This Week at Good Shepherd, September 9-15, 2019

Tuesday, September 10
9:30 a.m. – Anna Circle – at Aase Haugen, all contribute
4:45 p.m. – Education Committee
5:15 p.m. – Worship and Music Committee

Wednesday, September 11
10:00 a.m. – Miriam Circle -Carrie Solberg hosts
10:30 a.m. – Communion at Aase Haugen
5:30 p.m. – Confirmation Class
7:00 p.m. – Choir Practice
8:00 p.m. – Band Practice

Thursday, September 12
12 noon – Centering Prayers

Sunday, September 15 – 14th Sunday after Pentecost
9:30 a.m. – Jazz Worship Servicewith Holy Communion

10:30 a.m. – Fellowship Hour
10:50 a.m. – Sunday School and Youth Forum
5:00 p.m. – 10th Annual Welcome Friends and Neighbors Picnic

Memorial Service for John Bale, September 26, 1:00 pm

John Bale, a charter member of Good Shepherd, died peacefully on Monday, September 2. A memorial service will be Thursday, September 26 at 1:00 pm with visitation at 12:00 pm with Pastor Amy Larson officiating. Inurnment will be in Lutheran Cemetery in Decorah.

John is survived by his daughter Ruth Bale Lippincott and her husband Joe of Grand Isle, VT; and his brother Harold Bale of Eagan, MN.  

In lieu of flowers, memorials may be given to the John and Mabel Bale Scholarship Fund at Luther College, c/o Development Office, 700 College Drive, Decorah, IA 52101 or Good Shepherd Lutheran Church 701 Iowa Ave., Decorah, IA 52101.

An obituary  may be found here.

Blessed be the memory of John Bale. Light perpetual shine upon him, O God, and grant him eternal rest.

Sermon for Sunday, September 1, 2019 – “Altar Table Wisdom”

Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost
September 1, 2019
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.

Everything I ever needed to know, I learned at the dinner table: Always start by saying thanks to God – good advice for meals and daily life. Say please a lot, too. Wait ‘til everyone has their food before you eat – ponder that as a life lesson. Don’t take more than you need. Remember the people who pick the strawberries on your table. Share the work – the cook doesn’t do the dishes.

It gets boring if you only talk about the weather, so talk about what really matters.

As a kid I learned lots about politics and religion at the table. Apparently, my family didn’t know you weren’t supposed to talk about those things. Instead, at family meals we learned how to have civil conversations about tough topics. We learned it was important to make a clear argument grounded in facts and crucial to keep an open mind. We learned to ask good questions, to listen more than we spoke.

I’m so grateful for all the manners and life lessons I’ve learned at the dinner table and now try to pass on to my own kids.

Yet I didn’t just learn etiquette and pearls of wisdom. I’ve been shaped as a person by time around the family table – formed by the community, laughter, compassion and wisdom that happens there.

My parents lectured plenty, but they also worked to live out the advice they gave us at the dinner table. My dad showed us that family is a priority by trying to be home in time for supper even as a busy lawyer. My mom welcomed all sorts of interesting characters to our dinner table and so, modeled what it is to be inclusive. Their actions, much more than their words, are what made dinners so formative.

Meals have been formative for the followers of Jesus since Jesus walked the earth 2000 year ago. Then and now, Jesus has used meals to both teach and shape us. So, whether our childhood or cur- rent dinner tables feel life-giving, conflicted or lonely, we all share in a large table fellowship of love and forgiveness.

The Gospels record a number of instances of Jesus teaching during meals. And it’d be easy to think that he’s just imparting wisdom as he teaches. That’s especially true with our reading for today. We often hear this passage as some good advice about how to be humble and not get embarrassed by choosing too lofty a seat, as well as some wise words and the importance of inclusion.

Yet there’s so much more happening here. Jesus doesn’t just lecture and advise. He also lives out everything that he teaches at meals.

So, in our Gospel passage today, when Jesus describes someone choosing the lower place who’s then lifted up, and when he says, “Those who humble themselves will be exalted”, he’s describing the path of his own life.

Jesus chose to leave his high place of honor as part of God’s very self in order to take on human form and experience all our lowliness and humiliations.

As the letter to the Philippians puts it, Jesus was in the very form of God yet did not consider equality with God something to be grasped. Instead, he humbled himself and took on human form, even undergoing death. Jesus willingly took a lower place to come and join us where we are – to experience all the suffering and struggle we go through.

Then God raised him up, exalted him, and gave him a place of honor at God’s right hand. Jesus was raised not for his own glory but to lift up all of humanity – to draw us all into the rich, abundant life God intends for us to know.

Jesus has shared our sufferings and so now we share in his resurrected new life. Jesus embodies his wisdom about humility and exultation, for our sake.

Similarly, when Jesus tells us to invite those who seem unworthy, those who have no way to reciprocate and nothing to offer, he is talking about what he does. Jesus calls us all to his table although we can never be worthy of the invitation, although we can do nothing to repay his generous welcome of us.

Jesus doesn’t just dispense advice at the dinner table, which is good news for us – because his life lessons are pretty demanding and hard to follow.

Thankfully, by his actions, Jesus shapes us into people who can live out the wisdom he gives us. By entering our struggle and raising us up, Jesus makes it possible for us to live with humility, to let go of posturing, pride and vainglory. When we know we are honored and valued by God we don’t have to try to attain status on our own.

