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What kind of wondrous love is this?

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Any love that’s easy falls down like rain.
Any love that’s easy goes out with a bad name
Any love that you find on Easy Street can only be a dream…

So goes an old Eva Cassidy song. She’s talking about human love, romantic love, Hallmark-cards-on-Valentine’s-Day kind of love. It’s nice, for a moment. But like snow melting in sunshine, it doesn’t last. It doesn’t hold up. 

But today we are talking about divine love, love that redeems us, love that saves.  And it’s not a love that’s easy. It’s not a gauzy dream, either. It’s real. It’s costly.  And it’s wondrous. And God is offering it to us for free!

But I still look for – hope for – some kind of love that’s easy, that doesn’t cost much, that will satisfy my insatiable needs for affirmation without troubling me to face my own demons honestly, without bothering to change my ways. Maybe some of you look for that same kind of love that’s easy. But we won’t find it. 

Any love that you find on Easy Street can only be a dream…

The love God offers to us is the love of one who cares about us too much to leave us in the shallow waters of delusion. God’s love asks us to be honest with ourselves, and when we are, this love cleanses us, restores us, and forgives us.  Isn’t that what Lent is all about?  JBM
 





 

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Sabbath Rest? You got to be kidding ...

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Lately, I’ve been need a lot of sleep – even more than usual. I’ve had trouble waking up in the morning and facing the day. I’ve longed for the day’s end when I can return home and regroup. They say that this is a common reaction to grief and loss…and I believe that. I was blessed with a 24-hour silent retreat a few weeks ago, and realized how starved I’ve been for quiet, for Sabbath rest. 

This week we hear the Ten Commandments – one of the most often cited, and lease observed, parts of the Bible. In our church they’ve been called “The Ten Episcopal Suggestions.” Americans generally don’t like to be told what to do, or not to do, yet that’s what these commands do. Specifically, they tell us how to order our relationships – the first 4 are about our relationship with God and the holy; the last 6 are about our relationships with other human beings. 

We can’t think about all of them at once, so I’d like to focus on one, the fourth: “Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy. The commandment goes on for several lines…we might think it’s pretty important! 

But frankly, this commandment is generally ignored by most Christians in our time: we neither remember the Sabbath day, nor keep it holy. We have lost the art of rest, of stillness, of any sort of contemplation. We have forgotten how to stop. 

I’ve been enjoying the daily videos from the monks at the Society of St. John the Evangelist, www.SSJE.org/time , this Lent. They make me squirm. They gently challenge my way of life, and my rationalizations. It’s good for me. The series is about our relationship with Time – a relationship that for many of us is disordered. The first step the brothers suggest is to stop: we must simply stop. They give us a few ideas and questions to try:

Questions:
Stop 1: Sit in total stillness for five minutes today. How does it feel?

Stop 2: Where is your invitation to stop during the day?

Stop 3: What taskmasters do you need to be liberated from to reclaim your dignity?

Stop 4: How do you picture a day spent “being” – as opposed to “doing”?

Stop 5: Where are you drawn when you follow your heart?

Stop 6: Are you content right now?

Stop 7: Schedule a day of complete rest: What does it help you realize about your life and heart?

Well now, do you feel completely overwhelmed? Inadequate? Join the club. We are not good at this. Stopping is foreign to our American DNA. Do we dare try it?        JBM




 

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The Cross We Bear

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As Christians we see all of life as shaped by the cross – the archetypal pattern of life, death, and new life which Jesus lived out for us. Sometimes the cross we bear can be very heavy indeed – disappointments, terrible losses, bitter conflict, and ongoing anxiety about our future. When we are in the depths, it’s hard to believe there can be any new life for us. 

When we feel weighed down, we often turn inward…I know I do. But that’s the very time we need to take our burden to Christ and lay it down. We need not face our challenges and tragedies alone. How Christ helps us bear our heavy load, I don’t know…but he does.  And in the Body of Christ, we help each other through our prayers, our caring, our visits, our casseroles, and all the small ways we reach out and touch each other. I have felt that love and care myself, in my recent times of loss.  It’s a great blessing. That’s why we’re here, together, at St. Dunstan’s.                   JBM

 





 

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How might we become better disciples?

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So daily dying to the way of self, so daily living to your way of love, we walk the road, Lord Jesus, that you trod, knowing ourselves baptized into your death:so we are dead and live with you in God.                                                                                                       Hymn 149 vv. 2

 

This week we begin again our Lenten journey. For many years I dreaded this season - the giving up or taking on - thinking that these “things” would “make” my journey through the season better and assist me in my faith pathway. I placed my focus on what I was or wasn’t doing.

As I grew and listened and listened some more, my attention turned away from focusing on what I was giving up or even taking on. I heard these words first in a sermon - but I’m sure this person wasn’t the first to say these words - ‘remember who you are and more importantly whose you are.’ While I know that I didn’t immediately change everything about my response to the season; it did begin to alter my focus. And as the years have gone by I really look forward to this season that helps me to re-focus my life and my journey. It isn’t a one-time centering, but a constant turning and turning and turning again.

In the passage from Mark’s gospel this Sunday, we hear three stories in one. Mark is so expedient and unlike the other gospel writers. Why focus on one event when you can pack three in seven short verses - baptism, the wilderness and temptation, and stepping out into ministry.

So the question for all of us this Lent is - how might we become better disciples and make more disciples this Lent?

 

Sue von





 

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Trail Notes: Self- Giving Love: The Way of Jesus

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Think of the most self-giving person you know. Is she a joyful person? Is he someone you like to be with? Someone you would like to emulate in your life? 

For myself, I know that having children taught me about being a self-giving person…being willing to put my own needs aside – gladly – for the sake of another human being (or, these days, for our dogs!). Because children’s needs are so clear and unvarnished, they help us step out of our self-absorbed selves and respond to them with care and generosity. It’s not that our own needs or desires are gone – we still struggle with the tension between what we want and what others need. But children are good teachers in this journey. 

I’m not just talking about parents, either. I think of my nursery school teacher, Mrs. Bennett, who instilled in me a love of music (accordion!) and of French…all at the age of 4. Or my fifth grade teacher, Mrs. Reinehr, who was so full of life and love that she gave me a zeal for learning that stays with me today. And Maggie and Colin’s godmother, DeeDee Allen, who has shown them a consistent and generous love of a non-parent adult in their lives.There are many in our own community who work in public service, forgoing financial remuneration in order to serve the common good. 

Then there are the many people who risk their very lives in service to others – fire and police officers, the soldiers we pray for every Sunday, the medical people who responded to the ebola crisis. What drives these people? As Christians, we see the life of Jesus as an example, a motivator to give of ourselves, without counting the cost, for the life of other people and the life of the world. 

On this last Sunday in our series on human relationships, we reflect on the self-giving life that Jesus demonstrates for us. This is fitting as we turn our spirits toward the season of Lent. The Gospel is paradoxical at its root, and therefore it often makes little sense to the world’s wisdom. But we who know Jesus understand that it is through self-giving – giving ourselves away – that we in fact gain real fullness of life and joy. This is why we can say that the way of the Cross is the way of life.  JBM

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