Announcements, December 30

SUNDAY…

Birthdays and Anniversaries will be honored this Sunday, January 3, as is our custom on the first Sunday of every month. Come forward after the Announcements to receive a blessing and the community’s prayers.

Healing Prayer, Sunday, January 3: One of our ministers will offer healing prayers for those who wish to receive prayers for themselves or on behalf of other.

MOM Special Offering, Sunday, January 3: 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. Here are the top ten items needed at this time: macaroni and cheese, pater, canned meat (tuna/turkey/chicken), meals in a box, canned soup (no tomato, healthier varieties), mandarin oranges, canned pineapple, sugar, flour, diapers (sizes 4,5 and 6). There is always a need for quality bedding items such as comforters, sheets, blankets and towels too. Thank you for all your support!

Backpack Snack Pack Prep, Sunday, January 3, 12 noon: The kids and families of St. Dunstan’s are invited to join our Foundry 414 church neighbors in preparing Backpack Snack Packs, to help local school children from low-income households to have nutritious snacks available over the weekend. We’ll work in the Chapel Meeting Room following the 10am service.

Evening Eucharist, Sunday, January 3, 6pm: Join us for a simple service before the week begins.

THE WEEKS AHEAD…

Epiphany Service of Light, Thursday, January 7, 5:30pm: Join us as we share the story of the Wise Men who came to honor the infant Jesus, and of how the light of Christ has spread through time and space all the way to here & now! All are welcome. Talk to Rev. Miranda or Sharon Henes if you’d like to be a reader for this service.

Men’s Book Club, Saturday, January 9, 10am: “Crossing to Safety” by Wallace Stegner is the book this month. Tracing the lives, loves and aspiration of two couples who move between Vermont and Wisconsin, it is a work of quiet majesty, deep compassion, and powerful insights into the alchemy of friendship and marriage. If you have questions, contact Jim Hindle.

End of the Holidays Lunch, Saturday, January 9, at Sprecher’s: After Advent, Christmas and then Epiphany, it’s a good time to gather for conversation, relaxation, good food and laughter as we celebrate the end of the Holiday season. We will meet at Sprecher’s – across from the Marriot West at 12:30pm. Men and women are invited. We will be ordering from the menu. This event is sponsored by the St. Dunstan’s ECW (Episcopal Church Women). Sign up on the bulletin board in the Gathering Space. Please join us! Questions, contact either Connie Ott or Rose Mueller.

Due to the fact that the 2nd Wednesday in February will fall on Ash Wednesday, the Madison Area Julian Gathering will not meet in January or February. We will resume on March 9, 2016, at St. Dunstan’s Episcopal Church, 6205 University Ave., Madison, WI, beginning at 7:15 P.M. All are welcome to join us for Still Prayer and conversation about Julian of Norwich, her life and writings.

Sunday School, Sunday, January 10, 10am: This week, our 3-6 year old class will be learning about the story of the Epiphany, while our 7-11 year old class will hear about the baptism of Jesus.

Spirituality of Parenting Lunch, Sunday, January 10, 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.

Annual Parish Meeting, Sunday, January 24, 9am: Come to hear parish updates, including the 2016 budget, and help elect our parish leaders. All are welcome to attend!

Sermon, Christmas Eve

“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness, on them light has shined…” I’ve been hearing these words at Christmas for probably forty years. I was raised in the Episcopal Church – and this text from the prophet Isaiah is almost always used at Christmas, to accompany the Nativity gospel from Luke. Its message and images go along with the themes of Christmas – the kinds of words that come printed in gold on Christmas cards: Peace. Hope. Joy.

But there are some bits of this passage from Isaiah that don’t fit so well with that Christmas-card Christianity.  God’s people rejoice in their salvation… “as people exult when dividing plunder.” Does that sound like your living room on Christmas morning? It’s really an image of war, of conquest. Of the glee on the faces of enemy soldiers as they take whatever they want from the homes and barns and shops and synagogues of a conquered town.

And then a couple verses later, another image of war: “For all the boots of the tramping warriors and all the garments rolled in blood shall be burned as fuel for the fire.”  I looked up this passage in several translations  and found that it’s really trying to call to mind the sound of those boots – the ominous and overwhelming clomp-clomp-clomp  of a marching army. Not your army. The other guys. Marching down your street while you and your family huddle terrified in your home, or flee into the countryside with nothing but the clothes on your back.

Plunder. Blood. The trampling boots of an invading army.  And that fire – the fire that both destroys and cleanses.  Very Christmassy, isn’t it?…

The prophet Isaiah lived in the 8th century BCE, 7 centuries or so before Jesus’ birth. The Biblical book we know as Isaiah, scholars believe,  actually contains the words of two or three different prophets, spread over a century or more,  but this early passage from chapter 9  is probably the voice of the real, the original Isaiah.  Isaiah was called by God to speak God’s words to the people of Israel.  Parts of what was once King David’s great kingdom had already been conquered by the Assyrian Empire.  Judah, the Southern Kingdom, was feeling threatened too,  as Assyria eyed their territory.

The message of this portion of the book of Isaiah is essentially this: Bad times are coming,  because God’s people have turned from God’s ways, worshipping other gods, perpetrating and tolerating injustice towards the poor and vulnerable, and mistakenly placing their faith in wealth and military might instead of in God.  But God is faithful even if God’s people are not; though much will be lost, some will be saved; God’s people will begin again, on the other side of the struggles to come.

In these verses from Isaiah –  a tiny snippet of a much longer text – the prophet Isaiah speaks of hope beyond the present danger, and of a child who will bring in a new time of peace and prosperity for Judah, living faithfully as God’s people.  “For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

This text, like the rest of the Old Testament,  is shared by both Jews and Christians. Jewish interpreters see this passage as describing Hezekiah, the new king of Judah in Isaiah’s time. Hezekiah was faithful to God  and worked for reform and restoration of right living and right worship among his people.   Christians, on the other hand, see this passage as one of many in the Old Testament that point towards a coming Messiah, a Chosen One sent from God to reconcile God and humanity and usher in a whole new way of living as God’s people.  We read these words as a description of Jesus,  seven hundred years before his birth.  Who’s right? … I’d prefer to avoid the question! Prophetic texts, like poetry,  resist having their meaning pinned down once and for all.  I rather like the idea that the text could point to both Hezekiah and Jesus,  could mean both of these things, and more.

Anyway. Back to those bloody cloaks and tramping boots.  Those images were all too vivid for the people who first heard Isaiah’s prophesies. Their sister kingdom had recently been conquered. Surely people had fled south into Judah;  surely nightmarish stories had been shared, of pillage, murder and destruction.  Isaiah’s words intentionally evoke the violence and terror of war in order to overturn them with this vision of a new Kingdom of justice, righteousness,  and peace – ENDLESS peace! – under God’s authority and protection.

