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Sunday, July 11, 2021

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King David and the ark of the covenant

Mark Chagall, c. 1956

Dear St. Luke family:   

I’ve quoted author Brené Brown in sermons a few times.  Brown is a sociologist and author who, as one writer put it, “put vulnerability on the map” a little over ten years ago in a TEDTalk entitled “The Power of Vulnerability” (2010) (which you can see here).  Brown explains that vulnerability – that is, uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure – is the key to connection.  After all, love itself is uncertain.  It leaves us emotionally exposed.  Further, to put our art, our writing, our photography, our ideas out into the world with no assurance of acceptance or appreciation – that’s also vulnerability.  To let ourselves sink into the joyful moments of our lives even though we know that they are fleeting, even though the world tells us not to be too happy lest we invite disaster – that’s also vulnerability.

In this Sunday’s Scripture passage, King David makes himself vulnerable by “dancing with all of his might before the Lord” as the Ark of the Covenant is brought into Jerusalem.  It may have been politically savvy, as well, but it was also vulnerable.  His wife, Michal, condemns him for appearing foolish in front of the people of the kingdom.  King David wasn’t cool, but what Michal doesn’t understand is that his dance connected him to the people.  As Brown puts it, “In order for connection to happen, we have to allow ourselves to be seen, really seen. … Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, and creativity.  It is the source of hope, empathy, accountability and authenticity.  If we want greater clarity in our purpose or deeper or more meaningful spiritual lives, vulnerability is the path.”

What might it mean in your life if the appropriate response to the presence of the Lord is to be vulnerable, to be authentic, to be really seen, to be “uncool”?  This week, our music director Becky Viebrock told me the choir is preparing an anthem for later this summer entitled, “I’m Gonna Sing When the Spirit Says Sing.”  Other verses to this old spiritual include, “I’m gonna pray when the Spirit says pray,” “I’m gonna shout when the Spirit says shout,” and even, “I’m gonna moan when the Spirit says moan,” and “I’m gonna dance when the Spirit says dance.”  All very uncool.  And what if we add, “I’m gonna speak up when the Spirit says speak up”?  And “I’m gonna share my ideas when the Spirit says share your ideas”?  And “I’m gonna try something new when the Spirit says try something new”?

And how can we help each other be more authentic, and less cool?

Don’t forget to “like” St. Luke on Facebook and check out this week’s Midweek Video on spiritual practices.

See you on Sunday!

Grace and peace,
Joanne Whitt
Interim Pastor

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Sunday, July 4, 2021

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Dear St. Luke family:   

 A number of years ago, I preached a sermon entitled, “The ‘E’ Word.”  The “E” word was “evangelism.”  Many of us in mainline Protestant churches cringe at that word.  We imagine televangelists, fundamentalists, and bad hairdos.  Jimmy and Tammy Faye Baker.  Pat Robertson.  Or corny bumper stickers, like “Honk if you love Jesus.”  Many of us are a little embarrassed by these images – maybe even more than a little.  That’s why I called it the “E” word.     

Evangelism does have a tarnished past.  We know there have been times when evangelism was the excuse for forcing the ways of one group of people onto another group.  Conquistadors, Manifest Destiny, all shapes and sizes of imperialism and colonialism have been cozy with Christian evangelism.  We’ve also seen evangelism used to promote intolerance.  How many of you have had a frustrating conversation with a well-meaning Christian, perhaps someone with pamphlets at your front door, who tried to convince you that even though you say you’re a Christian, you’re not their brand of Christian, and so, well, you’re just not Christian enough?

Then we encounter a passage like this Sunday’s passage, Mark 6:1-13, in which Jesus sends the disciples out to carry on his teaching and healing ministry.  Repeatedly, the New Testament confirms that we and all Christians are “sent.”  Jesus prays to God in John 17:18, “As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.”  At the end of John’s Gospel, Jesus says, “As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you” (John 20:21).  In the “Great Commission” at the end of Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus says, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations …” (Matthew 28:18-20).  We are sent by a sending God, the God who sent Jesus and who sent the Holy Spirit; the Jesus who sends us.   

Okay, we’re sent.  Where, and to do what?  In the 21st century, in Northern California, we take a dim view of the kind of faith that insists, “My way or the highway.”  There are many paths to God.  But Matthew’s Gospel gives us a clue about what being “sent” might mean.  In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says, “You are the light of the world.  Let your light shine” (Matthew 5:14-16).  I love that image.  It always takes me back to childhood and the little song we learned in Sunday school: “This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.  Let it shine, Let it shine, Let it shine.” 

This Sunday, we’ll explore what being “sent” might look like for Presbyterians, in Marin County, in 2021. 

Grace and peace,
Joanne Whitt
Interim Pastor

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Sunday, June 27, 2021

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Dear St. Luke family:   

We’ve been easing our way back into the sanctuary since May 16, and now more people are worshiping in person than on Zoom.  We’ll continue both Zoom and in person worship, what we call “hybrid worship,” for the foreseeable future.  The Session has approved a plan to have in person worship only (i.e., no Zoom) on one Sunday a month.  That allows our Zoom/Communications Coordinator, Beth Potillo-Miller, and Erich Miller who has been instrumental in getting cameras and sound up and running, to have one Sunday off a month.  It looks as though second Sundays might work, so we’ll try that beginning on August 8.  

Everyone has missed the casual connection of coffee hour after worship.  Now that we’re confident about safety, it’s time to get coffee hour going again.  Look for coffee hour after worship on July 11.  We’re trying something new: Our sexton Carlos Aruara will set up and make the coffee for us, but we’ll take signups for snacks for the Sundays going forward.  People may sign up to bring whatever their favorite coffee hour treats might be: sweet or savory, homemade or store bought, already on serving plates.  Watch for the signup poster in the narthex. 

Another shift we’re making is in response to Music Director Becky Viebrock’s suggestion that perhaps the choir could prepare for two Sundays a month instead of every Sunday.  Beginning in September, the choir will perform in worship on first and third Sundays, and we will have alternative music second, fourth, and fifth Sundays.  Plans are still being made, but given the popularity of Acoustic Sundays, we expect something similar.

Looking ahead, I’m planning a special Labor Day service for the Sunday before Labor Day.  For the sermon that day, I’ll be asking three of you to talk for five minutes each about how you live out your Christian faith in the workplace.  

Then the following week, we’ll celebrate that we made it through the pandemic and kick off the school year with an all-church Homecoming Celebration on Sunday, September 12.  We’re still making plans, but we’ll have special music in worship (including the choir, even though it’s their Sunday off), and we may follow worship with a picnic or barbecue.    

Finally, plan now for our October fundraiser dinner, which will be on Saturday this year: Saturday, October 9.  Details to follow, but save the date!

Things are opening up, and St. Luke is getting back in gear!  See you this Sunday, when we’ll look at the healing powers of grief.

Grace and peace,
Joanne Whitt
Interim Pastor

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