Announcements, April 27

THIS WEEKEND… 

Ladies’ Night Out, Friday, April 28, 6pm: Come join us for good food and good conversation among women of all ages from St. Dunstan’s. This month we will meet at Cocina Real on 2518 Allen Blvd. in Middleton.

Outreach meeting, Saturday, April 29, 8-10am: 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.

Last Sunday All-Ages Worship, Sunday, April 30, 10am: Our last Sunday worship will focus on the Gospel story of two disciples’ walking with Jesus on the road to Emmaus. Father John Rasmus will preach and celebrate. 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.

How Shall We Care for Our Waters? Creation Care Open Meeting, Sunday, April 30, 9am OR 11:30am: Caring for God’s creation is a core aspect of St. Dunstan’s mission and identity. To live this out, our parish Creation Care Task Force invites us to set two or three simple, achievable goals for better environmental stewardship each year. For the first year of this practice, we have identified Water as the focus – as in the water that sustains life, the water of our beautiful lakes, the waters of baptism! At this open meeting, we’ll briefly explore local and global challenges related to water, and choose 2 – 3 simple steps we can take, as individuals and/or as a parish, to be better stewards of water. If you have questions, or can’t attend but have ideas, talk with John Laedlein.

Middle School Lunch & Learn, Sunday, April 30, 12-1pm: JonMichael Rasmus will be meeting with the 10-and-up youth of the parish for lunch after church this Sunday. Conversations will dig around 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.

Weeders Wanted! While we allow much of our property to flourish on its own terms, we do try to keep the garden beds in front of the church, around our sign, and outside the windows of the nave looking pretty and tidy. Would you like to help by taking responsibility for one of these areas for the growing season? A visit every couple of weeks should be enough, and you’re welcome to share the work with a buddy. A “Weeders Wanted” signup is in the Gathering Area.

THE WEEKS AHEAD…

URINETOWN, May 4 – 6 at 7:30pm at the Middleton Performing Arts Center:  In a Gotham-like city, a terrible water shortage, caused by a 20-year drought, has led to a government-enforced ban on private toilets. The citizens must use public amenities, regulated by a single malevolent company that profits by charging admission for one of humanity’s most basic needs. Amid the people, a hero decides that he’s had enough and plans a revolution to lead them all to freedom! Urinetown is a darkly humorous satire which raises keen questions about freedom and survival. Members of St. Dunstan’s with an interest in creation care are encouraged to attend. Tickets are $10 ($8 students and seniors) and can be purchased at https://mhswi.booktix.com . A group will attend together on Thursday night, May 4.

Birthday and Anniversary Blessings and Healing Prayers will be given next Sunday, May 7, as is our custom on the first Sunday of the month.

MOM Special Offering, Sunday, May 7: 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: toilet paper & paper towels; shelf-stable dairy/non-dairy beverages; oil and butter; whole grains: rice, quinoa, barley; nut butter (other than peanut butter – allergy); ketchup and mayonnaise; dried lentils, garbanzo, or black beans; canned tomato products; prepared meals in cans or boxes; baking supplies (all types, including boxed mixes). Thank you for your generous support!

Holy Baptism, Sunday, May 7, 10am: We will baptize a new member of Christ’s Kingdom, little Harlem. Please welcome the White family as they celebrate this holy occasion among us!

Spring Clean-Up Day, Sunday, May 7, 12-2pm: Join us after the 10 am service to enjoy a time of shared work on our beautiful grounds, tidying them up and preparing for the growing season. A list of tasks will be posted in the Gathering Area ahead of time. Wear or bring your scruffy clothes and work gloves. Lunch will be provided! A list of tasks will be posted by Sunday, April 23rd.

– Lunch Host(s) Needed for Clean-Up Day! Would you like to prepare a simple meal to feed our workers? We could use your help. Food expenses can be reimbursed. Contact Rev. Miranda at 238-2781 oroffice@stdunstans.com.

Visitation and Memorial for Larry Alt, Sunday, May 7, 2:30pm: Larry Alt will be remembered with Visitation at 2:30pm, followed by a Memorial service at 3:30pm. Our thoughts and prayers are with Gloria and the family.

Evening Eucharist, Sunday, May 7, 6pm: Join us for a simple service before the week begins. All are welcome.

Recovery Eucharist, Tuesday, May 9, 5:30pm: The Recovery Eucharist, celebrated in many churches around the country, is designed for those recovering from any addiction and for those who support them in their recovery.  Elements of the service are drawn from the Book of Common Prayer of the Episcopal Church, and the 12 Step readings. The Eucharist (Holy Communion) will be celebrated with grape juice instead of wine. All are welcome; feel free to invite a friend. A Beginners’ AA meeting follows at 7pm, in the Meeting Room; this AA meeting is held weekly at St. Dunstan’s, and anyone is welcome to attend.

Madison-Area Julian Gathering, Wednesday, May 10, 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. If you have questions, contact Susan Fiore.

Guest Preacher, Sunday, May 14: We welcome Hal Edmonson as our guest preacher this Sunday. Hal was raised in Madison, a stone’s throw from St. Dunstan’s, and is currently pursuing his M.Div. at Harvard Divinity School.

St. Dunstan’s Day All-Ages Worship & Hat and Tie Sunday, May 21: We will celebrate the feast day of our saint, Dunstan, on Sunday, May 21. You’re invited to mark the occasion by dressing up with a fancy hat and/or tie, serious or playful.  Wear your own or borrow one from the collection at church. Easter Sunday saw a fine array of bowties on our members; can we top that number? We will formally welcome new members on this festive day. It’s our custom to take photos of the whole congregation after each service that Sunday; we hope you’ll stay a few moments to participate.

Making Our Grounds an Eternal Home: Discussing a Columbarium for St. Dunstan’s, Sunday, May 21, 9am: At St. Dunstan’s, members are welcome to scatter the ashes of their loved ones on our grounds, with the intention that those ashes become part of the soil of this place. We do not currently have a place or a practice for interring ashes in urns in a columbarium of some sort. Interested members are invited to a conversation about the legal and logistical differences between scattering ashes and interring urns, with the goal of establishing whether there is a desire among our congregation to create a columbarium here. If you have questions or input and can’t attend the meeting, talk with Sharon Bloodgood  or Rev. Miranda.

Summer Flowers: From June through August, we are trying something new with our altar flowers. We invite members to sign up to *bring* flowers, instead of ordering them through our florist as usual. During these months, local flowers are readily available, at the farmer’s market or in your own gardens. We are planting some flowers on the church grounds as well, which can certainly be used! If you’d like to contribute flowers, simply sign up for your chosen Sunday. You can still make a dedication, and we will include it in the bulletin as usual. You may use your own vase, or one of the vases here at church. Please take your flowers home, or give them to a friend, after the 10am service. Questions? Talk with Gail Jordan-Jones or Rev. Miranda.

 

 

Announcements, April 20

THIS WEEKEND… 

Islam from the Heart of our Muslim Neighbors: Forthright Questions and Honest Answers, Saturday, April 22, 9am – 1pm, hosted by St. Dunstan’s Church: This event, organized by a coalition of local advocacy groups, will be a unique opportunity to meet local Muslims and to ask questions about the practices and beliefs of Islam, to address the many misconceptions that fuel our divisions.

Men’s Book Club, Saturday, April 22, 10am: The book is All the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren. Warren wrote the book in 1946 to enormous critical acclaim and won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1947. It’s about Huey Pierce Long, Jr., self-nicknamed The Kingfish, who was an American politician who served as the 40th governor of Louisiana from 1928 to 1932 and as a member of the United States Senate from 1932 until his death from assassination in 1935. There is something about Huey, his combination of magnificent abilities and a genuine if primitive idealism with bottomless corruption and lust for power, which fascinates the literary was well as the political mind.

Clergy Presence during Rev. Miranda’s Travel:  Rev. Miranda will be away from April 23 through May 2. Father Tom McAlpine will celebrate and preach on Sunday, April 23, and Father John Rasmus will celebrate and preach on Sunday, April 30. If you need the care or counsel of a priest during Rev. Miranda’s absence, you may reach Father Tom  or Father John at (608) 238-2781.

Acolyte training, Sunday, April 23rd at 9:00 am: All aspiring acolytes are welcome. This is a refresher course for our continuing acolytes as well.

Sunday School, Sunday, April 23, 10am: Our 3-5 year old class will explore the Faces of Easter, while our elementary classes will learn about Jesus’ visit to his disciples after he rose from the dead. Our Sunday school classes usually meet on the second and third Sundays of every month. All kids are welcome!

Grace Shelter Dinner, Sunday April 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.

