Christ the King Sunday

Readings

  • First Reading — Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24
  • Psalm 95:1-7a
  • Second Reading — Ephesians 1:15-23
  • Gospel — Matthew 25:31-46

Portions from Sundays and Seasons.com. Copyright 2020 Augsburg Fortress. All rights reserved. By permission under Augsburg Fortress Liturgies Annual License #23415. 

Permission to podcast/stream the music in this service obtained from One License with license #A-732189.

THANKSGIVING

By Pastor Wes Poole

Psalm 9:1
I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds. NRSV

Thanksgiving. What is it all about? Well certainly we Americans think of Thanksgiving as a national holiday celebrated by many different people of many different creeds…or no creed at all. Prosperity, plenty, food on the table, personal freedoms, political stability; all these things and many more could be listed, quite justifiably, as things for which we, as Americans, can be thankful. For many of us, Thanksgiving simply means being grateful for our homes and our enlightened system of government that allows us to achieve such an opulent lifestyle…for it is indeed opulent by world standards. This year, our beloved national holiday is taking on a new and different tone, or rather rediscovering an old one. Many of us are paying closer attention to the deeper blessings God has given us. The reasons for this are obvious. Even though COVID may have kept us at home more than we have been used to in the past, there has been a renewed focus on families pulling together and relying on each other. The celebration of Thanksgiving is really all about home, family, and faith, even during trying times. We’ve also seen people across the country coming together to share the burdens these trying times have created for all of us. Difficult times still can bring out the best in people. For me, that is one of the most compelling reasons to give thanks this year.
For the Christian, giving thanks also means looking past the secular aspect of Thanksgiving and acknowledging God as the author and source of all that is good in our lives. Family, friends, home, and livelihood; all of these things oblige us, as believers, to give God the wholehearted thanks the psalmist illustrates for us above. When we name the Name of the Most High God in prayer, praise, or celebration, we offer all that we are and have to be used as God’s instruments of peace in His Creation. As we approach, once again, our national day of Thanksgiving, I pray that we will continue to place our thanks in the hands of the One to whom it truly belongs. God is the author of all goodness, and there are good times yet to come. Not even COVID can stop that. Let us recommit to giving thanks for what God has done, is doing, and promises yet to do!
May the power of Almighty God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit inspire us all to give thanks for God’s blessings by being a blessing to all our brothers and sisters everywhere.

Let us pray…
Heavenly Father, we offer you our most heartfelt thanks for all that you have given us. As we pause, as a nation, to give thanks for our manifold blessings, help us, as the modern day disciples of Jesus, to continue to do good works in our communities. May our lives give others even more reason to be thankful. We ask these things in Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Be well, be kind, be safe, and be thankful!
Your partner in Christ,
Pastor Wes †

Twenty Fourth Sunday after Pentecost

Pastor Wes’ message is delivered in a pre-recorded video as part of this service because he could not be with us in person.

Readings

  • First Reading — Zephaniah 1:7, 12-18
  • Psalm 90:1-12
  • Second Reading — 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11
  • Gospel — Matthew 25:14-30

Portions from Sundays and Seasons.com. Copyright 2020 Augsburg Fortress. All rights reserved. By permission under Augsburg Fortress Liturgies Annual License #23415. 

Permission to podcast/stream the music in this service obtained from One License with license #A-732189.

