Memorial Service for Tabita Green, July 13, 11:00 am

Congregation member Tabita Green passed away on Thursday, July 9, 2020.  Her obituary may be found here and at the Schluter-Balik website.   

Tabita Green Memorial Service


Monday, July 13, 11:00 am
Outdoors at Good Shepherd backyard in Spilde’s Grove, west of parking lot

If you are able to attend, please do sign up at the Sign-Up Genius link here. The family doesn’t want you to worry about “taking a spot” from someone. They so value the presence of anyone who is able to attend. The service will be recorded and shared at YouTube.com on the Good Shepherd Decorah channel. 

Outdoor Communion Reminder

Outdoor communion services will be short and will provide an opportunity to gather together for prayer and Holy Communion. If we need to cancel a service due to weather, we will inform participants via email 3 hours prior to the service.

Because we care deeply about your safety and well-being, a number of measures are being taken to limit possible exposure to COVID-19:
• Each service will be limited to 50 people.
• You can enter the backyard from the parking lot. Please maintain physical distancing from the time you exit your vehicle until you re-enter it.
• You are asked to bring your own chairs. There will be folding chairs at the church for those who need them and they will be cleaned by ushers.
• Everyone over the age of 2 will be required to wear a mask. Masks will be available for those who do not bring them.
• When you arrive, please check in with an usher so they can mark you on the list of attendees and help you with physical distancing during seating.
• We cannot provide a tent for shade and allow for physical distancing so please bring protection from sun, bugs and light rain. (Set up will hopefully allow people to sit under the shade of trees.)
• There will be limited access to indoor restrooms (one person at a time in the building).
• The service will not involve congregational singing and Pastor Amy will use a microphone to amplify her voice.
• Communion will be offered using a single-serve cup with a wafer of bread attached. Physical distancing will be practiced as households are ushered to the table. Communion will be distributed without physical contact.
• Please keep your mask on while you go through the communion line. Remove it back at your chair to partake of holy communion.
• Anyone with COVID-19 symptoms needs to stay home.
• Please be advised that the CDC recommends that those at high risk for a more severe COVID-19 illness (people over 65 and those with underlying conditions) avoid gatherings.
• If you do test positive for COVID-19 after attending one of these services, you need to contact Pr. Amy right away. She will honor confidentiality and will work with local authorities for contact tracing.

Sermon for Sunday, July 5, 2020 – “Burdens Carried”

Fifth Sunday after Pentecost
Good Shepherd Lutheran Church
Decorah, Iowa
Rev. Amy Zalk Larson

Click here to read scripture passages for the day.

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

There is a lot going on in this passage, but I want to invite you to again hear Jesus’ words near the end of the passage and imagine Jesus speaking them directly to you. Jesus says to you today: Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.

Beloved of God, I know you are weary and burdened today. Jesus knows you are weary and burdened. Jesus gives you rest. Receive this rest and this care today.

Please don’t diminish your own weariness, your own burdens by saying, “I know others have it so much worse.” Don’t fall into the trap of comparative suffering. Emotions researcher Brene Brown describes how comparative suffering happens. She writes, “Fear and scarcity immediately trigger comparison, and even pain and hurt are not immune to being assessed and ranked.” In this time when fear and scarcity are rampant, we are so often engaging in this comparative suffering, saying things like, “I shouldn’t complain about the family reunion being cancelled because others have lost family members.” “I’m overwhelmed by the challenges of my job during a pandemic, but it could be so much worse – I could be unemployed.” “The pain of black Americans is so great so why am I complaining?”

Brene Brown points out that comparative suffering comes from the belief that empathy is finite, the idea that If you practice empathy and kindness with yourself, you will have less to give for the people who really need it.

But empathy doesn’t work that way. When we practice empathy for ourselves and others, we create more empathy. The ER doctor in Texas doesn’t benefit more if you conserve your kindness only for her and withhold it from yourself or from your neighbor who is lonely. The family of George Floyd doesn’t benefit more if you just ignore your own pain right now. Certainly, we do need to practice perspective as we consider our own struggles and the pain of the world. We do need to be aware of our own privilege and work to dismantle it. Yet, when we acknowledge our own pain, it can help open us to the pain of others.

I saw this at work last Sunday when we had a Zoom Adult Forum on White Privilege in the ELCA. Our facilitator, Jon Ailabouni, read a list of the privileges that most European Americans experience in the ELCA and people of color do not. These include things like: “When I enter the church office, I am not given directions to the food shelf unless I ask for them;” “When I read Scripture in church, no one congratulates me on being “so articulate.” Jon asked us to listen to the 26 statements and discern for ourselves, ‘yes’ or ‘no’, if we felt we had these privileges. Some of the women and LGBTQ people in the group had higher levels of ‘no’ answers. For instance, as a clergy woman, as I reflect on my experience in the larger church, I said ‘no’ to 5 statements, including: “It is not likely that people will talk over me when I am trying to share;” and “People are rarely surprised by the fact that I am employed or by my choice of career.”

