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Trail Notes: 8/2/2015

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"This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom God has sent." John 6:29

What are you hungry for?

There are images that stay with you for a long time. My recent experience in Ecuador is a source of many images in my head these days. Many are images of those who are much poorer in resources than I have ever been. Fire jugglers earning their daily meal, a man asleep on a rock with empty bottles scattered around him, indigenous folks selling their creations, and the ever present street dogs searching for food in the garbage. Images of the family home we visited - the dirtiest kitchen I have ever seen, two rooms, an outside wash stand, Guinea pigs, chickens, kernels of corn, a couple much younger than they look, a pre-adolescent son - yet smiles of welcome and gratitude.

Each time I come back from Ecuador, or other places where I have witnessed places in need of the basics we take for granted; I wonder and have conversations in my mind about what I will do differently. How can and will I make a difference, will I be able to keep alive my desire to change one thing about myself that could provide for others, and in the big picture of the world how will what I do make an impact on anything?

Last week I spoke of gratitude. This week I challenge all of us to dig deeper.

I want a world where a child does not die every 3 seconds from hunger; where every child can go to school; where medications are made available for curable diseases; where clean water is the norm; and where … the list goes on and on.

Each of us can do something to make a difference. One of our small groups is looking at the big picture of economic justice, the imbalance of our structures, and how we might begin to address this through legislative action in our diocese. They have been hungry enough to meet and discern on this issue almost bi-weekly, even over the summer!

This year, I am hungry enough to sponsor a child for one year of education in Ecuador. It is only $384 per year, but it is one thing I can do, and it will make a difference for that child and their family. And hopefully I will sustain this for years to come.

Many in our church are making a difference in various ways - what is your story of changing the world? If you are hungry for something and don’t know how or where you can make a difference, let’s talk. Together we will find a place to begin dealing with that hunger.

Sue von Rautenkranz



Trail Notes: 7/26/2015

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‘The eyes of all wait upon you, O Lord,* and you give them their food in due season. You open wide your hand,* and satisfy the needs of every living creature’ Psalm 145:16-17

These words have long been in my memory since the first days I attended summer camp in the Diocese of Fond du Lac. Every meal at camp began with the call and response of these two verses - between the person offering the thanksgiving for our meal and the campers and staff. This was a tradition I had to learn my first year at camp, and thankfully my priest shared this tradition with me before I attended my first session. Much like how we learn many things in our tradition - I learned it by listening and repeating - not by reading it first.

This passage also fills my head with images of the last couple of weeks in Ecuador. Helping a family de-kernel dried corn for grinding, watching women prepare mounds of food for our team in a kitchen no bigger than St. Dunstan’s parish hall closet, and seeing beggars on the streets selling anything to get money for food.

Even in the worst times of my life, I have never truly been hungry or lacked in putting food on the table. My mother, a child of the depression, never had an empty pantry. And as one of her children - I not only learned to cook simple meals from staples - but also never have an empty pantry. I’m sure many of us can relate to full cupboards. Most in the U.S. live in a place of abundance when we compare ourselves to the rest of the world; where many live on just $1 a day. Yet, we seem to have an insatiable need for more, better, bigger, and who can be first.

How do we change this? I think it is by trying to live into a place of gratitude - not of what we have done - but by understanding that everything that we have - our livelihood, our abilities and our abundance - is a gift from God. If we truly believe that all we possess is God’s then we can be more generous in what we give away.

As those of old their first fruits brought of vineyard, flock, and field
to God, the giver of all good,  the source of bounteous yield;
so we today our first fruits bring, the wealth of this good land,
of farm and market, shop and home, of mind, and heart, and hand.
A world in need now summons us to labor, love, and give;
to make our life an offering to God that all may live;
the Church of Christ is calling us to make the dream come true:
a world redeemed by Christ-like love; all life in Christ made new.
With gratitude and humble trust we bring our best to thee
to serve thy cause and share thy love with all humanity.
O thou who gavest us thyself in Jesus Christ thy Son,
help us to give ourselves each day until life’s work is done.


The Hymnal 1982 #705
Words: Frank von Christierson ©1961 The Hymn Society of America
All rights reserved, reprinted under #A-712267

Sue von Rautenkranz




Trail Notes: 7/19/2015

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Once King David is well settled in his new cedar palace in Jerusalem, he starts to think maybe he should build a house for the ark of God, which had been carted around for years and set up in a tent. David proposes his idea to the prophet Nathan, who at first approves.  But God speaks to Nathan and dismisses the idea that God needs a house, a building to dwell in. 

