Announcements, August 25

THIS WEEKEND…

Ladies’ Night Out, Friday, August 26, 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 Villa Dolce at 1828 Parmenter in Middleton.

Last Sunday Worship, Sunday, August 28, 10am: Students (and teachers!) of all ages are invited to bring backpacks, laptops, etc., to be blessed in this service, as we pray for our schools and universities. 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. NOTE: Our 8am service always follows our regular order of worship (though we can bless backpacks at that service too!).

Grace Shelter Dinner, Sunday, August 28, 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…

Camp-Out Night at St. Dunstan’s, Friday, September 2, 5:30pm: For those who have been meaning to camp out all summer – or want to give it a try in an easy setting (with flush toilets available!) – or who camp all the time and can share tips with the rest of us! We’ll share a simple potluck supper (hot dogs and marshmallows, etc., provided), fellowship around the fire pit, perhaps some outdoor games for the active, and Compline prayers at dusk. You can spend the night, or just come for the evening and then go home to your nice warm bed. Questions or ideas? Talk to Rev. Miranda or Kate Larson.

Summer Choir, Sunday, September 4, 9am: Come and learn some simple music to share as part of our 10am worship. Young singers and adult singers with no previous choir experience are especially invited! You should be able to read text, and be ready to begin to learn to read music. Talk with our Organist & Choir Director, Martin Ganschow, to learn more.

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, September 4, 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, September 4: 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: dried beans, whole grains, herbs and spices, low-sugar beverages, ethnic foods, spaghetti & pizza sauce, cooking oil, single-serve peanut butter, whole grain cereal, and laundry detergent. Thank you for all your support!

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

Coffee Host needed for Sunday, September 4: If you are available please sign up in the Gathering Area. If you have any questions, please contact Janet Bybee. Thanks for lending a hand!

Parish Office Closed, Monday, September 5 for Labor Day. The office will instead be open on Tuesday, September 6.

Foundry414 Labor Day 3K, Monday, September 5, 9:45am:  Our neighbors at Foundry414 invite us to participate in the Backpack Snack Pack 3K fund raiser. Donations from St. Dunstan’s folks can go to our Backpack Snack Pack program. Come at 9:45am to sign-in. The 3K starts at 10am and will follow a route that can accommodate strollers and wagons. There’s no registration fee to participate but donations are encouraged. Come enjoy good neighbors, exercise and fun for a good cause!

Game Night at St. Dunstan’s, Friday, September 9, 6pm: Join us for an evening of games for all ages. Friends, partners, kids – all welcome. Bring a snack to share, or come as you are!

Sunday School starts again, Sunday, September 11, 10am:  Our Sunday school classes meet on the second and third Sunday of every month, during the first part of the 10am service. We have three classes this year. Our class for 3 year olds through kindergarteners uses the ‘Godly Play’ approach, sharing and reflecting on the central stories of our faith.  Our classes for 1st through 3rd graders, and for 4th and 5th graders, use a curriculum based on the Sunday lectionary, the same Bible lessons we hear in the liturgy that day. They explore those lessons through discussion, art, drama, Lego, and other projects. All kids are welcome to participate!

Lammastide Festival of Bread, Sunday, September 11: Lammastide is an ancient harvest festival that became a church festival in our mother church, the Church of England. It’s an opportunity to offer the fruits of the growing season thankfully to God. The word means “loaf mass” – it was originally held at the time of year when the first grain ripened enough to be made into fresh loaves of bread. We will celebrate the end of summer together with a Lammastide procession and blessing, and a festive bread-themed Coffee Hour after the 10am service. Bring a loaf of bread – any kind! – or something beautiful from your garden or the farmer’s market: vegetables, fruit, flowers. We will offer our harvest gifts during worship; you can reclaim your produce afterwards.

United Thank Offering Kickoff, Sunday, Sept. 11: This year we are beginning our United Thank Offering practice with the start of the school year in September. This practice is an opportunity to foster a sense of gratitude and nurture a sense of being blessed in yourself and others in your household. You can create your own gratitude ritual – perhaps once a week, at dinner or before bed? – as you reflect on the special things that you are grateful for and place a penny, nickel, quarter in the box as you name them. A small amount is suggested so as to encourage more responses. Remember to include beautiful fall days, pets that cuddle and new friends! For those of you short on change, we will have some rolls of pennies, nickels and dimes available; just put the equivalent amount in cash or check in the offering plate when you have a chance.

Madison-Area Julian Gathering, Wednesday, September 14, 7:15 – 9:00 PM: Julian of Norwich was a 15th Century English mystic. Little is known about Julian’s life, but she wrote a book, as far as we know the first in English written by a woman, about a series of revelations which opened her to the depths of God’s unconditional love for us in Jesus Christ. Julian prayed often in silence, and at a Julian Gathering we support each other in the practice of contemplative prayer and contemplative spirituality. Each meeting includes time for contemplative prayer, fellowship, and reading/discussion of Julian’s book.  At the beginning of each meeting, brief instruction on the practice of contemplative prayer is offered.  We meet the second Wednesday of each month from 7:15 to 9 PM.  All welcome.

Caregivers’ Support Group, Saturday, September 17, 9am: A caregivers’ support group will be starting in September. The sessions are planned for the 1st and 3rd Saturdays of the month. This will be a safe space to share concerns with others who have similar situations and to offer support in return. For more information, contact John Rasmus, Bonnie Magnuson, or Joseph Wermeling.

Men’s Book Club, Saturday, September 17, 10am: Pulitzer Prize-winning author, Ron Chernow, presents a landmark biography of Alexander Hamilton, the Founding Father who galvanized, inspired, scandalized, and shaped the newborn nation. He was a revolutionary war hero whose talents and advice Washington relied on heavily during the war and a man who literally shaped this country’s financial and trading system. It is particularly amazing to see how dirty and bruising politics were in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. A good read.

Helpers Needed – Edgewood in the Community, Wednesday, September 28, 9:30am-2:30pm: Edgewood High School will be sending 20 students to St. Dunstan’s this day to do yard work as part of their community service. If you would like to help direct a small group of students, please contact George Ott.

 

Sermon, August 21

I looked at these readings and started thinking about them before taking a week’s vacation. Maybe laying down my priest identity for a while let my anthropologist identity come to the fore, because when I came back to actually write this sermon, I found I wanted to lead you in a bit of a word study. The word is, Nice.

Nice is a very anthropologically interesting word. Its most familiar/common meaning, what you’d probably say if I asked you, is something like agreeable, pleasant, friendly. But Nice is also a word we use to police behavior. To nudge one another towards following cultural and social expectations. Nice comes into play a lot in talk about gender norms – Nice girls don’t dress like that, or talk in a loud voice, or have strong opinions.

