September 25, 2018: Be Bold in Taking Sabbath (Exodus 20: 1-11)

September 25, 2018

Rev. Sarah TevisTownes

Bible Study Session Topic

This week’s text comes from Exodus 20:1-11. It’s an excerpt from the 10 commandments, and it begins with admonitions against worshiping idols. Our focus will be on the meaning of Sabbath, but the piece about worshipping God and not idols is an important way to set up that conversation. It’s no accident that these commandments were written that way! Some of us are notoriously bad about taking breaks. Many of us have been taught, in fact, that caring for ourselves is selfish. Even in retirement, many of us find ourselves with busy social calendars, projects, and volunteer work. It’s true, the world, the church, our friends and families—they all need us! At the same time, we cannot be much help if we’re burnt out… Nor can we be centered in the work we are doing. Work can easily become an idol in itself, and we can forget why we’re doing the work we’re doing. But how can we re-center ourselves in a world and culture full of noise and demands? And what about Jesus? He worked on the Sabbath… Isn’t that what we’re called to do? Can work be a form of Sabbath? We’ll dive into these questions and more next week after I return from my own Sabbath time away – I look forward to seeing you Sunday!

Bible Study Session Scripture

Exodus 20: 1-11

The Message Translation


20 1-2 God spoke all these words:

I am God, your God,
who brought you out of the land of Egypt,
out of a life of slavery.

No other gods, only me.

4-6 No carved gods of any size, shape, or form of anything whatever, whether of things that fly or walk or swim. Don’t bow down to them and don’t serve them because I am God, your God, and I’m a most jealous God. The iniquities of parents will be passed on to the third, and yes, even to the fourth generation of those who hate me. But I am also unswervingly loyal to the thousands who love me and keep my commandments.

No using the name of God, your God, in curses or silly banter; God won’t put up with the irreverent use of God’s name.

8-11 Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Work six days and do everything you need to do. But the seventh day is a Sabbath to God, your God. Don’t do any work—not you, nor your child, nor your servant, nor your maid, nor your animals, not even the foreign guest visiting in your town. For in six days God made Heaven, Earth, and sea, and everything in them; God rested on the seventh day. Therefore God blessed the Sabbath day and set it apart as sacred.


September 11, 2018: “Be Bold in Saying Yes” (Exodus 3: 1-14)

September 11, 2018

Rev. Sarah TevisTownes

Bible Study Session Topic

This week, we’ll begin our new sermon series, “Be Bold.” Through the series, we’ll explore what it means to step up, speak up, and step back. What does bold compassion looks like? Is it the same as “tough love”? How can we be bold in proclaiming God’s love for all people? Can we be bold in taking sabbath? Our first text in the series is from Exodus 3:1-14, the call of Moses. Moses is not bold initially, but he listens and finds himself taking a leap of faith. Where is God calling you to be bold?

Bible Study Session Scripture

Exodus 3: 1-14

New Revised Standard Version

Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of YAHWEH appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. So Moses thought, “I will go over and see this strange sight—why the bush does not burn up.”

When YAHWEH saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, “Moses! Moses!”

And Moses said, “Here I am.”

“Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.”

Then he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God.

YAHWEH said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey—the home of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. And now the cry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them. So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.”

But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?”

And God said, “I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain.”

Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?”

God said to Moses, “I am who I am. I cause to be what I cause to be. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you.’”


September 4, 2018: Foundations (Isaiah 43: 1-2, 5-10)

September 04, 2018

Rev. Sarah TevisTownes

Bible Study Session Topic

This week’s text comes from Isaiah 43:1-2, 5-10. The text reminds us not to fear and to know God is with us. It also encourages us to gather together and witness God at work. Join us and experience the Good News at Church of the Good Shepherd!

Bible Study Scripture

Isaiah 43: 1-2, 5-10

New Revised Standard Version


1But now thus says the one,
the one who created you, O Jacob,
the one who formed you, O Israel:
Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine.
2 When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you.

 5 Do not fear, for I am with you;
I will bring your offspring from the east,
and from the west I will gather you;
6 I will say to the north, “Give them up,”
and to the south, “Do not withhold;
bring my sons from far away
and my daughters from the end of the earth—
7 everyone who is called by my name,
whom I created for my glory,
whom I formed and made.”

