The Needs of the Many and the One

By Pastor Wes Poole

Philippians 4:19 
And my God will fully satisfy every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. NRSV

On any given day, people patronize different markets or businesses to acquire goods or procure services. In a society as wealthy as ours, those goods and services are practically omnipresent. Anything we want is basically available at a moment’s notice. If it’s not available locally, we have but to pick up a smart phone or log onto Amazon and whatever we want will be on our porches in a few days tops. Our Western consumer culture is often demonized as promoting greed and selfishness. To be sure, there are elements in our culture that don’t always play well with the teachings of Jesus, but that’s not the point I want to make today. Coming off of the Independence Day celebration, I actually want to give thanks for the people who keep those goods and services available; who truly make this country great. From doctors to grocery workers to the ones working the phones at the online merchants, these Essential Workers are making it possible for us to care for each other. No doubt, we as a society still need to do a better job making those essentials available to everyone, regardless of race, gender, religion, financial status, or any other of the labels we tend to place on each other. Those conversations are always ongoing. For now, thanks be to God for those who have worked so hard to keep our communities healthy! We love you and are truly grateful for who you are and what you do.

1st Corinthians 12:4-5
4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5 and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; 6 and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. NRSV

In much the same way, the church can reflect our consumer culture. Again, while this can sometimes be troublesome, that’s not the point I want to make today. Sure, on any given Sunday, we might come to worship for any number of reasons. Some come for fellowship and social interaction, some for teaching, some for sacraments, or some for (hopefully) good preaching. Truth to be told, we probably come for any and all of the above in various combinations, but we come to have our needs met. That’s OK, because we need to be able to take care of ourselves, spiritually and otherwise, so that we can effectively meet the needs of others. The flip side is equally powerful. A diverse community with differing needs also brings a diversity of gifts to the table. Jesus knew this, and it was reflected in the radical inclusivity of his mission. Jesus loved and valued everyone, regardless of any other consideration. In the end, his sacrifice was for all, even those who had been his enemies. What this teaches us in the church is to value each other the way Jesus always has. The astonishing truth at the heart of the Christian message is that this life is not an “us vs. them” proposition. God is the source of all that we have and all that we can do, and continues to love and provide for us all in Jesus Christ. We know now that we are indeed all in this together, as we are always one in Christ. Thanks be to God for the wonderful diversity of His people and this Creation He has called good!

Let us pray…
God of all that we have and all that we can do, we thank for your manifold blessings. We thank you for the freedoms we enjoy and the opportunity to share those blessings with our neighbors. Help us always to see each other through your eyes, that we may keep celebrating our uniqueness and building one another up. For we know that your grace is sufficient, your forgiveness unconditional, and your love inexhaustible. We pray these things in the name and for the sake of Jesus Christ. Amen.
I hope to see you soon, but whether we worship in our church building or in front of screen, we are still the Church, God’s Hands doing His work in this world. Be well, be kind, and be safe!

Blessings Always,
Pastor Wes †

Fifth Sunday after Pentecost

The worship booklet with the liturgy is now available online.
Click here to access the worship booklet

Readings —

  • First Readings – Zechriah 9:9-12
  • Psalm 145:8-14
  • Second Reading – Romans 7:15-25a
  • Gospel – Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30

Please note that hymns are not being sung during live worship to protect the health of those attending.

Recordings of live worship services are posted each Sunday afternoon as soon as they are able to be uploaded for viewing.

The Foundation of Our Faith

By Pastor Wes Poole

Micah 6:8
8 He has told you, O mortal, what is good;
    and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
    and to walk humbly with your God? NRSV

Neil Marten, a member of the British Parliament, was once giving a group of his constituents a guided tour of the Houses of Parliament. During the course of the visit, the group happened to meet Lord Hailsham, then lord chancellor, wearing all the regalia of his office. Hailsham recognized Marten among the group and cried, “Neil!” Not daring to question or disobey the “command,” the entire band of visitors promptly fell to their knees!

