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Sermon, July 12

I want to tell you the story of Michal, daughter of King Saul, wife of King David. The lectionary gives us the end of her story; she is not mentioned again. But let’s go back to the beginning. Back to First Samuel 18, when David is first taken into King Saul’s household to serve him, after the defeat of the Philistine giant Goliath and the rout of the Philistine army. If you heard that story here a few weeks ago, you remember that it ended with Saul’s ambivalence and jealousy. He was glad to have David as a military leader, because of David’s successes; but he envied David’s popularity and feared that David would try to take his place. Remember the women of Jerusalem singing and dancing,  “Saul has killed his thousands, and David his tens of thousands”?  Remember how much King Saul loved hearing that? …. The text tells us, “All Israel and Judah loved David; for it was he who marched out and came in leading them.”

So Saul is keeping David around, on the principal of, Keep your friends close and your enemies closer. But having David close by has its disadvantages. Because two of Saul’s children fall in love with David, the dashing, handsome young warrior, musician, and heartbreaker. 1 Samuel 18 tells us that Saul’s son Jonathan loved David as his own soul. Jonathan’s soul was bound to the soul of David, and he made a covenant with him.  And Saul’s youngest daughter, Michal, also falls in love with David. Now, Saul thinks maybe binding David to his family can work to his advantage, by increasing David’s loyalty to him and his house. He thinks, I’ll marry David to one of my daughters, and he’ll keep going out to fight the Philistines for me, and eventually the Philistines will get lucky and kill him, so that I don’t have to. The text puts words to Saul’s thoughts: “Let me give [Michal] to him so that she may be a snare for him, and that the hand of the Philistines may be against him.”

Now, David has always been well-endowed with hubris and self-esteem, but becoming the king’s son-in-law is a big step even for him. Saul’s servants are sent to tell him, “See, the king is delighted with you — [that’s a lie!] — and all his servants love you [that’s probably true!] — now then, become the king’s son-in-law.” And David replies,  “Does it seem to you a little thing to become the king’s son-in-law, seeing that I am a poor man and of no repute?” Among other things, he’s worried about being able to pay a suitable bride-price for the very important wife he is being offered. And Saul tells him, “Oh, don’t worry! …. All I want for a marriage present from you is the foreskins of a hundred Philistines.” And David says, Oh, is that all? …  1 Samuel 18 tells us, “David rose and went, along with his men, and killed one hundred of the Philistines; and David brought their foreskins… to the king, that he might become the king’s son-in-law. Saul gave him his daughter Michal as a wife. But when Saul realized that the Lord was with David, and that Saul’s daughter Michal loved him, Saul was still more afraid of David. So Saul was David’s enemy from that time forward.”

Saul makes up his mind to get rid of David. But Jonathan and Michal are determined to save their beloved. Jonathan tells David, My father is trying to kill you; run away, hide nearby, and I’ll see what I can do. And Jonathan talks to Saul and reminds him of David’s loyalty  and all that he has done for Saul; and Saul decides not to kill David: “As the LORD lives, he shall not be put to death.”  But not long afterwards, a dark mood comes upon Saul and he changes his mind again. One evening while David is playing music for him, he tries to stab him with a spear. David escapes to his home, but Saul sends assassins to kill him next time he steps outside. This time it’s Michal who saves David; she helps him escape out the window, then creates a “dummy” David in the bed, the classic pillow-under-the-covers thing, plus some goat hair on the pillow. She used the “dummy” to put off the assassins – claiming David couldn’t come out because he was sick – long enough for David to get well away. When her father asked why she had helped David, choosing loyalty to her husband over loyalty to her father, she claimed that David had threatened to kill her.

The Scriptural text tells us far more about the love between David and Jonathan – using some of the most emotionally intense language found in Scripture – than it tells us about David and Michal’s marriage. It seems likely that David cared far more for Jonathan than he did for poor Michal. The text tells us twice that she loved him; it never claims that he loved her. He flees their home apparently without a backward glance, though he has a heart-wrenching farewell scene with Jonathan.

 

David flees to one neighboring land, then another; and as he travels, he gathers followers. Saul, more and more fearful, begins to slaughter anyone he suspects of supporting or helping David. The situation escalates into full-on civil war. It’s really exciting stuff – I commend it to you! I would love to tell you about the time King Saul stopped to pee in a cave, and David was hiding in the same cave. I would love to tell you about the rich and grumpy man Nabal, and his clever, beautiful, and opportunistic wife Abigail, who brought supplies to David’s troops against her husband’s orders, and, when he conveniently died ten days later, became David’s second wife. I would love to tell you of how King Saul, desperate for guidance and receiving no word from God, sought out a medium, a witch, at Endor, who summoned the ghost of the prophet Samuel to tell him, God is done with you; David will be king. But there’s too much story, not enough time, for one Sunday morning. Still: if you love Game of Thrones, the drama, intrigue, violence, and betrayal, I commend the books of Samuel and Kings to you.

During David’s absence, Saul had taken poor abandoned Michal and given her as a wife to another man, probably someone whose loyalties he hoped to secure in the face of David’s threat. Here’s how David finally claims his kingship: Saul and Israel’s army are fighting the Philistines, again. (In this time and place, as in many times and places, the king also served as general of his army, leading them in battle; this will be a plot point in another story in a couple of weeks!…)

And in this battle, the Philistines win. Saul’s sons are killed – including Jonathan. Saul throws himself on his own sword, committing suicide, to avoid the shame of being killed by the enemy. When David hears of it, he sings a great song of grief about the death of these valiant warriors, Saul the King, anointed of God, and his beloved friend Jonathan. Soon thereafter the people of Judah anoint David as their king.

But the last of Saul’s sons, Ishbaal, remained on the throne in Jerusalem; so more years of war follow, with David’s house growing stronger and Saul’s house growing weaker. Sometime during those years, in a moment of tentative peace, David asks Ishbaal to give him back Michal as his wife. I can imagine a couple of reasons for the request: because of the dishonor of having his wife given to another man; because of the potential power of having a wife of Saul’s line, and the possibility of one day being able to put a son on the throne of Israel who would combine the lineages of David and Saul. I can’t really imagine that David’s feelings for Michal were a third reason, because nothing in the text suggests he ever had any. Ishbaal agrees to David’s demand; Michal is taken from her second husband, Palti. The text tells us, “Her husband went with her, weeping as he walked behind her, all the way to Bahurim,” until Ishbaal’s general ordered him home. So Michal is given away a third time, taken from a husband who loved her and given to one who, like her father, sees her only as a pawn.

