Announcements, October 27

TONIGHT…

Spooky Sandbox, Thursday, October 27, 5:30pm: All are welcome to a special edition of our weekly Thursday evening worship. We’ll share some spooky Bible stories, with appropriate music and crafts. Dinner will follow our intergenerational worship service. All are welcome!

THIS WEEKEND…

Ladies’ Night Out, Friday, October 28, 6pm: Join our monthly get-together as we dine at area restaurants and enjoy good conversation among women of all ages from St. Dunstan’s. This month we will meet at Sa Bai Thong at 6802 Odana Road, in Madison. 

Naming our Saints: In anticipation of All Saints Day, please fill out one or more Saint Slips, available in the Gathering Area. Tell us about a saint, well-known or known only to you, whom you remember with love.

Last Sunday, Sunday, October 30, 10am: Our Last Sunday worship is intended especially to help kids (and grownups who are new to our pattern of worship) to engage and participate fully. NOTE: Our 8am service always follows our regular order of worship.

Middle School Lunch & Learn, Sunday, October 30, 11:30am: Rev. Miranda invites the 10-and-up youth of the parish to meet with her for lunch after church once a month. 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 helps the parents’ schedules.

Fall Giving Campaign: Kids’ Market: As the Kids’ portion of our fall Giving Campaign, the kids of St. Dunstan’s (and their parents) are invited to contribute used toys or other unwanted but useful items to our Kids’ Market, which will run from October 30 through November 13. Kids are encouraged to go through their rooms and bring in some small, good-condition items that are ready for a new home. (No clothing, and no more than one plastic grocery bag per child, please!) Please bring in all contributions by Sunday, October 30. Kids and adults of the parish can shop the Market from October 30 through November 13. All donations will go to support our 2017 parish budget, as our kids’ contribution to our church’s ongoing life. Thanks for your participation!

Black Friday Craft-In: VOLUNTEERS WANTED, Friday, November 25, 1 – 4pm: This year we’ll host our third annual Black Friday Craft-In, a free public crafting event. We can use all kinds of volunteers – whether your skill is sewing, woodworking, stamping, paper crafting, helping little kids with simple crafts, smiling at people and saying “Welcome!”, setting up tables, or putting cookies on plates. If you’d like to plan and set up a craft station of your own, let Rev. Miranda know (so we budget table space for you!), and we have some Michael’s gift cards available to help you cover materials expenses. Sign up in the Gathering Area to help out, or talk with  Rev. Miranda.

 Christmas Cards for Jail Inmates: Thanks to all who have contributed cards; we have a good stock now! Our Card-Writing Station is now set up opposite the kitchen. You can take a moment to write a message while at church, or take home a couple of cards and the card-writing guidelines, and write at home. These cards will go to inmates at the Dane County Jail this Christmas, through an initiative of our sister parish Grace Church.

Christmas is a bleak time for these men and women, and even a simple message of kindness can bring some joy and hope. Our goal is to complete at least 100.

THE WEEKS AHEAD…

International Potluck, Saturday, November 5, 5pm: Diversity comes in many flavors, and our congregation has a wide range of ages, sexual orientations, and nationalities.  The Diversity Potluck is a get-together intended to showcase and celebrate our beautiful diversity, whatever that word means to you.  Bring a dish that you feel celebrates your own personal diversity.  You can bring artwork, music, or poems (original or not) that celebrates it as well!  Feel free to dress up to celebrate it!  Dinner will start at 5:00.  Please, bring a small card telling us about your dish/art, and note if the dish is gluten free/ vegetarian/ peanut free.  Please sign up with what dish you are bringing in the Gathering Area.

Birthdays and Anniversaries will be will be honored and Healing Prayers will be offered next Sunday, November 6, as is our custom on the first Sunday of every month.

“Breaking all the Rules: A Byzantine Princess Writes History”, Sunday, November 6, 9am: This fall we are starting a new 9am opportunity: a time for some of our members who are scholars, educators, and thinkers of deep thoughts to talk about things they love to talk about. Leonora Neville, one of our newer members, is a professor of history at UW-Madison. She’ll tell us about Anna Komnene, a fascinating figure who is the subject of Leonora’s most recent book.

All Saints’ Day, Sunday, Nov. 6: We will celebrate this holy day with an opportunity to remember the faithful departed; renewal of our baptismal vows; and, at our 10am service, a kids’ saint procession.

Remembrance Station: Consider bringing in a token of one of those saints whom you remember with love and respect, as an extension of our All Saints commemorations. Our Remembrance Station this year will include a place to hang pictures or notes, and a table where you may place a photo or other memento. Please don’t bring in anything precious or irreplaceable. On Sunday, November 20, we will commend these faithful departed to Christ our King.

Falk Food Friends Grocery Packing, Sunday, November 6, following the 10am service:  All helpers are welcome as we prepare weekend grocery bags for homeless families whose kids attend Falk Elementary School.

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

MOM Special Offering, Sunday, November 6: 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!

Election Day Prayers, Tuesday, November 8, 12pm: There will be a simple prayer service at noon. Whoever we are voting for, whatever our hopes or fears, we can come together and pray for the wellbeing of our city, nation, and world. All are welcome. There will also be a Communion service at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, at 1833 Regent Street, at 5:30pm that evening.

Madison-Area Julian Gathering, Wednesday, November 9, 7:15 – 9:00 PM: Julian of Norwich was a 15th Century English mystic and anchoress.  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. Come join us 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.

 

 

 

Sermon, Oct. 16

Two men went up to the temple to pray. One of them was a Pharisee, a member of a movement within Judaism that was restoring the ancient practices of worship and piety described in the books of the Law. And the other was a tax collector – someone who worked for the occupying Roman government to collect punishing levels of tax from his fellow citizens. The Pharisee was standing by himself, and praying like this: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ Jesus said, “I tell you, this man, not the Pharisee, went down to his home that day justified. For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.”

Today we begin our annual Giving Campaign, the month in which members offer their pledges – statements of how much we plan to give during the coming year – to enable the church to develop its budget for 2017. At first glance, this is a TERRIBLE Gospel reading for the occasion. The Pharisee, who’s giving a tenth of his income to the Temple, comes out of this story looking like a jerk. His piety is held up as a mistake, not a model. So let’s talk about the Pharisee. Because it’s not his giving that’s the problem.

What’s wrong with the Pharisee? Well, Luke tells us that this story was directed at those who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and regarded others with contempt. That’s what’s broken about the Pharisee’s faith, in a nutshell. He trusts in himself that he is righteous. He fasts, abstaining from certain foods as the religious laws demand; he gives a tenth of his income to the Temple; you can bet he follows all the other rules of his faith too. There is nothing wrong with those practices – in fact, there’s a lot right about them! Fasting and giving and praying, and all the other daily acts of faith, are ways we turn belief into action, into habit.

The practices aren’t the problem. The mindset is the problem. If you think you can get right with God by simply checking a set of boxes, then you don’t actually need God. Being a good person becomes a lot like acing a test, and God becomes irrelevant. The apostle Paul talks about this mindset a lot, because before he became a Christian, he was right there with this Pharisee – righteous under the Law, meeting all its requirements. And then he met Jesus, and realized how inadequate and empty it all was.

So, the Pharisee trusts in himself that he is righteous; and he regards others with contempt. His sense of his own righteousness is based to a significant degree on being better than other people. This is one of my favorite parables because it gives us a glimpse of Jesus’ keen sense of humor. Did you notice the trap he sets here, with this simple little story? You hear the Pharisee saying, Thank God I am not like that tax collector! And the immediate, natural thing to think is, Thank God I am not like that Pharisee!

Let’s call that the Pharisee Trap: the tendency to find our righteousness in being better than others. The Pharisee Trap can be a real risk for Episcopalians. I’ve heard too many church leaders who should know better say that what’s great about the Episcopal Church is that we’re not judgmental like the fundamentalists, or manipulative like the evangelicals, or rigid like the Roman Catholics. I’m sure I slip into the Pharisee Trap now and then myself. We love our church, and we find grace in its particular balance of Scripture, tradition, and reason. It’s great when we talk about that, when we proclaim it.

But we need to be intentional in talking about why we love our church and our way of faith in terms of our strengths, more than in terms of other churches’ weaknesses. I have the privilege of having pretty regular conversations with people who are coming to the Episcopal Church from other ways of faith. And I always try to ask, What was hard about what you’re leaving, what didn’t fit? And, what was good about it? what will you miss? And I try to say, Here are things I love about the Anglican and Episcopal way of faith. Here’s what’s earned my loyalty and my joy. And here are the things we’re not so great at. Because we’re not perfect, not the pinnacle of Christianity.

