Announcements, February 23

THIS WEEKEND…

Ladies’ Night Out, Friday, February 24, 6pm: Come join us for good food and good conversation among women of all ages from St. Dunstan’s. We will be meeting at Amber Indian Restaurant at 6913 University Avenue in Middleton.

Musical Engagement with Scripture, Sunday, February 26, 9:40am: Join Rev. Miranda and help compose a simple chant based on the day’s Psalm. All ages welcome. We’ll gather in the Meeting Room.

Last Sunday All-Ages Worship: The Transfiguration of Jesus, Sunday, February 26, 10am: Out 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, February 26, 12pm: 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.

Grace Shelter Dinner, Sunday, February 26, 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 Gather Area to help out.

Sermons: If you find that it helps you to read along as Rev. Miranda preaches, sermons are usually available on the way into church. They’re also available online after church and during the week at www.stdunstans.com.

THE WEEKS AHEAD…

Men’s Book Club, Saturday, March 4, 10am-12pm: We will be reading Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring. The book was published in 1962 and documented the detrimental effects on the environment of the indiscriminate use of pesticides. Carson accused the chemical industry of spreading disinformation and public officials of unquestioning acceptance of their claims. The public outcry after the book’s publication forced the banning of DDT and spurred revolutionary changes in the laws affecting our air, land, and water. For more information, contact Jim Hindle.

First Sunday in Lent & Bishop’s Visitation, Sunday, March 5: Our Bishop, Bishop Steven Miller, will be visiting us next Sunday. He will celebrate and preach, and will be available for conversation between services at 9am. Cash placed in the Offering Plate this Sunday will go to Bishop’s Purse, a fund like the Rector’s Discretionary Fund which the Bishop can use to help various causes and needs in the life of the diocese.

Birthdays and Anniversary blessings and Healing Prayers will be given on Sunday, March 5, as is our custom on the first Sunday of the month.

Evening Eucharist, Sunday, March 5, 6pm: Join us for a simple service as the week begins. All are welcome.

Madison-Area Julian Gathering, Wednesday, March 8, 1-2:45pm: We welcome everyone who is interested in learning more about contemplative spirituality in the Christian tradition. We meet every month for contemplative prayer and discussing the writings of Julian of Norwich, a 14th century English mystic who has been called “a theologian for our time.” We would love to have you join us.

Your Favorite Lecture: Islam 101, Sunday, March 12, 11:30am: Islam and Muslims are in the news, and many people have questions about the faith and its followers. Phil Hassett will share some basic information about Islam and answer your questions! All are welcome.

APPROACHING LENT…

Have you been baptized? The Prayer Book tells us, “Holy Baptism is full initiation by water and the Holy Spirit into Christ’s Body the Church.” From the earliest years of Christianity, the season of Lent (which begins February 10) was when new Christians studied the faith and prepared for baptism at Easter. If you have never been baptized, or aren’t sure, and would like to learn more about this rite, please contact Rev. Miranda at 238-2781.

Shrove Tuesday Pancake Supper, Tuesday, February 28, 5-6:30pm: Great food and fellowship! Join us and bring a friend for a tasty meal. Suggested donation of $5 per adult, $10 per household. Kids eat free. All proceeds go to support the St. Dunstan’s Campership Fund, which helps cover costs for St. Dunstan’s kids to attend Camp Webb, our diocesan summer camp. We’ve got more kids going every year, so please give generously! If you’d like to help out or contribute to the meal, see the signup sheets in the Gathering Area.

Ash Wednesday services will be at noon, 4pm, and 7pm on Wednesday, March 1. The 4pm service is especially intended for kids and families. Rev. Miranda will also offer Ashes-to-Go by the main driveway from 7:30 – 8:30am and 5 – 6pm.

Easter Flower Sign-Up: We will not have altar flowers in Lent, as part of our observance of a season of solemnity. If you would like to sign-up to sponsor and dedicate flowers for the Easter services, please see the yellow sign-up sheet in the Gathering Area.

Gospel of John Study Group, Wednesday nights, March 8 – April 26, omitting Holy Week, 6:30-8:30pm at the McAlpine’s: Nicodemus, the Samaritan Woman, the man born blind, Martha & Mary of Bethany: just some of the witnesses the Gospel according to John assembles to enrich our own encounter with Jesus. This year the Daily Office Lectionary has us reading that Gospel from the last week of Epiphany through the second week of Easter. If you’d like to read it and reflect on it with others, St. Dunstan’s is offering this seven-session Wednesday night series, hosted by the McAlpines in Fitchburg. There’s a sign-up for the study so we know how many manuscripts to prepare and how much coffee to brew.

