Announcements, April 28

SUNDAY, MAY 1…

Healing Democracy, One Heart at a Time, 9am: We will explore techniques for creating safe spaces in which to talk honestly and reconnect as human beings across our differences. All are welcome!

Healing Prayers: Today, one of our ministers will offer healing prayers for those who wish to receive prayers for themselves or on behalf of others.

Birthdays and anniversaries will be honored today, 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.

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.  Here are the current top-ten, most needed items: pouch/canned meat, sugar, size 6 diapers, meals in a can, ketchup/mayonnaise, canned potatoes (any variety), laundry detergent, non-perishable lactose free milk, plastic grocery bags, paper grocery bags. Thank you for all your support!

An Introduction to Charitable Giving, 11:30am: Come for lunch with several of the folk of St. Dunstan’s who have expertise in the areas of financial management, charitable giving, and taxes. They’ll outline the logistics of different ways of giving to your favorite organizations or causes, different kinds of gifts, and tax implications of giving. Questions welcome too! Folks of all ages and incomes are encouraged to come; child care is provided.

Backpack Snack Pack, Sunday, 12pm: Every month St. Dunstanites of all ages help pack Backpack Snack Packs for local school children from low-income households, so that they have nutritious snacks available over the weekend. We’ll work in the Meeting Room following the 10am service.

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

Ascension Eucharist, Thursday, May 5, 5:30pm: Celebrate a festive service on the Feast of the Ascension, with our Thursday evening “Sandbox Worship” community. A simple meal will follow.

Lost & Found:  Please take a moment to look in the lost and found box and reclaim your items. There are many items including several hats and gloves, a knit scarf, a stuffed animal, a couple of umbrellas and a carry-all. Unclaimed items will be given away after May 8th.

Altar Flowers: April and May dates available! Honor a loved one or a special event with altar flowers. Reserve your special date by writing your dedication on the sign-up sheet. Suggested donation is $35. Write “flowers” on the memo line of your check or on envelope containing cash, or donate online at donate.stdunstans.com.

St. Dunstan’s Diaper Drive, April 17 – May 8: Imagine having to choose whether to pay rent, pay utilities, buy food, or buy diapers for your baby or toddler. Nearly 1 in 3 American families struggle to afford enough diapers, which cannot be purchased with food stamps. Learn more by reading today’s bulletin insert. We are having a diaper drive for sizes 4, 5, and 6 from April 17 until Mother’s Day, May 8. We will donate the diapers to pantries around the area, including Allied Drive Food Pantry, Kennedy Heights, and MOM (if needed). You can shop around for a great deal ($.20 or less per diaper) or make a check or online donation to St. Dunstan’s designated for the Diaper Drive and let our skilled diaper shoppers do the shopping! We’ll dedicate all our gifts on Mother’s Day. Thanks for your support!

THE WEEKS AHEAD…

Proclaiming Love in a Polarized World: An Open Meeting with the Bishop, Wednesday, May 4, St. Dunstan’s Church, 6:30 – 8:00pm: Our bishop Steven Miller will be making his annual visit to St. Dunstan’s next month. All members of St. Dunstan’s are invited to an open conversation, over tea and cookies, about how to be witnesses for a loving God in a time of so much polarization and division in our public life.

Guest Preacher Fred-Allen Self, Sunday, May 8: Fred-Allen is a friend of St. Dunstan’s and is a Progressive Christian Alliance Pastor. We welcome Fred-Allen and his words for us! Fred-Allen will preach at both services.

Healing Democracy, One Heart at a Time, Sunday, May 8, 9am: We will explore techniques for creating safe spaces in which to talk honestly and reconnect as human beings across our differences. All welcome!

Sunday School, Sunday, May 8, 10am: Next week, our 3-5 year old class will be learning about the Mystery of Pentecost, while our 6 – 10 year old class will hear about the early church community in Acts.

Words in Season: Mothers – All Kinds, Sunday, May 8, 11am: 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 invite you to bring a poem to share, loosely connected to our theme of Mothers – all kinds: good and bad, yours or somebody else’s, real or metaphorical. If your chosen poem is long, please consider reading a selected portion, to allow time for all to share. We will share our poems in the Nave after folks have had a chance to get a bite to eat at Coffee Hour. All ages are welcome to participate. No memorizing is necessary.

Spirituality of Parenting Lunch, Sunday, May 8, 12 noon: 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.

Julian Gathering, Wednesday, May 11, 7:15-9pm: What is a Julian Gathering?  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. Don’t worry if you’ve never practiced silent prayer before, we can set your mind at ease.

Men’s Book Group, ANOTHER DATE CHANGE Saturday, May 14, 10am: The book is English Creek by Ivan Doig. A long-kept family secret leads to events that end in a forest fire and a stunning climax.

Spring Clean-up Day, Sunday, May 15, 12-2pm: Join us after the 10 am service to put some “sweat equity” into tending our beautiful buildings and grounds. Wear or bring your scruffy clothes and work gloves. Lunch will be provided! A list of tasks will be posted in the Gathering Area by Sunday the 1st. We will also have a Pre-Clean-Up Day on Saturday, May 14, from 9am to noon, to do some prep work for the parish work day and some of the more skilled work needed on our grounds.

St. Dunstan’s Day All-Ages Worship & Hat and Tie Sunday, May 22:  We will celebrate the feast day of our saint, Dunstan, on Sunday, May 22. You’re invited to mark the occasion by dressing up with a fancy hat and/or tie – wear your own or borrow one from the collection at church. We will formally welcome new members on this festive day. We will also take up a special collection for scholarships for the Diocese of Milwaukee’s camp program, Camp Webb. It’s our custom to take photos of the whole congregation after the 10am service that Sunday; we hope you’ll stay a few moments to participate.

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

Sermon, April 24

A homily for our All-Ages service on April 24, 2016.

Who remembers a baptism? What do we do?…

Another part of what we do is that we say some things together. We say some things that remind us of who we are, and what we believe, and how we try to live, as God’s people. It’s called the Baptismal Covenant.  A covenant is kind of like a promise. It has five questions in it that all start “Will you?” They ask if we will keep being faithful to our church family, if we’ll turn back to God when we go wrong, if we’ll share God’s good news in our lives, if we’ll love other people and try to help them, and if we’ll work to build a better world. And what we say when we answer all those questions is, I WILL, WITH GOD’S HELP! Because those are all important and also hard; so we say, Yes, we will do it, but we need your help, God.

