Why Hasn’t the World Stopped?

This week, our conversations at St. Dunstan’s Church start with Elizabeth Ann. As most of you already know, Elizabeth Ann Hutson died on Monday morning after surgery for injuries suffered in a fall. Around the church, and in our conversations, there is a sense of unreality, of dislocation, and of grief. Elizabeth Ann has been an important part of our community for decades now, and we loved her very much.

When we lose someone close like this, there can be the sense that the whole world stops. The rest of the world fades away and all that is present is our grief as we begin to go through the rituals and obligations that follow a death in the family. When we are in this state, it can be a shock to realize that the rest of the world goes on without us. Don’t they know? Don’t they realize the huge hole that was just torn in our lives by this death? And yet the banks on Wall Street keeps selling stocks. The revolution in Libya continues. Our government continues to struggle with the national debt. People still are going to work, to the movies, and out shopping.

The world goes on, but here, in this church congregation, our loss is known. Here, our little community of Christians takes a moment to stop and sit with our love for Elizabeth Ann, and experience the change in that love now that she has passed. For Ann-Patrice and Don, and for their family, the world has stopped. We, as their church family, will need to care for them until their world begins to turn again.

That pause, to love and remember, is one of the best reasons I know to do the work of the Church. Here, we are known and loved. We care for one another, help one another, and encourage each other to grow ever more Christ-like. The good news, the Gospel of Jesus, is that God is present to us now. We can know God’s love by sharing that love and by taking that love out to that busy world. That busy world that keeps on going even when someone we love has died – that world needs God’s love just as much as we do.

So, we will stop, grieve, love, and offer comfort to Elizabeth Ann’s friends and family. We will celebrate Elizabeth Ann’s life and continue her work. In our relationship with Elizabeth Ann, in our care for Ann-Patrice, Don, and the rest of their family, and through the building up of our little church congregation, we will continue to experience the love of God. I thank God for the generous contributions that Elizabeth Ann made to the world and to our church.

Yours in Christ,

Fr. David

12 Baskets? 164 Pounds!

One of the most beautiful and hopeful of Jesus’ miracles was his feeding of the five thousand. Something like that miracle has happened again, right here.

Jesus replied, "You Feed Them."
Jesus replied, "You Feed Them."

The feeding of the five thousand took place at a time when Jesus’ fame and notoriety was growing. Having just learned that John the Baptist had been beheaded, Jesus slipped away to a deserted place in a boat, but the people followed him. Seeing their great need, he had compassion for them, healed their sick, and taught them all day long. As the day was ending, his disciples raised a practical concern:

When it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, ‘This is a deserted place, and the hour is now late; send the crowds away so that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves.’ Jesus said to them, ‘They need not go away; you give them something to eat.’ (Matthew 14:14-16)

Can you imagine how the disciples must have felt at that moment? There were five thousand people gathered to learn from and be healed by Jesus. That’s a big crowd! And Jesus simply tells his disciples, “You feed them.”

As Christians, we follow Jesus, learn from Jesus, and strive to do his work in the world. In short, we are his disciples. Jesus is still telling us to feed the crowds. And just like the original disciples, we wonder how that can be done.

They replied, ‘We have nothing here but five loaves and two fish.’ (Matthew 14:17)

How can we few feed so many? How? Jesus, please tell us. How are we to do this?

And he said, ‘Bring them here to me.’ (Matthew 14:18)

Bring them to Jesus. Jesus offers the abundant love of God. Jesus offers to the hungry, and to us, that beautiful quality of life that is joyous even in the midst of struggle, grief and loss. Jesus offers love that we can participate in, that we can know, that we can experience and enjoy, and, most importantly, that we can give to others. So the disciples called out to the crowd of hungry people and invited them to come to Jesus. They gathered around, pressing in close to see what Jesus would do next.

Then [Jesus] ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. (Matthew 14:19)

 “You feed them,” Jesus says, and so a group of disciples from St. Dunstan’s Church collected donations, bought a few fresh ingredients, and cooked a meal for the people of Tent City 3. We took the five loaves and two fish, blessed them with a prayer to God, supplemented them with donations from two Safeway stores, and fed the 104 people at TC3.

And all ate and were filled; and they took up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve baskets full. (Matthew 14:20)

And when we were done, we gathered up what was left over, and there were even more than 12 baskets full.

...and they took up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve baskets full.
...and they took up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve baskets full.

