From Tehran to St Luke

We are enriched by the diverse experiences, backgrounds and gifts of people who come to church. Meet Leyla! She’s one of several new young adult members who are Persian in background – in fact, on her first Sunday here she witnessed the baptism of another young woman from Iran.

I was born on January 4th 1979 in Tehran.  I was 2 months old when my father, who was an employee of Iran Air, was assigned to Rome, Italy. My family and I lived in Italy for 10 years and then my father was re-assigned to the Iran Air office in Manchester, UK. We lived there for 2 years, after which he was re-assigned again to United Arab Emirate Iran Air office.  We lived in UAE for three years.

My father had a very close Italian friend who was a faithful Catholic.  He would invite my father  to different ceremonies they had at their local church. He would talk to my Dad about Jesus and argue on the facts and basic teachings with my Dad.   My parents were never Muslims.  They identified with the actual Persian religion Zoroastrianism. But my Dad started researching and studying Jesus and Christianity more and eventually he and my Mum converted to Christianity and got baptized in Rome around 1982. From that point on I remember practicing the faith and going to church together, but somehow I don’t remember getting officially baptized.

I was eleven years old and a school child when under the influence of one of my teachers I became interested in Buddhism and tried to live as a Buddhist. My family never persuaded me in any way to follow a certain religion and the choice of religion was left up to me, as long as I knew and understood what I believed in. The only suggestion from my parents came in the form of gift of a number of books about other religions to consider or review.  This was when I was 17 years old, a time when we had to move to Iran and live there for a while.

As I read each of these books my opinion about the various religions changed.  In some instances I was “in favor” and in other instances “not in favor” of a particular religion. Of course there was a common thread between all these religions as to the creation and the creator. However, there were major differences as to how the creator rewards and punishes those who disregard the teaching of a particular religion. After I completed reading all these books my perception of different religions changed considerably. I found out some of the religious teachings advocate humanity, friendship, forgiveness and love while other religions advocate rather harsh teachings.  At this point my Mum was a bit worried and kept on talking to me about Jesus and his love and told me to just think about it and read the bible. I was confused, because I did believe in Jesus as a child, but I was also attracted to what my Buddhism teacher had taught me.

In 2003 I traveled to Ukraine.  On Sundays I started to attend some Christian Churches.  I could not understand the sermons given in Latin, but I used to have a sense of tranquility and peace while in the Church and after I left the services. I remembered how I always felt this feeling from the time when I was a little girl, and that was what my Dad had felt in having accepted Jesus in his heart. I was getting back to my actual faith. In 2009 I moved to Moscow and while I lived there I continued my education online with Liverpool University in England. My student advisor Mark was a very interesting person. Every time we talked about my course schedule and my academic issues we ended up discussing religion and in particular, Christianity. We discussed Christianity for hours at a time and very soon we became very good friends. When Mark and his wife traveled to Moscow they brought me a gift; a Bible in Farsi. Reading the Bible in my language helped me to comprehend the teaching of Christ as I never understood it before. When they were leaving, Mark asked if I had truly accepted Jesus as my Savior in my heart, not just because my parents were Christians and I had to. While we gathered to pray, I suddenly realized that I had accepted him truly in my heart and was ready to seek God’s Kingdom through Christ. I continued to attend the nearest church to my home, and study more about the bible.

My parents were finally happy and at peace but I always felt something was missing. Not being officially baptized, I felt it wasn’t real. But I couldn’t be baptized because I lived in Dubai and was an Iranian.  If I were to be baptized, they would consider me to be an apostate, and I would receive the death penalty!

But when I moved to America,  baptism was my priority after settling. When I joined St.Luke my whole life felt different. Attending sermons regularly and in English was a dream come true. My baptism changed my whole life, as it gave me the feeling of being reborn. My faith got stronger as well, and made a new life with so many obstacles much easier.

Especially at St.Luke, I feel like I’m close to my family, I feel so welcomed. I’m blessed. I can’t thank everybody enough, for making me a part of the family and teaching me more  about my beliefs every time I’m here.

