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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 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.

Homily, March 24

Luke 13:1-5, paraphrased

While Jesus was teaching one day, someone asked him about a terrible thing that had happened: Some people were offering sacrifices to God, in the region of Galilee, and Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor, sent his soldiers to kill them. What were those people doing wrong, that such a terrible thing happened to them? 

Jesus answered, “Do you think the suffering of these Galileans proves that they were more sinful than all the other Galileans? No! Or what about the tower that collapsed the other day, the Tower of Siloam, and killed 18 people – do you think those 18 people were the worst 18 people in Jerusalem? No! Death will come to everyone. Stop looking for scapegoats and easy explanations. You can’t get on God’s good side somehow and avoid the hurts and losses that are part of being human. Instead, change your heart and change your life, to serve God and your neighbor with the time you have.”

This is probably nobody’s favorite story about Jesus. He’s saying some hard things here. But he’s right. 

When bad things happen to people, it hurts. So we look for a way to not care. It’s far away. They’re a different kind of people than we are. They’re used to it; stuff like that happens to them all the time. They should have known better. In fact, they had it coming. Have you ever felt that inside yourself? Seen somebody in trouble, and heard some tiny nasty voice inside yourself say, Well, maybe if they’d made different choices…

Jesus says, Tell that voice to shut up. We all make bad choices sometimes. And we all hurt sometimes. Stop looking for ways not to care about your neighbor. 

But there’s another question here, right? Why do bad things happen at all? Why did those soldiers kill those people? Why did that tower fall on those people? Why would God do that? 

But let’s think about those questions a little harder. Why do you think the tower fell? Do buildings usually just fall down?… If a tower fell down today, here, in America, what would you wonder?You’d think maybe people didn’t build it very well, right? That the people who made this disaster happen were the people who wanted to build a tower as cheaply as possible – and the builders who were willing to do a sloppy, careless job – and the safety inspectors who looked the other way. You might not think about it much when you’re a kid, but we have lots and lots of ways we make sure our buildings are safe and WON’T just fall over on people. (That’s part of why it’s going to cost us $200,000 to put in an elevator – because we don’t just want an elevator; we want a SAFE elevator!)

But sometimes people get sloppy about making sure things are as safe as they should be. Usually because of money. The grownups have been reading in the news this week about a company that makes airplanes, and how the government decided mostly to let the company decide for itself whether its airplanes are safe to fly. Well, guess what? The company wants to sell airplanes, so they were maybe not quite as careful as they could have been. 

Why did that tower fall, in Jerusalem? Because of people. Not because of God. 

Okay, what about the soldiers killing those people while they were worshiping God? Was that God’s idea? Whose idea might it have been? ….  Those are some good guesses. There isn’t much about this story in other historical texts. That doesn’t mean it didn’t happen; it means that it didn’t seem very important to the people who were writing history back then. So we don’t really know what these people did that upset the Romans. But I think it’s safe to say that this tragedy happened because of people. Not because of God.

God made us free. That’s really important to understand. We’re not dolls. We make choices, individually and all together. And our choices have consequences. I bet you’ve had conversations like that with your grownups! But it’s true for grownups too. 

Sometimes people make choices that result in hurtful things. We use our free will to pollute the air and the water. There’s a town in Michigan, called Flint, that had dangerous levels of lead in their water, the water that comes out of the faucet. Lead is poisonous, especially for babies and kids. The problem for the kids in Flint isn’t that God didn’t care about their safety. It’s that people didn’t care about their safety. There are so, so many examples like that.

I’m going to ask you a couple of important questions now. When humans create systems and situations that hurt somebody – like the bad water in Flint, or not building enough places for people to live, or even changing the climate of our planet so there are worse and worse storms – who is more likely to be hurt by it, poor people or rich people? 

That’s right. Usually poor people, because they don’t have the resources to get out of the situation and protect themselves. 

Here’s the second question: Does God love rich people more than God loves poor people? 

No. No, God loves people who are poor. God loves kids living in places of war. God loves families on the run from violence. God wants all God’s children to have safety, kindness, and hope.

Living the way God asks us to live, loving God and loving other people, doesn’t mean we get out of the hard stuff. It means we choose to take care of each other when we hurt – and to work to make things better. We are all in this together. And we have to work together, to change our cities, our country, our world, so that there are fewer systems and situations that hurt people. 

