From the Pastor
“I understand that there are many Christians in America who give their ultimate allegiance to man-made systems and customs. They are afraid to be different. Their great concern is to be accepted socially…Your highest loyalty is to God, and not to the mores or the folkways, the state or the nation, or any man-made institution. If any earthly institution or custom conflicts with God’s will, it is your Christian duty to oppose it… You are called to be the salt of the earth. You are to be the light of the world. You are to be that vitally active leaven in the lump of the nation. – “Paul’s Letter to American Christians” by The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Dear Flock of the Shepherd of the Valley,
I read the above words along with the entirety of this letter – a chapter from the book Strength to Love – to the confirmation class when we met on Monday, January 16. Dr. King wrote a letter in the style of Paul to the church in America. We are studying the New Testament this year while keeping the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation in the forefront of their minds (we hope!). I thought it a fitting theme to connect Paul, Martin Luther and The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. through the words they wrote while in prison or under house arrest for acting on their faith.
In these weeks after Epiphany and before the beginning of Lent on March 1st with Ash Wednesday, we are invited to reflect on and discuss what it means for us to live the life of a Christian. As we hear on Sundays about the call of the disciples and the works of Jesus they witness, what is our call? How are we to follow Jesus if we can’t wander around the middle east with him? What does our relative wealth mean for us in the face of Jesus’ sermon on the mount? How do we keep the faith when all sort of diseases are not healed in ourselves and our loved ones? Where are the miracles today? Are we bold enough to be seen as different and not socially accepted by coming out as Christians in our non-church lives?
This is also the first month of a new presidency in our nation. While we are to have ultimate allegiance to God, not the nation, Lutheran theology teaches that God rules the worldly kingdom through government and as such, it is to be followed faithfully. SOV has members with a variety of political, social and theological perspectives. In fact, that was one of the big drawing factors that encouraged me to interview to be your pastor. But these varying perspectives can also be what makes the question of “what is the will of God?” harder to get consensus upon and put in into action.
These core issues of faith – living life as a Christian in a decreasingly Christian culture, discerning the will of God, being salt, light and leaven when that means standing out from the crowd – these are the things that we have the opportunity wrestle with together. I definitely don’t have all the answers, and I’m not sure the conversation is even about answers. I do continue to give thanks to God for the privilege I have of being in the conversation as your pastor.