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