Saturday, February 28, 2009

Reason #345,762...

Oh dear...

ESCANABA, Mich. (AP) -- The new bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Northern Michigan is an ordained Zen Buddhist.

Northern Michigan's Episcopal congregations and delegates overwhelmingly elected the Rev. Kevin Thew Forrester at their convention on Saturday.

The diocesan Web site says Thew Forrester "has practiced Zen meditation for almost a decade," and the Buddhist community welcomed his commitment by granting him "lay ordination."

The Web site says Northern Michigan's new bishop "resonates deeply" with "his own interfaith dialogue with Buddhism and meditative practice.
The Episcopal Church where no matter what year it's always 1968. Let's see what Jesus has to say about this:
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
Thank the Lord that we are free.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Thursday Notes

Dear Good Shepherd,

Happy Thursday. It's been a great Lent so far. Aside from the small matter of the 41 degree Ash Wednesday service, everything has gone smashingly well. I know I should be more optimistic and trusting, but I was surprised at how many people came to the Pancake Supper. We were packed. And even though it was a new kitchen and there were some confusing moments early on, everybody who came ate well and was served well. Thank you to Carmen for organizing the whole thing and thank you to everyone who helped cook, serve, clean, seat, and set up for it. It took a lot more work than usual simply because we are unfamiliar with our new surroundings. The greatest thing about the whole event was that we were able to meet a lot of people from the neighborhood. Establishing community relationships will be vital to our future mission here.

Here are your Thursday Notes:

Pie and Cake Sunday is This Sunday: March 1st is going to be a big day. The Diocese of Central New York will be officially decommissioning the former "Good Shepherd" building. Good Shepherd the church, on the other hand, is going to have a party to celebrate God's awesome power and provision for his people. Please bring your favorite pie or cake to church Sunday March 1st and invite neighbors, friends, acquaintances young and old to join us as we worship with an extra bit of sweet hospitality. The pie and cake will be served between services during Christian Ed and also after the 10:30 Worship Service.

Remember that Sunday, the day of Christ's resurrection, is never a day of fasting (not even during Lent).

The Bishop is Coming: Bishop Bill Murdoch, Bishop of the Missionary District of New England (soon to be a diocese in the Anglican Church in North America), of which we will one day be a part, is coming to visit Good Shepherd on Sunday morning March 15th. Here's a video of his sermon from last week. During his time at Good Shepherd he will preach, teach, celebrate Communion and Confirmation. Confirmation, for those who do not know, is 1. a public profession or "confirmation" of personal faith in Jesus Christ for those who were baptized as young children or infants. 2. A public profession of the vows of baptism covenant of and 3. an official entry into the Anglican Communion for those baptized in other branches of the Church.

Interested in Anglicanism? There are a number of parishioners who are ready to be prepared for Confirmation and have indicated that they want to be confirmed during the bishop's visit. Others have expressed interest in knowing more about Anglicanism. If you want to know more about Anglicanism, please email ( or call me (773-4810) and we'll talk. I'm planning to host a series of discussions with those who hope to be confirmed and if you are interested in Anglicanism it might be a good idea to sit in on those discussions.

Thursday Night Bible Study: There will be bible study tonight at the Conklin Avenue Baptist gym right after the Shepherd's Bowl is over at 6:30pm.

Men's Breakfast and Bible Study: Darrell and Bob are cooking tomorrow morning (breakfast and bible study starts at 6:30am)

A Message from Carmen: Many thanks to everyone who worked so tirelessly and generously in order to make the Pancake Supper such a super success! And above all, praise be to God who blessed our efforts.

Women's Bible Study will meet at the regular time at 10:00am in the parish hall.

Choir: meets every Saturday at 11am after the Women's Bible Study.

Podcasts: There are two podcast sermon's this week. Last Sunday's Sermon entitled "The Bible and Experience" deals with the relationship between our experience of God and God's self revelation in scripture. The second sermon, "A Badge of Dishonor" delivered on Ash Wednesday, deals with the problem of repentance.

Donations and Pledges: Now that we have our own bank account any checks or money orders may be made out to: The Anglican Church of the Good Shepherd rather than St. Matthias.

Adult Education: Christ and Culture Last Sunday we discussed the "Christ of Culture" model of cultural engagement...the church that conforms to culture rather than seeking to change or transform it. This Sunday we'll take a look at the opposite extreme--the "Christ against Culture" model...those churches that see non-ecclesial culture as unredeemably evil.

Ash Wednesday Sermon: A Badge of Dishonor

by Matt Kennedy

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Download "Ash Wednesday Sermon: A Badge of Dishonor" in MP3 format

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Ash Wednesday services and New Testament readings

Ash Wednesday worship, tonight at 7:00pm...

As promised, here are the readings for the New Testament Lenten Challenge...a daily walk through the entire New Testament in 40 days.

The Rev. Bill Dickson, an Anglican pastor in Fort Worth put this schedule together. The paragraph below is from his parish blog:
I would like to invite you to join a group of us who will be reading through the entire New Testament during the 40 days of Lent. I have done this for very many years and find it to be a very stimulating Lenten discipline. A number of us will be doing this from the Greek New Testament. But I invite anyone wishing to follow this schedule in any language to participate. There’s something very helpful about getting the big picture in going through the text at this bracing pace...
You can find the daily readings organized by week here

Ash Wednesday Report

We had a very cold Ash Wednesday service this morning...41 degrees...a number of bravely repentant parishioners suffered through it all no doubt earning at least a few hundred years off of their purgatorial allotment.

I could barely preach (a tragedy I know) because my lips were so cold and I was having trouble forming my lips around the words.

Friendly Reminder:
If you do not know which breaker switches turn on or off which lights...please do not touch them. The reason it was so cold is because someone accidentally flipped the furnace breaker last night after the pancake supper.

In any case, thanks be to God that it happened on the night before Ash Wednesday. Otherwise we may not have caught it in time to save the pipes.

Tonight's service (7pm) should be much warmer. The sanctuary is now up to sixty and getting warmer.

