8/12 – Masks Required for Worship

As of Thursday, August 11th, the CDC updated the COVID alert level to remain at “high”/Red. Good Shepherd’s response:
Red- high
The CDC recommends indoor masking at this level
Masks required in worship
Communion with pre-packaged servings
Masks encouraged in the building, may be removed with the consent of all present
At all levels:
If you test positive for COVID or aren’t feeling healthy, stay home and join in worship online.
If you have been exposed to COVID-19 but have tested negative, wear a mask in worship until ten days after your exposure even if you are vaccinated and boosted.
Fellowship Hour will continue through the spring and summer, even in red, unless the Congregation Council determines it should be suspended. People are welcome to take coffee and treats outdoors.
Food may be served in the building, masks are requested in the serving line at the red level.

Sermon for Sunday, August 7, 2022  Nineth Sunday after Pentecost Traveling With the Spirit – “Travel to New Places”

Rev. Amy Zalk Larson – Good Shepherd Lutheran Church    Decorah, Iowa


Acts 16:6-15


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

This week I’ve been fascinated by a strange idea in our reading today. The Holy Spirit forbid Paul and his companion to speak the word in Asia? And that same Spirit of Jesus didn’t allow them to go into a place called Bithynia?

I have so many questions about that. How exactly did the Spirit forbid them from entering those places? How did the Spirit tell them to stay away?

As I think about my own life, I wonder if there were times the Spirit was trying to tell me: Just don’t go there, really trust me, don’t go there. And, I just ignored the message and barreled right into where I had no business being.

I also wonder why the Spirit would forbid them from going to those places. The book of Acts be- gins with the promise that the apostles will be Jesus’ witnesses “in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). That would seem to include Asia and Bithynia.

Doesn’t God want everyone to know the good news of Jesus? Why would the Spirit stop them from doing something good, from caring for God’s children in those places?

Unless, maybe there was someone else who could go to Asia and Bithynia. Maybe, Paul and his companion didn’t have to do everything themselves. Maybe we too should remember we don’t have to do all the things, even if they are all good things. Maybe we should listen to the Spirit’s guidance about what is ours to do.

I think this is especially important in our internet age when we know so much about all the pain around the world. Preacher Nadia Bolz-Weber describes this so well. I heard her say recently,

“I don’t think the human psyche was developed to be able to hold all the information that’s available to us right now—in terms of every form of injustice and violence and human suffering that happens all across the planet. Our psyches were developed to be able to hold whatever suffering happened in our village. We can handle that, we can extend ourselves emotionally towards that. But how do we extend ourselves emotionally towards every single form of it across the planet? We can’t. And so we need trust that not everything is ours to care about. It doesn’t mean it’s not worthy to be cared about by someone, but I constantly ask myself, ‘What’s mine to do? And what’s somebody else’s?’ It feels callous, but we can’t hold it all.” 

I so appreciate her wisdom. Yet I still wonder, how do we discern what is ours to do and what is not? How do we listen to the guidance of the Spirit about where to go, what to do, where to focus our energy?

This week I was fascinated to discover that it may have been physical illness that prevented Paul and his companion from going to Asia. Our reading today says that they went to Phrygia and Galatia because the Spirit forbid them from going to Asia. And in his letter to the Galatians, Paul says “You know that it was because of a physical infirmity that I first announced the gospel to you.” So it may be that Paul got sick, couldn’t go to Asia, and so instead ended up in Galatia.

That got my attention because I spent my sabbatical studying how God works in our bodies to communicate with us. I explored the holy guidance and deep wisdom we can access when we tune into our bodies.

As we discern next steps on our journeys and what is ours to do, it’s helpful to pay attention within. It’s helpful to ponder a possible course of action and notice what emerges in our bodies. If we feel constricted and anxious, if we feel like we must act or no one else will, if we feel drained and depleted, perhaps that step, that action is not for us. If we sense energy and openness, flow, release of tension, an inner lift, it may be time to move ahead. Of course, sometimes we just have to do things that leave us feeling tense or depleted. In those instances, tuning into our bodies can help us settle them and activate them as needed.

Certainly, there are other sources of wisdom – scripture, community, our core values, reason. Yet Christianity and Western culture have tended to ignore the wisdom of the body, even fostering suspicion and distrust of the body. But it is in our body that we experience commitment, motivation, connection, calm, energy – essential elements for following where God’s Spirit leads us, for loving others and creation.

God cares about our bodies.

God became a body in Christ Jesus and lives now in our bodies through the power of the Holy Spirit.

God is present today to nurture your body through word and meal, song and community.

God is at work in your body to lead and guide you always.

Let’s take a moment for silent prayer.

Now Hiring: Facilities Caretaker Position

Good Shepherd Lutheran Church

Facilities Caretaker Position Description 

Good Shepherd Lutheran Church is a welcoming, growing, inclusive, and active congregation.  The Facilities Manager helps us live out our mission.

Mission Statement

We are a congregation empowered by the Good Shepherd to:

  • Nurture and support Christ’s flock through Christ centered worship.
  • Welcome all, offering trust and respect while sharing God’s unconditional love.
  • Reach out to a broader community through service and responsible stewardship of all God’s creation.