God made us free. We make choices, and our choices have consequences. What are some choices we can make to make things better for everybody?…. Those are all good ways we can use our freedom and our choices to join God in making the world better for all God’s children! 

When our hearts feel heavy because of hard things happening in the world or to people we care about – or to us – one thing we can do is pray about it. Hold it up to God, and ask God to take care of those people – and help us carry our heavy hearts – and show us what we can do to help. We’re going to spend some time praying now – and we’re going to try praying in a lot of different ways…. 

 

Further Reading: Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg on theodicy… https://twitter.com/TheRaDR/status/1090360431556866048

Announcements, February 14

Happy Valentines Day!

THIS WEEK…

Men’s Book Club, Saturday, February 16th, 10:00am: This month’s selection is Born a Crime by Trevor Noah. Born a Crime is the story of a mischievous young boy who grows into a restless young man as he struggles to find himself in a world where he was never supposed to exist. It is also the story of that young man’s relationship with his fearless, rebellious, and fervently religious mother—his teammate, a woman determined to save her son from the cycle of poverty, violence, and abuse that would ultimately threaten her own life.

A Crash Course in Liturgical Space, 9am on February 17 & 24: Come explore what it means to have a place of worship and what our place of worship says about us, in a series of discussions based on the work of liturgical scholar Richard Giles. No homework necessary, and it’s OK if you can’t come to all the sessions. All ages welcome – these conversations would be enriched by some generational breadth!

Sunday School at St. Dunstan’s: Our Sunday school classes for kids meet during 10am worship on the second and third Sundays of most months (February 10 & 17). We have three Sunday school classes: for kids age 3 through kindergarten, for grades 1 – 3, and grades 4 – 6. Kids are welcome to try it out at any time, and parents may come along too! If you’d like to get involved, contact Sharon Henes.

Young Adult Meetup at the Vintage, Sunday, February 17, 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.

Open Door Project Plans: Look for posters around the church building to tell you about our upcoming renovation! Construction is expected to begin after Easter. Talk to Rev. Miranda or any member of the Vestry if you have questions or ideas.

What Gifts Do We Bring? Gift is one theme of Epiphany, and in this season, the people of St. Dunstan’s are invited to speak up about the gifts you bring and the gifts you notice in others in the church community. What are we good at, and what do we love to do? Fill out a yellow or purple slip and put it in the big green present box near the church doors. Our answers will help point us towards new ideas and opportunities in our common life as a church household. (P.S. We will not assign anyone to a ministry based on these slips – PROMISE!)  Please fill out slips by Sunday, February 24!

Looking for Coffee Hosts for March 2019! Consider being a coffee host and talk with Janet Bybee for more information.

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

THE WEEKS AHEAD…

Greeting Card Recycling! Do you have old, used greeting cards around that you don’t have the heart to just recycle? Our 4th & 5th Grade group is planning a project using pictures from old cards, and we’ll put them to good use! Bring them in and give them to Miranda or Krissy, or leave them in Miranda’s mailbox. We prefer general or nature- and spring-type images – nothing Christmassy, please!

Ladies’ Night Out, Friday, February 22, 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 Amber Indian Cuisine at 6913 University Ave., Middleton. For more information, or to arrange a ride, please contact Kathy Whitt.

Spring Youth Retreat: All youth in grades 6 – 9 are invited to our Youth Retreat, which will begin on the evening of Friday, March 1, and run through midday on Sunday, March 3. The retreat will be structured around the spiritual practices known as the Way of Love. It will include fun, reflection, service, and worship.  Link to registration form is below. We suggest a $20 donation per child to help with food and materials costs, but finances should not be a barrier.

Shrove Tuesday Pancake Supper, Tuesday, March 5, 5:30 – 6:30pm: Tasty food and intergenerational fellowship! We’ll gather at 5:30 with prayer and song, share a meal, and mark the turning season by burying Alleluias. Friends welcome! Suggested donation of $5 per adult, $10 per household. Kids eat free. All proceeds go to support the St. Dunstan’s Campership Fund, which helps cover costs for St. Dunstan’s kids to attend Camp Webb, our diocesan summer camp. We’ve got more kids going every year, so please give generously! If you’d like to help out or contribute to the meal, see the signup sheets in the Gathering Area.