So that’s what’s wrong with the Pharisee: self-satisfaction grounded in the conviction that he’s got this God thing all figured out, unlike SOME. And if you think that smug spiritual arrogance doesn’t sound very Episcopalian – well, then you haven’t been to all the same meetings I have… Okay. Let’s turn to the Tax Collector. He comes out of this parable smelling like roses. He humbles himself, lowers himself, before God, and God exalts him, lifts him up, sets him right.

What’s right with the Tax Collector? Jesus describes this character in the parable in a way that invites us to notice his grief and guilt: the man is standing far off, off to the side, alone; he would not even look up to heaven; and he is beating his breast, a gesture of self-abasement. And then there are the words of his prayer: God, be merciful to me, a sinner.

Jesus paints a vivid picture with a few simple details. He wants his hearers to understand the intensity of the tax collector’s guilt and longing for mercy. However – I want to be clear that I don’t think Jesus wants us all to approach God this way. A lot of his preaching and teaching is focused on encouraging people to approach God with more boldness, trust, and love. To take one key example, when Jesus’s friends ask him how to pray, he teaches them to call God, Father. Or even, Daddy or Papa – the word Abba that Jesus uses, in the Lord’s Prayer, is one that a child would use at home. Jesus calls his followers to greater intimacy with God, and away from a distant and fearful piety. He doesn’t want us to stand off to the side, to be afraid to look up at God, even in our deepest sins and darkest moments. So those details he tells us about the Tax Collector, I think, are meant not to give us an example we ought to follow, but instead to tell us something about the depth and quality of this man’s spirituality.

So what are we to notice about the tax collector? He’s open to God. Both in telling the truth about himself, his brokenness and his need; and in expecting God to respond. Look back at our friend the Pharisee: his words are technically a prayer, because he starts with “God.” But it he’s basically talking to himself about what a great guy he is. The tax collector’s prayer is far simpler – and far more honest. He doesn’t have a list of what he’s done wrong, or right. He simply names himself as a sinner, as having fallen short of God’s intentions for him. And he asks for God’s mercy. For God to receive him with love and save him from his own weaknesses and failures. While the Pharisee thinks he’s fine already, and has no need to be open to God, the tax collector’s burdened conscience drives him to seek God, in pain, in truth, in hope.

And that leads me to the second thing I think Jesus wants us to notice about the tax collector: He leaves different than he came. Jesus says, He went home that day justified. Set right with God – forgiven – exonerated – his burden lifted. Imagine him walking out of the Temple feeling … lighter. Feeling hope, once more, that there is good in the world and that he has a chance to be part of it. The tax collector leaves the Temple changed by what happened there – by his own prayer, and by God’s grace.

And that, friends, is why maybe this is a pretty good parable for the beginning of a Giving Campaign, after all. Because let’s face it: the real question of a Giving Campaign is, why have a church? You could get together for meals without church. You could give money to charity without church. You could study Scripture without church. Why commit your resources and time and skills and care to helping this place be and become and endure?

A couple of months ago, Scott Gunn, Episcopal priest and writer, wrote a blog post that caught my eye, responding to a statement he’d heard several times: The church should be out in the world. The implication being that we might be indulging ourselves by making sure we have a safe, warm, and lovely place to gather for worship and fellowship. Here’s what Scott says about that idea:

“Sometimes you hear people saying something along the lines that the church shouldn’t be focused on worship when there are so many needs in the world. And I fully agree that any church which turns its back on the needs of the world is no church…. [But] there is not a zero sum… here. A focus on worship does not reduce our focus on the world. Rather, a focus on worship is the church’s work, and … worship rightly done sends us out into the world. I think we confuse the work of the church and the work of disciples… When the church is doing its work, it will be forming disciples of Jesus Christ who find the needs of the world irresistible and who find themselves called to respond. Worship is not a distraction from the world, but rather it is the thin place that opens our eyes to the glory of God and thus to the possibility of glory in our world.”

Scott is saying, in essence, that the purpose of church is to be a place apart. The word Holy, in all the languages of the Bible, basically means: Dedicated. Set apart. And set apart for a purpose. At church we gather from our daily lives, into this holy place, this holy time; and then we go forth as disciples into the world. And like the tax collector, we go forth different.

When we held focus groups last year to talk about why you all make church part of your lives, a lot of you said something like that: that church was a place of solace, of restoration, of re-orientation. A place to bring your thirsty soul and receive the water of life. A place to sit and breathe, and remember the big picture, the long arc, the great story. A place to get re-grounded to face the challenges of daily living. A place to leave different.

Now, in all honesty and humility, I’m sure there are many weeks for you when it’s just church. I know there are for me. Maybe it’s a bit much to expect transformation every week. But at the same time, I’ve learned – mostly from all y’all – that there are a lot of ways in which gathering here, spending this intentional time with God and fellow Christians, does change us. Does send us forth different than we came. Even in small ways.

Because in the face of today’s perplexities, Scripture reminds us of the long history of God’s people struggling and shouting and grieving and journeying and surviving and rebuilding. Because in a divided world, here we share faith and friendship with people of different backgrounds and different views – yes, however homogenous we may look, believe me, we contain multitudes! – and those conversations bless and challenge us by making us remember our shared humanity. Because in an everything-is-fine world, sometimes, here, we are able to name what’s really on our minds and hearts, in prayer and conversation.

Because we can do small, real things together here about the world’s woes, coordinating our efforts and getting diapers or notebooks or a jar of applesauce or the price of a new muffler to those who need them. Because griefs or concerns that feel big and new and strange to us are wrapped up in the capacious and experienced arms of the church’s prayer, to which no human pains are unfamiliar. Because there’s room here to offer the things we’re good at and the things we love to do; and when a community recognizes and receives and acknowledges our gifts, we feel seen, and blessed.

Because despite weariness or despair that can weigh us down, here the bright energy of children and the soaring notes of our hymns and the color of the leaves in the sunlight can lift our hearts and restore some sense of hope and meaning. Because our liturgy invites us to lay down our burdens, offer up our prayers, and be fed by God’s unconditional, unshakable, unending love.

Now, I’m in danger, here, of sounding like the Pharisee. Of saying, God, thank you that our church is such a great place! We welcome everybody, we have beautiful worship and vital ministries, and we’re WAY nicer than Some Other Churches We Could Name. It’s a fine line to walk… I want to celebrate what we do well. I am proud of St. Dunstan’s and I take delight in many aspects of our life together. But I can’t, I don’t ask you, to commit financial support and time and ideas and skills to the life of this body because we’re perfect. We’re not.

I ask for your presence and participation and support because we’re building a good thing here, and I very much want to continue that work together. To follow through on where God is leading us. I ask you to stand with me before God, as we look towards another year in our shared life of faith, with the heart of the tax collector: open to God, in honesty, humility, and hope, and ready to be made new and sent forth.

Scott Gunn’s blog post may be read in full here: http://www.sevenwholedays.org/2016/08/17/where-does-the-church-belong/

Announcements, October 20

THIS WEEK…

Outreach meeting, Saturday, October 22, 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.

Children’s Choir Rehearsal, Sunday, October 23, 9:20am: The Children’s Choir will gather for rehearsal. Kids need to be able to read English (not music), and to focus and learn with a group. Please talk to our Organist & Choir Director, Martin Ganschow, with any questions.

Giving Campaign Kickoff and Parish Talent Show Sunday, October 23, 11:30-1pm: Our fall Giving Campaign starts with a Talent Show, at which members of St. Dunstan’s will have the opportunity to share their skills. A light lunch will be served. Come see the accomplishments of fellow parishioners and enjoy the show!

Grace Shelter Dinner, Sunday, October 23, 7pm: Every fourth Sunday, a loyal group of St. Dunstan’s folk provides dinner for residents at the Grace Church shelter, and breakfast the next morning. See the signup sheet in the Gathering Area to help out. To learn more, talk with Rose Mueller.

Need Greeters for Sundays, October 23 and October 30: Please let Pamela know by Friday if you are available to be a greeter for this Sunday or for next Sunday, October 30. You can email her at office@stdunstans.com. Thanks for your consideration.

Naming our Saints: In anticipation of All Saints Day, please fill out one or more Saint Slips, available in the Gathering Area. Tell us about a saint, well-known or known only to you, whom you remember with love.

THE WEEKS AHEAD…

Spooky Sandbox, Thursday, October 27, 5:30pm: All are welcome to a special edition of our weekly Thursday evening worship. We’ll share some spooky Bible stories, with appropriate music and crafts. Dinner will follow our intergenerational worship service. All are welcome!

Ladies’ Night Out, Friday, October 28, 6pm: Join our monthly get-together as we dine at area restaurants and enjoy good conversation among women of all ages from St. Dunstan’s. This month we will meet at Sa Bai Thong at 6802 Odana Road, in Madison. For more information  contact Kathy Whitt or Debra Martinez.

