Friday, November 30, 2012

Preaching During the "Holiday Season," Advent 1C

What follows is a draft of the sermon I plan on preaching this Sunday at Saint Peter's Jazz Vespers Service.  It's on the week's lectionary text from the Hebrew Bible, Jeremiah 33: 14 - 16.  Would love to hear some input from folks... I'm especially concerned that the personal narrative is too long.

Happy New Year! That’s right folks, happy New Year! Some of you may think I either had a bit too much wine at brunch earlier today or perhaps that I simply looked at my calendar wrong, but at least from the perspective of the Western churches, that’s actually what today is… the beginning of a new liturgical year. Outside of switching to a different set of readings that focus more on the Gospel of Saint Luke instead of the Gospel of Saint Mark, as Saint Peter’s and many other churches were doing over the last year, today also marks the beginning of a new church season… the season of Advent. Now, outside of knowing about the wreath with four candles and maybe being familiar with one of those Advent calendars that have a little door for children to open up each day before Christmas, it’s sometimes hard to remember what this season is all about… I mean just a quick look outside on Lexington Avenue makes it seem like Christmas time is already here. All of the stores are decked out in brilliant light displays, wreaths, garlands… the whole works. I was walking by one store a few days back, on 5th Avenue I think, which was completely wrapped up in a giant lighted red bow. It being my first year in New York, I attended the Rockefeller Center tree lighting event this past week and wow, let me say that even from a block or two back, Mariah Carey’s performance was nothing short of stunning.

Ya know, a lot of folks today and throughout Advent will preach against the ills of materialism, the gluttony of American capitalism that rears its ugly head each December… that sort of thing, and while they’re right of course, I don’t think they’re really getting to the heart of the matter. While all the lights, music and celebration may urge us to buy more stuff, they also convey an even deeper and often more difficult message to hear… you have to be happy! This is the time to be happy! And whether it’s by buying Little Johnny an unnecessary iPhone, by getting great seats at the Rockettes or by working all month to create the perfect Norman Rockwell scene on Christmas morn for your family, you got to be happy! And if you’re not happy, then you better figure out how to make yourself and those around you feel that way. Folks, it’s exactly because of that constant pressure to be happy during the holiday season that the central message of Advent is so important. But what, exactly, is that central message?

I’ll try to explain through a story of one of my own Advent experiences, one that coincidently culminates on a regular New Years. Back in Advent of 2008, I certainly wasn’t happy. A recent college graduate in the midst of the worst months of the Great Recession, I was about to enter into a job I knew I’d hate. I was still mourning the loss of a significant relationship and the loss of that youthful sense of invincibility following a close brush with thyroid cancer I had the summer before. Worst of all though, my mother had cancer… late stage III lung cancer. After visiting my family for a very somber Thanksgiving that year, it seemed obvious that Mom wasn’t getting better, but I tried to convince myself otherwise while busying myself with all the typical holiday activties. Amidst the festive decorations and songs of the season, many of the people around me, while well intentioned, also kept up the pressure on me to be happy. Some folks suggested that I celebrate her life in the little time we had left together; others tried taking me out or inviting me to parties. Of course, in the misery of my situation, there wasn’t chance I’d feel “the joy of the season,” which in turn made me feel guilty for not being happy, which of course only made matters worse.

Four weeks of Advent came and went that year… four weeks of the anxiety, fear and terror of seeing my mother bravely battle metastasized, late stage cancer… four weeks of feeling guilty that no matter what I or others might do, there was no use in trying to cheer me up in a season that society was telling me was supposed to be full of joy. Eventually Christmas Day came and we all gathered at grandma’s house for the normal meal and exchanged a few gifts, but it was all just sort of going through the motions. Mom was there but seemed distant the whole time, and when I kissed her goodbye and drove back to my apartment in New Hampshire that night, it was the last time I saw her alive. She died just a few evenings later, on December 30th. Upon hearing the news, I rushed back to Connecticut once again, and found myself a night later, on New Year’s Eve, alone in my family’s house after spending a whole day making funeral arrangements. Instead of celebrating the New Year with friends as I love to do, I felt alone, completely alone, and couldn’t have been deeper in a dark, dire pit of despair. At some point though that night I got a phone call from a close friend, who ended up telling me exactly what I needed to hear… that I didn’t have to do anything, that it was okay to feel whatever it was that I was feeling and that he was coming down early the next morning to help in any way he could. The conversation with my friend that night didn’t make everything better, it didn’t cheer me up really, but it did do something that was much more important… it gave me hope. And hope, my sisters and brothers, is what the season of Advent is all about. Not the hope necessarily that everything wrong with the world will soon get better, but the hope that no matter what, that through Christ you are not alone, that through Christ you are forgiven and that through Christ you are loved.

