Stand Up and Walk

 

Meditation on John 5:1-9

Graduation Sunday/Memorial Day Weekend

May 26, 2019

The Presbyterian Church of Coshocton

 

     After this there was a festival of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. Now in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate there is a pool, called in Hebrew Bethzatha, which has five porticoes. In these lay many invalids—blind, lame, and paralyzed. One man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be made well?” The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; and while I am making my way, someone else steps down ahead of me.” Jesus said to him, “Stand up, take your mat and walk.” At once the man was made well, and he took up his mat and began to walk. Now that day was a sabbath.

 

made well.jpg

 

Here it is, already, Memorial Day Weekend, and it’s been a busy one so far. Yesterday, I presided over my first wedding in Coshocton. Brittany Funk and Zach Barry drove from Cumberland, Ohio, to be married in our sanctuary. We worried about rain and heat. It didn’t rain, but it did get hot! I looked out at the congregation of more than 200 people fanning themselves. Alice Hoover played beautiful organ music for their service. John Addy worked hard Friday and all day Saturday, moving furniture and setting up fans, stairs, candelabras and lanterns on the pews. Afterward, he put everything away and set up for our worship today. Thank you, Alice and John!

Jim and I are leaving for Boston in the morning to visit our children and grandchildren. Ask me if we are packed. Not yet!

But since it’s nearly Memorial Day, you know what that means, ladies? We can wear white shoes! When you heard you were getting a female pastor, you had no idea, did you, that we would be talking about shoes in church?

When I was questioned for ordination 8 years ago this summer, a male pastor asked, “What is your most unorthodox belief?”  I couldn’t think of any. And I knew that no matter how I answered, he would try to make things difficult for me. I just had that feeling about him. He wanted to be able to say, “Aha! I knew she would have unorthodox beliefs, because, after all, she is a woman!”

I considered the leap of faith for my family and me to sell our home in York, PA, pack up 2 dogs, 2 college age kids and all our belongings and move to the flat, windy, prairie farm country of Southwest Minnesota, where winters are long and the temperature can fall to 20 below.  A better question for my colleague in ministry would have been why I believed God was calling me to serve a church so far out of my comfort zone. I decided to be open and honest. My most unorthodox belief, I said, is that we should be able to wear white before Memorial Day!  The room burst into laughter. The interrogation was over. I was accepted, with all my weirdness, and all my shoes for all the seasons.

I am still walking by faith, wearing my white shoes when the Spirit leads me, serving the Lord and Christ’s church in Coshocton, Ohio! We’re in this together. We’re here for one another. If ever you get discouraged, struggle with illness or grief, or stumble and fall on your journey of faith, you can count on us to hold out the healing hand of Christ and help you stand up and walk.

This is what one, unnamed, paralyzed man in the fifth chapter of the gospel of John needed—someone to help him in his illness and weakness. He has been sick for 38 years, and for a long while–we aren’t sure how long–he waits by a pool of water in Jerusalem called Bethzatha, Hebrew for House of Olive or Bethesda, House of Mercy; scholars aren’t sure which is correct. It is next to the Sheep Gate in the city’s northern wall and may have been the main entrance for bringing in sheep to be washed before they are sacrificed in the temple. The healing by the Sheep Gate is symbolic of Christ’s sacrificial work for his flock. Jesus will say in John 10, “Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep.”

The man lies by the pool, without the strength to go in, waiting for help. No one notices his suffering, or if they do, they don’t care. Imagine the isolation and helplessness he must feel as time goes by. The average lifespan is only 40 years old. He might be thinking, “I am going to die right here, beside the waters that could have healed me.”

Then a stranger comes along and speaks right to him, “Do you want to be made well?”

get-up.jpg

 

Jesus has come to Jerusalem for a pilgrimage festival—Passover, Tabernacles or Dedication. This is not random. This is God’s perfect timing. Jesus’ life and work are deeply embedded in his Jewish faith and practice, including the weekly Sabbath. He will be criticized for healing on the Sabbath, and he will say in v. 17, “My Father is still working and I am also working.” In verse 18, the religious leaders will respond by “seeking all the more to kill him,” for not only breaking the Sabbath, but “calling God his own Father, thereby making himself equal to God.”