I was struck that those who had said ‘no’ to some statements had a deep empathy for how difficult it is to feel welcome as a person of the color in most ELCA congregations. An awareness of their struggle with feeling excluded helped to open them to the pain of others, it made them want to be even more welcoming to others.

So please dear ones, don’t feel you need to ration empathy and love, practice it for yourself and for others. Empathy is not finite. It grows as we receive it and offer it.

Today hear and receive Jesus’ words to you, “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” Notice, too, that the rest Jesus gives us isn’t escape from the world. Jesus says we are to take his yoke upon ourselves and learn from him. We are to take up his work of loving God and loving others and loving this hurting world wholeheartedly – with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. We are to join Jesus’ work of healing and redeeming the world. Jesus says that this yoke is easy and that this burden is light. Sometimes I want to say really Jesus? It doesn’t always feel that way.

Loving others, loving this world wholeheartedly, feels really hard some days, most days right now, actually. It feels heavy and wearisome to try to be responsible and community-minded during this pandemic, especially when so many are choosing not to act the same. It feels heavy and wearisome to try to address white privilege when so many won’t even acknowledge it exists within our congregation, community and country.

Yet, when Jesus calls us to take up his yoke, he is saying we don’t have to do this work of loving the world alone. He is reminding us that we are yoked with him the way one ox is yoked with another so they can pull in tandem. We don’t have to do the work of loving the world on our own. Instead, we are joined to this work with Jesus.

And as my friend Stacey Nalean-Carlson puts it, “Yoked with Christ—united with him in baptism—there is no burden we carry that isn’t shared by him. The full weight is never ours to bear alone.” She also points out that, “We also learn from the one whose yoke we wear.  Jesus is gentle and humble in heart. The Greek word translated here as ’humble’ describes one who depends on the Lord rather than self, one who is God-reliant rather than self-reliant.* We learn from Jesus how to entrust all our burdens to God. On the cross, as Jesus bore the full weight of loving this world to the end, he cried out to God, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit” (Luke 23:46). Jesus lived and died – loved and lost, wept and rejoiced – relying on God’s love for him and for the world.” Yoked with him we learn how to do this. He shares our burdens as we do this.

And as Pr. Stacey says so beautifully, “When I picture being yoked with Jesus, I actually imagine an endless yoke circling around the world, all God’s people united by Christ – the church on earth and the church in heaven – carrying that burden of love for the world together.”

Beloved of God, you who are weary and heavy laden, Jesus gives you rest.
You are yoked with Christ Jesus and with all God’s people.
There is no burden you carry that is not shared.
Receive Christ’s love and compassion for you today.

Remember you are joined with Christ Jesus and Christ’s church as you share that compassion with the world.

___________________________________________________

Sources

Brene Brown: https://brenebrown.com/podcast/brene-on-comparative-suffering-the-50-50-myth-and-settling-the-ball/

Greek translation: https://biblehub.com/greek/5011.htm

Pastor Stacey Nalean-Carlson: http://staceynaleancarlson.com/2019/12/22/light-advent-day-22/

Sermon for Sunday, June 28, 2020 – “The Church Has Left the Building”

The Fourth Sunday after Pentecost
Good Shepherd Lutheran Church
Decorah, Iowa
Rev. Amy Zalk Larson

Click here to read scripture passages for the day.

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

As Jesus sends his disciples out into the world, he tells them, “Whoever welcomes you, welcomes me.”

This means that when we welcome the people Jesus sends to us, we are welcoming Jesus himself. As we welcome them, we experience Jesus present with us, and we come to know Jesus more fully. We are rewarded, we are blessed, as we welcome.

When has this happened for you? When have you experienced Jesus’ presence, when have you come to know Jesus more fully as you’ve welcomed others? When have you been blessed by the experience of offering welcome?

There are so many stories of this happening through Good Shepherd Lutheran Church.

In the early 1980s, Good Shepherd came to know Jesus more fully as the congregation welcomed refugees from Southeast Asia. Members served as host families, made space for English classes, helped to teach those classes, and welcomed these beloved children of God as valued members of the congregation. One Good Shepherd family moved to the basement of their home so that a Hmong family of seven could live on the main floor. This family, and so many others in the congregation, were blessed with deep friendships that taught them so much about life, faith and compassion. One member continues to be in close contact with the people she welcomed back then even though most have moved to bigger cities now. Her understanding of scripture has been deepened and broadened and she regularly brings these insights to Good Shepherd Bible studies where others are richly blessed by them.