Hope, a season of hope friends… that’s what Advent is all about, and it’s what today’s text from Jeremiah is all about too. Two Sundays back I spoke about the destruction of the 2nd Jewish Temple in the Gospel of Mark. Today’s text relates to round one of that story, to what was perhaps the even more horrific destruction of the 1st Temple built by King Solomon. The prophet Jeremiah lived in final days of the Davidic Dynasty, preaching against the popular belief that Jerusalem would never be destroyed by a foreign power. Jeremiah was in fact so critical of Judah that he was greatly persecuted by the priestly elite of his time, who cast him into a well thinking he would starve to death. Despite these persecutions however, once the destruction that Jeremiah predicts comes to pass, once King Nebuchadnezzar and his troops destroys Jerusalem, carting off much of its population to Babylon, Jeremiah makes an even more startling prediction. Speaking to an exiled Jewish community, to what is truly a crucified people, Jeremiah makes the bold assertion that God’s work is not yet done, that the days are surely coming when God will fulfill Her promise to the people of Judah and Israel, that the people will be saved and live in safety… in short, Jeremiah proclaims a message of hope.

Similarly my sisters and brothers, in this time, in this city, amidst all the hustle and bustle of the season, amidst all the lights and songs and holiday specials on TV, whether you’ve had an absolutely amazing year and are on top of the world or whether you’re in the deepest depths of lonely despair as I was back in 2008, know that it’s okay to feel whatever you need to feel. And as the days continue to get shorter, as darkness continues to fall, know that through Christ, a light shines in the darkness and the darkness cannot, and will not, ever, ever overcome it. That through Christ, God is still at work in our lives during this Advent season and that no matter what happens, through Christ we are not alone, we are forgiven and we are loved. In short, through Christ, we have hope.

Dustin is currently a vicar at the Lutheran Office for World Community and Saint Peter's Church in Manhattan, having recently completed his second year of a Masters of Divinity program at the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia. While seeking ordination in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, his focus is on the intersection between worship, service and justice building in de-centralized faith communities unencumbered by a traditional church building. In his free time, Dustin likes playing frisbee, hiking and pretending to know how to sing.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

NH 4000 Footer Essay (Pt. 3): A Northern Presidential Traverse

What follows is part three of the five-part essay I'm writing for the NH 4000 Footer Club.  You can find part one here and part two here.

Sitting in a late-night Starbucks in Queens, my northern presidential traverse in New Hampshire's White Mountains couldn't seem further away... with required-Santa-headgear-tasseled baristas,  purposefully tacky holiday decorations and sombre Elliot Smith tunes pumping over the stereo speakers, the coffeehouse seems wrapped in a warm snuggie of self-aware commercial melancholy.  It's entirely self-reflection inducing and largely familiar in a city that seems dead-set on exuding just that feeling in anticipation of a long, cold winter.

On the presidential range in the summer of '07.
If one hones in though on that notion of reflection in the face of cresting anticipation, my tramp over Mount Madison, Mount Adams, Mount Jefferson and Old Man Washington two summers ago was quite similar.  The seven years between my first summit of NH 4000 footer on Mount Pierce and my day on hadn't treated me that well.  Then a starry eyed high school grad burning with optimism, I had grown into a weathered hospital chaplain.. while my college years at the George Washington University in Washington, DC were largely good ones, near the end of my time there the clouds had certainly rolled in.  My mother and I had been diagnosed with cancer roughly at the same time during the spring of 2008, and while I would eventually receive news of my misdiagnosis with relief, my mom wouldn't fair so lucky... she ended up passing away soon after Christmas that year.  On top of these problems, facing a job search during the worst days of the Great Recession proved difficult, although I eventually was able to a land a less than enjoyably but fairly well paying financial position.  Eventually I figured out I'd like to attend seminary and become a Lutheran pastor, thus beginning what I'd consider a recovery period after the troubles of '08.

