Epic Scholarships Awarded for 2020-2021

The Good Shepherd Mission Endowment Committee is announcing the recipients of  scholarships and grants for the 2020-2021 academic year.  Good Shepherd members Erik Johnson, Hallie Johnson and Ava Holland have been awarded $1000 EPIC  (Educational Partners in Covenant) scholarships; all three will be attending Luther College.  Erik is a senior majoring in Political Science, Hallie is a sophomore majoring in English and Nordic Studies, and Ava will be a freshman and intends to major in Global Health.

 
Angie Sadler is the recipient of a $500 grant for her diaconal studies as a Phase II student at the Lutheran Diaconal Association.  She anticipates completing her program in 2022.
 
The Good Shepherd Mission Endowment Fund was established in 1993 for the purpose of providing financial support for members of the congregation attending Lutheran institutions of higher learning. Awards from the fund are bestowed annually.  

Sermon for Sunday, May 10, 2020 – “The Way for Our Journey”

Fifth Sunday of Easter
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.

We so often hear the first part of this passage at funerals, for good reason. After the death of a loved one, it brings such comfort. It is so good to know that Jesus has prepared a place for us to dwell with God now and always. Yet, since it’s part of so many funerals, we sometimes think this passage only applies to life after death.

But in this passage, Jesus isn’t talking to his disciples about what will happen after they die. He isn’t talking about a place we go to after death and saying some will get in and some won’t – though it’s often been interpreted that way.

This passage is part of Jesus’ final message to his disciples when they are feeling anxious about their life here on earth. Jesus is telling his disciples that he is going to leave them, that he is going to die. They are so very confused and afraid. Everything is changing. Everything feels uncertain.

They can’t imagine the way forward.

Sound familiar? This is such an uncertain and unsettling time. We have so many questions. What will happen with this virus? When will there be a vaccine? When can we gather? What will happen for the economy, for those most in need, for those most impacted by the virus? How will we get through this?

When everything feels anxious and unclear for Jesus’ first disciples, he tells them, “You know the way.” Thomas takes him literally and says, “We don’t know where you’re going, how can we know the way?” Thomas gets fixated on the concrete and clear-cut – something that’s so easy to do in anxious times. Jesus assures Thomas – yes, you do the know the way because I AM the way. I AM the way, the truth and the life. In me, you have all that you need.

Through the power of his word given in scripture, Jesus also assures us who are anxious in this time. He says to us, you know the way in the journey with this pandemic because I AM the way. We don’t yet have concrete, clear-cut answers to our many questions. But we do know the way because we know Jesus. In relationship with Jesus, the way, we are given all that we truly need.

In just this passage alone, we see three key gifts that we receive in relationship with Jesus – gifts that are so crucial for walking with hope and faith in this time.

First, Jesus prepares a place for us in the heart of God- Jesus opens up space for us to have an intimate relationship with God. This isn’t a literal, physical space. Yet, it is something we experience in tangible ways as Jesus helps us to feel at home in God’s presence. At home in God, we can rest and breathe deeply. We can know peace and refuge in God, here and now – even when the storm outside rages.

Because we have this place of peace in God, we can endure whatever comes. Because we have this place in the heart of God, we can commune with God even when we can’t go in the church building.

We can also commune with others as we are all held together in the heart of God. We are held there with those who have died, those we’ve not seen in person for weeks, and the whole communion of saints. We are held together with the ones who have mothered us – the moms next to us on the couch this morning, those in nursing homes, those who are so far away and those who have died. Our place in the heart of God is both a starting place and a respite on this journey. It is a gift given by Jesus who is the way.

Another gift we are given in relationship with Jesus is his guidance on this journey. Jesus shows us what the way of love looks like. Jesus tells the disciples that he is the way on the night before he’s crucified. In his death, we see that the way of love involves sacrifice and suffering. None of us wants to suffer. We’d all prefer to be comfortable and satisfied. And, we aren’t called to suffer just for the sake of suffering. Yet love does call us to give fully of ourselves for others. Love does involve a willingness to sacrifice for the sake of others. And, Jesus leads us on the path of costly love.

