Thursday, July 23, 2009
Dear Good Shepherd,
It's great to be back home. I missed you all especially on the two Sundays I was away. As some of you know I used some of my vacation time to report on the General Convention of the Episcopal Church for Stand Firm (which is an online Anglican magazine). Unfortunately, the Episcopal Church continues to walk away from the truth and lead people struggling with sexual sin further away from the healing and transforming love of Christ. At this last convention the Episcopal Church officially opened the way for those who are living in non-celibate homosexual relationships to be both ordained and “married” in the church. Rather than lovingly calling those caught up in spiritually and physically deadly sin to repent and turn to Jesus Christ, the Episcopal Church continues to affirm and “bless” behavior that the New Testament says characterizes those who will not enter the kingdom of God (1 Cor 6:9). Please pray for God's protection of those faithful Christians who remain in the Episcopal Church, pray for all those who are caught up in the sin of homosexual behavior—and all sexual sin, and pray that the Episcopal Church as a whole repent of her false teaching through which many souls and bodies are being led to destruction.
We, however, ought at the same time to rejoice and be full of thanksgiving and praise that God has delivered us out of these things and into a new home with a better, firmer foundation. This did not happen to us because of our ingenuity or purity or strategy or wisdom. It happened because our God is a gracious God. He pours out his love and mercy and blessings on his people, on his church, not because of our goodness but because of his—because he loves us. Our response to God's loving gracious gifts to us should then be an outpouring of worship and praise and thanksgiving and obedience and an eagerness to show love, patience, kindness, gentleness, humility, forgiveness to one another.
In the stress and strain of the last year, I think sometimes these things have been lacking in me personally and sometimes us corporately as a church. Of course, the following does not include every single person at Good Shepherd, but, disputes over small things like space, music, money, change, lack of change, service, who is serving and who is not serving—all of these have arisen in the last few months. It is a natural thing in the let down after a period of intense anxiety and significant loss for irritations, old resentments and grudges, and divisions of many kinds to crop up.
At the same time, we are not “natural” people. Our old natures are being destroyed—we are new creations in Christ Jesus, with changed hearts and minds, indwelt by the Holy Spirit who resides in each believer individually and the congregation as a whole. God dwells among us and in us. That means that each of us has access to God's eternal, unlimited, unstoppable power to help us deal with our “natural” inclinations and to give us the grace to love one another as he loves us.
In the sermon series on marriage we said that believers can forgive our spouses and deal with anger, frustration, disappointment, and resentment, by offering it all to God in prayer, letting him inside our hearts and minds, giving him all that we think and feel, and asking him to transform us, to remake us in his image. This does not preclude a couple's open and frank discussion of differences and the real need to speak face to face about problems. But it does shape and “tenderize” those discussions so that both husband and wife are eager to make peace, eager to see their own faults and misunderstandings and to put the needs of the other person ahead of their own.
The same is true for your relationships in the church with your brothers and sisters. If you're carrying around a burden of resentment, a grudge, or an unforgiving heart; if you have a problem with a brother or sister that you've discussed, perhaps, with everybody but that person; if you've sinned against someone in the church but have been, up to this point, too stubborn or proud to admit it to yourself and that person and ask forgiveness--now is the time to make peace. I personally, have been so preoccupied with and stressed out about matters relating to this new place—the place God has given us, that I have been short tempered with my wife and kids and not as attentive to the pastoral needs of people here at Good Shepherd. That is one of the ways I have sinned in the last few months (there are more) and I ask your forgiveness for that. I have not been trusting God and my lack of trust led to worry and my worry led to increased preoccupation and, well, more worry and less leadership.
What about you? Is there someone you need to forgive or whose forgiveness you need to seek? Is there a discussion you need to have with someone? Maybe there is a stubborn grudge or resentment that you need to offer to God or a growing irritation or a root of bitterness that you need to expose to the light of God's Holy Spirit and seek healing and peace? Maybe you are just fed up with just about everyone? Go to Jesus Christ in prayer, release your burdens to him and he will lift them. Ask for the strength and grace to make peace.
God is greater than our hearts. He is transforming them. He is Lord over this body, the church, and he is, daily, renewing and strengthening her. We are his people, called by his name. He loves us and has called us to be his own. Let's commit then, as a church and each of us personally, to live in keeping with the high calling to which and in the great Name in which we have been called.
