Sermon, Nov. 11

Rut was born in a small town in northern Honduras, in central America. It wasn’t so bad, growing up – they didn’t have much, but her parents made sure she was fed and went to school. But as Rut became a young woman, life in Honduras was getting worse and worse. It seemed like everyone was involved in the drug business – big money and big risks. And gangs started to fight each other. 

And there was more and more violence against women. Honduras is one of the most dangerous places in the world to be a woman. Assault, domestic violence, and murder are commonplace. Ninety percent of murders of women are unsolved, unpunished. In 2014, a young woman named Maria Jose Alvarado, from a town not far from Rut’s hometown, was selected as the Honduran candidate for the Miss World contest. A week before she was to fly to London for the big event, Maria Jose was murdered, along with her sister, by her sister’s boyfriend.

Rut took note. She had a boyfriend herself, but he wasn’t good to her. He hit her, like a lot of men hit their women. She wondered if he would really hurt her someday – and if she ever had a child, how could she keep it safe? Then came the drought. Crops failed across Central America, including Rut’s home region. People began to starve. Men who had been cruel and angry before, were now cruel, angry and hungry. 

Rut’s boyfriend was involved in some bad stuff. Almost everybody was. Then a deal went wrong, some money went missing, and he disappeared. They found his body days later, full of bullets. Rut wondered if they’d come after her too, even though she didn’t know anything about his business. 

Tia Noemi told Rut, You should get out. Now. Tia Noemi wasn’t really Rut’s aunt. In fact she was the aunt of Rut’s boyfriend – but she liked Rut, looked out for her. Tia Noemi lived in Arizona. She’d married an American, an older man she’d met while cleaning his house. He was dead now, but she had her green card; she could stay.  She told Rut, Come. It’s not so hard. I’ll help you out. There’s work here. They need people like us. Here, you won’t starve. Here, you won’t be murdered. Here, you have a chance. 

Rut still wasn’t sure. It was so far to go! But Tia Noemi said, You have to trust God. God is working for you.  Rut had never thought much about God. But she could hear that for Noemi, God was real. God was good. Noemi trusted God, so Rut decided she would, too. 

It was hard to leave home, but Rut knew she had no future in Honduras. Tia Noemi sent her a little money, and her mother and a couple of friends gave her a little more. She paid a coyote to help her on her way, made the 2000-mile journey from Honduras to the border between the U.S. and Mexico. 

She crossed the Rio Grande by night, wading and swimming, grateful that the water was low. She helped another woman who was traveling with three young children, carrying a two-year-old in her arms, struggling to swim with that warm frightened weight. 

On the far side, as dawn broke, she talked with others who were making the same journey. Rut had planned to seek out American border patrol – she wanted to claim asylum. She’d heard you could do that: that if you were almost certain to starve, if you were almost certain to be murdered, in your home country, then the United States would take you in. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me! Everyone knows young women die in Honduras. Surely that was grounds for a claim of asylum.

But an older woman, crossing the border a second time after being deported, laughed in her face. You’re not an endangered minority, she said. You’re not being persecuted by your government. You’re just a woman. You’re disposable. 

In 2014, the U.S. Board of Immigration Appeals ruled that women who were at risk because of domestic violence and gang violence had grounds to claim asylum in the United States. In June of 2018, the Trump administration overturned those protections. Rut had no grounds for an asylum claim.

The older woman told her what would happen if she found border patrol. They’ll put you in the hielera, the freezer, she said – the brutally cold detention cells. Later they move you to the perreras – the kennels – chain-link cells, no privacy, no quiet. You’ll get a foil blanket to sleep with. No mat, no pillow. No soap. No toothpaste. Everybody is sick – the women, the children. If you ask for medical attention they tell you to drink water and rest. You’ll be there for months, and when you finally get an asylum hearing, they’ll say no, and deport you. Don’t turn yourself in. Better to hide. 

Rut found her way to Tia Noemi. She was out of money, and she had to do some things she didn’t like to get people to help her. But she made it.

Noemi’s apartment was tiny. She had a little money from her husband, but she’d hurt her shoulder and couldn’t clean houses anymore. She could barely afford groceries for herself, and sometimes had to go around to churches and community centers asking for money to keep the electricity and water on. But she let Rut sleep on the sofa – she was tired, so tired; she slept for two whole days. 

On the third day Noemi sat down and said, You can stay here, but you have to work. I can’t feed myself, let alone both of us. There’s a place nearby where they pick up workers for day labor in the orchards. They don’t pay much because they know you’re illegal, but it’s something. And sometimes you can bring home some fruit that’s damaged – Americans only like perfect fruit. While you’re working, you have to be careful, stay near other women; some of the workers will assault you if they have a chance. And wear a handkerchief on your face, so you don’t breathe too much of the chemicals they spray on the fruit. 

So Rut went out early the next morning and stood with other men and women, waiting for the trucks. She climbed into one, and rode to an orchard, packed in shoulder to shoulder with other undocumented workers. Climbing out of the truck, she didn’t notice the man who stood nearby watching the workers arrive – but he noticed her. His name was Boas, and he owned the orchard. He could see that Rut was new here, and that she was young. He took the men who oversaw the workers aside, told them: Keep an eye on her. She’s new. Don’t let the boys bother her. 

Rut picked fruit all day. By sundown, her shoulders hurt and her eyes burned from pesticides, but she had cash in her pocket and a heavy bag of damaged fruit to take home. As she climbed into the truck to ride back to town, someone pushed another bag into her hands: tomatoes, bruised and bursting but usable; potatoes, still dirty from the ground. Food. She clutched her bags tightly on the ride back to town.

Back at the apartment, Tia Noemi was delighted at what Rut had brought home. She demanded to know where Rut had been working. Rut hadn’t seen the farm’s name, but it was printed on one of the bags. Noemi said, I know about the man who owns this place, Boas. His parents were Honduran. He’s better than most. His father was cousin to my father. I’ve met him a couple of times, though he’s too important for me. His wife died a couple of years ago. He must be lonely. Listen, Rut: This is your chance to claim a new life here. Tomorrow is Friday – sometimes the owners and overseers drink with the workers on Friday nights. Stay for the party. Watch Boas. When he’s had a few drinks, get close to him. Show him you like him. He’s old, older than me, but that doesn’t matter. He’s an honorable man. If you become his girlfriend, he will make sure you don’t go hungry. Shower tonight. I have a blouse that will look good on you, and some makeup. 

Rut said, I will do everything you tell me. 

The next morning Rut waited with the other workers, feeling self-conscious in the low-cut blouse. But again, the other workers left her alone. And at the end of the day, she brought her bag of damaged fruit to the place where the workers gathered to drink together. Sure enough, Boas was there. 

Rut took one beer, drank it slowly; she wasn’t used to drinking. She talked with other women, and fended off a few men, and kept an eye on Boas, who drank one beer, two, three.