Ash Wednesday services will be at noon, 4pm, and 7pm on Wednesday, March 4. The 4pm service is especially intended for kids and families. Rev. Miranda will also offer Ashes-to-Go by the main driveway from 7:30 – 8:30am and 5 – 6pm.

Madison-Area Julian Gathering Wednesday, March 13, 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.

Making Church Connections: In the spirit of Postcard Pals, are there adults who could spare a little time and would like to be friends with one of our elders who don’t get to church often? It might be occasional visits, or it might be calls & cards. If you’d be interested, talk with Rev. Miranda .

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!

Announcements, February 8

THIS WEEKEND…

Eucharist with Holy Baptism, 10am: We will celebrate the baptism of Tobias James, son of Kate and Alex.

A Crash Course in Liturgical Space, 9am on February 10, 17 & 24: Come explore what it means to have a place of worship and what our place of worship says about us, in a series of discussions based on the work of liturgical scholar Richard Giles. No homework necessary, and it’s OK if you can’t come to all the sessions. All ages welcome – these conversations would be enriched by some generational breadth!

Sunday School at St. Dunstan’s: Our Sunday school classes for kids meet during 10am worship on the second and third Sundays of most months (February 10 & 17). We have three Sunday school classes: for kids age 3 through kindergarten, for grades 1 – 3, and grades 4 – 6. Kids are welcome to try it out at any time, and parents may come along too! If you’d like to get involved, contact Sharon Henes.

Spirituality of Parenting Lunch, Sunday, February 10, 11:30am: All who seek meaning in the journey of parenthood (at any age or stage) are welcome to come for food and conversation. Childcare and a simple meal provided. Pick up the essay “Life with our Children” in the Gathering Area to read before we meet, if you’d like!

Outreach Offering: Today you will see a basket with 15 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 the work of organizations near and far that help those in need. At their first meeting of the year, the Committee designated $500 as our annual gift to the bipartisan hunger advocacy group Bread for the World, and $1000 to support Middleton Outreach Ministry and the good work they do in our community.

Open Door Project Plans: Look for posters around the church building to tell you about our upcoming renovation! Construction is expected to begin after Easter. Talk to Rev. Miranda or any member of the Vestry if you have questions or ideas.

What Gifts Do We Bring? Gift is one theme of Epiphany, and in this season, the people of St. Dunstan’s are invited to speak up about the gifts you bring and the gifts you notice in others in the church community. What are we good at, and what do we love to do? Fill out a yellow or purple slip and put it in the big green present box near the church doors. Our answers will help point us towards new ideas and opportunities in our common life as a church household. (P.S. We will not assign anyone to a ministry based on these slips – PROMISE!)  Please fill out slips by Sunday, February 24!

Looking for Coffee Hosts for February 2019! Consider being a coffee host and talk with Janet Bybee.

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

THE WEEKS AHEAD…

Making Church Connections: In the spirit of Postcard Pals, are there adults who could spare a little time and would like to be friends with one of our elders who don’t get to church often? It might be occasional visits, or it might be calls & cards. If you’d be interested, talk with Rev. Miranda .

Young Adult Meetup at the Vintage, Sunday, February 17, 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.

Men’s Book Club, February 16th 10:00am: This month’s selection is Born a Crime by Trevor Noah. Born a Crime is the story of a mischievous young boy who grows into a restless young man as he struggles to find himself in a world where he was never supposed to exist. It is also the story of that young man’s relationship with his fearless, rebellious, and fervently religious mother—his teammate, a woman determined to save her son from the cycle of poverty, violence, and abuse that would ultimately threaten her own life.

Ladies’ Night Out, Friday, February 22, 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 Amber Indian Cuisine at 6913 University Ave., Middleton. For more information, or to arrange a ride, please contact Kathy Whitt.

Epiphany Lessons and Music, Sunday, February 24, 10am: Our service of Lessons and Music will center around the theme of gifts. This will be an all-ages liturgy.

Spring Youth Retreat: All youth in grades 6 – 9 are invited to our Youth Retreat, which will begin on the evening of Friday, March 1, and run through midday on Sunday, March 3. The retreat will be structured around the spiritual practices known as the Way of Love. It will include fun, reflection, service, and worship.  Link to registration form is below. We suggest a $20 donation per child to help with food and materials costs, but finances should not be a barrier.

