Thursday, November 19, 2009

Good Shepherd Update Thursday November 19th, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving Week:  I love Thanksgiving. It's one of my favorite holidays...mostly because I love to cook and I love to eat. It's also great to have such a big family this year around the table and most of them able to talk. I can't even begin to number the things that I am thankful for. A home, clothes, food. God has been gracious and merciful to me and provided all that I need to live. As a husband, he's brought me an incredibly smart, wise, interesting and beautiful wife who deserves much better. As a father, God's given me five fascinating little human beings in the house to love, raise, and take care of. And for a ministry God has given me the privilege of serving you as pastor. And it is a privilege. You have withstood trials, faithfully, this year that would have ripped apart most congregations--you have grown through them in depth and in numbers--and now that we are relatively safe, no one seems to want to sit around and rest--everybody is ready to do what God has called us to do in our new neighborhood. I am so very thankful for all of you.

As a congregation how do we even come close to adequately expressing our gratitude to God for his grace and mercy in bringing us here to this place and for protecting and providing so abundantly for every need? I really have no idea. What can we do or say. Nothing is sufficient. God has poured out his blessings, "a
good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, has been set onto our lap." (Lk 6:38) There is no way to repay.

We can only let gratitude and thanksgiving shape us and serve as an antidote to any sense of pride or vanity. This has been his work and his plan and his gift to us. We can do nothing but express our thanksgiving by honoring and obeying his word, following his call to serve those in need, seeking the lost, proclaiming his word, and by loving each other and those in the world as he has loved us. And with his help we will do all those things.

Ecumenical Thanksgiving Service: the Annual Southside Ecumenical Thanksgiving Service will be held at Ross Memorial Presbyterian Church on Tuesday November 24th at 7pm. All are invited. Both Anne and I will be giving very short five minute talks as will all the pastors of south-side churches.

Stewardship Sunday:
We are all so very thankful to God for the abundant outpouring of generosity in 2009 that made it possible to purchase our property, maintain mission and ministry initiatives, pay salaries and the mortgage. It has been an incredible year.

We hope, by God's grace, to do far more in 2010 and to more fully invest the resources of Good Shepherd, financial and human, in the great mission given to us by Jesus Christ to proclaim his word and truth, feed the hungry, help the poor, make disciples and train them to follow his commands.  I pray that you will commit to participating in this mission financially and personally by tithing or committing to work toward a tithe.

If every member of Good Shepherd tithed, we would have more than enough to fully provide for those in need in our own congregation and give abundantly and strategically in ways that would accomplish the same end in this neighborhood, the city, and beyond--all in the name of Jesus Christ.

This Sunday you will find a pledge card in your bulletin. Please take it home, think and pray about what to give, and then return it by Sunday December 13th.

For those of you who are new to Good Shepherd:

1. As rector, I purposefully do not know and do not ask how much individuals give. I have no idea nor do I want to have any idea what you individually pledge or do not pledge. The only time I am informed is if a member suddenly and significantly reduces the amount they give. I am informed in those cases because it can sometimes signal that the person has a financial problem we can help with or has a concern that needs to be addressed.

2. Pledges to Good Shepherd are promises between you and God not between you and me or you and the vestry. If, during the year, difficult circumstances arise and you are unable to give as much as you thought, we understand. We do not sit around and compare what you pledge to what you give. No one from Good Shepherd will ever call you to "collect".

3. We do not ask nor do we care how much money you make. If you tell us that you are tithing, we take you at your word. If you tell us that you are working toward a tithe, we take you at your word. The way you handle your finances is between you and God. We will do our best to present the biblical model and biblical principles regarding money. The rest is up to you.

4. Every pledging member of Good Shepherd has the right to see the budget. This year's budget is pretty much non-existent since we lost everything in January and have been operating without a true budget since then. We will have a defined budget in January 2010 that will be presented to the congregation for approval at the Annual meeting in January. 

Christmas Pageant: This Sunday kicks off the first of five practices for the Christmas Pageant. Even if you didn't make the parent meeting last week and have no idea what's going on, PLEASE STAY for the practice. This week we'll be assigning parts and passing out scripts. There are parts for everyone and plenty of other jobs if you want to be involved. The practice will start DIRECTLY after the 10:30 service. Everyone involved should stay upstairs and gather in the front two pews. This is a busy time of year and I know everyone gets hungry and tired after church, so the sooner we can begin practice the better. See you all on Sunday!

