Being the Field | July 26, 2020

By the Rev. Dr. Helen Svoboda-Barber

May only God’s Word be spoken, and only God’s Word be heard.

Jesus is a funny guy. Do you ever think so? 

Like in today’s Gospel reading, he is throwing parables fast and furious at the crowd:

“Hey Y’all, get this! The Kingdom of God is like a mustard seed that grows into a great bush. It’s like a pinch of yeast that makes great big loaves of bread. It’s like a treasure buried in a field. It’s like a pearl you’ve been searching for your whole life. It’s like a net overflowing with all kinds of fish. Do you get it, everyone? Do you understand?”

And the whole crowd said, “Sure.”

But really? Really? I cannot imagine that everyone understood what Jesus meant. 

Perhaps no one wanted to look dumb in front of their neighbors. Or perhaps they were just ready for Jesus to move on to another topic. 

Or maybe they were hoping the dinner break would come as soon as this session ended. 

Whatever the reasons, everyone said they understood. And we are left to figure out what it all really means.

I have talked with you before about how the Bible is sometimes called the Living Word of God. How we can read the same passage year after year, and it can mean something different to us each time. How the wisdom of the Bible can speak to and inform just about any circumstance we find ourselves in.

And today I am looking at this set of parables in the midst of a pandemic. I am looking at them through this place of weakness and separateness and loneliness and frustration. I am looking at them with an inability to fix the problems before us today. 

And so, looking at these parables in July of 2020, I see us right there in the midst of the parables. 

Right now, in the midst of the pandemic, I feel like I am in a place in these parables where I have never been before.

The pandemic of 2020 is like a mustard plant, just barely breaking through the ground, after a great deal of effort. The pandemic of 2020 is like flour and water in the first minutes after yeast has been added, when no growth, no life is yet happening. The pandemic of 2020 is like a field, lying fallow, changing hands from one owner to another. The pandemic of 2020 is like a vast ocean in which maybe, somewhere in the vastness, there is a pearl of great price. The pandemic of 2020 is like a net in the water, churning with fish but not yet gathered. 

The pandemic of 2020 is an uncomfortable place to be. It is a deadly place for many. The virus is killing people, and giving other people long-term health issues. Anger and violence are killing others. More and more people are living with deep depression and anxiety. Polarization is breeding distrust and us versus them thinking. The pandemic of 2020 is not a good place to be.

We are in a time of change, a time of revolution, a time of no-longer and not-yetness. I don’t like it.

And yet, in the midst of where we are, there is something good and holy and right from the past. There is some potential for hope, that is within this terrible time of in-between.

And yet, in the midst of where we are, there is something good and holy and right calling us into the future. There is some future hope that is within this terrible time of in-between.

And so, in July of 2020, I realize that I am not the seed or the the yeast or the treasure or the pearl or the net. I am not the grand mustard bush, or the fulsome loaf of bread, or the treasure, or the worth-it-all pearl, or the basket of fish. 

No. In the midst of this pandemic, I am the in-between. I am not what I was in the past. I am not what I will be in the future. I am not who I thought I was. I am not who I want to be. But I am. I am within the Kingdom of God. And the Kingdom of God is within me. And the Kingdom of God continues to make this current life valuable. The Kingdom of God proclaims that every life, every moment is of infinite worth. 

And so I sit here, in the in-between time, not useless and hopeless. But waiting. Pregnant with potential. Beginning to feel the sun on my face, the leavening working, the spade cutting through the earth, the shell being found, the pull on the net. And I look and I listen and I pray. And I weigh my gifts and my abilities against the needs around me. And I know that I will be changed. And I know that I will continue to be stretched, I know that I will need to offer gifts I did not realize I had.  

And I have faith that pretty soon, or sometime in the future, it will be time again. Time to grow towards the sun. Time to rise with abandon. Time to reveal the treasure. Time to beautify the world. Time to feed the hungry, and return what is not of use.

The kingdom of God is within us and around us. It is OK if we are not living into our full perfection and greatness every day of this pandemic. It is OK, for now, to simply be the sprout, be the flour, be the field, be the ocean, be the potential; and to watch, and to wait, and to hope and to prepare for that moment when we will again be called, transformed, into greater ministry, greater connection and greater life.

Each of us who are just getting by, surviving but not thriving, lying fallow and watching and waiting will be invited again to be active participants in God’s dream for our world at different times and different ways. First, we will see new layers of brokenness in our world. And then we will feel a need or a capacity within us to DO something. To participate in bringing about God’s desire for this creation.

Our praying in stillness will become praying in action. The potential of God’s hope for each one of us will become manifest through our lives as we participate in the healing of our world, as we participate in demanding and working for a more just and equitable world, as we begin offering ourselves and our gifts in new and surprising ways.

Sooner or later, and repeatedly, this world will provide you new opportunities to use your faith and your abilities to make this world a better place, to align it more closely with God’s desires. If you are already there: God bless you, and God strengthen you. But if you feel stuck in a place that you have never been before, hold on to these parables. Hold on to them as a reminder of that seed, that yeast, that treasure, that pearl, that fish, that nugget that is within you.

Rest and wait, watch and listen, prepare to be changed. Hope for the future, And BE the hope for the future.

I speak in the name of the One, Holy Triune God. Amen.

Listen online to this sermon here at SoundCloud.

Watch on Facebook.

Announcements for July 24, 2020

This Week at St. Luke’s
In-person worship is suspended until AT LEAST SEPTEMBER.
Public Health Indicators can be found here

Click here for this week’s complete bulletin for our Sunday 10am worship.

Saturday
9am Rector Reflection on Facebook
Sunday
   10am Spiritual Communion on Facebook 
    Sermon and Godly Play Story posts on Facebook
    11am Coffee Hour on Zoom
    8pm Youth Group on Zoom 
Monday
  6:00 Extra Vestry Meeting 
  7:00 Book Study: Uprooting Racism on Zoom
Tuesday
   6:30  Virtual VBS on Zoom
   7:00  Storytime on Facebook
Wednesday
   Noon Prayer and Share
Friday
   1pm Anxiety & Grief Group Google Hangout
New This Week
WATCH YOUR MAIL
Watch your mail and make sure to read our letter updating you about planning for fall in-person events, and a survey about what you would be interested in doing with St. Luke’s this fall.

