Christ is risen! He is risen indeed. Alleluia!

Dear Shepherd of the Valley members and friends,

            First of all, a joyous welcome to everyone who will, by God’s grace, be joining us for the 50th anniversary celebration at Shepherd of the Valley this Sunday, April 17, starting with the service of Holy Communion at 9:00 AM.       Second of all I hope everyone will join me in thanking our anniversary celebrations team for all their hard work making sure that everything will be ready. We are expecting a capacity crowd both for worship and for the brunch following. Please remember to enter the church through the east facing doors just past the welcome tent where you will receive a nametag from our welcome crew. We plan for a wonderful program after the brunch with Katy Trautman serving as our MC.  Our plans are for the program to conclude with the benediction about noon. Let us pray God’s help and blessing on our program, and on all those who are giving so much of their time to make this Sunday a wonderful experience of gratitude and joy for all the ways the Good Shepherd has led us.

            I intentionally urged that Shepherd of the Valley begin its celebration of the 50th anniversary of the congregation on Good Shepherd Sunday, the 4th Sunday of Easter, for a couple of reasons. First because it is the closest thing we have to a “name-sake Sunday” in the church year. For example St. John’s Lutheran Church would celebrate their namesake Sunday on The Day of St. John the Evangelist, December 27. St. Matthew Church on September 21, St. Matthew’s day. So it seemed only natural to begin the celebration of our 50th on Good Shepherd Sunday, the 4th Sunday in Easter. Our anniversary team picked up on this with their theme tagline, “Joyfully serving the Shepherd for fifty years!”

            Kicking off our 50th anniversary year on Good Shepherd Sunday also makes sense because Jesus refers to believers as sheep of his fold and He has made Himself known as our Good Shepherd. You will hear this theme often in the readings for this Sunday, especially the Gospel from John 10.  There Jesus assures believers that “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish, and no one shall snatch them out of my hand.” (John 10:19)

            This is the great assurance of all the faithful. We can’t be “snatched” away from Jesus. But sadly we can walk away from Jesus. The Parable of the Lost Sheep from Luke 15 reminds us of this.  Still the Good Shepherd leaves the ninety-nine, and goes and searches until he finds the one lost sheep.  That little lamb was precious to its shepherd. So are you! But to keep from becoming lost, the sheep of Jesus’ flock need to continue to listen to the voice of the Good Shepherd. Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice.”

            So the question that emerges from our theme “Joyfully serving the Good Shepherd” is simply this: are we? And, if so, how? Are we listening to the voice of our Lord? Where do we hear it? How does the voice of the Good Shepherd shape our lives and our relationships with those around us? As sheep of His flock are we leading others astray, or encouraging them to stay where the Shepherd’s voice is heard?

            If you or someone you know haven’t been in “earshot” of the Shepherd’s Voice in a while, this might be a very good Sunday to make your way back. The Shepherd’s voice announces God’s forgiveness and never failing love even in the face what St. Paul described as “the last enemy” in 1 Corinthians 15, death. The Good Shepherd “gives them eternal life and they shall never perish.”

            Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ, the Great Shepherd of the Sheep!

Hoping to see you this Sunday!