Monday, November 8, 2010

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Sermon for the Blessing of the Beasts

Text: Romans 8:18-24

Blessing of the Beasts

Blessing of the Animals at the Anglican Church of the Good Shepherd in Binghamton, New York

Monday, September 20, 2010

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Last Post

Well, now that the new website is up, I will be putting the Blog of the Good Shepherd to rest. It's been a good run but there is no more need for it. The new website does all that this blog does and more. I will be posting daily podcasts and articles at the new site and at the Good Shepherd facebook page...

Take some time and explore the site. There are so many more resources and so much more information packed into this site than in past ones. Be sure to check out the new photo gallery. Each image represents an entire gallery of photographs that you can enlarge and view. The homepage (the first page that pops up when you get to the site) boasts a video library for quick video updates. There is a new page for podcasts on which I've started publishing daily (well...weekdays...at least that's the goal) podcasts. The present series is a study of the Ten Commandments. You can listen to Wednesday's and Thursday's podcasts here. There is a new sermon's page which boasts both video and text.

You will also find descriptions of our bible studies, beliefs, Sunday School classes, the Shepherd's Bowl, outreach programs, a much more comprehensive links page complete with direct links to our denomination, diocese, bible study resources, blogs, classic Christian works, and much more. Along with the new website has come a new Good Shepherd facebook page which you can join and receive daily links, news and updates. In any case, explore and enjoy.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

New Website for Good Shepherd

Good Shepherd's website has been entirely renovated and transformed. Check it out here

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Good Shepherd Update Thursday March 18th, 2010

Dear Good Shepherd,

Well we had a great vestry meeting last night regarding the old church building etc...and here I was worried about it. Come to church on Sunday and we'll talk about what happened for a bit between services.

For now I am up against a huge wall of work.

So, quickly, here's the update.

Here's the Update:

The Food Pantry (second notice): If you have extra food or household items, bring them to church and put them in the pantry. The pantry is a small room to the left side of the kitchen...if you don't know what I'm talking about just ask someone and they'll show you. If you need food, go to the pantry and take what you need. No questions asked. You do not need to apply or ask anybody. We assume that everyone who takes from the pantry is honestly in need. The pantry is intended for members and for those who attend Good Shepherd. We feed the community at the Shepherd's Bowl but we must also help the needy in our own congregation.

Clam Chowder sale: is coming up this Friday and Saturday March 19th and 20th. The sale is a fundraiser and the price per container is 8 dollars. As a way of reaching out to our neighborhood, I invite those of you who are able to buy more than one container so that we can give some chowder away as gifts from Good Shepherd to those who may not be able to afford that price.

Healing Service: The healing service continues next Wednesday. God has, through prayer and the laying on of hands, physically healed people a number of times at Good Shepherd. But healing takes place in many ways. Resentment, depression, anger, addiction, dependence, unforgiveness--are all ways that we sometimes react to pain in our lives. God is more powerful than them all and sometimes he overcomes these sins in our lives by first healing the pain at the heart of them through prayer. The Wednesday services at Good Shepherd will be based on an Anglican liturgy for healing found in the Kenyan prayerbook. If you are looking for physical, spiritual, or emotional healing please plan to come every Wednesday at 6pm. The service lasts no longer than half an hour to forty minutes depending on prayer needs.

Choir Practice: tonight at 7pm

Duty Roster: Team Corinthians is scheduled for this Sunday, so Carrie Moorhead...the team captain...is the person to call with any questions.

Beginners' Bible Study is tonight after the Shepherd's Bowl at 6:30pm in the parish hall. We'll continue in John 6. If you're new to the Christian faith and/or have never seriously attempted to study the bible this study is for you. All are invited.

Men's Bible Study and Breakfast: Joe Barham is scheduled to cook. We're moving on to talk about Absolom's rebellion this week. Men's Bible Study meets at 6.30am

Women's Bible Study: Please join us Saturday Mornings at 10AM as we continue to study a most amazing Old Testament book----Isaiah. Lent is an appropriate season to study this "evangelical prophet" who wrote so eloquently of redemption and of our Messiah (from Carmen)

Systematic Theology: will meet at 3:30pm as usual in the parish hall on Saturday. We've finished the doctrine of Creation and will be moving to discuss the Doctrine of Providence.

Reminder: Beginning in May: New Member classes A series of three new/interested members class will be held on three successive Saturdays in May (the 8th, 15th, and 22nd) These classes will be designed to help new members and interested guests integrate and participate at Good Shepherd. You will learn about Anglicanism in general and about Good Shepherd in particular. If you are not new but still interested, you are welcome to come as well.

Here is last week's sermon: The Father and His Two Sons by Matt Tuttle

This Sunday's sermon will be based on Luke 20:9-19
"And he began to tell the people this parable: “A man planted a vineyard and let it out to tenants and went into another country for a long while. When the time came, he sent a servant to the tenants, so that they would give him some of the fruit of the vineyard. But the tenants beat him and sent him away empty-handed. And he sent another servant. But they also beat and treated him shamefully, and sent him away empty-handed. And he sent yet a third. This one also they wounded and cast out. Then the owner of the vineyard said, ‘What shall I do? I will send my beloved son; perhaps they will respect him.’ But when the tenants saw him, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir. Let us kill him, so that the inheritance may be ours.’ And they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. What then will the owner of the vineyard do to them? He will a come and destroy those tenants andb give the vineyard to others.” When they heard this, they said, “Surely not!” But hec looked directly at them and said, “What then is this that is written.

“‘The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone’?

Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces, and when it falls f on anyone, it will crush him.

The scribes and the chief priests sought to lay hands on him at that very hour, for they perceived that he had told this parable against them, but they feared the people."

Christian Education: Spiritual Disciplines...this week we'll continue to speak about the discipline of simplicity. To live a simple life is to live a life focused on one thing. What does that look like in a postmodern, consumerist, and pluralist world? We'll talk about that on Sunday.

Islam and Christianity: Since we've been dealing with Islam somewhat lately, I thought I would pass along this excellent audio discussion of the relationship between the god described and worshiped in the Koran and God as he is revealed in the bible.

Do Muslims and Christians worship the same God by a different name?

Holy Week Schedule 2010:

Palm Sunday (Sunday March 28th )
Holy Week is the week Christians remember and celebrate the last week of Jesus’ life. That week began with Jesus’ triumphal entry into the city of Jerusalem. By this time, Jesus was famous. Everyone knew him and most people believed that he was the messiah, the coming savior of Israel. So when they heard he was coming they all rushed out waving palm branches and crying “Hosanna in Highest! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” Five days later the very same people who greeted Jesus with shouts of “Hosanna” screamed for his death with cries of “Crucify Him!” Palm Sunday Services at Good Shepherd will be held at 8:00am and 10:30am. They will begin with the blessing of the Palms. Then the blessed palms will be passed out to everyone in the congregation and we’ll process into the church like Jesus’ processed into Jerusalem (except for the donkey). During the service The Passion will be read and narrated.