Finally a couple of enterprising warriors take it upon themselves to assassinate Saul’s son, King Ishbaal. David is not grateful; he still respects the house of Saul, and, frankly, would prefer to manage his own affairs; he has the assassins publicly executed. But when all the tribes of Israel come to him and say, Now you can be our King, he doesn’t object. So the kingdoms of Judah and Israel are united, with David as their great King. A great King who takes more and more wives and concubines, and begets a great many children.

And as kind of a gesture of national pride and unity, David and his army set out to bring the Ark of the Covenant to his new capital city, Jerusalem. Remember the Ark? From either the book of Exodus or the Indiana Jones movie? Not the one Noah built. The one crafted by Israel’s finest craftsman, during the wilderness years, to hold the stone tablets on which Moses had received the Law of God. A holy box to hold the world’s holiest treasures, stone tablets engraved by the hand of God. And as they enter Jerusalem in triumphal procession with the Ark, David and those who are with him are so filled with holy joy that they dance wildly, with all their might, to the music of lyres and harps, tambourines and castanets and cymbals. And David danced and leaped the most wildly, the most fervently of them all, dressed only in a simple linen skirt. I think we can take it as the intention of the text that the linen skirt was pretty skimpy, and that David was putting on quite a show, and probably really didn’t care. After all, if being King doesn’t mean you can dance naked in the streets now and then, what’s the point?…

Michal daughter of Saul looks out of the window, and sees David leaping and dancing before the Lord; and she despises him in her heart. She hates him, bitterly. And when he comes to the house, she confronts him: “My goodness, the King of Israel certainly honored himself today, showing off his privates like any vulgar fellow for the eyes of any cheap servant girl!”  David says, “I was dancing to please God, lady, not you – the God who chose ME over your father to be King of Israel, you may recall.” The text tells us that from that time on, Michal had no child. At my first reading, I thought, She is punished with barrenness? – that’s not fair! – and I saw other commentators make the same reading. But the text doesn’t say she was barren, just that she never had a child. I think it’s quite possible that this was the last time David and Michal spoke. That she lived out her lonely life unloved and untouched in some corner of David’s household, watching the rest of his wives and concubines talk and laugh and fight and nurse their children.

So what’s going on here for Michal, as her heart turns against a man whom she once loved? She has been through so much… Years of coldness, betrayal, loss, and never having what she actually wanted. Of course she’s jealous – that remark about the servant girls tips her hand about how much she minds all David’s romantic conquests. She’s also contrasting her husband with her father, Saul’s dignity with David’s extravagance. David is one of those people who is just – very. He’s extravagant in relationships. He’s extravagant in emotion – these flares of anger, joy, grief, desire. He’s extravagant in his ambitions. He’s extravagant in his piety. Michal just wishes he would act like a king. And David says, Deal with it, lady. I am who I am, and God likes it.

So why tell Michal’s story?… If this chapter, 2 Samuel 6, were all we knew about Michal, we would think she was proud and judgmental and kind of a witch. When we know the fulness of her story – beginning with her unrequited love for David; continuing with her using her intelligence and influence to save him, only to find herself abandoned; being given to another man who loves her, then taken again, as a pawn, into a household where she is now one of many, many wives – we get the fulness of the pathos of Michal. This is a sad story about a miserable, lonely life.

Why does the Deuteronomist tell us this story? The Deuteronomist is shorthand for the author/editor – singular or plural – who composed the books of Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings, sometime in the sixth century before Jesus. There may have been many people involved in the work, over many years, but there’s quite a strong narrative voice, actually, across those books; so we call that voice the Deuteronomist.

If all the Deuteronomist wanted us to hear was that Saul’s royal line ended with Michal, we might only get this part of the text. But the Deuteronomist gives Michal a backstory – not a lot of detail, but enough to be evocative. Enough to trace the contours of a life. And I think the Deuteronomist gives us all that because the larger story the Deuteronomist is telling us is about the failures and risks of human power and human institutions. About the way that ordinary people, and even not so ordinary people, get caught up- and ground up – in the machinations of the powerful and the ambitious. About how people lose control of their own lives, and suffer and struggle, because those in power, and those who seek power, are busy doing their thing and don’t count the costs.

Feminist Biblical scholar Alice Ogden Bellis describes Michal as both symbol, and a victim, of the conflict between her husband and her father. Another commentator, Katharine Sakenfeld, writing about Michal, concludes, “I mourn with Palti over Michal’s fate.”

So why do I tell Michal’s story? Why make space on a Sunday for this ultimately rather unhappy story? Well – a couple of reasons. For one thing, often people look casually at some of the awful stuff that happens in the Old Testament, and they are put off because they think that the text talking about that stuff means that the text thinks it’s OK. In fact, the text often doesn’t think it’s OK. The Deuteronomist thinks Michal had a miserable life, just like we do. Maybe he judges her a little harshly for turning against David here; but he also gives us all that context to understand her heart. I think that’s a really really important point for our engagement with the Bible in general and the Old Testament in particular: Yes, it tells about some awful stuff. Why is it telling about it? Not because it approves. The Biblical text contains much more complexity and narrative sophistication than you might realize. The Bible often doesn’t think that the terrible things it’s describing are OK.

For another thing… Ellen Davis, who was my amazing Old Testament professor at Duke, wrote a book called Wondrous Depth, advocating preaching the Old Testament. And in it she says that there are two kinds of Christians. One kind sees us as profoundly separated from the Old Testament. Set apart by an enormous gulf – in Davis’ words, “a vast chasm whose dimensions are not just historical but also moral and theological.” In this view, the Old Testament is interesting but also alien and dubiously relevant to Christian life. Lots  of folks take that perspective, consciously or unconsciously – including many, maybe most, Episcopalians.

The other kind of people see the Old Testament as “an urgent and speaking presence” that “exercises shaping force on Christian lives.” They see the Old Testament as a compendium of stories of human and divine relationships that have never lost their power and relevance.