Finally she saw him leave the group, headed into a nearby shed, and she followed him, tugging her blouse lower. It was dim in the shed, and quiet. Boas heard her steps behind him and turned. She came close and looked up at him, making her eyes big; She said, Senor, how can I ever thank you for your kindness to me? Boas looked at her, long and hard. He said, You’re from Honduras. She said, Si. Si, Senor. He said, Do you have family here? She said, Only my Tia Noemi. He said, How long have you been here? She said, Five days. He said, What’s your name? And she said, Me llama Rut. 

Boas reached for her. Rut braced herself; she knew what she had to do, but she was afraid. But Boas only put his hand on her shoulder. He said, Rut, you don’t have to do this. You deserve better. I know Noemi. She’s a good woman. I’m glad you’re with her. And I know how hard it is, where you came from. Listen: There are a hundred handsome, strong young men out there, drinking beer and looking for a good time. If it’s companionship you want, pick one of them. Don’t come to me just because you’re poor, just because you’re hungry, just because you’re afraid. But if you can really have eyes for an old man like me, I’ll take you to dinner tomorrow, and we can see how things go. Now, go back out there quickly, before everyone thinks something happened in here.

Later that night, Noemi asked: WELL? Did something happen? And Rut said: No. But… maybe. He was kind. He didn’t touch me. He wants to take me out for dinner tomorrow night. 

The next night Rut wore an old dress of Tia Noemi’s, and brushed out her long glossy hair.  Boas picked her up and took her to dinner at a Mexican place, friendly, not too fancy. Over the chips he told her, I spoke to your father today. It took a while, but I got him on the phone. They’re doing OK. He sends his love. I’m going to help him out with some debts. 

Boas said, Rut, if you want safety here, if you want stability, I can give you that, if you marry me. I’m an American citizen; as your husband, I can protect you. You can have your own room and your own life. Maybe we can even try to bring your family here. I know I’m an old man. I’m not pushing myself on you. I just want to help you. You deserve better. 

Rut looked at Boas. She could see that he meant what he said. She could see that his eyes were kind, that the lines on his face were from laughter. She said, What if I want a real marriage? What if I want a husband who loves me? What if I want a house full of children? With you?

Boas and Rut were married two months later. Noemi danced at the wedding. And when Rut bore her first child, a son, named Obed, Noemi held the baby close and wept for joy. She said, I have no children or grandchildren of my own, but this baby shall be like a son to me. The women of the neighborhood would tease Noemi as she walked the stroller around every morning: How’s your son, Noemi? How’s your boy, old lady? And Noemi would smile. 

You’ll find a whole story of Ruth tucked into your Sunday supplement today – the one from the Bible, not the version I just told you. It’s a story about immigrants, asylum seekers. It’s a story about poverty and sexual vulnerability. It’s a story about chain migration and anchor babies. I hope you’ll read it.

In the Bible story, Ruth’s son, Obed, grows up and has a son, Jesse. And Jesse has a son, named David. David becomes the greatest king of Israel. And generations and generations later, another baby boy is born to Jesse’s lineage, a boy named Jesus. The Gospel of Matthew begins with Jesus’ genealogy, fathers and grandfathers and great grandfathers all the way back – and a few grandmothers too. Ruth is one of them. Named. Remembered. Honored.

Ruth’s story, the story of the Moabite woman who became the great-grandmother of King David, is one instance of one of the most pervasive and emphatic themes of the Bible, Hebrew and Christian scriptures alike: Be kind to the outsider, for there are no outsiders in God’s eyes. Your ancestors were strangers and wanderers once; therefore always extend grace to the stranger and wanderer, for they have a unique claim on our conscience and hospitality. 

Some voices in America today are spreading hatred and fear about immigrants, about those fleeing violence and desperate poverty, seeking safety and a better life for their children here. Last year we shared some stories of our own immigrant parents and grandparents, who set out on the same journey, and faced some of the same struggles; we remembered that we are here because of their hope and courage. But God knows that remembering our forebears’ journeys isn’t enough,  because humans have a tragic capacity to say, I’ve got mine, and slam the door behind us. That’s why God makes kindness to the stranger a central command and call in the holy texts at the heart of our faith.  

Let me be clear: I’m not saying that America is or should be a Christian nation. And I’m certainly not saying that Scripture offers a clear map for a reasonable and humane immigration policy. I’m saying that if we call ourselves Christians, then care for the stranger has to be a hallmark of our way of being: from the words we use to the news we watch, our votes, our giving, our letters to our leaders, our helping and hoping, our meeting and marching – it all has to begin here. With a people wandering forty years in hope of a homeland. With a young woman in a strange country, offering her body to escape starvation. With a baby born homeless in Bethlehem. 

A list of Scripture passages about welcoming strangers:

https://www.openbible.info/topics/welcoming_strangers

About violence against women in Honduras: 

https://abcnews.go.com/International/men-women-honduras-inside-dangerous-places-earth-woman/story?id=47135328

Announcements, November 8th

THIS WEEKEND…

Ice Cream Social, November 11th, 3:00 – 5:00pm: Let’s share an intergenerational event (and stories) with the Hassetts and discover what Miranda (and family) did while she was on sabbatical. You are encouraged to bring a favorite ice cream topping to share.

Hats & Gloves for Falk School: We are welcoming donations of new or like-new kids’ hats, gloves, and mittens, for our partner school Falk Elementary. Sizes needed are preschool through 5th grade. Hats should be warm & gloves/mittens are ideally waterproof, not just knit. Thanks so much for your generosity!

NO FOOD DOWNSTAIRS – IT’S MOUSE SEASON! This time of year, field mice often try moving indoors for warmth. While we appreciate our mouse neighbors, we do not wish to encourage them to share space with us. People often take food downstairs during Coffee Hour and leave it there, which attracts mice and other critters. Please, NO food downstairs for the time being!

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!

Annual Giving Campaign: We are currently collecting pledge cards from members, to help us plan our church’s 2019 budget. These pledges are for our regular staff, building, and program expenses, not the Open Door renovation project. If your household has not yet picked up a pledge packet or received one in the mail, pick up a blank packet at church or contact the office (608-238-2781, office@stdunstans.com). We hope to have all pledges gathered by Sunday, November 18! Need to check last year’s pledge? As you consider your pledge for 2019, if it would help you to know what you pledged last year, contact the office (see above) and Ann will get back to you!

THE WEEKS AHEAD…

Madison-Area Julian Gathering Wednesday, November 14th, 1:00 – 2:45 PM: We welcome everyone who is interested in learning more about contemplative spirituality in the Christian tradition.  We meet the second Wednesday of the month for a period of contemplative prayer, after which we discuss a reading from 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, ObJN.

Piece Be with You! Fall Giving Campaign Celebration Pie Brunch, November 18th, 9:00am: Please join us for a festive, 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. (Precut pies with labeled pie servers appreciated!) Thank you!

Our annual Black Friday Craft-In, a free all-ages crafting and gift-making event that we open to the wider community, will be Friday, November 23, from 1 – 4pm. If you’d like to help out, with a craft station of your own, or as a helper at somebody else’s station, sign up in the Gathering Area or email Rev. Miranda!

