Dear Friends of our Good Shepherd,

From my sermon on the story of Jacob wrestling with God: This past week God has been wrestling with me. Breaking down my defenses. Waking me up in the middle of the night. Trying to pin me down. God has my full attention. Wrestling with God tends to focus one’s heart and mind. As part of focusing our church’s ministry and planning forward, I looked at Good Shepherd’s ministries in this place, this neighborhood, and beyond. I realized that we are doing a lot of good things, and many people are involved! I also realized that our challenge is not so much to start new ministries or new programs, but to focus on what we are already doing, go deeper, get more people involved, and spread the word.

By God’s grace and power, we are already engaging our mission, Living and Sharing Jesus. Our challenge is to renew and deepen our engagement in that mission. As one pastor put it, renewing our church is “not rocket science… You preach the gospel, offer hospitality, and pay attention to worship and people’s spiritual lives. Frankly, you take Christianity seriously as a way of life.” Taking our faith seriously as a way of life; living and sharing Jesus as a way of life, as part of our individual and community DNA. That’s what it’s all about.

One of our challenges here at Good Shepherd is to reach out to our brothers and sisters of different nationalities or ethnic backgrounds with the love of Jesus. And again, it’s not rocket science! As brother Denver Bitner once told me, the secret to being a multicultural or multiracial church is to be a multicultural or multiracial church. Reach out, and then reach out, and then reach out again. Don’t give up seeing and meeting Jesus in your neighbors. Don’t give up welcoming them to Good Shepherd. Take the ministries that Good Shepherd already has and create entry points to the congregation. Be a Good Samaritan church!

This is why, as we are nearing the finish line for our Home for All: All are Welcome campaign, I am looking toward renewed Bible studies, evening prayer on Wednesday evenings, monthly movie nights that focus on spiritually powerful movies, and regular children’s events that serve as entry points for the community. That, at least, is how God has been wrestling with me this week. I invite you on a pilgrimage. Come and wrestle with God, not just alone in the dark of the night, but together in the light of the day as well. Renew your commitment to live and share Jesus every day, with our families and friends, our coworkers, and our neighbors. We want to grow deeper and wider as a community of Jesus people not out of obligation but out of joy. We wrestle with God, and we invite others to wrestle too. We hold on for a blessing. We may leave limping, but we have been blessed and we have been named – God Wrestlers.

God’s Work, Our Hands, Pastor Eric Lemonholm