Context matters, for understanding our texts from Scripture. Those of you who hear me preach regularly know that I often do something like this – offer a little bit of explanation  of what was going on when these words were first written down.  I’m not just trying to show off – and for the record, I don’t just know this stuff.  I dust off seminary notes and check trusted Internet sources, and generally do just enough research to sound like I know what I’m talking about. I do that research because context matters.  Not to divert our gut responses into intellectual conversation, not to move the impact of these texts from heart to head; but because sometimes the context  helps us understand more deeply, helps us find where the world of the text overlaps with our world, how the time of Isaiah is not that different from our time. For the semi-automatic weapons, the pipe bombs, the suicide vests, shall all be burned in a cleansing fire,  and God shall usher in an age of justice and peace… 

Noticing the hard parts of this text,  these images that reveal the trauma of war, makes the word Peace stand out so much more.  This isn’t Christmas-card peace they’re talking about,  a day when your cell phone doesn’t ring and the kids don’t fight and you can drink hot cider and watch an old movie.  This is the bone-deep desperate longing  of people who see war coming,  who are listening every day for those tramping boots,  who plant their fields and raise their children and wonder if it’ll be next year or next week or tomorrow that the world bursts into flame. Peace. Please, God. Peace.

And you know, it’s true of the Nativity Gospel, too. We’ve let it become sweet, even saccharine.  We’ve romanticized the darker details,  or they’ve become so familiar that we don’t hear the overtones, we don’t read between the lines.  But there’s plenty to read, if we try.  Starting with “In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus…”  Those words are Christmas for me; I’ve heard them so many times on nights just like this, in the pine-scented joyful darkness; I speak them and my heart fills.

But this is not a happy moment the text is describing.  Luke, our Gospeller, is reminding us that the moment when God comes to us as a baby is not one of the better moments in Israel’s history. Israel is under Roman rule,  and its own king, a puppet for the Romans, is corrupt, cruel, and possibly crazy. This registration that sends Joseph and Mary on their journey –  this is an empire’s management of a conquered people.  The registration had two purposes: taxation – figuring out whom to take money from, and how much – and conscription – registering men for the possibility of being taken to serve the Roman empire as soldiers.

I could go on.  I could wonder why this young pregnant woman  was dragged along on this journey instead of left with her mother and other older female relatives, as you’d expect, and hypothesize that her family cast her out  over her unexpected pregnancy. I could talk about the stony hearts of people  who wouldn’t make room for a woman in labor.  I could talk about how the straw on the stable floor  was probably less shiny and pristine than it usually looks in our pretty Nativity pictures.  I could talk about birth, the agony and mess and danger.  But I think you get the idea.

I worry about our Christmas-card Christianity. I do. I understand why we don’t have images of bloody war-cloaks, or governmental oppression, or filthy animal stalls,  on our Christmas cards.  Our real world has enough dark and troubling images in it.  We need the solace that we can find in images of peace and beauty. The serene baby, the adoring mother. The animals gathered round, clean and friendly as pets. Pure colors, warm lights, hovering angels. We need that.

But at the same time…  We citizens of 21st century media culture know that images are powerful.  And I worry about what we say, without meaning to say it,  with these images of Christmas,  of the moment of God’s incarnation among humankind.  Are we saying, or seeming to say, that God comes to us, that God is vividly and truly present with us, in moments of peace and simplicity, of beauty and love? Because that is true – so deeply true. I know it, with gratitude.

But it is also deeply, importantly true that God comes to us, that God is present with us, in moments of struggle, terror, grief, and despair.  And God is there, powerfully present,  in the moments of our lives where what is sweet and good and lovely rubs up against what is dark and difficult and painful.  In that troubling tension, destructive or productive, God is there too.

Noticing the hard parts of our Christmas scriptures can help us get past Christmas-card Christianity.  Those big words, Hope, Joy, Peace – they are so much more than just words printed in gold.  They have sustained people a lot like us, in times a lot like ours, for centuries and millennia. They are words that strive to name a Truth that is strong, and real, and enduring, the Truth of a loving God who is never not with us. Who never doesn’t love us.

Sometimes peace seems like a warm blanket that enfolds us,  sometimes it seems like a cruel joke, but God is here.

Sometimes joy is a fountain bubbling up to water our souls, sometimes it’s a half-forgotten dream or a mirage – but God is here.

Sometimes hope is the bedrock that lets us stand firm and unshaken, sometimes we struggle to see even a glimmer in the darkness; but God is here.

God is here.  Born among us, born for us, once and always.  Merry Christmas.

Announcements, December 23

Christmas Eve and Christmas Day services:

Family Service with Pageant, Thursday, December 24, 3pm

Festal Eucharist, Thursday, December 24, 9pm

Christmas Day, Friday, December 25, 10am

 

SUNDAY, DECEMBER 27…

First Sunday of Christmas and Hymn Sing, Sunday, December 27, 10am: Father John Rasmus will preside. All are welcome!

Grace Shelter Dinner, Sunday, December 27, 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.

THE WEEKS AHEAD…

Backpack Snack Pack Prep, Sunday, January 3, 12 noon: The kids and families of St. Dunstan’s are invited to join our Foundry 414 church neighbors in preparing Backpack Snack Packs, to help local school children from low-income households to have nutritious snacks available over the weekend. We’ll work in the Chapel Meeting Room following the 10am service.

Birthdays and Anniversaries will be honored next Sunday, January 3, as is our custom on the first Sunday of every month. Come forward after the Announcements to receive a blessing and the community’s prayers.

Healing Prayer, Sunday, January 3: Next Sunday, one of our ministers will offer healing prayers for those who wish to receive prayers for themselves or on behalf of other.

MOM Special Offering, Sunday, January 3: Next Sunday, half the cash in our offering plate and any designated checks will be given to Middleton Outreach Ministry’s food pantry. Groceries are welcome gifts too. Here are the top ten items needed at this time: macaroni and cheese, pater, canned meat (tuna/turkey/chicken), meals in a box, canned soup (no tomato, healthier varieties), mandarin oranges, canned pineapple, sugar, flour, diapers (sizes 4,5 and 6). There is always a need for quality bedding items such as comforters, sheets, blankets and towels too. Thank you for all your support!

Evening Eucharist, Sunday, January 3, 6pm: Join us for a simple service before the week begins.

Epiphany Service of Light, Thursday, January 7, 5:30pm: Join us as we share the story of the Wise Men who came to honor the infant Jesus, and of how the light of Christ has spread through time and space all the way to here & now! All are welcome. Talk to Rev. Miranda or Sharon Henes if you’d like to be a reader for this service.

Men’s Book Club, Saturday, January 9, 10am: “Crossing to Safety” by Wallace Stegner is the book this month. Tracing the lives, loves and aspiration of two couples who move between Vermont and Wisconsin, it is a work of quiet majesty, deep compassion, and powerful insights into the alchemy of friendship and marriage.