It’s Pageant Planning Season!  St. Dunstan’s has two winter pageants: The Christmas (Nativity) Pageant, performed on Dec. 24 at 3pm, and the Epiphany Pageant, tentatively planned for Sunday morning, January 27. All kids and youth are welcome to participate! Kids with speaking parts will be asked to attend one or more rehearsals.

Does your child have a special talent to share? If your child has a special skill they’d like to use in one of our performances (like music, stilt-walking, or…?), talk to Rev. Miranda & we’ll see how we can work it in!

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. If you are interested, talk to Bernice Mason.

Looking for Coffee Hosts for November and December 2018! Consider being a coffee host and talk with Janet Bybee  for more information.

Altar Flowers: November and December dates available! Honor a loved one or a special event with altar flowers. Reserve your special date by writing your dedication on the sign-up sheet. Suggested donation is $35. Write “flowers” on the memo line of your check or on envelope containing cash, or donate online at donate.stdunstans.com.

Sermon, All Saints Sunday

Welcome and peace to all of you, people of St Dunstan’s! Welcome to guests and to those returning from afar; it is so good to be with you. Welcome to that fellowship divine of the faithful departed, who are always with us but whom we call to mind especially today. The household of God includes people who left this earth centuries ago; people whose passed from among us recently, like Lou, Ginny, George, Jeff; and people who have just begun their life in this world – like the babies  whom we have the blessing of baptizing this morning. 

Not all churches baptize babies! Some churches teach that it doesn’t make sense to baptize a baby who can’t believe what our church teaches or even understand it. I respect that position, but it’s not how our church does things. We confess in all humility that if a real Christian is someone who can diagram the Trinity, comprehend the Incarnation, or explain the Eucharist… then none of us belong here. As Episcopalians, Christians in the Anglican way, we follow the church’s ancient pattern and baptize infants – as well as kids or adults who seek to join Christ’s Body the Church.

Our church thinks of baptism a lot like birth. There’s a completeness to it – a newborn baby is a whole person. And yet, obviously, it’s also just a beginning. That baby still has to be loved and fed and sheltered and taught and raised to maturity. That nurture and growth might happen in the family that shares the baby’s genetic material, or it might turn out that another household is the best place for that child’s flourishing – and the same is true with churches: some of us come to maturity in the church that birthed us, some find a new faith home. But either way, somebody’s got to raise that baby. Baptism, which is birth into God’s household, is just a start. When we, as a church, baptize babies – when I ask, “Will all of you do everything in your power to support this person in his life in Christ?” and you shout, “WE WILL!” – we are taking on the responsibility, together, along with their parents, godparents, and siblings, of raising that child to know and love God, and to find comfort and courage in a community of faith, throughout their lives. 

Let’s be honest, though: Churches are inconsistent at best in following through on that commitment. I’ve gone looking, friends, and from what I’ve seen, 

churches that understand nurturing faith in their children as a core part of their common life are few and far between. (I’m proud that St Dunstan’s is one of them – though we’ve got lots of room to grow!) Our prayer book clearly states that baptism is our church’s rite of full initiation by water and the holy spirit: a baptized baby is a full member of the church! Yet churches find so many ways to tell kids that they are only “junior” members. That their presence is disruptive or unwelcome; that their needs are secondary. 

What does it take for a church to live deeply into its commitment to raise its children in faith? I came back from my sabbatical, focused on intergenerational worship, with some thoughts. Here are few of them.

First, we grownups need to be extra mindful about kids’ dignity. Dignity – like in the baptismal covenant: “Will you respect the dignity of every human being?” And like in the song: “And we’ll guard each one’s dignity and save each one’s pride, and they’ll know we are Christians by our love.” Dignity is a tough word to define, though we all know what it feels like when our dignity takes a hit. Adults can sometimes forget that kids need their dignity tended just as much as grownups do – maybe even more. One weekend during my sabbatical, Iona and I visited a church in a big city that advertised a Sunday morning service where children “actively engage in the readings, sermon, and Communion.” The service began with a responsive prayer led by a child, a boy, maybe 7 years old. The only problem was, the microphone was attached to a lectern, like this, and it was too tall for him. So his mom had to hold him up around his waist while he led the prayer. At first I thought, Awwww. What a nice icon of an adult supporting a child’s ministry. But then, after the prayer, the boy and his mom walked past us on their way back to their seat, and I could see that he was furious. That was humiliating and uncomfortable for him. He was given a role, but he wasn’t given a way to do it that honored his dignity. 

This dignity thing is a big, broad general principal; it’ll take a while, and probably lots of talking and listening, to figure out all its implications. For example: I’m trying to get out of the habit of patting kids on the head. It’s hard because their heads are RIGHT THERE. But they’re not dogs; they’re people. And even with a dog, I’d give the dog a chance to show me whether it wanted me to touch it or not. Grownups and kids are different in important ways, but it can still be helpful to ask yourself, Would I do this to a grownup? If not, is there a reason to make a different decision with a child? 

Respecting kids’ dignity leads to a second core way churches can live into our commitment to our kids: By taking kids’ belonging and participation here as seriously as we take grownups’. One of the people I interviewed who really thinks deeply about kids and church, Sylvia Mutia-Miller, said, “The best way we can honor any person is to believe they are capable of things.” Kids have particular gifts and skills to contribute to our common life, just like grownups do. Our friend Sir Bjorn, who is a knight, talked about how in his organization, the Society for Creative Anachronism, they try to match jobs for kids to what the kids are good at and like to do. LOUD kids make good heralds. FAST kids make good messengers and gophers. KIDS WHO LIKE TO DO STUFF WITH THEIR HANDS make good Duct Tape Pages, going around to fix broken weaponry and such. 

Yet in churches we often assign kids jobs based only on age: When you’re seven, you can be an acolyte. If acolyting isn’t really your jam, or if acolyting is fine but you’d like to do more… sorry! This is something I really want your help to think about here, friends – kids and grownups. We can ask kids: What are you good at that you think would help our church and be a gift to us all? What could we do differently that would give you more chance to participate and contribute? That’s a good question for grownups who would like to be more involved, too! 

Finally, we raise faithful kids by filling their hearts and minds and imaginations with holy stories of justice and mercy, hope and courage. Gretchen Wolff Prichard, the amazing Christian educator who creates the “Sunday Papers” we use, says we have to avoid the temptation to offer children a “kiddie Gospel” of “Everything is fine.” Kids know everything isn’t fine, and pretending it is, is much scarier than talking about the truth. Writing about All Saints Day, Gretchen challenges churches to go beyond the message that we’re all saints, chosen, called, and sanctified – which is true! – and point out that living a holy life and resisting evil is hard, sometimes scary work. We need stories of someone small but brave, who prevails against evil with the help of friends and of a mysterious Power of Good. That reminded me of our Christmas pageant last year – who remembers it? Was the Devil involved? … What was he trying to do? He was trying to keep Joseph and Mary from getting to a safe place to have the baby, and to keep the shepherds from coming to welcome and honor the baby! (And who’s the baby?) And how was the Devil defeated? Yes – the people recognized him, and the Angel drove him away! Writer Boze Herrington says: “As much as kids need food and shelter, they also need stories to teach them that there are monsters that need fighting, and good worth fighting for.” The Church has stories like that – so many. Let’s keep telling them to each other. 