We see people living out this way of love everywhere these days. We see it in our shepherds who are stretching themselves to reach out. The shepherds know some of the people in their flocks very well, but there are many that they’ve never met. They want to be helpful. They don’t want to intrude. And, it isn’t always easy to discern what people need. The shepherds are going outside their comfort zones to offer care and support in this time.

We see this love in those who are making masks and hospital gowns in our congregation, in the Decorah area and throughout the world. The hours of time spent over sewing machines is such costly love. We also see this love in all who are wearing masks, even when they feel awkward, conspicuous and uncomfortable.

We see love in everyone sacrificing the joy of in-person worship out of love for those most vulnerable and out of concern for the common good. We see it in people giving financial gifts to support others, in those who are giving children tender care when they are so weary and anxious, and in everyone doing their work for the world in new ways.

Good Shepherd – In so many of these ways and more I see you following in Jesus’ way of costly love and I give thanks. I give thanks that Jesus continues to lead and guide us in the way of love through his word in scripture. This guidance is such a key gift that comes in relationship with Jesus.

Finally, in relationship with Jesus we are promised that we will do greater works even than he did.

Jesus’ work in his time on earth was to make the love of God visible. Yet, in his earthly body he was limited to doing that in Palestine for a few short years. Now Jesus’ followers make God’s love visible in all the world throughout the ages until the end of time. And, Jesus promises that as we do his work, he will give us what we need as we ask in his name.

This is such good news when we feel powerless and overwhelmed on this journey. We can and do make the love of God visible in this world. When we wonder where God is and what God is doing, we can look to all those making the love of God visible through their service as first responders, teachers, volunteers, advocates, parents, researchers, neighbors. Through them, through us, God is at work in our world. And, Jesus provides us what we need for this work as we pray in his name.

The first followers of Jesus were called the people of the way. This description reminds us that the life of faith is a journey guided by the one who is the way. There are so many unknowns in this journey with the coronavirus. We can’t tell how things will unfold. We don’t know where we are going or when we will get there.

Yet, we do know the way. We know Jesus, the way, the truth and the life.
Jesus gives us what we need.
Jesus gives you what you need.
Jesus gives you a place of rest in the heart of God.
Jesus guides you to walk in the way of love.
And, Jesus promises that you will make the love of God visible on the way.

Let’s take a moment for silent prayer.

Behind the Scenes at Meadowgate Farm

Behind the Scenes at Meadowgate Farm

Join Kathryn as she visits with Linda Donoghue and Bill deGraaf at their Meadowgate Farm near Spring Grove, Minnesota, about their life as shepherds.

Sermon for Sunday, May 3, 2020 – “Passage, Protection, Pasture”

Fourth Sunday of Easter – Good Shepherd Sunday – Online Service
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.

Our Gospel reading today is chock full of images and metaphors. We’ve got a sheepfold and a pasture, a shepherd and sheep, the gatekeeper and the gate, thieves and bandits and strangers. And, apparently Jesus is both the shepherd and the gate. This is a lot to comprehend – especially because pandemic brain is a real thing. Our brains are just not functioning quite the same in the midst of all of this. Yet, there is so much promise in this Gospel reading that we need to hear and remember. So, to help our pandemic brains, this week it seems good to use some alliteration.

Listen for lots of ‘P’ words today as we move through these metaphors.

First, Jesus provides us with passage, a way to move in and out. That language of Jesus as the gate can sound as if there is some fixed point we’re trying to reach. As if we can arrive and enter, then we’ll have it made. We’ll be saved. We’ll be secure. And, if we don’t feel particularly safe and secure, we wonder if we really have arrived. Maybe we don’t have enough faith. Maybe we aren’t really saved? Or, maybe there’s something better out there. Maybe we need to keep searching, keep striving, look elsewhere.

A closer look at the metaphor Jesus uses might be helpful. The point of a gate on a sheepfold is not to arrive at it, go inside it and stay there. If sheep just entered the sheepfold and stayed put, they wouldn’t last long. There isn’t enough grass or water inside. It’s too crowded. Sheep have to go out into the world to find green pastures and still waters. They have to go out in order to run and move and live.