Later today I'll be posting a lenten bible reading schedule, so stay tuned.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Bishop Bill Murdoch

Bishop Bill Murdoch will visit Good Shepherd on Sunday morning March 15th. He will preach, teach, celebrate Communion and Confirmation. Be sure to mark your calendars. Here is Bishop Murdoch preaching at New Hope Anglican church (meeting in an auditorium) in Watertown, Connecticut.

New Hope Anglican: Bishop Murdoch's Visit from Kevin Kallsen on Vimeo.

Bishop Murdoch is now Bishop of the Missionary District of New England...the Anglican diocese being formed in our region of which Good Shepherd will be a part.

Good Shepherd's Shrove Tuesday Pancake Supper and Party

As you may or may not know, we're planning a huge celebration tonight for Shrove Tuesday (here's some information about Shrove Tuesday in case you've never heard of it) and inviting as many people as possible from community and the neighborhood to come and share pancakes and a fun safe evening. There will be pancakes, sausage and applesauce, face painting, music, and a children's Mardi-Gras parade complete with a trumpeter. The Festivities begin at 5:00pm and will last until 7:00. Adults get in for $3.00 and children get in free.

If you're a member of Good Shepherd, we'll certainly need your help, so if you've not already volunteered for a job, if you just show up and ask to help I'm sure we can find things for you to do.

And don't forget...Lent begins tomorrow. Ash Wednesday worship services will be at 7am and 7pm. Hope to see you there.

In Christ,

Monday, February 23, 2009

Sermon: The Bible and Experience--Mountaintops & the More Certain Word

sermon by Matt Kennedy

text: 2 Peter 1:16-21

Monday, February 23, 2009

Download "The Bible and Experience: Mountaintops & the More Certain Word" in MP3 format

Imagine the things you'd want to tell your family, your children, your church, before you die. Peter's advice is found in verses 1-15. In particular in verses 5-8: “make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love.” Peter wrote these words from Prison just before his death. He was killed in Rome during Nero's first persecution of Christians between 64-67 AD. If you look down at verse 14, you'll see that he knew it was coming. His advice is good but it may not seem all that remarkable: make every effort to be men and women of good character. Sound solid fatherly advice...advice that even non-Christian father's might give to their children.

But today's text begins with an important word that the NIV has left out. Verse 16 should read:

“'For' or 'because' we did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.” Well what difference does that make? The “because” or “for” means that Peter grounds his fatherly advice in vv 1-15 in who Jesus lives of obedience and purity not so you'll be men and women of character, not because it conforms with natural law or because its good to be good for goodness sake but because of who Jesus is.

Some look at Jesus' teachings and say, Jesus teaches people to live responsibly, to do good to others; to feed the poor, take care of the sick, to be socially conscious. I like these teachings. If these teachings were followed universally there 'd be peace and brotherly love. And thats the most important thing, not who Jesus is but what he taught because his teachings resonate with all spiritualities and faith traditions and show us how to be at peace and have a peaceful world. Jesus' words, like those of Ghandi and Dali Lhama and Confucius produce fruits of peace and harmony. The ultimate purpose of spirituality after all is to make the world a better place—a nice place with nice people doing nice things and having a nice time.

That's not Christianity. For Peter, the sum or the foundation of truth and “goodness” is Jesus. He validates his teachings, his teachings do not validate him. Follow the teachings of Christ, not because they accord with what is good and with the universal teachings of other wise spiritual men and women—not because you want to be nice people and make the world a nice place, but because of who Jesus is.

To make this point Peter describes what event in Jesus' life? Why? What's so important about the Transfiguration? Jesus took John, James and Peter to the top of a mountain and there his appearance, his “figure” was transformed. Matthew tells us that “his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light”. Peter says, he was revealed in “majesty” and in the father's glory(17). Well so what?. Well Peter knew his bible. Turn to Isaiah 42:8 “I am the LORD; that's my name; my glory I give to no other.” Who's talking? God. God is a jealous God. He doesn't allow creatures or angels or prophets or teachers to be worshiped. He doesn't share his glory. So when Jesus was revealed in glory on the mountain what does that mean? Jesus is more than a teacher or an angel. He is one with God himself.

Peter saw this with his own eyes. He experienced it. “We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with him on the sacred mountain.” Jesus is not simply messiah, not simply a good rabbi or teacher, not a spiritual avatar showing us a path to holistic peace and harmony. No for Peter, he is the path, he is the truth, he is the way and his teachings are to be followed not because they lead us to some other good thing out there but because they lead us to him.

Now it seems that Peter takes a little detour to talk about scripture. The next verse, v19 is a difficult one to translate and I don't want to get too geeky here with the Greek, but there are two possibilities. The NIV has: “And we have the word of the prophets made more certain”. The problem is that the Greek text literally says “and we have more sure the prophetic word” other translations will say: “And we have something more sure, the prophetic word.” So what? The NIV has Peter saying that the words of the made more sure by his own personal experience. The prophecies about Christ in scripture weren't quite certain enough until Peter personally saw Jesus transfigured on the mountain with his own eyes.

There are lots of Christians who believe experience is the measure of truth. There's no space or difference between their own inclinations and experiences and the voice of God. That's the sort of thinking that leads people away from Christ and into miracle ministries or to the occult or to psychics because these things are all very high on experience. I don't think that sounds like Peter. And the rest of this passage, as we'll see in a moment, from verse 20-21 is one of the strongest affirmations of the inspiration, supremacy, and inerrancy of scripture found in the bible. It wouldn't make sense for Peter to preface that by saying that his experience of Jesus makes scripture more certain. It sounds a lot more like Peter, a lot more like a first century Jew to say “my experience was a good thing and a fine thing, but even more sure, even more compelling, even more certain is the prophetic word... it reveals Christ far more effectively. Peter uses the words “prophet” and “prophecy” here in a general sense. He's not just talking about Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel. Everyone who speaks or writes God's Word is a prophet. So the prophetic books include all the books of the bible.