Nice comes into play when we talk about tradition and the way things are done. My favorite example comes from the film Bend it Like Beckham, or rather, from a little bonus video on the DVD of the film, in which the director, Gurinder Chadha, cooks several Indian dishes in her own kitchen under the supervision of her very traditional Indian mother and aunt. They disapprove of many of her choices as she cooks, telling her, if you chop the onions that way, “It won’t be nice.”

Nice comes into play when we talk about social order and appropriate behavior. It isn’t nice to make a fuss, to rock the boat, to be disruptive. It isn’t nice to say things that make people feel bad, or uncomfortable, or guilty. It certainly isn’t nice to disrupt business or traffic.

Niceness is very much in the eye of the beholder. One person’s “not nice” is another person’s heroic or prophetic. The Montgomery bus boycott was certainly not nice, in the eyes of the racist white society that it challenged. It was not nice to throw crates of perfectly good tea into Boston Harbor – think of the waste! the environmental impact! – and yet we regard the folks who did that not as punks but as patriots.

Anthropologically speaking, niceness about much more than being polite or friendly. It’s a word we use to maintain boundaries of respectability, police social norms, express disapproval of the inconvenient, messy, or disruptive. Back in 1964, Malvina Reynolds wrote a song called “It isn’t nice.” (By the way, Malvina was born 116 years ago this Tuesday – which means she was in her 60s when she was writing and performing various anthems of the civil rights movement!…)

The song says, “It isn’t nice to block the doorway, it isn’t nice to go to to jail. … There are nicer ways to do it, but the nice ways always fail. It isn’t nice, it isn’t nice, you told us once, you told us twice, but if that is Freedom’s price, we don’t mind. It isn’t nice to carry banners, or to sit in on the floor, or to shout our cry for freedom at the hotel and the store… It isn’t nice, it isn’t nice, you told us once, you told us twice, but if that is Freedom’s price, we don’t mind.”

This song, “It isn’t nice” has been stuck in my head this week – in part because this is the “It isn’t nice” Gospel. Jesus is teaching in a synagogue, a local place of worship. And a woman comes into the synagogue, who is crippled, bent over, with some disabling illness. And Jesus sees her and calls her over, and lays hands on her and heals her, And she stands up straight – that must have felt so good – and begins to praise God. Not “thank you God” but HALLELUJAH THANK YOU JESUS THANK YOU!

And then… the leader of the synagogue – my brother across the ages – starts to complain about what has happened. Here’s where Niceness comes into it. It isn’t nice to bother the Rabbi while he’s teaching. it isn’t nice to cure on the sabbath and disrupt our orderly worship. It isn’t nice for a woman to start loudly and emotionally praising God in the middle of the men’s nice intellectual conversation about Scripture.

Luke describes the leader as “indignant.” That’s how we feel when niceness is violated. When people do things that aren’t appropriate – respectful – nice. And he uses a word we use when our sense of niceness is violated: “Ought”. He can’t quite say that he’s sorry she was healed, so instead he criticizes how it happened: There are six days on which work ought to be done! She ought to have come on one of those days!

But Jesus “ought”s right back at him, makes one woman’s ailment a matter of historic, cosmic, and ethical significance: “Ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen long years, be set free from this bondage on the Sabbath day?”

It isn’t nice, it isn’t nice, you told us once, you told us twice, but if that is freedom’s price, we don’t mind.

Now I’m going to tell you something really important. I learned this from a mentor back in the Diocese of New Hampshire, and I think of it often. Here it is: Niceness is not a Christian virtue.

Niceness is not a Christian virtue.

Now, some of the things we think we mean by niceness ARE Christian virtues. Mercy IS a Christian virtue. Compassion. Generosity. But not niceness. My friend in New Hampshire suggested that we work on substituting kindness for niceness. Kindness: a more everyday way of talking about mercy, about compassion, about caring for the welfare of our neighbor.

Kindness and niceness are superficially similar. In some situations the kind action and the nice action may be the same. But in other situations, they might not be. Because kindness is always concerned with the good of the other, full stop. And niceness … wants everyone to feel good, but also wants things to be nice.

Kindness was Jesus healing that woman as soon as he saw her. Niceness is what the synagogue leader wanted: Just come back tomorrow, this isn’t a good time. Niceness bundles up kindness with a bunch of other things – respectability and appropriateness and comfort – that the witness of Scripture tells us God is not very interested in. That, in fact, more often seem to come between us and God, between us and righteousness, than otherwise.

Niceness is not a Christian virtue. Prophets, saints, and Jesus himself have often been told their actions and words weren’t nice. Look at poor Jeremiah, called to prophesy as a young boy. His protest in today’s passage is because he knows he will not be well received. It is not nice for a young man – a boy – to go to his elders, religious and political leaders, and tell them they’re all wrong and that God’s judgment is coming to them. Not nice at all. But it’s what God is doing.

Because, in the vision of our Hebrews text, God is both a God of joy and generosity – of a heavenly city with its streets thronging with a perpetual angel festival, a God who bestows upon us freely the gift of a kingdom that cannot be shaken – and – and – a God who demands our reverence and awe, a God who is indeed a consuming fire. Consuming fires don’t care about nice.

The problem of this Gospel story for us – the story of the woman healed on the Sabbath – is how to read it so that it challenges us, instead of just making us feel smug. It’s too easy for us to read this story and simply think, Well, duh, compassion should win over pious rigidity. The synagogue leader was wrong wrong wrong.

Listen: the Sabbath was the heart of Jewish piety, one of the core practices that set the Jews apart from the society around them. The Sabbath honored God, provided rest for workers, meant time for family and song and prayer and play. Can anybody tell me you wouldn’t love to have one day a week in which you were not allowed to do any work? At all? There is nothing to sneer at about Sabbath observance.

And yet – it’s clear that the synagogue leader is mis-applying his piety. His sense of religious niceness keeps him from fully witnessing another’s pain, and fully rejoicing in another’s freedom. I believe the challenge this story has for us is to pay attention to the places where niceness, a human virtue, might be building a nice white picket fence around our capacity to exercise the holy virtues of mercy, generosity, and justice. Where our “niceness” glasses make it hard for us to see what God is doing. Or… to look at what humans are doing, with God’s eyes. This story asks us, Where might God’s purposes be in tension with our sense of order and propriety? And that should be an uncomfortable question.

