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Trail Notes: 6/3/2018

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Sabbath, anyone? 

The fourth commandment invites us to “Keep holy the Sabbath day.”  For Jews, this means Saturday, of course – a day set aside from work, which can include worship, rest, play, study of Scripture, gathering with friends and family, and time alone.  Sabbath is understood as a gift, a break from the workaday world.

Christians shifted focus to the Lord’s Day on Sunday – the day of Jesus’ resurrection.  Unfortunately, Christians such as the Puritans developed lots of rules about what you can’t do on the Christian Sabbath – basically, fun was not allowed!  

Nowadays, a minority of Americans attend worship on any given Sabbath, and the day goes by much like any other day – full of errands, athletic practices and matches, homework, emails, and housework.  Sabbath is no longer distinctive time, no longer set apart. 

Nobody wants to return to the straightjacket of the Puritan Sabbath rules, but it’s worth asking what we have lost as we have given up all notions of the Sabbath day being different from the rest.  Why did God work for six days in Creation, but rest on the seventh?  Does it really matter?  As creatures, how can we keep God’s pattern of life, and keep holy the Sabbath day?  JBM



Trail Notes: 5/20/2018

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It’s Showtime.

The church focuses, rightly, on the story of Jesus.  I, for one, am fascinated by the man.  But we cannot stop with Jesus: in a real way, Jesus is a prelude to our real work. 

Pentecost marks the beginning of the work of the Spirit: the founding of the church as community, the beginnings of ministry in the world by an army of God’s people.  Disciples (followers) become apostles (those sent on a mission).  The first apostles discovered on Pentecost just how powerful God’s Holy Spirit really is: miracles of language took place, so that everbody could hear and understand the Good News of God’s love.  Three thousand people heard and received the Gospel, and were baptized. 

Walter Brueggeman, a wonderful Old Testament Scholar, wrote that God’s will is accomplished through human agency.  God’s Spirit in us makes us God’s agents.  When we work together, hungry people are fed, and systems are changed so that all people have enough.  , as people join together to fight for justice and the dignity of every Nations are changed human being.  Even the earth itself can be healed, if we join together to insist on environmental measures to preserve our precious planet. 

For Christians, the message of Pentecost is: It’s Showtime.     JBM  



Trail Notes: 5/27/2018

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God Talk

Today is one great metaphor – or really, a whole feast of metaphors.  The Church celebrates the doctrine of the Trinity today – perhaps the granddaddy of all Christian metaphors!  Through this talk of God being three-in-one, the Church has attempted to point to the greatness of God, the unfathomability of God, the mystery of God.  Because we have no adequate language to describe God, we use metaphors.  In fact, the attempt to take God language literally is futile, no fun, and a big mistake. 

The word metaphor comes from two Greet roots, meaning to carry alongside of.  As a term for language, metaphor uses an image we know to illuminate another reality.  We do this all the time: “Holy, holy, holy!  All the saints adore thee, casting down their golden crowns around the glassy sea….”  (Hymn 362, v. 2)

We don’t really expect to see saints casting golden crowns around a sea of glass – this is exuberant, fantastical language pointing to the humble devotion of God’s people.  (The hymnwriter, Reginald Heber, drew this image from the book of Revelation 15:2.)

In Sunday’s sermon, we’ll explore God Talk, metaphor, and the experiences of two of God’s people – the prophet Isaiah and the disciple Nicodemus – which illustrate the use of metaphor in biblical literature.  JBM



Trail Notes: 05/13/2018

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Ascension Day always falls on a Thursday, 40 days after Easter.  That’s when Jesus’ bodily appearances after the resurrection come to an end, and he is taken up into heaven.  This year, we are observing the day on Sunday, which gives us a chance to focus on its meaning in the great drama of Jesus Christ:

Birth – Childhood –  Adulthood/Baptism/Public Ministry –
Death – Resurrection – Ascension

The Ascension of Christ – whether you understand it literally or figuratively – moves the action forward, so that the next great drama can begin:

The Outpouring of the Holy Spirit – The Birth and Growth of the Church

We are part of this continuing drama today.  God’s Spirit fills us and inspires us to act in love, to seek justice, to respect the dignity of every person. 

The disciples had mixed feelings about Jesus’ departure, just as all of us feel pangs of loss when someone important to us goes away.  But when the Spirit filled them they became capable of great things!  And so do we.  JBM




Trail Notes: 05/06/2018

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LOVE: Easier Said than Done

When I first starting working with kids, I realized that we needed to do some interpretation when we used the world “love” in the Christian context.  Kids think of love through what they know: the affection of family members for each other, or the “yucky” love of attraction and romance.  (Yucky especially when they think of their parents!  Of course, during the teens, romantic and sexual interest begins to quicken and not seem so yucky anymore.) 

To speak meaningfully of love to kids requires interpretation.  So we translated Christian love as “care and respect” – something you could offer even to somebody you didn’t really like…something you could decide to give, independent of feelings. 

(C.S. Lewis wrote a classic examination of the kinds of love, The Four Loves, (1960) which is still worth reading and considering.  But it’s a bit much for children.) 

We speak of love often, as we should.  But we need to be clear about what we mean.  Recently, at St. Dunstan’s we’ve used the phrase “Love Practiced Here,” which suggests that we have to put love into practice, into action.  Christian love is not just a philosophy, or a feeling.  It is a way of life, an orientation toward others.  Acts of love include forgiveness, care and compassion, generosity, respect for others.  Love can mean staying in touch, staying connected – even when it’s inconvenient or stressful.  These actions are things we can teach our children, and apply in our own lives.  No, it’s not easy.  Yes, it gets tiring.  But John’s Gospel reminds us that this is the path to true joy: “I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and your joy may be complete.”  I have to say that the people I know who practice love most are the most joyful.  I say this even though love makes us vulnerable to hurt. 

  • What is one way you are practicing love in your life? 
  • What is an area where you want to work on loving: offering care and respect, even when it’s not convenient? 



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