We are intentional about welcoming lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people.  We advocate for and accompany immigrants.  We are engaging in antiracism work.

Position Summary

The Caretaker conducts facility maintenance and repairs; performs daily, weekly, and seasonal tasks that ensure the safety and well-being of those who use our facilities and grounds; communicates well and cooperates with staff and congregational members to make Good Shepherd a pleasurable place for work and worship.

Scope of Responsibilities

  • Implements a maintenance plan to keep the facility looking and performing up to a high standard.
  • Keeps building clean.
  • Performs light and preventative maintenance on plumbing, HVAC, and electrical systems, grounds, kitchen, and custodial equipment, exterior entrances, gutters, doors, and windows. Repairs chairs, tables, and other furniture. 
  • Maintains control of storage items and makes ready classroom space.
  • Starts heating system and monitors heat until end of the heating season.
  • Paints as necessary, hangs artwork and signage.
  • Cooperates with Good Shepherd staff, Kinderhaus staff, and congregational members to ensure well-maintained facilities and grounds.


  • Experienced in maintaining buildings and grounds.
  • Skilled in working with hand and power tools and small engine and mower maintenance.
  • Possesses basic plumbing and electrical knowledge.
  • Practices workplace safety and maintenance of first aid equipment.
  • Communicates well with staff and congregational leaders.
  • Attends to detail.

Employment Information

The Facilities Manager reports directly to and is supervised by the Pastor.  An annual performance review will be conducted by the Pastor and members of the Executive Committee.

Pay is $17 to start

Work is approximately 10 hours/week but may increase or decrease periodically based on the seasons and church activities.

This position is eligible for training and does not include medical insurance.

Sermon for July 31, 2022 Traveling with the Spirit Summer Series “Open to Change”

Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, Decorah, IA – Rev. Amy Zalk Larson
Scripture: Acts 15:1-12
Beloved of God, grace to you and peace in the name of Jesus. Amen.
This summer, as Good Shepherd has been traveling with the Spirit,
worship has featured pilgrimage psalms- psalms prayed while traveling to holy places.
Last week during the youth trip, our Decorah group got to take our own pilgrimage- to the George Floyd Global Memorial.
The community around the memorial has organized to offer what they call pilgrimage tours to help guests to enter that sacred space.
What we saw and learned at the memorial changed us.
Like those apostles in Acts, whose eyes were opened to God’s presence among the Gentiles, our eyes were opened to God’s presence in the community around the George Floyd memorial.
I’m excited to tell you more about it today.
Yet our pilgrimage to the memorial opened my eyes in other ways.
It also helped me recognize that so much of what we did on the trip, and so much of all our lives, is about pilgrimage- about learning to recognize what is holy all around us, as we travel through this life.
First, I want to tell you about the George Floyd Global Memorial.
It has truly become a holy place.
Hearts are broken open. There is space to grieve. Black bodies are honored.
Resilience, justice, and community are celebrated and nurtured.
Our pilgrimage tour guides were Marquise, Georgio, and Kendrick.
As we took in the art, the flowers, and the Say Their Names cemetery, our guides shared about their painful experiences with the Minneapolis police, about loved ones lost to gun violence.
They introduced us to a man who’d been wrongfully imprisoned for 18 years. The guides shared honestly about the challenges while still remaining hopeful, after each painful story Kendrick would say, “where there’s people, there’s power.” They hoped we would use our power to join in the work of racial justice.
We also met Jay, a man who runs a plant hospital at the site.
He receives dying houseplants, restores them, and then finds new homes for them at the memorial garden.
Jay came over to our group and started preaching the Gospel.
He told us the key to world peace is two words- you matter, you matter.
What would have happened, he asked us, if Derek Chauvin had seen George Floyd and recognized “you matter”?
What would happen if we all approached ourselves and one another with that awareness- “you matter”?
You matter not because of what you do or think or achieve,
not because of your appearance, job, degrees, or number of followers- you matter, period.
It sounds so simple, yet we continually need our eyes opened
to this truth about ourselves, this truth about others.
Each person is God’s beloved, each person can help us to know more of God.
Our lives are a journey, a pilgrimage,
of learning to recognize the holy within ourselves, others, all of creation.
In that sense, our whole youth trip was a pilgrimage.
As we served, played, danced, sang, laughed, ate, napped, and toured together- we got the chance to experience God in other people and in God’s beautiful world.
It is so easy to overlook God’s presence in others.
We judge, we stand at a distance, we fear.
Yet the good news is that God is committed to opening our eyes again and again.
God has made a pilgrimage to us- traveling to be with us in Christ Jesus, coming among us to honor this holy, sacred earth and each life here. God, in Christ, is now present everywhere, in all people.
God is at work to help us know that each person and all creation matters, to let this truth shape how we live and play, love and serve.
You matter.
Let that truth sink in and change you again today.
Now we get to hear from our youth about how they were impacted by the trip.

7/29 – Masks Required in Worship

As of Thursday, July 28th the CDC updated the weekly COVID Alert Level to High, RED.
Good Shepherd’s Response:
– The CDC recommends indoor masking at this level
– Masks required in worship
– Communion with pre-packaged servings
– Masks encouraged in the building, may be removed with the consent of all present
Read the full Good Shepherd COVID response plan here: