The Weekly View

The Weekly View - December 17, 2021

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In This Issue
  • Weekly Message from Rev. Joanne Whitt
  • Weekly Facebook Video
  • Announcements & Upcoming Events
  • Outreach Opportunities & Updates

Dear St. Luke family:

Just in time for Christmas, a reinstatement of the state-wide mask mandate!  Session was already leaning towards requiring masks at our potentially crowded Christmas Eve service.  With the new Omicron variant, and COVID cases once again on the rise, we didn’t want to be responsible for being a “super-spreader” event.  Now, that decision has been made for us. 
 
The State has allowed Marin to re-instate its previous mask mandate, and Marin has done so.  Marin’s previous masking rules allowed an exception for worship leaders during religious services, including clergy, readers, and choirs.  This means the choir members do not need to wear masks while performing this coming Sunday, and the liturgist and I may remove our masks while we’re speaking.  As we did previously, we’ll keep unmasked leaders at least 12 feet away from the folks in the pews.
 
Mask or no mask, I’m excited about the worship service this Sunday, with special Christmas music from the choir and guest musicians.  I’m also excited about our Christmas Eve Service of Lessons and Carols at 5:00 p.m. on the 24th.  Our greeters will hand out masks to those who may have forgotten one, as well as bulletins and candles.  Masks certainly won’t diminish the magic of that beautiful candlelight service.  There will be special music that night from the choir, Erich Miller, Cassandra Mech, Becky Viebrock, and Beth Potillo-Miller.  My friend and colleague Nick Morris, executive director of the Marin Street Chaplaincy, will be one of our worship leaders. 
 
Please wear your masks this coming Sunday, and each time we gather through mid-January.  Unfortunately, this means that in worship on January 9, you’ll meet your new pastor, Andrew P. Quick, while you are masked.  During coffee hour following the congregational meeting after worship, however, everyone may eat and drink without masks, and Andrew will be able to see your faces!  
 
Looking ahead to my last Sunday with you, January 2, we’ll celebrate the New Year and a new future for St. Luke with Epiphany “star words.”  Each worshiper will receive a star with a word that is intended to inspire and perhaps challenge us in the new Year.  One pastor who has adopted this practice writes, “Instead of making a resolution that I’ll feel guilty about a week later, I take a star word as a gift and keep my eyes open. The stars have allowed me to see God in unexpected ways and places. They’ve been challenging, life-giving and transformative.”
 
I look forward to seeing you in worship on Sunday!

Grace and peace,
Joanne Whitt
Interim Pastor

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The Weekly View - December 10, 2021

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In This Issue
  • Weekly Message from Rev. Joanne Whitt
  • Weekly Facebook Video
  • Announcements & Upcoming Events
  • Outreach Opportunities & Updates

Dear St. Luke family:

Did you ever wonder why one candle on the Advent wreath is pink?  The simple answer is that it’s the “Joy” candle, but that really doesn’t answer the question.  The longer answer is that Advent was traditionally the “penitential” season that came before Epiphany (not Christmas!) just as Lent is the penitential season before Easter.  In the early church, Epiphany and Easter were the high points of the year and so became the days to baptize new Christians.  Advent and Lent were set aside as times of preparation for those who were about to be baptized, and the entire church joined in by focusing on repentance, sacrifice, and simplicity, and with solemn prayer and fasting.  As the liturgical calendar and its traditions developed, purple became the color associated with the solemnity of both Advent and Lent.

Still, in the midst of such seriousness, the church recognized that Christians are never a people without joy.  One writer puts it this way: “When true repentance occurs, joyful obedience is the result; thus, there is joy to be celebrated even in the most penitential times.”  Joy is not only a fruit of the Holy Spirit’s work in an individual’s life (Galatians 5:22-23) but also something we experience when we participate in God’s Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.  And so, one Sunday was set aside in each season – the fourth Sunday in Lent and the third Sunday in Advent – to focus on joy.  The color pink (or more accurately, rose) was chosen as a reminder on these Sundays that even in the midst of longing, penitence, and fasting, the church never ceases to rejoice.  The fourth Sunday in Lent is known as Laetare Sunday in the Roman Catholic tradition; “Laetare” is the Latin word for “rejoice.”  The third Sunday of Advent is “Joy Sunday.”
 
