Love Letter to St. Luke's
The Rev. Sara Cosca-Warfield
Scripture: Romans 12:1-8
Today we’re talking about spiritual gifts and community and the Body of Christ. Which means that today, we’re talking about everything I love about our dear apostle Paul.
Paul’s ministry was basically a state of permanent transition, permanent uncertainty. He was a traveling church-planter, starting new Christian communities wherever he went. But he wasn’t planting churches in downtown Portland. He was planting churches in a Roman Empire that was suspicious of these newfangled Christians at best, and hostile at worst. The Romans were constantly arresting Paul for challenging the state religion and generally stirring up trouble. He got death threats. He spent the last few years of his life under house arrest in Rome.
So when he calls the Church in Rome to present their bodies as a living sacrifice, Paul was practicing what he preached. He put himself on the line for his faith, for his community, wherever he went.
His message is clear: We are called to make manifest the Kingdom of God in our own lives, in our own community, and Paul is very specific: the will of God when it comes to what is good and acceptable and perfect does not always look like what the world thinks is good and acceptable and perfect.
So much of our faith is renewing our minds, discerning the will of God. Leaning in to the discomfort of not knowing, putting aside what we think we want, what we think is best, so the Spirit can guide us. Paul is teaching us how to be a community in Christ.
And I have to say, in this challenging, uncertain time, this St. Luke’s community has been faithful.
When I hear Paul say, “I say to everyone among you not to think of yourself more highly than you ought to think, but to think with sober judgment,” I think of the deep and thoughtful discernment our Vestry has done since the pandemic started. I think of the ways they prayed about what love meant, what welcome meant, what hospitality meant. They prayed and they discerned, and they knew that their faith called them to the hard thing. They decided that keeping all of our members healthy, that protecting everyone in our community was what love looked like. So they voted that we would not meet inside our church building until it was safe for everyone to do so. We don’t know when that will be. It was a courageous decision and one that has proven to be wise. But it was hard. It’s still hard. It is our church’s living sacrifice, our church’s spiritual worship in this time.
God has blessed St. Luke’s with bold and faithful leaders in our Vestry.
And then Paul says, “For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another. We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us:prophecy, in proportion to faith; ministry, in ministering; the teacher, in teaching; the exhorter, in exhortation; the giver, in generosity; the leader, in diligence; the compassionate, in cheerfulness.”
It makes me think of ALL the ways people have stepped up in our community to live into their amazing gifts:
Our musicians, in making music: throughout this time, our music team has come together over and over again for Open Sanctuary and Taizé to bring us the breadth and beauty of God’s love and worship, online and accessible to all.
Our teachers, in teaching: Raven and our children’s ministry have made videos week after week for our children so that they may be a gathered community and learn the love of God even as they are apart.
Our givers, in generosity: our Care Team has made sure that everyone that we have a phone number or email for has gotten a message of love and support from this community. They’ve held you in prayer and delivered prayer shawls.
Our landscapers, in landscaping: Kathleen and Jeff and Gale and Jim have been a steadfast presence on our grounds, cleaning up and tending to the piece of God’s creation St. Luke’s calls home.
There are so many more: Sid who keeps our building secure and in good order as we wait to return. Marci who keeps our finances straight. Marcia who keeps our bills paid and our office running. Deborah Aronson who convenes the Anxiety Fun group and Deborah Dobrenen who’s helping us to reimagine what our Outreach to the community can be. Lainey who’s brought folks together online twice a month in the quiet of Centering Prayer. Josh and Kristian who are working tech miracles as I speak.
I could go on and on, because so many people—so many that I can’t possibly name them all—are joyfully giving of their gifts in this time, keeping our community connected and vibrant.
But I forgot to mention another gift: the gift of trust. There are so many of you who have reached out to me or to someone else in this community to let us know that you’re struggling. Your trust in this community to hold your suffering, to hold your vulnerability, is a gift.
I know I bring my gifts, too, and it’s an honor, because you inspire me. This community is exactly what Paul was talking about: not conforming to this world but renewing our minds and discerning the will of God here in Gresham, Oregon.
I am so grateful for each of you and the amazing gifts you bring and all the ways we continue to love each other through this difficult time. I’m so grateful for this beautiful little corner of the Body of Christ that we call St. Luke’s. Amen.