This is our food bank collection box, filled to overflowing with donations beyond what we used for that one meal. These bags of cereal, spaghetti noodles, canned vegetables, mashed potato mix, and more, added up to 164 pounds of food. We delivered it all to the Greenwood Food Bank so that even more hungry people will be fed.

God’s love is truly abundant. As Jesus’ disciples, we are privileged to know that abundance. Even the leftovers are a blessing when we obey Christ and feed the hungry ourselves.

Your brother in Christ,

David

What Will You Do Now?

Slips of paper with our burdens and fears and doubts burn to ash...
There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:1)

On Sunday I lead our congregation in an exercise of reconciliation, repentance and forgiveness. We brought slips of paper on which we had written the burdens, disappointments, failures, embarrassments, things we wish we hadn’t done, and things we wish we had done forward, and threw them into a waste bin. Then I spoke the words of absolution from our rite for the Reconciliation of a Penitent (BCP 447). After the service I had the satisfaction of burning all those slips of paper to ash and watching the wind blow the ashes away.

This communal act of repentance frees us to be God’s beloved people, doing God’s work in the world. On Sunday we all wrote on a second slip of paper to answer the question, “What will you do now?” Now that you have experience God’s love and forgiveness, what will you do? Who can you now forgive? Who can you now reconnect with? What challenge can you now take on? What will you do now that you have experienced being the beloved adopted child of God?

I saw many answers to that question this week here at St. Dunstan’s Church. Each morning families have dropped off their children for our Vacation Bible Camp, filling the campus and building with the sounds of happy children. On Tuesday two staffers from the Christian radio station, Spirit 105.3, came and participated in the camp. Later that same day, ten volunteers, led by Josef, cooked our first meal for Tent City 3. 104 people were fed!

On Wednesday I walked the path of our new prayer labyrinth and enjoyed the beautiful stone bench that Ben and his troupe installed. What a beautiful addition to our campus! As I was enjoying the sun dappled bench, Bridget and her crew were starting work on the new landscaping around our Columbarium donated by Tom Keefer.

Later, on that same day I received an email informing me that the women of the St. Agnes Guild will be making a $500 contribution to the Camp Huston Campership fund to allow another child to go to camp this summer!

These are all such encouraging signs of what we are freed to do and be by God’s forgiveness and love. We are indeed creating a welcoming environment, both inside and out, where individuals can come together to walk in Christ’s love and forgiveness through worship, prayer, and service to the community.

Your brother in Christ,

David

Introducing Brother John Ryan, OCP

Brother John Ryan, OCP
Introducing Brother John Ryan, OCP

I am very pleased to introduce you to a new member of our congregation, Brother John Ryan, OCP. John is a member of The Community of the Paraclete, an Episcopal Christian Community. He has been attending our services for the past month and after a couple of delightful meetings to get to know each other, he has accepted my invitation to join our congregation. John brings 20 years of experience as a hospital chaplain, a lifetime of experience as a religious, as well as experience preaching, and teaching.

John will be joining our healing prayers team to offer prayers and anointing for healing during the distribution of communion on Sunday mornings at our 10:00 AM service. He has also offered to teach a couple of adult education classes in the fall.

God is at work equipping St. Dunstan’s Church to be the heart and hands of Christ for the world. John’s gifts are a wonderful compliment to our own and I look forward to seeing what new ministries we will discover together.

You will also see a new addition in our narthex. John has given us a wood carved statue of the Angel Gabriel. We placed it on the small cabinet on the south wall of the Narthex for now. It is quite beautiful and should make a great addition to our Christmas decorations!

Be sure to introduce yourself to John and welcome him to St. Dunstan’s Church. He is a very friendly person with a great sense of humor. You can read more about him in his own introduction below. He will be attending both the 8:00 AM service and the 10:00 AM service this coming Sunday to introduce himself.

Yours in Christ,

David

July 4th and Religious Freedom

Celebrating Freedoms and Independence
Celebrating Freedoms and Independence

We are greatly blessed to have religious freedom in the United States of America. This weekend we will celebrate our Independence Day by singing patriotic songs, eating fun food together at picnics and BBQ’s and enjoying fireworks displays. In the last few days I have been reminded very forcefully of the value and importance of the freedoms we celebrate on July 4th.

Three times this week I have heard news about the struggles of Christians in Pakistan. On Tuesday morning I met with a recently relocated Christian leader from Pakistan. He moved here in May after three pastors were killed in his hometown. A severe blasphemy law has been passed there and any such accusation leads to vigilantism and harassment of the accused. My guest shared his life story with me. His father was a Presbyterian pastor for 65 years and he became a pastor himself in addition to his work as an educator. Many of the best educational institutions in Pakistan were created by Christian missionaries and have now been nationalized.