Weeders Wanted! While we allow much of our property to flourish on its own terms, we do try to keep the garden beds in front of the church, around our sign, and outside the windows of the nave looking pretty and tidy. Would you like to help by taking responsibility for one of these areas for the growing season? A visit every couple of weeks should be enough, and you’re welcome to share the work with a buddy. A “Weeders Wanted” signup is in the Gathering Area.

Volunteers Needed for DeCanstruction, Sunday, April 30, 7:00pm: Help take apart the giant sculptures built from cans and boxes of food, as part of this year’s CanStruction competition, a food- and fund-raiser for Middleton Outreach Ministry. This year’s CanStruction will take place at West Towne Mall, and structures can be viewed there all week, starting Monday, April 17. To help with the “de-Canstruction” work, you must be reasonably able-bodied (but not everybody has to do heavy lifting). Sign up in the Gathering Area if you’d like to join this year’s team; we are looking for a team of 4 – 6 people.

Looking for Coffee Hosts for the month of May! Please consider being a coffee host. Contact Janet Bybee  for more information.

Looking for Greeters: Hi-Ho, Hi-Ho, It’s off to work we go! Well it’s really not work, more like fun. We’re looking for some of you who might be interested in Greeting on Sunday mornings at the 10am service. Let Bernice Mason know.

THE WEEKS AHEAD…

Gospel of John Study Group Last Session, April 26, 6:30-8:30pm at the McAlpine’s: This year the Daily Office Lectionary has us reading the Gospel of John from the last week of Epiphany through the second week of Easter. All are welcome as we conclude our reading of this challenging and important Gospel. We meet at the McAlpine home in Fitchburg; check your directory or call the church office at 238-2781 for more information.

Ladies’ Night Out, Friday, April 28, 6pm: Come join us for good food and good conversation among women of all ages from St. Dunstan’s. This month we will meet at Cocina Real at 2518 Allen Blvd. in Middleton.

Outreach meeting, Saturday, April 29, 8-10am: 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.

Last Sunday All-Ages Worship, Sunday, April 30, 10am: Our last Sunday worship will focus on the Gospel story of two disciples’ walking with Jesus on the road to Emmaus. Father John Rasmus will preach and celebrate. 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.

How Shall We Care for Our Waters? Creation Care Open Meeting, Sunday, April 30, 9am OR 11:30am: Caring for God’s creation is a core aspect of St. Dunstan’s mission and identity. To live this out, our parish Creation Care Task Force invites us to set two or three simple, achievable goals for better environmental stewardship each year. For the first year of this practice, we have identified Water as the focus – as in the water that sustains life, the water of our beautiful lakes, the waters of baptism! At this open meeting, we’ll briefly explore local and global challenges related to water, and choose 2 – 3 simple steps we can take, as individuals and/or as a parish, to be better stewards of water. If you have questions, or can’t attend but have ideas, talk with John Laedlein.

URINETOWN, May 4 – 6 at 7:30pm at the Middleton Performing Arts Center:  In a Gotham-like city, a terrible water shortage, caused by a 20-year drought, has led to a government-enforced ban on private toilets. The citizens must use public amenities, regulated by a single malevolent company that profits by charging admission for one of humanity’s most basic needs. Amid the people, a hero decides that he’s had enough and plans a revolution to lead them all to freedom! Urinetown is a darkly humorous satire which raises keen questions about freedom and survival. Members of St. Dunstan’s with an interest in creation care are encouraged to attend. Tickets are $10 ($8 students and seniors) and can be purchased at https://mhswi.booktix.com . A group will attend together on Thursday night, May 4.

Spring Clean-Up Day, Sunday, May 7, 12-2pm: Join us after the 10 am service to enjoy a time of shared work on our beautiful grounds, tidying them up and preparing for the growing season. A list of tasks will be posted in the Gathering Area ahead of time. Wear or bring your scruffy clothes and work gloves. Lunch will be provided! A list of tasks will be posted by Sunday, April 23rd.

– Lunch Host(s) Needed for Clean-Up Day! Would you like to prepare a simple meal to feed our workers? We could use your help. Food expenses can be reimbursed. Contact Rev. Miranda at 238-2781 or office@stdunstans.com.

Announcements, April 13

TONIGHT AND THE DAYS AHEAD… 

Maundy Thursday Service & Meal: Our Maundy Thursday liturgy (April 13, 6pm) includes a shared meal as we remember Jesus’ final meal with his friends before his crucifixion. Our offerings tonight will go to support the work of Briarpatch Youth Services. If you wish, bring your offering in coins to remind us of Judas’ betrayal.