Last Sunday, Sunday, October 30, 10am: Our Last Sunday worship is intended especially to help kids (and grownups who are new to our pattern of worship) to engage and participate fully.  NOTE: Our 8am service always follows our regular order of worship.

Middle School Lunch & Learn, Sunday, October 30, 11:30am: Rev. Miranda invites the 10-and-up youth of the parish to meet with her for lunch after church once a month. 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 helps the parents’ schedules.

Fall Giving Campaign: Kids’ Market: As the Kids’ portion of our fall Giving Campaign, the kids of St. Dunstan’s (and their parents) are invited to contribute used toys or other unwanted but useful items to our Kids’ Market, which will run from October 30 through November 13. Kids are encouraged to go through their rooms and bring in some small, good-condition items that are ready for a new home. (No clothing, and no more than one plastic grocery bag per child, please!) Please bring in all contributions by Sunday, October 30. Kids and adults of the parish can shop the Market from October 30 through November 13. All donations will go to support our 2017 parish budget, as our kids’ contribution to our church’s ongoing life. Thanks for your participation!

International Potluck, Saturday, November 5, 5pm: Diversity comes in many flavors, and our congregation has a wide range of ages, sexual orientations, and nationalities.  The Diversity Potluck is a get-together intended to showcase and celebrate our beautiful diversity, whatever that word means to you.  Bring a dish that you feel celebrates your own personal diversity.  You can bring artwork, music, or poems (original or not) that celebrates it as well!  Feel free to dress up to celebrate it!  Dinner will start at 5:00.  Please, bring a small card telling us about your dish/art, and note if the dish is gluten free/ vegetarian/ peanut free.  Please sign up with what dish you are bringing in the Gathering Area.

“Breaking all the Rules: A Byzantine Princess Writes History”, Sunday, November 6, 9am: This fall we are starting a new 9am opportunity: a time for some of our members who are scholars, educators, and thinkers of deep thoughts to talk about things they love to talk about. Leonora Neville, one of our newer members, is a professor of history at UW-Madison. She’ll tell us about Anna Komnene, a fascinating figure who is the subject of Leonora’s most recent book.

All Saints’ Day, Sunday, Nov. 6: We will celebrate this holy day with an opportunity to remember the faithful departed; renewal of our baptismal vows; and, at our 10am service, a kids’ saint procession.

Remembrance Station: Consider bringing in a token of one of those saints whom you remember with love and respect, as an extension of our All Saints commemorations. Our Remembrance Station this year will include a place to hang pictures or notes, and a table where you may place a photo or other memento. Please don’t bring in anything precious or irreplaceable. On Sunday, November 20, we will commend these faithful departed to Christ our King.

OPPORTUNITIES TO SERVE…

Christmas Cards for Jail Inmates: St. Dunstan’s has been invited by our sister parish Grace Church to join them in writing Christmas cards to the inmates of the Dane County Jail. Christmas is a bleak time for these men and women, and even a simple message of kindness can bring some joy and hope. Our goal is to complete at least 100. Right now we are asking for donations of Christmas cards – odd leftovers from past years, ones you don’t really like enough to send, cheap ones from the thrift store. Once we have some cards, we’ll set up a Card-Writing Station where people can pause to write a message while they’re at church, or take a few cards and the guidelines for card-writing to do their writing at home. Cards will be delivered to the jail before Christmas.

Become a Mentor to a Local Student! The mentoring program at Kromrey Middle School aims to help kids who may face barriers due to their background or educational challenges, to be well-supported and high-school ready. If you enjoy working with young people and have wondered how to make a difference in our community, this may be a perfect opportunity for you. The initial training will be October 28. Application forms are available at St. Dunstan’s and should be sent in by October 24th.

 

Sermon, October 16

This was a week when I wished we had that sign board out front for sermon titles, like some churches do, because I actually had a title before I had anything else: How We Know the Good. How We Know the Good – how we recognize good things, good thoughts, good choices, good paths. It’s a fundamental issue in religion and ethics – we can have the best intentions in the world to act rightly, but if we can’t somehow identify or discern what is right and good, we can’t follow through on our intentions.

Today’s lectionary texts point us at two ways that we can know the good. The first is the human conscience. Conscience is the word we give to our God-given capacity to know the good. Like a compass pointing to north, our conscience points to the right path, to what is true, and just, and good. It guides us in uncertainty, goads us when we are wrongly comfortable, and reminds us when something in our lives is amiss, in need of amendment, change, or healing. In our text from the book of the prophet Jeremiah, God speaks through the prophet to tell the people: No longer will the law of holiness, your way of living as God’s people, exist outside of you, a Law that must be written and taught. Instead I will put my law inside of you; I will engrave it on your hearts; and I will be your God, and you shall be my people. No longer shall the people have to teach one another, or say to each other, “Know the LORD,” for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the LORD.

Jeremiah’s image of God’s law of goodness written on the hearts of God’s people, so that we simply know God’s ways without being taught – that idea becomes a central concept in Anglican theological anthropology. Theological anthropology just means, how we think about humans in light of how we think about God. And Christian traditions vary widely in their theological anthropology. For instance, it’s one of our areas of difference from our Lutheran brothers and sisters, with whom we otherwise share a great deal. Among Christian traditions, Anglicans and Episcopalians have a relatively positive view of humanity. For Anglicans, knowing good from evil is a fundamental part of human nature, one of the ways in which we were created in God’s likeness, revealed and redeemed in Jesus Christ’s incarnation as a human being. While other Reformation theologians stressed human sinfulness, the Anglican reformers saw humans as possessing reason and conscience, God-given capacities for moral knowing, which make it possible to see and choose the good. True, we see wrongly and choose badly, often; but in spite of our failings, humans are capable of acting rightly. The 16th-century Anglican theologian Richard Hooker wrote, “Reason… may rightly discerne the thing which is good.” And the 20th-century Anglican theologian Kenneth Kirk wrote, ‘”The Soul, however tainted or corrupted by sin, retains an innate power both of perceiving what is good and right, and of aspiring to it.”

Listen, talking Anglican moral theology may seem scholarly and abstruse. But I think that sense of a human capacity to know the good is in the DNA of our faith in a way that you’ll recognize once you start to look for it. Our shared conviction that the human heart is not a traitor leading us to damnation, but can actually be a faithful compass pointing us towards God’s desires, that conviction is what’s made it possible for us to re-examine and revise the the church’s historic teachings on ordaining women and gay people, for example.

So, we Episcopalians, Christians in the Anglican tradition, believe that conscience is inborn, a birthright. But conscience is also formed and nurtured by community. You might think of it like our capacity for language – we are hard-wired for it, it’s fundamental to our nature, but we still need a linguistic community to activate it. Our conscience is shaped and developed in the context of our moral communities – family, church, and society. Of course, as people of faith, we see the church as a primary site of moral formation; and of course as liturgical Christians, we see regular participation in our rites of word and sacrament as the key to our ongoing growth as moral agents.

The liturgy we’re using right now, for example, teaches us to notice and celebrate the small blessings of life – those loud-boiling test tubes! – and give thanks for them. To look to God as the Source of all things. To pray and strive for the welfare of others, near and far, and to work and pray for the good of the city where we dwell. To be mindful of our failures of love, and to seek healing and amendment of life. To be people of peace. To be people of generosity, who offer back a portion of what we are given. To hold before ourselves Jesus’ example of courageous self-giving love, and his passion for the redemption of the world. To be people of forgiveness. To trust God for what we truly need. To recognize and treasure our unity, even in our differences. And to serve God in the world with strength, courage, gladness, and singleness of heart. And that’s just the words of the liturgy, apart from the Scriptures and the sermon of the day, which occasionally makes a worthwhile point.

There is indeed some rich moral teaching in our liturgies, to be absorbed week by week, year by year, decade by decade. But it’s all rather broad-brush, isn’t it? Not a lot of specifics about how to apply these principles. Those of you who have come to the Episcopal Church from other branches of the noble tree of Christianity may have noticed that we are not real heavy on teaching particular moral rules. That’s not just 21st century Episcopal wishy-washiness. It’s actually part and parcel of that basic Anglican theological anthropology. Instead of teaching moral rules, what you ought to do in such and such a situation, we focus on forming a moral community, in which individuals develop their capacity to recognize the good and do what is right. We proclaim a few bedrock commitments, but when it comes to how we live them out in given cases, we tend to trust reason informed by conscience. As the former Archbishop of Canterbury once wrote, “Only I can answer the question, ‘What ought I to do?'” (Rowan Williams, p. 296).

