Dear St. Lukers,
I have started, deleted, and started again writing this Weekly Update many times. It seems like 2020 got jealous of how well the first five days of 2021 were going and decided to come slap it down. Yesterday’s events at the Capitol left the world reverberating with questions about the state of our Republic. It proved the great chasm of divide in our country and the deep need we have for the Incarnation among us.
This is that moment when a pastor often ignores what is happening and puts their head down and talks about end of the year finances or new ministry…after all, “politics and religion do not mix” is the adage we have created to keep ourselves comfortable in separating those two things in our personal lives. I would love to do nothing more than talk about the incredible registration we have for our Wednesday Night “Learn” Bible Study, or the amount of people signing up to “Listen” in Life Together Groups. In fact, we are so excited about getting started that we are moving forward with the pastor’s “Learn” Bible Study TONIGHT. You can join the same zoom link, or if you haven’t registered yet you can do so here. If you can’t be with us live tonight, make sure you take a moment to watch and prepare for Sunday’s worship to “Engage” with the story of Creation. Honestly, by all accounts, God is doing a mighty thing among us.
However, our membership vows call us to a deeper engagement with the world around us as a response to our confession of Jesus Christ as Lord. We had already decided last October to use Lent as a time to dig–in to the deep commitment and calling of our baptism vows. These vows have been on my heart over the last 24 hours. The work of our followership of Jesus Christ and our faith as Methodists calls us to deep examination of what is happening around us. John Wesley taught us as Methodists there is no holiness without social holiness.
I’ve been one of your pastors for 14 years this month. I pray we have built enough trust for me to move toward the hard conversation knowing I love and respect each of you. I recognize many of our own congregation are divided over President–elect Biden’s confirmation by the Electoral College. But I trust St. Lukers enough to believe no one who seeks to be a citizen first of God’s Kingdom and is committed to and lives into St. Luke’s Core Values upholds the violence of yesterday that has left four people dead and the Capitol desecrated, any more than the violence of months past. There is much to pray for and actively work toward as we seek to move forward and heal our country and repair our democracy to live into the ideals of the Constitution and conviction of liberty and justice for all.
Yesterday’s events also bring up glaring differences not just of politics, ideology, and understanding of religion, but also race. I recognize some question why race has been brought into the conversation. Over the last nine months we have seen radically different responses to a predominantly black crowd and a predominantly white crowd who have gathered in protest. Privilege is a difficult word for some, but the history of how differently whites and blacks are treated by law enforcement or when seen as a threat was on display yesterday.
If this makes you uncomfortable to read, please do not disengage but walk with us into a deeper conversation of race in America beginning this Sunday night. Becoming Beloved Community is a discussion class our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee started planning last October. The Rev. Dr. Gary Mason, who helped with the Good Friday Peace accords in Northern Ireland, will be leading us alongside Dr. Nichole Phillips, Associate Professor of Sociology and Religion, from Emory University. We begin this week by hearing from two former paramilitary members of the Protestant and Catholic Troubles to help us recognize the division of sectarianism and will look at race, history, and our work of conversation and empathy in order to become the beloved community Dr. King spoke of and first articulated by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount. You can register for this five-week Sunday night session here.
I said last night, we are not perfect. We are not always going to navigate these unprecedented waters well, but please hear my heart to know we are trying to follow the guidebook of God’s redemptive story of love, justice, and most of all grace. We are trying, I am trying to help us awaken those places in our discipleship that call for the refiner’s fire to purify our hearts so we might shine bright as we reveal the Kingdom.
I hope you have already read the email from our COVID-19 Task Force regarding the rise of numbers in our county and our decision to pause on-campus worship. Small Groups and those meeting outside are still able to meet, but we didn’t feel only having fifty people able to register for in–person worship lived into our Core Values. Looking forward to seeing everyone virtually at 9:30 a.m. on Facebook Live as we begin this six-week series to “Live the Story.”
Grace, peace, and much love,