pledge their financial support, we should talk about stewardship year round. And instead of only talking about stewardship of money, we started talking about stewardship of all kinds of things. Of our members, your time and skill. Of our grounds and buildings.  Of our own spirits and energy. And more.

We developed a cycle of Stewardship Seasons: in the fall, starting in October, a season of Stewardship of Resources, when we reflect on how we use our material resources – including, but not limited to, money. This is the season for pledging and budgeting; it’s also a time of giving, for our church and for individuals in the holiday season. Come February, we’ll begin the season of Stewardship of Spirit and Space. And the months of June through September are our season of Stewardship of Time and Talent.

So what do we mean by that word?… Stewardship? Stewardship is the understanding that what we do with what we have, matters.  In the Bible, a steward is a high-ranking servant of the household

who manages and oversees things on behalf of the master. Somebody trusted and competent, who can keep things running, meet everyone’s needs, deal with crises. In the second chapter of today’s Epistle, the author of the second letter to the Hebrews points out the authority and power given to human beings… quoting somebody somewhere (I love that – it’s actually Psalm 8)… We are made just a little lower than the angels, and all things on earth are placed under our authority.

And then, before we can get too chuffed about that, the author goes on to hold up Jesus as our model,  who calls into the same kind of wise, loving, self-sacrificial authority by naming us as his brothers and sisters. Stewardship has to do with power, authority, control; but it’s a particular way of exercising power and control,  shaped by Holy Wisdom, driven by holy longing for the flourishing of humanity and creation, and for the reconciliation and restoration of all.

The word reminds us that we are stewards – caretakers, managers – of gifts and assets that come from God and belong to God, who gives them to us in trust, to use and enjoy. The stewardship mindset reminds me that what I casually think of as “mine,” in my personal life as well as my work as rector of a parish, is really ours, and God’s. I’m blessed and privileged to have a role in what it becomes or how it is used.

I think the story of Francis and the wolf is a good story about stewardship because Francis is balancing needs and resources, and finding a healing and sustainable solution for everyone involved.  The people in Gubbio had a problem: a destructive, dangerous, hungry wolf. They had tried using the resources of weaponry, force, and manpower to solve the problem, but that approach had failed. Instead, Francis suggested that they use different resources: their plentiful food, and the resources of community and relationship, to meet the wolf’s needs and change its behavior. It was a fresh approach that took some work to put into place, but the ultimate outcome was much better for everyone than killing the wolf would have been.

If that sounds like a bit of a stretch, maybe it should. I’m trying to stretch our concept of stewardship, our capacity to look at challenges and difficulties as issues of resource use and resource allocation, and to help us think of innovative ways to use our resources to move into fresh and lifegiving ways of being.

So, today, the first Sunday in October, we begin the season of Stewardship of Resources. At the end of the month, on Sunday the 25th, we’ll kick off our Giving Campaign, four weeks in which we are all invited to make a pledge of financial support to the church for next calendar year. Those pledges, taken together, allow your Finance Committee and Vestry to finalize a budget – which is a statement of how we plan to steward the church’s financial resources, in accordance with its needs and its mission.

But these first three weeks of the month we’ll think about stewardship together in a different way, through three weeks of shared reflection on hunger, in our community and beyond.

This Sunday we’ll make our customary first Sunday offering to MOM, Middleton Outreach Ministry. Half of all cash offerings given today, and any checks with MOM on the memo line, will go to MOM’s food pantry, which truly does amazing work addressing hunger in Middleton and far west Madison. And over Coffee Hour, Judy and Sharon will lead folks in packing our Backpack Snack Packs, little bags of kid-friendly food that go home with kids who depend on school food programs, to help prevent hunger on the weekends.

Next Sunday, the 11th, Percy Brown, the Director of Equity and Student Achievement for the Middleton/Cross Plains School System, will be with us to talk about poverty and equity issues in Middleton. On Sunday the 18th, we’ll be invited, as a partner church of the organization Bread for the World, to use the resource of our voices and votes to contact our elected officials to urge budgeting and policies that address the epidemic of child hunger in our nation. And we’ll send out a team of walkers to the Madison-area CROP Walk, to raise awareness and funds for fighting hunger locally and worldwide.

So for these three weeks, our stewardship focus is on how to help support our neighbors who live with need and uncertainty as daily companions – and not just to help meet their needs in the moment, but how to commit our time and voices and resources to building a world – or at least a city – in which no child goes hungry.

And of course today is also our Fall Clean-up Day. We honor St. Francis by blessing our pets later this afternoon; we also honor Francis by tending our grounds. Weeding and pruning, preparing our grounds to sleep for the winter and flourish in the spring. Francis saw God’s grace powerfully present in the natural world and all living things, and felt deeply our kinship, as humans, with all God’s creatures. Pulling a weed, or picking up beer bottles along the road edge, or piling up sticks, might not feel like a profound act of environmental stewardship. But we are living out our mission of creation care in these small acts. We are serving as stewards of this place God has given us. And, as we always do when we get outside and pay attention to the natural world, we rediscover the beauty and integrity of the natural world; we tune in to its patterns and rhythms; and we find fulfillment and delight in working for the health and flourishing of this little garden of God.(And it is ALL a garden of God – even the woods, even the weeds!)

