Pastor's Letters

RSS Feed

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.

 

Letter 12/07/22

Dear Friends and Members of Shepherd of the Hills,

 

We have all had it happen to us. It happens regularly.  We get a song stuck in our head.  The worst is when only part of the song is stuck in our head, one line or just a few notes. 

 

This season at Shepherd of the Hills we are all about melody and song.  We are singing the song salvation.  The songs we hear are the tunes Zechariah, Mary and the Angels sing. They are melodies of mercy.  They are the songs of salvation. 

 

Continue to join me every Sunday at 10:30 as we work to get that tune of triumph stuck in our head for the week. Especially when this season is so busy, take the extra time to sing these songs with me.  Now, more than ever, with all the heaviness of life and the weights of the world, we need these notes of God’s grace and love to resound in our heads and our hearts.  Maybe, just maybe that melody will come pouring out in how we live and serve those others around us. 

 

Take a break from the world to sing with me:  Sundays at 10:30, Wednesday evenings at 6:30 (soup supper at 5:30), Christmas Eve at 6:30 and Christmas Day at 10:30. 

 

It’s not so bad getting a song stuck in your head when it’s a song that is sweet and up lifting.  The song of Jesus’ promise to each and everyone one of us is one I want in my head, felt in my heart and pouring out of my lips. May this melody of mercy be yours now and forever. 

 

In His Love and Service,

Pastor Rust

Letter 11/22/22

Dear Friends and Members of Shepherd of the Hills,

 

I love a holiday where our faith, bestowed upon us by God, has a deep and profound meaning.  It is a holiday that our nation will celebrate, but for those of us who know the hand that gives all good things in due season, it is a holiday that means that much more.  

 

The Fourth Petition of the Lord’s Prayer:

Give us this day our daily bread.  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 wife, 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.  

 

If you are on this side of the grave, and I’m assuming if you are reading this that is true, then today you have yet again enjoyed your daily bread.  Thanksgiving is a special time as a nation when we all pause to give thanks.  During this time with your church family, households, friends and neighbors may we all bear witness to a caring creator who is still active in upholding and sustaining all created things.  May we bear witness to this creator who lovingly becomes one with his creation.  May we bear witness to this creator who takes up our infirmities.  May we bear witness to this creator who in his life, death and resurrection redeems all of creation.  

 

Come celebrate with me this Thanksgiving Day at 10:30 as we return thanks to the one who gives his all for us and as we once again receive his blessed gifts together.  I’m thankful for you, for this family of faith and for the life we share as a congregation.  

 

In His Love and Service,

Pastor Rust


 

Letter 11/6/22

Dear Friends and Members,

 

Every year at the Oscars the world takes a moment to remember those entertainers in the film industry who have died in the last year.  It is always a somber moment.  It is a critical moment from my perspective.  It is a moment when the millions of people watching are reminded of their own mortality.  

 

Today we in the Christian Church celebrate All Saints' Day.  It is a day to mark and remember those is our own congregation who have died in the faith.  They have run their race with endurance.  This year in our community of believers we celebrate the confirmed faith of Phylis Hammons, Jim Bernhardt and Ron Strassburg.  This weekend we will pause to remember them.  Not in the way Hollywood does, but in a way that is authentic to the faith they died in.  We will remember them in Hope.  The hope that comes in the resurrection of all flesh.  We will see the dearly departed again on the last day. 

 

For all the Saints is a collection of readings and devotions through the church year where we hear from different saints who have come before us.  Here is a bit from Athanasius (295-375) and his writing, “On the Incarnation”:

 

