Lenten devotions to explore vision for flourishing

As part of our soup suppers – Wednesdays at 6pm – 7:30pm, evening prayer at the end –  members of St Luke – including Megan Gillespie, Judy Platts, and Helen Schneiders – will reflect on their experiences and vision for human flourishing, using metaphors of “garden” and “vineyard.”

February 29th, Putting down roots in God’s word rather tha our own plans, our work, our self-understanding – in a culture where many feel rootless. Text for the evening, Psalm 1. “Happy are those” … whose “delight is in the word of the Lord, and on his word they meditate day and night. They are like trees planted by streams of water … their leaves do not wither.”

March 7th, Life-affirming joy. In a time when many feel anxious or even crushed; we celebrate the gifts of creation and the flourishing of people around us. Text for the evening, Jeremiah 31:10-14. God speaks to a people who have been through war, exile, separation from one another: “They shall come and sing aloud … radiant over the goodness of the LORD … their life shall become like a watered garden, and they shall never languish again.”

March 14th, Bearing fruit. It’s not just what we do for others; it’s how God makes our whole lives a blessing. Text for the evening, Galatians 5:16-26. Paul encourages the Christians in Galatia to “live by the Spirit,” bearing fruits of “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”

March 21st, Connected to neighbors. We’re not just here for ourselves or even for the congregation; we’re here for the people in our neighborhood. Text for the evening, Revelation 21:22-22:5. John of Patmos sees a vision of the end of all things: a city with no temple (or church!) – just God. And it’s not a cold, urban world – a river flows right through the center, with a great tree of life providing fruit and leaves for the “healing of the nation.”

March 28th, Abiding in Christ – in his word, his love – for ‘apart for me, you can do nothing.” Text for the evening, John 15: Jesus said “I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing … Remain in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love ..”

We hope you’ll join us!

Transformation or Flourishing?

Your life has been enriched. You’re “alive,” joyful. People experience patience, kindness, love in your presence. You are growing in your faith – which doesn’t mean, so much, that your faith itself grows – more that you grow because of who God is to you. “You shall be like a watered garden … whose waters never fail” (from Isaiah 58, heard on Ash Wednesday).

Have you seen people grow this way around St Luke? Has this been your experience? Maybe it’s too cheery an image for followers of Jesus, who said “take up your cross and follow.” (Mark 8) But in God, trial and loss give way to unimaginable life – not just for us, but for others: “Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” (our ‘theme verse’ for Lent this year)

There are many ways churches can answer the question “what are we here for?” Providing the most excellent worship and music experiences? A warm, nurturing community? Working together to fight poverty in our neighborhood? All of which are important aspects of our mission, but what if NONE of these is the main thing for us? Why do we have the worship, music, community and service? (I’ve raised these questions before … do I sound like a broken record? Or for you young folks – a half downloaded mp3 set on repeat? .. But I believe that a shared sense of why we’re here is going to be key to our future.)

Some of the best writers / leaders on church mission right now will say “the main thing – what it’s all for – is human transformation.” Yes. The word “transformation” is certainly biblical (see Romans 12), and fits well what happens at Baptism: the seed falls; we die to our old self, and rise a new person – alive to God. I am less comfortable with how the word has been used in discussions about sexual orientation. “You can be transformed” can mean “you’re not OK or even really “you” as you are, until you become someone different.” To leave it at that (if I may get theological) is to ignore a central Christian conviction: that God created us as good from the womb (Psalm 139) and even more, redeems us, sets us free from what prevents our flourishing. You are a new person when you step forward from the waters of baptism – but it’s still you, and even more wonderfully you!

One thing I love about St Luke is the diversity of the people who come through our doors – in age, politics, experiences, faith background (of course, we could be even MORE diverse – especially with regard to race …). Do we welcome people so they can be “transformed?” (Into what – good Lutherans?) Of course, dramatic life changes can be good and neceessary! But we also welcome people in celebration of what they are, how the God who “so loved the world” has always already been at work in our lives and our neighbors’.

Back to the word I used above – flourishing. “I came that they might have life, and have it abundantly.” (John 10). What if that’s the main thing? I believe that’s what some of your leaders are pointing to when we bring up the metaphors of the garden and vine – already a part of the conversation during soup suppers this Lent. It’s also how Miroslav Volf talks about the main contribution churches can have in the public sphere – “our vision for human flourishing.”

The main thing for us is God, who creates us, redeems us, calls us, makes us flourish and grow into eternal life in defeat of death. We flourish when we are hungry and are fed, when we make connections with people who may not be like us, when we learn to sing, when God’s word becomes a part of our lives, and faith takes hold – each in our own way, depending on who we are, our life circumstances – having in common the grace and love that hold us, always. What more can we say about this flourishing? If it’s God who makes us grow, what part have we, can we play?

Women’s Bible Study schedule for 2012

The Women’s Bible is study is getting ready to start a new 6 week session on the book of Hebrews.  There will be an evening of meditation through the practice of lectio divina on tuesday March 6.  Our Hebrews study will begin Tuesday the 13th at 7pm or Wednesday the 14th at 10 am.  Call or email Lisa Curtis at 310-877-5026 or lfcbeach@aol.com if you would like more information and to join!

You can read more here about the Women’s Bible Studies – which meet Tuesday evenings and Wednesday morning.  Studies are generally taken from Augsburg Fortress’ “Book of Faith” series.

3/6/2012 3/7/2012 Devotion – Lecto Divino

3/13/2012 3/14/2012 Who Is Jesus? (Part 1) Hebrews 1: 1-14

3/20/2012 3/21/2012 Who Is Jesus? (Part 2) Hebrews 2:5-18

3/27/2012 3/28/2012 What Did Jesus Do? Hebrews 4: 14-15:10; 9:24-10:1; 10:10-18

4/3/2012 4/4/2012 Easter Break

4/10/2012 4/11/2012 Easter Break

4/17/2012 4/18/2012 What is Faith? Hebrews 11: 1-40

4/24/2012 4/25/2012 How Shall We Live? Hebrews 12:1-17; 13: 1-19

5/1/2012 5/2/2012 What if Faith Fails? Hebrews 4:12-13; 5:11-6:12; 10:19-29

5/8/2012 5/9/2012 Devotion – Lecto Divino

5/15/2012 5/16/2012 Ephesians – Drawn into God

5/22/2012 5/23/2012 Ephesians – Jesus is Our Peace

5/29/2012 5/30/2012 Ephesians – Knowing the Unknowable

6/5/2012 6/6/2012 Ephesians – Imitating the Inimitable

Keepin’ Fire to play next benefit concert for the food pantry

Sunday, February 26th – 4:00pm at St Luke

Keepin’ Fire – find samples of their music on their website, here.

Come enjoy the lively sounds of local artists close up and personal. This is a free concert and open to all at no charge. Kids are welcome. Wine, soft drinks, and snacks are available for a $10.00 donation.  Canned and dry food donations are also appreciated.

More about concert series here …