Pastor's Letters

RSS Feed

April 18, 2023

Dear Friends and Members of Shepherd of the Hills,


Blessed Easter season to you all.  This weekend we follow Jesus as he encounters the disciples on the road to Emmaus.  They are on a journey in so many ways.  They literally are walking along the road, but now because Jesus journeys with them, their eyes will be open to so much more.  Their journey now becomes one of faith.  Their journey now becomes one of following Jesus through his life, suffering, death, resurrection, and glory.  


St. Peter in his first letter shares with the saints,

 If you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, 18knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, 19but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. 20He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for your sake, 21who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.

22Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, 23since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; (1 Peter 1:17-23)


He reminds them that they are journeying.  This is their time of exile, or wilderness wandering.  While on this journey, he implores them to take confidence in God because he raised Jesus from the dead and gave him glory.  


What does your journey look like right now?  Join me this Sunday as we talk about our journey, because some days our confidence in the Lord is all we have. 


In His Love and Service,

Pastor Rust

April 9, 2023

Dear Friends and Members of Shepherd of the Hills,


Welcome to another Holy Week.  Holy Week is that time in our church calendar that we follow after Jesus’ week before his resurrection.  This time is characterized by restrained joy.  Yup, even in the gloom of a service like Good Friday, we carry with us this restrained joy.  


What does restrained joy look like?  I think for every person that will look different in their day to day life.  Maybe for you this week it is spending an extra moment in the morning remembering your baptism.  Maybe it is denying yourself some extra creature comforts this week.  Maybe it is an extra work of service.  Maybe it is a special joy that comes with anticipation.  


I believe all of us should make time in our restrained joy to join together in hearing God’s Word and participating in the services that accompany this week.  At SHLC we will be offering services on Thursday and Friday at 6:30.   Maundy Thursday (Holy Thursday) we follow after Jesus as he serves his disciples by washing their feet and inviting them to go and serve one another.  He gives to them His very Body and Blood and then calls them to do this act regularly.  On Good Friday we follow after Jesus through his trial, suffering and crucifixion.  We, along with all of creation, experience the darkness of that day, and yet with restrained joy we sing and pray.  We know that Sunday is coming.  


Sunday at 7:15 and 10:30, we follow after the disciples as they experience the empty tomb.  We release our restrained joy and let that joy flow fully in the Alleluias and praises that belong to such a spectacular day.  


Yet, maybe, because of whatever is going on in your life right now, the weight of Holy Week and the full flowing joy of Easter is just too much.  If so, then this week is exactly for you.  Do not be overwhelmed by the pomp and circumstance of these momentous events, instead, be present, listen quietly and be refreshed.  God is the one who did all the work on Holy Week so long ago and he is still the one working during this our Holy Week.  Come and be refreshed and at peace. 


I’ll see you as we follow after Jesus because he comes to meet us were we are at.  


In His Love and Service,

Pastor Rust

March 19, 2023

Dear Friends and Members of Shepherd of the Hills,


In our Bible Study we are talking about identity and purpose.  In our faith we find the fullness of both those realities bestowed upon us by God.  We are loved and we are sent.  


This week in the study we talked about our identity as Loved ones.  We are people of grace, God’s Word and community.  This is the central reality to us being loved.


People of Grace:  The best demonstration of God’s love for us is the grace he gives to us.  Grace is not something we earn.  Instead out of God’s perfect justice and love, he sent Jesus into our world to bear our sin and be our savior.  This is love.  Grace is giving that love to us freely by no merit of our own.  Therefore, we are people of Grace


People of God’s Word:  How do we know this reality of love?  We know it because of God’s Word given to us.  The 66 books that make up the Old and the New Testament are God’s authoritative Word.  In this Word, the salvation story for all of creation is revealed and your participation in that story comes through community.


People of Community:  God does not leave us to live out this “loved-ness” all by our selves.  Instead, we are called into and through community known as the Church.  The Church is the means by which God shares his love with the world, which is his purpose.  We are the means that God does this.  Through Baptism and the Lord’s Supper we belong to and participate in the Love of God who has sent us into the world. 


Now, this being our identity, what do we do with it?  Next we will talk about God’s purpose and our purpose that flows from who we are.  We are the ones who have been sent into the world, but how?  What do we do with that “sent-ness?"  How do we live it out?  These are the questions we should be asking ourselves and I look forward to having that conversation over the next couple of weeks. 


In His Love and Service,

Pastor Rust

March 5, 2023

Dear Friends and Members of Shepherd of the Hills,


If I were to ask you to make a list of all the people in your life that you wanted to see come to believe in Jesus or grow in their faith, who would you put on that list?  This is what we did to start our Bible Study time this week.  We are learning how we are loved by God and sent with that love into the world.  Using a book called Loved & Sent by Pastor Jeff Cloeter we will work our way toward being able to share our faith in a concise, compelling, clear and consistent way with the people that matter to us most.  


From the back cover:

So many people are starving for identity and meaning today.  Loved and Sent describes how God took extraordinary action to address those two fundamental human needs.  Pastor Cloeter walks through his own quest for identity and meaning, revisiting core Christian convictions in a narrative style and making sense of why they matter today.  As christians, we often stutter when someone asks, “Who are you? What do you believe? Why does it matter to you?”  We get a unique chance to share our heart, and we say to much—or nothing at all.  Discover in this thought-provoking book who you are and why you matter, and then you’ll have something of greater value to share with someone else.


People want to know who they are and why they matter.  The compelling narrative of an almighty God who sends his Son into the world to live a perfect life, die and innocent death and rise victorious over sin, death and the devil is what people in our world long to be part of…even if they don’t know it.  We who are baptized into this narrative have what the world needs.  We can genuinely share that “you are loved more than you can imagine and sent with more purpose than you thought.”  


