FINDING POWER IN THE ORDINARY

ByPastor Wes Poole

Psalm 121

A Song of Ascents.

I lift up my eyes to the hills— from where will my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber. He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your shade at your right hand. The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life. The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time on and forevermore. – NRSV

September 1st…the beginning of another year! I’m sitting here at home, waiting on a plumber and listening to the rather relentless rain. Summer and vacation are pretty much over! And you know…that’s OK with me. It’s funny…the liturgical year begins with the First Sunday of Advent, and the calendar year with January 1st, but for me, the year always begins with September. The kids all go back to school, Christian Ed cranks up again at long last, the schedule starts to fill up, and HALLELUJAH, one can see an end to the oppressive heat!!! Fall is always my favorite time of year!

With the “New Year”, comes a series of new opportunities for ministry.  We have some exciting things lined up for the Fall;  some old, some new, and all in need of faithful folks like yourselves pitching in to help make them successful.  I’m particularly excited about our new Faith Formation direction. The final details are still being firmed up, but we’ll have an official unveiling at our September 12th Rally Day and Congregational Renewal Picnic.  I hope to see everyone there…it’s going to be awesome!  

Still,”this is a devotion, pastor…not a newsletter article…what gives?!” Indeed. Yet, that’s where my thoughts are today. There is a deep, profound spirituality in the ordinary routines of life. We’ve come through so much in the last 18 months or so. We’re not out of the woods yet to be sure, but the fact that we can gather together for worship and spiritual growth is a blessing made all the sweeter by its actually being possible.

An ancient Chinese legend tells of a group of elderly, cultured gentlemen who met often to exchange wisdom and drink tea. Each host tried to find the finest and most costly varieties, to create exotic blends that would arouse the admiration of his guests. When the most venerable and respected of the group entertained, he served his tea with unprecedented ceremony, measuring the leaves from a golden box. The assembled epicures praised this exquisite tea. The host smiled and said, “The tea you have found so delightful is the same tea our peasants drink. I hope it will be a reminder to all that the good things in life are not necessarily the rarest or the most costly.

Point taken. As the psalmist reminds us, The Lord is indeed our keeper, our shade at our right hand, and through all that life has in store for us; the highs, the lows, and the regular ole routines of life! Learning to appreciate the power of the ordinary can deepen our relationship with God and neighbor.

This is a time of renewal and revitalization.  Between now and Christmas there will be good things happening at GSLC. Come out and make yourselves an active part of Good Shepherd’s ministries.  With your help, and with the Holy Spirit continually inspiring us all to serve faithfully, our ministries will be meaningful…and the Good News of Jesus Christ will continue to be proclaimed in this community and beyond.

May the Triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit bless our church family as we walk the path of faith together.

Be well, be kind, and be safe…and if you haven’t yet, and are able…go get the shot!

Blessings always,

Pastor Wes †

Psalm 121

A Song of Ascents.

I lift up my eyes to the hills— from where will my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber. He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your shade at your right hand. The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life. The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time on and forevermore. – NRSV

September 1st…the beginning of another year! I’m sitting here at home, waiting on a plumber and listening to the rather relentless rain. Summer and vacation are pretty much over! And you know…that’s OK with me. It’s funny…the liturgical year begins with the First Sunday of Advent, and the calendar year with January 1st, but for me, the year always begins with September. The kids all go back to school, Christian Ed cranks up again at long last, the schedule starts to fill up, and HALLELUJAH, one can see an end to the oppressive heat!!! Fall is always my favorite time of year!

With the “New Year”, comes a series of new opportunities for ministry.  We have some exciting things lined up for the Fall;  some old, some new, and all in need of faithful folks like yourselves pitching in to help make them successful.  I’m particularly excited about our new Faith Formation direction. The final details are still being firmed up, but we’ll have an official unveiling at our September 12th Rally Day and Congregational Renewal Picnic.  I hope to see everyone there…it’s going to be awesome!  

Still,”this is a devotion, pastor…not a newsletter article…what gives?!” Indeed. Yet, that’s where my thoughts are today. There is a deep, profound spirituality in the ordinary routines of life. We’ve come through so much in the last 18 months or so. We’re not out of the woods yet to be sure, but the fact that we can gather together for worship and spiritual growth is a blessing made all the sweeter by its actually being possible.

