Sermon, Nov. 19

As I’ve wrestled with this parable this week, I keep thinking of the duck-rabbit. You’ve seen it: the classic simple image that could be one thing or could be another thing. Before I name the duck and rabbit I see here, let’s hear the parable again, and let’s make the setting a little more modern:

The CEO of MoneyCorp (note: I made up this name, but of course it turns out there actually is a MoneyCorp somewhere) is going on a business trip, maybe a long one; he needs to oversee operations in China for a while. So he calls in his three vice-presidents. (Of course a vice-president in a company is very different from a slave – but not entirely different. His position, his livelihood, even his future, depend on his boss’s goodwill.) So the three vice-presidents meet with the boss. And he tells the first one, “You’ve been doing good work; while I’m away, you’re in charge of $5 million.” He tells the second one, “You’re really growing into this role; I’m leaving you with $2 million to manage.” And he tells the third one, “…. You get $1 million.” And he leaves.

A long time later, the CEO comes back, and calls in the VPs to settle accounts with them, reclaim the company’s wealth and hear what they did with it. The first one says, “Sir, I used the $5 million to make another $5 million.” The CEO says, “Well done! You can expect a raise, and even more responsibility in the future.” And the second VP said, “Sir, I used the $2 million to make another $2 million.” And the CEO said, “Excellent! You’ll be getting a raise and a promotion too.”

And then the third VP comes forward. He says, “Sir, you left me in charge of $1 million. I know you; I know how you run MoneyCorp. I know that you’re a hard man, and that you’ve gotten wealthy by taking the profit of other people’s work. So when you put me in charge of this money, I locked the check in the drawer of my desk until your return. Here it is. Take it.” And the boss said, “You wicked and lazy man! You knew I was a hard man? You knew I profit off the work of others? Then why didn’t you at least keep the money in an interest-bearing account?! Listen, buddy, this is the way of the world:  Those who have a lot, get more, and those who don’t have much, lose the little they have. If you don’t want to play the game, maybe you don’t belong at MoneyCorp.”

Okay. The duck-rabbit. The rabbit – see the rabbit? – the rabbit is the better-known interpretation of this parable. It’s warm and fuzzy. Kind of. It says, God is our Master, and God gives us resources, and we’re supposed to use those resources to extend our Master’s domain and earn our Master’s approval.

The duck – see the duck? – the duck is loud and awkward and might bite you. The duck says, This Master is a horrible person who embodies the cruel and corrupt systems of this world.

It’s hard to see both the duck and the rabbit at the same time.You kind of have to choose.

Let’s go back to the parable – Matthew’s version, not mine – and see if we can find any clarity on the duck-rabbit issue. The narrative raises a lot of questions. How much is a talent? It’s a large amount of money. Translating it into millions isn’t unreasonable.

How would someone have used money to make money, back in Jesus’ day?Doubling your money always means you’re playing high risks, and sometimes means somebody’s getting cheated. The world of finance and investment was a lot smaller and simpler back then, but there were a couple of ways to win big. One was to put your money into the currency exchange business that happened in the court of the great Temple. The people who set the exchange rate can make sure they get a hefty profit from every transaction. We know how Jesus felt about that business. The other way was essentially high-risk mortgage lending. Historically, most ordinary Judeans were small-scale farmers. By Jesus’ day, many had lost their ancestral land due to poverty, and many more were on the edge of losing their land, due to the heavy taxes Rome demanded. When someone is desperate, you can loan them money at a high interest rate. We know how that usually works out.

As for investing money to earn interest: This parable is literally the only place in the Bible where someone suggests this as a good thing. For the entire Old Testament, taking interest income is proof that you’re an unscrupulous, greedy person. To be clear, I think it’s fine that our church gets interest on our invested funds. But Jesus had very Old Testament ethics about money. So the Master’s eagerness to earn interest is a clue to what Jesus meant by this story.

One more question: Why did the third slave bury the money? I spent a really happy couple of hours this week chasing this question deep into the Talmud. In 70 CE, about forty years after Jesus’ death and resurrection, the Great Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed, as Roman troops crushed a Jewish rebellion against Roman rule. This was a big event for early Christians; even more so for Jews. What emerged from that great loss was Rabbinic Judaism – a way of being Jewish without the Temple as its center.

During the time of the Temple, there was a whole body of religious teaching about how to apply the laws of the Torah to all kinds of situations. That teaching had been curated and passed down at the Temple, but after the Temple, in the first and second centuries, it gets written down, so that it can circulate and spread among scattered Jewish communities. That’s the set of texts called the Talmud.

And it turns out that in the Talmud, being responsible for someone else’s property was a big legal and ethical issue. There were banks, but banking wasn’t widely accessible, and a lot of people didn’t hold their wealth as money; they had it as wine or grain or oil or sheep. If you had to travel, or if you had more than you could store, you’d leave your stuff with someone else, so it wouldn’t be stolen.  And of course being left in charge of somebody else’s stuff is a temptation. You could drink a couple of barrels of wine, and then when the owner returns, claim that they broke or went sour. So there is a lot of teaching in the Talmud about the moral obligation of looking after someone else’s property. And it turns out that when someone leaves you in charge of some money, burying it is RECOMMENDED by the Talmud. Rabbi Shmuel, who lived in the late 2nd century, said, “There is safety for money only in the ground.”

There’s even a story, kind of a case study, about a man who’s entrusted with some money by a friend. He gives the money to his mother, who puts it in a chest in their house; but a robber steals it. The question is, who is responsible for the loss? – and in the course of the discussion, the text says, Well, the man must not have told his mother that it was somebody else’s money, because if he had, she would have buried it.

Despite all this – and more; I could’t fit all my points into this sermon! – the duck-rabbit won’t fully resolve into a duck. I’ve spent a lot of time with this parable, over the years. And it just keeps being awkwardly both duck and rabbit. At least, that’s true in Matthew’s version. Luke has this story too, but his version is a lot stranger and darker. It’s not in the lectionary, so it’s less familiar. It’s in chapter 19 – check it out later. In Luke’s version, the Master is unambiguously a corrupt and cruel ruler, whose actions echo the acts of the brutal king of Judea who ruled during Jesus’ early childhood. There’s a strong case to be made that Luke records the story as Jesus told it – and that Matthew simplified it because the story made more sense to him as a story about how we should be good productive servants for Jesus.

But even though he stuck some rabbit ears on the story, Matthew retained its fierce heart, its ethical and theological core: that dialogue between the third slave and the master, which is much the same in both Gospels, and which I’m sure is much as Jesus first told it.