Due to the fact that the 2nd Wednesday in February will fall on Ash Wednesday, the Madison Area Julian Gathering will not meet in January or February. We will resume on March 9, 2016, at St. Dunstan’s Episcopal Church, 6205 University Ave., Madison, WI, beginning at 7:15 P.M. All are welcome to join us for Still Prayer and conversation about Julian of Norwich, her life and writings.

Sunday School, Sunday, January 10, 10am: This week, our 3-6 year old class will be learning about the story of the Epiphany, while our 7-11 year old class will hear about the baptism of Jesus.

Spirituality of Parenting Lunch, Sunday, January 10, 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.

Annual Parish Meeting, Sunday, January 24, 9am: Come to hear parish updates, including the 2016 budget, and help elect our parish leaders. All are welcome to attend!

IN THE WIDER CHURCH & COMMUNITY…

Madison-Area Confirmation Class, Winter/Spring 2016: Confirmation is a rite of the church by which a young person (ages 12 and up) affirms their commitment to the vows made for them in baptism, or in which an adult who has joined the Episcopal Church formally affirms their belonging. The Madison-area Episcopal parishes will host a six-week Confirmation preparation, starting February 6, for a Confirmation service to be held on April 30. The class will meet first and third Saturdays at 10am, rotating among the area churches. Talk to Rev. Miranda if you’d like to learn more or get involved!

Camp Webb 2016 (June 19 – 25) is accepting applications now! Camp Webb is an outdoor ministry of the Episcopal Diocese of Milwaukee, for children and youth grades 2 through senior high. It is held at a camp outside Elkhorn, WI. Camp tuition is $375 if you register before January 15, with a deposit of $75 due at the time of registration. St. Dunstan’s offers $150 in aid to all our campers, with additional assistance possible. Visit http://www.diomil.org/ministries/christian-formation/camp-webb/ for registration forms. Camp Webb IS EXPECTED TO FILL this year, so apply soon!

Sermon, Dec. 20

Who is Mary for us?  We know who Mary is in the great Gospel stories of this season.Today’s story from the Gospel of Luke follows directly on the Annunciation – the angel’s announcement to Mary that God has chosen her to mother God’s child, a child who will transform the world. Mary affirms God’s plan and consents to her role in it. Soon thereafter, she goes off to visit her aunt Elizabeth, and we’re given this wonderful tableau of two pregnant women – one young and probably barely showing yet, one old – like, 40! – and six or seven months along – greeting one another in holy joy.

Virgen_de_guadalupe1Who is Mary for us? We don’t actually see a lot of her, hear a lot about her,outside of the Advent and Christmas Gospels. For many Christians throughout the ages and around the world,she has a status second only to the Holy Trinity, and is revered and adored as more than a saint -as a mother, as a holy friend, as one who carries the prayers of the faithful to the throne of Christ. There’s a Roman Catholic family who lives around the block from us that has a small Mary shrine in their front yard. That’s how important she is to them -important enough to have a place to honor her at their home,important enough to share her with the neighborhood.

We share the same Gospel stories with our Roman Catholic brothers and sisters, and yet Mary is almost invisible to us. One of the biggest divisions between the Protestant and Roman Catholic ways, at the time of the Reformation, was over whether to approach the Divine through a wide range of images, saints and symbols, or strictly through the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And though, through a long and complex history, the Episcopal Church – the daughter of the English Reformation in this country – now straddles that line, honoring saints as part of our way of faith, Mary is still largely absent from our churches, our songs and our prayers.

Who is Mary for us? What do we say about her – or sing about her? As I began work on this sermon, I had the idea of taking a survey of what our hymns say about Mary, then quickly discovered that music scholar Michael Linton had already done so, humorously and incisively. Linton writes,

‘Most folks don’t read a lot of theology in December, but we do a lot of singing. Who is Mary in our carols?… A better question is “Where is Mary?” since, surprisingly, she’s mostly absent. In looking at the texts of 381 English-language Christmas carols…, Mary (or the “virgin,” or “mother,” or even “woman”) appears in 27 percent of them. She’s slightly behind the angels and shepherds (who both are in 28 percent of the songs) but significantly ahead of the wise men (who come in at 13 percent)….But Mary’s presence is even less than this low percentage at first suggests. Shepherds, angels, and the wise men are frequently mentioned in multiple verses of a carol. Mary typically is mentioned only once, and sometimes that reference is itself oblique….. “Away in a Manger” mentions the livestock and “Joy to the World” [mentions] problematic shrubbery (“thorns infest the ground”), and there are lots of angelic choirs – but no Mary.’

Linton continues, “So why is Mary largely AWOL in our Christmas singing?…. Our carols are primarily nineteenth and early twentieth-century Protestant inventions…, [a time when Roman Catholic/Protestant relations were strained.] Mary can’t be excised from the Christmas story completely, but in the carols she’s mentioned as little as possible, for fear of turning her into an object of cultic devotion – something… Protestants have accused Roman Catholics of doing for a long time.”

So who is Mary in our carols and songs? Well, often she’s just a body part – “Offspring of a virgin’s womb” or my favorite, “Lo, he abhors not the virgin’s womb”! … (Ick. Wombs.) Here’s the handful of hymns that say anything about Mary as a person and not just a uterus: In The Bleak Midwinter mentions her “maiden bliss”…Lo, How A Rose E’er Blooming calls her “the virgin mother kind”…Once In Royal David’s City says, “Mary was that mother mild…” So, that’s Mary: Blissful, kind, and mild. Songs, poetry and prayers of the Annunciation tend to strike a similar note, praising Mary’s purity, meekness, and obedience.

It’s informative to hold up what our songs say about Mary against what Mary says in song, in the Magnificat, the song placed on her lips in Luke’s Gospel. I’ll use the Common English Bible here, a new translation, to help us hear the familiar words afresh. Mary is fiercely joyful – “With all my heart I glorify the Lord! In the depths of who I am, I rejoice in God my savior!”

Mary is confident and, dare I say, proud! She sees the significance of what she’s being asked to do: “From now on, everyone will consider me blessed, because the Mighty One has done great things for me.” Please note that while the church tends to shift focus to the holy baby and treat Mary as a container, a means to an end, she doesn’t. Even though to everyone around her at the time, she looked like a teenager pregnant out of wedlock, hardly something to celebrate, Mary claims her blessedness and her importance. Meek? … I’m not seeing it.

And Mary is courageously – audaciously hopeful that God is still present in the world, still working for good, still faithful to the promises. “God has pulled down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly! God has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty-handed! God has come to the aid of the people Israel, remembering God’s mercy and the promises made to our ancestors!” People like to stress how young Mary must have been – betrothed but not yet married, likely no older than her mid-teens. That makes me think that Mary’s parents must have been a lot like my parents. Deeply faithful people who taught their daughter, from childhood, to set the world as it is over against the world as it could be and should be. To believe in the possibility of a better, more just, more merciful order of things, and to orient her life, in whatever small ways she could, to making it so.  And to trust and hope in God as the source of hope and strength.

