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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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The Weekly View - November 26, 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:

Thanksgiving is behind us, and we’re heading into Advent!  Advent originally was a time of expectant waiting and preparation for the end of time and the return of Christ at the Second Coming.  But there is not just one end to the world any more than there is just one coming of Christ to look forward to.  In a manner of speaking, the world might end any day of the week for any of us with a grim diagnosis, a sudden accident, the death of a loved one, a debilitating injury, the loss of a job, or a notice of divorce.
 
When the heavens are shaken and the sea roars and the foundations of the earth split apart, our best hope is to keep looking for the coming of our Lord.  But we don’t have to look far, because he’s already here.  The Spirit of Christ is with us and for us and among us.  Christ can’t fix all our problems or stop all our pain or replace all our losses, but he can walk with us through them.  He can share the load and accompany us on the journey.  Advent is when we pay attention to that.  
 
Jesus chided the religious authorities of his day for their failure to see the signs of the inbreaking reign of God.  He said, “The Kingdom of God is at hand,” and the signs were healing broken bodies and bringing wholeness and peace to tortured souls who had been excluded, outcast, pushed to the margins.  If we’re watchful, we, too, can see signs of God’s love all around us.  If we’re alert and awake, we can see God’s love expressed in a thousand different ways.  That’s the miracle of incarnation, which we celebrate at Christmas.
 
Our Advent theme this year is “Prepare the Way.”  These words, spoken by the prophet Isaiah and quoted by John the Baptist, inspire us to ask, “How are we preparing the way for God’s reign?”  How is St. Luke getting ready to welcome Christ afresh into our own lives and the lives of those we encounter?  In particular, now that the Pastor Nominating Committee has announced that they have found a candidate to be your new pastor (although we do not yet know who he or she is), how might St. Luke prepare the way for new hope, new ministries, new life in Christ’s name?  How might we help one another see the signs of hope?
 
We’ll observe Advent beginning this coming Sunday by lighting the Advent candles and hearing special music from Cassandra Mech and Beth Potillo-Miller.  Thanks to the worship committee, the sanctuary will be festively decorated.  Each week, we’ll look at ways to “prepare the way.”  On the 19th, the choir presents their special Christmas music in worship.  On Christmas Eve, we’ll celebrate by candlelight with lessons and carols.
 
Shortly after Christmas, I will be saying goodbye to the beloved saints of St. Luke.  My last Sunday with you will be Epiphany Sunday, January 2.  We’ll celebrate that day with “star words.”  Each worshiper will receive a paper star with a word meant to inspire you, challenge you, and shape you in 2022.  What a blessing to me that I get to introduce this spiritual practice as my parting gift and farewell!  In the meantime, we’ll all be preparing the way for what God has in store for us.  
 
Grace and peace,
Joanne Whitt
Interim Pastor

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The Weekly View - November 19, 2021

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


Dear St. Luke family:
 
I learned this past week that for many Native Americans, the holiday we celebrate as Thanksgiving is a day of mourning and protest because it commemorates the arrival of settlers in North America and the centuries of oppression and genocide that followed.  I don’t know whether it is possible to detach our Thanksgiving holiday from that association, but that would be my hope.  A day to show gratitude, to celebrate God’s blessings, and to share a meal with family and friends is a wonderful spiritual practice.  As a matter of fact, while some Native Americans have chosen to reject the Thanksgiving holiday entirely, many embrace the positive messages of the holiday and choose to put aside concerns about the complex history of the day.  The idea of giving thanks is central to Native heritage and culture, and so Thanksgiving is simply a chance to appreciate the good things of life like family, community, and the riches of the land.  Long before settlers arrived, Native tribes were celebrating the autumn harvest and the gift of the Earth’s abundance.  Native American spirituality, both traditionally and today, emphasizes gratitude for creation, care for the environment, and recognition of the human need for communion with nature and others.[1]
 
And so, at St. Luke this coming Sunday, we will focus on giving thanks, on gratitude, and not on the other aspects of that complex history.  Recent research tells us gratitude is more than a polite gesture.  It changes us; it helps us; it helps our world.  Research shows that people who practice gratitude consistently report a host of benefits, including the physical benefits of stronger immune systems, being less bothered by aches and pains, and lower blood pressure.  Grateful people exercise more, take better care of their health, and sleep better.  People who are grateful also reap psychological benefits: higher levels of positive emotions, more joy and pleasure, and more optimism and happiness.  Grateful people are more helpful, generous, and compassionate, more forgiving, more outgoing, and feel less lonely and isolated.  Gratitude strengthens our relationships because it requires us to see how we’ve been supported and affirmed by other people.  We acknowledge that other people – and for people of faith, God – gave us many gifts, big and small, to help us achieve the goodness in our lives.[2]        
 
It sounds to me as though gratitude is something of a wonder drug!  Some people keep a gratitude journal as a gratitude practice.  I include gratitude in my daily journaling, and I post “one wonderful thing” on Facebook every day; it’s really “one thing for which I’m grateful.”  I’m going to introduce the children to a “gratitude jar.”  How might you practice gratitude?
 
Some of us will be cooking this coming week for the Street Chaplaincy Thanksgiving Dinner.  I’m on Pumpkin Pie Patrol on Monday.  Keep us and the lovely folks who will consume what we make in your prayers.  Note that the Street Chaplaincy Interfaith Thanksgiving Service is Wednesday evening on Zoom;.  See details below - you need to RSVP to get the link.
 
I look forward to seeing you on Sunday when we will “consider the lilies.”  Two Sunday’s from now, we begin the season of Advent.  What might it mean, in 2021, as you wait for a new pastor, to “Prepare the Way” for Christ coming into our lives afresh?
 
Grace and peace,
Joanne Whitt
Interim Pastor  

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