Bring forth the people who are blind, yet have eyes,
who are deaf, yet have ears!
9 Let all the nations gather together,
and let the peoples assemble.
Who among them declared this,
and foretold to us the former things?
Let them bring their witnesses to justify them,
and let them hear and say, “It is true.”
10 You are my witnesses, says the one,
and my servant whom I have chosen,
so that you may know and believe me
and understand that I am all.


July 31, 2018: Enjoy Life (Luke 15: 11-32)

July 31, 2018

Rev. Sarah TevisTownes

Bible Study Session Topic

This week’s text comes from Luke 15:11-32, the parable of the prodigal child. In the story, one son takes his family’s inheritance and squanders it in “wild living.” The other son remains at home and helps his family. When a famine strikes, the son who wasted his money returns home, humble and repentant. The family throws a great celebration for him, much to the disappointment of the “good son,” who doesn’t understand why the family is celebrating the return of the child who wasted his time and money.

Our topic next week is “Be the Church: Enjoy life.” The parable seems to suggest, at least on the surface, that fun is wasteful. But didn’t Jesus have “fun”? What about all of that wine and food Jesus enjoyed with the Disciples? Was that wasteful? Or appropriate? Would Jesus encourage us to indulge every now and then? Or does the Bible teach us we should feel guilt about enjoying anything pleasurable? Is there anything in the Bible that encourages playfulness or joy? What exactly is the difference between self-destructive fun and fun that gels with our Christian values? What type of “enjoyment” is of God at all? How can we tell the difference?

Bible Study Scripture

Luke 15:11-32

New Revised Standard Version


The Parable of the Prodigal and His Brother

11 Then Jesus said, “There was a man who had two sons. 12 The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the property that will belong to me.’ So he divided his property between them. 13 A few days later the younger son gathered all he had and traveled to a distant country, and there he squandered his property in dissolute living. 14 When he had spent everything, a severe famine took place throughout that country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed the pigs. 16 He would gladly have filled himself with the pods that the pigs were eating; and no one gave him anything. 17 But when he came to himself he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired hands have bread enough and to spare, but here I am dying of hunger! 18 I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired hands.”’ 20 So he set off and went to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him. 21 Then the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 22 But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly, bring out a robe—the best one—and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; 24 for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!’ And they began to celebrate.

25 “Now his elder son was in the field; and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 He called one of the slaves and asked what was going on. 27 He replied, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has got him back safe and sound.’ 28 Then he became angry and refused to go in. His father came out and began to plead with him. 29 But he answered his father, ‘Listen! For all these years I have been working like a slave for you, and I have never disobeyed your command; yet you have never given me even a young goat so that I might celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours came back, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fatted calf for him!’ 31 Then the father said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.’”

June 26, 2018: Share Earthly and Spiritual Resources

June 26, 2018

Rev. Sarah TevisTownes

Bible Study 

This week’s topic is “Be the Church: Share earthly and spiritual resources,” and we’re reading a text that captures the heart of what made the early church work: hospitality. The text comes from Acts 16:11-15, a story of conversion and compassion.

The text describes Paul, Timothy, and Silas sitting outside the city gates on the Sabbath, talking with a group of women about God. One of them is a wealthy woman named Lydia, a trader of purple cloth. Paul shares the Good News with her, and she, in turn, insists that he and his companions join her at her home for dinner. Paul shares the Word, Lydia shares her home, and together, they share faith. It is a short text, but there is a lot written between the lines! How will this text inspire us to “be the church”? I look forward to exploring that question with you next week!

Bible Study Scripture

Acts 16: 11- 15

New Revised Standard Version

11 We set sail from Troas and took a straight course to Samothrace, the following day to Neapolis, 12 and from there to Philippi, which is a leading city of the district of Macedonia and a Roman colony. We remained in this city for some days. 13 On the sabbath day we went outside the gate by the river, where we supposed there was a place of prayer; and we sat down and spoke to the women who had gathered there. 14 A certain woman named Lydia, a worshiper of God, was listening to us; she was from the city of Thyatira and a dealer in purple cloth. God opened her heart to listen eagerly to what was said by Paul. 15 When she and her household were baptized, she urged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come and stay at my home.” And she prevailed upon us.