‘Master, I knew that you were a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed; so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’

‘You wicked and lazy slave! You knew, did you, that I reap where I did not sow, and gather where I did not scatter?… Take the talent from him, and give it to the one with the ten talents. For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away.’

Do you know the old joke about the pastor who calls the kids forward for a children’s sermon? And he says, I’m going to describe something, and I want you to guess what it is! It climbs around in the trees… it has a big fluffy tail… and it collects nuts and buries them! And there’s dead silence; the children just stare at him. And he says, “Come on, you must know what it is, speak up!” And finally one child says, “I know the answer must be Jesus, but it sure sounds like a squirrel.”

I feel like that’s what we’ve done with this parable. I’ve read SO many commentaries and sermons on this story. And SO many of them say, “I know the Master must be Jesus, but he sure sounds like a jerk.”

Sometimes a squirrel is a just a squirrel, and a cruel and greedy master isn’t supposed to remind us of God.

Okay. Why does it matter? Duck or rabbit? We’re committing our pledges to the life of this church today. Is it duck church or rabbit church? We’re baptizing a child into the faith and family of Jesus. Is it duck faith or rabbit faith?

The rabbit message – it’s not WRONG. The idea that we should honor what we’ve been given – resources, skills, and yes, talents – and use them, and multiply them, in ways that add to the world’s measure of hope and wholeness and delight – the Gospel says that in lots of places, and I try to live that way, and I think you all do too.

But there’s a sense in which I don’t need church to tell me that.  A capitalist culture tells me to use what I have to get more. Human decency tells me to use what I have to serve others.

What I need to hear from the Bible, from the Church, from Jesus, is that there’s a higher standard and a bigger picture, beyond and above our culture and our systems and our norms. This isn’t a parable about obedience, or resourcefulness, or, God help us, productivity.  This is a story about power and courage. About resistance. Some commentators call this the Parable of the Whistleblower. I like that. The third slave says he was afraid, but there’s nothing cowardly about what he does. He refuses to play the game. And he doesn’t just opt out and vanish; he names the boss to his face as cruel, greedy, and ruthless.

This the duck’s message: When the system is broken, or fixed – it matters to God. When the powerful use their power to benefit themselves – it matters to God. When people just take what they want because nobody dares to stop them – it matters to God.  When “more” drives our common life, instead of better, kinder, fairer – it matters to God. It matters to God so much that God in Christ became the whistleblower, teaching and arguing and healing and dying – and rising – to tell the truth about our human systems of power and gain.

When the culture tells us, The rich and powerful run the show; your best plan is to play the game – when our human decency runs low because we’re tired and jaded and frustrated – then we need duck church, duck faith. We need a community gathered around Christ the Whistleblower, to comfort and encourage us, to connect us and reorient us. May we be both rabbit church and duck church for each other, my dear ones – a church worthy of our gifts, our children, and our hearts.

Sources & Further Reading… 

“Jesus As Archelaus in the Parable of the Pounds,” Brian Schultz, Novum Testamentum, Vol. 49, Fasc. 2 (2007), pp. 105-127

David Lose on Luke’s version of the story:

http://www.davidlose.net/2013/11/luke-19-11-27/

Another sermon on this parable:

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/stan-duncan/the-parable-of-the-liferi_b_6164642.html

Explore the Talmud at sefaria.org

The part in question is Section 42 of the Bava Metzia.

https://www.sefaria.org/Bava_Metzia?lang=bi

And here’s a post that summarizes this portion of the Talmud:

https://www.torahinmotion.org/discussions-and-blogs/bava-metzia-42-where-is-my-money

Racism resource list, 11/18/17

Resources on Racism                                            

Compiled by Eliot R. Smith for a gathering to learn about racism  from the standpoint of cognitive science, held at St. Dunstan’s Church, Nov. 18, 2017

General/historical background

http://aaihs.org/resources/charlestonsyllabus/  [“Charleston syllabus,” readings and resources on the history of race relations in South Carolina and the US in general]

http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2014/06/the-case-for-reparations/361631/  [Ta-Nehisi Coates, historical overview]

Nonconscious bias

https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/   [demonstration; take test of your own biases]

https://www.gv.com/lib/unconscious-bias-at-work

Combating bias in various fields (academics, medicine, etc.)

http://wiseli.engr.wisc.edu/hiring.php  [list of resources; women in science & engineering]

https://www.aamc.org/download/102364/data/aibvol9no2.pdf  [literature summary; faculty and leadership recruitment]

https://www.aamc.org/initiatives/diversity/learningseries/346528/howardrossinterview.html

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/31/opinion/sunday/guess-who-doesnt-fit-in-at-work.html   [commentary on the danger of looking for “cultural fit” at work]

Episcopal resources

https://www.episcopalchurch.org/library/topics/state-racism-america  [Extensive video of panel discussion, Nov. 2013]

https://www.episcopalchurch.org/racial-reconciliation [links to many resources]

https://www.episcopalchurch.org/library/document/house-bishops-pastoral-letter-sin-racism  [1994 pastoral letter]

Lutheran resources

http://elca.org/webcast   August 2015 webcast with Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton; page also has links to numerous other resources on racial justice

http://download.elca.org/ELCA%20Resource%20Repository/race_ethnicity_culture_statement.pdf   1993 “Social Statement”

http://www.loveasrevolution.blogspot.com/2015/08/standing-accused-of-glory-heidelberg.html     [responses to the Charleston shootings from a Lutheran perspective]

Announcements, November 16

TONIGHT…

Sandbox Worship, 5:30pm: We’ll share sung prayers for evening, then an exploration of praying together through art. Dinner is provided.

Revelation Study Group, 7pm: (Rev 17-20) When we look at Madison, Washington, Beijing, what do we see? Rev 17-20 looks repeatedly at “Babylon”. Do these chapters have any contribution to make to our vision? All are cordially invited to the study of Revelation this Thursday at St. Dunstan’s after Sandbox, 7-8:30pm. Extra copies of the book in manuscript format will be available. There will be some historical orientation, but we’ll mostly focus on trying to hear the text together today. Fr. Tom McAlpine is facilitating.

THIS WEEK…

Ladies’ Night Out, Friday, November 17, 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 the Nile, a Mediterranean restaurant located at 6119 Odana Road in Madison. For more information, or to arrange a ride, please contact Kathy Whitt or Debra Martinez.