This past Sunday we were able to offer our first in person worship service since the pandemic lock down began. It was wonderful to see many of you again, especially after barely getting to know most of you! Thanks to skillful leadership here in our commonwealth, and in this congregation, we have progressed to the point where we are now able to have a modicum of normalcy return to our church family. It should go without saying that I am profoundly thankful for such a blessing. Reflecting on this further, I found myself thinking about those who were not able to be there. I felt like it needed to be said, and probably from me, that if you still don’t feel comfortable coming out and interacting even with a socially distanced gathering, that it’s OK. We all have different needs and different issues. If your life’s situation compels you to wait a bit longer before venturing out to worship at Good Shepherd, then not only do I understand, I truly respect your decision to care for yourself and those around you. In other words, returning to in person worship is a blessing to be sure, but it is not a requirement or command. Scripture contains many commands from God and Our Lord Jesus, but risking life and health for Sunday worship is not one of them.

At a time such as this, I feel it important to pay close attention to the essentials and fundamentals of our faith. Thus, the Micah quote above, possibly my single favorite passage in the Bible, spoke to me again, as it has so many times in my personal journey of faith. If you think about it, Jesus’ words in Mark 12 and Luke 10, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself” is just another way to say “Be kind and just with one another, and love God.” THAT is the core, the very essence of the faith we share. Those are transcendent truths that we can carry with us no matter where we are or what our personal circumstances may be. Our Lord’s call to ministry is meant to be practiced out there in the “real world”. As has been said many times, we are the Church wherever we are. So if I see you some Sunday in the not too distant future, thanks be to God! If I don’t, then thanks be to God for keeping you safe and well!

Let us pray…
God of all healing and wholeness, we thank you for the blessing of being able to gather together, once again, to worship you and praise your Holy Name. We pray that you pour your Holy Spirit upon all the members of your Church, whether gathered together or sheltered at home. Strengthen our resolve to practice the essentials of our faith; that we may always do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with you. We ask these things in the name of Jesus, the Living Christ. Amen.

Be well, be kind, and be safe, my friends. I give thanks for each of you, and the unity we share in Christ, wherever we are!

Blessings always,
Pastor Wes †

Fourth Sunday after Pentecost

Today is the first Sunday for our return to live worship. Please click the link below to view a recoding of today’s worship service.

Readings —

  • First Reading: Jeremiah 28:5-9
  • Psalm 89:1-4, 15-18
  • Second Reading: Romans 6:12-23
  • Gospel: 10:40-42

Please note that hymns are not being sung during live worship to protect the health of those attending.

Recordings of live worship services are posted each Sunday afternoon as soon as they are able to be uploaded for viewing.

The Blessedness of Unity

by Pastor Wes Poole

Psalm 133
A Song of Ascents.
1 How very good and pleasant it is 
when kindred live together in unity!
2 It is like the precious oil on the head,    
running down upon the beard,
on the beard of Aaron,    
running down over the collar of his robes.
3 It is like the dew of Hermon,    
which falls on the mountains of Zion.
For there the Lord ordained his blessing,   
life forevermore.

Well my friends, the day for which we’ve been waiting so patiently is almost upon us! This coming Sunday, we will gather again at 8:30 and 11AM to worship God and enjoy fellowship with our church family. While it may not look or sound exactly as what we’re used to, it will, as the Psalmist tells us, be good to be together in unity. We are always the Church, regardless of where or how we worship, but there is no denying that the return of some measure of normalcy will be most welcome. On a personal note, I want to express my heartfelt thanks to all of you for your patience and support during this time. We’re not out of the woods yet, but thanks to our concerted efforts; complying with the common sense safety measures set by commonwealth officials, we have made progress sufficient to be able to gather again. Let us use this opportunity to renew our commitment to keeping each other safe and helping to meet the needs of our neighbors. There is still a lot of work to be done. Feeding the hungry, taking a stand against racism and discrimination, welcoming the stranger and equipping the faithful for ministry, telling the Story of Jesus and love through deeds and words…these are always on the “to do” list for the Church. Regardless of how we worship, that list will not change. Let us all give thanks to Almighty God for helping us to get to this place. Trusting in God’s never failing presence; we will meet the challenges ahead. We are Our Lord’s hands in this world that needs to hear the Story we have to tell. United together in unity as the Body of Christ, we hear Jesus’ command to care for one another, and will continue to make a positive impact on our community.