Zealand Trail, 2012.
As my brother and I pulled into Dolly Copp campground to prep for our hike two summers ago, it felt like that "recovery period" was ending... I had slowly regained my confidence in the intervening three years and began coming to terms with the anger I felt at the Divine for everything inflicted on my family and I in 2008.  My renewed sense of confidence had emerged in a quieter, calmer manner than that of the innocently joyful days of my youth, but that didn't mean I had lost my playful sense of competition at all... which meant that although my brother Darren had never hiked in the White Mountains before, I was taking him on an introductory march over one of toughest trails in the state.  Darren was probably in better shape than I was, so I knew he could handle it, but I also knew he had no idea what he was about to get into.  Since he seemed to always think himself tougher than me, I figured it was about time to put his notion to the test.  On the other hand, I felt deeply satisfied to be spending a long day hiking with my brother.  We had only become close after my mother's death, so I considered the trip a celebration of our new found closeness... the dynamics of brotherly relationships are interesting, right?

Near the summit of Mount Guyot, 2012.
Starting out around 6:30am, we made okay time up three and a half miles of the Daniel Webster Scout Trail, although Darren was lagging a bit more than I expected.  Once we got out of the trees near Osgood Junction though, he quickly picked up his pace.  Although we had hiked fairly quietly (the stoic awkwardness of two brothers who have not been close still lingered between us), once we attained the ridge, that quickly changed... It was a bright sunny day, and having never been above treeline before, Darren absolutely loved it, yelling out that he couldn't wait to tell his buddies back home in CT about the trip.  The bummer though was that he thought this was near the peak of our adventure, so when I pointed across the Great Gulf at Washington and told him we were following the whole horseshoe-shaped ridge-line all the way around to its summit, Darren wasn't too happy we had that long to go.

After quickly bagging Mount Madison, we headed down into the col to rest awhile and had a late breakfast at Madison Hut.  As familial awkwardness retook us, there was some brief talk about the views, a conversation to which my vain attempt at sounding like an expert about the AMC hut system made a grand addition.  Heading out of the col we passed by Star Lake and joined a large number of hikers heading up to bag Mount Adams.  With Darren once again lagging near the summit, I finally came out and asked him why he was going so slow... that's when an amazing blessing came in the form of a heavy gallon jug of iced-tea Darren thought would be a good idea to bring along on the hike.  As he pulled the jug out of his day-pack and dumped the full gallon out on the side of the trail, swearing his head off all the while, I immediately started chiding him about his mistake, as any good older brother would.  He remained pretty upset with me for the next hour or so, but event completely broke the ice between us- we realized it was okay to be vulnerable around each other for the first time in years, and our relationship has never again descended into silence.

Mount Washington, 2006.
We proceeded to the top of Mount Adams quite quickly, and after descending into Edmunds Col for a short rest, we hastened to summit Mount Jefferson... the ice-tea had definitely slowed us down, and I was increasingly worried we might not make it out to Pinkham Notch before sunset.  I don't remember much about the mad-dash across the final 2.5 miles of ridge line from Jefferson, past Mount Clay and up to the summit of Washington, outside of all the brand new curse-words I learned as Darren yelled most of the way.  We eventually made it to the final summit, and astounding all the motorists who had came up on the auto-road, triumphantly pointed across the Great Gulf toward Osgood Junction to indicate where we started.  Luckily I picked up a flashlight in the summit gift shop, as making our way down Lionhead's as it got dark without one (Tucks was closed for restoration work) would have been less than ideal.  With the awkward gulf between us now gone, on the ride home we were able to reflect about our mom, our emotional recovery process after her passing, and how much we greatly looked toward the future.

God's peace,

Dustin is currently a vicar at the Lutheran Office for World Community and Saint Peter's Church in Manhattan, having recently completed his second year of a Masters of Divinity program at the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia. While seeking ordination in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, his focus is on the intersection between worship, service and justice building in de-centralized faith communities unencumbered by a traditional church building. In his free time, Dustin likes playing frisbee, hiking and pretending to know how to sing.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Preaching on the End of the World, Pentecost 33B

What follows is a very rough draft of a sermon I'll be preaching at Saint Peter's Jazz Vespers service this Sunday.  It's on the lectionary text for the week, Mark 13: 1 - 8.  Would love to hear some input.

