Announcements, May 19

THIS WEEK….

Building relationships around a campfire at St. Dunstan’s on Thursday, May 16 beginning at 5:30 p.m.  We’ll roast hot dogs and marshmallows. Come join us for fire, fun and fellowship.

Sunday School at St. Dunstan’s: Our Sunday school classes usually meet twice a month; we will meet on May 12 and 19th, during our 10am liturgy. Kids ages 3 through 6th grade are welcome to join one of our three classes. Parents are welcome to come too!

St. Dunstan’s Day and Bishop’s Visitation, Sunday, May 19: Our Bishop, Bishop Steven Miller, will be visiting us for our patronal feast, the Feast Day of Saint Dunstan. Bishop Miller will preach and celebrate the Eucharist. Cash placed in the Offering Plate this Sunday will go to Bishop’s Purse, a fund like the Rector’s Discretionary Fund which the Bishop can use to help various causes and needs in the life of the diocese.

Young Adult Meetup at the Vintage, Sunday, May 19, 7pm: The younger adults of St. Dunstan’s are invited to join us for conversation and the beverage of your choice, at the Vintage Brewpub on South Whitney Way. Friends and partners welcome too.

THE WEEKS AHEAD…

Actors Needed for Sunday, May 26: At 10am worship, we will share our lesson from Acts as a simple drama. If you would like to participate, please arrive promptly at 9:15am on the 26th and we will practice the lesson together before the service! There are both speaking and non-speaking parts. Kids, youth & grownups all welcome.

Creation Care Annual Meeting, Sunday, May 26, 11:30am: All interested folk are invited to come talk about how our church and its people can live out our mission of Creation Care this year – at church and in our daily lives. All ages are invited &  ideas are welcome! A light lunch will be provided. If you can’t attend at this time but would like to be part of the conversation, contact Rev. Miranda .

Ascension Eucharist, Thursday, May 30, 7pm: We will hold a simple Eucharist for the Feast of the Ascension. If you choose, you can stay afterwards (or come around 8:30pm) to count bats, as our first Bat Count of the season. (St. Dunstan’s participates in statewide monitoring of bat populations by counting the bats that live on our property a couple of times per summer. We’ll also count bats on Friday evening the 31st at around 8:30; the bat monitoring project would like us to do two nights in a row this summer!)

Ladies’ Night Out, Friday, May 31, 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 Oliva Restaurant, 751 N. High Point Rd. For more information please contact Kathy Whitt.

Middleton outreach Ministry (MOM) Needs Clothing Donations: Middleton Outreach Ministry (MOM) has a clothing closet with gently used clothing available at no cost for their clients. Their racks  for infants and toddlers are quite low at this time. During your spring cleaning, if you find any clothing for newborn to 4T that you no longer need please consider bringing them to church and we will deliver them to MOM. Questions? -Connie Ott or Janet Bybee

Parish Picnic & Nave-Clearing Bee, Sunday, June 2, 11:30AM: As part of our parish renovation, the floor in the Nave (worship space) will be refinished starting on June 3. So after church on June 2, we’re going to Empty the Nave! The floor of the nave & side rooms will need to be as clear as we can get it. Many hands make light work so we’re going to have fun with it, and combine it with our annual Parish Picnic! We’ll provide hot dogs, buns, and drinks. Bring a side dish or dessert to share – and a picnic blanket for those who are comfortable sitting on the ground or floor. (We’ll have some tables available as well.)

Summer All-Ages Vacation Bible School Planning Meeting, Thursday, June 6, 6pm: Our evening camp this summer (5:30 – 7:30, August 4 – 8) will focus on finding God in Creation. We have some ideas taking shape, but there’s room for more – ideas and people to help! If you’d like to help plan or help prepare and lead an activity, please join us on Thursday the 6th. Kids & youth welcome too. Pizza will be provided. Talk with Rev. Miranda or Sharon Henes to learn more, or if you’d like to help out but can’t attend.

Madison-Area Julian Gathering, Wednesday, June 12, 1:00 – 2:45 PM:  Julian of Norwich was a 15th Century English mystic and anchoress. Little is known about Julian’s life, but she wrote a book, as far as we know the first in English written by a woman, about a series of revelations which opened her to the depths of God’s unconditional love for us in Jesus Christ. Julian’s insights and gentle wisdom are becoming ever more widely known and appreciated. At a Julian Gathering we support each other in the practice of contemplative prayer and contemplative spirituality.  Each meeting includes time for contemplative prayer, fellowship, and reading/discussion of Julian’s book.   For additional information, contact Susan Fiore, ObJN.

St. Dunstan’s LGBTQIA+ & Allies Campfire, June 21, 6:30pm: As part of our continuing intergenerational exploration, we will be having a potluck s’mores bonfire on June 21, at 6pm, for anyone who feels they are in the LGBTQIAA (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning, intersex, asexual, and/or allies) community.  This is a safe space and time deliberately created to sit around a bonfire, eat soup and s’mores, and visit about your personal experiences within this community, as LGBT+ people, family of LGBT+ people, and friends of LGBT+ people.  All ages are not only welcome, but encouraged.  Feel no pressure to identify with any label at this event, but feel free to talk openly about your experience if you want to.  Dinner provided (soup and rolls), BYFSS (bring your favorite smores supply!). Questions? Talk to Rev. Miranda or Michelle Der Bedrosian.

SUMMER OPPORTUNITIES… 

VACATION BIBLE SCHOOL 2019: SAVE THE DATES – AUGUST 4 – 8! Plans are just starting to take shape but we expect to spend a lot of time outdoors, and to invite the adults of St. Dunstan’s to join our kids and youth for shared learning and fun, as we did in 2018. Mark your calendars!

Seeking Sponsors for our Kids & Youth: Your $25 sponsorship helps one of the children or youth of St. Dunstan’s attend Camp Webb or our summer youth mission trip. Each shareholder will receive a postcard from one of our kids or youth, during their time at camp or on the youth mission trip. We also plan a late summer social event for kids and sponsors, when kids can share about their trips.  You can contribute with a check in the offering plate with “Camp Sponsorship” on the memo line, or online at www.donate.stdunstans.com .

Camp Webb 2019 (June 16 – 22) 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. http://www.diomil.org/forming-disciples/children-youth-and-family-ministries/camp-webb/ for registration forms. Camp Webb IS EXPECTED TO FILL this year, so apply soon!

Women’s Mini-Week, August 8 – 11: The mission of Women’s Mini-Week is to provide an annual retreat event for adult women, offering refuge, friendship, relaxation, and fun. Mini-Week combines opportunities to learn with fellowship, spiritual exploration and delicious food as we invite all women to participate as much or as little as they would like and need. Mini-Week is held at a beautiful lakeside camp in northern Wisconsin. Many members of St. Dunstan’s have attended, planned, and led, over the years. Visit womensminiweek.org to learn more and make Mini-Week part of your summer plans.

Sermon, May 12

There is no violent solution.

I drive past the words most weekday mornings. They’re on the side of a garage along Lake Mendota Drive, near my son’s school. There’s an image of a dove -and these words, neatly painted: There is no violent solution. 

In our text from the Gospel of John today, Jesus is in the Great Temple in Jerusalem. In the other Gospels he comes there only in the days before his execution, but in John he visits the great city several times. It’s winter, and it’s the feast of the Dedication – you know it better as Hanukkah. And as Jesus walks through the temple, some of his adversaries circle around him – religious leaders who are suspicious of his message and mission – and they ask him: How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly!

If you know a Hanukkah story, it’s probably the story of the oil. The Great Temple had been desecrated, its holiness violated, by Judea’s enemies. When they reclaimed the Temple, cleansed it, and dedicated it once again to the God of Israel, they found that nearly all the olive oil for the lamps in the holy place had been defiled – made profane. Only one container remained sealed – enough for one day. They lit the holy lamps – and by the miraculous faithfulness of God, that oil lasted for eight whole days, long enough to press and prepare new oil.

It’s a nice manageable miracle, inspiring and not too hard to believe. But it’s not the Hanukkah story that Jesus and his adversaries would have known. The miracle of the oil first appears in print perhaps 400 years later, though it’s likely somewhat older than that. But it doesn’t appear in the books of the Maccabees, which tell the history behind Hanukkah. And the historian Josephus, writing several decades after Jesus, says this about Hanukkah: “So we celebrate this festival, and call it Lights. I suppose the reason was because this liberty beyond our hopes appeared to us; and that thence was the name given to that festival.” He’s clearly unfamiliar with the magic oil story! 

In Jesus’ time, and Josephus’ time, Hanukkah was pretty new – less than 200 years old. Think Fourth of July, not Christmas. And Hanukkah wasn’t a festival of divine generosity. It was a festival of freedom, purification, and vengeance. And its core story is a little more complicated than miraculous oil. 

Two hundred years before Jesus’ birth, Judea was under the control of the Seleucid Empire. The Seleucids were a dynasty, a lineage of leaders; their dominance basically took over the great empire established by the conquests of the Greek general Alexander the Great, and lasted in some form until the year 63 before the common era, when Rome became the ruling empire of the known world. The Seleucids were culturally Greek, or Hellenistic, and for much of their season of rule, they followed the Greek pattern of tolerating a lot of cultural and religious diversity within the empire. People put up with foreign rule a lot better if you let them keep doing their thing, you know?

But then things changed, under Antiochus Epiphanes, who became emperor in the year 175 BCE. Unlike previous Seleucid rulers, Epiphanes declared himself a god – Epiphanes means, “The One who has been Revealed.” And when there were murmurs of discontent in Judea, he cracked down, outlawing Jewish religious practices and ordering that the Greek god Zeus be worshiped as the supreme god. He had his army desecrate the Great Temple – even killing a pig, an unclean animal, on the altar of the holiest place in the world. I don’t think we can even imagine how horrific this would have been for the observant Jews of Judea.