Who knows what a simile is? It’s when you show that one thing is like another thing, to help you look at the first thing in a new way. My friend Father John has a wonderful simile about baptism: He says it’s like making pickles. Can you just go pick a pickle? …So, then, where do pickles come from? You take a cucumber and you dunk it in brine – salty water, with maybe some peppers or herbs in it too. Maybe that’s like baptism! And then… you WAIT. It takes a while, but slowly, over time, the brine gets inside the cucumber and it changes. It becomes something else. It becomes… a pickle. Maybe that’s like growing up in church! Pickling each other, over weeks and months and years, by guarding each one’s dignity, and raising up each one’s gifts, and sharing holy stories that give us courage for the hard work of justice and mercy in our time and place. 

Poet Russell Brand says, “If we become the kind of people that can change the world, then the world will change.” May it be so. Amen.

Announcements, November 1

THIS WEEKEND…

Celebration of Life for Virginia DeGolier, November 2, 10:30am: All are welcome to attend the memorial service for Ginny and the luncheon to follow. If you would like to help with the lunch, please contact Connie Ott.

Men’s Book Club, November 3rd, 10:00am: Shakespeare Saved My Life: Ten Years in Solitary with the Bard – Shakespeare professor and prison volunteer Laura Bates thought she had seen it all. That is, until she decided to teach Shakespeare in a place the bard had never been before ― supermax solitary confinement. In this unwelcoming place, surrounded by inmates known as the worst of the worst, is Larry Newton. A convicted murderer with several escape attempts under his belt and a brilliantly agile mind on his shoulders, Larry was trying to break out of prison at the same time Laura was fighting to get her program started behind bars.

Annual Giving Campaign: We are currently collecting pledge cards from members, to help us plan our church’s 2019 budget. These pledges are for our regular staff, building, and program expenses, not the Open Door renovation project. If your household has not yet picked up a pledge packet or received one in the mail, pick up a blank packet at church or contact the office (608-238-2781, office@stdunstans.com). We hope to have all pledges gathered by Sunday, November 18! Need to check last year’s pledge? As you consider your pledge for 2019, if it would help you to know what you pledged last year, contact the office (see above) and Ann will get back to you!

Birthday and Anniversary blessings and Healing Prayers will be given on Sunday, November 4, as is our custom on the first Sunday of the month.

MOM Special Offering, Sunday, November 4: 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 a few current most-needed items: toilet paper; ketchup and mayonnaise; baking soda & powder, salt & vanilla. Thank you for your generous support!

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

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!

THE WEEKS AHEAD…

Ice Cream Social, November 11th, 3:00 – 5:00pm: Let’s share an intergenerational event (and stories) with the Hassetts and discover what Miranda (and family) did while she was on sabbatical. You are encouraged to bring a favorite ice cream topping to share.

Madison-Area Julian Gathering Wednesday, November 14th, 1:00 – 2:45 PM: We welcome everyone who is interested in learning more about contemplative spirituality in the Christian tradition.  We meet the second Wednesday of the month for a period of contemplative prayer, after which we discuss a reading from 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, ObJN.

Piece Be with You! Fall Giving Campaign Celebration Pie Brunch, November 18th, 9:00am: Please join us for a festive, 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. (Precut pies with labeled pie servers appreciated!) Thank you!

Our annual Black Friday Craft-In, a free all-ages crafting and gift-making event that we open to the wider community, will be Friday, November 23, from 1 – 4pm. If you’d like to help out, with a craft station of your own, or as a helper at somebody else’s station, sign up in the Gathering Area or email Rev. Miranda !

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. If you are interested, talk to Bernice Mason.

Looking for Coffee Hosts for November 2018! Consider being a coffee host and talk with Janet Bybee.

Altar Flowers: November dates available! Honor a loved one or a special event with altar flowers. Reserve your special date by writing your dedication on the sign-up sheet. Suggested donation is $35. Write “flowers” on the memo line of your check or on envelope containing cash, or donate online at donate.stdunstans.com.

MINISTRY UPDATES…

How’s the Open Door Project Going? The Open Door Project is moving forward! In September, we sent a Request for Proposals to five general contracting companies. Our interview committee met with our top three choices later that month. The committee strongly recommended moving forward with Findorff and the vestry passed that motion on October 1st. We are currently working with Findorff and Engberg Anderson (our architects) to finalize the construction contracts and begin planning for a kickoff next spring! If you have any questions about the Open Door Project, please don’t hesitate to reach out to Celia Fine, John Laedlein or Krissy Mayer.

Outreach Gift to Honor Those Killed in Pittsburgh: The Outreach Committee has voted to send $1500 (most of their remaining annual funds) to the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS), a national nonprofit committed to helping refugees rebuild their lives in safety and dignity. Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh was targeted for violence last weekend because of their support for HIAS.

Announcements, October 25

THIS WEEKEND…

Ladies’ Night Out, Friday, October 26, 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 La Mestiza, a Mexican restaurant, at 6644 Odana Road. For more information, or to arrange a ride, call Debra Martinez.

Inquirers’ Group session 4: Engaging the World, Sunday, October 28, 9am: This group is for those new to the Episcopal Church, as well as long-time members who’d like to learn more. At each session, we’ll discuss a short book, read ahead of time. Our fourth book is “Church Meets World,” by Winnie Varghese.  A leading thinker and vibrant presence at the intersection of church and world, Winnie Varghese explores the “what,” “how,” and “why” of Episcopal engagement with contemporary social issues. Several copies of the book are available for pickup in the Gathering Area, or you can buy it online in print or Kindle editions. It’s OK if you haven’t come to previous sessions. Just read (or skim) the book, come and join in! As Rev. Miranda is on sabbatical Fr. Tom will be facilitating the session.

Please Pick Up Your Pledge Packet if you have not already done so. Packets not picked up will be mailed out the week of 10/29.  Thank you!

THE WEEKS AHEAD…

Celebration of Life for Virginia DeGolier, November 2, 10:30am: All are welcome to attend the memorial service for Ginny and the luncheon to follow. If you would like to help with the lunch, please contact Connie Ott.

Men’s Book Club, November 3rd, 10:00am: Shakespeare Saved My Life: Ten Years in Solitary with the Bard – Shakespeare professor and prison volunteer Laura Bates thought she had seen it all. That is, until she decided to teach Shakespeare in a place the bard had never been before ― supermax solitary confinement. In this unwelcoming place, surrounded by inmates known as the worst of the worst, is Larry Newton. A convicted murderer with several escape attempts under his belt and a brilliantly agile mind on his shoulders, Larry was trying to break out of prison at the same time Laura was fighting to get her program started behind bars.

Ice Cream Social, November 11th, 3:00 – 5:00pm: Let’s share an intergenerational event (and stories) with the Hassetts and discover what Miranda (and family) did while she was on sabbatical. You are encouraged to bring a favorite ice cream topping to share.