God declares that he is much more interested in building up the family of David into a great people. The Lord declares that “the Lord will make you a house,” that is, a community of God’s people – the “House of David.”

Then we meet up with Jesus and his disciples, who have been out “in the field” doing ministry of teaching and healing.  They gather with stories to tell, and Jesus suggests they go off on a little retreat to reflect on their experiences. But the crowds followed them to the other side of the lake – they could find no peace. So Jesus continues to touch and heal all those who were brought to him. 

Jesus’ primary concern is clearly with the people around him. Jesus had a very ambivalent response to the Temple, the great building in Jerusalem where the religious ritual sacrifices were offered. We get the sense that God is not comfortable being “housed” (or confined), to any house built by human hands.

The church often strays into obsession with buildings and structures. We do need places to gather and to do ministry, but buildings are a means, not an end. We need to care for our buildings and grounds (and I’m thankful for those who work at that!), but the true “House of God” is the family of people who gather, worship, learn, and minister together as Jesus did: looking around the immediate neighborhood and seeing where people are suffering, in need, or lonely. If we focus there, the rest will fall into place.  JBM



Trail Notes: 7.12.2015

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If you tend to look askance at worship “innovations” such as liturgical dance, today’s description of King David entering Jerusalem won’t please you. David, girded only with a skimpy linen ephod, danced before the Lord with all his might!

David is bringing the Ark of the Covenant to its new resting-place in his new capital city of Jerusalem, and he knew how to make a satisfying ceremony of it. He wanted his kingship, and the new capital, to bind the 12 Israelite tribes into one nation…much as George Washington wanted Washington D.C. to become a unifying center for the American colonies. 

In today’s Eucharistic liturgies, we echo David’s parade in our vested processions into the church.  When we gather for the liturgy, we are entering a holy place set apart – a kind of “new Jerusalem,” where we have a foretaste of life in God’s perfect kingdom.  We’ll be singing three classic old “Jerusalem” hymns to mark the occasion…some of you will recognize “Jerusalem, the golden” from your earlier days. 

As King David knew, and Jesus knew, it is imperative that we keep before us the vision of God’s kingdom as it will one day be fully realized. Without that vision, we can lose our way and follow the wrong trail forward. Without that vision, we can also lose hope that the world can change and become better…more and more aligned with God’s will.  Even in the midst of the world’s major ills, from ISIS to Greece’s economic collapse, I believe we can detect signs of progress which must make God smile. In our own country, more of us will have affordable health care, and more of us can marry the one we love. We can give thanks for these glimpses of God’s kingdom breaking into our world.  JBM



Trail Notes: 7/5/2015

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The old saying goes that an “expert” is somebody who comes from at least 50 miles away and carries a briefcase. 

It appears that Jesus was a victim of this way of thinking. After he had traveled a bit and wowed the crowds with his teaching and his healings, he came back to his hometown, to Nazareth – a dusty little village with little to commend it. As was common for a Jewish teacher – or rabbi – Jesus went into the synagogue and began to teach on the Sabbath day. He was, to put it delicately, not well received. His old neighbors couldn’t fathom that he was a great man of God. 

Or maybe they did see it, but didn’t want to accept it. After all, they seem to acknowledge that Jesus did great deeds of power. They realized that he taught with unusual wisdom. But he was just Mary and Joseph’s son! They knew his brothers and sisters – all ordinary folks, putting on no airs.They didn’t like their small world-view turned upside down by Jesus. Who did he think he was, anyway? 

Oh my goodness, we are all so much like those Nazarene neighbors of Jesus. However good or bad our lives may be, we have a certain comfort – a familiarity – with things as they are. As they say,“Better the devil you know.” We are very resistant to new voices, strange ideas, questions about the way we do things. We are especially resistant when that voice is somebody near us, someone we know well. We already have a set opinion of the people around us, so they’d better not upset the applecart of our preconceptions. 

Where in your life is somebody crying in the wilderness, and you don’t want to hear it? Who might have a word for you from God, but is so familiar to you that you can’t imagine such a thing? What would it take to open your ears to hear God say a new thing, call you in a new direction, question your assumed path?  JBM


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