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Bulletin for November 28

9AM Zoom online gathering: We use slides during worship that contain most of this information, but some prefer to follow along on paper.

Bulletin for November 28

The link for the Zoom gatherings is available in our weekly E-news, in our Facebook group St. Dunstan’s MadCity, or by emailing Rev. Miranda:  .

 

THREE WAYS TO USE AN ONLINE BULLETIN…
1. Print it out!

2. Open the bulletin on one device (smartphone or tablet) while joining Zoom worship on another device (tablet or computer).

3. On a computer, open the bulletin in a separate browser window or download and open separately, and view it next to your Zoom window

Sermon, Oct. 24

What matters right now? 

I have a slip of paper on the frame around my laptop screen, with those words on it. Now and then I notice it. It’s almost always a useful question. A question that invites me to pause, and re-assess. 

What matters right now?

In today’s Gospel, Jesus’ disciples have a clear idea that what matters is the journey they’re on. This is not just any old walk across the countryside. Jesus is leaving Jericho ON HIS WAY TO JERUSALEM. The Triumphal Entry – the event we remember and re-enact on Palm Sunday, the beginning of Holy Week and Jesus’ path to the cross – is the very next thing that happens.

I don’t know exactly what the disciples think is about to happen. They definitely don’t anticipate what Jesus anticipates: his arrest, trial, and execution. They might be banking on some combination of a people’s revolution and an angelic army that will kick out the Roman occupying forces and install Jesus as a new divine King on the throne of David. So they are champing at the bit! Things are about to get exciting! Tell that beggar to shut up and not bother the Master! We’re on our way!

But then they are interrupted. Because Bartimaeus won’t shut up. And the interruption becomes the story. The thing that matters. 

I don’t know whether Jesus stops because he finally hears Bartimaeus – or because he consults his own inner slip of paper that asks, “What matters right now?” Regardless: Jesus stands still. He calls Bartimaeus to him. And Bartimaeus is healed. 

Healed, and changed. Mark says that he follows Jesus on the way, meaning both that he joined the crowd headed for Jerusalem –  AND that he became a disciple, part of the movement. Which is probably why we know his name. 

The journey continues; but for a few transformative moments, the interruption became the story. There was a pause. There was listening.  There was noticing of needs, previously ignored. There was a fresh assessment of what matters.

We have lived this, haven’t we, dear ones? Our Great Interruption is almost too familiar to talk about. Covid forced us to pause…. and in the pause, we listened. We noticed needs we had ignored – in our own lives and in the larger systems that surround us. The differing impacts of the pandemic laid bare the starkness of economic inequality in our country. Locked down in our homes with few distractions, many of us saw more clearly than we had before the naked violence against people of color that our country tolerates. Likewise, we’ve watched the terrifying impact of increasingly chaotic and extreme weather systems worldwide. Global climate change no longer seems like tomorrow’s problem. 

And now, as we slowly emerge, I’m hearing from a lot of people that they’re pretty ambivalent about “getting back to normal.” The pause – the Great Interruption – gave us time to notice that lots of thing about Beforetimes Normal were not that great. Collectively, we’d like our “new Normal” to be better, kinder, more just, more inclusive, more mindful of our fragility and our interdependence. Individually, we’d like our “new Normals” to make more room for what matters. 

Where does church fit into all that?

Why does church matter, right now? 

One answer, of course, is that church matters because we gather to worship the Creator and Source, the Word and Friend, the Breath of Life and Advocate. There’s something precious and necessary about choosing, together, to present ourselves to the Love that formed the universe. Not everyone finds that they need a community in order to regularly turn their hearts towards God. But many of us find that it helps. A lot. 

Another answer is that churches can be a way to organize people’s efforts and resources to do good in the world. We do that some, here – and we do it reasonably well, though I suspect we have the capacity for more.

But church doesn’t only matter for what we can do out there. Church matters for what we do HERE. Within, and among. 

A couple of weeks ago, Sharad Yadav, the pastor of a church in Portland, wrote up a list of reasons to commit to a church. I think he was probably inspired by the same question I’ve just asked – what’s the value of church, in this time of the Great Interruption, the Great Reassessment?

