Category Archives: Uncategorized

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 office@stdunstans.com 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.

Announcements, April 26

CHECK YOUR MAILBOX!  Invitations to the party to kick off the Open Door Project, our capital campaign, will arrive this week. The party will be on Saturday, May 19, from 4 – 6pm, and everyone who considers St. Dunstan’s their church home is invited! Please RSVP using the enclosed postcards.  We hope to have the whole congregation present as we begin this exciting journey together. Kids are very much welcome. Please note: we will not ask for pledges at this event, but we hope you’re thinking and talking about your household’s readiness and capacity to contribute to the campaign.

We’ll share an evening of food, music, and exploring St. Dunstan’s past, present, and future!

THIS WEEKEND…

Sandbox Worship, Thursday, April 26, 5:30pm: In the Sandbox this week, we will study the Acts lesson for this coming Sunday, then prepare a scripted version of the lesson to use in worship on Sunday. If you would like to read one of the parts and will be at church on Sunday the 29th (either 10am or 8am worship), please come! A light dinner will follow.

Ladies’ Night Out, Friday, April 27, 6pm: Come join us for good food and good conversation among women of all ages from St. Dunstan’s. This month we’ll be celebrating the Chinese New Year, the Year of the Dog, at The Imperial Garden at 2039 Allen Blvd., Middleton, just across from St. D’s. For more information, or to arrange a ride, please contact Kathy Whitt  or  Debra Martinez.

Water is Life, April 27th, 7-9 pm @ St Francis House, 1011 University Ave.: St. Francis House is bringing together interfaith, academic, and Native People’s perspectives to discuss water rights and justice. John Floberg, Episcopal priest and an organizer of Clergy Standing with Standing Rock, comes from North Dakota to St Francis House as a special guest. Join us for his talk, additional perspectives, and a panel discussion to follow. This event is sponsored by St Francis House Student Episcopal Center and the Center for Religion and Global Citizenry; co-sponsored by Pres House, Badger Catholic and His House.

Last Sunday All Ages Worship, April 29, 10am: Our Last Sunday Worship this month will focus on our call to care for God’s creation. This service 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.

Falk Friends Pantry Prep, Sunday, April 29, 11:30am: Helpers of all ages are welcome to help pack our Falk Friends Pantry bags after the 10am liturgy!

Looking for Coffee Hosts May 13 and 27: Consider being a coffee host and talk with Janet Bybee at (608) 836-9755 for more information.

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.

Meal Helpers Needed: New parents Kate and Alex have asked for some meals as they adjust to life with a baby. They will be without “Grandparent help” during the month of May, and would like a couple of meals a week during that time. Shirley Laedlein has created a calendar where every day in May is selected, but would ask that if you sign up, you would spread out the meals to twice a week to cover the whole month rather than clump them up. Alex has a couple of recipe ideas if you don’t know what to make. Shirley will be get those from her, so let her know if you want them. You can access the calendar by going to St. Dunstan’s website, clicking on the Fellowship and Learning tab, and then going to the Sharing Meals tab. Please contact Shirley with any questions. Thanks so much for all you do!

THE WEEKS AHEAD…

Basics of Major Gifts and Tax Law, Sunday, May 6, 9am: John Scherer will offer an overview of some different ways to make major gifts to the church or another beloved organization, and the impact of changes in tax law on charitable gifts.  

Spring Clean-Up Day, Sunday, May 6, 11:30am – 1pm: Join us after the 10am service to enjoy a time of shared work on our beautiful grounds, tidying them up and preparing for the growing season. A list of tasks will be posted in the Gathering Area ahead of time. Wear or bring your scruffy clothes and work gloves. Lunch will be provided!

Birthday and Anniversary blessings and Healing Prayers will be given next Sunday, May 6, as is our custom on the first Sunday of the month.

MOM Special Offering, Sunday, May 6: Next Sunday, half the cash in our offering plate and any designated checks will be given to Middleton Outreach Ministry’s food pantry. Here are some of the current top-ten, most needed items: Rice, Barley, Quinoa, Oats;  Canned Chicken, Salmon, Sardines, Tuna; Pasta: Penne, Elbow, Bowtie; Canned Veggies: Mixed, Artichokes, Asparagus, Mushrooms; Toilet Paper/Paper Towels; Size 6 Diapers. Thank you for your generous support!

