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February 20, 2024

Dear Friends and Members of Shepherd of the Hills,

 

I love Lent, but I love Lent because of its contrast to the power and majesty of the Easter and Pentecost seasons.  Life is not always a mountain top experience (unless you literally live on a mountain).  Life, like faith, has its mountains and its valleys.  Lent is a season to spend some time in the valley of our faith. 

 

The reality is, on this side of heaven, we will always struggle with sin.  We will always struggle with our poor choices.  We will always struggle with the desires and temptations of our hearts.  We will always struggle with the hurts cause to us by others. Lent is a penitential season for us to focus on some of these realities.  The good news of Lent is, in the midst of these tough realities, we still celebrate our standing with God because of what Jesus has done.  

 

As I reflect on our mission, to share the love of the Good Shepherd in word and deed, I am reminded that sharing this love means being honest with the struggles we endure.  Often our temptation is to present the best possible image of ourselves as we share life with those the Lord has put in our midst.  This Lenten season I challenge each of us to be more transparent with the struggles we bear in our walk of life and faith.  We do it for this reason: it is in the midst of these struggles that the power of God becomes most evident. 

 

“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (Paul, 2 Corinthians 12: 9-10)

 

We have been given a great gift.  The Spirit of Christ dwells in us.  It is that Spirit that struggles with us against making those poor choices, acting on temptation, living in foolish desires and bearing grudges against those who sin against us. It is in this power of the Spirit that we speak with the Lord.  It is this power of the Spirit that is made perfect in our weaknesses. 

 

“Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” (Paul, Romans 8:26-28)

 

Sharing the love of the Good Shepherd means sharing what He has done for you.  We can’t share that if we aren’t open with the ways that we are weak.  Blessings to you this Lenten season as we reflect on our weakness, and in so doing, give great glory for the perfect strength of God.  

 

In His Love and Peace,

 

Pastor Rust

 


 

February 6, 2024

Dear Friends and Members of Shepherd of the Hills,

It is an awesome feeling.  After hiking all day, there it is, the summit.  Once you get there, the views are spectacular.  On a good clear day you can see for miles and miles.  

We are reaching a summit this weekend.  It is the time that Peter, James and John witness our Lord, Jesus Christ, in all his glory.  The view is so spectacular, it is frightening.  Yet, it is Jesus who has the most spectacular view.  

You see, from this summit he can see the cross, the very reason he came into our flesh.  From this summit he is ready to descend into that time and space that is his passion week, and he headed there for you.  

February 14th, we will be celebrating Ash Wednesday as we begin the Lenten season.  I pray that you will join me on Wednesday evening for our 6:30 service.  Here we will reflect once again on our own mortality, and Christ victory over death.  Here we will rejoice in that victory as “ashes to ashes and dust to dust” is not the end of the story.  

We will kick off our Lenten worship series as we reflect on our life in the light of Christ’s descent to the cross.  Nothing has been the same since and nothing will ever be the same.  Life lived in its fullness is life in light of the cross.  

God’s blessings to all of you and may our Lent together be one of celebration. 

In His Love and Service,

Pastor Rust

January 16, 2024

Dear Friends and Members of Shepherd of the Hills,

 

I invite you to study the Psalms with me this season of Epiphany.  I’m excited to dive into the Psalm readings appointed for this season.  Luther says this about the Psalms:

“The Psalter should be precious to us if only because it most clearly promises the death and resurrection of Christ, and describes his kingdom, and the nature and standing of all Christian people. It could well be entitled a “Little Bible” since everything contained in the entire Bible is beautifully and briefly comprehended, and compacted into…a Manual. It seems to me as if the Holy Ghost had been please to take on himself the trouble of putting together a short Bible…touching the whole of Christianity…in order that they who are unable to read the whole Bible may nevertheless find almost the whole sum comprehended in one little book…the Psalter is the very paragon of books.”

