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Sunday, September 20, 2020

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Dear St. Luke Community,

I hope you were able to open the windows and sit outside these past few days. The simple gifts of God’s grace take on an entirely new level of appreciation when the things we normally take for granted are no longer available. During the worst of the smoke-filled skies, many of us felt forlorn and a few felt it was unfair as they compared themselves to those in other states or countries who were enjoying clean air. I read somewhere that there’s a term being used called “Covid Envy.” Some folks can escape to second homes and others cannot. Some have to work and others do not.  Some have to work with children at home and others do not.

In this Sunday’s scripture, Matthew 20:1-16 (The Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard), we’re presented with this idea of what is fair and what is unfair. Workers show up at different times, some working all day and others only for a few hours, but everyone receives the same wage. It doesn’t seem fair.

Because this is a parable, I invite you all to think about the details, the characters, the back stories of all the players. Who are the ones who didn’t get hired till the end of the day? What were they doing all day? What were they capable of doing? How we imagine the answer to these questions and the intonation we use to ask them will reveal the lens through which we look.

I very much look forward to unpacking this parable in light of our present moment in history, when so many are out of a job and struggling economically, those who have lost their homes, those who are disabled, those who are working, and those who stand on street corners hoping for work. 

God’s sense of fairness is not ours. Does our way of living, our laws and our attitudes reflect that of God’s or does it reflect our sense of entitlement around what’s fair?

See you Sunday,
Nicole

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Sunday, September 13, 2020

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Dear St. Luke Community,

What a week. On Wednesday morning most of us woke up to an orange sky and unhealthy air quality for days to follow. Many of us are feeling the weight of everything, if not for ourselves, certainly for those most affected. Many of us have lost our rhythm, our usual ability to to move through tasks seamlessly, our usual good nights sleep, our usual, well just our usual. We are, in many ways, experiencing a kind of wilderness time, where the usual is no longer experienced and what’s to come is still unknown.

In our focus scripture for Sunday, (Exodus 14:10-31)  the Hebrew people followed Moses into the wilderness with God’s promise for the promised land. 

But as they were fleeing Egypt, the threat of the Egyptians who were on their heels, plus all the uncertainties that the wilderness brings became too much for them. And they blamed Moses for not letting them stay in Egypt, the only place they knew as home.

It seems that what was familiar, even if it was slavery, was preferred over the unknown. And what does Moses tell them to do? Well you’ll have to stay tuned and come Sunday to find out.  

But here’s a hint:

We cannot go back to the usual. And while we may never know what it means to live as slaves or to be victims of oppression, we do know what it means to travel in the metaphorical wilderness of our lives. We’ve lived wild chaotic periods of our lives personally at different points of our lives, but now we’re living it collectively: as a state on fire, as a country on the brink of a volatile election, and as a planet experiencing a global pandemic. We cannot go back to business as usual; but we can travel deep into the wilderness with God who leads us to the promise of God’s grace and mercy.

See you Sunday,

Nicole

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Sunday, September 6, 2020

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Dear St. Luke Community,

Commandment is an odd word. At least it is for me. Commands are something masters give their slaves or their genies who live in a bottle in their living room (if you grew up in the 70’s and watched too much TV). In other words, command is a word I’d rather find another word for. What about the word request? Too soft. How about suggested? Nope. How about required? Now we’re getting somewhere. We’re required by God to love God and love neighbor above all else. 

In Paul’s letter to the Romans (13:8-14), Paul says all the other commandments are summed up in this word, "Love your neighbor as yourself” (verse 9). The idea being, that if you focus on that one command, the rest of it will take care of itself. This command presumes we love ourselves first, but it means so much more. It means this requirement will come with a sacrifice, because loving another will often require we give something of ourselves in order for God’s justice to be served (Love God).

As a culture our distaste of words like commands has grown alongside our distaste for sacrifices, being obligated or required to put others’ needs first. Serving God will often put us at odds with our own wants. And like children, we too often want what we want and are willing to ignore what’s right, decent and good to get what we want. 

If history has taught us anything time and time again, it’s that looking out for number one doesn’t work in the long run, and it’s most certainly not what we’re commanded or created to do. As Christians, we’re commanded to follow Christ's principles of love, not only on Sunday, not only when we’re thinking about personal growth, but in every aspect of our lives. Given these tumultuous times, it’s more important than ever to ask whether we’re acting out of selfishness or whether we are putting our greatest commandment to the test by looking out for (loving) others.

See you Sunday,
Nicole

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