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

Buildings & Grounds Meeting, Monday, May 7, 6pm: Weather permitting, we will gather outside at 6pm for some outdoor tasks, and then meet inside at 7pm to talk about some current projects, needs, and how to tackle them. If you’re interested in helping out with these kinds of tasks but can’t attend this meeting, talk to John Ertl or Jim Whitney, or and we will follow up.

Madison-Area Julian Gathering, Wednesday, May 9, 1:00 – 2:45pm: 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.

Ascension Eucharist at The Sandbox, Thursday, May 10, 7pm (TIME CHANGE): A simple Eucharist to celebrate the Feast of the Ascension, as the Church honors the story of the risen Jesus saying a final farewell to his friends.

Men’s Book Club, Saturday, May 19, 10am: The book is All the Light We Can Not See by Anthony Doerr. “A beautiful story about a blind French girl, Marie-Laure and a German boy, Werner, whose paths collide in occupied France as both try to survive the devastation of World War II.” Werner grows up enchanted by a crude radio he finds and becomes an expert at fixing these new instruments, a talent that wins him a place in the Hitler Youth and a special assignment to track the resistance. More and more aware of the human cost of his intelligence, Werner travels through the heart of the war and, finally, into Saint-Malo, where his story and Marie-Laure’s converge. HAVE A GOOD READ

SUMMER…

Our Vacation Bible School this summer will be August 5 – 9! Our VBS meets in the evening – 5:30 to 7:30pm. We’ve got some great ideas cooking up for this year. If you’d like to help out, talk to Sharon Henes.

Women’s Mini Week 2018, “Courageous Women of God!” August 9-12 at Camp Lakotah in Wautoma, WI: Spread the Word, Ladies! You are invited to Women’s Mini Week, beginning at Thursday dinner, August 9th through Sunday brunch, August 12th. For registration materials and to answer questions, go to the website: www.womensminiweek.org or email to womensminiweek@gmail.com.

 

 

Sermon, Dec. 17

Most weeks, I write my sermons in the same coffeeshop, on the same morning. I need the routine. And they make a good bagel sandwich. My particular coffeeshop tends to have the radio on – not loudly, just in the background, so that when I get stuck, or my mind wanders, or a song I especially like comes on, I notice it. This week, I was sitting in my coffeeshop wondering how to start this sermon. I knew I wanted to talk about nostalgia, its attraction and its risks, but I couldn’t find my way in. And then my ear caught the song on the radio – one I know because it’s a favorite of my son’s. It’s called “Stressed Out,” by the band Twenty One Pilots, and the hooky little chorus begins, “Wish I could turn back time to the good old days…”

Wish I could turn back time to the gold old days. There it is. Nostalgia. That’s the heart of it. In the song, a young man remembers his childhood: playing with his brother and bedtime lullabies and not having to make money. But nostalgia is all around us at this time of year – family traditions, grandmother’s recipes, ornaments from decades past, vintage Christmas movies, Charles Dickens and Santa and Bing Crosby on the radio singing, “I’m dreaming of a white Christmas just like the ones I used to know…”

I told Deanna, our music minister: We don’t have to choose hymns for Christmas Eve. We sing the same hymns every Christmas Eve. Because that’s what people want: to enter that timeless time when we’re singing Joy to the World and Silent Night and it could be any year, except that we’re older, and some of us are gone. Wish I could turn back time to the good old days. Christmastide is heavy with memory, with longing, with nostalgia.

This passage from the book of the prophet Isaiah comes from a moment when the people of God thought they could turn back time to the good old days. This text – this portion of the Book of Isaiah – was probably written a little over 500 years before the birth of Jesus. Another five hundred years earlier, King David had ruled Israel, an independent kingdom at the height of its power, conquering territory and receiving tribute goods from other nations, wealthy and healthy and strong. David made Jerusalem the capital of his kingdom, and his son Solomon built the Great Temple there, the heart of the people’s worship of God. Two hundred years earlier, David’s kingdom had split in two, and the Northern Kingdom had fallen, conquered by the Assyrian Empire. The Southern Kingdom, Judah, somehow avoided that fate, but fell under Assyria’s power, its kings and its wealth under Assyrian control.  And about sixty years earlier, Judah and its capital Jerusalem finally fell to the next great empire, Babylon. Jerusalem’s walls were broken down, and the Temple torn to pieces, its holy vessels carried away as spoils of war. Many, many people died; and many, many more were dragged off into exile in Babylon. Anyone of any status or skill was taken away from their homeland. Only the poorest were left there, among the ruins.

