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Tidings from Bethlehem July 2023

“I came so they can have real and eternal life,

more and better life than they ever dreamed of.” -John 10:10 (The Message)

It hadn’t rained in three weeks, but as the first “Bethlehem Golf Night” in three years approached the forecast was not looking good. I had already loaded up the golf clubs, and I really didn’t have the heart to cancel the event, so we headed to the course to hopefully meet up with other folks from Bethlehem. Sure enough, by 5:15 there were several other members of the congregation present. We were standing in the rain, pulling up our weather apps, deliberating whether we should pay to golf in these conditions. Eventually, we decided to brave the elements. I am grateful that we did. Not only did we have a little fun, as my shoes became increasingly waterlogged, I was reminded of a very valuable lesson; life very rarely, if ever, presents you with ideal conditions.

In the 10th chapter of the Gospel of John, Jesus is teaching the disciples that he is the “good shepherd.” It’s a beautiful biblical image that can provide comfort and encouragement. But as we read the verses in John 10 closely, we begin to understand why it is that we need such a faithful shepherd. The sheep occupy a somewhat sketchy landscape. In his teaching, Jesus mentions the “thieves and bandits,” he also extends a warning about those “strangers” that will attempt to lead the sheep astray. It would have been much more convenient if we had a nice big pasture with lush grass completely free of any threats or temptations, but that’s not the picture that Jesus paints with these enduring metaphors. Jesus affords us of a picture of the “real world,” which is much more helpful.

And Jesus does something else that’s rather inspiring, Jesus promises to be present, and Jesus is present, because of the less-than-ideal conditions. In the text, Jesus confirms all this with his mission statement, “I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of.” I truly love that rendering from “The Message.” I love it because it captures the “both/and” of a meaningful spiritual life. We know our eternity is with Christ, and we also understand that every day is saturated by God’s presence.

Yep, saturated. And we were kind of saturated by the time we got back home that night, but were still grateful, truly grateful for the time and experience. The rain had added something to the depth of our experience. It really was kind of a “more and better life than we had dreamed of.” Siblings in Christ, we know that dark clouds rumble through every life. We also know, in the depths of our hearts, there have never been truly perfect conditions. Yet, the faithful make their way despite these things. Not because of our grit or gumption, but rather because of our faith in the Good Shepherd. Christ has the power to sustain us through every circumstance and situation. As the grace of Christ helps us navigate the challenges and complexities of life, our faith is informed, and our wisdom is deepened along the way. Are you going through a tough time? Facing less than ideal conditions? Press on friends, thanks to the Good Shepherd, there’s always a way forward, and there’s always something to look forward to.

Yours in Christ,

Pastor Dan

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