June 19, 2018: Sirach and James

June 19, 2018

Rev. Sarah TevisTownes

Bible Study Session #20: Sirach and James

This week’s texts come from James 2:1-5 and Sirach 4:1-10. Both talk about having an attitude of compassion, especially for the poor. The letter from James is often attributed to “James the Just,” a brother of Jesus, and it speaks strongly about not favoring the rich over the poor. The idea that we should treat everyone equally is common in the Bible, but James takes God’s compassion for the poor a step further saying, “Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom God promised those who love God?”

His letter begs the question – does God have a “preferential option for the poor”? The idea of a preferential “option for the poor” was codified by Catholic social teaching, but it shows up over and over again in the Bible. The text from Sirach (which appears in Catholic, Lutheran, and Orthodox Bibles, but not most Protestant translations), alludes to this idea as well. The author writes, “Do not avert your eye from the needy…even if in bitterness of soul the poor should curse you, their Creator will hear their prayer and defend them.” Is there something about poverty that brings us closer to God in some way? Does God connect with people more deeply when they are poor in health, resources or spirit?

The UCC encourages us to be generous to the poor and care for them, just as God cares for us. But what does that look like? Does that mean feeding the hungry? Giving change to people who ask? Fighting for affordable housing at the state house? And what about people who are rich in money but poor in mental health or poor in love or poor in spirit? How are we to care for them? And those of us who are poor ourselves – how do we reach out? How does God reach out to us? Where can we find the relief we need? And for those of us rich in material or spiritual wealth, what is our responsibility, if any, to those who have less than we do?

Poverty is a complex social issue that raises fundamental questions for us as people of faith. I look forward to listening to the Holy Spirit as we dive deeper into our questions next Sunday!

 Bible Study Scripture

James 2:1-5

New Revised Standard Version

My brothers and sisters, do you with your acts of favoritism really believe in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ? For if a person with gold rings and in fine clothes comes into your assembly, and if a poor person in dirty clothes also comes in, and if you take notice of the one wearing the fine clothes and say, “Have a seat here, please,” while to the one who is poor you say, “Stand there,” or, “Sit at my feet,” have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my beloved brothers and sisters. Has not God chosen the poor in the world to be rich in faith and to be heirs of the kingdom that he has promised to those who love him?


Sirach 4:1-10

New Revised Standard Version

My child, do not cheat the poor of their living,
    and do not keep needy eyes waiting.
Do not grieve the hungry,
    or anger one in need.
Do not add to the troubles of the desperate,
    or delay giving to the needy.
Do not reject a suppliant in distress,
    or turn your face away from the poor.
Do not avert your eye from the needy,
    and give no one reason to curse you;
for if in bitterness of soul some should curse you,
    their Creator will hear their prayer.

Endear yourself to the congregation;
    bow your head low to the great.
Give a hearing to the poor,
    and return their greeting politely.
Rescue the oppressed from the oppressor;
    and do not be hesitant in giving a verdict.
10 Be a father to orphans,
    and be like a husband to their mother;
    you will then be like a son of the Most High,
    and he will love you more than does your mother.


June 12, 2018: Father Abraham

June 12, 2018

Rev. Sarah TevisTownes

Bible Study Scripture

Genesis 11:31—12: 9 

New Revised Standard Version


31 Terah took his son Abram and his grandson Lot son of Haran, and his daughter-in-law Sarai, his son Abram’s wife, and they went out together from Ur of the Chaldeans to go into the land of Canaan; but when they came to Haran, they settled there. 32 The days of Terah were two hundred five years; and Terah died in Haran.

12 Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

So Abram went, as the Lord had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran. Abram took his wife Sarai and his brother’s son Lot, and all the possessions that they had gathered, and the persons whom they had acquired in Haran; and they set forth to go to the land of Canaan. When they had come to the land of Canaan, Abram passed through the land to the place at Shechem, to the oak of Moreh. At that time the Canaanites were in the land. Then the Lord appeared to Abram, and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.” So he built there an altar to the Lord, who had appeared to him. From there he moved on to the hill country on the east of Bethel, and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east; and there he built an altar to the Lord and invoked the name of the Lord. And Abram journeyed on by stages toward the Negeb.