Tenebrae (Wednesday March 31st)
Tenebrae means “shadows” in Latin. The worship service called “Tenebrae” is an ancient rite of the Church. It is a service of word, light and sound. When you arrive for worship you will see two groups of candles lit on the altar. As readings are read the candles on the altar will be gradually extinguished until the very end of the service when the last candle left lit is removed from the worship space and the whole sanctuary is left in darkness. At that point a loud crash will shatter the silence of the sanctuary. Then, after a moment, the last candle is returned to the sanctuary and the worshippers depart in silence. The gradual darkening of the sanctuary and the crashing noise symbolizes the apparent victory of death, darkness, and chaos over Jesus Christ on the cross. The final candle being removed and returned, symbolizes the truth that through Jesus' death, God gained victory over all the powers of evil. The Light was not overcome. The service of Tenebrae will be held at 7:00pm on Wednesday of Holy Week.

Maundy Thursday (April 1st)
Maundy Thursday communion celebrates the humility of Jesus. Jesus is the King of Kings and Lord of Lord’s and yet on the night before he died, during the Last Supper, he knelt down and one by one washed his disciples' feet. He did this to show his disciples and to show you and me how to serve one another with humility and love, being willing even to stoop to the most menial tasks. There will be a covered dish (pot-luck) supper in the parish hall followed by the Maundy Thursday worship service which will include foot washing. Maundy Thursday is the last chance for communion until the Great Vigil. The service will begin at 7:00pm following the covered dish dinner that begins at 5:30pm

Good Friday: The Passion (April 2nd)
Jesus died on a Friday. At about 3pm on Friday of Holy Week he lifted his eyes up to heaven from the cross and breathed out his last. “It is finished” he said. He was not only referring to his life, but he was also referring to the great battle between God and sin, death, and Satan. On the cross of Jesus Christ, God defeated the powers that corrupt and destroy his creation and his creatures. By and through Jesus’ death on the cross, everyone who believes is forgiven their sins and granted an eternal relationship with God. Good Friday Services will be held at noon and 7pm. At noon we'll say "the Hours" which are prayers that mark the time of day when Jesus hung on the cross. At 7pm, we'll walk the stations of the cross which are prayers through which we remember the passion of Christ and his burial. There will be a sermon at both services.

The Easter Vigil (Saturday April 3rd)
Along with Tenebrae, the Easter Vigil is one of the most ancient services of the Church. It is the most important service of the entire year and it is the first service of Easter. The service begins in total darkness--the lights of the sanctuary are out and not a candle is burning. Then a fire is lit in a firepot the center of the nave and from that flame all the candles in the sanctuary are lit and the hand-candles in the congregation. Then come readings and psalms, said and sung, by singers and by the whole congregation. The sermon follows and then the first Communion of Easter. The Great Vigil begins at 8:00pm in the sanctuary.

Easter Day: (Sunday April 4th)
This is the day Christians celebrate and proclaim the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ. There will be flowers and smells and bells. And, possibly, an Easter Egg huntafterwards. Service times are 8:00am and 10:30am Easter Morning.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Christianity and Islam

Dear Good Shepherd,

Since we've been dealing with Islam somewhat lately, I thought I would pass along this excellent audio discussion of the relationship between the god described and worshiped in the Koran and God as he is revealed in the bible.

Do Muslims and Christians worship the same God by a different name?

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Good Shepherd Update Thursday March 11th, 2010

Dear Good Shepherd,

Good morning....his week's update will be pretty short and sweet. There is a lot of stuff piled up that I have to get to before I can't see over it.

Here's the Update:

The Food Pantry: things are taking shape for the parish needs food pantry. The way it will work is very simple. If you have extra food or household items, bring them to church and put them in the pantry. The pantry is a small room to the left side of the kitchen...if you don't know what I'm talking about just ask someone and they'll show you. If you need food, go to the pantry and take what you need. No questions asked. You do not need to apply or ask anybody. We assume that everyone who takes from the pantry is honestly in need. The pantry is intended for members and for those who attend Good Shepherd. We feed the community at the Shepherd's Bowl but we must also help the needy in our own congregation.

Clam Chowder sale: is coming up on Saturday March 20th. The sale is a fundraiser and the price per container is 8 dollars. As a way of reaching out to our neighborhood, I invite those of you who are able to buy more than one container so that we can give some chowder away as gifts from Good Shepherd to those who may not be able to afford that price.

Chopping for Chowder: Women are invited to stay after the ACW meeting on the 13th of March in order to prepare vegetables for the clam chowder which we will sell the following weekend. (from Carmen)

Healing Service: The healing service continues next Wednesday. God has, through prayer and the laying on of hands, physically healed people a number of times at Good Shepherd. But healing takes place in many ways. Resentment, depression, anger, addiction, dependence, unforgiveness--are all ways that we sometimes react to pain in our lives. God is more powerful than them all and sometimes he overcomes these sins in our lives by first healing the pain at the heart of them through prayer. The Wednesday services at Good Shepherd will be based on an Anglican liturgy for healing found in the Kenyan prayerbook. If you are looking for physical, spiritual, or emotional healing please plan to come every Wednesday at 6pm. The service lasts no longer than half an hour to forty minutes depending on prayer needs.

Choir Practice: tonight at 7pm

The Sexual Harassment/Abuse Prevention: Beginning THIS Saturday March 13th thru April--we'll set up the videos and a television set in the church. If you teach Sunday School, serve in the nursery, work on staff, please come to view them at your convenience. The church is open business hours most Saturdays and Tuesdays. It is always open during open office hours Wednesday and Thursday, and in the evenings during the various weekly events. The only days that may be difficult are Friday (after 9pm) and Monday. We'll have a roster next to the video. After you watch, just sign the roster so we'll know you've done it. These videos are required by our insurance and it's just a good idea.

Shrove Tuesday Photos: Please take a look at the Shrove Tuesday photos on the bulletin board in the Parish Hall. Thanks to all for making that such a great success!

Duty Roster: Team Romans is scheduled for this Sunday, so Chris Jones...the team captain...is the person to call with any questions. :) Before long I won't have anything to do but sit back and watch everybody else work.

