Dear Good Shepherd,
Good morning. As I mentioned in the Thursday Notes yesterday, we've refocused "Ingathering" Sunday, setting it apart and renaming it to provide an opportunity for new and existing members and guests to learn about all the things God is doing at Good Shepherd and to join in. Our faith commitment to serve Jesus Christ involves, necessarily, serving his body, the church...not just the “Church” in a general sense, but more specifically the local congregation. In fact, this service, this offering of ourselves to our brothers and sisters, is one of the means by which God sanctifies us and conforms us to his image. The following text is from Paul's letter to the Romans chapter 12. take the time to read it carefully:
12:1 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. 4 For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, 5 so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. 6 Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; 7 if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; 8 the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness. Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. 10 Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. 11 Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. 12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. 13 Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. (Romans 12:1-13)
Paul is not just writing in a general and broad sense when he speaks about the Body of Christ, but in a very narrow and defined sense about the call of believers to the specific congregations of which they are a member.
Where else do you learn not to “think more highly of yourself than you ought” than in an actual congregation full of actual people where you are in regular and consistent contact with brothers and sisters to whom you owe love, forgiveness, service, and respect irregardless of your feelings for them? You cannot learn that walking alone in the forest or by a babbling brook. You do not find that at home in bed watching a televised preacher. You only learn to do that in a specific local congregation where you are bound to others by the Holy Spirit and by the call of God in Jesus Christ.
And where else, in what other organization or group, are you an integral part, not just an employee or employer, not just a laborer or boss, but a member of a spiritual body with a vital function and role—a body in which you do not work for monetary reward or social status and appreciation but for love...and not the “feeling” either...but real love, the sort Jesus has for you, the sort that stretches out its arms and dies for the one who is loved?
In the church we do not work for any other reason than that Christ is working in us and has brought us, mercifully, out of the darkness in which we used to live into this new light that will last forever and, in the present, into his body, the church, where we are called to do for others what he has done for us...love and sacrifice...to “love one another with brotherly affection...” and “Outdo one another in showing honor.”
It is in that light that I want to mention two, well, frustrations, that presently exist in regard to various ministries at Good Shepherd.
First, sometimes people who have committed to do certain tasks have not followed through on their commitments. I am certainly not one to say that I always do what I say I am going to do. I make huge blunders and am often far less responsible than I need to be and am called to be. Nevertheless, at Good Shepherd things have come to the point where I think we need to take note of the problem.
When someone signs his or her name on a piece of paper and says that he will do something at a certain time, lots of other people depend on that commitment and when the commitment is not met others are forced to step in and take up the slack. Let me explain the way this has broken down at Good Shepherd. There are presently two or three people who end up doing all of the things that nine or ten people have signed up to do. And while those who signed up are off doing whatever it is they have chosen to do, the two or three take up the task and literally wear themselves out. One person, and I think many of you know her, misses worship entirely some Sundays because she is doing the work of five or six people.
This is not right or good and it is certainly not what Paul had in mind when he said to “Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.” It is dishonoring in fact.
I am fully aware that it is summer time and that many have gone on vacation and I am also aware that some may read this and say to themselves, “well I just won't sign up to do anything at all so that no one depends on me.” That is fine I suppose, but do not think that you help the two or three people who do everything by not signing your name for anything because, unfortunately, the various tasks still need doing and if no one else makes the necessary sacrifices and steps up out of love for Christ and his brothers and sisters to do them, then the tasks, as usual, will be done by the two or three.
And, what is more, not serving the body is to miss out on the grace of God that flows through self sacrifice in his church.
The best solution to the dilemma is to commit to serve and then follow through. That means checking the ministry schedule to see whether you are on duty for a task and then, if you are, doing it. And if you cannot make it one to worship one Sunday for a some unavoidable reason, please do find a replacement...preferably not one of the three who do everything.
What we experience is not unique. Every church I know of has this problem from time to time but in the process of being conformed to Christ we are called to mature and grow out of just this sort of thing so let's not be “slothful in zeal,” but “fervent in spirit, serve the Lord,” and love one another.