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. Visit 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!

Please Wear Your Nametags: In the interest of getting to know one another and enjoying fellowship together, we encourage you to wear your nametags. If you would like a nametag, there is a signup sheet in the Gathering Space.
 
Sermons are (usually) available on the way into church if you find that it helps you to read along as Rev. Miranda preaches. They’re also available online after church and during the week at www.stdunstans.com.

Announcements, January 24th

THIS WEEK…

Ladies’ Night Out, Friday, January 25, 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 Nonno’s, Corner of Whitney Way and Odana Road in Madison. Please contact Kathy Whitt  for more information or to RSVP.

Outreach Committee Meeting, Saturday, January 26, 8:30-10:30am: All are welcome to join our conversations about how St. Dunstan’s can best serve the world with our resources and our hands. We begin with an optional potluck breakfast at 8am.

Last Sunday Worship with Epiphany Pageant, Sunday, January 27: The children of St. Dunstan’s will present a pageant telling the story of Jesus’ birth and the visit of the Wise Men on Sunday, January 27, as part of our 10am Last Sunday worship. 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.

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

Making Church Connections: In the spirit of Postcard Pals, are there adults who could spare a little time and would like to be friends with one of our elders who don’t get to church often? It might be occasional visits, or it might be calls & cards. If you’d be interested, talk with Rev. Miranda.

THE WEEKS AHEAD…

Candlemas, Sunday, February 3: We will honor Candlemas as part of our regular Sunday worship, with a brief story and candle-lighting prayers at the end of our 10am liturgy. Bring your flashlights and emergency candles from home to be blessed! We will also have candles available to take home to burn when you feel in need of protection or peace.

A Crash Course in Liturgical Space, 9am on February 3, 10, 17 & 24: Come explore what it means to have a place of worship and what our place of worship says about us, in a series of discussions based on the work of liturgical scholar Richard Giles. No homework necessary, and it’s OK if you can’t come to all the sessions. All ages welcome – these conversations would be enriched by some generational breadth!

Spirituality of Parenting Lunch, Sunday, February 10, 11:30am: All who seek meaning in the journey of parenthood (at any age or stage) are welcome to come for food and conversation. Childcare and a simple meal provided. Pick up the essay “Life with our Children” in the Gathering Area to read before we meet, if you’d like!

Looking for Coffee Hosts for February 2019! Consider being a coffee host and talk with Janet Bybee  for more information.

Spring Youth Retreat: All youth in grades 6 – 9 are invited to our Youth Retreat, which will begin on the evening of Friday, March 1, and run through midday on Sunday, March 3. The retreat will be structured around the spiritual practices known as the Way of Love. It will include fun, reflection, service, and worship.  Link to registration form is below. We suggest a $20 donation per child to help with food and materials costs, but finances should not be a barrier.

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. Visit 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!

Sacred Site Visits: How Do Other People of Faith Worship? Wisconsin Faith Voices for Justice’s Interfaith Community Building initiative is sponsoring a new program: Sacred Site Visits and Interfaith Fellowship. Throughout 2019, we will offer a series of Sacred Site visits to houses of worship/faith communities (Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Baha’i, Unitarian, and others). These visits will include a tour of the worship space and a talk by a faith leader of that community where they will share with us the main teachings of their faith, their holidays, rituals, sacred texts, and worship. In some cases, we will be able to observe their worship services. Participants will be grouped into cohorts of 8 adults, who will share learning and get to know each other throughout the year. If you’d like to participate, please fill out this 2-minute survey: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/92SVB95

Men’s Book Club, February 16th 10:00am: This month’s selection is Born a Crime by Trevor Noha. Born a Crime is the story of a mischievous young boy who grows into a restless young man as he struggles to find himself in a world where he was never supposed to exist. It is also the story of that young man’s relationship with his fearless, rebellious, and fervently religious mother—his teammate, a woman determined to save her son from the cycle of poverty, violence, and abuse that would ultimately threaten her own life.

Please Wear Your Nametags: In the interest of getting to know one another and enjoying fellowship together, we encourage you to wear your nametags. If you would like a nametag, there is a signup sheet in the Gathering Space.

Sermons are (usually) available on the way into church if you find that it helps you to read along as Rev. Miranda preaches. They’re also available online after church and during the week at www.stdunstans.com.