My friend L and his teenage son are losing their apartment. They’ve been in this place for five years. He hasn’t always gotten the rent in right on time, but he’s been a good tenant. No trouble. But a new company has bought up his building – has bought up a whole chunk of the southwest side, in fact, about ten blocks south of the Hassett home. This has been one of the few neighborhoods in Madison where folks with lousy credit history could find a place to live. A lot of poor veterans were housed there; L was one of them. Most of the residents were African-American or Latino. For many of these households, losing these apartments means they are at risk of long-term homelessness. There simply may not be anywhere else.

The new company is moving folks along because it has a very different vision for this neighborhood. Madison’s housing crisis means that it can be a very lucrative proposition to turn over rental housing from low-income tenants to young middle-class tenants. Between the university and Epic, demand – and rents – are high. Back in early June there was a story in the Wisconsin State Journal about this new company and its lead investor, and what they’re doing to L’s neighborhood. The article talks about one woman in particular, named Myra. She’s African-American, 62 years old, with some health problems. The head of the company called her situation “heartbreaking,” and said, “She’s like the freakin’ model tenant.” And yet, when her lease was reviewed to see if she could stay, the answer was that she did not meet their new criteria, and would have to move out. The reason given was that her grandchildren act unruly when they visit.

This wasn’t an entirely nice neighborhood, sure. There’s no question in my mind that it’ll be nicer, once the apartments all have new paint, and new appliances, and new young mostly-white tenants with full-time jobs and great credit histories. But will it be kinder?

I was talking with L about losing his home one day, and I was just thinking about him and his son, where they would go, whether they would be OK, but he started talking about his downstairs neighbor, an older lady who lived alone. He said that when his anxiety started to get too high, about money, about taking care of his son, whatever, he would pace, and she would hear him, and call him downstairs, and talk to him, and help him calm down. She’s being moved on too. All of them are. All of the folks who managed to make homes here, to make community here, in spite of peeling paint and late rents and litter.

What’s happening to L’s neighborhood will make it nicer. But it is not kind.

It’s easy to read this Gospel story, this moment that pits kindness against niceness, and feel a little smug. Feel like we’re securely in Jesus’s corner. We know that healing is more important than decorum. That freedom from bondage matters more than an orderly meeting that sticks to the agenda. We can send a contingent to the PRIDE parade, we can have thoughtful conversations about race and poverty. Well and good.

But, friends, the only reason we can feel smug, receiving this story, is that the niceness that matters to this synagogue leader is not the niceness that matters to us. The things that feel right, and orderly, and appropriate, and familiar, and proper, and safe, to him, are different from the things that feel that way to us. But we have those things. We have our nicenesses, too. And when our sense of nice is threatened, we get indignant. We start saying “ought.”

I think that instead of smugness, this Gospel story invites us into ongoing mild discomfort. The discomfort of realizing that our sense of Nice – and we’re Midwesterners; we’re big on Nice! – does not reliably track with God’s priorities. When something disturbs us, makes us uneasy or indignant, in our daily life or in our wider civic scene, this Gospel urges us to ask ourselves: Does it disturb me because it’s unkind? unjust? unloving? unmerciful? God cares about that, and so should we. Or it disturb us because it’s not nice? Because it violates our sense of respectability, order, and appropriateness?

And if after all it is our sense of nice that’s being challenged – then I think it’s incumbent upon us to hold that lightly. Because niceness can lead us astray. What Would Jesus Do? really can be a helpful question – as long as we remember that Jesus of the Gospels was almost unfailingly kind, but rarely bothered with nice.

Far from an invitation to smugness, this Gospel asks us, Where in our lives, in our world, might God’s holy purposes of healing and freeing from bondage be in tension with our sense of order and propriety? And that is an uncomfortable question.

Announcements, August 18

SUNDAY,  AUGUST 21…

Rectors’ Discretionary Fund Offering: Half the cash in our collection plate, and any designated checks, will go towards the Rector’s Discretionary Fund this day and on every third Sunday. This fund is a way to quietly help people with direct financial needs, in the parish and the wider community. Please give generously.

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

Young Adult Meetup at the Vintage, 7pm: The younger adults of St. Dunstan’s gather for conversation and refreshments at the Vintage Brewpub on South Whitney Way. Friends and partners welcome too.

Madison PRIDE Parade, from Noon to 4:00pm. Members are invited to help represent St. Dunstan’s in the 2016 OutReach LGBTQ PRIDE parade and rally. The parade will start at the 500 and 600 Block of State St. and move towards the Capitol Square. The parade begins at 1pm; those who wish to march as part of St. Dunstan’s group should head downtown and gather with the group in the staging area along State Street no later than 12:30. (Leave time to park and walk!) Questions? Ask Martin Ganshow or Evy Gildrie-Voyles.

THE WEEKS AHEAD…

Camp-Out Night at St. Dunstan’s, Friday, September 2, 5:30pm: For those who’ve been meaning to camp out all summer – or want to give it a try in an easy setting (with flush toilets available!) – or who camp all the time and can share tips with the rest of us! We’ll share a simple potluck supper (hot dogs and marshmallows, etc., provided), fellowship around the fire pit, perhaps some outdoor games for the active, and Compline prayers at dusk. You can spend the night, or just come for the evening and then go home to your nice warm bed. Questions or ideas? Talk to Rev. Miranda or Kate Larson.

Ladies’ Night Out, Friday, August 26, 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 Villa Dolce at 1828 Parmenter in Middleton.

Last Sunday Worship, Sunday, August 28, 10am: Students (and teachers!) of all ages are invited to bring backpacks, laptops, etc., to be blessed in this service, as we pray for our schools and universities. 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. NOTE: Our 8am service always follows our regular order of worship.

Grace Shelter Dinner, Sunday, August 28, 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.

Foundry414 Labor Day 3K, Monday, September 5, 9:45am:  Our neighbors at Foundry414 invite us to participate in the Backpack Snack Pack 3K fund raiser. Donations from St. Dunstan’s folks can go to our Backpack Snack Pack program. Come at 9:45am to sign-in. The 3K starts at 10am. There’s no registration fee to participate but donations are encouraged.

Lammastide Festival of Bread, Sunday, September 11: Lammastide is an ancient harvest festival that became a church festival in our mother church, the Church of England. It’s an opportunity to offer the fruits of the growing season thankfully to God. The word means “loaf mass” – it was originally held at the time of year when the first grain ripened enough to be made into fresh loaves of bread. We will celebrate the end of summer together with a Lammastide procession and blessing, and a festive bread-themed Coffee Hour after the 10am service. Bring a loaf of bread – any kind! – or something beautiful from your garden or the farmer’s market: vegetables, fruit, flowers. We will offer our harvest gifts during worship; you can reclaim your produce afterwards.

