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Sunday, February 21, 2021

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Dear St. Luke family,

On the First Sunday in Lent, we always journey into the wilderness with Jesus.  The wilderness temptation story appears in Matthew, Mark and Luke, with different details.  At Bible study this past week, someone reminded us of an exercise one of your former pastors led, showing you a clip from the movie, The Princess Bride.  The pastor then asked people to tell what they saw and what they remembered.  As you might expect, people remembered different details, and remembered the same details differently.  That’s why we have four gospels: Different writers wrote to different audiences with different concerns and priorities and remembering different details.  Rather than trying to force these accounts to be consistent, we deal with each story as the writer told it, with its own rich lessons for our faith.

In all three Gospel accounts, Jesus goes straight from his baptism, where he hears that he is God’s beloved son, to the wilderness.  There, his identity as God’s beloved is tested.  Is being God’s beloved son enough?  Is he enough?

Aren’t most of the times we feel tested or tempted those times when we are faced with that same question?  Is being a beloved child of God enough?  Am I enough?

As we begin our Lenten journey, I offer this prayerful poem by Jan Richardson from Circle of Grace:

Beloved Is Where We Begin

If you would enter
into the wilderness,
do not begin
without a blessing.

Do not leave
without hearing
who you are:
Beloved,
named by the One
who has traveled this path
before you.

Do not go
without letting it echo
in your ears,
and if you find
it is hard
to let it into your heart,
do not despair.
That is what
this journey is for.

I cannot promise
this blessing will free you
from danger,
from fear,
from hunger
or thirst,
from the scorching
of sun
or the fall
of the night.

But I can tell you
that on this path
there will be help.

I can tell you
that on this way
there will be rest.

I can tell you
that you will know
the strange graces
that come to our aid
only on a road
such as this,
that fly to meet us
bearing comfort
and strength,
that come alongside us
for no other cause
than to lean themselves
toward our ear
and with their
curious insistence
whisper our name:

Beloved.
Beloved.
Beloved.

Grace and peace,
Joanne Whitt
Interim Pastor

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Sunday, February 14, 2021

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Dear St. Luke Family,

This Sunday, our Scripture passage will be Mark’s version of the highly symbolic story called the Transfiguration.  Mark’s account is nearly identical to those in Matthew and Luke.  Jesus takes Peter, James and John up a mountain, where his face is transformed and his clothes become dazzling white.  Then Moses and Elijah appear, representing the Law and the Prophets. Peter suggests they capture this Kodak moment by setting up three tents.  But the gospel writer tells us Peter doesn’t get it.  God announces from a cloud, “This is my Son, my Beloved. Listen to him.” 

Listen to him.  This sounds easy enough, right?  One commentator writes, “I like the fact that God doesn’t say, ‘Become exactly like Jesus,’ or ‘Take up your cross.’  Just, ‘Listen to him.’ Now, see, that’s something I can probably do.  I can do that.  I can listen.  That’s something we can all do.” 

But – maybe it’s not as easy as it sounds.  Think about listening to someone who contradicts some of your treasured beliefs.  Think of something you feel very strongly about, something you don’t want to let go.  Think of our current political climate.  “Real listening,” said Alan Alda, “is a willingness to let the other person change you.”

The Transfiguration, and the season of Lent which follows it, is all about change.  For centuries, Lent has been the season when we focus with new energy on the process of transfiguration that happens over the lifetime of a person of faith.  Our theme this Lent, which begins this coming Wednesday, February 17, is “The Lenten Journey.”  Our congregation is in the middle of a transition, one kind of journey, and Lent is often referred to as a journey, as well.  During Lent, we will explore how these two journeys might intersect.  On Wednesday, you’re invited to begin the journey of Lent at our Zoom Ash Wednesday service.  The 7:00 p.m. service will be about half an hour long, and as we can’t meet in person, it won’t involve ashes.  It will be an opportunity to begin thinking about what a Lenten journey might mean this year for you personally and for St. Luke. 

If Lent is a journey, that means at the end of Lent we should expect to find ourselves somewhere different than where we started.  The end of Lent is always Easter.  The end is new life. 

Grace and peace,
Joanne Whitt
Interim Pastor 

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Sunday, February 7, 2021

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Dear St. Luke Family:

Our Scripture passage this Sunday describes Jesus’ performing a healing miracle, and then heading off to be alone to pray.  Thinking about our current situation, stuck at home in the pandemic, it seems that more isolation might be the last thing we’d want.  But prayer – now, maybe we could use more of that.  

In Sunday’s sermon we’ll look at prayer, how it can take many forms, and why it’s important.  I ran across a poem by Lynn Ungar, entitled “Pandemic,” that functions as one kind of prayer, even though it doesn’t begin with “Dear Lord” or end with “Amen.”  I’m sharing it here, as my prayer for you, for all of us: 

Pandemic
by Lynn Ungar

What if you thought of it
as the Jews consider the Sabbath —
the most sacred of times?
Cease from travel.
Cease from buying and selling.
Give up, just for now,
on trying to make the world
different than it is.
Sing. Pray. Touch only those
to whom you commit your life.
Center down.

And when your body has become still,
reach out with your heart.
Know that we are connected
in ways that are terrifying and beautiful.
(You could hardly deny it now.)
Know that our lives
are in one another’s hands.
(Surely, that has come clear.)
Do not reach out your hands.
Reach out your heart.
Reach out your words.
Reach out all the tendrils
of compassion that move, invisibly,
where we cannot touch.

Promise this world your love —
for better or for worse,
in sickness and in health,
so long as we all shall live.


Grace and peace,
Joanne Whitt
Interim Pastor

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