What Does Racism Look Like, and What Can We Do About It? Saturday, November 18, 10 – 11:30am, at St. Dunstan’s: Eliot Smith is a cognitive scientist who studies and teaches about prejudice and stereotyping. He’ll help us understand what racism is from the perspective of social science, and how we can begin the work of change. All are welcome!

Eucharist with Holy Baptism, Sunday, November 19, 10am:  We will celebrate the baptism of a new member of Christ’s Kingdom, Austin Michael Viste. We rejoice with Jess and Nate!

Piece Be with You! Fall Giving Campaign Celebration Pie Brunch, Sunday, November 19 at 9am: Please join us between services for an all-parish potluck brunch celebrating the ingathering of pledges for our prayers, hopes, and financial pledges for our parish life in the coming year. We will enjoy fellowship, delicious pies, quiches, and other offerings. Please sign up in the Gathering area to bring your favorite pie or quiche. Thank you!

Sunday school, Sunday, November 19, 10am: This Sunday, our 3 year olds to kindergarten class will learn about the Exile and Return, while our Elementary classes will wrestle with the Parable of the Talents.

United Thank Offering, Sunday, Nov. 19: Bring in your United Thank Offering Little Blue Box this Sunday. UTO has been a program of the women of the Episcopal Church for 126 years and has granted millions of dollars over the years – all coming from coins of thanksgiving being given over the year – then gathered together by parishes and forwarded to the national UTO Board for granting. If you do not have a box, there will be some on the entrance table as you go into church. If you would like more information about the program, contact Connie Ott.

Rector’s Discretionary Fund Offering, Sunday, November 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.

Spirituality of Parenting Lunch, Sunday, November 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. Childcare and a simple meal provided.

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

Young Adult Meetup at the Vintage, Sunday, November 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.

Christmas Cards for Jail Inmates:  Christmas is a bleak time for those who spend the holiday as inmates of the Dane County Jail. Even a simple message of kindness can bring some joy and hope. 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 be delivered to inmates through an initiative of our sister parish Grace Church. Our goal is to complete at least 100 cards by mid-December.

Military and College Student Care Packages: The Youth Group is collecting donations during November to be included in care packages for military personnel and college students. There is a list of suggested items by the donation box. If you have a college student or service member who you would like a care package sent to, please provide name and address to Sharon Henes. The youth will be assembling and mailing the care packages the first week of December. Thank you for your support!

Thanksgiving service, Wednesday, November 22, 7pm: There will be a simple Eucharist service on Wednesday evening. All are welcome.

No Revelation Study Group on Thursday, November 23 as it is Thanksgiving. This gives everyone an extra week to prepare for the last session on November 30, focusing on Rev. 21-22 and the book as a whole.

Black Friday Craft-In, Friday, November 24, 1 – 4pm: This year we’ll hold our fourth annual Black Friday Craft-In, a free public crafting event. If you’re in town, come, and bring friends!

Attending to Scripture in the Anthropocene, 9am, Nov. 26: Between services in November, Biblical storyteller Pamela Grenfell Smith invites you to listen and reflect on a key Biblical story with her as people of the Anthropocene Age, in which human activity is shaping our environment as much as the great natural forces. What happens when we pay careful attention to these stories? How do they sound to us now?

Last Sunday All-Ages Worship, Sunday, November 26, 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.

Grace Shelter Dinner, Sunday, November 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 Gathering Area to help out. To learn more, talk with Rose Mueller.

Help Feed the Students! Sunday, December 3: St. Dunstan’s is providing dinner for the St. Francis House community in a few weeks. We are asked to provide food for up to 15 people, and we are invited to attend worship with the students at 5pm. Rev. Miranda will be in touch to work out whether you want to drop off your food Sunday morning, or deliver it to St. Francis House and meet the students. Thank you! The students really enjoy the home-cooked meals supplied by area parishes or individuals!

Bring Christmas Cheer to St. Dunstans! Celebrate what’s important to you with a gift that helps us decorate for Christmas and honors a loved one or a special event. Please see the red Christmas Flowers sign-up sheets in the Gathering Area. Write “Christmas Flowers” on the memo line of your check or on the envelope containing cash. Suggested donation is $25.

THE WEEKS AHEAD…

Capital Campaign Possibilities: Parish Presentation, Sunday, December 3, 9am: At this meeting, the Capital Campaign Discernment Steering Committee, along with our consultant and our architect, will present the ideas we’ve been developing in response to the hopes and needs that the parish has named over the past many months. This presentation – and your responses – will help us decide whether to move forward to the Study phase of the capital campaign. Please plan to attend! NOTE: The 10am liturgy will begin at 10:30 that morning in order to allow sufficient time for our presentation and discussion. If you can’t attend that day, look for materials to come out by email, on our church website, and by snail mail to those who prefer information by that route.

Las Posadas Party, Saturday, Dec. 16, 5pm: Las Posadas (Spanish for “the inns”) is an Advent celebration practiced in Mexico and elsewhere in Latin America, revolving around the concept of hospitality. We learn from the Posadas that by welcoming the poor and the needy, we are welcoming Jesus in our midst. Our Posadas will be an opportunity for learning and fellowship, and will have food, music, (small) fireworks, and a (real) donkey! All are welcome!

 

Sermon, Nov. 12

Note: This sermon is based on Joshua 3:7-17, the Old Testament text for November 5 (Proper 26A), which we did not use last week because we celebrated the Feast of All Saints. 

What do these stones mean to you?

The people Israel, the people God has named and called to be God’s people, are at a turning point in their history. Back on September 17, the lectionary gave us the story of the Exodus, when God and Moses led the people through the Red Sea on dry land, and out of bondage in Egypt. In our schedule of Sunday readings, the Israelites have been wandering in the wilderness for about six weeks. But for the Biblical narrative, it’s been FORTY YEARS. People who left Egypt as babies have grown up, married, had children of their own, and could even be grandparents.

Just two weeks ago we shared the story of the death of Moses, at the end of the book of Deuteronomy. Now we’re beginning the book that bears Joshua’s name. This means we’re at the end of the Torah – the first five books of the Old Testament, the Hebrew Bible, which hold the great origin story of the people Israel and lay out how they are called to live. Moving from the Torah to the books of Joshua and Judges and beyond is a little like moving from the Revolutionary War era into early 19th century national history – if Moses is Washington and Jefferson, then Joshua is more like Monroe and Van Buren.

So Israel has survived years in the harsh, dry wilderness, and their future home lies spread out before them. Awesome. Wow. But it turns out there are people living in the Promised Land. So what comes next? A lot of war. While Moses was a prophet and spiritual leader, Joshua is a general. There’s a lot in this portion of Biblical history that we, rightly, find difficult to swallow – God’s word to Joshua is to kill everyone they meet, while God’s word through Jesus Christ is to love our enemies.