 

Additionally, the Psalms are beautiful because they are simultaneously God’s Word to us and our words back to God.  They encompass the fullness of being human and our human experiences.  In the Psalms we see the poets, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, speak to those in sickness and health, those with families and those single, the poor and the rich, the spiritually secure and those in doubt, those who are new to the faith and those who are mature, those young and old.  

 

Study the Psalms with me.  Our Christian faith we share is expressed in all its fullness in these beautiful words.  All the emotions we feel are part of our Christian faith.  Come see how God’s Word speaks at all times and all seasons.  

 

This week at Bible Study we will dive into Psalm 62.  “For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence for my hope is from him (v.5).”  Join me at 9AM on Sunday morning, either in person or on Zoom.  See you then. 

 

In His Love and Service,

Pastor Rust

January 1, 2024

Dear Friends and Members of Shepherd of the Hills,

 

It is the New Year and with this, a couple of thoughts from your pastor to add to all the other New Year’s advice you are being inundated with. 

 

First, celebrate the passage of time. Like we talked about with the in the New Year’s Eve sermon, it is in the passage of time that the Lord works.  Another year has passed with all its joys and tragedies and the Lord was present and at work the whole time.

 

Second, the Lord gives us the rhythm of days, weeks, months, seasons and years for a reason.  The start of this new rhythm of a year is a reminder that starting fresh is a gift we have because of Jesus’ redemptive work for us.  May you live in the rhythms the Lord has set for us and find satisfaction in work and rest.

 

Third, if you are going to add a new habit to the new year, may I encourage a regular reading of Luther’s catechism.  It is a wonderful summary of God’s Word.  It is the basic things we should know as Christians.  We are never to old to learn from the catechism.  

 

I look forward to this year of our Lord 2024 and walking with you all as a congregation.  Blessed New Year to you all. 

 

In His Love and Service,

Pastor Rust

December 12, 2023

Dear Friends and Members of Shepherd of the Hills,

 

Wait, wait, wait.  This is a season of waiting, yet, I always feel like this season is flying by.  Here we are just a week and half from Christmas.  WHAT!?!  I know! How odd that Advent, a season of waiting, is so busy. 

 

That’s exactly how it should be. In Advent we spend time specifically meditating on how we are waiting for the Lord’s return.  In this meditation we learn that we do not wait idly. We are active waiters.  We are busy with the work and service appointed to us in our daily vocations as members of a family, a church and our community. The Lord doesn’t leave us without gifts during this season of waiting.

 

During our mid-week services and our Sunday morning Bible study we are unwrapping these gifts.  The Lord gives us the gift of Hope this and every season.  This hope is not wishful thinking, but a certainty built on the promises of God. The Lord gives us Love this and every season.  This love has its origin in God himself, who is love.  We learn to wait by letting this love flow through us to others.  The Lord gives us peace.  This peace is something the world cannot provide.  It is a peace that passes all human understanding. The Lord gives us life.  He is the author of your life and being.  He is also the author of your eternal life secured for you through the life, death and resurrection of His Son, Jesus Christ. 

 

May these gifts bless you during this very active waiting season.  May these gifts be a blessing to all you meet with.  Join me in celebrating these gifts on Wednesday evenings at 6:30.  Come and share those gifts with your brothers and sisters in the faith before the service at 5:30 for soup supper.  Invite your friends and neighbors to join you on Christmas Eve at 6:30 for our Candle Light Service.  I would love to see us have over 100 people in service on Christmas Eve as we celebrate. 

 

We invite you to join us for a very special Christmas Eve service entitled, “The Gift of Joy,”. The good news of great joy that the angels sang of on that holy night and the joy the shepherds felt as they ran to the Babe of Bethlehem will be captured in Scripture, song, sermon and candlelight in this touching and celebratory service. 