May 22, 2018: Be The Church, Love God

May 22, 2018

Rev. Sarah TevisTownes

Bible Study Session # 19

This week begins our new series, “Be the Church,” which includes directives like “Care for the poor,” “Reject racism,” and “Forgive often.” The first in our series will be “Love God,” and the text will come from Acts 14:8-20. The text tells the story of a comical misunderstanding, in which Paul and Barnabas are confused for gods. Paul and Barnabas do exactly what they’re told to do at Pentecost – they go out and live out the message of God’s love with Spirit and generosity! Unfortunately, when they heal a man in Lystra, instead of getting across how powerful God is, Paul and Barnabas get confused for gods themselves! Locals start a parade and prepare sacrifices to lay at Paul and Barnabas’ feet, all to the horror of Paul and Barnabas, who are in Lystra, in part, to preach against sacrificing food to idols. Paul and Barnabas end the festivities, but just barely. Later, the ruckus leads control-minded leaders to turn the crowds on Paul and Barnabas, who then stone their former heroes and throw them out of the city.

How did things go so wrong so quickly? Twice!? Do we suffer from the same misunderstandings in our modern era? Do we put the credit (or blame) on individuals for extraordinary (or awful) results? Do mob mentalities, social media, or peer pressure really turn opinions that quickly? How can we be more discerning about what “bandwagons” we jump onto? How can we do good work and point people to God, instead of to ourselves (or even to the church itself)?

Bible Study Scripture

Acts 14: 8-20

New Revised Standard Version


In Lystra there was a man sitting who could not use his feet and had never walked, for he had been crippled from birth. He listened to Paul as he was speaking. And Paul, looking at him intently and seeing that he had faith to be healed, 10 said in a loud voice, “Stand upright on your feet.” And the man sprang up and began to walk. 11 When the crowds saw what Paul had done, they shouted in the Lycaonian language, “The gods have come down to us in human form!” 12 Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul they called Hermes, because he was the chief speaker. 13 The priest of Zeus, whose temple was just outside the city, brought oxen and garlands to the gates; he and the crowds wanted to offer sacrifice. 14 When the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of it, they tore their clothes and rushed out into the crowd, shouting, 15 “Friends, why are you doing this? We are mortals just like you, and we bring you good news, that you should turn from these worthless things to the living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them. 16 In past generations, God allowed all the nations to follow their own ways; 17 yet God has not left without a witness in doing good—giving you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, and filling you with food and your hearts with joy.” 18 Even with these words, they scarcely restrained the crowds from offering sacrifice to them.

19 But Jews came there from Antioch and Iconium and won over the crowds. Then they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing that he was dead. 20 But when the disciples surrounded him, he got up and went into the city. The next day he went on with Barnabas to Derbe.


May 15, 2018: Pentecost

May 15, 2018

Rev. Sarah TevisTownes

Bible Study Session #18


This week is Pentecost! Our reading will come from Acts 2:1-21. This is one of my favorite holidays in the church year! We will be celebrating the Holy Spirit and all the ways that God brings us together. It is the only time in the liturgical year when we use red paraments and stoles, remembering the tongues of spiritual flame that rested on each person and enabled them to understand each other.

Be sure to wear red to celebrate the occasion! We will also be honoring our teachers and choir for their extraordinary work throughout the year. I look forward to experiencing the Spirit of God with us next Sunday!

Bible Study Scripture

Acts 2: 1-21

New Revised Standard Version

When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.

Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. Amazed and astonished, they asked, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, 11 Cretans and Arabs—in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.” 12 All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” 13 But others sneered and said, “They are filled with new wine.”

14 But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them, “People of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say. 15 Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning. 16 No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel:

17 ‘In the last days it will be, God declares,
that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh,
and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
and your young shall see visions,
and your old shall dream dreams.

