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Sunday, June 13, 2021

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Dear St. Luke family:

This Sunday we’ll welcome the Rev. Eric Beene to our pulpit.  Eric is the Transitional Mission Presbyter for the Presbytery of the Redwoods.  I will be leading worship on Sunday, as well, but Eric will preach the Word.  When I planned this guest preaching spot, I didn’t know it would be the week our younger daughter would be in town.  I haven’t seen either of our daughters since October 2020.  I’m delighted that it’s worked out that when I finally get to see one of them, it’s a week that I’m not responsible for writing a sermon.

In case you aren’t fluent in Presbyterian-speak: A presbytery is a regional governing body made up of equal numbers of minister members (like me) and elected elders from congregations.  Redwoods Presbytery runs from the Golden Gate Bridge to the Oregon border on a narrow strip along the coast.  It guides churches in making decisions about calling pastors, leads would-be ministers through the preparation for ministry process, helps congregations that are experiencing conflict, trains pastors in healthy boundaries, provides support for pastors, and assists congregations in all kinds of transitions. 

If you have been involved in the presbytery in the past couple of decades, you may have known Bob Conover, the recently retired Mission Presbyter.  Bob Conover was very good at his job, and well-loved.  When he retired, many of us threw up our hands and said no one could possibly replace Bob.  Eric Beene is a terrific reminder to all of us that there are leaders out there with gifts and skills, and that the Holy Spirit will send them our way.  Redwoods Presbytery is blessed to have Eric Beene’s leadership.

On Monday night, St. Luke’s Session approved the Mission Study Report.  It is an excellent document, a gorgeous report, a wonderful representation of St. Luke and its ministries.  We all owe a huge thank you and a rousing round of applause to the Mission Study Team: George Tuttle (chair), Leigh Ann Antieri, Michael Baranowski, Elaine DiPalma, Laura Hislop, Joanne Larson, Carolee Mech, Erich Miller, and Beth Potillo-Miller for their beautiful work.  I recommend that you read it, because it will make you proud.  We’ll make sure it’s posted on St. Luke’s website and will send out a link once it is uploade.  The Pastor Nominating Committee (the PNC) will now use that report to create a Ministry Information Form, which is essentially our “help wanted” ad for a new pastor.

You had to say goodbye to a beloved pastor, but there are leaders out there with gifts and skills suited to St. Luke.  The Holy Spirit has been at work in your Mission Study Team and will be at work in your PNC.  You are one step closer to finding that person who will lead you through the next phase of St. Luke’s ministry.

Congratulations to the Mission Study Team on a job well done!  Please hold the PNC in your prayers as they begin their search for your new pastor.

Grace and peace,
Joanne Whitt
Interim Pastor

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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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