“You will do well” Peter says in 19, “to pay attention to it [the prophetic word] as to a light shining in a dark place until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.” What day is he talking about? What star? The star is Christ and the day is the day he comes back. So he's just recounted his amazing experience of the transfiguration, but instead of telling them to pay attention to that, he says pay attention scripture because scripture provides a far more certain word.

Peter knows the people to whom he writes, he know us, he knows that we're far more likely to pay attention to our own opinions and feelings, the opinions of our friends, to the latest book we've read or the newest thing on Oprah...but all of that is darkness. Pay attention to scripture, study it, know it, hear it read, attend to it while it is being taught, let it shape and form you because scripture is the most sure word from God about Christ. Scripture connects you to him because it is from him and it reveals him.

Some think task of the church is to make the scripture relevant. And in order to make the bible relevant, bible studies and sermons have to be about us. So people sit through them waiting for the pastor to say something that deals specifically with their personal situations in life' waiting to “get something out of” the sermon or the teaching. So rather than paying attention to the bible, we often pay attention to ourselves and casually peruse the bible, casually listen to sermons, like we might stroll down a cafeteria line picking up bits and pieces for our journey because its all about us. But Peter says here that Scripture does for us what the transfiguration did for him but in surer way. Scripture is God's revelation of himself, it reveals his glory and the glory of his Son Jesus Christ. And if you're interested in knowing Jesus, then every single word is relevant to you. If you want Christ, if your aim is Christ, if your love is for Christ, then there are no boring parts or unimportant parts or parts that you can ignore.

“Above all,” Peter says, “you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet's own interpretation.”(20) Nothing in the bible came about by the the prophet making it up. That's huge...nothing you read in scripture is opinion or fairy tale or culturally conditioned oppressive patriarchal taboo. The bible was written by human beings but the content and the words they wrote are not merely human. “For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.”(21)

God is the source of scripture. But its not like a college lecture. He didn't just give a revelation to a writer and then let the writer take notes. I don't know about you but I can listen to a lecture and get all confused and get my notes God went further. He “carried” the human writer along by the Holy Spirit. He watched over or superintended the process of writing it down. So the words of Peter are the words of Peter but they're also words that originated with God and have been carried along by the Holy Spirit. Many will say, the bible “contains” the Word of God but there are parts that are not from God and not altogether true. There are errors and contradictions and mistakes. There are the God parts...usually, “the parts I agree with”...and there are the Paul parts or the Peter parts...usually, “the parts that make me uncomfortable”...and since my feelings are the measure of truth, then these parts just can't be from God.

Peter is very clear here. You're free to disagree with him of course, but Peter says, the bible is fully and wholly God's Word. It originates with him and was superintended by him and so what? Well the reason all this is so important to Peter and it should be so important to you and to me is that because the bible originate with God and was carried along by God, the bible is the surest way, the primary way, the fullest way that God reveals himself and his Son and the surest way to know him. Scripture is God's self-disclosure so if you want to know God, if you want to hear the voice of Jesus Christ, you don't go to a mountain top or to a babbling brook or for a walk in the forest, you don't do astral meditation or physic readings, or astrology or the magic Sufi dances, you go to the book. And in the book you meet Jesus, the way, the truth the life.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Good Shepherd Update

The Weekly Update has been posted here. The article is the same as that in the Thursday notes, but there are news updates to pass on so read carefully.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Thursday Notes

Dear Good Shepherd,

Given that we have a number of people coming to Good Shepherd who've never been to church or who are from non-liturgical churches, I'll bet some, at least, are wondering what exactly "Shrove Tuesday", "Ash Wednesday" and "Lent" are.

Let me start with some definitions.

Shrove Tuesday: To "shrive" someone is to hear someone's confession of sin and to assure them of God's forgiveness. "Shrove" Tuesday was traditionally (pre-Reformation) the day when confessions were heard and absolution given in preparation for the lenten fast (see below).

Ash Wednesday: "Ash Wednesday" is the first day of "Lent". Traditionally Christians smear their foreheads with ashes from burnt palm leaves (saved from the previous year's Palm Sunday service) to signify sorrow for sin and to acknowledge that we are but "dust" and "to dust we shall return".

"Lent" is the 40 day period traditionally set aside for self-examination, fasting, and repentance before Holy Week and Easter. The word "lent" comes from an Old English word for "spring". It comes from a German root word (Matthias, maybe you can help here?) for "long"...probably because days grow "longer" during the spring.

Since "Lent" always begins on "Ash Wednesday", the Tuesday before was traditionally set aside (especially before the Reformation) as a sort of "last hurrah"...a day of celebration before lenten confessions and disciplines. Today, believers often commit to a special discipline during Lent in order to deepen their relationship with Christ.

In some places (New Orleans in particular) the Tuesday before "Lent" became the: "Let's-get-all-the- sin-out-of-our-system-before-we-go-to-confession-on-Ash-Wednesday" Day...

In England they just ate pancakes...I have no idea why.

Since we are an "Anglican" church (ie...our roots are with the Church of England) we tend toward the pancake rather than the New Orleans rout...hence the upcoming Pancake Supper.

Lent can be a very confusing time for those who were not raised in liturgical churches. Some wonder why we set aside a special season of repentance when repentance is something that we should do all year round. And they are right about that at least.

At the same time, purposefully setting a season apart from self-examination, fasting, and prayer, can be very helpful. In my own life, God has used the disciplines I've taken on during Lent to give me victory over a number of besetting sins. It is a time to really pull sin out by the roots. I mean, if nothing else, last week's text from 1st Corinthians 9:24-27, tells us that spiritual discipline is something to which God calls every believer.

...Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified...

A few years ago, I wrote an article about Lent and how to figure out what to do in order to use it effectively. Here's an excerpt:

The word “repentance” comes from the Greek word “metanoia.” Metanoia literally means “to turn around and go the other way.” And that, simply stated, is the perfect description of repentance. When you sin you turn away from God. Repentance turns you around. It’s much more than just feeling sorry for doing wrong (although that is the place to start). It’s an active transformation; a commitment to do, to act, to move in accordance with God’s will rather than against it.