United Thank Offering Kickoff, Sunday, Sept. 11: This year we are beginning our United Thank Offering practice with the start of the school year in September. This practice is an opportunity to foster a sense of gratitude and nurture a sense of being blessed in yourself and others in your household. You can create your own gratitude ritual – perhaps once a week, at dinner or before bed? – as you reflect on the special things that you are grateful for and place a penny, nickel, quarter in the box as you name them. A small amount is suggested so as to encourage more responses. Remember to include beautiful fall days, pets that cuddle and new friends! For those of you short on change, we will have some rolls of pennies, nickels and dimes available; just put the equivalent amount in cash or check in the offering plate when you have a chance.

Madison-Area Julian Gathering, Wednesday, September 14, 7:15 – 9:00 PM: Julian of Norwich was a 15th Century English mystic. Little is known about Julian’s life, but she wrote a book, as far as we know the first in English written by a woman, about a series of revelations which opened her to the depths of God’s unconditional love for us in Jesus Christ. Julian prayed often in silence, and at a Julian Gathering we support each other in the practice of contemplative prayer and contemplative spirituality. Each meeting includes time for contemplative prayer, fellowship, and reading/discussion of Julian’s book.  At the beginning of each meeting, brief instruction on the practice of contemplative prayer is offered.  All welcome.

Caregivers’ Support Group, Saturday, September 17, 9am: A caregivers’ support group will be starting in September. The sessions are planned for the 1st and 3rd Saturdays of the month. This will be a safe space to share concerns with others who have similar situations and to offer support in return. For more information, contact John Rasmus, Bonnie Magnuson or Joseph Wermeling.

Men’s Book Club, Saturday, September 17, 10am: Pulitzer Prize-winning author, Ron Chernow, presents a landmark biography of Alexander Hamilton, the Founding Father who galvanized, inspired, scandalized, and shaped the newborn nation. He was a revolutionary war hero whose talents and advice Washington relied on heavily during the war and a man who literally shaped this country’s financial and trading system.

Helpers Needed – Edgewood in the Community, Wednesday, September 28, 9:30am-2:30pm: Edgewood High School will be sending 20 students to St. Dunstan’s this day to do yard work as part of their community service. If you would like to work with a small group of students and help direct them, please contact George Ott.

 

Sermon, August 14

The Rev. Thomas McAlpine preached this sermon, as the second of two sermons based on the Book of Tobit.  This year St Dunstan’s developed its Vacation Bible School around the Book of Tobit and the two Sundays after VBS bumped the normal Old Testament readings to continue the focus. 

Readings: Tobit 14:3-4a, 5-8; Psalm 80:1-2, 8-18; Hebrews 11:29-12:2; Luke 12:49-56

How do you live when you’re off the map?

Moses had provided a pretty clear map: live righteously and you’ll prosper in the land; live unrighteously and you’ll lose the land. But when you’re off the land through no particular fault of your own, what then? So it’s not surprising that we encounter a number of stories about that in the Old Testament: Joseph (minus his technicolor dreamcoat) in Egypt, Esther in Persia, Tobit in Assyria. The Joseph and Esther stories have a certain fairy-tale quality to them: Joseph becomes the #2 man in Egypt; Esther wins the beauty contest and marries the king. Tobit, after achieving some success in exile, gets bird poop in his eyes and goes blind, the loss which kicks off the main story in the book that eventually results in Tobit regaining his sight.

How do you live when you’re off the map? In addition to telling us a rollicking good story, complete with a carnivorous fish, a damsel in distress, and an angel in disguise, the book gives serious attention to that question. This morning we’ll look at two elements in its answer: bless God and give alms.

Bless God

God blessing us: we’re used to that idea. In the catholic (small c) tradition we believe that priestly ordination authorizes the priest to convey God’s blessing to us, and so we leave each Mass with “the blessing of God Almighty” ringing in our ears and working its way into our very selves. Scripture takes blessing as a given and so doesn’t define it. An approximate definition might include God’s presence, God’s generosity, health, fertility, success in ways designed to benefit us and those around us.

That’s important in Tobit. But Tobit focuses on our blessing God. We heard it in our first reading: “to be mindful of God and to bless his name at all times with sincerity and with all their strength.” It shows up at the beginning of some well-known psalms (Ps 103, 104). What’s that about? It’s like praise, but more oriented to the future: God’s reign really is beautiful; may it grow and expand! It’s like thanksgiving, but not tied to something specific I’ve or we’ve received.

We Christians haven’t done much with this, but our Jewish brothers and sisters have, and their practice might enrich ours. A Jewish prayer book puts it this way: “A berachah acknowledges God as the “Source” of whatever we eat or enjoy, or whatever natural marvels excite our awe.… The blessing makes us conscious that nothing in nature is to be taken for granted…”

So there’s a blessing before drinking wine or grape juice: Blessed are You, the Lord our God, King of the universe, who creates the fruit of the vine.

One for seeing beautiful trees or animals: Blessed are You, the Lord our God, King of the universe, who has such as these in His world.

One for hearing good news: Blessed are You, the Lord our God, King of the universe, who is good and beneficent.

One for hearing bad news: Blessed are You, the Lord our God, King of the universe, the true judge.

You get the idea. For the vision behind the practice we might look to Psalm 19. It starts:

The heavens declare the glory of God,
and the firmament shows his handiwork.

It continues in this vein for a number of lines. The heavens clearly their act together. What about us? Notice how the psalm ends:

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight,
O Lord, my strength and my redeemer.

Blessing God is one of the quite lovely ways this can play out.

One more thing about this before I move on. Part of most people’s consciousness is this running series of responses that plays as a sort of sound track throughout the day, approving of this, disapproving of that, being anxious about this, being relieved about that. The practice of blessing God can be part of that running series, helping our responses to be more mindful, more realistic, perhaps less anxious.

Give alms

We heard that in our first reading too: “Your children are also to be commanded to do what is right and to give alms…”

What’s that about? In the last month or so our first reading has been from the prophets, Amos and Hosea. In coming weeks we’ll get a good dose of Jeremiah. And one of the primary prophetic themes is God’s passionate concern for the poor, God’s anger at how the poor are getting crushed. That anger explains why Tobit is in exile in Nineveh rather than home in the Upper Galilee. And the prophets were speaking directly to the folk in power, the folk who could do something about it:

Cease to do evil, learn to do good;
seek justice, rescue the oppressed,
defend the orphan, plead for the widow. (Isa 1:16b-17 NRS)

But in exile, or in the bowels of some foreign empire the possibilities for doing something about it are severely limited, so God’s passionate concern for the poor translates into the repeated exhortation to give alms. Give, that is, to those at the bottom, to those who have no realistic prospect of paying you back or returning the favor.