The reason Michal’s story is compelling is that it’s not so strange or unthinkable. The stories of women never allowed to make their own choices, controlled by husbands, fathers, pimps or politicians – those stories still happen. The machinations of those seeking political power, and those victimized by their ambition – those stories still happen. The stories of relationships that start out sweet, then turn first sour, then bitter – those stories still happen.

The Deuteronomist tells us the story of Michal, among so many others, to teach us that kings aren’t the only people that matter. To history, to God. To teach us to hear and attend to stories like hers – the stories of those struggling in the brutal currents of human history – and to care about what happens to their lives and their hearts. That, too, is the message of the Prophets, who hold the greatest accountable for the wellbeing of the least.  That, too, is the message of Jesus, who once and for all placed God among the powerless and insignificant.

Two weeks ago, while I was away, Father John preached to you about a Gospel story that takes place a thousand years after the time of King David: the woman with the flow of blood, who has lived with this shameful affliction for many years, endured much under many doctors, spent all she had, and found no relief. Desperate to relieve the pain and uncleanness of her body,  the embarrassment and isolation of her condition, she approaches Jesus in the crowd, touches his clothing – and feels herself immediately healed. The bitter darkness she carried so long – released. She is made whole. The Gospel text doesn’t give the woman a name; she is often just called “the woman with the flow of blood,” which is hardly how anyone would want to be remembered. What if we were to name her, the better to celebrate her hope, her courage and her healing? What if we were to name her… Michal?

Announcements, June 18

SUNDAY and the WEEK AHEAD

The Poetry of Mary Oliver, Sunday, June 21, 9am: Dan Hanson will share some of the poetry of contemporary poet Mary Oliver.  All are welcome!

Rector’s Discretionary Fund Offering, Sunday, June 21: Half the cash in our collection plate, and any designated checks, will go towards the Rector’s Discretionary Fund on every third Sunday. This fund is a way to quietly help people with direct financial needs, in the parish and the wider community. Please give generously.

Liturgy & Music Committee Open Meeting, Sunday, June 21, 12pm: At this meeting we will check in with how our regular liturgical ministries and weekly liturgies are going, then spend some time on ideas and hopes for the seasons ahead. All interested folk are welcome to attend and participate.

Evening Eucharist, Sunday, June 21, 6pm: Join us for a simple service before the week begins.

St. Dunstan’s is recruiting a basketball team (or two) for Hoops for Housing! Members, friends, and family – all welcome, and players can be of all ages and skills. Each team will have 4 – 6 members, and is asked to raise at least $100 through pledges and donations for Briarpatch Youth Services. Hoops for Housing will take place on Saturday, August 8. It is a friendly community basketball tournament, sponsored by St. Dunstan’s, to raise funds for Briarpatch, which serves homeless youth in the Madison area. Team pledge envelopes are available in the Gathering Area; sign up & start gathering a team! Questions? Talk with Rev. Miranda.

Ladies Night Out, Friday, June 26, 6pm: Join our monthly get-together as we dine at area restaurants and enjoy good conversation among women of all ages from St. Dunstan’s. This month we will meet at the Dhaba Indian Restaurant at 8333 Greenway Blvd. in Madison.

GENERAL CONVENTION…

Prayers for General Convention: Every three years, the Bishops and elected Deputies – both clergy and laypeople – of the Episcopal Church gather to consider issues and new directions in the life of the church, and through democratic process, to make decisions and set directions and priorities. This year we will also be electing a new Presiding Bishop, who is the public face of our denomination and helps run the national church office. Rev. Miranda is one of the elected clergy deputies from our diocese who will be attending General Convention, which takes place in Salt Lake City from June 23 through July 3. Please pray for the Convention, for all bishops and deputies, for the Presiding Bishop candidates, and for the mission of our church.

Stir Up the Spirit – Celebremos! is the theme of this year’s Triennial of the women of the Episcopal Church – (the ECW). Three hundred thirty women will be gathering from 85 Dioceses in Salt Lake City, June 25th-July 1st. They will be meeting in conjunction with the General Convention, sharing worship, exhibit hall and space with the House of Bishops and the House of Deputies. Their program includes keynotes, workshops, and reports, business, a 5K run, a Distinguished Women Luncheon and the celebration of 125 years of United Thank Offering. If you want to see what they are doing, go to ecwnational.org. Thanks to Connie Ott for her faithful service in the ECW both locally and nationally!

OPPORTUNITIES TO SERVE…

Calling an “Oikos Team” to Help St. Dunstan’s Welcome Newcomers: The people of St. Dunstan’s talk a lot about feeling that St. Dunstan’s is their “church home,” with a strong and welcoming community. The word “oikos”, in the Greek New Testament, is the word for “household” – as in, “you are now members of the household of God” (Ephesians 2:19). Would you like to help visitors and newcomers feel a sense of welcome and belonging in this “oikos,” this household of God? As a member of the Oikos Team, you’ll be matched with a person or household new to the church, to help them connect and get to know our parish. We’re not trying to manufacture friendship, but to be intentional about planting the seeds of community. You’d only be “matched” with one person or family at a time, and it won’t be a major time commitment. If this sounds like something you’d enjoy, talk with Rev. Miranda at  238-2781. We hope to have all kinds of folks and families on our Oikos team.

THE WEEKS AHEAD…

Worshipping with Zion City Church, Sunday, June 28: The service is from noon to 2:00pm.  Meet at St. Dunstan’s at 11:30am to carpool, or meet at Zion City Church shortly before noon. They are located at 1317 Applegate Road in Madison. This is just south of the Beltline, off of Fish Hatchery Road. Share song, prayer, and friendship with these brothers and sisters in Christ!

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

SUMMER OPPORTUNITIES…

Summer Evening Worship, Thursdays at 5:30pm: Our Thursday evening “Sandbox Worship” will take place outdoors whenever the weather permits. Come at 5:30pm for a shared meal (provided), simple evening worship, and then hanging out around a fire for conversation and s’mores. “Summer Sandbox” will begin on June 18. All ages are welcome.

Between Church, July 2015: Beginning July 5, you’re invited to simple outdoor worship between our two regular services. “Between Church” will meet from 9:15 to 9:45am, every Sunday in July – and maybe August too. We’ll gather at the stone altar to sing, discuss a short piece of Scripture, share blessings and concerns in prayer, and sing some more. Come as an enrichment to regular Sunday worship, or just enjoy this simple service as your summer worship.

