Entries by Sue Von

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Trail Notes: 7/9/2017

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United to one another with pure affection

This phrase from our collect for this Sunday has an interesting resonance in this week following the celebration of our country’s Independence Day. I watched as my Facebook feed was inundated with the colors of red, white and blue; pictures of food, picnics and barbeques; and marching bands, parades and fireworks. But not all was celebration.

There were also articles and posts that came from those who feel excluded and not a part of the celebration of liberty and freedom. My native friends struggle with the celebration for obvious reason. How does one celebrate the declaration of independence that lead to the deprivation of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for one’s way of life? The Washington Post carried a story this week of a girl’s robotics team from Afghanistan who were denied entry into the U.S. for a world competition. Ironic? I watched a video presentation from young black men and women who feel their lives threatened and unable to celebrate the freedoms I celebrated.

I’m not saying that we shouldn’t partake or find enjoyment in these moments. I have a deep desire to wave the flag and I love a good parade. And seriously, I’m always up for a amazing display of fireworks. But we also have serious work to do. Serious responsibilities to engage in the life and work of our nation and labor to accomplish the beliefs and truths within that declaration for all, and especially those who were not included in that declaration.

And as Christians the work is greater and deeper. Our discipleship calls us to something greater than our civic duties or patriotic celebrations. Our faith invites us to strive for justice and peace for all, by loving our neighbor.

My experience has been that when I engage in the work of loving my neighbor and striving for justice alongside them, I feel the weight of this burden is lightened. We are all invited to take on the yoke of Christ, and promised that when we do, we will find rest.

For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. Matthew11:30


 

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Trail Notes: 5/7/2017

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Shepherd, Gate and Gatekeeper

Traditionally the 4th Sunday of Easter is known as Good Shepherd Sunday. This image is made clear in the collect for this day.

O God, whose Son Jesus is the good shepherd of your people; Grant that when we hear his voice we may know him who calls us each by name, and follow where he leads; who, with you and the Holy Spirit, lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Each year on this Sunday, we hear a different section of the 10th chapter of John’s gospel. This year is the first 10 verses and in those we hear three different descriptions of Jesus - shepherd, gatekeeper and gate. Each of these words bring so many images to mind, both positive and negative. Clearly some of those negative connotations have been used to warrant exclusion and the understanding that some are inside and others are not allowed. For me this is a narrow reading of the text and doesn’t take in the wholeness of the parable.

Seeing Jesus in all of these descriptions opens a deeper meaning to the parable. It also allows me to see others in those images. Who has been Jesus in my life as gate, gatekeeper and shepherd? Who has been Jesus in your life as gate, gatekeeper and shepherd?

L. Sue von Rautenkranz
 

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Trail Notes: 12/4/2016

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The voice of one crying out …

Each year during Advent we hear again the story of John the Baptist, crying in the wilderness. John is an eccentric preacher who eats wild honey and locusts and wears a skin of camel hair. He preaches a gospel of repentance and the need for being baptized with water. John is a heralder of the kingdom of God, and of the coming of the one who would baptize with fire.

This man was the child who leapt in the womb of his mother Elizabeth when the pregnant Mary greeted her. Mary had just been visited by the angel and stayed for three months with her cousin Elizabeth. I have often wondered about their conversations; of joy, of mystery, and full of questions about what all of this means. And how did those two infants in the womb experience those conversations and emotions?

What else do we know of this preacher, other than his strange diet and yet expensive taste in jackets? Okay, that may be a bit much. Some say that John was a member of the Essene community, a religious sect of Judaism that had strict practices and an ascetic lifestyle. Clearly, he lived a different existence out in the desert and was preaching loud and long enough to be noticed. Scripture says that many were coming out to see and hear him. The scribes and Pharisees who went out to see him surely thought he was not quite right in the head. Especially when he called them out in front of everyone.

We have all probably had our fill of loud voices this fall. The election campaign seemed to be a constant baiting session, with nothing but accusations and angry voices, each one claiming to have the truth and know the answers. No matter our candidate, we probably all felt that this was never helpful or clear. Many would like all the angry and unhappy voices to just go away. We would like the world to quietly go back to the good old days when politics were polite and life was better. But was it?

Some would prefer that Jesus only come in the quiet of Christmas morning - the little Lord Jesus no crying he makes. The Advent season heralds both the coming of Jesus as the humble Christ child and Jesus whose kingdom will come. Sometimes it takes a little volume to get our attention. I know that sometimes I need to listen more intently and turn up the volume.