Last Sunday I was practicing for the pageant with Dave and Rachel, the couple who’ll be portraying the Holy Family this year. I told Rachel, “Okay, as this scene starts, you’re sitting on a stool and sewing, and looking demure…” Then Mary’s bold hopefulness rushed into my mind and I said,“Sewing flags for the revolution, maybe?”

We’re in our third year, here at St. Dunstan’s, of hearing and singing and praying a version of Mary’s song that really brings its urgency and beauty to life -The Canticle of the Turning, by Rory Cooney. Cooney works in snippets from elsewhere in Scripture – Revelation, Isaiah – to bring a new fulness to Mary’s prophetic song of hope. The chorus goes like this – “My heart shall sing of the day you bring. Let the fires of your justice burn. Wipe away all tears, for the dawn draws near, and the world is about to turn!”

And the final verse ends like this – “This saving word that our forebears heard is the promise which holds us bound, ‘Til the spear and rod can be crushed by God, who is turning the world around.” Those words always make my heart clench with mingled grief and hope. Mother Mary, we wait for those days with you, we share your urgent longing!…

Who is Mary for us? A character in the Gospel, a few words in our hymns. Who could Mary be for us? Who is she for other Christians? I think that our church, in its fear of courting heresy or idolatry by focusing on and elevating Mary, has missed out on something of beauty and power. I brought forward our resident image of Mary to look at together, today. She’s been here for about 18 months, on long-term loan from a friend of mine. When we first put her up, Talia, who helps us out with the kids, said to me, “I wondered why you didn’t have one before.”

I wondered why you didn’t have one before. It’s a good question. I can explain, as I have here with very broad brush strokes, the history of how honoring Mary became taboo in Protestant Christianity – so that we mostly lack the statues and shrines, the special prayers and offerings and holy days centered on Marythat are part of the fabric of faith for many of our brother and sister Christians. I can explain the cultural gulf that means that many of us gringo Christians have never heard of the Virgin of Guadalupe or Juan Diego.

But those explanations don’t really address the basic question. Why don’t we have Mary? Why don’t we claim – reclaim – her?

This statue represents a particular apparition of Mary. Over two millennia of Christian faith, there have been a number of times when people of faith have received visions of the Virgin Mary. Sometimes she brings words of consolation or guidance; sometimes simply her appearance gives inspiration and hope. These appearances, or apparitions, of Mary are now primarily honored within Roman Catholicism, though some of them predate the great division of our churches.

The appearance of the Virgen de Guadalupe actually happened right at the time of the English Reformation – in 1531, while Henry VIII and his advisors were busy building the case for a church and state independent from Rome, with the English King as its head. But the Virgin’s appearance happened far, far away from the political and religious events that were rocking Europe, on Tepeyac Hill outside Mexico City, where a native peasant named Juan Diego was working. Juan saw a beautiful young woman, who spoke to him in his native language, Nahuatl, told him that she was the mother of the true God, and asked him to build a church there in her honor. Juan hurried to tell the Bishop in Mexico City.

In 1531 Christianity had only been in Mexico for two decades. The bishop was a Spanish Franciscan who had arrived in Mexico three years earlier, sent with the purpose of evangelizing and protecting the Indians, the native Mexicans, who were being brutalized by colonizing Spanish. At first he was skeptical of Diego’s story – I’m sure he seemed like a superstitious, possibly drunk peasant. But the Virgin kept appearing to Juan, and finally, thanks to a miraculous healing and the unlikely appearance of Spanish roses on Tepeyac Hill, Juan Diego’s encounter was accepted as a true theophany, an encounter with the divine.

A church and shrine were built at Tepeyac, and many native Mexicans became Christian because of Maria de Guadalupe. The Virgen was THEIR Mary, not a Spanish import, but God’s Mother appearing to them on their own soil, with tan skin like theirs, and wearing the blue-green color of their pre-Christian gods. In the following decades and centuries, she becomes a powerful symbol of Mexican faith, unity across many cultures and linguistic groups, and political independence… Leaders in Mexico’s war of independence and, later, the Mexican Revolution against rule by oligarchs, carried flags bearing the image and name of Maria de Guadalupe.

The apparitions of Mary are alien to us in both faith and culture. Do I believe in the Virgen de Guadalupe? The anthropologist in me translates the question: Do I believe that children and peasants, and other marginal and uneducated people, can have a direct encounter with the Divine? Yeah. I do. And I think that’s one gift that reclaiming Mary can have for us – this idea that God and God’s holy ones long to connect with so deeply that they come to us, that they appear in this world, in our lives, in forms we can see and understand.

Last weekend was the feast day of the Virgin of Guadalupe, and Talia invited me to join her family at her church Friday night for part of the celebration. It was wonderful – bright decorations in red, green, and white – children dressed up in traditional Mexican peasant clothes; my favorite was a baby dressed as Juan Diego, complete with mustache – mariachi music, including the music during the Mass!

A large statue of the Virgin stood in an elaborate shrine decorated with balloons at the front of the church. Around her were probably twenty big tubs, mostly empty when I arrived. Over the course of the evening, people brought flowers -mostly bunches of red carnations, but others too – and came up and placed them in the tubs, until the shrine was an explosion of color and beauty. Talia told me that people bring the flowers to say thank you for a good year, for all their blessings. People also brought their own statues of the Virgin from home -ranging from tiny, cheap figures or plaques, to one that rivaled the statute in the shrine! They looked so beautiful, all those Marias, all shapes and sizes, gathered together in front of the altar – each one carefully added to the arrangement by its owner, not just tossed into a pile. At the end of the Mass, the statues were blessed with holy water, and then their owners reclaimed them to take home.

The offerings of flowers, the blessing of the statues – those practices are so beautiful and so meaningful to me.They are hallmarks of a sense of the holy as tangible, everyday, domestic, woven into the texture of people’s lives. You can honor and thank the Mother of God with grocery-store carnations. Why not? You can keep the Mother of God in your living room or kitchen, and pray and talk with her as you need to. Why not?

Look at her. She is lovely. And she is unfamiliar to most of us – but she doesn’t have to be. Why don’t we claim – reclaim – Mary? The Mary of the Gospels, Maria de Guadalupe, any of the other ways Mary is known and loved and honored by those who claim the faith of her son?

I find it hard to be concerned that we’ll go seriously amiss in our faith by moving Mary from the very edges of our faith and spiritual practices, towards the center. I feel convinced that God has a robust forwarding system, and that prayers addressed to Mary, to various other saints, even to departed loved ones, get to God’s mailbox nonetheless. The way our brothers and sisters in other churches talk about is: No, Mary isn’t God. She was a human being like us, though with a unique calling. That’s why people find it easy to go to her with their prayers.