Beginners' Bible Study is tonight after the Shepherd's Bowl at 6:30pm in the parish hall. We'll be moving into John 6. If you are new to the Christian faith and/or have never seriously attempted to study the bible this study is for you. All are invited.

Men's Bible Study and Breakfast: Chris Jones is scheduled to cook. We're wrapping up the account of David and Bathsheba in 2nd Samuel. Men's Bible Study meets at 6.30am

Women's Bible Study: Please join us Saturday Mornings at 10AM as we continue to study a most amazing Old Testament book----Isaiah. Lent is an appropriate season to study this "evangelical prophet" who wrote so eloquently of redemption and of our Messiah (from Carmen)

Systematic Theology: will meet at 3:30pm as usual in the parish hall on Saturday. We'll hopefully come close to wrapping up our discussion of the Doctrine of Creation. All are invited. I'll be sending notes from last week out for those who missed last Saturday.

Here is last week's sermon: "Behavior Modification v. the Gospel" based on 1st Thessalonians 5:23-28. You can watch the video below and read the text here.

Last Sunday's sermon wraps up 1st Thessalonians. We'll be primarily in the lectionary until the Fall when we begin the series on Colossians.

This Sunday's sermon will be based on Luke chapter 15: the parable of the Lost Son.

Christian Education: Spiritual Disciplines...this week we'll talk about practices from repetition and memorization to lectio divina. That will end the section on "inward" disciplines. And we'll move on to some of the "outward" disciplines beginning with the discipline of "simplicity". To live a simple life is to live a life focused on one thing. We'll talk about what that looks like Sunday.

Classical Education: Some of you may have heard already of the classical school Anne and I, Samantha Kubic and her husband Niell, Mark and Anna Dreher are in the process of organizing for the Fall. It's not going to be officially affiliated with any particular church nor will it be a "church school" but a lot of Good Shepherd people are deeply involved in its creation. The Press and Sun Bulletin ran an article on the school this morning featuring Samantha. Here's an excerpt:
"...We desire a classical education for our children," Kubik said.

Classical education, inspired by Dorothy Sayers' essay "The Lost Tools of Learning," gears pedagogy to three learning stages, called the Trivium: grammar, logic and rhetoric.

The grammar stage, which is roughly equivalent to elementary school age, capitalizes on students' aptitude for memorization and has them memorize a wide range of facts -- in math, geography, English, the Bible and Latin.

Young teens, who often like to argue with adults, are trained in formal logic, while older students are taught to communicate persuasively through instruction in rhetoric.

To get the basics down, students need to start the classical system fairly young; after the sixth grade, it's difficult because the grammar stage establishes the foundation for the other stages.

Classical Christian schools are also based on scripture and promote a Biblical worldview. There are only two such schools in the state: one in Manhattan and the other in the Albany area, according to the Association of Classical & Christian Schools...more
"

Youth Update from Ife:
What is the Chief End of Man?

The youth group has experienced a growth in numbers in the past month - both the senior and junior groups have nearly doubled. Praise be to God for parents who are encouraging their children to be part of these groups and youths who are inviting their friends. Keep up the good work!!

We've just embarked on the first 38 questions of the Westminster Shorter Catechism. Why are we doing this, you ask? I'll be delighted to tell you:

The Catechism is not easy to learn, yet it is important for shaping lives, both young and old. If our goal is to raise up young men and women who are disciples of Christ, then our intent must be to train them in the truth of the gospel. I desire that the youths in this church will have a desire in their hearts to follow God, but unless they know the truth about God, their emotions for God will outrun their knowledge of God, making them weak and maybe frustrated Christians. The WSC is hard to teach and even harder to learn, but it is something that, if learned, will prove invaluable throughout the lifetime of any believer.

So, parents, your encouragement and oversight is needed, and who knows, maybe you can learn something too in the endeavor.

'MAN'S CHIEF END IS TO GLORIFY GOD AND TO ENJOY HIM FOREVER'

Holy Week Schedule 2010:

Palm Sunday (Sunday March 28th )
Holy Week is the week Christians remember and celebrate the last week of Jesus’ life. That week began with Jesus’ triumphal entry into the city of Jerusalem. By this time, Jesus was famous. Everyone knew him and most people believed that he was the messiah, the coming savior of Israel. So when they heard he was coming they all rushed out waving palm branches and crying “Hosanna in the Highest! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” Five days later the very same people who greeted Jesus with shouts of “Hosanna” screamed for his death with cries of “Crucify Him!” Palm Sunday Services at Good Shepherd will be held at 8:00am and 10:30am. They will begin with the blessing of the Palms. Then the blessed palms will be passed out to everyone in the congregation and we’ll process into the church like Jesus’ processed into Jerusalem (except for the donkey). During the service The Passion will be read and narrated.

Tenebrae (Wednesday March 31st)
Tenebrae means “shadows” in Latin. The worship service called “Tenebrae” is an ancient rite of the Church. It is a service of word, light and sound. When you arrive for worship you will see two groups of candles lit on the altar. As readings are read the candles on the altar will be gradually extinguished until the very end of the service when the last candle left lit is removed from the worship space and the whole sanctuary is left in darkness. At that point a loud crash will shatter the silence of the sanctuary. Then, after a moment, the last candle is returned to the sanctuary and the worshippers depart in silence. The gradual darkening of the sanctuary and the crashing noise symbolizes the apparent victory of death, darkness, and chaos over Jesus Christ on the cross. The final candle being removed and returned, symbolizes the truth that through Jesus' death, God gained victory over all the powers of evil. The Light was not overcome. The service of Tenebrae will be held at 7:00pm on Wednesday of Holy Week.

Maundy Thursday (April 1st)
Maundy Thursday communion celebrates the humility of Jesus. Jesus is the King of Kings and Lord of Lord’s and yet on the night before he died, during the Last Supper, he knelt down and one by one washed his disciples' feet. He did this to show his disciples and to show you and me how to serve one another with humility and love, being willing even to stoop to the most menial tasks. There will be a covered dish (pot-luck) supper in the parish hall followed by the Maundy Thursday worship service which will include foot washing. Maundy Thursday is the last chance for communion until the Great Vigil. The service will begin at 7:00pm following the covered dish dinner that begins at 5:30pm

Good Friday: The Passion (April 2nd)
Jesus died on a Friday. At about 3pm on Friday of Holy Week he lifted his eyes up to heaven from the cross and breathed out his last. “It is finished” he said. He was not only referring to his life, but he was also referring to the great battle between God and sin, death, and Satan. On the cross of Jesus Christ, God defeated the powers that corrupt and destroy his creation and his creatures. By and through Jesus’ death on the cross, everyone who believes is forgiven their sins and granted an eternal relationship with God. Good Friday Services will be held at noon and 7pm. At noon we'll say "the Hours" which are prayers that mark the time of day when Jesus hung on the cross. At 7pm, we'll walk the stations of the cross which are prayers through which we remember the passion of Christ and his burial. There will be a sermon at both services.

