Dear Good Shepherd,
What a week so far! I was down with a horrible stomach thing Tuesday night and Wednesday so, to keep from infecting everyone, I had to miss everything but I heard some great stories about how things went. I am very thankful to Anne and to Ife for stepping up while I was down. I am exhausted today (Thursday) but much better. Apparently this awful thing is making its rounds in Binghamton. It hit our family pretty hard. Aedan, Rowan and Anne all had the stuff at some point in the last week or so--only our daughters escaped. Thank you for your prayers for all of us.
Thank you also to Carmen who organized the pancake supper and everyone who worked so hard and gave so much to make it such a success.
Okay, given that I was out for two days, I have a lot to catch up on so this will, yet again, be a shortened Update.
Healing Service: Wednesday night at 6pm every 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.
There will be beginner's bible study tonight at 6:30pm after the Shepherd's Bowl. All are welcome.
Choir will meet tonight at 7pm as usual...I think you'll be practicing the new service music for lent.
Men's Bible Study and Breakfast will meet on Friday morning at 6:30am as usual...I have no idea who is cooking and who is not.
Women's Bible Study: will meet as usual at 10am on Saturday in the parish hall. All women are invited and welcome.
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.
Bible Studies: If you are new to Good Shepherd (or not) you may have noticed that we have a lot of bible studies. One day we plan to move to a home-group cell group model, but even then the bible studies at church will likely be a mainstay at Good Shepherd. Because they are designed to help people understand and apply his word, God has used them and continues to use them to strengthen, deepen, and mature both the individuals who attend and the body as a whole. If you are not presently attending one of the five weekly bible studies offered at Good Shepherd, I invite you and encourage you to do so.
Here are some sermons and talks that I loaded onto the website this week:
Anne's sermon from two weeks ago
My talk at Intervarsity on "self-love"
Ife's sermon from last week:
This Sunday's sermon will be based on 1st Thessalonians 5:19-22
Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, but a test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil.
After this Sunday there will be two or three sermons left in the series from 1st Thessalonians. Next Sunday we'll go back to chapter 4 and deal with sexual purity--so that's a heads up for parents who may or may not want their kids to be in children's chapel. The following Sunday will be the Sunday we sum things up.
The benefits of preaching through an entire book of the bible are numerous, but let me name just a few:
1. 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.
2. 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.
3. 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.
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.
Christian Education: Spiritual Disciplines: This Sunday we'll take up the discipline of Study. I'll be sending my notes on the discipline of fasting out this weekend by email.