Listening to your conscience takes effort. Otherwise we’d never do anything wrong. It takes mindfulness and self-knowledge. It’s easier when we’re not stressed or angry or exhausted – though sometimes clarity can strike like a lighting bolt in those moments, too. We’re apt to ignore that still small voice inside us because we’re comfortable, or busy, or anxious, or prideful, or because we feel too responsible … But if we look inside ourselves, the compass is there, needle faithfully pointing the way even as we cast about for a path.

But. But.

Let’s look at this Gospel parable. Jesus says, In a certain city there was a judge, who neither feared God nor had respect for people. In that city there was a widow who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Grant me justice against my opponent.’ For a while he refused; but later he said to himself, ‘Though I have no fear of God and no respect for anyone, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will grant her justice, so that she may not wear me out by continually coming.'” Luke, our Gospel writer, sees this as a story about our call to be persistent. He introduces it as “a parable about the need to pray always and not to lose heart.” And he adds a coda to the story itself – a couple of sayings of Jesus: God will grant justice to God’s chosen ones who cry to God day and night; yet when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?

This whole section of Luke, these parables and sayings, is unique to Luke’s Gospel. Bible scholars think that he had access to a collection of Jesus’ sayings and teachings that the other Gospel writers didn’t have. He had to figure out how drop them into his account of Jesus’ life, which he does, in part, by just stringing a bunch of them together here in chapters 17 and 18. It’s possible – and in some cases seems likely – that he was trying to match up parables and sayings, so that it all made sense to him and to his audience. I visualize him with a bunch of index cards on his desk…

So. Maybe this is a parable about being faithful in prayer, even when it seems like you’re not getting results. Sure. That call to holy persistence would be in keeping with the message of this portion of the second letter to Timothy: Proclaim the message; be persistent whether the time is favorable or unfavorable; convince, rebuke, and encourage, with the utmost patience in teaching. Read from that angle, the story invites us to identify with the widow. Keep making noise. Be the squeaky wheel. Don’t give up. You will be heard, and answered.

But. Part of how the parables work is that they can be read from multiple angles. I fully believe that was Jesus’ intention, and that a lot of the time, in the Gospels, when a parable comes with a little explanation about what it means, that explanation comes from the Gospel writer. I suspect Jesus mostly just told the stories and left people to puzzle over them.

So in that light, think on this story again, and ask yourself, what if I’m the judge? …

Jesus points us towards the question of conscience in the way he describes the judge: he neither feared God nor had respect for people. So in contrast with the developed conscience of a practicing Jew or Christian, this guy doesn’t care what God thinks about his actions, and he doesn’t care about what happens to other people. And he’s a person in authority; his decisions influence the lives of others on a daily basis. And he has walled up his inner moral compass. He just doesn’t care.

But the widow makes him care. Because she won’t shut up. She keeps pressing her case, insisting that there’s an injustice that needs attention, until she wears him down. He finally hears her, and responds to her call, because she is so persistent – or to put it another way, because she is so annoying.

What if I’m the judge? What if I’m the one whose ears and mind and heart are closed, until someone’s persistence wears me down so that I finally, finally listen?

We are formed and nurtured by moral communities – our families, schools, churches. They train and calibrate our consciences for compassion, understanding, empathy.

But the human world is bigger than our moral communities. There are people whose lives we don’t easily understand. The constraints that bind them, the struggles that bear down on them, the griefs and needs that exhaust and frustrate them. Sometimes we look at others’ lives and find it hard to their motives and choices. Sometimes we look at others’ lives and know we should feel pity, but instead, feel judgment. We think, in our inmost hearts, I wouldn’t have let that happen to me. Why didn’t they make better choices? He brought it on himself. She should have known better.

Those thoughts are a sign that our conscience is overwhelmed, swamped by a situation that’s outside our moral universe. The communities and experiences that formed us didn’t prepare us to understand and respond to the full scope of human lives, needs, wrongs and injustices.

This is the second way we can know the good: by listening, when a person or community is persistently telling us that something is deeply wrong. What’s banging on the door of your conscience? Coming around every day to remind you that some situation you haven’t yet begun to care about still hasn’t gone away?

Here’s something that’s been nagging at my conscience. On September 21st, five days after police in Tulsa shot Terence Crutcher, one day after police in Charlotte shot Keith Scott, a new hashtag showed up on Twitter. A hashtag is a way to link people’s comments and posts, to have a broad conversation about the same issue or event. This hashtag was, WhiteChurchQuiet. The conversation it defined was a conversation among African-American Christians about feeling unheard and uncared-about. And it felt like a punch in the gut to me, and to many other white Christians.

Here are a few of the tweets, “Do you all really want social justice, or do you just want to talk about diversity so the good Lord knows you mean well? #WhiteChurchQuiet” “We ask, How long, O Lord? Maybe God is asking us the same question. #WhiteChurchQuiet” A quotation from Martin Luther King, Jr.: “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends. #WhiteChurchQuiet” A quotation from the Epistles, from 1 John: “If you don’t love the person you can see, how can you love the God you can’t see? #WhiteChurchQuiet”

The #WhiteChurchQuiet hashtag is a persistent widow for me. I’m not like the Unjust Judge; I might be worse. I do fear God and respect other people, but I’m still ignoring my brothers and sisters who are shouting for change, shouting for justice. I believe that, among the forces that corrupt and destroy the creatures of God, systemic racism is among the most vicious and powerful. My brothers and sisters, for whom Christ died, live in a very different Madison and a very different America than I do as a white person. My kids’ Black friends are growing up in the shadow of statistics about massive disparities in educational outcomes, future employment, and involvement with the criminal justice system. It’s not just and it’s not right. But talking about systemic racism has become so polarized that it’s scary to talk about it in church. I’m worried right now about who I’m upsetting. And so I become a poster child for WhiteChurchQuiet. Because I’m fearful, and because I don’t know what to say. I don’t have this figured out yet. Far from it. But I hear #WhiteChurchQuiet as the holy botheration of the indignant widow, for me. There’s something here that’s calling my conscience to re-calibrate, so that it can guide me in right response to the divisions and disparaties of our common life.

But there are plenty of persistent widows to go around. This past week a lot of American men have had a rude awakening to the commonplace realities of life as a girl and woman. Our political conversation has gone some places nobody expected or wanted it to go. And that’s uncorked the bottle of women’s stories of having their space invaded and their bodily autonomy violated. Author Kelly Oxford tweeted about her own experience of sexual assault, and invited other women to share theirs. She got millions of responses. At the peak she was receiving fifty per minute. I think women knew that these experiences are commonplace, though maybe we didn’t know just how commonplace, or how egregious they could be, or how young we are when it begins.

But a lot of men didn’t know. Most men don’t do stuff like that. And they had no idea that most women experience stuff like that. And it’s been genuinely heartening to see America’s men responding to this particular persistent widow – taking on board realities that were invisible to them before, and saying, That’s not okay. We all need to do better. We need to teach our daughters to yell, and our sons to ask, and we need to convince, rebuke, and encourage one another to treat every child of God with respect and care.

We know what’s good, what’s true, what’s just, first because God gives us the gift – and burden – of a conscience, born inside us, nestled against our beating hearts, nurtured by the people and communities around us. And when we run up against the limits of our moral knowing, of what our conscience has encountered, we can come to know the good by a second path: through the persistence of another’s voice, from outside the walls of our zone of comfort and familiarity, that breaks through the limits of our capacity for concern and compassion, and bother us into a broader view of the goodness God wants for all God’s children.

Announcements, October 13

TONIGHT…

Liturgy and Music Planning Meeting, Thursday, October 13, 7pm: We’ll meet to plan ahead for Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany, and to discuss some new liturgical possibilities. All are welcome!

THIS WEEK…

Caregivers’ Support Group, Saturday, October 15, 9am: 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, October 15, 10am-12noon: The book is The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd. The story follows Hetty “Handful” Grimke, a Charleston slave, and Sarah, the daughter of the wealthy Grimke family, who went on to become a feminist, suffragist and an abolitionist.

Creation Care meeting, Saturday, October 15, 12-1:30pm: We will discuss how to move ahead with living into our Creation Care Mission Statement. Members of the parish who’d like to get involved are welcome to attend.

Special Collection for Haiti, Sunday, October 16: Our diocese has a partnership with the community of Jeannette in Haiti. In the aftermath of the destruction of Hurricane Matthew, and at the request of our bishop, we will hold a special collection for Jeannette this Sunday in place of our usual collection for the Rector’s Discretionary Fund. Half the cash in our collection plate, and any designated checks, will go towards our Haiti partnership. To learn more, visit haitiproject.org . Thanks for your generosity!