The Easter Vigil (Saturday April 3rd)
Along with Tenebrae, the Easter Vigil is one of the most ancient services of the Church. It is the most important service of the entire year and it is the first service of Easter. The service begins in total darkness--the lights of the sanctuary are out and not a candle is burning. Then a fire is lit in a firepot the center of the nave and from that flame all the candles in the sanctuary are lit and the hand-candles in the congregation. Then come readings and psalms, said and sung, by singers and by the whole congregation. The sermon follows and then the first Communion of Easter. The Great Vigil begins at 8:00pm in the sanctuary.

Easter Day: (Sunday April 4th)
This is the day Christians celebrate and proclaim the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ. There will be flowers and smells and bells. And, possibly, an Easter Egg huntafterwards. Service times are 8:00am and 10:30am Easter Morning.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Organizers target fall opening for Tier's first classical Christian school

Some of you may have heard already of the classical school Anne and I, Samantha Kubic and her husband Niell, Mark and Anna Dreher are planning for the Fall. The Press and Sun Bulletin ran an article on the school this morning featuring Samantha:
...We desire a classical education for our children," Kubik said.

Classical education, inspired by Dorothy Sayers' essay "The Lost Tools of Learning," gears pedagogy to three learning stages, called the Trivium: grammar, logic and rhetoric.

The grammar stage, which is roughly equivalent to elementary school age, capitalizes on students' aptitude for memorization and has them memorize a wide range of facts -- in math, geography, English, the Bible and Latin.

Young teens, who often like to argue with adults, are trained in formal logic, while older students are taught to communicate persuasively through instruction in rhetoric.

To get the basics down, students need to start the classical system fairly young; after the sixth grade, it's difficult because the grammar stage establishes the foundation for the other stages.

Classical Christian schools are also based on scripture and promote a Biblical worldview. There are only two such schools in the state: one in Manhattan and the other in the Albany area, according to the Association of Classical & Christian Schools...more

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Sermon: Behavior Modification v. The Gospel (text and video)



text: 1st Thessalonians 5:23-24:
23May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.
Today we finish 1st Thessalonians. The bulk of our time today will be spent on vv. 23-24. Vv25-28 can be dealt with more quickly and if we have time we'll do so. But we'll focus mostly on 23 and 24. To understand the significance of those two verses, let's back up to the beginning of chapter 5 and list all of the imperatives Paul gives to the Thessalonians just in this one chapter:

v.6 "be alert and self controlled"
v.8 "be self controlled"
v. 11 encourage one another
v.12 respect those who work hard among you; who are over you in the lord
v.13 hold them in high regard
v.13 live at peace with one another
v. 14 warn those who are idle,
v. 14 encourage the timid,
v. 14. help the weak,
v.14 be patient with everyone
v.15 don't pay back evil for evil
v. 15 be kind to one another and everyone else. 
v. 16 Be joyful always; 
v. 17  pray continually; 
v. 18 give thanks in all circumstances,
v. 19 Do not put out the Spirit's fire; 
v. 20 do not treat prophecies with contempt. 
v. 21 Test everything. 
v. 22 Hold on to the good.
v. 22 Avoid every kind of evil.

That's 20 commands in 22 verses depending on how you count them.

It'd be easy to come away from chapter 5 thinking: "I need to do this and not that. I need to avoid this and avoid that." And such an application wouldn't be wrong. All 20 commands are from God: life giving, wise, true, good.  

But it's in the face of commands like these in chapter 5 and throughout scripture that so many people born, bred, raised in church go to their graves never grasping the gospel.

I remember visiting a parishioner in the hospital some years ago, days before his death. I sat by his bed and I asked him, “Are you prepared? Have you put your full trust in Jesus Christ?”

He said: “ I've always done my best to do the right thing and live in the right way. I made a few mistakes here and there but I've never done anything that should keep me out of heaven. I taught my kids to go to church and to live with the same values and they've turned out to be good and decent people.”

That was it.

This man was a faithful churchgoer. He'd listened--or I thought he'd listened--to every sermon. I remember thinking, “Well maybe he gets it but just isn't able to really articulate it.” But when I probed deeper, no. “I've always done my best to do the right thing and live in the right way.” was his gospel.

I realized that day that what I'd heard from countless pulpits is true. Our churches are populated with people who sit in pews every Sunday, who go to Sunday school, who go to bible study and still come away thinking that Christianity is mostly about behavior modification. Moral deism...being "good" for the great god who lives in the sky as opposed to being bad.

So my cousin the alcoholic, my uncle in jail, my friend the kleptomaniac, my mom who sits depressed on the couch watching soap operas all day—what they all need is to come to church. Why? So that they can learn to live in the right way and not do bad things. This is why inviting people to church is important, so that more and more people can learn to live good, decent, respectable lives like us.

Let me say here, that if you think that's your gospel, if that's Christianity for you, then you have, in dramatic fashion, missed it. You are not in Christ.

Don't feel unique. You are far from alone.

I used to be baffled at why so many people raised in church believe in their heart of hearts that all religions are the same and buy books like the “Tao of Jesus” or “The Buddhist Jesus” and are happy if their son who's been selling drugs and living with his girlfriend suddenly becomes a Mormon because, "Hey, he may not believe the same things we do but at least he's getting his life cleaned up."

I'm not baffled anymore. When you compare the ethical principles of Judaism, Buddhism, Christianity, Mormonism, and Islam you'll find lots of similarities and if you think the function of religion is ethics, behavior modification, then it doesn't matter whether your cousin becomes a Mormon or a Christian so long as “he gets his life together”. There are millions of Anglicans, Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Methodists, churchgoing people who think “living the right way” is what its all about.

It's certainly satisfying. Christianity provides a cut and dry list of things to do and not do. And if you think you basically do them, you've got a reason to congratulate yourself, to think well of yourself. And you also have a reason to shake your head when you hear about the awful things other people do. Churches full of people who believe in behavior modification are, afterall, pleasant places. The right sort go there—people who've learnt to live the right way.

But if behavior modification summed up Christianity. If behavior modification constituted the aim of the gospel, then Paul would have ended his letter in verse 22. "Avoid what is evil." But he doesn't. He ends with a prayer and a promise.

v.23 "May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. 
    
