Forming New Community: Hearing What God Hears

SarahandHagarReflection Series on a semi-continuous reading of Hebrew Scriptures: Genesis 21:8-21 on June 21, 2020 for St. Luke’s Lutheran Church, Richardson, Texas

Today our story of Abraham and Sarah continues as they celebrate their son, Isaac being old enough to ween—a toddler, laughing as he plays with his older half-brother Ishmael, who was born to Sarah’s Egyptian slave, Hagar. Ishmael was actually Sarah’s doing—not trusting God to keep his word after several years, she came up with her own plan to give Abraham an heir using her slave. I doubt Hagar had a choice in the matter, as slaves never did—and she gave birth to Abraham’s first-born son, Ishmael.

As Sarah watches the two boys playing it seems that her joy at God fulfilling the promise to heal her barrenness in her old age has turned to jealousy, since Isaac is not technically Abraham’s oldest child. This should not matter, because God has begun to make good on the promise of descendants and land, and Sarah herself is a recipient of God’s faithfulness. Surely Sarah can now trust God’s word.

But Sarah is as human as we are, and that kind of trust is hard for all of us. Abraham’s inheritance and blessing are at stake here. Ishmael is still the oldest son—what if he makes the claim of the oldest brother? He would get the double portion of the inheritance and Isaac would get the leftovers. What would happen to God’s promises then?
It was Sarah’s impatience that brought Ishmael into the world and now her distrust that will cast him and his mother out.

Has this story not been repeated over and over throughout history? The one who is on the margins becomes included in blessing, income, status, access. They forget what it is like to be at the margins, and in order to maintain their newly acquired status, they step on the next marginalized person. It is part of our own slave and immigrant history. First the Irish were oppressed, then the Italians, then the Jews, then the Latinos, then the Asians, always with the goal of keeping those of African descent on the bottom.

Like Abraham forgot about Sarah when he had a son in Ishmael, so also, Sarah, once she has Isaac, forgot to look to the person next to her on the margins and include her in the benefits of God’s abundance. The same pattern has been true in Christian biblical scholarship. For centuries this story was only told from Abraham’s perspective. Then white female scholars entered the academy and they pointed out that male scholars had neglected Sarah. In recent decades female scholars of color have chastised white women scholars because they have neglected Hagar, the Egyptian slave who was sexually abused.

African and Asian female scholars have looked at their white scholars, and pastors and said, “Hagar needed Sarah to be a sister who would extend her inclusion, and protect her and rejoice that their sons each had a brother, and instead she found an oppressor.” How many times, Lord have we failed to be that sister or brother—as individuals, as the church, as a neighborhood, as society? How many times have the those who are on the margins looked to us, and instead of finding a sister or brother, found an oppressor, a judge, an excluder, someone kneeling on their neck?

Even if, in our discomfort, we put the most positive spin on this story, and say that Sarah was simply protecting her self-interest and did not intend for Hagar and Ishmael to die of thirst, we are left with the uneasy awareness that our own interests blind us to the needs of those beside us.

The saving grace of this story is God’s providential care for those who are cast aside—care which is extended over and over and over again throughout the Bible, to those at the margins. This is where the story gets really interesting. Hagar and Ishmael are sent away reluctantly by Abraham who gives them some provisions, but they soon run out of water. Hagar is convinced they are going to die, so she puts Ishmael under a bush, so she does not have to witness her own son’s death. She cries out to God for help. But the narrator reports that “God heard the voice of the boy”—but it was Hagar, not Ishmael who was praying. So why does the Bible say that God heard the voice of the boy rather than the voice of Hagar? The answer lies in his name, “Ishmael” which means “God hears.” God hears the prayers of the mother. God hears the needs of her child. God hears the pain of those who dwell at the margin.