Sheep are saved by passing into and out of the gate. They’re saved from danger each time they enter into the sheepfold at night. They’re saved from starvation each time they go out into pasture in the morning. The gate for the sheepfold provides the passage, the way into rest and the way out into pasture and the wider world. Their lives are saved, day after day, by going out and coming in through that gate.

We are saved, here and now, in the same way. We also need shelter and movement. We need to rest in God and we need to venture out. We need the rhythm of going in and coming out. When Jesus says he is the gate, he isn’t telling us that we have to arrive somewhere and enter and stay there. He is saying in him we are given passage into the way of life that saves us – the way of both resting in the shelter of God and moving out into the world.

Yet sheep don’t always go in and out of the gate on their own. They spook easily. They get stub- born. They get scattered. They need a shepherd who calls them by name and goes ahead of them.

They need a shepherd who leads them out into green pastures and back into rest.

And, that is why it is such good news that Jesus says he is both gate and shepherd. As the gate, he provides the way into rest and the way out into pasture and the wider world. He provides the passage. And, as the shepherd he leads us into what we need when we cannot get there ourselves. He goes ahead of us calling us into life, calling us into rest.

In Jesus the Gate and Shepherd we are given shelter and protection. This doesn’t mean that we will be safe from all harm. It does mean that we are given times of rest and reprieve, peace and well-being as we dwell with God. It does mean that we are sheltered in God and so saved from the power of despair and fear. It does mean that we can venture out into all the pastures of this world in trust and hope knowing our Shepherd goes before us.

Right now, these images are especially poignant when we have to spend so much time sheltered at home. We long to be out and about in the world. We long to gather in this place of rest, of sanctuary where we can see the other sheep in the flock.

As we discern when it is safe and wise to go out into the world, we need to take time to listen to our shepherd’s voice for guidance. And, our shepherd is at work to guide us through the words of scripture – calling us to love our neighbor as ourselves and be mindful of those who are most vulnerable, calling us to be thoughtful and wise and not governed by fear. Our shepherd is also at work through the wisdom of scientists, researchers and public health experts who are working for the protection and wellbeing of our world.

We also need to remember that even as we stay home, our shepherd still leads us into experiences of rest and shelter and experiences of engagement with the world. When we feel stuck at home and stuck mindlessly scrolling through social media, mindlessly staring at a screen …

Still Jesus gives us life-giving rhythms and patterns.
Still he leads us inward into times of worship and prayer.
Still he turns our focus outward into service for the world even when we remain at home.

Jesus is the Gate and the Good Shepherd.
He provides us with passage into protection, passage out into the pasture.
He is the way we experience the abundant life God longs for us all to know.

MESSAGE FROM DECORAH COMMUNITY FOOD PANTRY —

Hello volunteers.  State Farm has offered a way to help us with the purchase of a new upright freezer.  Here is the post from their Facebook page.  If you are not on Facebook but know someone who is, please ask them to post/tag for you.  You can go to the Paul Hudson State Farm Facebook page to tag/post.  They hope to raise up to $1000 and expect their corporate agency to match it.  Thanks for considering this.  Carol
 

HELP US HELP OUR COMMUNITY ❤

During this crazy and challenging time, we want to help our community!

The Paul Hudson State Farm Agency has committed to raising funds for an upright freezer for the Decorah Community Food Pantry. In order to do this, we need YOUR HELP to eat LOCAL and support our great area restaurants who are rising to the challenges of providing carryout/pickup food options.

HERE IS WHERE WE NEED YOUR HELP:

1) On Thursday and Friday, April 30 & May 1, grab some carryout/pickup food from a local restaurant in Decorah or a surrounding community. 🍕

2) Post the restaurant name or tag the place you visited in the comment area below (pictures are
encouraged). 🌮

For each comment made, the Paul Hudson State Farm Agency will make a $5 donation to the Decorah Community Food Pantry with a maximum of $1000.

Thank you for your willingness to join in our efforts to make a difference! Be a good neighbor and share the love! ❤