Sermon, Feb. 16

  1. Today’s Gospel – Continuing the Sermon on the Mount 
    1. The most complete sermon we have from Jesus.
    2. Shared in Luke & Mt – gotten from a common source whom Mark didn’t have. 
    3. What Jesus has said so far: 
      1. The “blesseds” (Beatitudes) – says, the people who are blessed, lucky, happy, might be very different people from the people who LOOK blessed, lucky, and happy by the world’s standards.
      2. He calls on those who follow him to be the light of the world and the salt of the earth. Living the way God calls you to live has a ripple effect on the people and community around you. Your holiness isn’t just for you or for God; it’s for others.
  1. Today’s portion: Faithfulness to the Laws of Scripture, of Torah. 
    1. Jesus: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfil. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished.”
    2. He goes on to touch on a number of subjects from the Torah – murder, adultery, divorce, vows, revenge, how to treat enemies – and says that he’s not here to throw out these core practices of holiness, but to call people to even deeper faithfulness. 
      1. Not just avoiding outright murder – a rather minimal standard! – but striving not to demonize or diminish others, and seeking reconciliation whenever possible. 
      2. Not just keeping your promises, but living with such integrity that you don’t have to make promises – if you say Yes or No, people know you mean it. 
      3. Not just disciplining your body to avoid violating your marriage vows, but disciplining your mind, heart, and imagination to fidelity as well. And likewise, taking those vows seriously enough not to end them lightly. 
        1. Jesus’ words about divorce here can hit some people hard. Pay attention to his exact wording: it’s really clear that divorce in this setting was something men did to women. And since women only had standing and security through connection with a man, divorce was terribly destructive for a woman and potentially her children as well. Jesus’ teaching here is really  about defending the vulnerable.
      4. With all these topics, Jesus says: Go farther – much father – than the Law demands. And in a specific direction – the direction of minimizing harm. Of mercy and integrity. 
    1. Notice Jesus is being selective in the elements of the Law he invokes here! 
      1. The 613 commandments in the Torah cover everything from faithful worship to just business practices, from acceptable foods to what to do if a dead lizard falls into your food storage jars. 
      2. Jesus teaches elsewhere that many of the laws of Judaism are not that important for the people of his new movement. 
      3. And the Church discerned early on that Christians didn’t need to practice circumcision or keep Jewish food rules – remember “Arise, kill, eat”, from a few weeks ago? 
      4. The parts of the Law that seem to matter most to Jesus – the parts he is here to fulfill rather than abolish – are the parts that have to do with how we treat one another. And not only our actions but our hearts – because Jesus knows what we all know: what’s in our hearts shows in our actions. 
  1. Next portion of the Sermon on the Mount builds on this – 
    1. Cut off this year by a short Epiphany season. 
    2. As in today’s passage, Jesus quotes the Law & then describes how his followers should live beyond the Law. 
    3. ‘You have heard that it was said, “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” 
      1. Quoting a legal teaching from the Torah. Clearest statement, Leviticus 24: “Anyone who maims another shall suffer the same injury in return: fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth; the injury inflicted is the injury to be suffered.”  
    4. “But” – says Jesus – “I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you.” 
    5. “If someone strikes you on the right cheek, offer the other one as well.” This saying is more famous in the version from Luke’s Gospel: “Turn the other cheek.” Have you heard that?… 
    6. It has a long history of being used to advise people to put up with bad treatment. To let bullies or abusers have their way. To be passive in the face of harm and injustice. 
    7. Does that sound like advice you want to get from Jesus? … Well, here’s the good news: Lots of people think that is NOT what Jesus is saying. It’s more interesting than that. 
    8. I did some research about this for our youth retreat last winter, and found some stuff worth sharing. I’m going to need a couple of volunteers… at lest one of you needs to be right-handed. 
  1. TURNING THE OTHER CHEEK
    1. Mt says, “If anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also.” Who’s right-handed? – OK, A, you’re the striker. B, you’re the person being struck; which is your right cheek? 
      1. A,  use your dominant right hand to pretend to strike B on the right cheek. Don’t actually make contact, just show us what you would do. So that’s a backhand, right? That’s a gesture with a lot of social context. Do you backhand a social equal, or someone you think is inferior?…. 
        1. It’s how you hit a child or a slave or someone you think is less than you. How a Roman soldier might smack a local peasant whom he thinks was looking at him funny. 
    2. So Jesus is talking about a specific kind of social situation: A superior striking an inferior. Somebody with power striking someone with less power or no power, with the intent to punish and shame them. 
    3. What do you think the powerful person expects to happen after they backhand this servant or peasant or whatever? … they certainly don’t expect them to stay here and ask for more! 
    4. Let’s continue our demonstration. If B here turns their left cheek to invite another blow, suddenly A has to strike with their open hand – it’s a different gesture, right? 
      1. (Dismiss volunteers!) 
      2. Look, it’s hard to be sure what these gestures meant in the distant past. … 
      3. But we have a clue in a Jewish legal text from maybe 100 years later, the Bava Qamma (8.6), which says that if a person slaps another person with open hand, he must pay him 200 zuz; if he strikes him with the back of his hand, he must pay him 400 zuz. 
      4. That difference isn’t about injury; it’s about honor. The backhand is more humiliating. Another Talmud text describes the backhand as a gesture of public shame. 
      5. Some interpreters argue that the open-handed slap – or maybe a blow with a fist – is more how you strike a social equal. So the person turning the other cheek upsets the social dynamics. 
    5. I don’t want to try to hard to lock down what this might have meant. But I do think it’s clear that Jesus is talking about a backhanded strike, a blow intended to humiliate; and that offering the other cheek instead of scuttling away would put the striker off-balance, both physically and socially. 
  1. There are similar arguments to be made about the next verses as well – the coat and shirt, and walking the second mile. 
    1. To unpack the simpler one very briefly: when Roman soldiers, the occupying army, were on the move around Judea, they were allowed to demand that Judeans carry their pack and equipment for a mile. Just, “Hey! You! Carry this!” Jesus says, If anyone – the “anyone” here is a Roman soldier – forces you to go one mile, go the second mile. Don’t just do what you have to do; go farther. Make it a kindness – a favor. 
    2. Like turning the other cheek, at first glance it looks like submission, like passivity – but when you think about it, especially in the context of the stark social divisions of Jesus’ time, these are actions that pose a subtle and uncomfortable challenge to the status quo. 
      1. In the letter to the Romans, Paul writes, “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” (Romans 12:20)
    3. The 20th century movement for non-violent resistance drew significant inspiration in this teaching of Jesus. What Jesus is preaching here isn’t, Just let the bad guys have their way. It’s responding to injustice and cruelty by visibly refusing to cede your humanity, your agency. And that, ideally, makes the oppressor feel uncomfortable and maybe even ashamed. 
  1. Jesus concludes this portion of his sermon with these words, more or less: “So what if you love those who love you? So what if you’re kind to those who are kind to you? Almost everyone does that. You are called to more.”
    1. I don’t think I need to unpack that – it speaks for itself. 
      1. It is one of Jesus’ teachings that nudges me now and then – and sometimes bites me.
      2. What credit is it to me if I love those who love me? So what if I’m kind to those who are kind to me? How have I loved my enemies lately? Where am I called to go the second mile? 
    2. Beloved in Christ, we live in challenging times, politically, socially, ecologically. 
      1. A lot of people are fearful, angry, or despairing…and with reason. 
      2. Between the climate crisis, global health challenges, and the travails of our democracy, the news cycle can feel overwhelming. Paralyzing. 
    3. Henri Nouwen, a great spiritual writer, talks in one of his books about responding to the news as a person of faith, of spirit. 
      1. He suggests that when there’s breaking news, we might ask ourselves, How does this call for my repentance anew? How does this call for my conversion anew?  (Here and Now)
      2. To use the vocabulary of our discipleship practices: How does this call me to turning? To metanoia, a change of mind and heart that bears fruit in a changed life? 
      3. What might disruptive kindness, subversive mercy, look like in the face of today’s challenges? 
    4. I don’t even have answers to these questions for myself, let alone for all of you. But I think they’re timely questions.
      1. For this chapter in our walk with the Gospel, when Jesus calls his followers to a paradoxical path of loving resistance, wherever sin shreds human dignity. 
      2. For this moment in the church’s year, with Lent around the corner – a fine time to wonder: is there something I might set aside for a season, to make more space in my life for turning towards mercy.
      3. And for this season in the life of our world and our country, when we seem in desperate need of more both kindness and more courage. 