Hagar is one of the few Old Testament women who has a conversation with the angel of the Lord who repeats the promise that Ishmael, too, shall be the father of a great nation. God has made a covenant with Abraham to create the chosen people, yet it seems like this is not an exclusive claim, nor the only God-project, or nation-building plan on God’s horizon. This story is a reminds us that our sense of chosen-ness and election by God are not exclusive—we have not cornered the God-market; God’s care, presence and plan is not limited to us.

Our story portrays Abraham and Sarah, warts and all, in all of their humanness, so we cannot miss recognizing our own flaws and sins in their jealousy and mistrust. God sees their limitations, their troubling choices, and yet continues the covenant with them, continues to fulfill the promise with them and builds a great nation through them. God continues to love them. God continues to love us.

Right next to them is Hagar and Ishmael—an Egyptian slave and her son on the verge of death in the wilderness and God hears their cries. God makes a covenant with them, fulfils the promise with them and builds a great nation through them. God continues to be present and to love them, too.

God’s presence with all of God’s people is not in question. God’s love for and desire to be in relationship with all of God’s people is and has been clear from the very beginning of our story of faith. God’s willing to work with us in our limitations and sinfulness is evidenced throughout Scripture. The desire of God to hear the cries of hurting people on every margin is as true today as it was centuries ago for Hagar and Ismael.

This story asks us today “Are you ready for God to bless as one nation, as one people?” The Hagars and the Ishmaels today are asking us to be their sister and their father, to be their brother and their mother, who will include them in the blessing and bounty of this nation’s abundance. Can we ask God to heal us of the jealousy or fear that we will not get what we need if everyone has access and is treated fairly and instead, really trust God’s promises? Can we admit that we are flawed and trust that God can work wonderful things anyway as God did through Abraham and Sarah? And then are we ready to hear like God hears, to listen to others and to resist the urge to cast people out and push them aside?

For when we hear what God hears and we come together as one people, wonderful things happen. We connect with one another around our common human experience; we lift up one another in our sorrow and laugh with one another in our joys. We learn from one another and share perspectives, stories and experiences and expand our hearts for compassion by viewing life from another person’s vantage point. We taste and see how great and good our God is in all the diversity, flavors, colors, languages, experiences, cultures of this amazing life while at the same time transcending all of that diversity with similar hurts and hopes, disappointments and dreams, hearts and love. We see difference as a gift and an opportunity for learning. We do this by noticing the people who are beside us wherever we go and engage in 6’ conversation. Who do you hear today that you might otherwise overlook? What are you learning? What kindness are you showing?

Our member, Eileen Bottolfson noticed someone near her in the Walmart and I asked her to write it up for the Weekly Word this week: Here’s what she said:
Small, simple kindnesses can go a long way, during this stressful time of Covid 19.

A simple ‘thank you’ can be so much more important and powerful than we realize sometimes. Recently, I was at my local Walmart doing some shopping. As I wended my way through the aisles, there was a Walmart employee stocking the shelves. As I approached her, I took a moment to stop, and simply said, “Thank you very much for being here. I really appreciate you, and everyone else who is working so hard during this time.” The lady stared at me for a few seconds, and then tears came to her eyes. She said, in such a heartfelt manner, “Thank you for saying that. That means so much to me. You have just made my day. You have made my whole week better.” She proceeded to tell me that she had been at work every day since the stay-at-home order had been issued. She had been in Customer Service, but eventually requested to be transferred out to the floor because people were being so incredibly rude, and how mentally and emotionally exhausting it was to face nasty customers every single hour of the day. She explained that she really needed her job – thus why she was there still. I thanked her again, and we gave each other distanced, arms-outstretched hugs. This brief moment made my whole week better too.

Eileen heard was God was hearing from this Walmart employee and that’s the beginning of a new community—of Sarah and Hagar, Isaac and Ishmael living and thriving together. Eileen offers the most profound insight of all—thriving together makes everyone’s life better.

