This year’s theme at St. Luke’s is “Telling the Story”. One of the reasons I love this theme is because stories were the method that Jesus often used to teach people about God. It’s what we often refer to as a “parable”. A parable is simply a story that is told in order to teach a lesson. Jesus told parables about sheep, coins, sons, banquets, Samaritans, and all kinds of other things. They were simply stories that he made up in order to reveal something about God’s Kingdom to us so we can understand it a little better. God’s Kingdom is too big for us to be able to grasp on our own, but by putting it in more modern imagery, Jesus was able to teach people about that Kingdom.
The holidays are over, Christmas decorations are coming down, the New Year has begun, the kids are back in school, and most people have gone back to work. It always makes me a little sad when I begin to realize that the festivities are coming to an end for the year and the beautiful decorations are being put away until next Christmas. Life begins to go back to normal for many of us, and if we are not careful, our lives can seem unchanged.
Yesterday morning I was sitting in my office working on my sermon for Christmas Eve when I got an unexpected knock on my door from the cutest Christmas carolers I’ve ever seen! Some of the kids from our childcare center came to sing “Jingle Bells” to me. I think that might have been some of the best inspiration I could have received in that moment to help me prepare for Christmas, and it definitely put a smile on my face.
It’s Black Friday so that means it’s time for the Christmas season, right?! Well, not exactly. At least not in the Church calendar. Historically, in the Church liturgical calendar, this Sunday begins the season of Advent. Advent is the four Sundays leading up to Christmas. Each Sunday is marked by the themes of Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love.
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.