~ From Our Pastor ~
Jesus said, “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” – John 7:31-32
Dear Flock of the Shepherd of the Valley,
What does it mean to continue in Jesus’ word? To be Jesus disciples? What is truth? What does it look like to be free?
Answers to these questions (perhaps even more questions that rise out of these questions) are not the same for everyone. It would be much easier if they were. And some of us may have been raised to believe that there is some absolute truth and one way to continue in Jesus’ word. Some of us may equate the freedom of which Jesus speaks with the freedom promised by our nation. I know this is the way I was raised. The combination of voices coming from home and family, church, school, advertisement, media, journalism all culminated in this kind of message: Just believe in Jesus and it will all work out for you. And by “working out” I understood that to mean that I could accomplish anything if I just tried hard enough.
My lived experience has turned out a little differently though. I hear differing, sometimes contradictory description of what continuing in Jesus’ word means, especially when it comes to positions on social issues. Truth as I experience it is not always the same as another person’s truth, at least on the surface. And debates over inalienable rights hold me captive as public discourse becomes more polarized and superficial. I am not free to be whatever I want in this society. Where did things go wrong?
Right now the Lutheran church is all hyped up about marking the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation (specifically, the day Martin Luther nailed the 95 Theses to the door of the church in Wittenberg). At the same time, we are wringing our hands about the decline of membership and closing of congregations. There’s a mixture of nostalgia and push to do church differently. There’s a wide swath of answers to the questions about following Jesus, truth and freedom. No one has specific answers or the fool proof formula for “reviving” the church.
What we do have is Jesus, challenging us to follow him. We have the gifts of the Spirit, which give us the ability to do just that again and again. We have a creative God who will continue to birth new life. What will this new life look like? What might the church become in the next 500 years?
I hope that it will be a bunch of people who wrestle together discerning where God is leading us, inviting others to come together as the broken, imperfect and forgiven people we all are. I want everyone to know that we are enough, just as we are. I pray that we never again claim to have all the answers.