Lenten Reading Book: This year St. Dunstan’s Virtual Book Group will be reading Evicted by Mathew Desmond. The book follows 8 families struggling with eviction and poverty in Milwaukee. We will discuss the book on a private Facebook page (to be set up on March 1st). Because the book is very emotionally involving, Evy Gildrie-Voyles will host an in-person discussion group at St. Dunstan’s on Fridays March 10th, March 24th, March 31st and April 7th at 6:00pm. A light soup and salad supper will be provided. If you would like to join please sign up in the Gathering Area. There are many copies of the book available in the Middleton Public Library. If would like to have your own copy, please let me know so we can order you one. Any questions, contact Evy Gildrie-Voyles.

 

Sermon, Feb. 19

1 Cor 3: 9-11

For we are God’s servants, working together; you are God’s field, God’s building. According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building on it. Each builder must choose with care how to build on it. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one that has been laid; that foundation is Jesus Christ. 

You are God’s field, God’s building.

You are God’s field, God’s building.

I’m going to preach briefly today, because I want to give time to our guest speaker, Crystal Plummer of the Episcopal Church Foundation. Crystal is our guide as we walk together through a process of discerning whether this is the moment for a capital campaign to raise funds for some updates and improvements of our building and grounds; and if so, which projects and possibilities should be the focus of that campaign. And in a few moments she’ll talk us through that process, what it means and where it goes from here.

But the lectionary, our cycle of readings, gave me a good text for leading into Crystal’s words, and reminding us why we ask questions like this – what is God calling us to become, and how could our buildings, our property, better accommodate and support that growth?

You are God’s field, God’s building. I’m not a Greek scholar; I fumble around with online resources and pretend I know what I’m talking about. But I got curious about those words, field and building. They seemed suspiciously generic. I wondered if the Greek nouns, the words originally used by the apostle Paul in this letter to the church in Corinth, were more specific and perhaps carried a bit more meaning. So I poked around a bit, and my hunch was correct.

Let’s start with “building.” Turns out the Greek word is oikodome. It’s a compound of two other words – oikos and dome. We’ve talked about the word “oikos” here before – it means a household, a group of people living together under the same roof, functioning as a system. It’s broader and messier and has fuzzier edges than “family,” which is why I like it as a metaphor for a church. Then there’s Doma. We’ve got words based on that – who can guess what it means? Yes – house or home. As in “domestic.” For the language geeks, this turns out to be an Indo-European root, which means it’s really old and really widespread – I was surprised and fascinated to learn that the English word “timber” shares the same root, by way of Old Norse, and originally meant “building”, or, “to build.”

Okay, so, back to Paul: the building here isn’t just any building. It’s a home. A place where people live together. But there’s more: my online source claimed that this word isn’t exactly a noun – more of a gerund: it implies the building process, not a finished product. A home under construction.

So what about the field? It turns out this Greek noun is only used here. There are LOTS of fields in the New Testament, but they’re all named with the noun agro, root of our word “agriculture.” But this field is “georgion.” I was stumped; I thought, Paul used this word for a reason, but I can’t find anything that tells me what this noun implies, that’s different from agro.

Then I saw that another form of this word is used a LOT – the form that means a kind of person, or a kind of worker: someone who tends a vineyard. Someone with the particular skills to care for, prune, support, and encourage a grape vine, so that it will grow strong and healthy, and yield plenty of good-tasting grapes. In that form, this word all over the place – like in the parable in which the landowner rents out his vineyard to vine-keepers, or in John chapter 15, verse 1, when Jesus says, I am the true vine, and my father is the vinedresser. Georgos.

It’s not quite that Paul is calling the church a vineyard – that’s still another Greek noun – but he’s calling the church something that God tends, as one would tend a vineyard. So what’s the biggest difference between a vineyard and a field? With a field, you plant; the plants grow; you harvest; then you till the waste back into the ground and leave it for the next growing season. Every year it’s wiped clean, and the farmer starts over.

But a vineyard is perennial. It takes a long time and a lot of care for the grapevines to mature. That’s why you’d build a wall around a vineyard, and not around a field – a vineyard is a significant investment of resources, time, and care. Thinking about that image, my mind goes to our work slowly adding perennial food-bearing plants on our property here – hazelnuts, currants, fruit trees. It’s a long-term project that will yield results years or decades in the future – and only if we think ahead now, and put in the time and effort to nurture that potential.

You are God’s field, God’s building. You are God’s vines to be tended, God’s home under construction. Paul is writing to a particular church, in this letter, and he sees a particular need for growth in that church – a few verses earlier, in last week’s text, you may remember that he called them spiritual BABIES, not ready for solid food, because they were devolving into trivial factionalism instead of staying focused on Jesus Christ. But, while that’s the context for Paul’s words here, images like this – of cultivation, tending, and building – are used for the Church and for God’s people throughout the Bible, both Old Testament and New. God expects God’s people to be always becoming. Never finished. Another season of growth, rightly tended, will yield more fruit. Another day’s work with brick and mortar, rightly planned, will make more room for an expanding household.