An ancient Chinese legend tells of a group of elderly, cultured gentlemen who met often to exchange wisdom and drink tea. Each host tried to find the finest and most costly varieties, to create exotic blends that would arouse the admiration of his guests. When the most venerable and respected of the group entertained, he served his tea with unprecedented ceremony, measuring the leaves from a golden box. The assembled epicures praised this exquisite tea. The host smiled and said, “The tea you have found so delightful is the same tea our peasants drink. I hope it will be a reminder to all that the good things in life are not necessarily the rarest or the most costly.

Point taken. As the psalmist reminds us, The Lord is indeed our keeper, our shade at our right hand, and through all that life has in store for us; the highs, the lows, and the regular ole routines of life! Learning to appreciate the power of the ordinary can deepen our relationship with God and neighbor.

This is a time of renewal and revitalization.  Between now and Christmas there will be good things happening at GSLC. Come out and make yourselves an active part of Good Shepherd’s ministries.  With your help, and with the Holy Spirit continually inspiring us all to serve faithfully, our ministries will be meaningful…and the Good News of Jesus Christ will continue to be proclaimed in this community and beyond.

May the Triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit bless our church family as we walk the path of faith together.

Be well, be kind, and be safe…and if you haven’t yet, and are able…go get the shot!

Blessings always,

Pastor Wes †

Faith vs Certainty

By Pastor Jim Parks, CLP

Scripture Reading: 1 John 5:1-5 (CEV) “If we believe that Jesus is truly Christ, we are God’s children. Everyone who loves the Father will also love his children.  If we love and obey God, we know that we will love his children.  We show our love for God by obeying his commandments, and they are not hard to follow.

Every child of God can defeat the world, and our faith is what gives us this victory.  No one can defeat the world without having faith in Jesus as the Son of God.”

Are you certain about your faith? If you have answered that question with a “Heck, yes!”, then perhaps you may not want to read any further. You see, I am generally wary of people who seem too certain in their faith. Some have even said that if I had more faith, I would be certain. But, certainty of my faith has never really been my experience. My faith has been more a journey of questions, searching, and wrestling than one of absolute answers

That is not to say that I have no belief system. Does God exist? Is Jesus Christ the Son of God? Does God love us? Does God work through us? I could say “Yes” to all those and more.

My wariness is with another kind of certainty. And that is the kind of certainty that establishes moral superiority, labels and exclusions. The certainty that “we” are right and that “they” are wrong. I believe that statements and thinking that reflect “’we’ are good and ‘they’ are bad” is what often threatens to divide the Church and separate us from each other.

I sometimes wonder if certainty, rather than doubt, might be the opposite of faith. Christ doesn’t ask us to be certain. He calls us to be faithful, to be trusting. When I am certain, I have placed myself “at the center of my universe and others revolve around me.” In other words, I become the focus. Trust, however, asks me to look beyond myself. It allows relationships. Trust places God at the center.

Faith is alive, dynamic, and growing. Faith opens us to possibilities beyond what we can presently see and understand. Certainty is more narrow. It naturally defines how we can think and act. It establishes limitations and restrictions on God, each other, and ourselves. Certainty creates boundaries. We all need boundaries to survive. But we must also recognize that the same wall that protects “us” from “them” can easily become the wall that imprisons us.

I know and understand that it is often much easier and less risky to be certain than it is to be faithful and trusting. Trust is hard work. It is more than simply believing. It is an action. Trust does not mean that we do not think for ourselves, that we do not get involved, or that we just sit back and let happen whatever will happen. Que sera, sera. Trust means that we must wrestle with the difficult questions. But we do so with possibilities, risk, and openness—with the possibility that our own opinion could be wrong, with the risk that we might be changed, and with openness to God’s ever-present love and grace for “us” and for “them.”

My hope and prayer is that I will be more faithful than certain, that I will not fear new truths, that I will not settle for half-truths, and that I will not presume to have all the truth. That’s faith, not certainty.

Prayer: O God, I don’t just want to be certain that you love me. I want to believe it. I don’t just want to be certain that all are your children and that there is no “we” and “they”. I want to believe it. I don’t just want to be certain that Jesus is working in and through me. I want to believe it. O God, strengthen my faith and help me to work on my trust level. Through Jesus the Christ. Amen.