For today, though, let’s focus on this threshold moment. Listen, I’ve been to the Judean desert. It’s an incredibly harsh environment. Hot and dry and rocky, with minimal vegetation and only the most hardy and elusive animal life. And after far too many years out there, sustained only by miraculous manna, the Israelites are standing on the banks of an honest to God river. The Jordan river. Which is just a trickle in the dry season, but right now, it’s the rainy season, and the river is overflowing. The way ahead for Israel lies through a huge stretch of muddy shallow swift-flowing water. And it must have been so beautiful to them. All that water.

But the problem remains: How to get across? Israel’s journey to freedom began with a miraculous journey across a body of water; it’s time for another one. God tells Joshua, I’m going to make sure Israel respects you as the leader I have chosen. Call on the priests of the people, and have them carry the Ark of the Covenant into the Jordan River.

The Ark of the Covenant was the holiest object Israel owned. It was an elaborate golden box that held the Tablets of the Law, the Ten Commandments, written in stone by the very finger of God. It was a powerful symbol of God’s presence and God’s favor.

So the priests take the Ark and walk before the people into the Jordan, into all that muddy mess. And as their feet touch the water, the river… stops. Instead of continuing to flow downstream, the waters begin to pile up, as if a wall of glass were holding them back. The priests carrying the Ark walk ahead, into the center of the river bed, and stand there, on dry ground. And the people Israel follow them and pass them, crossing the Jordan without getting their feet wet.

Let me take the story a little farther than our lectionary text. When everyone has crossed over, God says to Joshua: Choose twelve men from the people, one from each of the twelve tribes. Have each of them find a stone, here in the middle of the Jordan, in the riverbed. Carry the stones out of the river, take them with you. And when you make camp tonight, make a pile of those stones, to help you remember this day. So Joshua summons twelve men, one from each tribe, and tells them what to do. And they take their stones; and then, finally, the priests carry the Ark out of the riverbed, and the waters of the Jordan return to their place, flowing and overflowing as they were before.

When the people made camp,  at a place called Gilgal, the twelve stones were set up as a monument. And Joshua told the Israelites, ‘When your children ask their parents in time to come, “What do these stones mean?” then you shall let your children know, The Lord your God dried up the waters of the Jordan for you until you crossed over, as the Lord your God did to the Red Sea,* which was dried up for us until we crossed over, so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the Lord is mighty… These stones shall be to the Israelites a memorial for ever.’

The Israelites are on brink of a new chapter in their history. They’re uncertain what lies ahead, what they’ll be able to carry forward from their past into a new way of life, whether they are really many enough and strong enough and bold enough and faithful enough to go where God is leading. And in this moment, God gives them a saving act – that miraculous crossing of the Jordan – and says, Remember this. And build yourselves a nice pile of rocks, to make sure you remember it.

What do these stones mean to you?

There are several times in the Old Testament when people raise stones to commemorate important events. Later in the Book of Joshua, Joshua will ask the people, As you settle in this new land, are you going to stay faithful to God, or start worshipping the gods of other nations? And Israel says, We will serve our God! And Joshua raises a stone to remind them of their decision, their commitment, saying, ‘This stone shall be a witness against us, if you are unfaithful to God.’ Much earlier, in Genesis 28, Jacob raises a stone at the place where he had the dream-vision of angels going up and down a ladder from heaven – a vision of the active presence of the Divine on earth. Several generations after Joshua, the prophet Samuel raises a stone as a monument to celebrate a victory against Israel’s neighbors and perennial enemies, the Philistines. This stone is given a name, Ebenezer, meaning “Rock of Help,” for as Samuel says, Thus far has God helped us.

This practice of raising stones has several purposes. It marks a moment as significant. You don’t raise a stone for just any old thing. Raising a stone says, What has just happened, or what we have just done, is important. It matters. And raising a stone, creating a physical landmark linked to an event or moment – it proclaims something to the future. It says to the people, Remember this day. In Joshua 4, that’s made explicit: Joshua tells the people, When your children ask you, What do these stones mean?, tell them. Tell them how God stopped the river so that we could end our long wandering, and enter a new land and a new life. Raising a stone is both celebration and commitment. The stones raised in Scripture mark victory, revelation, covenant, deliverance. The stones say, Remember – and live accordingly.

The stone monument in Joshua 4 is all this, and a little more. Because unlike those other stones, this isn’t one large stone but a pile of stones, a cairn. A representative of each of the twelve tribes contributed to the cairn, choosing a rock from the riverbed and carrying it to Gilgal. The monument represents both a significant moment in salvation history, and the people’s unity in experiencing and responding to that moment.

Our Gospel story today is a provocative parable that a lot of people have questions about. I preached about it in 2014 and when I looked back at that sermon, I didn’t have much to add; if you’re worried about the girls who didn’t get to go to the party, I’d love to hand you a copy of that sermon, or point you to some other great commentaries on that text.

But I’m preaching on Joshua today because this text is speaking to me. I’m laying this story before us today – spending perhaps a surprising amount of time talking about rocks – because I feel like this year this story is a little bit about us.

What do these stones mean to you?

This story makes me think about our stones – the literal ones. Having this year’s fall giving campaign happen within the frame of our parish conversation about a capital campaign has made me particularly aware of the history inscribed in the buildings and land around us. The rocks of our walls – piled up in 1964 as the church was built – they’re rough blocky golden native stone of Wisconsin. These granite boulders – one, two, three – they’re glacial erratics, brought to Wisconsin from somewhere farther north by the Great Ice, and left when the ice melted away, about 10,000 years ago. I don’t know whether the one outside sits where the glacier left it. The two that form our altar base and our baptismal font were moved here from Turville Point, over on Lake Monona, the home of one of the founding members of this congregation. Visible signs of the generosity and commitment of Henry Turville and of all that first generation of Dunstanites, who piled stones together, both literally and metaphorically, in this place, to say, God gave us this beautiful place. God called us to be a church together here. Thanks be to God.

And this story makes me think about our metaphorical stones too. All the ways we each bring contributions and pile them up to build something together. Our pledges of financial support, sure, in this giving campaign season. We’re still in the middle of our campaign – hoping to gather in all pledges by next Sunday – but so far a whopping 68% of you have increased your pledges. I’m just staggered by that, and really hopeful about what that means for our budget and our ministries next year.