What is Advent?: The season of Advent begins Sunday November 29th, the Sunday after Thanksgiving. The word "advent" comes from the Latin word "adventus" which means "coming". Advent is a season of preparation during which, historically, the Church has focused both on both the coming of Jesus Christ at his birth and his second coming at the end of the age.

For many Christians, Advent is a season of repentance, almost like Lent, in which John the Baptist's call to Israel, "repent and prepare for the coming of the Lord" becomes a call for believers to examine our hearts and lives and, with God's grace, to rid ourselves of those things which we've set in the way of Jesus Christ and his purposes and desires for us in preparation for his second Advent at the end of the age.

There is, however, a tinge of joy also. We are waiting for the coming of a new Kingdom, a new heaven and a new earth, the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ who has already guaranteed the inheritance, resurrection, and eternal life to all who have committed their lives to him.

All this can be somewhat strange feeling...while the rest of the world begins celebrating Christmas right after Thanksgiving (it seems) with carols and lights and decorations, our worship retains a solemn but hopeful feel right up to Christmas Eve (when the church is decked out in lights and color to celebrate the Lord's birth).

But this "hopeful solemnity", because it stands out so much in this season, might also prove to be an opportunity to share the gospel with non-Christian guests--an opportunity to talk about who Jesus is, the virgin born Son of God, the saving work did for us in his life, death and resurrection, and his second coming as both Judge and Deliverer.

Liturgically, you will notice a few changes. The color of my stole (the long scarf-like thing Anglican pastors wear around their necks to symbolize the fact that we are yoked to Christ, or slaves of Christ) and the chasuble (the pancho-like vestment that symbolizes the righteousness of Christ that he has imputed to believers through faith that makes it possible for us to be in communion with the Father) will go from green which is used during "regular time" (during Pentecost and from Epiphany to Lent) to either blue or purple...Blue is used to point to the coming dawn. It recalls the darkness before the birth of Christ and the dawn of his birth and second coming. Purple is the more traditional color that symbolizes repentance and sorrow for sin.

On the third Sunday of Advent, the liturgical color changes, for one Sunday only, from blue or purple to "rose" because that is the Sunday traditionally set aside to honor the faith and faithfulness of Mary. At Good Shepherd, we do not pray to or through Mary. Scripture teaches and so we believe that Mary was a virgin when Jesus was conceived in her womb through the Holy Spirit and remained a virgin until after Jesus was born when she and Joseph had more children. God gave her amazing faith and courage and we revere her as the mother who bore and raised the very Son of God incarnate but recognize that she also was a sinner saved through faith in her own Son. Her song of praise in Luke 1:46-55 is a beautiful testimony to God's grace and saving power in her own life and in ours.

During Advent you will also notice a tall candle standing in the center of the altar area. Near the top, you will see what looks like a Christmas wreath with four candles. This is an Advent wreath. Each Sunday in Advent (there are four) one candle is lit until Christmas Eve when all the candles are lighted. As each candle is lit, over the course of four Sundays, the increasing light represents the light of Christ steadily defeating the darkness of the fallen world and ultimately overcoming it.

If you have any questions during this season (or any other time) please feel free to email me at or give me a call at 773-4810

Systematic Theology
  will meet this Saturday. We'll finish our discussion of the "incommunicable attributes"  of God" and move into a discussion of the communicable attributes. I forgot to record last week's class but you can still listen to the review from the week before here. Looking forward to seeing you Saturday at 3:30pm in the parish hall.

Anglican Church Women: Around 30 women gathered for the ACW luncheon last Saturday to discuss ways that the women of the church can support the mission and ministry of Good Shepherd and, especially, to gather resources for those in need. As most of you know, the proceeds from the upcoming Christmas Bake Sale will go to the ACK Kwenda church in Nairobi. The ACW also discussed a number of other of which is to organize Christmas gift-giving for needy children in the community (you can read more about this below). Thank you to all who attended this meeting and thank you to those who put forth the time and effort to organize it. The ACW can look forward to a great future.

ACW Christmas Outreach: If you or a family that you know is in need of help with Christmas gifts, please speak to Anne or Matt. The women of the Church of the Good Shepherd (ACW) will be organizing a Christmas outreach. A Christmas tree with ages, sizes, and genders of needy children will soon be displayed in the Parish Hall. Parishioners may select one or more children for whom they may purchase an appropriate article of clothing and a toy. These should be brought to the church wrapped and labeled before Christmas Eve. If you have questions, see Pat Chaney or Carmen.