GOD’S TRUTH

By Pastor Wes Poole

From the Creation accounts in GENESIS 1

26 Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.”

27 So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.

31 God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day. – NRSV

I read a story this week about a pastor stepping into the pulpit for the first time. He was scared, as is typical, and he froze on the spot. His mouth dried out and his brain was filled with fog. He had studied, prepared accordingly, and spent much time in prayer. At that moment, however, all of the words of discouragement that he had unfortunately endured over the years came crashing down. He had been told by family and so-called friends that he was not up to or worthy of the task of ministry. He struggled for years with feelings of worthlessness before starting the journey to ordination and serving a congregation. Now at the culmination of all he had worked for, it seemed those cruel naysayers were right. Then, in a moment of truly Divine Clarity, he remembered the words of the sage in the Book of Proverbs where he reminds the reader that God’s Words are always true; that He is a shield to those who take refuge in him. A sense of peace came over him as he remembered that he was a loved and valued Child of God, and he was able to bring the Good News to everyone who had come to hear it from him.

We’ve all experienced that sort of paralysis that stems from a lack of confidence. Maybe those doubts were caused by the cruel words of others. Maybe it’s just our own insecurities getting the better of us. When I have those feelings, the words from the first chapter of Genesis always provide comfort and clarity. God looked at Creation, and called it good!! To be sure, we don’t always live into that goodness, but Scripture is full of instances where God reminds us that those first words we read of in Genesis are still true. God speaks the truth, and we are still part of that Good Creation. Countless times in the Bible we read of God reaching out to His children, providing strength and inspiration. May we also strive in our personal journeys of faith to be the ones who speak God’s Truth; choosing words of positivity and love over those of discouragement or cynicism. God’s love is for everyone, and His grace is always enough. That truth should always be on our lips and in our actions.

Let us pray…

God of Truth, Author of Goodness, help us to remember that we are all a part of that wonderful Creation you called good. When we fall short, you reach out to us with renewed strength and conviction. May we always reflect that encouragement and empowerment you provide to people everywhere; that your truth may continue to be proclaimed in this world. We ask these things in Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Be well, be kind, and be safe! 

Blessings always,

Pastor Wes †

CONNECTION, COMMUNITY, AND COOPERATION

By Pastor Wes Poole

Romans 12:4-8

For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another. We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us: prophecy, in proportion to faith; ministry, in ministering; the teacher, in teaching; the exhorter, in exhortation; the giver, in generosity; the leader, in diligence; the compassionate, in cheerfulness. – NRSV

Charles Osgood once told the story of two ladies who lived in a convalescent center. Each had suffered an incapacitating stroke. Margaret’s stroke left her left side restricted, while Ruth’s stroke damaged her right side. Both of these ladies were accomplished pianists but had given up hope of ever playing again. The director of the center sat them down at a piano and encouraged them to play solo pieces together. They did, and a beautiful friendship developed. What a picture of the church’s need to work together! What one member cannot do alone, perhaps two or more could do together…in harmony. 

What a difference just a little connection can make! Lord knows we’ve all had our fill of disconnect over the last year and a half. Now that we’re moving into a post-COVID world, I find myself especially grateful for the return of the human interaction that heretofore we’ve taken for granted. Monday evening I was at an actual choral rehearsal…singing…with no mask! Oh, the rapture! There were lots of tears of joy and spontaneous hugging going on! Connection…community…cooperation…these things have never seemed sweeter. Here in our Good Shepherd family, we’re also reestablishing the connections in our congregation that we’ve missed so badly. Any number of people have commented to me on how nice it is, especially with one service on Sunday, to see folks we may not have seen since way before the pandemic even blipped our radar screens! It is remarkable just how powerful a hug or a handshake can be after being denied them for so long! It serves to remind us of one undeniable truth. Our faith, the Christianity we hold so dear; these things, by definition, exist in community! Like the story above, when we connect with others, celebrating our individual gifts, real communication is the result, we get much more done, and our quality of life is immeasurably better. Thanks be to God for all of the good people who have helped us transition back to a time where we can be together once more as a family. May we never take such things for granted again! 

Let us pray…

God of family and community, we give you thanks for the gift of human interaction. As we return to a time of interconnectedness, help us renew our zeal for ministry and our appreciation of each others’ gifts.
Strengthen our sense of belonging to each other, so that we may continue serving our neighbors as Jesus commanded us. For it is in his name that we pray. Amen.

