Monthly Archives: November 2015

Faith Story for Christ the King Sunday



Shared by Good Shepherd’s resident expert on royalty, Marlene Koenig

As this is Christ the King Sunday, Pastor Jen asked me if I could speak for a few minutes about a royal who I think embodies faith.

It was not difficult for me to find a royal who is conscious of his faith – and is not afraid to speak about it or about religion.   Several years ago he said : “[Faith] is so often under threat in our day. The whole concept of faith itself or anything beyond this existence, beyond life itself, is considered almost old-fashioned and irrelevant.”

Some may be surprised that the royal I chose is HRH The Prince of Wales, heir to the British throne.  He is a devout Christian, conscious of his future as head of the Church of England, but has a deep respect and  understanding of the myriad of faiths throughout the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth.  The  Prince of Wales’ family tree is filled with Anglicans, Orthodox, Catholics, and many Lutherans. Continue reading


Handling the Truth

truthChrist the King B – Handling the Truth

John 18:33-38

November 22, 2015


I’m not a great fan of satire…

too often I mistake it for the truth.

Headlines from the satirical newspaper The Onion, get me every time…


Wait a minute…

“Wolf attacks are not the leading cause of death in the US?”

“Taylor Swift didn’t marry Senator Joseph McCarthy?”

I thought he was dead a long time ago – but there’s a picture of him!


I chalk it up to having two older sisters

who delighted in having a gullible little sister.


It’s not just me who has difficulty, though.

Truth is often hard to discern.

Lots of things sound like truth…

especially when they’re in print,

or spoken by someone who sounds like they know what they’re talking about!

Continue reading

It Must Be Dared


It Must Be Dared

German Lutheran pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer was 28 years old when he gave his famous “Peace Speech” in Fano, Denmark. Hitler’s National Socialist party had ascended to power the year before and Bonhoeffer implored pastors and theologians at the ecumenical gathering to move from conversation to action – from discussion to decision-making.

Many were frightened.

Bonhoeffer acknowledged their fear, but countered, “There is no way to peace along the way of safety. For peace must be dared, it is itself the great venture and can never be safe.”

Nothing worthwhile comes completely without risk. It must be dared.

Allowing Syrian refugees to resettle in the United States is not completely without risk. Nevertheless it must be dared because it is the right thing to do. There are men, women, and children whose lives depend on our overcoming our fear.

In Christ,

Pastor Jen

The Lord Is My Shepherd – And Fear Is Not!

sheep-runningThe Lord Is My Shepherd – And Fear Is Not

Psalm 23

November 15, 2015

My first summer in college I worked

as a nurse’s aide in a nursing home.

There was a resident there

who was in an advanced stage of dementia and rarely said a word.

The only time she did speak was when she was agitated.

Then she would pound her fist on the tray in front of her chair,

repeating over and over again,

“The Lord is my shepherd;

The Lord is my shepherd!”

When Luther Seminary did a survey

across the United States to assess biblical literacy,

One of the questions was,

“Is there a biblical text which you turn to in difficult times?”

If people had an answer, it was usually the 23rd psalm.

I don’t know what my patient was feeling inside,

but the 23rd psalm was so ingrained in her

that long after she’d lost language for anything else,

in times of distress she still had that prayer, and she demanded,

“The Lord is my shepherd;

The Lord is my shepherd!”

Continue reading

Just One More Surprise

Just One More Surprise

(Note: This reflection has nothing to do with a Starbucks cup!)

Sunday School classes sometimes ask the toughest questions! This morning I got this one from our teachers of older youth, Bill, Brent, and Josh: “What about those times when we just don’t feel that grace and love of God? Does that happen to pastors?”

My answer is emphatically, “Yes!”

Like you, I’ve failed at relationships; been rejected by schools; lost jobs; hurt by colleagues; felt my hopes sink; worried over finances; grieved loved ones; misjudged people; failed to live up to my own expectations; and more.

During all those times, God often seems singularly absent. In the words our Sunday School teachers used, I don’t particularly feel that grace and love of God.

That doesn’t mean it isn’t there, though.

Thus far anyway, God has broken in even in the most difficult times.

Sometimes it’s in the midst of writing a sermon and realizing that a piece of Scripture is meant for me. Sometimes it’s the unexpected email or comment that comes at the right time. Sometimes it’s through the words of a therapist, a colleague, a friend, or a spiritual director.

There’s a line from the hymn Borning Cry which goes, “I’ll be there as I have always been, with just one more surprise.”

As long as I am open to the possibility that God has (at least) one more surprise in mind for me, there is hope. I can rest knowing that I have felt the grace and love of God before and I will one day feel it again.

May we be open to God’s surprise.

In Christ,

Pastor Jen

Coming to the Place of Complete Surrender

Sermon preached by Pastoral Intern Wasihun Gutema

The text for today (Mark. 12: 41-44) is connected to the preceding sections where Jesus silenced the Sadducees of their question about resurrection. Jesus did not correct the Sadducees in this section. He did not even engage in argument.

The Sadducees did not believe in resurrection at all and the reason they came up with the question of marriage leverage is because they have portrayed resurrection as earthly images which Jesus rejected.  They took the idea from those who were pictorially describing resurrection during that time.[1]

Resurrection is completely different from the life that we have here on earth. What resembles both the life that we live now and the life to come is only the truth that our relationship with God continues.  Death cannot separate us from God. Our life is not a transitory experience; it is something that lasts forever.[2]

This was followed by a question from a teacher of the law who came up with the question of “which commandment is more important?” Jesus responded to the teacher’s question that the central and important of all commandments is a love to God and our neighbor.  The teacher applauded Jesus’ answer to the Sadducees and the answer Jesus gave to him.[3]

The teacher approved Jesus teaching but approving Jesus’ teaching does not mean someone is in the kingdom of God. Jesus said you are not far from the kingdom of God but it does not mean you are in. To be in the kingdom, demands submission to the authority and person of Christ. The teacher of the law was also silenced but if he took the next step to be in the kingdom was unclear. [4]

Unlike the teacher of the law whose end was unclear, we see in this section a woman who came to attend worship.  This woman’s identity is not known. The only thing we know is that she was a widow. She was not a woman with great reputation among the society. She was obscured and had no status that revealed her.  She was even unnamed meaning Mark did not give us her name.  Continue reading