I can specifically remember being a vulnerable, nervous little ten-year-old sitting at my grandma’s house and watching TV after dinner, when a program came on about the predictions of Nostradamus, the upcoming Y2K bug, and thus, the apocalypse described in the Bible… the end of the world. Scared nearly half to death, I quickly ran into the kitchen and offered to do the dishes for my grandmother… since it was 1996 and I only had four years to earn God’s favor and be chosen as one of His elect before the start of the new millennium, I figured I should get to work doing nice things for everyone right away. Luckily, my grandmother could sense I had something more than just being helpful on my mind, so instead of handing me the sponge and dish soap, she stooped down, wrapped me up in a big hug, and asked me what was wrong. Although she had never taken a Bible course on Revelation, Daniel, or the ‘little apocalypse’ that today’s text from Saint Mark is a part of, after finding out what I had been watching, she aptly told me not to worry, and that God, as she knew through Jesus, was a loving God.

While my grandma definitely helped me feel a bit better that night, for the next four years I was never entirely able to shake my fear of God’s impending judgment as the millennium turned. I greatly worried that every subsequent military confrontation… think the Kosovo War and expanding the no-fly zone over Iraq… would spiral into nuclear war. I read Biblical texts like the ‘little apocalypse’ from Mark 13 over and over again. I learned that Jesus gives similar discourses about the destruction of the temple, the coming of false messiahs and nations rising against nations in Saint Matthew and Saint Luke as well and eventually came to think that even if Jesus wasn’t talking about the new millennium in these texts, it sure sounded like God was a vengeful God, and thus that I needed to appease him with good behavior. The dawning of the new millennium came and went of course, and after four years I was able to breathe a sigh of relief.

With this background in mind you can imagine both my disappointment and laughter when while watching TV at a friend’s house this past summer, I swear the History Channel had cut out the same old footage of a “Bible expert” talking about the apocalypse that I saw back in 1996 and reused it in a similar program about predictions by Nostradamus, a Mayan calendar and other sources that the world would end not in 2000, but 2012. Of course, a fascination with the end times, as well as the prediction that they’re close at hand, is as old as humanity. We can’t help but question the eventual fate of our loved ones and ourselves… and much of the time we approach these questions with fear. We fear whether we’ll end up on God’s good side, whether heaven exists at all and we especially wonder what the “birth pangs” Jesus mentions in today’s text might look like. Throughout our Christian history, there have of course been many answers to these questions, but they’ve tended to fall into one of three camps.

There’s one view primarily based on what I’d consider an overly simplistic reading of texts like today’s “little apocalypse.” It argues a final day of judgment will be preceded by the removal or rapture of God’s few chosen people from Earth, a time of great chaos and suffering, the reign of an anti-Christ and maybe even an additional thousand year reign of Christ. All or some of these things may happen in a variety of different orders, depending on whom you talk to, and needless to say, this view has some problems. It leads us to believe that since God is just going to destroy the world anyway, we might as well take from and abuse her as much as we want, a belief that leads to things like climate change and thus perhaps the destruction wrought on our region by Hurricane Sandy. It also leads us to wonder whether we’re one of God’s chosen or not and thus we either end up like me as a ten year old, terrified and living in fear of God’s wrath, or instead believing we are the chosen ones and folks different from us are not.

Since it’s more common for fundamentalist groups or silly books like the Left Behind series to put forward this first view about the end of the world, more progressive Christians like me and I imagine many of the people here tonight find it easy to push aside such views aside as unenlightened or pessimistic. A second view however is something folks like us often fall victim to… it essential argues that through our human action we can build the kingdom of God on Earth. Once we collectively earn it and all learn how to live with Christian goodwill for each other, Jesus will come down from heaven, hang out with us, and we’ll all have a big party. It sounds really nice at first, but this view has problems as well. Over a hundred years ago as Christians optimistically joined together to spread the gospel around the globe through missionary activities, they often ended up supporting oppressive colonial empires and destroying indigenous cultures. The Second World War especially put a damper on this idea of a Christian utopia, but nowadays… and I’m often guilty of this… it’s easy to think that if we just focus a little more on social justice as the Church, everything will be fine and all the ills of society will be solved. Although we certainly are called to help our neighbor, critique systems of oppression and improve the lives of everyone, we can’t do it all on our own… You see, when you boil down the first and second views about the end of the world I’ve discussed so far this evening, they both share an even deeper problem… they’re primarily about what we’re doing, rather than the absolutely amazing things God is doing and will do through Christ.