In the conversations we’ve already begun, about possibilities for our capital campaign, we’re talking about things: walls, carpets, fixtures, pavement. But we’re always, really, talking about who we are, as an oikos, a household of God, and where we feel the tug of becoming. As we continue those conversations, we will encourage each other always not just to name what we’d like to do, but why we’d like to do it – What constraints would be eased, what possibilities could be accommodated, by the changes we imagine?

As we walk farther into this season together, I’ve found some grounding in the words of the Jesuit scientist and mystic Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. His words echo and amplify Paul’s invitation to the church in Corinth to make themselves available to God’s ongoing work among and within them, and to trust their becoming to God, the Master Architect and Vinedresser. Here are Teilhard’s words:

Above all, trust in the slow work of God. We are quite naturally impatient in everything to reach the end without delay. We should like to skip the intermediate stages. We are impatient of being on the way to something unknown, something new. And yet it is the law of all progress that it is made by passing through some stages of instability— and that it may take a very long time…. Only God could say what this new spirit gradually forming within you will be. Give Our Lord the benefit of believing that his hand is leading you, and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself in suspense and incomplete. 

Announcements, February 16

THIS WEEKEND…

Rector’s Discretionary Fund, Sunday, February 19: 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.

Sunday school, Sunday, February 19, 10am: This Sunday, our 3 year olds to kindergarten class will continue exploring the parables of Jesus, while our Elementary classes will dig into Jesus’ call to generosity, even to the point of loving our enemies.

Looking for Coffee Hosts for March! Please consider being a coffee host and talk with Janet Bybee for more information.

Spirituality of Parenting Lunch, Sunday, February 19, 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. The Children’s Choir will rehearse during this time.

Evening Eucharist, Sunday, February 19, 6pm: Join us for a simple service as the week begins. All are welcome.

Young Adult Meetup at the Vintage, Sunday, February 19, 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.

OPPORTUNITIES TO SERVE…

Seeking Hosts for Wondering Conversations! Would you like to host a group of 8 – 10 people in your home, to talk about ideas for our capital campaign? You don’t have to lead the conversation, just offer a space (and perhaps tea and cookies, or whatever you please!). These Wondering Conversations will take place in late February and early March. If you’d like to be a host, sign up in the Gathering Area or contact Inquiry & Input Team co-leader Mary Ann Fraley.

Conference on Water & Justice, March 22 – 24: Helpers Needed! St. Dunstan’s will be a “host site” for an upcoming conference on water, justice, and faith, by live-streaming conference presentations. This is an opportunity to learn more about a core Creation Care issue, and to share the learning opportunity with neighbors from other churches and the wider community. We are looking for a few more folks to help with event logistics – publicity, catering or planning meals, and hospitality at the event itself. Contact Kathy Whitt or Rev. Miranda at 238-2781 if you’d like to get involved. Read more here: https://www.trinitywallstreet.org/trinity-institute/2017/home

THE WEEKS AHEAD…

Ladies’ Night Out, Friday, February 24, 6pm: Come join us for good food and good conversation among women of all ages from St. Dunstan’s. We will be meeting at Amber Indian Restaurant at 6913 University Avenue in Middleton.

Musical Engagement with Scripture, Sunday, February 26, 9:40am: Join Rev. Miranda and help compose a simple chant based on the day’s Psalm. All ages welcome. We’ll gather in the Meeting Room.

Last Sunday All-Ages Worship: The Transfiguration of Jesus, Sunday, February 26, 10am: Out 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, February 26, 12pm: 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.

Grace Shelter Dinner, Sunday, February 26, 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 Gather Area to help out. To learn more, talk with Rose Mueller.

Men’s Book Club, Saturday, March 4, 10am-12pm: We will be reading Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring. The book was published in 1962 and documented the detrimental effects on the environment of the indiscriminate use of pesticides. Carson accused the chemical industry of spreading disinformation and public officials of unquestioning acceptance of their claims. The public outcry after the book’s publication forced the banning of DDT and spurred revolutionary changes in the laws affecting our air, land, and water. For more information, contact Jim Hindle.

APPROACHING LENT…

Ash Wednesday services will be at noon, 4pm, and 7pm on Wednesday,  March 1. The 4pm service is especially intended for kids and families. Rev. Miranda will also offer Ashes to Go by the main driveway from 7:30 – 8:30am and 5 – 6pm.

Have you been baptized? The Prayer Book tells us, “Holy Baptism is full initiation by water and the Holy Spirit into Christ’s Body the Church.” From the earliest years of Christianity, the season of Lent (which begins February 10) was when new Christians studied the faith and prepared for baptism at Easter. If you have never been baptized, or aren’t sure, and would like to learn more about this rite, please contact Rev. Miranda at  238-2781.

Easter Flower Sign-Up: We will not have altar flowers in Lent, as part of our observance of a season of solemnity. If you would like to sign-up to sponsor and dedicate flowers for the Easter services, please see the yellow sign-up sheet in the Gathering Area.