The language for this practice is important: that “give alms” that we heard could be translated more literally as “do mercy.” “Doing mercy” is, of course, broader than giving alms, and in Tobit includes Tobit’s dangerous practice of burying discarded bodies. But “doing mercy” often, from context, means “giving alms” and that’s important because it connects the mercy we hope to receive from God with the mercy we’re exhorted to show to those who need it.

Being in exile makes it difficult to follow the Law’s commands regarding gifts for the sanctuary. And in exile the faithful connect those commands with almsgiving. So earlier in Tobit we hear Tobit tell his son Tobias: “Indeed, almsgiving, for all who practice it, is an excellent offering in the presence of the Most High.” (4:11)

This shows up in other writings of this period (Sirach), and lies behind some of Jesus’ teaching on almsgiving:

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. (Mat 6:19-20)

We, probably, are at a point somewhere between the prophets’ audience and Tobit’s audience. We have some power to “do something about it” with regard to the condition of the poor, and to that degree we need to listen to the prophets. But we often don’t have the power to do much, and to that degree we need to listen to Tobit, and pay attention to whether some of our resources are going into mercy, helping those in no position to return the favor. So Tobit is, alas, not particularly helpful for a capital gifts campaign, but very relevant when we pass the plate for the Middleton Outreach Ministry.

Bless God & Give alms

How do you live when you’re off the map? Bless God and give alms.

Looking at these two themes we might think of them as pointing to the twin virtues of gratitude and generosity. I could go on about this for a good stretch, but I’ll leave that for you in the coming week. Notice how many elements in our culture work against any sense of gratitude. Notice how nurturing gratitude, also through the practice of blessing God, helps us see our world more clearly. Notice how gratitude, in turn, frees us for generosity. The world is not zero-sum. God continually drenches the world with gifts. All of us have the privilege of blessing God for it, and mirroring God’s generosity in our own.

The privilege, that is, of doing so with Tobit and Anna, Raguel and Edna, Tobias and Sarah. And that’s not bad company.

Announcements, August 9

THIS WEEKEND…

Guest Preacher, Sunday, August 14: The Rev. Dr. Thomas McAlpine will preach and preside in Rev. Miranda’s absence. Elvice and Father Tom showed up at St. Dunstan’s last year. Elvice has been contributing to the Coffee Hour rota and spending time caring for the Labyrinth. Father Tom is an Old Testament scholar and has assisted in our congregational study of the Book of Tobit this summer.

School Supply Drive for MOM, Now through August 17: It’s time to start planning ahead for those going “back to school!” Once again, we will be collecting donations of school supplies to contribute to the goal of more than 1,000 backpacks this year! The MOM Back to School Program provides backpacks stuffed with grade level supplies for children in Pre-K through high school, and also supplies for college students. Cash donations are also accepted. More information and shopping lists are available in the Gathering Area. Please plan to bring your donations by August 17. While all school supplies are gratefully accepted, the greatest needs include:

• extra-large back packs for high school students

• three-ring binders (without logos) & dividers for binders

• pocket folders (solid colors, plastic)

• spiral notebooks – solid colors, wide & college ruled

• loose leaf paper – wide & college ruled

• scotch tape

Thank you for your generous support! MOM could not do it without you!

THE WEEKS AHEAD…

Rev. Miranda’s Upcoming Vacation: Rev. Miranda will be out of the office August 8 – 15.  If you need the care or counsel of a priest during Rev. Miranda’s absence, contact Father Tom McAlpine.

Parish Office Closed Wednesday, Thursday, Friday on August 10, 11, 12: Please note that the office will be closed on these days, but you are welcome to leave a message by phone (608) 238-2781 or by email at office@stdunstans.com. Our office coordinator, Pamela, will be back on Monday, August 15.

Vestry Meeting, Wednesday, August 17, 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.

Outreach Committee Meeting, Saturday, August 20, 8-10:30am: All are welcome to join our conversations about how St. Dunstan’s can best serve the world with our resources and our hands. We begin with an optional potluck breakfast at 8am.

Rectors’ Discretionary Fund Offering, Sunday, August 21: Half the cash in our collection plate, and any designated checks, will go towards the Rector’s Discretionary Fund this day and on every third Sunday. This fund is a way to quietly help people with direct financial needs, in the parish and the wider community. Please give generously.

Evening Eucharist, Sunday, August 21, 6pm: Join us for a simple service before the week begins. All are welcome.

Young Adult Meetup at the Vintage, Sunday, August 21, 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.

Save the Date: Madison PRIDE Parade, August 21st from Noon to 4:00pm. Members are invited to help represent St. Dunstan’s in the 2016 OutReach LGBTQ PRIDE parade and rally. The parade will start at the 500 and 600 Block of State St. and move towards the Capitol Square. This year’s theme is Inclusion: Marching Towards Racial Diversity.  More specific announcements will follow. If you would like to be involve please stay tuned.

Ladies’ Night Out, Friday, August 26, 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 Villa Dolce at 1828 Parmenter in Middleton.

Last Sunday Worship, Sunday, August 28, 10am: Students of all ages are invited to bring backpacks, laptops, etc., to be blessed in this service, as we pray for our schools and universities. 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. NOTE: Our 8am service always follows our regular order of worship.

Foundry414 Labor Day 3K for Backpack Snack Pack, Monday, September 5, 9:45am:  Our neighbors at Foundry414 invite us to participate in the Backpack Snack Pack 3K fund raiser. Donations from St. Dunstan’s folks can go to our Backpack Snack Pack program. Come at 9:45 am to sign-in. The 3K starts at 10am and will follow a route that can accommodate strollers and wagons. There’s no registration fee to participate but donations are encouraged. Come enjoy good neighbors, exercise and fun for a good cause!

Caregivers’ Support Group, Saturday, September 17, 9am: A caregivers’ support group will be starting in September. The sessions are planned for the 1st and 3rd Saturdays of the month. This will be a safe space to share concerns with others who have similar situations and to offer support in return. For more information, talk with John Rasmus, Bonnie Magnuson or Joseph Wermeling.

Men’s Book Club, Saturday, September 17, 10am: Pulitzer Prize-winning author, Ron Chernow, presents a landmark biography of Alexander Hamilton, the Founding Father who galvanized, inspired, scandalized, and shaped the newborn nation. He was a revolutionary war hero whose talents and advice Washington relied on heavily during the war and a man who literally shaped this country’s financial and trading system. It is particularly amazing to see how dirty and bruising politics were in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. A good read. 

