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Trail Notes: 10/29/2017

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The Elephant that’s not in the room. 

We’ve had very small congregations at church in recent weeks.  We need your presence in worship, to bring life and vitality to our services! 

There’s an old tale about an old village that saved up to build a beautiful new church in which to worship God. The architect designed a lovely edifice.  As it was being completed, the villagers noted there were no lamps over the pews in the church.  They asked the architect why not, and he said, “Let each individual and household bring a lamp to worship and hang it over their pew.  Then, when all are present, the church will be filled with light.  And where worshippers are absent, there will be a dark place to remind that they are missed.” 

Worship is like that – we need to gather together, to be present for God and for each other.  When persons and families are missing, they leave a hole in our community.  Please be present in church each Sunday, and bring your light.   JBM 

Reformation Sunday –

This Sunday marks 500 years since Martin Luther nailed his famous 95 theses to the chapel door in Wittenburg, officially starting the Protestant Reformation of the Western Church.  Churches throughout the world will be recognizing this anniversary. 

Our Episcopal/Anglican tradition separated from papal authority along with the reform movements of continental Europe.  But we retained catholic practices such as the sacraments, the ancient liturgies, and the ministry orders of bishop, priest, and deacon.  The English Reformation became a rich well of scholarship, tradition, and missionary zeal, which has now spread around the world as the Anglican Communion.  Today, most Anglicans are people of color, with a huge portion residing in Africa.  The churches in the UK and the US are shrinking by comparison.  We’ll discuss the legacy of the Reformation in our sermon this Sunday.  JBM.  



Trail Notes: 10/15/2017

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The Possibilities of Spring

We come this Sunday to our third season in Creation Time: Spring.  After the cold, dark, and fallowness of wintertime, Spring is always welcome – a sense of possibility, newness, growth, and surprise come with this season. 

In the Gospel today (Matthew 22:1-10) Jesus tells the story of a king who gives a wedding banquet for his son – certainly one of the most significant parties one ever throws, tied up with the hopes and dreams we have for our children.  He sends advance invitations (the first-century equivalent of “save-the-date” cards), and the guests reply.  Then when the moment comes, he sends messengers to bring in the guests who had promised to come.  Then all hell breaks loose.

The guests give excuses for not coming – new property purchases, recent marriage, new livestock to tend.  The king is not amused.  (Here the story lapses into hyperbole about murder and mayhem among the guests and the king’s servants.  This seems to be a reference to the historical misfortune of prophets (messengers or slaves), and the destruction of Jerusalem 40 years after Jesus told this parable.  Thus, these violent outbursts are probably not original to Jesus’ parable, but added later.) 

What I take from this story is about God’s invitation to us to step away from our day-to-day lives and consider something new.  There’s a banquet laid for us in life, but we have to be willing to step out, explore what’s new, and perhaps change our course in life from time to time.  Aunty Mame of Broadway fame once said, “Life’s a banquet, and most poor suckers are starving to death!”  That’s what can happen when we don’t accept God’s invitation to try new things, explore new possibilities, new callings, new ministries.  What better way to honor Spring?  JBM  



Trail Notes: 10/08/2017

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Winter Work

I wonder, is it possible for 21st century Bethesda folks to stop working/driving/doing/responding/tending and just be still for a while? 

Winter is a time in nature where things slow way down. Bears just find a nice spot to curl up and hibernate.  Rivers and streams freeze.  Even the sun gets lazy and comes up late, and goes to bed early.  Plants shut down and go dormant as the weather grows cold.  Only humans continue their fevered pace of life. 

In my mostly-rural home state of Nebraska, the seasons dictated the rhythm of the agricultural year: Spring and Fall were busy with planting and harvesting; provisions were piled up for the Winter.  Cold weather and snows kept folks mostly indoors, with more time for rest, conversation, and quiet pastimes. 

Scripture tells us that God ordained a Sabbath year not just for humans, but for the land – every seventh year the land should be allowed to lie fallow and rest.  John’s Gospel goes on to say that “unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.”  Somehow, it seems, rest and quietness contribute to a full life as much as motion and busy-ness. 

So what about Sabbath time for humans?  What might happen if we let ourselves go fallow for a season?  If we let the grain fall into the earth and die?  If we let Winter do its work on us - if we walk slowly through the snowy woods, dark and deep, to hear what God might say to us in the stillness?  Only you can find out.  JBM


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