But just in time, a hero rose up – you might even call him a savior. His name was Judas Maccabeus. There are different interpretations of his second name: It might mean “The Hammer,” because of his ferocity in battle; it might be an acronym for his Hebrew battle cry, a verse from Exodus that translates to, “Who among the gods is like you, O Adonai?” Judas Maccabeus wanted the filthy Seleucids out of his country, and he wanted the Judeans to abandon foreign habits, especially the worship of other gods, and return to the religion of their ancestors. 

The Hammer’s forces were outgunned, outmanned, outnumbered, but not outplanned – think Fourth of July again: like scruffy militias defending their homeland everywhere, the Maccabean rebels used guerrilla warfare against the Seleucid armies, and won some key victories. Go to Wikipedia for all the details! The upshot is: Judas the Hammer freed Jerusalem and the Temple from the Seleucids. The Temple was cleansed and re-dedicated to God, on the 25th day of the month Kislev – the first day of Hanukkah, even today. 

Judas Maccabeus is exactly the kind of savior, the kind of Messiah, that the people of Judea and Galilee were looking for, in Jesus’ time. The freedom won by the Maccabees had not lasted long. Now Rome was the big dog in town, demanding high taxes, bossing around their kings and priests. Rome hadn’t messed with the Temple yet but it could happen; the current emperor doesn’t want to be worshiped as a god, but what about the next guy? What we need is another Hammer, to restore the kingdom to Israel – to give us back our land, our freedom, our sovereignty. Our purity from the pollution of foreign gods, foreign ways. What we need is a Messiah, the Savior so long promised, to bring us back to the way things were under David, Israel united and free and holy under the rule of a holy king, this time forever and ever, world without end. 

Only Jesus isn’t the Hammer. Because there is no violent solution.

We love a good story of revolt against unjust rule. It’s in our cultural DNA as Americans. But Judas Maccabeus and his forces also killed a lot of other Jews. In fact, some modern scholarship now sees the violence of that time as primarily a civil war between Judeans who had adapted to Hellenistic culture – taken on Greek names, Greek clothing, Greek attitudes – and those Judeans who saw all of that as corruption, and wanted to burn it out of their land. There were likely rural/urban divides and class divisions entangled with those cultural differences, as well. 

And lest we be too inclined to root for the anti-colonialists, the defenders of traditional culture: We’re Team Hellenism, friends. The Hellenists believed in things like pluralism and progress and democracy. They thought the Maccabeans’ approach was primitive – provincial – fundamentalist. A retrenchment in an outworn way of thinking and living. One historian of this period writes that Hellenistic Jewish leaders wanted to preserve aspects of Judaism that fit within Greek thinking, like a universal God, but to remove practices that set Jews apart, like dietary laws and Sabbath observance. How… Episcopalian. 

You can see why the story of miraculous oil took hold – to tidy up the Hanukkah story. Because the real history behind the feast is decidedly messy. There were no pure motives and no clear heroes. The Temple was restored, the nation freed – for a while – but at what cost? There is no violent solution. 

And now it’s Hanukkah and people want Jesus to speak plainly – something he’s disinclined to do, especially in John’s Gospel. Are you the Messiah? It’s hard to tell from this short passage, but it’s pretty clear in context that this is a bad-faith question. The religious leaders circling Jesus like wolves, in this scene, aren’t seekers who want to believe; their goal is to get him on record as a blasphemer, one who makes claims to holiness or divinity. Later they’ll tell the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate, that by their law Jesus should die because he claimed to be the Son of God. 

The question is a trap – but there may be truth in it as well. On this festival day of freedom, purification, and vengeance, there’s a challenge here, maybe even a plea: If you are the Messiah, man up and prove it.  Drive out Rome. Restore our nation. Show us some results. 

And Jesus… avoids the question. 

In all the Gospels, people talk constantly about whether Jesus is or is not the Messiah, the long-expected Savior sent by God. But he appears ambivalent about that term. He knows how laden it is with people’s expectations. He strives to invent his own vocabulary for who and what he is, in the arc of God’s plan for the cosmos. And here, now, he says: What I am is a shepherd.

He deflates those ballooning expectations with a word. A shepherd isn’t fierce. He might carry a club, a slingshot, like David, to fend off predators. But shepherds are not soldiers. A shepherd and his wooly army are not going to overthrow the lethally organized forces of Rome. 

Today’s text from Revelation goes one better, or worse: Jesus isn’t even a shepherd; he’s a sheep – and not even a full-grown sheep, a nice burly ram that might butt the Romans right of Judea; but a lamb. A lamb that has been slaughtered – evoking the ancient story of Passover, when the people of Israel marked their door posts with a lamb’s blood to protect them from the Angel of Death; evoking, too, the ritual practices described in the Torah, the Book of the Law, in which an unblemished lamb is sacrificed to cleanse people from their sins, its blood dashed upon the altar.  A dead lamb – what could be more helpless, more pathetic? Yet this is one of the early church’s core images of Jesus. Jesus is the Lamb seated on the throne of Heaven –  the Lamb who is also a shepherd, who guides his flock to the water of life. 

It’s beautiful imagery, tender and gentle. I guess what I’m noticing this year is that it’s also profoundly disappointing. Jesus isn’t the Hammer of Judea; he’s practically the Anti-Hammer. What kind of messiah lets himself be arrested? Beaten? Killed? 

It’s clear throughout the Gospels that Jesus’ friends and enemies alike were confounded and frustrated by his refusal to be a man of force. Deep down, on our dark days, maybe we are too. Maybe we long for a hero, a Hammer, a God who’ll kick ass and bash heads – whether for the cause of pluralism and progress, or for purity and tradition. 

But Jesus tells the wolves circling him in Solomon’s portico: There is no violent solution. I’m not going to fight Rome; and I’m not going to fight you. I’m just going to call my sheep – and at least some of them will hear me, and follow. That’s what I’m here to do. And it’s enough. 

I don’t always know what it means, to walk the way of peace in the face of pervasive violence. To arm ourselves with justice, mercy, and love of enemy, against the many death-dealing forces of our times. Jesus confounds and perplexes me, too.

But I hear that voice – a voice I recognize, that calls me to paths of righteousness. So I try to trust and to follow the One who is Shepherd. Who is Lamb. Who is Life.

More on Jesus and Hanukkah here: 

https://provokingthegospel.wordpress.com

More on Hellenism and the ambiguity of the Maccabees: 

https://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/the-maccabees-heroes-or-fanatics/

Announcements, May 9

THIS WEEK….

Sunday School at St. Dunstan’s: Our Sunday school classes usually meet twice a month; we will meet on May 12 and 19th, during our 10am liturgy. Kids ages 3 through 6th grade are welcome to join one of our three classes. Parents are welcome to come too!

Seeking kids and youth who love to read out loud! We are looking for strong readers, kids and youth, who would like to join the group of people – called lectors – who read our Bible readings out loud in church on their assigned Sundays (usually once every few months). We ask kids to sign up WITH a parent or other adult who will be responsible for responding to emails about scheduling, keeping track of the calendar, and printing out readings (sent by email a few days ahead) for the young reader to practice. If you know a kid/youth who’d like to be a lector, or if you ARE a kid/youth who’d like to be a lector, please let us know by talking to Rev. Miranda .

Vestry Meeting, Wednesday, May 15, 6:45pm: The Vestry is the elected leadership body of our parish. Any members are welcome to attend our meetings, to observe or raise questions or ideas.

Building relationships around a campfire at St. Dunstan’s on Thursday, May 16 beginning at 5:30 p.m.  We’ll roast hot dogs and marshmallows. Come join us for fire, fun and fellowship

THE WEEKS AHEAD…

St. Dunstan’s Day and Bishop’s Visitation, Sunday, May 19: Our Bishop, Bishop Steven Miller, will be visiting us for our patronal feast, the Feast Day of Saint Dunstan. Bishop Miller will preach and celebrate the Eucharist. Cash placed in the Offering Plate this Sunday will go to Bishop’s Purse, a fund like the Rector’s Discretionary Fund which the Bishop can use to help various causes and needs in the life of the diocese.

Young Adult Meetup at the Vintage, Sunday, May 19, 7pm: The younger adults of St. Dunstan’s are invited to join us for conversation and the beverage of your choice, at the Vintage Brewpub on South Whitney Way. Friends and partners welcome too.

Creation Care Annual Meeting, Sunday, May 26, 11:30am: All interested folk are invited to come talk about how our church and its people can live out our mission of Creation Care this year – at church and in our daily lives. All ages are invited &  ideas are welcome! A light lunch will be provided. If you can’t attend at this time but would like to be part of the conversation, contact Rev. Miranda .

Ascension Eucharist, Thursday, May 30, 7pm: We will hold a simple Eucharist for the Feast of the Ascension. If you choose, you can stay afterwards (or come around 8:30pm) to count bats, as our first Bat Count of the season. (St. Dunstan’s participates in statewide monitoring of bat populations by counting the bats that live on our property a couple of times per summer. We’ll also count bats on Friday evening the 31st at around 8:30; the bat monitoring project would like us to do two nights in a row this summer!)

Ladies’ Night Out, Friday, May 31, 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 Oliva Restaurant, 751 N. High Point Rd. For more information please contact Kathy Whitt.

Middleton outreach Ministry (MOM) Needs Clothing Donations: Middleton Outreach Ministry (MOM) has a clothing closet with gently used clothing available at no cost for their clients. Their racks  for infants and toddlers are quite low at this time. During your spring cleaning, if you find any clothing for newborn to 4T that you no longer need please consider bringing them to church and we will deliver them to MOM. Questions? -Connie Ott or Janet Bybee.

Madison-Area Julian Gathering, Wednesday, June 12, 1:00 – 2:45 PM:  Julian of Norwich was a 15th Century English mystic and anchoress. Little is known about Julian’s life, but she wrote a book, as far as we know the first in English written by a woman, about a series of revelations which opened her to the depths of God’s unconditional love for us in Jesus Christ. Julian’s insights and gentle wisdom are becoming ever more widely known and appreciated. At a Julian Gathering we support each other in the practice of contemplative prayer and contemplative spirituality.  Each meeting includes time for contemplative prayer, fellowship, and reading/discussion of Julian’s book.   For additional information, contact Susan Fiore, ObJN .