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Everyone's Story Matters

Sarah laughingReflection Series on a semi-continuous reading of Hebrew Scriptures: Gensis 18:1-15 for June 14, 2020, St. Luke's Lutheran Church, Richardson, Texas

I love this piece of art showing Sarah in her advanced years, laughing inside the tent door. Three visitors, though serious in their promise that she will bear a child in her old age, come across more like an ancient form of the 3 Stooges. The Hebrew says that Sarah laughs in her womb—she lets out a belly laugh from deep within her, scoffing at the ridiculous idea that at age 90, she will have both the pleasure of making a baby, and the joy of giving birth after being barren her whole life. It is a moment where comedy and tragedy are so close—if Sarah could not burst out with a belly laugh, she would cry from the emptiness of her womb, from a promise unfulfilled and a dream dried up like a raisin in the sun.

The 3 visitors are new for Abraham and Sarah, but the promise they deliver is not. In fact, this is an old, familiar promise God had been making for 25 years, a promise that had not been fulfilled. It began in Genesis 12 when God called then-named, “Abram and Sarai,” who was barren then, to leave Ur of the Chaldeans with a three-fold promise: 1- that they would be given land, 2- that they would become a great nation and have many descendants, and 3- that they would be “blessed to be a blessing”—that through them all families of the earth would be blessed. At this point, Abram was 75 and Sarai was 10 years his junior, already pretty old to start a family.

But many years go by and there is no child. God reiterates the promise of descendants to Abram in Genesis 15 as he looks at the number of stars in the sky, but still, this promise remains unfulfilled, and Abram and Sarai grow older. By the time Abram is 86 years old, Sarai is tired of waiting on the Lord to fulfill this promise, so she takes matters into her own hands. Sarai offers her slave Hagar as a surrogate to produce an heir for Abram, and Ishmael is born. But the story is not over yet.

God again appears to Abram to repeat the promise yet another time in Genesis 17. This is when God changes Abram's name to Abraham, "for I have made you the ancestor of a multitude of nations.” And God made it clear that Sarai was part of the covenant, too: "Sarah shall be her name. I will bless her, and moreover I will give you a son by her.” This is where laughter first enters the story—Abraham falls on his face laughing.

Both of them laughingly scoff at God—because both of them have given up on God’s promises. It is physically impossible and beyond human nature. They have aged out; too much time has passed and they have given up hope that things can be different than they are. No one would expect the promise of a baby to come true now. Abraham is 99, Sarah is 89, and next year they are going to have a baby? That is laughable and beyond ridiculous.

Perhaps you, too, have given up hope when dreams are physically impossible and seem beyond human nature. When too much time has passed and we stop expecting things to change and good things to become true. Maybe it’s as laughable as an end to racism in our country, where it has still been ok to look the other way while an officer uses enough force to kill a black man in handcuffs. Where we have grown accustomed to white schools always getting what they need and schools of color nowhere near funded at a similar level. Where we are used to the job applicant with the white sounding name being the preferred over the ethnic sounding one. Where we have made no effort to redress the economic and educational gaps between blacks and whites intentionally created by Jim Crow laws which seeded crippling generational poverty.

Like Abraham and Sarah having a baby at ages 100 and 90, imagining these changes to our society may seem physically impossible and beyond human nature. People do not give up power or comfort or their version of the truth that easily. Too much time has passed. This is just the way it is. Like Sarah, we would rather laugh at the ridiculous suggestion than cry from an empty womb that such a dream could come true.

But this is where the story gets really interesting. After Abraham laughs in God’s face, he lets God off the hook and tells God not to keep this particular promise of a baby. His son by Hagar is enough for him: "O that Ishmael might live in your sight" prays Abraham. “I have Ishmael and I am happy with him. Just bless him, and we are all good.”
In other words—"I got what I need, I have what I want—there is nothing and no one else to consider.” That is privilege. Abraham only thinks about himself and his experience. Abraham has completely forgotten about Sarah—not only that she’s his wife with the pain of being barren, but also, that God’s promise was to her as well! What were God’s exact words? Oh yeah, “Sarah shall be her name. I will bless her, and moreover I will give you a son by her.” But, Abraham is a man in a patriarchal culture, so who cares about those at the margins. Even if he loves her, she is not that important to him.