Women’s Mini Week 2015: Mini Week will be August 13 to August 16, at Camp Lakotah in Wautoma, Wisconsin. This year’s theme is “Surprised by Joy!” For registration materials and to answer questions, visit the website: www.womensminiweek.org.

This year’s Parish Talent Show will be Sunday, October 25! What will you share? A poem, a song, a dramatic monologue, a dance? A sample of art, craft, tinkering, building, study or science? Group acts are encouraged. Chat with your friends this summer and begin to plan and practice!

 

Announcements, June 11

Sunday School, Sunday, June 14, 10am: This Sunday our 3-6 year old class will be learning about the apostle Paul and his journeys, while our 7-11 year old class will explore the calling of David the shepherd boy to be King of Israel. We’ll also thank and celebrate our Sunday school teachers and helpers!

St. Dunstan’s is recruiting a basketball team (or two) for Hoops for Housing! Members, friends, and family – all welcome, and players can be of all ages and skills. Each team will have 4 – 6 members, and is asked to raise at least $100 through pledges and donations for Briarpatch Youth Services. Hoops for Housing will take place on Saturday, August 8. It is a friendly community basketball tournament, sponsored by St. Dunstan’s, to raise funds for Briarpatch, which serves homeless youth in the Madison area. Team pledge envelopes are available in the Gathering Area; sign up & start gathering a team! Questions? Talk with Rev. Miranda.

Church, Faith & Life Conversation, 12 – 1pm: When are you most conscious of yourself as a person of faith, in your daily life? Does your faith support you in hard times? Why do you belong to a church – in five words or less? Come share open-hearted conversation about these and similar questions, with Rev. Miranda and others from the St. Dunstan’s community. This is the final opportunity to participate in a focus group (a loosely-structured, informal group interview) as part of Rev. Miranda’s Missional Leadership Cohort inquiry process. Anyone who’d like to take part is welcome.

Younger Adults Meet-up at the Vintage, 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.

Saint Dunstan T-Shirts, $5.00 – BYOS: Bring in a plain T-shirt (at least 60% cotton) that fits you, and the logo “Saint Dunstan: Annoying the Devil since 943” will be applied (in fuzzy blue iron-on vinyl) for $5. Funds raised will go towards purchasing new tubs for our Backpack Snack Pack ministry at Falk Elementary School. Talk to Rev. Miranda with questions. Checks can be placed in the offering plate with “T-shirt” on the memo line.

OPPORTUNITIES TO SERVE…

Vacation Bible School Team Signup: This year’s Vacation Bible School will run from Sunday, August 2, through Thursday, August 6, from 5:30 – 7:30pm. We could use Kitchen Helpers, people to watch over the classrooms and groups, a Librarian, and several other roles — both on-site and ahead-of-time. Please see our Sign-Up in the Gathering Area, or talk with Rev. Miranda to learn more.

Calling an “Oikos Team” to Help St. Dunstan’s Welcome Newcomers: The people of St. Dunstan’s talk a lot about feeling that St. Dunstan’s is their “church home,” with a strong and welcoming community. The word “oikos”, in the Greek New Testament, is the word for “household” – as in, “you are now members of the household of God” (Ephesians 2:19). Would you like to help visitors and newcomers feel a sense of welcome and belonging in this “oikos,” this household of God? As a member of the Oikos Team, you’ll be matched with a person or household new to the church, to help them connect and get to know our parish. We’re not trying to manufacture friendship, but to be intentional about planting the seeds of community. You’d only be “matched” with one person or family at a time, and it won’t be a major time commitment. If this sounds like something you’d enjoy, talk with Rev. Miranda at  238-2781. We hope to have all kinds of folks and families on our Oikos team.

Prayers for General Convention: Every three years, the Bishops and elected Deputies – both clergy and laypeople – of the Episcopal Church gather to consider issues and new directions in the life of the church, and through democratic process, to make decisions and set directions and priorities. This year we will also be electing a new Presiding Bishop, who is the public face of our denomination and helps run the national church office. Rev. Miranda is one of the elected clergy deputies from our diocese who will be attending General Convention, which takes place in Salt Lake City from June 23 through July 3. Please pray for the Convention, for all bishops and deputies, for the Presiding Bishop candidates, and for the mission of our church.

THE WEEKS AHEAD…

Game Night, Friday, June 19, 6pm: Join us for an evening of games for all ages. Friends, partners, kids – all are welcome. Bring a snack to share, or come as you are!

Liturgy & Music Committee Open Meeting, Sunday, June 21, 12pm: At this meeting we will check in with how our regular liturgical ministries and weekly liturgies are going, then spend some time on ideas and hopes for the seasons ahead. All interested folk are welcome to attend and participate.

Evening Eucharist, Sunday, June 21, 6pm: Join us for a simple service before the week begins.

Worshipping with Zion City Church, Sunday, June 28: The service is from noon to 2:00pm.  Meet at St. Dunstan’s at 11:30am to carpool, or meet at Zion City Church shortly before noon. They are located at 1317 Applegate Road in Madison. This is just south of the Beltline, off of Fish Hatchery Road. Share song, prayer, and friendship with these brothers and sisters in Christ!

SUMMER OPPORTUNITIES…

Summer Evening Worship, Thursdays at 5:30pm: Our Thursday evening “Sandbox Worship” will take place outdoors whenever the weather permits. Come at 5:30pm for a shared meal (provided), simple evening worship, and then hanging out around a fire for conversation and s’mores. “Summer Sandbox” will begin on June 18. All ages are welcome.

Between Church, July 2015: Beginning July 5, you’re invited to simple outdoor worship between our two regular services. “Between Church” will meet from 9:15 to 9:45am, every Sunday in July – and maybe August too. We’ll gather at the stone altar to sing, discuss a short piece of Scripture, share blessings and concerns in prayer, and sing some more. Come as an enrichment to regular Sunday worship, or just enjoy this simple service as your summer worship.

Vacation Bible School, August 2 – 6, 5:30 – 7:30pm (with a 7pm pickup option for younger kids): We had a lot of fun with Vacation Bible School last summer, and plan to do the same this year! Our theme will be “Message Received: Hearing God’s Call.” Using drama, art, and games, we’ll explore the stories of five people called by God, from the Old and New Testaments, and how we hear God’s call today. Dinner is included.

