CREATION AND COMMUNITY

A devotion by Pastor Wes Poole

Genesis 1:27-31a
So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.
God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.” God said, “See, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so. God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good. – NRSV

“God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good.” From the very beginning of time, God has always acted for the benefit of His people. Even when again and again we, as his children, would (and still do!) stray from the path upon which God set us, He never repaid the favor in kind. We often blithely say that “God is Love”. That is, as Luther would say, “most certainly true”. To love someone is to place their well being, even their life, above our own. God has shown His love for us first in this amazing Creation He called good…and then gave to us for care and stewardship. This supreme act of love is exceeded only by the giving of his Son, that we could all have an eternal relationship with Him.

Right now, for many of us, it might seem that His gift of Creation has turned on us. Racial strife, war, violence, of course COVID and its devastating economic impact, or the fear of losing a loved one to it; all of these things can be discouraging and disheartening. During these times when our very faith in God seems put to the proverbial test, it is good to remind ourselves of another example of God’s loving, generous, creative genius…the gift of the Church, and the community upon which it is built. From the moment Jesus declared to Peter that he would be the Rock and foundation of the Church, Peter was not alone. He had the community of Jesus and his fellow disciples to support him. Later at Pentecost, that community was increased by 3000 souls! By The time of St. Paul’s ministry, there were small communities of Christians springing up everywhere; often keeping Paul quite busy…and occasionally frustrated. Today, we in the Church still walk with Jesus. All of our ministries, programs, goals, and aspirations are built around a community of believers who work together for the good of the Church and for the betterment of the greater community of humanity. The pandemic has done its best to hamper our sense of belonging. Many of are still anxious and afraid to stray too far away from our homes. Maybe we see the immense social problems in this country and the world and despair that there is little we can do to help. I’m here to tell you that we can, regardless of our personal situations, make a real difference. Here at Good Shepherd, we have some committed, faithful people who I know want to make their communities better places to live, work, and have our being. Of course, the Good Shepherd family is not immune to the ills of our time. We face greatly diminished attendance and a rather severe financial shortfall that we must address head on if we are to continue to be a vital force for good in Wilkes Barre and beyond. There are also food banks, soup kitchens, homeless shelters, and a myriad other benevolent organizations out there who need our hands, hearts, and yes our money to keep meeting the needs of real people out there who are hurting. So I ask you earnestly to get involved, stay engaged, and be hopeful for the future. COVID will one day be over, and we want our church, and all of the other important ministries out there, to still be around and ready to keep rendering help and hope to all people. God’s Creation is still good! The nurturing of that Creation requires that we all commit ourselves and put the gifts we have to work for the good of all. As Jesus reminds us, “With God, all things are possible.” Amen to that!

Let us pray…
God of Creation, instill in us greater and greater commitment to our communities. Inspire us to engage with joy in our churches, our cities and towns, and to this world you made and called good. We know that all we have comes from you. Make of us generous and joyful stewards; always ready to come together to render hope and help to all who are in need. We ask this for the sake of Jesus Christ, our savior and Lord. Amen.

Be well, be kind, and be safe.
Your Partner in Christ,
Pastor Wes Poole †

Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost

Readings

  • First Reading — Genesis 50:15-21
  • Psalm 103:1-13
  • Second Reading — Romans 14:1-12
  • Gospel — Matthew 18:21-35

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.

Teach Your Children Well

A devotion by Pastor Wes Poole

Deuteronomy 11:18-19
You shall put these words of mine in your heart and soul, and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and fix them as an emblem on your forehead. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise. NRSV