Episcopal 101, Sunday, October 16, 9am: An ongoing exploration of the Episcopal Church for new and long-time members. All are welcome!

Sunday school, Sunday, October 16, 10am: This Sunday, our 3 year olds to kindergarten class will be learning about the Great Family, while our Elementary classes explore the parable of the Unjust Judge.

Spirituality of Parenting Lunch, Sunday, October 16, 11:30am: 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.

Children’s Choir, Sunday, October 16, 11:30am: The Children’s Choir will gather for our first rehearsal. Kids need to be able to read English (not music), and to focus and learn with a group. Please talk to our Organist & Choir Director, Martin Ganschow, with any questions.

Crop Walk 2016, Sunday, October 16, 12:45pm: St. Dunstan’s will send a team of walkers; all are welcome to grab a T-shirt & walk along! Last year over $36,000 was raised to support the work of many local food pantries and international relief agencies. The goal for this year is $40,000. You can give to our team online at https://www.crophungerwalk.org/madisonwi/Donate ; click on “Donate to a Team” and search for “St. Duntan’s.” Thanks for helping us make a difference!

Evening Eucharist, Sunday, October 16, 6pm: Join us for a simple service before the week begins. All are welcome.

Young Adult Meetup at the Vintage, Sunday, October 16, 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 & partners welcome too.

Parish Map & Regional Groups: Last year we created a map of our parish, by having members put pins in a map for their home and workplace or other places where they spend time. (If you didn’t participate, but we have your home address, we have added you!) We are sharing the Map back to the parish, with some tentative Regional Groups outlined. Take a look, and get to know your St. Dunstan’s neighbors!

THE WEEKS AHEAD…

Vestry meeting, Wednesday, October 19, 6:45pm. Any members are welcome to attend. The draft agenda is posted outside the Meeting Room.

This year’s Parish Talent Show will be Sunday, October 23! What will you share? A poem, a song, a dramatic monologue, a unique skill, a dance? A sample of art, craft, tinkering, building, study or science? Group acts are encouraged. Sign up anytime, even if your act is still in the works!

Grace Shelter Dinner, Sunday, October 23, 7pm: Every fourth Sunday, a loyal group of St. Dunstan’s folk provides dinner for residents at the Grace Church shelter, and breakfast the next morning. See the signup sheet in the Gathering Area to help out. To learn more, talk with Rose Mueller.

Spooky Sandbox, Thursday, October 27, 5:30pm: All are welcome to a special edition of our weekly Thursday evening worship. We’ll share some spooky Bible stories, with appropriate music and crafts. Dinner will follow our inter-generational worship service. All are welcome!

Ladies’ Night Out, Friday, October 28, 6pm: Join our monthly get-together as we dine at area restaurants and enjoy good conversation among women of all ages from St. Dunstan’s. This month we will meet at Sa Bai Thong at 6802 Odana Road, in Madison. For more information or to arrange a ride, please contact Kathy Whitt or Debra Martinez.

Fall Giving Campaign: Kids’ Market: As the Kids’ portion of our fall Giving Campaign, the kids of St. Dunstan’s (and their parents) are invited to contribute used toys or other unwanted but useful items to our Kids’ Market, which will run from October 30 through November 13. Kids are encouraged to go through their rooms and bring in some small, good-condition items that are ready for a new home. (No clothing, and no more than one plastic grocery bag per child, please!) Please bring in all contributions by Sunday, October 30. Kids and adults of the parish can shop the Market from October 30 through November 13. All donations will go to support our 2017 parish budget, as our kids’ contribution to our church’s ongoing life. Thanks for your participation!

Naming our Saints: In anticipation of All Saints Day, please fill out one or more Saint Slips, available in the Gathering Area. Tell us about a saint, well-known or known only to you, whom you remember with love.

All Saints’ Day, Sunday, Nov. 6: We will celebrate this holy day with an opportunity to remember the faithful departed; renewal of our baptismal vows; and, at our 10am service, a kids’ saint procession.

Remembrance Station: Consider bringing in a token of one of those saints whom you remember with love and respect, as an extension of our All Saints commemorations. Our Remembrance Station this year will include a place to hang pictures or notes, and a table where you may place a photo or other memento. Please don’t bring in anything precious or irreplaceable. On Sunday, November 20, we will commend these faithful departed to Christ our King.

International Potluck, Saturday, November 5, 5pm: Diversity comes in many flavors, and our congregation has a wide range of ages, sexual orientations, and nationalities.  The Diversity Potluck is a get-together intended to showcase and celebrate our beautiful diversity, whatever that word means to you.  Bring a dish that you feel celebrates your own personal diversity.  You can bring artwork, music, or poems (original or not) that celebrates it as well!  Feel free to dress up to celebrate it!  Dinner will start at 5:00.  Please, bring a small card telling us about your dish/art, and note if the dish is gluten free/ vegetarian/ peanut free.  Please sign up with what dish you are bringing in the Gathering Area.

OPPORTUNITIES TO SERVE…

Christmas Cards for Jail Inmates: St. Dunstan’s has been invited by our sister parish Grace Church to join them in writing Christmas cards to the inmates of the Dane County Jail. Christmas is a bleak time for these men and women, and even a simple message of kindness can bring some joy and hope. Our goal is to complete at least 100. Right now we are asking for donations of Christmas cards – odd leftovers from past years, ones you don’t really like enough to send, cheap ones from the thrift store. Once we have some cards, we’ll set up a Card-Writing Station where people can pause to write a message while they’re at church, or take a few cards and the guidelines for card-writing to do their writing at home. Cards will be delivered to the jail before Christmas.

Become a Mentor to a Local Student! The mentoring program at Kromrey Middle School aims to help kids who may face barriers due to their background or educational challenges, to be well-supported and high-school ready. If you enjoy working with young people and have wondered how to make a difference in our community, this may be a perfect opportunity for you. The initial training will be October 28. Application forms are available at St. Dunstan’s and should be sent in by October 24th.

Sermon, Oct. 9

How shall we seek the good of the city where we dwell?

We use this phrase in our Prayers of the People – Work and pray for the good of the city where we dwell, for in its peace we shall find our peace. Today the lectionary brings us those words in context, late in the book of the prophet Jeremiah. Jerusalem and the whole land are conquered by Babylon, as Jeremiah had predicted, and many of the people are taken into exile in Babylon. This passage is part of a letter that Jeremiah sent to those exiles. He was writing to counter the words of false prophets, who were telling the Jewish exiles that Babylon would soon be destroyed and they would be able to go home. Instead, Jeremiah says, You’re going to be there for a while. Build houses. Plant gardens. Have families. And seek the welfare of the city where God has sent you, for in its welfare, in its peace, you will find your own.

I’m glad to have the chance to explain the text and its context. I want to make sure we understand that the city mentioned there isn’t necessarily Madison. Maybe it’s Middleton. Verona. Mount Horeb. Maybe it’s Dane County. Or Wisconsin. Or the United States. It’s … wherever we find ourselves. Where we live and work, rest and play. Where we abide. Where we know the struggles, and have the chance to be part of the solutions.

How shall we seek the good of the city where we dwell? I added these words to our weekly Prayers maybe 18 months ago. Before that we had prayers for the world and the nation, but I noticed how much our prayers and actions were focused on local issues, local needs, and I thought, We need a particular place for those prayers and intentions. These words from Jeremiah came to mind, and fit so well. I treasure this text because it holds up the paradox of belonging and not belonging that’s central to life as a person of faith. Our loyalties are first and foremost to God’s kingdom and God’s ethics, which are often in tension with the ethics and norms of the world. Yet we’re called to engagement, not disengagement; to love, not condemnation.

Jeremiah wrote these words in a very particular moment; but I think I can defend using this random snippet of Old Testament prophecy as part of our weekly intercessions in Christian worship. Because what Jeremiah says here about how the exiles should live in Babylon is a lot like the way Jesus and the Apostles direct the first Christians to think and live: Be not conformed to the world, know yourselves as a people set apart, a people whose homeland is elsewhere, not even of this world; but live in this world as Jesus did: loving, grieving, celebrating, helping, healing, feeding, showing up, speaking out.

It was pretty easy for the earliest Christians to remember this because they felt like exiles; their way of faith put them at odds with other religious groups and with the cultural and political order around them. The Old Testament tells us that the people Israel, the faith-ancestors of both today’s Christians and Jews, had times of peace and prosperity when they were tempted to forget that they were first and foremost God’s people, not as a self-made and self-sufficient nation. Times when God had to remind them that they didn’t belong where they were in any deep or lasting way. The books of the Torah remind the Jews again and again that they were aliens and slaves in the land of Egypt. And the great festivals of the Jewish calendar, Passover, Sukkoth, Purim, remind them too of their times of being outsiders, wanderers and exiles.