IN THE COMMUNITY…

Storytelling & Drama Workshop for Children 5-11 years, Saturday, August 13, 9am-1pm at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church: Do your children like stories? If so, they are invited to St Luke’s (4011 Major Avenue, Madison), summer Saturday Worship where they will write, rehearse, create props, and produce their own original plays on the topic of PEACE. Parents are welcome to drop off their kids or hangout. Performance for family and friends will be at 12:30pm. Lunch for participants and all guests is at 1pm. For more information or to register for the workshop and/or lunch, email Hollywalterkerby@gmail.com by August 9, 2016. Spaces are limited. Suggested donation is $5.00.

The Haiti Project meeting, Wednesday, August 17 at 6:00 pm at St. Andrew’s, 1833 Regent Street: The Haiti Project is preparing a travel group for time in the community of Jeannette, Haiti in November. The travel dates are November 11-20. We will be meeting at St. Andrew’s in Madison in August 17, and will have monthly meetings up to our travel date. The cost of the trip is $1000. Airfare is separate. Our time in Haiti will be spent listening, learning and growing in relationship with our partners. There will be hands-on tasks as well. The Haiti Project is a 30-year ministry of the Diocese of Milwaukee. Please consider joining us in becoming a thread in the tapestry of this long relationship. For more information contact Heidi Ropa at (608) 235-9393 or email at info@haitiproject.org.

 

 

Sermon, August 7

IMG_6078Welcome to Tobit. Some of us have been eating, sleeping, and breathing Tobit for weeks now, or months, as we prepared for our Evening Bible & Arts Camp, which ran its course this past week. Some of us have dipped into it a little – coming to a Bible study or an art workshop, or just browsing the book on your own time. Some of us have still barely heard the name. Which is fine. Most Christians have never heard of Tobit. But today, and next Sunday, we’re going to fill you in. I can almost guarantee you that St. Dunstan’s will soon be the most Tobit-literate congregation in the Episcopal Church, maybe in the whole United States.

Tobit is found in a part of the Bible called the Apocrypha. The Apocrypha is a set of books written later than most of the Old Testament – within the last few hundred years before the birth of Christ – and written in Greek, rather than Hebrew. Protestant churches by and large treat the Apocrypha as a secondary kind of Scripture. It’s not included in most Protestant Bibles, including the ones we have around here. These books are more likely to be found in Roman Catholic Bibles, and study Bibles often include them in a separate section between the Old and New Testaments – so that if your church teaches that they’re not really Scripture, you can easily skip them! We Anglicans have treated them as a sort of secondary Scripture, of historical meaning, not excluded from our study of the Bible but not included on equal terms, either. The Revised Common Lectionary, the calendar of Sunday Scripture readings that we share with many other churches, includes a few Apocryphal texts – but nothing from Tobit, though there is a Tobit passage listed in the readings appropriate for weddings – Phil and I used it in ours, actually!

I first encountered the Book of Tobit, not in church, but in a religious studies course at Indiana University, during my senior year of college. The course focused on Last Words in ancient texts. The wisdom and moral guidance that people pass on when they’re anticipating death. The Book of Tobit was an obvious choice because Tobit gives a Last Words speech to his son Tobias TWICE – once early in the book, when Tobit has prayed to God for relief from his suffering and anticipates that God will take him soon; and once at the end of the book, at the actual end of his life.

Reading the Book of Tobit for class, I discovered a rollicking, engaging story. It was a lot of fun to read and talk about. I remembered it. And fifteen-plus years later, as a priest, rector of a parish, helping run summer programs for kids, Tobit floated back into my mind. I thought, this would be a great book to explore with kids. It has two young protagonists, no older than their early teens. It has a demon, and an angel in disguise. It has fish guts and bird poop. What more could you ask for?

Now, for those of you who haven’t read it yet – well, you should; there’s a link to an online version on our website, and the people who have read it this summer have told me, It’s actually really interesting and easy to read! But you can’t read it right this second, so with a little help, I’ll give you a very basic outline of the story.

Tobit was a righteous man, a Jew, who lived in the northern kingdom of Israel, in the chaotic years just before the Assyrian conquest. He did all the things he was supposed to do, as a faithful Jew, even though most of the people around him didn’t care about following God anymore. He had a wife, Anna, and a son, Tobias, and he was reasonably well-off, wealthy enough to make generous gifts to the Temple. Then the Assyrians conquered Israel, and the family lost everything except each other. They were dragged off to live in exile in the city of Nineveh. It was a terrible time. Many Jews living there died of starvation or were killed by Assyrian masters. And Tobit would bury their bodies, even though he was forbidden from doing so by the ruler.

One night the family managed to scrape together an especially nice meal, and Tobit said to his son Tobias, Go out and find one of of our people in the street, somebody who’s hungry and in need, and call them in to share this meal with us. Tobias went out and instead of finding a guest, he found another dead body in the street. He rushed home and said, “‘Look, father, one of our own people has been murdered and thrown into the market-place, and now he lies there strangled.’ Tobit leapt up and rushed to recover the body. He wept for the misfortune of his people. And after sunset, he snuck out to bury this nameless victim. When he came back, he lay down to sleep in the courtyard of his home, so as not to disturb his family. And while he was sleeping, bird droppings fell in his eyes from sparrows nesting nearby, and caused him to become blind.

So Tobit became blind. And this misfortune on top of all the others was more than he could bear. He became bitter and angry. Finally on one especially awful day, he yelled at his wife Anna, who was working so hard to care for the family. And when Tobit realized how he was acting, he fell on his knees and asked God to set him free from his suffering, saying, “Command, O Lord, that I be released from this distress; release me to go to the eternal home… For it is better for me to die than to see so much distress in my life.” (3:6)

Now, at that very same moment, somebody else was also praying to God and asking to be set free from suffering. In another city, a young woman named Srah was in terrible trouble. She had been married seven times, but she was persecuted by a demon, who killed every bridegroom on their wedding night. People were fearful and suspicious of her, and there seemed to be no hope. Sarah was just as miserable as Tobit. She had even thought about killing herself, but she knew how terrible that would be for her parents. So instead, she asked God to set her free from her hopeless situation and the cruel words of others. She prayed, “Lord, I turn my face to you, and raise my eyes towards you. Command that I be released from the earth and not listen to such reproaches any more.”