 

Further reading…

Walter Wink on Jesus’ teachings about nonviolence:

https://cpt.org/files/BN%20-%20Jesus%27%20Third%20Way.pdf

A really interesting exploration of slapping in ancient texts:

http://www.jgrchj.net/volume10/JGRChJ10-3_Cook.pdf

Announcements, February 13

THIS WEEK…

Reading Genesis In Babylon, Thursday evening, February 13: Genesis 1-11 is the prelude for the Bible’s story, and in regular dialogue with the stories of Babylon. Abraham is said to have come from that region; Jews spent a generation in exile there. So, after Epiphany youth & adults are invited to a six-week study, reading three Babylonian stories (Atrahasis, Enuma Elish, Gilgamesh) and wondering about how Genesis 1-11 interacts with them. Thursday evenings 7-8:30 at St Dunstan’s, Jan 16 – Feb 20, Fr. Tom facilitating. The Reading Genesis 1-11 in Babylon series concluded with Gilgamesh on February 13—so no meeting on February 20.

Youth Group this Friday in the Parish Center: Middle High 5:30-7:30, Senior High 7:00-9:30. Pizza and snacks provided! Contact Sharon.

Saturday Book Club, February 15, 2020 at 10 am: Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens. Getting a copy of the book – I regret you are on your own. The Public Library has 300 holds on it, and it is not on the Book Club list. Perhaps not surprising, since it has topped the New York Times best-seller list for at least 20 weeks.

Sunday School at St. Dunstan’s: Our Sunday school classes for kids meet during 10am worship on the second and third Sundays of most months (February 9 & 16). We have three Sunday school classes: for kids age 3 through kindergarten, for grades 1 – 3, and grades 4 – 6. Kids are welcome to try it out at any time, and parents may come along too! If you’d like to get involved, contact Sharon.

Tree of Wishes: Back in May of 2012, a group of students whose families were experiencing homelessness wrote some of their wishes on ribbons – revealing that even among their family’s struggles, they have hopes and dreams. The Tree of Wishes is a traveling piece of art to raise awareness of homelessness and its impact on kids and youth. The Tree will be with us in February and March. Take a look and say a prayer for those experiencing homelessness in our community today.

THE WEEKS AHEAD…

Making Music Together at St. Dunstan’s: A Visit with Paul Vasile: Paul is a church musician, composer, and consultant. His expertise includes helping faith communities express their core values and theological commitments through music; expanding ideas and practices of shared music-making; and helping bring people with different backgrounds and expectations together around a common vision for making sacred music together.

Paul will meet with choir members on the evening of Thursday, February 20th; lead an open-to-the-public song and music jam on Friday evening, the 21st; lead a congregational workshop on shared music-making on Saturday the 22nd from 10am to 3pm; and worship with us on Sunday. More information is available on a handout at church.

We look forward from benefiting from Paul’s skills at helping us build musical capacity, confidence, and participation for all!

Safeguarding God’s Children, February 22, 9am-Noon, St. Dunstan’s Parish Center: Safeguarding training is required for anyone on vestry or who works regularly with kids and youth, and recommended for all regular church volunteers. It’s an opportunity to learn about how to help our church be a safe environment for kids and youth.  To register for one of the classes visit this website (make sure you register for the Madison location): http://www.diomil.org/safeguarding-gods-children-class-with-trainer/

For more information on Safeguarding classes and the Safe Church Program, please visit the Safe Church page on the diocesan website.

Shrove Tuesday Pancake Supper, Tuesday, February 25, 5:00 – 6:30pm: Tasty food and intergenerational fellowship! We’ll gather at 5:00pm with prayer and song, share a meal, and mark the turning season by burying Alleluias. Friends welcome! Suggested donation of $5 per adult, $10 per household. Kids eat free. All proceeds go to support the St. Dunstan’s Campership Fund, which helps cover costs for St. Dunstan’s kids to attend Camp Webb, our diocesan summer camp.

Chris Barnes is organizing helpers for the meal this year. Sign up in the Gathering Area to help with setup, food prep, or cleanup; talk with Chris at church; or email and we’ll put you in touch!

Ash Wednesday services will be at noon, 4pm, and 7pm on Wednesday, February 26. The 4pm service is especially intended for kids and families.

Ladies Night Out, February 28 at 6pm:  All ladies from the church are welcome to gather at the Olive Garden, 7017 Mineral Point Rd. Consider joining us for food and conversation.

Stewarding Land for Justice, Creation Care, and Evangelism, Sunday, March 1, 9am: Rev. Miranda and Carrie Tolejano recently participated in the kickoff retreat for the ChurchLands learning cohort, a pilot program to help Episcopal churches reflect on how to use their land. Interested? Come hear some highlights of what we talked about, and how you might be part of the conversation at St. Dunstan’s in the months ahead!

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

DIOCESAN LIFE…

Camp Webb 2020 (June 21-27) is accepting applications now! Camp Webb is an outdoor ministry of the Episcopal Diocese of Milwaukee, for children and youth grades 3 through senior high. It is held at a camp outside Elkhorn, WI. Camp tuition is $400, with a deposit of $100 due at the time of registration. St. Dunstan’s offers $150 in aid to all our campers, with additional assistance possible; contact Rev. Miranda () or our treasure Val McAuliffe () for financial assistance. Camp Webb usually fills up, so register soon! Use this link:

http://www.diomil.org/mission-and-ministry/children-and-youth-ministries/camp-webb/?fbclid=IwAR1ddRDpmAdFIEOhLgkNTLaKuf_RqvllYA86OJk-hLrcAoIXrLgQPQxiFJ8

Diocesan Prayer as we search for the 12th Bishop of the Diocese of Milwaukee: Gracious and loving God in whom we live and move and have our being: we pray for your guidance and wisdom that we may faithfully follow your calling in our lives and as we as the Diocese of Milwaukee discern the calling of our twelfth bishop. We give you thanks for the ministry of Bishop Miller and his family, especially for the health that has been brought to our diocese through his leadership. We pray for those whom you have called to serve on our Standing, Search, and Transition Committees, and for those who will respond to your call to enter into discernment with us to be our next bishop. Give us all listening and prayerful hearts for this most important task. This we ask in the name of the One who said, “Come, follow me.” Amen.