Second. There has been a good deal frustration expressed over the problem discussed in point one (above). So much that I've noticed a particular, well, resentment arising in some hearts. I understand this and certainly have felt frustrated myself at times, but since we do have a rather new congregation, a congregation made up of people who largely have not grown up in church, there needs to be a good deal of grace and patience. And, I should point out, we do not want to scapegoat any particular group when all of us have fallen short in so many ways.
Last night at the vestry meeting I was getting somewhat frustrated about the commitment problem but this morning the Lord reminded me (and I hate it when he does this) of the parable of the ungrateful servant (Matthew 18:21-35). Do you remember that one? It has to do with the man, a servant, who was forgiven an incredibly expensive debt, insurmountable in fact, that he owed to his King only to turn around and threaten his fellow servant who owed him a very piddling amount. Do you remember what Jesus said at the end of that parable? The long and short of it is that only the merciful will be shown mercy. Showing mercy and patience is one mark of the believer. If we have come to know in our bones the forgiveness of Christ to whom we owed an infinite and eternal debt, it will be very difficult for us not to forgive those who owe us very little.
Really, the problems I mentioned in point 1 above are very very small compared to the offense of our sins against the Lord and any patience and forgiveness we offer is nothing when compared to the sacrifice He made to atone for us. I think we are called to show this mercy to one another along with patience and loving-kindness even when, especially when, people forget or neglect to do what they have signed up to do.
In all, both point one and point two are very small things that I have no doubt the Lord will help us to overcome. I do ask, however, that as we prepare for the fall, that each of us will consider what Paul means when he says to “Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.” If someone is not serving, please find some way to contribute to the building up of the body and if someone feels resentment please ask the Lord to take that away so that we can welcome and enjoy one another.
I love you all very much and I know that the bonds and love we have in Christ are far stronger than any passing frustration. In so many ways Good Shepherd bears witness to the love and joy that only Christ can give. I pray that the Lord will continue to work in us and through us to deepen our bonds of fellowship and to bring those who do not know Christ to the knowledge and love of him.
Mission and Ministry Fair (AKA Ingathering Sunday)
Rummage Sale/BBQ/Health Fair
Parish Cleaning Day
Shepherd's Bowl volunteers
A Thank you and a Plea for Bulletin Help
Women’s Saturday Bible Study
Good Shepherd T-Shirts
Alistair Begg on Marriage
Youth Update from Micah
Adult Education Series: Divisions in the Church
Sermons on the Podsite
note: some of this week's Update (Not All) is reprinted from the Thursday notes because the Update is sent to more people, many beyond our parish, who have asked to be included...so if you've read an item of news already just pass it over and go to the next item
Mission and Ministry Sunday AKA “Ingathering Sunday” is Sunday September 7th. The service times will be the same as they usually are, 8:00am and 10:30am but instead of Christian education between services, there will be a missions fair. This is an opportunity for people to commit to one or more of the ministries of Good Shepherd. There are many many things you could do, too many to name or number here, but you will see them on the 7th and I'll send out a few notes before then as well.
Please pray about your ministry at Good Shepherd and ask God to show you where he would like you to use the gifts and time he has given you. There will be homemade sweet-roles and other pastries and, of course, coffee and tea.
If you are the leader of a ministry on Sunday you'll receive a blank white poster board so that you can create your ministry display. There are about 16 of you.
Fruit Bowl: On Mission/Ingathering Sunday (Sept. &) you are asked to bring some cut up fruit for the Good Shepherd Fruit Bowl. A light breakfast of fruit, rolls, muffins, juice, coffee and tea will be available between the two services. Come and enjoy leaning about the different Missions of Good Shepherd!
Rummage Sale, BBQ, and Health Fair September 27: Mark your calendar and begin putting clothes, household items, toys, etc. aside for the Rummage Sale. We respect the people who come to purchase these goods so please do not bring soiled or torn clothing or inferior merchandise. We want to be known for good quality at low prices. Also this year we will include a health/healing component which is still in the planning stages. And, of course, there will be Church of the Good Shepherd's famous Chicken Barbecue to provide physical sustenance. Pray for the success of this mission to a needy community.
