“Fruit of the Spirit:  Gathering and Sharing God’s Abundance” A Stewardship Temple Talk prepared by Kris Peterson

For Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, Decorah IA, 11-06-2022

          Good morning, friends! It’s my honor to share with you this morning just a few brief words, at the invitation of our Stewardship Committee. This is the time of our church stewardship appeal, the theme of which is “Fruit of the Spirit: Gathering and Sharing God’s Abundance” as you can see from the beautiful and informative handout which you received this morning. The request to me might seem a bit surprising, in that Dave and I are really relatively new members of the Good Shepherd Church family. But then perhaps that was exactly what was being asked… from our experience of being new to this place…What drew us here…. and what has caused us to stay: to linger, to put down our faith roots, along with yours.  And how do we hope to grow and share together in this place. 

          Last spring Dave and I took our first “real” road trip in many months, driving to Sedona AZ… a trip that had been abruptly canceled in March of 2020.  As we hiked high among those beautiful red rocks of this stunning place in God’s creation, it happened often that we would become unsure of our direction, perhaps take a wrong turn, or even lose the path altogether. We would pause, look around, try to get our bearings….  And then we would spot off ahead of us a “cairn,” ~ a small tower of rocks alongside the path built to serve as a marker, a waymark, a signpost, of the direction we should go.  These were assembled by human hands to help guide less experienced hikers who followed, in the right direction to proceed. I pondered then, as I hiked, of the human “cairns” throughout my life, who served as guides and direction pointers, the very significant people from my past ~ and I also thought very specifically you, of the good people of our church family.

          What drew us here, sharing this faith path with you? For what do we give thanks? Once, in a time of discernment for me, my brother had offered me this guidance: “You need to go where your faith is fed.”  And for us, in this time, that place is here … at Good Shepherd.

          So who are my “cairns,” direction pointers in faith?

      Pastor Amy’s true and faithful invitation to Communion each and every Sunday, as we gather around the Lord’s Table: “there is a place for you here, YOU are welcome here,” touches me deeply. And I think that it flows from our shared faith and worship, that we desire to share our lives and our gifts from God’s Abundance with one another here, and with our community and beyond. At Good Shepherd we are thankful for the vibrancy of worship, in spoken Word and music, and for opportunities for members, young and old, who share their gifts in instrumental music, jazz worship, bell ringers, cantors, hymns, choir, and band, worship leaders, which we anticipate each Sunday and which enhance our worship. 

          Welcomers.  I am grateful to those who offer to serve as greeters and welcomers and ushers at worship,~ and following worship to the hospitality providers, for the generosity with which they provide fellowship time following worship, allowing for opportunities for relaxed conversations, deepening our sense of welcome and belonging.  Last week it humbled me and gave me joy: witnessing two young children folding napkins, carefully arranging silverware, and pointing out “this is how we do it” … I am intimidated by the coffee machines, and Pastor Melissa’s courage to dive right in: “let’s just read the directions!” and observing two new friends at the more senior end of the age spectrum lingering long after coffee, connecting, and sharing fellowship. I recall Harland Nelson inviting us to one of our first fellowship times, when we might otherwise have anonymously slipped out a side door:  saying, “Come join us, it’s almost a complete brunch!  The only things missing are the eggs!”

          I am thankful for the inviters. There were, and continue to be, gentle and sincere invitations from you inviters to participate in the vibrant life of the congregation, in service to the church, to fellow members, to the community, and to the world at large.  In the words of my husband, a career coach, “at Good Shepherd, no one is relegated to the bench.”  We found ourselves invited and welcomed to join in efforts that met our interests and talents ~ choir, circle, Bible study, St. Grubby’s Day (Bob, I was so touched when you invited us to stop and pray before we took to cleaning the church with dust rags and soapy water!), lawn mowing, Mission Green, ushering, committee work, Vacation Bible School, MealTrain, painting, baking communion bread, Sunday School support.  My heart was touched by the young middle school boy who prayed for me, for my “rose” and my “thorn” as is their practice in faith formation class … and activities that stretched us:  krumkake making! (and I can testify that the committee can truly teach ANYONE to make krumkake! ~ though I have to acknowledge that my stamina was related in direct proportion to Al Andersen’s patient coaching and positive encouragement! “Some people Like theirs brown, Kris!”

          There are those of you who have the gift of being visionaries ~ and those who see tangible needs in our neighbors and the world, and move out in practical ways to advocate and address these … Deep gratitude and respect to those of you working for social justice, peace, anti-racism efforts, environmental stewardship, and providing much needed food  and infant kits, school kits, and donations to advocacy organizations.

          Thank you to the teachers, 

           the gardeners, 

          the knitters and crocheters,

          the technology-savy, 

                   the encouragers,

                    the shepherds,

          Thank you to the pray-ers,

           the writers, 

          the poets, 

          the dramatists,

                   the composers

 who undergird all that is Good Shepherd…

          So You see, through the eyes of a newbie, to one just learning the “Good Shepherd way” to serve as the church, you each serve in your way as a faith “cairn,” … to someone…This is my opportunity to stand up and share this love letter to Good Shepherd, to say “thank you” to you for being the church where the Word is taught, where the welcome to the table is extended to all, where our faith is nurtured, and where we can partner together with you to serve, to bear fruit, and to grow in faithful stewardship of God’s Abundant gifts.               Thank You.