A third view about the end of the world, and I believe the right one, doesn’t fall into that trap. It’s the view held by Augustine, a view held by many of the sixteenth century church reformers and certainly the view held by my grandmother, who told me as terrified boy clinging to her for comfort, exactly what I needed to hear… that God is a loving god. I believe this view of the end times is what Saint Mark puts forward as well. It’s a view that argues while we might not have the details, all that we truly need to know has already been revealed… that through Christ’s death and resurrection, the kindom of God is in-breaking.

Mark, as the earliest of the canonical gospels, was written for a community in the midst of great turmoil. Not just the temple, but in fact much of Jerusalem had recently been leveled by Roman legions. Civil war had broken out during the Year of Four Emperors. People were living under a highly oppressive patriarchal system. No wonder they thought the end of the world was near. But into this community would come the story of the Son of God who not only healed the sick, fed the hungry and cast out demons, but even more amazingly rose again after being crucified by that very same system of violent oppression. At the moment Christ breathes his last, the temple curtain that secludes the dwelling place of God is torn in two… God no longer is in just that space, but is with all of us… the kindom of God, while not fully realized, is in breaking. And through Christ, we already know what that kindom is like, and what it will be. In Christ’s resurrection we know that the forces of sin, of violence and death can never win, that God will be there again and again and again, to comfort us, to wrap us in a warm embrace, and let us know that we are loved.

God's peace,

Dustin is currently a vicar at the Lutheran Office for World Community and Saint Peter's Church in Manhattan, having recently completed his second year of a Masters of Divinity program at the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia. While seeking ordination in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, his focus is on the intersection between worship, service and justice building in de-centralized faith communities unencumbered by a traditional church building. In his free time, Dustin likes playing frisbee, hiking and pretending to know how to sing.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Mutual Conversation and Consolation in the Wake of Hurricane Sandy

What follows is a post I recently wrote for the Vicar's Page on the Saint Peter's Church website:

The last couple weeks have been a real roller coaster for us folks here in New York.  After days without power, near impossible commutes and horrible loss of property and life courtesy of Hurricane Sandy, we faced the incredible stress of a historic presidential election.  Just as the city was beginning to recover from the destruction wrought by a tropical storm system, we're got blanketed in a thick layer of heavy, wet snow.  I feel exhausted and even a bit disoriented after all the life that's happened over the last couple weeks, but I've also found grounding in the amazing example of Christian community I experienced at Saint Peter's this past Sunday.  The contribution of our Episcopal neighbors at the 11a Mass was uplifting and encouraging, as was the wedding during Sion's Misa and the strong images of God's light during the evening jazz service.

The most powerful aspect of Christian community at Saint Peter's this past Sunday however happened both during and in between worship services.  Whether during a sharing of peace or sharing of food over brunch, the Spirit was working to bring the gospel to all of us, through all of us.  In one of my favorite passages of the Book of Concord, Luther reflects this idea of mutual sharing of the gospel in section III.4 of the Smalcald Articles:
We now want to return to the gospel, which gives guidance and help against sin in more than one way, because God is extravagantly rich in his grace: first, through the spoken word, in which the forgiveness of sins is preached to the whole world (which is the proper function of the gospel); second, through baptism; third, through the holy Sacrament of the Altar; fourth, through the power of the keys and also through the mutual conversation and consolation of brothers and sisters.  Matthew 18:20: "Where two or three are gathered..."
Similar to Luther's concept of mutual confession and absolution between friends and neighbors, I heard numerous conversations this past Sunday through which the good news of God's saving grace in Christ was shared.  Some of us who were only marginally affected by the storm heard the harrowing tales of others who were isolated for a time by flood waters.  Stories were told about homes or places of work being destroyed, and the folks who shared those stories were supported by others gathered around the brunch table.  The Saint Peter's community recognized that part of its mission was to help those affected by Hurricane Sandy not just now, but also in the months and perhaps years to come.  Through mutual conversation and consolation, the peace and love of God was shared this past Sunday, and that indeed is good news.

God's peace,

Dustin is currently a vicar at the Lutheran Office for World Community and Saint Peter's Church in Manhattan, having recently completed his second year of a Masters of Divinity program at the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia. While seeking ordination in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, his focus is on the intersection between worship, service and justice building in de-centralized faith communities unencumbered by a traditional church building. In his free time, Dustin likes playing frisbee, hiking and pretending to know how to sing.

Saturday, November 03, 2012

NH 4000 Footer Essay (Pt. 2): Overnight at Mizpah

What follows is part two of the five-part essay I'm writing for the NH 4000 Footer Club.  You can find part one here.