And that is where the whole idea of a Lenten discipline comes in.

For believers, Lent can be a time when you actively work to rid yourself of sins that have grown into habits and/or addictions (yes, this should be something we do all year round but it’s helpful to have a time like Lent set aside for that very purpose).

So, rather than thinking about what vice to give up or what discipline to add, a better place to start is prayer. Ask God to search your heart and bring to your mind those habits of thought, word, and/or deed that displease him most. (Sometimes what is displeasing in your life will be so obvious that you won’t even need to pray, you’ll just know. The Holy Spirit living inside you will have made it abundantly clear already). When you ask this in sincerity you can be sure that God will provide you with an answer.

This answer will tell you whether you need to add a discipline or be rid of a behavior or attitude. If, for example you believe that God wants you to be more committed to studying scripture, then you should probably consider adding personal or group bible study to your routine. If on the other hand you believe God is displeased with the amount of time you spend on the internet or the kinds of things you look at on-line, then you should probably consider cutting out or down on your computer usage or installing some parental control program to keep you accountable (even if, especially if, you’re a parent).

In other words, your Lenten discipline should not be arbitrary. If you have a problem with lust, don’t give up chocolate. Give up whatever it is that leads you into lustful behavior. And don’t just give it up for Lent, use Lent to give it up forever. Let the Lord know that you are committed to turning from the sin he has shown you and then ask him to help you in your task though the power of his Holy Spirit.
Of course you can do all of this at any time during the year, but I suppose the question is "do you?". For me, the answer, sadly, is "no", so I personally need the emphasis on repentance that Lent brings.

So, here are your Thursday Notes:

Shrove Tuesday Pancake Feast and Mardi-Gras (yes,I know I just said we tend not to celebrate Mardi-Gras in the New Orleans fashion...but this Mardi-Gras (or Fat Tuesday) will not be like THAT Mardi-Gras). As you may or may not know, we are planning a huge celebration for Shrove Tuesday and we are inviting as many people as possible in the neighborhood to come and share pancakes and a fun safe evening. We'll be passing out flyers in the neighborhood beginning next week. We will certainly need your help. There is a sign-up sheet downstairs in the Parish Hall. There is a great variety of tasks. Please volunteer to help with this outreach event. We need you.

Evangelism teams: Shrove Tuesday Flyer Distribution is scheduled for Saturday (I'll come back to you with the time) technically we will not be doing "evangelism" in the sense of telling people about Jesus (unless of course there is an opening). Instead this is simply a "get to know you" sort of operation. We are introducing Good Shepherd to the neighborhood, saying effectively, "we're your new neighbors and we'd like to get to know you" and passing out invitations to a pancake supper. That's all.

There are two teams being organized so far...but we need volunteers (I'd like to have one more team). There are about 1000 flyers to post and distribute around the neighborhood...which should be more than enough. Please come and help.

Pie and Cake Sunday: March 1st is going to be a big day. The Diocese of Central New York will be officially decommissioning "Good Shepherd". We, on the other hand, are going to have a party. Please bring your favorite pie or cake to church Sunday March 1st and invite neighbors, friends, acquaintances young and old to join us as we worship with an extra bit of sweet hospitality. The pie and cake will be served between services during Christian Ed and also after the 10:30 Worship Service. Remember that Sunday, the day of Christ's resurrection, is never a day of fasting (not even during Lent).

Men's Breakfast and Bible Study: Ray and Charles are cooking tomorrow morning. See you there.

Thursday Night Bible Study will go on tonight for the first time since the Shepherd's Bowl was closed down. Please pray that people come.

Women's Bible Study will meet on Saturday at 10:00am in the Parish hall

Christian Education: Christ and Culture: We've completed our review of various cultural influences in the we'll turn to discuss a number of strategies Christians have used in the past...the strategy is called the "Christ of Culture"

All right, I think that's all. See you Sunday and stay tuned for the Update tomorrow.

In Christ,

Identity Politics: Freedom in Christ

This sermon was delivered by Micah Towery, Good Shepherd's youth minister on Sunday February 8, 2009. His text was 1st Corinthians 9:16-23

Some of you know that I went to college in Virginia for two years before transferring to Binghamton University. It was a small, Christian college of about 300 students at the time, and it was known for its rules as much as it was for its education. We weren't allowed to drink, we weren't allowed to smoke, there were certain movies that we could not watch, certain channels that were blocked from the televisions in the dorms—I'm not talking the Playboy channel here, but essential cable fare like MTV, and VH1—and just in case any offensive material happened to break through the regular channels (which was quite often) there was a pleasant little device called the "Curse Box" that would mute curse words or any similarly foul language and substitute in subtitled alternatives. "I'm gonna kick your toe, man!" So, for example, if you were watching Gone with the Wind, one of the most famous lines in all of movie history would have come out something like this: "Frankly, my dear, I just don't give a …"—and then the TV would mute and the word "darn" would appear in subtitles. Good luck if you wanted to watch anything that had harsher language than Anne of Green Gables.

I hope most of you remember at least vaguely the ideas from Matt's sermons last week, because I'm going to build upon that. He spoke about our freedom in Christ and areas in which we are free to do as our conscience guides as long as it does not cause our brother or sister in Christ to fall into sin. This passage was oft-cited at my old college. We were implored to defer to the weaker brother. But a problem arose when it became obvious that these brothers and sisters were not really weak as much as easily offended. When we watched The Godfather, it wasn't like they were tempted to fall back into their former lives as mafia dons. So we referred to this situation as the tyranny of the weaker brother. We felt more manipulated than called toward holiness. But then something worse began happening. The campus began to split into factions. And rather than seek to come together, neither side would budge. On the one side people took to calling themselves the weaker brothers so they could control people's behavior and on the other, my friends and I, all residing in one particular wing of the dorms that came to be known as "the den of sin," grew increasingly angry at being manipulated. We were resentful and rebellious.