The prayer begins with Paul's intercession--may God sanctify you fully and completely, may “he” do it. Notice the radical shift from vv 6-22 to v. 23. No religion does this. Verses 6 through 22 are all commands for the Thessalonians to follow, cut and dry, but in verse 23 the imperatives come to a dead stop. Paul lifts up his heart and prays, Lord you do it. You sanctify them. You make them holy.

He continues: "May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ..." focus on that phrase, "kept blameless".

The Grk word translated “kept” could also be used for "guard" or protect. Blameless means--not guilty, not to be held responsible for wrongdoing. Paul assumes in this second line of his prayer that blamelessness is a state that already exists in his readers. His prayer here is that God will guard and preserve it until Jesus comes back to judge the living and the dead.

So this seems confusing doesn't it? The first part of the prayer in v. 23 asks God to sanctify the Thessalonians, to make them holy. The second part of the prayer assumes that the people Paul has just asked God to sanctify are already blameless. How do we reconcile the two together? and how do we understand both in light of the commands he's given to us earlier in the chapter?

I think we'll see how this all comes together if we turn to Romans 8:1-4:

"...there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit."

There two truths to pull out of this text that will help us understand what Paul is doing in 1st Thessalonians 5:23

1. Those who trust in Jesus are not condemned. And the reason that they are not condemned is NOT that they are good people or do good things. The law, rules--even divinely given ones, Paul says are powerless. They can do nothing. Why? Because they are bad? No. They are very good. But our sinful nature renders the law powerless. The law cannot and does not make us good. All our attempts at behavior modification are worthless. Even the good things we do are tainted with pride and selfishness which is why Isaiah says that even our righteous deeds are like filthy rags (Isa 64:6). So why are we not condemned? God sent his son, Jesus, who became like us, who became human, to be a "sin offering." What does that mean? It means God himself, in Jesus, was punished, condemned, for our sins in our place. And because of that, those who trust in Jesus' work and not their own, are blameless in God's sight. The righteous requirements of the law are met in us because all of our unrighteousness has been punished already in him and he has imputed to us his own righteousness.

2. Those who trust in Jesus are empowered by and live in accordance with God, the Holy Spirit, not with the flesh. Do believers sin? Yes. Every day. But we are no longer slaves in bondage to sin--our lives are no longer characterized by sin. God indwells us and lives his life in us and daily breaks the chains of sin and death. This is not mere religious behavior modification. This is heart transformation, God making us different

So turning back to 1st Thessalonians, Paul's prayer comes together. "These are your people Lord continue your work of breaking the chains of sin. Lord, preserve them as forgiven people who stand blameless before you not because they've modified their behavior and managed to live "pretty decent lives." But because you shed your blood in their place and have taken their sin away and given them your righteousness.

So now the commands in vv.6-22 are not just things good people do. They are things God does in and through redeemed sinners.

Verse 24 drives a stake through the heart of do it yourself behavior modification Christianity.

"The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it."

That is a declarative sentence. This is not an opinion, a question, a deep thought...this is a proclamation, a promise directly from the throne of God. If you are in Christ Jesus. If you trust in him and his work and not your own. If you do not think you're here because you're a good person but because God alone has brought you out of the pit of hell and set you in his lap as his son or daughter, then this is promise is for you. "He will do it." He "will" sanctify you "through and through". He "will" keep you "blameless" until his kingdom comes.

But wait a minute...I listened to the sermon last week on sexual immorality and I saw the darkness of my heart. I look at myself, my secret thoughts, my hateful attitudes, the muck and the mire of my own sin and I think I'm hopeless.

Good. That's right. You are hopeless. I am hopeless.

"He will do it." The one who called you, who calls you this morning, God, is faithful. He keeps his word. He keeps his promises. He is faithful even when we are faithless.

So you put your trust not in yourself, not in your ability to do what is right and avoid evil, not in your persistence in prayer, you attendance at church, not in your efforts to do good and avoid evil, put your trust in Jesus Christ. Paul's prayer is your prayer. "Lord may you sanctify me through and through. Lord, guard my heart mind and soul in the blamelessness you've already given me in Christ."

And you can know that this is not a prayer that could possibly come to pass. This is not a prayer that God "might" answer. This is a prayer that is fully and wholly in accordance with the revealed purposes and promises of God. He will do it. He will do it.

And if you are here this morning and you realize that the religion you have believed and trusted all your life is a false one, the Faithful One calls you to stop. Quit your attempts to justify yourself. You cannot do it. You will fail. You already have. There is a better way.

Jesus Christ came to save sinners. Put your trust in him. He will do it.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Good Shepherd Update Thursday March 4th, 2010

Dear Good Shepherd,

Good morning....at least I hope I get this out while it is still morning. This week's update will repeat some information and also provide some new stuff...most notably the Holy Week Schedule. For those of you who do not know what Holy Week is please be sure to read below where it should all be explained fairly clearly. Also, there are some final updates on the legal stuff and a note about the opening of the day care center.

Here's the Update:

An idea (and not mine): "There should be no poor among you, for in the land the LORD your God is giving you to possess as your inheritance, he will richly bless you" (Deut 15:4).

That verse from Deuteronomy is both a description of the way things ought to be within the community of God's people, and command...an instruction to use the gifts and blessings that God has given us to take care of our brothers and sisters in need.

The Shepherd's Bowl does a great job of helping the community around us. But there are brothers and sisters who belong to Good Shepherd who have difficulty affording groceries and some of the basic necessities. There are "poor" among us. In Israel, God instructed harvesters to leave the edges of the fields unharvested so that those in need might find food.

How might we apply those instructions today?

One way would be to set up a food pantry at the church stocked by and to be used by members and people who attend Good Shepherd regularly. In a small way this is happening informally already. The Petersons and Nolls regularly donate fresh eggs for the congregation.

I think we should set aside a cabinet or two, maybe one of the two side rooms next to the kitchen, specifically to collect and give away food to people in need. When you have extra food, bring it to church. When you need food, come to church.

If you are interested in helping set this up, please let me know. We'll hammer out the details and get back to you with more information in the coming weeks.

Clam Chowder sale: is coming up on Saturday March 20th. The sale is a fundraiser and the price per container is 8 dollars. As a way of reaching out to those in need and/or as a way to invite people to church, I encourage those of you who are able to do so, to buy more than one container so that we can give some chowder away as gifts from Good Shepherd.

Future Faces Day Care: is scheduled to open this coming Monday, so be aware that there will be cars parked on the opposite side of the parking lot from the church during the day.