 

Sermon, May 3, 2015

Preached by the Rev. Miranda K. Hassett.

I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower. He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine,  neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.

So when I first looked over today’s Scripture lessons, I more or less threw up my hands. There is so much here –  these are all wonderful, rich, important texts. There was no way to cover them all, and I didn’t know where to start, where to focus.

And then I remembered that today is our parish workday, the day every spring when we spend some time together, after church, tending our grounds and the plants and trees that live here, to help them be tidy and pretty and healthy and ready for spring. And I started to think, Maybe I should take a cue from Jesus here. Maybe I should talk about pruning.

So I did a little research. I am not particularly a plant person – I’m learning, as my husband develops our yard at home, and as we develop our property here at St. Dunstan’s. I’m learning. But I didn’t know much about pruning: just that it means cutting off parts of a tree or vine or bush, and that you’re supposed to do it. So I turned to Google and read up a little.

Here’s one of the first things I realized: I have a strong reaction to the idea of being pruned. In this text from the Gospel of John, when Jesus says to his disciples, and to us, that we are branches of his vine and can expect to be pruned to bear more fruit, that makes me cringe. That’s because I’m an animal. If you cut a limb off of an animal, that’s a terrible injury, quite possibly a mortal injury. My natural reaction to a big pair of pruning shears is terror. But plants aren’t like that. They are different. They grow and heal differently. Losing a limb or part of a limb is an injury, sure, and they have to heal; but under normal circumstances it isn’t a dangerous injury by any means, and it can make them healthier and stronger in the long run.

So I have a gut reaction to this image Jesus is using. I don’t want to be pruned. That sounds really bad. Painful and dangerous. Plants probably don’t especially like being pruned either. But I have to try to put myself into the mindset of a plant, for whom having something cut off – wisely and well – is not a mortal injury,  and may well be for my health. One website that I consulted pointed out that people who have a couple of backyard fruit trees – as we do at St. Dunstan’s – are much more likely to under-prune their trees than to over-prune. Of course there’s the “getting around to it” factor, but I think we’re also really worried about doing it wrong and hurting the tree. So I suspect I’m not alone in my resistance to the concept of pruning. I don’t want to hurt the tree! I can barely stand to cut my dog’s toenails, or take a splinter out of my child’s foot! I’m not going to cut off pieces of this poor helpless plant!

But… pruning is important.  If we fail to tend to our trees in that way, they get overgrown, shapeless, less healthy, less fruitful. This would have been commonsense for Jesus’ original audience. The agricultural economy of ancient Israel relied heavily on perennial plants and trees that had to be shaped and tended year by year: olive trees, fig trees, grapevines.  But it’s not commonsense for most of us. So let me share with you a little about the logic and importance of pruning.

First, pruning removes the “3 D’s”: You prune off the stuff that’s dead, diseased, or damaged. A branch that’s died, or become infected by some blight or insect illness, or been damaged by high winds or careless humans. You remove that stuff not just because it’s useless – but because leaving it there may compromise the health of the whole tree. That’s most obvious in the case of disease; you want to try to prevent any disease or rot spreading to the rest of the tree. But dead or damaged wood can also provide an entry point for bugs or infection, through broken or rotted wood. It can be a doorway to systemic illness that may weaken or kill the whole plant. So the Wise One tending the vineyard, the orchard, cuts away what is unhealthy, lest it cause the whole branch or vine to weaken or die.

Second, pruning makes space. Some kinds of trees and vines are prone to growing overly thick. Growing a crowd of branches, tendrils, and leaves. For the plant’s health, and especially for fruit to grow and ripen well, there needs to be room for air to circulate, and for the sun to shine in among the branches, because sun is what ripens the fruit. So you prune to loosen things up a little bit, to make some space within the tree or on the vine for the plant to breathe, because plants do breathe, and for fruit to grow and ripen well. This is one reason you can’t just prune a plant once; you have to pay attention, and tend it year by year.  Keep clearing it out when it becomes overgrown. So the Wise One tending the vineyard, the orchard, prunes to make some room, to create space for the plant to breathe and grow, so that the branches that are left can flourish and get what they need to bear big, healthy, ripe fruit.

Third, pruning is a way to tell the plant how to direct its energy and growth. Here’s an example, not exactly pruning but the same principal: Last year we ordered two dozen young blueberry bushes and planted them along the north side of our property. They came to us with berries already formed – tiny green berries! So exciting, proof that these are fruit bushes that will fruit for us! And the first thing we had to do was pick off all the little green berries. And we’re going to do it again this summer: pick off all the little green berries. Because fruiting takes a lot of the plant’s energy and resources, and we don’t want the plants to put their energy into developing berries yet. The plants are still new and still small, and we want them to focus on developing their root and branch structures. On becoming stronger, hardier, better-rooted plants. It’s not time for them to fruit yet. Maybe next year. But right now, taking off the berries is a way to tell the plant, Don’t do that this year. Just focus on becoming a stronger plant, please.

Much the same applies with trees and vines. Take our little pear tree, out there. See those funny branches reaching straight up? I had to look this up – they’re called watersprouts. Growing those funny, vertical, fast-growing branches is a way that some trees, and especially pear trees, sometimes respond to pruning or to weather stress. Sometime this summer, we need to prune those upright watersprouts. Because the tree is putting resources into growing those guys. And they’re not what we want. They make the tree crowded and tend to shade out the rest of the tree, and any fruit they bear will be too high for us to reach!… So we’ll cut off the watersprouts, to prevent the tree from putting its resources into growing stuff that’s no good to us. So the Wise One tending the vineyard, the orchard, cuts away what is not useful, or not ready, to encourage the plant to put its energy into fruitful growth.

Cutting away what is dead, diseased, or damaged. Making room for air and light. Directing resources towards needed growth. None of this really resolves my fear that being pruned may be… uncomfortable at times. But it does help me see the point.