Be well, be kind, and be safe. See you in church!

Your partner in Christ,

Pastor Wes †

A POCKET FULL OF MINISTRY

By Pastor Wes Poole

Proverbs 11:25

Whoever brings blessing will be enriched, and one who waters will himself be watered. – ESV

Aubrey bought a fleece-lined coat for her aging father, but he died before he could wear it. So she tucked a note of encouragement with a $20 bill into the pocket and donated the jacket to charity.

Ninety miles away, unable to endure his family’s dysfunction any longer, nineteen-year-old Kelly left his house without grabbing a coat. He knew of only one place to turn—the home of his grandmother who prayed for him. Hours later he stepped off a bus and into his grandma’s arms. Shielding him from the winter wind, she said, “We’ve got to get you a coat!” At the mission store, Kelly tried on a coat he liked. Slipping his hands into the pockets he found an envelope—with a $20 bill and Aubrey’s note.

The above story was in my inbox this morning as a part of a daily devotional that I read every day. It really resonated with me, and so I share it with you. It reminded me, once again, of how ministry is not usually a series of grand gestures or public displays. Sure, Jesus could feed 5000+ people with a bit of bread and fish, but when we manage to feed one person, the act is no less significant. I would imagine Kelly never forgot that thrift store coat with its unexpected treasure. Likewise, the person on the receiving end of any good work we can do will remember that personal act of kindness, and may even be inspired to “pay it forward”, as it were. No doubt, many of us have heard or seen the saying “practice random acts of kindness and senseless acts of beauty”. This powerful bit of wisdom was first penned by journalist Anne Herbert on a placemat in Sausalito, California in 1982. I don’t know anything about Ms. Herbert’s faith or beliefs, but if you needed to boil down the essence of ministry into a sentence, you could do a lot worse! Jesus’ own ministry was itself a series of often random encounters that left everyone involved changed for the better. It’s no different for we 21st century disciples of Jesus. A co-worker, the person next to us in line at the grocery, the fellow parishioner, the stranger you encounter; all of these interactions are opportunities to put this philosophy into practice. As we go about our everyday lives, let us all commit ourselves to following Jesus’ example, and be ready to grasp the moment. You might just make someone smile, or make their day…or even change a life! 

Let us pray…

God of all goodness and beauty, help us to recognize the opportunities for ministry that present themselves in the smallest things. When we choose to make kindness, mercy, generosity, and love the operative forces in our lives, we are embracing the life into which you have called us, and modeled for us in the person of you son, Jesus Christ, in whose name we pray. Amen.

Be well, be kind, be safe…and be watchful!

Your Partner in Christ,

Pastor Wes Poole †

“FATHERLY” ADVICE

By Pastor Wes Poole

LUKE 6:37

Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven – NRSV

As we approach Father’s Day, I find myself contemplating the often fraught relationships between children and parents. I am no stranger to this personally, as my father and I never really understood one another well. Since his passing in August of ’09, I have spent a great deal of time grappling with forgiveness. Some days it’s easier than others, yet it’s always the goal. Jesus says as much in the verse above.

There’s a Spanish story of a father and son who had become estranged. The son ran away, and the father set off to find him. He searched for months to no avail. Finally, in a last desperate effort to find him, the father put an ad in a Madrid newspaper. The ad read: Dear Paco, meet me in front of this newspaper office at noon on Saturday. All is forgiven. I love you. Your Father. On Saturday, 800 Pacos showed up, looking for forgiveness and love from their fathers. Most people just want to be understood and accepted. Fathers and Sons are certainly no different. 

Of course, this is operative in most relationships, not just those of sons and fathers. In the church particularly, we are commanded by Jesus himself to make forgiveness the motivation behind all of our actions. For where there is forgiveness, judging others is far more difficult. Where there is forgiveness, condemnation has no real teeth. Forgiveness begets more forgiveness, and it becomes the very oil that smooths out the machinery of life! When we can look at a brother or sister without judgment and armed with a pocket full of forgiveness, strong new relationships are formed and ailing ones can be repaired. One of my favorite musicians, Vince Gill, once addressed an awards ceremony where bad feelings had arisen around an artist. He stood at the podium, and said this: “You know who gets blessed when you forgive? You.” Got it in one, Vince! Kindness, patience, forgiveness, unity… When we strive for these things, the blessings are always manifold. In a world all too often diametrically divided these days, may we modern day disciples of Jesus take his command seriously; modeling for the world the better way he taught us. It will make a difference!