And God heard these prayers, Tobit’s prayer and Sarah’s prayer, and God decided it was time to sort things out. Tobit expected to die, because he had prayed for death. So he sent his son Tobias on a journey. Tobit had a cousin in another city, far away, who was keeping some money for Tobit. Tobias would retrieve the money, and it would help him and Anna to survive once Tobit was gone. But the journey was long, and Tobias was still young; so he needed a companion. Almost as soon as he looked for a companion, he found this man named Azariah (so he said), who knew the way, and even knew Tobit’s cousin, and was eager to help out Tobias. Azariah was actually the angel Raphael in disguise, sent by God!

So Tobias and Raphael the angel in disguise set out. Along the way they stop to rest beside a river. Tobias went to wash his feet, and a giant fish jumped out and tried to eat his foot! They managed to catch the fish, and Raphael told Tobias to gut the fish and keep its heart, liver, and gall, which could be useful to drive away demons and to cure blindness.

So they go on their way again, with the fish guts. And Raphael tells Tobias about this young woman, Sarah. He says, She is sensible, brave, and very beautiful. (In that order.) And she is a distant cousin to Tobias, which in those days was the kind of person you were supposed to marry. Tobias says, I’ve heard of her; don’t all her husbands die? And Raphael says, Don’t you worry about that. Remember the magical powers of fish guts. We’ll be staying at their house tonight. I think she would be a perfect wife for you.

So they come to Sarah’s house. Sarah’s parents are delighted to meet them! The young people, Tobias and Sarah, like each other at once, and the families know each other, so just like that, Tobias and Sarah are married. They have a wonderful banquet, and then they go off to sleep.

Now, this is when the demon usually shows up! But Tobias burns the fish guts on the incense burner, and the smell drives the demon away, and Raphael chases the demon all the way to Egypt and binds it in chains, never to bother Sarah again. Tobias and Sarah pray for God to bless their life together, protect them, and allow them to grow old together.

Meanwhile, what Sarah’s father Raguel is digging a grave outside, just in case he has to quietly dispose of Tobias’ body! But when he peeks in and sees that Tobias is alive, he hurries off to fill in the grave again! [This is the scene we created in our photo project; take a look and notice all the details.]

Then there are two weeks of feasting and celebration, because Sarah is finally free, and she and Tobias are so happy together. The cousin with the money hands it over – we’d almost forgotten that, right? So everything has worked out… except that Tobit is still blind, and Anna, Tobias’ mother, is CONVINCED that her son is dead, because he’s been away for so long. Finally Tobias tells his father-in-law, I must go home! My parents will be so worried! So Tobias and Sarah and Raphael, and the dog, head home to Nineveh. There’s a very happy reunion. Tobit and Anna are delighted to meet Sarah. Tobias uses the fish guts to cure his father’s blindness!

And then in the midst of the rejoicing, Tobit says, Now, we mustn’t forget your traveling companion, this fellow Azariah. He’s been a great help to you; we must pay him from the money you got, and thank him. And then we get the great reveal: Raphael says, “I am Raphael, one of the seven angels who stands ready before the throne of God.” Raphael tells them, It’s God who is behind all of this, the transformation of your misfortunes into blessings. Thank and bless God always, and proclaim what God has done for you.” And he flies away, and is gone.

It’s a darn good story. That’s why I wanted to work with it. But what we have discovered, the Camp team and Tom McAlpine, who’s been helping us study it and will preach next Sunday, what we’ve discovered is that there’s more here than just a rollicking tale. There’s some real depth, some real meaning. Some surprising and powerful intersections with our lives, and our times.

There are actually many sermons possible based on the book of Tobit, many ways to bring its themes into dialogue with our lives. We were pretty far along in planning our camp, creating the the script for drama and developing art projects, when it dawned on me: Oh, these kinds of things usually have, you know, themes or morals or values that we are teaching the children. Maybe I should come up with some of those!… To my relief, it turned out to be quite easy to pull out some meaningful themes from each chapter of the story: faithfulness, prayer, resourcefulness, courage, gratitude.

Turns out, Tobit is actually a story intended for moral teaching. It’s a work of historical fiction – and has been understood as such since early on – with strong spiritual and religious themes. In some ways the book of Tobit – written more or less as a morally-instructive novel – speaks across the millennia more easily than other Biblical books, whose meaning is more tethered to their time and place. What Tobit can say to us, mean for us, is not all that different from what it said and meant for its first audience, Jews trying to maintain hope and faithfulness in exile or under colonial rule. It encourages people to sustain hope, mercy, and righteousness in difficult times, when bad people are in power. More on that theme next week, I believe.

And it encourages people to trust that God is working in our lives, even when we can’t see it. Even when it seems like everything is terrible, around us, or inside us. There are books of the Bible in which God is very visible as an actor – stepping in to save or destroy, speaking through prophets or miracles or a mighty voice on a mountaintop. There are books of the Bible in which God is entirely offstage – in which the action in the story is all in the lives of people shaped by God and by faith.

Tobit falls somewhere in between. The narrator only names God as a character in the story in one brief passage – when Tobit and Sarah’s prayers reach God, and God tells Raphael, Go sort that out. God delegates to the angel, who puts himself into the situation to see what he can do. Raphael in turn delegates to Tobias – Burn the fish guts! Marry the girl! – as the angel weaves the struggles of Tobit and Sarah together in such a way as to resolve them both.

The book of Tobit offers us a model for how God works in the lives of ordinary people – even people who, like Sarah and Tobit, have reached extraordinary depths of misery and despair. The story says, God sees you. God hears you. Even if it takes a while. Even if it seems like nothing is changing. Somewhere out there, possibilities are taking shape. Hope is being born.

Raphael the undercover angel has this in common with Jesus, God dressed in a human body: The Divine doesn’t show up in clouds of glory, guns blazing, overwhelming our human stories.  Instead the Divine might show up looking a lot like… your second cousin’s brother-in-law, whom you’ve never met but who sure came at the right time, and just happens to know something, or somebody, who can really help you out with this situation.

A big part of why I love the story of Tobit is that this just rings so true for me, this idea of God keeping an eye on us all, watching for the places where our needs intersect, giving a little nudge. Delegating the work of redemption, to angels and humans alike. Are there actual angels in disguise among us? I would not venture an opinion. But there have absolutely been moments in my life, my journey, when somebody has angeled for me, wings hidden under their sweater or alb or T-shirt, making the right connection, pointing me in a new direction, connecting me with fruitful possibilities. And I hope and pray that there have been, and will be, moments when I have angeled for somebody else. Been the agent and tool of God’s quiet intervention in human lives, God’s subtle work for hope, wholeness, and delight.