Yadav says that church, at its best, can help us stay focused on what matters. He writes: To join a church is to live in rebellion against the … forces which are brainwashing you into making your consumer desire the center of the world.

[To join] a church is to organize your life around a time to confess your limitations, culpability and imperfections – together with other people.

Joining a church is a way of maintaining healthy skepticism about human knowledge and capacities in the language of divine mystery.

So: Stepping out of our cultural currents, repenting and making amends, reminding ourselves of our place in the universe – these are important practices for keeping our minds and hearts clear and oriented. 

Church, at its best, can help us know our own worth – and our capacity to share. Yadav writes, To join a church is to cultivate an environment …where your life is not measured according to any other purpose or goal than to discover and enjoy your own humanity.  

And: To join a church is to cultivate an imagination for how your unique talents and creative potential can be offered on purpose for love instead of money.

And church, at its best, can help us develop and practice our better-tomorrow skills. It can be a space where we explore, together, how to live more fully into our hopes and intentions. Yadav writes, Joining a church organizes your financial priorities around supporting an inclusive community for vulnerable people . . . that you actually have to live with.

Joining a church is a life lesson in how to deal with [jerks] without retaliating, dehumanizing or running away…

And… Joining a church is a way of practicing –  among a small group of people over a significant period of time – what you’d like the world to be like.

What would you like the world to be like?  How could we practice that together, here? 

I was talking with a young person of this parish recently who said he’d love to see St Dunstan’s lean into becoming our own squirrelly little mutual aid network. Mutual aid is a model in which people cooperate and share resources for the good of everyone in the community.  

The first step, of course, is to break down the foolish illusion that everybody here is FINE, economically, emotionally, employment-wise, and so on. Lots of us have needs – and the assumption that we’re all middle-class, healthy, happy, and totally have our stuff together, only makes it harder to name our struggles and and extend care for one another. I see opportunities on a weekly basis – whether it’s connecting the newly-bereaved with those already walking that road; or passing on hand-me-downs; or sharing skills like canning or knitting; or connecting the bored with the lonely, or the curious with the knowledgeable; or loaning out a specialized tool; or accompanying someone to their first AA meeting.

One of my favorite pandemic phenomena here at St. Dunstan’s was the spontaneous emergence of the puzzle box. There’s a plastic tub outside the church’s front door where you can borrow a puzzle, or leave one for others to borrow. If you’re local and like puzzles, check it out! I had nothing to do with it, and I think it’s great. 

What if we did more of that… bit by bit? With stuff? With skills? With our time? With our hearts?

What if we really had each other’s backs, in substantive ways – and not just long-established members and “church friends” and people who come every week, but anyone who thinks of St. Dunstan’s as their church home – and anyone who shows up looking for meaningful community?

Because a lot of people are looking for meaningful community. For people who will learn their name, and ask how they are, and mean it. 

Church matters because it’s made of people, and people matter.

Church matters because we try to see each other with God’s eyes and love each other with God’s love, here, and sometimes we succeed. 

Church matters because we’re all seeking and struggling and wondering, and it’s less lonely when we share it. And because our seeking and wondering are deepened by one anothers’ experiences and perspectives. 

In this season when the interruption has become the story – in this season of fresh assessments of what matters right now – I am so deeply grateful for all the people who believe that St. Dunstan’s matters, and who support this church with their time and talent, resources and prayers, energy and skill. 

And I am so deeply hopeful about all the people for whom St. Dunstan’s will matter – in a whole range of ways – in the days and months and years ahead, as we continue to seek to use whatever God places in our hands to add to the world’s measure of hope, wholeness, and delight. 

 

 

List of reasons to join a church posted on Facebook by Sharad Yadav, October 7, 2021.

Homily, October 3

Our first Scripture reading today is from the Book of Job. Job is a strange, interesting book of the Bible. It was probably written five or six hundred years before the time of Jesus. I don’t think the book is trying to tell us about a real person named Job. It’s not a biography. Instead, the story of Job is used to explore what it’s like when someone is suffering. Going through something really hard and really sad. How their community responds; and where God is, in times like that. Our first reading is the set-up for the story. You will hear God bragging about Job and how righteous he is. And then there’s this other character, the Adversary. Adversary means someone you’re arguing or fighting with. In Hebrew, the word Adversary is shatan. Satan! So we might say that this character is Satan – the Devil. But in these old, old stories, the Devil has a very special job: TESTING good people to see how good they really are. And that’s what happens here.  Let’s receive the story and our other readings, and then I’ll say some more about it. 