Flower Fund (from Cookie Finch): Once again we are coming back together after a very full and busy summer to start our Fall flurry of activities. It is now time to remember our loved ones who have passed away as well as happy events such as Births, Baptisms, Weddings, Birthdays or Anniversaries. You can express your feelings by putting flowers on the altar to commemorate any event.
In the pew, you will find a form, which you can fill out and send to the Church. This is an easy way to remember our loved ones with flowers for the full year. You can specify the flowers for specific weeks and also for the Christmas and Easter holidays at one time. Of course, you can always put flowers on the altar at any time during the year as the need arises.
If you have any questions about the Flower Fund, please feel free to call me at any time. Cookie Finch 775-2250
Bookmarks Another photo shoot is scheduled for September 7th. It will take about a week to have the photos made into bookmarks. Please take advantage of this free gift and invite your friends to do so also. This will be a great opportunity to bring others to church.
Cleaning Ministry: Thank you very much to Tom Kavasny who has volunteered to fill one spot on a cleaning team. But it is a big job and he needs one more team member to help out. The commitment would be to clean the church building once a month. There are several cleaning teams that rotate each week. If you are willing to help please contact the church office at 723-8032 or speak to Cookie Finch.
Parish Cleaning Day: There will be a general cleaning/maintenance work day at the church on October 4th. You'll hear more about it in the future but please go ahead and mark your calendars today. We need all the help we can get.
The Shepherd's Bowl is our weekly soup kitchen. We feed a warm meal to about 40 hungry people every Thursday night. Currently there are about three to four teams serving on weekly rotations. But there are some holes in the teams as some team members have moved away and others have been unable to continue serving on Thursdays. If you are available, we'd really appreciate your help. The commitment would be once a month. We especially need people willing to stay and clean up afterwards. The Shepherd's bowl runs from 5:30pm to 6:30pm and if you stayed to clean you would most likely be home a little after 7:00pm.
Nursery ministers: Speaking of ministries, we are in dire need of nursery workers for the 10:30am service. If you are good with small children and are willing to commit to serve once about every three weeks, please contact Anne at 773-4810 or call the church office at 723-8032
A Thank you and a Plea for Bulletin Help: Thank you to Kellie French for her excellent work and sacrificial service this summer serving, as a volunteer, as parish secretary. Her work on the bulletin was superb and it was such a relief to know that she was there answering phones and holding down the fort while we were away.
Now that classes have begun at BU she has to go back to school. As many of you know we've decided to hire Micah as a youth minister and musician rather than hire a secretary. It has certainly paid off ministry wise and I think it was a wise and godly decision on the part of the vestry. But it does mean that for the time being we rely on volunteer secretary work and Anne's help with the bulletin. This year, however, Anne is homeschooling Emma and Aedan, taking care of Rowan and Gwendolyn, teaching two women's bible studies, leading choir practice during the week, teaching at a homeschooling group on Wednesdays, and being my wife (which is a full time job all by itself). She does not have the time to do the bulletins. If you have a day...Thursday or Friday...during the week to spare and are good with computers and formatting and copying, we cannot tell you how much we would appreciate your stepping forward to help with this ministry. Please let us know if you are able and willing. 773-4810
Morning Prayer: Every week from Tuesday to Friday, there is a morning prayer service in the sanctuary at Good Shepherd at 8:30am. One of the regulars reminded me that some of our newer parishioners may not be aware of that. Two passages of scripture are read every morning, one Old Testament and one New Testament, from a reading schedule that takes us through the entire bible in two years (the same one printed in your bulletin every Sunday morning). The worship follows the “Morning Prayer Rite II” form in the prayer book beginning on page 78. After the readings there is a brief but often in-depth discussion of and conversation about the scriptures. It is a great way to start the day. One important part of the Anglican vision is that a Christian body, a congregation, is formed and shaped through prayer and the “daily” corporate reading and exposition of the bible. Morning prayer provides one means toward that end. All are invited to come, the more the better.