Nightwatch Vigil: From 9pm – midnight tonight, following our Maundy Thursday service, and from 6am – noon on Good Friday,  members of St. Dunstan’s are invited to keep a vigil of prayer in the church, in pairs. Sign up in the Gathering Area for your desired shift. Talk with Connie Ott with any questions.

Friday, April 14 – Good Friday

12pm, 4pm & 7pm Good Friday services

Children are encouraged to attend the 4pm service.

               Offerings will go to the Episcopal Church in Jerusalem and the Middle East.

Saturday, April 15 – Holy Saturday

8pm: Great Vigil of Easter. Light incense will be used.

               A portion of our offerings will go to Episcopal Relief & Development.

Sunday, April 16 – Easter Sunday

Egg hunt for children follows both 8am & 10am services

AFTER EASTER… 

Volunteers Needed for DeCanstruction, Sunday, April 23, 7:00pm: Help take apart the giant sculptures built from cans and boxes of food, as part of this year’s CanStruction competition, a food- and fund-raiser for Middleton Outreach Ministry. This year’s CanStruction will take place at West Towne Mall, and structures can be viewed there all week, starting Monday, April 17. To help with the “de-Canstruction” work, you must be reasonably able-bodied (but not everybody has to do heavy lifting). Sign up in the Gathering Area if you’d like to join this year’s team; we are looking for a team of 4 – 6 people.

Looking for Coffee Hosts for April 30 and the month of May! Please consider being a coffee host. Contact Janet Bybee for more information.

Looking for Greeters: Hi-Ho, Hi-Ho, It’s off to work we go! Well it’s really not work, more like fun. We’re looking for some of you who might be interested in Greeting on Sunday mornings at the 10am service. Let Bernice Mason.

Gospel of John Study Group Resumes, April 19 & 26, 6:30-8:30pm at the McAlpine’s: This year the Daily Office Lectionary has us reading the Gospel of John from the last week of Epiphany through the second week of Easter. All are welcome as we conclude our reading of this challenging and important Gospel. We meet at the McAlpine home in Fitchburg; check your directory or call the church office at 238-2781 for more information.

Islam from the Heart of our Muslim Neighbors: Forthright Questions and Honest Answers, Saturday, April 22, 9am – 1pm, hosted by St. Dunstan’s Church: This event, organized by a coalition of local advocacy groups, will be a unique opportunity to meet local Muslims and to ask questions about the practices and beliefs of Islam, to address the many misconceptions that feed our divisions.

Men’s Book Club, Saturday, April 22, 10am: The book is All the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren. Warren wrote the book in 1946 to enormous critical acclaim and won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1947. It’s about Huey Pierce Long, Jr., self-nicknamed The Kingfish, who was an American politician who served as the 40th governor of Louisiana from 1928 to 1932 and as a member of the United States Senate from 1932 until his death from assassination in 1935. There is something about Huey, his combination of magnificent abilities and a genuine if primitive idealism with bottomless corruption and lust for power, which fascinates the literary was well as the political mind.

Outreach meeting, Saturday, April 29, 8-10am: 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.

Spring Clean-Up Day, Sunday, May 7, 12-2pm: Join us after the 10 am service to enjoy a time of shared work on our beautiful grounds, tidying them up and preparing for the growing season. A list of tasks will be posted in the Gathering Area ahead of time. Wear or bring your scruffy clothes and work gloves. Lunch will be provided! A list of tasks will be posted by Sunday, April 23rd.

– Lunch Host(s) Needed for Clean-Up Day! Would you like to prepare a simple meal to feed our workers? We could use your help. Food expenses can be reimbursed. Contact Rev. Miranda at 238-2781.

Palm Sunday homily

The Church holds up this story as uniquely important. This death, and what follows, are our core story, The Story. But its power, its uniqueness, comes from who Jesus was, from his first followers’ experience of God present in Jesus in a way unlike any other person in history. That as the author of the letter to the Philippians says, in Jesus, God set aside infinity to join us in mortality.

The death itself – and the events that lead up to it – were far from unique. Indeed, there’s much in this story that’s too familiar. There are no monsters in this story. Only ordinary people, driven by ordinary motives, ordinary fears, ordinary resentments.