Healing Service: This coming Wednesday night at 6pm and every remaining wednesday in Lent. God has, through prayer and the laying on of hands, physically healed people a number of times at Good Shepherd. But healing takes place in many ways. Resentment, depression, anger, addiction, dependence, unforgiveness--are all ways that we sometimes react to pain in our lives. God is more powerful than them all and sometimes he overcomes these sins in our lives by first healing the pain at the heart of them through prayer. The Wednesday services at Good Shepherd will be based on an Anglican liturgy for healing found in the Kenyan prayerbook. If you are looking for physical, spiritual, or emotional healing please plan to come every Wednesday at 6pm.

New Duty Roster plan: we're reorganizing the way we schedule Sunday morning duties, moving to a team system similar to the team system used for scheduling the Shepherd's bowl. Every reader, LEM, acolyte, teller, etc...will be assigned to a team. The teams will rotate by Sunday.

Right now we just about have enough volunteers in each role for six full teams. What that means is that no one will be scheduled to serve more than once a month. Each team will have a team captain and assistant who will be responsible for team cohesion and ensuring that team members show up or get replacements. This should help us both to keep things organized and to integrate and train new volunteers more effectively.

There will be a meeting of team captains this Sunday after Church.

Legal Update: All the paper work has now been filed and all the checks have been written and so, as an official matter, the case is closed. It was over a month ago...but now that fact has been officially recorded in court.

Choir Practice: tonight at 7pm

The Sexual Harassment/Abuse Prevention Training originally scheduled for Saturday March 6th has been cancelled. Instead, beginning on Saturday March 13th thru April--we'll set up the videos and a television set in the church. If you teach Sunday School, serve in the nursery, work on staff, please come to view them at your convenience. The church is open business hours most Saturdays and Tuesdays. It is always open during open office hours Wednesday and Thursday, and in the evenings during the various weekly events. The only days that may be difficult are Friday (after 9pm) and Monday. We'll have a roster next to the video. After you watch, just sign the roster so we'll know you've done it. These videos are required by our insurance and it's just a good idea.

Men's Bible Study and Breakfast: Chris Jones is scheduled to cook, but Don Dean volunteered to cook Eggs Benedict this Friday so I think we'll let him do that. If Chris does not mind, we'll move him to next Friday. We're hopefully going to wrap up the account of David and Bathsheba in 2nd Samuel. Men's Bible Study meets at 6.30am

Women's Bible Study: will meet as usual at 10am on Saturday.

Systematic Theology: will meet at 3:30pm as usual in the parish hall on Saturday. I'll be sending notes from last week out for those who missed last Saturday.

Here is last week's sermon: "Sexual Purity part 2" and below that is the first sex sermon creatively named "Sexual Purity part 1". Both are based on 1st Thessalonians 4:3-8


Here's (Part 1)


This Sunday's sermon: This week we wrap up 1st Thessalonians by studying chapter 5:23-28. It is not at all uncommon for believers to question the authenticity of their faith? Am I really a follower of Jesus? Would a real Christian do or think the things I do and think? These questions tend to come up quite a bit during Lent when we come face to face with our own sin and especially after last week's sermon on the problem lust you might feel utterly discouraged. Don't be. Paul ends his letter to the Thessalonian church with a stunning promise--holy is not just something we are called to be--but it is something God himself promises to make us.

"Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it. Brothers, pray for us. Greet all the brothers with a holy kiss. I put you under oath before the Lord to have this letter read to all the brothers." The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. (1 Thess 5:23-28)


Christian Education: Spiritual Disciplines...this week we'll wrap up the Spiritual Discipline of Study. We'll talk about practices from repetition and memorization to lectio divina. That will end the section on "inward" disciplines. Next week we'll move on to some of the "outward" disciplines beginning with the discipline of "simplicity".

Your Bible Study Toolbox: I saw raised eyebrows last Sunday in class when I brought up the Greek Interlinear...I don't know why :)

Okay, I suppose you can study the bible without one, but having one is very very very helpful for all the reasons discussed:

Here is a pretty cheap Greek Interlinear--the same one I use:
http://www.christianbook.com/greek-english-interlinear-testament-nrsv-personal/9780842345644/pd/2345647?item_code=WW&netp_id=122263&event=ESRCN&view=details

Now--if you buy that you've won half the battle--to go the whole way pick up a Greek Concordance which will enable you to do word studies in the Greek. Here's a good basic starter edition:
http://www.christianbook.com/greek-english-concordance-the-new-testament/john-kohlenberger/9780310402206/pd/40220?item_code=WW&netp_id=127187&event=ESRCN&view=details#curr

Now, I suppose if you don't do that--but I really hope you do--you could use an English concordance and a parallel bible.

A Parallel bible sets a number of different English translations on the same page for comparison. Using a Parallel bible will enable you to see where the translators have differed and what words require further study. It also helps to bring out nuances in the text that may not be apparent if you are just reading one version:
http://www.christianbook.com/amplified-kjv-nasb-niv-comparative-hardcover/9780310903338/pd/90333?item_code=WW&netp_id=115457&event=ESRCN&view=details

As far as concordances go, the English Standard Version Bible online has a great concordance feature. Just type in a word in the search engine and all the uses of that word in the ESV text will pop up on the screen.

Just click here: http://www.esvstudybible.org/search

Finally, here is a good exhaustive concordance of the NIV
http://www.christianbook.com/the-strongest-niv-exhaustive-concordance/edward-goodrick/9780310262855/pd/62851?item_code=WW&netp_id=348236&event=ESRCN&view=details

Puppet Show during Children's Chapel: This Sunday Mike and Bill Woollett will present a puppet show on forgiveness in Children's Chapel. This will be a special treat ! All children are invited to come for the fun! (from Carmen)

Holy Week Schedule 2010:

Palm Sunday (Sunday March 28th )
Holy Week is the week Christians remember and celebrate the last week of Jesus’ life. That week began with Jesus’ triumphal entry into the city of Jerusalem. By this time, Jesus was famous. Everyone knew him and most people believed that he was the messiah, the coming savior of Israel. So when they heard he was coming they all rushed out waving palm branches and crying “Hosanna in Highest! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” Five days later the very same people who greeted Jesus with shouts of “Hosanna” screamed for his death with cries of “Crucify Him!” Palm Sunday Services at Good Shepherd will be held at 8:00am and 10:30am. They will begin with the blessing of the Palms. Then the blessed palms will be passed out to everyone in the congregation and we’ll process into the church like Jesus’ processed into Jerusalem (except for the donkey). During the service The Passion will be read and narrated.