But there are so many other ways we pile our stones together, friends: All the people who will bake and decorate and set up and clean up for our much-anticipated Pie Brunch next Sunday. All the time and energy and art supplies and warmheartedness and commitment – on the part of teachers, parents, kids – that allows us to have Sunday school. All the voices of people and instruments raised in beauty and praise in our worship today. All the hopes and ideas and intentions and observations that have gone into our discernment and visioning work towards a possible capital campaign to improve our property. In so many ways, we become greater than the sum of our parts, by the alchemy of God’s grace.

I’ve said it before: In some ways this is just another year at St. Dunstan’s, and in other ways it’s a very unusual year. We’ve been growing slowly for a while but suddenly we’re at the point where some Sundays, we actually have to sit next to each other – and we might even have to start sitting in the front row! And we’re thinking big thoughts together about our identity and our future and our mission. This is a really exciting time to be rector of St. Dunstan’s. And also, a little nerve-racking.

What do these stones mean to you? We stand on the brink of a new chapter, uncertain what lies ahead, what we can carry forward from our past and what new gifts and new challenges we’ll encounter, wondering whether we are really many enough and strong enough and bold enough and faithful enough to follow where God is leading. The stones piled up by those who built this place, stone by stone, year by year, tell me, We have come this far by God’s help. And we’re still building – and building anew: piling together our contributions, literal and figurative, to mark this strange, holy, joyful moment of celebration and commitment. To remind ourselves to remember, and to tell the story of this time. And to be a sign to us that God keeps making a way.

Announcements, November 9

Tonight – Revelation Study Group, Thursday, November 9: (Rev 8-16) What are all these divine judgments for? What, if anything, does martyrdom accomplish? These are among the many questions we might wonder about in chapters 8-16. All are cordially invited to the study of Revelation this Thursday at St. Dunstan’s after Sandbox, 7-8:30 PM. This week focuses on Rev 8-16. Extra copies of the book in manuscript format will be available. There will be some historical orientation, but we’ll mostly focus on trying to hear the text together today. Fr. Tom McAlpine is facilitating.

THIS WEEK…

Childcare, Saturday, November 11, 9am-12:30pm: Looking for some child-free time? The middle school youth group would love to spend time with your child this Saturday at St. Dunstan’s. There is no charge, however, any tips will go towards our summer trip.

Men’s Book Club, Saturday, November 11, 10am-12pm: Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, first published in America in January 1885, has always been in trouble. It was condemned by many reviewers in Mark Twain’s time as coarse and by many commentators in our time as racist. But, according to Ernest Hemingway, it was the “one book” from which “all modern American Literature” came, and contemporary critics and scholars have treated it as one of the greatest American works of art.

Fall Gospel Fest, High Point Church, Saturday, Nov. 11, 7:00pm: Chris and Marian Barnes invite any St. Dunstan’s members to meet at their home at 6pm for snacks and fellowship, then continue on to this local concert. Tickets are $30 ahead or $40 at the door. Contact Chris Barnes at barnesmc@charter.net with questions, and read more about the event or buy advance tickets here: fallgospelfest.com.

Attending to Scripture in the Anthropocene, 9am, Nov. 12 & 26: “Anthropocene” – have you heard this word? In Nature, a top-ranked scientific journal, earth scientist Clive Hamilton writes: “[It arises]…from the new discipline of Earth-system science. Earth-system science takes an integrated approach, so that climate change affects the functioning of not just the atmosphere, but also the hydrosphere, the cryosphere, the biosphere and even the lithosphere…. [the] human imprint on the global environment has now become so large and active that it rivals some of the great forces of Nature in its impact on the functioning of the Earth system.”  Between services in November, Biblical storyteller Pamela Grenfell Smith invites you to listen and reflect on some key Biblical stories with her as people of the Anthropocene Age. What happens when we pay careful attention? How do they sound to us now?

Sunday School, Sunday, November 12, 10am: This Sunday our 3 year olds to kindergarten class will learn about the Ten Best Ways, while our Elementary classes will explore the meanings of the parable of the bridesmaids who didn’t have enough oil for their lamps.

Christmas Cards for Jail Inmates:  Christmas is a bleak time for those who spend the holiday as inmates of the Dane County Jail. Even a simple message of kindness can bring some joy and hope. 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 be delivered to inmates through an initiative of our sister parish Grace Church. Our goal is to complete at least 100 cards by mid-December.

Black Friday Craft-In: VOLUNTEERS WANTED, Friday, November 24, 1 – 4pm: This year we’ll hold our fourth annual Black Friday Craft-In, a free public crafting event. We can use all kinds of volunteers – whether your skill is sewing, woodworking, stamping, papercrafting, 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, and we have some Michael’s gift cards available to help you cover materials expenses. A new hope this year is to help kids make teacher gifts – your ideas needed! Sign up in the Gathering Area to help out, or email Rev. Miranda at office@stdunstans.com .

Revelation Study Group, Thursday, November 16: (Rev 17-20) When we look at Madison, Washington, Beijing, what do we see? Rev 17-20 looks repeatedly at “Babylon”. Do these chapters have any contribution to make to our vision? All are cordially invited to the study of Revelation this Thursday at St. Dunstan’s after Sandbox, 7-8:30pm. Extra copies of the book in manuscript format will be available. There will be some historical orientation, but we’ll mostly focus on trying to hear the text together today.

Ladies’ Night Out, Friday, November 17, 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 the Nile, a Mediterranean restaurant located at 6119 Odana Road in Madison. For more information, or to arrange a ride, please contact Kathy Whitt or Debra Martinez.

What Does Racism Look Like, and What Can We Do About It? Saturday, November 18, 10 – 11:30am, at St. Dunstan’s: Eliot Smith is a cognitive scientist who studies and teaches about prejudice and stereotyping. He’ll help us understand what racism is from the perspective of social science, and how we can begin the work of change. All are welcome!

Piece Be with You! Fall Giving Campaign Celebration Pie Brunch, Sunday, November 19 at 9am: Please join us between services for an all-parish potluck brunch celebrating the ingathering of pledges for our prayers, hopes, and financial pledges for our parish life in the coming year. We will enjoy fellowship, delicious pies, quiches, and other offerings. Please sign up in the Gathering area to bring your favorite pie or quiche. Thank you!

Sunday school, Sunday, November 19, 10am: Next Sunday, our 3 year olds to kindergarten class will learn about the Exile and Return, while our Elementary classes will wrestle with the Parable of the Talents.