Jesus is, actually, quite clear that the point is fruitfulness. The phrase “bear fruit” appears six times in these eight verses.  And he sums it up this way: “My Father is glorified by this: that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.” Discipleship is an important word and idea in the New Testament. Some churches talk about discipleship a lot, but it’s not a very Episcopalian word. I don’t remember talking about discipleship in Sunday school or confirmation class, and as a priest myself, I haven’t used this word, this idea, a lot. But I may start. Because that word, discipleship – it captures this idea, this thing we are talking about here, about being more than just members of a church, about being followers of Jesus. Being people who, I hope, are members of a church because that community of faith helps us find the path and the strength and the clarity to follow Jesus. To live lives shaped by his Gospel of mercy, generosity, healing, hope, and love.

This Gospel – this parable that Jesus offers today – it’s an image, a metaphor of discipleship. And it’s really very simple, because in this parable, this image, we’re not the one with the pruning shears. Worrying about who else is fruitful, who is growing in the shape God intends for them – that is above our pay grade. Leave it to the Wise One who tends our orchard, our vineyard. We’re just… branches. And all we have to do is abide in the vine. Hold on. Stay connected. And let the vine bear fruit through us. The vine is strong and true, so if the branch is healthy, if air and sun and water and good soil are available, then fruit will happen. It’s not something to force or fret about, for us branches. We just stay connected, and let the life of the vine live in us.

Let me hang one more idea on this overgrown metaphor: The fruit isn’t for the plant. Its usefulness is elsewhere, and beyond. It’s to feed somebody else. Or maybe to be planted elsewhere to start something new growing. The fruit we bear is to feed and nurture others. The Acts of the Apostles gives us one vision of what that can look like – Philip the deacon, being open to the whisper of God: Take that road today. Go talk to that stranger. The first letter of John gives us language for the generosity of fruitfulness: “We love because he first loved us.” The word “love” appears 27 times in these 14 verses. We love because God in Christ loved us. We carry the love we have received out into the world. Bushel baskets of love, borne out from the vineyard, the orchard, to feed and delight those beyond its walls.

Let us pray. May the Wise One tending this vineyard, this orchard, this garden of God, shape us gently and tenderly, clearing away what is unhealthy, creating space for light to shine in, focusing our growth where we have the greatest potential to bear fruit for your Kingdom. Amen.

Sermon, April 19

Today’s Scripture lessons have a lot to say about what faith looks like, feels like, in daily life, and in life’s inevitable hard times.

In our text from the Acts of the Apostles, Peter is preaching to some of the Jews of Jerusalem, and calling them to faith in Jesus. Listen to what he says about the fruits of faith: “Repent and turn to God, so that you may be freed from your sins, so that you may be refreshed by God, and so that you may be part of the great work of salvation and restoration which is God’s eternal and ultimate intention for all creation.” Forgiveness, refreshment, and hope. Is that what faith feels like?

Psalm 4 is one of my favorites, a psalm for hard times and long anxious nights: “Answer me when I call, O God; you set me free when I am hard-pressed… God does wonders for the faithful; when I call upon God, God hears me. O God, you have put gladness in my heart; I lie down in peace, at once I fall asleep, for only you, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.” Trust. Peace. Assurance – blessed assurance. Is that what faith feels like?

In the third chapter of the first letter of John, the author says that belonging to God, being God’s children, helps us to know and do what is right, much as a human parent guides and forms a child to have an inner sense of right and wrong. The author goes on say that the heart of right action is love. Knowing God as a loving parent, and feeling able, with God’s help, to do the right thing, and the loving thing – is that what faith feels like?

In the 24th chapter of the Gospel of Luke, the disciples have just received news that two of their members have encountered the risen Jesus on the Emmaus road. Now Jesus appears among them, puts their fears to rest, lets them touch him and eats some fish to satisfy them that he is not a ghost. Then he opens their minds to understand the Scriptures, and sends them out to proclaim the good news and continue his mission in the world. Connected with the Bible, our holy text, reading it and talking about it and playing and struggling with it, in such a way that our engagement  feeds our sense of mission and purpose in the world – is that what faith feels like?

Refreshment. Hope. Peace. Confidence. Love. Purpose. Power. Is that what faith feels like?

Not all the time. Not for me. On a good day, when I’m grounded in God, sure of who I am and whose I am: Yes. That’s what faith feels like. Over the arc of my whole life, looking at God’s work in me and through me: Yes. That’s what faith feels like.

In any given moment of any given day, dealing with a stressful email exchange or worrying about how to muster resources or volunteers, or rushing to rearrange the furniture between events, or dealing with the demands of parenting growing kids: Not really. My faith doesn’t always feel like that. Not every moment. Not even every hour. Not even, always, every day.

I know, though. I know that all of that is available to me. I know that sometimes, that’s what faith feels like. That it’s calm in the midst of the storm, trust in the face of fear, hope when the world seems to be crumbling around us, direction when the way is uncertain. I know that because I’ve had those moments myself, and because of the witness of other people of faith, including some in this room right now, who testify that the resources of their faith were there for them, in their time of need.

“Resources of faith” seems like a suspect phrase. It smacks of the therapeutic mindset that’s become dominant in American culture, the mindset that assumes that the goal of human life is happiness, and that our griefs and struggles and hurts can be, should be, solved, resolved, or medicated away. “Resources of faith” sounds both therapeutic and consumerist: like we’re coming to church for what it does for us. Like we might quit church like quitting a therapist who we feel isn’t helping us with our issues; or maybe like we come to church like coming to that acupuncturist, because we really feel better for a few days, or at least a few hours, after each visit.

But I think we do come to church for what it does for us. And I think that’s OK. In fact, I think it’s the point. Jesus teaches his followers to meet together, to care for and support one another; he gives them the gift of God’s Holy Spirit, to teach them and lead them and work in and among them, and stir up in them the God-given gifts and skills that enable them and empower them to do God’s work and witness to God’s love. In our baptismal covenant, we promise to be faithful in worship and fellowship, love and serve our neighbors, strive for justice and human dignity – WITH GOD’S HELP. That’s the deal. With God’s help. And one of the Scriptures often read when the church ordains someone to the priesthood, calls people like me to the work of equipping the saints for the work of ministry. That’s y’all: the saints.

So God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit and me: it’s our job to nurture, strengthen, and support you, as God’s beloved children. It’s our job to make sure that the resources of our faith are real and present and available to you. Because it is hard work, maintaining calm in the midst of the storm, trust in the face of fear, hope when the world seems to be crumbling around us, direction when the way is uncertain; it is hard work – but we don’t have to do it alone. We have each other, and we have God. We will, with God’s help.

