THE VOICE OF CALM

By Pastor Wes Poole

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

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

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

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

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

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

INTERESTING TIMES

By Pastor Wes Poole

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

REFORMATION, CREATION, AND IMAGINATION

By Pastor Wes Poole

Jeremiah 31:31
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. NRSV
John 8:31-32
Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” NRSV

This coming Sunday, we will read both of the above passages and more as we celebrate Reformation Sunday. For the Lutheran Church, and many other Protestant denominations, this is the day when we focus on our heritage; on the things that we have brought to the table of Christianity, and of course on Martin Luther. Normally, on this Sunday, most every Lutheran around the world would be belting out Luther’s greatest hit, A Mighty Fortress Is Our God. Perhaps not this year, but the sentiment and spirit will certainly still be there. All of this is quite good, as we have a great deal to be proud of as Lutheran Christians. The energy, insight, and devotion to the Gospel that Luther both possessed and acted upon has changed the world for the better. Indeed, some 20 or so years ago, Time Magazine listed the Lutheran Reformation as one of the top 5 important events of the last Millennium. This was no small accomplishment for one rather insignificant monk in 16th Century Saxony. For Luther, the Gospel of Jesus Christ was so important, so all encompassing and transcendent of earthly authority that he risked his own life, and some would say mortal soul, to bring about the changes in the Church that needed to happen. Luther, though flawed and sinful like any of us, was a man of vision and imagination. He imagined a world made better by a more grace filled and inclusive church. His vision remains at the heart of our church’s mission to this day.

However, the Reformation really isn’t just about Luther; otherwise we might call it “Martin Luther Day”. There is more at work in this celebration than simply a history lesson or the remembrance of an important historical figure. The Reformation was about change….and more than that…the Reformation is about change. Many of us know that Luther did not want this church to bear his name. He preferred the term “evangelical” meaning basically “of or pertaining to the Gospel/Good News”, although that term gets misused a bit these days. Fortunately or not, as the poet said, “You can’t always get what you want!” and so our church bears his name proudly to this day. Still, Luther’s point resonates across these past 500 years. An evangelical church, a church firmly rooted in the Good News of Jesus Christ crucified, risen, and reigning, is not a static institution that is rigid and unyielding. Indeed, the Church of Jesus Christ is a living, growing, entity that is constantly finding new ways of expressing itself in different, or as is certainly the case these days, difficult times.

“The days are surely coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant…” The words of the prophet Jeremiah tell us of a God who is not content to “leave well enough alone” and have everything remain the same. This same God, who created all that is and who has never stopped creating, sees fit to work new wonders in this world He brought into being. That is what the Reformation is all about. That is the spirit of fearlessness and creativity that Luther set into motion some 500 odd years ago and still survives to the present.

That is indeed the spirit we are called upon to embrace on this most Lutheran of celebrations. If we are to remain faithful bearers of the Good News to this world which has a profound need to hear it, we must be willing to take a step back; to be able to effect and accept change. Sometimes it’s a personal change; a change of behavior or direction or heart. Sometimes, it’s a corporate change; a community of faith willing to take a leap of faith, grind up those proverbial “sacred cows”, and proceed in a new or unexpected direction. Regardless, there is no need for fear or hesitation. This same God who promises to do new things is also the God who has written His law on our hearts and set us free with the truth his Son brought us. With a God like that, fear has no foothold and there are no limits to what can be achieved. Remember the proverbial “battle cry” of the Reformation, Sempre Ecclesia Reformanda…the Church always reforming. That is the very essence of the way in which the Christian Church is to operate. That is yet another part of the Truth that will, as John tells us, set us free. It is a truth that is bigger than we are; a timeless truth that will still be when perhaps people have forgotten about Luther and his Reformation. Still, the Church of Christ will live on, transforming lives and telling that great Story. Our Good Shepherd family is a part of that story. May we continue to embrace that bold and dynamic spirit of growth!

Let us pray…
God of creation and creativity, grant us open hearts and minds as we celebrate the Reformation. Help us always to be willing to embrace newness and innovation; employing the imagination that is one of your great gifts to us. As always, in whatever we do or attempt, may we continue to put our trust in you and the promises you have made to us in Jesus Christ, for it is in his name that we pray. Amen.

Be well, be kind, and be safe!

Blessings always,
Pastor Wes †

INSTRUMENTS OF PEACE

By Pastor Wes Poole

Proverbs 15:1
A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. NRSV
James 1:19-20
You must understand this, my beloved: let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger; for your anger does not produce God’s righteousness. NRSV
Matthew 5:9
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. NRSV
2nd Corinthians 12:9
“My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. NRSV

A New York family bought a ranch out West where they intended to raise cattle. Friends visited and asked if the ranch had a name. “Well,” said the would-be cattleman, “I wanted to name it the Bar-J. My wife favored Suzy-Q, one son liked the Flying-W, and the other wanted the Lazy-Y. So we’re calling it the Bar-J-Suzy-Q-Flying-W-Lazy-Y.” “But where are all your cattle?” the friends asked. “Well”, the would be cattleman sheepishly replied, “None survived the branding!”
There is no denying right now that we live in fractious times; the pandemic, the election cycle, financial stresses, international unrest and the conflicts that ensue. Anxiety, unfortunately, abounds…and everyone has their own opinions about what is wrong with the world. Like many folks these days, one of the first things I do every morning when I wake up is look at my phone. Do I check my email first? Do I look at the news to see what’s happening in the world? Maybe I should check social media and see what my friends are up to. (Hopefully not arguing politics!) Any of these choices bring with them their own share of stress and angst. Strife, contentiousness, arrogance, self-righteousness, Xenophobia; those unfortunate and destructive elements of human nature that Scripture tries to help us guard against, they always seem to find their way back into the light. No one and nothing seems to be immune, up to and including the Church. How do we, as modern day believers and disciples of Jesus, do our part to bring peace and hope to a world that sometimes seems averse to those very things?

Well, if we take the witness of Scripture seriously, (and of course we should!) the first thing we must try to do is to make our very best effort to let go of the one thing we convince ourselves we need the most…control! What?! You mean I don’t know everything!? You mean I’m not in charge?! You mean I can’t force my truth on others?! Oy vey! Whatever should I do?! Whatever indeed. When we open our Bibles, we see almost immediately what we need: kinder words, more listening, less “righteous” anger, peacemaking, and most of all…reliance on God’s grace. God has given us all that we have. This amazing world, its diversity of people, and the resources it provides are gifts to the humanity God loves so fiercely. St. Paul reminded those early Christians at the church in Corinth that God’s grace is sufficient for all of the troubles of this life. When we manage to relinquish control, and the closely held belief that we always know what is best, we start to see the strength in weakness of which Paul was speaking. To be fair, it’s one of the most difficult things we’re called to do. We in the West are born into a culture that values self-reliance and self-determination. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but too much focus on the self can blind us to the perspective and needs of the other. The “weakness” Paul lifts up for us isn’t about relinquishing power over our lives, but rather gaining the infinitely greater power of God to address the challenges we face. Yeah, the world sometimes seems like it’s spinning out of control, but make no mistake, God is still God. He is in control, and His grace is sufficient! Hallelujah for that!!

Let us pray…
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love. Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is doubt, faith. Where there is despair, hope. Where there is darkness, light. Where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood, as to understand,
To be loved, as to love. For it is in giving that we receive, it’s in pardoning that we are pardoned, and it’s in dying that we are born to Eternal Life. Amen – attributed to St. Francis of Assisi

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

THE WORK OF BELIEVING

By Pastor Wes Poole

Galatians 2:16
(St. Paul writes)…yet we know that a person is justified not by the works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ. And we have come to believe in Christ Jesus, so that we might be justified by faith in Christ, and not by doing the works of the law, because no one will be justified by the works of the law. NRSV (emphasis added)

James 2:14-17
What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you? If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,” and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead. NRSV (emphasis added)

So who is right, St. Paul or St. James? Is it faith that makes us right with God and neighbor, or is it the good works we (hopefully) practice every day? These are age old questions that have sparked theological discussion, and disagreement, for centuries. For the last few weeks in worship, we have read several accounts of Jesus telling parables underscoring the need for the faithful believer to put his or her faith into demonstrable action, AKA Good Works. This proverbial double edged sword was a source of great pain and anguish for Luther, who early in life never felt like he could do enough to earn God’s love and favor. Luther was also quite right, none of us can, but he hadn’t yet seen and grasped the whole picture. His angst and pain continued for years, until in the course of his studies he finally came to understand St. Paul’s assurance that nothing we could ever DO would make us worthy of a perfect God; Christ has already done that for us. Believing in him and the promises he has made to us frees us for a life of service; knowing we can always call upon God to forgive us when we fall short. It is commonly understood that Luther was tempted to leave the Book of James out of his Bible translation, as he thought James’ emphasis on good works negated God’s grace. In the end, he was wise enough to see that each one needed the other. A faithful life is demonstrated by the good we can do in it.

To put in another, more practical way…
A young boy, on an errand for his mother, had just bought a dozen eggs. Walking out of the store, he tripped and dropped the sack. All the eggs broke, and the sidewalk was a mess. The boy tried not to cry. A few people gathered to see if he was OK and to tell him how sorry they were. In the midst of this outpouring of pity, one man handed the boy a quarter. Then he turned to the group and said, “I care 25 cents worth. How much do the rest of you care?” James points out that words don’t mean much if we have the ability to do more.

So how much do we care about our neighbor in need, or the marginalized and discriminated against in our society, or simply the person who is different from us in some way? These are questions we believers must ask ourselves every day as we live, work, and have our being. Jesus modeled for us the life into which he calls us. It is a life of active kindness, generosity, forgiveness, and care for others…all others. In the story above, I would posit that all of the people in it experienced three things that are ever present in the life of the believer: frustration at life’s difficulties and the associated feelings of helplessness, guilt or the feeling of being convicted at our lack of adequate response, and the joy of God’s grace that happens when we receive, or show it to others. Yes…St. Paul, St. James, Jesus Himself, and many others in the witness of scripture are like the man with the quarter. Again, the question persists, how much do we care about our neighbor, our communities, our own church family, or someone far away whose circumstances may not affect us at all? Can we put a number or a price on that care? These are questions we can only answer for ourselves, with God’s help of course. During these admittedly difficult times, when the cares and woes of society can seem too big to be addressed, let us remember that God values even the smallest of our efforts. When we reach out in kindness to others, in any way, we are living out the grace that God has given us in Jesus Christ. No work of love, no matter how small, is ever in vain. As Luther himself wrote, “Good works do not make a good [person], but a good [person] does good works.” This is, again in Luther’s own words, most certainly true! May we strive always to live that truth actively and joyfully.

Let us pray…
God of all goodness, help us to be doers of the Word, and not hearers only. Wherever we see need in this world, may our faith compel us to meet that need with the grace and generosity You have shown us in Christ Jesus, for it is in his name that we pray. Amen.

Be well, be kind, be safe, and be ready to serve!

Blessings always,
Pastor Wes †

HOLY HUMOR

By Pastor Wes Poole

“Humor is by far the most significant activity of the human brain.” – Edward De Bono

“Imagination was given to man to compensate him for what he is not;
a sense of humor to console him for what he is.” -Francis Bacon

“From there to here, and here to there, funny things are everywhere.” -Dr. Seuss

Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy;
Then it was said among the nations, “The Lord has done great things for them.” -Psalm 126:2

It’s so easy to get caught up in the troubles and travails of life. Here is a bit of “churchy” humor…and wisdom. We will surely deal with “weightier” matters later. For now, I hope these lighten your heart, as they did mine!

Some people are kind, polite, and sweet-spirited until you try to sit in their pews.
Many folks want to serve God, but only as advisors.
It is easier to preach ten sermons that to live one! (Yea, verily to that one!)
The Good Lord didn’t create anything without a purpose, but mosquitoes come close.
When you get to your wit’s end, you’ll find God lives there.
People are funny; they want the front of the bus, the middle of the road, and the back of the church.
Quit griping about your church; if it were perfect, you couldn’t belong!
If the church wants a better pastor, it only needs to pray for the one it has.
God Himself does not propose to judge a person until he or she is dead…why should you?!
(Double AMEN to that one!!)
Peace starts with a smile.
Why do people change churches; what difference does it make which one you stay home from?!
We were called to be witnesses, not lawyers or judges.
God doesn’t call the qualified, He qualifies the called.
God loves everyone, but probably prefers “fruits of the spirit” over “religious nuts!”
God promises a safe landing, not a calm passage.
The one who angers you, controls you!
If God is your co-pilot…swap seats!!
Don’t give God instructions…just report for duty.
The tasks ahead of us are never as great as the Power behind us. (Another heartfelt AMEN!)
The Will of God never takes you to where the Grace of God will not protect you.
We don’t change the message, the message changes us.
++And with apologies to bishops everywhere…forgive us, Lord, for we have synod!++
Sources unknown.

Let us pray…
God of all happiness and comfort, lighten our hearts with laughter when times grow difficult and joy seems elusive. You have always been a God who promises to turn mourning into dancing and sorrow to rejoicing. Help us to see past the troubles or concerns of any given moment, and put our trust always in You; for we ask these things in the name of Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

I’ll return next Wednesday with my usual treasure trove of “deep and relevant wisdom”!

Be well, be kind, be safe, and find some time to laugh!

Blessings,
Pastor Wes†

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 †