 

In His Love and Service,

Pastor Rust

November 14, 2023

Dear Friends and Members of Shepherd of the Hills,

 

We spend I lives in the midst of thanks for all of God’s providence, grace and mercy.  This season of Thanksgiving we set aside a special time to recognize these gifts.  In Luther’s explanation of the 4th petition of the Lord’s Prayer, “Give us this day our daily bread,” he says:

 

What does this mean? God certainly gives daily bread to everyone without our prayers, even to all evil people, but we pray in this petition that God would lead us to realize this and to receive our daily bread with thanksgiving.  What is meant by daily bread?  Daily bread includes everything that has to do with the support and needs of the body such as food, drink, clothing, shoes, house, home, land, animals, money, goods, a devout husband or Wie, devout children, devout workers, devout and faithful rulers, good government, good weather, peace, health, self-control, good reputation, good friends, faithful neighbors, and the like.

 

So, how do we respond in thanksgiving for all the Lord provides? 

 

First, we celebrate and acknowledge from whom all these good things come and that he has provided for our families.  On Thanksgiving morning at 10:30 we will gather to celebrate with the Divine Service.  1 Timothy 4:4-5 says, “Everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected it it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer.

 

Second, we demonstrate that same generosity to others in need.  The poor benefit from your generosity and receive their daily bread.  On Thanksgiving we will continue to collect special gifts and groceries for our Christmas Families program.  Anything brought in that day we will be placed on the altar as part of our worship.  Hebrews 13:16 says, “Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God. 

 

Third, we support the proclamation of the Gospel.  As we close out this year, please consider a special gift to the church’s budget as part of your tithes and offerings.  Galatians 6:6 says, “Let the one who is taught the word share all good things with the one who teaches.”  Our congregation has always been incredibly generous and for that I rejoice. 

 

Fourth, we care for the land, water and air.  Genesis 2:15 says, “The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.”  We are stewards of God’s good creation.

 

The Lord has blessed us all bountifully!  Let us rejoice and give thanks during this Thanksgiving season.  I look forward to celebrating with you.  After the service is over on Thanksgiving consider staying and feasting together with some of your fellow brothers and sisters in the faith as we host a Thanksgiving diner here at the church.  Anyone in the community is welcome. There is a sign up sheet here in the office.  Call and sign up for something to share. 

 

In His Love and Service,

Pastor Rust


 

October 24, 2023

Dear Friends and Members of Shepherd of the Hills,

 

“Here I stand I can do no other.”  A quote from Martin Luther at the Diet of Worms when confronted with the content of his writings.  He was called to retract what he had written because it disagreed with the Roman Church’s understanding of the Word of God and what it means to be a faithful Christian.  Martin Luther did not confess that everything he wrote was perfectly in line with the Word of God, but asked that the things he wrote only be rejected or defended based on God’s Word.

 

“Unless I am convinced by the testimony of the Scriptures or by clear reason (for I do not trust either in the pope or in councils alone, since it is well known that they have often erred and contradicted themselves), I am bound by the Scriptures I have quoted and my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and will not recant anything, since it is neither safe nor right to go against conscience. May God help me. Amen”

 

We, who are brought into the faith through the Word of God and the waters of Holy Baptism, are subject to God’s Word.  We are called to hear and cherish that same Word.  We are called by faith to conform our beliefs and life to the Word of God. 

 

Our life as disciples of Christ are to always wrestle with that Word; to learn, mark and inwardly digest that Word.  Sometimes that Word of God brings us comfort and peace.  Other times that Word challenges what we think and believe.  We, like Dr. Luther, use the Scriptures and clear reason to learn and grow in our faith.  This is the heart of the Reformation that we celebrate this next weekend. 

 

This Reformation Sunday we celebrate Scripture alone, which reveals God’s grace alone, which comes by faith alone.  This is who we are as Christians.  Here we stand, we can do no other.  Come join me this weekend as we celebrate this great faithful heritage that we have been handed and perpetuate in the life of our congregation and as individuals.  Stay with me afterward as we fellowship together with beer and brats after service and bring a side to share. Blessed Reformation to all of you.

 

In His Love and Service,

Pastor Rust

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