Sermon, Feb. 9

Are you grieving today, weighed down with loss? Are you timid, fearful; do you struggle to speak up for yourself and find what you need? Is your yearning for justice eating you up inside? You are LUCKY! You are HAPPY! You are BLESSED! 

Jesus is standing on a mountaintop – or at least a hilltop – and preaching about what it means to live a holy life. There’s surely an intentional echo here of Moses on Mount Sinai, receiving the Ten Commandments, and teaching Israel how God calls them to live. And just as holy laws of the Torah called Israel to live differently than neighboring peoples, so too do Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount.

There’s a lot here that did not align with conventional wisdom and cultural norms. Our Bible translation – most Bible translations – begin each of these lines with “Blessed.” But the Greek word there can just as easily be translated as Happy or Lucky.  I like that translation, because I think Jesus is being provocative at least as much as he’s being pious, here. In Luke’s version of this sermon, Jesus seems to call out the people in the crowd who are laughing – because these teachings make no sense!

The poor? The meek? The lost and lonely? The merciful and the peacemakers – those softies and suckers? Those wingnuts who won’t stop talking about justice, who get themselves arrested or beaten for what they believe is right? Lucky. Happy. Blessed. Every last one of them.  What nonsense. 

Holy nonsense, divine foolishness, is a big theme in the early chapters of Paul’s letter to the church in Corinth. In chapter 1 he writes: God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom. (1 Cor 1:25) In chapter 2 he urges, Your faith must not rest on human wisdom, but on the power of God. (1 Cor 2:5) And in chapter 3, he concludes, The wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. (1 Cor 3:19)

On one level, Paul is concerned that other Christian teachers who have visited Corinth may be taking liberties with the Gospel – and getting away with it because they are such eloquent speakers. The people don’t realize that they’re changing the message because they sound so smart. Paul says, Just because somebody SOUNDS wise and insightful doesn’t meany they are. Bad and wrong things can be preached in beautiful, persuasive words. History certainly justifies his concern. 

At a deeper level, though, Paul is pointing to the paradox at the heart of Christianity: Christ crucified and risen. The one we call Savior and Lord was executed by the government. Not much of a Messiah! And then – we claim – he came back from the dead. Everyone knows that’s impossible. 

Paul doesn’t try to make Christian faith palatable to intellectuals. He says, Yes, it’s nonsense – holy, necessary nonsense. Look, says Paul: God’s wisdom seems like foolishness to human understanding – to the people of this age – but it carries deep truth, and profound hope. If you think you are wise, maybe you need more holy foolishness – to understand what Jesus said and did, and begin the lifelong work of following him and growing into his likeness. 

Who here reads romance novels and is willing to admit it? 

The popular image of romance novels is of mediocre writing, formulaic plots, and probably overblown, cringey descriptions of hugging and kissing. They’re seen as frivolous and escapist. How could romance novels accomplish any good in the world?

Let me tell you a story – a story about one of the most successful romance novel writers of all time. Her name was Ida Cook, though she wrote under the name Mary Burchell. 

Ida was born in England in 1904, to a happy, affectionate family. She and her older sister, Louise, were fast friends and lifelong companions. Biographers note that both sisters were notably plain. As young women, they shared an apartment in London and worked at clerical jobs. In 1923, they discovered opera, and fell in love with it. They bought a gramophone, and started attending operas whenever they could. They became superfans of some of the great opera stars of the day – writing fan letters and waiting outside stage doors for autographs. How feminine. How frivolous. How foolish. 

One of their faves was an opera singer named Amelita Galli-Curci. They wrote to her telling her they planned to save up for two years to come to New York and hear her sing. She wrote back, promising them free tickets to ALL her operas if they could get there! So, of course, they saved up and made it to the Big Apple. 

They became friends with Galli-Curci, and started meeting other opera stars too. 

Meanwhile, Ida writes an article for a sewing magazine about the dress she made for their New York trip. Then she starts writing and publishing short romantic stories… and then she’s invited to start writing for Mills and Boon, the major romance publisher in the UK. (Think Harlequin!) She’s good at it, and suddenly she’s making pretty good money.

Naturally, the sisters use that money to travel and see more opera all over Europe, especially in Germany. In 1934 they’re in Germany when a singer they know introduces them to another woman, asking the Cooks to look after her, since she’s traveling to England soon. Of course they agree. When they ask their new friend why she’s moving to England, she explains, “I’m Jewish – didn’t you know?”

Ida and Louise learn about what’s happening in Germany. The growing pressure on the Jews, the rising tide of danger and fear. Jews who can afford to leave, and have connections or opportunities abroad, are getting out. And Ida has a realization. She thinks about all the money she is making with her novels – and she realizes she could be using it to save lives. 

It’s hard to look back on now, knowing what we know, but both Britain and the United States were reluctant to accept Jewish refugees. They didn’t make it easy. To leave Germany for Britain at this point, in the mid-1930s, you needed to have proven income or cash reserves. The question wasn’t whether you were in mortal danger in your home country, but whether you would be a drain on public resources when you arrived. Practically, you needed someone in England to be your guarantor – to attest that you had resources and would be provided for.  

Ida starts using her book money to guarantee as many people as she can. And as requests for help start to stream in, the sisters organize friends to donate funds or be guarantors themselves. Ida buys an apartment where newly-arrived refugees can stay while getting settled in. The sisters keep traveling to Germany on weekends, to hear opera performances… and to connect with those seeking to leave the country, and help them along. They make heartbreaking decisions about who they can help, then work to get their visas through the British immigration system. 

Often, on their return journeys, they carried with them jewelry and other small, high-value goods belonging to the Jews they hoped to help leave Germany for England.The smuggling was necessary because Germany wouldn’t let Jews take their assets with them when they left; but they would certainly need assets to begin their new life in Britain. The smuggling was effective because people tended to ignore and underestimate Ida and Louise. One biographer describes them as “plain and anonymous in their tatty cardigans and Woolworth glass beads.” (Carpenter) Margaret Talbot writes, “The underestimation of women, especially women who might be dismissed on the basis of their looks, was a resource that Ida and Louise deployed for enormous good.” 

Talbot describes one case in which Ida and Louise were smuggling home a lot of valuable jewelry on behalf of a woman named Alice, who hoped to rejoin her jewels in England shortly. The sisters had a very anxious half-hour when German SS officers boarded the train at the German border to look for Jews trying to escape Nazi Germany. They had a plan: IF the SS men asked them to open their handbags, they were going to do their “nervous British spinster act and insist, quite simply, that we always took our valuables with us, because we didn’t trust anyone with whom we could leave them at home.” (Cook quoted in Talbot) 

Talbot writes, “The Cooks had found that telling a lie that made them look meek and foolish was sometimes their best bet.” Meek and foolish… In this case, looking like ordinary, plain, middle-aged, middle-class white women did the trick, and the SS left them alone. 

