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Sunday, September 6, 2020

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Dear St. Luke Community,

Commandment is an odd word. At least it is for me. Commands are something masters give their slaves or their genies who live in a bottle in their living room (if you grew up in the 70’s and watched too much TV). In other words, command is a word I’d rather find another word for. What about the word request? Too soft. How about suggested? Nope. How about required? Now we’re getting somewhere. We’re required by God to love God and love neighbor above all else. 

In Paul’s letter to the Romans (13:8-14), Paul says all the other commandments are summed up in this word, "Love your neighbor as yourself” (verse 9). The idea being, that if you focus on that one command, the rest of it will take care of itself. This command presumes we love ourselves first, but it means so much more. It means this requirement will come with a sacrifice, because loving another will often require we give something of ourselves in order for God’s justice to be served (Love God).

As a culture our distaste of words like commands has grown alongside our distaste for sacrifices, being obligated or required to put others’ needs first. Serving God will often put us at odds with our own wants. And like children, we too often want what we want and are willing to ignore what’s right, decent and good to get what we want. 

If history has taught us anything time and time again, it’s that looking out for number one doesn’t work in the long run, and it’s most certainly not what we’re commanded or created to do. As Christians, we’re commanded to follow Christ's principles of love, not only on Sunday, not only when we’re thinking about personal growth, but in every aspect of our lives. Given these tumultuous times, it’s more important than ever to ask whether we’re acting out of selfishness or whether we are putting our greatest commandment to the test by looking out for (loving) others.

See you Sunday,
Nicole

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Sunday, August 23, 2020

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Dear St. Luke Community,

On Wednesday morning we gathered for Bible Study with heavy hearts. The fires had burned overnight and a few of us could see the ashes, however small, accumulate on the ground. The air quality and ashes serve as a constant reminder that there are people very close to us facing challenges we hope to never face – those fleeing homes, those putting their lives at risk to fight the fires, those providing services and shelter all in the middle of a pandemic.

One of our Bible Study participants expressed the need for encouragement. We decided to search scripture and landed on one of my favorites from Philippians 4.

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.  Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

 Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.

Each time I pray this passage, a different verse stands out. This time, it’s the end of verse 8: ”If there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” There is so much to focus on that brings heaviness to the heart. But God is still bringing moments that are worthy of praise. 

I suppose the question is, can you allow yourselves to rejoice in them? Is it okay to be okay for a moment or an hour or two? Can we allow ourselves to rejoice in the grace of God when it comes our way, even as we pray that same grace would go to someone else? It would seem our scripture encourages us to do just that.

See you Sunday,
Nicole

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Sunday, August 16, 2020

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Dear St. Luke Community,

This week’s lectionary includes a Psalm that is only three verses long – Psalm 133. And it begins with, "How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity!”

Unity is an interesting word and concept. It’s what we strive for when we imagine God’s kingdom. But sometimes the idea of being “one” is turned into a kind of homogeneity reducing us to being all the same.

On the one hand, being one is a beautiful as reflected in scripture: 

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus (Gal 3:28) .

Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one. I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one (John 17).

On the other hand, seeing all God’s children as one and the same can diminish the unique experiences that diverse people have within the same town. Our cultural experiences, our religious backgrounds, and our race (a social construct) each brings unique experiences which does not always provide equal treatment. In God’s eyes we are one; but that doesn’t mean we are all experiencing God’s justice equally as one.

How can we strive towards being one and at the same time respect our differences and diversity? Our country is far from unified as the gap between the have and have nots continues to grow. Relations between political groups and those who support or do not support movements grow. Unity is running scarce even within Christianity, and even within our own denomination you would be hard pressed to find two churches who are unified in their belief systems. 

So what does God call us to do when we enter into covenant with God at baptism? How do we makes sense of our role as Christians when it comes to living as kin with all of God’s people in unity without diminishing the experience of those who are crying out for justice? And if we are to love one another, what does that look like when you cannot stand the belief system of the person who sits next to you at dinner or in the pews?

One small Psalm, lots of big questions.  Thanks be to God.

See you Sunday,

Nicole

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