Today I want to talk a little bit about the fourth question. Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself?

Who’s your neighbor? … Jesus means, anybody whose life crosses paths with your life. Friends, family, strangers, enemies, all are our neighbors. Even people who live around the world from us are our neighbors in God’s eyes. So we’re talking about, how we treat other people.

At your school, do they talk about the Golden Rule? What’s the Golden Rule? … Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Treat other people the way you want to be treated. Do your parents or teachers sometimes ask you, “How would you feel if somebody did that to you?” Like if you don’t feel like sharing, or you get upset and hit somebody. You have to think about how it feels when somebody doesn’t share with you, or when somebody gets mad and hits you.

The Golden Rule is a good way to think about how to treat people, because it helps us think about how things feel for somebody else.  But Jesus says something different here, in today’s Gospel story. He says something more. He says, Love each other the way I love you. Love each other the way Jesus loves you. The way God loves you.

Let’s try out an example to explain this… What do you like to eat for breakfast?… Okay. So, if you’re in charge of breakfast, if you get to choose, you’ll have waffles. Now, what if you had a guest and you were making breakfast for them too? And you made them waffles, because it’s your favorite? You are trying to be kind and loving. You are making them the thing that you really like. You are loving your neighbor as yourself.

But what if your guest doesn’t like waffles? It’s just not their favorite. Maybe it even tastes bad to them. Or maybe they’re even allergic to it, (or they’re vegetarian). Then even you were trying to be kind, the breakfast you made for them isn’t meeting their needs. So what could you do differently? …

Yeah! If you really wanted to make your guest happy, make them feel welcome and loved, you would ask them what they like best for breakfast, and then, if you can, that’s what you would make for them.

Jesus says, Love each other the way I love you. Jesus didn’t treat everybody the same. He looked into people and saw who they were and what they needed, and that’s how he responded to them. That’s the kind of love Jesus and God show us, the kind of love that sees that our neighbors are sometimes different from us. What they need and want and hope for might be different too.

We had a little story about that earlier today, in the story about Peter the apostle. Peter and Midamos had a way of following Jesus, that included keeping the practices of Judaism. And they thought that was the right way for everybody who follows Jesus. But God showed Peter that he was wrong. God showed Peter that Gentiles, people who didn’t follow Jewish practices, were called to follow Jesus and become Christians, too.

For Peter, to love those new Christians the way he loved himself, would be to say, Here are the rules for being a Christian. Instead, God helped Peter to love these new Christians the way God loved them, so he was able to just say, Welcome to God’s family! I am glad you’re here!

Our Baptismal Covenant asks us to love our neighbors as ourselves. But let’s remember that that’s just the beginning, and that, with God’s help, we can try to love our neighbors with God’s love, which is bigger and broader and brighter than our love.

I’m going to ask the question now, and I want to hear a nice loud answer: I will, with God’s help!

Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself? …

Announcements, April 21

TONIGHT…

Music and Liturgy meeting, Thursday, April 21, 7pm: We’ll meet to check in on our core liturgical ministries and share ideas for the seasons ahead. All interested folks are welcome!

THIS WEEKEND…

Ladies’ Night Out, Friday, April 22, 6:30pm – Please note new location: Join our monthly get-together as we dine at area restaurants and enjoy good conversation among women of all ages from St. Dunstan’s. This month we will meet at the Freska Mediterranean Grill at 8310 Greenway Boulevard in Middleton. 

St. Francis House 100th Anniversary Dinner, Saturday, April 23, 4-8pm at St. Dunstan’s: The celebration begins at SFH with Evening Prayer at 5:15 pm, led by Bishop Miller, and the blessing of a large icon. Drazen Dupor, the iconographer, will be on hand to speak about the icon. The celebration continues at St. Dunstan’s, with dinner at 6:30pm. Ample parking will be available at St. Dunstan’s with a shuttle to and from campus for evening prayer. Tickets are $35. Seating will be limited to 100 people. You can reserve your tickets for the evening at www.stfancisuw.org.

Healing Democracy, One Heart at a Time, Sunday, April 24, 9am: We will explore techniques for creating safe spaces in which to talk honestly, strive to transcend partisanship and reconnect as human beings across the political gulfs that divide us. We’ll experiment with five habits that author Parker Palmer believes will help heal our hearts and the collective heart of our nation. All are welcome!

Last Sunday Worship, Sunday, April 24, 10am: Our Last Sunday worship is intended especially to help kids (and grownups who are new to our pattern of worship) to engage and participate fully. This Sunday we’ll receive Jesus’ teaching about the Great Commandment – love God, and love your neighbor as yourself. NOTE: Our 8am service always follows our regular order of worship.

Middle School Lunch & Learn, Sunday, April 24, 12-1pm: Rev. Miranda invites the 10-and-up youth of the parish to meet with her for lunch after church. We’ll dig into faith, Scripture, life, and our questions about all three. We’ll wrap up by 1pm, and we can arrange rides home for the kids if that help parents’ schedules.

Sing Out Loud! Sunday, April 24, 3pm at St. Dunstan’s: Choirs from congregations that support Middleton Outreach Ministries are joining together to present favorite anthems in an afternoon concert on Sunday, April 24th at 3 pm. The concert will benefit Middleton Outreach Ministries. Admission is free, but everyone is encouraged to bring personal care items (soap, deodorant, feminine products, toothpaste, etc.) for MOM to distribute. Cash/checks are accepted, too. Come join us for an enjoyable and participatory afternoon of Song!

Grace Shelter Dinner, Sunday, April 24, 7pm: Every fourth Sunday, a loyal group of St. Dunstan’s folk provides dinner for resident at the Grace Church shelter, and breakfast the next morning. See the signup sheet in the Gathering Area to help out.

Work Evening, Wednesday, April 27, 5:30 – 7:30pm: Come eat some pizza and help out on the grounds for an hour or so. We’ll be working down in the woods, to clear out some boxelder and buckthorn that threaten to crowd out some of the plants we like better, like currants and raspberries! Warm clothes appropriate for outdoor work and gloves are recommended. We will have childcare and a movie for non-working kids.