Why not claim – re-claim – Mary?  As an icon of faithfulness and audacious hope? As a saint among saints, a holy Mother whose kind face may welcome our anguished prayers in moments when God seems hard to approach, a divine Friend at home in our living rooms and kitchens?

 

Linton’s essay is here, and well worth a read in full: http://www.firstthings.com/web-exclusives/2008/06/looking-for-mary-in-christmas

Announcements, December 17

SUNDAY…

Rector’s Discretionary Fund, Sunday, December 20: 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.

Christmas Pageant Practice, Sunday, Dec. 20, 11:30am: All Actors, Readers & Wranglers are invited to a practice session for our Christmas Eve pageant. We will order pizza to sustain our team, and will go no later than 12:30pm.

Come and help with the Greening of the Church! Sunday, December 20, after the 10am service: We will have fresh greenery, gifted by Jack and Ginny Dennis, and lovely poinsettias to place.

The Longest Night: A Liturgy of Light in the Midst of Darkness, Sunday, Dec. 20, 6pm. On December 20th, we will gather together out of the darkness of the season for a quiet, meditative worship service. Feel free to invite friends who might appreciate this time set apart to name the darkness in the world and in our lives, and prepare our hearts for the coming of the light of Christ. Contact Rev. Miranda at 238-2781 with any questions.

 OPPORTUNITIES TO GIVE…

Kids for Kids: The children of St. Dunstan’s would like to raise enough money to buy a pair of goats for people in need around the world – a total of $160. Put your donation in the bank in the Gathering Area, or give online at donate.stdunstans.com!

Bring Christmas Cheer to St. Dunstans! Celebrate what’s important to you with a gift that helps us decorate for Christmas and honors a loved one or a special event. Please see the red Christmas Flowers sign-up sheet in the Gathering Area. Write “Christmas Flowers” on the memo line of your check or on the envelope containing cash. Suggested donation is $25.

THE WEEKS AHEAD…

Vestry nominations are open! Would you be interested in serving on our vestry, our church’s governing body? Is there someone else you think would be a great candidate? Job descriptions and a box for nominations are in the Gathering Area. Open nominations will run throughout December.  We will be electing two new vestry members in January 2015. Wardens and Diocesan Convention deputies must be elected every year, so candidates for Junior and Senior Warden may also be nominated.

 

Christmas Eve and Christmas Day services:

Family Service with Pageant, Thursday, December 24, 3pm

Festal Eucharist, Thursday, December 24, 9pm

Christmas Day, Friday, December 25, 10am

 

Calendar Notes:

  • Miranda will be taking some time off after Christmas. Father John Rasmus will be available if anyone urgently needs to speak with a priest during Rev. Miranda’s absence.
  • No Book Group on the 23rd. We’ll meet again on December 30th.
  • No Watch Night service on December 31. Enjoy your New Year’s Eve!
  • The church office will be closed December 24, 25 and December 31 and January 1st. Happy New Year to all!

 

Epiphany Service of Light, Thursday, January 7, 5:30pm: Join us as we share the story of the Wise Men who came to honor the infant Jesus, and of how the light of Christ has spread through time and space all the way to here & now! All are welcome. Talk to Rev. Miranda or Sharon Henes if you’d like to be a reader for this service.

Men’s Book Club, Saturday, January 9, 10am: “Crossing to Safety” by Wallace Stegner is the book this month. Tracing the lives, loves and aspiration of two couples who move between Vermont and Wisconsin, it is a work of quiet majesty, deep compassion, and powerful insights into the alchemy of friendship and marriage.

Due to the fact that the 2nd Wednesday in February will fall on Ash Wednesday, the Madison Area Julian Gathering will not meet in January or February. We will resume on March 9, 2016, at St. Dunstan’s Episcopal Church, 6205 University Ave., Madison, WI, beginning at 7:15 P.M. All are welcome to join us for Still Prayer and conversation about Julian of Norwich, her life and writings.

Annual Parish Meeting, Sunday, January 24, 9am: Come to hear parish updates, including the 2016 budget, and help elect our parish leaders. All are welcome to attend!

 

 

Sermon, Dec. 13

Homily for our Service of Lessons & Music on the life of John the Baptist, December 13, 2015

It’s been a hard few weeks, in the world. Violence at home and abroad. Racist and inflammatory rhetoric in the public square. Anguish about our environment. I’ve heard a number of folks saying, I’m having a hard time with Advent this year. I’m having a hard time finding hope, trusting the promises. Can God’s light dawn in times this dark?

And I’ve heard other folks say, But that’s just what Advent is – that’s what Advent is for. A season to look around with open eyes – to see the struggle, to hear the clamor, and to know: God loves anyway. God redeems anyway. The years when the world’s brokenness weighs heavy on our hearts and minds – those are the years when we experience Advent most truly and fully.

Alfred Delp described Advent as not just a season in the church, but a season in the life of the world. He wrote about it from a Nazi prison in 1944. I stumbled on Alfred Delp’s essay on Advent in this book –Watch for the Light: Readings for Advent and Christmas. My first thought was, Sheesh, the essay for December 5 is really long. Then I read it. Then I thought, This is a sermon, and I want to preach it.

So I’m going to read you part of it – Delp’s words on Advent, and on John the Baptist as one of the central figures of Advent.

First, a few more words about Delp. He was 37 when he died, executed by the Nazi regime for speaking his convictions, not unlike John the Baptist. He had been a teacher in Jesuit schools since his youth. During the early part of World War II, he worked at a Jesuit magazine until the Nazis shut it down, then served two churches in Munich, where he was part of the network that secretly helped Jews escape from Germany. Delp was arrested in July 1944, in the crackdown on the Catholic resistance to the Nazis that followed an attempt to assassinate Hitler. Though he hadn’t been involved in the plot, Delp was convicted of treason and sentenced to death. He spent six months in prison, during which he wrote this essay on Advent, among other spiritual writings. On December 8, a Jesuit leader came to visit Delp in prison and received his final monastic vows, completing his commitment to the Order. Delp was executed by hanging on February 2, 1945. On his way to the gallows, he turned to the prison chaplain and whispered, “In half an hour, I’ll know more than you do.”

In Delp’s essay on Advent you’ll hear that he sees God as the source of the chaos and darkness of the times, at least to some degree. Here he stands firmly in the tradition of the Old Testament prophets, who tell Israel again and again that her struggles are a message from God – that if the rulers had been just and righteous, if the people had been faithful, then these calamities would not have fallen upon them. I am hesitant to say that the tragedies and brutalities of World War II represented God’s desire for humanity in any way. But Delp and the prophets who went before him have always faithfully named a simple and lasting truth: when we go wrong, things go wrong for us. Sometimes in big dramatic obvious ways, sometimes in subtle long-term ways. Call it God’s will, call it natural consequences, but when we, as a people, tolerate or even choose paths that lead us away from mercy, justice, righteousness, and peace,  when we go wrong, things go wrong for us.

