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Trail Notes: 7/2/2016

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  • Birds tweeting when I walk out the back door in the morning.
  • A really good cup of coffee.
  • A country that leads the world in healing medicine, disaster relief, and aid to poor people.
  • A long, soaking rain that makes everything grow like topsy.
  • A place where my family feels safe out walking in the evening. 
  • A dog bounding across the yard chasing a bunny. 
  • A country where my kids can pursue their lifelong dreams to the fullest.
  • A nation where we are free to gather, as we do today, to worship as we please. 
  • A place where I can speak my mind – about politics, values, even religion! -  without fear of reprisal. 

America means all these things to me.  America is a beautiful, wonderful place, a great gift from God.  Our first response must be pure gratitude – giving thanks for it all – great and small….

America has been so blessed by God that we have great responsibilities to make this country all it can be, all it should be:  “One nation, under God, with freedom and justice for all.”  Of course the United States is not perfect.  Many injustices persist despite our stated goals.  People are poor here, despite the wealth and plenty of the nation.  We still struggle for equality: to see Christ in every person.  We do not always love our neighbors as Jesus calls us to do. 

And so we have work to do.  The very richness of this land, the beauty and variety of its peoples from every corner of the globe, urge us to greater justice, greater equality, greater opportunity for each and every person. This is what our founders fought for.  This is God’s call to us. 

I hope you enjoy our worship for Independence Day, with special music, patriotic hymns, and a spirit of joy and gladness in God’s gift of this land.  America is indeed exceptional, and of us to whom much has been given, much is expected by God!  JBM  



Trail Notes: 06/26/2016

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How is your Foundation?

I spent this past week in South Carolina, the longest visit since the storms and flooding that occurred in October of last year. While I have been there for two brief overnights, I was not able to visit the house I still own or tour the areas that had been severely damaged last fall. My house is just fine, but many familiar areas of the city are still in recovery and there are signs of the damage all around. Vacant homes, lost businesses, roads that are still closed, and creek beds and banks being reinforced. One bridge, which had been closed since the storm, opened just this week – shortening a commute time which had been lengthened to an hour for some. That sounds easy for us here in the DMV, but huge for folks used to 10-15 minutes.

The storm that dropped over 40” of rain in just a couple days was way beyond the capacities of the drainage systems. However, the matters were made worse because there had also been deferred maintenance and bad decisions around zoning and wetlands. We face some of those same concerns regarding roads and bridges in our area, and lets not even talk about the metro.

Our faith really isn’t that different from the infrastructure of our society. It all really depends on the foundation we build and whether or not we maintain that foundation.

The week prior to my time in SC, I attended a conference call CREDO. This 8-day event is focused on the spiritual, physical and emotional, financial, and vocation health of the clergy who attend. We are asked hard questions about all of these areas and are encouraged to make at least one degree of change for the better in each of these areas. In some of these, I’m doing okay; in others, not so well.

Who and what are the foundations for your faith? Are you building a good foundation for yourself? for your children? Is there an area where one degree of change might give you a better place to stand or balance all that life gives?

Let’s work on helping one another to build stronger and deeper foundations.

Sue von Rautenkranz



Trail Notes 06/19/2016

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A Note of Sadness and Hope:

We gathered on June 12 to celebrate the inclusive love of God for all of us, marking Pride Sunday in the LGBTQ community. Our observance became poignant with the tragic news that morning of 50 people being killed in a shooting rampage at a gay nightclub in Orlando – news I received at the Peace during our service. Many more were injured. Our hearts go out to all who suffer violence and hatred, simply based on who they are and whom they love. We find hope in our faith in a God who loves us all, made us in all our human diversity, and calls us good. May the power of love conquer such hatred as this.  JBM

Trail Notes for Sunday, June 19, 2016:

Today’s scriptures present us with two troubled men who encounter God.

Elijah is the first.  He was a great and powerful prophet of God, and consequently deeply hated by the Baal-worshipping king and queen of Israel, Ahab and Jezebel.  Elijah becomes tortured by his despair of ever bringing his people back to faithfulness to Yahweh.    

The second man is unnamed: he is the wild, disturbed man in Gerasa, on the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee (called the “Syrian sea” in our communion hymn).  The man “had demons,” - he was tortured by unknown evil forces which alienated him from other people, and even caused him to harm himself.   