St. Dunstan’s LGBTQIA+ & Allies Campfire, June 21: As part of our continuing intergenerational exploration, we will be having a potluck s’mores bonfire on June 21, at 6pm, for anyone who feels they are in the LGBTQIAA (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning, intersex, asexual, and/or allies) community.  This is a safe space and time deliberately created to sit around a bonfire, eat soup and s’mores, and visit about your personal experiences within this community, as LGBT+ people, family of LGBT+ people, and friends of LGBT+ people.  All ages are not only welcome, but encouraged.  Feel no pressure to identify with any label at this event, but feel free to talk openly about your experience if you want to.  Dinner provided (soup and rolls), BYFSS (bring your favorite smores supply!). Questions? Talk to Rev. Miranda or Michelle Der Bedrosian.

SUMMER OPPORTUNITIES… 

VACATION BIBLE SCHOOL 2019: SAVE THE DATES – AUGUST 4 – 8! Plans are just starting to take shape but we expect to spend a lot of time outdoors, and to invite the adults of St. Dunstan’s to join our kids and youth for shared learning and fun, as we did in 2018. Mark your calendars!

Seeking Sponsors for our Kids & Youth: Your $25 sponsorship helps one of the children or youth of St. Dunstan’s attend Camp Webb or our summer youth mission trip. Each shareholder will receive a postcard from one of our kids or youth, during their time at camp or on the youth mission trip. We also plan a late summer social event for kids and sponsors, when kids can share about their trips.  You can contribute with a check in the offering plate with “Camp Sponsorship” on the memo line, or online at donate.stdunstans.com .

Camp Webb 2019 (June 16 – 22) 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. http://www.diomil.org/forming-disciples/children-youth-and-family-ministries/camp-webb/ for registration forms. Camp Webb IS EXPECTED TO FILL this year, so apply soon!

Women’s Mini-Week, August 8 – 11: The mission of Women’s Mini-Week is to provide an annual retreat event for adult women, offering refuge, friendship, relaxation, and fun. Mini-Week combines opportunities to learn with fellowship, spiritual exploration and delicious food as we invite all women to participate as much or as little as they would like and need. Mini-Week is held at a beautiful lakeside camp in northern Wisconsin. Many members of St. Dunstan’s have attended, planned, and led, over the years. Visit womensminiweek.org to learn more and make Mini-Week part of your summer plans.

Sermon, May 5

Today the lectionary, our cycle of Sunday readings, brings us stories of both Peter and Paul – the two most famous leaders in the early years of Christianity. On the night of Jesus’ arrest and trial, Peter had famously denied, three times, that he knew Jesus;  now he redeems that night of fear by affirming his love for Jesus three times. And Jesus calls him to his leadership role in the early church, as feeder and tender of Christ’s sheep, the newborn Christian community. 

In the book of the Acts of the Apostles – Luke’s sequel to his Gospel – we receive the story of the conversion of Saul, known to us as Paul. Saul was a Jew and a zealous one; he wanted all God’s people to turn back to their ancient ways of holiness and righteousness. The Jesus movement was a threat – so he set out to destroy it, until one day on the road to Damascus he was blinded by the light of Christ. 

It’s really a lot to get the commissioning stories of both of these guys on one Sunday! But they do have a lot in common. Redemption and re-orientation. Purpose. Joy. And … death. Or at least: The clear expectation of death. 

In our Acts lesson, Saul – who will be Paul – is fresh from his role holding the coats of the men who stoned the apostle Stephen to death for preaching the Gospel. (People took off their coats to avoid bloodstains.) And immediately after this passage, the Jewish leaders of Damascus begin plotting to have Paul killed – for the same reasons he used to be so eager to kill Christians. He has to escape the city by being lowered over the walls in a basket by night. Paul has every reason to expect his new calling – to bring the name of Jesus before Gentiles and kings – will kill him. As it does, eventually – Paul was executed for his faith in Rome, perhaps thirty years later, during the persecution of Christians under the Emperor Nero. 

As for Peter – Jesus tells him now to expect death. “When you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go.” Tradition tells us that Peter, too, was executed in Rome – crucified, hands outstretched – around the same time as Paul. There’s a second-century story about it: Peter is fleeing Rome to escape his doom, when he meets Jesus, who is walking towards the city. Peter asks him, Quo vadis, Domine? Where are you going, Lord? Jesus answers, I am going to Rome to be crucified again. Peter turns around and returns to the city to face his destiny. 

Peter and Paul spent their lives preaching Christ crucified and risen, preaching a new life in God for all who believe, calling communities of believers gathered around that hope of new and abundant life – all while fully expecting to die for their faith. Not a contradiction but a paradox; not lies and delusion, but deeper truth. 

The Resurrection does not make everything OK. Jesus came back from death – still wounded. And even though his friends got to see him again, were able to find some sense of resolution and peace and purpose in his death, it wasn’t the way it was before. Things weren’t back to normal. That normal was gone. 

Becoming a Christian is not opting out of the hard stuff. Maybe it seems obvious, but there is a temptation, a slippery slope, a hope that our piety can buy us God’s favor. That the quantity or quality of our prayers might pull a beloved child or elder back from the brink of death. Prayer works; but that’s not how it works.

That our generosity might buy us out of the common human lot of pain, misfortune, and loss. Generosity works; but that’s not how it works. 

That our righteous actions will form a hedge of protection around us, shielding us from harm. We’re more likely to say it about someone else than about ourselves, perhaps – how can something like that happen to somebody like her? – but we do slip into it, sometimes. I’ve caught myself thinking it several times this past week. Righteousness works, dear ones – but that’s not how it works.

That’s why we need to be Christians together. Why Jesus commissioned Peter to leadership as care, not command; why Paul gave every day of his life to founding and nurturing communities of believers. Households of faith to bear and carry the hard stuff together. Christian writer Rachel Held Evans says, “There is a difference between curing and healing, and I believe the church is called to the slow and difficult work of healing. We are called to enter into one another’s pain, anoint it as holy, and stick around no matter the outcome.” I ran across this quotation in a post about Rachel’s illness – she’s very sick, and Christians across the spectrum are holding her in prayer. I invite your prayers, too. Because prayer DOES work – we just don’t really know how. 

Today we begin our long-planned, long-awaited renovation. And maybe the inevitability of death and suffering is not the most obvious sermon for the occasion. But Peter and Paul looked death and suffering in the face, and went out to start churches. 

Why invest money and energy and time in making a place for believers to gather? And then invest more in making it safer, more comfortable, more hospitable and beautiful and useful? Not because the building matters; but because the gathering matters. And anyone who’s ever attending a meeting in a musty church basement with ancient folding chairs and bathrooms two flights of stairs away, knows that the container for the gathering matters. 

As the bricks-and-mortar – or perhaps drywall-and-concrete – phase of the Open Door Project begins, it may be easy for us to over-focus on the building. Both the inconvenience and mess of the renovation itself, and our big shiny hopes for the results. It might be easy to feel like disrupting the building is the same thing as disrupting the church; and that renewing the building is the same thing as renewing the church. Those are both probably a little bit true – but not a lot true. 

To remind myself that the building serves the community, and not the other way round, I went way back to the focus groups we did in 2015. Two years before the series of Wondering Conversations that helped us develop the Open Door Project – yet those earlier conversations were part of the work too, naming what we think we’re about and why it matters. One of the questions was, “Does belonging to church help with areas of pain or struggle?” Your answers overwhelmed me then; they overwhelm me now. 

Listen to what some people said: “I’ve had a rough couple of years. I know there are people here who are concerned about me and who love me, regardless of where I am.”  “We share the prayer list every Sunday and very few of us know what all those names are for, but we together lift them up, and for me that’s a tremendous comfort.”  “It’s easy for me to get to feeling like I’m out there on the end of the branch, swinging all by myself, but that’s not the case at all. People who care for me are here, [and] when I don’t have sense enough to pray, somebody else is.”   “Coming here, being with other Christians who share a perspective about how the world could be, gives me hope that there’s a community of people who are committed to making the world a better place.”

“It breaks the tunnel-focus on bad stuff in your little world.”  “It’s a re-set button.”   “It’s a reminder that good exists, and that’s enough.”  “It’s the well that I come to for the water of life, in so many ways.”

Listen, I don’t want to make it sound like we’ve got this figured out. I am positive there are people in the room right now thinking, I haven’t yet found this here; I don’t feel connected in a way that is helping sustain me. I hope we’ll continue weaving that fabric of mutual care to be warm and strong and capacious, for each of us and all of us. And of course caring for one another in hard times is only one of the things a healthy church does. We also worship and sing and play and eat and wonder and make stuff and give and serve together. All of that and more.

The point is this: What we’re doing by repairing and improving the building, the container, is investing in our future gatherings; and we invest in our future gatherings because we believe that gathering matters. That our common life as people of faith, gathered and sent, matters. That what we do when we come together makes us better able to carry love and peace and beauty and justice, and, well, Jesus,  out into the world with us when we go. 

And we can undertake this audacious, impractical work – not renovating a building, but being a church – because it’s ultimately God’s work, not ours. 

This Gospel lesson was read at my ordination to the priesthood, back in February of 2009. My friend and mentor Lisa Fischbeck preached about it. And she called my attention to the pronouns in this back and forth between Jesus and Peter: “Feed my lambs. Tend my sheep. Feed my sheep.” Not your sheep – Peter’s sheep. Jesus’ sheep. God’s sheep. Still. Always. Lisa told me, “Always remember that [even though you are called to be a] tender of the sheep, the Good Shepherd over all is Jesus.”   

Psalm 127 says, Unless God builds the house, the workers labor in vain. We’ve worked hard, friends, but it is God who is building this house, God who is tending this flock. Our past, present, and future belong to God. And in this moment of both fulfillment and beginning, we commend ourselves and all our undertakings to the God who raises up what has been cast down, who makes new what has grown old, and who is carrying out in tranquillity the work of salvation. 

Announcements, May 2

THIS WEEK….

