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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 - November 26, 2021

Click here for the full NEWSLETTER

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 - September 10, 2021

Click here for the full NEWSLETTER

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


Dear St. Luke family,


This coming Sunday is Homecoming Sunday, a festive celebration of the beginning of fall and a new church program year.  We’re welcoming the choir back to the sanctuary and we’re starting a new sequence of traditional worship music alternating Sundays with alternative music.  We’re looking ahead to a stewardship campaign, a gala fundraiser dinner, the election of new deacons, an officers’ retreat, and exciting progress reports from the pastor nominating committee.  We’ll observe Reformation Sunday and All Saints’ Sunday, remembering those resting in God’s care beyond this earthly life.  We’ll celebrate God’s generosity with Thanksgiving, and once again we’ll look forward to God’s coming in the season of Advent.  We’ll celebrate Christmas Eve in the sanctuary, offering our service of candlelight and carols to our friends and neighbors as we have for many years.      
 
When we planned Homecoming a couple of months ago, we were assuming the restrictions of the pandemic would be behind us and we’d be back in the sanctuary after Labor Day without masks.  But then the Delta variant intervened.  Nevertheless, with so much to celebrate, we’re proceeding with Homecoming with our masks in place.  We’ll hear festive music from the choir and from Erich Miller on steel drums.  We’ll celebrate the amazing burrito ministry of church member Michael Baranowski, Kitchen Manager for the Marin Street Chaplaincy.  We’ll celebrate September birthdays and anniversaries, and together we’ll lift up a prayer reminding our school kids that God is with them, even at school.
 
Our Scripture passage from Mark’s gospel this Sunday invites us to think about where the focus of our congregational life and activity is found.  Of course we seek spiritual nourishment for the faithful, but a congregation’s mission cannot end there, within our own church.  Like Jesus himself, his disciples are continually called to a larger vision of mission — one that aims to embrace the outsider, the stranger, even the enemy.  After all, we do know, we really do, just how deeply God loves the whole world – and that is exactly what the whole world needs to hear.
 
Because it’s the second Sunday of the month, we’ll worship only in the sanctuary, with no Zoom or online worship this week.  Our sanctuary is big enough for a good crowd to worship socially distant, and we’ll keep the doors open for increased ventilation.  We’ll all wear masks, including worship leaders except when we are speaking.  We’ll pass the peace observing people’s need for safe distance. 
 
Please join us at 10:00 a.m. on Sunday in the sanctuary for our festive Homecoming Service.  Don’t forget to “like” St. Luke on Facebook, where you can keep up with announcements and see our weekly midweek video.

Grace and peace,
Joanne Whitt
Interim Pastor

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