Tenebrae (Wednesday March 31st)
Tenebrae means “shadows” in Latin. The worship service called “Tenebrae” is an ancient rite of the Church. It is a service of word, light and sound. When you arrive for worship you will see two groups of candles lit on the altar. As readings are read the candles on the altar will be gradually extinguished until the very end of the service when the last candle left lit is removed from the worship space and the whole sanctuary is left in darkness. At that point a loud crash will shatter the silence of the sanctuary. Then, after a moment, the last candle is returned to the sanctuary and the worshippers depart in silence. The gradual darkening of the sanctuary and the crashing noise symbolizes the apparent victory of death, darkness, and chaos over Jesus Christ on the cross. The final candle being removed and returned, symbolizes the truth that through Jesus' death, God gained victory over all the powers of evil. The Light was not overcome. The service of Tenebrae will be held at 7:00pm on Wednesday of Holy Week.

Maundy Thursday (April 1st)
Maundy Thursday communion celebrates the humility of Jesus. Jesus is the King of Kings and Lord of Lord’s and yet on the night before he died, during the Last Supper, he knelt down and one by one washed his disciples' feet. He did this to show his disciples and to show you and me how to serve one another with humility and love, being willing even to stoop to the most menial tasks. There will be a covered dish (pot-luck) supper in the parish hall followed by the Maundy Thursday worship service which will include foot washing. Maundy Thursday is the last chance for communion until the Great Vigil. The service will begin at 7:00pm following the covered dish dinner that begins at 5:30pm

Good Friday: The Passion (April 2nd)
Jesus died on a Friday. At about 3pm on Friday of Holy Week he lifted his eyes up to heaven from the cross and breathed out his last. “It is finished” he said. He was not only referring to his life, but he was also referring to the great battle between God and sin, death, and Satan. On the cross of Jesus Christ, God defeated the powers that corrupt and destroy his creation and his creatures. By and through Jesus’ death on the cross, everyone who believes is forgiven their sins and granted an eternal relationship with God. Good Friday Services will be held at noon and 7pm. At noon we'll say "the Hours" which are prayers that mark the time of day when Jesus hung on the cross. At 7pm, we'll walk the stations of the cross which are prayers through which we remember the passion of Christ and his burial. There will be a sermon at both services.

The Easter Vigil (Saturday April 3rd)
Along with Tenebrae, the Easter Vigil is one of the most ancient services of the Church. It is the most important service of the entire year and it is the first service of Easter. The service begins in total darkness--the lights of the sanctuary are out and not a candle is burning. Then a fire is lit in a firepot the center of the nave and from that flame all the candles in the sanctuary are lit and the hand-candles in the congregation. Then come readings and psalms, said and sung, by singers and by the whole congregation. The sermon follows and then the first Communion of Easter. The Great Vigil begins at 8:00pm in the sanctuary.

Easter Day: (Sunday April 4th)
This is the day Christians celebrate and proclaim the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ. There will be flowers and smells and bells. And, possibly, an Easter Egg huntafterwards. Service times are 8:00am and 10:30am Easter Morning.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Sermon: Sexual Purity parts 1 and 2

On Sunday I delivered the second part of a two part series based on 1st Thessalonians 4:3-8. Part 1 (below), delivered before Advent, introduces the topic, sets the context, and deals with some objections. Part two works through the text.


Here is (Part 1)

Monday, March 1, 2010

Bible study tool box


Dear Good Shepherd,

I saw raised eyebrows yesterday in class when I brought up the Greek Interlinear...I don't know why :)

Okay, I suppose you can study the bible without one, but having one is very very very helpful for all the reasons discussed:

Here is a pretty cheap Greek Interlinear--the same one I use:

Now--if you buy that you've won half the battle--to go the whole way pick up a Greek Concordance which will enable you to do word studies in the Greek. Here's a good basic starter edition:

Now, I suppose if you don't do that--but I really hope you do--you could use an English concordance and a parallel bible. 

A Parallel bible sets a number of different English translations on the same page for comparison. Using a Parallel bible will enable you to see where the translators have differed and what words require further study. It also helps to bring out nuances in the text that may not be apparent if you are just reading one version:

As far as concordances go, the English Standard Version Bible online has a great concordance feature. Just type in a word in the search engine and all the uses of that word in the ESV text will pop up on the screen. 


Finally, here is a good exhaustive concordance of the NIV

Hope this helps, 

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Good Shepherd Update Thursday February 25th, 2010

Dear Good Shepherd,

I have, unfortunately, very little time to write today. It looks like we are going to go ahead and have a very minimal Shepherd's Bowl tonight. We are afraid that people might trek out in the snow only to find the church locked. So team 5 is prepping some warm food just in case.

There will be no Beginner's Bible Study however since we don't want people staying out too since its going to be like this all night apparently.

Healing Service: It was cancelled last night due to concerns about the weather, but God willing, we will hold the first healing service this coming Wednesday night at 6pm and every remaining wednesday in Lent. God has, through prayer and the laying on of hands, physically healed people a number of times at Good Shepherd. But healing takes place in many ways. Resentment, depression, anger, addiction, dependence, unforgiveness--are all ways that we sometimes react to pain in our lives. God is more powerful than them all and sometimes he overcomes these sins in our lives by first healing the pain at the heart of them through prayer. The Wednesday services at Good Shepherd will be based on an Anglican liturgy for healing found in the Kenyan prayerbook. If you are looking for physical, spiritual, or emotional healing please plan to come every Wednesday at 6pm.

Leaving Home Part 3: If you have been following the articles Anne and I have been writing about the adventures of 2009, please follow this link and read the latest installment in the Leaving Home series. Otherwise, it will be available in hard-copy form this Sunday.

Choir has been cancelled tonight due to the weather conditions. Instead choir will meet on Saturday at 11am.

Sexual Harassment/Abuse Prevention Training: If you teach Sunday School, serve in the nursery, work on staff, please come at 11am on Saturday March 6th to view training videos. These videos are required by our insurance and it's just a good idea. We'll remind you closer to the day.

Men's Bible Study and Breakfast:  There will be no Men's Bible Study in the morning--not sure what the roads will be like and there will be no way to cancel it tomorrow morning.

Women's Bible Study: will meet as usual at 10am on Saturday

Acolyte Practice: There will be acolyte practice this Sunday...I am very pleased with the reverence and care with which you serve. You've all worked very hard and I'm proud of you. After this Sunday, monthly acolyte training will continue only for the newer acolytes (I'll let you know who you are). Trained acolytes will meet once every quarter. Enjoy the free time, you've earned it.

Systematic Theology: will meet at 3:30pm as usual in the parish hall on Saturday. I'll be sending notes from last week out for those who missed last Saturday.