Job 1:1 – 2:10

So we heard the beginning of the book of Job! Notice how it made you feel. Did you smile or laugh a little? Some people did! That’s OK! I actually think it is supposed to be funny, even though the things that happen are terrible. All these bad things happen very fast because the story wants to get to what it’s really interested in  – which is how Job handles this situation; and how his friends handle it. 

I was trying to think of a good modern example that’s kind of like this, and I thought it’s a little like the TV show The Good Place. The Good Place is a show about what it means to be good person. And it’s set in some kind of afterlife. So almost all the main characters, are dead. But you’re not really supposed to be sad about that. It’s just the setup for the story. I think this first part of Job is meant to work the same way. 

I think if this was a TV show, I would probably stop watching because I didn’t really like any of the characters! The Adversary is certainly not very nice. Job himself seems kind of controlling and mean, actually. And God is TERRIBLE, here! Right? What an awful idea, that God would torture a human being just to see how faithful they are!

I don’t think the Book of Job really thinks that God is like that. I think the voice of this text thinks that God is hard to understand; and that life can be hard to understand. But the part of the story we heard today is not trying to tell us the truth about God. It’s just setting up a story. The Bible is complicated, and we’re not supposed to read all the pieces of it the same way. 

So, what happens next? … What happens next is that Job’s friends come to visit, to console and comfort him. That’s what you do when somebody suffers a tragedy, right? You come be with them. You let them know you care and that they’re not alone. 

And you know, Job’s friends start out pretty well, because they just sit with him, in silence, for seven whole days. But then they start to talk… and things go downhill fast. 

After two chapter setting up the story, the Book of Job spends 35 chapters on Job’s friends and Job talking – often arguing! – about what Job’s suffering means, and about God. 

His friends think they’re helping Job. But are they?  I want you to think about how it feels when you are really sad or really struggling, and then we’ll see if what Job’s friends have to say seems helpful to you. 

Job’s friend Eliphaz starts out. He says: Job, you say that all this tragedy just came out of the blue, but that’s not how things work. Bad things don’t happen to good people. God must be punishing you for something. You brought this on yourself in some way. So, cheer up! Your suffering isn’t meaningless; it’s happening because you’re secretly bad! 

Did that make you feel better?… 

It didn’t make Job feel better either. He said, you’re only saying this because my tragedy makes you afraid! You want to believe that this happened to me for a reason – so that you can tell yourself that nothing like this will ever happen to you.

Then Job’s friend Bildad tries to cheer Job up. 

He says, Okay, Job; maybe you ARE a righteous person. Then it must have been your CHILDREN who were sinful. That’s why God killed them. But since YOU are a good person, you’ll be fine. God will replace your lost children and your wealth, and you’ll be happy again. 

Did that make you feel better?…

Now, sometimes, it **could** be helpful to tell someone who is suffering that there may be healing and joy beyond their current situation. But it’s so easy to get that wrong, and to say it in a way that minimizes what they are going through. Also, you can’t just replace people you love with other people! Although you can trust that there will keep on being people to love.  

Job tells Bildad: You are trying so hard to make sense of this situation in human terms, but humans can’t know why God does what God does.

But then Job’s friends Zophar and Eliphaz start to scold Job. They say, You shouldn’t be talking about God like this! You keep saying you’re a good person and didn’t deserve this tragedy, but that makes God seem like a villain! Your anger is pushing you away from God. Just be quiet and accept your suffering. It is what it is. 

Did that make you feel better?…

Well, there might be some truth to the idea that sometimes we just have to learn to live with hard stuff. Sometimes there is no way to make sense of things. But Job doesn’t like being told to be quiet. He says, I have the right to cry out to God in my suffering. I don’t have to squash down my pain and my anger,  just because you’re uncomfortable. 