Let us pray…
God of all goodness, we give you thanks for keeping us safe during these truly difficult times. We know that everyone has not been as fortunate, and we ask you to make us ever stronger in our commitment to serving our neighbor. Help us to see the face of Jesus in our brothers and sisters everywhere, regardless of race, creed, or anything else that would separate us from you and each other. We know that you love all of your children equally, and would have us do the same. Make us truly instruments of your Peace. We ask these things in the name of Jesus, the Christ. Amen.

Be well, be kind, and be safe. See you soon!
Blessings always,
Pastor Wes Poole†

Returning to Live Worship

Starting June 28th we will be able to worship together again as a church family. Services will be at 8:30 and 11:00 am. Our worship experience will be different as we implement health and safety measures for everyone’s protection. Though we must continue physical distancing we will be together in God’s house to praise and worship our Lord and Savior.

A video recording of the 11:00 service will be available online Sunday afternoon for those who cannot attend. We ask that you refrain from attending worship if you are feeling ill; have symptoms of Covid-19; or may have been exposed to the virus.

What to expect when coming to worship —

  • Social Distancing will be necessary. Please maintain six feet from other families.
  • Face masks will be required when entering the building.
  • Seating will be limited to every other pew.
  • You will be asked to sign in for attendance tracking.
  • Please pick up your bulletin before being seated.
  • We will not be singing but there will be instrumental music and recorded solos.
  • An offering plate will be placed in the back of the church to leave your offering when entering or leaving worship.
  • Attendance capacity will be limited to allow social distancing.
  • Communion will not be celebrated at this time.*

*The announcement mailed this past week indicated we would be celebrating communion. At this time we are still working out the details to celebrate communion safely. We will be celebrating communion as soon as we have developed a safe distribution method.

The Persistence of Faith

By Pastor Wes Poole

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely,[a] and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, 2 looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of[b] the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:1-2 NRSV

Perseverance, persistence, conviction, “sticktoitiveness”, the proverbial “stiff upper lip” and Keep Calm and Carry On, as the Brits might say. All of these things have been required of us lately, whether we wanted them or not. At this point, we have spent a full quarter of 2020 locked down and/or quarantined in some way. This has required a great deal of sacrifice and commitment from all of us, not to mention patience! We haven’t been able to gather or worship as we would normally. We’ve had to physically distance ourselves from many of our friends and loved ones. Yet we know that it is what was required of us a community. Regard for neighbor and concern for his or her well being is at the heart of the Christian Vocation. To everyone who has taken this responsibility so seriously and without excessive complaining, (I mean, we’ve probably all complained a little!) let me express my heartfelt thanks and personal admiration. We’re getting through this as a family of faith and I am grateful beyond words that I have been able to be a part of the Good Shepherd community through these trying times. Take heart, our efforts have not been in vain! The numbers are looking somewhat better. As long as we keep the health and safety of our neighbors as a top priority, I am convinced that we will be able to regain some sense of normalcy again. We still have a long road ahead; truly a “race that is set before us”, but trusting in Jesus, we will emerge on the other side as a stronger and even more caring community.
We are in the process of determining when and how we can reopen and worship together. It’s a truly exciting prospect. The new Sunday “normal” may not look or sound exactly like the Sunday services we’re used to, but we are doing everything we can to be able to gather around Word and Table once again. There is more info to come on that, but for now, as the Apostle tells us, we look “to Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith”. When our resolve, or patience may falter, Our Lord is right there for us; providing the strength, comfort, and inspiration we will need to run this race. God is always with us, and in Him all things are possible!
For now, as I have been saying since all of this began, be well, be kind, and be safe. Times have been tough, and the days long…but we are an Easter People…and Sunday’s coming!

Let us pray…
God of all goodness, we thank you that you never forsake us, and are always there for us when life gets difficult. Help us to keep hanging in there; caring for one another and building each other up. We know that in Jesus Christ, we are the Church, buildings or no. Inspire us always to greater deeds of kindness and generosity. We ask these things in the name of Jesus. Amen.