The problem was that my friends and I came to identify ourselves with the "den of sin" and they came to identify themselves as "the weaker brother." Our identities became a wedge that drove us apart in every way, not the least of which was our brotherhood in Christ. Now, generally speaking, there's nothing inherently wrong with most identities, but they can be immensely destructive if not kept in check. I once saw a church split because they broke into two groups—one that wanted a church bell and one that did not. For each side the question of the church bell became more central to who they were, to their identities, than whether they were brothers and sisters in Christ's One Body. When that happens, a church becomes non-functional. You could be talking about how to bake cookies and fights would arise between the anti and pro bell constituents.

This is the exact opposite of what Paul wants to happen. Let's look at the passage. Paul is speaking about his obligation to preach the gospel—something I believe we must look to as an example in how we should go about the work of the gospel: 1 Corinthians 9:16-23 16 For if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast of, for necessity is laid upon me; yes, woe is me if I do not preach the gospel! 17 For if I do this willingly, I have a reward; but if against my will, I have been entrusted with a stewardship. 18 What is my reward then? That when I preach the gospel, I may present the gospel of Christ without charge, that I may not abuse my authority in the gospel. 19 For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more;…[skip] 23 Now this I do for the gospel's sake, that I may be partaker of it with you.

Let's first understand the context of what Paul is saying. If you go back to the beginning of chapter 9, you will see that he is responding to challenges to his apostolic authority. At that time, people used to get paid to go around and teach. Paul, however, for his own reasons refused payment. Unlike many of the other apostles or pagan philosophers of the day, he did not earn his living through teaching and preaching. And some at Corinth saw this and argued that because he was not being paid like the other apostles, he might not be one. His lack of pay signaled to them a lack of what we might call professionalism this guy not good enough to get paid? They'd say I follow Apollos, and I pay my apostle!

Now, we must understand first that Paul has every right to claim payment. He spends the first part of chapter 9 arguing that, if he so chose, he could rightfully demand payment for the work he's done. So Paul is not saying here that we should not pay pastors. But after arguing this, Paul seems to do an about face. He then argues that he cannot take pay. Paul has found in his ministry that he was able to preach the gospel better when money was not involved. Indeed, Paul's first obligation is the preach the gospel, he says—necessity is laid upon me—and if pay gets in the way of that, I am obligated to preach for free.

Money (at least within the scope of our focus today) is not the real issue here. It's not even really about Paul's authority. Instead, it is about his obligation to preach the gospel without any hindrance. In particular, Paul is speaking about the hindrance of identity. He does not want to be identified as a paid teacher because that would get in the way of some coming to the gospel. And this is an obligation that is laid upon all of us. We might not be called to preach from the pulpit or as an apostle, but we are required to preach nonetheless without hindrance, without letting anything get in our way. Now, I want you to realize how life changing this concept actually is, that it's a sort of revolution of identity. 1 Corinthians 9:19-23 19 For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant [you could say "I enslaved myself"] to all, that I might win the more; 20 and to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the law, as under the law, that I might win those who are under the law; 21 to those who are without law, as without law (not being without law toward God, but under law toward Christ), that I might win those who are without law; 22 to the weak I became as weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. 23 Now this I do for the gospel's sake, that I may be partaker of it with you.

What is Paul really saying here? The other day, I walked by a bar and it had a neon sign for Bud Light, and below the brand name it said "Be yourself." We're so used to seeing these things that I think sometimes we don't realize how absurd it is. Here is a billion dollar business that exists with the soul purpose of getting you to drink their beer telling you "go ahead. Be yourself." I felt like saying well thanks Bud Light! I was waiting for your permission! But of course, if you asked them "who am I?" they would probably say "I don't know but I'm sure you drink Bud Light." We are so drenched in this message of self. Be all you can be. Get in touch with your inner self. We as a culture are obsessed with our own identity. We are like perpetual teenagers going through an existential crisis. And here comes along Paul and throws a cherry bomb in our crisis: "Your identity does not matter!" [silence.] "What…? What matters then? How can I do anything unless I know who I am first??" To which Paul responds "know nothing except Christ, and Him crucified." You can't know your true identity unless you know Christ first. Indeed, our identity is shaped by the fact that Christ was crucified, whether we follow him or not. It changes everything about us. It is revolutionary.

Being in Christ is revolutionary. It frees us from sin. We were slaves to sin before, meaning we couldn't do anything except gratify ourselves in some way, but now we serve Christ—not ourselves. But more than that, because of His crucifixion we are free from anything which divides us, anything which keeps us from sharing the gospel and the love of Christ with one another. And by anything, I mean anything: your personal history, your insecurities, your race, who your family is, what your job is and how much money you make. You see, all those things try to make claims on our lives, to enslave us. They make us say "this person can never be my brother in Christ because he makes way more money than I do and can never understand what I go through!" Or "this person is black and I'm white, and there are racial tensions in our society that prevent us from fully understanding one another." Or "I'm from this family, and we have never gotten along with that family. We may sit in the same church, but we sit on opposite sides."

Rather than identifying first as followers of Jesus, we say “I am a Kennedy” or a “Towery” or “a Student” or “Irish” or and we think things like “I am a poetry student” and he's “a contractor” how can we possibly understand each other?? And if we do, it won't be long before these things tell us what we can and cannot do with regards to Christ. Paul is saying that Christ obliterates all these boundaries.

Turn to Ephesians 2:11-16 11 Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called "uncircumcised" by those who call themselves "the circumcision" (that done in the body by the hands of men)-- 12 remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, 15 by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, 16 and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility.

I love it when Paul calls Christ "our peace." A lot of churches these days are talking about "seeking the peace of the city" by which they mean social justice projects, feeding the poor, ending racial violence, seeking equality. Now, there is nothing wrong with this at all. In fact, we are called as Christians to help restore justice where we are able. But, we must also remember that when we seek the peace of the city, that Christ is that peace. Christ is the only just thing that we can cling to. Not Christ as a means, that is, let's convert them all to Christianity then guilt them into being better people. But rather, Christ as the end toward which everything in the cosmos, everything in our society, everything in our neighborhood and in our lives points.

