Friday, September 22, 7:00 pm, Ever Singing at Good Shepherd

Join us Friday, Sept. 22, 7:00 p.m. for an Ever Singing concert with Mike & Sue Blair at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, 701 Iowa Ave., Decorah. The concert will include a freewill offering to support flood relief and future Ever Singing recording work. Refreshments and fellowship will follow.  Mike & Sue’s performances feature a signature blend of music, stories and humor to celebrate the shared journey of faith and life. Ever Singing, their first CD, is a collection of original work singing the story of struggles and grief transformed to blessings. 

Islamophobia and International Affairs, Dr. Todd Green, Adult Forum, September 24, 2017

Dr. Todd Green: Islamophobia and International Affairs: My Year at the State Department

Dr. Todd Green, Associate Professor of Religion at Luther College, will join us for the Adult Forum on September 24 to share experiences and insights from his sabbatical year at the State Department. He will talk about the challenges of advising State Department employees and diplomats on Islamophobia and on engaging Muslim communities in Europe and elsewhere. He will also offer reflections on how the dramatic change in the political climate during his time there affected his work.

Sermon for Sunday, September 17, 2017 – “Forgiveness Is Releasing”

Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost
September 17, 2017
Good Shepherd Lutheran Church
Decorah, Iowa
Rev. Amy Zalk Larson

Click here to read scripture passages for the day.

A note before we begin – This is a difficult passage and forgiveness is a difficult topic that raises many questions, hurts and memories. Today there is a message of both challenge and comfort from this passage, but you may not be in a place where you can hear either. That’s OK. God is present and working healing for you in many ways – today and throughout your life. Pr. Marion and I are also available for pastoral care.

Beloved of God, grace to you and peace in the name of Jesus.

Peter comes to Jesus and asks a question many of us wonder, “How often should I forgive?” Peter tries to be generous, wondering if he should forgive “as many as seven times?” Not just seven times, Jesus says, but seventy-seven times, or in some accounts as often as seventy times seven. In scripture seven represents completeness. The goal Jesus sets is complete, unlimited forgiveness.

What does this mean for us? Does this mean if someone hurts us we are supposed to let them hurt us again and again? Are we supposed to be a doormat – trampled upon over and over? Is Jesus saying we must keep on working at relationships that are painful or even toxic? Do we keep letting people do us harm and keep on taking it?

Those are all common misinterpretations of what it means to forgive. We often get the impression that forgiveness means we need to do all we can to make everything OK with people who hurt us – that we need to just hang on and keep on trying to be nice.

Yet, this story Jesus tells to illustrate forgiveness is all about releasing – releasing rather than holding those who owe debts. The Greek word translated in this passage as forgive, aphiemi (ay fee me), also means to release, to let go. And, the original Aramaic word Jesus would have used when talking about forgiveness also means to loosen or untie.

Forgiveness is about release. Forgiveness is not about holding on to painful relationships. It is not about hanging on to the status quo, hoping someone will change or stop causing us hurt. It is about release, letting go.

We are called to release people from debts they cannot repay – from obligations of money, time, favors and other things we feel are owed to us. We are called to let go of the pain and hurt others cause us, rather than holding it against them. We are called to let go of the hope that the past can be changed.

This takes a lot of practice. It is often something we need to do seventy-seven or more times to feel that we have released the debt, let go of the hurt. All of this is only possible because God has first forgiven us, because God gives us the grace and strength we need to release the debts, to release the hurt.

When we think of forgiveness as release, we can see that sometimes forgiveness means letting go of toxic relationships – ending them, getting out of them, separating from them. The Greek word aphiemi (ay fee me), translated here as forgive, can also mean to send away or to divorce. Sometimes forgiveness can only happen after we separate from a relationship that is harming us. This is what is needed for victims of abuse and violence. Protection, separation, and safety are required before letting go of the hurt is even an option. When we are still at risk of harm, we shouldn’t try to release the hurt because the pain can push us to seek needed help and safety.

Sometimes, the releasing involved in forgiveness means letting go of trying to change and fix others and instead, releasing them, entrusting them to God. Rather than continuing to hope we can save someone by engaging them, we are called to release them into the hands of the One who truly can save.

And sometimes, the release of forgiveness involves letting go of hurt so that reconciliation is more of a possibility. Forgiveness is not the same thing as reconciliation. We can practice forgiveness even if a person has not repented or apologized, even if they don’t know they’ve hurt us, even if they have died.

Reconciliation is a different matter. Reconciliation requires repentance, remorse and the active participation of all parties in the relationship. We can choose to forgive; we can’t choose to reconcile with someone if they are unwilling. Yet, when we choose to forgive and release the hurt, sometimes that can open up space for reconciliation to be a possibility. And sometimes, when we let go of hoping the past can be changed, then too, there is more space for reconciliation.