Let us pray…

God of forgiveness and second chances, you showed us in Jesus Christ a way of life that will blessings into the world; spreading unity and concord, rather than hatred and division. Strengthen our resolve to “do unto others” in the way he taught us. All others!! We ask this in Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Be well, be kind, and be safe. I hope to see you all in church soon!

Blessings always,

Pastor Wes Poole †

THE POWER OF PROMISE

By Pastor Wes Poole

Hebrews 10:23-25 

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. – RSV

A professor of mine in seminary used to lift up regularly the fact that we should always give thanks to God for what he “has done, is doing, and promises yet to do”. This resonated with me then, and has stayed with me in the almost thirty years since I first heard him say it. We worship a God who has indeed performed mighty acts, continues to work for and through us today, and promises a future of unlimited forgiveness and empowerment for service. This is truly good news. It means that through everything, God has not only promised to provide us with what we need, but that scripture has clearly shown this to have always been true. Remember, our God is a God of action, not just words. Moreover, God is not content simply to act from “on high”, he includes us in his Holy Work and wants us to bring others into his ongoing ministry. 

When I was a little kid, my family and I used to spend many if not most summer weekends at a campground in Myrtle Beach, SC. My parents kept an old Airstream trailer in storage down there. They’d call the campground, and the staff would have the camper set up for us when we got there. I have so many wonderful, early memories of that time. I remember watching my little sister take her first steps there. The downside was, we missed a lot of church in the summer. Towards the end of one summer, after a long absence, we were in church again on Sunday. As we were standing in the narthex, our senior pastor, Bernard Trexler, put his hands on my shoulders, looked my father in the eye, and said: “This boy needs to be in Sunday School.” That was that! We had fewer beach trips, but the good pastor set into effect a series of events that helped direct the course of my life. I owe the late Pastor Trexler a great debt of gratitude for his forthright faithfulness. That is God at work in the present, empowering his people for future service. I hold that story dear. It is a treasured part of my personal piety. To think that God cared enough even for little 7-year-old me that he would start equipping me for service is both staggering and humbling.

It also hasn’t changed in the years since. God almost always acts through his most trusted agents…us! Even with all that God has done, he never stops creating, and has called all of us to be a part of that in some way. If that sounds daunting, remember the old saying, “You can’t break God’s promises by leaning on them!”. Whether it’s making sure a little kid makes it to Sunday School, to meeting the challenges of our day and age such has racism, division, and poverty, God’s promises are sufficient. I call upon all of us here in the Good Shepherd family to recommit our efforts to building one another up in the faith. Our trust in God, like his promises themselves, will always bear fruit.

Let us pray…

Lord, continue to empower us to be your instruments of peace and reconciliation in this world. We know from the witness of scripture that you have done mighty things in the past, and have promised never to stop acting on our behalf. Keep us firmly rooted in faith and strengthen our resolve to make a positive difference in the lives of others as Jesus showed us. For we ask these things in his name. Amen.

Be well, be kind, and be safe. See you in church this summer! 😉

Blessings always,

Pastor Wes Poole †

IT’S GOING TO BE OK!

By Pastor Wes Poole

I find myself today reflecting on all of the profound change the last year and a half has brought me, my family, and our church family. I remember being excited and filled with hope for the future in January of 2020, as you gifted me with the trust to be your pastor. In the past year, COVID notwithstanding, I think we have seen many of our hopes realized. Indeed, hope has not disappointed us here at Good Shepherd Church. Sure, it’s been tough, but the Holy Spirit has continued to infuse us with energy, power, and enthusiasm; the strength to meet the challenges we will surely face as we carry out Our Lord’s ministry. So many of you have stepped up and done your part to keep this important ministry alive. For that, I will always be profoundly grateful. We have continued to celebrate our blessings while allowing growth, change, and yes…adversity, to enrich us. Even after all we’ve endured together, I still feel the sense of excitement and purpose in myself and humming all around us. We’re back! The doors are open! Our voices are literally raised again in praise! It’s going to be OK!! God has surely smiled upon this family!

