From Our Pastor – November 2017

~ 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. Continue reading From Our Pastor – November 2017

From Our Pastor – September 2017

~ From Our Pastor ~

I want you to know, beloved, that what has happened to me has actually helped to spread the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to everyone else that my imprisonment is for Christ; and most of the brothers and sisters, having been made confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, dare to speak the word with greater boldness and without fear. Some proclaim Christ from envy and rivalry, but other from goodwill. These proclaim Christ out of love, knowing that I have been put here for the defense of the gospel; the others proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but intending to increase my suffering in my imprisonment. What does it matter? Just this, that Christ is proclaimed in every way, whether out of false motives or true; and in that I rejoice. Philippians 1:12-18

Dear Flock of the Shepherd of the Valley,

The group who studies Greek New Testament on Wednesday mornings is about to begin Paul’s letter to the Philippians. This is one of several letters he wrote from prison and it is also one of his most joyful. Paul has very little to correct them about, although he does throw in some unsolicited advice. His joy is in the fact that Christ is becoming made known. He doesn’t even mind that one’s motives may not be the purest when proclaiming Christ. He is just happy that word is getting out! I guess he falls in the “all publicity is good publicity” camp. Continue reading From Our Pastor – September 2017

From Our Pastor – August 2017

Now there was an Ethiopian eunuch, a court official of the Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, in charge of her entire treasury. He had come to Jerusalem to worship and was returning home; seated in his chariot, he was reading the prophet Isaiah. Then the Spirit said to Philip, ‘Go over to this chariot and join it.’ So Philip ran up to it and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah. He asked, ‘Do you understand what you are reading?’ He replied, ‘How can I, unless someone guides me?’ And he invited Philip to get in and sit beside him. (Acts 8:27-31)

Dear Flock of the Shepherd of the Valley,

Many congregations identify themselves as welcoming communities. Some have signs that say “All Are Welcome” or sing songs with the same message. Scripture is full of references of God welcoming everyone and a lot of communities of faith strive to live this out. At the same time, personal anecdotes of not feeling welcomed abound. Sometimes these stories describe an explicit message of not belonging – a single, young adult who only hears events announced which cater to families with children, a person in a same-gender committed relationship who hears a sermon condemning homosexuality, a child in a wheelchair who cannot join in the games the other kids are playing, a person of a different Christian denomination who is denied communion. Continue reading From Our Pastor – August 2017

From Our Pastor – July 2017

Like good stewards of the manifold grace of God, serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received. Whoever speaks must do so as one speaking the very words of God; whoever serves must do so with the strength that God supplies, so that God may be glorified in all things through Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 4:10-11)

Dear Flock of the Shepherd of the Valley,

It is said that the first year a pastor is with a congregation she can do no wrong. The second year, she can do nothing right. This hyperbolic saying has already been proven wrong in our case as I have made more than a few missteps in our first year together. Looking ahead, I hope I manage to get something right during this second year! What has been clear though is that through whatever happens to SOV, we are in this together. And when individuals and families discern that this community of faith is no longer a fit for where they are in their journey, our prayers and support go with them. At the same time God continues to bring new faces through the doors of the Grange and for those who seek an active role in a faith community are finding a home here. Thanks be to God! Continue reading From Our Pastor – July 2017

From Our Pastor – June 2017

Jesus gives us hope, courage, direction, love and power. – Cave Quest VBS daily themes

Dear Flock of the Shepherd of the Valley,

As we near our first year anniversary together, I yearn for some time to reflect on all that has happened since last summer. Often the charge of writing this letter to you for the newsletter offers me this kind of space. This month though I’m feeling the crunch of moving out of our old house and into our new one. I’m working with people to plan sum-mer happenings like VBS and the middle school mission trip. I’m experiencing the transi-tion of new leadership on the congregation council. And I’m helping to shepherd the pro-cess of exploring the possibility for a new space to call home with the Federated Church in Ayer. Continue reading From Our Pastor – June 2017

From Our Pastor – May 2017

“Be still, and know that I am God” – Psalm 46:10

Dear Flock of the Shepherd of the Valley,

In the office area of my house, to the left of my desk, I have a professionally framed callig-raphy piece with this verse from Psalm 46. This is the psalm upon which Martin Luther’s most famous hymn “A Mighty Fortress is our God” is based. The imagery in the whole psalm is quite tumultuous, including earth-shattering events and warring nations. God is described as a refuge and strength and as exalted. All of these characteristics are a re-sponse to trouble all around. The response of the psalmist Is not to fear. The role of God is to be present. Our role in the midst of turmoil is to be still and to know that God is God. Continue reading From Our Pastor – May 2017

From Our Pastor – April 2017

“But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in, they did not find the body. While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them. The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.” – Luke 24:1-5

Dear Flock of the Shepherd of the Valley,

“Why do you look for the living among the dead?” This question has been rattling around in my head since I began thinking about what to write for this April news-letter. It’s not from the version of the resurrection story that we will hear this Easter but it is nagging at me nonetheless. I’m writing this on the second day of spring. During this time, it’s easy to start seeing signs of life in the tips of bulbs pushing through the ground and even snow, buds emerging on tree branches and the varied songs of birds. We can look for the living among the dead. Continue reading From Our Pastor – April 2017

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. Continue reading From Our Pastor – March 2017

From Our Pastor – February 2017

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. Continue reading From Our Pastor – February 2017

From the Pastor – January 2017

“When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was infuriated, and he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had learned from the wise men. – Matthew 2:16

Dear Flock of the Shepherd of the Valley,

Perhaps it’s because I’m the daughter of two pastors, but probably more likely because I can just be a stickler for certain details that I decide are important, it drives me nuts when our society ends Christmas on December 26. I’m not shy about reminding (or teaching) people that December 25 is the FIRST of the twelve day of Christmas. The season of Christmas leads us to the feast of the Epiphany, when we celebrate the three wise men arriving to pay Jesus homage. And, if you even dare try to put the wise men at the manger a day before January 6, you will see me up and move them across the room so they have someplace to travel. Continue reading From the Pastor – January 2017