Shrove Tuesday Pancake Supper, Tuesday, February 28, 5-6:30pm: Great food and fellowship! Join us and bring a friend for a tasty meal. Suggested donation of $5 per adult, $10 per household. Kids eat free. All proceeds go to support the St. Dunstan’s Campership Fund, which helps cover costs for St. Dunstan’s kids to attend Camp Webb, our diocesan summer camp. We’ve got more kids going every year, so please give generously!  If you’d like to help out or contribute to the meal, see the signup sheets in the Gathering Area.

Gospel of John Study Group, Wednesday nights, March 8 – April 26, omitting Holy Week, 6:30-8:30pm at the McAlpine’s: Nicodemus, the Samaritan Woman, the man born blind, Martha & Mary of Bethany: just some of the witnesses the Gospel according to John assembles to enrich our own encounter with Jesus. This year the Daily Office Lectionary has us reading that Gospel from the last week of Epiphany through the second week of Easter. If you’d like to read it and reflect on it with others, St. Dunstan’s is offering this seven-session Wednesday night series, hosted by the McAlpines in Fitchburg. There’s a sign-up for the study so we know how many manuscripts to prepare and how much coffee to brew.

Lenten Reading Book: This year St. Dunstan’s Virtual Book Group will be reading Evicted by Mathew Desmond. The book follows 8 families struggling with eviction and poverty in Milwaukee. We will discuss the book on a private Facebook page (to be set up on March 1st). Because the book is very emotionally involving, Evy Gildrie-Voyles will host an in-person discussion group at St. Dunstan’s on Fridays March 10th, March 24th, March 31st and April 7th at 6:00pm. A light soup and salad supper will be provided. If you would like to join please sign up in the Gathering Area. There are many copies of the book available in the Middleton Public Library. If would like to have your own copy, please let me know so we can order you one. Any questions, contact Evy Gildrie-Voyles.

Announcements, February 9

Tonight…

Prayer Service for Refugees, Tonight, 5:30pm: This week’s Thursday evening Sandbox Worship will be a simple service of Scripture, song, and prayer for refugees. All are welcome, including kids and friends. We worship at 5:30 and share dinner afterwards.

THIS WEEKEND…

Draw Your Dreams; Using Art to Image St. Dunstan’s, Friday, February 10, 5pm: All ages are welcome. You don’t need to be “artsy” to do this! Dinner will be provided.

Nickel Tour #2: Upper Level, Sunday, February 12, 9am: This Sunday morning, we’ll take time to walk around our main building on the upper level and talk about each room and how it’s used, and could be used. Meet in the Gathering Area right after the 8am service.

Sunday school, Sunday, February 12, 10am: This Sunday, our 3 year olds to kindergarten class will begin to explore the parables of Jesus, while our Elementary classes will explore Jesus’ teaching on integrity.

Having trouble receiving E-news? Please let Pamela in the office know if you are having trouble receiving the Thursday e-news. She can send you tips for fixing the situation.

OPPORTUNITIES TO SERVE…

Seeking Hosts for Wondering Conversations! Would you like to host a group of 8 – 10 people in your home, to talk about ideas for our capital campaign? You don’t have to lead the conversation, just offer a space (and perhaps tea and cookies, or whatever you please!). These Wondering Conversations will take place in late February and early March. If you’d like to be a host, sign up in the Gathering Area or contact Inquiry & Input Team co-leader Mary Ann Fraley.

Conference on Water & Justice, March 22 – 24: Helpers Needed! St. Dunstan’s will be a “host site” for an upcoming conference on water, justice, and faith, by live-streaming conference presentations. This is an opportunity to learn more about a core Creation Care issue, and to share the learning opportunity with neighbors from other churches and the wider community. We are looking for a few more folks to help with event logistics – publicity, catering or planning meals, and hospitality at the event itself. Contact Kathy Whitt or Rev. Miranda 238-2781 if you’d like to get involved. Read more here: https://www.trinitywallstreet.org/trinity-institute/2017/home

 THE WEEKS AHEAD…

Rector’s Discretionary Fund, Sunday, February 19: 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.

Sunday school, Sunday, February 19, 10am: This Sunday, our 3 year olds to kindergarten class will continue exploring the parables of Jesus, while our Elementary classes will dig into Jesus’ call to generosity, even to the point of loving our enemies.

Looking for Coffee Hosts for March! Please consider being a coffee host and talk with Janet Bybee for more information.

Spirituality of Parenting Lunch, Sunday, February 19, 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. The Children’s Choir will rehearse during this time.

Evening Eucharist, Sunday, February 19, 6pm: Join us for a simple service as the week begins. All are welcome.

Young Adult Meetup at the Vintage, Sunday, February 19, 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.

Ladies’ Night Out, Friday, February 24, 6pm: Come join us for good food and good conversation among women of all ages from St. Dunstan’s. We will be meeting at Amber Indian Restaurant at 6913 University Avenue in Middleton.