How do we discern THE voice among all the other voices – sometimes quiet and sometimes loud – that calls us into that kingdom? When have you heard the voice calling you to … prepare the way of the Lord?

 

Sue von Rautenkranz



 

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Trail Notes: 08/07/2016

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Not being afraid, and living by faith

Jesus seems to always be reminding us to not be afraid – whether that message comes directly from him or from a messenger. In our gospel lesson again this week we hear, “Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” Luke 12:32

When I look around at our world and everything that is happening, it is hard not to be afraid. Everyday there is another shooting, nasty words are exchanged by leaders or those who want to be leaders, more and more people are displaced, homeless and hungry, and many seem to be not just on opposite sides of issues but at the extreme poles of those issues. It is hard to feel any stability or comfort or firm foundation as we walk our journey.

Yet, we hear from the writer of the letters to the Hebrews to be people who live by faith. The writer goes on to explain that our ancestors, and in this portion of chapter 11, Abraham, left all he knew, journeyed to a foreign land, lived in tents, and came to believe, beyond all knowledge, that his descendants would be more that the stars of the heavens or grains of sand on the shore.

But what is faith?

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Hebrews 11:1

What are the things we hope for? What in our hearts are we persuaded to believe and yet not see? For me, it is when I don’t know or see that I discover my faith; that I can feel and know God’s presence in me and in the world around me.

Sue von Rautenkranz


 

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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: 06/26/2016

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How is your Foundation?

I spent this past week in South Carolina, the longest visit since the storms and flooding that occurred in October of last year. While I have been there for two brief overnights, I was not able to visit the house I still own or tour the areas that had been severely damaged last fall. My house is just fine, but many familiar areas of the city are still in recovery and there are signs of the damage all around. Vacant homes, lost businesses, roads that are still closed, and creek beds and banks being reinforced. One bridge, which had been closed since the storm, opened just this week – shortening a commute time which had been lengthened to an hour for some. That sounds easy for us here in the DMV, but huge for folks used to 10-15 minutes.

The storm that dropped over 40” of rain in just a couple days was way beyond the capacities of the drainage systems. However, the matters were made worse because there had also been deferred maintenance and bad decisions around zoning and wetlands. We face some of those same concerns regarding roads and bridges in our area, and lets not even talk about the metro.

Our faith really isn’t that different from the infrastructure of our society. It all really depends on the foundation we build and whether or not we maintain that foundation.

The week prior to my time in SC, I attended a conference call CREDO. This 8-day event is focused on the spiritual, physical and emotional, financial, and vocation health of the clergy who attend. We are asked hard questions about all of these areas and are encouraged to make at least one degree of change for the better in each of these areas. In some of these, I’m doing okay; in others, not so well.

Who and what are the foundations for your faith? Are you building a good foundation for yourself? for your children? Is there an area where one degree of change might give you a better place to stand or balance all that life gives?

Let’s work on helping one another to build stronger and deeper foundations.

Sue von Rautenkranz


 

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Trail Notes: 05/15/2016

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Celebrations and markers in life
 
This Sunday we celebrate the last major feast of the church year, the Feast of Pentecost. This is the day of the coming of the Holy Spirit and what is commonly referred to as the birthday of the Church. That’s church with a big “C,” the church universal. For St. Dunstan’s, this coming week also marks the celebration of our patron saint, whose feast day is May 19.
 
Times of celebration usually have some common threads in our lives. Maybe we throw a party complete with balloons, cake and games. Maybe we get to choose the kind of cake or our favorite meal or go to our favorite restaurant. When we are young usually everyone makes a big deal out of our birthday celebrations; but as we get older we tend to forget the day or at least tone down the festivities. If we are together with family and friends, there even might be some story telling about the person or event being celebrated. Probably those stories will focus on past events, but some may also look to the future. 
 
If we were to hold a celebration for St. Dunstan’s this week, what stories would you tell of our past? If someone were to ask you to share your favorite memory of your life in this place, what would that be? 
What about today – would you have stories to tell of what is happening now? What is your favorite time of year or celebration or event that happened here? Have you considered sharing that with a friend or neighbor? 
And if we were to look forward and wonder about what the future will bring to this community of faith. What might that be? What would be your greatest desire for this community as it moves toward its 6th decade? How might you use your gifts and skills to bring that about? 
 
Our Growth Committee is presenting their work during our formation time this Sunday, May 15. If you have questions, or ideas, or hopes and dreams for what this faith community might be, please consider coming to the adult class to hear about ideas and plans to move us forward.
 