The releasing and letting go of forgiveness is liberating for us. As Jesus’ parable vividly illustrates: When we refuse to release others, we end up imprisoned by anger and hurt. Offering forgiveness means that we refuse to allow another’s sin to control us, to hold us, to bind us. Offering forgiveness sets us free.

Still, we often feel compelled to withhold forgiveness because that seems to offer us some control, especially when the hurt has come from someone who has more power than we do. Refusing to forgive can feel like the only way we can have any power. Yet, as in the parable, our lack of forgiveness can eventually become a prison that not only holds the other person but our own selves.

We are bound by our own sins, by the sins of others and by our refusal to forgive; but that is not the end of our story. Jesus, who articulated our dilemma in this vivid parable, went on to let go of his very life for the healing of the world. When he was on the cross, he released his spirit and again we see that word aphiemi (ay fee me), the same word used in this parable to mean release and forgive. On the cross, Jesus released his spirit of forgiveness and love. That Spirit gives us the grace and strength to forgive. That Spirit opens a new future for us, a future in which we share in the Spirit’s work of reconciling all of creation to God.

That Spirit shows us that God has chosen to completely, endlessly forgive.

Thanks be to God.




This Week at Good Shepherd, September 18-24, 2017

Tuesday, September 19
9:30 a.m. – Anna Circle – Carol Hasvold hosts
5:15 p.m.- Evangelism Committee
7:00 p.m. – Congregation Council Meeting

Wednesday, September 20
7:30 a.m. – Men’s Breakfast
1:00 p.m. – Prayer Shawl Ministry – Marie Freerking hosts
6:00 p.m. – Confirmation Class
7:00 p.m. – Choir Rehearsal
8:00 p.m. – Band Rehearsal

Thursday, September 21 – Newsletter articles due
10:00 a.m. – Bible Study
5:00 pm. – Community Meal at First Lutheran
7:30 p.m. – Worship & Music Committee

Friday, September 22
7:00 p.m. – Ever Singing Concert with Mike and Sue Blair

Sunday, September 24 – Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost
9:30 a.m. – Worship with Holy Communion –11a.m. Broadcast 10:30 a.m. – Fellowship Hour
10:45 a.m. – Sunday School
10:50 a.m. – Adult Forum- Islamophobia and International Affairs – Dr Todd Green

Luther’s Liturgical Revolution, Sunday, September 17, 2017

Sept. 17th – Rev. Dr. Thomas Schattauer: Luther’s Liturgical Revolution: Its Enduring Impact

Martin Luther’s proposals for liturgical reform together with his sacramental thinking made an impact upon the understanding and practice of Christian worship that endures into the present. The forum will explore the ritual, theological, and musical dimensions of this legacy in relation to Luther’s fundamental aim that the practice of worship nurture faith (trust) in God and love for the neighbor. The question will be posed: what is the future for this legacy?

Thomas H. Schattauer is Professor of Liturgics and Dean of the Chapel at Wartburg Theological Seminary, Dubuque, Iowa, where he has taught since 1996. He is the author of over thirty articles and essays in liturgical history and theology, the editor of Inside Out: Worship in an Age of Mission (1999), a participant in the work that led to Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), a contributor to the Brill Companion to the Eucharist in the Reformation (2011), and a past president of the North American Academy of Liturgy.

Driftless Dodgers Vintage Baseball, Saturday, September 16

Decorah’s Driftless Dodgers will host the Menomonie Blue Caps (straight from the Field of Dreams) for a vintage baseball game at 1:00 pm on Saturday, September 16th. The game will be played at the open playing field on the lower campus of Luther College (northwest of the field house). This will be a benefit game, with donations going to the Decorah Free Clinic.

Good Shepherd members Loyal Rue and Dan Bellrichard play for the Driftless Dodgers.  Bring a lawn chair or a blanket and join in the fun. The Driftless Dodgers are sponsored by Java John’s Coffee Shop and by Decorah Bank & Trust. For more information about the Decorah Free Clinic search the web for “Decorah Free Clinic”.

Sermon for Sunday, September 10, 2017-“God Feeds Us and Feeds Others Through Us”

Rally Sunday – Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost
September 10, 2017
Worship as Celebration: God Feeds Us and the Whole World
Worship Led by Good Shepherd Lutheran Church Youth
Decorah, Iowa
Rev. Amy Zalk Larson

John 6: 1-21

A little boy shared his lunch and Jesus used it to feed thousands. Today, kids, you all are sharing your gifts and God is working in you to feed the rest of us. Throughout the day here at Good Shepherd, so many are sharing their gifts and through them God is feeding all of us.

The hungry, hurting people who had come to see Jesus found themselves part of a huge, festive picnic. They sat down in the green grass. They got to eat bread and fish, “as much as they wanted” we’re told. We hear “They ate until they were satisfied” and there were still baskets and baskets of leftovers. There were abundance, plenty, celebration.