FORWARD DAY BY DAY
The August-October Forward Day by Day booklets have arrived.  If you would like to use this daily reflection tool, please contact Kathy and she will mail you a booklet.  
(You can also access the meditations online here, or listen to the podcast here.)

GARDEN DAY AUGUST 8, 7:30-9:30am
Eileen Morgan, the leader of our August Garden Day, invites you to join with a dedicated group of St. Lukers to do some late summer garden care (e.g. weeding and sprucing up our campus).  Bring a mask, your favorite hydration liquid, and gardening tools.  We’ll get started early to “beat the heat.”

BECOMING BELOVED COMMUNITY WEBINARS
The Episcopal Church will offer webinars from 4-6pm on July 28-30.  These free webinars do require registration, which you can do here. 
Tues 28: TRUTH (Telling the truth about white supremacy and racial oppression)
Wed 29: JUSTICE (Changing racist systems, especially “criminal” justice and public health/COVID response)
Thurs 30: HEALING (Breaking free of white supremacy via training and formation)

ADAPTIVE P.E. EQUIPMENT
One of our young St. Lukers uses adaptive PE equipment at school.  Because school will be at home this fall, his teacher is asking for at-home supplies for all the children who need mobility-accessible equipment. If you would like to purchase some of this needed equipment, click here.

LEAP UPDATE
This spring, LEAP teachers created almost-daily videos for their students, and the videos continue this summer.  They have delivered 4 boxes of materials to each student’s home, and called each family every week. The Board approved new spending on produce, grocery cards, and rent help.  This fall, their goal is to provide tablets for all students.  They will begin with virtual learning, then move to outdoor learning, and eventually plan to return indoors. To support this important work or find out more, click here. 

HEALTH-E FROM HOME
UNC is offering a free 8-week program to support you making small changes for a healthier life.  They are evaluating how this program can support people stuck at home more because of COVID-19.  To learn more, click here

DEALING WITH STRESS WEBINAR
The Diocese of North Carolina encourages you to join one of these webinars about Dealing With Stress, Anxiety and Grief. 
August 18th at 7pm: For Parents
August 20th at 7pm: Focus on Adults
Announcements
JULY BOOK STUDY: UPROOTING RACISM
We encourage you to read the book “Uprooting Racism: How White People Can Work for Racial Justice” by Paul Kivel and then join a discussion group by Zoom on Monday, July 27 from 7:00-8:30.  The book is available using Durham Library’s Hoopla app, or by using your Nook, Kindle or free Kindle app.
After each chapter, answer: 1) What did I learn/what was new to me? 2) What do I want to know, 3) How am I feeling about what I read?  Contact Eileen Morgan for more information, and to let her know you plan to read/attend.
How Can I Help?
GOOD NEWS COMMUNITY GARDEN
Mary Beth Berkley is coordinating discussions between St. Luke’s, St. Titus, and El Buen Pastor about creating a Good News community garden to grow food and deepen relationships among the congregations.  We’re looking for folks interested in vegetable gardening and/or building community! Want to know more or get involved?  Contact Mary Beth.

TEMPORARY VESTRY CLERK NEEDED
Please contact Helen if you would be willing to be Clerk of the Vestry for the second half of 2020.  Duties include taking minutes at all vestry meetings, Parish Council, and Parish-wide meetings; edit and distribute minutes, and work with the Parish Administrator to file appropriately.  Ability to take notes quickly, comfort with Word, Google Docs and Zoom required.  

KEEP CLERGY IN THE LOOP
Please make sure to keep the clergy in the loop if there are any needs or concerns you have or you know about.  You can e-mail Helen at any time.  

REMEMBER, Your clergy will not send you e-mail or texts messages asking for gift cards or financial help.  Be suspicious of anything that comes outside of these announcements.  Do not respond to the request, but call the clergy person or create a separate e-mail to rector@stlukesdurham.org to verify. 

Grace and Hope in Wheat and Weeds | July 19, 2020

By the Rev. Kate Spelman

In all honesty, this has not been a great week for me. Nothing’s wrong, and honestly, nothing in my life has changed from last week. It’s just that some weeks I feel almost OK about living through a pandemic… And sometimes I just don’t.

My wife can actually tell that I’m not doing well by the fact that I had found and printed a new meal planning worksheet, and already picked out most of what we’re going to be eating next week – including snacks! – by the time Wednesday rolled around. See, when I’m anxious or feeling pessimistic, I like to put things on calendars or planners or spreadsheets. I exert some control over the present by exerting some control over the future. Which is supposed to make me feel better.

That’s why I think it’s the work of the Spirit, and not just your rector’s vacation schedule, that brought me to this Matthew passage this week.

This is one of those parables about “the kingdom of heaven”: Jesus tells a story about a householder who plants good things in their field, but an enemy came and sowed bad things by night. The servants are aghast and offer to go through and rip out the weeds. But oddly enough the householder tells them not to. He says “that’s not a job for you, and not a job for today.” Things will be sorted out at the end of the harvest. Someone else will come and separate the weeds from the wheat.

Several verses later, in what most scholars agree is probably a later addition – that is, a passage written by the evangelist but probably not spoken by Jesus – we get a neat explanation of how this parable is about, well, church. Which we all know to be true – you can pick your friends, and you can pick your nose… but you can’t pick who sits next to you at coffee hour or chats you in the Zoom.

I think though that this is a narrowing of the parable, which is meant to apply much more widely than just to the church. When Jesus says “the kingdom of heaven is like…”, he means “this is how God deals with all of creation.” As much as this applies to the church, it also applies to our world in general and to ourselves. Judgement belongs only to God, as it was in the beginning and evermore shall be.

