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Living and growing involves change. For some, change is seen as very threatening, while for others change is a welcomed reality as they live and grow.
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Our living and growing provides opportunities to relate faith to life circumstances. God's love is constant but our realities change. Our personal faith also changes to reflect the twisting circumstances of life.
People frequently define religion as a set of Biblical rules. But God is not a rule enforcer looking for a reason to demean and diminish us. Rather, God provides hope, guidance and forgiveness. We can selectively read the Bible to promote our agenda or collectively understand it as a book that gives us needed insights to live a life of faith and practice caring and compassion in everyday living. Along with the written word we have the gift of fellow humans whose living faith helps inform and define us.
I am in my 34th year as an ordained pastor. It has been my blessing to serve as the pastor of Shepherd of the Valley for over 17 of its 22-year history. The ministry of caring for God's people, spreading the message of God's love, and helping translate faith into daily living and growing has always been an exciting and rewarding part of ministry for me. As a pastor, I have my faults as we all do. I question God and struggle with faith. I experience the same realities that impact all of us. My statement of faith has changed over the years because of realities in my life that influence my understanding of God. But God's love remains a constant through all the changes in life.
In a society that typically functions out of a position of strength, my wife, Laura, and I have learned that God is frequently experienced in moments of struggle and weakness. It is very freeing to know that as Christians; we can, and do, have strengths and weaknesses that serve God's purposes. My journey of living and growing has been enriched by so many people society would define as "the least of these." Be open to God's surprises coming from all directions. Don't discount the people so easy to overlook.
My journey of faith will not end with retirement as a called pastor of a congregation. Ministry will seek me out and I will seek it out in new, unforeseen and surprising ways. That is the nature or God's work among God's people. Laura and I look forward to living and growing in this community we call home. We will continue to be a caring presence in the life of this community. In particular, our concern for the needs of the marginalized in our midst will not be forgotten. As Psalm 82:3 reminds us, we are to "defend the rights of the poor and the orphans and be fair to the needy and helpless."
Our last Sunday at Shepherd of the Valley will be May 6. For all these years, I've led worship. Now I'll get the view from the pew. Laura and I will finally be able to sit together in church.
I invite us to let God journey with us and be open to the insights for faith and life that God reveals in our transitions. Let us commit ourselves to living and growing in our faith and relationships in life's twisting journeys.
Larry Rorem is the pastor at Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church.