HOPEFUL HEARTS AND THE HOLY SPIRIT

By Pastor Wes Poole

Romans 5:5
“…hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.” NRSV

It’s hard to believe that we’re already pondering Thanksgiving, Advent, Christmas, and beyond! How could it have only been about nine months since I accepted your call to ministry here in the Good Shepherd family. I remember being excited and filled with hope for the future. In the past year, I think it is safe to say that we have been dealt one surprise after another. There is no disputing that. Regardless, hope has not disappointed us here at Good Shepherd. The Holy Spirit has infused us with energy, power, and enthusiasm; the strength to meet the challenges we will surely face as we carry out Our Lord’s ministry. We will continue to celebrate our blessings while allowing growth and change to enrich us. For the moment, our ministry looks and sounds different, but we will continue to focus on what we can do, and keep striving to do those things well! Here, as 2020 starts to draw to a close, I call upon all of us to renew our commitment to this family of faith, and to finding and relevant ways to reach out to our neighbors.
Because, or frankly despite the best efforts of many, growth and change are still going on around us, in the worldwide church, in this congregation, and in our communities. Anyone paying attention to the news outlets in this county last week would surely have to agree! Diversity is the watchword for the time, now more than ever. Cultural relevance, inclusivity, sensitivity to the differing needs of the individual; these are all high priorities in an ever increasingly connected world. Unity through diversity, strength through celebrating our brothers and sisters everywhere, regardless of race, creed, gender, or life’s situation; what do these things mean to the individual congregation struggling to cope and remain viable in a world that seems to change shape every five minutes? How do we come together with all of the different elements of society and even right here within the walls of Good Shepherd and speak a language that effectively tells the Story we have been charged with telling? These are hard questions, without quick or easy answers, but they are good questions, questions that the Christian church in all of its denominations is dealing with as we look to move past COVID, contentious elections, financial difficulties, and the myriad challenges of these “interesting times”.
Well, first and foremost, we are the Church, the Body of Christ in the world. This identifies us as followers of and believers in the Triune God. What this means for us as a church family is that we do and say things that do not always jibe with that which may be dominating the news outlets of this time, even when they manage to agree! Regardless of the aforementioned challenges, we have a Story to tell, songs to sing, and people to whom we are called to minister. From visiting our own sick and shut-in, to helping build houses for the poor, to supporting our Synod and greater church, we have a multitude of tasks which make up the ministry of Good Shepherd. We can’t do all of those things right now, at least not in the way to which are accustomed, but we will be able to again! Hopefully, it will be sooner rather than later, but we will continue to focus on what we can do, and still be ready to resume our “normal” modes of ministry. Gathered together in worship around the Word and the Sacraments, we still reemerge refreshed and strengthened into a world that needs us…through the power of the Holy Spirit. Yes, the Holy Spirit, that Third Person of the Trinity about whom we Lutherans often forget. It is the Spirit that fans the flames of our faith and provides us with the Divine strength necessary to carry out our ministry. The amazing thing about working for God is that He never leaves us solely to our own devices. God, through His Holy Spirit, gives us the backbone to stand up to what the world throws at us, while freeing us from the fear of change. The Holy Spirit is the One who motivates us and energizes us in all things. The Spirit frees us from fear and anxiety, and turns us loose as Our Lord’s agents on Earth. God is always doing new things. He is the same God of Creation who made all that is, and His creative genius is still here among us at work. The Holy Spirit is the very active spirit of life and growth and change. The Spirit is the One who rallies us all as a family around the one, universal truth which cannot change…God, in Jesus Christ, has loved our imperfections away and has restored us to our God and Father.
As we look forward to 2021 and beyond, we will constantly be facing new changes and challenges because we are a dynamic, Spirit filled community. As these challenges present themselves, may we find the strength and the wisdom to say together, “Amen, come Holy Spirit!”

Let us pray…
God of growth and change, instill in us, through the power of your Holy Spirit, to meet the ongoing challenges of ministry in the coming year in beyond. We know that in Christ, all things are possible. Grant us open minds and dynamic imaginations as we seek out new and innovative ways to reach people with the Great Story of Your Love. We ask these things in Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Be well, be kind, be safe…and be of good hope!

Blessings,
Pastor Wes †

THE VOICE OF CALM

By Pastor Wes Poole

My apologies, friends. I spent yesterday (Tuesday) glued to the TV and let time get away from me completely. Wonder why?? 😉

1 Kings 19:11-13
Then He said, “Go out, and stand on the mountain before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice. So it was, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood in the entrance of the cave. Suddenly a voice came to him, and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” NRSV

The story is told of Franklin Roosevelt, who often endured long receiving lines at the White House. He complained that no one really paid any attention to what was said. One day, during a reception, he decided to try an experiment. To each person who passed down the line and shook his hand, he murmured, “I murdered my grandmother this morning.” The guests responded with phrases like, “Marvelous! Keep up the good work. We are proud of you. God bless you, sir.” It was not till the end of the line, while greeting the ambassador from Bolivia, that his words were actually heard. Nonplussed, the ambassador leaned over and whispered, “I’m sure she had it coming.” (source unknown)

Political humor seemed appropriate somehow! In all seriousness, our nation has been stressed and anxious for most of this year. COVID was bad enough! Couple that with a vitriolic, contentious election cycle, and we’ve seen a perfect storm of chaos and cacophony that would have challenged even Elijah’s listening skills. As I write this, I am still following the returns. Do I have a preference? You bet I do! Will I share it? Nope. Not a chance. Not in a forum like this, and NEVER from the pulpit! It is not my place as a clergyperson to make such public, political pronouncements, and I take major issue with anyone in my profession who does so. One official though, commenting on the ongoing drama, cautioned the listeners that whichever side wins, both sides must learn to listen to what the other is trying to say. Amen to that! You know, it’s been said that listening is not simply waiting for your turn to reply. That is so profoundly true. Often, the voice of the one crying for help is a still, small one; overlooked or marginalized by society. That voice is truly the Voice of God, just as surely as the One Elijah heard so long ago. As followers of Jesus in these discordant times, we have a unique opportunity to model the caring and kindness that allows us not just to hear each others’ voices, but to listen with our hearts. That is exactly the life Jesus showed us how to live. Regardless of who ends up in the White House, our Christian vocation is always about showing others the Way Jesus taught us; kindness, love, generosity, and welcoming the stranger in our midst. These things will always be at the core of who we are as people of faith. “What are you doing here, [Christians]??” What indeed?! May we open our hearts to the “others” in our midst…and listen to them.

Let us pray…
God of mercy and truth, open our hearts to be able to listen to each other. Help us sow understanding in the midst of strife. Help us to be the calm amidst the storms of life; that we may more effectively show the Way your Son modeled for us so perfectly. For it is in his name that we pray. Amen.