I speak of the beginning of things, because I actually think that this parable is also a retelling of the very beginning of things. This bit of Matthew 13 retells the story of Genesis 1 – the story of Adam and Eve in the garden. Because this is exactly what God is doing in the person of Jesus Christ – re-telling the entire story of creation. That’s why Paul, elsewhere, calls Jesus a new Adam, a new creation.

In Genesis 1, God planted nothing but good things, but then the enemy comes and sows the seeds of doubt in Adam and Eve’s hearts. Because here’s the big parallel – neither in the garden of Eden, nor in the householder’s field, were the servants of God without work to do.

Adam and Eve weren’t just relaxing in Eden. God had assigned them to be the stewards of creation. And that wheat won’t grow itself – the servants of the householder will still need to nurture the wheat to make sure it survives to harvest time. They will need to be stewards of this crop for it to survive long enough for the reapers to tell it apart from the weeds.

The trouble in Eden begins when Adam and Eve want to do more than what they are given to do. When their role as stewards isn’t enough, when they want the same kind of knowledge that God has, to have the knowledge and the judgement between good and evil.  I believe it’s precisely that temptation that the servants face in this parable. They want to take on the role of judging between weeds and wheat. And they’re shut down there.

I don’t think this parable calls us to relax so much as refocus – to remember our roles as stewards of creation, but not owners. We are made to tend to what is in front of us, and indeed what is within us, without passing judgement on it or trying to sort out what will be revealed in God’s good time. And to find hope in the fact that all will happen in God’s good time.

See, if we believe that God controls the narrative maybe we can even look forward to the next chapter. Or even to the final one, where God’s righteous judgement is realized and our righteous work comes to completion.

Now, one major difference between the original story of creation, and this re-telling of the narrative in Matthew’s Gospel: we know how Genesis ends. (Spoiler alert – not well, in case you somehow missed that.) But we don’t know what these servants do after the parable ends.

I wonder what you think. Did they manage to tend the field, grumbling as they went about watering weeds and wheat? Or did they shrug and try to find the beauty in how they grew together? Maybe I’m just optimistic, and choose to believe that they did, and, maybe, even, that their lives and characters were enriched by it. That they learned to see beauty in how the two plants grew together.

But this parable is more than optimistic – it is hopeful.

This parable reflects the hope that Paul tells us is ours in Jesus Christ, the hope that all the world is being redeemed. That God is the author of this story, is telling this tale, and that when we turn the last page and close the book, we will see that this has been a love story all along – a romantic comedy, not a tragedy. It’s this hope that allows him to hear the groanings of creation, even if they sound like death gasps, are really the sounds of new and abundant life being birthed. 

Paul’s hope is so much more than optimism, because it is grounded in trust. In the trust that, even though we cannot see or predict – let alone control! – the future – we can rest in the hope that it is in God’s hands.

And… if all of creation is being redeemed, I wonder: can we even believe that the weeds will be redeemed? Is it possible that on the last day, the weeds, even those planted around you right now, will have grown together with the wheat, and that both will bear fruit? That’s the annoying part of grace, it is so often the surprise or twist ending at the end of the story.

So by all means – I encourage all the healthy coping mechanisms you need. We all gotta eat, and I now have a meal plan. But I want to make sure – that when that coping mechanism fails, or is taken away from you – when you ask God for something more and God says, “not a job for you, not a job for today.” That when that happens, you are left with hope. Hope not just for today, but for today – hope that all of this, weeds and wheat, are in God’s hands. The hope that is ours in Christ, ours in our faith, promised to us in our baptism. Hope that the God of all creation is redeeming all of creation. Amen.

Announcements for July 17, 2020

This Week at St. Luke’s
In-person worship is suspended until AT LEAST SEPTEMBER.
Public Health Indicators can be found here

Click here for this week’s complete bulletin for our Sunday 10am worship.

Saturday
9am Rector Reflection on Facebook
Sunday
   10am Spiritual Communion on Facebook 
    Sermon and Godly Play Story posts on Facebook
    11am Coffee Hour on Zoom
    8pm Youth Group on Zoom 
Monday
  6:30 Vestry Meeting 
Wednesday
   Noon Prayer and Share
Friday
   1pm Anxiety & Grief Group Google Hangout 

 
New This Week
PREACHER REV’D KATE SPELMAN
While we worship online, we have the opportunity to hear from preachers who live far from Durham.  This Sunday, we will hear from Kate Spelman, and Episcopal priest in the Diocese of Chicago.  After a decade of congregational ministry, she recently returned to the secular world where she creates programming and resources for older LGBTQ+ adults and caregivers.
Announcements
WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE?
St. Luke’s leadership is looking towards fall and starting to plan for more small group events either in person or online.  Let Helen know what you would be interested in helping with or attending!

JULY BOOK STUDY: UPROOTING RACISM
We encourage you to read the book “Uprooting Racism: How White People Can Work for Racial Justice” by Paul Kivel and then join a discussion group by Zoom on Monday, July 27 from 7:00-8:30.  The book is available using Durham Library’s Hoopla app, or by using your Nook, Kindle or free Kindle app.
After each chapter, answer: 1) What did I learn/what was new to me? 2) What do I want to know, 3) How am I feeling about what I read?  Contact Eileen Morgan for more information, and to let her know you plan to read/attend.
How Can I Help?
GOOD NEWS COMMUNITY GARDEN
Mary Beth Berkley is coordinating discussions between St. Luke’s, St. Titus, and El Buen Pastor about creating a Good News community garden to grow food and deepen relationships among the congregations.  We’re looking for folks interested in vegetable gardening and/or building community! Want to know more or get involved?  Contact Mary Beth.

TEMPORARY VESTRY CLERK NEEDED
Please contact Helen  if you would be willing to be Clerk of the Vestry for the second half of 2020.  Duties include taking minutes at all vestry meetings, Parish Council, and Parish-wide meetings; edit and distribute minutes, and work with the Parish Administrator to file appropriately.  Ability to take notes quickly, comfort with Word, Google Docs and Zoom required.  

KEEP CLERGY IN THE LOOP
Please make sure to keep the clergy in the loop if there are any needs or concerns you have or you know about.  You can e-mail Helen at any time.  

REMEMBER, Your clergy will not send you e-mail or texts messages asking for gift cards or financial help.  Be suspicious of anything that comes outside of these announcements.  Do not respond to the request, but call the clergy person or create a separate e-mail to rector@stlukesdurham.org to verify. 

Sermon for Youth Sunday | July 12, 2020

By El Nealson

“Lord, may the word that goes out from my mouth not return to me empty.”

Often these past months I have found myself praying something similar to this:

May I say words. May I say the right words. May they bring abundance, may they bring joy and peace. May they bring equality and justice.

Honestly, I’ve probably asked a bit too much of my words these past weeks. Yet, the words of this prayer bring some strange comfort to me. If you don’t know, in one month and 6 days I will be starting classes in college. And I am excited. And terrified.

I will be leaving my Saint Luke’s community for months, with no clear time of goodbye. No final hugs or words of advice. For over a decade, St. Luke’s has been my spiritual home. I am endlessly grateful for this. St Luke’s has given me love, lifted me up, steadied my faith, fed my spirit, and taught me lessons about kindness and acceptance that nowhere else could have. Truthfully this reminds me of our first reading today. St. Luke’s has sent out their word to me. Filled me with its wisdom, love and compassion. And now I go out. I am the word now. And in the coming months or years I will go out, to share the harvest of faith and kindness and caring that St. Luke’s has nurtured within me. I will return this harvest to the world not empty but full and hearty. 

But this lesson seems to also resonate within humanity. I’m not sure if you have ever heard the phrase “are you picking up what I’m putting down,” but this sums up the passage fairly well. In these times we often find ourselves at a loss for what to do in regards to COVID, and in regards to the shocking inequality and injustice that plagues our nation. Yet, this passage keeps coming back to my mind. I know I’m not alone in feeling helpless. I am just one person. So I feel I cannot dismantle an entire system of hate. But we together are many. If we continue to send out our word, hopes, joy and strength into the world, educate ourselves, and others, to reach out to others, do whatever we can.

One way I’ve done this is through my work on the board of InsideOut, a local queer youth led nonprofit. From classes on how to better our futures as queer people, to how to fight systems of oppression. From our yearly queer prom, to workshops on how to create an anti-racist Pride club in your school. We work to break down barriers and systems if oppression in our world wherever they exist. And the returns are numerous. My harvest appears in the smiles of other youth as they experience a loving space, the shouts of my peers as we call for greater equity, and from the fact that we are all living. Pushing on. In a world where even that can be difficult for queer youth. I’ve also done this through my work at HUGS Camp, a camp put on by the Episcopal Diocese of NC, where people of all abilities are able to share in the Kingdom of God. 

There are so many ways to send out your word and answer God’s call. Attend a racial equity training here in Durham, go to a protest on a cause you believe in, donate to a local nonprofit like InsideOut or the Durham Crisis Response Center. Write to a politician, or write to a youth who you think needs some encouragement. Get involved in HUGS camp. And please, please vote. In summary, do something. 

If we wait, not in silence and stillness but in power action, then one day, after much persisting, our  word will get through, it will come back with harvest and bounty. “The mountains and the hills before us shall burst into song, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.” The Lord will see it as a memorial to our love of God.  In such a broken world, we have no choice but to keep raining our power, our joy, our hopes, and our protests upon this Earth until we see the harvest.

So thank you, St. Luke’s, for teaching me and so many others how to be kinder, compassionate, loving people. For teaching us to be strong, and accept nothing less than radical welcome. To be determined knowing GOD is with us. You’ve taught me that if I keep putting down love and joy and hope, one day, it will be picked up.

Finally, as a recent high school graduate, I have one piece of homework to give you today. As you listen to the song my family sings in the service today, I entreat you to listen to the words. How has God called you? How will you answer? How will you return the harvest? And how will you send out your own gifts?

Announcements for July 10, 2020

This Week at St. Luke’s
In-person worship is suspended until AT LEAST SEPTEMBER.
Public Health Indicators can be found here

Click Here for this week’s compete bulletin for our Sunday 10am worship.

Saturday
9am Rector Reflection on Facebook
Sunday
   10am Youth-Led Spiritual Communion on Facebook Live
    Sermon and Godly Play Story posts on Facebook
    11am Coffee Hour on Zoom
    8pm Youth Group on Zoom 
Monday
  6:30 Finance Committee Meeting 
Wednesday
   Noon Prayer and Share
Friday
   1pm Anxiety & Grief Group Google Hangout 

 
New This Week
WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE?
St. Luke’s leadership is looking towards fall and starting to plan for more small group events either in person or online.  Let Helen know what you would be interested in helping with or attending!

RECTOR TIME OFF
Rector Helen will be taking time off from July 11-14.  The Rev’ds Susan Bennett and Jim Craven will both be available for any pastoral emergencies by phone or e-mail on those days. 
Announcements
YOUTH SUNDAY THIS WEEKEND
This Sunday, our Youth will lead worship.  They have been hard at work these past few weeks recording and editing our Spiritual Communion service.  Please make sure to participate in our service next week, premiering at 10am Sunday morning on Facebook or any time after that. 

READER and SINGERS SIGN-UP FOR WORSHIP
If you would like to be a reader for our weekly worship in July (recorded on Thursday from 3:00-4:30), sign up here.  

RACIAL HEALING BISHOPS CONVERSATION
Episcopal Bishops from the south (Province IV) will be in conversation with Dr. Catherine Meeks about “Reimagining Police in Province IV.”  The second session is July 14th 4:00-5:30 and includes our own Bishop Sam Rodman.

