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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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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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