Madison-Area Julian Gathering Wednesday, November 14th, 1:00 – 2:45 PM: We welcome everyone who is interested in learning more about contemplative spirituality in the Christian tradition.  We meet the second Wednesday of the month for a period of contemplative prayer, after which we discuss a reading from 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, ObJN.

Piece Be with You! Fall Giving Campaign Celebration Pie Brunch, November 18th, 9:00am: Please join us for a festive, 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. (Precut pies with labeled pie servers appreciated!) Thank you!

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. If you are interested, talk to Bernice Mason.

Looking for Coffee Hosts for November 2018! Consider being a coffee host and talk with Janet Bybee.

Altar Flowers: November dates available! Honor a loved one or a special event with altar flowers. Reserve your special date by writing your dedication on the sign-up sheet. Suggested donation is $35. Write “flowers” on the memo line of your check or on envelope containing cash, or donate online at donate. stdunstans.com.

How’s the Open Door Project Going? The Open Door Project is moving forward! In September, we sent a Request for Proposals to five general contracting companies. Our interview committee met with our top three choices later that month. The committee strongly recommended moving forward with Findorff and the vestry passed that motion on October 1st. We are currently working with Findorff and Engberg Anderson (our architects) to finalize the construction contracts and begin planning for a kickoff next spring! If you have any questions about the Open Door Project, please don’t hesitate to reach out to Celia Fine, John Laedlein or Krissy Mayer.

STAFF NEWS…

Clergy Office Hours: If you would like to visit with one of our clergy, they would like to visit with you! Father Jonathan Melton will hold weekly “office hours” on Mondays from 9 – 11am, at the MOKA at 5227 University Ave. Father John Rasmus will be at St. Dunstan’s on Thursdays from 9 – 10:30am. Father Tom McAlpine will be available on Thursdays from 1-3pm at the Starbucks at 3515 University Ave.

Sermon, October 14

Trust, Entitlement, & the Terrifying Possibility of the Second-Best Taco

Dev and Arnold are friends in a Netflix series I enjoy called Master of None. In an early episode, the two friends are shown wondering what to do next. Tacos, they decide. They’re going to go eat tacos for lunch. But there’s a big problem. An exasperated Dev explains the situation: “There’re so many taco places, we’ve gotta make sure we go to the best one! Let’s research.”

“Great,” says Arnold. “I’ll sit here and do nothing.”

Hours pass in a dramatic, condensed time-lapse scene in which we see a series of images from the “research”: Yelp reviews, Instagram posts, photos and hashtags, desperate texts to friends, “Yo! Where the best tacos at?” The agony is palpable and real. Dez cannot imagine not eating the best taco for lunch. Finally, satisfied that he’s found it, Dev wakes his napping friend to announce the verdict.

“Great, let’s do it,” says Arnold.

But tragically, by the time the friends arrive, the taco truck is closed.

Dev protests to the food cart owner who is in the process of closing up shop: “What are we supposed to do, huh? Eat the second best tacos in New York?

The struggle is real.

And not just for Arnold and Dev.

It’s seemingly part and parcel of the information age: that you and I can see and know and potentially have the best, like never before in history. There’s an app for everything, true, and, more specifically, most of the apps exist to help us purchase different aspects of our lives more efficiently. There are even websites that allow students to scope out and rate the best professors, maximizing experience, living your best life, your perfect life. Because what else are you supposed to do? Enjoy the second best taco? And if you can’t enjoy the second best taco, if you can’t be sure there’s not a better taco truck than the one you’re at, how can you be expected to be present, really present, to anything at all?

Poor Dev and Arnold. Poor us. But also, poor rich man today in Mark’s gospel; rich man who is in a lot of ways a prototype of our ourselves; rich man who is our forbearer in following and all its difficulties; rich man who is our ancestor in acquisition and all its attending anxieties. He’s asking Jesus about eternal life, but from the get go we sense that something about the conversation is off. He’s asking about eternal life, but the conversation reads like a checklist confirmation, like he’s providing appropriate documentation at the DMV in order to receive a license he plans to pick up on the way home from work or proving his qualifications to the bank, in order to secure the mortgage to finance his next venture, operating under the assumption that there is some combination of deeds or depository of reputation and respectability that would make him deserving of eternal life. That is, he’s bringing his righteousness with the expectation of a successful transaction. Now, he’s open to the possibility that he might not have enough (yet), but he is also confident that there’s nothing out there that Jesus might add that he can’t yet acquire and later contribute to the equation. But what combination of deeds is equal to life with God? It’s not just that the math won’t square, but also that the rich man’s attempts to solve the puzzle this way reveal that he can’t imagine eternal life as anything other than yet another material good to add to the ones he already has. Conceiving of life with God this way, as a prize to win from God for behavior, rather than a life to live with God, and – God forbid – supposing he’s denied this transaction, what’s the man supposed to do? Live his second best life now?

But what if eternal life, life with God, is not something acquired by grasping?

Jesus looks at the man, loves him in the midst of all that’s rattling on inside him, and invites him to acquire the one thing he doesn’t have: awareness of his own lacking or, put better, a sense of God’s overwhelming goodness. Trust this, Jesus says, and live your trust in God toward your neighbor by a generosity that is a kind of grateful echo of God’s own. Let your gratitude be manifest in generosity and so make space in yourself, in your soul, for the possibility of a living trust of the Kingdom of God.

Give away what you have. Not just the things, but with them the admiration and affirmation of others who conflate your wealth with your deserving. Give up your standing. Hold nothing tightly. Forsake false guarantees that isolate you from other members and other parts of the Body of Christ. Be generous, and be open. Risk needing help and risk being helped, both by God and those around you in the community of faith. Make room to be loved, even on the days you are sure you are a fraud. Do not be afraid to celebrate the riches and gifts of others, for they do not condemn you. Eternal life is not a game to win or lose but a gift to be received.

“You lack one thing,” Jesus says. “Namely, you don’t lack anything yet. There’s no room for gifts or grace or surprises of God in you. But wait, I have an idea: go, sell what you own, give the money to the poor, you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.”

The rich man’s response is uncomfortably predictable. All silence. “How terribly shocking,” observes Sarah Hinlicky Wilson, “to discover that, after all, you love [something] more than you love eternal life.”

How difficult to discover that the thing you lack is all you have.