When the Diagnosis is Racism: Grace Church is offering a program directed towards church members and intended to ask members of the white community to reflect upon their own experience with racism, to understand the roots of the problems and to consider personal responsibility for finding solutions. Lunch Meetings are scheduled for 4 Sundays: January 20, February 27, March 17 and April 28. Participants will discuss questions about how racism is taught, perpetuated, and addressed.  All ages are welcome with a special invitation to high school students and young adults.  It is their future that is at stake. There is no fee but registration is requested to assure sufficient food is provided. Register by calling Christina at (608) 255-5147 x 24 or email togracechurch@gmail.com

Announcements, January 17

THIS WEEK…

4th & 5th Grade Group, Friday, January 18, 5:30 – 7:30pm: All kids in 4th & 5th grade are invited to gather for pizza, service activities, and fun. Contact Rev. Miranda with any questions!

Annual Parish Meeting, Sunday, January 20, 9am: Come to hear parish updates, including the 2019 budget, and help elect our parish leaders. All are welcome to attend!

Sunday School at St. Dunstan’s: Our Sunday school classes for kids meet during 10am worship on the second and third Sundays of most months (January 13 & 20, February 10 & 17). We have three Sunday school classes: for kids age 3 through kindergarten, for grades 1 – 3, and grades 4 – 6. Kids are welcome to try it out at any time, and parents may come along too! If you’d like to get involved, contact Sharon Henes.

Evening Eucharist, Sunday, January 20, 6pm: Join us for a simple service as the week begins. All are welcome.

Young Adult Meetup at the Vintage, Sunday, January 20, 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.

Survival Backpacks: We are collecting items to fill backpacks for homeless high school youth in the Madison school system. They need basic necessities in a simple form that they can carry with them. Please check the window in the Gathering Area for items needed. Take a slip, buy the items, and bring them back by Sunday, February 3. Feel free to take more than one slip if you feel able to meet the need.  Thanks for your generosity! Questions? Contact Bonnie Magnuson.

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

Making Church Connections: In the spirit of Postcard Pals, are there adults who could spare a little time and would like to be friends with one of our elders who don’t get to church often? It might be occasional visits, or it might be calls & cards. If you’d be interested, talk with Rev. Miranda or email her at revmiranda@stdunstans.com .

THE WEEKS AHEAD…

Outreach Committee Meeting, Saturday, January 26, 8-10:30am: All are welcome to join our conversations about how St. Dunstan’s can best serve the world with our resources and our hands. We begin with an optional potluck breakfast at 8am.

Epiphany Pageant, Sunday, January 27: The children of St. Dunstan’s will present a pageant telling the story of Jesus’ birth and the visit of the Wise Men on Sunday, January 28. There will be a rehearsal after church on Sunday, January 20. All kids are welcome to participate!

A Crash Course in Liturgical Space, 9am on February 3, 10, 17 & 24: Come explore what it means to have a place of worship and what our place of worship says about us, in a series of discussions based on the work of liturgical scholar Richard Giles. No homework necessary, and it’s OK if you can’t come to all the sessions. All ages welcome – these conversations would be enriched by some generational breadth!

Spirituality of Parenting Lunch, Sunday, February 10, 11:30am: All who seek meaning in the journey of parenthood (at any age or stage) are welcome to come for food and conversation. Childcare and a simple meal provided.

Looking for Coffee Hosts for February 2019! Consider being a coffee host and talk with Janet Bybee for more information.

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

Monday Morning Art Group: Each Monday morning from 9:30 to 11:30 an adult group meets in the chapel area to share their creative arts and crafts projects, which might include drawing and painting to needlework.  It’s become a wonderful time to share some of our personal history, or more recent experiences and/or challenges.  Feel free to come along and join us! Because of improper ventilation for toxic materials, we ask that no paint solvents or smelly glues be required during this period.

Spring Youth Retreat: All youth in grades 6 – 9 are invited to our Youth Retreat, which will begin on the evening of Friday, March 1, and run through midday on Sunday, March 3. The retreat will be structured around the spiritual practices known as the Way of Love. It will include fun, reflection, service, and worship.  Link to registration form is below. We suggest a $20 donation per child to help with food and materials costs, but finances should not be a barrier.

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. Visit 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!