The situation in Germany continues to deteriorate. Visas are harder and harder to get. People are disappearing before the Cooks can help them. Ida writes, “We cried, of course. And then we would start again. What else could we do?” She spends more and more time writing; the more books she publishes, the more money, the more lives she can save. As paths to escape become more and more scarce, the sisters speak at church groups; they hassle their friends; they approach strangers in restaurants. Always the message is: People are dying. If we pool our funds and guarantee them someplace to live, we might be able to get them out. 

Ida’s persistence and passion sometimes shake loose possibilities against all odds. In the Twitter thread that first brought Ida to my attention, John Bull writes that in August 1939, Ida received a letter from a Polish Jewish boy being held in a detention camp in Poland. He was on a waiting list to enter the United States, meaning he had a chance to get a visa to enter Britain on the way. But he was number 16500 or so on that waiting list – meaning it might be three years. People were already dying of starvation and disease all around him; he knew he did not have three years. 

Europe is on the brink of war. There is not a moment to lose. Ida finds a church group that will agree to take him in; she scrapes together the money to serve as his guarantee. She goes to the Immigration Office to organize his visa, and talks to the clerk who normally handles her cases.  “The woman looks aghast: They can’t give this kid a visa. New rules as of yesterday. Only people number 16,000 on the US list or under [can get visas.] Ida tells her that this kid will die if they don’t get him out. They need to do something. Then the clerk comes up with a plan and tells Ida to trust her. ‘Go home, and take this with you,’ she says, handing Ida the completed and signed application form. The next day, Ida gets an official letter from the clerk: ‘Please submit the missing paperwork we finalized three days ago.’ The clerk had found a way around the rule change: fudging the date on the application so it looked like it was filed before the new rules. The visa goes through. The child escapes – on the last boat of child refugees that is allowed to leave Poland. The last life the Cooks manage to save. 

Ida and Louse were directly involved in 29 emigration cases, many of which were families. They were indirectly involved in many others, as well. 

Bull writes, “Ida and Louise weren’t special. They were normal people and, by Ida’s own admission, terrified almost every step of the way. But once they had their eyes opened to what was happening, they knew they had to help. And Ida worked hard to try and make others see that too.” Ida herself wrote, “Terrified, agonized need can be ignored if it is attached only to a name on paper. Change [that] to a human who stammers out a frantic story, weeps difficult tears and asks for nothing but hopes for everything, and show me the ordinary person who can refuse.”

I want to be clear that one heart-warming story does not redeem the Holocaust. Mary and Ida saved perhaps fifty people. Hitler and those who went along with his regime murdered perhaps 11 million. This isn’t a story about how everyday heroism and moral courage can turn the tide of history – though I have to believe that sometimes it can. This is a story about how everyday heroism and moral courage might make a tiny difference, here and there; and helps us keep our souls, no matter the circumstances. 

Where is wisdom and where is foolishness, in Ida’s life and times? The wisdom of this age is found in quotas and fees and forms, bureaucratic barriers and waiting lists. The whole apparatus that made it harder and harder and finally impossible for Jews to flee Hitler’s final solution. All rational, modern, and deadly. 

Holy foolishness shows up in the subversive, strategic meekness of two ordinary, extraordinary middle-aged opera fans using romance novel royalties to save one life, and another, and another. 

For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom. 

The Reverend Marcus Halley, dean of Formation for the Episcopal Church in Connecticut, wrote recently: “To be Baptized is to … be brought into a way of life that is meant to pull a little more of the Kingdom of God into this world. We pray it in the Lord’s Prayer and are called to let it *happen* in us. Our vocation… might look like a ministry within the church, but most likely it will be a ministry somewhere deep behind enemy lines in God’s world…  Wherever sin shreds human dignity, there is room for God’s people to exercise their vocation of healing, mending, and making whole… I want the Church to offer everyday, ordinary people an opportunity to do the extraordinary.” 

Those wingnuts who won’t stop talking about justice, who approach strangers in restaurants about their cause, who smuggle jewels in their pocketbooks? The poor? The meek? The lost and lonely? The merciful and the peacemakers – the softies and the suckers? Those who mourn – the ones who can’t look away, who refuse to get numb, the sad ones, the angry ones? 

Lucky. Happy. Blessed. Every last one of them. What nonsense. May we all be so foolish. 

 

More on Ida Cook:

John Bull’s Twitter thread: 

https://twitter.com/garius/status/1220711078100897793

Louise Carpenter in Granta: 

https://granta.com/ida-and-louise/

Margaret Talbot in the New Yorker:

https://www.newyorker.com/books/second-read/ida-and-louise-cook-two-unusual-heroines-of-the-second-world-war

The Rev. Marcus Halley on what church could be: 

https://twitter.com/word_made_FRESH/status/1220786885892747264

Announcements, February 6

THIS WEEK…

Reading Genesis In Babylon, Thursday evening, February 6: Genesis 1-11 is the prelude for the Bible’s story, and in regular dialogue with the stories of Babylon. Abraham is said to have come from that region; Jews spent a generation in exile there. So, after Epiphany youth & adults are invited to a six-week study, reading three Babylonian stories (Atrahasis, Enuma Elish, Gilgamesh) and wondering about how Genesis 1-11 interacts with them. Thursday evenings 7-8:30 at St Dunstan’s, Jan 16 – Feb 20, Fr. Tom facilitating. Texts: Gen 1-11, Myths from Mesopotamia translated by Stephanie Dalley, revised edition (Oxford University Press, 2000) – available cheaply online; we’ll also have several copies available to borrow.

This Thursday, February 6, we are finishing with The Creation Epic (pp 228ff). Next week, the first of two weeks on the Epic of Gilgamesh (pp 39ff).

Youth Group this Friday in the Parish Center: Middle High 5:30-7:30, Senior High 7:00-9:30. Pizza and snacks provided! Contact Sharon.

Sunday School at St. Dunstan’s: Our Sunday school classes for kids meet during 10am worship on the second and third Sundays of most months (February 9 & 16). We have three Sunday school classes: for kids age 3 through kindergarten, for grades 1 – 3, and grades 4 – 6. Kids are welcome to try it out at any time, and parents may come along too! If you’d like to get involved, contact Sharon Henes.

Deep Listening Training, 5 – 7PM, Sunday, Feb. 9: This training is for people who wish to learn how to deepen their presence with friends, family, clients, students, etc. The training is experiential, interactive, and practical. It draws on evidence-based approaches (especially Motivational Interviewing) to invite people into new ways of relating to one another. This training is especially good for folx in helping professions (ministry, health care, teaching, social work, advising), folx who offer emotional support to people in their lives, and folx who are drawn to ministry of presence generally. We’ll meet in the Meeting Room at St. Dunstan’s. Free & open to all members & friends of St. Dunstan’s.

Outreach Hearts:  At St. Dunstan’s we use hearts to represent offerings made by our Outreach Committee to organizations helping those in need locally, nationally, and internationally.   Each heart represents 100 dollars.  These hearts are presented at the offering to remind us that our gifts to others are gifts to God.  In January the Outreach Committee made the following Allocations:

$1,500 (15 Hearts) to Middleton Outreach Ministry

$500 (5 Hearts) to Bread For the World, an advocacy network that strives To reduce hunger through grassroots lobbying of Congress.

