By Pastor Tracey Leslie
Scripture: Isaiah 65:17-25
If you were in church last Sunday you no doubt noticed that I was not. I appreciate Pastor Amber filling the pulpit so I could attend my Women Touched by Grace retreat. Women Touched by Grace is a Lilly funded initiative to provide training and support for women clergy. It is a series of five retreats spread out over three years. There are twenty women in the program from across the U.S. and Canada from a multitude of denominations and non-denominational. As you might imagine, when we are together we talk a great deal about our congregations. And I always leave those retreats tremendously thankful for all of you. I am deeply grateful that Trinity is the congregation I serve. Now, I’m not grateful because we are the biggest congregation or the wealthiest or located in the most exotic place. In fact, one clergy woman in the program pastors a church in Napa Valley, California. I confess, I do envy that, especially with the weather we had this past week. I imagine the Napa Valley as a beautiful, exotic place. So, why? Why do I feel myself so fortunate, so blessed, to be pastor at Trinity? Well, stay tuned for the answer.
When I was in seminary, Luke was my favorite gospel. It’s probably, however, important to note that, at the time, I could fit nearly all of my worldly possessions into the hatch of my Pontiac T-1000. Luke has long been dubbed the gospel of “the least, the last, and the lost.” This morning’s gospel verses are from what’s known as The Sermon on the Plain, Luke’s take on Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount. Both contain beatitudes, but most of us are more familiar with Matthew’s beatitudes. Beatitudes are a particular rhetorical form or device. They are words that solicit, distribute, or celebrate the favor or grace of God. Furthermore, when we celebrate God’s grace, it is a form of worship. Put in simpler terms, it’s kind of like we’re thanking God and congratulating a person simultaneously. The Greek word most frequently translated as “blessed” is closely connected to the Greek word for praise. So blessing involves praising God. Blessing is something we do out loud to identify and name the presence of God’s grace or favor in someone’s life. All of which sounds really good. So why is it that the none of the things Jesus identifies as blessed in this morning’s verses from Luke sound very good; I mean poverty, hunger, sorrow, people maligning you?
By Pastor Tracey Leslie
Scripture: 2 Corinthians 8:1-15; 9:6-12
When I was four my family moved from what was then the medium-sized city of Johnstown, PA to a tiny, rural community 35 miles north of Dayton, Ohio. Johnstown was a small-scale version of Pittsburgh at the time, with the city’s economy revolving around the steel industry. It bore no resemblance to little Lockington, Ohio. Not long after we moved there, I started kindergarten at a school with grades K-12 in the same building and on the same school bus. On the first day of school, I mounted those big bus steps in my dress, my lacey socks and white sneakers and stared down a bus aisle of children dressed in denim overalls as a variety of farm smells wafted through the air. While I had been eating my morning eggs in my nightgown at the kitchen table, many of the children on that bus had been gathering eggs from the chicken coop on the family farm. I had a tough go of kindergarten.
Conversely, I remember my district superintendent on the day he showed me the church and parsonage for Marquette Park in Gary, telling me that “he wanted to be sure I would feel safe there.” Having never lived in Indiana, I had no baggage for Gary and discovered there a congregation comprised of many transplants from Pittsburgh who’d moved to Gary when U.S. Steel downsized. I was back among my people. Understanding culture is really important.
Several years ago, I was asked to mentor a young woman who felt a call to ministry. However, she never completed the journey toward ordination because she did not understand, could not comprehend, the significance of worship as a necessary spiritual practice. It seemed to her that a God of love and grace, one all-powerful and all-knowing, would not need or even desire human worship. What could worship possibly do; what possible significance could it hold? Understanding culture is really important.
On a lifelong journey of seeking to live out God's call on my life and to reflect His grace.
10 Minute Sermons