Monthly Archives: May 2016

Feeding the Poor

Faith Story shared by council member and Community Outreach chair Denise Gray

 

Good morning.  My name is Denise Gray and this year I am Chair of Community Outreach.  This morning I will be speaking about one of the five priorities that Council identified as focus areas for our congregation. I hope you were able to personally hear the previous speakers and if not, their stories are available in print on our Facebook page.  Meredith Hurt started us off by discussing the importance of sharing our Time and Talents – and a updated survey is available now both on-line and in paper form that is very important for each of us to complete.  The following week, Sue Cottrol shared powerful testimony about racism and her personal experiences.  At Good Shepherd we have committed to educate and challenge our thinking with the help of the recently formed an Anti-Racism committee and I hope you will try to join in on their discussions and events.  Next, Bruce Purdy shared about his own spiritual growth – and Council is committed to creating as many opportunities as possible for each of us to experience and grow in God’s love.  In a couple weeks, Patrick Anderson who chairs the Stewardship committee will speak about another priority – living our lives with a “Culture of Generosity, ” the importance of which cannot be understated.  And today I will share some thoughts about our fifth identified priority – Feeding the Poor.

Feeding the poor is something Jesus was very specific about wanting us to do.  When Jesus and Peter were walking along the Sea of Galilee, three times he turned to Peter and said “Do you love me?  Three times Peter answered him, “Yes Lord I love you.”  And three times Jesus replied “Feed my Sheep.”

I wonder what he meant by “Feed my sheep.”  What is it that Jesus cared about so much that he repeated himself three times?  Is it literally to provide food to those who are hungry? Or did he mean we should feed our souls and those around us with the Good News? Did he mean we should live our lives with compassion for others, by  being welcoming and inclusive, and by living our lives generously?  Maybe he meant all of those things.

We kind of have a new theme here at Good Shepherd – #feedmoresheep.  I really like it.  I like that we get updates in the bulletins and newsletters and blogs about where our money goes and how we are feeding sheep.  Our Welcome Bags now include this really cute sheep figures.  And it motivates me – it sends the right message.  When I think back on my tenure with Good Shepherd, I think of Pastor Schutze and Let Your Light Shine.  Pastor Ray dubbed us The Little Church on the Triangle.  And now Pastor Jen has given us Feed More Sheep.  I think it is exactly where we should be and what we should be doing.

At Good Shepherd we feed more sheep by participating in Saturday meals at Meade Memorial, we provide a complete dinner for the residents of Guest House every month, we prepare a program and monthly luncheon for our community’s senior citizens, we assemble Bags of Joy for the homeless and collect food for ALIVE and the list goes on.  The time I spend participating in some of these activities are often the most rewarding hours of my month.  All of these opportunities – and many more – are open for you to be part of, whether by offering your time and talent or your financial support.  Both are important and both are needed.  Please make sure your financial support to our church is consistent and appropriate.

I like the way Feed More Sheep ties all of our church priorities together.  It’s what Jesus very clearly – three times – told us he wants us to do.  I’m glad Council members recognized it as the priority it should be and I look forward to all the ways the people of this little church on the triangle will let our lights shine by feeding more sheep.

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God Calls Through Fire

Sermon preached by pastoral intern Wasihun Gutema

Exodus 3: 1-15

The history of the Israelites in Egypt begins with Joseph and his descendants who were treated nicely at first to the extent that Joseph became the 2nd person in command to the Pharaoh. A preacher by the name Dennis Olson (2008) put it as if the Israelites had the most favored immigrant status.  Yet, according to Olson (2008) this was disrupted with the coming of the new Egyptian king who saw the Jewish community as a threat.  The new king thus designed different strategies (Olson, 2008) to counter this threat. The 1st was to enslave the Israelites which did not work. This was followed by a decree from Pharaoh where the killings of the Jewish boys were ordered.  This is one of the harshest methods of containing population threats in history.  This method did not work as the Egyptian midwives were not successful to fulfill the orders. This was followed by the order to the Egyptian people that they throw Jewish boys in to the Nile River.

The river, which was thought to be the death bath of the Israeli boys produced one of the finest leaders in history, Moses.  The way God acts in history is mystery to humanity. It is difficult to comprehend and it is difficult to give a mathematical proof.  Moses was a Jew and was not allowed to live but was brought up by his mother and his sister who were to throw Moses into the Nile. Yet, those who were given the task to kill were given the right to bring up a baby boy Moses.

Moses was found alive from the Nile, a river to devour lives, he was given to his mother, who was not tasked to spare but God did it. If God wants us for the highest office, no one has the power to kill us. No one has the power to take our lives, dreams and purposes. If God has a purpose in us, no sickness will abort that.  However harsh situations we face, we still live. However harsh decree comes out, however the Nile is prepared to devour us, what is prepared to devour us becomes a source of life.

Moses grew in Pharaoh’s palace. He lived for 40 years.  He was in a palace and he was enjoying life in the palace however we do not know of the standard of life and the standard of the palace at that time.  But by any measure, it was much better than the life that ordinary Egyptian were living.  It was not compared to the oppressive life style where the Jewish were living, for by any measure Moses was living in freedom although that freedom was like captivity.