Since last September, I’ve been participating in something called the Missional Leadership Cohort, a program offered by Luther Seminary in St. Paul. It’s a two-year peer learning program; there are twelve of us, all Episcopal priests who are fairly early in our ministries. We have met together twice, will meet twice more. We are reading together, learning together, talking together about the challenges and opportunities facing our churches, and The Church, the Episcopal Church, mainline Protestantism, American Christianity…  all of the above.

The goal of the program, I would say, is to help and equip us, the participating clergy, to look at the challenges facing our individual parishes in light of the great sea change in American culture and religion of the past half-century; and to undertake thoughtful, playful, innovative ways to tackle those challenges, in light of that big picture, with all its change, loss, and opportunity.

Some of you are wondering, what challenge does she mean? What’s the big challenge at St. Dunstan’s? And in fact there isn’t any one thing. We are basically healthy, for now. But that sea change will wash over us, just as surely as it will over every other church in the nation; and now is the moment to start imagining a resilient, engaged, joyful, purposeful future for St. Dunstan’s.

Back in January, when I was posting those Facebook pictures of the beach in south Texas, I was gathered with the other Missional Leadership Cohort folks for study and conversation and prayer. The purpose of that gathering was for each of us to discern, with God’s help, one question or area of inquiry, in our parish contexts.  And what I felt called to focus on, friends, is … what faith feels like.  For you. For us. Whether and when and how God and the Spirit and the resources of your faith are available to you, present to you, in daily life, and in life’s inevitable hard times.

Here’s another way to map what I’m wondering about. Here’s your church: this gathered community of study and prayer and fellowship. And here’s your faith: this thing inside you that’s been shaped over your lifetime by people you’ve met and things you’ve read and churches you’ve belonged to and encounters with God. And here’s your daily life: the places you go, and the people you interact with, and the ways you spend your time in work and play and service and rest.

And the question, my question, as part of my project, which I hope will become our project, is this: What are the connecting lines between those three sites, church and faith and life? And could they be stronger? Is our life as a church strengthening your faith; and is your faith strengthening you for daily living?

Does what we do together at church, as a church, feed and strengthen your faith? Does it give you a stronger sense of the resources of faith, of refreshment, hope, peace, love, confidence, power and purpose, as more than just words? as things you feel and know and do?  as spiritual practices that offer you grounding and grace? AND does your faith strengthen you for life? Is it giving you what you need to be the person you want to be, in the face of the distractions and demands, stresses and stumbling blocks of daily living, and in the face of life’s inevitable hard times? Does your faith help open your eyes to notice God’s presence in your church, your home, your workplace? To know deeply that you’re never going it alone, but that, in the ancient words of a Celtic prayer, the divine presence stands behind you and before you, beneath you and above you, in quiet and in danger, in hearts of all that love you, and in the words of friend and stranger?

Those are the questions I have for you, right now. And I think this might be really important, this business of the intersection of church, faith, and life, so I really want your answers. Your input, your feedback, your perspective, your ideas.

So I’m going to ask a lot of questions based on these core questions, over the next few weeks. First of all, there’s going to be a survey! A dozen questions. Check the boxes. That sort of thing. A link will go out by email tomorrow, in a special message. I hope all of you will take it. And if you really don’t like computer surveys, we have a few print copies available as well. The survey will be running for a couple of weeks, then some other ways of exploring these questions will follow. Some write-on-the-poster type stuff, as we’ve done before. Some focus group type stuff.

All to evaluate where we are now, to develop some sense of how those church/faith/life connections are for us, today. I hope that those data will offer some direction, some areas of opportunity where we could shape our life as a community of faith to help us live our daily lives more fully and confidently as children of God. The next step, in the fall and winter, will be to try some things –  don’t ask me what, I really don’t know yet! – but to try some things, and evaluate them together, and see if we can move the needle. If we can walk together towards becoming more and more a church that equips the saints for the work of ministry, for the hard and lifelong work of being God’s people in and for the world.

Let me close by anticipating, and addressing, one concern. We are blessed at St. Dunstan’s with a lot of people who care urgently and passionately for the needs and well-being of the poor, oppressed, and marginalized, in our community, the nation, and the world. People who experience the call to witness to God’s love as a call to serve and advocate for those in need. I’m with you, friends; I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I’m afraid that to some of those folks, this question, this project, may sound troublingly inward-focused, like some self-indulgent Christian navel-gazing. Now, at that same retreat in Texas in January, I saw a quotation from a great sermon that speaks to this better than I can. This sermon was preached by Bishop Mariann Budde, at the occasion of her consecration as bishop of Washington, DC, in 2011. She told her new diocese, 

You have called me as your bishop at a time when the first priority for the Episcopal Church is the spiritual renewal and revitalization of our congregations,… not as a retreat from social and prophetic witness, but in order to be more faithful to that witness, with greater capacity not only to speak but to act in God’s name… [We live] in a time of deep spiritual longing yet [shallow] spiritual grounding, and that’s as true within our congregations as outside them… God is calling all of us first to take our own life in Christ seriously. To tend to that life, to re-learn or learn for the first time the core spiritual practices that define a Christian. God is calling us to strengthen the ministries of our congregations, not for the sake of the buildings alone, for all that we might love them, but for what our churches are for:  [to be the] spiritual base camps where we gather for inspiration and renewal and strength, and from which we go out to help Christ heal and reconcile the world.

That’s the endgame, friends, that’s the big picture: not just to become a church where members get their spiritual needs met, reliably and effectively, though that would be a good and holy thing; but to become a church that sends its people out, not just members of a church but disciples of Jesus,  strong and confident, hopeful and purposeful, to do justice, love mercy, seek and serve Christ in all people, and build the kingdom of God.

As we undertake this season of inquiry and conversation, I invite your participation. I invite your input, your insight, your curiosity. I invite your help. And I invite you to bring an open mind and heart to this work of wondering, seeking, and building.

May the Holy Spirit guide and strengthen us, that in this, and in all things, we may do God’s will in the service of the kingdom of Christ. Amen.

Announcements, April 16

THIS WEEKEND… Sunday School, Sunday, April 19, 10am: This week, our 3-6 year old class will learn about the Eucharist and some of the things we use in church, while our 7-11 year old class will work with the story of Jesus on the road to Emmaus.  All kids are welcome, & parents can come too if they like!

