Newsletters

Sunday, April 25, 2021

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Dear St. Luke Family:

As I reported to you in worship on Sunday, I’m taking off this weekend, and the Rev. Dvera Hadden will be our guest preacher.  I understand that Dvera has served as a guest preacher at St. Luke in the past.  On Saturday and Sunday, our pastor emeritus, the Rev. Dan White, will be available for pastoral emergencies.  A big thanks to Dvera and Dan; they and the whole congregation will be in my prayers while I’m away.

This Sunday is what the lectionary calls “Good Shepherd Sunday.”  In the Gospel reading in John’s Gospel, Jesus says, “I am the good shepherd” (John 10:11).  The psalm for the day, the much-loved 23rd Psalm, begins, “the Lord is my shepherd…”.  Dvera will be preaching from the psalm, and also from the epistle reading for the day, John’s First Letter, 1 John 3:16-24.

In Psalm 23, the psalmist says, “I shall not want,” which is better translated, “I have all I need.”  John’s First Letter focuses on loving one another, and the verses from the lectionary look at what sacrificial love looks like, what “laying down your life” for another might look like, not necessarily in the extreme situation of the cross but in the daily give and take of the loving life.  Concretely, the writer says, love means sharing what we have with others. “How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and refuses to help?” (1 John 3:17).

Even in the midst of this pandemic which has caused economic hardship for many, most Americans have more of the world’s goods than most of the world can imagine.  The 23rd psalm and John’s First Letter challenge us to consider: How much do we need?  How much is enough?  In John’s gospel, Jesus promises that he came that we might have life and have it abundantly (John 10:10).  We know better than to think that the abundant life Jesus is talking about means owning more and more of the world’s goods, more and more stuff.  But might it mean that everybody has enough, and that love means helping make that happen? 

As I write this, it is Earth Day.  Reading these passages on Earth Day inspires me to re-watch “The Story of Stuff,” a twenty-minute video about how we ended up with this consumer culture that is killing God’s Creation.  If you haven’t seen it, I recommend it: https://www.storyofstuff.org/movies/story-of-stuff/.

Grace and peace,
Joanne Whitt
Interim Pastor

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Sunday, April 18, 2021

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Dear St. Luke family:

Witnesses have been a big part of the news lately, with the ongoing trial of Derek Chauvin and the recent impeachment hearing.  There are all kinds of witnesses: eyewitnesses, expert witnesses, character witnesses, corroborating witnesses, and so on.  In our passage in Luke’s gospel this Sunday, on the first Easter night Jesus tells the disciples that they are witnesses.  He doesn’t ask them to be witnesses or give them a choice; the disciples do not volunteer.  They are witnesses to “these things,” he says. 

What are “these things”?  Maybe it’s the real bodily resurrection of our Lord.  Maybe “these things” is what Jesus has just shared with them: the suffering of the Messiah, rising on the third day, the proclamation of repentance and forgiveness of sins.  Or, perhaps “these things” is all of Jesus’ ministry: teaching, healing, eating with sinners, including outcasts, welcoming prodigals, explaining that the best way to love God is to love our neighbors as ourselves, overcoming death and calling us to new life.

Whatever “these things” are, it’s clear that Luke emphasizes the real, physical, flesh-and-blood presence of Jesus.  As one writer puts it, “We’re not Eastern-like mystics who believe that the key to spirituality is to find ways to transcend this world’s physicalness so as to drift into realms of pure thought and consciousness.  No, our faith is gritty and fleshy and tangible and involves nothing short of the renewal of all things: lakes, mountains, tadpoles, tangerines, real human bodies.”  And so Jesus invites the disciples to look, to touch, to see his wounds and feel that he’s really there; to use their senses.  He even shares a meal with them.  He knows they need reassurance.  Of course they have doubts.  And then he tells them they are witnesses.  They are not only to sense God’s activity, but to tell others. 

What does this story mean for us?  Perhaps, first, we need practice at noticing God’s activity, what one writer calls “God sightings.”  How can we help each other with this?  And then, what might it look like for us, not to bludgeon people with our religious convictions, but simply to say, “Here’s what I saw.  Here’s how it went.  Make of it what you will”?  What does it look like to live into the words of the song, “…and they’ll know we are Christians by our love….”?

Certainly, it looks like something human, physical, “gritty and fleshy and tangible.”  It looks like something real, touching our real lives, our real stories, and other people’s real lives and stories.  How do we, as a congregation, make it real?

Grace and peace,
Joanne Whitt
Interim Pastor

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Sunday, April 11, 2021

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Dear St. Luke Family,

Happy Easter!  While we celebrated the Resurrection on Sunday, we now enter the season of Easter, when we spend time figuring out what the Resurrection means for us.  For the next few weeks, the lectionary Scripture passages show Jesus struggling to convince the disciples – and all the generations of disciples who follow them – what happened.  This week we meet the disciple Thomas, who, very unfairly in my opinion, ended up with the nickname “Doubting Thomas.”  But rather than lecture you on why doubt is not only normal but perhaps a necessary element of faith, I’m going to tell you a story. 

For centuries, in Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant countries, Easter Monday and “Bright Sunday” (the Sunday after Easter) were observed by the faithful as “days of joy and laughter.”  These celebrations were rooted in the musings of early church theologians that Easter was “God’s supreme joke played on death.”  Risus paschalis – “the Easter laugh,” the early theologians called it. 

There is, in fact, something intrinsically funny about theology.  As one writer puts it, “How can we hope to grasp the significance of God’s self-revelation in Scripture when we can’t even discern the meaning of ‘Dancing with the Stars’”?  It reminds me of an old “Peanuts” cartoon.  Snoopy is on top of his doghouse tapping away on his typewriter.  Charlie Brown looks up and says, “I hear you’re writing a book on theology.  I hope you have a good title.”  Snoopy takes his hands off the keyboard for a second, thinking, “I have the perfect title…” and then he imagines the title: “Has It Ever Occurred to You That You Might Be Wrong?”

So this Sunday, I’ll tell a light-hearted story, very loosely modeled on “The News from Lake Wobegon” from “A Prairie Home Companion.”  Very.  Loosely.  Join us Sunday for “The News from Bayview Drive.”

Grace and peace,
Joanne Whitt
Interim Pastor

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