Be well, be kind, be safe…and be calm.
Blessings always,
Pastor Wes †

All Saints Day Worship

Readings

  • First Reading — Revelation 7:9-17
  • Psalm Psalm 34:1-10, 22
  • Second Reading — 1 John 3:1-3
  • Gospel — Matthew 5:1-12

Portions from Sundays and Seasons.com. Copyright 2020 Augsburg Fortress. All rights reserved. By permission under Augsburg Fortress Liturgies Annual License #23415. 

Permission to podcast/stream the music in this service obtained from One License with license #A-732189.

INTERESTING TIMES

By Pastor Wes Poole

May you live in interesting times!
supposed ancient Chinese curse
real origin unknown

OK, so it’s not my usual Scriptural beginning to the mid-week devotion, but it’s kind of where my thoughts are as I begin this week’s offering. If living in interesting times is supposed to be a curse…then I say curse away! Life around here for the last few months certainly has been interesting, seldom boring, and filled with an endless array of joys, irritations, and challenges. Just another year of ministry!! Seriously though, 2020, so far, has been an interesting time. We started the year just fine. A new call and new opportunities for ministry. The family and I went to Disney! Then…bam…COVID…lockdown…the world changed overnight. Zoom meetings, virtual worship, masks, social distancing, Purell, Purell, and more Purell!!
So what, pastor! You might say. Old news! Why are you still even talking about it. We just want to get through this thing and move on. Stop restating the obvious!! Frankly, I got this far in writing and asked myself the same question. Why indeed?! Because of the saints. That’s right, the saints. Not Paul, Peter, Michael, John, or Mary, but all of you; all of the saints still striving mightily to labor in the proverbial Vineyard of the Lord during these “interesting times”.

It reminds me of the great composer Ludwig van Beethoven. By the age of 5, Beethoven was playing the violin under the tutelage of his father, who was also an accomplished musician. By the time he was 13, Beethoven was a concert organist. In his 20s he was already studying under the very watchful eyes of Haydn and Mozart. In fact, Mozart spoke prophetic words when he declared that Beethoven would give the world something worth listening to by the time his life ended. As Beethoven began to develop his skills, he became a prolific composer. During his lifetime, he wrote nine masterful symphonies and five piano concertos, not to mention numerous pieces of chamber music. He also wrote sonatas and pieces for violin and piano. He has thrilled us with the masterful works of unique harmony that broke with the traditions of his times. The man was a genius. Beethoven was not, however, a stranger to difficulties. During his twenties, he began to lose his hearing. His fingers “became thick,” he said on one occasion. He couldn’t feel the music as he once had. His hearing problem haunted him in the middle years of his life, but he kept it a well-guarded secret. When he reached his fifties, Beethoven was completely deaf. Three years later he made a tragic attempt to conduct an orchestra and failed miserably. He was deaf, yet still a magnificent musician who kept working regardless. On one occasion, Beethoven was overheard shouting at the top of his voice as he slammed both fists on the keyboard, “I will take life by the throat!” Amen to that, brother!

OK, I’ll grant you that’s not exactly standard “churchy” vocabulary, but Beethoven’s point is well taken. The life we have been gifted in Jesus Christ is still there for us to live, regardless of the challenges we may face. COVID notwithstanding, the mission of Christ’s Church has not essentially changed. The days are flying by, as usual, as we prepare for Thanksgiving, Advent, Christmas, and beyond! Like always, this is a busy time as we move towards one of the most important and joyful celebrations in our lives as Christians. We are still, as a congregation, finding our way through these often crazy days! I realized, as I pondered that so-called ancient “curse”, that “interesting times” are the norm for the Christian in a worshipping and ministering community. Interesting times are what we’re all about! The Good News of Jesus Christ is interesting. Finding new ways to tell the Story is interesting. The people who make up this Family of Faith we call Good Shepherd are interesting. God Himself, who is never boring and is always doing a new thing, is the very source of all that is good and fruitful and stimulating. He has blessed all our times, past, present, and future. God has called us to be the ones to spread the Gospel, which is a never ending task filled with variety and new challenges.

The “Holiday Season” is upon us. Christmas is around the proverbial corner. As we lift our voices in praise to God for what He has done for us in Jesus Christ, let us also take a moment to thank Him for the gift of His Holy Church and all of the saints who comprise it. May we, and our fellow saints, keep inspiring, encouraging, and building one another up into lives of faithful service. We do live in interesting times! With Jesus walking with us, we are equal to the tasks at hand. Hallelujah and thanks be to God!

Let us pray…
Almighty God, you have called us all to sainthood in your Holy Church. Keep us steadfast in your Word as we make our way in these “interesting times”. We know from hearing your Word that we can do all things with the strength Christ provides us. Help us never to forget that and to embrace the creative genius you have shared with us. We ask these things in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Be well, be kind, and be safe.
With much affection for you all, I am
Your Partner in Christ,
Pastor Wes Poole †