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Trail Notes: 10/02/2016

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What do you love most about God’s creation? When the weather first turns cool, and leaves begin to float to the ground, I get intoxicated by the scent of wood fires.  There is something in the cool breezes and woodsmoke that excites me, that gives me a sense of expectation, of great things to come. I feel that way now!

Whatever you love most – about the earth, the animals, the skies, the seas, and ourselves as God’s human creatures – celebrate that with us this month at St. Dunstan’s. 

You’ll notice new sights and sounds in the church during this season – images by many artists of God’s creation, hanging along the side walls of the church; a changing display as you enter the worship space; and hymns and anthems focused on the blessings of God’s creation. Thanks to our Liturgy Group for planning and implementing these enhancements to our worship. 

Our sermon series continues on the theme of “Practicing Love” – this Sunday, exploring our faithfulness to God as creatures, and our call to nurture other creatures and the earth itself. As Jesus said, if we have the faith of a mustard seed, we can move mountains! As the earth heats up and climate changes, the call to be good stewards of our environment - and all its residents – has never been more urgent.  JBM


 

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Trail Notes: 09/25/2016

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Practicing Love with our Wealth

What would you do if you were really rich? 

Jesus tells a story of extremes: an extravagantly rich man (known as Dives) and an extremely poor man, Lazarus. The wealthy man Dives luxuriates at his table of delectables, while Lazarus lies hungry and dying right outside.  hey both die, and Lazarus goes to a good life in heaven, while Dives burns in hell. 

So is this parable a critique and condemnation of all wealth?  Is it better to be poor in this life, so that we can be comfortable in heaven after death?  I believe the answer to both questions is no. What this story is really about is compassion, loving our neighbor – whoever stand in front of us, whoever is in need. Dives goes to hell not because he is rich, but because he is unfeeling, unloving. He lacks compassion. 

It’s easy to talk about the extremely wealthy in the third person. But here at St. Dunstan’s, most of us are very comfortable indeed. So our question is: 

What will we do, since we are quite rich? 

How do we practice love with what God has given us? How do we share what we have – food, time, money, expertise? Can we cut down on restaurants, and support a soup kitchen instead? Can we help at a health clinic or legal clinic for poor people? Can we volunteer as a counselor to people trying to get a job? All of these are ways to practice love, or in the Greek, agape. 

Brother Curtis Almquist, Episcopal monk in Cambridge, Massachusetts, speaks of the delight we can experience when we practice love, or agape. 

To love, in the sense of agape, is to participate in God’s generosity of love, to treat another person not with any preference for our own good but as an equal. Practice taking delight in the happiness of others, rather than feeling threatened or diminished, as if someone else’s happiness could take something away from us.


 

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Trail Notes: 09/18/2016

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How could Jesus commend a dishonest manager?

Today’s parable from Jesus is a tough one, and not easy to make sense of. The story of the dishonest manager (or steward in older translations) seems contradictory. Surely Jesus wants us to be honest in our dealings with money – in our business and our personal lives. Yet Jesus seems to commend this shady character. Why? Not for his dishonesty, but for his shrewdness. The key, I believe, is here: “For the children of this age are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light.” As Christians we are the children of light. But how shrewd (and effective) are we in the world we live in? We live in a world of “the children of this age,” but we are meant to shine a light of change. I think Jesus wanted to make this point in a startling way. 

The set of aphorisms attached to the end of this parable really don’t match it very well; perhaps the writer of Luke added them because they speak to the general topics of money, honesty, of faithfulness. Without a doubt, our relationship with money is complicated, and can easily slip into idolatry if we’re not careful. The dishonest steward certainly had a problem with money! Jesus’ final declaration is worth pondering by all of us: 

“No slave can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one or love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.”

In Sunday’s sermon at 10:45 a.m., we’ll look at the issues of money raised by this strange parable, and also explore the different levels of interpretation this story requires of us. Taking it literally will not do!  Practicing love with our money is both simple, and difficult. Together we can grow in this essential Christian practice. JBM

 


 

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Trail Notes: 09/11/2016

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Seeking the Lost

When have you felt most lost in your life?

…As a child, in a strange new school?

…As a teen, feeling left out of the cliques in school?  Angry at parents who didn’t seem to understand?

…As a young adult, trying to find your way as friends seem to move with confidence into careers and relationships? 

…As an older person, who has lost a great love in your life, and feeling like a ship without a rudder? Or lost a job that defined who you are? 

When we feel lost, we look around with awe at all the others who seem to have it all together, who move forward without doubt, who seem to be so “found.” 

In our series on “Practicing Love,” we reflect together this week on being lost, and on finding new love, new purpose, new belonging in life. Jesus put it in terms his hearers would understand well:  a shepherd has a large flock of sheep, and one gets lost. What will the shepherd do? Mind the 99 in the herd, or seek out the lost? 

You know Jesus’ answer. He seeks out the lost and brings her home. That is the loving thing to do. And then he celebrates that the lost one is found! He didn’t try to analyze the causes of the lostness, or berate the little sheep who wandered off.  He went and found her, brought her back, and celebrated.

This is good news for us. The “sinners” whom the Pharisees despise are the chief target of Jesus’ love. When a sinner comes home, that is the greatest joy in heaven!  That means none of us is so lost that we are beyond the reach of God, beyond the arms of Jesus to reach us. 

Of course, there is a second part of this cycle of love: we need to reach out in love to other people who are lost, just as Jesus reaches out to us. That’s how we practice love for the lost. What does it look like…at St. Dunstan’s?  One parishioner volunteered at a crisis hotline. Another uses therapy animals to reach children with special needs. Another makes phone calls to people who live alone, and visits with flowers now and then.  Another counsels teens in traumatic situations.  Another teaches students with difficult home lives, using art to help them express themselves. 

How do you practice love, with people who are lost? How have others loved you when you have felt lost? We’ll explore this further in the sermon at the late service.  These will be posted on our website as well, if you are interested.  JBM


 

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