Here are Delp’s words on Advent, and on John.

Rev. Miranda read portions of the introduction and the section on John the Baptist from Alfred Delp’s essay “The Shaking Reality of Advent.” A portion of the essay may be read online here. 

Announcements, December 10, 2015

SUNDAY, DECEMBER 13…

Advent Art Reflection, 9am: We will have several reflective art stations set up in the Meeting Room. Come color, collage, or sketch your way into the expectant heart of Advent.

Sunday School, 10am: This Sunday, our 3 – 6 year old class will continue exploring the season of Advent, while our 7 – 11 year old class will dig into John the Baptist’s proclamation of good (?) news.

Service of Lessons and Music, Sunday, 10am: Our special Lessons & Music service this Advent will focus on the life and preaching of John the Baptist.

Spirituality of Parenting Lunch, 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.

Younger Adults Meet-up at the Vintage, 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.

 Put your Sharing Christmas gifts under the Tree today! If you took a gift tag, please bring the gift back to church by today. 

OPPORTUNITIES TO GIVE…

Kids for Kids: The children of St. Dunstan’s would like to raise enough money to buy a pair of goats for people in need around the world – a total of $160. Put your donation in the bank in the Gathering Area to support their endeavor! Read more about Episcopal Relief & Development’s Gifts for Life program here: http://www.episcopalrelief.org/what-you-can-do/gifts-for-life.

Bring Christmas Cheer to St. Dunstans! Celebrate what’s important to you with a gift that helps us decorate for Christmas and honors a loved one or a special event. Please see the red Christmas Flowers sign-up sheet in the Gathering Area. Write “Christmas Flowers” on the memo line of your check or on the envelope containing cash. Suggested donation is $25.

MOM Tribute Cards: Would someone on your gift list prefer a gift to charity? This season we are offering Tribute Cards. Make a donation of $10 or more, and take a card to give to someone you care about. All proceeds will go to MOM (Middleton Outreach Ministry) to support their work preventing homelessness and feeding the hungry. Make checks out to St. Dunstan’s, with “MOM Card” on the memo line.

THE WEEKS AHEAD…

Vestry Meeting, Wednesday, December 16, 6:45pm: The Vestry is the elected leadership body of our parish. Any members are welcome to attend Vestry meetings, to observe or raise questions or ideas.

Caroling Ministry, Thursday/Friday/Saturday, Dec. 17 – 19: Everyone who would like to visit and sing for some of our elders and homebound members is invited to participate. We will meet to practice our short list of carols at 7pm on Thursday, December 17. On Friday, Dec. 18, we will meet at the church at 5:30pm to warm up and head out to make four visits. On Saturday, Dec. 19, a second group may make another 2 – 3 visits, depending on availability. All are welcome!

Ladies’ Night Out, Friday, December 18, 6pm: Come 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 Oliva at 751 N. High Point Road in Madison.

Vestry nominations are open! Would you be interested in serving on our vestry, our church’s governing body? Is there someone else you think would be a great candidate? Job descriptions and a box for nominations are in the Gathering Area. Open nominations will run throughout December.  We will be electing two new vestry members in January 2015. Wardens and Diocesan Convention deputies must be elected every year, so candidates for Junior and Senior Warden may also be nominated.

Christmas Pageant Practice, Sunday, Dec. 20, 11:30am: All Actors, Readers & Wranglers are invited to a practice session for our Christmas Eve pageant. We will order pizza to sustain our team, and will go no later than 12:30pm.

Come and help with the Greening of the Church! Sunday, December 20, after the 10am service: We will have fresh greenery, gifted by Jack and Ginny Dennis, and lovely poinsettias to place. Sign-up sheet to help is in the Gathering Area.

The Longest Night: A Liturgy of Light in the Midst of Darkness, Sunday, Dec. 20, 6pm. On December 20th, we will gather together out of the darkness of the season for a quiet, meditative worship service. Feel free to invite friends who might appreciate this time set apart to name the darkness in the world and in our lives, and prepare our hearts for the coming of the light of Christ. Contact Rev. Miranda at 238-2781  with any questions.

 

Christmas Eve and Christmas Day services:

Family Service with Pageant, Thursday, December 24, 3pm

Festal Eucharist, Thursday, December 24, 9pm

Christmas Day, Friday, December 25, 10am

 

Calendar Note – No Watch Night service on December 31. Enjoy your New Year’s Eve!

Epiphany Service of Light, Thursday, January 7, 5:30pm: Join us as we share the story of the Wise Men who came to honor the infant Jesus, and of how the light of Christ has spread through time and space all the way to here & now! All are welcome. Talk to Rev. Miranda or Sharon Henes if you’d like to be a reader for this service

Sermon, Dec. 6

There are probably a dozen or more people in this congregation who have had this experience in the past 18 months:  getting into a conversation with me about matters of faith… suffering… God… Jesus…  and having me thrust a book into your hands: always the same book – Francis Spufford’s book Unapologetic. The subtitle is, “Why, Despite Everything, Christianity Can Still Make Surprising Emotional Sense.”

One of the things I really love about Spufford’s take on faith is that he immediately moves the conversation away from belief, and towards emotion. He diagnoses – accurately, I believe – that in our post-Enlightenment cultural context, we think belief is something that happens in your brain. That to believe something means that we agree with it intellectually. Sure, the square of the hypotenuse is equal to the sum of the squares of the other two sides of the triangle. Sure, Jesus Christ rose from the dead and ascended to a heavenly throne.

Spufford says, that’s not really what’s going on inside a Christian. It’s not that our doctrines, our teachings don’t matter, but the heart of our faith is really about… well, about the heart. About emotion, the ways we experience and respond to the world and other people. That really rings true for me – and I heard it in our focus group conversations about faith in daily life last summer, too. We know ourselves most as people of faith in our frustrated patience as we struggle to deal with difficult people; in our grief and anger in the face of catastrophe and injustice in the world; in the love we give and receive in this community, and the other communities which we call home.

Today’s Scripture lessons point us towards one of the key Christian emotions, an orientation of the heart that makes us and marks us as God’s people: Hope.

Hope. From the German root, hoffen. Meaning, Confidence in the future; expectation of something desired; trust in God. The Latin verb is spero, meaning to hope, expect, assume, await, anticipate.  Our English words despair and desperate both come from that Latin root, spero… to despair, to be desperate, is to have fallen from hope, lost hope.

People often name hope as one of the themes of Advent as a season. Let’s look at what today’s Scripture lessons say about hope, this quality of the heart that I think is one of our hallmarks as people of faith.