United Thank Offering, Sunday, Nov. 19: Bring in your United Thank Offering Little Blue Box next Sunday. UTO has been a program of the women of the Episcopal Church for 126 years and has granted millions of dollars over the years – all coming from coins of thanksgiving being given over the year – then gathered together by parishes and forwarded to the national UTO Board for granting. If you do not have a box, there will be some on the entrance table as you go into church. If you would like more information about the program, contact Connie Ott.

Rector’s Discretionary Fund Offering, Sunday, November 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.

Spirituality of Parenting Lunch, Sunday, November 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. Childcare and a simple meal provided.

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

Young Adult Meetup at the Vintage, Sunday, November 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.

Thanksgiving service, Wednesday, November 22, 7pm: There will be a simple Eucharist service on Wednesday evening. All are welcome.

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 26, we will commend these faithful departed to Christ our King.

Help Feed the Students! Sunday, December 3: St. Dunstan’s is providing dinner for the St. Francis House community in a few weeks. We are asked to provide food for up to 15 people, and we are invited to attend worship with the students at 5pm. Rev. Miranda will be in touch to work out whether you want to drop off your food Sunday morning, or deliver it to St. Francis House and meet the students. Thank you! The students really enjoy the home-cooked meals supplied by area parishes or individuals!

Military and College Student Care Packages: The Youth Group is collecting donations during November to be included in care packages for military personnel and college students. There is a list of suggested items by the donation box. If you have a college student or service member who you would like a care package sent to, please provide name and address to Sharon Henes. The youth will be assembling and mailing the care packages the first week of December. Thank you for your support!

Bring Christmas Cheer to St. Dunstans! Celebrate what’s important to you with a gift that helps us decorate for Christmas and honors a loved one or a special event. Please see the red Christmas Flowers sign-up sheets in the Gathering Area. Write “Christmas Flowers” on the memo line of your check or on the envelope containing cash. Suggested donation is $25.

THE WEEKS AHEAD…

Capital Campaign Possibilities: Parish Presentation, Sunday, December 3, 9am: At this meeting, the Capital Campaign Discernment Steering Committee, along with our consultant and our architect, will present the ideas we’ve been developing in response to the hopes and needs that the parish has named over the past many months. This presentation – and your responses – will help us decide whether to move forward to the Study phase of the capital campaign. Please plan to attend! NOTE: The 10am liturgy will begin at 10:30 that morning in order to allow sufficient time for our presentation and discussion. If you can’t attend that day, look for materials to come out by email, on our church website, and by snail mail to those who prefer information by that route.

 

 

 

 

 

Sermon, Nov. 5

There’s a word that shows up sixteen times in today’s Scriptures. The word is “will” – the future tense of the word “be.”  “The one who is seated on the throne will shelter them. They will hunger no more, and thirst no more… and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” “When he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is.” “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.”

Will is a word that points towards a future.  Towards a fulfillment yet to be achieved. It’s affirmative, assertive: The things proclaimed ARE GOING to happen. But it also acknowledges that it hasn’t happened yet. The word – and all those sentences that hang on it – the word “will” asks us to trust. It asks us to hope. I think that hope – trusting in that future – is one of the things that defines a saint.

Somebody asked me last week, So when you say “saint,” Do you mean somebody who’s dead? It’s a great question.  The New Testament uses the word “saints”  the way we might use “members.” Saints, hagioi in Greek, Sanctum in Latin, means, Holy and set apart. People or things dedicated to God. The people in the church are saints, because they, we, are trying to follow Jesus together and live in God’s ways.

Over the centuries, the Church got pickier about who to call a saint. It started to keep the title of “Saint” for the very best, the purest, the holiest, the ones with remarkable, even miraculous deeds. The calendar filled up with days to honor and remember assorted Saints-with-a-capital-S, who had preached or healed or suffered or died for Jesus Christ. Finally the Church had so many Saints-with-a-capital-S that the calendar was FULL; so All Saints Day was created, as the overflow day, the day to celebrate ALL the saints who maybe didn’t have a day of their own.

And then the Church created All Souls Day, the day after All Saints Day, a day set aside to remember and honor the faithful departed, their beloved dead, who were NOT Saints-with-a-capital-S. Because people kept insisting that Aunt Mildred’s long life of kindness, commitment, and generosity was worthy of remembrance and honor too, even if she didn’t happen to get thrown to the lions.

What’s happened over the past few decades in the Episcopal Church, at least, is that we’re trying to get back to the New Testament sense of the word “saint.” We are trying to put All Saints Day and All Souls Day back together again. We still name and hold up certain saints, holy people who shined the light of Christ in their time and place by the way they lived, the things they said and did.

But as we hold up those named saints, we affirm the capacity for holiness, for extraordinary faithfulness, in the life of every Christian. They lived not only in ages past, friends – there are hundreds of thousands still. The world is bright with the joyous saints who love to do Jesus’ will. You can meet them in school or in lanes or at sea, in church or in trains or in shops or at tea, for the saints of God are just folk like me, and I mean to be one too.

So to return to the question, When you say “saint”, do you mean somebody who’s dead? – Well, yes and no. One important part of All Saints is remembrance – calling to mind and honoring those who have gone before us to be with God, and celebrating the way their lives have touched ours. But another part of All Saints is affirming our own call to holiness – that we mean to be one too. That’s why we affirm our baptismal vows today.

So when I say Saint, I mean people both living and dead; I mean people who lived extraordinary lives and ordinary lives. But there is a common thread: being called to holiness – and responding to that call, by living a life marked by love of God and love of neighbor. By being a person of justice. Of mercy. Of peace. Of hope.

I’ve been thinking about hope, lately – in fact I preached about hope just a couple of months ago. I said, Hope is different from optimism, the assumption that things will probably be fine, whether I do anything or not. Hope means that you believe some kind of good outcome is possible, and you’re going to orient your life and work and prayers towards that good. I said, Hope isn’t weak or fluffy. Hope can be solid like a rock or fierce like a flame. When the worst happens, Hope says, Oh yeah? The story isn’t over yet.

Well and good. But all these “will”s in today’s lessons – these big, bold, beautiful visions – they seem always to recede into the future. How can you draw line from present reality  to those holy and redemptive possibilities? The future of God’s promises often seems impossible, or at the very least, exceedingly improbable. There is good reason for discouragement. It’s easy to talk about hope. It’s harder, sometimes, to feel it. Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hahn has said,  Hope is important because if we believe that tomorrow will be better, we can bear a hardship today. But what happens to hope, then, when we don’t – can’t believe that tomorrow will be better? Or that the tomorrow that will be better is a long, long way off?