“The Death and Life of the Great Lakes,” Book Group Discussion, Saturday, May 4, 10am: The monthly Saturday morning book group will meet to discuss an award-winning book of science and history, examining the past, present, and future of the Great Lakes. St. Dunstan’s members with an interest in ecology and creation care are invited to join the regular Saturday group to discuss this book. To participate, read The Death and Life of the Great Lakes (Dan Egan, 2017) by May 4! If you’d like to buy the book and cost is a barrier, talk to Rev. Miranda. Please note, the Saturday book group has traditionally been known as the “Men’s Book Group” but it is open to everyone!

Groundbreaking Sunday, 9am, Sunday, May 5: We wondered, planned, raised money, prepared – and now it’s time to begin! The Open Door Project, a major renovation to improve the comfort, safety, beauty, and usability of our church buildings, is about to begin. We will kick it off on Sunday, May 5, with a ceremony between services at 9am, and photo opportunities both between services and after the 10am service. Mark your calendar and plan to attend!

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

MOM Special Offering, Sunday, May 5: This Sunday, half the cash in our offering plate and any designated checks will be given to Middleton Outreach Ministry’s food pantry. Here are the current top-ten, most needed items: canned chicken, shelf-stable milk, whole grains; salt, pepper, spices; laundry detergent; vanilla or other extracts; low sugar dried/canned fruits; cooking oil; honey; nuts. Thank you for your generous support!

Outreach Offering: Today you will see a basket with 12 hearts carried to the altar. Each heart represents $100 sent out into the world to help feed, support, and advocate. As part of its work, St. Dunstan’s Outreach Committee commits funds from our parish budget to support God’s mission in our community and beyond. At their April meeting, the Committee designated $500 as a gift to GSAFE for their advocacy and leadership training work (learn more at gsafewi.org); and $770 in support for our summer Youth Mission Trip – in which as many as fifteen St. Dunstan’s youth will spend four days doing service projects at Episcopal churches around the state!

THE WEEKS AHEAD…

Madison-Area Julian Gathering Wednesday, May 8, 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.

Sunday School at St. Dunstan’s: Our Sunday school classes usually meet twice a month; we will meet on May 12 and 19th, during our 10am liturgy. Kids ages 3 through 6th grade are welcome to join one of our three classes. Parents are welcome to come too!

Vestry Meeting, Wednesday, May 15, 6:45pm: The Vestry is the elected leadership body of our parish. Any members are welcome to attend our meetings, to observe or raise questions or ideas.

St. Dunstan’s Day and Bishop’s Visitation, Sunday, May 19: Our Bishop, Bishop Steven Miller, will be visiting us for our patronal feast, the Feast Day of Saint Dunstan. Bishop Miller will preach and celebrate the Eucharist. Cash placed in the Offering Plate this Sunday will go to Bishop’s Purse, a fund like the Rector’s Discretionary Fund which the Bishop can use to help various causes and needs in the life of the diocese.

Young Adult Meetup at the Vintage, Sunday, May 19, 7pm: The younger adults of St. Dunstan’s are invited to join us for conversation and the beverage of your choice, at the Vintage Brewpub on South Whitney Way. Friends and partners welcome too.

Middleton outreach Ministry (MOM) Needs Clothing Donations: Middleton Outreach Ministry (MOM) has a clothing closet with gently used clothing available at no cost for their clients. Their racks  for infants and toddlers are quite low at this time. During your spring cleaning, if you find any clothing for newborn to 4T that you no longer need please consider bringing them to church and we will deliver them to MOM. Questions? -Connie Ott or Janet Bybee

SUMMER OPPORTUNITIES… 

VACATION BIBLE SCHOOL 2019: SAVE THE DATES – AUGUST 4 – 8! Plans are just starting to take shape but we expect to spend a lot of time outdoors, and to invite the adults of St. Dunstan’s to join our kids and youth for shared learning and fun, as we did in 2018. Mark your calendars!

Seeking Sponsors for our Kids & Youth: Your $25 sponsorship helps one of the children or youth of St. Dunstan’s attend Camp Webb or our summer youth mission trip. Each shareholder will receive a postcard from one of our kids or youth, during their time at camp or on the youth mission trip. We also plan a late summer social event for kids and sponsors, when kids can share about their trips.  You can contribute with a check in the offering plate with “Camp Sponsorship” on the memo line, or online at donate.stdunstans.com .

Camp Webb 2019 (June 16 – 22) 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. http://www.diomil.org/forming-disciples/children-youth-and-family-ministries/camp-webb/ for registration forms. Camp Webb IS EXPECTED TO FILL this year, so apply soon!

Women’s Mini-Week, August 8 – 11: The mission of Women’s Mini-Week is to provide an annual retreat event for adult women, offering refuge, friendship, relaxation, and fun. Mini-Week combines opportunities to learn with fellowship, spiritual exploration and delicious food as we invite all women to participate as much or as little as they would like and need. Mini-Week is held at a beautiful lakeside camp in northern Wisconsin. Many members of St. Dunstan’s have attended, planned, and led, over the years. Visit womensminiweek.org to learn more and make Mini-Week part of your summer plans.

Homily/Drama, April 28

Honoring the second Sunday of Easter as a time to affirm our youth in their wondering and seeking in faith is an idea from John Westerhoff (in Will Our Children Have Faith?, pages 101-102). We decided to try it out! Thanks to the Rev. Thomas McAlpine, the Rev. Jonathan Melton, and other conversation partners in developing these ideas. 

MIRANDA: Friends, today is sometimes called Doubting Thomas Sunday. Because our Gospel is the story about Thomas, one of Jesus’ friends, and how he came to believe that Jesus had truly risen from the dead. We get the same Gospel lesson EVERY year, even though most of our Gospels only come around every three years. It’s like our Lectionary wants to shout at us every year: DO NOT DOUBT BUT BELIEVE!

But what does it mean to doubt?  Is it OK to have questions about faith, and God, and the world? … Of course it is! Is it OK to not understand everything? …  Of course it is! But if we just say, Don’t doubt! It’s bad to doubt! – and don’t talk about what doubt really is… we might all walk around with ideas like this deep down inside:

Hold up signs: I’M A BAD CHRISTIAN, I DON’T BELONG HERE, EVERYBODY ELSE SEEMS TO GET IT; WHAT’S WRONG WITH ME?

MIRANDA: So today we’re going to talk about DOUBT. We’ll draw on several Scriptures – they’re on your Sunday Supplement if you want to take a look. What does it mean to doubt? Maybe it means there are things we think we’re supposed to believe – but don’t, really. You might think you’re a Bad Christian because the church teaches that the earth was created in seven days, and that dinosaur fossils are a trick God gave us to test our faith. But you really love science, and you just can’t swallow that.

Well, good news, Bad Christian – you don’t have to! Our church doesn’t teach that the world was created in just seven days. We understand the Creation story as telling us that God is the Source of all things, and that God made all things in love – and that we’re all in this together, humans and animals and plants and oceans and stars. And science is awesome! There are lots and lots and lots of scientists who also believe in God! 

Or you might feel like you Don’t Belong Here because you’ve heard that Jesus had to die on the cross because God was so angry about how bad and sinful humans are. God was so mad that God had to punish somebody, so Jesus took the punishment for us, to protect us from God’s anger. But, man, that story does not make you feel good about God. 

Well, that one is a doozy. It’s tough because some of our prayers could point you in that direction. But good news: Your church does not ask you to believe this! That teaching is called substitutionary atonement. It is just one way – out of many – that Christians have tried to understand Jesus’ death and resurrection. But what Jesus himself says about God is that God is merciful, and loves us, and wants to be close to us.  What a relief – that angry God was pretty scary! 

It’s OK to have questions, and to wrestle with what you think about it all! Let’s hear from someone who knows about wrestling with God. This is a story from the book of Genesis. 

JACOB: Hi, everybody. My name is Jacob. I lived a really long time ago – after Abraham, but before Moses. Is anybody here a twin? … I’m a twin. I was born second, after my brother Esau. In those days, everything went to the oldest son, even if the second son was born five minutes later. I spent my life consumed by envy of my brother. He had everything – including our father’s love. Finally I crossed a line; I did something so bad that I had to run away, or my brother might have killed me.

I spent years away from home. I got married, had children, became rich. But always, I felt the pull of home. And of unfinished business with my brother. Finally I knew it was time to go home. I gathered up my wives and children and servants and flocks, and we set out. As we got close, I was more and more terrified. My parents raised me to love and trust God. But I’d spent so much time trying to take, instead of waiting for God to give. Maybe God was done with me. Maybe I’d already gotten all the good life was going to give me. 

I sent servants on ahead with gifts for my brother – goats and sheep and camels and cattle and donkeys – did I mention I was really rich? And I sent my family off without me, so that if Esau came to kill me, they could get away. And I prayed to God: ‘God, you told me, “Return to you country and your kindred, and I will do you good.” I am not worthy of the steadfast love and faithfulness you have shown to me, all these years. Save me from the hand of my brother Esau, for I am afraid of him!’ 

And then – someone was with me. It was pitch dark; I could not see him. But he seized me, and we began to wrestle. We struggled together all night, until daybreak. As the sky began to lighten, the stranger said, Let me go. But I said, I will not let you go unless you bless me. So the stranger blessed me, and he gave me a new name, Israel, which means: One who wrestles with God. And then the stranger disappeared. But I knew that God had been with me that night. And that day, when I met my brother, I wasn’t afraid anymore. We hugged each other, and cried, and forgave each other. 

MIRANDA: Thank you for sharing your story, Jacob! We also might think it’s Doubt when we don’t have all the answers. When there are things we don’t understand – things in the world or in our lives. Those moments when you have a friend who just found out she’s really sick, and you’re worried for her, and you just don’t understand why people get sick. Why do we have to suffer?

KING DAVID: Oh, I feel you. I remember some times when I really felt like that. 

MIRANDA: King David! My goodness! It’s an honor to meet you. You were the most famous king of Israel, and most of the Psalms were written by you or by musicians in your court.

KING DAVID: True, true.