I am paraphrasing all of this – saying it in simpler ways than the text of the Scripture – but I want you to hear how angry Job gets! He calls his friends worthless doctors and miserable comforters! He says, If you would just shut up, that would be your wisdom!

He hears their platitudes – God doesn’t send us anything we can’t handle; everything happens for a reason;  what does not kill us makes us stronger; look on the bright side and count your blessings -Job hears all that and he calls it proverbs of ashes.

Proverbs of ashes. Empty words that carry no comfort for him. 

And even though I don’t entirely like Job – Job has a point. Bad things happen to good people all the time – and good things happen to bad people.  Sometimes what doesn’t kill us, leaves us wounded. And I don’t actually believe that everything happens for a reason – though I believe that God’s grace can often bring good out of bad situations. 

For Job, none of this means that life is meaningless and God is a fantasy. Job believes in God – and that God is good, even though sometimes it’s hard to spot God’s goodness at work until we’re looking back on something, or have some distance from it. 

Job is honest about feeling abandoned and unheard by God. He says, “I cry to you, and you do not answer me.” But Job is certain that God is there. Even in emptiness and loss.

And Job insists, again and again and again, that he’s shouting out his grief and rage to God, not because he lacks faith, but because he has faith. That there is room for these feelings in his love for God and God’s love for him. Wouldn’t it be nice if his friends could just be with him in his big feelings, too? 

A writer I like, Anne Lamott, says that in life it’s part of our job to hold someone’s hand and bring them juice, until it’s our turn to have someone hold our hand and bring us juice.  We all have times when we need comforting.  And we all have chances to be a comfort for someone else – to be a friend when things are hard or sad or scary. 

We can all learn from Job’s friends – what they get right and what they get wrong. Show up. Don’t try too hard to make it make sense. Let people feel what they’re feeling. If somebody else’s big feelings make you feel kind of funny inside, the loving thing to do is figure out how to handle that funny feeling on your own, instead of doing what Job’s friends do, telling him to stop talking about how unhappy he is because it’s making them uncomfortable. 

And remember: sometimes your silence is your wisdom.

Sermon, Sept. 5

The Letter of James is odd. 

James is one of a set of texts in the New Testament that we call Epistles – Greek for “letters.” Some of the Epistles were written to a particular church – or even a particular person – and address specific situations or questions; and some are more general teachings, probably circulated among many churches. James seems to be the second kind of Epistle. He says he’s writing “to the twelve tribes in the Dispersion” – a poetic way of saying that he’s writing to God’s scattered people, to Christians all across the ancient world. 

While fitting the general template, in other respects, James is pretty different from other Epistles. For one thing, James doesn’t have much to say about Jesus. In five chapters, James mentions Jesus exactly twice – once when the author introduces himself, and once in today’s text. Compare that with Paul who mentions Jesus seventeen times in the six chapters of his letter to the Galatians. 

James has many resonances with the Wisdom texts of the Hebrew Bible – texts that use poetic language to describe the ways of the world and offer moral guidance. Our Proverbs text this morning is a good example, and you can easily see the similarity with James. And like Proverbs and other wisdom texts, James covers a lot of ground in a few verses. James can be hard to preach because there’s so much you could unpack from any given passage!

Who wrote this text? The author introduces himself as James, “a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus.” The traditional view – held by some modern scholars as well – is that this James was Jesus’ brother, who became an important leader in the church in Jerusalem, the mother church of early Christianity.

In the letter to the Galatians – which is one of the earliest Christian texts, possibly written only fifteen years or so after Jesus – the apostle Paul mentions James, the brother of Jesus, as a church leader in Jerusalem. Non-Biblical early texts also mention a leader named James. 

This James was probably not the same person as either of the disciples named James – because the Gospels say Jesus’ immediate family did not follow him, during his lifetime. But apparently James was a fairly common name! So it’s not a stretch to assume there was another James. 

Some scholars think that the oddness of the letter of James makes it likely to be a late text, perhaps written 100 years after Jesus or more – based on similarities of language and theme with other, non-Biblical texts of that period.  