This story is about 4,000 years old, yet, it is like it was yesterday. How easy it is to ignore someone else’s pain when our needs and wants are satisfied. How simple it is to forget those at the margins when we think that our story, our culture, our religion are what matter, and are at the center of life. What a miracle that the patriarchal Hebrew story-tellers of 4,000 years ago—in the Bronze Age, no less—felt compelled to include Sarah’s role in the fulfillment of God’s promise to create a nation that would be a blessing to the whole earth.

Sarah’s story mattered and when this history was written down in Genesis, Sarah, is included as a central part of fulfilling God’s promise. From the very beginning of God’s promise to Abraham, God has included those at the margins. God does bless Ishmael, and he becomes the ancestor through whom Muslims trace their lineage to Abraham.
And God also includes Sarah. God includes her so much so, that when the angel visitors arrive at Abraham and Sarah’s tent in our text today, they specifically ask for her again. God includes Sarah, not because she is always righteous—she was not. She was jealous of Hagar and sent her and Ishmael away. God includes Sarah in the promise, because that is who God is—it is the nature of God to include and to bless all peoples of the earth, and calls us to do the same. Everyone’s story matters because God is working through all of us to fulfill God’s will for creation.

God’s inclusion of Sarah in the promise shows a God who turns our laughter of disbelief into the laughter of joy. For God fulfilled his promise to Sarah and she did give birth to a son when she was 90 and Abraham was 100 years old. God waited 25 years so there would be no mistaking whose power was at work in this blessing. They called him Isaac which means “Laughter.” For God can do what is impossible for us, changing our laughter of disbelief into the laughter of joy.

  • We can laugh with joy when we hear our youth and their stories and their experience. What wisdom they have to share and to teach us. Their stories matter and when we can gather in person, I hope you will ask them yourselves about their experience.
  • We laugh with joy in Spanish class— Rick Rodriguez is giving us a chance to learn a new culture and listen and learn stories from people we were not able to hear before.
  • We can laugh with joy as we pray with our community. Our prayer cross is helping us listen to the stories in the community and what people are praying for and how they cry out to God.

Find one new neighbor, one person of color, one person from a different ethnic or cultural background and build a friendship and listen to their stories. Tell them your stories. Your story matters, too. Get to know them well enough to laugh with joy at what God can do.

God worked through Abraham and Sarah together—not one instead of the other, not one over the other, not one while ignoring the other, but side by side. God made sure both of their stories mattered. With Abraham, we can listen to God reminding us to pay attention to the pain of the person beside us or in the next neighborhood, or of a different skin color or culture, who is not be having the same experience we are. With Sarah, we can remember that our story matters, too. And as we share these stories, we laugh we joy as God can do what is impossible for us alone—to build bridges, create bonds, tear down walls, and transform hearts that have already effected some change, like seeing Ferguson, MO police officers kneeling in protest, and the NFL and Nascar changing their policies and practices.

God’s promise for life and life abundant includes everyone—and we are living at a unique moment to see what God can do that’s impossible for us. And everyone’s story matters—Abraham’s, Sarah’s, our story and every person who may be at the margin—God’s great story of salvation is being lived out through all of us, so tell that story, too. From just this one story of Abraham and Sarah, we witness this amazing God who has a vision to bless the whole earth in partnership with us and all of humanity whom God has created. As we listen to each other, our sorrow is turned into hope and we encounter this God who is ready to turn our disbelieving chuckles into the laughter of joy.