JULY BOOK STUDY: UPROOTING RACISM
We encourage you to read the book “Uprooting Racism: How White People Can Work for Racial Justice” by Paul Kivel and then join a discussion group by Zoom on Monday, July 27 from 7:00-8:30.  The book is available using Durham Library’s Hoopla app, or by using your Nook, Kindle or free Kindle app.
After each chapter, answer: 1) What did I learn/what was new to me? 2) What do I want to know, 3) How am I feeling about what I read?  Contact Eileen Morgan for more information, and to let her know you plan to read/attend.

UPDATED WEBSITE
As always, our St. Luke’s Website is at stlukesdurham.org  As of this week, we have moved over to a WordPress format which will both be easier for you to find the information you need, as well as easier to update.

UPCOMING PREACHERS
St. Luke’s is used to a variety of fabulous preaching voices as part of our worship experience.  This summer and fall, we will experiment with inviting some outside voices to preach for us.  This weekend our own El Nealson will give their second St. Luke’s sermon.  Next Sunday we will hear from the Rev’d Kate Spelman, a priest in the Chicago area.
How Can I Help?
GOOD NEWS COMMUNITY GARDEN
Mary Beth Berkley is coordinating discussions between St. Luke’s, St. Titus, and El Buen Pastor about creating a Good News community garden to grow food and deepen relationships among the congregations.  We’re looking for folks interested in vegetable gardening and/or building community! Want to know more or get involved?  Contact Mary Beth.

TEMPORARY VESTRY CLERK NEEDED
Please contact Helen  if you would be willing to be Clerk of the Vestry for the second half of 2020.  Duties include taking minutes at all vestry meetings, Parish Council, and Parish-wide meetings; edit and distribute minutes, and work with the Parish Administrator to file appropriately.  Ability to take notes quickly, comfort with Word, Google Docs and Zoom required.  

KEEP CLERGY IN THE LOOP
Please make sure to keep the clergy in the loop if there are any needs or concerns you have or you know about.  You can e-mail Helen at any time.  

REMEMBER, Your clergy will not send you e-mail or texts messages asking for gift cards or financial help.  Be suspicious of anything that comes outside of these announcements.  Do not respond to the request, but call the clergy person or create a separate e-mail to rector@stlukesdurham.org to verify.

Freedom for All | July 5, 2020

By the Rev. Dr. Helen Svoboda-Barber

May only God’s word be spoken, and only God’s word be heard.

The 4th of July always brings out complicated feelings in me. 

I am grateful for the freedom I have, and the ease I have living in this land. And yet, I cannot feel my freedom without also remembering the genocide of those who first lived on these lands. 

And I cannot feel my freedom without realizing how much of what we have was built from unpaid labor- -by owning other human beings. 

I cannot enjoy my freedom to live my life in this land without acknowledging that so many others in this very same country do not have the same freedom I do to move safely and undisturbed.

I was deeply touched by an item from National Public Radio this week. They gathered several descendants of Fredrick Douglass to read his speech, “What to the slave is the 4th of July?” It is a powerful reminder to us, 170 years later, that there is much work still to do to provide freedom for all in this country. 

Perhaps you watched this video too. I invite you to listen (or listen again) in the context of worship. Let’s listen together, and then I will conclude with some reflections:

https://www.npr.org/2020/07/03/884832594/video-frederick-douglass-descendants-read-his-fourth-of-july-speech

Fredrick Douglass wrote this speech for the white people listening to him in Rochester, NY on July 5, 1852. He said, “the freedom gained is yours.” Yes, that is the rub for me. I am so very thankful for the freedom that was gained in 1776 for male, white landowners, and for the freedom that has trickled down to me because of my circumstances of birth. But there were so many who were not freed in 1776, and so many of our neighbors in this land today are still not free in the way I am free. 

In the 1970s, the Combahee River Collective wrote, “If Black women were free, it would mean that everyone else would have to be free since [Black women’s] freedom would necessitate the destruction of all the systems of oppression.”[1] 

In 2020, I would edit their statement to read, “If Black trans women were free, it would mean we would all be free, because that freedom would necessitate the destruction of all of the systems of oppression.”

Jesus came to destroy ALL of the systems of oppression. We are called to join Jesus in that mission to destroy all of the systems of oppression. And until all of our systems of oppression are destroyed, the 4th of July is both a joy and a sorrow in my heart.


[1] https://americanstudies.yale.edu/sites/default/files/files/Keyword%20Coalition_Readings.pdf

Announcements for July 3, 2020

In-person worship is suspended until AT LEAST SEPTEMBER.
Public Health Indicators can be found here

This Week At St. Luke’s

Click here for this week’s complete bulletin for our Sunday 10am worship.

Saturday
9am Rector Reflection on Facebook
Sunday
   10am Spiritual Communion on Facebook Live
    Sermon and Godly Play Story posts on Facebook
    11am Coffee Hour on Zoom
    8pm Youth Group on Zoom 
Monday
  6:30 Extra Vestry Meeting (Preparing for Fall)
Wednesday
   Noon Prayer and Share
Friday
   1pm Anxiety & Grief Group Google Hangout 
Sunday
   10am Youth-Led Spiritual Communion on Facebook Live
    Sermon and Godly Play Story posts on Facebook
    11am Coffee Hour on Zoom
    8pm Youth Group on Zoom 
 
New This Week

SOCIAL JUSTICE VBS BEGINNING
Laura Thornton, our Children and Youth Minister, will be leading an online “CommUNITY Allies” VBS for St. Luke’s children and their families.  This curriculum focuses on our call as Christians to the work of anti-racism, inclusion and social justice.  If your family would like to participate, please let Laura know by Sunday.  

YOUTH SUNDAY JULY 12
Next Sunday, our Youth will lead worship.  They have been hard at work these past few weeks recording and editing our Spiritual Communion service.  Please make sure to participate in our service next week, premiering at 10am Sunday morning on Facebook or any time after that. 