So when we look out into this new neighborhood, hopefully one in which we'll stay, we need to see not just a bunch of social ills that must be solved, we must see people of all identities, starving for the true justice and equality that comes only in the identity of Christ. We cannot have it any other way. And, here in this church, we cannot let our identities, who we are, what we aspire to be, how we think things should be run, who should be running them, divide us because that's when the gospel takes a back seat. And when that happens we will be headed in the opposite direction of Christ.

Let's pray: Lord, we come to you today, many people from many places, knowing that you desire for us to be made one. We ask that you would heal whatever divisions are in this church. And we ask that you would allow us to take your mindset and desire for us to be one into this new neighborhood. Help us bring your peace to it. Lord, we ask that anyone sitting among us today who desires to become one with you and your body here today, that you would give them the courage to follow you. Bring them into your fold. Amen.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

St Andrew's Interior

The Rectory

Ife babysitting our children


Post breakfast council in the kitchen

Rectory living room...still trying to figure out where to put furniture

Emma reads in the living room

Rectory basement

Sanctuary front door from the inside...

sanctuary interior

later in the afternoon

The side altar...our Catholic friends left a number of items.

Morning Prayer chapel in the church building

A wider view of the chapel

The parish hall and more coming soon...

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Some exterior photos of St. Andrew's

Front Door South side of the Church...facing the neighborhood

This view captures all three buildings on the property. The school is in the foreground to the right. The Rectory is across the parking lot on the far left and the north side of the sanctuary is visible to the right of the rectory.

The view from our front door walk...if you look across the parking lot you will see part of what used to be St. Andrew's school

This is a front view of the Rectory which faces north toward Conklin Avenue

This is taken from the sidewalk in front of the Rectory. You can see the south side of the church right behind the rectory.

This is a view of the northwest side of the school looking from the south standing in the parking lot.

A side view of the church taken from the parking lot

This is the door most people enter through

This is the front view of the church...the front door opens onto a neighborhood street. You can see Saratoga Apartments (low income housing) from the front porch of the church. Great opportunities for ministry.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Good Shepherd Update Friday February 13th, 2009

Dear Good Shepherd,

I know this is a late Update...but here it is....There are some new details since yesterday, so please be sure to read it all.

We are not yet ready to post anything publicly online, but if you have not yet read your email, please do so. The letter I sent out by email yesterday will also be published in our bulletin on Sunday so people without internet access will be able to read it too. Suffice it to say that God's grace is both suprising and immeasurable.

Women's Bible Study will be held in the church this week.Micah's Sermon Still waiting for the text of Micah's excellent sermon from last week so I can post it here and on the website

Bible Talk at BU: In case you missed my talk on the nature of scripture at BU's Intervarsity Fellowship, here is part 1. Part 2 will be posted next week.

The Shepherd's Bowl: There were over 25 people at the Shepherd's Bowl this Thursday which is fantastic...that tells us that word about the new location for the meal, Conklin Avenue Baptist Church, is finally getting out. It was great to see so many from CABC volunteering to help our Shepherd's Bowl team last night. If you would like to volunteer to participate on a team, please let Kurt Osgood know.

Thank You to everyone who helped organize, prepared a meal, or served in any way during the International Feast last Sunday. There were so many different dishes from around the world that I lost count...and they were all delicious. It was such a rousing success, I think we've decided to make this an annual feast.

Good News: There were 123 people in church last Sunday. 112 the Sunday before. Thanks be to God who has blessed us in so many ways. Now let's get out there and tell people about Jesus.

Thursday Night Bible Study will start up again next Thursday at Conklin Avenue Baptist after the Shepherd's Bowl at 6:30pm.

Jeanette Ricker: The memorial service for Jeanette will be held at 11:00am this coming Wednesday at our present location...356 Conklin Avenue. Sympathy cards for Jeanette Ricker's family can be sent to; David Ricker at 30 Brookline Dr., Clifton Park, NY 12065

Shrove Tuesday Pancake Supper: As you may or may not know, we are planning a huge celebration for Shrove Tuesday (which is the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday...Mardi Gras for you pagans out there : ).... ) and we are inviting as many people as possible in the neighborhood to come and share pancakes and a fun safe evening. We'll be passing out flyers in the neighborhood beginning next week. We will certainly need your help. There is a sign-up sheet downstairs in the Parish Hall. There is a great variety of tasks. Please volunteer to help with this outreach event. We need you .

Palm Branches: Please bring your palms from last Palm Sunday to church this Sunday (February 15) and next (February 22). These will be burned at the close of the Shrove Tuesday Event in preparation for Ash Wednesday.

Applesauce: After Women's Bible Study we will be making applesauce to be frozen for the Shrove Tuesday Supper. Please come with a bag (or two) of apples and plastic containers.

Christian Education: Christ and Culture: The next cultural influence we'll tackle...beginning this Sunday... is Hedonism. No more need be said. See you there.I think that is all.

Youth Update From Micah: Youth Group will be happening at its normal times this week. Remember Junior High's new meeting time on Sunday, 2-4. Senior High is still meeting at 6-8. Now, I have two words for the Senior High...SKI TRIP! I know it's begun to warm up, so it's very important that we do this as soon as possible. I have set a tentative ski date as March 7. I will be bringing in permission slips. The total cost for the ski trip is $85. So start saving now! Now, last year, just about everybody dropped out at the last minute. This year, to guard against that, I will need permission slips and money from you by March 1st.

Junior High, if you are interested in going tubing soon, please let me know.Youth Tip #3...This one is aimed at the older folks and parents. Take an active interest in younger parents. You've been where they have been, you know what it's like. Take some time to offer encouragement and ideas to parents who are going through tough things. We are very lucky to have a church that spans multiple generations. Let's take advantage of it. Younger parents, be willing to listen and take whatever advice is being given to you.

Don't forget to invite your friends, family and neighbors to church...