Altar Flowers: April and May dates available! Honor a loved one or a special event with altar flowers. Reserve your special date by writing your dedication on the sign-up sheet. Suggested donation is $35. Write “flowers” on the memo line of your check or on envelope containing cash, or donate online at donate.stdunstans.com.

Coffee Hosts Needed! Please consider being a coffee host. Sign-up sheets for upcoming Sundays can be found in the Gathering Area. Thanks!

St. Dunstan’s Diaper Drive, April 17 – May 8: Imagine having to choose whether to pay rent, pay utilities, buy food, or buy diapers for your baby or toddler. Nearly 1 in 3 American families struggle to afford enough diapers, which cannot be purchased with food stamps. Learn more by reading today’s bulletin insert. We are having a diaper drive for sizes 4, 5, and 6 from April 17 until Mother’s Day, May 8. We will donate the diapers to pantries around the area, including Allied Drive Food Pantry, Kennedy Heights, and MOM (if needed). You can shop around for a great deal ($.20 or less per diaper) or make a check or online donation to St. Dunstan’s designated for the Diaper Drive and let our skilled diaper shoppers do the shopping! We’ll dedicate all our gifts on Mother’s Day. Thanks for your support!

THE WEEKS AHEAD…

Confirmation Service, Saturday, April 30, 10:00am, at Grace Episcopal Church on the Square: A service of confirmation or reception into the Episcopal Church for those who participated in the Madison-area Episcopal parishes’ shared Confirmation class during Lent. One new member of St. Dunstan’s will be confirmed at this service. All are invited to attend and celebrate those committing themselves to our way of faith, and our unity as the Episcopal Church in Dane County!

Men’s Book Group, DATE CHANGE – Saturday, May 7, 10am: The book is English Creek by Ivan Doig. Jack McCaskill accompanies his father on a horseback journey to count sheep onto mountain rangeland allotted by the national forest—a routine yearly duty that leads to the revelation of a long-kept family secret. Events develop over the course of the summer and end in a forest fire that brings the book, as well as the Catskill family’s struggle within itself, to a stunning climax.

An Introduction to Charitable Giving, Sunday, May 1, 11:30am: Come for lunch with several of the folk of St. Dunstan’s who have expertise in the areas of financial management, charitable giving, and taxes. They’ll outline the logistics of different ways of giving to your favorite organizations or causes, different kinds of gifts, and tax implications of giving. Questions welcome too! Folks of all ages and incomes are encouraged to come; child care will be provided.

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

Birthdays and anniversaries will be honored next Sunday, May 1, 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.

MOM Special Offering, Sunday, May 1: Next Sunday, half the cash in our offering plate and any designated checks will be given to Middleton Outreach Ministry’s food pantry.  Here are the current top-ten, most needed items: pouch/canned meat, sugar, size 6 diapers, meals in a can, ketchup/mayonnaise, canned potatoes (any variety), laundry detergent, non-perishable lactose free milk, plastic grocery bags, paper grocery bags. MOM is always in need of quality bedding and household items as well. Thank you for all your support!

Backpack Snack Pack, Sunday, May 1, 12pm: Every month St. Dunstanites of all ages help pack Backpack Snack Packs for local school children from low-income households, so that they have nutritious snacks available over the weekend. We’ll work in the Meeting Room following the 10am service.

Evening Eucharist, Sunday, May 1, 6pm: Join us for a simple service before the week begins.

Proclaiming Love in a Polarized World: An Open Meeting with the Bishop, Wednesday, May 4, St. Dunstan’s Church, 6:30 – 8:00pm: Our bishop Steven Miller will be making his annual visit to St. Dunstan’s next month. All members of St. Dunstan’s are invited to an open conversation, over tea and cookies, about how to be witnesses for a loving God in a time of so much polarization and division in our public life.

Words in Season: Mothers – All Kinds, Sunday, May 8: 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 invite you to bring a poem to share, loosely connected to our theme of Mothers – all kinds: good and bad, yours or somebody else’s, real or metaphorical. If your chosen poem is long, please consider reading a selected portion, to allow time for all to share. We will share our poems in the Nave after folks have had a chance to get a bite to eat at Coffee Hour. All ages are welcome to participate. No memorizing is necessary.

Spring Clean-up Day, Sunday, May 15, 12-2pm: Join us after the 10 am service to put some “sweat equity” into tending our beautiful buildings and grounds. Wear or bring your scruffy clothes and work gloves. Lunch will be provided! A list of tasks will be posted in the Gathering Area by Sunday the 1st. We will also have a Pre-Clean-Up Day on Saturday, May 14, from 9am to noon, to do some prep work for the parish work day and some of the more skilled work needed on our grounds.

St. Dunstan’s Day All-Ages Worship & Hat and Tie Sunday, May 22:  We will celebrate the feast day of our saint, Dunstan, on Sunday, May 22. You’re invited to mark the occasion by dressing up with a fancy hat and/or tie – wear your own or borrow one from the collection at church. We will also take up a special collection for scholarships for the Diocese of Milwaukee’s camp program, Camp Webb. It’s our custom to take photos of the whole congregation after the 10am service that Sunday; we hope you’ll stay a few moments to participate.

Vacation Bible School Dates Set! Our summer Vacation Bible School will take place from Sunday, July 31, through Thursday, August 4, 5:30-7:30pm. Kids ages 3-10 are welcome to participate; kids 11 and up may participate as actors and helpers. We hope these dates are helpful to St. Dunstan’s families making summer plans.

40th Annual Women’s Mini Week – Surprised by Joy! – August 11 – 14, 2016, Camp Lakotah, Wautoma, Wisconsin: This is your time to retreat from your everyday routines, to allow discoveries and friendships to refresh you, to find comfortable activity or blissful quiet. Registration forms are in the Gathering Area. For more information, see the website at www.womensminisweek.org.

