Dear ones,

Thanksgiving is upon us! And I. AM. EXCITED. There is so much to look forward to!

Right now, I am focused on the meal. For me, the highlights are the sweet potatoes, the cranberry sauce (homemade and canned...they are totally different foods, both excellent!), and believe it or not, the brussel sprouts.

There's also the time with loved ones. This year, we're headed to the beach for a few days of cozying up with family. Some years we're able to gather and some years we aren't, so this time around, it's good to be together.

We also turn the corner into the run up to Christmas, with the season of Advent at our heels. Candles and carols and gratitude for all the ways Christ is present in our everyday world.

It's simply wonderful.

Except...when it's not. There's also the hard stuff: Loneliness. Grief. Family drama. That Christmas carol that makes you cry every darn time. Money stress and pressure to make the season magical. It can be a tough time of year.

And so, as I am pondering this Sunday's gospel from Matthew 25, instead of focusing on the most famous and beloved part ( 35 for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink...), I am struck by the context. This is a scene of Christ the King's judgment. There are sheep and goats. Pronouncements about eternal punishment and eternal life. Yikes.

This week, I am wondering, when is Christ's judgment GOOD news?

To hear the whole thing, come Sunday. But for today: Christ's judgment is good news whenever the world is judging you. When that family member you just can't handle shares an unwelcome opinion about your life...Christ is the only judge that matters. When you don't have the energy to put up a tree this year or to go to even one holiday party...Christ is the only judge that matters. When you can't justify going into debt to buy presents for everyone and you fear judgment from others...Christ is the only judge that matters.

And we see in this beloved passage that Christ *always* judges on behalf of those who are struggling - those who are hungry, thirsty, naked, sick, and in prison. And truthfully, at times, each one of us is all of those things. We hunger, we thirst, we are vulnerable and exposed, we are not fully healthy and whole, we are held captive more often than we would like to admit. And we can trust Christ to be with us and for us in our most trying times.

We can trust this judge. He is the only one that matters.

So, friends in Christ, take that with you to your holiday tables, even though I hope you don't need it. And know that I am giving thanks for each one of you!

May Christ the King, our merciful judge, be with you this Thanksgiving.

Pastor Marsha
This Sunday's Readings
Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24
Psalm 95:1-7a
Ephesians 1:15-23
Matthew 25:31-46

All Sunday Morning Education Classes for Children and Youth take a break this Sunday, and will return on Sunday, December 3. 

Michael Dickson will be presenting part 2 of his 3-part Crossing Borders series in the Sanctuary during the SME hour. Come to listen, share and discuss the realities of immigration and the border today. Michael spent the last year living and working with our Lutheran brothers and sisters in the border region, so he has first-hand experiences to share.

This Sunday is the final Sunday for  Mnene Christmas Greetings & Gift Collection   Write a note on a blank card in the Narthex to send Christmas greetings to our orphans and friends in Mnene, or drop your packages for the Mnene orphans at the table.  Donations marked "Mnene Postage" can be dropped in the collection plate or Narthex mail slot. Do not leave monetary donations at the display table!

Happy Thanksgiving! The church office will be closed on Thursday and Friday, November 23 and 24, in observation of the Thanksgiving holiday. 

Magi Tree in the Narthex   Provide gifts for children in the LFS Foster Care Program and our adult friends with developmental disabilities this Christmas! 

Family Promise Week at Good Shepherd is November 26 - December 3. Volunteers are needed to serve, so sign up in the Narthex or online here  (password: homeless).

Parents' Morning Out Fundraiser is Saturday, December 2, 10:00 am - 2:00 pm   It's a morning of crafts, cookie-decorating, a movie, and playground time with our youth and adults for potty-trained toddlers through 3rd graders! RSVP   on the City  or contact Andrew Buck . Suggested donation of $20/child will support the youth going to the 2018 ELCA Youth Gathering. 
Does thinking of the Christmas season leave you feeling harried, hurried and spiritually hungry? Good Shepherd is using All I Really Want: Readings for a Modern Christmas by Quinn G. Caldwell as our Advent devotional this year. A few copies are available in the church office for $7, or you can order it online. Discussions will be held in Tuesday Morning Bible Study and Wednesday evening groups beginning the week of December 5. Feel free to start a small group if these times don't work for you! Speak to Pr. Marsha or Pr. Tim to start/join a group!

O' Holy Night at Camp Agape - Saturday, December 16 at 7:00 pm  Walk the lit camp trails and watch the "greatest story every told" unfold. Tickets are $12/person with a $45 family maximum (children under 5 free). A limited number of tickets are available, so reserve yours early. Sign up online or contact Barb Newcomer.

More information about upcoming events is available in  this week's bulletin announcements.
The November edition of The Shepherd's Voice is available  online.
Health and healing for Carl Kjellberg and Hanne Gekeler.

For the Orphans of Mnene Parish, including Prince Mpofu and Princess Mpofu.

Prince and Princess are 23 year old twins who were in our support program until 2009 when their homestead burned down. They returned to our support program in 2012.  After discussions with the Mnene staff, land was given and plans are being formulated to build a kitchen hut and block house so that Prince and Princess will again have a homestead.

Prince is enrolled at Zvishavane Vo Tech learning welding. His Mail For Mnene partners are Ed Ruse & the Agather family.  

Princess has a 10 month old daughter. She is currently reconciled and staying with her mother's younger sister who has four children of her own and is not working. Princess is working at a local shop, "just to survive." She visited with our 2017 mission team and expressed the desire to complete her "O" level classes so that she can pursue post-secondary education in hopes of learning a skill. Her Mail For Mnene partner is the Greengrove-Pfefferle family.  

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