Teach your children. It was one of God’s commandments to the ancient Hebrew peoples and it is still just as relevant and powerful a commandment all these millennia later. The continual nurturing of faith that we provide our children and ourselves throughout our lives is one of the most important responsibilities we have as God’s children and as a congregation. This is the time of year when we usually start back with Sunday School, confirmation, and other educational ministries. The reality of COVID is making that a bit more challenging than in the past, but your Faith Formation Team is still committed to bringing opportunities for growth and learning. They may not look quite the same, but the goal hasn’t changed. Growing and nurturing our faith is like a garden that needs tending. Until the pandemic is behind us, we’ll be trying some new approaches; some in person, some virtual. Please bear with us, as we may need to make corrections along the way.
As always, with new challenges and the need for innovation comes the ever increasing need for people….people to volunteer, people to support, and of course people to participate. I’m asking you, the faithful ministers of Good Shepherd Church, to make a personal commitment for yourselves and your families to come and be a part of faith formation here in our congregation. The potential for rewarding and exciting ministry is still there. We just need to be open minded, patient, and of course…grounded in prayer. Come and help us realize that potential to the Glory of God and for the future of our children.

Let us pray…
God of all knowledge and creation, we lift up for you the educational ministries of our congregation. Give us open hearts and minds, and a spirit of creativity, so that we tell the Story with passion and enthusiasm. We ask these things in Jesus’ Name. Amen.

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

Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost

Readings

  • First Reading — Ezekiel 33:7-11
  • Psalm 119:33-40
  • Second Reading — Romans 13:8-14
  • Gospel — Matthew 18:15-20

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.

Making Pancakes

A devotion by Pastor Wes Poole

Mark 12:29b-31
“Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one;  you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” NRSV

Six year-old Brandon decided one Saturday morning to fix his parents pancakes. He found a big bowl and spoon, pulled a chair to the counter, opened the cupboard and pulled out the heavy flour canister, spilling it on the floor. He scooped some of the flour into the bowl with his hands, mixed in most of a cup of milk and added some sugar, leaving a floury trail on the floor which by now had a few tracks left by his kitten. Brandon was covered with flour and getting frustrated. He wanted this to be something very good for Mom and Dad, but it was getting very bad. He didn’t know what to do next, whether to put it all into the oven or on the stove and he didn’t know how the stove worked! Suddenly he saw his kitten licking from the bowl of mix and reached to push her away, knocking the egg carton to the floor. Frantically he tried to clean up this monumental mess but slipped on the eggs, getting his pajamas white and sticky. And just then he saw Dad standing at the door. Big crocodile tears welled up in Brandon’s eyes. All he’d wanted to do was something good, but he’d made a terrible mess. He was sure a scolding was coming, but his father just watched him. Then, walking through the mess, he picked up his crying son, hugged him and loved him, getting his own pajamas white and sticky in the process!
That’s how God deals with us! We try to do something good in life, but it turns into a mess. Our relationships get all sticky or we inadvertently insult a friend…we can’t stand our job, or health problems present themselves. Sometimes we just stand there in tears because we can’t think of anything else to do. That’s when God picks us up and loves us and forgives us, even though some of our mess gets all over Him. Still, just because we might mess up, we can’t stop trying to “make pancakes” for God or for others. Sooner or later we’ll get it right, and we’ll all be better off for the effort we put into it!

“We can’t stop trying to “make pancakes” for God or for others.” That statement alone deserves a robust, heartfelt “AMEN!” from the entire Church of Christ on Earth. The Church does not exist for itself alone. We exist, by definition, in community; in service to God and neighbor. Buildings, programs, music…the wonderful finery the church brings to bear are all for nothing if we can’t manage to remember Christ’s command to love and serve our neighbor. The love that we hopefully reflect in our ministry is an active one. We don’t simply say that we love, we show Christ’s love through our actions. Kindness, tolerance, forebearance, and forgiveness. Sometimes it’s risky…sometimes it hurts…often we don’t get our own way…sometimes we might even get a bit dirty in the process…but you know, I’ll take a bit of dirt under my fingernails any day rather than be the “ivory tower, removed from reality, completely self-absorbed caricature of a church”. Thankfully, I don’t believe we are that kind of church. Difficult times notwithstanding, we remain committed to telling the story and serving our community. By and large, it’s that spirit of adventure; of being willing to think outside the box, take risks, and try new things that I want to see in our church family. I pray that we will continue to cultivate that attitude and put it to work for All God’s People. After all, who doesn’t love pancakes!!?!?!