Sacred Site Visits: How Do Other People of Faith Worship? Wisconsin Faith Voices for Justice’s Interfaith Community Building initiative is sponsoring a new program: Sacred Site Visits and Interfaith Fellowship. Throughout 2019, we will offer a series of Sacred Site visits to houses of worship/faith communities (Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Baha’i, Unitarian, and others). These visits will include a tour of the worship space and a talk by a faith leader of that community where they will share with us the main teachings of their faith, their holidays, rituals, sacred texts, and worship. In some cases, we will be able to observe their worship services. Participants will be grouped into cohorts of 8 adults, who will share learning and get to know each other throughout the year. If you’d like to participate, please fill out this 2-minute survey: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/92SVB95

Men’s Book Club, February 16th 10:00am: This month’s selection is Born a Crime by Trevor Noha. Born a Crime is the story of a mischievous young boy who grows into a restless young man as he struggles to find himself in a world where he was never supposed to exist. It is also the story of that young man’s relationship with his fearless, rebellious, and fervently religious mother—his teammate, a woman determined to save her son from the cycle of poverty, violence, and abuse that would ultimately threaten her own life.

Please Wear Your Nametags: In the interest of getting to know one another and enjoying fellowship together, we encourage you to wear your nametags. If you would like a nametag, there is a signup sheet in the Gathering Space.

Sermons are (usually) available on the way into church if you find that it helps you to read along as Rev. Miranda preaches. They’re also available online after church and during the week at www.stdunstans.com.

Announcements, November 29

THIS WEEK…

Ladies’ Night Out, Friday, November 30, 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 Imperial Gardens, 2039 Allen Blvd, Middleton. Please contact Kathy Whitt  or Debra Martinez for more information or to RSVP.

Advent Begins on Sunday, December 2! Advent is the beginning of the church’s new year. Advent candles, prayer booklets, calendars and other materials are available in the Gathering Area! Please take whatever you will use.

Intergenerational Conversations II, Sunday, December 2, 9am:  Continuing the conversation we started in October, please join us to share and learn from others about living and worshipping together across generations. You don’t need to have attended the first discussion to join in. See you at 9am this Sunday! All ages welcome.

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

Caroling 2018: In recent years, a group of singers from St. Dunstan’s has enjoyed visiting a few of our members and singing Christmas carols. We’d like to do the same this year. All ages are welcome to participate. Date will be determined by folks’ availability. Please sign up and indicate your availability in the Gathering Area, or email Rev. Miranda .

Sharing Christmas 2018: Outreach Committee has chosen Middleton Outreach Ministry’s Sharing Christmas for its giving opportunity. We have 4 families with a total of 19 people this year. The gifts requested are found on the ornament garland on the window in the Gathering Space. Check the ornaments and pick a gift you would like to purchase for one of the family members. Bring it back wrapped with the ornament firmly attached to St. Dunstan’s no later than Sunday, Dec. 9th. The gifts will be taken to the MOM office and the families will pick them up there. After you select an ornament, please write your name on the list to the right of the garland so we know that you have taken that ornament. Questions ? Janet Bybeeor Connie Ott can answer them!

THE WEEKS AHEAD…

Liturgy Imagining & Planning Meeting, Wednesday, December 5, 7:15pm: Come reflect on our worship and how we could make it more engaging for worshippers of all ages! All interested folks are welcome to attend.

Advent Thursday Suppers: You’re invited to gather for a simple meal at 5:30pm on Thursday, December 6, 13, and 20. We’ll conclude with simple evening prayers. Soup and bread/crackers provided. All are welcome!

Youth Group Babysitting, Saturday, December 8, 9am – 12pm: Drop off your child and go Christmas shopping or just enjoy some quiet time! The St. Dunstan’s Youth Group (with adult supervision) will care for and entertain your kids. Free; any donations will support youth group programming. Thank you!

Madison-Area Julian Gathering,Wednesday, December 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.  Nearly forgotten for 600 years, Julian’s insights and gentle wisdom are becoming ever more widely known and appreciated.  Thomas Merton called her “the greatest theologian for our time.” Julian prayed often in silence, and at a Julian Gathering we support each other in the practice of contemplative prayer and contemplative spirituality.  They are open to all who want to deepen their life of faith through the practice of contemplative prayer, for beginners as well as those already practicing.  Each meeting includes time for contemplative prayer, fellowship, and reading/discussion of Julian’s book.   We meet the second Wednesday of each month.  For additional information, contact Susan Fiore, ObJN.