Creation Care Task Force Update

Christ wears ‘two shoes’ in the world: scripture and nature. Both are necessary to understand the Lord, and at no stage can creation be seen as a separation of things from God. – John Scotus Eriugena (810-877)

St. Dunstan’s Creation Care Task Force has met twice so far. We’ve explored the deep streams in Scripture and Christian theology that call us to seek and honor God through God’s creation, and that link our wellbeing to the wellbeing of the world. We’ve shared stories and memories of the importance of the natural world in our own lives and spirituality. We’ve tried on John Muir Laws’ definition of “love” as “sustained compassionate attention” and begun to ask ourselves, what could it look like to be a faith community that practices sustained compassionate attention towards the natural world – both the bit of it that “belongs” to us, here at 6205 University Drive, and the larger landscape and systems of which we are a part? We’ll continue that conversation, at both big-picture and nitty-gritty levels, in the months ahead. Please continue to hold our conversations and work in prayer, and look for signs of God’s presence and love in Nature’s overwhelming life and beauty in this spring season!

Sermon, April 17

Will you proclaim by word and example the good news of God in Christ? Two Sundays ago I began a sermon series of sorts, based on the Baptismal Covenant, the five questions about how we intend to live out our faith that are part of our baptismal liturgy. This question, the third one, is really the shortest and simplest – at least grammatically speaking. Conceptually, perhaps, it’s not quite so simple…

Will you proclaim by word and example the good news of God in Christ? In today’s Gospel, Jesus is surrounded by a crowd that has heard about him, and wants to know, Are you the real deal? The Messiah, the Savior sent by God? And Jesus says, I’ve already told you that, and what’s more, everything I do in the name of God bears witness to my closeness to God. “The works that I do in my Father’s name testify to me.” John’s Jesus talks about works a lot. It’s interesting that he doesn’t use a word like “miracles” or “wonders”. Some of the things Jesus does are wondrous – healings, exorcisms, feeding vast multitudes.

But many of the things Jesus did, that we remember and reflect on and learn from, were more human and mundane. Not wonders but works. Acts. Deeds. He told stories. He gave people his full attention and responded to them with compassion and truth. He sought out the company of those most people avoided. He raised his voice about injustice and hypocrisy. He spoke out even in the face of oppressive violence. None of those are easy, but they’re not superhumanly impossible, either. All those works and deeds were Jesus proclaiming by example the urgent love, the thwarted tenderness of God.

And then we have Tabitha. I love this little story, from the book of Acts. Tabitha – her Hebrew name – or Dorcas in Greek – was an early convert to the way of Christ, and perhaps a leader in this tiny Christian community in Joppa. Tabitha gets sick and dies. But Tabitha’s community knows that the apostle Peter, friend of Jesus, is just one town over, and they think, Maybe, just maybe, there’s enough of our Lord Jesus’ power left in Peter that he can help. Peter comes, and Peter is able, by the power of God, to restore Tabitha to life.

But the detail I really love comes earlier in the story: “All the widows stood beside him, weeping and showing tunics and other clothing that Dorcas had made while she was with them.” Now, the widows weren’t necessarily really widows; in the early church that was what they called women who devoted themselves to serving God, their community, and the poor. And the widows of the little church in Joppa, grieving Tabitha, do what we do when we’re grieving our dead – they show and share what that person meant to them. The gifts and graces of that life. And for Tabitha, it was all these garments, pieces of clothing, lovingly and skillfully sewn. It sounds like she kept the whole community dressed, and probably gave away clothes to the poor as well. Doesn’t that make Tabitha real for you? Maybe in your mind now she’s wearing the face of somebody you know or knew, who had Tabitha’s skill and Tabitha’s heart, overflowing with capability and generosity. I know people like that; some of them are in this room. I bet you know some too. Tabitha, Dorcas, a disciple of Jesus, proclaiming by her acts, her works, her example, the boundless generosity of God’s love.

Will you proclaim by word and example the good news of God in Christ? Word and example. Example and word. Episcopalians tend to be more comfortable with “example.” In our focus groups last month I asked you, Tell me a time when you acted as you did because of your faith. Maybe you even consciously thought, “I HAVE to do this, because Jesus.” And you paused for a few minutes to think about it, but then you had answers. Ranging from the impulse of a moment, to reach out to a stranger, to speak a needed word to a friend – to decisions with life-altering consequences. Leaving or taking a job. Following a dream. Beginning recovery.

We might have to think about it for a minute, but we can name the times and ways in which our actions, our works, reflect our faith, testify to our love for God and our striving to follow Jesus’ example. We are, in fact, tolerably good at living by our faith.

And by and large we would much rather do it than talk about it. Proclaiming our faith in word, not just example, requires us to be able to put it into words. We live in *Madison.* Home of the Freedom From Religion foundation. Being “out” as a Christian feels like a big deal for some of us, depending on our circle of friends and acquaintances. Anne Lamott has a wonderful moment, in her book Traveling Mercies. She invokes an old joke about Judaism – about some guy who isn’t really a serious Jew, he’s just Jew-ish. And she says that her non-church friends prefer to see her as “Christian-ish” – just a “vaguely Jesusy bon vivant.” But it’s not true, she says. I just love Jesus. I really love the guy. I love that passage… because I do too.

Proclaim the good news of God in Christ… What if I misconstrued my role and overstepped my authority and administered a pop quiz, right now? Handed out slips of paper and number 2 pencils and asked you: Define the good news of God in Christ, in your own words?

I think a lot of our reluctance, our hesitation, is that we don’t feel like we have those words. The language of our liturgy, our prayers and hymns, has its pros and cons. It is beautiful, artful, powerful. We love its poetry, its grandeur, its unapologetic premodernism. But it is a step or several steps removed from the language we speak in everyday life. We have to build our own bridges between the language and symbols of our liturgy, and our own experiences of and thoughts about God and faith. We may – and I hope we do – deeply internalize the words of liturgy and Scripture, so they become part of the language of our spirits. But you can’t tell your co-worker, “Well, my church believes that Jesus, rising from the grave, destroyed death, and made the whole creation new; and that we might live no longer for ourselves, sent the Holy Spirit, his own first gift for those who believe, to bring to fulfillment the sanctification of all.” Beg pardon?

