Dear St. Lukers,
Last week before Bill Barnes left with 45 pilgrims for the Holy Land, we were having our weekly “check in.” (Want an update on the Holy Land trip? Click here.) As we talked about this particular sermon series, I shared with him something he never knew about me. I explained an old “scar” Christ had turned into something beautiful in my life. It’s one of those resurrection stories of healing we have been talking about. You just never know how God will use a time of youthful stupidity or doubt to give you resurrection healing, but also put a sticky note in the book of life, as if to say: “we will come back to this down the road, trust me, I’ll use it.”
Rewind to the Sunday before, at “Discover St. Luke’s.” We had 20 new St. Lukers attending the class, seeking to learn more about our congregation and consider the next step of partnering with us as members. The group was diverse in age, family make-up, race, culture, orientation, and religious affiliation. All with a unique story to tell about how God brought them to St. Luke’s.
What was funny, is at the beginning, I gave the typical invitation for each person to introduce themselves. You know the drill: name, how long you’ve been coming, who or what was your first entry point. However, something very different happened with this group. People didn’t just share their answers in 10 words or less. They stood up and began to share their testimonies. Stories of how God has been working through St. Lukers who invited them, or how they connected through a ministry other than worship. Those ministries each happened to be created through the 4D Vision (theater, cluster groups, support groups) over the last couple of years. Their stories were so profound and moving with honesty about celebrations and struggles along the way. Everything they shared was real, authentic, and transformative and the ministry area and St. Luker who invited them had been, for many, the answer to a search for a place to belong. There wasn’t a dry eye in the room.
As I listened, I recognized how God has been using YOUR dreams from 2011 when we created the 4D Vision. I thought to myself, “huh, look at that God, it worked!” It was another moment of confirmation and gratitude of the ways God has used me and all of us, in ways we never could have imagined or expected to reach people with acceptance, hospitality, community and love.
Maybe this is how Peter felt after the first Pentecost. The Holy Spirit rushes in and empowers the disciples in their hiding places to speak the languages of the people. When the community thinks all the disciples must be drunk, Peter stands up and preaches his heart out. Peter, the disciple, the bold one and also the fearful denier – comes forward to give testimony, as an eye witness to the power of the resurrection of Christ for everyone gathered. Scripture says that day thousands were added to their numbers. Don’t you think he went home and spent some time with himself and thought…“really God, me of all people, after all I’ve done? You really are using me, to do this thing called the church?”
This week in worship we celebrate the gift of the Holy Spirit on unlikely people, rag tag disciples who are wondering how they will live into this great commission Christ gave them saying, “you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth.” We invite you to Pentecost worship where we will celebrate the powerful, Spirit empowered ways we have lived into revealing the Kingdom and look forward to the next chapter of vision God has for us. We invite you to wear red if you wish, Pastor Corey seems to really like that idea! We will celebrate new members in all of our services and our graduating seniors at our 11:00 worship services.
I can’t wait to see you in worship. I’m so excited, I’m going to preach all five services! And if you’ve ever wondered how or why God would heal you, call you and use YOUR testimony for Kingdom purposes, let me assure you, God can use all of us if we are faithful enough to say yes. We are BLESSED you are here and you are right where you belong, because St. Luke’s couldn’t be who it is without U!
Grace and Peace,