UPDATED WEBSITE
As always, our St. Luke’s Website is at stlukesdurham.org  As of this week, we have moved over to a WordPress format which will both be easier for you to find the information you need, as well as easier to update.  We apologize if you have difficulties accessing the website over the weekend.  We are working to resolve any issues and are hopeful things will be running smoothly by early next week.  

CONTINUING ONLINE
The vestry had a 2-hour extra meeting this week to work on COVID related issues.  Because of the continuing rise in cases, our vestry decided we should continue meeting exclusively online in July. If public health indicators improve, we may begin trial small outdoor gatherings in August.  
 
THANKS, JUNE GARDEN DAY PARTICIPANTS!
Thank you to all who came out for our June Garden Days.  Thank you especially to Daniel Emory for coordinating June’s event. 
Announcements

READER and SINGERS SIGN-UP FOR WORSHIP
If you would like to be a reader for our weekly worship in July (recorded on Thursday from 3:00-4:30), sign up here.  

RACIAL HEALING BISHOPS CONVERSATION
Episcopal Bishops from the south (Province IV) will be in conversation with Dr. Catherine Meeks about “Reimagining Police in Province IV.” The first session is July 9th, 10:00-11:30.  The second session is July 14th 4:00-5:30 and includes our own Bishop Sam Rodman.

JULY BOOK STUDY: UPROOTING RACISM
We encourage you to read the book “Uprooting Racism: How White People Can Work for Racial Justice” by Paul Kivel and then join a discussion group by Zoom on Monday, July 27 from 7:00-8:30.  The book is available using Durham Library’s Hoopla app, or by using your Nook, Kindle or free Kindle app.
After each chapter, answer: 1) What did I learn/what was new to me? 2) What do I want to know, 3) How am I feeling about what I read?  Contact Eileen Morgan for more information, and to let her know you plan to read/attend.

DIOCESAN CONVENTION NOMINEES
If you are interested in being a 3-year delegate to Diocesan Convention, please contact Senior Warden Eileen Morgan by July 1st.  Vestry will vote at the July meeting, with the highest votes becoming our 3-year delegate and the three next highest votes becoming this year’s alternates.
The delegate needs to be able to attend Diocesan Convention all day on Fri, Nov 20 and Sat, Nov 21.  This year’s convention may be virtual or may be held in Winston-Salem.  Our current delegates are Phillip Bass and Bobbie Hendrix.
 
How Can I Help?

GOOD NEWS COMMUNITY GARDEN
Mary Beth Berkley is coordinating discussions between St. Luke’s, St. Titus, and El Buen Pastor about creating a Good News community garden to grow food and deepen relationships among the congregations.  We’re looking for folks interested in vegetable gardening and/or building community! Want to know more or get involved?  Contact Mary Beth.

TEMPORARY VESTRY CLERK NEEDED
Please contact Helen  if you would be willing to be Clerk of the Vestry for the second half of 2020.  Duties include taking minutes at all vestry meetings, Parish Council, and Parish-wide meetings; edit and distribute minutes, and work with the Parish Administrator to file appropriately.  Ability to take notes quickly, comfort with Word, Google Docs and Zoom required.  

GET EDUCATED ABOUT “THE TALK”
A local theatre company did a live production of “The Talk” last year. This play centers on how parent must teach black boys how to behave during traffic stops.  They are now making it available to watch at home here.  

KEEP CLERGY IN THE LOOP
Please make sure to keep the clergy in the loop if there are any needs or concerns you have or you know about.  You can e-mail Helen at any time.  

REMEMBER, Your clergy will not send you e-mail or texts messages asking for gift cards or financial help.  Be suspicious of anything that comes outside of these announcements.  Do not respond to the request, but call the clergy person or create a separate e-mail to rector@stlukesdurham.org to verify.

Prophecy in the Time of COVID | June 28, 2020

by Phillip Bass

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be
acceptable to you O’ Lord. Amen.

On this Sunday last year, I stood among those gathered together at St. Luke’s, and shared a sermon in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots. If you will remember, those were the riots that sparked a new era in the movement for LGBTQ+ rights in America and around the world. And, today, June 28, marks the 50th anniversary of the first LGBTQ+ Pride parade. On June 28, 1970, that first parade, then called the Christopher Street Liberation Day, took place and pride parades have occurred every year since, in growing numbers around our country and our world. When I spoke last year, we were gathered together, we sat next to one another, passed the peace, shared coffee, and greeted one another with handshakes and hugs. I miss all of these ways of being present as a body and I deeply miss all of you. But, the events of 2020 have simply not allowed for us to be together in the ways we previously enjoyed. And, just like St. Luke’s campus, many Pride parade routes will be empty today. And, I speak to you virtually, and not in our shared St. Luke’s home.

None of us knew one year ago, what dramatic changes would take place in our lives within the coming months. None of us were aware of our coming exile. We had no idea that in one year we would be socially distanced to protect ourselves and those we love from an invading virus. None of us knew that we would be driven into our homes for months on end to stay safe and that during this time we would not gather together again as a body. Nor did we know that we’d lose hundreds of thousands of lives both around the world and here at home. When I spoke on this Sunday last year, I spoke of Holy Chaos; the idea that there are times in history when the status quo can no longer be endured. I spoke of there being times in life when the ways things always have been can no longer be and of times when we are forced into something new. I reminded those gathered that in these times of Holy Chaos, we must lean into our righteous anger, rely on mercy, and to seek the justice that creates Holy change.

In reflecting on the experiences of 2020, I, personally, have been challenged to look within myself and question why it is easier for me to celebrate the changes that have occurred through the lens of history than it is to embrace the change that is occurring in the here and now. Why is it easy to look back on eras before I was even born and perhaps even romanticize parades, protests, marches, and riots? But, somehow, in our new reality, in our current exile, I find myself struggling with some of the same.

