By Pastor Wes Poole
For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope. – NRSV
As I write this, it is a beautiful spring day. The sun is shining, the snow is gone, and I just received the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine. If that weren’t enough, we are now able to resume in-person worship beginning this coming Palm Sunday, and Eastertide 2021 is looking a heckuva lot more hopeful than its 2020 counterpart did! I must confess that I’m feeling pretty “Eastery” at the moment, and not the slightest bit Lenten! I’m not going to apologize for it either. Hope is in the air…and that is A-OK with yours truly. Lent can certainly be dark and difficult, and the rollercoaster ride of Holy Week can leave you, as a late friend of mine used to say, “wholly weak”! The church calendar might insist it’s still Lent, rightly so, but my internal calendar begs to differ! And you know, what is the point of the journey of Lent if not to bring us to the most hope filled message of all time…Christ has conquered death once and for all, and we are forever God’s redeemed children. Yes, hope is a powerful force in our lives. Like all good things, it springs from the heart and mind of the God who loves us, and is there for us to share with others.
Parade magazine once told the story of self-made millionaire Eugene Land, who greatly changed the lives of a sixth-grade class in East Harlem. It was a daunting task, even for someone used to hard work and stressful situations. Mr. Lang had been tasked with speaking to a class of 59 sixth-graders. What in the world could he say to inspire these students, most of whom would likely drop out of school!? He wondered how he could get these predominantly poor African American and Puerto Rican children even to look at him, much less pay attention to what he had to say. Scrapping his notes, he decided to speak to them from his heart. “Stay in school,” he admonished, “and I’ll help pay the college tuition for every one of you.” At that moment the lives of these students changed. For the first time they had hope. Said one student, “I had something to look forward to, something waiting for me. It was a golden feeling.” Nearly 90 percent of that class went on to graduate from high school.
“I had something to look forward to, something waiting for me.” There is a sermon in that somewhere! Yet the journey of Lent into Eastertide provides us so much more than hope for the future. Sure, we all live in the promise of the life of the world to come, as the creed teaches us, but that promise is also active right now, in this very moment. New life is ours in the present! As God’s people, part of our baptismal vocation is to minister together to a world that needs to hear the Story we have to tell. We all have our parts to play, both as individuals and as communities of faith. In this family of faith we call Good Shepherd, we too have been charged with bringing the hope of Jesus and His love to our communities and beyond. As the world starts to open back up, we will once again be charged with being an active and vital force for good in our community. Not even COVID could stop us from being the Church, but the months of distance have shown us just how valuable our connections with other people can be. As the vaccines continue to roll out, and it is safer to gather together, I hope to see you all really soon. We’ll meet the challenges ahead the same way we got through this last year…together, and with God’s help. As Jeremiah reminds us, God has plans for us, and they are great ones! In Jesus Christ, there is always something to look forward to, and something wonderful awaits. Thanks be to God!
Let us pray…
God of hope and health, we ask your blessings as we prepare to finish our Lenten journeys and travel the road of Holy Week to Resurrection Joy. Help us emerge on the Easter side with a renewed commitment to the ministries of our church family, and a powerful resolve to make a difference in the lives of our brothers and sisters everywhere. We ask these things in the name of Jesus. Amen.
Be well, be kind, and be safe. See you in church on Sunday!!!
Pastor Wes Poole †