I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. (Ephesians 4:1-6)
Shepherds' Bowl: Shepherd's Bowl is Church of the Good Shepherd's soup kitchen. Since we have been in our new building, we have been joining with Conklin Avenue Baptist to provide this service in their facility with their cooperation and assistance. In September the soup kitchen will continue at Conklin Avenue Baptist Church on Tuesdays and we at Church of the Good Shepherd will initiate this service at our own facility on Thursdays.
In total we need 8 teams of 4 persons from both churches (32 individuals) to provide meals in both venues. Each team will work once per month. The meal is served at 5:30PM and usually servers are free to return home by 7PM. Teams may prepare meals when they wish (earlier on the same day or earlier in the week) according to their convenience. The plan is to prepare one meal per week in our church kitchen. This meal will be served both days in both churches. If you are interested in participating in this important outreach ministry, please sign-up and indicate which day you prefer to serve.
Beginners Bible Study: When the Shepherd's Bowl starts up again in the fall, I will also restart the Thursday night bible Study. If you have never studied the bible before and have no idea how to read, understand, and apply it to your life, this is the bible study for you. It will start at 6:30pm every Thursday night right after the Shepherd's Bowl and last for about an hour.
Adult Christian Education: Anglican Worship and Sacraments: This Sunday, we'll reopen a discussion of Communion. What is it? What does it mean? Who can participate? Why do Anglicans celebrate it every Sunday? Why do you do all those strange things at the altar? What's up with that pancho thing you wear? We'll begin to address all of these questions and discuss a lot more this Sunday. The first ten-fifteen minutes of class will be an open question and answer session. I'll be happy to talk about anything that is on your mind, so please be there early.
Systematic Theology: This Saturday at 3:30pm Systematic Theology will meet. Bring your questions because we'll be having a discussion of what we have learned so far as well as moving into a discussion of God's secret and revealed will. What does it mean to say, for example, “God wills that none should perish?” in light of the fact that many do indeed perish? Hope to see you then.
Schedule for Systematic Theology: Systematic Theology class has had some difficulty meeting during the summer due to travel schedules and things of that sort. I am committed to this class and I believe it is one of the most important if not the most important currently on offer at Good Shepherd. So rather than hit or miss, I've worked out a schedule for the remainder of the summer for the Saturdays that we will be holding class. You can see that schedule below. For those of you in the class please remember to pick up chapter 13 (the second part of the Communicable Attributes section) on Sunday. It will be set out on the table in the parish hall along with the other readings:
Summer Systematic Theology class schedule:
Saturday July 25th
Saturday August 1st
Saturday August 15th
Saturday August 29th
Acolyte Practice: There will be an acolyte practice this Sunday after the 10:30pm service. It is very important that everyone who is interested in being an acolyte or who is an acolyte be there. The practice will last less than one hour.
Men's Breakfast and Bible Study: Will meet as usual tomorrow morning (Friday) at 6:30am and we'll continue our study of 1st Samuel. I have no idea who is cooking? I don't think we've made a new schedule yet so I think we're open for volunteers.
Thank you to Micah and Ife for preaching and teaching and holding down the fort in my absence. Thank you also to Kay and Kellie and Chris who took care of our animals and looked after the house. I am so very grateful for your help.
Women's Bible Study: will meet Saturday at 10AM as usual. We will continue our study of Isaiah, an amazing book of prophecy.
Prayer Group: Remember that there is a prayer meeting every Wednesday at 6:00pm in the chapel. There will not be a meeting this coming Wednesday (July 29th) because of Vestry.
Vestry Meeting: 6:00pm Wednesday July 29th. Please make every effort to be there and to be there on time.
New Member (and interested attender) audio and video classes will continue this week. If you missed the first one here is a link.
Podcast Sermons: I don't have any podcast recordings of Micah or Ife's sermons but when I do I'll link them for you.
Help with Groundskeeping: If you would like to help keep the grounds of Good Shepherd Anglican looking beautiful and clean, there are three tasks that need doing. 1. Weeding the front of the school and/or rectory 2. Litter patrol, especially along the Conklin sidewalk and the fence around the school. 3. Repaint the white fence that runs along the East side of the church. Thank you to whoever can help. If you are available for other tasks on the weekend or during the week, please speak with Fred Moat.
Online v. Print: some people have asked how internet/email announcements are distributed to members who do not have internet coverage. Good question. The Weekly Update is printed every week in the Sunday bulletin so those without internet coverage can be informed about what is happening in a given week. We mail sermons and bulletins to our homebound parishioners. Of course, those who are not homebound who choose not come to church on Sunday do tend to be less informed than those who come regularly...but there is a remedy for that : - )
Well, that's all for now. Have a great Thursday.