The book of Baruch is written in the name of Baruch, who was the assistant of the prophet Jeremiah. Its premise is that it contains the proclamations of Baruch, now become a prophet in his own right, to the people Israel during their exile in Babylon. It’s possible that some parts of the text go back that far, but most of it seems to have been composed much later, perhaps about 150 years before Jesus’ birth. During the brief period when Israel was again an independent kingdom, a time of religious and political renewal, before Rome conquered Judea in 63 BCE. The minds and hearts that composed and edited this text, then, were seeking meaning in the cycle of loss and restoration that Israel had experienced, again and again. Conquest, then freedom. Exile, then return. Destruction, then restoration. Perhaps these words were written in one of the good times, to hold close when the bad times roll around again, as they will, as they do.

The voice of the text explains Israel’s struggles and losses as the result of their failure to stay faithful to their God. Baruch says, You were conquered and taken away into exile because you worshipped other gods and forgot to live with mercy and justice. But then the text turns towards consolation – towards hope. Your God, the God who called you into covenant and made you God’s people,  has not forgotten you, still loves you, and will bring you home and restore you.

Chapter 4, just before today’s passage, has a wonderful refrain: “Take courage, my children, cry to God, and God will deliver you from the power and hand of the enemy. For I have put my hope in the Everlasting to save you, and joy has come to me from the Holy One… Take courage, my children, and cry to God, for you will be remembered by the one who brought this upon you. … Take courage, O Jerusalem, for the one who named you will comfort you. …”

Today’s passage concludes this message of hope: “Take off the garment of your sorrow and affliction, O Jerusalem, and put on forever the beauty of the glory from God…. Arise, O Jerusalem, stand upon the height; look toward the east, and see your children gathered from west and east at the word of the Holy One, rejoicing that God has remembered them…. God will lead Israel with joy, in the light of divine glory, with the mercy and righteousness that come from God.”

That image of looking to the east for the dawn of God’s salvation shows up again in another text we use in this season –  the Song of Zechariah from the Gospel of Luke, which our Church names as a canticle, a holy song of faith. We’ll hear it next week as we hear the story of Zechariah, Elizabeth, and their son, John the Baptist; and it’s quoted into the bidding to the Peace that we use in this season – “In the tender mercy of our God, the Dawn from on high shall break upon us, to give light to those who dwell in darkness and in the shadow of death, and to guide our feet into the way of peace.”

The hope of the Bible, the hope of Advent, isn’t the happy-go-lucky hope of someone who assumes good things will happen because good things always happen. It’s the hard-won, courageous, improbable hope of people who have seen their soldiers cut down, their children starve, who’ve been marched away from their homeland in chains. The hope of people living under unjust and corrupt rule. Dwelling in darkness and the shadow of death, indeed, yet still looking to the east, awaiting the dawn of grace.

The introduction to the letter to the Philippians is another text of hope. Paul was in prison when he wrote this letter – and possibly on his final journey to Rome, anticipating his trial and execution for preaching Christianity. He’s upfront about his circumstances, but with typical Pauline badassery, he expresses confidence that his struggles will only inspire more believers – here are the verses that immediately follow today’s text: “I want you to know, beloved ones, that what has happened to me has actually helped to spread the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to everyone else that my imprisonment is for Christ. And most of the brothers and sisters, having been made confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, dare to speak the word with greater boldness and without fear.” And a little later, in chapter 2: “Even if I am being poured out, like oil or wine poured over a sacrificial offering on the altar, I am glad and rejoice with all of you.”

He reminds the people of the church in Philippi to stay faithful. To take care of each other.  To hold fast to the word of Life. To rejoice in the Lord always, and not worry about anything, but offer up their needs in prayer. In short… to keep on keeping on, as people of hope.

And then there’s today’s Gospel. We’ll focus on John next Sunday – John the Baptist, the prophet, the forerunner. I want to point instead to the first couple of verses – the verses which locate this story in time and place. “In the fifteenth year of the reign of Emperor Tiberius, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was ruler of Galilee, and his brother Philip ruler of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias ruler of Abilene, during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness.”

Those verses are easy to overlook – let the Bible scholars worry about all that! But I think there’s something important here, as Luke anchors the Gospel he proclaims in a particular moment, a particular situation. God’s word arrives … NOW. God’s dawn breaks… HERE.

And here we are, right here, right now, in the seventh year of the reign of President Obama, when Scott Walker was Governor of Wisconsin, and Michael Curry was Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church. Where is hope showing up, now? What does hope look like, here? Where are you looking to spot the first rays of God’s dawn?

Our scriptures, our liturgies, our creeds and seasons seek to shape us as people of hope. To plant and nurture hope within us, as one of the fundamental marks of God’s people, a defining and necessary Christian emotion. What does hope feel like, inside of you? What keeps your feet on the ground, what keeps your heart from flying into bits, in the face of the latest piece of bad news, and the ongoing grinding bitter realities of life in these times?

I meant to preach a more concrete sermon than this. I meant to tell you what hope is and how to have it. But when I set out to write, I found that harder than I expected. Hope is hard to define; it resists being packaged or sold.

The early Christian theologian Tertullian said, Hope is patience with the lamp lit. Hope is patience with the lamp lit. Patience… plus something bright, burning, urgent. I like that.

The fictional spaceship pilot Han Solo said, Never tell me the odds. I like that, too.

The 19th century poet Emily Dickinson said, Hope is a thing with feathers that perches in the soul –  and sings the tune without the words – and never stops – at all – And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard – And sore must be the storm that could abash the little Bird that kept so many warm.

What helps you have hope? Most of us have been through seasons of life when hope was a struggle. Maybe some of us are in a season like that now. Do you, like the Book of Baruch, take notes in the good times, when you’ve come through the storm, to hold close when the bad times roll around again? As they will, as they do?

What helps you have hope? I hope that this place – these people – what we do here – is on your list. Helping you have hope is part of my calling, my work, and the work of this community of faith.

I watched something this week – I bet some of you saw it too – that put it into words so beautifully. It’s a conversation between a man named Angel, and his son, Brandon, who is six. They were interviewed a day after the Paris attacks, near one of the sites of the violence.

Little Brandon told the reporter, ‘We have to be really careful and maybe move away…’ and his father, Angel, spoke up gently to say, ‘We don’t have to move out. France is our home.’

Brandon said, ‘But there’s bad guys, daddy. They have guns, they can shoot us.’

And Angel replied, ‘It’s OK, they might have guns but we have flowers.’

Brandon was not reassured; he said, ‘But flowers don’t do anything.’

And Angle answered, ‘Of course they do, look, everyone is putting flowers over there. It’s to fight against guns.’

Brandon said, ‘It’s to protect us?’

Angel said, ‘Exactly.’

Brandon asked, ‘And the candles too?’

And Angel said, ‘The flowers and the candles are here to protect us.’

The flowers and the candles are here to protect us. Not from bad guys but from fear, which is more destructive than any bad guy could ever be.  The flowers and the candles are here to give hope, to sustain hope. So are the bells, and beautiful colors. The songs, and the way it feels to raise our voices together, that’s to protect us too. The bread and the wine, and that solemn beautiful face up there. They’re here to protect us. We’re here to protect each other from despair and desperation, which both mean, loss of hope. We’re here to be made and remade as people who watch and wait for the first beams of God’s dawn, breaking over the here and now. We’re here to be, and become, people of hope.