MIRANDA: You’re telling me you had times when you were overwhelmed by suffering and confusion? But you’re famous for your deep faith. How did you talk to God, in those times? 

KING DAVID: Actually, writing poetry about it was one of the ways I handled it. Here’s a song I wrote during a tough time. You know it as Psalm 102. 

O God, hear my prayer, and let my cry come before you! Don’t hide your face from me in the day of my trouble. Turn your ear towards me; when I call, hurry and answer me. For my days drift away like smoke,  and my bones feel as hot as burning coals. My heart feels as dry and brittle as withered grass; I even forget to eat my bread; I am skin and bones. I have become like a vulture in the wilderness, like an owl among the ruins. I lie awake and groan; I am like a sparrow, lonely on a house-top. But you, O God, endure for ever, and your Name from age to age. You will arise and have compassion on your people  – for now is the time to have mercy! 

MIRANDA: Wow. Thank you. I think I should read some more of your poetry. 

KING DAVID [modestly]: I have been told that many people find it consoling. 

MIRANDA: Even in your worst moments, you turned towards God. And you weren’t afraid to tell God about it when you were hurting. So… being sad and fearful and confused, and even angry, is not the same thing as doubting God? 

KING DAVID: Not at all. If I doubted God, why would I cry out to God about my troubles? I trust God. That’s why I can complain.

MIRANDA: Wait. You just said you trust God. Jacob said that too. Don’t you mean, you believe in God? 

KING DAVID: I… don’t understand the question. 

MIRANDA: Well, in modern English, to believe means that you think something is true. Like, Cheetahs are the fastest animals. True or not true? True! Trust is different. Trust means you know that somebody is there for you, you know they are who they claim to be and will keep their commitments. You could say that belief is in your brain, and trust is in your heart – and in your relationship with somebody. 

KING DAVID: Hmmm. I see the problem. In Hebrew, the language I speak, we don’t have this… brain-only belief idea. Where you say “believe” in God, our words mean: trust God, hope in God, rely on God, seek safety in God, commit to God… How can you have a relationship with God, or anybody else, with only your brain? 

MIRANDA: That’s a good question… Thank you, O King! Hmm. But if we shift from thinking about believing in God with our brains… to trusting God with our hearts and our lives… then what do we mean by doubt?

JAMES: May I be of assistance?

MIRANDA: Excuse me – who are you?

JAMES: I am James, the brother of Jesus. I wrote a letter that’s included in the New Testament…. About what it really means to live as a person of faith. 

MIRANDA: Of course! It’s an honor to meet you. 

JAMES: I began that letter by reminding fellow Christians to stay faithful in the face of persecution – and even take joy in suffering for Christ’s sake. I said, If you need wisdom, ask God, who gives us what we need with generosity. And ask in faith, without doubting; for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind.The doubter is double-minded and unstable in every way. Double-minded – that’s what I mean by doubt. Split between too many things. Trying to believe two contradictory things at the same time, or believing one thing but acting like you believed something else.

I really started thinking about doubt this way after that time when Jesus called Peter to walk on the water. It worked fine as long as Peter stayed focused on Jesus. But when he started to let his attention wander, he got scared; he lost direction; and he started to sink. Jesus grabbed him, of course – and said, “Why did you doubt?” 

Jesus didn’t mind when we had questions. Sometimes he was annoyed when we didn’t understand – but, to be fair, we were pretty slow on the uptake. He was mostly pretty patient about explaining again, and again, and again. His call on us wasn’t to have it all figured out, but to put our heart into it. To commit. That’s why I think the real meaning of doubt is trying to live by two different, contradictory scripts at the same time. 

MIRANDA: I definitely know what double-mindedness feels like. And that’s probably my biggest struggle with faithful living. I trust in God’s goodness and love. I know God is here among us, right now. But… I get distracted by many things. I get busy. I lose focus and purpose. I get double-minded, and lose my glad singleness of heart. 

But what about Thomas? The one everybody calls Doubting Thomas. That’s why we’re talking about doubt today. What can we learn about doubt from Doubting Thomas? 

THOMAS: Please don’t call me that.

MIRANDA: Oh, hello! Are you… the apostle Thomas? 

THOMAS: Yes, that’s me. 

MIRANDA: Why don’t you tell us your story? 

THOMAS: Well, okay, it’s like this.  Jesus rose from the dead. You know that part, right?  Mary Magdalene told the disciples that she had seen him. But nobody really believed her. [shrugs]

Then one evening most of the old crowd got together. Suddenly Jesus was there among them. He showed them the wounds in his hands and his side – proof that it was really him, not an impostor, not a ghost. They were really happy to see him, of course!

I wasn’t there that night; I was visiting my mother. And when I heard about what happened, I just couldn’t believe it. My heart had been broken by Jesus’ death. I wanted to believe, do you understand? But I was afraid to hope. I told them, “Until I can touch the wounds in his hands, I just can’t believe that he’s alive.”

A week later we were all together, sharing memories. And suddenly – he was there! Jesus! In the room with us! Not an impostor, not a ghost.  And he walked right up to me and held out his hand. It was like he’d heard what I said to the others. He told me, “Here, touch the wound in my hand. Don’t be afraid, Thomas – trust: it’s really me.”

My heart felt like it might burst. I said, “My Lord! My God!” I was so glad to see him – and so grateful that he understood that I couldn’t just rely on second-hand stories. That I needed to see him myself. 

MIRANDA : Thank you for telling your story, Thomas! It reminds me a little bit of my own story. I grew up in church. I was always surrounded by people who believed in God – trusted in God. I heard their stories of times when they’d heard God’s voice or met God, in so many different ways. That was important for me, as I grew up. 

But it was also really important for me to meet God myself. To have my own times when I felt God close by, or heard God’s voice in my heart or in someone else’s words. 

What I’m saying, Thomas, is that what happened for you, and what happened for me, is what I want for all our kids and youth – and grownups, too! We should all have our own meetings with God, with Jesus, with the Holy Spirit. And we should be a community where we can tell those stories, and encourage each other – whether we’re wrestling like Jacob, or crying out to God like King David, or feeling double-minded, or seeking a clearer sense of God in our lives. 

Friends, we wonder about God and seek God at every age – but the teenage years are an especially important time for seeking your own understanding of faith and your own experiences of God. So later this morning we are trying out a new custom: of celebrating that we have young people moving into that exciting season, and committing to being their companions on that journey.

For our teens, Friday night youth group is their primary faith community. Some of them also participate in church on Sunday morning – but mostly at the 10am service. But some of you know some of them. And you may find opportunities to know them better, and be one of the faithful grownups in their lives. – faithful both in the sense of having your own faith story and faith questions to share, and faithful in sticking with them through the challenges of young adulthood. 

I ask you to make a commitment to our youth today: to be unafraid of questions; to speak honestly from our own lives and hearts, instead of saying what we think grownups are supposed to say; and to be brave enough to wonder with them. 

And if their questions and their vision stretches or challenges us, we will rise to it; because we love them, and we trust that God is at work in their lives, and, through them, in the life of this church. 

Friends, will we make this commitment to our young people today? 

WE WILL!

MIRANDA: Names, we acknowledge that as you move into young adulthood, you are thinking about what your church and your faith have offered you in new ways. As you think about God and yourself and the world, you’ll probably have new thoughts and new questions. Like Jacob, you may find yourself wrestling with God; like Thomas, you may find that second-hand faith isn’t good enough for you, and seek your own experience of the Divine. We, as your household of faith, affirm this journey and this work.  At your baptisms, your churches promised to do all in our power to support you in your life in Christ. Today, that means making space for your maturing, and all that it involves. 

What we ask of you is to trust us as companions on this journey. Trust us with the little questions, the things you think you’re probably already supposed to know. You’d be surprised how many of us wonder, too. Trust us with the big questions, knowing that we have wrestled with them too; and that even though some of those big questions don’t have easy answers, we find purpose and truth here. Seek out friends among the grownups of this household of faith, and call on us for support and wondering together. And if it ever starts to feel like this church is too small for you, I invite you to talk to me or another trusted grownup here; we may be able to show you doors into rooms you didn’t even know about. (Metaphorically speaking!) 

Friends, will you make this commitment today? I invite you respond, We will. 

We will. 

Loving God, we commit all our struggle, our lament, our double-mindedness and our seeking to you, trusting that Scripture, tradition, and community are worthy companions on the way; that God is mystery enough to keep us wondering for a lifetime; and that Jesus Christ is Friend enough to walk with us through this and every season. Amen. 

Announcements, April 25

THIS WEEK….

Ladies’ Night Out, Friday, April 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 The Village Green at 7508 Hubbard Ave., Middleton. For more information please contact Kathy Whitt.

Last Sunday All-Ages Worship, Sunday, April 28, 10am: Our last Sunday worship is intended especially to help kids (and grownups who are new to our pattern of worship) to engage and participate fully. NOTE: Our 8am service always follows our regular order of worship.

Buy a Tribute Card to support St. Dunstan’s Diaper Drive, April 28 – June 2: Imagine having to choose whether to pay rent, pay utilities, buy food, or buy diapers for your baby or toddler. Nearly 1 in 3 American families struggle to afford enough diapers, which cannot be purchased with food stamps. For several years St. Dunstan’s has done a spring Diaper Drive to help provide diapers to local food pantries (sizes 4, 5, and 6 are always especially in demand!). This year we are selling Tribute Cards, made by our 4th & 5th grade group (the “Owls”), to raise funds to buy diapers. Make a donation of $5 or more and take a card to give to someone special in your life! Some are Mother’s Day cards, but others are all occasion cards. You can make your donation by check (write Diaper on the memo line) or online at donate.stdunstans.com . (Donations of diapers are also welcome if you see a good price while you’re out shopping!) Thanks for your support.

Grace Shelter Dinner, Sunday, April 28, 7pm: Every fourth Sunday, a loyal group of St. Dunstan’s folk provides dinner for residents at the Grace Church shelter, and breakfast the next morning. See the signup sheet in the Gathering Area to help out. To learn more, talk with Rose Mueller.