Because of 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. Diversity is still the watchword for our time, and thanks be to God for that! Cultural relevance, inclusivity, sensitivity to the differing needs of all people; 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 identity, or life’s situation; what has Jesus taught us to celebrate if not that?! What does this mean to the individual congregation struggling to cope and remain relevant 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 that we have been charged with telling? These are hard questions but good ones, questions that the Christian church in all of its denominations is dealing with here at the beginning of this new century.

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 is socially acceptable or politically expedient. We have a radically inclusive Story to tell, songs to sing, and people to whom we are called to minister. From visiting our own sick and shut-in, to meeting the needs of the hungry and poor, to supporting our Synod and greater church, we have a multitude of tasks which make up the ministry of Good Shepherd Church. Gathered together in worship around the Word and the Sacraments, we reemerge refreshed and strengthened into a world that needs us…through the power of the Holy Spirit. Yes, I mean that same Holy Spirit we just celebrated the last two Sundays; that person of the Trinity about whom we Lutherans often forget. It is the Spirit who 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 and frees 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 who is never boring or static is always doing a new thing.  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 Divine Agent 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 right relationship with Him. That same spirit is still alive and well at Good Shepherd. Again, we’re back! We’re open! God is with us and the Spirit is always blowing amongst and through us. All we need now is you! C’mon back! Let’s get on with being the Lord’s hands; always serving our neighbor.

Let us pray…

God of growth and new life, we thank you for the energizing gift of your Holy Spirit. As we move towards a new normal, help us to be open to new opportunities to serve You and our neighbors. You have given us a spirit of fearlessness and power. Help us to use that power to spread the Good News to a world always in need of hearing and experiencing it. We pray these things in Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Be well, be kind, and be safe, my friends. I look forward to seeing you and continuing to do ministry with you.

Your partner in Christ,

Pastor Wes †

TAKE MY SON

By Pastor Wes Poole

I’ve been sitting on this one for awhile. I don’t promise never to put it in a sermon at some point, but it spoke to me today.

A wealthy man and his son loved to collect rare works of art. They had everything in their collection, from Picasso to Raphael. They would often sit together and admire the great works of art. When the Vietnam conflict broke out, the son went to war. He was very courageous and died in battle while rescuing another soldier. The father was notified and grieved deeply for his only son. About a month later, just before Christmas, there was a knock at the door. A young man stood at the door with a large package in his hands.

He said, “Sir, you don’t know me, but I am the soldier for whom your son gave his life. He saved many lives that day, and he was carrying me to safety when a bullet struck him in the heart and he died instantly. He often talked about you, and your love for art.” The young man held out this package. “I know this isn’t much. I’m not really a great artist, but I think your son would have wanted you to have this.” The father opened the package. It was a portrait of his son, painted by the young man. He stared in awe at the way the soldier had captured the personality of his son in the painting. The father was so drawn to the eyes that his own eyes welled up with tears. He thanked the young man and offered to pay him for the picture. “Oh, no sir, I could never repay what your son did for me. It’s a gift.” The father hung the portrait over his mantle. Every time visitors came to his home he took them to see the portrait of his son before he showed them any of the other great works he had collected. 

The man died a few months later. There was to be a great auction of his paintings. Many influential people gathered, excited over seeing the great paintings and having an opportunity to purchase one for their collection.  On the platform sat the painting of the son. The auctioneer pounded his gavel. “We will start the bidding with this picture of the son. Who will bid for this picture?” There was silence.  Then a voice in the back of the room shouted, “We want to see the famous paintings. Skip this one.” But the auctioneer persisted. “Will somebody bid for this painting. Who will start the bidding? $100, $200?” Another voice angrily.. “We didn’t come to see this painting. We came to see the Van Goghs, the Rembrandts. Get on with the real bids!” But still the auctioneer continued. “The son! The son! Who’ll take the son?” Finally, a voice came from the very back of the room. It was the longtime gardener of the man and his son. “I’ll give $10 for the painting.” Being a poor man, it was all he could afford.  “We have $10, who will bid $20?” “Give it to him for $10. Let’s see the masters.” “$10 is the bid, won’t someone bid $20?” The crowd was becoming angry. They didn’t want the picture of the son. They wanted the more worthy investments for their collections. 