Notice what doesn’t happen in this healing story. The man doesn’t ask for Jesus to heal or help him into the pool. Jesus doesn’t ask if he wants him to heal him. By the man’s answer, it’s obvious that he doesn’t know who Jesus is and will still not know after he is healed, as we read in verse 13, when Jesus “disappears into the crowd.”

The man doesn’t say, “Yes. Help me!” His response sounds defensive, as if he has been blamed for his illness and helpless situation before. “Sir, I have no one to put me in the pool when the water is stirred up; and while I am making my way, someone else steps down ahead of me.”

Speaking of “stirred up,” check out verse 4, if you have your Bible open. It’s a trick question; there is no verse 4 in the NRSV. It appears only in the King James and is thought to be a later addition, so that’s why it’s left out. Verse 4 in the KJV says, For an angel went down at a certain season into the pool, and troubled the water: whosoever then first after the troubling of the water stepped in was made whole of whatsoever disease he had.”

Jesus, our living water, doesn’t need water to heal this man. This reveals the divine initiative—the Lord being present in his time of need and graciously offering healing as a gift of love and mercy, not because of his faith, no strings attached. Not, “Take up your mat and follow me or tell the world about me.” His instruction, “Stand up, take up your mat and walk” is simply proof of the man’s healing and encouragement to live a new life, without obstacles or barriers—either real or perceived.

     Do you wonder what this man will do, now that he isn’t sick? We know what he won’t do. He won’t lie beside a pool of water, waiting and longing for someone to put him in. How will he live now that he has met Jesus, and he can stand without help, carry his own mat, and walk on his own two feet? Will he be joyful and want to share his joy? Will he help others who are lame or sick? Or will he be bitter for his 38 years of suffering, with no one to help him?

He has choices to make, but no matter what, he and his life are forever changed.

***

Some of you will be walking across a stage this afternoon or have already walked or will be walking soon for your graduation. Today, we celebrate you, as you are now, and thank God for you, while we joyfully anticipate who you will become. For we are always becoming something new in Jesus Christ. The steps you take across the graduation stage will mark the end of your long journey to this point and the beginning of a new journey, a path you will discover, step by step, breath by breath, with the Lord and the faithful people God has placed and will continue to place in your life. So, look for them and join them—the faithful ones, seeking to be transformed and change the world with love. But rest in God’s grace, especially when things get hard. If things are hard, that doesn’t mean that God isn’t with you or doesn’t love you. The Lord will always love you and be with you in your time of need, just as Christ was with the man who was sick for 38 years. Seek the Lord, make your requests known, and remember that we don’t earn God’s grace or favor. Even our faith is a gift from God!

Don’t worry if you don’t know, yet, where you will live and what you will do for work, how much money you will make, and who you will marry; all those questions are important. Especially the choice of a spouse! When Brittany walked down the white runner on the arm of her father yesterday to make her marriage vows with Zach, they were both taking a leap of faith! All of your questions will be answered in God’s perfect time.

Remember the Sabbath, when Christ chose to heal. This is a special day, the Lord’s day.

Remember-the-Sabbath

God made it to be a blessing to all human beings, not an obligation to fulfill for one hour, legalistically, but a time to recharge, renew, and strengthen your relationships with your God who loves you and your brothers and sisters in the faith. Trust, with every step you take, that the Lord has plans for you, for your welfare and not your harm, as God speaks through Jeremiah. You have a future, filled with hope.

Each one of us has been blessed by a gracious Lord who forgives, heals, and makes us whole, reconciling us to God and one another. The Spirit empowers us to live each day as a forgiven people, forgiving others, forgiving ourselves, and letting go of the struggles, sins, and sickness of the past. Every day, we have a choice. Don’t get stuck in anger, bitterness or regret. Don’t let any obstacle—real or perceived—keep you from moving forward and living the gracious life God wants you to enjoy.

Let us give thanks to the one who knows us intimately and will always be with us in our suffering and need. The one who will, through His Body—the Church—reach out a holy hand to help us when we feel too weak to “Stand Up and Walk.”

Let us pray….