The second news from Pakistan came through a member of our Bible study. She told the story of meeting a mother and daughter from Pakistan. They too told stories of harassment and persecution of Christians that was so great that they fled their own country. Both these women and my guest Tuesday expressed gratitude for the safety and freedom from persecution they found here in the United States.

Then, Thursday morning, I received a phone message from Parvais. Parvais is an Anglican priest and has visited St. Dunstan’s Church on several occasions. Parvais reports that he has moved from Pakistan to the UK. This is significant for a priest, educator and leader who recently stood for election as a bishop.

That makes three times in one week that I have received news that Christians are being persecuted and forced to leave Pakistan. So, I pass this news on to you, the good people of St. Dunstan’s Church, and ask that you hold the people of Pakistan in your prayers.

As we celebrate our freedom and independence, I pray that we will remember our brothers and sisters in faith around the world who do not have the safety or freedom to gather, pray, and worship Christ. May God bless them and keep them safe. May God bless us and help us to be mindful of the needs of others and mindful of the abundant blessing and freedom we enjoy as citizens of this country, especially on this important national holiday.

Yours in Christ,

The Rev. David Marshall

The Fruits of the Spirit

Tent City 3 at St. Mark's Cathedral
Tent City 3 at St. Mark's Cathedral

This is a picture of St Mark’s Cathedral seen over the tops of the tents of Tent City 3 (TC3). Right now TC3 is located in the parking lot of St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, about half a mile east of St. Mark’s. On Tuesday afternoon, Josef Hinkofer and I visited TC3 and were given a tour. It was a warm afternoon, and there were people sitting in the shade, working in the kitchen, and cleaning their bathrooms. We saw large dorm style tents for men and for women, the communal eating area, a TV tent, and many individual or couples tents. There are about 100 people living in TC3 right now.

Josef approached me recently with a proposal. He told me that he has the skills to cook meals for TC3, St. Dunstan’s has the kitchen and the volunteers to help, and Josef has access to food donations for the majority of the food necessary. If we put all of these together, we can feed the people of TC3!

I have prayed about this and I am convinced that the Holy Spirit has put another opportunity before us to do God’s work. Our Mission Statement reads:

We seek to provide a welcoming environment where individuals can come together to walk in Christ’s love and forgiveness through worship, prayer and service to the community.

This feeding ministry will give us yet another way to live out this mission statement. If you would like to help, please let Josef or me know. We need volunteers to help coordinate the kitchen, do the preparation work for the meals, deliver the meals, and clean up afterwards.

Our plan is to prepare the first meal for Tuesday July 12th. That’s coming up pretty quickly, but we have most of what we need in place already. Each meal will be cooked primarily from donated non-perishable food. We will need to spend about $50 a meal for proteins, fresh vegetables and fruit.

We are very blessed to have this opportunity to serve using the gifts and resources God has given us. See you in the Kitchen!

Yours in Christ,

David

Signs of the Holy Spirit

The Light of God Shining in Many Colors
The Light of God Shining in Many Colors

On Monday evening I stepped into the Narthex and saw the baptismal font glowing with light in many colors. The sun was shining through our new stained glass window directly onto the font. On Sunday, at our Pentecost celebration, we baptized baby Iris in this font, with the light of that window glowing around us. This is a beautiful and vivid sign of God’s Spirit working in and among us.

There are many signs of the Holy Spirit at St. Dunstan’s Church. Some of these signs are mystical, some are surprising, and some are simple and practical. On Pentecost I visited our beloved Marnie in the intensive care unit at the hospital. She was breathing on her own! Spirit is breath

Joe Teaching
Joe has our full attention!

and wind, and Marnie is breathing again. That is truly the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Marnie is looking forward to seeing the stained glass window installed with her own eyes, and I believe she will. She has been moved out of the intensive care unit and is making steady progress.

The Holy Spirit is what allows us to live with that special quality of life that Jesus calls “eternal life”. We would not have the Church today without the wondrous gift of God’s Spirit. When we work together, as we did to create our new window, we experience God’s presence and guidance. In this picture, Joe Hester is showing us how we will construct the window. Time like this, learning and working shoulder to shoulder, becomes more than fellowship and more than work when we acknowledge God’s presence. We are formed as Christians by our care for one another as we do God’s work together. That is another sign of the Holy Spirit.