Good News for the Week:
Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.” (Mark 10:29-31)

God is Faithful

Thursday, February 12, 2009

God is Good

God is an amazing God. There is some very good news to report...but not the sort of news we are (for the moment) at liberty to blog. If you are a member of Good Shepherd, check your email for an important email which should be in your in-boxes out momentarily

Okay, now, on to the rest of the notes...

Men's Breakfast and Bible Study will be in the St. Andrew's parish hall tomorrow morning. I'll be cooking.

Women's Bible Study will also be held in the church this week.

Micah's Sermon Still waiting for the text of Micah's excellent sermon from last week so I can post it here and on the website

Bible Talk at BU: In case you missed my talk on the nature of scripture at BU's Intervarsity Fellowship, here is part 1. Part 2 will be posted next week.

The Shepherd's Bowl meal will be served this evening at Conklin Avenue Baptist Church. The people of Conklin Avenue are very interested in joining this ministry effort. They have not only opened the kitchen to our cooks and gym up to hungry people looking for a warm meal, they want to learn how to do what we've been doing. Wouldn't it be great to have TWO soup kitchens here on the southside running on different nights...that possibility is looking more and more possible.

Thursday Night Bible Study will start up again next Thursday at Conklin Avenue Baptist after the Shepherd's Bowl at 6:30pm.

Jeanette Ricker: The memorial service for Jeanette will be held at 11:00am this coming Wednesday at our present location...356 Conklin Avenue. Sympathy cards for Jeanette Ricker's family can be sent to; David Ricker at 30 Brookline Dr., Clifton Park, NY 12065

Shrove Tuesday Pancake Supper- As you may or may not know, we are planning a huge celebration for Shrove Tuesday (which is the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday...Mardi Gras for you pagans out there : ).... ) and we are inviting as many people as possible in the neighborhood to come and share pancakes and a fun safe evening. We'll be passing out flyers in the neighborhood beginning next week. We will certainly need your help. There is a sign-up sheet downstairs in the Parish Hall. There is a great variety of tasks. Please volunteer to help with this outreach event. We need you .

Palm Branches- Please bring your palms from last Palm Sunday to church this Sunday (February 15) and next (February 22). These will be burned at the close of the Shrove Tuesday Event in preparation for Ash Wednesday.

Applesauce- After Women's Bible Study we will be making applesauce to be frozen for the Shrove Tuesday Supper. Please come with a bag (or two) of apples and plastic containers.

Christian Education Christ and Culture: The next cultural influence we'll tackle...beginning this Sunday... is Hedonism. No more need be said. See you there.
I think that is all

In Christ,

RC Sproul on Inspiration and the Canon of Scipture

If you've ever wondered about the process by which the Bible was put together and recognized as God's Word written, this lecture by RC Sproul is only about 25 minutes and very very good.

It helps put to rest the false, but fairly widespread, idea that the Church discarded thousands of sacred volumes she deemed insufficiently orthodox in the 4th century.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Bible and Revelation part 1

I gave the following talk to the Binghamton University Intervarsity Fellowship last Friday night. It's the second time I've spoken there. I was asked to speak on the topic of "scripture"...and keep it to 30 minutes (hah).

Before I got married I penned a list of qualities that my future wife should posses. She'd be blond, between 5'5” and 5'2”, Texan, know how to and love to cook, clean, and take care of children. She should be educated but not in theology so she would not compete with me, and she had to feel a deep desire to be a pastor's wife. That list was the measure of all females in my life for some time.

Then I met Anne. Anne is not blond. She's shorter than 5'2”. She's not from Texas. She has a seminary degree and never wanted to be a pastor's wife. She does cook and clean—but has this strange idea that I ought to share in these tasks—and she does do incredibly well with our increasingly large and noisy mass of children. Anne is not the the woman of my list.

The woman of my “list” doesn't really exist. She was a fabrication...In many ways the woman of my list was really just a projection of my own issues. But Anne is real. I can't shape her into my list woman and she can't shape me. And that is the beauty our marriage...the beauty of all good marriages I think. Anne is who she is. She tells me about herself in what she says, does, and does not do. I cannot change her. I don’t want to.

Scripture uses marriage to illustrate the relationship between the Church and Christ. The Church is called to know and love God as he is. I emphasize that because I think, call me crazy, that sometimes we prefer another sort of god—a god who meets our expectations and felt needs, a god who conforms himself to our personal “lists” rather than a God who reveals himself and to whom we must be conformed.

The American Heritage Dictionary defines the word “revelation” as “a dramatic disclosure of something not previously known or realized...”and I think that is a fine definition as far as it goes. What I like about it and what I think is helpful about it for our purposes is that it catches the sense of “being shown” something that we would not otherwise see. Often when we speak of God we use terms of “discovery”. I “found” God. I “came to believe” that God exists. But scripture assumes that we would not “come to know God” with his first “revealing” himself to us.

God reveals himself to humanity in two ways.

First, through creation which is called “general revelation.” It is called “general” revelation because everyone, generally, has access to it. When you walk outside and see the stars this evening you'll be looking at God's general revelation. Psalm 19 tells us: “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge.” (1-3)

In Romans 1, Paul writes this about the effect or power of God's general revelation on humanity: “The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly the things that have been made. So they are without excuse." (Romans 1:18-21) Though God reveals himself perfectly and beautifully in nature, general revelation does not effect faith, it does not produce true knowledge of God--not because general revelation fails but because humans suppress or reject what general revelation succeeds in revealing. There are, according to Paul, no true atheists. Everyone knows God exists and that he is to be worshiped and served because God has “shown” it to everyone through general revelation but everyone willingly suppresses that knowledge. General revelation is then ineffectual.

Psalm 19, however, points to the second way God reveals himself to humanity. “The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes...the rules of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb.” (Psalm 19:7-10).

God's “perfect” law, the Psalmist says, has effectual power. It revives the soul, makes wise the simple, causes the heart to “rejoice” and to “enlightens” the eyes or the mind. Scripture, special revelation, has power to effect effect a real and true sort of “knowing” in those who receive it.

