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5 Lent - Isaiah 43:16-21

This week, our Bishop Brenda Bos came to Shepherd of the Valley to meet with a

handful of our congregation's leaders.

No, we're not in trouble (I don't think).

It was simply our turn in a series of vitality visits organized by our Twin Valleys Lutheran Parish and offered to every church in our conference in the wake of two

very unusual and stressful years.

We had a good, honest, wide-ranging conversation at which we realized that Shepherd is

far more vibrant and impactful than many of us tend to appreciate.

In three years, among other things, we've successfully completed a capital campaign,

installed solar panels and other property improvements, voted to become Reconciling in Christ to welcome all God's children, grown the preschool twice, sponsored seven tiny homes, provided food and socks for thousands of people, initiated live stream worship ... oh yeah, and survived a global pandemic.

Yes, but ... there aren't enough people in the pews, and Sunday School isn't in person, and

things aren't the way they used to be, so we dare not sin against God and our ancestors by settling for contentment with how things are.

We remember the good old days ... which I suspect are different for every one of us.

If today is your first day at Shepherd of the Valley, welcome, and thank you for being with us; you may sit this part out.

If you have been here twice or more, welcome, and thank you for returning; something

brought you back.

Tell someone during coffee time: what is the memory here that you hold most dear?

When was this congregation what you most fondly remember, and what made it

so wonderful and special?

Was it the music, the grade school, a full sanctuary, the senior lunches, the camping trips,

the Bible studies with Pastor Vaswig, the listening ear of a Stephen minister, the time that you and your family ... fill in the blank?

Who were the teachers, the friends, the pastors when God was doing great things here?

What favorite story about this church do you tell the most?

For the children of Israel languishing in exile