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Trail Notes: 02/26/2017

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Jesus’ Transfiguration, and Ours

Jesus climbed a mountain with a few of his disciples, perhaps uncertain about what course his ministry should take.  Would preaching kindness, healing people, and gathering a small community be enough?  Or did God demand more of him: a hard road of challenge to the status quo, standing up to the powers that be, announcing God’s Kingdom of love and mercy on earth?

The event we commemorate today – Jesus’ Transfiguration – changed Jesus.  It set Jesus on a new, more dangerous course.  He encountered his Hebrew forebears, Moses and Elijah, and realized that his mission was like theirs: to lead humanity out of bondage into freedom. 

Faithful, stumbling disciple Peter is there to witness it, but his vision is not big enough.  Peter offers to build a shrine – “three booths” – to contain all this wonderful holiness!  But God thunders from heaven, dismissing this idea, and confirming Jesus’ mission to save the whole world through his self-giving. 

At St. Dunstan’s today, we gather to consider our life as a church, a community of Christ.  We elect leaders and conduct our formal business.  But that’s not enough.  God calls us out of our own shrine here on Mass. Avenue, to carry the Word of God into the world surrounding us.  We have no other purpose than to transfigure lives for Christ.  And surely, our own lives must be transformed before we can take that Good News to others. 

St. Dunstan’s is a wonderful church and I love it.  But we need new passion for the transforming work of Christ.  Maintaining our “shrine” is not enough.  Awful as it was, Jesus’ Cross has infinitely more power than any shrine ever could.  Why? Because Jesus poured out his life, his love, for us on that cross.  And he calls us to do the same.  Are you ready?  JBM  


 

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Trail Notes: 2/19/2017

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Financial Hard Knocks

“He began to feel the pinch.” 

That’s the way one Bible translation describes the distress of the Prodigal Son when, after quickly spending through his handsome inheritance, he realized he was out of money in a foreign land, with no means of support. 

Most – perhaps all – of us know that feeling to some degree at least – a point in our lives where we just don’t have enough money to cover all the things we need.  We feel the pinch.  We look for ways to earn a bit more money.  We try to economize, reduce expenses, defer expenses, or borrow. 

Now, almost all of us at St. Dunstan’s are affluent, by any meaningful standard.  Maybe we haven’t felt the pinch for a long time.  Nationwide statistics tell us how high our incomes are. 

But we are also caught up in a crazy culture of expectations – we expect to be able to live well, to travel, to go to the best schools, to keep up with the neighbor’s new Beamer…whatever it is.  It’s not easy to sustain all that.  And perhaps at some level, we realize that our lives could change dramatically if something bad happened – we lost our job, we had a medical disaster.  They say that most of us aren’t many paychecks away from real financial crisis. 

But God’s view of the world – God’s economy - is very different from ours.  God doesn’t care about extravagant lifestyles. God loves all of us the same, regardless of wealth.  In scripture God asks us to live modestly, to make sure the poor have enough to eat, a roof over their heads, medical care.  Jesus tells us to give when people beg for help.  God is concerned about the welfare of the community, not the wealth of the individual. 

Sunday we’ll look at our honest, real anxieties about money these days, and see what God’s economy would look like if God’s Kingdom did come “on earth as it is in heaven.”  JBM  


 

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Trail Notes: 2/5/2017

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The Hard Knocks of Injustice

A lot of people are suffering hard knocks right now.  The misery and despair of refugee families turned away from U.S. borders, after years of vetting, is beyond description.  Foreign nationals in our own congregation are afraid to leave the U.S., for fear they cannot return. 

Those of us who are still “safe” face a different kind of challenge: how will we stand up for justice actively, persistently, in our own country?  What risks are we willing to take?  What price would we pay?  What does the Lord require…? 

A bedrock truth of Christianity is that we are all one body – when one suffers, we all suffer.  Martin Luther King said, "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."  Our country depends for its integrity on us to cry out against injustice, not just against ourselves, but against any and all who suffer.  Now is such a time. 

Dr. King also left us with these words:  "There comes a time when silence is betrayal."  Many times, Americans have stood silent in the face of injustice: our enslavement of African-Americans, our internment of Japanese citizens, our blindness to Nazi genocide.  Now, we have a religious test on persons allowed into our country, and a ban on many refugees.  How shall we respond? 

The U.S. Holocaust Museum stands in our city as a somber reminder of what happens when we stand by as injustice reigns.  This poem at the Museum, by Niemoller, reminds us: 

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

Celebrating Black History Month –

This month, St. Dunstan’s will sing the “We shall overcome” tune as the Memorial Acclamation in the Eucharistic Prayer at 10:45 a.m.  This reminds us that Jesus died to overcome the power of sin and death, and his resurrection is to bring to life a new Kingdom of God. He is here, now, at work today in the world, and in us.  This is radical, revolutionary proclamation! 

We’ll also sing other spirituals and gospel music from the rich African-American tradition of Christian music.  These were often used to comfort the afflicted and claim hope of redemption and a new life out of slavery, violence, and Jim Crow segregation, just as Moses led the Hebrew people out of bondage in Egypt.  JBM

 

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Trial Notes: 2/12/2017

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The Church – One Body and One Spirit.

Everybody loves a picnic (and kids love a moonbounce!).  This Sunday we combine into one service at 10 a.m., with a Winter Picnic following – it should be a joyful and fun day!  The Vestry is experimenting with ways to bring our entire congregation together to worship and enjoy each other.  When we do this, we combine aspects of both our regular Sunday services, so some elements will be familiar to you, and others may seem new.  Try to be open to how God’s Spirit can work through traditional and contemporary songs and prayers alike.  You might be surprised what speaks to you! 

Our theme is: The Church – One Body and One Spirit.  It’s so easy to forget that the Church is the Body of Christ (God!) – not just another human association.  We are animated and led by God’s Spirit, not just human effort.  Our calling to be here is from God, not just our own inclinations.  And our mission is God’s too – to spread hope and help in the world through the Good News of Jesus.  We are not here to get, we are here to give!  The people around us need to hear our message of the forgiveness, acceptance, and love of God.  So we need to Practice Love in all sorts of ways. 

God loves us enough to join us on this roller-coaster ride we call human life.  God is like the most loving parent we can imagine, or a spouse who gives and gives…and then some.  In God’s love we can dare to dream and act in ways we would not dare to on our own power.  The Church is an amazing community when we truly know ourselves to be Christ’s Body on earth.  When was the last time you listened- really listened for God’s call in your life?  JBM  


 

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