Bite Size Climate, Sunday, April 28, 11:50 – 12:10: Many of us are fearful and sad about climate change and its many impacts. An important first step towards change is to be informed citizens who understand the issue and can talk about it with others – since we’ll all need to work together for change. Adults, kids, and youth are all invited to a series of twenty-minute (we promise!) gatherings to watch a short video, talk, and pray together. Over time, we’ll expand our understanding and commitment in bite-sized chunks. We’ll meet in the Meeting Room after 10am worship on Sundays when children’s choir doesn’t meet. May & summer dates TBA!

THE WEEKS AHEAD…

“Why Religion?” Weekly Book Group Discussion, Wednesdays at 9:30am, starting April 24: The Wednesday morning book group is starting a new book, Why Religion, by Elaine Pagels. Quoting a review of the book, “Why is religion still around in the twenty-first century? …This question took on a new urgency for Pagels when dealing with unimaginable loss—the death of her young son, followed a year later by the shocking loss of her husband. Here she interweaves a personal story with the work that she loves, illuminating how, for better and worse, religious traditions have shaped how we understand ourselves” It should be an interesting read. Please feel welcome to join the discussion even if you don’t have the book. The group meets at 9:30 on Wednesday morning in the meeting room at St. Dunstan’s. For more information, you can contact Valerie or Peg Geisler.

“The Death and Life of the Great Lakes,” Book Group Discussion, Saturday, May 4, 10am: The monthly Saturday morning book group will meet to discuss an award-winning book of science and history, examining the past, present, and future of the Great Lakes. St. Dunstan’s members with an interest in ecology and creation care are invited to join the regular Saturday group to discuss this book. To participate, read The Death and Life of the Great Lakes (Dan Egan, 2017) by May 4! If you’d like to buy the book and cost is a barrier, talk to Rev. Miranda. Please note, the Saturday book group has traditionally been known as the “Men’s Book Group” but it is open to everyone!

Groundbreaking Sunday, 9am, Sunday, May 5: We wondered, planned, raised money, prepared – and now it’s time to begin! The Open Door Project, a major renovation to improve the comfort, safety, beauty, and usability of our church buildings, is about to begin. We will kick it off on Sunday, May 5, with a ceremony between services at 9am, and photo opportunities both between services and after the 10am service. Mark your calendar and plan to attend!

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

Sunday School at St. Dunstan’s: Our Sunday school classes usually meet twice a month; we will meet on May 12 and 19th, during our 10am liturgy. Kids ages 3 through 6th grade are welcome to join one of our three classes. Parents are welcome to come too!

Middleton outreach Ministry (MOM) Needs Clothing Donations: Middleton Outreach Ministry (MOM) has a clothing closet with gently used clothing available at no cost for their clients. Their racks  for infants and toddlers are quite low at this time. During your spring cleaning, if you find any clothing for newborn to 4T that you no longer need please consider bringing them to church and we will deliver them to MOM. Questions? -Connie Ott or Janet Bybee

SUMMER OPPORTUNITIES… 

VACATION BIBLE SCHOOL 2019: SAVE THE DATES – AUGUST 4 – 8! Plans are just starting to take shape but we expect to spent a lot of time outdoors, and to invite the adults of St. Dunstan’s to join our kids and youth for shared learning and fun, as we did in 2018. Mark your calendars!

Seeking Sponsors for our Kids & Youth: Your $25 sponsorship helps one of the children or youth of St. Dunstan’s attend Camp Webb or our summer youth mission trip. Each shareholder will receive a postcard from one of our kids or youth, during their time at camp or on the youth mission trip. We also plan a late summer social event for kids and sponsors, when kids can share about their trips.  You can contribute with a check in the offering plate with “Camp Sponsorship” on the memo line, or online at donate.stdunstans.com .

Camp Webb 2019 (June 16 – 22) 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. http://www.diomil.org/forming-disciples/children-youth-and-family-ministries/camp-webb/ for registration forms. Camp Webb IS EXPECTED TO FILL this year, so apply soon!

Women’s Mini-Week, August 8 – 11: The mission of Women’s Mini-Week is to provide an annual retreat event for adult women, offering refuge, friendship, relaxation, and fun. Mini-Week combines opportunities to learn with fellowship, spiritual exploration and delicious food as we invite all women to participate as much or as little as they would like and need. Mini-Week is held at a beautiful lakeside camp in northern Wisconsin. Many members of St. Dunstan’s have attended, planned, and led, over the years. Visit womensminiweek.org to learn more and make Mini-Week part of your summer plans.

Easter Sermon, April 21

Why are you here? Seriously. There are so many reasons not to be in church. Not to own the name “Christian.” If you follow current events at all, it can often seem like Christianity is all about judgment, control, and turning back the clock on the great movements towards allowing people to be their whole, true selves in public. I have conversations with people – not often, but regularly – people who are exploring church, or not-so-churchy friends or acquaintances – conversations whose subtext seems to be: You seem smart, Miranda; why are you still a Christian? 

Why am I still a Christian? When the faith I claim has been used to confine women to home and hearth, and to silence women speaking out about abuse? To tell LGBTQ+ people that their lives, their partnerships, their bodies, are less valid, less worthy? To say the Earth is ours to use and use up, rather than a sacred responsibility? When my faith has even been used to say that the wellbeing of the homeless, the hungry, the immigrant, the asylum seeker, is none of our concern? It is really hard to make the Bible say this, folks, but some people manage… And the icing on the cake: when my faith, our faith, has been used to insist on niceness, when folks start to get uppity about calling for change? 

Christianity became the religion of institutional power seventeen hundred years ago.In the intervening years, our scriptures and teachings and liturgies have often been made instruments of control rather than wholeness; of maintenance rather than transformation; of rigidity rather than renewal; of shame rather than joy. Why would anybody still be a Christian? 

I can’t tell you why you should be – though if you come here every Sunday, I’ll try. But I can tell you why I am. There are a lot of answers to that question, but today the answer begins with Mary Magdalene. 

Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed. So she ran and told Simon Peter and the disciple whom Jesus loved. They all returned to the tomb together, and saw the linen cloths lying there, the ones that had been wrapped around Jesus’ body. Mary stayed there when the others left, weeping for her lost friend. Then a voice said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?…” 

The story of Jesus’ life, death, and rising again from the dead, comes to us in four different versions – the Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. They were compiled and composed at different times, by people with different sources, understandings and intentions. The four texts agree about many things, and disagree about many others. One of their clearest agreements is that Mary Magdalene was the first, or among the first, to learn that Jesus had risen from the dead. Mark, Matthew, and Luke all list Mary first among several women who went to the tomb immediately after the sabbath day of rest – when it was forbidden to handle dead bodies. They wanted to wash and anoint the body of their beloved friend, who had been buried in haste before the sabbath. Instead, they found the tomb empty, and received a mysterious and joyful message: He’s not here. He has risen! 

The Gospel of John tells the story a little differently. One of the many quirks of this gospel is its frequent mention of “the disciple whom Jesus loved” – known as John to the other Gospels. The Gospel of John makes John a central figure in the unfolding story. For example: It’s the only gospel that claims John visited Jesus’ tomb. And by this account, John is the first one to get it – he sees the empty tomb, and believes. But even the gospel of John doesn’t dare unseat Mary Magdalene; after John has left the scene, she is the one who meets the risen Christ, names him – Rabboni! My teacher! – and embraces him. 

Though they tell the story in different ways, the four Gospels are unanimous in placing Mary Magdalene as first witness to the Resurrection – the church’s big word for the raising of Jesus from death to life. Mary Magdalene’s place of honor is all the more amazing when you consider the context from which these texts emerged. First-century Jewish culture and law was patriarchal and male-dominated, while the Hellenistic cultural influence in the region was heavily sexist. To take one relevant example: Women could not be witnesses in a legal setting. You can’t trust them, you know? Their brains … 

The Gospels reflect that context in their readiness to overlook women. Mark and Matthew literally named Mary Magdalene and other women just verses earlier, as Jesus is dying… NOT because that the women just showed up; they have been there the whole time. Listen to Mark:  “There were also women looking on from a distance; among them were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James … and Joses, and Salome. These used to follow Jesus and provided for him when he was in Galilee; and there were many other women who had come up with him to Jerusalem.” OH, BY THE WAY, Jesus had a bunch of female disciples too, who were supporting and looking after the whole motley crew! And it was a big deal for women to up and leave home, so their presence suggests devotion and courage at least equal to that of their male counterparts. 

In his Gospel, Luke – who takes women a little more seriously – even alludes to the sexism of the times, when he describes the male disciples’ reaction to news of the resurrection from Mary Magdalene and her companions: It “seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them.” 

The Gospels reflect the sexism of their context. But… not entirely. Because they are built on the foundation of the Hebrew Scriptures, from which the faces of bold and faithful women peek out, despite the overwhelming dominance of men’s voices and men’s stories: Deborah, Abigail, Tamar, Naomi, Ruth, Judith, Esther, Rahab, Miriam, Sarah, and so many others.  And because the man at the center of the Gospels was different. The great novelist and Christian writer Dorothy Sayers wrote, “It is no wonder that the women were first at the Cradle and last at the Cross. They had never known a man like this Man… A prophet and teacher who never nagged at them, never flattered or coaxed or patronised; who never made arch jokes about them [or condescended to them]; who took their questions and arguments seriously; who never [told them where they belonged]; who had… no uneasy male dignity to defend.” 

No wonder Mary wept at his tomb, thinking him dead. To hear that voice silenced, to see that vision crushed. And no wonder she wept even harder when she heard his voice, saw his beloved face, and knew that not only was it not over, it was just beginning. 

Why am I still Christian? Most fundamentally, because of Jesus. I’ve been talking about women here, but there are so many ways Jesus’ teachings and actions break open our categories of clean and unclean, righteous and unrighteous, deserving and undeserving, insider and outsider. He taught and showed and lived that there is no line that divides those who do and do not deserve our compassion, our solidarity. Even though people and institutions of faith have fallen short and distorted the message, again and again and again, the Gospels – the Scriptures – carry within them the seeds of liberation, healing, and renewal. 

And – the point of Easter is not just that God has the power to bring somebody back from the dead. I mean, that’s cool, but this week scientists zapped the brains of dead pigs and got some cells to start functioning. Who knows – within the next few years, reanimation may move from miraculous to mundane. The point of all this is not that God brought somebody back to life; the point is that God brought Jesus back to life.The guy who said all those amazing things and did all those wonderful things. To use a metaphor that may be relevant: In raising Jesus from death, God endorsed Jesus’ platform and sent out an email blast inviting us all to join the movement. 

But, listen: This isn’t just about remembering that Jesus was one woke dude. The late Bishop Stephen Bayne wrote that churches often act as if they were “a sort of memorial association for a deceased clergyman named Christ, whose ideals were important.” Jesus was great; but if what we’re about is getting together to talk about how great Jesus was, then I’m out. That’s not enough. Have you looked at the world? Stories – even really beautiful, profound stories – do not equip me to live in these times. I need a living God, not a dead one. I need the witness of Mary Magdalene: The tomb is empty! He’s alive!  And I need him to call me into life – abundant life, deep, true, fierce, wholehearted life.

In icons – holy images – of the Resurrection from the Eastern Orthodox churches, 

Jesus doesn’t just wake up in the dark tomb, sit up, unwind the burial cloths. Instead, he descends to the place of the dead and frees everyone – a cosmic jailbreak. He’s shown with broken doors, shattered locks and chains, around his feet. And he’s never shown alone: He grips the hands with a man and a woman, 

Adam and Eve, representing all of humanity, freed from the bondage of death, dragged back from the place of shadow and forgetting. Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and upon those in the tombs bestowing life! 

Last night we gathered here for the Easter Vigil, a liturgy that begins in the darkness of the tomb, with waiting and remembering, then celebrates the moment of Easter: Alleluia! Christ is risen! I don’t preach at the Vigil. Instead some voices from the early church speak to us across the centuries: Blessed Euthemius, the 5th century abbot, and blessed John Chrysostom, a 4th-century preacher and writer. In these ancient Easter sermons, Euthemius and Chrysostom, like the icons I described, name the Resurrection as an invitation. 

Euthemius gives Jesus these words: “I order you, O sleeper, to arise. I did not create you to be held a prisoner in hell… Rise up, work of my hands, created in my image. Rise up, let us leave this place! For I have died with you, and you shall rise with me.The banquet is ready, the throne of angels awaits; the Kingdom of Heaven has been prepared for you from all eternity!” 

Chrysostom preaches Easter as the invitation to a cosmic party: “Rich and poor, sing and dance together. You that are hard on yourselves, you that are easy, 

celebrate this day. You that have fasted and you that have not, make merry together. The meal is ready, come and enjoy it; you will not go away empty. There’s hospitality for all, and to spare.” 

Somewhere in the intervening centuries, we lost some of this urgency and joy. We started treating the Resurrection as Scripture, as Doctrine, as an Historical (or possibly not so Historical) Event – instead of God taking my hand and leading me into the best party ever, with food and people and joy and no awkwardness and so much music. 

This is why I’m still a Christian, and not just “still”, but fiercely, joyfully Christian: Because Easter is not just about Jesus; it’s about us. It’s not just a remembrance; it’s an invitation. To walk right out of the machinery: Rise up, let us leave this place!  To seize the brave conviction that there’s more love somewhere – as we sing in Lent – and we are gonna keep on till we find it. An invitation to transformation rather than maintenance; wholeness rather than control; renewal rather than rigidity; joy instead of shame. The Orthodox theologian Patriarch Athenagoras says, the Resurrection is not just the resuscitation of a body; it is the beginning of the transformation of the world.

Christ is risen. Join the movement. Share the feast.

This sermon is indebted to this wonderful article by Jim Friedrich: 

https://www.christiancentury.org/article/opinion/preaching-easter-sunday-isn-t-about-convincing-people?fbclid=IwAR2fJTimeZOsx9Tt0UEfkGD6Fog-J9N5_Bklkj2Rie-TSytAeht1avZJU2A

Bishop Bayne is quoted in Beyond Colonial Anglicanism, Ian Douglas & Kwok Pui-Lan (eds.), 2000.

 

The Sayers quotation is from  Are Women Human? Astute and Witty Essays on the Role of Women in Society. 

Announcements, April 18 – Holy Week

HOLY WEEK

Thursday, April 18, 6:00pm: Maundy Thursday Meal & Worship

This is a great liturgy for all ages – it moves from joyful to solemn, with lots of participation and symbolism.  If you wish, bring an offering in coins to remind us of Judas’ betrayal.

Night Watch: From 8:30pm to midnight on Thursday, April 18, following our Maundy Thursday service, and from 6am to noon on Good Friday, April 19, members of St. Dunstan’s will keep vigil of prayer in the church, in pairs. Sign up in the Gathering Area for your desired shift. Talk with Connie Ott with any questions. The church is locked in the evening for safety.

Friday, April 19 – Good Friday.

12pm & 7pm: Formal Good Friday services with Passion Gospel of John

2pm: Stations of the Cross Walk.  Starts at the church; walk will be slightly over a mile.

4pm: Children’s Stations of the Cross

Following the 7pm liturgy, several prayer stations for quiet meditation will be offered.

Saturday, April 20 – 8pm: Great Vigil of Easter

The Easter Vigil is great for older kids who can handle a late night (we wrap up around 10pm). We tell ancient holy stories by firelight, then sing and shout a lot!

Sunday, April 21 – Easter Sunday

An egg hunt for children follows both the 8am & 10am services. At 10am we will celebrate the Rite of Holy Baptism with baby Hope and her family.

Holy Week Offerings

Every year, our Holy Week offerings – gifts given at these particular liturgies – are given to help specific organizations. This year the offerings will be given as follows: 

Maundy Thursday – Briarpatch youth services:  Briarpatch provides resources, emergency shelter, access to restorative justice programs and job trainings to help homeless youth reach safety and success.  

Good Friday – GSAFE – Gay Straight Advocates for Education: GSAFE increases the capacity of LGBTQ+ students, educators and families to create schools in WI where all youth thrive.  

The Easter Vigil – Episcopal Relief and Development: Episcopal Relief & Development works closely with partners almost 40 countries worldwide to address global challenges like poverty, hunger, and disease.

St. Dunstan’s Easter Egg Hunt 2019:  As a response to the call to reduce single-use plastics (which includes trinkets that are only interesting when first found), we’re trying something new with our egg hunt this year. Eggs will contain plastic tokens, which kids are invited to put into one of three jars – for Briarpatch Youth Services, GSAFE, and Episcopal Relief and Development, the same three organizations that will receive our Holy Week special offerings. Kids can choose how to distribute their tokens, and later, St. Dunstan’s will send an additional gift to those organizations based on the kids’ choices. We will also be giving out small goody bags containing a little nut-free candy, stickers, and such. We will have some non-candy bags available upon request. Please talk to Rev. Miranda or Krissy Mayer if you have questions, concerns, or ideas!

THE WEEKS AHEAD…

“Why Religion?” Weekly Book Group Discussion, Wednesdays at 9:30am, starting April 24: The Wednesday morning book group is starting a new book, Why Religion, by Elaine Pagels. Quoting a review of the book, “Why is religion still around in the twenty-first century? …This question took on a new urgency for Pagels when dealing with unimaginable loss—the death of her young son, followed a year later by the shocking loss of her husband. Here she interweaves a personal story with the work that she loves, illuminating how, for better and worse, religious traditions have shaped how we understand ourselves” It should be an interesting read. Please feel welcome to join the discussion even if you don’t have the book. The group meets at 9:30 on Wednesday morning in the meeting room at St. Dunstan’s. For more information, you can contact Valerie or Peg Geisler.

Ladies’ Night Out, Friday, April 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 The Village Green at 7508 Hubbard Ave., Middleton. For more information please contact Kathy Whitt.

Last Sunday All-Ages Worship, Sunday, April 28, 10am: Our last Sunday worship is intended especially to help kids (and grownups who are new to our pattern of worship) to engage and participate fully. This month we’ll explore the concept of Doubt.

Bite Size Climate, Sunday, April 28, 11:50 – 12:10: Many of us are fearful and sad about climate change and its many impacts. An important first step towards change is to be informed citizens who understand the issue and can talk about it with others – since we’ll all need to work together for change. Adults, kids, and youth are all invited to a series of twenty-minute (we promise!) gatherings to watch a short video, talk, and pray together. Over time, we’ll expand our understanding and commitment in bite-sized chunks. We’ll meet in the Meeting Room after 10am worship on Sundays when children’s choir doesn’t meet. May & summer dates TBA!

“The Death and Life of the Great Lakes,” Book Group Discussion, Saturday, May 4, 10am: The monthly Saturday morning book group will meet to discuss an award-winning book of science and history, examining the past, present, and future of the Great Lakes. St. Dunstan’s members with an interest in ecology and creation care are invited to join the regular Saturday group to discuss this book. To participate, read The Death and Life of the Great Lakes (Dan Egan, 2017) by May 4! If you’d like to buy the book and cost is a barrier, talk to Rev. Miranda. Please note, the Saturday book group has traditionally been known as the “Men’s Book Group” but it is open to everyone!

Groundbreaking Sunday, 9am, Sunday, May 5: We wondered, planned, raised money, prepared – and now it’s time to begin! The Open Door Project, a major renovation to improve the comfort, safety, beauty, and usability of our church buildings, is about to begin. We will kick it off on Sunday, May 5, with a ceremony between services at 9am, and photo opportunities both between services and after the 10am service. Mark your calendar and plan to attend!

Sunday School at St. Dunstan’s: Our Sunday school classes usually meet twice a month; we will meet on May 12 and 19th, during our 10am liturgy. Kids ages 3 through 6th grade are welcome to join one of our three classes. Parents are welcome to come too!