Take courage, children!

Announcements, December 3

SUNDAY…

The Poetry of Advent, Sunday, December 6, 9am: Bring a favorite Advent poem to share, or simply come to listen and reflect.

Sunday School, Sunday, December 6, 10am: This week, our 3 – 6 year old class will be learning about the story of Advent, while our 7 – 10 year old class will explore the story of the birth of John the Baptist.

Backpack Snack Pack Prep, Sunday, December 6, 12noon: The kids and grownups 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. We’ll work in the Meeting Room following the 10am service.

MOM Special Offering: This Sunday, half the cash in our offering plate and any designated check will be given to Middleton Outreach Ministries’ food pantry. Thanks for all your generous support!

Healing Prayer: 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.

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

Put your Sharing Christmas gifts under the Tree by Sunday, December 13! If you took a gift tag, please bring the gift back to church by next Sunday. Attach the ornament to the gift when you return it. You can wrap the gift or we can wrap it for you.

Kids for Kids: The children of St. Dunstan’s would like to raise enough money to buy a pair of goats for people in need around the world – a total of $160. Put your donation in the bank in the Gathering Area to support their endeavor! Read more about Episcopal Relief & Development’s Gifts for Life program here: http://www.episcopalrelief.org/what-you-can-do/gifts-for-life.

Vestry nominations are open! Would you be interested in serving on our vestry, our church’s governing body? Is there someone else you think would be a great candidate? Job descriptions and a box for nominations are in the Gathering Area. Open nominations will run throughout December.  We will be electing two new vestry members in January 2015. Wardens and Diocesan Convention deputies must be elected every year, so candidates for Junior and Senior Warden may also be nominated.

Church, Faith and Life Study Summary: A document summarizing the outcomes of our early summer survey and focus groups, and pointing towards next steps, is available in the Gathering Area. Take and read!

Bring Christmas Cheer to St. Dunstans! Celebrate what’s important to you with a gift that helps us decorate for Christmas and honors a loved one or a special event. Sign-up on the red Christmas Flowers sheet in the Gathering Area. Write “Christmas Flowers” on the memo line of your check or on the envelope containing cash. Suggested donation is $25.

THE WEEKS AHEAD…

Christmas Eve and Christmas Day services:

Family Service with Pageant, Thursday, December 24, 3pm

Festal Eucharist, Thursday, December 24, 9pm

Christmas Day, Friday, December 25, 10am

MOM Tribute Cards: Would someone on your gift list prefer a gift to charity? This season we are offering Tribute Cards. Make a donation of $10 or more, and take a card to give to someone you care about. All proceeds will go to MOM (Middleton Outreach Ministry) to support their work preventing homelessness and feeding the hungry. Make checks out to St. Dunstan’s, with “MOM Card” on the memo line.

Help Make Christmas Eve Special! If you plan to attend either of our Christmas Eve services (our 3pm family pageant service or our 9pm festive Eucharist), please consider helping with hospitality for the many visitors who will attend. We need Greeters for both services, people to help set up and serve cookies and cocoa after the afternoon service, and, weather permitting, people to help set up our outdoor creche. Contact the office if you’d like to help out (238-2781, office@stdunstans.com ).

Madison-Area Julian Gathering, Wednesday, December 9, 7:15-9pm: All are welcome to join in contemplative prayer and to learn more about St. Julian of Norwich.

Advent Quiet Day, Saturday, December 12, 1 – 4:30pm: Come spend some time in intentional silence. You may color, read, participate in Advent prayer stations, walk the grounds, sit in silence, or converse quietly in a designated area. We’ll begin and end in prayer. You’re welcome to invite a friend.

The Art of Advent, Sunday, December 13, 9am: Bring a favorite Advent image, or simply come to look, reflect, and share.

Service of Lessons and Music, Sunday, December 13, 10am: Our special Lessons & Music service this Advent will focus on the life of John the Baptist. A signup sheet for our festive Coffee Hour is available in the Gathering Area.

Ladies’ Night Out, Friday, December 18, 6pm: This month we will meet at Oliva at 751 N. High Point Road in Madison.

The Longest Night: A Liturgy of Light in the Midst of Darkness, Sunday, Dec. 20, 6pm. On December 20th, we will gather together out of the darkness of the season for a quiet, meditative worship service. Feel free to invite friends who might appreciate this time set apart to name the darkness in the world and in our lives, and prepare our hearts for the coming of the light of Christ. Contact Rev. Miranda at 238-2781 with any questions.

Craft-In 2015 – Reflections

IMG_7881On Friday, November 27, St Dunstan’s held our second annual Black Friday Craft-In. From 1 – 4pm, we were open to the public, with our Gathering Area and Meeting Room full of tables covered with crafting materials. Crafts included decorative ornaments, flower headbands, stamped notebooks and cards, cardboard shields, tiny clay pot nativity scenes, knitting demonstrations, magnets, and more. Over the course of three hours, about sixty people came – and stayed. They stayed to make crafts together, to chat, to share cookies and cocoa, to take a break and have a little fun together on a busy holiday weekend.

IMG_7879Aside from our terrific team of volunteers, almost no members of St Dunstan’s attended. Our guests were folks from the neighborhood, other area churches, and the wider community. They came because it sounded like a fun way to get out of the house for a few hours. Grandparents, parents, and aunts and uncles brought kids of all ages, and kids and adults enthusiastically engaged with our craft stations. Strangers helped each other – my six-year-old daughter made fast friends with two sweet eighth-grade girls. Susan, one of our hospitality volunteers, remarked on how much people seems to be enjoying the time together: “Last night as I thought about the greatest reward of the arts and crafting, I felt like it was the friends, parents and grandparents involved with each other in a way that created a very memorable holiday experience; everyone seemed to be extremely grateful to be there.”

IMG_7873I was really touched that we had at least two households who had come last year, for our first Craft-In, and have been looking forward to coming again, ever since – even spreading the word and bringing friends. What a wonderful affirmation!

Last year, our Craft-In was something new, and we got a little press about it, which helped with our pre-event publicity. Planning for this year, I wondered if we’d get much turn-out without the media boost. But in fact, turnout was substantially higher, we were better organized, and the event was amazing. We ate all the cookies and used up most of the craft supplies, and people had a wonderful time. IMG_7877This is an event people like enough to talk about and plan ahead to attend. That’s really exciting! I hope next year’s Craft-In will be even bigger and better – and we’ll buy a few more cookies.

– Rev. Miranda+

 

The creative impulse originates in the heart of God. God is present, the divine energies are present, in every creative impulse. The human being, made in the image and likeness of God, shares in God’s creative energies.

-Br. Mark Brown, Society of Saint John the Evangelist