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Trail Notes: 07/31/2016

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How Much Is Enough? 

The farmer in today’s Gospel had an unexpected bumper crop – more than his barns could hold! He actually had much more than enough. What should he do?  He built bigger barns to protect it all…but that night….

Most of us have been similarly blessed with material resources. We are fortunate first-world people. We have much to thank God for. But every commercial and ad we see tells us we need more. Our American society teaches us that we never really have enough. We are bombarded with two kinds of messages; I believe:

  1. We need to have more things in order to be happy; and
  2. We should be very afraid of running out of money when retire. 

Most of us here could live more simply, with less stuff. That would free up some funds for other purposes we support. We should think about that. And yes, we all need to be concerned about retirement, but living in fear is not what God wants for us!

The question that puzzles me, though, is this:

But why don’t we feel all that rich and well-off? I think it’s because many of us are time-poor, even though we have plenty of stuff. Our time feels like it’s not our own – so many pulls from work and family activities and running a house and commuting in traffic and business travel and on and on. We have an issue with time-poverty. 

In this Sunday’s sermon, we’ll delve into our common malady: time-poverty.  We’ll look at what the Gospel of Jesus might suggest to us, so that we can live more joyful, less pressured lives…so that we can feel masters of our own time, and more spiritually connected, and refreshed. I hope you’ll come and join the conversation.  JBM


 

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Trail Notes: 07/24/2016

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Got Joy?

What brings you joy…really tickles your fancy and makes you feel good about yourself and the world?

Joy is one of God’s greatest gifts to us. Today, I think of the joy that I find in children, youth, and music – sweet young voices joining together to bring us laughter and inspiration and hope and…yes…joy. 

That’s what we have in store for us as our young people – ages 7 to 19 – perform the first musical play we’ve had in worship for a number of years. The sermon doesn’t have to be a deadly serious exhortation of all that ails us. In its place, we can hear the Good News of the Gospel in the beauty, winsomeness, and talents of our youth. 

The story starts with God’s good creation, leads us through the pain of human rebellion against God, and finally back into a loving relationship with God through the coming of Jesus into the world. It is the Bible story in miniature. I hope you enjoy it.

 

JBM


 

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Trail Notes 07/17/2016

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Doing and Being

I learned from an early age to be a doer. I had excellent examples in both of my parents and many others around me. I was steeped in the work ethic of my northern European ancestors. However, early in my young adult years I began to hear about and value the importance of being quiet and listening for God’s voice and direction – a significant learning in my journey.

Today we have two familiar stories – the three visitors to Abraham and Sarah in the wilderness and the visit of Jesus to Martha and Mary. In one, Abraham sees the three approach his tent and hastens to welcome and then he and Sarah quickly go about the busy-ness of preparing and creating a meal for them. In the other, Jesus is greeted by Martha, who also goes about busying herself with preparations of hospitality, while her sister sits at Jesus’ feet to listen.

Our lives are full, are calendars are full; but Jesus calls us to something different. What is that? Surely he is not asking us to be inhospitable or to not do our daily tasks and duties. Yes, some of us may need to find ways to open space in our lives for God to enter in. This is important so that we are refreshed and renewed to do all of those things in our lives. But just maybe Jesus is asking us to look for another way to be in our doing.

How might we lessen the worry and distraction from the endless lists and tasks in our everyday life? What does Jesus mean when he says, “there is need of only one thing, Mary has chosen the better part, …” Sometimes art can help us to see differently. I invite you to take in the image being used this week, and pray with that image and these words.

Sue von Rautenkranz


 

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Trail Notes: 7/10/2016

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Listening and Learning from Neighbors

A man I’ve known for years, who struggles mightily to support his wife and children, last Tuesday asked me if St. Dunstan’s could help him purchase the insulin he needs for diabetes. He had been out for a few days, and his feet were going numb. He works hard, full time, but had lost three weeks of work – unpaid – because he was bitten by a dog. His bare-bones budget was ruined. It was my privilege, on behalf of St. Dunstan’s, to give him the $50 he needed for insulin. You became his good neighbor on Tuesday. 

Who is my neighbor?  Do we know our neighbors?  This parable is not actually about having good neighbors, it’s about being a good neighbor…. acting in a Christ-like way when we encounter somebody in need.  In Jesus’ story, he blows all assumptions out of the water when he tells of how the religious leaders avoided the injured man by the roadside, but the despised foreigner, the Samaritan, reached out to help. (This makes me, as a priest, squirm every time I read it!)

In our parish, we are making every effort to be good neighbors – to each other, and to the world around us. We have organized all parishioners into 5 neighborhood clusters with captains, to encourage getting together, and the sharing of stories, needs, and celebrations. 

Because being a neighbor begins with listening, I also held 7 different “listening sessions” in June, with every person in St. Dunstan’s congregation invited to attend one. All received evites, and if we got no response people were phoned to encourage participation. I enjoyed every session, and heard many helpful suggestions, hopes, dreams, and good constructive criticisms.  Thank you to the 41 parishioners who took time to attend, and to the seven who hosted the sessions. Those 41 persons represent households composing around half the active membership of our parish - not a bad cross-section. 

What have I learned?  10 highlights, with more to come:

  1. Our parishioners love St. Dunstan’s, value it, and want it to thrive.
  2. Both worship services are appreciated and treasured. We find God here.
  3. We love children, and we want children to be active and visible in our congregation, and grow in faith. We need to keep working on that. 
  4. Small groups are highly valued by those in them. How can we involve more people? 
  5. Adult formation is much appreciated by those who participate. 
  6. Outreach is important, and hands-on projects are popular (e.g. sandwiches). 
  7. Our youth/teens program needs a boost: we need critical mass, perhaps by teaming up with nearby churches. 
  8. Parents are key; they need to model commitment and behaviors for kids.
  9. We should experiment – with joint Sunday services, models for Christian formation, ways to communicate with our neighborhoods. 
  10. St. Dunstan’s is a safe, friendly, welcoming place to be, where we experience the love of God and keep learning how to love our neighbors as ourselves. 

JBM


 

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