Holy One, thank you for your love and mercy for us. We are at different points in our faith journeys. We have come from different places and experiences. You have brought us together in your perfect time so that we can live as your Church, made one in your Body. Bless our new graduates, Father, and their families in their new life. Comfort them if their nests will soon be empty. Reassure us, Lord, that you are with us in our suffering. May we feel your loving presence. Heal what is broken, Lord. Make us whole and reconciled to you and one another. Lead us on, step by step, so that we are taking your righteous paths together as a Church, forgiving others quickly for any hurts, forgiving ourselves. And when we are weak and tired, Lord, strengthen us to help one another to stand and walk in the way you want us to go. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

A Strange New World

 

Meditation on Acts 11:1-18

May 19, 2019

The Presbyterian Church, Coshocton

 

11 Now the apostles and the believers who were in Judea heard that the Gentiles had also accepted the word of God. So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcised believers criticized him, saying, “Why did you go to uncircumcised men and eat with them?” Then Peter began to explain it to them, step by step, saying, “I was in the city of Joppa praying, and in a trance I saw a vision. There was something like a large sheet coming down from heaven, being lowered by its four corners; and it came close to me. As I looked at it closely I saw four-footed animals, beasts of prey, reptiles, and birds of the air. I also heard a voice saying to me, ‘Get up, Peter; kill and eat.’ But I replied, ‘By no means, Lord; for nothing profane or unclean has ever entered my mouth.’ But a second time the voice answered from heaven, ‘What God has made clean, you must not call profane.’ 10 This happened three times; then everything was pulled up again to heaven. 11 At that very moment three men, sent to me from Caesarea, arrived at the house where we were. 12 The Spirit told me to go with them and not to make a distinction between them and us. These six brothers also accompanied me, and we entered the man’s house. 13 He told us how he had seen the angel standing in his house and saying, ‘Send to Joppa and bring Simon, who is called Peter; 14 he will give you a message by which you and your entire household will be saved.’ 15 And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them just as it had upon us at the beginning. 16 And I remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ 17 If then God gave them the same gift that he gave us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could hinder God?” 18 When they heard this, they were silenced. And they praised God, saying, “Then God has given even to the Gentiles the repentance that leads to life.”

OLGH-Holy-Spirit-Stained-Glass-001-crop

A group of campers came to our church for a special tour and organ concert with Alice Hoover on Thursday. Alice and I welcomed about 25 members of the Good Sam Club in our chapel.

After I introduced myself, I asked the group, “Are you church-going folks?”

They nodded. One said that on Sunday, today, they would be gathering for an outdoor worship service at the fairgrounds. Immediately, I felt a connection with them. I shared that before I was a pastor, I was a summer chaplain at Codorus State Park in Hanover, Pennsylvania. I led worship in an outdoor amphitheater.

After the tour and Alice’s concert, I couldn’t stop thinking about my congregation at the beautiful park, with a manmade lake and acres of campground sites thick with tall trees.

Everyone was welcomed to worship, just as they were. Flip flops, tank tops, pajamas or shorts, sunglasses and sunhats or rain jackets, when it poured. Presbyterians and Methodists. Lutherans and UCC. Mennonites and Episcopalians. Catholics and Jews.

Volunteers from local churches came to play hymns on guitar, autoharp, banjo and fiddle. Other volunteers taught children’s Sunday school on picnic tables. Others brought donut holes and juice for our fellowship hour.

One gentleman, a member of the Church of the Brethren, smiled and shook my hand after I preached on Genesis. “I didn’t know Presbyterians read the Bible,” he said.

The hardest part wasn’t leading worship or preaching. It was on Fridays when James, my middle-school-aged son, and I would walk around more than 100 campsites, passing out flyers and inviting people to church. Now, if you are wondering how I got my middle-school-aged son to do this with me, I’ll tell you. I paid him $20 a weekend! He also helped with children’s activities on Saturday mornings, set up and took down for me on Sundays, and operated the sound.

It isn’t that I don’t want to talk about my faith! I do! What’s uncomfortable is when people get that kind of frozen look as they see you approaching with your flyers. “Here comes the religious fanatic,” some of them are thinking. “Bothering us on vacation. I wonder if she’s a Jehovah’s Witness?”