Thanksgiving week schedule: I will not be in the office from Wednesday until Sunday during Thanksgiving week. There will be no Tuesday night, Thursday night, Friday morning or Saturday bible study and no Systematic Theology. There may be Tuesday morning bible study but I am not sure about that yet. More info will be coming. Good Shepherd traditionally takes a sabbath on Thanksgiving week. Enjoy the extra time with your family.

Shepherd's Bowl: Team 4 is scheduled to serve tonight at the Shepherd's Bowl.

Team 5 is forming up rather well. Lee Bronson has volunteered to cook. His wife Jane and Joseph and Andrea Kovac along with perhaps a contingent of students will launch team five the Thursday December 3rd after Thanksgiving:

There will be no Shepherd's Bowl on Thanksgiving Day--one day we hope to serve on Thanksgiving, but this year the logistics are not in our favor. Let's pray and think about the possibility of serving turkey next year.

Christmas Acolyting:
So far we have three volunteers and only need two more. I know it is tricky because we want most of our current acolytes to be in the pageant so we are looking for people who are either adults and will not be in the pageant or who are young and are not going to be in the pageant. Christmas Eve service is one of the more important ones of the year so we pull out all the stops. If you are not going to be out of town and are not going to be in the Christmas Pageant which takes place during the service itself, and you are willing to serve as an acolyte please let me know so that I can fill the spaces. We need five acolytes for Christmas Eve.

Soren Kierkegaard on Scripture and its interpreters:The matter is quite simple. The Bible is very easy to understand. But we Christians are a bunch of scheming swindlers. We pretend to be unable to understand it because we know very well that the minute we understand, we are obliged to act accordingly. Take any words in the New Testament and forget everything except pledging yourself to act accordingly. My God, you will say, if I do that my whole life will be ruined. How would I ever get on in the world? Herein lies the real place of Christian scholarship. Christian scholarship is the Church’s prodigious invention to defend itself against the Bible, to ensure that we can continue to be good Christians without the Bible coming too close. Oh, priceless scholarship, what would we do without you? Dreadful it is to fall into the hands of the living God. Yes it is even dreadful to be alone with the New Testament.

Beginner's Bible Study: Beginner's Bible Study is on for tonight. We will be in John 2 this evening.

Women's Bible Study: Meets this Saturday in the parish hall at 10:00am. They are currently studying the book of Isaiah. All women are welcome.

Audio and Video of Last Sunday's Sermon: Here's the video of last Sunday's Sermon: Sexual Purity

Men's Bible Study and Breakfast: SOMEONE is scheduled to cook...I just don't know who. Breakfast is served at 6:30am and the study starts at the same time. All men are welcome.

Christian Education: Science and the Bible/Creation and Evolution.  This Sunday we'll finish viewing the film Expelled by Ben Stein. After the film, we'll discuss it a bit and then open our discussion of Old Earth creationism. Hope to see you there.

Youth Group Update from Ife: I'm sorry for the lack of updates regarding youth group for the last few weeks. I realize that it is a way for the whole church to be aware of the progress and challenges of this ministry.

Both groups have been meeting every week. The Senior group meets on Sundays 6 - 730p and the Junior group meets on Mondays 630 - 800p. This week the Senior High group is going bowling and the Junior High will be watching a movie (Skate Estate is closed). Both are at the regular time.

Our primary goal in youth group is to grow young adults who are transformed by the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ and who commit to lifelong discipleship. It is our purpose to study the bible and to provide a sound foundation of faith and to learn to articulate and live out the truth's of God's Word.

This means our weekly meeting is centered around bible study except  on occasions like this week when we have Fun Nite. We've been studying SALVATION : the work of the Trinity in the salvation process, the process of atonement and Jesus' final atoning sacrifice, common grace and saving grace. Here is a defining statement that the kids in the Junior High group arrived at by themselves in our discussion about the trinity

"The Father, Son and the Holy Spirit have always been together and have never done anything separately and they've each played a part in everything they've ever done"

I dare you to find a more doctrinally sound and concise summation of the Trinity. My purpose in sharing this is not only to boast about them (although I proudly do so) but more importantly to relay the importance of the youth group and the way God uses and can use the deposit of His word to shape these young lives. Pray for the youth group and if you are a parent please see the importance of this time. Instead of working it around your kids schedule let me encourage you to work the basketball and soccer practices around the youth group time. One has lasting eternal value while the other does not.

No comments: