PASTOR’S POST Good Shepherd Sunday–The 4th Sunday of Easter May 7, 2017
By now I am sure that most of you who read our Shepherd’s Voice are aware that this is my last Sunday at Shepherd of the Valley. It is ironic that it happens to be “Good Shepherd Sunday,” the namesake Sunday of our congregation. A year ago this Sunday we gathered to celebrate your 50th anniversary as a church. What a great day that was. Praise God! I am deeply grateful for the opportunity that I have had to serve our Lord with you.
Change is an ever present reality in life. Every change in our lives comes with both a sense of loss and a sense of wonder and anticipation. That’s where I am as I conclude my time with you. There will inevitably be a sense of loss of friends and shared life together. I have never enjoyed teaching the Bible so much as I have at Shepherd of the Valley. Our Sunday morning Multi Gen Sunday School has been a great blessing for me and something I have looked forward to every week. Our worship life together sharing and celebrating the presence of our risen Lord has been wonderful for me as well. And thank you for the hospitality I was shown by the many folks who welcomed me into their homes.
Some good things have been achieved: your transition team prepared a congregational self-study that was delivered to the district president, and based on that, an initial call list was delivered to the newly installed call committee. That committee is serving you well by reviewing the candidates for your settled call to present one or more names to you to call as your new settled pastor. Then it will be up to the Holy Spirit to see how the called candidate responds.
That said, there have also been some difficult realizations that have come to focus as we faced the fact that Shepherd is a “legacy church” whose sustainability over the long haul cannot be taken for granted. One of the main purposes of the interim ministry work I do is to bring clarity to the congregation about where it is in the congregational life cycle. I think these are questions that a new settled pastor and the congregation’s lay leadership will be wrestling with for the foreseeable future. I feel one of the blessings of this interim has been to come to clarity about that. How will Shepherd of the Valley work with a new settled pastor to serve God and the community in a way that is both faithful and sustainable?
Meanwhile there is ministry to be done now. Our good friend Pastor Gene Ludwig, has agreed to serve as your supply pastor for the rest of the month of May, and another good friend, Pastor Jim Rehley, has agreed to be available in the event of a pastoral care need. Bill Chambers, your congregational president, hopes to have a part time supply pastor serving at Shepherd of the Valley son, while the call committee completes its work of nominating candidates for you to call.
This Sunday, we gather for worship under the theme of the Good Shepherd and read the 23rd Psalm and hear Jesus’ words, “I am the Good Shepherd.” The image of the Good Shepherd is one of the oldest in Christianity. Below is an image of Christ the Good Shepherd from the Catacombs. It is very nearly 2,000 years old. From the very beginnings of the Church the Good Shepherd image has spoken to human hearts of God’s love and care for us, even when we have strayed.
So let us be reminded that the old metaphor of Christ as the good shepherd and we as His flock has more validity than we might like to admit.
While we all like to “go our own way,” and want to feel like we can do life “our way,” and are in control, we may forget that we are vulnerable and fragile, and that we do often get ourselves lost in the thorny thickets of life’s struggles and difficulties.
By God’s grace and the Holy Spirit, we come to the realization that we really do need a Good Shepherd like Jesus, who will rescue us, and carry us through to a place of green pastures and still waters. I know I do! Thank you Jesus for being our Good Shepherd!
I look forward to the opportunity to bid you farewell and Godspeed this Sunday.
In Christ, our Good Shepherd,
Pastor Joe Hughes
Voice & text: 217-898-9063 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org