God’s people live in exile. They learn, painfully, that God is with them even when they are far from their homeland and their Temple. But they still long for what they have lost – how could they not? Psalm 137 gives voice to that longing: “By the waters of Babylon, we lay down and wept. How can we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land? If I forget you, O Jerusalem, may my right hand forget its skill…” Wish I could turn back time to the good old days…

And then – wonder of wonders – they have the chance to do it! A new empire conquers Babylon, and their emperor, Cyrus, has a kinder, gentler approach to imperial rule. In the year 538 BCE, Cyrus tells the Judean exiles, Go home. Rebuild your city and your temple. Get back on your feet. Of course, you’ll send us taxes of money and goods, and do what we tell you do – you’re still part of an empire – but you can have your little nation, if it makes you happy and keeps you quiet.

The exiles are SO EXCITED. They can go home! They can rebuild! They can restore Jerusalem, which has only become more beautiful in memory; they can reconstruct the Temple, which shines with gold and holiness and love in the stories of their parents and grandparents.

But of course it’s not that simple. Jerusalem is eventually rebuilt, including the Temple, but it takes a long time, and it’s hard and complicated. The people who were left there during the exile think of this as their land now, and there are tensions between them and the returnees, those coming home from Babylon.  Most the exiles who return are young men, so there ends up being intermarriage with women from other groups, even as the religious leaders are trying to get everyone to be “real Israelites.”

There was a harsh drought at about that time, which compounded the problems of a ruined infrastructure and economy. Attacks by bandits and other tribes were an ongoing challenge while the returnees struggled to complete the city wall. And conflicts developed between factions of leaders with different priorities and visions for the rebuilding process. One source I consulted summed it all up saying, “Feelings of disappointment developed among the returnees.” Wish we could turn back time to the good old days… But we can’t.

The Gospels – the beginning of the Jesus story, whether you start with his birth or his baptism – That’s another moment when people thought they could turn back time. Get back to their glory days. You hear it every time King David is invoked: In Gabriel’s proclamation to Mary: “[Your child] will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David.” In the shouts of hope when Jesus enters Jerusalem: “Hosanna to the Son of David!”  O come, thou branch of Jesse’s tree…! David is remembered as Israel’s great king, Strong and just and holy, called and favored by God. Many, many people followed Jesus, hoped in Jesus, because they wanted him to be a second David. To kick out the Romans and restore Judea as an independent kingdom, with peace and plenty for all.

You can’t blame people for wanting that. Nostalgia is a very understandable emotion. But it’s also toxic.

That insight comes from John Hodgman, a comedian, actor, author, and fake internet judge. Comedians, like anthropologists, spend a lot of time observing human behavior; they just turn it into humor instead of peer-reviewed articles.

And Hodgman’s observations – including years of adjudicating disputes on the Judge John Hodgman podcast – have led him to the conclusion that nostalgia is at best, unproductive; at worst, poisonous. Hodgman says – and I think he’s spot-on – that nostalgia is based on two delusions: That the past was better, and that the past is attainable.

We are prone to the delusion that the past was better than the present for several reasons. Maybe we were kids, in the time we’re remembering, and everything seemed simpler because it was simpler, for us. Or maybe we weren’t even born yet, and all we have of the past are the idealized stories of our parents and grandparents. We idealize the past because memory is selective; the hard stuff and the bad stuff tends to fade. And that’s fine; we should hold and treasure our good memories!  The problem is when we start to take our selective memories of the past as the whole truth about the past. (Even the Biblical book of Ecclesiastes takes a swing at nostalgia: “Do not say, ‘Why were the former days better than these?’ For it is not from wisdom that you ask this.” Ecclesiastes 7:10.)

And then there’s the illusion that the past is attainable. That we could, maybe, somehow, turn back time to the good old days, and make everything great again.

