27 May 2022, Good Day Yorkshire Church!
We have certainly enjoyed some great times of fellowship over the past two weeks! I want to thank Julie Mann and her team that made the Church Picnic at Springettsbury Park a great success! Special thanks to Frank Herron and Steve Coates for some of the back breaking work of transport and cleanup of picnic supplies from the church and back. Thanks to Andy Terry, Joe Blackwood, and Steve Coates for providing the best in grill master talent as all of our main course meal was cooked to perfection! Thanks to everyone that brought such a great assortment of foods, side dishes and desserts that rounded out our culinary meal selections(and those peas, whoever brought them- yum)! And then, thanks to all who came out to enjoy the fellowship of the church! Yes, the skies appeared to be threatening, but we all know who gets the thanks for breaking up the storms to our west, allowing them to pass over with just a few sprinkles, and then reform to our east. Yes, we can thank God for that!
Last week, we enjoyed a great presentation on Thursday morning with our Preschool students and their families! What a great day to have the sanctuary filled with folks enjoying time with one another as their students presented their songs and Bible verses. We are so blessed to have had such an incredible student population this year. We are so blessed to have such a dedicated preschool staff! This past year, this staff, with the support of the Yorkshire congregation, provided the Gospel message of Jesus Christ to about 30 children every day. Thirty children enjoyed wonderful fellowship in a loving, Christ-centered environment during their school year. They not only heard the message of Christ, but they shared in the love of Christ with their teachers. As I was blessed to have a few minutes a week with the students, I was never in the room long until they reminded me that Jesus lives in their hearts. Praise God!
It was a great blessing to have a delegation of our students present their songs to the congregation last Sunday morning. Although a bit more nervous in front of folks that they didn’t know, I heard from many of the families how they enjoyed sharing in our fellowship with their children. Everyone felt very welcome at Yorkshire and just about everyone I spoke to shared in how much they enjoyed the “Spirit” of the morning.
On Wednesday evening, I had the blessing and honor to present the Baccalaureate message to the students of the Northeastern High School graduating class of 2022, their families, the teachers and administration. What an incredible evening of fellowship and worship- a service designed by a high school student named Elisabeth Zimmerman. Elisabeth is a member of Faith Community Church that meets in West York and you don’t have to spend much time with her to have a deep sense that she has the Spirit of God in her heart. It was great to serve this woman and her school as just a little over a year ago, she was injured in a very serious car accident. But she persevered through it and you can see how her faith in God is paramount to the woman she has become, and we could hear it as she led the praise time in music with her ukulele. We spent time in the book of Esther, as she mentioned to me that this was one of her favorite passages. I have never preached this particular book in my time as a pastor, so my study and research were truly rewarding.
In summary, we most often consider Esther as a magnificent woman that did heroic things in the face of adversity which resulted in saving her people, the Jews that were living in Persia. But this young woman did not have an easy time getting to where she was, and in some cases, I believe she had to have had great fear in how her life transpired. Esther, born Hadassah, was an orphan early in her life, adopted by an uncle Mordecai, who ultimately submitted her to the King’s harem in hopes that he may pick her as a queen. She had to hide her identity as a Jew because that would not have been acceptable in the harem. I don’t know about you, but I don’t know any young girl whose life dream is to be a slave in a king’s harem – especially a man like Xerxes who was not a particularly upstanding individual. But she persevered and we know from the inferred text that she had faith in God. As I studied the 10 chapters of Esther, I considered what Esther’s go to verses may have been for her faith. I believe we all have some verse that we keep tucked in the back of our minds for help in times where we face difficulty. Maybe its Philippians 4:13, maybe Hebrews 11:1 or Romans 15:13.
Based on the timings of these writings (NT), they would not have been available to Esther. I surmised that the words that she may have had the most access to would have been from the prophet Jeremiah as they were written about 200 years before her time. I thought maybe Jeremiah 29:11-13 may have been on her mind: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”
This verse has strong ties to the greatest commandment spoken by our Lord in both the Old Testament and the New Testament and I’ll summarize, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your mind, and all your soul, and all your strength.” (combination of Deuteronomy 6:5 & Matthew 22:37). This is such a powerful command. In the Deuteronomy and Matthew texts, we see this as a response to a question and we consider it a command. But, in Jeremiah, and the context of Esther (which is not stated in the Esther text), it may be seen as an offer of hope. A means to an end, a solution to a need, a comfort in a time of difficulty.
In our I AM study this week, we will be discussing the I AM statement of Jesus as he states, I AM the Good Shepherd. Certainly a familiar statement that we all know well. But, in my study, I have been led to see this as a relationship statement, a calling out to us, if you will. In John 10, we see these verses:
John 10:3-4, “He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. Then consider verses 13-16, “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.”
Over the past week, I have been part of many tremendous worship and fellowship experiences within the Body of Christ, both here at Yorkshire, and at Northeastern High School. In each of these moments, Christ was the center of our focus, He was the reason for our gathering – mostly for worship, but also for simple fellowship of His Church. There was great joy in all of these settings. But we have also experienced some difficult things this past week, some things that make us ask questions, wonder why, or how, and then either intentionally or unintentionally try to come up with all the ways that we need to “fix” the ills of our culture.
But the reality is we live in a culture that has distanced itself and continues to distance itself from God. We remove Him from everything public and allow Him to only be a presence in non-secular facilities and activities. Our culture has relegated our God, the Triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit to the Christian Church. But this does not mean that God is still not at work. In Esther’s world, she lived in a pagan culture where the God named, I AM, “Ego Eime” (Greek), Yahweh, was not a welcome God. Yet, we know that Esther leaned on Him and when her going got rough, and the lives of the Jews, including her own were on the line, she reached out to Him fervently, maybe with all her heart, mind, soul, and strength, and He responded. Esther did not change the world or the evils in it. She did not fix the souls of man or their tendency to turn their back on God, but her faith and her actions made a difference to some in that moment, but it was God who responded.
In our John verses, we see that the Shepherd is the one that calls. He is the one that makes the ultimate sacrifice for us. He is the one that brings us where we are to be. But, to hear His call, to hear His voice, we need to know Him. And we do that by seeking Him.
So, as we look out at all of the darkness in our culture and wonder how or why, we must consider that what we may be seeing is a glimpse of hell, or a what a world without God looks like. But we have a Shepherd, a Good Shepherd that seeks a relationship with us, and all of the world. I believe in times like this, that we can only find comfort as we seek God with all of our heart, when we seek a relationship with Him and cherish our faith community. We are not to be a segregated entity from the world, but we are called to be different from it. There are many hurting people out there that are seeking a safe place, a refuge from what they know is not right, and I believe they will find it when they have a church community that is focused on seeking the heart of God to participate with.
When I look at the darkness in the hearts of so many in our culture, I wonder what a difference a loving church community may have made in their lives. I am encouraged that I am part of a community that is seeking the heart of God and growing in its fellowship as His Body. My go to verses are Acts 2:42-47 – simply as a model, or an image in my mind of what we must seek as His church.
“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”
In short, they worshipped God as the community of His believers. They loved one another and as a result, the Lord brought others into His fold. I AM the Good Shepherd. My sheep know me just as I know the Father and the Father knows me. This means, that we know the Shepherd, just as the Shepherd knows His Father.
Sometimes, as the church, we simply need to realize that we are first called to be sheep. His Sheep, in His pen. That is the church, the fellowship of the Body.
Have a great day and a great week!
Peace and Blessings!
PS: Next week we will have an update on our contractor selection for the fellowship hall project and financial data through the end of April!