We don’t feel like we have the words to testify to the faith that is in us. To proclaim the good news of God in Christ. But I think maybe we do, really. Working on this sermon, I gave myself that pop quiz: How would you summarize the Gospel, which just means, Good News? What’s the Good News of God in Christ as you understand it, Mrs. Priest Lady? And actually, lots of things came to mind. The idea, the hope, that we are never abandoned. Love, you are not alone, in the words of a current pop song. The idea, the hope, that God loves us just the way we are, but isn’t going to leave us that way. Snippets from Francis Spufford’s Unapologetic: The human propensity to mess things up does not define us. Don’t be careful. Risk love’s consquences. Much more can be mended than you know.

Favorite snippets of Scripture, the ones that lodge in my heart – An alternate translation of John 3:16-17: “For God so loved the system, that God sent God’s son into the system – not to condemn the system, but that the system through him might be transformed.” That passage from Ephesians – So then you are no longer strangers and outsiders, but fellow citizens with the saints, and members of the household of God.

Bits of songs – There is more love somewhere; I’m gonna keep on till I find it. For the love of God is greater than the measure of the mind. ‘Twas grace that brought me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home. God will delight when we are creators of justice and joy.

We’ve been working together, here at St. Dunstan’s, to find our own words for how we live as disciples of Jesus, a list of core practices by which we live out our faith. One of them happens to be Proclaiming; Rob Chappell will talk about that in a few minutes! I hope that list, itself, will become a tool for speaking about faith, both within and beyond our community – a way to begin to answer the question, spoken or unspoken: So you’re a Christian. So what? What difference does it make, for you, in you, beyond you?  And of course our proclamation is most powerful and profound when we’re able to find words not just for what we believe, but for how it’s active in our lives, how God in Christ shapes, comforts, leads, challenges, saves us. You. Me.

Will you proclaim by word and example the good news of God in Christ? I think you do, friends; and I think you can. We’re finding the words together. Practicing sharing our stories with each other. Talking about what it looks and feels like to proclaim God’s love by our actions, large and small. With God’s help, we are keeping this promise, and learning to live into it ever more fully. I’m going to say it once more, and this time you can answer, I will, with God’s help!

Sisters and brothers, will you proclaim by word and example the good news of God in Christ? …

Announcements, April 14

SUNDAY, APRIL 17…

Healing Democracy, One Heart at a Time, begins this Sunday, 9am: We will explore techniques for creating safe spaces in which to talk honestly, strive to transcend partisanship and reconnect as human beings across the political gulfs that divide us. We’ll experiment with five habits that author Parker Palmer believes will help heal our hearts and the collective heart of our nation. In a year of contentious politics, let’s claim this opportunity to engage in deep conversation and strengthen the ties connecting our faith, our hearts, our convictions and our communities. Watch this space for more details, but please consider participating in the weeks ahead!

Sunday School, 10am: Our 3-5 year old class will explore the story of the Good Shepherd, while our 6 – 10 year old class will learn about Peter’s healing of Tabitha. Our Sunday school classes usually meet on the second and third Sundays of every month. All kids are welcome!

Christian Formation Meeting, 12noon: Gather with us to help us plan our Formation programs for all ages for the months ahead, especially the summer. All interested folks are welcome!

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

Younger Adults Meetup 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 too.

Rector’s Discretionary Fund: 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.

Coffee Hosts Needed! Please consider being a coffee host. We have an opening on April 24 and several in the months ahead. Sign-up sheets for upcoming Sundays can be found in the Gathering Area. Thanks for lending a hand!

St. Dunstan’s Diaper Drive, April 17 – May 8: Imagine having to choose whether to pay rent, pay utilities, buy food, or buy diapers for your baby or toddler. Nearly 1 in 3 American families struggle to afford enough diapers, which cannot be purchased with food stamps. Learn more by reading today’s bulletin insert. We are having a diaper drive for sizes 4, 5, and 6 from April 17 until Mother’s Day, May 8. We will donate the diapers to pantries around the area, including Allied Drive Food Pantry, Kennedy Heights, and MOM (if needed). You can shop around for a great deal ($.20 or less per diaper) or make a check or online donation to St. Dunstan’s designated for the Diaper Drive and let our skilled diaper shoppers do the shopping! We’ll dedicate all our gifts on Mother’s Day. Thanks for your support!

THE WEEKS AHEAD…

Vestry Meeting, Wednesday, April 20, 6:45pm: The Vestry is the elected leadership body of our parish. Any members are welcome to attend our meetings, to observe or to raise questions or ideas.

Music and Liturgy meeting, Thursday, April 21, 7pm: We’ll meet to check in on our core liturgical ministries and share ideas for the seasons ahead. All interested folks are welcome!

Ladies’ Night Out, Friday, April 22, 6:30pm – Please note new location: Join our monthly get-together as we dine at area restaurants and enjoy good conversation among women of all ages from St. Dunstan’s. This month we will meet at the Freska Mediterranean Grill at 8310 Greenway Boulevard in Middleton.

St. Francis House 100th Anniversary Dinner, Saturday, April 23, 4-8pm at St. Dunstan’s: On April 23, St. Francis House celebrates the ministry’s 100th anniversary, a celebration that belongs to all of the Episcopal churches in our diocese and to everyone who has been a part of SFH. The celebration begins at SFH with Evening Prayer at 5:15 pm, led by Bishop Miller, and the blessing of a large icon, gifted to SFH by the alumni family. Drazen Dupor, the iconographer, will be on hand to speak about the icon. There will be displays from different eras at SFH, a short program, and lots of new and old friends. The celebration continues at St. Dunstan’s, with dinner at 6:30pm. Ample parking will be available at St. Dunstan’s with a shuttle to and from campus for evening prayer. Tickets are $35. Seating will be limited to 100 people. You can reserve your tickets for the evening at www.stfancisuw.org.

Last Sunday Worship, Sunday, April 24, 10am: Our Last Sunday worship is intended especially to help kids (and grownups who are new to our pattern of worship) to engage and participate fully. This Sunday we’ll receive Jesus’ teaching about the Great Commandment – love God, and love your neighbor as yourself. NOTE: Our 8am service always follows our regular order of worship.

Middle School Lunch & Learn, Sunday, April 24, 12-1pm: Rev. Miranda invites the 10-and-up youth of the parish to meet with her for lunch after church. We’ll dig into faith, Scripture, life, and our questions about all three. We’ll wrap up by 1pm, and we can arrange rides home for the kids if that help parents’ schedules.