Sometimes – in some cases – the past really was better, for a particular group of people. Take the 1950s, an era that is a huge focus for nostalgia in American culture. Sixty years ago – interestingly, about the same gap that separated the Babylonian Exile and the return to Jerusalem. In the 1950s, if you were straight and white and middle-class and moderate in your politics and basically content with dominant gender norms, then things might have been pretty great for you. But there have been massive, irreversible changes in the past sixty years. Women are not going back into the kitchen and nursery. African-Americans are not returning to the exclusions and oppressions of Jim Crow. GLBTQ+ folks are not going back in the closet. And it’s not just social change. The microprocessor and the Internet are not going anywhere. And the massive increase in economic inequality in America, which has polarized and blighted our social landscape over the past half-century, does not seem likely to turn back to 1950s levels anytime soon. Even if the past was better, for some very specific definition of better, we can’t get there from here. The past is not attainable.

Likewise in the time of our text from Isaiah. Before the Exile, life in Jerusalem was good for people of status and wealth. But the poor people who were left among the ruins when Babylon conquered the city – things might have been better for them before the exiles returned and said, Actually, all this land is ours. And for the exiles themselves: Not everybody came back. People made lives for themselves in Babylon, and stayed. Things had changed, as they always do; history moved along, as it always does; the past that some longed to recreate stubbornly stayed past.

Nostalgia tells us that the past was better, and tempts us to believe that we might be able to bring back the past. But that’s an illusion, and sometimes a costly one. You can treasure your memories, you can take what you treasured most about the past, and build it into the present and the future – as the Exiles did, eventually, in the renewed Jerusalem. But you cannot turn back time. If our hope for the future is that it will be exactly like the past, then it’s not really hope; it’s just nostalgia projected forwards. God says, We can do better than that.

The alternative to nostalgia is hope. Hope leans into the future, instead of back toward the past. Hope insists that we can do better, with God’s help. Hope is challenging; we can’t always visualize where it’s leading us. Hope demands our trust, and our labor, while nostalgia just bathes us in comforting, rosy images. There’s a very real sense in which many of us prefer nostalgia. When we’re tired or stressed or sad, maybe most of us prefer nostalgia – time to have a cup of cocoa and watch Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.

Right now, we are in the midst of the most nostalgic time of year, the weeks approaching Christmas. And yet there’s this provocative irony in the fact that what God is urgently saying to God’s people in our seasonal texts is: Look! I’m doing something new! It’s in Luke’s birth narratives, in Zechariah and Mary’s fierce songs of hope and redemption. It’s in John the Baptist’s proclamation that big change is coming, and everyone had better get ready. It’s in the Book of Revelation:  “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away.”

It’s all through Isaiah, the core Old Testament text of Advent: Chapter 65: “I am about to create a new heavens and a new earth; the former things shall not be remembered!” Chapter 43: “Behold, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; can’t you see it?” And today’s text, the one that Jesus quotes when he begins his public ministry: The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because God has anointed me to proclaim a new time, a new season!

This text from Isaiah speaks to the exiles in their disappointment – their grief – that the present refuses to conform to the remembered past. That the good old days remain elusive, illusory. The prophet says to them, with joy and urgency: Return, rebuild, restore, raise up what has been cast down, repair what has been ruined; tut it’s not going to be the way it was. It’s going to be different, and it’s going to be better. You remember Jerusalem before the Conquest as the good old days, but the prophetic books tell a different story: corruption and arrogance, cruelty and licentiousness, hunger and hopelessness. The renewed City that God calls you to build will not have poverty and injustice built into its very foundations. It will be a city of freedom, not bondage;  of gladness, not mourning; of righteousness, instead of robbery and wrongdoing. While nostalgia calls us back, God calls us forward, with the voices of prophets and saints and Jesus himself. God calls us to as people of hope, people whose lives point towards God’s future, which is more just and joyful and true and free than any of our pasts.

Read more on John Hodgman on nostalgia here: 

https://www.pastemagazine.com/articles/2012/11/the-real-john-hodgman-were-not-making-this-up.html

https://medium.com/@pk.patrick.kelly/how-nostalgia-is-tarnishing-the-millennial-generation-41a8c4df133d

Homily, Dec. 10

The Gospel of Luke, chapter 2, verse 7, says, “And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.”

Because there was no place for them in the inn. That detail goes by fast, and it’s so familiar. And we love that the Holy Family ends up in a barn – the image of God Incarnate born among sheep and cattle and donkeys and chickens. If there had been room at the inn, there wouldn’t be ANIMALS in our Nativity scenes!

But this verse – there was no place for them in the inn – It’s an insult. It’s a failure. Hospitality was, and remains, terribly, terribly important in the cultures of the Middle East. And hospitality is a theme throughout scripture – the blessings that come when you practice it; the shame and danger that can follow, when you fail to welcome a guest.