Eventually, many churches, including St. Luke, switched to blue for Advent to distinguish it from Lent.  Some churches still use that penitential purple for both seasons, however.

Okay, now you know the history and tradition.  Does in mean anything to 21st century Protestants who wouldn’t even think of fasting during the weeks leading up to Christmas, except maybe in trying not to overdo it at the season’s parties?  I think it’s meaningful in two ways.  First, American Christianity still has a slight taint of Puritanical suspicion of fun.  We aren’t too many generations away from a severe and judgmental approach to faith; some traditions still condemn earthly pleasures.  Joy Sunday is a reminder that God our Creator created us in joy, created us to be joyful, and joy is God’s gift to us.  Second, like the other three Sundays of Advent – Hope, Peace, and Love – Joy is to be something we practice. Rejoicing is in fact a spiritual practice that increases our connection to God and to each other, and isn’t that what faith is all about, in the first place?

This Sunday, the Third Sunday of Advent, we’ll take a look at how we might “Rejoice in the Lord always,” as the Apostle Paul put it.  We’ll enjoy both familiar (but with a twist) and contemporary Advent music as Mikki and Cole Tate join Beth and Erich, and we’ll light that pink, er, rose candle.  We’ll enjoy the warm fellowship of being together in the sanctuary, and (drum roll, please), we’ll enjoy hearing an important announcement from the Pastor Nominating Committee!  Don’t forget: There is no Zoom worship this Sunday.  

Grace and peace,
Joanne Whitt
Interim Pastor

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The Weekly View - December 3, 2021

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In This Issue
  • Weekly Message from Rev. Joanne Whitt
  • Weekly Facebook Video
  • Announcements & Upcoming Events
  • Outreach Opportunities & Updates

Dear St. Luke family:

My midweek video on St. Luke’s Facebook page this week asked the question, “Why bother with Advent”?  I’m still chewing on that subject.  Advent means “to come” or “to arrive.”  I read an article that suggests paying attention to three “comings” during Advent: The first coming of Jesus as an infant born in Bethlehem, his second coming at the end of time, and his coming to each of us in the meantime.  That first coming is, of course, what we celebrate at Christmas.  The second coming is when Christ returns at the end of time.  In the Great Prayer of Thanksgiving that we pray during the Lord’s Supper, we respond to the prompt, “Great is the mystery of faith” with …
             Christ has died.
             Christ is risen.
             Christ will come again.
 
But frankly, the Second Coming isn’t a big focus for most Presbyterians. Presbyterians believe that the time of Christ’s coming can’t and shouldn’t be predicted, and so we are more focused on God’s healing presence and work here and now.  So it’s that third coming that has me intrigued: Christ’s coming to each of us in the meantime.  Now, there’s a worthy Advent focus.  But … what does it mean, what does it look like for Christ to come into our lives, to come “afresh” into our lives?  What does it look like for you?  
 
A good place to start is seeing Advent as a time to slow down and remember the meaning of Christmas.  What the Bible passages we read every year during Advent and Christmas tell us is that God loves God’s world so much that God came in human form to show us who God is, and what humanity can be.  God came not in majesty and glory, but as a fragile infant born to ordinary nobodies in a backwater town.  His birth was announced not to princes but to poor shepherds, and he was visited not by the High Priest from the Temple but by foreigners who practiced a foreign religion.  And when that baby grew to be a man, he wasn’t a mighty warrior king, but a carpenter’s son who explained that loving God and loving our neighbors is more important that all the religious rules, more important than wealth or status or worldly power or anything else you can think of.  So maybe Advent is a good time to recommit to our St. Luke mission statement: “To practice love by following Jesus.”
 
This Sunday, we’ll hear from John the Baptist.  We think of him as famous, of course, but he was a nobody, too.  And yet, the Word of God came to him.  One message in that story might be that the Word of God could come to you, as well.  And then what would you do?  
 
I look forward to seeing you this Sunday, the Second Sunday of Advent, when we’ll celebrate the Lord’s Supper.  A week from this Sunday, Mikki and Cole Tate (along with others) will provide special music, and on the 19th, the Sunday before Christmas, the choir will treat us to special Christmas music.  

Grace and peace,
Joanne Whitt
Interim Pastor

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