Las Posadas Party, Sunday, Dec. 16, 4-6pm: Las Posadas (Spanish for “the inns”) is an Advent celebration practiced in Mexico and elsewhere in Latin America, revolving around the concept of hospitality. We learn from the Posadas that by welcoming the poor and the needy, we are welcoming Jesus in our midst. We’ll celebrate Posadas with an intergenerational gathering for food, fellowship & fireworks! All are welcome!

The Longest Night: A Liturgy of Light in Darkness, Thursday, December 20, 7:00PM: We will gather together out of the darkness of the season for a quiet, meditative worship service. Feel free to invite friends who might appreciate this time set apart to name the darkness in the world and in our lives, and prepare our hearts for the coming of the light of Christ.  Contact Rev. Miranda with any questions. There will be an Advent Dinner at 5:30pm this evening; those who come for dinner are invited to assist with preparing for the liturgy as a practice of prayerful hospitality.

Lighted Labyrinth: A Lighted Labyrinth will be available in the Meeting Room from 4pm till 9pm on Thursday the 20th. Come after work, or before or after the Longest Night service, for a practice of meditative walking.

Taking Communion to the Homebound or Ill: If you or a loved one are unable to get to church and would like someone to visit and bring Communion, contact the office at 238-2781 or and we will ask one of our Lay Eucharistic Visitors to plan a visit.

Vestry nominations are open! Would you be interested in serving on our vestry, our church’s governing body? Is there someone else you think would be a great candidate? Job descriptions and a box for nominations are in the Gathering Area. Open nominations will run throughout December.  We will be electing two new vestry members in January 2019. Wardens and Diocesan Convention deputies must be elected every year, so candidates for Junior and Senior Warden may also be nominated.

Sermon, October 7

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amen.

Announcements, September 13

THIS WEEKEND…

All Ages Book Group, September 16th at 9:00am: Grab the Wishtree book in the Gathering Space and take home to read.  Join us on the 16th for a discussion of the story.  Wishtree is a wonderful book about community told by a tree named Red!

Young Adult Meetup at the Vintage, Sunday, September 16, 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. St. Dunstan’s picks up the tab for drinks and snacks. Friends and partners welcome too.

THE WEEKS AHEAD…

Calling all Owls! Back to school also means the start of youth group. We are looking for 4th and 5th graders to join us every other Friday night for pizza, sharing and fun activities. Our first gathering will be Friday, Sept 14th from 5:30-7:30. Please direct any questions to Leonora Neville or Krissy Mayer.

Museum Trip, September 22nd at 11:00am: Everyone is invited to learn together at the UW Geology museum on Saturday, September 22nd.  The guided tour begins at 11:00 a.m.  NOTE THE TIME CHANGE!  Please sign up in the Gathering space so we can let the museum know our numbers!  Please contact Sharon if you need/want to car pool.

Inquirers’ Group session 3: Theology, Sunday, September 23, 9am: This group is for those new to the Episcopal Church, as well as long-time members who’d like to learn more. At each session, we’ll discuss a short book, read ahead of time. Our third book is “A Faith for the Future,” by Jesse Zink. Zink unites tradition and contemporary thinking to introduce the essentials of Episcopal theology. What’s the story of God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, creation and humanity, baptism, church, Eucharist, mission, and the life after death? Several copies of the book are available for pickup in the Gathering Area, or you can buy it online in print or Kindle editions. It’s OK if you haven’t come to previous sessions. Just read (or skim) the book, come and join in!

Ladies’ Night Out, Friday, September 28, 6pm: Come join us for good food and good conversation among women of all ages from St. Dunstan’s. This month we will meet at Biaggi’s, 1611 Aspen Commons,Middleton, at Greenway Station. For more information, or to arrange a ride, please contact Kathy Whitt or call Debra Martinez.

Election Season Prayers: Praying for our political leaders has always been part of Anglican and Episcopal worship. In past election seasons, we have often included candidates for public office in our prayers in informal ways. This year we are taking on the discipline of praying for this autumn’s elections as part of our weekly Prayers of the People, using language borrowed from some of the prayers for our country in the Book of Common Prayer.

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

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

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

STAFF NEWS…

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