Christian hope, the hope at the heart of our faith, is different from ordinary everyday hope. Christian hope insists on the long view – clings to the conviction that one day, all things WILL BE restored and redeemed. And Christian hope takes comfort and courage from that promise, even though we know full well we won’t see it in this life. Christian hope insists that there’s always something we can do, however small – even if the only difference it makes is keeping our hearts and souls pointed in the right direction. Christian hope shines on even in the face of death and loss.

I’m not claiming a firsthand understanding of the fierce tenacity of Christian hope. For all the troubles of our times, my life has been pretty good. What I know about Christian hope, I know from the witness of the saints – those I’ve met firsthand, and those I’ve read about. Saints like Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

Bonhoeffer was a young priest and theologian, 27 years old, when Adolf Hitler became Chancellor of Germany. He became one of the organizers of a movement called the Confessing Church, which insisted that the charismatic Hitler was NOT the fulfillment of God’s intentions for Germany, as many German Christians believed. He was an early and vocal critic of the Nazi movement, including the persecution of the Jews, declaring that the church must not simply “bandage the victims under the wheel, but jam the spoke in the wheel itself.” Bonhoeffer’s life and writings have been an inspiration to many; I’m sure there are a few people here who know his work well – I am not among them. But I read an essay recently that contrasted how Bonhoeffer wrote about Advent – and about hope – in 1933 and 1943.

In 1933 – roughly nine months after Hitler’s election – Bonhoeffer preached an Advent sermon at a church in London, where he was serving at the time. In that sermon he evokes the image of a prison: Imagine the humiliation and punishment, the heavy forced labor, the inmates weighed down with chains and tears.  He continues, “Then suddenly a message penetrates into the prison: Very soon you will all be free, your chains will be taken away, and those who have enslaved you will be bound in chains while you are redeemed!”

Bonhoeffer is still young, still free, still placing hope in human history. His language of redemption here points towards the otherworldly and the ultimate.

That prison; the imminent approach of liberation and redemption – it’s all metaphorical, or at least spiritual rather than historical.  There’s nothing wrong with all that.  It’s the kind of thing I would say in a sermon. But it’s also the kind of preacherly language that quickly loses its power, its credibility, in the face of real evil, real suffering.

In Advent of 1943, ten years later, Bonhoeffer was in prison. He’d been arrested in April of that year, for his involvement with the German resistance movement. Back in 1933, he probably hoped it was still possible to turn the tide of fascism and violence in Germany, his home country. Back in 1933, he could still afford the luxury of metaphor.

By 1943, he has seen so much of the worst happen, in the violence and inhumanity of World War II.  So many lives lost, military and civilian. Evil is ascendant in the world. No metaphors are needed to call to mind bondage, pain, and loss. But Bonhoeffer hasn’t lost his Christian faith, his Christian hope. The focus has shifted, though. Otherworldly and ultimate hopes still matter – how could they not, when this world seems so marred and mired? But those distant, someday hopes can look thin and brittle from a prison cell. He writes about the hope of faith in a different way.

Bonhoeffer writes in a letter to a friend: “Life in a prison cell may well be compared to Advent; one waits, hopes, and does this, that, or the other… the door is shut, and can be opened only from the outside.” And looking ahead to Christmas, he wrote, “From a Christian point of view there is no special problem about Christmas in a prison cell. For many people in this building it will probably be a more sincere and genuine occasion than in places where nothing but the name is kept. That misery, suffering, poverty, loneliness, helplessness and guilt mean something quite different in the eyes of God from what they mean in the judgment of human beings – that God will approach where humans turn away – that Christ was born in a stable because there was no room in the inn – these are things that a prisoner can understand better than other people; for her they really are glad tidings, and that faith gives her a part in the community of the saints, a Christian fellowship breaking the bounds of time and space.”

The author of this essay, Jennifer McBride, actually read this text with women in prison. One of them looked at her and said, “He’s talking about us!”

(All of this quoted in McBride, Lived Theology, 220-21)

God’s redemptive love isn’t out there somewhere. It’s right here beside us, among us, in darkness and pain, in humiliation and the helplessness. And that’s where hope lives, for Bonhoeffer in his final years: Not in the shining transcendent tomorrow but in God’s imminence, God’s presence in the ache of today.

The saints the Church names as our models for holy living were not pie-in-the-sky Christians. They lived in the tension between the big picture – all will be well in the end; if it isn’t well, it’s not the end yet – and the real, nitty-gritty, demanding present. The hope that sustained them – sustains them; they lived not only in ages past! – that hope, that profound senseless Christian hope, hangs in the paradoxical space between transcendence, the holy gleam of the that distant City undimmed by human tears, and immanence, incarnation, God-with-us in all the struggle and hurt we bring upon ourselves and each other.

The word “will” asks us to trust. To hope. This All Saints Day, as we honor the faithful departed, that Christian fellowship breaking the bounds of time and space, may that profound senseless unshakeable Christian hope warm our hearts and strengthen our souls, and make us ready for the work of God’s kingdom that is always before us.

Announcements, November 2

Tonight:  Revelation Study Group, Thursday, November 2: “To whom does the earth belong? Who is the ruler of this world?” Fiorenza thinks that’s the question that drove the production of Revelation, and it’s certainly front and center in chapters 4-7. All are cordially invited to the study of Revelation this Thursday at St. Dunstan’s after Sandbox, 7-8:30 PM. This week focuses on Rev 4-7. Extra copies of the book in manuscript format will be available. There will be some historical orientation, but we’ll mostly focus on trying to hear the text together today. Fr. Tom McAlpine is facilitating. 

THIS WEEK…

All Saints’ Day, Sunday, Nov. 5: 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.

Piece Be with You! Fall Giving Campaign Celebration Pie Brunch: Please join us on Sunday, Nov. 19 at 9:00 between services for an all-parish potluck brunch celebrating the ingathering of pledges for our prayers, hopes, and financial pledges for our parish life in the coming year. We will enjoy fellowship, delicious pies, quiches, and other offerings. Please sign up in the Gathering area to bring your favorite pie or quiche. Thank you!

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.

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 26, we will commend these faithful departed to Christ our King.

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

MOM Special Offering, Sunday, November 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: toilet paper; heart healthy cooking oil; canned chicken; ketchup and mayonnaise; baking soda & powder, salt & vanilla; boxed meals; cake, brownie & muffin mixes; toothbrush, paste, & floss; laundry detergent; size 4, 5 & 6 diapers. Thank you for your generous support!