Over the past weeks, the Church Camp team, eating, sleeping, and breathing Tobit, has come up with some summaries of the book’s message. Like this one: “Always remember the restorative powers of fish guts.” Okay – maybe that one doesn’t apply to very many situations. The other one is, “Trust God; bring a shovel.”

Trust God; bring a shovel. The shovel is Tobit’s shovel, used to dig graves for the nameless dead in the streets, to offer them one final act of respect. A symbol of his stubborn faithfulness, his willingness to do God’s work when nobody else would. It’s also Raguel’s shovel, Sarah’s father – the one he used to dig a grave just in case the demon got Tobias, too! A symbol of… preparedness to do any clean-up that may become necessary?

Trust God, bring a shovel. You may need a shovel – or other tools – because God isn’t going to just make it all happen, burst into the story and clean things up and put everybody where they’re supposed to be. But – and – Trust God. God is keeping an eye on your story, and on the much larger story around you. Answers and possibilities and hopes may already be walking down the road towards you; or waiting for you when you set out to find them. Demons and bird poop may catch our attention, but there’s real wisdom in the Book of Tobit, to carry with us into our lives and our times. Pray your pain and struggle, as well as your blessings. Keep an eye peeled for angels – and for opportunities to do a little freelance angel work yourself. Be alert to the possibilities in everything, even fish guts. Take courage. Trust God, and bring a shovel.

Announcements, August 4

SUNDAY, August 7…

Summer Choir on First Sundays: Come at 9am to learn some simple music to share as part of our 10am worship. Young singers and adult singers with no previous choir experience are especially invited! You should be able to read text, and be ready to begin to learn to read music. Talk with our Organist & Choir Director, Martin Ganschow, to learn more. The last summer choir is on September 4.

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

Healing prayers: This Sunday one of our minsters will offer healing prayers for those who wish to receive prayers for themselves or on behalf others.

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: cereal (preferably whole grain and low in sugar), instant oatmeal, whole grains, cooking oil, mayonnaise & ketchup, 64 oz. juice, tomato sauce, spices, rice, laundry detergent. Thank you for all your support!

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

School Supply Drive for MOM, Now through August 17: It’s time to start planning ahead for those going “back to school!” Once again, we will be collecting donations of school supplies to contribute to the goal of more than 1,000 backpacks this year! The MOM Back to School Program provides backpacks stuffed with grade level supplies for children in Pre-K through high school, and also supplies for college students. Cash donations are also accepted. More information and shopping lists are available in the Gathering Area. Please plan to bring your donations by August 17. While all school supplies are gratefully accepted, the greatest needs include:

extra-large back packs for high school students

three-ring binders (without logos) & dividers for binders

pocket folders (solid colors, plastic)

spiral notebooks – solid colors, wide & college ruled

loose leaf paper – wide & college ruled

scotch tape

Thank you for your generous support! MOM could not do it without you!

THE WEEKS AHEAD…

Rev. Miranda’s Upcoming Vacation: Rev. Miranda will be out of the office August 8 – 15.  If you need the care or counsel of a priest during Rev. Miranda’s absence, you may reach Father Tom McAlpine.

Parish Office Closed Wednesday, Thursday, Friday on August 10, 11, 12: Please note that the office will be closed on these days, but you are welcome to leave a message by phone (608) 238-2781 or by email at office@stdunstans.com. Our office coordinator, Pamela, will be back on Monday, August 15.

Guest Preacher, Sunday, August 14: The Rev. Dr. Thomas McAlpine will preach and preside in Rev. Miranda’s absence. Elvice and Father Tom showed up at St. Dunstan’s last year. Elvice has been contributing to the Coffee Hour rotation and spending time caring for the Labyrinth. Father Tom is an Old Testament scholar and has assisted in our congregational study of the Book of Tobit this summer.

Madison-Area Julian Gathering, Wednesday, August 10, 7:15-9pm: St. Julian of Norwich: She understood the human heart and, through her sixteen revelations of Jesus, she understood the heart of God. Thomas Merton called her “the greatest theologian for our time.” Come to one of our monthly meetings and find out why — and learn about contemplative prayer. We meet the second Wednesday of each month. We’d love to see you.

Save the Date: Madison PRIDE Parade, August 21st from Noon to 4:00pm. Members are invited to help represent St. Dunstan’s in the 2016 OutReach LGBTQ PRIDE parade and rally. The parade will start at the 500 and 600 Block of State St. and move towards the Capitol Square. This year’s theme is Inclusion: Marching Towards Racial Diversity.  More specific announcements will follow. If you would like to be involve please stay tuned.

Last Sunday Worship, Sunday, August 28, 10am: Students of all ages are invited to bring backpacks, laptops, etc., to be blessed in this service, as we pray for our schools and universities. 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. NOTE: Our 8am service always follows our regular order of worship.

Camp-Out Night at St. Dunstan’s, Friday, September 2, 5:30pm: For those who’ve been meaning to camp out all summer – or want to give it a try in an easy setting (with flush toilets available!) – or who camp all the time and can share tips with the rest of us! We’ll share a simple potluck supper (hot dogs and marshmallows, etc., provided), fellowship around the fire pit, perhaps some outdoor games for the active, and Compline prayers at dusk. You can spend the night, or just come for the evening and then go home to your nice warm bed. Questions or ideas? Talk to Rev. Miranda or Kate Larson.

Foundry414 Labor Day 3K for Backpack Snack Pack, Monday, September 5, 9:45am:  Our neighbors at Foundry414 invite us to participate in the Backpack Snack Pack 3K fund raiser. Donations from St. Dunstan’s folks can go to our Backpack Snack Pack program. Come at 9:45 am to sign-in. The 3K starts at 10am and will follow a route that can accommodate strollers and wagons. There’s no registration fee to participate but donations are encouraged. Come enjoy good neighbors, exercise and fun for a good cause!

Lammastide Festival of Bread, Sunday, September 11: Lammastide is an ancient harvest festival that became a church festival in our mother church, the Church of England. It’s an opportunity to offer the fruits of the growing season thankfully to God. The word means “loaf mass” – it was originally held at the time of year when the first grain ripened enough to be made into fresh loaves of bread. We will celebrate the end of summer together with a Lammastide procession and blessing, and a festive bread-themed Coffee Hour after the 10am service. Bring a loaf of bread – any kind! – or something beautiful from your garden or the farmer’s market: vegetables, fruit, flowers. We will offer our harvest gifts during worship; you can reclaim your produce afterwards.

IN THE COMMUNITY…

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.