Today we’ve shared a garland of stories of strangers and guests in Scripture, to help us reflect on that detail from the Nativity story: “There was no place for them in the inn.” Later, as a grown man, Jesus says about himself: “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” (Luke 9:58) And it’s true even now, at the very beginning of the story: God’s incarnate presence among us begins with closed doors and angry faces. With failed hospitality.

This Advent and Christmas we are exploring together the music and meanings of Las Posadas, a custom found in many parts of the Spanish-speaking world. The word “Posada” means “inn.” Las Posadas is a community acting-out of Mary and Joseph’s search for shelter in Bethlehem on Christmas Eve. Mary and Joseph knock at many doors and are rudely turned away. The asking – and refusing – take the form of a song, sung back and forth between the people participating.  In some versions, the Devil also plays a role, sneering at them and telling them to go away! Watch for that in our Christmas Eve pageant this year! Finally, finally, Mary and Joseph find welcome -a kind person allows them to stay in her barn. There’s a welcome song too:  “Enter, enter, holy pilgrims, holy pilgrims! Welcome to my humble home. Though ’tis little I can offer, I can offer, all I have please call your own.” We’re singing some Las Posadas music today – and we’ll hold our Posadas this Saturday evening at 5pm. I hope you’ll come!

Why are we doing Las Posadas this year? Well, one reason is to broaden our sense of our church and our faith. Midwestern Episcopalians tend to think of both our churches and our tradition as basically Anglo – white, and English in both origin and language. And that’s not true. There are lots of non-Anglo Episcopalians. In particular, Latino and Latina Episcopalians are a vibrant presence in the Episcopal Church. Even in Madison, Wisconsin! It’s been a gift to me as an Anglo to realize that our way of faith is bigger than my cultural experience. I am a cradle Episcopalian, friends, this church’s music and prayers are in my bones; but the Episcopal Church, La Iglesia Episcopal, is not limited to the music and the prayers I already know. The word “familiar” is closely related to the word “family” – but God’s family is bigger than what is familiar to us, and that is a holy and joyful opportunity.

But celebrating the breadth of our way of faith is not the only reason to weave Posadas into our Advent and Christmas this year. Las Posadas is an embodied reflection on hospitality. There are many issues in our civic life right now that hinge on our readiness to open our hearts to one another. And as Christians we cannot in good conscience separate those civic issues from our faith – because our faith’s teaching on hospitality is overwhelmingly clear. One of the strongest ethical mandates of Scripture is: Treat the stranger, the immigrant, the guest, with care and respect; for your people were once strangers too. I don’t know offhand how many times the Bible says that – but it’s a lot. As Christians – as people formed by Scripture – hospitality, welcome, is one of the fundamental ways we are called to engage the world.

Over the past few months, some members of our parish have shared their stories of immigration – their own, or a parent’s or grandparent’s. Those stories – and our own family stories – remind us that our country is overwhelmingly a nation of immigrants. And many of our immigrant ancestors were unwelcome when they first arrived here. They were seen as wretched refuse – tired, poor, exiles and huddled masses. And yet – we have been tempted to close the golden door behind us. To refuse welcome to today’s immigrants who seek to build lives here, for the betterment of both their children and our common good.

Immigrants today have heard the words of the Posadas song, the ones that go with doors slammed shut: We don’t have room for you. We don’t have enough to share. You might be robbers. Go away. This very month, many groups, including faith groups, are urging Congress to pass the Dream Act, which would grant permanent residency to immigrants brought here illegally as children. Without the Dream Act, people who have lived here since they were two, or four, or seven, people for whom California or North Carolina or Wisconsin is home, face living in shadow, secrecy, and risk.

And all of that, friends, is the second reason we’re trying out the custom of Las Posadas this year. So that we can do something unfamiliar. So that we who are Anglos, in this congregation, can have the immigrant’s experience of wondering if we’re saying the words correctly, if someone’s going to laugh at us. So that we can reflect on how it feels to say, or to hear, Go away! We don’t want you. So that we can remember how it feels to be strangers and outsiders – or notice how it feels, if we’ve never felt it before. So we can be both hosts and guests, and, receiving hospitality, may improve our hospitality, and make us more ready to welcome the holy in the guise of the stranger.