In the 19th century an atheist philosopher named Ludwig Feuerbach asserted that when humans speak of God, they're really speaking of unmet needs...and ultimately of themselves (admittedly I am summarizing and generalizing here). All human beings have unmet desires, physiological necessities, frustrated wants...these are what Feuerbach called “wish images”. What we call God, said Feuerbach, is merely a composite wish image, a pretend deity who is really nothing more than a personification of human desires...think back to my “list” woman. She was merely a representation of my own issues. The same is true, according to Feuerbach, when it comes to human “knowledge” of God

In some ways I think he is correct. And think that's precisely what Paul was getting at in the text from Romans 1 I quoted a moment ago. Left to our own devices, we reject God as he reveals himself and create little gods, personifications of our desires, interact with them and call ourselves “spiritual”.

People do all sorts of things with the approval of these gods. They start wars, end marriages, cheat on their wives, cheat on tests, disobey their parents, sleep with their girlfriends...often with the rationale “But I prayed about it first and God said it was okay” tacked on. I can't tell you how many times I heard that last one as a youth minister.

This problem of “god-making” is precisely what makes special revelation, scripture, so powerful. In scripture God does not leave us “to our own devices.” He makes himself known, he unsettles us, he overturns our imaginations and perceptions and wish images and in their place he gives a true living self-portrait. It can be disturbing picture. It doesn't leave us feeling easy. But that's because it is real and because he's real. God is not and will not be a god of our “lists”. He is not tame. He is not concerned to conform to our cultural perceptions of right and wrong or what is appropriate or inappropriate. He is who he is. And when you find yourself regularly walking away from the bible settled and at peace and've most likely misread it altogether. be continued

Saturday, February 7, 2009

About the Update

Dear Good Shepherd,

I realize, after the fact, that I totally forgot to send out a weekly update yesterday...sorry. I gave a talk at BU's Intervarsity Fellowship last night and I was thinking about that most of the day and I totally blanked out.

In any case things are going very well with the Diocese of Syracuse. I'll talk more about this at the beginning of class tomorrow.

Christian Educaiton: Christ and Culture: tomorrow will begin a look at Pluralism and Relativism...these two concepts are very much related to one another and we'll hopefully be able to cover all the material tomorrow. If you are interested I wrote a four part lecture series on this last year for a conference. You can find the lecture texts here:

Part I Mere Christianity in a Pluralist World:
Part II
Part III
Part IV

International Feast: Be sure to be there tomorrow for the International Feast Day...there will be dishes served from all over the world...well not actually "from" all over the world...we'll be cooking them here but the recipees are from all over the world. This feast is in honor of the BU students but it should also be a lot of fun, so whether you are cooking something or just eating, please stay after the 10:30am service tomorrow and enjoy.

Okay, I think that that covers all of the very important information to pass on.

God bless you and I'll see you tomorrow.

In Christ,

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Thursday Notes

Dear Good Shepherd,

Happy Thursday....what a great Annual Meeting we had last Sunday. Anne is typing up the minutes and we'll send them up as soon as she's done. One thing I have already published is the preliminary vision for Good Shepherd's future that we discussed during the final part of the meeting.

The Notes are going to be rather brief today...there is a lot of work to be done at the moment. I am giving a talk tomorrow evening on the "nature of scripture" and its importance for the Intervarsity Christian Fellowship at BU...and it's not quite done yet. In any case, here is a brief version of the Thursday Notes:

Shepherd's Bowl: The Conklin Avenue Baptist Church has volunteered to host the Shepherd's Bowl next week and for the week's after. We would still staff it but the Baptists want to be trained so they hope to join some of the teams to see how it is done. As we mentioned at the Annual meeting, the ultimate plan may include two Shepherd's Bowls, one serving the east of southside Binghamton and the other serving the west...but that is for the future. Now, it seems as though we mostly need a place that will allow our cooks and servers to have access to a kitchen and to leave items there. Conklin Avenue would allow us to do that. We'll be consulting this week to determine how to make this work. It may be that we move the Shepherd's Bowl as early as next week.

Thursday Beginners Bible Study: Because the Shepherd's Bowl has been in flux for the last few weeks, I think it best to put this bible study on haitus until the Shepherd's Bowl has been firmly established in at least a semi-permanent location. So, if you are in the Thursday night study, there will be no bible study tonight but stay tuned in the coming weeks to hear about the re-launch.

Men's Breakfast and Bible Study will meet tomorrow morning at 6:30am in the St. Andrew's Parish hall. Ken is cooking.

The Welcome Back International Feast: There are so many people signed up to cook so many different dishes from all over the world to welcome and honor returning BU students...we should probably all fast or something the day before to make room. I'm cooking Indian food...Anne is preparing a Malian dish of some sort and about 15 or 16 other regions will be represented. The feast will take place after the 10:30 service this Sunday. Hope you can make it. Bring an appetite.

The Women's Bible Study will meet in the Rectory this Saturday at the regular time: 10am.

Podcast Sermon: If you missed church on Sunday, here is the sermon, "Christian Freedom and the Law of Love..." recorded on Podcast.

Youth Update from Micah: Junior High Youth Group is meeting at a new time! For those who don't know it already, JH youth gorup will now be meeting on Sundays at 2-4. Senior High Youth group continues at its regularly scheduled time on Sundays, 6-8. During the annual meeting last Sunday, I promised to start writing tips to get the whole church connecting with the youth. For the first tip, I suggested making an effort to talk with the youth and get to know them, what's going on in their lives. Make sure that you actually listen when you talk to these kids. Here is...

Youth Tip #2...Be truthful with youth. Obviously this depends on the age of the kid and the particular situation, but all too often we treat the youth like they are unable to understand the world. While it's true that many kids don't understand some things, it's definitely true that they will never understand until somebody tells them the truth. I'm not saying we should scar children with things they don't know how to handle, but if they are old enough to handle the truth, we should not neglect to tell it to them.

Okay, I think that's all for now....stay tuned tomorrow for the Update

In Christ,