Sue von Rautenkranz
 


 

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Trail Notes: 4/24/2016

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How do others know us?

One of the first songs I learned to play on the guitar when I was in junior high was They’ll know we are Christians by our Love. The reason for this was because it has a simple chord progression and uses only three chords in the entire song. It was also one of the first songs I taught to campers when we had a music program that included learning to play the guitar. By the end of that summer I really didn’t care if I ever heard that song again!

This week we hear the end of the 13th chapter of John’s Gospel, which give us the new commandment, to love one another. These words are some of the last words of Jesus to his disciples as the Last Supper concludes and he moves to the garden of Gethsemane, before his arrest. Along with the command to love, come the additional words that all will know the followers of Jesus because they love one another.

I don’t know about you, but I wonder how many people in our world would have that understanding of the Christian Church. Sadly, the statistics out there say that many people, especially the generation that is missing from our churches – the millennials, say the Church does not practice what it preaches. And some members of our faith even say on placards and signs that God hates.

I believe we all have work to do both individually and communally, on showing and enacting this command of Jesus. And while we can’t change those of our faith who choose to show something other than love, we can find ways to raise our voices and profile so that others might see what Jesus would have us do. We can also work on those places in our own lives where we lack patience or tolerance or (indifference) – so that we might be known by how we love each other.

 

Sue von Rautenkranz


 

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Seeing and Touching

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Seeing and Touching

As a young child I can remember well the instructions of my mother anytime we walked into a store that had items that were fragile or could be easily damaged or broken. It was simple – “look but don’t touch.” And as an adult I have watched children being given this same instruction and I must admit that I too have repeated it as well. I also remember that as I got older the phrase, “you break it, you buy it,” was also added.

Our senses are one of our primary ways of learning and believing – what we experience through our senses helps us to grow and learn about the world around us. The child learns that the stove is hot but touching, even though we might say, don’t touch, before they experience the hotness of the stove. And where I grew up one was always warned not to put your tongue on a cold metal pole in the wintertime. Yet, some crazy kid would test this assumption or be dared by older children to try it out.

Thomas had heard that Jesus had risen – from the women, from all of the other apostles who were gathered in the upper room, and from the two who have returned from their experience on the road to Emmaus. Yet, he wanted to see and touch. I think in many ways we are no different. It is hard to believe when we only hear about faith, sometimes we have to see, touch, smell and taste to believe. When and how has your faith been enhanced through your senses?

 

Sue von Rautenkranz


 

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Trail Notes: 01/03/2016

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What would you put in your backpack?

This was question posed in a blog written by Winnie Horvat, who serves as a missionary for The Assemblies of God in Croatia. She and her husband Aaron, have been responding directly to the crisis of thousands of Syrian refugees desperately seeking safety in Europe. This is the question she asked all of us to think about.

Here is her list: 1. Wet wipes, it’s dirty on the road - how would YOU get clean?; 2. Kleenex- tears, pee - need we say more? 3. Flashlight, traveling at night, by foot, through a field? 4. Dried fruit, granola bars; 5. Copies of all our documents, important phone numbers; 6. Maps of Europe (hey- if the GPS goes out...); 7. Hand sanitizer- kill those germs; 8. Band aids and other 1st aid supplies; 9. A small zip lock filled with travel size toiletries; 10. Travel rain ponchos.

I’m not sure my list would be much different, but when I first thought about it I also included my cell phone and the necessary ways to charge it - outlet and car. And of course, I have never been in this situation or dealt directly with those who have. My only experience similar to this happened five years ago. In the spring of 2010 I had to move out of my house in SC; pack everything I owned into a storage facility; and placed those items I believed I would need for the next year into my car. It wasn’t easy but I wasn’t fearful for my life. I had time and space to think about those choices. I also had a place to go where I knew I would be greeted with love and welcome.

By night Joseph took Mary and their newborn child across the desert into Egypt with only what they could carry. They were afraid and it was probably a good thing that they were not at home in Nazareth. They were much closer to Egypt and had already packed for the journey to Bethlehem.

I wonder what I would take with me in the middle of the night.  If I didn’t know where I was going or how I was getting there and if I were different - looked different, spoke a different language, and was of another faith - I wonder who would choose to befriend and aid me. Someone surely did this for Joseph, Mary and Jesus. Are we not called to do the same?

Sue von Rautenkranz


 

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