Today as the congregation welcomes new immigrant neighbors, we continually see the face of Jesus in these beloved children of God. We’re reminded that when Jesus was an infant, his family had to flee their country because their lives were in danger. They became refugees in Egypt. Jesus’ ancestors also went to Egypt when there was famine in their own land as we hear in the book of Genesis. They were immigrants seeking better economic conditions. Being in relationship with immigrants is helping us to remember that accompanying and advocating for immigrants isn’t a partisan issue but rather a biblical mandate stated throughout scripture.

Many Good Shepherd members have welcomed guests of Luther College as well as high school and Luther students into their lives and their homes for years. Many did that this spring as Luther closed due to the virus. As you’ve welcomed these guests, you’ve reported growing in faith, patience, compassion and good humor. You’ve become more Christlike through the experience of making space for others. Many of you have been rewarded with lifelong friendships.

Good Shepherd has also been blessed through a welcome to those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans-gender and queer. Back in 2007, Good Shepherd was one of the first congregations in our area  to become a Reconciling in Christ congregation, thereby extending an intentional welcome to these beloved children of God. This congregation now experiences the presence of Christ through these beloved ones and their powerful leadership in the congregation.

And each week when there is worship in Good Shepherd’s building, a wide welcome is extended to everyone. All are welcome at Christ’s table. After worship, that welcome continues during Fellowship Hour. A great feast is spread for all guests. You can sit down at any table and be welcomed into conversation. People don’t stay in set groups talking only with those who are like them. You can have great conversations with a wide range of people.

This congregation welcomes others so beautifully. It’s what I love most about Good Shepherd.

Throughout your history, you have come to know Jesus more fully as you welcome those Jesus has sent to you. That makes these days when the building is closed even harder. It’s not just that members can’t gather together. We also can’t welcome others into the building and to the altar. We can’t welcome guests to sit at a table together breaking bread after worship. We also can’t invite many people to come inside our own homes. This is so painful.

We know we are welcoming many guests into this online worship space. Some who haven’t felt welcome in church buildings are now able to share in worship. If that is the case for you, I pray that you know God’s welcome of you today and always. As a congregation, we are living out Jesus’ call to welcome in new ways and for that we are grateful.

Still we long for the day when we can once again welcome people into the building and into our homes, offering them a cup of cold water or a great cup of coffee. We long to gather in the place where we proclaim in word and deed and with a big sign in the entryway, “There is a place for you here.” We long to live out Jesus’ call to welcome that we heard in our Gospel reading today.

Yet beloved of God, this Gospel reading still has an important message for us now.

Jesus speaks these words about welcome to his first disciples and to us as he sends us into the world. They are part of the instructions we’ve been hearing the past three weeks – instructions about how disciples are to take part in Jesus’ work of disrupting and healing the world. Jesus ends these instructions saying whoever welcomes you, welcomes me. Which means, Jesus isn’t just calling us to welcome those he sends to us. He is also sending us out to others to be the face of Christ for them. We are to help others out in the world to experience the love of Jesus.

The mission of the church of Jesus Christ isn’t to get people into buildings. The mission is to share the good news that the crucified and risen Jesus is present and at work in the world. The mission of the church is to be the hands and feet and face of Jesus in the world. We are fed and serve and love others out in the world. We are to make space for others in the world in our daily lives. We are to help people know that there is a place for them in the very heart of God. Gathering in the church building, at the altar, equips us for that mission, but it can never take the place of that mission.

In this time of COVID-19, many are commenting that the church has left the building and that this isn’t all bad. This pandemic time and the Gospel reading today each remind us that we aren’t called to get people into the pews.

We are called to be the church at work in the world.
We are called to welcome those Jesus sends into our lives.
We are called to be the face of Jesus in the world by how we live and speak and serve others, even in these strange times, especially in these strange times.
We are called to make space for others.

This is a daunting task, yet we are not alone. Jesus sent the first disciples out in pairs as we heard a few weeks ago. He sends us as a congregation now.

Together, we do Jesus’ work in the world in all the places Jesus sends us.
Together, we are given the power of the Holy Spirit to carry out Jesus’ mission.

Beloved of God, Jesus makes it clear that there is a place for you, and all people, in the very heart of God.

You are sent to share that good news in the world. Thanks be to God.

Pride Month

In this Pride Month and always, Good Shepherd celebrates God’s beloved people who are LGBTQ+!