Pastor’s Post for Epiphany Sunday – January 8, 2017

magiDear friends in Christ,

I hope you all had a safe and happy celebration of the New Year. Thank you for welcoming Pastor Rob Bjornstad last Sunday while my wife and I are traveling to see family in Texas and Louisiana.

I hope that you have had a chance to RSVP for the Shepherd of the Valley Leadership Summit this Saturday, January 7, 10:00 AM at the church. This is an important gathering to reflect on the year past and to discuss the results of the interim ministry process we have been engaged in over the past 18 months. We will also begin to discuss “what’s next?” as you, the members of the congregation, begin to cast a vision for you mission as a congregation in Corvallis. President Bill Chambers and I along with your elders have been working on a process that we believe will, with God’s help, move us forward to a new vital phase in the life cycle of the congregation. So you will have the opportunity to learn about congregational life cycles, where we are at Shepherd of the Valley, and where we need to go to be a faithful expression of the body of Christ in the immediate future.

This Sunday, January 8, we will be celebrating Epiphany Sunday our 9:00 AM worship service. The Epiphany Gospel recalls the journey of the Magi who came bearing gifts for a new born king. Ironically their arrival at the palace in Jerusalem to visit Herod the Great sparks the king’s suspicions and fear of a usurper to the throne and Herod seeks Jesus’ life. Joseph and the family must escape, having been warned by God’s angel, and they flee to Egypt until Herod is dead. Only then returning to Nazareth where Jesus us raised to adulthood. The story is in Matthew 2.

It is interesting to think that it was the Magi who provided Joseph with the means (gold was one of their gifts) to save the infant Jesus and his mother from the terror being wrought by Herod as he sought and killed the newborns of Bethlehem and its environs. This is a part of the Christmas story we don’t hear about much, perhaps because it is hard to listen to, and hard to accept that God’s gift of His Son would be received with such hatred and hostility.

Matthew doesn’t hesitate to show us what sin does to people-to the sinner and the sinned against. In the classic Lutheran understanding of sin, it is not merely the evil things we do, it is a being turned in on oneself so that everything, every consideration, becomes secondary to the desires of the self. Herod in a word made himself God when he took the lives of those children. And we do the same thing whenever we disregard God’s call and purpose for us, and make ourselves the center of the universe.  Foreshadowing Jesus’ own sacrifice of himself on the cross, the precious gifts of the Magi delivered the holy family from Herod’s terror. In the same way Jesus’ death and resurrection delivers us from the terror of our sin and selfishness, and calls us to a new way of living that follows the example of the Magi in bringing people to Jesus.

This Sunday after worship and fellowship we begin a three part series in Cross-Gen Sunday School on the nature of the church as a priesthood of all believers. Peter Flammer, our head elder, will be leading these three presentations.  Who and what has God called us to be and do? And how has God called us? How is God calling us to understand ourselves at Shepherd of the Valley? Has the life of the church become too dominated by “professional clergy?” This series offers an important opportunity to discuss how we shape and order our life together as a church family, and maybe even pushes us on the question of whether we really want to be a “priesthood of all believers” or would rather just let the pastor do church and let the people be spectators? What do you think Jesus had in mind when He said to the disciples, “As the Father sent me so I send you?” I hope you will join in the conversation starting this Sunday at 10:30 AM.

I look forward to seeing many of you Saturday at the leadership summit, and on Sunday as we gather to share the Word and Holy Supper of our Lord who leads us out of sin and death to life in His name.

Happy New Year!

Pastor Joe