We start by understanding and believing this for ourselves.  See you this next Sunday at 9AM as we learn these truths together.


In His Love and Service,

Pastor Rust


February 5, 2023

Dear Friends and Members of Shepherd of the Hills,


This is an older article I wrote for you all in 2015.  I’m bringing it back out because I think it has become an even more important reality in our post-covid world.  In a world that is so fractured into different beliefs, ideologies, and cliques, it is important to remember our role as a church.  We are the ones who bring all people together.  I believe that this work starts in our homes.  


Ordinary Households Show Extraordinary Hospitality


Last week we talked about how God chooses to work through the ordinary things in life to do extraordinary things.  Our households are on the proverbial platter this week and here’s what I’m serving!  Households are where Jesus meets those who don’t know him.  Jesus doesn’t often meet “disconnected” and “unconnected” people where the pastor is or at the church.  Jesus, from my brief experience on this globe, tends to meet people where they are at, and most people are blessed to spend that time in a place they call home.  


Homes are where we spend the most time with the people God has put closest in our lives…family.  The Lord comes to families as they grow and struggle through life together.  Our households are where we can show God’s love in some of the most tangible and ordinary ways possible: being good stewards of time, energy and money, saying “I’m sorry” and offering forgiveness when wrongs have been done, going out of our way to celebrate and opening ourselves to great opportunities of hospitality.  


It’s this last one I want to talk about a little more in depth.  It is in our hospitality that our faith life most fully intersects with a world that doesn’t call on Jesus as Lord.  Hospitality is not the same as entertaining people in our homes.  


The following differentiation between “hospitality” and “entertaining” was made by Karen Mains in Open Heart, Open Home (Elgin, Ill.: Cook, 1976):


Entertaining says, “I want to impress you with my home, my clever decorating, my cooking.” Hospitality, seeking to minister, says, “This home is a gift from my Master. I use it as He desires.” Hospitality aims to serve.

Entertaining puts things before people. “As soon as I get the house finished, the living room decorated, my housecleaning done—then I will start inviting people. Hospitality puts people first. “No furniture—we’ll eat on the floor.” “The decorating may never get done—you come anyway.” “The house is a mess—but you are friends—come home with us.”

Entertaining subtly declares, “This home is mine, an expression of my personality. Look, please, and admire.” Hospitality whispers, “What is mine is yours.”


The author of Hebrews writes, “Let brotherly love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unaware” (Hebrews 13:1-2).  Homes are messy places, not because they aren’t clean, but because homes are where people are and people aren’t perfect.  We invite one another into our imperfect lives and our messy homes because we are the stewards of our good master’s gifts.  


Homes and lives are meant to share.  They can be completely ordinary but God has this wonderful habit of taking that which is ordinary and doing eternal, wonderful and extraordinary things through them.  After all, we are all members of an extraordinary household!  "So, then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God…” (Eph. 2:19).


In His Peace and Love,

Pastor Rust


Letter 1/8/2023

Dear Friends and Members of Shepherd of the Hills,


Blessed New Year to you all.  This is the year of our Lord 2023.  This year will look much like last year and the years before.  Yet…each and every day as we continue to be discipled as Christians is a new day and God is always doing a new thing in us. 


Isaiah 43:19, the Lord says, “Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?” God is constantly at work in our lives, creating new opportunities and possibilities for us.


Every year, month and day is a new day for those of us in the Lord.  Each and every day we repent of sin, confess sin and receive forgiveness of our sin.  I intentionally didn’t use the plural form of sin, for when we confess we are confessing the totality of our sin.  We don’t confess some sins and not others.  We confess all our sin.  


May this new year in you be one of forgiveness.   May this new year in you be one of striving for good works.  May this new year in you be one of faithfulness.  I’m excited to share this year of forgiveness with you all each and every day, month and years to come. 


In His Love and Service,

Pastor Rust

Letter 12/25/22

Dear Friends and Members of Shepherd of the Hills,


HAPPY BIRTHDAY JESUS!  At the risk of treating lightly the birth of our Lord, I wish you a “Happy Birthday Jesus.”  Remember being a child and the excitement about your birthday?  I know I would look forward to the special food made just for me by my mom.  I longed to open the presents that I knew were waiting.  I anticipated my cousins and family coming to my house.  


Christmas is the celebration of God being born among us.  The fullness of the divine assuming humanity into it.  The profound nature of this event is lost on my limited human mind.  I’m even more befuddled when I consider the purpose and intent of this infant born among us; this babe of Bethlehem who is sinless, dying for my sin and rising again.  May we never miss the significance of the nativity simply because we are so familiar with it.  May Immanuel, God with Us, always induce that awe and reverence that it deserves.  


That being said, “Happy Birthday Jesus” fits as well.  We pause from the fullness of life to gather, remember and give thanks.  We feast in celebration.  We give gifts to one another in remembrance of His gift to us.  Jesus does away with our sin.  Jesus defeats the devil.  Jesus destroys death.  These are His gifts to us.  Our response to these gifts is to receive them faithfully, to live within these beautiful treasures and to share this treasure with all.


I look forward to celebrating Jesus’ birth with you this week.  Join me on Saturday at 6:30 as we remember the night of His birth.  After service on Saturday, for all who would like to stay for a few minutes after, we will fellowship with a birthday cake for Jesus, because His birth blesses us.  On Sunday we gather at 10:30AM to receive Jesus’ gifts in the Divine Service.  


A blessed and Merry Christmas to each and every one of you.