Start with the leaders. Leaders bear a special responsibility for what happens on their watch. So surely we can point fingers at the leaders in this story, and say, There. There are the monsters. The chief priests, the scribes, the elders – they are the institutional and moral leadership of first-century Judaism. They are the leaders and teachers of the faith. They knew it was wrong to kill an innocent man; how did they let this happen? Well – Jesus was not actually innocent. I know there’s a lot of talk about Jesus as an innocent victim, but he’d basically done the stuff they said he did. Stirred up the people. Spoken dismissively about Sabbath-keeping and other practices. Busted stuff up in the Temple. And worst of all, blasphemed, by claiming a uniquely close relationship with God – a fundamental challenge to the core of Jewish faith, that there is only one God. They’re genuinely afraid that Jesus is sparking a popular movement that will dilute or even destroy the faith they’ve sustained for so many centuries. And these religious leaders weren’t only responsible for the faith, but also for the wellbeing of the people. They are legitimately afraid that the unrest swirling around Jesus will turn into a rebellion that will inevitably lead to a violent crackdown by the forces of Rome, the great empire occupying and ruling Judea. The high priest Caiaphas says, It’s better for one man to die than to have the whole nation destroyed. He’s not wrong – although that doesn’t make it right.

What about Pilate, the Roman governor of the province? There’s some scholarly speculation that Pilate must have been out of favor in Rome to have been sent to Judea, a miserable, impoverished backwater full of religious zealots. Why would a governor representing the greatest empire in the world, backed with all the superior military force of Rome, bend in the face of a scrappy crowd of Judeans? Because he feared a riot – that his soldiers would have to put down, violently, which might spark other riots, and would definitely mean having to write some awkward letters to Rome. Pilate is a man with great power, true, but he’s also part of a system, and others have power over him. Pilate’s interest is in stability and peace, even if it’s an unjust peace, a cruel peace. Can we call him a monster?

What about the soldiers and officers? There are two different groups in this narrative. First, there’s the armed group that comes to arrest Jesus, probably a mix of Temple guards and some irregulars. Jesus shows a kind of wry compassion for them – they are, after all, his people. It’s the Roman soldiers later, the soldiers of the governor, who are truly cruel, hurting and mocking Jesus. And yet as much as we’d like to find monsters there – there are seventy years of social science research, sparked by the desire to understand the Holocaust, that has shown again and again and again that it is all too easy to get a group of human beings to start thinking of another group of human beings as less than human. We hate each other so easily. To call these Roman soldiers monsters is to deny our innate capacity to dehumanize and destroy.

What about the bystanders, the crowds in the story? One minute they’re so excited to see Jesus, shouting Hosanna! and waving palms; the next minute they’re shouting that he should be crucified! Well – those events were actually several days apart, and they weren’t the same crowd, even though in our liturgy today we treat them as if they were, as we take on their voices. The crowd greeting Jesus at the city gate was full of those who had heard about this man and hoped he would bring about a new era of freedom and prosperity. The crowd before Pilate was probably the kind of crowd that gathers for executions and bloody accidents. But let’s be honest: I’m sure there were many people who were part of both crowds. Because it’s not that hard for us to turn on someone, especially someone who disappoints us. Who turns out not to be the savior we’d hoped for. We see that dynamic most clearly in Judas, whom I can’t help but pity. He wanted change – big, immediate, transformative change. And when Jesus’ agenda turned out to be slower and subtler, he turned against him – and then turned again, and was overcome by deadly remorse.

And then there are the disciples, Jesus’ friends and followers. If it were only up to me, this is the voice I’d have us read together in the story. It’s tradition in many Episcopal churches for the congregation to be the voice of the crowd that shouts out, “Crucify him!” And that’s important to some of you, so I have left that custom be; but if I were to locate contemporary Episcopalians in this story, it would be as the disciples. The disciples, who follow him – but only so far. Who believe in him – but often really don’t understand him. Who love him, truly – but not as much as he needs them to. Who are right there with him, ready for action, while they’re all seated around the table together, with a good meal and a glass of wine inside them, but when it comes to taking to the streets – well, a lot of us have to think twice. We have jobs and families and reputations to protect. This discipleship thing can get to be more than we anticipated, real quick.

There are no monsters in this story. And yet the story reminds us, every year, how quickly and easily resentment and reluctance, complacency and fear, can make us part of something monstrous.

Announcements, April 6

TONIGHT & THE WEEK AHEAD… 

Stations of the Cross & Supper, Thursday, April 6, 5:30pm: All are invited to come walk the Stations of the Cross in our nave at St. Dunstan’s, sharing Scripture, prayer, song, and meditations from Christian tradition. We will share a simple meal after praying the Stations. This event is this week’s Sandbox worship, our regular Thursday evening gathering.