Sing Out Loud! Sunday, April 24, 3pm at St. Dunstan’s: Choirs from congregations that support Middleton Outreach Ministries are joining together to present favorite anthems in an afternoon concert on Sunday, April 24th at 3 pm. The concert will benefit Middleton Outreach Ministries. Admission is free, but everyone is encouraged to bring personal care items (soap, deodorant, feminine products, toothpaste, etc.) for MOM to distribute. Cash/checks are accepted, too. Come join us for an enjoyable and participatory afternoon of Song!

MOM Canstruction,”sCANing the Galaxy!” April 18-24 at West Towne Mall: Teams will be building giant structures made of canned goods and packaged food that will be donated to MOM’s Food Pantry. You may vote for your favorite structure through Facebook and Instagram or at the mall. Canstruction Madison competitions have raised over 160 tons of food over the past five years, and the event helps bring additional awareness of the needs of our community. Check it out—it’s a fun event!

Volunteers Needed for DeCanstruction, Sunday, April 24, 7:00pm: Help take apart the giant sculptures built from cans and boxes of food, as part of this year’s CanStruction competition, a food- and fund-raiser for Middleton Outreach Ministry. This year’s CanStruction will take place at West Towne Mall, and structures can be viewed there all week, starting Monday, April 18. To help with the “de-Canstruction” work, you must be reasonably able-bodied (but not everybody has to do heavy lifting). Sign up if you’d like to join this year’s team; we are looking for a team of 5 people. Volunteers are invited and encouraged to attend the Awards Ceremony in the mall food court at 6:30pm before beginning our work.

Confirmation Service, Saturday, April 30, 10:00am, at Grace Episcopal Church on the Square: A service of confirmation or reception into the Episcopal Church for those who participated in the Madison-area Episcopal parishes’ shared Confirmation class during Lent. One new member of St. Dunstan’s will be confirmed at this service. All are invited to attend and celebrate those committing themselves to our way of faith, and our unity as the Episcopal Church in Dane County!

Men’s Book Group, Saturday, April 30, 10am: The book is English Creek by Ivan Doig.  A long-kept family secret leads to conflicts over the course of a summer that ends in a forest fire and a stunning climax.

An Introduction to Charitable Giving, Sunday, May 1, 11:30am: Come for lunch with several of the folk of St. Dunstan’s who have expertise in the areas of financial management, charitable giving, and taxes. They’ll outline the logistics of different ways of giving to your favorite organizations or causes, different kinds of gifts, and tax implications of giving. Questions welcome! Folks of all ages and incomes are encouraged to come; child care will be provided.

Proclaiming Love in a Polarized World: An Open Meeting with the Bishop, Wednesday, May 4, St. Dunstan’s Church, 6:30 – 8:00pm: Our bishop Steven Miller will be making his annual visit to St. Dunstan’s next month. All members of St. Dunstan’s are invited to an open conversation, over tea and cookies, about how to be witnesses for a loving God in a time of so much polarization and division in our public life.

Spring Clean-up Day, Sunday, May 15: Join us after the 10 am service to put some “sweat equity” into tending our beautiful buildings and grounds. Wear or bring your scruffy clothes and work gloves. Lunch will be provided!

St. Dunstan’s Day All-Ages Worship & Hat and Tie Sunday, May 22:  We will celebrate the feast day of our saint, Dunstan, on Sunday, May 22. You’re invited to mark the occasion by dress up with a fancy hat and/or tie – wear your own or borrow one from the collection at church. We will also take up a special collection for scholarships for the Diocese of Milwaukee’s camp program, Camp Webb. It’s our custom to take photos of the whole congregation after the 10am service that Sunday; we hope you’ll stay a few moments to participate.

Vacation Bible School Dates Set! Our summer Vacation Bible School will take place from Sunday, July 31, through Thursday, August 4, 5:30-7:30pm. Kids ages 3-10 are welcome to participate; kids 11 and up may participate as actors and helpers. We hope these dates are helpful to St. Dunstan’s families making summer plans.

40th Annual Women’s Mini Week – Surprised by Joy! – August 11 – 14, 2016, Camp Lakotah, Wautoma, Wisconsin: This is your time to retreat from your everyday routines, to allow discoveries and friendships to refresh you, to find comfortable activity or blissful quiet. Registration forms are in the Gathering Area. For more information, see the website at www.womensminisweek.org.

 

 

 

Announcements, April 7

SUNDAY, APRIL 10…

Guest Preacher: Vivienne Anderson will preach at both services this day. Vivienne is a storyteller, realtor, community leader and former pastor, who can fly, forgive sins, and sell a large house in a single day. We welcome Vivienne to our pulpit and look forward to hearing her reflect on our Scriptures!

Trans Issues 101, 9am: The idea of transgender people is still new (and perplexing) to many of us. Vivienne Anderson, our guest preacher, is a community educator and would like to share her story and answer your questions. We’ll gather in the Meeting Room at 9am.

Sunday School, 10am: Our 3-5 year old class will explore the many styles and meanings of crosses, while our 6 – 10 year old class will reflect on the conversion of the apostle Paul. Our Sunday school classes usually meet on the second and third Sundays of every month. All kids are welcome!

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.

Greeters Needed for the 10am service: If you enjoy making people feel at home, please consider signing up to be a greeter on Sunday mornings. Greeters serve once a month. Here’s a basic job description: arrive 15 minutes before worship starts, greet people as they arrive, help any newcomers or guests find what they need to participate and be comfortable. If you are interested or would like to learn more, sign up in the Gathering Area or talk with Bernice Mason or Rev. Miranda.

Coffee Hosts Needed! Please consider being a coffee host. We have several openings in April and May. Sign-up sheets for upcoming Sundays can be found in the Gathering Area. For more information, contact Janet Bybee. Thanks for lending a hand.