The man is crestfallen, and the disciples are terrified. Once they’ve gotten out of earshot of the rich man they ask Jesus, “If not this dude, Lord, who can be saved?” Jesus’ answer gives hope, but it’s not a hope that backs away from the difficulty presented by wealth and his earlier invitation to leave it: “With God all things are possible.” Trust God, then, and not these other things. Trust God, then, and live your trust in God toward your neighbor by a generosity that is a kind of grateful echo of God’s own. Let your gratitude be manifest in generosity. Let your love be sourced in God’s. Rest in the love of him who, though he was in the form of God did not count equality with God as something to be grasped but emptied himself. Breathe this love. Receive this love. Let it be your balm and greatest confidence, that this love is for you. Walk in this love. St. Paul puts the invitation this way, in words so familiar you know them by heart: Walk in love, as Christ loved us, and gave himself for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

The Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard liked to tell the story of a man who owned a shop, like a general store. One day, it’s late, and the shopkeeper puts things in order and calls it a day. He closes shop and goes home. But sometime that evening, or maybe even deeper into the night, some thieves break into the shopkeeper’s store. Bizarrely, the thieves don’t steal anything. Instead, they meticulously rearrange all the labels, the price labels, on every item in the store. So cheap things now have four digit tags. And really precious things are made to look cheap. The next day, the shopkeeper arrives at the store and doesn’t notice the hoax. Nothing appears any less in order than it had the night before. From the shopkeeper’s perspective, protected from critical reflection by the mundaneness, the ordinariness, of the rhythms of life, it’s just another day. Then the customers start arriving. They, too, don’t notice anything out of the ordinary. Instead, all of them begin interacting, shopping, purchasing, exactly as they had on the previous day, but with the labels as they now are, as if the mislabeled labels reflect the true values of things. And they’re still doing this thing, misjudging the true worth of things, to this very day, still shopping in the store not knowing that none of the labels are true.

“You lack one thing,” Jesus says. “Go, sell what you own, give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.”

Amen.

Announcements, October 18th

TODAY AND THIS WEEKEND…

Campfire, October 18th, 6-7pm: Join us for our last campfire of the season! Join us for food, fun and fellowship. We will roast hot dogs and marshmallows. An experience you will not want to miss!

2019 Pledge Campaign: Our Fall Giving Campaign begins this weekend! We’ll be hearing a message about pledges and stewardship at both services today. Please pick up your pledge packets in the Gathering Area and prayerfully consider how you can help. THANK YOU for your support!

Tea Party, October 21st at 3:00pm: Celebrate all of the intergenerational friendships formed and all we accomplished during our sabbatical renewal season with an Afternoon Tea!

Young Adult Meetup at the Vintage, Sunday, October 21, 7pm: The younger adults of St. Dunstan’s are invited to join us for conversation and the beverage of your choice, at the Vintage Brewpub on South Whitney Way. Friends and partners welcome too.

Evening Eucharist, October 21st: This evening service has been cancelled. If you have any questions, please speak with Jonathan Melton.

THE WEEKS AHEAD…

Ladies’ Night Out, Friday, October 26, 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 La Mestiza, a Mexican restaurant, at 6644 Odanan Road. For more information, or to arrange a ride, call Debra Martinez.

Inquirers’ Group session 4: Engaging the World, Sunday, October 28, 9am: This group is for those new to the Episcopal Church, as well as long-time members who’d like to learn more. At each session, we’ll discuss a short book, read ahead of time. Our fourth book is “Church Meets World,” by Winnie Varghese.  A leading thinker and vibrant presence at the intersection of church and world, Winnie Varghese explores the “what,” “how,” and “why” of Episcopal engagement with contemporary social issues. Several copies of the book are available for pickup in the Gathering Area, or you can buy it online in print or Kindle editions. It’s OK if you haven’t come to previous sessions. Just read (or skim) the book, come and join in! As Rev. Miranda is on sabbatical Fr. Tom will be facilitating the session.

Celebration of Life for Virginia DeGolier, November 2, 10:30am: All are welcome to attend the memorial service for Ginny and the luncheon to follow. If you would like to help with the lunch, please contact Connie Ott.

Men’s Book Club, November 3rd, 10:00am: Shakespeare Saved My Life: Ten Years in Solitary with the Bard – Shakespeare professor and prison volunteer Laura Bates thought she had seen it all. That is, until she decided to teach Shakespeare in a place the bard had never been before ― supermax solitary confinement. In this unwelcoming place, surrounded by inmates known as the worst of the worst, is Larry Newton. A convicted murderer with several escape attempts under his belt and a brilliantly agile mind on his shoulders, Larry was trying to break out of prison at the same time Laura was fighting to get her program started behind bars.

Madison-Area Julian Gathering Wednesday, November 14th, 1:00 – 2:45 PM: We welcome everyone who is interested in learning more about contemplative spirituality in the Christian tradition.  We meet the second Wednesday of the month for a period of contemplative prayer, after which we discuss a reading from 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, ObJN.

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. If you are interested, talk to Bernice Mason.

Altar Flowers: November dates available! Honor a loved one or a special event with altar flowers. Reserve your special date by writing your dedication on the sign-up sheet. Suggested donation is $35. Write “flowers” on the memo line of your check or on envelope containing cash, or donate online at donate.stdunstans.com.

STAFF NEWS…

Clergy Office Hours: If you would like to visit with one of our clergy, they would like to visit with you! Father Jonathan Melton will hold weekly “office hours” on Mondays from 9 – 11am, at the MOKA at 5227 University Ave. Father John Rasmus will be at St. Dunstan’s on Thursdays from 9 – 10:30am. Father Tom McAlpine will be available on Thursdays from 1-3pm at the Starbucks at 3515 University Ave.

Announcements, October 11

THIS WEEKEND…

Museum Trip, October 13th at 2:00pm: Everyone is invited to learn together at the Chazen Museum on Saturday, October 13th.  Sign up in the Gathering space so we can let the museum know our numbers!  Please contact Sharon if you need/want to car pool.

Learning and Sharing: Boomers, Xers and Millennials on October 14th at 9:00 a.m. Understanding our generational perspectives helps us understand each other. (Facilitated by Debra Martinez)

Annual Buildings and Grounds Work Day, Sunday, October 14th after 10:00 service: Please dress in outdoor work clothes that day and plan on a light lunch and to assist in chores around the church afterwards.

Bread for the World Sunday, October 14thPeg and Dan Geisler will share about Bread for the World’s advocacy to reduce hunger in the United States and around the world and how we can be part of it. We are invited to participate in Bread for the Word’s annual Offering of Letters, to advocate to our politicians for programs that will reduce hunger in the United States and around the world. Following the 10:00 am service, those wanting to write their Congressional representatives may take letter-writing materials. Further information, writing materials and sample letters will be provided.

The St. Dunstan’s Youth Group is walking in the Trick or Trot 5k on Oct 14th to raise funds for GSAFE and its mission to create safer schools and communities for LGBTQ+youth of all racial and cultural backgrounds across Wisconsin. You can support their effort by donating at www.runsignup.com/stdunstans. If you would like to help fund their registration fees please contact Sharon Henes.

THE WEEKS AHEAD…

Campfire, October 18th, 6-7pm: Join us for our last campfire of the season! Join us for food, fun and fellowship. We will roast hot dogs and marshmallows. An experience you will not want to miss!

Tea Party, October 21st at 3:00pm: Celebrate all of the intergenerational friendships formed and all we accomplished during our sabbatical renewal season with an Afternoon Tea!