My very first trip up one of NH's big peaks took place in 2004 as a young camp counselor taking teenagers to the AMC's Mizpah Spring Hut for Calumet Lutheran Ministries.  Before that first summer I hiked up to Mizpah, the outdoors in general hadn't really ever been my thing.  I had technically been a Boy Scout for years, and even had recently earned my Eagle Scout Badge, but campouts had always been more about building fires, chopping down trees and generally screwing around with a ragtag group of friends than actually enjoying any real hiking through God's creation.  I had also been a camper at Calumet for a few years and counselor the prior summer as well, but even then I was more interested in getting a great tan or flirting with girls than soaking up the untrampled beauty of the White Mountains... when possible, I'd always go on the easy canoe trip with a few campers rather than a hike.

Boy I was goofy.
Upon first hearing I had to help lead an overnight to Mizpah, I was pretty bummed... the trip up the Crawford Path was technically categorized as one of the "hard" hikes Calumet offered, and it additionally meant two days away from my "epic love" that summer.  I was also at nearly the pinnacle of my neo-flower child phase, and thus had great concern about a long day of sweaty hiking messing up my "sweet" bleached-blonde locks.  Eventually though I came to terms with my fate and even heard from a few of my fellow counselors that it was amazing trip. The moss covered forest floor looked like some sort of fairy garden and water from the spring was supposedly the tastiest in the world.

Following my usual practice that summer, I fell asleep during the bus ride to the trailhead despite being responsible for campersI awoke as the bus pulled into Crawford Notch near the AMC's Highland Center to an absolutely beautiful valley all around me... I had never, ever even come to close to seeing such wondrous creation during my Boy Scout trips.  As we headed up the Crawford Path, I quickly realized that it wasn't all that bad, even with the heavy pack on my back.  The kids that usually sign up for the hard hike at Calumet tend to actually like the outdoors, and that definitely seemed to be the case on this trip.

A similar "fairy-garden" on Wildcat Mountain.
Right around hitting the Mizpah Cut-off, things seemed to flatten out pretty substantially AND the fairy garden deal started happening.  Long before getting to a summit, seeing such lush, beautiful forest for the first time already made the trip well worth my effort.  Soon enough though we reached Mizpah Hut and I was once again astounded, this time that such things existed up in the White Mountains.  The clearing around the hut was filled with birds that seemingly lacked any fear of people and I specifically remember hearing Uncle John's Band being played by the hut crew as they started preparing dinner.  Calumet couldn't afford quite such plush accommodations for our group however, so we instead found a couple platforms at the nearby Nauman Tentsite.

Eisenhower, Pierce and Jackson from Mount Monroe.
Once we set up our tents on the assigned platforms, the trip's head counselor quickly suggested we take the "optional" Webster-Cliff trail up to the summit of Mount Pierce.  Most of the campers seemed pretty enthusiastic about the idea, so we grabbed our Nalgenes and headed up a decidedly steep (although short) trail to the summit.  Despite the tough grade, I felt hungry to reach that summit... a feeling I had never felt before, and I remember it sort of surprising me.  

It didn't take our group too long to summit, and since most of us had never been above treeline before, there was a strong sense of camaraderie through our shared experience.  I felt honored to be part of that moment with my campers and fellow counselors, and we stayed above treeline for much of the afternoon.  Mount Eisenhower and even Washington seemed like a close hike away and  I remember wishing we could keep ascending up the Crawford Path to the top of New England... the whole world seemed in front of us, all-embracing and filled with adventure.  Being a sentimental fellow, I quickly realized how this reflected my own life situation as recent high-school grad soon to go off to college for the first time.

After heading back into the trees and down to our tents, I suppose we had dinner, told a few stories and went to bed... I frankly don't remember much more about the trip.  Looking back on it though, that trail up Mount Pierce helped me recognize two things.  First, I realized that much like the ecstasy of looking forward to the summit of Washington for the first time, the joy I felt during my last summer before college, the joy of having a bright, untarnished future ahead of me, was fleeting.  Second, I comprehended the great hunger for future mountaintop experiences within me for the first time.

Dustin is currently a vicar at the Lutheran Office for World Community and Saint Peter's Church in Manhattan, having recently completed his second year of a Masters of Divinity program at the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia. While seeking ordination in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, his focus is on the intersection between worship, service and justice building in de-centralized faith communities unencumbered by a traditional church building. In his free time, Dustin likes playing frisbee, hiking and pretending to know how to sing.