Autumnal Grace

A devotion by Pastor Wes Poole

No Spring nor Summer beauty hath such grace,
As I have seen in one Autumnal face.
John Donne – The Autumnal

Autumn is, hands down, my favorite time of the year! The grace and beauty of God’s Creation as this season comes upon us is quite inspirational to me. As I feel the weather start to turn colder, and anticipate the leaves beginning to change, I cannot help being caught up in the spirit of the season. From the sights and sounds of children (and many adults!) at Halloween, to the thought of the table loaded with turkey and trimmings at Thanksgiving, to the coming celebrations of Advent and Christmas, I am constantly reminded of how richly God has blessed us. Yes, the pandemic is still with us, with all of its anxiety. Regardless, this is a season of change; a time to step back and take in the wonder of this world God has given us. It is a time to offer to the LORD our thanks and praise for His wondrous Creation.
I find that I have many changes for which to be thankful this autumn: a wonderful new place to worship God, new friends in a caring family of faith, and a future ripe with possibility. In short, I am talking about a new home. A home, simply put, is a place where one belongs. Home stands at the beginning and at the end of our journeys. It is a place of refreshment and rejuvenation. This autumn, after a spring and summer that were, admittedly, not optimal, I find that I am being strengthened and revitalized as Christine, the kids, and I finally begin to live into this next chapter of our lives in such a kind and caring new home. Trusting in God, I am focusing on allowing the Holy Spirit to help me look past the COVID fears, and to appreciate what autumn is showing us this year.
As the season changes, each of our homes represents a special place of warmth and security. Of course, sheltering at home has made that even more significant this year. The kindness and friendship we have received from the good people here have made us feel that Good Shepherd is indeed our new faith home. We may have had a slow start, but I remain hopeful for the future. As the weather keeps growing colder, let us give thanks for the warmth of the spirit of our family of faith. Ours is a spirit that can make Christ known throughout our community and the world. Let us embrace the change that this season represents and keep striving to make a difference in the lives of all people in the name of Jesus Christ. Our Lord is always offering us opportunities for ministry. Let us recommit ourselves to the important work to which Christ has called us.

May the Blessings of Almighty God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit warm our hearts and guide our steps with the wonder of this season.

Be well, be kind, and be safe, friends!

Your partner in Christ,
Pastor Wes †

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 †

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†

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 †

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 †

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 †

Social Distance and Spiritual Community

A devotion by Pastor Wes Poole

John 13:4-7
Jesus got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” Jesus answered, “You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” NRSV

Has anyone experienced the phenomenon recently of watching a TV show or a commercial, like a rerun or a familiar ad, and your first thought is, Argh, they’re not wearing a mask and they’re standing way too close!” I usually catch myself a second later and just shake my head and think, “Wow, how quickly do we get so used to the new normal!” Well I just did the same thing when I read the passage above. It sounds silly, but such is the headspace most of us live in these days. I’m not decrying that, by any stretch of the imagination. On the contrary, I don’t think we can do enough to keep our families and communities safe. As difficult as it can be sometimes, it also dawned on me that all of this emphasis on keeping each other safe and healthy has forged a new kind of community; one that is physically distant by necessity, and yet closer, in that now we have to be more considerate of the health and well being of our neighbors and loved ones.

In the church, we have an opportunity to take this newfound attitude and put it to good use. Yes, fellowship right now is difficult in the traditional sense, but the love of God in Jesus Christ is not bound by earthly matters like time or distance. We can still keep our church family safe and spiritually healthy. For those who feel comfortable, we will continue to have in-person, socially distanced, worship with Holy Communion. When we share that meal, we’re drawn far closer than mere physical proximity. Our true unity is always in Christ, and as St. Paul reminds us, nothing can separate us from him. However, we don’t have to have come fresh from communion to share that unity with others. How might that play out practically in our current context. Even for those of us still sheltering at home, the simplest things tend to mean the most: a phone call, text, or email; a card or an actual snail mail letter. (Does anyone still do that?) My son, Ian, often takes flowers or a box of cookies and leaves them on his girlfriend’s porch. The fact is, we can still be the church in the time of COVID. Any act of care or kindness is never wasted. When this is all behind us, and God willing, it will be, we might find ourselves stronger for the struggle. So if you see or think of anyone who might be in need of the blessings of community, reach out to them. By the same token, please reach out to me if you see a need of which I should be made aware. I am always reachable by email at: pastorwes@goodshepherdwb.org or by calling the church office. For now, let’s continue to build one another up; praying for the time when we can, once again, as Paul also says, “Greet one another with a holy kiss”, or hug, handshake, etc. May that day come quickly!

Let us pray…
Lord Jesus, as you showed humility in washing the disciples feet, help us to be open to new ways of reaching out to our brothers and sisters during this time of physical distance, for we know our unity in you can never be weakened or dissolved. Keep us strong in faith and commitment to our church and greater community, and keep our hearts filled with love and forgiveness. For you live and reign with the Father and Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Be well, be kind, and be safe!

All God’s Blessings,
Pastor Wes †

Communication, Collaboration, and Encouragement

A devotion by Pastor Wes Poole

Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love, for his wonderful works to humankind. And let them offer thanksgiving sacrifices, and tell of his deeds with songs of joy. Psalm 107 21-22 NRSV

There is a story told about Ivan the Great who ruled Russia as Czar in the 15th century. He was a warrior, a fighter, and a conqueror of kingdoms. The Soviet Union as we knew it a couple of decades back was basically put into place by Ivan the Great.

Ivan was so busy doing battle that some of his comrades became concerned because he hadn’t taken time to get married and have a family. They came to him and said “You’ve got to get married because you’ve got to have an heir to the throne.” But Ivan said “I want to do battle and to conquer more territory, you go find a wife for me.” So they did.

Ivan’s men found a wife for him from the daughter of the king of Greece, a beautiful girl. They said to Ivan, “We found a wife for you, but there’s one problem.” “What’s that?” he asked. “If you’re going to marry her, you have to be Greek Orthodox,” they said. Ivan the Great said, “Well, if you think she’d make a good wife for me, that’s no problem, I could be Greek Orthodox.”

The king of Greece was thrilled with this because it meant that Ivan wasn’t going to invade his territory. So the Greeks sent tutors to Russia to tutor Ivan and 500 of his elite soldiers, everyone a great warrior. The soldiers required tutoring because Ivan said, “If I’m going to be Greek Orthodox, they’re going to be Greek Orthodox.”

They tutored all these men in the Greek Orthodox faith and finally Ivan and the soldiers went down to Greece for the wedding. But before the marriage they had to be baptized into the Greek Orthodox church. It was an incredible sight as thousands of people came to watch Ivan the Great and his 500 soldiers all wade into the water at one time to be baptized by immersion into their new church.

Five hundred soldiers with full armor and five hundred Greek Orthodox priests were standing in the blue water of the Mediterranean Sea for the baptism, when all of a sudden the king of Greece said, “We’ve got a problem.” The problem was that in the Greek Orthodox church you could not be a warrior and a member of the church at the same time.

So they held a hastily-called diplomatic meeting in the water to ask, “How are we going to work this out?” They came up with a simple answer. Just before the priests immersed the soldiers, each man took out his sword, held it high above the water, and allowed the priest to baptize everything but his sword arm. This came to be known as “the unbaptized arm.”

The point of the story?? Well I’m certainly not advocating arranged marriages! I didn’t write the story anyway, but the author was making the point that there are many Christians today who have unbaptized checkbooks. Like the warriors who dedicated everything to God except their sword arm, many of us have dedicated every part of our lives to God except our money. As a wise man once said, “The last thing to be converted is our pocketbook.”

Uh oh…now I’ve gone and done it….I used “the M word”!!!

(Collective groan ensues throughout the congregation!)

Please bear with me on this one! You’ll never hear me berating anyone about money, particularly during a global pandemic with the economy in jeopardy.
My point is that for the church to remain the church, we still must have adequate resources. If it were Stewardship Month, we’d be talking about “time, talents, and treasures”. That’s always relevant, but our situation is different right now. Many are unemployed or underemployed. Personal financial security is not something many of us can claim. So please understand, this is not about guilt…at all! Everyone is doing what they can. God values our efforts, whatever they are. I know I do!

We do have one new resource available though that I’d like to bring to your attention. Thanks to the good work of our church leadership, we now have a link on the church website where you can send in your tithes and offerings electronically. It is safe and secure, and of course…contactless. With many of us not able yet to return to in-person worship, this is an invaluable tool we have to keep our ministry alive and well and ready to roar back when COVID is behind us. May that day come quickly! On a personal note, Christine and I will be using this resource exclusively for our personal giving from now on. Check it out at www.goodshepherdwb.org.

More importantly, I want to encourage anyone who needs pastoral care or services to call on me personally. At this time, home and hospital visits are generally ill advised or not allowed at all. Still, if you need to talk to your pastor, or just have a message for me, please email me at pastorwes@goodshepherdwb.org. I will get back to you ASAP. Of course, you can always call the church and leave a message. That might take a bit longer, but only a little, and I’ll still get back with you as quickly as I can.

This has been a long road, and we aren’t at the end of the journey yet. Now more than ever, we must seek to build each other up. The Fruits of the Spirit, love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control; these are as important as they’ve ever been. Likewise, the Golden Rule, “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” is as timely as always. We are a community of kind and caring people. I know we will continue to meet the challenges ahead. Right now, a lot of days may seem like “Good Fridays”. Never fear though…Sunday’s coming!

Let us pray…
God of Peace, we thank you for bringing us this far along our journey. We know we’re not at its end, as yet, but you are walking this entire road with us. Inspire us to even greater acts of kindness and generosity, for when we see our neighbors in need, we look into the face of Jesus himself. We also lift up for you today our Good Shepherd family. Help us continually to recommit ourselves to the health and well being of our congregation. Keep hope alive in us, for hope in you is never in vain. We ask these things in Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Be well, be kind, and be safe.

Blessings,
Pastor Wes †

A Change Will Do You Good!

A devotion by Pastor Wes Poole

Jeremiah 31:31-34
The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt—a covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, says the Lord. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, “Know the Lord,” for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more. NRSV

We usually read the above passage on Reformation Sunday. The prophet reminds us that our God is never boring or static. He is always doing a new thing; creating something wonderful. In all of the history between God and His people that Scripture recounts for us, God never rests on His laurels. God never settles. God is actively engaged with us; inspiring us to live and engage with one another in the same way. As a church of the Reformation tradition, we subscribe to the doctrine of Sempre Ecclesia Reformanda…the Church, always reforming. We are a community of believers built to thrive on growth and change, for one can’t exist without the other. Right now, there are a lot of changes in the church that we likely didn’t expect or want. Social distancing, online worship, limited in-person worship, new methods of celebrating communion…all of these changes have been forced on us. This has obviously been difficult, yet again, we are a church designed to deal with and even embrace change. Jeremiah was foretelling the new covenant God promised and brought to fruition in Jesus. Yet even then, Jeremiah was reminding his people of the need to trust in God’s creative genius. God promises a new relationship that is deep and eternal. We trust that He will see us through any difficulties and indeed inspire us to even greater acts of goodness in His Kingdom. We’ve heard it said a lot during this COVID crisis that we are the church wherever we may be and in whatever situation we find ourselves. This has never been truer than during these trying times. Will it be difficult? Yes, sometimes, but we face every challenge before us with Our Lord at our side. As a community of faith, we at Good Shepherd are still grappling with how to be the Church in the time of COVID. There are social, theological, doctrinal, practical, and certainly financial challenges ahead. Coming together as a family, social distancing and financial obstacles notwithstanding, God will see us through and we will see each other through everything. We will undoubtedly be changed permanently in some ways…but we will still be the Church and God will still be God. His promises are never in vain and He will continue to create wonder out of even this most trying of times. The Church, Always Reforming. May we continue to trust in God’s creative and redeeming power; showing the world what this new life in Christ looks like. It may not always be easy, but it will never be boring!

Let us pray…
Creator God, we thank you for the wonder of Creation, and for the new life you have extended to all people in Jesus Christ. Through the power of your Holy Spirit, give us a share of your creative genius; for we know that all things are possible in you, and this world will one day call upon you as one people, with your Word in our hearts. We ask these things in Jesus’ Name. Amen.

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

Blessings always,
Pastor Wes †

A Better Way

A devotion by Pastor Wes Poole

Colossians 3:12-17
As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. NRSV

The above passage is one that I particularly like to read at weddings. The author of Colossians, who quite likely wasn’t St. Paul himself, but rather a later student or devotee of his work, probably wasn’t thinking about marriage in particular, but his words are a great reminder of the need for the People of God to model kindness and forbearance with each other. Last week, as many of you know now, was a tough one for me. I lost a dear friend and I am still processing that grief. A kind word of concern and caring by someone on Sunday at worship really changed the tone of this entire week for me. You often hear it said that kindness should always be our default setting, if you will, as we never really know what someone else is going through. In the same vein as the mutual bearing of each others’ burdens, which was the theme of last week’s devotion, the Apostle here carries it a bit further with some specific advice. It is so easy for us to let anger or stress or anxiety color our dealings with one another. The Apostle reminds us that Jesus has indeed shown us a better way. “Compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience”…that’s good advice for us at any time, in the church or out of it! We will always sin and fall short of the life God means for us, but God is also by our side, and not just in some sort of nebulous, spiritual sense. Perhaps the most powerful and compelling way God comes to us is through each other. Kindness, patience, and forgiveness were the hallmarks of Jesus’ ministry and the model for his people everywhere. Again, I thank God and all of you for letting me be a part of such a caring family. Please know that even though we still have to maintain a degree of distance, you are in my prayers every day. Our unity is always rooted in Christ. I look forward to the day we can resume our normal mode of interaction. It will happen eventually. God will provide a way through this. Of that I have no doubt. Meanwhile, the relationships we build with one another are precious. Let’s cherish them and always strive to build each other up.

Let us pray…
God of lovingkindness, you sent your Son, Jesus to be our Savior and greatest teacher. Help us to make his example our own and to continue to show the same love and regard for our brothers and sisters everywhere that he showed in his earthly ministry. We are strongest when we live in harmony and community. Inspire us to keep our community healthy, safe, and loving. For we ask these things in Jesus’ name and for his sake. Amen.

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