18 Even upon my slaves, men and women,
in those days I will pour out my Spirit;
and they shall prophesy.

19 And I will show portents in the heaven above
and signs on the earth below,
blood, and fire, and smoky mist.

20 The sun shall be turned to darkness
and the moon to blood,
before the coming of the great and glorious day.

21 Then everyone who calls on the name of God shall be saved.’



May 8, 2018:

May 08, 2018

Rev. Sarah TevisTownes

Bible Study Session # 17

This  week, we will continue our Season of Impact with a conversation about 2 Corinthians 9:6-13, in which Jesus encourages his Disciples to give generously. He uses the example of planting and harvesting – “those who plant sparingly will also harvest sparingly,” he says. At the same time, it also says that those who reap a bountiful harvest should share it with the poor. In other words, we do not do all the hard work of planning just to enjoy the results for ourselves. We do it to share the bounty and point others to God’s love.

What does it mean to invest so much time and energy into a project where we may or may not see a benefit? Is it our responsibility or duty to share? How do we decide what to keep for ourselves? Where are we currently investing our time? Our money? What benefits have we already seen from our investments? Which of those benefits have we shared? Do our investments (financial or otherwise) reflect our actual priorities and values?

Bible Study Scripture

2 Corinthians 9: 6 – 15

New Living Translation

Remember this—a farmer who plants only a few seeds will get a small crop. But the one who plants generously will get a generous crop. You must each decide in your heart how much to give. Do not give reluctantly or in response to pressure. “For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.” And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others. As the Scriptures say,

“They share freely and give generously to the poor.
Their good deeds will be remembered forever.”

10 For God is the one who provides seed for the farmer and then bread to eat. In the same way, God will provide and increase your resources and then produce a great harvest of generosity in you.

11 Yes, you will be enriched in every way so that you can always be generous. And when we take your gifts to those who need them, they will thank God; 12 for the rendering of this ministry not only supplies the needs of the saints but also overflows with many thanksgivings to God. 12 The needs of our brothers and sisters will be met, and they will joyfully express their thanks to God.

13 As a result of your ministry, they will give glory to God. For your generosity to them and to all others will prove that you are living out the Good News of Christ. 14 And they will pray for you with deep affection because of the overflowing grace God has given to you. 15 Thank be to God for God’s indescribable gifts!

May 1, 2018: God is Still Speaking

May 1, 2018

Rev. Sarah TevisTownes

Bible Study Session #16

This week’s text is Psalm 115, a text celebrating God and warning against the worship of idols. It also asks the question, “Where is God?” As we consider the impact of our words and actions, we often think about concrete and visible results. What long-term impact might we have? Are our actions pointing people to God or to ourselves? What is the role of ego in doing “good deeds” and is ego all bad? Where is God in all of this?  What modern day “idols” influence our choices and contaminate (or benefit?) the impact we make in the world?

Bible Study Scripture:

Psalm 115

Amplified Bible Edited Translation

1 Not to us, O God, not to us,
But to Your name give glory
Because of Your loving kindness,

because of Your truth and faithfulness.

Why should the nations say,
“Where, now, is their God?”

Our God is in heaven;
God does whatever God pleases.

The idols of the nations are silver and gold,
The work of human hands.

They have mouths, but they cannot speak;
They have eyes, but they cannot see;

They have ears, but they cannot hear;
They have noses, but they cannot smell;

They have hands, but they cannot feel;
They have feet, but they cannot walk;
Nor can they make a sound with their throats.

Those who make them will become like them,
Everyone who trusts in them.


O Israel, trust and take refuge in God!

God is their help and their shield.

10 O house of Aaron, trust in God;

God is their help and their shield.

11 You who reverently fear God, trust in God;

God is their help and their shield.

12 God has been mindful of us; God will bless,
God will bless the house of Israel;
God will bless the house of Aaron.

13 God will bless those who fear and worship God

with awe-inspired reverence and wonder,
Both the small and the great.

14 May God give you great increase,
You and your children.

15 May you be blessed of God,

Who made heaven and earth.


16 The heavens are the heavens of God,

But the earth God has given to the children of humanity.


17 The dead do not praise God,

Nor do any who go down into silence;

18 But as for us, we will bless and praise God

From this time forth and forever.
Praise God! Hallelujah!