The auctioneer pounded the gavel. “Going once, twice, SOLD for $10!” A man sitting on the second row shouted, “Now let’s get on with the collection!” The auctioneer laid down his gavel. “I’m sorry, the auction is over.” “What about the paintings?” “I am sorry. When I was called to conduct this auction, I was told of a secret stipulation in the will. I was not allowed to reveal that stipulation until this time. Only the painting of the son would be auctioned. Whoever bought that painting would inherit the entire estate, including the paintings. The man who took the son gets everything!” God gave His son 2,000 years ago to die on the cross. Much like the auctioneer, His message today is: “The son, the son, who’ll take the son?” Because, you see, whoever gets the Son gets everything. 

“Whoever gets the Son, gets everything!” Or, as the evangelist John tells us, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” You see, God goes one up on the auctioneer in the story…He paid the price for us in advance…He gave His only Son to us that we might indeed “get everything”…new and abundant life now and the hope of even greater life to come. The  message of the Church is much like the painting in the story. It is life giving and life altering. “The son, the son, who’ll take the son?!” Maybe an even better question to ask these days is, “Who’ll take the Son to others? Who’ll tell the Son’s Story to the people who need to hear it?!” The answer to those questions should be easy….we’ll take the Son. We’ll tell His Story. May God continue to bless our family of faith as we strive to find ways to do just that!

Let us pray…

God of Life, we thank you this day for the gift of your Son; the gift of new life and salvation. As you granted us this amazing gift for free, inspire us to bring this inexhaustible supply of hope and purpose to others; that your love may be known throughout the world, for we ask these things in the name of your Son, Jesus the Risen Christ. Amen.

Be well, be kind, and be safe. 

Many blessings,

Pastor Wes †

A “PENTECOSTAL” SPIRIT

By Pastor Wes Poole

Pentecost…the great, generally underrated third of the “Big Three” celebrations of the church year. Sure, Christmas and Easter get all the good press, but how often do we give Pentecost its due? Pentecost comes a bit early this year, but we will still be missing one usual, and rather important part, Confirmation. Like last year, COVID has made it necessary to postpone that celebration until Reformation Sunday. It’s always inspiring to see young people make public profession of their faith and take their places as adult members of the church. That won’t be diminished at all by waiting until October, but where do we find meaning and relevance in Pentecost right now?

I’ve always found it imminently appropriate that Pentecost comes on the cusp of summer. We’re approaching a time of year when our attitudes towards the church and its ministry can become a bit lackadaisical. With the world opening up thanks to the vaccines, people are more eager than ever to get in the car, or on a plane, and simply go somewhere else! That’s certainly the case in our house. Christine, Ian, Julia and I are already planning a vacation that we can’t even take for another two and half months! It’s not hard to see where people’s minds are, and rightly so. I’ve never been of the opinion that one needs to apologize for looking forward to some well earned R and R. This is where the Spirit of Pentecost can be most helpful to us.

The “Spirit” of Pentecost…a fitting phrase if ever there were one. The Spirit is exactly what Pentecost is all about. For those early Christians long ago, it marked the day that God gifted His empowering and life giving Holy Spirit on His newly formed church. With the gift of the Spirit came the gifts of communication, understanding, and mission. All of these things are vital to the ministry of Christ’s Church, wherever it may be.  The traditional symbol for the Spirit at Pentecost is fire. The imagery is unmistakable. God has lit a flame of faith in each and every one of us; a flame which needs to be tended throughout the year. As we draw near to the summer months of rest and recreation, let us remember that our much needed recreation is just that…a re-creation of ourselves into hopefully better and even more enthusiastic workers in the Lord’s Vineyard.  Pentecost reminds us that even though the weather is warm and our thoughts may turn often to more idle pursuits, the Fire of the Spirit is still alive within us; moving us always forward in our journeys of faith.

May the Holy Spirit continue to inspire us to proclaim the Good News boldly, creatively, and joyfully!

Let us pray…

God of newness and rebirth, as you gifted those first Christians with the gift of your Holy Spirit, we ask that you gift us with a fresh outpouring of that same Spirit of Truth and Understanding. As we approach a time traditionally given to rest and revitalization, help us to emerge with renewed zeal and enthusiasm for ministry; that we might bring others to know your Son, Jesus Christ, in whose name we pray. Amen.

Be well, be kind, and be safe. I hope to see you Sunday…and don’t forget to wear red!

Blessings always,

Pastor Wes †