Jews living today carry the collective memories of millennia of living – and dying – as an oppressed minority. They are not likely to forget that their loyalties are never simply to any earthly kingdom. But we Christians, well, our faith became the religion of empire 1600 years ago. That chapter of unquestioned dominance for our way of faith is waning now, and we’re struggling, in many respects, to remember – to reconstruct from the wisdom of our faith ancestors – how not to belong. How to be outsiders, exiles, whose identities and loyalties come from somewhere else than the place in which we find ourselves, but who work and pray faithfully for the good of the city where we dwell.

I think that’s why Jesus in his wisdom gave his followers so many stories and examples of strangers and outsiders being the ones who truly recognize God’s power and mercy. Like the Samaritan in today’s Gospel. Please note, the other nine guys are all doing what Jesus told them to do – going to show themselves to the Jewish religious authorities, to be certified as healed and clean from their disease, and free to resume normal life. Familiar rites, institutions and theologies take over. We have no reason to believe that they thought much about Jesus, after that day. The Samaritan is outside of that religious system. So where does he take his gratitude? He takes it back to the man who seems to him to have brought about his healing: Jesus. It’s his very outsiderness that makes him able to see clearly how God is at work.

The theme is familiar because Jesus tells it, and shows it, again and again. Listen to those on the outside, and remember, hold onto, your own outsider-ness; you often get the broadest view from the cheapest seats.

How shall we seek the good of the city where we dwell?

It’s pretty hard sometimes, and exhausting. We’re in one of those seasons right now. There’s so much going on in the life of our nation, let alone the larger world, that makes people feel angry, fearful, confused. Overwhelmed. Outraged. Despairing. We can be tempted to disengage. To think, like the exiles in Babylon: I don’t really belong here, and this place and its problems are just not my problem.

I read a short essay on this topic a few months ago that I really, really loved. And I’m going to share a little of it with you now. It’s written by a bear, who blogs and tweets regularly. Well, okay. It’s probably actually a person, but it sure sounds like a bear. She wrote this essay in response to the Pulse nightclub shooting back in June. And she’s basically reflecting on the struggle to keep striving for the good of the forest where she dwells. Listen.

“I wish doing things to make everything better for everyone in the forest was as easy as thinking about doing things to make everything better for everyone in the forest. It is not, though. In fact, it is actually very difficult for me to do things in the forest that feel like they affect anyone or anything beyond [me] or my immediate forest surroundings…I have tried, certainly, but the things I want changed seem to stay the same, no matter how much effort and dedication I put toward the changes I want to see. That is one of the more frustrating aspects of this: the one thing I do have control of [myself and my surroundings] are the only things I can effectively change. However, changing [myself] does not make the terribleness of the bad things that can happen in the forest change, go away, or get better. What I can change does not matter for the things I want to change. Sometimes I wonder if I should mind [my own bearness] and nothing else. I wonder if it is possible that all creatures of the forest are meant to simply mind their own personal creatureness… I am a bear, and I can only control my bearness, and I just have to accept that and move on with my bearness. But… I do not like that.  Some [creatures] fight just to make others feel like their otherness is wrong, bad, and worthless… And some [creatures] actually hurt and destroy [others], which is not fair or nice or necessary… I have to be a part of all of those relationships of the forest. I cannot just tend to my own bearness while [others] are hurt or hindered or hushed… If another creature cannot be the creature it is or wants to be because it is being unfairly stopped or even hurt, how could I not intervene? … [pause] I know that not everyone can tend their everyoneness, and sometimes they need help with tending their everyoneness.”

It’s a funny phrase: Tending our everyone-ness. But it’s the phrase I’ve kept thinking about, over the months since I first read the bear’s musings. Tending our everyone-ness. Our capacity to recognize the other, the stranger, the outsider, as also a child of the forest and a child of God. In our Discipleship Practices, we call this Reconciling: living as people who know that we are all one in God’s eyes. That there is no such thing as other people.

There is a paradox here, for the exiles in Babylon and for us: it’s our otherness, our commitments as people of faith, that drive us to tend our everyone-ness, to respond to our neighbors in love. It’s the paradox of Jeremiah’s call to the exiles: Remember who you are, but don’t keep yourselves apart. Strive for the welfare of the city where you live as exiles. Be an active part of the common good, wherever you find yourselves. Tend your everyone-ness.

How shall we seek the good of the city where we dwell?

Of course, the biggest thing straining our capacity to tend our everyone-ness right now is the election season. Some of us are angry, hopeful, fearful, determined, defensive. All of us are weary. How does Jeremiah’s call speak to us right now?

Some of you probably feel tempted to say, A pox on both their houses!… You’re so fed up that you’re ready to disengage entirely. I believe that faithful stewardship of what God has given us as citizens of a democracy, however flawed, involves informing ourselves and voting. If the candidates and the process make you queasy, try thinking past the election; look at the candidates’ policy priorities, think about the vision for the country they’re promoting, and weigh that against your values and convictions as a Christian. Make your choice on that basis. People of good conscience may arrive at different conclusions. But striving for the good of the city where we dwell demands that we take the impact of our votes seriously.

Some of you are deeply engaged, and fiercely passionate, for your candidate and/or against the other candidate. Tending your everyone-ness is even harder for you, friends, than for those who are just exhausted and ready to tune out. Because for you, it means trying to keep loving those on the other side. Setting aside judgment in favor of curiosity and compassion. What brought them to stand where they stand? How is their path like and unlike the path that brought me to stand where I stand? It is hard to look at someone who holds views you find hateful and tell yourself, This is a human being whom God loves. It’s hard. But it’s not optional.

On November 9th we will be the United States. We will still have to live with each other. We are going to need a lot of active, intentional, loving tending of our everyone-ness, after this divisive and exhausting season. In times of struggle, threat, anger, fear, uncertainty, it’s tempting to pull back into ourselves. To hunker down in the places where we feel safe, with the people who’ll affirm our opinions. To mind our own bearness.

But the hopeful, the faithful response, is to keep pushing outwards. To keep reconciling. To tend our everyone-ness. To work and pray, faithfully, for the good of the city where we dwell. For in its peace, friends, someday, somehow, we shall find our peace.

The bear’s wise words may be read in full here:

https://helloiamabear.com/2016/06/13/i-do-not-want-to-feel-helpless/

Announcements, October 6

THIS WEEK…

Diocesan Convention Eucharist, Friday, October 7, 5pm, Madison Marriott West Ballroom (in Middleton): Our Diocesan Convention this fall is right up the road, and our Convention Eucharist, celebrating and exploring multicultural worship, will take place Friday evening. You don’t have to be registered to attend the Eucharist – all are welcome!

Sunday school, Sunday, October 9, 10am: This Sunday, our 3 year olds to kindergarten class will be learning about the Flood and the Ark, while our Elementary classes will work with Luke’s Gospel story about healing and gratitude.

Fall Clean-Up, Sunday, October 9, 11:30 – 1:30pm: Wear your work clothes to church and stay after the 10am service for a simple lunch (with an overview of tasks to complete while we’re eating), followed by time to work on our grounds. We’ll wrap up by 1:30pm, but you can leave anytime you’ve completed your tasks.

Please wear your name tags! It’s helpful to both newer members who are trying to get to know folks, and to long-time members who might still need a hint. If you don’t have a nametag, or have lost yours, you can sign up to get a nametag on the bulletin board just around the corner from the big calendar.

Liturgy and Music Planning Meeting, Thursday, October 13, 7pm: We’ll meet to plan ahead for Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany, and to discuss some new liturgical possibilities. All are welcome!

Parish Map & Regional Groups: Last year we created a map of our parish, by having members put pins in a map for their home and workplace or other places where they spend time. (If you didn’t participate, but we have your home address, we have added you!) We are sharing the Map back to the parish, with some tentative Regional Groups outlined. It may be interesting and useful to know what other members of the parish live near you, and we may try out organizing dinner gatherings or other events on this basis, as one way to know each other better. Take a look, and get to know your St. Dunstan’s neighbors!

This year’s Parish Talent Show will be Sunday, October 23! What will you share? A poem, a song, a dramatic monologue, a unique skill, a dance? A sample of art, craft, tinkering, building, study or science? Group acts are encouraged. Sign up anytime, even if your act is still in the works!

THE WEEKS AHEAD…

Online Social justice Reading Group Starting Oct. 10: Our neighbors at Foundry414 invite any interested members of St. Dunstan’s to join a new Social Justice Reading Group. You’ll read a chapter a week and sign in to the book group website to discuss it with others. The first two books will be Slow Kingdom Coming by Kent Annan and Trouble I’ve Seen by Drew Hart. Jamie Smet, a member of Foundry414, will moderate the group. Learn more and join up at foundry414socialjustice.wordpress.com .