Men’s Book Club, Saturday, March 4, 10am-12pm: We will be reading Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring. The book was published in 1962 and documented the detrimental effects on the environment of the indiscriminate use of pesticides. Carson accused the chemical industry of spreading disinformation and public officials of unquestioning acceptance of their claims. The public outcry after the book’s publication forced the banning of DDT and spurred revolutionary changes in the laws affecting our air, land, and water.

APPROACHING LENT…

Have you been baptized? The Prayer Book tells us, “Holy Baptism is full initiation by water and the Holy Spirit into Christ’s Body the Church.” From the earliest years of Christianity, the season of Lent (which begins February 10) was when new Christians studied the faith and prepared for baptism at Easter. If you have never been baptized, or aren’t sure, and would like to learn more about this rite, please contact Rev. Miranda at 238-2781.

Shrove Tuesday Pancake Supper, Tuesday, February 28, 5-6:30pm: Great food and fellowship! Join us and bring a friend for a tasty meal. Suggested donation of $5 per adult, $10 per household. Kids eat free. All proceeds go to support the St. Dunstan’s Campership Fund, which helps cover costs for St. Dunstan’s kids to attend Camp Webb, our diocesan summer camp. We’ve got more kids going every year, so please give generously!  If you’d like to help out or contribute to the meal, see the signup sheets in the Gathering Area.

Gospel of John Study Group, Wednesday nights, March 8 – April 26, omitting Holy Week, 6:30-8:30pm at the McAlpine’s: Nicodemus, the Samaritan Woman, the man born blind, Martha & Mary of Bethany: just some of the witnesses the Gospel according to John assembles to enrich our own encounter with Jesus. This year the Daily Office Lectionary has us reading that Gospel from the last week of Epiphany through the second week of Easter. If you’d like to read it and reflect on it with others, St. Dunstan’s is offering this seven-session Wednesday night series, hosted by the McAlpines in Fitchburg. There’s a sign-up for the study so we know how many manuscripts to prepare and how much coffee to brew.

OPPORTUNITIES FROM THE WIDER CHURCH…

Wisconsin Conference of Churches Winter Forum, March 3-4: “Trouble I’ve Seen:  Changing the Way the Church Views Racism,” Sun Prairie United Methodist Church: Dr. Drew Hart is a professor in theology, an author, and an activist with ten years of pastoral experience. Regularly speaking at churches, conferences, and colleges, Drew brings together his pastoral experience with his academic training to challenge the Church on a variety of topics, including white supremacy and racism and their entanglements with western Christianity, Christian discipleship, liberation and oppression, peacemaking and nonviolent resistance, and more. Sun Prairie UMC is at 702 North Street, Sun Prairie, WI. For more information or to register, go to www.wichurches.org .

If you’d like more news of events and opportunities around our diocese, you can sign up for the Diocesan E-News by emailing info@diomil.org.

 

Sermon, February 5

The word of the Lord came to the prophet Ezekiel: Mortal, say to them: You are a land that is not cleansed. Its princes within it are like a roaring lion tearing the prey; they have devoured human lives; they have taken treasure and precious things. Its priests have done violence to my teaching and have profaned my holy things. Its officials within it are like wolves tearing the prey, shedding blood, destroying lives to get dishonest gain. Its prophets have smeared whitewash on their behalf, saying, ‘Thus says the Lord God’, when the Lord has not spoken. The people of the land have practiced extortion and committed robbery; they have oppressed the poor and needy, and have extorted from the alien without redress. And I sought for anyone among them who would repair the wall and stand in the breach before me on behalf of the land, so that I would not destroy it; but I found no one. (Ezekiel 22, selected verses)

And I sought for anyone who would stand in the breach, but I found no one.

Ezekiel is the great prophet of the fall of Jerusalem. He told the leaders and people of Judah that they were doomed to conquest, destruction, and exile; and he told them why. He reminds them of how completely they have fallen away from God’s intentions for them, the holy ways of the ancient Covenant. No one remembers, no one cares, that they were chosen by God to be a people set apart to live with justice and compassion. No one will stand in the breach, and call the leaders and people back to what they’re meant to be.

The breach. It’s an evocative image for the Old Testament writers, and an unfamiliar one for us. Imagine the landscape of the ancient Near East: dry, rocky, rural, studded with small towns and cities – enclosed by walls. Civic architecture was also defensive architecture, as in parts of medieval Europe. Cities and towns were built so you could gather everyone in from the countryside and hunker down for a while, when a neighboring tribe or nation came to pillage or conquer. When the enemies approach, you shoot at them from the top of the wall, or drop things on them, and drive them away. City walls kept the enemies out. Kept people and livestock safe from arrow and sword, from becoming casualties or spoils of war.

At least, the city walls kept people safe if the attacking enemy wasn’t very motivated. If the enemy was motivated, they would lay siege. They’d camp out around the city, outside the walls, and wait. Nobody can go in, nobody can come out. How long will the food last? The water? How long will the city’s rulers hold out as their people starve? Once the city and is defenders are weak and demoralized, the enemy might get around to attacking the wall. Ezekiel mentions siege towers, ramps, battering rams. Eventually, one way or another, they’ll get over or through. Eventually the city wall will be broken – breached. The enemy soldiers will stream in, all tramping boots and flashing swords.

The breach in the wall means you’ve lost. It means your whole way of life, everything you value, is about to go up in flames. If you see a city in ruins, chances are it has a breach in its wall. If you see a city with a breach in its wall, chances are it’s in ruins. And if you want to rebuild, if you want that ruin to become a city again, if you want to renew your people and your way of life – you’ve got to restore that breach. You’ve got to fill it in.

Late in the book of the prophet Isaiah, in the chapters written as Israel returned from their time of exile, to reclaim their land and rebuild Jerusalem, a prophet who wrote in Isaiah’s name uses the image of the breach. I think he knows the Ezekiel text; I think he’s alluding to it, as he speaks hopefully about renewal for God’s people, about the possibilities ahead as they return and rebuild:

“If you remove the yoke from among you, the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil, if you offer your food to the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted, then your light shall rise in the darkness and your gloom be like the noonday… Your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to live in.”

The repairer of the breach. I hope you can hear, already, that that image means much more than just using rubble and mortar to fill in a hole. The breach is more than just the breach. When Ezekiel issued his fierce indictment, the city wall was still solid, the enemy still far off, but the people were already compromised, vulnerable, because of their sin. Because they cared more about wealth and power than about humanity or holiness. The city wall might as well be broken already.

Likewise for Isaiah, repairing the breach is so much more than just fixing the wall. It’s restoring a whole way of life, grounded in faithful love for God and neighbor. The city wall isn’t an image of exclusion or insularity, here – elsewhere in the same passage, the prophet speaks of city gates that are always open, day and night; of all the nations of the world streaming into the holy city. This is not a wall to keep people out. It’s a symbol of wholeness and integrity.

Friends, we’re in a time of rapid change, of tumult and struggle, confusion and fierce clarity. Our new president has a very different vision for our country than the previous administration, and a lot is happening very fast. In this congregation, many of you feel like we’re under attack. Like everything you value is about to go up in flames. Some of you wanted big changes in our government, but now you’re questioning whether these are the changes that you hoped for. Others may be satisfied, even pleased with the events of the past two weeks – but feel like you can’t talk about it with your friends. This is Madison, after all.

I need to confess that there have been many moments in the past weeks when I have felt like a resident of Jerusalem, watching the city wall crumble before the force of a battering ram while Ezekiel says, I TOLD YOU SO. Comfortable white folks who think of ourselves as justice- and mercy-minded have had some real eye-opening moments. We’ve been alarmed by the idea of an increased crackdown on undocumented immigrants – and the immigrant community has said, Where have you been all these years, while the legal paths for immigration were narrowed to near-impossiblity, and our families lived in fear of detention and deportation? We’ve been alarmed by overtly racist speech becoming more mainstream – and people of color have told us, I’ve been hearing this my whole life. We’ve been alarmed by restrictions on the number of refugees allowed to build new lives in our nation – and advocates have pointed out that the U.S. has always accepted very few refugees, considering our size, wealth, and the witness of that tall green lady in New York Harbor. The voice of the prophet in my ear says, If you haven’t been outraged, it’s because you haven’t been paying attention.

Waking up, like this – it’s humbling. And disheartening. It makes my heart ache to realize that not only is our nation not living up to our biggest boldest brightest ideals – but that it never has. Not even close. Not if we’re honest. Not if we’re paying attention.

It’s tempting to sink into the bitterness and anger and despair of the prophet Ezekiel, who sees so much around him that is profoundly broken, and no one who cares enough to respond. No one. But Ezekiel isn’t our text for today. Isaiah is. The prophet who wrote in Isaiah’s name, who takes up Ezekiel’s image of the breach and turns it from destruction towards restoration. And where Ezekiel gives voice to anguish, Isaiah offers – hope. Conditional hope. We have, always, unconditional hope in the saving grace of God in Jesus Christ; but our hopes for this world, this life – require our commitment, our engagement. We can’t assume that things will get better on their own. But if – if. If people undertake, together, to stop pointing fingers and speaking evil, to share our bread with the hungry, to house the homeless poor, to break every yoke that weighs people down, then … then our light shall rise in the darkness, and our gloom be like the noonday. Then we shall be called repairers of the breach.

Ezekiel tells us that the breach has always been there; Isaiah tells us that we always have the capacity to repair it. To carry what we can, boulder or mortar or pebble, to pile in that space, the gap between the world as it is and the world as God made it to be. To build our way together towards a whole way of life, grounded in faithful love for God and neighbor.

Announcements, February 2

THIS WEEKEND…

SEEDFOLKS, February 2 – 4 at 7:30pm at the Middleton Performing Arts Center: When a young Vietnamese girl plants beans in a vacant lot to connect with the memory of her father, the diverse group of locals who take notice find a connection of their own in a spirited effort to re-imagine their run-down neighborhood. In this “spoken musical,” adapted from the award-winning novel of the same name, the voices of characters from far-flung backgrounds converge in a rhythmic hymn to community. Many members of St. Dunstan’s read the book Seedfolks together two years ago; this is a wonderful opportunity to revisit the story in another form. Take an evening this weekend to attend! NOTE: A small group will be attending together TONIGHT, Thursday, Feb. 2; feel free to meet us at the PAC.

Nickel Tour #1: The Lower Level, Sunday, February 5, 9am: This Sunday morning, we’ll take time to walk around our main building on the lower level and talk about each room and how it’s used, and could be used. Meet in the Gathering Area right after the 8am service.

Birthdays and Anniversaries will be honored and Healing Prayers will be offered this Sunday, February 5, as is our custom on the first Sunday of the month.

MOM Special Offering, Sunday, February 5: 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: canned meat (other than tuna); pork & beans; baked beans, variety pasta; pasta & pizza sauce; shelf stable cheese (ex. parmesan); canned/dried fruit; cooking/olive oil; sugar/honey/syrup; toilet paper. Thanks for all your support!

Falk Food Friends Special Project: Packing Medical Kits, Sunday, February 5, 11:30am: We have learned that some families with kids at Falk Elementary, our partner school, lack basic home first aid supplies. So we’re packing 15 simple medical kits to send home to the households in greatest need. The supplies are all ready, we just have to put them together! Gather in the Meeting Room after church to help out.

Cook & Sing Your Dreams, Sunday, February 5, 5pm: Potluck & Song Fest. Bring a dish that represents something you love about St. Dunstan’s, or something you hope for its future. Then we’ll sing songs that really feel like core songs of our community of faith – bring your suggestions!

Evening Eucharist, Sunday, February 5, 6pm: Join us for a simple service before the week begins. All are welcome.

Looking for Coffee Hosts for February and March! We need a coffee host for February 19 and there are many openings in March. Please consider being a coffee host and talk with Janet Bybee at (608) 836-9755 for more information.

Having trouble receiving E-news? Please let Pamela in the office know if you are having trouble receiving the Thursday e-news. She will send you Phil’s tips for fixing the situation.

NEXT WEEK & BEYOND…

Madison-Area Julian Gathering, Wednesday, February 8, 1:00 to 2:45 PM (Note new time): Julian of Norwich was a 15th Century English mystic and anchoress. Nearly forgotten for 600 years, Julian’s insights and gentle wisdom are becoming ever more widely known and appreciated.  The monthly Julian Gatherings, supported by the Order of Julian of Norwich (www.orderofjulian.org), are open to all who want to deepen their life of faith through the practice of contemplative prayer. Each meeting begins with brief instruction in the practice of contemplative prayer, and includes time for contemplative prayer, fellowship, and reading/discussion of Julian’s book. We meet the second Wednesday of each month from 1:00 to 2:45 PM.

Valentine’s Day Crafts and Carving, Wednesday, February 8, 6:30-8pm: Want to make your own card for that special someone in your life? Want to try carving wood and meet some new people or catch up with ones you already know? This evening will feature craft time upstairs, including stamping & paper-crafting, and a carving circle downstairs. All skill levels welcome! For more information, contact Alex Surasky-Ysasi.

Draw Your Dreams; Using Art to Image St. Dunstan’s, Friday, February 10, 5pm: All ages are welcome. You don’t need to be “artsy” to do this! Dinner will be provided.

Nickel Tour #2: Upper Level, Sunday, February 12, 9am: This Sunday morning, we’ll take time to walk around our main building on the upper level and talk about each room and how it’s used, and could be used. Meet in the Gathering Area right after the 8am service.

Sunday school, Sunday, February 12, 10am: This Sunday, our 3 year olds to kindergarten class will begin to explore the parables of Jesus, while our Elementary classes will explore Jesus’ teaching on integrity.

DISCERNMENT SUNDAY, February 19, 2017: On Sunday, February 19, our Capital Campaign Consultant Crystal Plummer will visit with us. She will speak at both the 8am and 10am services, and will be available between services and over Coffee Hour to answer questions and talk more about our shared work. Crystal will address several topics:

  • About Episcopal Church Foundation (ECF), our consultant partners in this work
  • What does it mean for a church to have a capital campaign?
  • The Discernment Phase & an invitation to take part in Wondering Conversations

This Sunday will also kick off our Wondering Conversations! These Conversations will take place in late February and early March. You’ll be invited to sign up for a time and place to come gather with 8 – 10 other St. Dunstan’s members to talk about possibilities for our parish and our capital campaign.  EVERYONE is encouraged to participate, including kids and people who have joined the church recently.  If you can’t attend on Feb. 19, you will still be able to sign up for a Wondering Conversation.

Gospel of John Study Group, Wednesday nights, March 8 – April 26, omitting Holy Week, 6:30-8:30pm at the McAlpine’s: Nicodemus, the Samaritan Woman, the man born blind, Martha & Mary of Bethany: just some of the witnesses the Gospel according to John assembles to enrich our own encounter with Jesus. This year the Daily Office Lectionary has us reading that Gospel from the last week of Epiphany through the second week of Easter. If you’d like to read it and reflect on it with others, St. Dunstan’s is offering this seven-session Wednesday night series, hosted by the McAlpines in Fitchburg. There’s a sign-up for the study so we know how many manuscripts to prepare and how much coffee to brew.

CAPITAL CAMPAIGN DISCERNMENT PROCESS: OPPORTUNITIES TO SERVE…

Seeking Hosts for Wondering Conversations! Would you like to host a group of 8 – 10 people in your home, to talk about ideas for our capital campaign? You don’t have to lead the conversation, just offer a space (and perhaps tea and cookies, or whatever you please!). These Wondering Conversations will take place in late February and early March. If you’d like to be a host, sign up in the Gathering Area or contact Inquiry & Input Team co-leader Mary Ann Fraley.

Seeking Facilitators for Wondering Conversations! The heart of our work as a parish discerning whether we are called to undertake a capital campaign at this time, and what projects would be the focus of that campaign, will be a series of small group conversations held in late February and early March – our “Wondering Conversations.” The Inquiry & Input Team is seeking a few willing folks to serve as facilitators for these conversations. Facilitators will need to attend a training on Saturday, February 18, and are asked to facilitate at least two gatherings between February 19 and March 7. (Gatherings will be held at many different times, to accommodate everyone’s schedules.) If you’d like to serve as a Facilitator, please sign up in the Gathering Area or speak to Inquiry & Input Co-Chairs Celia Fine & Mary Ann Fraley, or to Rev. Miranda.

OPPORTUNITIES FROM THE WIDER CHURCH…

A Brush With God Art Workshop, February 11, at St. Mary’s Church, Dousman: St. Mary’s, Dousman welcomes members and guests to join us for a discussion and exploration of the creative process, a uniquely human experience that connects us to our Creator.  Using both traditional and non-traditional art materials, retreat participants will create their own artwork(s).  All supplies will be included and no prior art experience is required.  This event will run from 8:45 – 12:00. Childcare will be provided. St. Mary’s is about an hour away, at 36014 Sunset Dr., Dousman, WI. Please RSVP (so that adequate art supplies will be on hand) by contacting the church office at (262) 965-3924.

Wisconsin Conference of Churches Winter Forum, March 3-4: “Trouble I’ve Seen:  Changing the Way the Church Views Racism,” Sun Prairie United Methodist Church: Dr. Drew Hart is a professor in theology, an author, and an activist with ten years of pastoral experience. Regularly speaking at churches, conferences, and colleges, Drew brings together his pastoral experience with his academic training to challenge the Church on a variety of topics, including white supremacy and racism and their entanglements with western Christianity, Christian discipleship, liberation and oppression, peacemaking and nonviolent resistance, and more. Sun Prairie UMC is at 702 North Street, Sun Prairie, WI. For more information or to register, go to www.wichurches.org .

If you’d like more news of events and opportunities around our diocese, you can sign up for the Diocesan E-News by emailing info@diomil.org .

SUMMER DATES FOR PLANNING….

Camp Webb 2016 (June 18 – 24) is accepting applications now! Camp Webb is an outdoor ministry of the Episcopal Diocese of Milwaukee, for children and youth grades 3 through senior high. It is held at a camp outside Elkhorn, WI. Camp tuition is $375 if you register before January 15, with a deposit of $75 due at the time of registration. St. Dunstan’s offers $150 in aid to all our campers, with additional assistance possible; contact Rev. Miranda for financial assistance.  Visit http://www.diomil.org/forming-disciples/camp-webb/ for registration forms. Camp Webb IS EXPECTED TO FILL this year, so apply soon!

Vacation Bible School 2017, July 30 – August 3: Our Vacation Bible School this summer is planned for Sunday, July 30, through Thursday, August 3. We’ll meet in the evenings – likely 5:30 to 7:30pm, as in previous years. Keep these dates in mind as you make your summer plans! Kids ages 3 to 10 are welcome to participate; middle school and older kids will be involved as actors and helpers.

Women’s Mini-Week, August 10-13: The mission of Women’s Mini-Week is to provide an annual retreat event for adult women, offering refuge, friendship, relaxation, and fun. Mini-Week combines opportunities to learn with fellowship, spiritual exploration and delicious food as we invite all women to participate as much or as little as they would like and need. Mini-Week is held at a beautiful lakeside camp in northern Wisconsin. Many members of St. Dunstan’s have attended, planned, and led, over the years. Visit womensminiweek.org to learn more and make Mini-Week part of your summer plans.