$500 (5 Hearts) to GSAFE,  an organization that works to create safer schools and communities for LGBTQ youth across Wisconsin

Madison-Area Julian Gathering Wednesday, February 12, 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.

Saturday Book Club, February 15, 2020 at 10 am: Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens. Getting a copy of the book – I regret you are on your own. The Public Library has 300 holds on it, and it is not on the Book Club list. Perhaps not surprising, since it has topped the New York Times best-seller list for at least 20 weeks.

THE WEEKS AHEAD…

Making Music Together at St. Dunstan’s: A Visit with Paul Vasile: Paul is a church musician, composer, and consultant. His expertise includes helping faith communities express their core values and theological commitments through music; expanding ideas and practices of shared music-making; and helping bring people with different backgrounds and expectations together around a common vision for making sacred music together.

Paul will meet with choir members on the evening of Thursday, February 20th; lead an open-to-the-public song and music jam on Friday evening, the 21st; lead a congregational workshop on shared music-making on Saturday the 22nd from 10am to 3pm; and worship with us on Sunday. More information is available on a handout at church.

We look forward from benefiting from Paul’s skills at helping us build musical capacity, confidence, and participation for all!

Safeguarding God’s Children, February 22, 9am-Noon, St. Dunstan’s Parish Center: Safeguarding training is required for anyone on vestry or who works regularly with kids and youth, and recommended for all regular church volunteers. It’s an opportunity to learn about how to help our church be a safe environment for kids and youth.  To register for one of the classes visit this website (make sure you register for the Madison location): http://www.diomil.org/safeguarding-gods-children-class-with-trainer/

For more information on Safeguarding classes and the Safe Church Program, please visit the Safe Church page on the diocesan website.

Altar Flowers: February dates available – sign up at church or by email! Honor a loved one or a special event with altar flowers on a special date! At church, sign up on the clipboard under the big calendar in the Gathering Area, and place a check or cash in an envelope labeled “Flowers” in the offering plate. From home, email with your preferred date and dedication, and make your gift online at donate.stdunstans.com. Thank you for beautifying our worship space!

Ash Wednesday services will be at noon, 4pm, and 7pm on Wednesday, February 26. The 4pm service is especially intended for kids and families.

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

Camp Webb 2020 (June 21-27) is accepting applications now! Camp Webb is an outdoor ministry of the Episcopal Diocese of Milwaukee, for children and youth grades 3 through senior high. It is held at a camp outside Elkhorn, WI. Camp tuition is $400, with a deposit of $100 due at the time of registration. St. Dunstan’s offers $150 in aid to all our campers, with additional assistance possible; contact Rev. Miranda for financial assistance. Camp Webb usually fills up, so register soon! Use this link:

http://www.diomil.org/mission-and-ministry/children-and-youth-ministries/camp-webb/?fbclid=IwAR1ddRDpmAdFIEOhLgkNTLaKuf_RqvllYA86OJk-hLrcAoIXrLgQPQxiFJ8

Diocesan Prayer as we search for the 12th Bishop of the Diocese of Milwaukee: Gracious and loving God in whom we live and move and have our being: we pray for your guidance and wisdom that we may faithfully follow your calling in our lives and as we as the Diocese of Milwaukee discern the calling of our twelfth bishop. We give you thanks for the ministry of Bishop Miller and his family, especially for the health that has been brought to our diocese through his leadership. We pray for those whom you have called to serve on our Standing, Search, and Transition Committees, and for those who will respond to your call to enter into discernment with us to be our next bishop. Give us all listening and prayerful hearts for this most important task. This we ask in the name of the One who said, “Come, follow me.” Amen.

IN THE COMMUNITY…

Bridging Faiths for a Stronger Democracy, Thursday, Feb. 13, 6 – 8:30pm, First United Methodist Church (203 Wisconsin Ave).: Come learn about the intersection of faith and social justice, and the do’s and don’ts for tax-exempt faith communities. This event will be held live in Milwaukee and live-streamed to the Madison location, where a local conversation will be faiclitated. Register at: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSfqKVeXHI9CFJ8OvGsXnsL1LZRJD-Dn9rw5lwmRdD_BZ7VrRA/viewform

Announcements, January 30

THIS WEEK…

Candlemas, Sunday, February 2: We will celebrate Candlemas (also known as the Feast of the Presentation) with a brief story and candle-lighting prayers at the end of our 10am liturgy. Bring your flashlights and emergency candles from home to be blessed!

MOM Special Offering, Sunday, February 2: Next Sunday, half the cash in our offering plate and any designated checks will be given to Middleton Outreach Ministry’s food pantry. Here are the current top-ten, most needed items: Heart healthy cooking oil, whole grains, taco shells/kits, whole grain, low sugar cereal, no sugar canned or dried fruit, honey, dental floss and toothpaste, laundry detergent, shampoo/conditioner, toilet paper/paper towels. Thank you for your generous support!

Youth Group this Friday in the Parish Center: Middle High 5:30-7:30, Senior High 7:00-9:30. Pizza and snacks provided! Contact Sharon Henes for details.

Birthday and Anniversary blessings and Healing Prayers will be given this Sunday, February 2, as is our custom on the first Sunday of the month.

THE WEEKS AHEAD…

Deep Listening Training, 5 – 7PM, Sunday, Feb. 9: This training is for people who wish to learn how to deepen their presence with friends, family, clients, students, etc. The training is experiential, interactive, and practical. It draws on evidence-based approaches (especially Motivational Interviewing) to invite people into new ways of relating to one another. This training is especially good for folx in helping professions (ministry, health care, teaching, social work, advising), folx who offer emotional support to people in their lives, and folx who are drawn to ministry of presence generally. We’ll meet in the Meeting Room at St. Dunstan’s. Free & open to all members & friends of St. Dunstan’s.

Madison-Area Julian Gathering Wednesday, February 12, 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.

Saturday Book Club, February 15, 2020 at 10 am: Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens. Getting a copy of the book – I regret you are on your own. The Public Library has 300 holds on it, and it is not on the Book Club list. Perhaps not surprising, since it has topped the New York Times best-seller list for at least 20 weeks.

Making Music Together at St. Dunstan’s: A Visit with Paul Vasile: Paul is a church musician, composer, and consultant. His expertise includes helping faith communities express their core values and theological commitments through music; expanding ideas and practices of shared music-making; and helping bring people with different backgrounds and expectations together around a common vision for making sacred music together.

Paul will meet with choir members on the evening of Thursday, February 20th; lead an open-to-the-public song and music jam on Friday evening, the 21st; lead a congregational workshop on shared music-making on Saturday the 22nd from 10am to 3pm; and worship with us on Sunday. More information is available on a handout at church.

We look forward from benefiting from Paul’s skills at helping us build musical capacity, confidence, and participation for all!

Safeguarding God’s Children, February 22, 9am-Noon: Safeguarding God’s Children class with trainers have been set for February 22. To register for one of the classes visit this website: http://www.diomil.org/safeguarding-gods-children-class-with-trainer/

For more information on Safeguarding classes and the Safe Church Program, please visit the Safe Church page on the diocesan website.

Ash Wednesday services will be at noon, 4pm, and 7pm on Wednesday, February 26. The 4pm service is especially intended for kids and families.