Let us pray…
God of Creation, instill in us a measure of your creative genius. Inspire in us a spirit of fearlessness in our ongoing ministries; that we may serve you and our neighbors faithfully and joyfully. We ask these things in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Be well, be kind, and be safe!
Blessings always,
Pastor Wes †

Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost

Readings

  • First Reading — Jeremiah 15:15-21
  • Psalm 26:1-8
  • Second Reading — Romans 12:9-21
  • Gospel — Matthew 16:21-28

Music

  • “Glorious Things of Thee Are Spoken” by Robert J. Hughes; Tune— “Austria” by Franz Josef Haydn; Lorenz, 2009
  • “Be Thou My Vision” by Edward Broughton; Tune—“Slane”, an Ancient Irish Melody; Lorenz, 2002
  • “Let Praise Ring Forth” by Edward Broughton; Lorenz, 2004.

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.

Comfort in the Storm

A devotion by Pastor Wes Poole

Matthew 7:24-27
“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. 25 The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on rock. 26 And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell—and great was its fall!” NRSV

The rain, the wind, and the floods… As I was sitting in my living room last evening (Monday), this passage kept running through my mind. Generally, I like thunderstorms. I find them soothing. It’s a reminder that even though Creation and its nature are truly powerful, we have shelter and a safe place to weather said storm. Those moments compel me to give thanks to God, who blesses us with health and safety, while simultaneously eliciting concern for all of those sisters and brothers out there who aren’t so fortunate. Then came the lightning that fried my Living Room TV, and the clap of thunder that sounded like a bomb had gone off! It knocked out all of the electricity on our street. Cue then the always unnerving silence that ensues when the background electronic hum of the modern world is gone. My calm, contemplative, theological reverie drained away, and apprehension set in. Would they get the power back on before all the food in the fridge and freezer went bad? Did anything else in the house get “zapped”? My thoughts went back to Long Island, 2012 and Super Storm Sandy, when we were without power for almost two weeks! In the end, here in Kingston, our power was off for about 3 hours. Yeah, we’re going to need a new TV. (Already ordered.) Freezer and fridge are fine. “Disaster” averted. Can you say, “1st World Problems”?

It’s been my observation that we human beings have a love/hate relationship with things or events of great power and potency. Sure, a thunderstorm can be enjoyable and even relaxing…right up to the point where we feel our sense of control slipping away. Then, we have to start putting our faith and trust in others; the power companies, the water, sewer, and drainage folks, and any number of other “essential workers” who get us through such difficulties. Certainly, we have had ample opportunity to observe and hopefully to be thankful for all of our neighbors out there whose jobs keep us safe and our communities running. The past few months have been a storm of another kind that we’re still trying to navigate as best we can. For my part, I am putting my faith in science and the medical community to help us through this “storm”…and of course, in God to be with them throughout the process. Of course, that’s the key…we trust in God to see us through. It’s easy, when things are going well, to claim rather piously that we put our faith in God. Perhaps we do, but when the proverbial going gets tough, and we feel that control we cling to slipping away, that’s when faith can become its most elusive, yet all the more imperative.

Fortunately, God’s love and care for us in Jesus Christ do not know such ebbs and flows. When our faith may seem at its weakest, God steps in and picks up the slack. I’m reminded of some of the most inspiring words Luther ever wrote, “A Mighty Fortress is our God; a bulwark never failing.” That is so very true. When the house of our lives is built upon the rock that is God, we will weather the storms of life, secure in the promise of even greater life to come. May we all strive daily to surrender our control to the One who will never fail us. A house built on the promises of God will always emerge intact from the storms of life. There still might be some cleanup to do afterwards, but God’s presence is eternal and the hope he provides in Jesus Christ knows no limits. Thanks be to God!