Middleton outreach Ministry (MOM) Needs Clothing Donations: Middleton Outreach Ministry (MOM) has a clothing closet with gently used clothing available at no cost for their clients. Their racks  for infants and toddlers are quite low at this time. During your spring cleaning, if you find any clothing for newborn to 4T that you no longer need please consider bringing them to church and we will deliver them to MOM. Questions? -Connie Ott or Janet Bybee

SUMMER OPPORTUNITIES… 

VACATION BIBLE SCHOOL 2019: SAVE THE DATES – AUGUST 4 – 8! Plans are just starting to take shape but we expect to spent a lot of time outdoors, and to invite the adults of St. Dunstan’s to join our kids and youth for shared learning and fun, as we did in 2018. Mark your calendars!

Seeking Sponsors for our Kids & Youth: Your $25 sponsorship helps one of the children or youth of St. Dunstan’s attend Camp Webb or our summer youth mission trip. Each shareholder will receive a postcard from one of our kids or youth, during their time at camp or on the youth mission trip. We also plan a late summer social event for kids and sponsors, when kids can share about their trips.  You can contribute with a check in the offering plate with “Camp Sponsorship” on the memo line, or online at donate.stdunstans.com .

Camp Webb 2019 (June 16 – 22) 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. http://www.diomil.org/forming-disciples/children-youth-and-family-ministries/camp-webb/ for registration forms. Camp Webb IS EXPECTED TO FILL this year, so apply soon!

Women’s Mini-Week, August 8 – 11: The mission of Women’s Mini-Week is to provide an annual retreat event for adult women, offering refuge, friendship, relaxation, and fun. Mini-Week combines opportunities to learn with fellowship, spiritual exploration and delicious food as we invite all women to participate as much or as little as they would like and need. Mini-Week is held at a beautiful lakeside camp in northern Wisconsin. Many members of St. Dunstan’s have attended, planned, and led, over the years. Visit womensminiweek.org to learn more and make Mini-Week part of your summer plans.

Announcements, April 11

THIS WEEKEND…

Palm Saturday Intergenerational Gathering:  On Saturday, April 13, from 10 – noon, all are invited to get ready for Easter together by preparing our space, our hearts, and our minds. We’ll spend about an hour sharing various activities, then gather for our participatory Easter Pageant at 11am.

Palm & Passion Sunday Worship, 8 & 10am:  Weather permitting, our worship will begin outside. This is a long liturgy, in which we re-tell the story of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, his confrontations with the authorities there, and his arrest, trial, and crucifixion. In the past we’ve found that many kids like to be present. Our child care staff can take younger or restless kids to another room as needed.

Cookie Church, 6-7pm, Sunday, April 14: Cookie Church is simple bedtime church. It is child-centered but not just for kids. We will share singing, story, Eucharist, and a snack. (Yes, there will be cookies.) We end with bedtime prayers and it’s OK to come in your pajamas! We’re trying this out for a season to see what we learn; come try it out with us! Sign up in the Gathering Area if you’d like to make a batch of cookies for us one week. We ask for at least 20 cookies, and it’s OK to drop them off Sunday morning (clearly labeled so they don’t get eaten at Coffee Hour).

Easter Flower & Coffee Hour Sign-Up: Would you like to help with our Easter celebration on April 21? To contribute to our special coffee hour after 10am worship, or to sponsor and dedicate flowers for the Easter services, please see the sign-up sheets in the Gathering Area under the big calendar.  Remember, you can make your flower donation online at donate.stdunstans.com .

Maundy Thursday (April 18, 6pm) Meal Sign-up: Our Maundy Thursday liturgy includes a shared meal as we remember Jesus’ final meal with his friends before his crucifixion. Sign up in the Gathering Area to contribute lentil soup, hummus, lives, or other items. Thanks for all your offerings!

Night Watch Vigil Sign-up: From 8:30pm to midnight on Thursday, March 29, following our Maundy Thursday service, and from 6am to noon on Good Friday, March 30, members of St. Dunstan’s will keep vigil of prayer in the church, in pairs. Sign up in the Gathering Area for your desired shift. Talk with Connie Ott with any questions. The church is locked in the evening for safety; if you do not have a key, please contact Ann in the office at or (608) 238-2781.

St. Dunstan’s Easter Egg Hunt 2019:  As a response to the call to reduce single-use plastics (which includes trinkets that are only interesting when first found), we’re trying something new with our egg hunt this year. Eggs will contain plastic tokens, which kids are invited to put into one of three jars – for Briarpatch Youth Services, GSAFE, and Episcopal Relief and Development, the same three organizations that will receive our Holy Week special offerings. Kids can choose how to distribute their tokens, and later, St. Dunstan’s will send an additional gift to those organizations based on the kids’ choices. We will also be giving out small goody bags containing a little nut-free candy, stickers, and such. We will have some non-candy bags available upon request. Please talk to Rev. Miranda or Krissy Mayer if you have questions, concerns, or ideas!

Neighborhood Stations of the Cross, Good Friday, April 19, 2pm:  This is a new opportunity this year. The Stations of the Cross Walk takes us through Jesus’ journey to the cross as we walk through the neighborhood around our church.  The total walk will be slightly over one mile, and will take about an hour and a half (including stops and readings). We will gather at St. Dunstan’s to begin the walk.

HOLY WEEK

Thursday,  April 18, 6:00pm:

Maundy Thursday Meal & Worship. This is a great liturgy for all ages – it moves from joyful to solemn, with lots of participation and symbolism.  If you wish, bring an offering in coins to remind us of Judas’ betrayal.

Friday,  April 19 – Good Friday.

12pm & 7pm: Formal Good Friday services with Passion Gospel of John

2pm: Stations of the Cross Walk – starts at the church; see announcement above.

4pm: Children’s Stations of the Cross

Following the 7pm liturgy, several prayer stations for quiet meditation will be offered.

Saturday, April 20 – 8pm: Great Vigil of Easter

The Easter Vigil is great for older kids who can handle a late night (we wrap up around 10pm). We tell ancient holy stories by firelight, then sing and shout a lot!

Sunday, April 21 – Easter Sunday

An egg hunt for children follows both the 8am & 10am services. At 10am we will celebrate the Rite of Holy Baptism with baby Hope and her family.

Holy Week Offerings

Every year, our Holy Week offerings – gifts given at these particular liturgies – are given to help specific organizations. This year the offerings will be given as follows:

Maundy Thursday – Briarpatch youth services: In Dane County it is estimated that every night approximately 300 youth go to bed homeless. Briarpatch provides resources, emergency shelter, access to restorative justice programs and job trainings to help these youth reach safety and success. 

Good Friday – GSAFE – Gay Straight Advocates for Education: GSAFE increases the capacity of LGBTQ+ students, educators and families to create schools in WI where all youth thrive, through leadership development, advocacy, teacher training, and more.

The Easter Vigil – Episcopal Relief and Development: Episcopal Relief & Development works closely with Church partners and local organizations in almost 40 countries worldwide, creating long-term, local strategies to address global challenges like poverty, hunger, and disease.

THE WEEKS AHEAD…

Ladies’ Night Out, Friday, April 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 The Village Green at 7508 Hubbard Ave., Middleton. For more information please contact Kathy Whitt.

“The Death and Life of the Great Lakes,” Book Group Discussion, Saturday, May 4, 10am: The monthly Saturday morning book group will meet to discuss an award-winning book of science and history, examining the past, present, and future of the Great Lakes. St. Dunstan’s members with an interest in ecology and creation care are invited to join the regular Saturday group to discuss this book. To participate, read The Death and Life of the Great Lakes (Dan Egan, 2017) by May 4! If you’d like to buy the book and cost is a barrier, talk to Rev. Miranda. Please note, the Saturday book group has traditionally been known as the “Men’s Book Group” but it is open to everyone!

Groundbreaking Sunday, 9am, Sunday, May 5: We wondered, planned, raised money, prepared – and now it’s time to begin! The Open Door Project, a major renovation to improve the comfort, safety, beauty, and usability of our church buildings, is about to begin. We will kick it off on Sunday, May 5, with a ceremony between services at 9am, and photo opportunities both between services and after the 10am service. Mark your calendar and plan to attend!

Middleton outreach Ministry (MOM) Needs Clothing Donations: Middleton Outreach Ministry (MOM) has a clothing closet with gently used clothing available at no cost for their clients. Their racks  for infants and toddlers are quite low at this time. During your spring cleaning, if you find any clothing for newborn to 4T that you no longer need please consider bringing them to church and we will deliver them to MOM. Questions? -Connie Ott or Janet Bybee

SUMMER OPPORTUNITIES… 

VACATION BIBLE SCHOOL 2019: SAVE THE DATES – AUGUST 4 – 8! Plans are just starting to take shape but we expect to spent a lot of time outdoors, and to invite the adults of St. Dunstan’s to join our kids and youth for shared learning and fun, as we did in 2018. Mark your calendars!

Seeking Sponsors for our Kids & Youth: Your $25 sponsorship helps one of the children or youth of St. Dunstan’s attend Camp Webb or our summer youth mission trip. Each shareholder will receive a postcard from one of our kids or youth, during their time at camp or on the youth mission trip. We also plan a late summer social event for kids and sponsors, when kids can share about their trips.  You can contribute with a check in the offering plate with “Camp Sponsorship” on the memo line, or online at donate.stdunstans.com .

Camp Webb 2019 (June 16 – 22) 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. http://www.diomil.org/forming-disciples/children-youth-and-family-ministries/camp-webb/ for registration forms. Camp Webb IS EXPECTED TO FILL this year, so apply soon!

Women’s Mini-Week, August 8 – 11: The mission of Women’s Mini-Week is to provide an annual retreat event for adult women, offering refuge, friendship, relaxation, and fun. Mini-Week combines opportunities to learn with fellowship, spiritual exploration and delicious food as we invite all women to participate as much or as little as they would like and need. Mini-Week is held at a beautiful lakeside camp in northern Wisconsin. Many members of St. Dunstan’s have attended, planned, and led, over the years. Visit womensminiweek.org to learn more and make Mini-Week part of your summer plans.

6205 University Ave., Madison WI