Altar Flowers: February dates available – sign up at church or by email! Honor a loved one or a special event with altar flowers on a special date! At church, sign up on the clipboard under the big calendar in the Gathering Area, and place a check or cash in an envelope labeled “Flowers” in the offering plate. From home, email with your preferred date and dedication, and make your gift online at donate.stdunstans.com. Thank you for beautifying our worship space!

Inviting Prayers for Diocesan Search Committee: Back in August, Bishop Miller announced his planned retirement in November 2020. Our Diocesan Standing Committee has now appointed a Search Committee, to begin discerning the needs and gifts of our diocese in preparation for seeking our next bishop. Debra Martinez, of our parish, will serve as one of the members. Please keep the Search Committee in your prayers as they begin their important and demanding work in the months ahead. If you don’t receive email news from the Diocese of Milwaukee, you can join the mailing list by emailing your request to  .

Announcements, January 23

THIS WEEK…

“Reading Genesis 1-11 in Babylon,” Thursdays at 7pm: Tonight, we’ll discuss Babylonian creation myths alongside Genesis 1 – 11. It’s not too late to jump in and join us! For our next meeting (Jan 30, 7 pm) we’ll discuss “The Epic of Creation” (Dalley pp 228-277). Remember that Dalley provides a Glossary starting on p. 317 in case you hit an unfamiliar name.

Ladies Night Out, January 24, 6pm: Amber Indian Cuisine at 6913 University Avenue (in the Willy’s Cooperative plaza).  Come join in for relaxed conversation and delicious food. RSVP to Marian Barnes by the 23rd.

Youth Group this Friday in the Parish Center: Middle High 5:30-7:30, Senior High 7:00-9:30. Pizza and snacks provided! Contact Sharon Henes for information.

Outreach Committee Meeting, Saturday, January 25, 8-10:30am: All are welcome to join our conversations about how St. Dunstan’s can best serve the world with our resources and our hands. We begin with an optional potluck breakfast at 8am.

All-Ages Worship with Epiphany Pageant, Sunday, January 26, 10am: The children and youth of St. Dunstan’s will present a pageant telling the story of the Magi and their journey seeking Jesus, and King Herod’s fearful rule. Our 8am worship will follow our usual pattern of worship, with a dramatic reading of the pageant script in place of a sermon.

Birthday and Anniversary blessings and Healing Prayers will be given next Sunday, February 2, as is our custom on the first Sunday of the month.

THE WEEKS AHEAD…

Candlemas, Sunday, February 2: We will celebrate Candlemas (also known as the Feast of the Presentation) with a brief story and candle-lighting prayers at the end of our 10am liturgy. Bring your flashlights and emergency candles from home to be blessed!

Saturday Book Club, February 15, 2020 at 10 am: Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens. Getting a copy of the book – I regret you are on your own. The Public Library has 300 holds on it, and it is not on the Book Club list. Perhaps not surprising, since it has topped the New York Times best-seller list for at least 20 weeks.

Deep Listening Training, 5 – 7PM, Sunday, Feb. 9: This training is for people who wish to learn how to deepen their presence with friends, family, clients, students, etc. The training is experiential, interactive, and practical. It draws on evidence-based approaches (especially Motivational Interviewing) to invite people into new ways of relating to one another. This training is especially good for folx in helping professions (ministry, health care, teaching, social work, advising), folx who offer emotional support to people in their lives, and folx who are drawn to ministry of presence generally. We’ll meet in the Meeting Room at St. Dunstan’s. Free & open to all members & friends of St. Dunstan’s.

Altar Flowers: February dates available – sign up at church or by email! Honor a loved one or a special event with altar flowers on a special date! At church, sign up on the clipboard under the big calendar in the Gathering Area, and place a check or cash in an envelope labeled “Flowers” in the offering plate. From home, email with your preferred date and dedication, and make your gift online at donate.stdunstans.com. Thank you for beautifying our worship space!

Inviting Prayers for Diocesan Search Committee: Back in August, Bishop Miller announced his planned retirement in November 2020. Our Diocesan Standing Committee has now appointed a Search Committee, to begin discerning the needs and gifts of our diocese in preparation for seeking our next bishop. Debra Martinez, of our parish, will serve as one of the members. Please keep the Search Committee in your prayers as they begin their important and demanding work in the months ahead. If you don’t receive email news from the Diocese of Milwaukee, you can join the mailing list by emailing your request to  .

Folks with Sewing & Prototyping Skills Needed! In the new year, we hope to make some kneelers/hassocks, and new cushions for the benches at the front of the church, in the same green wool fabric as our pew cushions. We need one or two folks skilled enough to use an old pillow cover as a template to make a new one (OK to destroy the old one). Rev. Miranda could use a couple of people to help develop kneeler prototypes, so we can move that project forward as well. Talk to Rev. Miranda or email her if you’d like to help out!

Madison-Area Julian Gathering Wednesday, February 12, 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.

Witnessing Whiteness workshop series to be offered Spring 2020: Are you looking for an opportunity to begin, support, and deepen racial justice work? Would you like to take part in building a community with a shared understanding of privilege, whiteness, and

racism? There will be a workshop series based on the book Witnessing Whiteness: The Need to Talk About Race and How to Do It by Shelly Tochluk on Wednesday evenings from 5:45-8pm March 4-May 13 in the Parish Center. This is a free, open to the public, 10-week, sequential series designed for white people to begin and/or continue anti-racism work, facilitated by Nichole Fromm, Julia Cremin & Thomas Williams. One past participant summed up the experience: “I honestly believe that every white person in Madison needs to take this class before attempting to step up and interrupt racism in our community. I cannot recommend the class highly enough!” For information or to register, email as soon as possible – space is filling fast! For more information about the book, visit http://witnessingwhiteness.com.

Sermon, Jan. 19

I have been experimenting with preaching from an outline in this season. Apologies to those who read online – I know this is harder to read than a complete sermon text!