Let us pray…
God of hope and wholeness, we thank you for never abandoning us when the storms of life are frightening. Pour your Spirit upon us, that our faith will become stronger, and our trust in you unbreakable. We know that in Jesus Christ, nothing can separate us from you. Help us to be alert and sensitive to the needs of those around us, and to be ready to render help where it’s needed; for we know that we are also your hands in this world, doing your work for the benefit of our brothers and sisters everywhere. We pray this in the name of Jesus. Amen.

Be well, be kind, and be safe, my friends.
Blessings always,
Pastor Wes †

Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost

Click here to access the worship bulletin.

Readings

  • First Reading — Isaiah 51:1-6
  • Psalm 138
  • Second Reading — Romans 12:1-8
  • Gospel — Matthew 16:13-20

Music

  • “The King of Love My Shepherd Is” by Gerald Peterson; Tune: “St. Columba”, a traditional Irish melody; Lorenz Publishing Co., 2001.
  • “How Can I Keep From Singing” by Tom Birchwood; Tune: “Endless Day” by Robert Lowry; Lorenz Publlshing Co., 2003.
  • “Postludium in F” by Louise Stairs; Lorenz Publishing Co., 1962.

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.

Imagination and Ministry

A devotion by Pastor Wes Poole

Hebrews 6: 10-11
For God is not unjust; he will not overlook your work and the love that you showed for his sake in serving the saints, as you still do. 11 And we want each one of you to show the same diligence so as to realize the full assurance of hope to the very end. NRSV

Serving the saints. Ministering to God’s People. Looking outside of ourselves and our immediate circles, and meeting the needs of others with generosity and compassion. Love God, love your neighbor. These are the primary tasks of the faithful believer. That’s not a terribly controversial statement. I doubt that anyone reading this would take issue with it at all. God has given us so much. It is incumbent upon us, as modern day disciples of Jesus, to tell the Story of God’s love for us and then to share what He has given us with our brothers and sisters out there in the wide world. Unfortunately, during the pandemic we have become a lot more insular and necessarily distant from each other. We spend a great deal more time at home, and as such, it is all too easy to forget about the world around us as we try to keep each other safe.

So while we continue to hope and pray for an end to this time of truly unprecedented difficulty, we still don’t know when that might be. Doubtless, many of us have kept to ourselves and an immediate “bubble” of people, and were just hoping for a quick resolution and return to our normal way of life. That hasn’t happened yet, but this is not the time to despair. God will bring us through this in His time. Of that I have absolutely no doubt. In the meantime, social distance notwithstanding, we are still the church; God’s hands at work in His creation. There is ministry that needs to be done and we need all hands on deck to make it so. To that end, I am encouraging all of us to get engaged. We all have contributions to make to our Good Shepherd family. Even though our community looks a bit different these days, our time, talents, and treasures are needed more than ever. We need everyone engaged creatively, spiritually, financially, and enthusiastically. There is so much good we can do to help others and keep our ministry active and vibrant. As fall approaches, we will be searching for new and innovative ways to share the Good News. We want your ideas and suggestions. Let’s think outside of the box. Think your idea is a bit “out there”? Let’s hear it anyway! God has called us all into ministry together. Let’s get on with it! I look forward to hearing from you. As always, you can get in touch with me directly at pastorwes@goodshepherdwb.org or by calling the church and leaving a message. Thanks for all that you do!

Let us pray…
God of creation and creativity, we come to you today and ask that you reinvigorate a spirit of boldness in our Good Shepherd family. When we look outside of ourselves, we see a world that needs to hear the Story of your love for all people. Many of those people are in need. Help us to find creative ways of meeting those needs and telling that Story; for we know that all things are possible in you. We ask these things in the name of Jesus. Amen.

Be well, be kind, and be safe!
Blessings always,
Pastor Wes †

Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost

Click here to access worship bulletin.

Readings

  • First Reading — Isaiah 56:1, 6-8
  • Psalm 67
  • Second Reading — Romans 11:1-2a, 29-32
  • Gospel — Matthew 15:10-28

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.