Pastor Christopher deForest was elected bishop of the Northeastern Pennsylvania Synod at the Synod assembly. His term will begin January 21, 2020. Click here to view the announcement on the Synod website and learn more about our new bishop.
Our prayers are with Pastor deForest and Bishop Zeiser as they begin the transition or leadership.
Lessons included in the October Family Faith Journey packet can now be accessed online for those unable to pick up the packet at church. The packet in church does include craft supplies but most lessons can be completed using supplies available in your home.
Faith formation always begins in the home and is even more important now while social distancing prevents us from meeting in person. That’s why Good Shepherd’s Faith Formation Team is bringing faith learning tools into your your home.
Beginning in October Family Faith Journey packages will be available with materials to help your family learn about God’s Love. Each package will include a month of Bible lessons and activities. Activities will include crafts, cooking, and science projects that are easy to do in the home. You can pick up your first package beginning tomorrow, October 4th during worship.
To help bring home Bible messages we are introducing The Manny and Dom Show.
Good Shepherd’s new puppet characters Manny (Emmanuel) the lamb and Dom (Domenica) the donkey share Bible stories and connect them to everyday life through entertaining videos. Watch for the first full episode coming soon.
We’d love to see pictures and video clips of your family learning about God’s love. Manny and Dom may share your pictures and videos in a future episode as well as sharing them online. Send you pictures and video clips to email@example.com.
Submission of pictures and videos constitutes permission to share images and videos in future Manny and Dom episodes and online via goodshepherdwb.org and social media. Images may also be reproduced in print for display and publication.
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 †
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 firstname.lastname@example.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.
Starting June 28th we will be able to worship together again as a church family. Services will be at 8:30 and 11:00 am. Our worship experience will be different as we implement health and safety measures for everyone’s protection. Though we must continue physical distancing we will be together in God’s house to praise and worship our Lord and Savior.
A video recording of the 11:00 service will be available online Sunday afternoon for those who cannot attend. We ask that you refrain from attending worship if you are feeling ill; have symptoms of Covid-19; or may have been exposed to the virus.
What to expect when coming to worship —
Social Distancing will be necessary. Please maintain six feet from other families.
Face masks will be required when entering the building.
Seating will be limited to every other pew.
You will be asked to sign in for attendance tracking.
Please pick up your bulletin before being seated.
We will not be singing but there will be instrumental music and recorded solos.
An offering plate will be placed in the back of the church to leave your offering when entering or leaving worship.
Attendance capacity will be limited to allow social distancing.
Communion will not be celebrated at this time.*
*The announcement mailed this past week indicated we would be celebrating communion. At this time we are still working out the details to celebrate communion safely. We will be celebrating communion as soon as we have developed a safe distribution method.
Holy Week and Easter worship begins this evening at 7:00pm. The video worship services include Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter. The three services allow opportunity for remembrance and reflection of the Last Supper, the Crucifixion, and the Resurrection.
The worship videos will be available as follows and can be watched anytime after the scheduled time.
Maundy Thursday – April 9 at 7:00pm
Good Friday – April 10 at 7:00pm
Easter Sunday – April 12 at 8:00am
Services can be accessed from our home page at goodshepherdwb.org.
Our worship experience will be different this year but having to stay in our homes allows more time for personal reflection.