Online Giving Options: If you’d like to make a financial gift to St. Dunstan’s but don’t carry cash or checks, you can give online by visiting donate.stdunstans.com on your smartphone or computer.  You can make a donation in any amount, either as a general gift or an outreach gift (to be passed on to the wider community).  We use Square, a widely-used secure service, to process online donations.  If you’d like to put something in the offering plate to represent your gift, you can pick up an “I Gave Online” card on the way into church.  Regular givers may wish to set up a recurring payment through your bank, which avoids the modest transaction fees that Square charges us. Thanks to all those who contribute financially and in so many other ways to sustain and grow our ministry together here at St. Dunstan’s!

THE WEEKS AHEAD…

Madison-Area Julian Gathering, April 13, 7:15 – 9:00pm: The Madison-Area Julian Gathering has been meeting for six years, reading and discussing the hopeful theology of St. Julian of Norwich, and practicing contemplative prayer together. Upon having worked our way carefully through Julian’s 14th Century masterpiece of trust and joy in the goodness of God, we’ve decided to start at the beginning and do it all over again! If you’re interested in getting in on the ground floor, please join us!

Easter Season 2016: Healing Democracy, One Heart at a Time – Sundays at 9am, starting on April 17, we will explore techniques for creating safe spaces in which to talk honestly, strive to transcend partisanship and reconnect as human beings across the political gulfs that divide us. We’ll experiment with five habits that author Parker Palmer believes will help heal our hearts and the collective heart of our nation. In a year of contentious politics, let’s claim this opportunity to engage in deep conversation and strengthen the ties connecting our faith, our hearts, our convictions and our communities. Watch this space for more details, but please consider participating in the weeks ahead!

Sunday School, Sunday, April 17, 10am: Our 3-5 year old class will explore the story of the Good Shepherd, while our 6 – 10 year old class will learn about Peter’s healing of Tabitha. All kids are welcome!

Evening Eucharist, Sunday, April 17, 6pm: Join us for a simple service before the week begins.

Rector’s Discretionary Fund, Sunday, April 17: 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.

Music and Liturgy meeting, Thursday, April 21, 7pm: We’ll meet to check in on our core liturgical ministries and share ideas for the seasons ahead. All interested folks are welcome!

Ladies’ Night Out, Friday, April 22, 6:30pm: Join our monthly get-together as we dine at area restaurants and enjoy good conversation among women of all ages from St. Dunstan’s. This month we will meet at the Marrakesh Restaurant at 5510 University Avenue in Madison.

St. Francis House 100th Anniversary Dinner, Saturday, April 23, 4-8pm at St. Dunstan’s: The celebration begins at SFH with Evening Prayer at 5:15 pm, led by Bishop Miller, and the blessing of a large icon, gifted to SFH by the alumni family. The celebration continues at St. Dunstan’s, with dinner at 6:30pm. Ample parking will be available at St. Dunstan’s with a shuttle to and from campus for evening prayer. Tickets are $35. Seating will be limited to 100 people. You can reserve your tickets for the evening at www.stfancisuw.org.

Sing Out Loud! Sunday, April 24, 3pm at St. Dunstan’s: Choirs from congregations that support Middleton Outreach Ministries are joining together to present favorite anthems in an afternoon concert on Sunday, April 24th at 3 pm. The concert will benefit Middleton Outreach Ministries. Admission is free, but everyone is encouraged to bring personal care items (soap, deodorant, feminine products, toothpaste, etc.) for MOM to distribute. Cash/checks are accepted, too. Come for an enjoyable and participatory afternoon of Song!

Confirmation Service, Saturday, April 30, 10:00am, at Grace Episcopal Church on the Square: A service of confirmation or reception into the Episcopal Church for those who participated in the Madison-area Episcopal parishes’ shared Confirmation class during Lent. One new member of St. Dunstan’s will be confirmed at this service. All are invited to attend and celebrate those committing themselves to our way of faith, and our unity as the Episcopal Church in Dane County!

Men’s Book Group, Saturday, April 30, 10am: The book is English Creek by Ivan Doig. A long-kept family secret brings tension and family struggles over a summer that ends in a forest fire and a stunning finale.

An Introduction to Charitable Giving, Sunday, May 1, 11:30am: Come for lunch with several of the folk of St. Dunstan’s who have expertise in the areas of financial management, charitable giving, and taxes. They’ll outline the logistics of different ways of giving to your favorite organizations or causes, different kinds of gifts, and tax implications of giving. Questions welcome too! Folks of all ages and incomes are encouraged to come; child care will be provided.

40th Annual Women’s Mini Week – Surprised by Joy! – August 11 – 14, 2016, Camp Lakotah, Wautoma, Wisconsin: This is your time to retreat from your everyday routines, to allow discoveries and friendships to refresh you, to find comfortable activity or blissful quiet. Registration forms are in the Gathering Area. For more information, see the website at www.womensminisweek.org.

Sermon, April 3

Alleluia! Christ is risen!

It is Easter, the season in the church’s year in which we celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus. This Easter season, I’m going to attempt two things you don’t get from me very often. First, I’m going to try to keep my sermons short – to make time for some words from somebody else. Because the conversations we’ve been having about discipleship, about how we as the people of St. Dunstan’s follow Jesus, are beginning to bear fruit. And starting today and over the next few weeks, some members of the congregation are going to speak about some of the core practices of faith that we are starting to identify, and how they experience or live out or struggle with those practices in their own lives.

The second thing I’m going to do is undertake a sermon series. As a preacher I usually take each week, each set of lessons, on its own terms. But I got inspired by the Confirmation class that’s been gathering this Lent, from all the Episcopal parishes in Madison. The class was structured around the Baptismal Covenant, the five promises that are part of our rite of holy baptism. And I got to thinking, You know, those vows really are great stuff to think and talk about. They’re a pithy and powerful map of the Christian life as our church understands it. And though we say them pretty often, when we have a baptism or renew our baptismal vows, we haven’t looked at them and unpacked them together. If you’d like to look at the Baptismal Covenant, these 5 questions, as we go along, you can open a little red prayer book to pages 304 and 305.

Today we’ll start with the first two. I plan to take the rest one by one, but next week we have a guest preacher and I didn’t want to saddle her with this project; and anyway these first two are related. They both have to do with belonging to a worshipping community, and the ways that blesses and challenges us. Will you continue in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in the prayers? The apostles’ teaching and fellowship is… this. Gathering regularly to read and reflect on Scripture together, and to support, encourage, and care for one another. Sharing the Eucharist, the sacramental meal that Jesus gave us, and offering our joys and struggles to God in prayer. All of that is what church is and does, since the first Christian communities established by the apostles, the earliest church leaders. This baptismal vow simply asks us, Will you keep doing church?

