Newsletters

Sunday, October 11, 2020

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Dear St. Luke Community,

This Sunday we welcome Reverend Joanne Whitt to the virtual pulpit. Joanne has been a colleague, friend and mentor since I began at St. Luke over 5 years ago.

Joanne has served churches in San Francisco and the East Bay, and in 2019 retired after nearly 15 years as the pastor/head of staff of First Presbyterian Church of San Anselmo.  Currently she is a credentialed spiritual director practicing in Marin County and beyond, working with people of various faith traditions and spiritual philosophies, including people with questions and doubts or longing to sense God’s presence.  Prior to entering seminary, she was a trial lawyer for 15 years.  She has served on the Board of Trustees of San Francisco Theological Seminary and as the Moderator of the Permanent Judicial Commission of the Synod of the Pacific.  Currently she serves on the Zephyr Point Board and as co-chair of the Committee on Ministry of the Presbytery of the Redwoods. 

Joanne will be preaching on the story of the Golden Calf (Exodus 32:1-14). It seems like only yesterday that the Israelites received the commandment to make no other God’s before God, and here they are throwing Moses under the bus and asking Aaron to do help them make gods that will go before them.

What are the idols we follow today? Who and what do we place before God in the ways we focus, the things that take our energy, the time we spend? We are human beings who find ourselves wandering away from God and then back again, reassured of God’s presence when we return, and forgetful as we wander. 

During a Centering Prayer retreat with Father Thomas Keating, an attendee of the retreat complained to Father Keating that she could not stay focused but would wander away in her thoughts saying, “Oh, Father Thomas, I’m such a failure at this prayer. In twenty minutes I’ve had ten thousand thoughts!” 

“How lovely,” responded Keating, without missing a beat. “Ten thousand opportunities to return to God.”

While the spirit will lead Rev Whitt in her one direction regarding this scripture, I can say with all certainty that you are in for a meaningful, thoughtful and heartfelt sermon. 

Enjoy this Sunday,
Nicole

P.S. Michael Baranowski will be leading worship along with liturgist Lynn Callender. 

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Sunday, October 4, 2020

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Dear St Luke Community,

Let me get right to the point. I am hoping you’ll all have a part in this week’s sermon. 

Hear me out.

On Monday I attended Rodef Shalom's online Yom Kippur worship. At one point they showed a video of different members answering a question. I don’t remember the question verbatim, but it went something like this: “What have you learned or how has your life changed in ways that you’d like to hold on to when we ‘return to normal?’” Return to normal is in quotation marks because in truth, we can’t come out of this COVID experience without being changed by it. And some of the ways we’ve experienced this change have been for the good. 

(Keep reading, assignment will become clearer at the end.)

In this Sunday’s scripture, God gives God’s people the commandments (Exodus 20: 1-4, 7-9, 12-20) The first four commandments are about how to live in relationship with God, and the last six are about how to live in relationship with one another. They are all about relationship and they are the ways we’re to live in covenant with God.

So what about how we’re to live with God and one another when we ‘“return to normal?” God is always creating something new out of the old, life out of death and doing a newthing.

How is this experience changing the way you live in relationship? And if you were to make a commandment of your own to yourself, how could you make it as a promise to God as a way to live in deeper relationship with God, self and others? In two or three sentences what would you say? That’s your part in this Sunday’s sermon: either by being called on or sharing in the chat box, you can name what new thing you’d like to take with you when we “return to normal.”

If I were to write one right now it might be as simple as:

I hope to continue to move more slowly and stop multi-tasking. I will spend five minutes every morning staring at the ceiling before getting out of bed instead of picking up my phone.  I will never again take for granted smiling at a toddler in public and having them smile back. I will continue to Zoom with my mother and sisters till death do us part.

I could go on, but hopefully you get the idea.

What will you write for Sunday? I can’t wait to hear.

See you Sunday,

Nicole

Sunday, September 27, 2020

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Dear St Luke Community,

This Sunday we return to the wilderness (Exodus 17:1-7). The Israelites are complaining to Moses and are completely justified in doing so. In turn, Moses complains to God. I’ve never had any trouble complaining to God. My hope is, that after Sunday, neither will you. If we can assume anything about our God, maybe it’s that’s God wants all of who we are, which means expressing our truth, our honest feelings to God and that includes our complaints.

As one person said in Bible Study, “If you’re going to complain, make sure it’s to someone who can do something about it.” Many of us were taught as children to pray reverently, which we often interpret as politely. But what if we could understand complaining and even anger as an expression of self compassion when expressed to God, who is the one being who can do something about it.

If I had a dime for every time someone said to me, “I shouldn’t complain,” I’d be rich. Sometimes that’s true, but sometimes we have every right to complain, especially when change is completely out of our own control and the situation is horribly unjust. Our God, the God of grace and mercy, can take it; he can take all of what you have to hand over as he carries us through these wilderness times.

See you Sunday,
Nicole

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