That same thing happens here every Sunday, and especially on this day of feasting and celebration. We come hurting, seeking healing. We come hungry for connection, for hope. We come aware of so many in our world enduring deep hunger and pain. In so many ways, God feeds us and uses what we offer to feed and heal others.

Here in worship, we experience reconciliation, connection, and joy – today especially there is such joy. As we’re gathered and fed by words and a meal, we get a taste of the abundance that God longs for all the world to know. Here, too, we are connected to the needs of the world and called into God’s work of feeding the world. We are asked to share our gifts so that God can use them to care for others. We are sent out to work for healing and hope.

Here we are fed at the Fellowship Hour. We share in the bountiful spread provided by Good Shepherd members who offer their love, their food and their time to feed us. We experience community with people of different ages, backgrounds and viewpoints as members and guests sit at tables together.

Today at Fellowship Hour we’ll also get to reflect on the gifts of Good Shepherd’s buildings and how God uses what is offered here to nourish this congregation and the larger community. The reflection we’ll do is a result of all the gifts offered by the Space Exploration Task Force. This group was charged by the Congregation Council to pay attention to how this space is used to serve God and others. They devoted countless hours and energy developing and implementing a process to do that – a process of asking questions and listening that members and guests will get to learn about and share in during Fellowship Hour. We’ll also hear a bit about the Stewardship for All Seasons process we’ll be launching in October, a process to help us share more of our financial gifts to strengthen the ministry, the building and the work we do together at Good Shepherd in serving God’s world.

Then, tonight, maybe after some afternoon naps, it will be time for the Welcome Friends and Neighbors Picnic. There again, people will share their gifts and God will use what is offered to nourish so many people with good food and community.

Jesus took a little boy’s lunch and used it to feed a multitude. God still does that today.

Today let’s marvel, too, at what God is doing with the gifts offered here by the youth, by so many.

Today, let’s remember all those who are hungry and hurting here and around the world. Right here in Winneshiek County, 2,190 people are considered food insecure – lacking consistent access to enough food for an active, healthy life. That is over 10% of the population of the county and that number includes 600 children.

God is already using what we offer through the Kids Lunch Club summer feeding program, the Community Food Pantry, and the Community Meal. What more can God do through our gifts?

Today, let’s offer our gifts and ourselves and let’s see what God will do with them.

Thanks be to God.







This Week at Good Shepherd, September 11-17

Tuesday September 12
9:30 a.m. – Anna Circle – Carol Hasvold hosts
6:30 p.m.- Stewardship Committee and Stewardship for All Seasons Task Force- Narthex

Wednesday, September 13
7:30 a.m. – Men’s Breakfast
10:00 a.m. – Communion at Aase Haugen (NOTE earlier time this month only)
2:00 p.m. – Miriam Circle – Carol Hasvold hosts
4:30 p.m. – Executive Committee Meeting
7:00 p.m. – Choir Rehearsal
8:00 p.m. – Band Rehearsal

Thursday, September 14
10:00 a.m. – Adult Bible Study
4:30 p.m. – Space Exploration Task Force- Narthex

Sunday, September 17 – Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost
9:30 a.m. – Worship with Holy Communion -11am. Broadcast
10:30 a.m. – Fellowship Hour
10:45 a.m. – Sunday School
10:50 a.m. – Adult Forum- Luther’s Liturgical Revolution: Its Enduring Impact -Thomas Schattauer

Welcome Friends and Neighbors Picnic – Sunday, Sept. 10

The 8th annual Welcome Friends and Neighbors picnic will be held from 5:00-6:30 pm in the Good Shepherd backyard featuring local food, games for kids, a marshmallow roast, and great conversation.   And LIVE MUSIC too!
Do join us!
Good Shepherd Band
Namoli Brennet
Ghost Peaks (includes Kaija Kjome)
Mike & Sue Blair

Sunday, September 10, 2017-Three Major Events!


On Sunday, September 10, three major events will occur at Good Shepherd!  

— Rally Sunday – As we kick off Sunday School, the kids will lead the worship service.  Kids meet at 8:30 am to practice in the Fellowship Hall.  Following worship , the kids will have a fun day in their newly updated classrooms!  The 4-year-old – 4th grade class will meet in the Sunday School room by the small kitchen.  The Youth Forum (Middle School and up) will meet in the Annex.

— Space Exploration Taskforce (SET) Adult Forum – SET spent the summer asking questions of groups within our congregation about “how our buildings and spaces help us serve God and others?” and “how they help us serve God and others in new ways?”  Join us in the Fellowship Hall to hear and share your perspective on how Good Shepherd’s space supports us in our mission.

— Welcome Friends and Neighbors Picnic – The 8th annual picnic will be held in our backyard featuring local food, live music including the Good Shepherd band, games for kids, a marshmallow roast, and great conversation.  In the event of rain, the picnic will be in the Fellowship Hall.