 

Baptizing Baby Iris.
Baptizing Baby Iris, with Grandpa looking on.

The life that Jesus invites us to live (Eternal life, life in God’s Kingdom, in Greek, “zoe life”) is participation in the very life of God. Without God, our lives can feel empty and desperate, even when our circumstances are good. With God, our lives can feel full and joyful, even when circumstances are desperate. Salvation is available to us in the form of a life worth living. The path to this life is to follow Jesus. Jesus leads us, through his crucifixion and resurrection, into this new life. That path is not easy. Jesus suffered horribly, after all. We have a choice. We can suffer on our own, or we can follow Jesus and the suffering of life is sanctified and redeemed.

Just a bowl of water.
Just a bowl of water.

God does not take our suffering away, but the experience of life’s challenges is transformed. Life with the Holy Spirit is enriched, joyful, and purposeful.

The font in our narthex is just a glass bowl of water, but on Sunday, it became an instrument of new life. On Monday, as the light shone through the window onto the font, that glass bowl glowed with color and beauty. Without Christ, our lives are like that simple glass bowl. With Christ, our

God's light transforms
God's light transforms our lives.

lives take on new life and new joy.

With the Holy Spirit, our lives shine with color and beauty.

Yours in Christ,

The Rev. David Marshall

The Season of the Spirit

We are used to thinking of Advent as a season of preparation for Christmas. We are used to thinking of Lent as a season of preparation for Easter. What if the season of Easter is here to prepare us for Pentecost? We usually think of Easter as a season of celebration, but the 50 days of Easter leading up to Pentecost are full of lessons preparing us for the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Pentecost is more than a remembrance of the gift of the Holy Spirit. Our worship leads us to experience the renewal of that gift. We intentionally go beyond remembrance because we know that God is continually giving and renewing the Spirit. In our worship last Sunday we entered into the story of the Ascension in which Jesus departs, promising to ask God the Father to send the Holy Spirit. We emulated the disciples by adopting a pose of prayerful expectation. We raised our hands and opened our hearts, confident that God will bless us with the Holy Spirit again and again if we are but willing and ready.

St. Dunstan’s Church has certainly experienced the gifts of the Holy Spirit in the past year. One of the most visible signs is the beautiful light shining through our new stained glass window. Yes, the window is up! This project has brought great joy and fellowship to the many people who have worked to make the window with their own hands. We will dedicate the new window on Sunday during our Pentecost worship.

God fills us with love, strength and courage to go into the world and do the work of Christ. That’s what the Holy Spirit does for us. Maybe that’s why the season of Pentecost is the longest season of the church year. This is the season in which we live into the reality of the Christmas incarnation and Easter resurrection.

Friday night you will have the opportunity to experience another of the signs of God’s Spirit working through us. We will gather at the Greenwood Food Bank from 6pm to 9pm, June 10th, to sort pallets of food contributions. This is always a great time. We joyfully hustle and bustle around the warehouse, sorting food into bins and enjoying one another’s company. There is a sense of purpose and of joy. I hope you will join me there this week as we live into our mission, walking in Christ’s love and forgiveness through worship, prayer and service to the community.

Word is Out

The word is out. St. Dunstan’s Church is a lively and engaged congregation, involved in the community, doing God’s work and worshiping God with joy. When I am with other clergy, they ask about our congregation. People have heard. God is at work among us. In a time of economic challenge and social change, when many churches are struggling, St. Dunstan’s Church is thriving. We are discovering new ways to express God’s love and, inspired by the Holy Spirit, we are doing God’s work in our lives and the world.

We are blessed, in recent months, with an abundance of guests and visitors at both of our services. I have been very pleased to see the enthusiastic welcome we have offered. I love it when one of you introduces me to one of our visitors. The energy at our coffee hour (at both services!) is wonderful.

When I am meeting guests or speaking with other clergy, I love telling people about our ministries. At a recent clergy group I described our Care Teams and four of the five other priests there asked me to send them a description of this wonderful ministry so that they could start similar programs.

Next week we will celebrate Pentecost and the gift of the Holy Spirit. At St. Dunstan’s Church we are blessed to have many signs of God’s Spirit working among us and through us. I hope you will come to this very special service. You can expect to experience the joy of worshiping God with all our hearts, minds and strength. We will baptize a baby and dedicate our new stained glass window. Come, wear red, and help us give hearty thanks. In the process, you will be renewed and encouraged to take God’s love into your life.