There are times when we think we are free but still under bondage. Despite all the blessings in the palace, Moses was a captive in the world of freedom.  He was not able to live life in fullness as his Israeli brothers and sisters were in slavery.  Thus, it can be concluded that Moses was a captive in a blessed palace. He was a prisoner in a palace where his peer groups of Egyptian origin were in freedom.  Is there something that captivates us as we walk with Christ? Do we feel we are under captivity even in the highest democracy on the planet? Continue reading

Faith On Fire

DSC_7139

Pentecost

Acts 2:1-21

May 15, 2016

 

They’ve been calling the wildfires in Alberta a “perfect storm.”[i]

The weather,

the type of trees involved,

the way the fire is moving,

and even the time of year

have come together to make it an extremely difficult fire to fight.

 

The blaze has forced almost 90,000 people

to evacuate the city of Fort McMurray,

including 9 newborns at the local hospital.

 

A friend of mine in Buffalo, Wyoming could smell the smoke

at a distance some 1100 miles away.

 

An estimated 2400 homes and buildings have been lost.

Insurance losses could top $9 billion.

 

Although the fires have now passed through the town,

large areas have lost electricity, water and gas.

It won’t be safe to allow people back in for several weeks.

 

And yet, in the aftermath of the destruction,

there are signs of hope.

This is prom season everywhere

and a Facebook page popped up

where young women can donate prom dresses

to teenagers in Fort McMurray who lost theirs. Continue reading

Faith Story: Spiritual Growth

Council priority shared by council member Bruce Purdy

Our Council this year has identified Spiritual Growth as one of this year’s priorities.  As I volunteered to speak about spiritual growth, I have realized that it might be one of the most challenging topics to discuss.  There is not a committee I can tell you to join, there is not a specific thing that I can tell you that will allow you to create the spiritual growth.  But what I can tell you are a few times when I felt that I took a few big steps on my journey of faith.

Growing up, we went to church regularly, but I really did not feel a connection.  I won’t go into all of the details, but to say that my family life was strained, would be an understatement.  My father and I never really saw eye to eye and there always distance between us.  There were a number of things that were tearing our family apart and my parents were divorced before my senior year.  I only saw my father a few times after high school before he died in 1994.  In 1997, I moved out to the DC area, and was living in Maryland.  I really did not know many people and felt quiet lonely.  One night in a dream, I saw my father bound in chains. He said he was sorry. I heard a voice saying that I was the only one that could release him. Then my father asked for forgiveness.  I told him that I too was sorry and asked for his forgiveness.  As I told him that I forgive him, I saw the chains fall away and I felt the loneliness leave me.  That night, I realized the power of forgiveness.

When a group of us went to Biloxi, Mississippi, we went with the love and support of this congregation.  The work was tiring but at the same time rewarding.  We met a man there from New Orleans.  He lost everything, his home and his family.  And yet, he was not in Biloxi seeking help.  He was there helping us help others.  He said that he could not just stay in New Orleans and do nothing.   He taught all of us that regardless of our circumstances, we always have the opportunity to give.

Not all of my spiritual growth has been that dramatic.  In fact, most of it is subtle.  It comes in the warmth of sharing the peace. It comes in the moment when the sermon, lesson, Bible study, or song feels like it was meant for me.  It comes when one of the ladies at Guest House smiles and says thank you. It comes in sharing fellowship and communion with everyone here.

What I can tell you is that my spiritual growth often comes when I least expect it.  It comes when each of us are living our lives in Christ and sharing our lives with others.  So as we celebrate Pentecost today, may we each take steps on our spiritual growth journey.

New Worlds

 

kepler

Our world just got a little – well, actually a lot – larger.

 

This week it was reported that NASA’s Kepler space telescope has identified nearly 1300 new planets![i] Apparently the planets were identified via a new statistical analysis which can confirm whether or not a signal is a true planet or not.

 

Of these new planets, 21 are in habitable regions of their stars. These 21 are similar to earth in size and relative location to their stars and have the potential for life.

 

I’ve never been very interested in science fiction, but it now seems that extraterrestrial life may be more likely to be science than fiction!

 

Our world just got larger.

 

And maybe we got a little smaller.

 

Humbling isn’t it?

 

In Christ,

Pastor Jen

[i] http://www.nature.com/news/kepler-spacecraft-rakes-in-nearly-1-300-planets-1.19903

Prison Escape

elchapo

Acts 16:16-34

May 8, 2016

 

Much of this story from Acts is really ugly.

It’s about human trafficking – a slave girl is used for money;

It’s about scapegoating – Paul and Silas are beaten because they’re foreigners;

It’s about the abuse of power by the Roman empire as it strikes down those who are different.

 

Human trafficking;

scapegoating outsiders;

abuse of power;

the ugly parts of this story are still with us today.

 

But then God does something new here.

At first it seems like this will be another story of a great dramatic prison escape….

 

It brings to mind the escape last summer of “El Chapo” the Mexican drug lord.

Remember the story?

Apparently from within a maximum security prison,

he climbed through a 2 foot hole in the shower

to an underground tunnel 30 feet below ground.

 

The tunnel was a mile long, and lest he be uncomfortable,

there was lighting and ventilation and even a motorcycle on rails

which led to a construction site and temporary freedom!

Continue reading

Faith Story: Working Against Racism

Council Priority shared by Council and Anti-racism committee member Sue Cottrol

When my work brought me to Washington DC in the early 1980s I decided to live in Alexandria.  Like the good Ohio German-Lutheran farm girl that I was, I looked for a Lutheran church and I found Good Shepherd.  I joined the church, became a member of Circle 3 women’s Bible study group and enjoyed my church home.

A few years later, I met a man and we decided to get married.  Added to the normal excitement and stress about getting married and making wedding plans was the fact that I was going to marry a black man and I wanted to get married at Good Shepherd. How would my family react?  Would my church family be welcoming? Continue reading