Inquirers’ Group session 4: Engaging the World, Sunday, October 28, 9am: This group is for those new to the Episcopal Church, as well as long-time members who’d like to learn more. At each session, we’ll discuss a short book, read ahead of time. Our fourth book is “Church Meets World,” by Winnie Varghese.  A leading thinker and vibrant presence at the intersection of church and world, Winnie Varghese explores the “what,” “how,” and “why” of Episcopal engagement with contemporary social issues. Several copies of the book are available for pickup in the Gathering Area, or you can buy it online in print or Kindle editions. It’s OK if you haven’t come to previous sessions. Just read (or skim) the book, come and join in! As Rev. Miranda is on sabbatical Fr. Tom will be facilitating the session.

Men’s Book Club, November 3rd, 10:00am: Shakespeare Saved My Life: Ten Years in Solitary with the Bard – Shakespeare professor and prison volunteer Laura Bates thought she had seen it all. That is, until she decided to teach Shakespeare in a place the bard had never been before ― supermax solitary confinement. In this unwelcoming place, surrounded by inmates known as the worst of the worst, is Larry Newton. A convicted murderer with several escape attempts under his belt and a brilliantly agile mind on his shoulders, Larry was trying to break out of prison at the same time Laura was fighting to get her program started behind bars.

Madison-Area Julian Gathering Wednesday, November 14th, 1:00 – 2:45 PM: We welcome everyone who is interested in learning more about contemplative spirituality in the Christian tradition.  We meet the second Wednesday of the month for a period of contemplative prayer, after which we discuss a reading from 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, ObJN.

Altar Flowers: October dates available! Honor a loved one or a special event with altar flowers. Reserve your special date by writing your dedication on the sign-up sheet. Suggested donation is $35. Write “flowers” on the memo line of your check or on envelope containing cash, or donate online at donate.stdunstans.com.

STAFF NEWS…

Clergy Office Hours: If you would like to visit with one of our clergy, they would like to visit with you! Father Jonathan Melton will hold weekly “office hours” on Mondays from 9 – 11am, at the MOKA at 5227 University Ave. Father John Rasmus will be at St. Dunstan’s on Thursdays from 9 – 10:30am.

Sermon, October 7

Clinging to Control (On Suffering, Entitlement, and Job)

Sunday’s readings. Can I be honest? The book of Job makes me nervous. I don’t like the idea that God would allow suffering in order to win an ill-conceived parlor bet with the devil. What’s the over-under on how long Jonathan would last? (Don’t let the Satan get wind of it!) God takes the over with Job. In a more traditional gambling format, I’d like to think I’d be given a significant point spread to cover, making allowances for the effects of parenting-related sleep deprivation. But then again, Job starts off with ten kids! On just those grounds, Vegas should give me better odds than Job. But I know better. I also know that suffering like Job’s hurts like hell. The sores and potsherds of today’s reading are just the beginning of his pain and the loneliness that comes with it.

Of course, the parlor bet need not be literal. It’s hard to imagine God having anything to win back from the devil, anyway. Instead, the exchange that begins the book of Job serves to identify the central question relevant for all that follows. Disappointingly, the book isn’t primarily interested in why people suffer. Instead, as John Walton observes, the book asks from the divine perspective if there’s such a thing as disinterested righteousness, that is, righteousness that isn’t in it for what I might get out of it; you know, righteousness that has its beginning and roots in God; righteous in which we sometimes by the grace of God find ourselves, like the old hymn says, lost in wonder, love, and praise.

My family and I are Calvin and Hobbes junkies, and there’s a favorite strip in which Calvin asks his teacher, Ms. Wormwood (named after the apprentice devil in C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters), what guarantee she can give him that the education he’s receiving will set him up for success in life. “Calvin,” she replies, “What you get out of it depends on what you put into it.” To which a visibly deflated Calvin despairs, “Well, in that case forget it.”

This strikes me as exactly how most of us imagine life with God and what it’s like. Like Calvin, sure, we might grumble at the elbow grease required of us, but we console and motivate ourselves (or don’t) with assurances of the payoff. As the life of faith goes, what we get out of it will more or less equate to what we put into it. We think.

It’s good news, bad news, right? Bad news, because we’ve got our work cut out for us, good news because at least we are in control of our fates. But it’s exactly that last part – the assumption that deserving is how God relates to God’s children – to which the book of Job makes its singular and strongest objection.

The book of Job means to shatter the idea that certain inputs will result in particular outputs when it comes to matters of faith or, put more crassly, that God is an object for our manipulation, that if you input faith and piety, God will output favor of a particular shape on you. You know the line. It’s the way of thinking that says that if things look grim for you, it’s because you messed up or haven’t prayed hard enough, your faith isn’t great enough. And, lest we dismiss that line of thinking as ridiculous, a few chapters from now, Job’s friends will suggest exactly that, in order to account for his suffering. It’s amazing the stupid things people will say in the attempt to regain control of terrifying things. If you suffer, you have brought it on yourself. If you prosper, you have likewise brought it on yourself. Neither inherently true. The attractiveness of this logic is that it locates you in the driver’s seat of your life. Everything that happens to you becomes a manifestation of your self-expression and unique identity and, along with these, your faith. One challenge to this logic, aside from the way it simultaneously creates a breeding ground for potential self-loathing and unfounded boasting, is that none of us decided to be in the first place, so the process of expressing one’s unique identity becomes a game of catch-up from the get-go.

If people have sometimes made habits of thinking about the life of faith in this way, give x, get y, the bad news is that the situation is not any better outside of, nor is it limited to, the life of faith. Consider the observation of professor Kate Bowler when she writes that

Fairness is one of the most compelling claims of the American Dream, a vision of success propelled by hard work, determination, and maybe the occasional pair of bootstraps. Wherever I have lived in North America, I have been sold a story about an unlimited horizon and the personal characteristics that are required to waltz toward it. It is the language of entitlements. It is the careful math of deserving, meted out painstakingly as my sister and I used to inventory and trade our Halloween candy. In this world, I deserve what I get. I earn my keep and keep my share. In a world of fair, nothing clung to can ever slip away.

In a world of fair, nothing clung to can ever slip away. As everything begins to slip away, this is Job’s dilemma. It is also Kate Bowler’s dilemma: as a newly appointed professor with a husband she loves and just-born child, Kate was diagnosed with Stage IV colon cancer at the age of 35. She writes

The treatment at Emory begins at the end of October. I am tired most of the time, but I feel driven to catalog everything and wring every bit of time for all it’s worth. I start to write. In bed, in chemo chairs, in waiting rooms, I try to say something about dying in a world where everything happens for a reason. Whenever there is a clarifying moment of grief, I jot it down. And then, in a flurry, I shoot it off to The New York Times, not thinking too much about whether it’s any good, but sending it because I have been infected by the urgency of death. Then an editor there sees it, and puts it on the front page of the Sunday Review. Millions of people read it. Thousands share it and start writing to me. And most begin with the same words, “I’m afraid.” Me too, me too.

“I’m afraid of the loss of my parents,” writes a young man. “I know I will lose them someday soon, and I can’t bear the thought.” “I’m afraid for my son,” says a father from Arkansas. “He has been diagnosed with a brain tumor at forty-four, which would have been devastating enough if he had not already lost his identical twin brother to the same disease a few years ago.” These letters sing with unspeakable love in the face of the Great Separation. Don’t go, don’t go, you anchor my life.