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Spirituality and Self-Examination While Sheltering in Place

House of Courage bookThis essay and one other one, Heads Up are published in the book House of Courage, being released today with a Facebook launch. This is the 6th book in a series of books published by the Retreat House Spirituality Center and includes essays and poems by affiliated Spiritual Directors and members. I have one or two essays published in each book in the series (House of Blessing, 2020, House of Love, House of Hope, House of Compassion, and House of Joy, all 2019). You can contact me for copies or message Retreat House at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Sheltering-in-place can be an energy-sucking, life-draining experience for extroverts like me. As a parish pastor, I am a people-person in a people job that now has no people. Yes, we have meetings, book groups and classes on Zoom during which we plan, learn, and even play games to surprising effect. But it is not the same and constant electronic communication is often depleting rather than life-giving.

Electronic interaction does not convey another person’s emotions, expressions, and energy like in-person conversations where I receive immediate feedback, catch nuances of body language, or notice unspoken thoughts that flash across the face. Being with others energizes me, and being alone, while essential and enjoyable, needs the energy-giving balance of real people. I miss being in worship together, and while I hold people in my mind and heart as I preach into a video camera, I miss the gathered community. It has become abundantly clear not only why humans are social creatures, but also why God calls the church into Christian community as the body of Christ together.

You can imagine my surprise, then, when earlier in the shelter-in-place order, my prayers revealed the Spirit’s new goal for my growth during this time. I was carrying on an internal conversation with God during my morning ministrations one day, wondering what God wanted me to do. The Spirit’s urging entered my head, startling me at its directness and cutting me to the quick: Now you can learn to love without manipulation; come to Me for love, for all you need.

What did this really mean? I thought I gave a lot to others in ministry without manipulating them to my own ends—to be sure, outcomes are not always what I would choose. I inquired deeper. I realized God is inviting me into an even deeper spiritual relationship that allows me to love and serve people without any attention to what I get in return—love, affirmation, feedback, relationships, even “extroversion energy.” Is this what the mystics aspired to in their prayer life—St. Francis, Catherine of Siena, Teresa of Avila, and others? Not that I would ever compare myself to them, but the deepening spiritual life calls us to more and more fully satisfy our needs in God so we require less stuff, have fewer appetites, and hunger after fewer desires.

I wonder if God wants to me to think less about what I love and enjoy about ministry and the church, and more about what I love and enjoy about God, allowing ministry to flow from that? Maybe God wants me to wonder less about what ministry I am to do in a church member’s life, and instead, listen more deeply to what God is doing in their life? Maybe God is inviting me to spend more time receiving Jesus’ love for me, so I have an overflowing cup from which to pour, regardless of the external circumstances in which this ministry is shared? God was calling me to look more deeply inward than I ever had before.

I shared this spiritual challenge with two friends—one a counselor and one a Bishop—and they, too believed they needed to reflect on what it means to be a care-giver who loves and serves without manipulation, extrovert or not. Those of us in helping professions are in these positions because making a difference in other people’s lives also makes us feel good. How do the limits that the COVID-19 pandemic place on our work of helping others hold up a mirror to our own underlying motivations? How can we become purer in how we give, always relying on an eternal, internal Source for our needs rather than the feedback loop of good feelings that come from those we serve?

This takes a spiritual courage, a new level of self-examination and a deeper trust in the daily, moment-by-moment presence of the Spirit with me. I have begun to ask myself if the questions I am posing, the conversations I am having, the email I am sending, the ministry I am offering, constitute giving love without manipulation, without seeking to meet my needs in the process. I have expanded my own time in meditation and reflection as I seek to discover answers these questions. What at first felt like a sharp judgment, is really an invitation for me to experience the ever deeper presence of God filling me as a well-spring of holy love.

None of this magically reverses the life-draining experience of persistent electronic communication or the real human and Christian needs for community. What I am beginning to discover is that days with little or no human contact outside my home require a different rhythm to be life-giving. Zoom meetings are best spread out and followed by physical movement and prayer, which need to be planned as part of my schedule. This small change does a great deal to manage my energy since it refills my physical and spiritual cup. It begins to re-orient how I plan my schedule, inviting me to make a “spiritual schedule” as much as a work schedule. Perhaps that is what loving without manipulation is, after all.