Now, in the conversations we’ve been having, over the past year, about how church and faith intersect in people’s lives, one thing several people have said is, The church’s faith carried me when my faith was lost. When I was going through a dark or dry time and God felt far away. When I was too angry at God to pray. When I was brand-new to all this and didn’t know what I thought or believed, but knew something had drawn me here. The church’s faith carried me through until my own conversation with God began again.

When people come to me with questions about the Nicene Creed, the statement of the church’s historic faith that’s part of our Sunday worship, one thing I point out is that the Creed begins, “We believe.” This is something we believe all together, even when particular people have trouble with particular bits.

In today’s Gospel story, we can see Christian community operating in just this way. When the disciples tell Thomas, “We have seen the Lord!”, he says, Okay, fine, how nice for you. Maybe that’s true, maybe it isn’t. All I know is, I haven’t seen him. As far as I know, he’s still dead, and everything I believed and hoped for is in the grave with him. I suspect Thomas felt pretty alone with his doubts, in the midst of a community of disciples that was on fire with hope and excitement about this miracle.

But … he doesn’t just bail out. The next time they gather, he’s there. “A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them.” Even though he didn’t share their convictions, their sense that God was alive and active among them, he still cared enough about the people, the community, to show up. And the community cared enough about him, even in his grumpy skepticism, to invite and welcome and include him. Nobody said, “Don’t invite Thomas; didn’t you hear what he said about all of us seeing Jesus??” His church invited Thomas, and Thomas showed up. And because he showed up, because he put himself into that holy space, surrounded by people of God who loved him, God was able to show Godself to Thomas and restore his faith. Begin the conversation again.

I believe in church, friends. I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that I am a much better Christian, that I am able to follow Jesus much more faithfully, because I belong to a Christian community that knows me and loves me and supports me and challenges me and reminds me what it’s all about. I am what I am, and I do what I do, because I believe that’s true for most of us. I believe in church. So when the baptismal covenant asks me, Will you keep doing church?, I’m able to say with a full heart, I will, with God’s help.

The second baptismal question asks us, Will you persevere in resisting evil, and whenever you fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord? This is another way that belonging to a community of faith, and doing church with some regularity, can bless you: by helping you be honest and clear-sighted and strong enough to resist the habits and temptations in your life that limit your capacity to love God, neighbor, and self; and by reminding you who and whose you are. Who, and whose, you have chosen to be.

In reflecting on this theme of sin, repentance, and restoration, I want to turn to one element of today’s Gospel story: the fact that the risen Jesus is still wounded. Still has nail holes in his hands and feet. Still has the mark of a spear in his side. This is the resurrected Jesus, here among the disciples. He is alive in a new way – not a ghost but also no longer simply human in his physical being. He can enter locked rooms, for example. He looks both like and unlike himself, so that his friends don’t recognize him, then, suddenly, do.

The risen Jesus is alive in a new way. And presumably as part of raising him to new life, God could have tided up all those ugly, painful wounds. But God didn’t. The risen Jesus is still wounded. Broken. Imperfect. I have heard from folks who have suffered deeply that they find a lot of hope and comfort in that. That the risen Jesus, the Lord in whom we trust, has not forgotten what it was like to be beaten, kicked, spat upon. The risen Jesus has not transcended, but somehow integrated, the reality of pain.

A few weeks ago we spent an afternoon and evening here at St. Dunstan’s making crosses. Using all kinds of interesting and miscellaneous objects that many of you contributed. We followed a process laid out by Ellen Morris Prewitt, who developed cross-making as a kind of hands-on theological reflection. At one point in her book on the subject, she talks about what to do if, in the process of making or decorating your cross, you do something that you don’t like so much. Something that doesn’t look right. That makes the object in your hand different from the ideal, the goal, in your head.

She says, when that happens – and it will happen – resist the temptation to undo it. To take off the offending object. To backtrack, press Rewind. Prewitt says, instead, consider whatever it is that is bothering you, that doesn’t look or feel right, and strive to accept it for what it is, and add to it to get closer to where God wants you to be. Fix or resolve whatever is wrong by keeping going, instead of by backtracking.

She writes, “Once you adopt this attitude, you let go of undoing. Nothing on the cross gets taken apart and put together in a different way…. Always remember: God wants our attention, not our perfection. I try to keep this principal in mind in other parts of my life as well, because I hate doing something that I later regret. Whether it’s losing my temper, saying something ugly, or looking the other way when someone needs my help, I fall short more often than not. And no matter how much I want to undo my actions, I can’t. But I can add to them; I can fill out the picture and make it better.” She concludes, “God’s motto is, Don’t worry; everything can be salvaged.”

We are like those crosses, as Prewitt says. Our lives build up, piece by piece. And some of the pieces don’t sit quite right, don’t look good, don’t feel good. Some of the pieces mar the beauty of the whole. But we don’t take them off; we can’t. Our lives don’t have the option to Rewind or Undo. We just have to keep on living, keep on adding other pieces, that lend beauty and meaning and balance and integrity. We have to keep building the whole and not let the less-great pieces define us.

I think that’s the grace, the gift, of the image of the risen Christ, still wounded, spreading his pierced hands for Thomas to see, to touch: We are like those crosses, and so is Jesus. His resurrection doesn’t undo his death. It adds to the picture, instead of erasing everything that went before.

There’s so much to say about sin, forgiveness, struggle and redemption. But this year, that process of forming crosses, and letting the ugly parts and the failures be part of the work, that’s what’s in my mind and heart as I come to this question the church asks us: Will we persevere in resisting evil, and whenever we fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord? Will you allow God to keep adding to the work of art that is your life, trusting that the not so great pieces can become part of something true, holy, and complete? Will we trust each other enough, within this community of faith, to show each other the pieces of our lives that we aren’t so proud of, and to help each other see the pattern, the shape, the beauty of each of our lives? That’s what I hear the Baptismal Covenant asking me, this year, and I am able to answer, I will, with God’s help.