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Trail Notes: 5/1/2016

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Leslie and I are aficionados of the old TV show M*A*S*H, about a field hospital near the front in the Korean War. The head nurse, Major Margaret Houlihan, is a skilled and dedicated practitioner, but often a bit testy. In one episode, she was treated shabbily by a man, and she expressed her feelings strongly, saying,

“Respect.  Simple respect.  I ask nothing more, and I expect nothing less.” 

I think of that line as we explore, this week and next, our relationship with people of other religions than our own. Humans are tribal by nature; I think; in early eras the tribe was one’s only protection from harm. But with tribalism came a suspicion of the stranger, the other, which sometimes morphed into disdain, fear, and hatred. Sadly, we still see and hear expressions of such hostility toward whole groups, classes, races, nationalities, and religions. 

But if we look to Jesus to show us how to live, we see an amazing openness to conversation with those who are different, and an appreciation for wisdom in other religious traditions. The Hebrew Bible, for instance, borrows its creation and flood stories directly from Babylonian sources.  Jesus makes a Samaritan – someone despised by the Jews – into the hero of his great parable of mercy and compassion. 

Much is said about tolerance these days. Tolerance of others’ lifestyles, perspectives, and beliefs is a good thing…as far as it goes. But we need to push ourselves a bit further: we need to respect other people, not just tolerate them. Jesus doesn’t always agree with people; often he clearly distinguishes his teachings from theirs. But he respects the dignity of every human being, and we should too. 

Many thanks to our own Eva Cavaleri for leading us in this conversation on the major religions of the world. She has done this work with students as chaplain of the National Cathedral School for Girls.  JBM



Trail Notes: 4/24/2016

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How do others know us?

One of the first songs I learned to play on the guitar when I was in junior high was They’ll know we are Christians by our Love. The reason for this was because it has a simple chord progression and uses only three chords in the entire song. It was also one of the first songs I taught to campers when we had a music program that included learning to play the guitar. By the end of that summer I really didn’t care if I ever heard that song again!

This week we hear the end of the 13th chapter of John’s Gospel, which give us the new commandment, to love one another. These words are some of the last words of Jesus to his disciples as the Last Supper concludes and he moves to the garden of Gethsemane, before his arrest. Along with the command to love, come the additional words that all will know the followers of Jesus because they love one another.

I don’t know about you, but I wonder how many people in our world would have that understanding of the Christian Church. Sadly, the statistics out there say that many people, especially the generation that is missing from our churches – the millennials, say the Church does not practice what it preaches. And some members of our faith even say on placards and signs that God hates.

I believe we all have work to do both individually and communally, on showing and enacting this command of Jesus. And while we can’t change those of our faith who choose to show something other than love, we can find ways to raise our voices and profile so that others might see what Jesus would have us do. We can also work on those places in our own lives where we lack patience or tolerance or (indifference) – so that we might be known by how we love each other.


Sue von Rautenkranz



Trail Notes: 4/17/2016

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Good Shepherd Sunday

The image of Jesus as our Good Shepherd is one of our favorites: a shepherd is earthy, humble, and focused on the welfare of the sheep. He goes after the one who is lost. He guards against dangers. If necessary, he lays down his life for the sheep. 

In our Monday staff meeting scripture reflection, we asked ourselves:

·       Who has been a Good Shepherd to me during my life?
·       How have I served as a Good Shepherd to others along the way?

We cited favorite teachers, influential pastors, and respected elders who have shepherded us in our lives, our relationships, our work, and our faith. We hoped we had been Good Shepherds to our children, youth, and to others whom we have guided and supported. 

When you think of the Good Shepherds in your life, you may think of people who believed in you and invested in you along the way. In my own life, there were teachers who spent extra time with me, relatives who helped fund music camp for me, and employers who took a chance on me when I needed to gain experience and expertise. I’ve been blessed by so many mentors along my way! 

When folks don’t have those Good Shepherds, life is really hard. In very poor countries, even a small investment can make a huge difference. The Anglican Church organization FIVE TALENTS makes that difference for tens of thousands of our neighbors in the East African countries of Kenya, Burundi, and South Sudan. Through business training and small loans (often under $100), FIVE TALENTS helps women become self-sufficient, and able to support their children in school. The impact of these modest investments is remarkable! 

You can be a Good Shepherd to a mother and her children in East Africa, through FIVE TALENTS. This Sunday, hear the stories of transformed lives at St. Dunstan’s at each service, and between services at 9:50 a.m. 

Consider whether God is asking you to be a Good Shepherd for some of God’s flock in Kenya, Burundi, or South Sudan. FIVE TALENTS is launching a new program of support called 1000 Friends, to expand this ministry tremendously. Your monthly commitment for three years could do wonders. Pray about what you can do, as a fortunate American family, for a struggling African family in need of a Good Shepherd.  JBM  



Trail Notes: 04/10/2016

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Easter, Continued. 

Easter day was two weeks ago. We did our church celebrations with care; we enjoyed the flowers and music immensely; we welcomed many guests to worship, and proclaimed that the world is forever changed, renewed, because God raised Jesus from death. (Thanks to every one of you who participated in Holy Week and Easter at St. Dunstan’s, and helped make them exquisite and evocative.) 

So in these two weeks, we’ve talked about what the women saw and experienced when they went to the tomb and it was empty. We’ve thought the disciples, who found all of this very difficult to believe; about Thomas who needed to see and touch Jesus in order to believe. We identify with those disciples!

Sometimes I wonder what it was like for Jesus. How did he wake up from his “three days’ sleep in death?” Was it the light shining in his eyes after the stone had been rolled away?

How did Jesus feel then? He must have been sore after the beating he took….his mouth parched and sticky, his muscles strained from hanging so long. 

What would Jesus have wanted to do? If it had been I, I would have thought I well deserved a good long break, maybe at one of those all-inclusive beach resorts in the Caribbean. 

But instead, God called him out of that tomb, not to rest, but to go back to work, back to his disciples in the upper room, on the beach in Galilee. The job of making disciples wasn’t finished, just as our job making disciples isn’t finished after baptism, or confirmation, or any other rite of passage.

After the great power and beauty of Easter is past, how do we stay fresh and eager and ready to serve in God’s name? Maybe our muscles are sore and we could really use a break, like Jesus!  And yet, life goes on. And God is in every moment, every conversation, every ray of sunlight shining in our window.  Go and find your own place in the sun.  JBM


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