Here is last week's sermon: Putting Out the Fire of the Spirit


This Sunday's sermon: Friends, since we've come very close to the end of 1st Thessalonians, this Sunday we'll go back and tie up some loose threads. Before Advent I preached the sermon below on 1st Thessalonians 4:3-8. I intended to preach two sermons on that text. The first is below. I put off the second. The sermon below introduces the topic of sexuality and the context in which Paul addresses the topic in Thessalonica. Please take some time to review the sermon below so that we don't have to do too much backtracking and can proceed on the basis of what has already been taught so please listen carefully before Sunday:

Here's the text:
"For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and l honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you. For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you."

Parents, please be aware that we will be speaking about sexual topics. For that reason, children's chapel will be open to kids older than eight this Sunday.

Some new things coming up at Good Shepherd in 2010:

1. Beginning in March: New Duty Roster plan: we're reorganizing the way we schedule Sunday morning duties, moving to a team system similar to the team system used for scheduling the Shepherd's bowl. Every reader, LEM, acolyte, teller, etc...will be assigned to a team. The teams will rotate by Sunday.

Right now we just about have enough volunteers in each role for 5 full teams. What that means is that no one will be scheduled to serve more than once a month. Each team will have a team captain and assistant who will be responsible for team cohesion and ensuring that team members show up or get replacements. This should help us both to keep things organized and to integrate and train new volunteers more effectively.

There will be a meeting of team captains this Sunday after Church.

2. Beginning in May: New Member classes A series of three new/interested members class will be held on three successive Saturdays in May (the 8th, 15th, and 22nd) These classes will be designed to help new members and interested guests integrate and participate at Good Shepherd. You will learn about Anglicanism in general and about Good Shepherd in particular. If you are not new but still interested, you are welcome to come as well.

3. Preaching through Colossians in the Fall: I wrote this last week but I wanted to include it again and expand on it. As you may have noticed, the preaching at Good Shepherd has changed in the last year. We have purposefully gone to a different format, preaching through entire books (we will continue to use the lectionary and preach from it on big feast days and in between books), and we have begun to dig much deeper than usual. The benefits of preaching expositorily (ie...preaching designed to help a congregation see the meaning of a text and its application) and through entire books of the bible at a time are numerous, but let me name just a few:

a. The whole counsel of God: Lectionaries are generally centered around one or two primary themes like "resurrection" or "grace" and tend to cut out passages that do not fit with that theme. So when a church exclusively preaches from the lectionary, the congregation never hears huge, important, swaths of God's word and is much much poorer for it.

b. God sets the agenda: Sometimes congregations and preachers hyperfocus on themselves to the extent that they only want to hear about topics and themes that interest them. But preaching straight through a book requires preachers and the congregation to address whatever issues or topics are addressed in the book. This is a very good even when...especially when...it is not entertaining. If it is true that every passage, every word in scripture is inspired by God and is useful for your personal growth and for building up the body (2 Tim 3:15-16)--and it is, then that means that when scripture addresses topics we find uninteresting or, shall we say, boring...the problem lies not with the bible but with us. That anything is addressed in scripture means that God, the maker of heaven and earth, thought it important to inspire and include in his book...which means that if our hearts and minds were in sink with his will, what is important to him would be interesting to us. When it is not, we pray that God will give us an open heart and mind so that we do not despise his word.

c. Going Deep: When you preach through the lectionary, you are generally given large swaths of scripture that you basically have just one sermon to work through before moving on to the next thing. That often means a shallow treatment of important principles. But when you preach through a book, you can go at a pace that may be defined by the topic being addressed.

d. A Full Theological Thought: Shallow ten minute sermonetts produce shallow Christianettes. We don't play that game at Good Shepherd. Sermon time is training time. Ife, Anne, and I are tasked with understanding and helping you to understand what God is saying in a particular passage of the bible. When the bible is rightly preached, God's word is truly heard. Your task is to actively listen which means following the preacher in the text, taking notes, participating in the study, listening for God's word to you, listening for God's word to the congregation.

e. Small Groups: This change should also make it easier to move to small groups in the Fall--see below

4. Small Groups: In the Fall, we're planning to launch a number of weekly small bible study groups that will meet in peoples' homes. Presently all biblical instruction and application takes place at Good Shepherd from the pulpit or in one of the five Bible Studies. I've noticed that as we've grown the percentage of people participating in the bible studies has decreased.

This is not good. The life, growth and maturity of Good Shepherd and your personal maturity as well, rests on our willingness to know and follow the word of God. It is, for that reason, our goal to have every member of Good Shepherd actively participating in some kind of group fellowship and bible study during the week.

This raises a number of questions: Who will lead these groups? What will happen to the bible studies? What will these groups do? Does everyone have to belong to a group? Let me try to answer each of these in turn:

a. Who will lead these groups?: The plan, as it currently stands, is to tack a big city map to the wall and start identifying the locations of every member member of the parish. This will give us an idea of who lives near who. Small groups work best when they are made up of no more than 5 to 10 people who meet in homes nearby. Once we identify who lives near who we'll be able to see how many groups we can have and who, based on location, should be in which group. Finally, we'll appoint a leader for each group and invite everybody who lives in a given area to join in and meet with the group once a week. If you are interested in hosting one of these groups, please let us know (the leader and the host are usually two different people)

b. What will happen to the bible studies?: Nothing. They will continue to meet. If you attend a Bible Study you'll be invited to attend attend a small group during the week as well. If you feel you do not have time for both, the choice between the two will be yours. Other churches moving to this plan have found that many enjoyed attending both since the purpose of each and structure of each is a bit different. We hope the same proves true here.

3. What will these groups do? This is another benefit of preaching expositorily through a text of scripture. The small group studies will focus on the same text used in the sermon. This will make it easier on everyone since the sermon will do the heavy lifting of interpretation and exegesis and the small groups will focus primarily on digging deeper and applying the text personally. Small groups meet, discuss and apply the biblical passage for the week, pray and then go home. It is a way for you to stay connected during the week and for the whole church to inwardly digest what God has said through his word on Sunday.

c. Does everyone have to belong to a group? We invite and encourage everyone to join the small group meeting in their area but, of course, it is not a requirement. We believe that Jesus sanctifies, encourages, builds up, convicts and trains us through his word and the more you open yourself to hearing his voice, the more like him you will become.

You'll be hearing more about these throughout the winter, spring and summer. The target date is mid-September


Christian Education: Spiritual Disciplines: This Sunday we'll continue discussing the discipline of Study, focusing specifically on methods of study and ways of studying scripture.