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Sunday, March 14, 2021

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Dear St. Luke Family:

Did you know that In-n-Out Burgers tucks Bible verses into obscure spots on its cups and food wrappers?  Not the verses themselves – just the citations – so, for example, “John 3:16,” is inscribed on the inside rim of the bottom of beverage cups.  Why?  I haven’t found any explanation at the In-n-Out website or in the restaurants themselves.  Are people supposed to be curious enough to look up John 3:16 in the Bible to see what it says, and, convinced by the power of that one verse, convert to Christianity?  I wonder if that ever happens.  I’m guessing that what actually happens is that the people who know John 3:16 feel like insiders, and the people who don’t know it feel like outsiders, which is exactly what I’d long understood as the intention of this verse.  While John 3:16 is a great source of comfort to many people, when I was in college, I really struggled with it. 

Or, rather, I struggled with John 3:16 as I had understood it.  I’d only heard the verse used to say that certain people are “in” with God and certain people are “out” with God and even if you never had a chance because of culture or background or whatever else, if you don’t “believe” then you are among the “outs.”  It challenged my sense of God’s goodness that God would be so arbitrary. 

What is your reaction to this verse?  Many of us memorized it as children, and it still shows up on placards at sporting events.  How might we read this important verse in a way that is consistent with, “God so loved the world” – with God’s love for the whole world?  Join us Sunday as we explore the Pharisee Nicodemus’ conversation with Jesus, and John 3:16.

Grace and peace,
Joanne Whitt
Interim Pastor

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Sunday, March 7, 2021

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Dear St. Luke Family:

Think about your earliest memories and images of Jesus. If you are white, American, and Protestant, you might visualize a painting by Warner Sallman, “The Head of Christ” (1940).  Sallman's portrait of Jesus has flowing blondish hair and pale eyes, and has been reproduced 500 million times according to one estimate.  He is clean, safe, and passive, which is perhaps why Christians have plastered this image in many a child's Sunday school room. It's hard to fathom why such a harmless and respectable looking citizen (long hair notwithstanding) would ever be arrested, beaten, and crucified by establishment authorities.

Sallman's painting illustrates how easily we domesticate Jesus.  This Sunday we’ll hear John’s version of “the Cleansing of the Temple,” the only violent act of Jesus recorded in the Gospels.  It’s a story that challenges our projections and assumptions about a meek and mild Jesus.  It reminds us that there is no such thing as "business as usual" with Jesus, and that all who come to him must come on his terms, not ours. 

This Sunday is our traditional “Mariners Sunday,” and we’ll have special music from the Sons of the Sea.  It’s a good Sunday to wonder: Jesus definitely rocked the boat.  In what ways might we be called to rock the boat, as well?

Grace and peace,
Joanne Whitt
Interim Pastor

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Sunday, February 21, 2021

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Dear St. Luke family,

On the First Sunday in Lent, we always journey into the wilderness with Jesus.  The wilderness temptation story appears in Matthew, Mark and Luke, with different details.  At Bible study this past week, someone reminded us of an exercise one of your former pastors led, showing you a clip from the movie, The Princess Bride.  The pastor then asked people to tell what they saw and what they remembered.  As you might expect, people remembered different details, and remembered the same details differently.  That’s why we have four gospels: Different writers wrote to different audiences with different concerns and priorities and remembering different details.  Rather than trying to force these accounts to be consistent, we deal with each story as the writer told it, with its own rich lessons for our faith.

In all three Gospel accounts, Jesus goes straight from his baptism, where he hears that he is God’s beloved son, to the wilderness.  There, his identity as God’s beloved is tested.  Is being God’s beloved son enough?  Is he enough?

Aren’t most of the times we feel tested or tempted those times when we are faced with that same question?  Is being a beloved child of God enough?  Am I enough?

As we begin our Lenten journey, I offer this prayerful poem by Jan Richardson from Circle of Grace:

Beloved Is Where We Begin

If you would enter
into the wilderness,
do not begin
without a blessing.

Do not leave
without hearing
who you are:
Beloved,
named by the One
who has traveled this path
before you.

Do not go
without letting it echo
in your ears,
and if you find
it is hard
to let it into your heart,
do not despair.
That is what
this journey is for.

I cannot promise
this blessing will free you
from danger,
from fear,
from hunger
or thirst,
from the scorching
of sun
or the fall
of the night.

But I can tell you
that on this path
there will be help.

I can tell you
that on this way
there will be rest.

I can tell you
that you will know
the strange graces
that come to our aid
only on a road
such as this,
that fly to meet us
bearing comfort
and strength,
that come alongside us
for no other cause
than to lean themselves
toward our ear
and with their
curious insistence
whisper our name:

Beloved.
Beloved.
Beloved.

Grace and peace,
Joanne Whitt
Interim Pastor

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