Madison-Area Julian Gathering, Wednesday, October 12, 7:15 – 9pm: St. Julian’s era was one of turmoil and crisis.  In the midst of it all, Julian came to believe unshakably that “all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.” Please join us for contemplative prayer and discussion of Julian’s optimistic theology!

Caregivers’ Support Group, Saturday, October 15, 9am: 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, October 15, 10am-12noon: The book is The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd. The story follows Hetty “Handful” Grimke, a Charleston slave, and Sarah, the daughter of the wealthy Grimke family. The novel begins on Sarah’s eleventh birthday, when she is given ownership over Handful, who is to be her handmaid. Inspired in part by the historical figure of Sarah Grimke (a feminist, suffragist and, importantly, an abolitionist), Kidd allows herself to go beyond the record to flesh out the inner lives of all the characters, both real and imagined.

Fall Giving Campaign: Kids’ Market! As the Kids’ portion of our fall Giving Campaign, the kids of St. Dunstan’s (and their parents) are invited to contribute used toys or other unwanted but useful items to our Kids’ Market, which will run from October 30 through November 13. Kids are encouraged to go through their rooms and bring in some small, good-condition items that are ready for a new home. (No clothing, and no more than one plastic grocery bag per child, please!) Please bring in all contributions by Sunday, October 30. Kids and adults of the parish can shop the Market from October 30 through November 13. All donations will go to support our 2017 parish budget, as our kids’ contribution to our church’s ongoing life. Thanks for your participation!

Creation Care meeting, Saturday, October 15, 12-1:30pm: We will discuss how to move ahead with living into our Creation Care Mission Statement. Members of the parish who’d like to get involved are welcome to attend.

Rector’s Discretionary Fund Offering, Sunday, October 16: Half the cash in our collection plate, and any designated checks, will go towards the Rector’s Discretionary Fund this day and on every third Sunday. This fund is a way to quietly help people with direct financial needs, in the parish and the wider community. Please give generously.

Episcopal 101, Sunday, October 16, 9am: An ongoing exploration of the Episcopal Church for new and long-time members.  All are welcome!

Sunday school, Sunday, October 16, 10am: This Sunday, our 3 year olds to kindergarten class will be learning about the Great Family, while our Elementary classes explore the parable of the Unjust Judge.

Spirituality of Parenting Lunch, Sunday, October 16, 11:30am: 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.

Children’s Choir, Sunday, October 16, 11:30am: The Children’s Choir will gather for our first rehearsal. Kids need to be able to read English (not music), and to focus and learn with a group.  Please talk to our Organist & Choir Director, Martin Ganschow, with any questions.

Crop Walk 2016, Sunday, October 16, 12:45pm: St. Dunstan’s will send a team of walkers; watch for a signup soon! Last year over $36,000 was raised to support the work of many local food pantries and international relief agencies. The goal for this year is $40,000. Come and make a difference.

Evening Eucharist, Sunday, October 16, 6pm: Join us for a simple service before the week begins. All are welcome.

Young Adult Meetup at the Vintage, Sunday, October 16, 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 & partners welcome too.

Ladies’ Night Out, Friday, October 28, 6pm: Come enjoy good food and good conversation. We will be dining at Sa Bai Thong at 6802 Odana Road in Madison. For more information, contact Kathy Whitt or Debra Martinez.

International Potluck, Saturday, November 5, 5pm: Diversity comes in many flavors, and our congregation has a wide range of ages, sexual orientations, and nationalities.  The Diversity Potluck is a get-together intended to showcase and celebrate our beautiful diversity, whatever that word means to you.  Bring a dish that you feel celebrates your own personal diversity.  You can bring artwork, music, or poems (original or not) that celebrates it as well!  Feel free to dress up to celebrate it!  Dinner will start at 5:00.  Please, bring a small card telling us about your dish/art, and note if the dish is gluten free/ vegetarian/ peanut free.  Please sign up with what dish you are bringing in the Gathering Area.

OPPORTUNITIES TO SERVE…

Christmas Cards for Jail Inmates: St. Dunstan’s has been invited by our sister parish Grace Church to join them in writing Christmas cards to the inmates of the Dane County Jail. Christmas is a bleak time for these men and women, and even a simple message of kindness can bring some joy and hope. Our goal is to complete at least 100. Right now we are asking for donations of Christmas cards – odd leftovers from past years, ones you don’t really like enough to send, cheap ones from the thrift store. Once we have some cards, we’ll set up a Card-Writing Station where people can pause to write a message while they’re at church, or take a few cards and the guidelines for card-writing to do their writing at home. Cards will be delivered to the jail before Christmas.

Become a Mentor to a Local Student! The mentoring program at Kromrey Middle School aims to help kids who may face barriers due to their background or educational challenges, to be well-supported and high-school ready. If you enjoy working with young people and have wondered how to make a difference in our community, this may be a perfect opportunity for you. The initial training will be October 28. Application forms are available at St. Dunstan’s and should be sent in by October 24th.

 

Sermon, Oct. 2

God made us to love the world, and God made the world to be loved. So God rejoices when we are fulfilling God’s purposes by loving the world.

So says the 17th-century priest and writer Thomas Traherne. Traherne died on September 27, 1674, so this past week was the 342nd anniversary of his death. His writings demonstrate an expansive and joyous understanding of God’s love and grace immanent in the beauty of the natural world.

It’s a deeply Anglican perspective. Richard Schmidt argues that the Anglican theological heritage, which we share as Episcopalians, is profoundly incarnational. God becomes human and enters our world in Jesus Christ, and that moment of incarnation teaches us always to look for God present in the world, to honor God through with art and music, with human skill and reason, in the disciplines and duties of daily life, and in our love for the natural world.

There are Christians who see the world in other ways – as a resource entirely at our disposal, with no responsibility of care; or as inherently bad or flawed, over against a spiritual realm which is the true and good reality. But we Anglicans, we incarnational Christians, expect to meet God here, in this world, in these bodies; we expect to honor God’s grace and treasure God’s gifts; we expect to serve God in our daily living.

In seeking to know, honor, and serve God in the material world, and especially in the natural world, we stand in the current of a long and deep stream of Judeo-Christian thought. Saint Francis of Assisi, the 13th-century saint whom we’ll honor this afternoon at our Blessing of the Animals service, is remembered for seeing animals and plants, sun and moon, as brothers and sisters within the created order. When I’m blessing the water up at the altar, I use a simplified version of a prayer of Francis: ‘I thank you, God, for Sister Water, who is so beautiful, humble, mobile, and pure.’

In the early 16th century, between Francis and Traherne, Martin Luther, the founder of our sister tradition, the Lutheran way of faith, wrote, “God is entirely and personally present in the wilderness, in the garden, in the field….even in the smallest flowers! … God is wholly present in all creation, in every corner, behind you and before you. Do you think that God is [just] sleeping on a pillow in heaven?”

There are so many witnesses to the possibilities of encountering, praising, and serving God in Creation spread across two thousand years of Christianity – and before that, in the Hebrew Bible, as well. The Creation story in Genesis, the book of Job, portions of the Psalms and the Prophets – there are many passages throughout the Hebrew Bible that describe God’s glory and generosity as vividly present and available in the natural world and its creatures.

Ellen Davis, my Old Testament professor, argues convincingly that the first covenant, the Abrahamic Covenant, was triangular – connecting three parties in mutual responsibility: humanity, God, and the land. God’s people are called both to be faithful to God’s ways and to care for the land with respect and love. Davis says that in her reading of the Bible, that part of the Covenant is still in force.

God made us to love the world, and the world to be loved. But we are alienated from the natural world, which has diminished our love; and the love we do feel is shot through with grief.

I think the Anthropology Police would break down the door and take away my degree if I tried to romanticize pre-modern peoples and say that everything was better when we lived closer to the land. Before urbanization and mass production and a dozen other vast historical trends moved most of humanity away from small-scale farming and into lives in which the change of seasons is primarily a matter of wardrobe, and a bag of groceries is more likely to contain food from Chile and China than from Wisconsin. Modernity has a lot going for it – medicine, technology, mass education. I would not choose to go back to Traherne’s time, or Francis’s. I probably wouldn’t have survived the birth of my first child.

But: when I read Traherne’s euphoric praise for the gifts of the ocean, the hills, the skies, when I read Frances binding us in poetry and prayer to flower, cloud, bird and star, I feel a tug of sadness. I know those beauties less well than my ancestors in faith did; and I know them as endangered. Compromised, diminished, at risk.