The Stations of the Cross in Downtown Madison, Friday, April 7, 12pm: Walk the story of Jesus’ journey to the cross on the streets of a modern city.  As we walk the fourteen traditional Stations of the Cross, we will reflect together on how we can trace those events in the geography of Madison today – our issues, stories and struggles. We will start on the sidewalk near Way of the Cross Park, at the corner of Henry, across from the Overture Center, and end in the garden at Grace Church on the square. The total walk will be about 1.5 miles, and it takes about 1 hour. All are welcome. If you would like to read one of the stations, talk with the Rev. Miranda Hassett.

Palm Saturday, Saturday, April 8, 11am-12pm: Kids, parents, grandparents and friends are invited to make Easter Crafts and communion bread, and to take part in a gentle, age-appropriate and participatory telling of the whole Easter story, presented by the youth and adults of our church. This event is best suited for kids ages 3 to 10; our Middle Schoolers are invited to help present the Easter pageant. All are welcome!

Palm and Passion Sunday, April 9, 8 and 10am: We begin our liturgy with a Palm Procession, recalling Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, then proceed to the reading of the Passion Gospel according to Mark. This is a solemn and powerful service, and our doorway into Holy Week.

Sunday School, Sunday, April 9, 10am: This Sunday, our 3 year olds to kindergarten class will learn about the Faces of Easter, while our Elementary class will explore Palm and Passion Sunday. Older children are invited to stay in church for the Passion Gospel.

Maundy Thursday Meal Sign-up: Our Maundy Thursday liturgy (April 13, 6pm) includes a shared meal as we remember Jesus’ final meal with his friends before his crucifixion. Sign up in the Gathering Area to contribute lentil soup, hummus, olives, or other items. Thanks for all your offerings!

Night watch Vigil Sign-Up: From 9pm – midnight on Thursday, April 13, following our Maundy Thursday service, and from 6am – noon on Good Friday, April 14, members of St. Dunstan’s will keep a vigil of prayer in the church, in pairs. Sign up in the Gathering Area for your desired shift. Talk with Connie Ott with any questions.

Easter Flower Dedications Due by Wednesday, April 12: If you’d like to make a donation towards our Easter flowers, in memory or in honor of a beloved person or special occasion, please sign up in the Gathering Area or contact the church office at 238-2781 or office@stdunstans.com. Suggested donation is $25. All dedications must be received by next Wednesday.

Looking for Coffee Hosts for Easter and for April 30, 2017! Please consider being a coffee host. We especially need people for Easter and the last Sunday in April. Contact Janet Bybee  for more information.

The Holy Ground Project: Several people have “staked out” their spots to visit on our grounds, over the course of this season – and some have started to note their observations of nature, here or around town, in our parish Nature Observation Book in the Gathering Area. If you would like to participate, take a wooden stake  and claim a spot – or pick one of the stakes already out on the grounds. Visit every week or so and look closely, to see nature at work as first spring, and then summer, unfolds.

Madison-Area Julian Gathering, April 12, 1:00-2:45 PM: Julian of Norwich was a 15th Century English mystic who wrote a book about a series of revelations which opened her to the depths of God’s unconditional love for us.  At a Julian Gathering we support each other in the practice of contemplative spirituality.  Each meeting includes time for contemplative prayer, fellowship, and reading/discussion of Julian’s book.

HOLY WEEK SCHEDULE

Sunday, April 9 – Palm & Passion Sunday

Thursday, April 13, 6pm: Maundy Thursday Meal & Worship

               Offerings will go to Briarpatch Youth Services.

Friday, April 14 – Good Friday

12pm, 4pm & 7pm Good Friday services

Children are encouraged to attend the 4pm service.

               Offerings will go to the Episcopal Church in Jerusalem and the Middle East.

Saturday, April 15 – Holy Saturday

8pm: Great Vigil of Easter. Light incense will be used.

               A portion of our offerings will go to Episcopal Relief & Development.

Sunday, April 16 – Easter Sunday

Egg hunt for children follows both 8am & 10am services

AFTER EASTER… 

Looking for Greeters: Hi-Ho, Hi-Ho, It’s off to work we go! Well it’s really not work, more like fun. We’re looking for some of you who might be interested in Greeting on Sunday mornings at the 10am service. Let Bernice Mason know.