So in this season – in every season, really – we’ll be trying on that idea that one of the things we are called to be, in Christ, is good stewards. Trusted servants who’ve been given authority over certain resources, in our own lives and in our life together as the people of St. Dunstan’s – who’ve been entrusted with the responsibility to use those resources well – to keep the household running, meet everyone’s needs, deal with crises, and cultivate peace and well-being among humans, plants, bunnies and birds, and even ravenous wolves.

Announcements, October 1

Fall Clean-Up,  Sunday, October 4, 11:30 – 2:00pm: After the 10am service, please stay for a simple lunch (with an overview of tasks to complete while we’re eating), followed by time to work on our grounds. We’ll wrap up by 2pm, but you can leave anytime you’ve completed your tasks.

HUNGER WEEKS: Backpack Snack Pack Prep, Sunday, October 4, 11:30am: The kids and families of St. Dunstan’s are invited to prepare our “Backpack Snack Packs,” to help local school children from low-income households to have nutritious snacks available over the weekend. We’ll meet in the Gathering Area as we kick off the program.

Blessing of the Animals, Sunday, October 4,  4pm: Bring friends of any species to our Blessing of the Animals service!

First Sunday: Birthdays & Anniversaries are honored on the first Sunday of every month. In addition, one of our ministers will offer Healing Prayers for those who wish to receive prayers for themselves or on behalf of others. Finally, every first Sunday, we designate a portion of the cash in our offering plate (and any checks with MOM on the memo line) to Middleton Outreach Ministry, to support their food pantry and its good work fighting hunger in our community.

Evening Eucharist, Sunday, October 4, 6pm: Join us for a simple service before the week begins. All are welcome.

Edgewood in the Community, Wednesday, October 7, 10am-1:30pm: Edgewood High School will be sending 20 students to St. Dunstan’s this day to do yard work as part of their community service. If you would like to work with the students and help direct them, please contact the office at (608) 238-2781.

Diocese of Milwaukee Pre-Convention Gathering, Wednesday, October 7, 7:00pm, at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church on the east side: Anyone who would like to learn more about the life of our Diocese and the larger church is welcome to attend. To read about Convention and the resolutions to be considered, use this link: http://www.diomil.org/about-us/diocesan-convention/

Outreach Committee meeting, Saturday, October 10, 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.

Sign up for this year’s Parish Talent Show, 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.

THE HUNGER WEEKS, OCTOBER 4 – 18, 2015  In the first weeks of October we are invited to respond to the needs of our neighbors, locally and globally: by packing snacks for hungry kids (Backpack Snack Pack kickoff, October 4); learning more about poverty in Middleton (Outreach Hour, Sunday, October 11); writing letters to our legislators to urge budgeting and policies that address hunger and poverty (Bread for the World Sunday, October 18); and walking to raise money for food programs (CROP Walk, October 18). Participate and support these efforts as you feel moved, as we together strive to follow Jesus who promised to be bread for the world and urged us to love our neighbors as ourselves.

Outreach Hour, Sunday, October 11, 9am: Percy Brown of the Middleton-Cross Plains Area School District will talk with us about the face of poverty and hunger in Middleton, and how we might help Middleton to be more fully the “Good Neighbor City.”

Bread for the World Sunday, October 18: We are invited to participate in Bread for the Word’s annual Offering of Letters, to advocate to our politicians for programs that will reduce hunger in the United States and around the world. This year’s legislative focus is child hunger, and especially ongoing funding of the WIC program. Letters will be gathered in next Sunday, October 25. Letters, emails and phone calls are all encouraged, so that a strong Christian voice for the hungry is heard in Washington! Come at 9am for a presentation on Bread’s work and a discussion of Christian advocacy in the public square.

Walkers & Pledges Wanted for CROP Walk for Hunger, Sunday, October 18: This year’s CROP Walk starts at 12:45 at the First Congregational Church downtown. There are 2 routes – one fairly lengthy that goes over to Lake Mendota and one about a mile that goes around Camp Randall. All money raised is used to fight hunger and a percentage of the money stays right here in Dane County being distributed to the food pantries. Would you like to join our team of walkers and raise money to fight hunger? Sign up in the Gathering Area (remember to give us your T-shirt size!) and take a pledge envelope so you can gather pledges in the weeks ahead.

Helping Francine & Family: Thanks to everyone who’s expressed concern and support for Francine and her family, who were the subject of my sermon on September 20. I am very happy to report that Francine and the family are FINALLY in housing! They are optimistic and looking forward to getting settled. If you’d like to help out, you could pick up a Walmart gift card (Francine’s older daughter works there, so it’s convenient for them to shop there) so they can get some furnishings and household goods, and start making their new home feel like home. You can also make a donation to my Rector’s Discretionary Fund for me to use to help Francine as needed – or to help others who may come along down the road. And please, keep your ears open to the issue of affordable housing in Dane County – we need a LOT more of it. Thanks, everyone! – Rev. Miranda

Purple Ribbons for Domestic Abuse Awareness: The purple ribbons on our altar this month remind us to hold in prayer victims, survivors, and perpetrators of domestic abuse. To learn more, explore the website of our local agency, DAIS: abuseintervention.org