  1. Annual Meeting Sunday
    1. Happens every January (though some churches do it in the late fall) 
    2. Business – presenting budget, electing representatives, ministry updates
    3. I usually take invitation to do a “State of the Parish” sermon, to best of my ability
    4. Last year: Jesus at the Wedding at Cana, & anxiety about whether there will be enough. & being in the “stretch zone” as the parish changes and as my role changes too. 
      1. Helpful to me to re-read, because honestly, dealing with the renovation last year sucked up a lot of my capacity to think and pray and practice my way into those changes… if you want to re-read it too, I have some copies in the sermon basket!
    5. Year before that: Preached on an Epistle about holding the present lightly, so that we’re more able to welcome God’s future. That was an easy one!
  1. THIS YEAR… 
    1. Ask myself: What’s the word that needs speaking? Where am I catching a glimpse of God’s next work among us, that I can name and hold up? 
    2. Coming up blank.
    3. Not a bad blank. Not lost, lonely, anxious blank.
    4. Blank page in an artist’s pad, with colored pencils and markers and paints at hand…  
    5. Which makes a lot of sense, when I think about where we are in our common life at St. D’s… 
  1. CAP CAM TRAJECTORY
    1. I came to St. D’s in Jan 2011. First document that mentions preparing for a cap cam dates from March 2011. 
    2. Not because I came here itching to do one, but because folks here had some things they felt could be better. 
    3. Budget issues – put it off; good thing! 
    4. We began in earnest in 2015. Five years ago. 
    5. Open Door Project – make bldgs more accessible, flexible, comfortable and beautiful. 
    6. And here we are.
    7. ODP is NOT OVER. 
      1. More on that in a bit! 
      2. But: Over the hump. 
      3. Renovation was the largest part, both financially and logistically; and it’s more or less over. 
      4. Still collecting pledge payments for the next couple of years; still some interesting and important pieces to undertake.
      5. And still a lot of closets and cabinets and corners with stuff that doesn’t belong there… I’m telling myself it will be OK if some of the sorting and settling waits till the summer! 
      6. But I find there’s also starting to be room to breathe… and wonder, what now? 
      7. Back to that blank page…! 
  1. Lectionary readings for today frame this wondering space. 
    1. Sunday readings come from 3-year calendar used by many churches
    2. Epiph: dropped one lesson, extended another, but still working with assigned texts
    3. Lots of kinds of churches where preachers choose texts; I like the discipline & challenge of hearing what the Spirit is saying to the church though the texts that the lectionary places before us. 
    4. Today: Prophetic text from Isaiah; portion of early part of John’s Gospel. 
  1. ISAIAH
    1. Prophet. Godly Play: “a prophet is someone who comes so close to God, and God comes so close to them, that they know what is most important.”
    2. First 39 chaps attrib to OG Isaiah. Later, another prophet’s voice continues and extends Isaiah’s prophecies. Different, but also consistent – it IS one book. 
    3. This is Second Isaiah – chap 49. 
    4. People of Judea conquered, many killed, others taken away to live in exile. 
    5. Prophetic text points towards return to homeland, and restoration of what they have lost, for God’s people. 
    6. Israel not forgotten or abandoned; God remembers; God has a future for them. 
    7. BUT NOT JUST return and rebuilding: a new mission.
    8. You’ll be honored by foreign kings; you’ll set captives free; your cities will be so full you’ll be saying, “Where did all these children come from?” 
    9. MOST OF ALL: Sign of God’s power and redeeming love to the whole world. “It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the survivors of Israel; I will give you as a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”
    10. Echoes – Song of Praise this season – Isaiah 60: “Nations will stream to your light, kings to the brightness of your dawning…” A city of peace and plenty and light for the whole world. 
    11. Import msg for people in exile: temptation to just want what they had before. God says: OK – but I have bigger plans for you. 
  1. APPLYING ISAIAH
    1. Now, all that speaks to me pretty directly.
    2. Renovation is not conquest and exile. But there was chaos and confusion and dislocation, and some struggle, and some grief. 
    3. And now we can settle in to renewed spaces & return to normal. It would be easy to let that be enough. 
      1. Since Xmas: I’ve been able to notice & enjoy. Hearing that from others, too. Things look nice and feel good! 
    4. BUT: God through Isaiah: It’s too light a thing to just move back in, tidy up, get back to how things were before all the mess. 
      1. God says to God’s people: I have work for you that extends beyond the gates of your city, the doors of your church. 
      2. Your renewal has a purpose beyond yourselves. 
    5. Return, rebuilding and restoring is not just for our comfort or convenience, but for God’s glory and God’s work in the world.
      1. I don’t know yet what that will look like. 
      2. But I believe that’s what we’ll be discerning in the months and years ahead. 
      3. What’s waiting to be drawn or painted on that blank page … or maybe several blank pages.
      4. If this makes you uncomfortable – if you were enjoying getting back to normal, and the idea that our new “normal” includes opening our hearts and minds to God’s unfolding purpose for our parish, sounds like more than you’re up for at the moment – then you are not alone. 
      5. That’s where our Gospel today comes in – and it is good news. 
  1. VII. GOSPEL
    1. We are back and forth between the Gospels of Matthew and John a lot in this season, for some reason. 
    2. We’re back in John this Sunday, soon after Jesus’ baptism (which we had in Matthew last week), and John the Baptist is telling people about Jesus: “That man over there? He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! I have seen and testified that he is the Son of God!” 
    3. John had his own disciples – followers and students – from among the many, many seekers who came to him to hear his preaching & perhaps be baptized.
    4. Here he is pointing away from himself, towards Jesus: That’s who this is all about. That’s who you really need to follow.
    5. Just a few verses before this passage, a verse I treasure:
    6. V. 19-20: “This is the testimony given by John when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, ‘Who are you?’ John confessed and did not deny it, but confessed, ‘I am not the Messiah.’”
    7. Something I read a few years ago called this the Confession of John the Baptist – as in, his confession of faith. Only half a joke. 
    8. I AM NOT THE MESSIAH. Not the One Sent by God to Save and Restore. I just point at him. Look, there he is!
  1. VIII. Putting the Confession of John in conversation with Isaiah….
    1. It is too light a thing for God’s people to simply have what they had before, restored to them; God intends them to be a light to all peoples, so that God’s saving power can reach to the ends of the earth.
    2. But – and – We are not the Messiah.
    3. Reassurance: Whatever comes next for us does not have to be Messiah-scale. 
      1. Nobody, least of all God, expects St. Dunstan’s to fix what ails the world or our nation or even just Madison or Middleton. 
    4. Offering ourselves to God’s purposes not the same as being the SAVIOR of the WORLD. That’s a relief!
    5. But just as important: We are not called to be the Savior; but we are called to point towards him. 
    6. That IS our job, individually and together – to live lives that point in word and deed towards a loving and redeeming God, made known to us in Jesus Christ. 
  1. Picture that blank page. Close your eyes if it helps. 
    1. A nice chunky notebook; good brushes; cup of clean water; the colored pencils are sharp and ready… 
    2. If art stuff makes you anxious, feel free to pick another image. Wood and tools? An empty garden plot? An image of joyous potential. 
    3. We have some praying and wondering and discerning to do, in this season. 
    4. I am looking for some prayer partners to pray with me about the next chapter in our common life here at St. Dunstan’s. I don’t know exactly what that looks like either but I know I need it. If you think that might be you, talk to me. 
    5. There’s no hurry in all this; we’re still unpacking, and still recovering, from the renovation. 
    6. But I think the time is right to begin patient, prayerful preparation for the next thing – remembering that it won’t be OUR thing, but God’s.
      1. The purpose, the plan, and the power – all God’s. 
    7. If we listen with open minds and hearts, God will show us the way. I really believe that. 
    8. Let us pray.

      O God of unchangeable power and eternal light: Look favorably on your whole Church, that wonderful and sacred mystery; by the effectual working of your providence, carry out in tranquillity the plan of salvation; let the whole world
      see and know that things which were being cast down are being raised up, and things which had grown old are being made new, and that all things are being brought to their perfection by the One through whom all things were made, your Son Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Annual Meeting 2020: Financial Documents

Our Annual Parish Meeting will be on Sunday, January 19, at 9am. The 2020 parish budget will be presented. To look at the budget and other financial reports, click the link below. You may want to download or print the document to look at it in detail.

Annual Meeting Financials 2020

Some notes on reading these materials…  The middle pages of this document, headed “St. Dunstan’s Episcopal Church 2019 Income and Expense Report – 2020 Proposed Budget,” are the annual budget materials and are the most important to review. Here’s a little about how to read them. The column labeled “YTD” is the total actual income or expense for 2019, while the column labeled “Annual Budget” tells you the 2019 budget for each budget line item. Comparing those two columns will give you an idea of how the actual finances of the year played out relative to the budget we adopted last January. The final column, “Proposed 2020 Budget,” is what the Vestry has approved for our 2020 annual parish budget.

