Dear St. Lukers,
What an AMAZING VBS Celebration Sunday! The Sanctuary was full of St. Lukers of all ages, and the Spirit of God was felt with energy, excitement, and pure praise as the children taught us how to be creators with God. It was powerful to hear little children speak about what it means to know they are made by God, that God is for them and will always be with them, and LOVES them no matter what!
The Missions moment for VBS was to collect non-perishable foods to create food bags for our Maxey Elementary food distribution. The goal was to support 100 families. Not only did the children come through, but you all did as well as you left worship and brought back items on our list! Your donations will help us through September. We will be accepting food throughout the summer so don’t hesitate to bring items to campus or head to the Amazon Wish List by clicking here to send items directly to St. Luke’s. We ask that you only purchase items from the list provided.
Over the last week much has happened to continue to show the divisions in our nation. The decisions of the Supreme Court resulted in mixed reactions from many – with some celebrating, many others feeling harmed and hopeless, while others are fearful of what is still to come for other marginalized communities. But what gave me hope was the response of many of you. Instead of dividing into categories of for or against, St. Lukers raised their perspectives to a higher calling. I received dozens of texts and emails from you asking, “How are we going to stand in the gaps for our community?” You immediately began to ask what we will do in response to the inevitable needs that will arise for women and children caught in the crossfire, especially as this decision disproportionately affects those living in poverty. You asked how we give voice to those most vulnerable, support women and children, and you began coming up with new ways to provide more counseling, healthcare support, and asking questions about Shepherd’s Hope, support for the children’s home and foster parent training, as well as innovating and dreaming of other wraparound services to continue our work with children most in need. I was deeply moved and inspired by your undeniable belief and desire for the vision of a just Kingdom of heaven to be on earth. I was moved that you continue to insist on making the Kingdom real by rolling up your sleeves to do the difficult work of God. This week, I watched you use what you have LEARNED from Jesus and the Gospels, and LEAD your lives as public theologians! You inspire me as you want to fight the “noise,” and push back the darkness by seeking to live as Awakened Disciples motivated to Reveal the Kingdom in tangible, just, and equitable ways for all of God’s children.
Which makes our new sermon series and our upcoming production of Oliver! incredibly important. This week we begin a journey through the Gospel of John. We’re asking the same question now as they were asking in Dickensian Victorian England, and in the first century world: Where is love?
In the Gospel of John, Jesus gives us the answer: “The Word became flesh and moved into the neighborhood.” The good news is, the answer to where we find love is found in the incarnation. First the incarnation of Jesus, in which God became fully human to be “one of us” and reach out in love to walk alongside us in the fullness of the human experience. But then, we find ourselves being invited by Jesus to live incarnational lives of love as well. John’s Gospel calls us to follow in Jesus’ footsteps and put ourselves in the shoes of our neighbors, moving “into the neighborhood” like Jesus, so we can offer the same love and grace Jesus offers us.
The world invites us, like Jesus does in John, to “consider yourself one of us.” We hear the same invitation from the musical Oliver! to see the characters on stage and empathize with them, so that we can live lives of incarnation and transform the world, transforming the systemic and cultural conditions that create inequity, abuse, neglect, etc., for those most exploited and oppressed in our society. We are replicating the work of Dickens in the original story of Oliver Twist, to shed light on children’s experience of homelessness and hunger as we set our theatre production in present day Central Florida.
Over the next few weeks, we will read John two chapters at a time and share music and themes from Oliver! New episodes of the “Your Week with St. Luke’s” podcast continue to drop each Monday, with Candler Foundry guest lecturer Dr. Jonathon Groce. You can listen to the first lecture by clicking here.
AND….we are excited to have very special guest preachers during the month of July. Mark your calendars as these amazing preachers come alongside us to lead worship:
July 10 – The Rev. Jim Harnish, founding pastor of St. Luke’s
July 17 – The Rev. Mary Downey, CEO of Hope Partnerships in Kissimmee
July 24 – The Rev. Madeline Luzinski and the worship leaders of Spark, from the Florida UM Children’s Home
Where is love? In the incarnation. Where is love? The answer is us. Join us this Sunday in worship as we begin our journey to meet John’s Jesus and explore the first two chapters, celebrate America with special music, and gather at the Communion table together.
Grace and Peace –