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Empowered by the Holy Spirit

Pentecost Worship Tent CroppedMessage for Pentecost on Acts 2:1-18 given on May 31, 2020 at the first in-person, Parking Lot Worship at St. Luke's Lutheran Church in Richardson, Texas

I was trained and ordained, but I still felt so inadequate in my first church. My first call was at an urban congregation on the east side of Detroit; I was only 27 and knew I still had a lot to learn. The community was 85% African American, and the church, which was only 30% African American, wanted to become more of a neighborhood church. We worked on developing relationships with families through our summer program, and one summer, one of our youth had a conflict with one of the younger teens in the community. I had not even arrived at their house yet, and the teen came outside, looked at me, and said, “I’m not listening to this skinny girl.”

I resisted the urge to say, “you think I’m skinny?” and instead tried to act like the grown-up pastor I was trying to be. But I felt inadequate. Later that year, one of our members was murdered by her neighbors, drug addicts who got her to open her door and shot her point blank. Oh yes, I felt inadequate. I discovered that you can pray and have faith, and even think you are doing what God wants you to do, but still feel you are not up to the task and inadequate in every way.

I wonder if that is how the disciples and other followers of Jesus felt while they were praying in that upper room. There were about 120 of them—including some of Jesus’ family, and all the women who stood by him at the cross and witnessed the empty tomb. They did what Jesus told them to do after he ascended into heaven—they went back to Jerusalem and waited to receive power from on high. But how were they—this motley crew of people, rejected by their religion, and some by their families—how were they supposed to fulfill a mission that included being Jesus’ witnesses to the ends of the earth? How many people was that anyway? How many languages? How do they do THAT without Jesus here, when they only managed to get around this region when he was here?

Their numbers, training, time with Jesus, even their culture and language skills were woefully inadequate. They prayed, they had faith, they were even doing what Jesus told them to do, but they did not feel up to the task and inadequate in every way.

Even those of us who, a few months ago, might have felt we were operating at the top of our game, may feel woefully inadequate in this world in which we now live. Do we have the resilience, the flexibility, the emotional maturity, to keep adapting to changing circumstances, letting go of expectations, and still be the reliable presence for those we love? Moreover, can we make a difference in overturning the racism in our institutions so that skin color does not determine how people are treated, and whether we, or our brown-skinned friends and family fear dying when they are arrested, go jogging, or walk home from the corner store in a hoodie.

Jesus did not leave the disciples, feeling bereft and inadequate to the tasks and challenges that faced them. With the rush of a violent wind and the power of tongues of fire, the Holy Spirit blew into the house where they were praying and pushed them out into the city, where immigrants from the whole region lived. The power of the Spirit enabled them to speak in diverse languages, so everyone heard the good news of Jesus’ forgiveness and victory over death. It sounds like Peter became the star of the show—he preached a great sermon and people experienced the power of God in Jesus Christ.

But there is an important thread in this Holy Spirit story that often gets overlooked when we are wowed by fire, by Peter’s preaching, and by the difficult-to-pronounce languages and cultures. I learned to pay attention to this thread when in my first congregation.

There was a man with Down’s Syndrome named Alex, and he and his mom, Ella, who had struggles of her own, lived in the neighborhood. About a year after I started, they began to walk to church.

Alex and Ella loved to participate in whatever was going on—they would sing with the choir, they loved church potlucks and spending time in fellowship. Sometimes, they would get mixed up on what day it was and show up for church on Saturday instead of Sunday. But I knew when I saw them in their Sunday best on Saturday, that they weren’t just confused, they were excited to get to church, they were ready to sing, to pray and praise, and to be all together with everyone in one place.

One Sunday after worship, we were all in the fellowship hall and Alex said he wanted to give me something. He took me by the shoulders and positioned me in the middle of the room, and then backed up about 5 feet, put out his arm, and began to sing, “You are so beautiful, to you…”

The gift of the Holy Spirit rested on Alex, because he shared with me his spiritual gift of encouragement. We chuckle because he got the words wrong, but I have always known he actually got them right. The Holy Spirit rested on me, too, and I needed to believe it. It was easy for me to see the gifts of the Spirit in other people, in other pastors, in my church members, and even in Alex and Ella, but not in myself, not in those difficult situations I faced. I needed to believe that God would use me, that God could make me more than I was, or none of my gifts would be available for God to use. I would be hiding them under a bushel.

Here the Pentecost story is extremely specific, and we tend to miss it, as I did: “a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit.” With the words, “you are so beautiful, to you…” Alex was saying, “a tongue of fire from Pentecost is resting on you and you better start believing it for yourself! Alex reminded me that I was not only adequate, I was more powerful than I would ever understand, not because of my training or my ordination, but because the Holy Spirit is in me, blessing me with skills, words and ideas I do not even possess—just like on that first Pentecost.

Because even when they felt inadequate, the Holy Spirit made the disciples not just adequate—but empowered way beyond their abilities to fulfill the mission Jesus gave them. The Spirit was so powerful that day, that later in Acts, it says that 3,000 people joined the church! From 120 to 3,000—that’s 2500%--what a growth curve!

It was not just the Peter-preaching show either—every single believer had a tongue of fire on them

• Someone started teaching people who had questions and doubts
• Someone provided food
• Someone made comfortable places for the elderly to sit
• Someone helped the families with children
• Someone prayed for healing for the sick.
• Someone preached in other languages
• Someone started baptizing
• And someone put up a tent, others passed out bulletins, and others blew up balloons!

We cannot be the people God calls us to be, the disciples Jesus beckons us to be, the church the world needs us to be, when we shun or shirk the gifts of the Spirit and the tongue of fire God has put on us. “A tongue of fire rested on each one of them” and a tongue of fire rests on YOU.”

This Pentecost fire is about YOU and YOUR gift and YOUR belief that the Holy Spirit is landing on YOU today! What are YOU going to do about it?
You are not just adequate, you are empowered beyond your abilities, skills and training to be a vehicle for God’s love and justice in the world! Accept the gift of the Holy Spirit on you and ask how God is leading you to share love and forgiveness, hope and encouragement, justice and belief, in your circle of influence, in your community, and in this church’s mission!

None of us have the gifts to do everything, but all of us have a gift to do something, something vital, something essential. St. Luke’s needs your something, your gift, your life that has been touched by the flame of the Holy Spirit.

In this time when patterns of church have been so radically altered, this is our time to flourish beyond what we think we are capable of—we will know for sure it’s the Holy Spirit’s work!

• This is our time to continue to feed the hungry and clothe the naked.
• This is our time to reach out with love and prayer and compassion to those who are grieving or scared.
• This is our time to figure out how God calling us as a predominately white congregation to listen to and stand with communities of color who are not only suffering disproportionately from COVID-19, but who fear for their lives in a justice system that is supposed to protect all of us.
• This is our time to evangelize, to find new and creative ways to tell the love of Jesus and say he died for all.
• This is our time to try more neighborhood parades, parking lot events, and creative ways to connect with and serve our community.

Author Marianne Williamson writes,

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
We ask ourselves
Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?
Actually, who are you not to be?
You are a child of God.
Your playing small
Does not serve the world.
We were born to make manifest
The glory of God that is within us.
It's not just in some of us;
It's in everyone.
And as we let our own light shine,
We unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.
As we're liberated from our own fear,
Our presence automatically liberates others.

As God sends the Holy Spirit of Pentecost anew to us today, God says to each one of us, “you are so beautiful to me.”
Embrace the power of the Holy Spirit in you, as you also affirm: “you are so beautiful to you!”

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Quotation of the Week

The church does not have a mission in the world, God's mission has a church in the world.