In a world of fair, nothing clung to can ever slip away. Evidently, Job’s, Kate’s, and ours is not a world of fair. And yet God is with us. If it sounds like too much, or not enough, we maybe have a better handle on the disciples’ confusion, disappointment, even anger these last few weeks as Jesus repeatedly predicts his own betrayal, death, and resurrection; his disciples insisting that a future so out of control cannot be saving. Or, maybe more honestly, that a future so out of control is just too scary to follow.  Of course, the news that we do not in a real sense control either God or our lives does not mean the end of our hope, but it does mean the necessity of trust; in a real way, the surrender of certainty creates the possibility of trust.

Which is maybe why Jesus keeps pointing his disciples to children and the poor, human beings beloved of God who do not need to be told that their lives are many times not their own; that they are left to the whims, and at the mercy, of others. As if to sharpen the point of this pencil further, Jesus will next encounter a rich man in search of salvation and, though their exchange, invite the whole Church to surrender whatever may remain of our sense of entitlement and control – for what can the possession of these mean in the hands of those who follow the crucified Christ? – inviting us to forsake our clinging and, with outstretched arms, discover with our lives generosity, trust, and the capacity to be surprised beyond the modest scripting of our imaginations.

After recounting in painful detail letter after letter from strangers happy to explain exactly why she was facing what she was facing, Kate Bowler writes to name the exceptions:

But many people write to me like family. “As a father, I am truly sorry.” “I’m a mother and I wish I could give you a hug right now.” They want to comfort me, but their experiences tell them that life is never fair. “I want you to know how much I’m praying for you and grateful for your faith. I’m sorry that we must say, like Job, ‘Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him.’” Yes, yes, yes. Yet will I trust in Him. I don’t know what the word “trust” means anymore, except there are moments when I realize that it feels a lot like love.

Yet will I trust in Him. I don’t know what the word “trust” means anymore, except there are moments when I realize that it feels a lot like love.

Amen.

Announcements, October 4th

THIS WEEKEND…

Celebration of Life for Lou Maher, October 6th Visitation beginning at 9:30am with Eucharist at 11:00am. The service will be followed by a light lunch. If you would like to help with the reception, please contact Connie Ott.

All Ages Book Group, October 7th, 9:00am: We will discuss Miss Rumphius, a picture book about choosing to spread beauty. Books are available in the Gathering Space.

St Francis Blessing of the Animals, 4pm, Vilas Zoo, Sunday, October 7, 2018: This year our Blessing of the Animals will be an opportunity to stop by St. Dunstan’s for a quick animal blessing between 1 and 2pm, with John Rasmus. John will be in the parking lot and asks that when you arrive, please get out of your vehicle with your pet for a special blessing.

THE WEEKS AHEAD…

Madison-Area Julian Gathering, Wednesday, October 10th, 1:00 – 2:45 PM: Julian of Norwich was a 14th Century English mystic whose theology was six hundred years ahead of her time.  She had sixteen revelations of Christ showing her the reciprocal nature of the bond between the soul and God, a bond that is based on love that is tender and co-operative . . . he wants us to be his partners. If that sounds like the relationship with God you long for, join us.  We meet on the second Wednesday of each month.  If you have questions, contact Susan Fiore, ObJN.

Museum Trip, October 13th at 2:00pm: Everyone is invited to learn together at the Chazen Museum on Saturday, October 13th.  Sign up in the Gathering space so we can let the museum know our numbers!  Please contact Sharon if you need/want to car pool.

Learning and Sharing: Boomers, Xers and Millennials on October 14th at 9:00 a.m. Understanding our generational perspectives helps us understand each other. (Facilitated by Debra Martinez)

Annual Buildings and Grounds Work Day, Sunday, October 14th after 10:00 service: Please dress in outdoor work clothes that day and plan on a light lunch and to assist in chores around the church afterwards.

Bread for the World Sunday, October 14thPeg and Dan Geisler will share about Bread for the World’s advocacy to reduce hunger in the United States and around the world and how we can be part of it. We are invited to participate in Bread for the Word’s annual Offering of Letters, to advocate to our politicians for programs that will reduce hunger in the United States and around the world. Following the 10:00 am service, those wanting to write their Congressional representatives may take letter-writing materials. Further information, writing materials and sample letters will be provided.

The St. Dunstan’s Youth Group is walking in the Trick or Trot 5k on Oct 14th to raise funds for GSAFE and its mission to create safer schools and communities for LGBTQ+youth of all racial and cultural backgrounds across Wisconsin. You can support their effort by donating at www.runsignup.com/stdunstans. If you would like to help fund their registration fees please contact Sharon Henes.

Campfire, October 18th, 6-7pm: Join us for our last campfire of the season! We will roast hot dogs and marshmallows. An experience you will not want to miss! Tea Party, October 21st at 3:00pm: Celebrate all of the intergenerational friendships formed and all we accomplished during our sabbatical renewal season with an Afternoon Tea!

Inquirers’ Group session 4: Engaging the World, Sunday, October 28, 9am: This group is for those new to the Episcopal Church, as well as long-time members who’d like to learn more. At each session, we’ll discuss a short book, read ahead of time. Our fourth book is “Church Meets World,” by Winnie Varghese.  A leading thinker and vibrant presence at the intersection of church and world, Winnie Varghese explores the “what,” “how,” and “why” of Episcopal engagement with contemporary social issues. Several copies of the book are available for pickup in the Gathering Area, or you can buy it online in print or Kindle editions. It’s OK if you haven’t come to previous sessions. Just read (or skim) the book, come and join in! As Rev. Miranda is on sabbatical Fr. Tom will be facilitating the session.

Postcard Pals continue throughout October.  If you are encountering any challenges with postcard pals, please talk to Sharon Henes.

Sunday Papers: For those worshiping with children: We always have copies of The Sunday Paper and The Sunday Paper Jr. for kids to pick up on the way into church (at the prayer desk on the right). The Sunday Paper is based on the lessons for each Sunday. It invites kids to color, draw, read, and wonder. It helps children to acquire a vocabulary of Scriptural images, and to relate the Gospel to the Old Testament, the life of the Church, and their own lives. Adults may find it worth reading too. You are encouraged to check it out!

Altar Flowers: October dates available! Honor a loved one or a special event with altar flowers. Reserve your special date by writing your dedication on the sign-up sheet. Suggested donation is $35. Write “flowers” on the memo line of your check or on envelope containing cash, or donate online at donate.stdunstans.com.

Looking for Coffee Hosts for October 2018! Consider being a coffee host and talk with Janet Bybee at (608) 836-9755 for more information.

STAFF NEWS…

Clergy Office Hours: If you would like to visit with one of our clergy, they would like to visit with you! Father Jonathan Melton will hold weekly “office hours” on Mondays from 9 – 11am, at the MOKA at 5227 University Ave. Father John Rasmus will be at St. Dunstan’s on Thursdays from 9 – 10:30am.

6205 University Ave., Madison WI