At first, James used to wait for me on the campground road while I walked up the driveways to the RV’s, knocked on doors or called out hello. I think he was pretending that he wasn’t with me! He said, “What if someone I know sees me?”

As the summer went on and he saw how happy people were at worship and that many didn’t turn us away or turn a hose on us, his attitude started to change. People welcomed us to their campsites. They wanted to talk about their home churches. Many were grateful we had a church service at the park. Some shared their problems and asked for prayer.

One Friday night, James and I had been walking around for a couple of hours, and I was tired and hungry, and it was getting dark. We still had a 45-minute drive home. We approached a large group that had pulled up on Harleys and wore black leather fringe jackets or vests and helmets with spikes.

James said, “Mom, aren’t you going to invite them to church?” He added, “They need Jesus, too.”

I could think of a thousand reasons why I didn’t need to go to their campsites, but really, I was just scared. James said, “C’mon.”

So we walked up together and I timidly held out flyers and told them about our church service. They grunted in response. I didn’t expect to see them again.

On Sunday, our log pews were filled with our usual flip flop, sunglass clad campers—and a group of bikers. One played guitar and sang, “Amazing Grace.” The back of their jackets said, Christian Motorcyclists Association!

***

While no follower of Christ today would question that Jesus welcomes all people to receive his gift of forgiveness and reconciliation with God, it wasn’t a common assumption among the first believers that salvation is open to all. New believers were baptized with water in Jesus’ name and filled with the Holy Spirit. They also continued to live as Jews, maintaining ritual purity, following the dietary laws, and circumcising male infants. Jesus himself says in Matthew 5:18 that he has not come to abolish the law but to fulfill it. “For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.”

So what is God doing now in Acts? It’s a strange, new world for the apostles! In the 10th chapter, we learn about a centurion of the Italian Cohort in Caesarea, a Gentile named Cornelius, a devout man who fears God with all his household. He gives alms generously and prays to God constantly. He sees a vision of an angel telling him to send men to Joppa and bring back a man called Peter to preach to his household. Peter sees a vision, too, and returns with the men, telling Cornelius and his household, “You yourselves know it is unlawful for a Jew to associate with or visit a Gentile; but God has shown me that I should not call anyone profane or unclean.”

He shares with them in Acts 10:34 about the God who “shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.” While he is speaking, the Holy Spirit falls upon everyone and he is “astounded that the gift of the Holy Spirit has been poured out “even on the Gentiles.”

“Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing these people,” he asks, “who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” He orders them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ and he stays a few days with them.

Word gets out to the Jewish Christians in Jerusalem, pious guardians of tradition, in our reading in Acts 11. They ask Peter, “Why did you go to uncircumcised men and eat with them?” Now, before you think they sound like the Pharisees complaining about Jesus eating and drinking with sinners, remember that Peter also resisted going to the Gentiles and eating foods not permitted by the dietary laws. With the vision of the sheet of four-footed animals, beasts of prey, reptiles and birds, and the voice saying, “Get up, Peter; kill and eat,” Peter responds, “By no means, Lord; for nothing profane or unclean has ever entered my mouth.” The voice must tell him 3 times before he gets the message, “What God has made clean, you must not call profane.”

For Peter and the other circumcised Jewish Christians who have been taught since birth that Gentiles are unclean, this is a strange new way of life for the faithful. A strange new world.

***

Friends, this may feel like a strange new life for the faithful today as the Spirit of God continues to lead Christ’s followers forward in new, sometimes unexpected directions.

That first summer at Codorus State Park, when I was leading worship in an outdoor amphitheater with my flip-flop-clad flock, I could not have imagined that God would lead me here to love and serve this community of faith. But I have been willing to take risks and be open to change, for Christ’s sake. And the Lord has always brought me helpers—family, friends, mentors, teachers—so that I would be able to do what God was leading me to do. I could never have worked at the park those three summers without my son, James. And I would not have been a pastor at all without the support and encouragement of my husband, Jim.

We serve a God who shows no partiality and desires all to be saved. Paul says in Galatians 3:28, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

Who are we to hold onto wrong attitudes, habits or traditions that have lost their usefulness? Who are we to hinder the work of God in our live?

There’s a new, astonishing breeze of the Spirit blowing through.

A strange new way of life for the faithful. A strange new world!