Some scholars think the oddness of James makes it more likely to be very early. If James really was a prominent leader in the Jerusalem church, and possibly Jesus’ brother – and writing as early as the late 40s when the Christian world was still quite small – he wouldn’t have felt a need to explain who he was, or justify his Christian credentials. James doesn’t refer to the Gospels at all, which would make sense if it was written before the Gospels. He doesn’t talk a lot about Jesus – but he does sound a lot like Jesus. There’s a lot in James that closely parallels, or expands on, Jesus’ teachings. Which, again, would make a lot of sense for an early church leader – who maybe knew Jesus pretty well. The ways in which James has more in common with parts of the Old Testament than with other New Testament texts also makes sense for an early date, when most followers of Jesus were Jews.

I’m not a New Testament scholar and I haven’t read all the sources – but I do find the case for James as a very early Christian text to be pretty convincing, and that’s how I think of it. 

The Letter of James covers a lot of ground, but it does have a strong central theme: The call for believers to live a transformed life, in keeping with their new orientation as followers of Jesus. Last week I talked about integrity – about having our outsides match our insides, our actions match our values and intentions. That’s one way to describe James’ core message: Live a life that matches your faith. 

And it’s a message that transcends time and context. Reading James, I feel like he’s speaking to me – to us – a lot of the time. There are parts that don’t carry over as well, but much of James’ teaching feels pretty timeless: practicing generosity; guarding our speech so we don’t harm others with our words; being considerate of those in need; not being judgmental or greedy; being watchful about where the ways of the world – the social norms of our time and place – may be at odds with the way of Jesus. And so on. 

Integrity is always aspirational, always something we’re living into, step by step. And some of James’ words are important for me personally, as part of that work. They function as holy thorns in my side, urging me to live what I say I believe. In last week’s reading we had this passage: “Be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves. For if any are hearers of the word and not doers, they are like those who look at themselves in a mirror; for they look at themselves and, on going away, immediately forget what they were like.”

I think about that text pretty often. About looking in the mirror of my faith and seeing myself honestly: where my life matches my deepest hopes and commitments, and where it does not. When I turn away from that mirror, what do I do? How do I act? What do I change? 

And then in today’s text, there’s this: “What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you? If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,’ and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that?”

That passage gives me a good sharp poke now and then. I’m very clear that my salvation in Jesus Christ is God’s free gift. Our works – our actions – cannot earn God’s favor. But we are called to live lives shaped by gratitude and mercy – to live out love, as people who know ourselves beloved. As James says here: If our faith doesn’t show up in how we live, then what difference does it make – to us, to our neighbors, to the world? 

James’ description of faith that never manifests itself in acts of justice or mercy is harsh: he says that faith is as good as dead. I wouldn’t be so sharp in my own language. Living up to our own best intentions is demanding lifelong work. But James’ challenge rings in my ears now and then: You say that you have faith? Show me. 

So James’ strongest theme is the call to live in accord with what we believe. Not just keeping it in our heads and hearts but letting it spill over into our lives. Today’s reading gives us a look at the second strongest theme in James: the rich, the poor, and how folks in the middle respond to the rich and the poor. 

James starts with the question of a church’s hospitality to someone joining them for worship. He says, Your welcome should be the same, whether someone is visibly poor or visibly wealthy. If anything, you should favor the poor, whom, says James – quoting Jesus – God has chosen to be heirs of the kingdom of God. 

Later, in chapter 5, James preaches against the wealthy who become rich by exploiting their workers: “Your gold and silver have rusted, and their rust will be evidence against you, and it will eat your flesh like fire… Listen! The wages of the labourers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, cry out, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts.” 

The Sunday lectionary tactfully skips this passage!

James’ indictment of those who gather wealth through unfair practices is also a call to concern for the welfare of workers. Tomorrow is Labor Day, a federal holiday set aside to honor the American labor movement and American workers. Labor unions are a way for workers to organize so that they have the power, together, to ask those in charge – factory owners, company leaders – for what they need. Like any human movement, the labor movement is imperfect, but I’m deeply grateful for its contributions. Some of its accomplishments include the eight-hour workday and the concept of overtime pay; the weekend; workplace safety standards and equipment; sick days; child labor laws; and the minimum wage. 

But while there are some protections for some workers – there is so much left to do. One of the realities laid bare by the Covid pandemic was that all of us depend on low-wage workers, who in many cases don’t have much protection. While many Americans relied on Amazon to meet daily needs during lockdown, Amazon warehouse workers faced a grueling pace of work that took a toll on both bodies and minds. Food workers – those who plant, harvest, process, pack,  transport, sell and serve food – were deemed essential and required to stay on the job, but with few added protections. As a result, one study found that in California – which grows a lot of food – food workers faced a 39% increase in deaths, compared to a 22% increase across all working adults. Many low-wage workers don’t have sick leave – so they come to work sick and potentially help the pandemic spread, not because they are selfish or thoughtless, but because they depend on their wages and can’t afford to risk their jobs. 

The Covid pandemic has been especially brutal for health care workers. Nearly 4000 health care workers died of Covid during the first year of the pandemic in the United States; the World Health Organization estimates that over 100,000 health care workers have died of Covid worldwide. 

Even apart from Covid illness, the past eighteen months have been exhausting and traumatic for many health care workers, especially those directly involved in care for Covid patients. Maybe you’ve seen some of their anguish, frustration, and grief in viral social media posts. A friend tells me about another friend who did a stint in Covid care last year, and now experiences what I would describe as symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder when they step back into that part of the facility. 

This week it was announced that nurses in the UW Health system are seeking to re-form a union, as a way to advocate for themselves, their families, and their patients, in the face of challenges like deteriorating staff-to-patient ratios, recruitment and retention challenges, contributing to burnout and exhaustion. As one UW doctor said, “I want the nurses I work with to have what they need because their working conditions are patients’ treatment conditions.” (Source: https://spectrumnews1.com/wi/madison/politics/2021/05/20/uw-health-workers-push-for-union-voice_ )

One of the night prayers in our prayer book asks God to watch over those who work while others sleep, and to help us never forget that our common life depends upon each other’s toil.

Our common life depends upon each other’s toil. It’s hard to put it more simply and clearly. 

There’s dignity and significance in most human work. But Labor Day and the letter of James invite us to be especially mindful of those who keep our society and economy running, for low wages and with few benefits or protections. CNAs and grocery store shelf stockers; bank clerks and mail carriers; farm and factory workers; bus drivers, first responders and child care workers; and so many others. 

May one of the lessons we carry away from the Covid pandemic be a deepened awareness of just how much our common life depends upon each other’s toil, and a renewed commitment to the wellbeing of all essential workers.

May the apostle James provoke us not only to wish our neighbors peace, and health, and food, but to do what we can, when we can, to help ensure the wellbeing of all God’s people. 

Let us pray. 

Almighty God, you have so linked our lives one with another that all we do affects, for good or ill, all other lives: So guide us in the work we do, that we may do it not for self alone, but for the common good; and, as we seek a proper return for our own labor, make us mindful of the rightful aspirations of other workers, and arouse our concern for those who are out of work; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

— Collect for Labor Day, the Book of Common Prayer, p. 261

Heavenly Father, we remember before you those who suffer want and anxiety from lack of work. Guide the people of this land so to use our public and private wealth that all may find suitable and fulfilling employment, and receive just payment for their labor; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. 

— For the Unemployed,  the Book of Common Prayer, p. 824

 

Source for figures about food workers, and more information: 

https://foodchainworkers.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/Food-Workers-Organizing-on-the-COVID-Frontlines-FINAL.pdf?link_id=1&can_id=1e3f40f0f0b23ebbd5900d42b6cdb30b&source=email-subject-line-30&email_referrer=email_1086129&email_subject=new-report-today-we-are-not-disposable-food-workers-organizing-on-the-covid-frontlines

Bulletin for August 29

9AM Zoom online gathering: We use slides during worship that contain most of this information, but some prefer to follow along on paper.

Bulletin for August 29

The link for the Zoom gatherings is available in our weekly E-news, in our Facebook group St. Dunstan’s MadCity, or by emailing Rev. Miranda:  .

THREE WAYS TO USE AN ONLINE BULLETIN…
1. Print it out!

2. Open the bulletin on one device (smartphone or tablet) while joining Zoom worship on another device (tablet or computer).

