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Sunday, June 6, 2021

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Dear St. Luke family:   

For the next few weeks, I’m going to focus on the Old Testament passages in the lectionary.  The lectionary is an agreed-upon list of readings chosen from the entire Bible, assigned to each Sunday and holiday in a three-year cycle.  Each Sunday is assigned a gospel reading, a psalm, a reading from a New Testament epistle (Paul’s letters, for example), and an Old Testament reading.  

Some people wonder why we bother to read the Old Testament, more recently referred to as the “Hebrew Scriptures,” when it’s full of violence and human power struggles, and after all, Jesus appears only in the New Testament.  But the Hebrew Scriptures were Jesus’ Bible; they were his sacred texts.  They shaped him and his faith.  We are supposed to do with these texts the same thing that Jesus did: We are to search these old, old stories for the judgment of God, and the hope of God.  Reading through the lens of God’s love, the lens Jesus used, we are to listen for the truth they tell us about who God is, and what God calls God’s people to do today, now, thousands of years after they were written.  Sometimes that means being disturbed by the text and asking, “Is this really about God, or is this about what these people wantedGod to be like?”  And then the natural follow up question: “In what ways do we remake God in our own image?”

This summer, the Hebrew Scriptures passages tell us how Israel transitioned from a loose confederation of tribes to a kingdom.  The story tells us that they arrived in the land of Canaan after the Exodus from Egypt, and found the land already occupied by a variety of people groups.  I say, “The story tells us,” because much of what is recorded in these accounts is some blend of actual history, legend, and political apology.  Nevertheless, in these stories, we witness people working out how to live as God’s people, which is precisely what people of faith are attempting to do in the 21st century. 

I heard many of these stories as a kid in Sunday school: Samuel, King Saul, David and Goliath, King Solomon, and so on.  The versions I heard in Sunday school were appropriately sanitized.  You might learn things this time around that you didn’t learn in Sunday school.

This Sunday, we’ll also celebrate the Lord’s Supper, both virtually for our Zoom worshipers, and in the sanctuary for the first time since the pandemic shutdown.  I go into some detail about what that will look like in my midweek video, which you can find here.

We have figured out how to serve communion in person safely, using little prepackaged kits.  As I say in the video, safety is our paramount concern.  It is a temporary solution.  My thanks to Joanne Larson and the Worship Committee for helping make this happen.  It will be a new experience for all of us.

Grace and peace,
Joanne Whitt
Interim Pastor

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Sunday, May 30, 2021

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BORN AGAIN

 ©Lauren  wright pittman 


Dear St. Luke family:

Has anyone ever asked you whether you are “born again”?  What did you answer?  Did the person imply that there was something wrong with your faith if you don’t think of yourself as “born again”? 

There are many ways to be Christian.  Christians can disagree on any variety of things and still share faith in the one Lord Jesus Christ.  But because this way of talking about faith sometimes makes it sound as though there is a right way to come to faith, and therefore, a wrong way, this Sunday we’ll explore the passage that refers to the need to be “born again,” Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus, John 3:1-17.  For starters, one of the challenges with this passage is that the Greek word used there, anothen, has a double meaning that gets lost in translation and so each translation picks one and excludes the other – it means “again” or “anew” and “from above.”  Perhaps more importantly, this conversation between Nicodemus and Jesus is filled with metaphors, ambiguous imagery, and challenges to Nicodemus to let go of old ways of looking at things.  Nicodemus is so concrete and literal that he asks, “Can one enter a second time the mother’s womb?”  He can’t recognize a good metaphor when he stumbles into it.  And so Jesus pushes him gently: This is about newness, Nicodemus.  This is about letting go of old truths, old definitions, old traditions, old theological certainties, and allowing God to lead you into a new and open-ended, hope-filled future.

Jesus makes it clear that this letting go of the old and being open to newness is important.  What does this mean for our faith, as individuals?  Is it a journey, or a once and done event?  What does it mean for our lives?  If this is about earthly matters, as Jesus says it is, then what about our earthly existence needs rebirthing?  And what does it mean for St. Luke?  Can a church be “born again”?

I look forward to seeing you Sunday, either in church or on Zoom. 

Grace and peace,
Joanne Whitt
Interim Pastor

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Sunday, May 23, 2021

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Dear St. Luke family:

At the heart of the first ever Pentecost sermon, the apostle Peter quotes the prophet Joel who promised that God’s spirit makes it possible for all of us to dream – young and old, male and female, slave and free – all of us have been commissioned to be official Christian dreamers.  And yet, most congregations I know are shy about dreaming.  Maybe they think dreaming is not something that responsible adults should do.  Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner, the authors of the best-seller Freakonomics, write that one of the keys to innovation is to be willing to think like a child and relearn how to question assumptions.  Who says your congregation can’t grow?  Why do we assume people in the neighborhood won’t come to our church?  These and too many other things “everyone knows” need to be called into question by some active dreaming that invites the Spirit to help us see possibilities we hadn’t seen before.

Maybe others are worried that dreaming can be divisive.  What if, after all, your dream and someone else’s dream are different?  As Paul wrote, there are a variety of gifts and likely a variety of dreams, but there is one Spirit.  If there is some disagreement along the way as we discern between gifts and dreams of the Spirit, we’ll be okay if we remember that we are all members of one Body.

Maybe people are just worried that if we dream, we might be disappointed.  Dreaming, for some, feels like getting your hopes up.  Jesus refused to leave his disciples stuck in fear.  He sought them out, finding them even though they’d shut themselves behind locked doors.  He wants to breathe upon us the same Holy Spirit he gave his first disciples, and set us loose to forgive, share the good news, work for the welfare of our community, provide strength to the weak and courage to the fearful, and in all these ways to share with those around us the dream and vision of Christian community.  Might we fail?  Yes.  But rather than let that possibility paralyze us, perhaps we can remember that God seems to have ways to wrest surprising victory from what looks like utter failure.

This Pentecost Sunday, I’ll invite you to dream in the Spirit.  What are your dreams for St. Luke?  How might we share those dreams, and share the vision? 

Don’t forget to look for my midweek videos on St. Luke’s Facebook page.  In this week’s video, I explain that we’ll be both on Zoom and worshiping in person this Sunday.  We have some kinks to work out of our “hybrid” worship, and so I ask for your grace; your worship team is working hard at a difficult technical challenge.  We’re also dealing with perfectly natural discomfort about returning to “normal” after over a year of being ultra-cautious.  It makes sense that folks will feel awkward, and that, like everything else in life, people will have different responses to that discomfort.  It’s another opportunity to grant each other patience and grace.

Grace and peace,
Joanne Whitt
Interim Pastor

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