 

Let us pray.

Dear Lord, we praise you for your Spirit that is blowing through our congregation in a new way, and the Spirit that lives in every believer’s heart, guiding, empowering, transforming. Lord, give us your vision, as you did for Peter, so that we may see what you are doing in our midst and know how we can join you in this Kingdom work. Holy One, we want to touch the lives of children and young families today. Help us. We know that you desire all to be saved, healed and made whole. Strengthen us to trust you enough to let go of what we need to let go and be open to receive what you have for us. Keep us from hindering the work of your Spirit. Bless our efforts to love and serve in your name. In Christ we pray. Amen.

My Sheep Hear My Voice

 

Meditation on John 10:22-30

The Presbyterian Church of Coshocton

May 12, 2019

Mother’s Day

 

jesus-good-shepherd

My Sheep Hear My Voice

Meditation on John 10:22-30

The Presbyterian Church of Coshocton

May 12, 2019

Mother’s Day

            22 At that time the festival of the Dedication took place in Jerusalem. It was winter, 23 and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the portico of Solomon. 24 So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.” 25 Jesus answered, “I have told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name testify to me; 26 but you do not believe, because you do not belong to my sheep. 27 My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 What my Father has given me is greater than all else, and no one can snatch it out of the Father’s hand. 30 The Father and I are one.”

***

I have been thinking about my mom all week, especially  because she has had some serious health struggles. I have been thinking about how amazing she is. How she cared for my father all these years with his many health issues and how she cared for us when my brother, sister and I were young. How strong she has always been for us. How she told us that she loved us and showed us her love.

My youngest memory of her working outside the home was when she was an emergency-room nurse and worked 3 to 11 p.m. shifts, but still had energy to shop, bake and cook, can and freeze vegetables and fruits, sew jumpers and shorts for my sister and me, knit afghans, play bridge, read books, clean house, and wash and iron clothes. She and Dad played games with us, nursed us when we were sick, chauffeured us to activities and appointments, took us on family vacations, bought us what we needed and many things we wanted, helped with homework. They took us to the library, the beach and community pool, zoos and museums, parks and picnics, fairgrounds and playgrounds, concerts and movies, restaurants and malls. And she took us to church and Sunday school.

I didn’t fully appreciate my mom and all that she did for us—and all that she taught me—until I became a mother of 3 myself and, well, it was overwhelming, to say the least. And I didn’t can, freeze, iron, sew or play bridge!

The memory of my mom that came to mind this week was when we were small and she took the 3 of us grocery shopping one day. My older brother decided to go off and explore –and I followed him. But then I got distracted, sat down and was looking at something. Next thing I knew, my brother was gone and my mother and the grocery cart were nowhere to be seen. Panic rose up inside of me and I started running up and down the aisles, calling, “Mom! Mom!”

And then I heard her calling my name in her distinctive voice. I was so relieved. It didn’t matter that her voice had that edge to it that mothers get when they are both frightened and angry. I was happy to see my sister and my annoying brother, who probably knew where I was all along, and didn’t bother to tell my mom. I am sure he was hoping she’d leave me at the store and there would be more Cap’n Crunch cereal for him!

I know I got a stern lecture that day, but I had learned my lesson. I never wandered that far from my mother again at the grocery store. Nothing felt better than when she took my hand and held it tight, like she would never let me go.

***

Our gospel reading in John 10 about Jesus the Good Shepherd and the love and security of being held in the clasp of his hand helped to stir this memory.

He comes under attack when he is walking in Solomon’s Portico—the outermost court of the Temple that is surrounded by magnificent covered colonnades or cloisters on all 4 sides. They are gathered in Jerusalem for one of the important pilgrimage festivals — the Festival of Dedication. It’s winter, the passage begins. It’s December; the festival is Hanukkah, Hebrew for dedication. The holiday commemorates the victories of the Maccabees after the Syrians had profaned the Temple for 3 years (from 167-164 BC) by erecting an idol, an oriental version of the Olympian Zeus on the altar of holocausts. The pollution of the holy place by the “abominable desolation” (Dan 9:27 and Matthew 24:15) ends when Judas Maccabeus drives out the Syrians, builds a new altar and rededicates the Temple. The Greek word in this gospel used to translate Hanukkah or “Dedication” actually means “renewal.”  This conjures images of the renewal of not just the altar and Temple with the re-consecration, but also the renewal of the people’s faith. Hanukkah is a time of great joy for the Jewish people.