April 24, 2018: Jesus The True Vine

April 24, 2018

Rev. Sarah TevisTownes

Guest Pastor (Sermon Sunday): Ryan Roberts

Bible Study Session # 15:

This week’s Gospel reading is John 15.1–8. While Jesus is sitting at his Last Supper with his disciples, after having washed their feet and while offering the many admonitions, pleadings, and comforts of this last time together, he paints this image of the vine and the branches. One of the great I AM statements in John, this periscope helps his disciples (those at the table and us reading from the page) to grasp the ineffable nature of who Christ is and how we are in relationship with him and our neighbor.

Some questions to ponder: What do you know about growing grapes and how to get abundant fruit? How do you feel when Jesus talks about cutting and burning branches? What kind of fruit have you seen coming into the world through you? Through COGS? What kinds of strength can we draw from our vine, and in what ways is that metaphor less than helpful?

Bible Study Scripture

John 15: 1-8

New Revised Standard Version

15 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower. He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit. You have already been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.


April 17, 2018: “They Will Listen to My Voice”

April 17, 2018

Rev. Sarah TevisTownes 

Guest Pastor (Sunday Sermon): Bre Roberts

Bible Study Session #14: They Will Listen to My Voice

What does “Good Shepherd Sunday” mean to the Church of the Good Shepherd? This reading from the Gospel of John is typically read the third Sunday of the Easter season, perhaps as well a way of reinforcing how and what it looks like to live out resurrection in our daily lives now.

But what does it mean? Why is it a good name for a community? How does this Church of the so-named Good Shepherd live out that summons to be that good in the world in this present day? There are lots of questions! And more important than the answers, if there are any, is the process of asking these questions, listening to one another, and discerning together. The Good Shepherd text is a valuable touchstone for all who gather here to listen, to learn, and to live together.

Bible Study Scripture

John 10: 11-18

New Revised Standard Version

11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 The hired hand, who is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away—and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. 13 The hired hand runs away because a hired hand does not care for the sheep. 14 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15 just as God knows me and I know God. And I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. 17 For this reason God loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again. I have received this command from God.”


April 10, 2018: Witness

April 10, 2018

Rev. Sarah TevisTownes

Bible Study Session 13: “Witness”

This week’s text comes from Luke 24:36-48. While the Disciples are still talking about all that transpired on Easter Sunday, including Jesus’ appearance to Mary at the tomb and to the other Disciples along the road to Emmaus, Jesus appears to them again and says, “Peace be with you.” He then proceeds to give them signs, like eating fish, to prove he is back in physical form. The Disciples then witness him ascending into heaven. What actually happened following the resurrection may not ever be possible to ascertain; however, from the text, it is clear that the old story about the Messiah coming in glory to overthrow Rome and liberate Jerusalem is changing. Now, the Messiah is someone who is not meant to do all the work himself; rather, it is up to his followers to continue building God’s reign on earth.


Some questions to ponder: What is the value of doubt in this story (and today)? With whom do we identify in the text? When in our lives have we redefined the “story” of who we are, what we’ve done, and what has happened to us? Are there aspects of our narrative that remain the same no matter what? Where does God fit into our story?

Bible Study Scripture

Luke 24: 36-48

New Revised Standard Version

While they were talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost. He said to them, “Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts?  Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.”


While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate in their presence.


Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and he said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.


April 04, 2018: Living Into the Resurrection

April 04, 2018

Rev. Sarah TevisTownes

Season of Impact: “Living Into the Resurrection”

Bible Study Session #12

This week’s scripture comes from John 20: 19-31 and Acts 4:32-35. Jesus appears to the Disciples again, and they respond to God’s message in new ways. What does it mean to live in to the resurrection? Join us and continue the story as we begin our “Season of Impact!”

Bible Study Scripture #1

Acts 4:32-35

New Revised Standard Version

32 Now the whole group of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one claimed private ownership of any possessions, but everything they owned was held in common. 33 With great power the apostles gave their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. 34 There was not a needy person among them, for as many as owned lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold. 35 They laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need.

Bible Study Scripture #2

John 20:19-31

New Revised Standard Version

19 When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the authorities, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw their teacher. 21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As God has sent me, so I send you.” 22 When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

24 But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Master.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”

26 A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” 28 Thomas answered him, “My Master and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”

30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. 31 But these are written so that you may continue to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.