Humans have always used and abused Creation; but the pace and the impact have increased sharply since the 19th century, and we see, and bear, the costs of those changes. Already by the 1870s, with the Industrial Revolution casting a pall of coal smoke over the world, the poet Gerard Manley Hopkins voiced the grief we feel: “… All is seared with trade, bleared, smeared with toil, and wears man’s sweat and shares man’s smell.”

Today the lectionary brings us two songs of exile. Lamentations gives voice to the loneliness of the land, the city, with its people taken from it, and Psalm 137, one of the most poignant of the Psalms, gives us the voice of the people, grieving the loss of their homeland, the landscape of their hearts: “By the rivers of Babylon, we lay down and wept when we remembered Zion… we hang our harps on the willow trees, for how can we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land?” We had a place, says the song, a land that was ours; we loved it, it was beautiful; and we lost it. It’s gone.

That’s us. We live there, in that terrain of memory and grief. In the book Healing Through the Dark Emotions, Miriam Greenspan proposes that we are all living with chronic anxiety and sadness about what’s happening, what’s already happened, to the natural world. When I first read that, during seminary, I recognized it instantly as true for me. Does it ring true to you? … When I talk with you all about spirituality and where we feel close to God, a lot of you say, In Nature. And when we talk about Nature, there’s this shadow that comes across people’s faces. The simple joy and intimacy with Creation that we hear in the words of Frances and Traherne – sometimes we feel that for a moment. And then we remember how much we have lost; how much we still have to lose.

I don’t know how you live with it. For me, it involves a lot of denial, a lot of things I just don’t think about much. Because I don’t have time to fall apart like that.

God made us to love the world, and the world to be loved. But we are alienated from the natural world; our love of Creation is diminished and shadowed by grief. We know and feel that we are called to care for the world, but we lack the will.

In today’s Gospel, some of Jesus’ friends come to him and say, Increase our faith! He’s been talking with them about discipleship – caring for each other, forgiving each other, serving the poor, and so on. And reasonably enough, they think, All that sounds pretty hard. And maybe if we had more faith, it would be easier. So: Jesus, give us more faith. And Jesus says, Look. If you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you could tell this mulberry tree, Go jump in a lake! and then listen for the splash. When your slave who works for you does a full day’s work in the field and then comes home and serves you dinner, do you thank him? No, you don’t; because that’s his job. That’s what he’s supposed to do. So how about you just do the things you’re supposed to do?

It’s a Gospel lesson that can give us pause. Not because what Jesus is saying here is perplexing or hard to interpret; he’s just being a little blunt. Less warm and fuzzy and affirming than we like him. He’s a little fed up that the disciples think they still need something else. That in their laziness, they hope that maybe Jesus can just wave his hand and make discipleship into a cakewalk. So his reply is kind of a kick in the pants. He says, You don’t need more faith. You have faith, and you know what it means to live faith. You just need to make up your mind to do it. You don’t lack faith. You lack will.

Oh, boy, do I recognize that truth about myself. I have faith. I believe. And I know what belief demands of me, in my obligations to God, my neighbors, the common good, the created order. The things I don’t do, the places I fall short, are because it’s hard, and I’m weak and lazy. Fortunately God is gracious; I keep getting second chances. But when Jesus says, Faith is not your problem; just act on the faith you already have! – he’s talking to me.

This past spring we called and gathered a task force here at St. Dunstan’s, the Creation Care Task Force. Loving care of creation has been part of mission of this parish since its earliest years, when the first rector, Father Childs, worked to plant conifers from around the world on the church grounds. Over the decades, the trees, plants, birds and animals of this place have been part of our identity here, and have called us into awareness of God’s beautiful creation. In the parish mission statement developed in 2010, “Care for the environment” is named as one of the ways we strive to respond to God’s grace. But we have not had a consistent or clear witness on creation care. It’s in danger of being just another value that a church claims, but isn’t really sure how to live out.

So we called the Creation Care Task Force, inviting members of the parish with knowledge and passion around issues of environmental stewardship to gather to reflect on what it means for a church to be committed to creation care. We’ve been meeting regularly since the spring, and they’ve been such fruitful, insightful conversations; it’s truly been holy work.

We’re still at it – for a couple more months, I expect – but we’ve achieved one important goal that we’re sharing with the congregation today: a Creation Care Mission Statement. It names our hopes and intentions for living as people who still honor the First Covenant! – who see loving stewardship of Creation as an integral part of holy living. So far that Mission Statement belongs to the Task Force; but I very much hope that it will come to belong to the whole parish, that we’ll claim it and own it and live into it together, in the months and years ahead.

The Creation Care Task Force and its work are an example of doing what we know we need to do. We didn’t need more faith – we already believed that Creation matters, that the natural world is beloved of God. We didn’t need more concern for the earth, or more guilt or anxiety – we had plenty of that. We didn’t lack faith; we lacked will. We just needed to start somewhere. And so we started.

It’s just a start. This mission statement invites us into demanding ongoing work, as individuals and as a community of faith. It will be hard, and I, for one, am still weak and lazy. But – we’ve started. And – this is the part that gives me the most joy – we’ve come to some clarity about where to start.

God made us to love the world, and the world to be loved. But we are alienated from the natural world; our love of Creation is diminished and shadowed by grief. We know deeply that we are called to care for the world, but we lack the will. The path towards awakening our longing to protect and renew begins with cultivating love.

The path towards awakening our longing to protect and renew Creation begins with cultivating our love of Creation.

Ever since it first became clear that human activity was changing and harming the environment and the world’s creatures, we’ve been living with guilt, shame, and fear. Those feelings have shadowed us for decades – and a lot of us still feel paralyzed. There’s been some interesting research on environmental education with young children that concluded that it’s not a good idea to start too early with teaching about endangered species and threatened landscapes. The sense of impending loss can just make kids disengage. Why learn and fall in love if these creatures and places seem doomed? They can’t process the grief when they haven’t yet even had a chance to discover the joy. Instead, effective environmental education for young children focuses on developing curiosity, engagement, wonder, connectedness… love. I think that, while that’s particularly true for young children, it’s true for all of us. We need to renew and nourish our love for Creation.

Listen, when the Creation Care Task Force first gathered, I was hoping for outcomes like guidelines for what kind of dish soap to buy. And we may yet get there; this mission statement should inform those choices. But gathered around the table, walking around the grounds, in conversation and in prayer, we have discerned something much more foundational and hopeful. I’d like to use a word we don’t all know: charism. It’s a Greek word, a New Testament word; it means gift – but we use in the church to mean particularly a gift from God given with a purpose. A gift given to be used.

The Creation Care Task Force believes that this parish, St. Dunstan’s Church, has a charism for the restoration of the relationship between humans and nature.

This parish has a charism for the restoration of the relationship between humans and nature.  Our grounds and the plants and creatures that inhabit them – our spaces for worship and fellowship that look out on nature- our heritage of planting and tending here – the joy our members and guests take in exploring, playing, foraging, wandering, praying here – the people God has sent us who themselves carry charisms, gifts, for teaching and advocacy and care for the natural world – these are all clues that fed our discernment that God wants this church to help people love the world.

And our grounds are our central gift and tool for that work. A core and distinctive part of St. Dunstan’s identity and mission is inviting people into loving engagement with creation, by practicing sustained compassionate attention right here on our little patch of fertile ground.

That local focus – using this place to learn to know and love nature together – that’s not navel-gazing or parochialism or escapism. It’s more like learning a skill in a classroom or workshop that you’ll take out and use in daily life. Our life here together, in this place, can be that classroom or lab where we cultivate a disposition of heart and mind that we’ll carry with us out into the world. Just as we practice love of neighbor here, to shape our daily interactions with others, we can practice love of creation here, to shape our daily living, buying, eating, voting.

What does that look like? Well, this is a brand-new thought; my prayer is that we’ll develop it together. I think there are ways in which we’re already doing it, have always done it. I think there are other ways we can take it on with intention, in our shared life of worship, learning, fellowship, and work. I heartily invite all of you to share your ideas, questions, hopes.

Today the Creation Care Task Force is offering the congregation three simple exercises to try out, in the spirit of cultivating our love of the natural world. These are exercises in abiding, practices of curiosity and compassionate attention. Please take a look at the Tiny Hike, Small Ecology, and I Notice, I Wonder, and give one of these practices ten or twenty minutes today, or this week, or anytime. Share with me, with each other, how they feel, where they take you.

God made us to love the world, and the world to be loved. Our love of Creation is diminished and shadowed by grief. But the path towards awakening our longing to protect and renew begins with cultivating love. I believe that we, as the parish and people of St. Dunstan’s, are called to that work of cultivation. May the God who has given us this desire and intention, continue to stir it up within and among us, equip and inspire us to live out our hopes, and prosper the work of our hands. Amen.