I’m sure that many of you are aware of the ReOpenNC rallies, where fellow North Carolinians have demanded the end of our COVID socially distanced exile. Likewise, I’m sure many of you have listened to the scientists and medical experts who tell us to Stay Home. Perhaps you have found ways to support the Black Lives Matter movement, but wrestled with ideas surrounding defunding the police and the destruction of property. Voices everywhere are telling us what to do and what to believe. Who are our prophets?

Who do we listen to? How do we know who to believe? I have come to realize that it is easy to appreciate the challenges of the past because I have benefited from them. And, I have found that I wrestle with some of the movements of our current age because they threaten my sense of comfort and my privilege. It would be easier to listen to the false prophets who promise a return to normal and who tell me what I want to hear.

Our 2020 experience of discomfort and displacement is not so different from what we hear in today’s reading from Jeremiah. Today we find Jeremiah prophesying to Jerusalem. Speaking in the Temple, he warns the people of their own coming exile. Scholars tell us that our reading today gives us a glimpse of history that falls somewhere between the first Babylonian attack on Jerusalem in 597, but before the ultimate devastation of 587, when the prophecy of exile was fulfilled. At this time, the inhabitants of Judah were forcibly removed from their homes and sent to live in Babylon by the conquering army. And, over the following years, many other Jews fled the captivity of their land to seek refuge in other surrounding kingdoms.

Interestingly, Jeremiah was not prophesying alone. Our reading today reminds us that there were other prophets, telling the people what they wanted to hear. You see, Hananiah was also present in the Temple. And, while Jeremiah was warning those present to prepare for the coming exile and to accept the reality of their experience, Hananiah was prophesying a return to the status quo. Just prior to our reading today, we hear Hananiah promising the return of those already exiled during the first Babylonian attack back to Jerusalem within the next two years. One prophecy said, Stay home, prepare, and be safe. The other said to return to the status quo and go on about your life as if the exile was not currently present, because surely it is ending soon. These sound very familiar to the voices of prophecy we hear today. And like us, the people of Jerusalem had a choice. Their way of life, very much like ours, was under attack. They were being divided, some had already been sent into exile, most were fearful of the future, and no one had any idea how long their experience of chaos may last. So, it was easy to grasp onto the voices of false prophecy that provided comfort and a promise of the return to normalcy.

So, how do we know who to believe today? Well, Jeremiah gives us an answer. Our reading tells us that, “As for the prophet who prophesies peace, when the word of that prophet comes true, then it will be known that the Lord has truly sent the prophet.” Our reading makes it clear that we recognize the prophecy of truth when we hear a promise of peace. But, let’s be clear. Peace is not the same as the status quo. And, peace may not always look like what we would consider peaceful. Too often, in our own comfort and privilege, we have mistaken normalcy for peace. But those who are not so comfortable and those who are without privilege would certainly disagree with us that our normal is peaceful. For some of us, our current COVID exile feels new and frightening. It feels as if forces beyond our control have driven us out of our temple, our home of worship, our businesses, away from family and brought our normal lives to a halt. But far too many among us have long been in exile, struggling for a living wage for their work, fighting for access to healthcare, longing to read their own stories in our white washed history books, waiting to marry who they love, and striving to achieve true equality. Our exile is not new. COVID has simply opened the eyes of many of us to the exile that was already present.

Far too many among us would understand the reality of Jeremiah’s prophecy. Jeremiah did not promise an immediate return to Jerusalem for those exiled, nor did he prophesy an imminent end to the time of Holy Chaos. But, Jeremiah did go on to foretell of a time when life would be disrupted, when powers would be overturned, and when eventually, the relationship between God and God’s people would be righted. Jeremiah promised the end of exile and he promised a time of peace.

Before going any further, I need to pause and make one thing very clear. God does not cause pandemics, nor does God create systems of division, oppression, or exiles in our world. But, God is present with us in them. The same God that fed the Israelites wandering through the desert, that made a covenant with Noah in the form of a rainbow after the exiles and isolation of his time in the arc, that was present with God’s people during the Babylonian attack, and the God that was present in Christ on the cross, is the same God that is present with us now. God is with us in the midst of our exile and our time away from St. Luke’s and from one another. And God is with us in our time of Holy Chaos, just as God was present at the Stonewall Inn 51 years ago, and as God was present with George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and the thousands and thousands of others who lost their lives to systems of oppression and racism and hatred. God has not abandoned us and God is continuing to offer us peace. Our Christian story tells us that even in the midst of exile and chaos, God is in the business of redeeming and bringing peace to God’s people! So we are challenged to listen for those speaking the language of peace. We are challenged to listen for those speaking truth and to not take the easy path of those prophesying falsely.

We don’t know how long this exile will last, but we are called to be active participants in God’s Holy Chaos and in God’s peacemaking story. We will know what peace looks like, when we recognize in the prophecy or in the action of another, a love for God, a love for one another, and a love of self. Peace involves listening to those who do not yet know peace. Peace requires questioning the status quo. And peace always looks like love. It will require those with power stepping out of their places of privilege and those who have been exiled far too long to step up into power. This kind of peace, God’s peace, looks like all of us working together to create equality and to restructure the social, political, health, racial, and other systems we return to when our exile has ended. And those peacemakers, those prophets of truth, may not look like who we expect them to be. Some prophets of peace wear uniforms, some wear badges, some are in hospitals, and some are in the streets, some carry protest signs, while some tear down monuments of oppression. We will recognize them when we step back from our places of comfort and privilege and witness them loving god and loving neighbor in their work together. This is the work we are called to undertake during this time of Holy Chaos.

I do not know when we will be together again physically as one body at St. Luke’s. But, I do know that whenever we do, it will not look the same as it did one year ago. Signs of peace and loving one another will look much different. If we truly love God, and love neighbor as ourselves…if we truly seek peace, then our signs of that peace will look like wearing face masks, refraining from hugging, not sharing coffee, or even sitting close to one another. Signs of peace and love may even include staying home to protect and love those most vulnerable among us. It will look like small gatherings, handfuls of St. Lukers being together in small amounts of time. COVID 19 has not gone away. Voices of prophecy that tell us to leave our homes and get back to life as we knew it or as we want it to be are nothing more than false prophecies. As peacemakers we must listen for new ways of expressing our Christian love to one another and we must be open to learning new ways of sharing life together, even when it is uncomfortable to us.

