Today was my last day at my church. I have been attending a local Presbyterian Church (USA) for the past four years. The theme at church this morning was Jesus being the good shepherd.
Here are a variety of items:
1. During the children’s part of the service, my pastor and his puppet Jake were talking about Jesus being the good shepherd. The pastor said that, when different people’s sheep are all together in one group, a shepherd can still call to his own sheep and they will come to him, for they recognize his voice.
What I thought about when he told that story was my own wandering from and return to Christian faith. There was a season in my life when I was really snarky about Christianity and evangelicalism. In a sense, I still am, but I am a lot more positive towards faith right now than I was then. Am I responding to the voice of the good shepherd? I think of a book that I read recently, Wonderland Creek, by Lynn Austin. In that book, one of the characters came to Kentucky as a missionary, but she lost her faith after her husband was killed. A Christian character predicted that this lady would return to her faith, for no one can snatch the redeemed from Jesus’ hand. Of course, there are plenty of examples of people leaving the faith, for intellectual reasons, due to suffering, or for other reasons. Some had pleaded with God for some sign and have walked away disappointed. I cannot say that I know what God is doing in their lives—-though I would like to believe that he is doing something, and that he does not give up on anyone.
2. The church had a commissioning part of the service for me. The liturgy said that I witnessed to my faith to the people at the church, and they witnessed to their faith to me. I was one time reading through my old blog posts, and I found a post about one of the people there testifying to their faith to me. He was telling me how he, as a truck driver, relied on God when he was driving on uncertain roads, in uncertain weather, on uncertain nights. I am glad that I recorded that experience on my blog! Did I testify to my faith to them? Well, I did preach some sermons, but I believe that, in a way, I testified to my faith to them by regularly showing up at services, showing that I believe that church is important, and also by being friendly to the people there.
3. I am reading the Letter of Aristeas for my daily quiet time. This work dates from the third century B.C.E. to the first century C.E. I really enjoyed my readings of it this morning, before I went to church. Essentially, in what I read, the Gentile King Ptolemy is asking the Jews who will be translating the Torah into Greek a series of question: How can he gain people’s respect as a ruler? How can one have peace and happiness? How can one show mercy to others? The Jews responding emphasized the importance of mercy to others and trusting God’s providence. Overall, the discussion struck a balance between God working things out, and the importance of us acting wisely in hope of a favorable outcome. My favorite part was about how we can show mercy: the Jew responded that everyone goes through life enduring pain and punishment, so why add to that pain in someone’s life by refusing to show that person mercy? Makes sense to me.
Some of these themes overlap with God being a good shepherd.
4. I am sad that, next week, I will not be attending church at my current church. Some Sunday in the future, I will go to a place that is unfamiliar—-I will be unfamiliar and strange to the people there, and they will be unfamiliar to me. It will be an adjustment. I will still keep in touch with my current church, in that I will continue to receive the church’s newsletter by e-mail.
My church got me an Amazon gift card! That is the perfect gift for me! I will definitely put it to good use!