Pastor’s Post for Sunday, February 5, 2017

Dear friends in Christ,

Maybe you have heard the anecdote about the old “died in the wool” Lutheran who was being visited by his pastor on his death bed. The pastor asked him if he had any concerns as his death was approaching for which they could pray. “No, pastor,” he said, “I have never done a good work in my life!”  Lutheran Christians are fond of saying that we are “saved by grace, not by works!”  It’s true of course, but Luther and Jesus were very clear that “works,” (how we actually live our lives in the real world) do matter.

Being a Christian does not free us from the commandments of God in our lives. This Sunday in the Gospel Jesus calls us to let our light so shine before others that they may see our good works and give glory to God. Someone quipped to me today, “A lot of people like to let their lights shine, but they forget that God is supposed to be the light bulb.”

How do we let the light of Christ shine in our lives? How do we as a congregation of disciples of Jesus respond to His call to let His light shine in the world through our church?

The Gospel of Matthew has much to say to us about these things. That’s why we’re going to reading the entire Gospel of Matthew as a congregation starting February 12. That’s when we will begin a new series in Multi-Gen Sunday School called Matthew – the Gospel of Identity. We’ll be using a book by that same name by Michael Card, well known for his Christian music and for his series on using our imagination to engage the Word of God at deeper level that promises to have an impact on our daily lives.

The Gospel of Matthew was written to a group of Christians who were still trying to understand who they were as disciples of Jesus. These first Christians were faithful Jews in the synagogue communities of Galilee who had “found” the Messiah in the man from Nazareth, Jesus. But not all of their neighbors and friends agreed. Jesus was the one who was despised and rejected.  And now the community to whom Matthew was writing was also being despised and rejected because of Jesus.

Matthew’s Gospel was written to help his first hearers define who they are as followers (disciples) of Jesus Messiah. Matthew writes his Gospel to help his readers define their new identity as followers of Jesus the Messiah.  As we read Matthew’s story of Jesus we will discover how God seeks to share our identity as disciples of Jesus in a similarly difficult and sometimes hostile time.

On another note I want to take a moment to invite and encourage you to attend the 2017 Leadership Goal Setting meeting being held at the church this coming Tuesday, February 5, beginning with a light supper at 6:30 PM and concluding by 9:00 PM. It would help if you could email or call the church office and let us know you plan to attend so there is ample food.

The president of the congregation, Bill Chambers, will facilitate the meeting. My role will be to share a brief power point presentation on the result of my study of Shepherd of the Valley over the past year and a half, and then listen for ways I can help implement the goals that are brought forward. Bill will be sharing his vision for the future of our congregation, and how by embracing God’s purposes for our church we can be faithful and move toward a new future.  So here is your homework for the meeting: think and pray about how you would answer this question: what is our purpose as a congregation?

Pastor Joe Hughes
Voice & text:  217-898-9063             Email:


UPCOMING BIBLE STUDY! Matthew, The Gospel of Identity (at left) by Michael Card will be the primary resource for our upcoming study of the Gospel of Matthew starting February 12. We will order a number of copies for people to buy, or you might consider buying your own copy.  We will also have several copies available for those who are able to purchase their own copy.  The book has the entire text of the Gospel along with Michael Cards comments inviting discussion.