Dear Members and Friends of St. John,
Life at St. John has been extremely busy, in a good way, since the beginning of Lent. Since, Ash Wednesday, February 14 this year, God has worked to grow His people through mid-week Lenten worship and fellowship meals, through a Confirmation Retreat and a marriage retreat, through a ski outing and a congregational ice fishing outing. We learned through a presentation by Jews for Jesus followed by a Passover meal. Seventh grade students received first communion. Our high school youth group led Good Friday worship, and families enjoyed the Easter festival. On Easter morning we celebrated Jesus’ rising from the dead with 3 worship services, and with our Easter breakfast. In addition, the week after Easter we celebrated Confirmation Day for 11 students. At the same time we have been working on plans for a congregational outing to see Mary Poppins, on plans for the upcoming community picnic, and we are planning for a congregational trip to possibly lead Vacation Bible School in Akiak. Whew!! I’m ready for a vacation!
But, during the day on Tuesday, before Kathy and I left for vacation that evening, I visited a family who had lost a son. I also visited with a member who will have brain surgery next week. I was also called to the hospital for a member who is in critical condition. In some ways, even though I’m ready for a vacation, it is hard to leave. It is hard to leave when people need God’s care, and when, as a pastor, that is what I am called to do, to care for God’s sheep.
In the back of my mind are God’s words spoken by the Old Testament prophet, Ezekiel, against the self-serving priests of Ezekiel’s time.
2 "Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy and say to them: 'This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Woe to the shepherds of Israel who only take care of themselves! Should not shepherds take care of the flock? 3 You eat the curds, clothe yourselves with the wool and slaughter the choice animals, but you do not take care of the flock. 4 You have not strengthened the weak or healed the sick or bound up the injured. You have not brought back the strays or searched for the lost. You have ruled them harshly and brutally. 5 So they were scattered because there was no shepherd, and when they were scattered they became food for all the wild animals.
I don’t want to neglect the sheep and lambs of God. Actually, I find that it is an honor and a privilege, not just a job, to bring God’s love to His people. Yet, because of work travel, or vacations, in the past I have missed weddings, anniversaries, funerals, and other important events in the lives of God’s people. I care for the people of St. John and regret having missed these occasions.
However, I have a book of pastoral theology on my shelf that is entitled, “The Under-shepherd Under Christ.” David reminds people of all ages who the real Shepherd is. You know the first line of Psalm 23. “The LORD is my shepherd,” God is THE shepherd. A pastor is an “under-shepherd,”
In John 10 Jesus gives more insight into the relationship of God as shepherd for His people. Jesus taught about Himself, 11 "I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. . . . 27 My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father's hand. (John 10:11, 27-28) Only God is the real Shepherd, the real care-giver of His sheep. Only God can forgive, can heal, and give eternal life. The job of a pastor, in fact the job of God’s church, is to point to Jesus as the source of love and life which God’s people need.
So, on Tuesday I read from Psalm 23 to our member in the hospital. I shared the John 10 verse above with our member facing surgery. I also contacted some others who will help provide care for those facing these issues of life while I am gone.
It is good to get away, to rest, to refresh, to re-create, to be renewed. But, it is also a blessing to share the Good Shepherd and all His blessings with the people of God and the sheep of God. Thank you for giving me that joy and that privilege.
A Child of God, Thankful for the Privilege of Caring for God’s Sheep,
P.S. Confirmation Day was celebrated on Sunday, April 8, at St. John. This year those confirmed included Amber Alexander, Regina Carlson, Kai Kastar, John Merritt, Thomas Merritt, Jack Nance, Jacob Osterkamp, Luke Peltier, Cooper Singleton, Dezzy Watkins, and Julia Watkins. Here are pictures from Confirmation Day. https://photos.app.goo.gl/TdCiR7K8EZYLq0r33
P.P.S. While on a trip to Portland I got to visit with David Grosz on April 6. David is doing well in his recovery from cancer, and will travel to Mongolia and Hong Kong for the World Mission Prayer League at the end of May. Here is a picture of David. https://photos.app.goo.gl/TEhVFBfHCAVmvvCE3
P.P.P.S. Because of leaving on vacation, these are probably pictures of my last (I think) ice fishing outing of Spring 2018. Kym Miller and I both kept a limit of rainbow trout. https://photos.app.goo.gl/f291Vl281u6YJ4B22
ABOUT ‘THOUGHTS FROM THE PASTOR’ - I am sending these e-mail messages, hopefully weekly, to all St. John members and friends whose e-mails I have. (I am regularly adding new names of friends and members – in case you are just receiving this e-mail for the first time.) However, if you do not want to receive this e-mail, please let me know, and I’ll gladly leave your name off my list for this message.