In the same way, being welcomed by Jesus to his table is what makes it possible for us to open our tables to others, to include everyone at the feast. Jesus embodies the essential wisdom he shares. He lives it out for our sake.

Jesus gathers us at his table where we are taught and blessed, shaped and formed. Here we are given everything we need. As Jesus lives out the wisdom, compassion and generosity of God for us, for you, here we are made into God’s people.

So, come and eat. And notice, when it’s time for the meal we’ll start, as Jesus did, by saying, thanks. Everything you need is given and lived here for you.

Let’s take a moment for silent prayer.

This Week at Good Shepherd, September 2-8, 2019

Monday, September 2 – Office closed

Tuesday, September 3 – Office closed

Wednesday, September 4
7:00 p.m. – Choir Practice
8:00 p.m. – Band Practice

Thursday, September 5
12 noon – Centering Prayers
5:00 p.m. – Community Meal at Decorah Lutheran

Sunday, September 8 –13th Sunday after Pentecost – Rally Sunday
8:45 a.m. – Choir Warm-up
9:30 a.m. – Worship with Holy Communion – broadcast 11:00 a.m.
10:30 a.m. – Fellowship Hour
10:50 a.m. – Sunday School and Youth Forum


Sermon for Sunday, August 25, 2019 – “Seeing Clearly”

Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost
August 25, 2019
Good Shepherd Lutheran Church
Decorah, Iowa
Rev. Amy Zalk Larson

Click to read scripture passages for the day.

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

Imagine what it’s like for the woman in our Gospel reading today. For the first time in 18 years she can stand up straight, move freely, raise her head to the sun. Imagine how her perspective changes as well. For 18 years, her eyes have been cast down at the ground. Once she’s raised up, her gaze is lifted up as well. She can take in the whole horizon. She can look a loved one in the eye. The whole world is now in her line of sight. She can see so many reasons to give thanks and praise to God.

Yet, just as she’s being lifted up and her vision expanded, a synagogue leader’s eyes are narrowing in anger and judgment. When the leader sees this woman healed on the Sabbath, he becomes indignant. We’re told “he kept saying to the crowd” that she is wrong to seek healing on the Sabbath.

Rather than rejoicing that she is lifted up, he criticizes her telling her she should have waited to seek healing. Just as she stands tall for the first time in 18 years, he seeks to take her back down a notch.

This angers Jesus. Jesus rebukes the leader and those he’s stirred up. He turns their argument a- bout the Sabbath on its head, and we’re told “all his opponents were put to shame.” Jesus lifts the woman up and tears his opponents down.

This has all the makings of a blockbuster movie – a little guy lifted up by a powerful hero, the bad guys who interfere, the happy ending when the good guys prevail. It sounds like an inspiring story from the Olympics – a humble person wins the attention of a heroic coach, overcomes great odds, and her opponents are put to shame. It’s tempting to read the news of our day into this story. A woman is being oppressed and Jesus stands with her against all of them. It sounds like a story with clear good guys and bad guys.

We’re often tempted to use stories like this to view ourselves as the winners and our opponents as the losers – to think we are on the side of helping people and our opponents are angry hypocrites who should be convicted by Jesus, who should be ashamed of themselves.

Yet this story is not about who is good and who is bad. It’s about how Jesus raises up and tears down to set us all free.

Jesus’ ministry is all about lifting up the lowly and humbling the proud. Even before Jesus was born, his mother Mary sang in her Magnificat that this is what Jesus would do. Yet, this raising up and bringing down is not to make winners and losers, to reward and punish. Jesus lifts up and humbles in order to free us all from everything that binds us, everything that prevents us from seeing clearly.

The leader of the synagogue needs freeing and healing as much as the woman who is bent over. It’s important to be clear: His problem is not that he was trying to keep the law. Christians have often used this story to say, “Jews are too legalistic. They got it wrong and now we’ve got it right.”  That isn’t what is going on here.

The problem isn’t that this man wanted to protect the Sabbath. Jesus knows that the Sabbath day of rest is a wonderful gift that should be honored and protected. Sabbath allows all of creation to rest, to experience freedom from the demands of work. So, protecting the Sabbath isn’t the issue and it isn’t actually what the guy is doing here.

The problem is this synagogue leader is unable to see clearly. Like the woman, his vision is narrowed by his condition. He can’t see the person in front of him as a “daughter of Abraham”, a sister in faith. He can’t see that she desperately needs the rest and freedom that Sabbath offers. He’s so bound by judgment and righteous indignation that he can’t recognize a reason to rejoice when Jesus sets the woman free. He needs to be taken down a notch so that his gaze can be turned to his neighbors around him. He needs the obstacles in his way torn down. He needs to be healed just as much as the woman does. For him, healing requires being brought down. For the woman, it requires being lifted up. At times each of us needs to be raised up; at times each of us needs to be humbled.

In a world that trains us to judge good and bad and to look for winners and losers, we all need healing. We all need our perspective changed so that we will see one another not as good or bad but as beloved children of God. We need the obstacles to our sight named and identified so that we all can be set free.

This is what God does for us in worship. In worship we are convicted and forgiven. We are hum- bled and lifted up. Then God sends us out into the world into difficult conversations, into situations that will make us uncomfortable, into opportunities to develop mutual relationships with others. God is at work in all of this to heal us, to heal the whole creation.

Who do you struggle to see as beloved of God?
Where does indignation work to blind and constrict you?
In what ways do you need to be lifted up today?

God is here today to free you, to free us all.

Let’s take a moment for silent prayer.