3. On a computer, open the bulletin in a separate browser window or download and open separately, and view it next to your Zoom window.

Bulletin for July 11

9AM Zoom online gathering: We use slides during worship that contain most of this information, but some prefer to follow along on paper.

Sunday, July 11 Bulletin

The link for the Zoom gatherings is available in our weekly E-news, in our Facebook group St. Dunstan’s MadCity, or by emailing Rev. Miranda:  .

THREE WAYS TO USE AN ONLINE BULLETIN…
1. Print it out!

2. Open the bulletin on one device (smartphone or tablet) while joining Zoom worship on another device (tablet or computer).

3. On a computer, open the bulletin in a separate browser window or download and open separately, and view it next to your Zoom window.

Bulletin for June 13

9AM Zoom online gathering: We use slides during worship that contain most of this information, but some prefer to follow along on paper.

Bulletin for June 13

The link for the Zoom gatherings is available in our weekly E-news, in our Facebook group St. Dunstan’s MadCity, or by emailing Rev. Miranda:  .

THREE WAYS TO USE AN ONLINE BULLETIN…
Print it out!
2. Open the bulletin on one device (smartphone or tablet) while joining Zoom worship on another device (tablet or computer).

3. On a computer, open the bulletin in a separate browser window or download and open separately, and view it next to your Zoom window.

Bulletin for June 6

9AM Zoom online gathering: We use slides during worship that contain most of this information, but some prefer to follow along on paper.

Bulletin for June 6

The link for the Zoom gatherings is available in our weekly E-news, in our Facebook group St. Dunstan’s MadCity, or by emailing Rev. Miranda:  .

THREE WAYS TO USE AN ONLINE BULLETIN…
Print it out!
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Sermon, April 18

Today’s Gospel: Luke 24:36b-48

In the Gospel stories about the risen Jesus meeting with his friends, there’s a fascinating paradox about the nature of his body. It’s clear that there is something beyond ordinary embodiment here. The risen Jesus can pass through locked doors, and turn up in unexpected locations. He has a habit of not looking like himself until, quite suddenly, he does. It’s tempting to read all this through the lens of science fiction and hypothesize that the risen Jesus gained the power to rearrange his own atoms at will. 

On the other hand, the witnesses to the Resurrection take care to tell us that what they saw isn’t some intangible spirit.  He can be held and touched. You could put your finger in his wounds, if you felt the need to do so. He eats food. I love the specificity of the boiled fish, here!

The resurrected body of Jesus is not entirely like our bodies, but it also *is* a lot like our bodies. It was important to Jesus to show that to his friends and followers, and it was important to them to pass it on to us. Ghosts and spirits were familiar concepts in that time and place; there’s a story in Acts where someone sees Paul and thinks she’s seeing Paul’s ghost. But the witnesses to the resurrection are clear that that’s not what this is. 

Presbyterian pastor, blogger and Bible scholar Mark Davis writes, “It would be so easy just to say that death releases us from the confines of the body and allows our spirits to be free as the wind. That would have been compatible with the popular Greek notions of the mind/body or spirit/body relationship. It would give credence to popular current notions about the body as some kind of shell with which we are stuck for a time, to be released one day. But, that’s not what the gospels say. The risen Christ is the embodied Christ.”

The witnesses tell us: we touched him. We embraced him. We shared a meal with him. We felt his breath on our faces. We were joyful, and doubtful, and we had so many questions. But there he was. He was there. 

I enjoy the hint in today’s Gospel that Jesus was actually kind of hungry. And that the disciples just stood around and gaped at him while he ate! And then – he wants to talk to them about the Bible. He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures. He wants to help them know that – as he says in Mark’s Gospel – our God is a God of the living. That God has always been bringing life from death. 

Davis writes, “The rise and fall of kingdoms, the suffering and return of exiles, the despair of the suffering servant, the hope of the one “coming in clouds,” the expectation of Elijah’s return—all are stories of how inasmuch as God lives, so do God’s promises. Resurrection makes all the difference between seeing the Scriptures as accounts of things that happened but are not happening any more; and accounts of things that happened and marvelously continue to be happening because God lives.”

