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Seeing and Touching

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Seeing and Touching

As a young child I can remember well the instructions of my mother anytime we walked into a store that had items that were fragile or could be easily damaged or broken. It was simple – “look but don’t touch.” And as an adult I have watched children being given this same instruction and I must admit that I too have repeated it as well. I also remember that as I got older the phrase, “you break it, you buy it,” was also added.

Our senses are one of our primary ways of learning and believing – what we experience through our senses helps us to grow and learn about the world around us. The child learns that the stove is hot but touching, even though we might say, don’t touch, before they experience the hotness of the stove. And where I grew up one was always warned not to put your tongue on a cold metal pole in the wintertime. Yet, some crazy kid would test this assumption or be dared by older children to try it out.

Thomas had heard that Jesus had risen – from the women, from all of the other apostles who were gathered in the upper room, and from the two who have returned from their experience on the road to Emmaus. Yet, he wanted to see and touch. I think in many ways we are no different. It is hard to believe when we only hear about faith, sometimes we have to see, touch, smell and taste to believe. When and how has your faith been enhanced through your senses?


Sue von Rautenkranz



Trail Notes: Easter Day 2016

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Our son Colin is crazy about music.  As some of you know, he has been studying pipe organ performance for five years, and will receive his master’s degree at Juilliard in May.  Leslie and I are, of course, insanely proud of him! And yet, he wants to grow further – as a musician, a recitalist, a scholar and teacher. 

He was just admitted to a doctoral program in music at Yale.  He is thrilled – he’s been given the opportunity to pursue his fullest dreams as a performer, a teacher, and a church musician. 

And yet, this is just the beginning. The road lies before him – all the work and sweat and long hours of practice to make his degree a reality – a minimum of four years, and probably more. 

Easter is such a gift to all of us. In the resurrection, our lives have been given to us anew, with the opportunity to fulfill our deepest spiritual longings as Christians.  God has set us free from the burden of our past sins and mistakes, and from the fear of final death itself. 

And yet, the road lies before us – the Resurrection is the beginning of that new life in Christ.  All the work and sweat and long hours lie before us. Without our own efforts and dedication, nothing will happen; nothing will change. 

“Without God, we cannot. Without us, God will not.” 

As Jesus rose from the tomb, so God gives each of us a new life, a new beginning, starting today. The open road lies before you. What will you do with this precious gift?   JBM



Trail Notes: 03/20/2016

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“There are only two or three human stories, and they go on repeating themselves as fiercely as if they had never happened before.” 

Palm Sunday and the reading of Jesus’ story of suffering and death remind me of this sentence from a favorite author of mine, Willa Cather.  Why do we gather around to hear this story again and again?  Because it is one of the few human stories: the story of a human being struggling to be free and find his destiny; the story of the pain of loss and rejection, even death; and the story of emerging into the light, conquering our foes, and finding abundant life again. 

Jesus’ final battle with the forces of power and evil is our own story, if we open our eyes.  Some days, when all is well, I wonder, “Why do we speak so much of Jesus’ suffering and his death?”  Then, when I am in trouble or weary with the world, I realize, “Jesus’ story is my own. He faced everything I’ll ever face.  God understands.”

When were you hurt and humiliated unjustly, perhaps by a parent or a boss at work?  When were you rejected by someone you thought loved you?  When did you suffer a loss so earth-shattering – the loss of a job, a loved one, a dream, or the facing of your own death – that you believed you could not go on living? 

Jesus’ story is our own story.  It is the most profound, archetypal human story we know.  It’s also the most hopeful story, because it tells us that God brings life out of death.  JBM



Trail Notes: 03/13/2016

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The Extravagance of God

What is the most extravagant gift you have ever been given? 

When I ask myself this question, I am stunned by the generosity and profligate largesse I have received in my life! When I was ten, my mother depleted her savings account to buy me a full-sized accordion to play. Relatives helped send me to music camp. My college education was largely funded through scholarships.  I’ve been given so much!

More recently, in 2006 our family took the journey of a lifetime together in Europe, made possible by a generous sabbatical grant from the Lily Foundation.  And I have watched as our children have received gifts and help from many people as they pursue their vocations and dreams. 

Equally extravagant are the gifts of love and time and money people make to the Church: so many quiet offerings – some small and some lavish – which make our congregational life together rich and nurturing…flowers, snacks, gardening help.  One such recent gift of $4,000 this spring has funded choristers at 10:45 a.m. – something St. Dunstan’s used to have. We’ve added three Whitman High School choral scholars and a baritone soloist…and what a difference it makes! Gorgeous choral music is back at St. Dunstan’s, and it lifts all our hearts and spirits in amazing ways. Is this extravagant? Yes, in a way, I suppose. But what a boost to our worship…what a beautiful channel for God’s love and inspiration music is.  (We’ll need future gifts to keep the choristers’ program going next fall and beyond.)

Jesus’ good friend Mary, sister of Martha and Lazarus, shows extravagant love for Jesus in today’s story. She literally pours out her gift of precious ointment of nard, to anoint her friend Jesus, knowing that he would die soon. In some sense, Mary’s lavish gift is an anticipatory response to Jesus’ even more lavish gift of his whole life on the cross. 

The God we know in Jesus is one who gives his all: to preach, teach, and heal; to bring God’s Kingdom into our earthly lives; to stand for love instead of fear and hatred, even to the death. It doesn’t get more extravagant than that. Let us all find joy in giving – even extravagant giving! – which makes the world a more beautiful, a more loving place.  JBM  



Trail Notes: 03/06/2016

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The Best Parable in the Book

“The Prodigal Son” is widely considered to be the pinnacle of Jesus’ storytelling ministry.  This story has been called “The Gospel in Miniature,” because it so captures the Gospel: a loving and forgiving God who rejoices when we sinful humans turn back toward God. 

This is certainly my favorite parable, although it can make me uncomfortable even as it fills me with hope. 

  • How am I like that wayward prodigal son who wanders in pursuit of earthly pleasures, and squanders what I’ve been given?
  • How am I like the bitter elder son who refuses to find joy in his own good fortune, or in his brother’s return?
  •  And finally, how am I like the loving father who is willing to let his young son go freely, yet longs for him to return to his true family?

This parable takes me back to my own father, and the ways he and I enjoyed each other, and also disappointed each other.  I caused him some heartache – some of which was necessary, and some of which I now regret.  I am grateful that I can remember him, in the end, as a man who loved me and was always willing to forgive.  JBM


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