Newsletters

Sunday, May 16, 2021

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Dear St. Luke family:   

Wednesday I posted my first short video on St. Luke’s Facebook page - you can see the video here.  I intend to make a weekly practice of posting a video, three minutes or less, giving you updates, asking for input, exploring our faith, or reflecting on what’s going on at St. Luke.  These are not polished videos with high production value.  I hope to add polish as I gain more experience, but what we know is that many people, especially younger people, will watch a short video rather than read something.  If you’re not currently on Facebook, or if you’re on Facebook but haven’t “liked” St. Luke’s Facebook page, I invite you to do both.  I’m happy to give in person lessons on how to join Facebook if one of your kids or grandkids isn’t available to do it.

My short Facebook video is about our “soft reopening.”  I’ve been leading Zoom worship from the sanctuary since I started serving at St. Luke last December.  Every Sunday morning, I’m there in the sanctuary, looking into my laptop, all by myself except when Babette brings in the flowers, Joanne L. brings the communion elements, or Erich stops in after checking things out.  Until we are set up for true hybrid worship, meaning that our Zoom worship experience and our in-person worship experience are as close to the same as we can make them, our primary means of worship will continue to be Zoom.  

However, according to Marin and California guidelines, it’s now safe to invite you to join me in the sanctuary.  I don’t wear a mask to lead Zoom worship, so in-person worshipers need to stay at least 12 feet away from me.  Worshipers must wear masks and stay socially distant from one another.  We still can’t sing, but we can hum, and I’ve been told by a physician that humming is very good for us!  We’re not quite sure what will happen with technology:  will those in the sanctuarly we be able to see videos or those on Zoom?  Will those on Zoom be able to see the sanctuary? We will be experiemnting and working out the kinks over the next several weeks – it will be a work in progress, so we ask for your patience.  Baby steps, right?

In this Sunday’s passage in the first chapter of Acts, the apostles replace Judas with a twelfth disciple.  It’s a wonderful opportunity to explore how Presbyterians replace pastors, where St. Luke is in that process, and what to expect in the months to come.  Don’t forget that we have a very short congregational meeting following worship to elect an elder to the Session.

I hope to see you this Sunday, either in person or on Zoom!

Grace and peace,
Joanne Whitt
Interim Pastor

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Sunday, May 9, 2021

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Dear St. Luke family:   

This Sunday we get a preview of Pentecost, which we’ll celebrate in a couple of weeks on May 23rd.  While the Scripture lessons for Pentecost take place in Acts Chapter 2, the lectionary takes us deeper into Acts in these weeks following Easter.  This Sunday, the Apostle Peter learns that God’s Spirit is already way out ahead of him.  While the first Christians were basically a sect of Judaism, Peter learns that God’s Spirit is also meant for and present in the Gentiles.  He declares, “God shows no partiality.” 

Given that most of us are “the Gentiles,” it’s a good reminder that the rules were changed for us, so that we could come in; who are we, then, to prevent God from blessing the whole human family?  Who are we to stand in the way of God’s love?  Who are we to say, “These are the rules about who is welcome, and they always will be”?  Peter thought he knew the rules.  They were right there in Scripture.  But the movement of the Holy Spirit, present in us and among us and between us even now, trumps everything. 

Part of this story is that Peter had a vision that redefined, even revoked what was understood from the Old Testament.  Did God change God’s mind about dietary laws and Gentiles?  Or maybe, just maybe, did people misunderstand what God meant all along?  It took the Holy Spirit to clear this up, a Spirit that constantly surprises and inspires.  A Spirit that falls on the very people we may have thought were living against God’s will.  A Spirit that lifts up and sanctifies all people through the grace of Jesus Christ. 

Like many pastors, I’ve done a number of children’s sermons that describe Pentecost as the church’s “birthday,” including serving birthday cake at coffee hour.  But this story tells us that as fun as that is, the metaphor isn’t quite right.  Pentecost is less of a birthday, and more of a block party.  It does more than celebrate a single historical event; it breaks into the street and redefines the neighborhood.  And every time that happens, it remakes our understanding of ourselves.  Pentecost brings an ongoing, mysterious movement of God into view.  And that movement is still at work in the world, stretching our identity, loyalties, and love in response to a resurrection God.

Our calling is to expect to be surprised.

Grace and peace,
Joanne Whitt
Interim Pastor

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Sunday, May 2, 2021

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Dear St. Luke family:   

I read a Vox article entitled, “Of Course You’re Anxious About Returning to Normal Life.”  With over 80% of Marin adults now having had at least one COVID vaccine, it’s starting to feel as though we could get back to normal-ish life soon.  But it seems many of us are also feeling anxious about returning to normal, and the article points out that this is more complicated than merely worrying about whether we still might get sick.  Some people are worried about the awkwardness of reacclimating to social life.  They’re worried about returning to commutes and office work that added to their stress and chipped away at their quality of life.  And they’re worried about returning to a new normal that looks much like the old normal — one whose flaws the pandemic threw into sharp relief.  Maybe we’ve loved being free from the rigidity of the modern workday.  Maybe the pandemic has allowed us to pause long enough to think about what’s important.  It’s also certainly exposed societal inequities, especially regarding access to healthcare and a safety net, that need to be addressed.

And what about church?  In this Sunday’s sermon, I’ll reference an article by Diana Butler Bass, author of several wonderful books, including, Christianity for the Rest of Us, Christianity After Religion, and Freeing Jesus.  When asked how the church will change after the pandemic, Bass had to answer, “I don’t know.  Nobody knows.”  She says we need to focus on what we do know. 

Here are some things we at St. Luke know:

  • There are people who are able to worship with us when we offer Zoom worship that couldn’t join us otherwise.
  • People are willing to attend meetings via Zoom that would have been inconvenient to attend in person.
  • People with hearing challenges find Zoom meetings and worship easier to hear.
  • In spite of these pluses, being together in meetings or in worship on Zoom just isn’t as intimate, as embodied, or as welcoming as being together in person. 

Our Scripture passage this week includes the famous verses in which Jesus says, “I am the vine, you are the branches.”  His disciples are to “abide” in him, remain in him, as he abides in us.  It’s a passage about maintaining not just connection to Jesus but commitment to his teachings and above all, to his love which nourishes us and helps our faith grow. 

We’ve been through something unprecedented for any of us, something life changing.  How might abiding in Jesus help us navigate the uncertain post-pandemic world?  How might our commitment to St. Luke’s mission statement, “To practice love by following Jesus,” not only help us “abide” in him, but help us “bear fruit” in the weeks and months to come?  Bearing fruit, says Jesus, is the whole point of being branches connected to the vine.  How might our faith and the congregation of St. Luke help us process it all, grow from it, and continue to bear fruit?

Grace and peace,
Joanne Whitt
Interim Pastor 

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