Overall, there are three sections to this document:

  1. The balance sheet, an overview of parish assets, funds, and liabilities
  2. The 2019 Income & Expense Report & 2020 Budget
  3. The Designated Funds Report, an overview of some special set-aside and pass-through funds committed for certain purposes. These are separate from the annual budget. This report contains some of the same information as the balance sheet.

Announcements, January 16

THIS WEEK…

Reading Genesis In Babylon, Thursday evenings, starting Jan. 16: Genesis 1-11 is the prelude for the Bible’s story, and in regular dialogue with the stories of Babylon. Abraham is said to have come from that region; Jews spent a generation in exile there. So, after Epiphany youth & adults are invited to a six-week study, reading three Babylonian stories (Atrahasis, Enuma Elish, Gilgamesh) and wondering about how  Genesis 1-11 interacts with them. Thursday evenings 7-8:30 at St Dunstan’s, Jan 16 – Feb 20, Fr. Tom facilitating. Texts: Gen 1-11, Myths from Mesopotamia translated by Stephanie Dalley, revised edition (Oxford University Press, 2000) – available cheaply online; we’ll also have several copies available to borrow.

Reading Ahead: For the 16th, if possible, read the legend of Atrahasis (pp.1-38 in the book or the photocopied packet available at church). For Jan. 23, we’ll stay with Atrahasis (pp.1-38) in Dalley’s book (or the photocopied packet), and give more attention to how its themes are reflected in Genesis 1-11.

Book Club, Saturday, January 18, 2020 at 10 am: Out selections for January will be: Talking to Strangers: What We Should Know about the People We Don’t Know by Malcolm Gladwell and Confident Pluralism by John D. Inazu. We chose both books as two takes on a common issue. Since it’ll be 2 months before the next meeting due to the holidays, at least some of the group were confident they’d have enough time to read both. The public library does not have these books available, but two copies of each will soon be available in our church library.  Talking to Strangers is all about what happens when we encounter people we don’t know, why it often goes awry, and what it says about us. Confident Pluralism addresses the question: With such seemingly irresolvable differences in beliefs, values, and identities across the country, how can the people of this nation ever live in peace together?

Annual Parish Meeting, Sunday, January 19, 9am: Come to hear parish updates, including the 2020 budget, and help elect our parish leaders. All are welcome to attend!

Sunday School in January: Our Sunday school classes for kids meet during 10am worship on the second and third Sundays of most months. We have three Sunday school classes: for kids age 3 through kindergarten, for grades 1 – 3, and grades 4 – 6. Kids are welcome to try it out at any time, and parents may come along too! This month, on January 12, elementary classes will learn about Baptism of Jesus, while our younger kids will hear the story of the Magi. On January 19, On January 19, the younger classes will learn about baptism, while the elementary classes will talk about Jesus calling the first disciples.

THE WEEKS AHEAD…

Ladies Night Out, January 24, 6pm: Amber Indian Cuisine at 6913 University Avenue (in the Willy’s Cooperative plaza).  Come join in for relaxed conversation and delicious food. RSVP to Marian Barnes.

All-Ages Worship with Epiphany Pageant, Sunday, January 26, 10am: The children and youth of St. Dunstan’s will present a pageant telling the story of the Magi and their journey seeking Jesus, and King Herod’s fearful rule. Our 8am worship will follow our usual pattern of worship, with a dramatic reading of the pageant script in place of a sermon.

Candlemas, Sunday, February 2: We will celebrate Candlemas (also known as the Feast of the Presentation) with a brief story and candle-lighting prayers at the end of our 10am liturgy. Bring your flashlights and emergency candles from home to be blessed!

Deep Listening Training, 5 – 7PM, Sunday, Feb. 9: This training is for people who wish to learn how to deepen their presence with friends, family, clients, students, etc. The training is experiential, interactive, and practical. It draws on evidence-based approaches (especially Motivational Interviewing) to invite people into new ways of relating to one another. This training is especially good for folx in helping professions (ministry, health care, teaching, social work, advising), folx who offer emotional support to people in their lives, and folx who are drawn to ministry of presence generally. We’ll meet in the Meeting Room at St. Dunstan’s. Free & open to all members & friends of St. Dunstan’s. 

Inviting Prayers for Diocesan Search Committee: Back in August, Bishop Miller announced his planned retirement in November 2020. Our Diocesan Standing Committee has now appointed a Search Committee, to begin discerning the needs and gifts of our diocese in preparation for seeking our next bishop. Debra Martinez, of our parish, will serve as one of the members. Please keep the Search Committee in your prayers as they begin their important and demanding work in the months ahead. If you don’t receive email news from the Diocese of Milwaukee, you can join the mailing list by emailing your request to  .

Folks with Sewing & Prototyping Skills Needed! In the new year, we hope to make some kneelers/hassocks, and new cushions for the benches at the front of the church, in the same green wool fabric as our pew cushions. We need one or two folks skilled enough to use an old pillow cover as a template to make a new one (OK to destroy the old one). Rev. Miranda could use a couple of people to help develop kneeler prototypes, so we can move that project forward as well. Talk to Rev. Miranda or email her if you’d like to help out!

Madison-Area Julian Gathering Wednesday, February 12, 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.

Witnessing Whiteness workshop series to be offered Spring 2020: Are you looking for an opportunity to begin, support, and deepen racial justice work? Would you like to take part in building a community with a shared understanding of privilege, whiteness, and racism? There will be a workshop series based on the book Witnessing Whiteness: The Need to Talk About Race and How to Do It by Shelly Tochluk on Wednesday evenings from 5:45-8pm March 4-May 13 in the Parish Center. This is a free, open to the public, 10-week, sequential series designed for white people to begin and/or continue anti-racism work, facilitated by Nichole Fromm, Julia Cremin & Thomas Williams. One past participant summed up the experience: “I honestly believe that every white person in Madison needs to take this class before attempting to step up and interrupt racism in our community. I cannot recommend the class highly enough!” For information or to register, email as soon as possible – space is filling fast! For more information about the book, visit http://witnessingwhiteness.com.

Annual Meeting Packet: Agenda & Bios

Our 2020 Annual Parish Meeting will be at 9am on Sunday, January 19. Below is the agenda for our time together.

Click below to access the packet containing the Agenda, last year’s Annual Meeting Minutes, and Candidate Bios:

AnnualMeetingPacket2020

AGENDA

1. Opening Prayer

2. Approval of Minutes of the 2019 Annual Meeting

3. Introduction & Election of Officers

Senior Warden

Junior Warden

Vestry (two 3-year terms; one 1-year term)

Deputies to Diocesan Convention (4)

Alternate Deputies to Diocesan Convention (4)

4. Recognition of Outgoing Officers

5. Open Door Project Report

6. Treasurer’s Report on 2019 Finances

7.  Presentation of 2020 Budget

8.  Outreach Report

9.   Election Results & Other Items

10. Questions

11. Closing Prayer

6205 University Ave., Madison WI