Jesus wants to help his friends understand that the new faith being born in their hearts and minds is compatible with the faith of their ancestors, with God’s work with and through God’s chosen people Israel. After all, at every Easter Vigil, we hear the prophet Ezekiel sharing God’s promise to bring Israel up out of their graves and give them new life!

But there’s more here. Because Resurrection faith isn’t just about God; it’s also about us – and the world we live in. Richard Swanson writes, “The Resurrected Messiah eats.  That implies that Resurrection works out its meaning in the real world, not in heaven. Stop and think about that.  The Resurrected Messiah engages the real, physical, earthly, social, political, economic, complicated world.”

That’s not always how we think and speak about resurrection – about life after death. Often Christians speak as if life beyond the grave lessens the value, the importance, of life before the grave. Life on this earth becomes nothing more than a pilgrimage or a passageway to that ultimate destination. At its most extreme, this mindset leads to the idea that things like environmental crisis and systemic injustice don’t matter. Because this world is not the point. 

But that mindset – I believe – is unfaithful to the God who created this world, in its beauty and complexity. To the God who spoke to Moses from a burning bush and did NOT  say, “Tell my people to put up with their enslavement; it doesn’t matter, because they’ll be free and happy after they die.” It’s unfaithful to Jesus, who healed. And fed. And ate. 

Davis writes, “[Seeing Scripture and world through the lens of] resurrection is not a fatalistic capitulation to the inevitable death of all things. It increases the value of life—life of the earth, life of the community, even life of the enemy—because where there is life, there is God.”

Thinking about life from death as a theme throughout Scripture makes me think of another thread woven through the whole Bible, Old and New Testaments alike: the many repetitions of the words, Don’t be afraid. Fear not. Or sometimes: Take courage. Take heart. In today’s Gospel, Jesus says: Why are you frightened? 

If God’s purposes in the world consistently involve bringing life from death, turning endings into beginnings, then it makes sense that one of God’s core messages for humanity is: It’s going to be OK. You don’t have to be so afraid. 

Where does fear hold us back from new possibilities for rebirth and renewal? 

Fear of a diverse and multiethnic America drives white supremacist violence, and keeps refugee children imprisoned at our southern border.

Fear of changing understandings of gender, biology, and self are feeding anti-transgender legislation in many states that will wound and kill. 

Fear of what people like me, historically privileged by virtue of our whiteness, might lose, holds us back from a real reckoning with the past and work towards meaningful reparations. 

Fear of having to radically change our way of life, our constant casual consumption, keeps us paralyzed in the face of climate disaster. 

Fear and failure of imagination about other ways to order our common life hold us bound to models of policing that consistently inflict senseless violence on black and brown bodies. George, Breonna, Duante, Tony… so many. 

I’m not shaming anyone for having those fears. I share many of them. 

Psalm 4 speaks truly:  Many are saying, “Oh, that we might see better times!” What if we believed that where there is life, there is God? Really believed it? What if God has the power, working with and through and among us, to bring about better futures? Futures of possibility beyond the fears that bind and burden us? 

Why are you frightened? asks Jesus, and then, Do you have anything here to eat? His friends give him some fish and he bites, and chews, and swallows. And they stand around and watch: joyful, half-disbelieving, still wondering. He is real and impossible, familiar and strange. He is alive, a living body in the same real, physical, earthly, social, political, economic, complicated world that we share. And his triumph over death which is also our triumph over death is not to free us from the complicated world, beloveds, but to free us for it. 

Fear not. 

Alleluia! Christ is risen! 

The Lord is risen indeed! Alleluia! 

 

SOURCES

Mark Davis, “The Politics of Resurrection Hermeneutics” 

https://politicaltheology.com/the-politics-of-resurrection-hermeneutics-luke-2436-48/

Mark Davis, “Opening their minds to the Scriptures,” https://leftbehindandlovingit.blogspot.com/2015/04/opening-their-minds-to-scriptures.html

Richard Swanson, “A Provocation: Third Sunday of Easter,” https://provokingthegospel.wordpress.com/2018/04/09/a-provocation-third-sunday-of-easter-april-15-2018-luke-2436b-48/