Gospel of John Study Group Resumes, April 19 & 26, 6:30-8:30pm at the McAlpine’s: This year the Daily Office Lectionary has us reading the Gospel of John from the last week of Epiphany through the second week of Easter. All are welcome as we conclude our reading of this challenging and important Gospel. We meet at the McAlpine home in Fitchburg; check your directory or call the church office at 238-2781 for more information.

Islam from the Heart of our Muslim Neighbors: Forthright Questions and Honest Answers, Saturday, April 22, 9am – 1pm, hosted by St. Dunstan’s Church: This event, organized by a coalition of local advocacy groups, will be a unique opportunity to meet local Muslims and to ask questions about the practices and beliefs of Islam, to address the many misconceptions that stoke our divisions.

– Helpers wanted for Muslim Neighbors event! We need 2 – 3 St. Dunstan’s folk to open the building, make coffee, and support this event. If you’d like to help out, let Rev. Miranda know or contact the church office at office@stdunstans.com or 238-2781.

Men’s Book Club, Saturday, April 22, 10am: The book is All the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren. Warren wrote the book in 1946 to enormous critical acclaim and won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1947. It’s about Huey Pierce Long, Jr., self-nicknamed The Kingfish, who was an American politician who served as the 40th governor of Louisiana from 1928 to 1932 and as a member of the United States Senate from 1932 until his death from assassination in 1935. There is something about Huey, his combination of magnificent abilities and a genuine if primitive idealism with bottomless corruption and lust for power, which fascinates the literary was well as the political mind.

Outreach meeting, Saturday, April 29, 8-10am: 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.

Spring Clean-Up Day, Sunday, May 7, 12-2pm: Join us after the 10 am service to enjoy a time of shared work on our beautiful grounds, tidying them up and preparing for the growing season. A list of tasks will be posted in the Gathering Area ahead of time. Wear or bring your scruffy clothes and work gloves. Lunch will be provided! A list of tasks will be posted by Sunday, April 23rd.

– Lunch Host(s) Needed for Clean-Up Day! Would you like to prepare a simple meal to feed our workers? We could use your help. Food expenses can be reimbursed. Contact Rev. Miranda at 238-2781.

 

Sermon, April 2

“I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

Our Sunday readings are walking us towards the cross. In John’s Gospel, the raising of Lazarus from the dead stirs up the people of Bethany and nearby Jerusalem – more and more begin to believe in and follow Jesus, and the religious leaders, who think Jesus is at best a fraud and at worst a tool of the Devil,  and who are legitimately afraid that unrest among the people will bring a violent crackdown from the occupying Roman forces – the religious leaders decide that it would be a good idea if something were to happen to Jesus. The Palm Sunday Gospel, Jesus’ triumphal and confrontational march into the city, follows this story almost immediately.

Our Sunday readings are walking us towards the cross, and beyond that, towards Easter, and resurrection – the Church’s 50-cent word for rising again from the dead. Two weeks from today, we’ll be shouting, Christ is Risen! We’ll be singing about how Jesus trampled down death by death, and bestowed life upon those in the tomb. Death no longer has dominion over us! God wipes away all tears! Love wins!

Except… people still die.

So… what are we talking about?

Part of this Gospel is often chosen for funerals. And last week I realized that I often preach at funerals about what the Church teaches – and trusts – about death. I almost never do so on Sunday morning. But everybody here has someone you love on the other side of that river. We all have somebody we miss. We all have somebody we dread losing. We all wonder.

And yet the Church and her representatives, have the audacity to stand up here in our funny clothes and say it doesn’t matter. That it’s not real. That they’re in a better place now. As if that made it OK.

“I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

Jesus talked a lot about eternal life – a new life in God beyond our earthly existence.  So it became Christian conviction and teaching, from the very beginning, that physical death is not an absolute end, but leads into another kind of life. The resurrection of Jesus at Easter opens the door to the resurrection of everybody.

But what does Jesus mean, when he talks about eternal life? When he tells his friends and followers that even though they die, they will live? When he promises that his beloved ones will not perish, but have life everlasting?

I think part of the struggle here is that we come to Jesus with a simple, human question: What happens after we die? And frankly Jesus is not very interested in that question. He’s human enough to weep at the death of a friend, in today’s Gospel, but he’s also God enough to know that death is smaller than we think it is. What he really wants us to think about is life, and what it means to be alive – now, and always. But still: we carry the question in our hearts. Where is my grandpa now? Your father? Your sister? Your child? Can they see us? Are they okay? Are they… at all?