So isn’t it ironic that this is the setting for the religious leaders to angrily attack Jesus? God has visited them in the Son, the Messiah, and they demand that he stop evading their questions; stop telling all these stories! They want him to answer their question plainly! And if he doesn’t say what they want to hear, they will pick up rocks and try to stone him in verse 31, but he slips out of their grasp.

“How long will you keep us in suspense?” they demand in verse 24. The literal translation is, “How long will you take away our breath of life?!” He is wasting their time and energy. “Are you the Messiah?!”

 I already told you, Jesus says, and you didn’t believe. You won’t. My works that I do in my Father’s name speak to who I am.

So far in John, Jesus has healed the sick, blind, lame, and paralyzed. He fed 5,000 hungry people, walked on water, turned water into wine and offered a Samaritan woman—someone outside his faith—to drink from his living water, so she will never thirst again. And yet, the religious elite of his own community refuse to believe—because they aren’t his sheep, he says. “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.”

Let’s listen to the 3-fold promise again. 1. We can hear his voice and distinguish it from the other voices in our life. Some of the voices in our life are negative. They waste our time and drain us of energy, as the Temple Jews complain about Jesus. But we don’t have to listen to them, and we certainly shouldn’t be intimidated into following them! Paul in Romans 12:3 says, “ Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

And 2, Christ knows us, like no person will know us! He is our Creator, the Mother of all. As John began his gospel in 1:3-4, “All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people.”

And 3, we will follow him. That means we will come to know him as we love and seek him. We will become more like him! With following, we know his will for our lives and are doing what he says and what he does. And we will have his peace!

Christ’s yoke is easy. His burden light! So much lighter than the burdens we want to put on ourselves! Sometimes the negative voices aren’t coming from other people! They are coming from us and our own misunderstandings about what it means to belong to the Lord. To be Christ’s sheep. Not because of what we have done. But because of what was given and done for us and revealed through the cross and empty tomb.

Friends, we can be Christ’s voice for one another. How can we tell the difference between Christ and the world? We will know, for it will come from a place of love and understanding; it will help us to overcome difficulties, build up our faith, let go of sinful habits and attitudes that hold us back from being all that God wants us to be, and stir us to acts of kindness for others and ourselves. For God wants us to be kind to ourselves. Love your neighbor as yourself includes you in that love! We will know it is Christ’s voice because it will relieve us of shame and doubt and bring us joy and peace, even during times of suffering and grief. Christ’s voice brings healing and growth.

For Mother’s Day, let’s remember the life-giving voices of women in our lives, the ones whom Christ uses to guide, comfort and inspire us so that we are empowered to follow each day. I am blessed with many beautiful voices of women who speak into my life. My mom is one, but I have had other spiritual moms, daughters, and sisters in the Lord all along my faith journey. Some of my spiritual mothers are in their 90s! And they need to hear my voice, too, thanking and encouraging them.

Listen to the beautiful voices—not the negative ones! Surrender your will to the Lord and seek God’s will for your life. Let today be the Feast of Dedication or Renewal of faith for us. Let your love and commitment to the Lord be known and shown by the good works you do. Don’t be afraid to take risks and do something new!! You have nothing to lose! We who belong to Christ have received the greatest gift. We shall never perish! We live eternally, held in the firm, loving clasp of the Good Shepherd’s hand.

Let us pray.  Gracious God, thank you for sending your Son, the Good Shepherd, to gather lost sheep and bring us home. Please continue to speak to us, your sheep, by your Spirit in your Word and through the loving voices of people around us. Stir us to pray and open our ears to listen every day. Thank you for showing us your love and compassion and giving us a model for our lives through your Son’s works of peace, justice and healing, giving, feeding and teaching, rescuing and reconciling, dying and rising. Thank you for our biological and spiritual mothers, daughters and sisters. May we all come to know you more and faithfully obey, be loving voices for others, revealing your mercy and kindness. In the name of our Good Shepherd we pray. Amen.