Serving in Worship February 2014

One Service at 9:30am

           Greeter

Feb 2              Janet Thoma

Feb 9              Brad Wood

Feb 16            Mirith Colao

Feb 23            Anna Buesing

            Usher

Feb 2              Bill Thoma

Feb 9              Nancy Wood

Feb 16            Helen Schnieders

Feb 23            Karen Buesing

            Acolyte

Feb 2              Kristofer Hammon

Feb 9              Diego Gonzalez

Feb 16            Jacob Colao

Feb 23            Christian Wylie

            Lector

Feb 2              Joe Buff

Feb 9              Mary Ann Hausner

Feb 16            Sue Ivanjack

Feb 23            Arne Jensen

            Assisting Minister

Feb 2              Shelley Kuchta

Feb 9              David Primuth

Feb 16            Karl Wylie

Feb 23            Roman Colao

            Counters

Feb 2              Jensen/Jessen

Feb 9              Primuth/Steffen

Feb 16            Weaver/Wenzel

Feb 23            Gillespie/Gonzalez

           Altar Guild

            Linda Weaver

           Communion Bread

            Diana Rollins

Sermons after epiphany

on murder and Matthew 5.

Sermon on salt and light, choir anthem on Matthew 25

Micah 6:8 … do justice, love kindness, walk humbly with your God.

 Matthew 4:12-23 … the people who sat in darkness.

John 1:29-42 … receiving a new name.

What’s the future of the church in Southern CA?

Click here to check out a provocative essay centered around Crystal Cathedral – now to be Christ Cathedral – about changes in the communities where megachurches once thrived.  Some excerpts:

“These days, young Christians in Orange County attend very different kinds of churches, some unrecognizable as churches at all. Laundry Love, a ministry in Santa Ana, is an ad hoc community of young Christians who gather monthly at various inner-city, coin-operated laundries and wash patrons’ clothes for free …

A decade ago, Newsong, with 4,000 members, was on its way to becoming America’s latest Asian megachurch. Unsettled by its relentless focus on growth, Gibbons abruptly changed course, rededicating Newsong to ministering in low-income neighborhoods and providing a haven for artists. More than a quarter of the congregation left. But now Gibbons’s move seems prescient …

At Epic Church, a 200-member, decade-old congregation in a northern part of Orange County populated mostly by Koreans and Hispanics, members gather for weekly worship in a rented office building but spend much of their time together working as tutors to low-income students at a nearby neighborhood center. ‘We haven’t been a church that understands ourselves as goods and services,’ said Kevin Doi, Epic’s founder and pastor …

In a few years, perhaps a decade or two, religious America will catch up to Orange County’s present. There will be a shrinking number of evangelical megachurches, gradually aging and waning in influence. There will be numerous small, eclectic, multiethnic evangelical congregations whose emphasis on spiritual commitment and social service is unlikely to attract a large, mainstream following. And there will be surging numbers of immigrant Catholics, Pentecostals, and Muslims.”

St Luke in the wall of protection against westboro baptist

A big group from St Luke – including council president and vice president, elementary age to the 90s! – eagerly showed up to take part in a wall of protection against the Westboro Baptist people, come to  picket churches and the golden globe awards.  It was a meaningful way to stand for love and grace in Christ against hatred.  Here are some pictures, courtesy of Diane Duke.  Thank you!
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The Sunday before, the congregation of st luke prayed for those would participate in the following words based on the readings for that day: L.You were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit.

As you make your stand in God’s love,

grace upon grace be with you.

 

C. Grace upon grace be with you:

L. The grace of God who made you,

Who knit you together in your mother’s womb,

Who knows that you are fearfully and wonderfully made;

The Word with God who gives life and light to all people. 

C. Grace upon grace be with you:

L. The grace of God who holds you,

Who hems you in, behind and before, and lays hands upon you;

The God who delights in you and redeems you.

Who chose you before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love. 

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness does not overcome it.

C.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness does not overcome it.