The New Testament doesn’t give us a clear or consistent view of what happens to the dead. Jesus tells the thief crucified beside him that they’ll be together in paradise that very day, but other texts assume – as Martha does in today’s Gospel – that the dead will sleep until the Last Day, when they will be awakened to new life forever with God. The images of life beyond the grave are varied, too -from the city thronged with holy crowds in Revelation, to the intimate image of Jesus preparing rooms for his friends in his Father’s house, from the 14th chapter of John’s Gospel. (There is very little to support the popular image of Heaven as a place up in the clouds, where people are issued wings and harps.)

The plain fact is, the early Christians didn’t know what happens after death, and neither do we. There’s a mystery here which only time will resolve. The writer and philosopher Henry David Thoreau, while he was dying, was visited by a friend, who said to him, “You seem so near the brink of the dark river that I almost wonder how the opposite shore may appear to you.” And Thoreau replied simply, “One world at a time.”

But – if we Christians don’t offer freedom from the inevitability and grief of death – if we can’t offer proof that there’s something more, something better, on the other side – then what can the Church offer in the face of death, besides beautiful words?

Well: even though there’s no proof, there is that promise and hope of something more. Jesus seems very sure that death is not the end – though we have no clear picture of what comes after. But we have to be careful with that assurance of eternity – the Church and its people have sometimes used it to shame or shut out people’s real and profound grief. Even if your loved one IS in a better place now, free from pain and struggle, it hurts that they’re gone. If Jesus wept for Lazarus, there is no shame in weeping for our beloved dead.

Another thing the Church offers in the face of death is the consolation of community. I’ve heard from many of you, in conversations over the years, that one of the most substantive gifts of belonging to a church, to this church, has been companionship in the hardest times. Of opening up about something painful –  a broken relationship, a sick child, the death of a parent – and finding that there are three or four people in the room who have walked that road, and are willing to walk it again with you, offering solace, kindness, and help.

Yet another thing the Church offers is the sense of a bigger picture, a longer perspective. In a recent essay on this topic, Peter Wehmer wrote, “There is…, for me at least, consolation in the conviction that we are part of an unfolding drama with a purpose. …I may not have a clue as to what that precise purpose is,

but I believe… that the story has an author, that difficult chapters need not be defining chapters, and that even the broken areas of our lives can be redeemed.” His words remind me of the voice of today’s Psalm, Psalm 130, a voice of resignation, patience, hope: “Out of the depths I cry to you, O God – hear my voice!… I wait for you, O God, my soul waits for you.”

Please understand: I am not claiming, here, that everything happens for a reason, that even tragedy is God’s will for you. I do not believe that, and you’ll never hear me preach it. But I do believe in grace, in God’s patient, persistent work to weave good from evil, to heal, restore, renew. It’s not easy, or fast, or certain; but it’s possible.

What can the Church offer in the face of death, besides beautiful words? Well… actually, beautiful words can be a real gift and comfort. I don’t know if I love beautiful, holy language, prose and poetry, because I’m a lifelong Episcopalian, or if I’m a lifelong Episcopalian because I love beautiful language. But at my grandfather’s funeral two weeks ago, I found myself reflecting on how we address death, as Christians in the Episcopal tradition.

We have sister churches both Catholic and Protestant who handle the mystery of death and what comes after by developing detailed doctrines and theories. We Episcopalians tend instead to let it rest in mystery – but not a mystery we pass over in silence; rather one we dwell with, or perhaps dance with, in poetry and prose, art and song.

And two weeks ago, I found that it was the strength and grace and felt truth of those songs and Scriptures that both freed my tears, and – eventually – dried them. It was the beautiful words we say and sing that opened my heart to trust in the eternal life Jesus promises,  and reaffirmed my hope in a better beyond.

Receive them into the arms of your mercy, into the blessed rest of everlasting peace, and into the glorious company of the saints in light.

All we go down to the dust, yet even at the grave we make our song… 

There’s a gathering of spirits, there’s a festival of friends, and we’ll take up where we left off, when we all meet again. 

And even you, most gentle Death, waiting to hush our final breath – you lead back home the child of God, for Christ our Lord that way hath trod. 

Changed from glory into glory,  till in heaven we take our place, till we cast our crowns before thee, lost in wonder, love and praise.