"A very strong proof of this destruction of death and its conquest by the cross is supplied by a present fact, namely this.  All the disciples of Christ despise death; they take the offensive against it and, instead of fearing it, by sign of the cross and by faith in Christ trample on it as on something dead.  Before the divine advent of the Saviour even the holiest of men were afraid of death, and mourned the dead as those who perish.  But now that the savior has raised His body, death is no longer terrible, but all those who believe in Christ tread it underfoot as nothing, and prefer to die rather than to deny their faith in Christ, knowing full well that when they died they do not perish, but live indeed, and become incorruptible through the resurrection. But that devil who of old wickedly exulted in death, now that the pains of death are loosed, he alone it is who remains truly dead.  There is proof of this too for men who, before they believe in Christ, think death horrible and are afraid of it, once they are converted despise it so completely that they go eagerly to meet it, and themselves become witnesses of the Saviour’s resurrection from it.  Even children hasten thus to die, and not men only, but women train themselves by bodily discipline to meet it.  So weak has death become that even women, who used to be taken in by it, mock at it now as a dead thing robbed of all its strength.  Death has become like a tyrant who has been completely conquered by the legitimate monarch; bound hand and food as he now is, the passers-by jeer at him, hitting him and abusing him, no longer afraid of his cruelty and rage, because of the king who has conquered him.  So has death been conquered and branded for what it is by the Saviour on the cross.  It is bound hand and foot, all who are in Christ trample it as they pass and as witnesses to Him deride it, scoffing and saying, “O Death, where is thy victory; O Grave, where is thy sting?”

 

A blessed All Saints' Day to you dear ones, who join with me in mocking death. 

 

In His Love and Service,

Pastor Rust

Letter 10/16/22

Dear Friends and Members of Shepherd of the Hills,

 

I wanted to take a moment and share with you an article I wrote for our “Affirming Life” newsletter that goes out to the Rocky Mountain District.  This is an article about how we best affirm life near its end.  Hopefully you find this article edifying for you.  I would encourage any of you who would like to know more about our district's work to affirm life to contact to our district life coordinator at DistrictLifeCoordinator@gmail.com .

 

In His Love and Service,

Pastor Rust

 

Three Ways to Honor Life at Its End

 

I find myself again sitting at the bedside of a beloved brother in Christ, who is struggling during his last days on this side of heaven. He is not struggling the way you might think.  This is a man who is happy and confident in his faith and trusts that when he breathes his last, he will see his Savior face to face.  He trusts and believes with the psalmist when he confesses, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil.”  This dying man’s struggle is instead about how now he cannot serve in the ways he has become accustomed and finds this state-of-being useless and unnecessary.  Why not just skip to the ending? Why prolong the inevitable?  

 

This is the moment as a pastor that I have the opportunity to bring God’s Word to bare in honoring life, even at its end.  Here are three ways, as Christians, we can honor life in its end. 

 

One, how we speak about our frail, failing life.  It is too easy to become far too pragmatic about failing health and look toward the inevitable.  We must fight to always speak about our life in such a way as to acknowledge it is not our own.  Romans 14:8 says, “If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.”  Our life is not our own.  We are the Lord’s, who is the giver of life and salvation.  Using this language helps us to fight the temptation of control.  We are not in control, and that can be a scary thought for many.  Let us put our confidence in the One who actually has control and let our language reflect that confidence.  After all, the One who has all control gave His life for you.  

 

Two, how we make medical choices during times of failing health and imminent death.  As we are taught in the explanation of the 5th commandment, we do not hurt or harm our neighbor in his body, but help and support him in every physical need.  This applies to every physical body, even our own.  As we make choices, especially in times when medicine has become so advanced, it can be hard to discern when we are or aren’t following the 5th commandment.  As a general rule, “always care, never kill” is a helpful axiom for working to be faithful to the Lord’s commands regarding the preservation of life.  Let us never take lightly the choices we make about our failing bodies.  There are choices that honor life and choices that don’t.  May the Lord help guide these conversations through the wisdom of your pastors, doctors and family.  

 

Three, how we allow others to care for us during our moments of frailty and death.  We are blessed in most churches to be surrounded by people who desire to care of those in need.  Sermon after sermon reminds us of God’s call to “… love your neighbor as yourself.”  This love comes in service to our neighbor.  We really like being the people who serve.  It feels good.  We receive more from the people we serve than we give.  It is great!  However, in order to serve, this necessitates someone being served.  During moments of failing and frail health, we, by necessity, become the ones needing service.  This can be difficult.  My encouragement to all of us is to receive that service thankfully, humbly and patiently.  Pray with those who care for you.  Share the hope you have in these moments of vulnerability.  Bless those who serve for you.  In our last years, months, days or hours, this might be our greatest act of service.  Don’t miss your opportunity to bless others during your time of need!  