In Sunday’s sermon, we’ll look at these two figures who encounter God in very different forms (one hears God’s “still, small voice;” the other meets Jesus.)  Both men are transformed by the encounter.  Their lives are forever changed.  They are freed of their bonds and able to live anew, boldly, trusting God.

Sunday is Fathers’ Day, and I believe fathers face some similar challenges, stumbling blocks, “demons” in our own lives. We must find a way to confront them if we are to live in greater freedom and joy. 

I don’t know if Elijah was a father, or if the “Gerasene demoniac” (as he is unfortunately known) had children either. But their confrontation with evil and despair is a model for modern fathers, I believe. We, as fathers, face both great responsibility, and ultimate powerlessness to control our lives. We can’t always protect our families from heartache. At some point, we’ll be broken by this.  I was touched by a reflection on our brokenness – one that seems particularly apt for fathers today. See what you think: 


Your insight, care, or sensitivity, or compassion, or generosity, or humility, which may be so evident to other people, has come out of your broken past. If they only knew what you know. God knows. Jesus has promised to seek and save the lost, which may apply to some part of your own past, where you were lost and are now found.

-Br. Curtis Almquist, the Society of St. John the Evangelist (Episcopal Monastery) 



Trail Notes: 06/12/2016

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In Luke 10, a lawyer who wanted to justify himself asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 

Jesus’ call to love our neighbor is at the root of our observance of Pride Sunday, when we support our LGBTQ friends and neighbors.

Pride Sunday, in my mind, has two meanings

First, this occasion allows all of us to honor a group which has been dishonored, excluded, and persecuted in many ways historically. When this happens, special focus on the plight of a particular group is appropriate and needed. The abolitionist movement focused on enslaved citizens of our country. The women’s movement focused on gender issues. The Church of Christ was often complicit in the unjust, unequal treatment of minority groups and disadvantaged populations. To its credit, our Church has explicitly renounced its early support of slavery, racial segregation, and discrimination against women. When a wrong has been done, it is necessary to be vocal in the repudiation of that wrong. 

The civil rights movement focused first on racial discrimination, then on persons with disabilities, then on those with differences in sexual orientation and identity. Slowly, the American people have responded to the call – from Jesus and from many others – to be a society that welcomes and values all kinds of people.    

The second meaning of Pride Sunday is broader. We can all be justly proud of ourselves and our society when we lift up our baptismal promises and realize them in our society. Our baptismal covenant includes the vow to “strive for justice and peace,” and to “respect the dignity of every human being.”

Jesus focused his earthly ministry on people who were excluded and marginalized – the leper, the Samaritan, the blind and lame – people who were thought to be defective in some way. Jesus named them, spoke with them, touched them, and included them in his movement of love. I believe we who follow Jesus are called to go and do likewise.  JBM   



Trail Notes: 06/05/2016

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"Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness...." 

This line from Psalm 96 has always seemed particularly appropriate to the Episcopal Church.  We have always treasured our worship spaces (many are quite beautiful, including St. Dunstan's). We love pageantry, colorful hangings, fresh flowers, gleaming silver and brass, glowing candlelight. We treat the Lord's Supper, rightly, as we would treat a dress-up dinner at home. 
I'm always reminded of this when we prepare for Thanksgiving dinner at home: we pull out treasured table linens, inherited silver, and favorite china. We arrange our fresh flowers. The main thing is, of course, the people who are gathered - to celebrate, to remember our blessings, to give thanks to God. But some need to work in the kitchen to make it all happen!
Our beautiful liturgies require care and preparation, just like dinner parties at home. That's where our Altar Guild comes in. These faithful folks make things beautiful for all of us, week after week. They work in the room off the altar called the sacristy - a kind of prep kitchen.  Without the Altar Guild, the bread and wine would not be provided, chalices would go unwashed, the candles would burn out, the silver and brass would be tarnished, and the linens would be a mess. And we wouldn't know what season it is because the altar hangings would never change! Fortunately, many who serve find this hands-on ministry very meaningful and spiritually enriching - a kind of prayer to God through action. 
Today we honor our Altar Guild, which is down to two people at the moment. We need at least 10 people, each serving one Sunday a month, to share this ministry and cover all our services, serving 1 year terms. We'll explore this important ministry this Sunday
Worship is the first privilege and duty of the church. All our ministries spring forth from our worship. How can you serve God and your congregation in worship here?  JBM  


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