Blessings! I look forward to see you all soon!
Pastor Wes †

Tough Words for Troubled Times

By Pastor Wes Poole

For in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith.  As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise. Galatians 3:26-29 – NRSV

“Racism is antithetical to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Those who willfully live to gratify the sinful desires of racism “will not inherit the kingdom of God” because they reveal they might be still enslaved to the present evil age and to its seductive powers (Gal. 5:17, 19–21), instead of being freely enslaved to love by the power of the Spirit as those redeemed by Christ and bound for the promised land of new creation.”

Tough words indeed…and while they’re not my words, they represent my feelings on this matter to a tee. Sadly, racism and the violence such ugliness begets are in the forefront of the news once again; even pushing the COVID crisis to second place for the moment. Why must this be? In the past two weeks, I’ve read voraciously, and followed the news and social media probably more than was strictly healthy. Police brutality and murder, riots and looting, hatred and vile language. Is this really where we are in the United States in 2020? Frankly, it’s exhausting and depressing. My spirit is heavy.

In the Book of Lamentations, the prophet Jeremiah writes,
“This is why I weep and my eyes overflow with tears. No one is near to comfort me, no one to restore my spirit. My children are destitute because the enemy has prevailed.”
Jeremiah was obviously writing for a different time and for different reasons, but his words kept coming back to me. This is how many of us are feeling right now. The feeling of helplessness that we’ve all been dealing with for the past three months is taking its toll, to destructive effect. Where or from whom can we find comfort and the strength to move forward and beyond all of this?

Last week, our own Pastor Jim Parks shared an incredibly moving meditation entitled “The Peace that Heals Hurts”. In it, he reminded us of a universal truth, spoken by none other than Nelson Mandela. “No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”

“Love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.” Of everything I’ve read over the last couple of weeks, those words brought me the most comfort and hope. Hatred is learned, and thus can be unlearned! There is Good News there, my friends. We know a better way! Jesus taught us a better way! Now the question is, what are we, the modern day disciples of Jesus, going to DO to make that Way better known to this world? What are we going to DO to help bring about healing and wholeness and the unity that is supposed to define this country? Now is not the time for just talk. A crisis of humanity and decency requires more than fair words, even if those words are from Scripture. We must, as the People of God, model that better way. Racism, sexism, violence, hatred, Xenophobia in general…these things are not acceptable for the follower of Jesus Christ! There are no exceptions!

One of the other things that has brought me hope and comfort recently is that I realize I’m preaching to the proverbial choir! Even though we’ve had precious little time to get to know one another as pastor and congregation, I’ve seen the spirit of goodness, kindness, and caring that are at the heart of this community of faith. While we’re still struggling with when, if, and how we can open our building again, we must remember that we are still the church, wherever we may be. Even quarantined and socially distanced, we can still show the World the example our Lord left for us. Kindness, charity, generosity; those are some of the ways we can bring some healing to this troubled time. In fact, the leadership of Good Shepherd is preparing right now to formulate a plan of action to bring a modicum of that “peace that heals hurts” back to this community. We have neighbors out there who are hurting, and we can do something about it! What form that takes is yet to be determined, but make no mistake, we are committed to being a church active in this community.

For now, in the sage words of John Wesley, “Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can.” Friends, that is the Christian vocation. Pray for those who hate, that they might unlearn such things, and model Our Lord Jesus Christ in all that we say and do. The path ahead may not be an easy one, but Jesus walks with us. Keep hope alive…goodness will eventually prevail!

Let us pray…
We are grieving, Dear Lord, for the ills of our community. Yet we know that we are your hands; working your will in this world. Pour out your Holy Spirit for us in full measure. Inspire us to greater deeds of kindness and generosity, and help us to rid your Creation of the ugliness of racism and violence. We know these things are possible because all things are possible in you. We pray this in the name and for the sake of Jesus, the Living Christ. Amen.

Be well, be kind, and be safe. I hope to see you all very soon.

Your Partner in Christ,
Pastor Wes Poole †