 

No matter how well we work to fulfill all this, we will always fall short.  We will, now and always, rely on God our Father, who created our bodies; God the Son, who by His blood redeemed our bodies; and God the Holy Spirit, who by Holy Baptism sanctified our bodies to be His temple.

 

- Rev. Jason S. Rust, Southern Region VP RMD

Letter 2/27/22

Dear Friends and Members of Shepherd of the Hills,

Are you comfortable?  When we as humans experience comfort, we work hard to try to capture it and keep it.  We find our favorite comfortable shirt and never throw it away.  We have our most comfortable chair and never give it away.  We have the people we are most comfortable with and choose to spend our time around them.  

This is what makes the account of the transfiguration odd to me.  You have Peter, James and John on this mountain side where Jesus’ countenance is transformed.  He is beaming white light and Moses and Elijah are speaking with him about his departure.  This can’t be a comfortable situation on many levels.  The most prominent reality being the fullness of Jesus’ glory shining about them.  The glory of the most high God, the same glory that make all the prophets of old quake with fear and fall on their knees.  Yet, Peter calls out, “Master, it is good that we are here.  Let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah”. I believe it was not the awe and wonder of the scene that causes Peter to make such a declaration, but one of comfort.  In the presence of Jesus, even the awe, wonder and majesty of the Most High God is one of comfort.  It is comfort to us because at the last we know where we belong.  We fear not our own sinful condition, because in the person of Jesus we find our rest and belonging with God.  

Jesus in his grace and mercy does not permit Peter to do such a thing.  Instead Jesus chooses the discomfort of the cross so that all people, not just Peter, James and John, might know the full comfort of being where we belong…in the midst of Jesus’ life giving and merciful presence.  

I pray that you will join me this weekend as we celebrate the Transfiguration of our Lord.  We will celebrate together the God in flesh made manifest for us sinners in need of comfort. 

In His Love and Service,

Pastor Rust

Letter 2/13/22

Dear Friends and Members of Shepherd of the Hills,

 

Oh, that the Lord would guide my ways

To keep His statutes still

Oh, that my God would grant me grace 

To know and do His will.

 

Order my footsteps by Thy Word

And make my heart sincere;

Let sin have no dominion, Lord,

But keep my conscience clear.

 

Assist my soul, too apt to stray,

A stricter watch to keep;

And should I e’re forget Thy way,

Restore Thy wandering sheep.

 

Make me to walk in Thy commands

’Tis a delightful road

Nor let my head or heart or hands

Offend against my God.— LSB 707 Text by Isaac Watts

 

The Lord is deeply concerned about how we live this life.  We confess fully and whole heartedly that we are deadly sinners in need of a savior.  This confession is always followed up with a life lived worthy of our calling.  We do not live this life unguided or unguarded.  Jesus himself stands as our shepherd leading and guiding our ways.  He reminds us that in the Kingdom of God the lost ones are rejoiced over.  Jesus says, “What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off?  And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off.  In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should perish. (Matt 18:12-14).  

 

The hymn writer above speaks to me today and maybe to you as well when he says, “Order my footsteps by Thy Word.”  All of our life, how we think and how we act, is ordered by God’s Word.  The French philosopher Henri Bergson says, “Think like a man of action and act like a man of thought.”  If we respond in action to the world around us apart from the Spirit-led and thought-filled reflection on God’s Word we are sheep who have gone astray and need to be corrected.  If we are thinkers paralyzed by our own analysis or well-meaning in our intent but fail to act we are sheep who have gone astray and need to be corrected.  

 

Let us be thoughtful people of action, lead and directed by God’s Word.  Two actions you can take:  One, be about the business of studying God’s Word so that our thoughtfulness is centered on the Word of God.  Attend Bible Study and services if you currently do not.  Be more faithful in participating in these things if you already do.  Two, take action and follow through on that act of love and connection you have been meaning to make with one of your fellow members here at Shepherd of the Hills.  Take action in connecting with that friend or neighbor who you keep meaning to get together with.  Prioritize people in your daily rhythm.  Being people of action is about connecting with other people and reveling in the grace and mercy God has had upon us with them.  

 

’Tis a delightful road indeed as I walk with you all.  You bring joy to my heart as we study and act together for the mission of loving as our savior loves in word and deed.  May God bless you during this Epiphany season.  

 

In His Love and Service,

Pastor Rust

Posts