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10 Pentecost / Shepherding the Valley #1 - Micah 4:1-7; Luke 9:57—10:11

Churches do estate planning, too.

When Christ the King Lutheran in Van Nuys closed its doors, it bequeathed the proceed from its property to the other ELCA congregations in the Twin Valleys Conference.

A portion of these funds paid a talented consultant named Kate Chapek to facilitate a thorough process of study, interviews, visioning, and planning.

While this was happening, Shepherd of the Valley was distracted by the search for a new pastor, so you might have missed it.

The result of all this work was the birth of the Twin Valleys Lutheran Parish two summers ago, which was set to be launched officially at a big celebration here at Shepherd of the Valley with Bishop Guy Erwin at Easter Vigil, 2020.

Everyone missed that.

Now, two years and two bishops later, we're hoping for September.

Before then, on August 22, we at Shepherd of the Valley will vote on whether to ratify our council's decision to join the Parish—what are we really considering?

The point of the Parish is to champion and coordinate ministries that none of us individual congregations can do nearly as effectively, if at all, on our own.

The Parish has four areas of focus, which I will address in these next four Sundays, while the lectionary serves up the Bread of Life, the Bread of Life, the Bread of Life, and finally, the Bread of Life.

Jesus is the Bread of Life.

Got that?

Okay, great, let's move on.

This week's area of Parish focus is our Christian response to the epidemic of poverty and homelessness.

You can't walk or drive the streets of our city without seeing it or consume local news very long without hearing about it.

I walked half a mile to breakfast last week through three sidewalk bedrooms.

I know this weighs on Shepherd's collective heart.

It was in the profile I received when I interviewed.

I've since watched us make blankets, collect food, assemble kits, and gather thousands of socks, putting plenty of muscle and sweat into our prayers.

I've seen us get so excited about trying to sponsor a tiny house that we funded seven. Meanwhile, our friends at St. Matthew's, North Hollywood have opened a drop-in center

that provides showers, healthy food, toiletries, charging for electronics, and an address, which is essential for getting social security cards and IDs needed for housing and jobs.

Our friends at Central, Van Nuys are distributing food to hundreds of families every week.

Shepherd members have helped with both, and now Linda Dean is co-chairing the Parish table on poverty and homelessness which is exploring an additional food distribution site in the west valley, trying to help Lutheran Social Services find and move into a new home, and looking to convert unused church property to affordable housing.

Thank you all on behalf of the Son of Man who has no place to lay his head.

The reason we care about poverty and homelessness is not just because there's a need, but

because there's a God.

The One we worship has a vision for us articulated beautifully by Micah:

they shall all sit under their own vines and their own fig trees, and no one shall be afraid.

Everyone, from every nation, will have a safe place to call their own.

There will be no more need for violence; weapons can be converted to garden tools.

That's God's vision for us.

But God's experience with us looks more like L.A.

The Son of Man has no place to lay his head.

God in human flesh gets disowned by his family (mental health issues), framed, arrested,

bullied, and murdered while the cops steal the few things he had left.

When we engage those without enough money and without a home, we meet Christ.

When we push past the easy theorizing about who or what is to blame—and it's complicated enough that we can stay stuck there forever—when we look beyond the numbers and patterns and plans into human eyes, we the image and the treasure of God.

So Jesus doesn't send his seventy ambassadors to build a sanctuary.

He teams them up and sends them into the streets to listen, to learn vulnerability, to speak hope and truth, to heal, to bless.

We are heirs to that mission; same gospel, different day.

Today too many of God's beloved don't have a vine or a fig tree to call their own; there is a lot of work to do.

The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.

They will be far fewer if we try to go it alone.