Last Thursday evening I had an opportunity to attend an awards banquet for the Oklahoma Conference of Churches. I was there in support of our Senior Pastor, Dr. Long, who was receiving the Distinguished Ecumenist Award for his ecumenical work across all denominations and faith traditions. It was a great time to celebrate the work that the Oklahoma Conference of Churches does to bring groups together and promote a message of love and kindness.
Last Sunday I met a new friend. It was his first time to come to church at St. Luke’s. When he arrived he asked someone if he could speak with a pastor. They found me and introduced me to him. I sat down with him and began to talk and found out that he had fallen on some difficult times. He had some medical problems that were preventing him from being able to work and he has now been homeless for a while. He was simply looking for a place to come to church where he could worship and pray with others.
This Sunday is All Saints Sunday in the Church calendar. November 1st is actually “All Saints Day”, but most people are more familiar with the day before – “All Hallows (Saints) Eve”, or “Halloween”. All Saints Day is meant to be a day to reflect upon the lives of those who have gone before us in the faith to bring us where we are today and give God thanks for their lives. John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, wrote in his journal on November 1, 1767 that it’s “a festival I truly love.” On November 1, 1788 he said, “I always find this a comfortable day.” Then, one year later he called it “a day that I peculiarly love.” It seems strange to think of All Saints Day in these terms, yet I think he was on to something.
One year. That’s how long it has been since we first opened St. Luke’s Edmond’s beautiful new building at 900 N Sooner Rd. In some ways it feels like it was just yesterday that we were opening our doors, adding a new worship service, and beginning a journey that would change our lives forever. In other ways it feels like this has always been home. It feels like we have been making memories in this space, worshipping our Creator, serving our community, and growing a family of faith for my entire life. Time can be funny like that.
I’ve found myself having a very heavy heart this week after waking up Monday morning to the tragic news of a mass shooting in Las Vegas. Another tragic event. More lives lost in senseless violence. Countless lives and families impacted forever.
Growing up as a middle school and high school student at St. Luke’s, one of my favorite events we did every year was our Youth Force mission trip. Every evening after we were finished working on our houses we would come back to the host church and have worship together. As part of the worship service we would take time to do our “God sightings”. Basically, we had some huge bedsheets that would be spread out around the room and we would use permanent markers to write on them. We would write each day about how we had seen God at work that day, and by the end of the week these bedsheets would be full of the ways people had seen God working. It was such a powerful visual by the end of the week to step back and reflect on all that God had been doing.
In a week where we have been hearing so many tragic stories coming from the destruction caused by Hurricane Harvey, I have been intentional about trying to find the stories of all the good that people are doing and how people are coming together. There have been countless stories about every day heroes stepping up and doing what they could to help those in need. One particular story caught my eye on the news about “Mattress Mack”. If you haven’t already heard this story I want to encourage you to check it out!
Today I find myself feeling conflicted with competing emotions of despair and hope. After all the negative news we have heard this week surrounding the awful hatred, violence, and bigotry seen in Charlottesville last weekend along with the terrible new of Barcelona yesterday, I can’t help but feel an overwhelming sense of despair at times. Yet, at the same time I am particularly reminded today of the power of hope and new beginnings as so many teachers and students start back to school today.
This week we said “see you later” to our summer intern. Emiliano was with us through June and July and came to us from the Lydia Patterson Institute. Lydia Patterson is a Methodist preparatory school in El Paso, Texas that mostly serves students who are coming from across the border in Juarez, Mexico. They teach the students English and give them a good quality education to prepare them for college. They graduate about 95% of their students, and 98% of their graduates go on to attend colleges and universities across the United States.
I have to be honest. There have been some weeks this year that I’ve been better at writing my thank you notes than others. This year has been the “Year of Gratitude” at St. Luke’s. We started out the year encouraging everyone to do a few things. First, we encouraged everyone to begin and end your prayers every day with gratitude before prayers petitioning God for things you want. Second, we encouraged everyone to keep a gratitude journal and write down at least three things every day that you’re thankful for that day. Third, we encouraged everyone to write a thank you note every single day.