Falk Friends Pantry Prep, Sunday, November 5, 11:30am: Our partner school, Falk Elementary School on the southwest side of Madison, now has its own food pantry which is serving families well! However, cleaning supplies and personal hygiene items are still in need, as in most pantries. This year we’ll partner with Falk by providing toilet paper, feminine hygiene items, detergent, and other similar items for their pantry. Helpers of all ages are welcome to help pack our Falk Friends Pantry bags after the 10am liturgy!

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

 Helpers Wanted for our Pie Brunch (November 19)! We’ll celebrate the conclusion of our fall Giving Campaign with a potluck pie brunch at 9am, between our two Sunday services. This is always delicious and fun! This year we are looking for a few new helpers who can assist with decorating, set-up and clean-up. If you’d like to help, sign up in the Gathering Area or contact Laura Bloomenkranz.

Childcare, Saturday, November 11: Looking for some child-free time? The middle school youth group would love to spend time with your child on Saturday, November 11, 2017 from 9:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at St. Dunstan’s. There is no charge, however, any tips will go towards our summer trip.

Military and College Student Care Packages: The Youth Group is collecting donations during November to be included in care packages for military personnel and college students. There is a list of suggested items by the donation box. If you have a college student or service member whom you would like a care package sent to, please provide name and address to Sharon Henes. The youth will be assembling and mailing the care packages the first week of December. Thank you for your support!

Bring Christmas Cheer to St. Dunstans! Celebrate what’s important to you with a gift that helps us decorate for Christmas and honors a loved one or a special event. Please see the red Christmas Flowers sign-up sheets in the Gathering Area. Write “Christmas Flowers” on the memo line of your check or on the envelope containing cash. Suggested donation is $25.

Coffee Hosts Needed for November 26: Please consider being a coffee host and talk with Janet Bybee for more information.

THE WEEKS AHEAD…

Madison-Area Julian Gathering, Wednesday, November 8, 1:00 – 2:45pm: St. Julian of Norwich: 14th Century feminist? 14th Century heretic? No, although a reader might at first think so. 14th Century psychologist? Sort of . . . she understood the human heart and, through her sixteen revelations of Jesus, she understood the heart of God. Thomas Merton called her “the greatest theologian for our time.” Come to one of our monthly meetings and find out why — and learn about contemplative prayer. We meet the second Wednesday of each month. We’d love to see you.  For more information, contact Susan Fiore.

Revelation Study Group, Thursday, November 9: (Rev 8-16) What are all these divine judgments for? What, if anything, does martyrdom accomplish? These are among the many questions we might wonder about in chapters 8-16. All are cordially invited to the study of Revelation this Thursday at St. Dunstan’s after Sandbox, 7-8:30 PM. This week focuses on Rev 8-16. Extra copies of the book in manuscript format will be available. There will be some historical orientation, but we’ll mostly focus on trying to hear the text together today. Fr. Tom McAlpine is facilitating.

Men’s Book Club, Saturday, November 11, 10am-12pm: Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, first published in America in January 1885, has always been in trouble. It was condemned by many reviewers in Mark Twain’s time as coarse and by many commentators in our time as racist. But, according to Ernest Hemingway, it was the “one book” from which “all modern American Literature” came, and contemporary critics and scholars have treated it as one of the greatest American works of art.

Fall Gospel Fest, High Point Church, Saturday, Nov. 11, 7:00pm: Chris and Marian Barnes invite any St. Dunstan’s members to meet at their home at 6pm for snacks and fellowship, then continue on to this local concert. Tickets are $30 ahead or $40 at the door. Contact Chris Barnes with questions, and read more about the event or buy advance tickets here: fallgospelfest.com.

Attending to Scripture in the Anthropocene, 9am, Nov. 12 & 26: “Anthropocene” – have you heard this word? In Nature, a top-ranked scientific journal, earth scientist Clive Hamilton writes: “[It arises]…from the new discipline of Earth-system science. Earth-system science takes an integrated approach, so that climate change affects the functioning of not just the atmosphere, but also the hydrosphere, the cryosphere, the biosphere and even the lithosphere…. [the] human imprint on the global environment has now become so large and active that it rivals some of the great forces of Nature in its impact on the functioning of the Earth system.”  Between services in November, Biblical storyteller Pamela Grenfell Smith invites you to listen and reflect on some key Biblical stories with her as people of the Anthropocene Age. What happens when we pay careful attention? How do they sound to us now?

Sunday School, Sunday, November 12, 10am: Next Sunday our 3 year olds to kindergarten class will learn about the Ten Best Ways, while our Elementary classes will explore the meanings of the parable of the bridesmaids who didn’t have enough oil for their lamps.

What Does Racism Look Like, and What Can We Do About It? Saturday, November 18, 10 – 11:30am, at St. Dunstan’s: Eliot Smith is a cognitive scientist who studies and teaches about prejudice and stereotyping. He’ll help us understand what racism is from the perspective of social science, and how we can begin the work of change. All are welcome!

Black Friday Craft-In: VOLUNTEERS WANTED, Friday, November 24, 1 – 4pm: This year we’ll hold our fourth annual Black Friday Craft-In, a free public crafting event. We can use all kinds of volunteers – whether your skill is sewing, woodworking, stamping, papercrafting, 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, and we have some Michael’s gift cards available to help you cover materials expenses. A new hope this year is to help kids make teacher gifts – your ideas needed! Sign up in the Gathering Area to help out, or email Rev. Miranda at office@stdunstans.com.

Creating for a Cause, Holiday Art Fair for MOM, Saturday, December 2 (10am-5pm) and Sunday, December 3 (11am-4pm) in the MOM Food Pantry at 3502 Parmenter St. in Middleton: Come enjoy a wonderful art fair with local artists. The Brass Arts will perform holiday classics on Sunday from 1-3pm. Partial proceeds will go toward ending hunger. Entry is free! For more information go to artfair.momhelps.org.

Capital Campaign Possibilities: Parish Presentation, Sunday, December 3, 9am: At this meeting, the Capital Campaign Discernment Steering Committee, along with our consultant and our architect, will present the ideas we’ve been developing in response to the hopes and needs that the parish has named over the past many months. This presentation – and your responses – will help us decide whether to move forward to the Study phase of the capital campaign. Please plan to attend! NOTE: The 10am liturgy will begin at 10:30 that morning in order to allow sufficient time for our presentation and discussion. If you can’t attend that day, look for materials to come out by email, on our church website, and by snail mail to those who prefer information by that route.