From Our Pastor – March 2017

From the Pastor

‘Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.’
– Matthew 6:19 – 21

Dear Flock of the Shepherd of the Valley,

On Ash Wednesday (March 1st) we will join together with Union Congregational Church and Christian Union Congregation. We will share some simple food together and then worship together. This worship service invites us into the season of Lent – preparation for the Easter celebration of Christ’s resurrection! The passage above is the end of the gospel reading for that day. Prior to these words, which are a continuation of the Sermon on the Mount which have been the gospel readings for the past few Sundays, Jesus instructs those listening about acts of piety. Specifically, he talks about giving alms, prayer and fasting. He tells them how to do these things in ways that lead to rewards from God, our Father in heaven.

Quite honestly, practicing acts of piety in order to receive rewards from God doesn’t really resonate with me. A lot of the things that Jesus teaches in the Sermon on the Mount fall a little short for me. Perhaps because they are so familiar, they can sound a bit trite. Many who are not very familiar with the Bible can quote “do unto others” and “judge not” even if in abbreviated fashion. The teaching of the Lord’s Prayer is a part of the Sermon on the Mount – coming just before this passage.

So why have I chosen a passage among these phrases to focus on in this letter? What draws me to reflect on where we store our treasures? As I am writing, I’m discovering that perhaps this Lent God is inviting me to hear these words in a new way. Maybe these golden nuggets are treasures that can lead my heart closer to God. What do I treasure most? What do we as Shepherd of the Valley treasure? What does it mean to store treasures in heaven? What does that mean for what we do on earth?

Last month I shared my gratitude for being able to wrestle with such questions and more together as a congregation. In the past few weeks it feels like we have even more opportunities to turn to scripture and prayer to discern together the will of God. I have expressed my desire and intent to figure out how we can have conversations with one another when we come from very different starting points – whether about scripture, faith, politics, values, current events or who we are to be as Church.

I’ve not yet come up with any grand ideas for forums in which we will figure this all out. I have been encouraged by those who have asked for such gatherings though! As we look towards some times and places to make this happen, I’d like to begin somewhere. During the 40 days of Lent (not including Sundays) I will be offering some of my own attempts to lead my heart closer to God through questions that scripture invokes. I invite you to interact with what I write on my blog at https://nyseoul.wordpress.com/. Each time a new post is written, it will show up on Facebook, and a comments feature on the blog itself allows you to engage in the conversation even if you are not on Facebook. While this is not an ideal platform, it is a start. I pray that we can hear God’s Word anew in this way and live it here on earth as it is in heaven.

Peace,

Pastor Gaeta