Website News: The new website will be ready by next week. It is newer and capable of doing a lot more than our old one including the capacity to store audio and video. We'll certainly be taking advantage of that. As for the temporary blog/website we've been using, we will keep it going even after the new one is complete. The blog format is a good one for getting daily bits of news out quickly, prayer requests, sermons, reflections and for hosting discussions and questions and articles. So please continue to check it daily. Be sure to scroll down on this site for news you may have missed.
Women’s Saturday Bible Study: The women's bible study started back up last Saturday and continues this Saturday at 10:00am. They will be working through the 12 minor prophets. If you do not know who the 12 minor prophets are, just open the Old Testament book and find the book of Daniel. The books of the minor prophets start where Daniel ends. Hosea is the first and the book of the prophet Malachi is the last. Malachi is the last Old Testament book before the New Testament Gospels begin with the Gospel of Matthew. The minor prophets are called “minor” not because they are unimportant, but because their books are a lot shorter than the “major” prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Daniel. It sounds like a fascinating study that, because I am a male, I will miss, but if you are not a man, you don't have to share my fate. The study meets in the parish hall every Saturday at 10:00am.
Office Hours: Just a reminder that anyone is welcome to come in and talk during my office hours (Tuesday-Thursday 9:00am-1:00pm) without an appointment. If you can't make those hours you are more than welcome to call the office and make an appointment.
Good Shepherd T-Shirts: To show our love for Good Shepherd and to make a unified identity when we are hosting activities, we are ordering shirts with a small emblem on the left chest area. These will be gray with maroon lettering or maroon with gray lettering. Order forms and pictures of styles and the emblem will be in church. A voluntary offering of $6-$10 is suggested, but any amount will be appreciated. Whatever money is given will be contributed to a worthy charity.
Alister Begg on Marriage: Alister Begg is currently replaying his “best of” sermons online. I posted one a couple of days ago on the blogsite having to do with the necessity of faith. Here is another entitled “How to Avoid Marital Failure”. Pastor Begg gives 16 principles (in two sermons) that will serve to strengthen your marriage. They're very good and if you are married, about to be married, thinking about marriage sometime in the future or know someone who is to be married, then please take the time to listen.
Youth Update from Micah: It's time to get back into the swing of youth group! Summer vacations are (mostly) over, and the school year is beginning soon (groan, i know). Senior High youth group will continue to meet at its regular time on Sundays, 6-8. Junior High will continue to meet on Mondays, 6-8 for the time being, unless a better night is agreed upon. Parents (especially Junior High parents), please remember your commitment to the youth group and don't let your kids plan other regular evens on the night of youth group. It's important to remember if the youth group is going to grow, everyone must be committed! I will be handing out a monthly schedule again once the school year starts. Also, during the week, Tuesday through Thursday, I will be in New York City again. Friday through Monday I will be in Binghamton. If you need to, you can always reach me by my cell phone: 607-621-2876 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Adult Christian Education Series: Divisions in the Church: This Sunday we'll finish our discussion of Anglicanism with a look at a few more articles and then a brief discussion of the prayerbook and its role in defining Anglican doctrine and practice. Next Sunday we'll move on to discuss the development of the three major streams of Christianity after the Reformation: Catholicism, Protestantism and Orthodoxy. In what ways have they changed since the 16th century, in what ways have they remained the same. What are the divisions within each stream and what are the chances of visible unity both within each and between them?
If you missed last week's class, you can listen to it here.
Sermon Podcasts: My sermon from last week has been posted on the sermon podcast site. It is also available by text here. It is the first part of a two part series on Jesus' encounter with the Canaanite woman in Matthew 15:21-28. It is really a good idea to listen to the first part in order to gain a better understanding of the heart of the text...which we'll discuss this Sunday.
Good News for the Week:
“Come, let us return to the Lord; for he has torn us, that he may heal us; he has struck us down, and he will bind us up. 2 After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will raise us up, that we may live before him. 3 Let us know; let us press on to know the Lord; his going out is sure as the dawn; he will come to us as the showers, as the spring rains that water the earth.” (Hosea 6:1-3)
Don’t forget to Bring a Friend to Church