If we need an example of what this may look like, I invite you to pay close attention to the movements taking place in our society. Watch and listen to those prophesying peace. We may not have Pride parades this year. But, we do have people in the streets; brown people, white people, queer people, Christian people, Muslim people, Jewish people, all varieties of God’s people coming together demanding inclusion for those who have too long been exiled among us. I’ve witnessed Black Lives Matter protesters marching alongside protesters with rainbow flags, who stand next to protesters carrying Trans Rights Banners with raised brown fists. God’s people are finding new ways to come together to end social exiles. And we are challenged to do the same.

I am grateful for our current prophets; Our Bishops, Sam and Ann, and others from our Diocese who have been working tirelessly to ensure that we will be together again when it is safe to do so. I’m grateful for our clergy and vestry who continue to explore new ways for us to be together and to carry on with our lives of faith as one body, even as we are physically separated. And I am grateful for those out in the streets, in the hospitals, and in their homes reminding us what holy chaos, and love, and peacemaking look like. God is present with us in our time of exile and God will be present with us in the newness of the life we discover when our current exile ends. And I pray God be with you all until we meet again.

In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Announcements for June 26, 2020

THIS WEEK AT ST. LUKE’S
In-person worship is suspended until AT LEAST SEPTEMBER.
(More details coming in July.)
Public Health Indicators can be found here

Click Here for this week’s compete bulletin for our Sunday 10am worship.

Saturday
7:30am  June Garden Day (see below)
Sunday
   10am Spiritual Communion on Facebook Live
    Sermon and Godly Play Story posts on Facebook
    11am Coffee Hour on Zoom
    8pm Youth Group on Zoom 
Monday
  6:30 Extra Vestry Meeting (Preparing for Fall)
Wednesday
    Noon Prayer and Share
    7pm Pauli Murray Service on the Diocesan Facebook Page
Thursday
  5:30-7:00 Social Hour and/or Dinner Group Zoom
Friday
   1pm Anxiety & Grief Group Google Hangout 

NEW THIS WEEK: READERS and SINGERS SIGN-UP FOR WORSHIP
If you would like to be a reader for our weekly worship (recorded on Thursday from 3:00-4:30), sign up here.  

RACIAL HEALING BISHOPS CONVERSATION
Episcopal Bishops from the south (Province IV) will be in conversation with Dr. Catherine Meeks about “Reimagining Police in Province IV.” The first session is July 9th, 10:00-11:30.  The second session is July 14th 4:00-5:30 and includes our own Bishop Sam Rodman.

ANNOUNCEMENTS

GARDEN DAY
Beat the Heat! June Gardening Day will start this Saturday 7:30 am.  Bring a mask, water, and tools you’d like to use.  

PAULI MURRAY SERVICE JULY 1
This year’s Pauli Murray Service will be offered virtually at 7pm on Wednesday, July 1st.  You can access from the Facebook Pages of St. Titus, the Diocese of North Carolina, and the Pauli Murray Project.  

JULY BOOK STUDY: UPROOTING RACISM
We encourage you to read the book “Uprooting Racism: How White People Can Work for Racial Justice” by Paul Kivel and then join a discussion group by Zoom on Monday, July 27 from 7:00-8:30.  The book is available using Durham Library’s Hoopla app, or by using your Nook, Kindle or free Kindle app.
After each chapter, answer: 1) What did I learn/what was new to me? 2) What do I want to know, 3) How am I feeling about what I read?  Contact Eileen Morgan for more information, and to let her know you plan to read/attend.

DIOCESAN CONVENTION NOMINEES
If you are interested in being a 3-year delegate to Diocesan Convention, please contact Senior Warden Eileen Morgan by July 1st.  Vestry will vote at the July meeting, with the highest votes becoming our 3-year delegate and the three next highest votes becoming this year’s alternates.
The delegate needs to be able to attend Diocesan Convention all day on Fri, Nov 20 and Sat, Nov 21.  This year’s convention may be virtual or may be held in Winston-Salem.  Our current delegates are Phillip Bass and Bobbie Hendrix.

UPDATED PARISH WEBSITE
St. Luke’s continues to plan for moving our website to a new platform around July 1st.  There will be some changes, but we hope that it will be both easier to navigate as well as easier to keep current.

HOW CAN I HELP?

GOOD NEWS COMMUNITY GARDEN
Mary Beth Berkley is coordinating discussions between St. Luke’s, St. Titus, and El Buen Pastor about creating a Good News community garden to grow food and deepen relationships among the congregations.  We’re looking for folks interested in vegetable gardening and/or building community! Want to know more or get involved?  Contact Mary Beth.

TEMPORARY VESTRY CLERK NEEDED
Please contact Helen  if you would be willing to be Clerk of the Vestry for the second half of 2020.  Duties include taking minutes at all vestry meetings, Parish Council, and Parish-wide meetings; edit and distribute minutes, and work with the Parish Administrator to file appropriately.  Ability to take notes quickly, comfort with Word, Google Docs and Zoom required.  

GET EDUCATED ABOUT “THE TALK”
A local theatre company did a live production of “The Talk” last year. This play centers on how parent must teach black boys how to behave during traffic stops.  They are now making it available to watch at home here.  

KEEP CLERGY IN THE LOOP
Please make sure to keep the clergy in the loop if there are any needs or concerns you have or you know about.  You can e-mail Helen at any time.  

REMEMBER, Your clergy will not send you e-mail or texts messages asking for gift cards or financial help.  Be suspicious of anything that comes outside of these announcements.  Do not respond to the request, but call the clergy person or create a separate e-mail to rector@stlukesdurham.org to verify.