Rector’s Discretionary Fund Offering, Sunday, April 19: Half the cash in our collection plate, and any designated checks, will go towards the Rector’s Discretionary Fund this day and on every third Sunday. This fund is a way to quietly help people with direct financial needs, in the parish and the wider community. We have had many requests for help with utilities and other needs in this season. Please give generously, and thanks!

Racial Disparities in Dane County, Sunday, April 19, 1pm, and Wednesday, April 22, 7:15pm: Our second series of conversations about racism will focus closer to home, as we study the Race to Equity report and other indicators of racial disparities in Dane County, and begin to look for ways we can help create a fairer future. We will meet on Sundays at 1pm and Wednesdays at 7:15; specific dates will be discussed and posted. All interested participants are welcome. A selection of handouts from our first series of conversations is now available in the Gathering Area.

Evening Eucharist, Sunday, April 19, 6pm: A simple service before the week begins.

Check out our new Thank You Board! St. Dunstan’s Church gets a lot of thank-you notes, for sharing our resources, our time, and our facilities with the wider community. Read some recent notes here. Feeling grateful for some person or group at St. Dunstan’s who has touched your life or blessed our life together recently? Write a thank-you note on the whiteboard and let them know.

Ushers & Greeters Needed! These are two simple roles that are very important to helping welcome visitors and newcomers, and making our worship run smoothly. Once a month, could you commit to coming to church fifteen minutes early and helping out?  Serve with a family member or friend. Just one more team of both ‘Ushers & Greeters would fill out our schedules.

United Thank Offering: The United Thank Offering (UTO) is a church-wide Episcopal ministry that invites people to take home a “blue box”, and put in a coin or bill when we have a moment of gratitude for the many blessings of our lives. We will gather in our “blue boxes” on Mother’s Day, May 10. The funds collected are given to mission and development projects all over the Anglican world, including in our companion diocese of Newala in Tanzania. For more information, visit the UTO station in the Gathering Area.

Laundry Help Needed! Due to a broken wrist, Joanne Reis needs to take a sabbath from her faithful work keeping our acolyte and MC robes clean and ready to use. We are seeking someone willing to help out with this job for the rest of April, through May and June, until Joanne’s wrist has healed. The job is simple: check on the robes, either after the 10am service on Sunday or early in the week; make sure they are hung neatly on their hangers. If any robes have dirt, wine spots, or candle wax, take them home and wash them (wash cold, dry low, hang to finish drying). Joanne or any Altar Guild member can provide instructions for removing wine and wax stains. If you’re willing to help out, talk with Rev. Miranda. Thanks so much!

THE WEEKS AHEAD… Thursday Evening Worship in Easter Season: Following the resurrection of Jesus, many of his friends encountered him – at a shared meal, on a lakeshore, walking along a lonely road. In Easter season, at the Sandbox, our Thursday evening informal worship & supper gathering, we’ll be sharing stories of where we’ve encountered Jesus on our journeys. Come hear about another person’s life of faith, or share a part of your own. All are welcome. Worship is at 5:30pm every week, with a simple meal provided afterwards.

Game Night, Friday, April 24, 6pm: Join us for an evening of games for all ages. Friends, partners, kids all welcome. Bring a snack to share, or come as you are!

Ladies’ Night Out, Friday, April 24, 6pm: Join our monthly get-together as we dine at area restaurants and enjoy good conversation among women of all ages from St. Dunstan’s.  This month we will meet at Abuelo’s at 2229 Deming Way in Middleton. Here’s the website: http://www.abuelos.com/locations/middleton-wi. For more information, to join the reservation or to arrange a ride, please call Debra Martinez at (608) 772-6043.

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

Sunday, April 26, 9am: “Sing THAT one at my funeral!” Many of us have a list – on paper or in our heads – of hymns and songs we’d like sung or played at our funerals. Bring one of your favorites (or an open mind, if you don’t have a “list) and we’ll talk together about what those songs mean to us and the ideas about life, death, and resurrection they contain. This is our Spirituality & Poetry session for April. Simple funeral planning forms will also be available to complete here or take home.

Last Sunday Worship, Sunday, April 26, 10am: Our Last Sunday worship is intended especially to help kids (and grownups who are new to our pattern of worship) to engage and participate fully. This Sunday we’ll explore the image of Jesus as the Good Shepherd. After worship, at 11am, we will have a combined coffee hour and all-ages formation time, as we dream up some new visions of church. NOTE: Our 8am service always follows our regular seasonal order of worship.

Sunday, April 26, 11:45am: Wills for Young Families. Attorney and St. Dunstan’s member Mark Rooney will offer a gentle and user-friendly introduction to this topic, as a special gathering of our regular parents’ lunch group. 

Shelter Dinner, Sunday, April 26, 7pm: Every fourth Sunday, volunteers from St. Dunstan’s Church provide dinner for residents at the Grace Church shelter, and breakfast the next morning. It’s a simple and meaningful way to help out some of our Madison neighbors, and there’s always room to get involved. See the signup sheet in the gathering area to help out.

DeCanstruction, Sunday, April 26, 7:30pm: Help take apart the giant sculptures built from cans and boxes of food, as part of this year’s CanStruction competition, a food- and fund-raiser for Middleton Outreach Ministry. This year’s CanStruction will take place at West Towne Mall, and structures can be viewed there all week, starting Monday, April 20. To help with the “de-Canstruction” work, you must be reasonably able-bodied (but not everybody has to do heavy lifting). Sign up if you’d like to join this year’s team, and work alongside other St. Dunstan’s folks and friends from Madison Vineyard Church.

Spring Clean-Up Day, Sunday, May 3, 12 – 2pm: Join us after the 10 am service to put some “sweat equity” into tending our beautiful buildings and grounds. Wear or bring your scruffy clothes and work gloves. Lunch will be provided!

Hat and Tie Sunday, May 10: St. Dunstan’s has a long tradition of inviting folks to dress up for Mother’s Day, with a fancy hat and/or tie.  If you’d like to participate, you can wear your own or borrow one from the collection at church. We will also take up a special collection for scholarships for the Diocese of Milwaukee’s camp program, Camp Webb. It’s our custom to take photos of the whole congregation after the 10am service that Sunday; we hope you’ll stay a few moments to participate.