Pastor’s Post for this coming Sunday, April 24th

Dear Shepherd of the Valley Church members and friends,

Christ is risen! He is risen indeed. Alleluia!

First of all a heartfelt thanks to everyone who helped make our 50th anniversary celebration so joyous last Sunday. There were about 127 people in worship (double our normal attendance) and the delicious brunch prepared for us by Ab Fab was maxed out. Special thanks to Pastor Paul Linnemann, our district president, and his wife Cindy, for making the time to come and be with us and reminding us how important it is for us to continue to listen to the voice of our Good Shepherd. Special thanks are due to Katy Trautman who served as our MC and to the whole anniversary celebrations team for all their hard work.

God has certainly been gracious to Shepherd of the Valley over the past half century.  We’ve overcome some difficult times and we are grateful for the faith that unites us as God’s people. The things that matter most are not the things that divide us but the things that unite us as God’s family. We are one in Christ Jesus! Thanks to everyone who reminded us of this great truth. As the hymn we often sing reminds us, The Church’s one foundation is Jesus Christ her Lord; she is His new creation by Water and the Word. From heav’n he came and sought her to be His holy bride; with His own blood he bought her, and for her life he died.

This Sunday, April 24, we gather for our spring quarterly voters’ assembly meeting after worship. Did you know that in our denomination the congregation belongs to the members, not to the denomination?  That means you are more than voters, you are “owners.” Items on the agenda include approving the recommending agencies and institutions that will receive support from our “missional giving (the offerings money we send away in support of the ministries of others).  The total amount of missional giving for God’s work beyond our congregation will be 3.5 percent of our total offerings and other receipts. The net amount (3.5 percent of receipts) will be divided equally between the agencies proposed for your approval. They are: Northwest District, LC-MS; Zion Lutheran School in Corvallis; Options Pregnancy Resource Center of Albany; Love INC in Corvallis, and Benton County Habitat for Humanity.  We will also be approving our new members as voting members as proposed by the Board of Elders, reviewing the financial update from the treasurer, and I will present a report on how I see the intentional interim ministry process we have been engaged in will proceed during the remainder of the year.  And I will be sharing a handout to get feedback on our Advent/Christmas and Lent/Holy Week/Easter programs this past year. Lunch will be available after the meeting (free will offering).

I attended the Oregon Pastor’s Conference in Hood River this first week of April, and heard a very interesting presentation on understanding the modern secular culture in which God has called us to be church. The presenter was Dr. Chad Lakies, a pastor and member of the faculty of Concordia University in Portland. A memorable quote of his for me was, “In contemporary times every world view is contestable and therefore is contested.” We live in a secular age in which choice rules, and religion is not a “must have” or something that younger people feel is missing in their lives. Rather, it is almost “forbidden to forbid.”

Millenials (people born after 1980) don’t feel a need for religion in the way many of previous generations do. For them religious faith is one option among many choices in life. It’s not that there is less religion, but that there are more choices, Chad said, and picking and choosing become an imperative. Think of “Burger King’s” tagline: “Have it your way!” And think of all the choices at Starbucks. And while having all these choices may seem great at first, the problem is people can be overwhelmed with “choice-overload.” The endless freedom of choice in our culture can be a burden.

In this context the Gospel is really good news because not offered to people as a choice. Rather, God comes to us unchosen, unbidden.  No one chose to go and find the risen Christ. He appeared. In a world that may be suffering from over choice, God chooses us because of His love for us. And that’s Good News!

God’s blessings to you and yours!

Pastor Joe Hughes

217-898-9063, mobile/text