REMAINING STEADFAST

By Pastor Wes Poole

Isaiah 26:3

Those of steadfast mind you keep in peace—in peace because they trust in you. – NRSV

An old Native American tale recounts the story of a chief who was telling a gathering of young people about the struggle within. “It is like two dogs fighting inside of us,” the chief told them. “There is one good dog who wants to do the right and the other dog always wants to do the wrong. Sometimes the good dog seems stronger and is winning the fight. But sometimes the bad dog is stronger and wrong is winning the fight. “Who is going to win in the end?” a young man asks. The chief answered “The one you feed.”

It’s a familiar story perhaps, but one that continues to be relevant. We have a lot of folks telling us today to be steadfast in doing what is right. Wear your mask, get your vaccinations, maintain proper distancing, the list goes on. More than likely, even the most compliant among us are tired of it all, yet we push through and keep going, hoping that the tide will turn and all will be well again. That hope is not in vain, difficult as it may be to maintain. The prophet Isaiah reminds us above that for the believer, the notion of remaining steadfast in doing good takes on added meaning. In Hebrew, the word that gets translated “steadfast” means “to lean upon”, “to rest upon” or “to lean against”. Of course, Isaiah was speaking of the unshakable and unending source of strength that is our God; God, who is always the true source of steadfast love and support. When we start to find it hard to do or say or act upon what we know to be right. When we need to “feed the good dog”, we have but to open the pages of scripture and ponder upon the great things God has done for us in Jesus Christ. The path of righteousness, as it were, may not always be the easiest one, but because the steadfast love of God is always there for us, we have but to draw from that bottomless well, and find strength for whatever the challenge or the difficulty we face demands. For now, friends, let us all remain steadfast and committed to doing what is right and good; caring for each other and letting all people know of the unending steadfastness of God in caring for His children.

Let us pray…

God of all goodness, keep us steadfast in your Word and in our response to it. Inspire us to re-commit ourselves to taking care of our neighbor, and building one another up in the desire to do good things in your Name. We have but to call on you and we will find peace, and all that we need to face the challenges of this life. We ask these things in the Name of Jesus. Amen.

Be well, we kind, be safe, and stand fast in the Lord!

Blessings always,

Pastor Wes Poole †

The Giving Tree

The Giving Tree returns to Good Shepherd. After taking a break in 2020 due to Covid we were able to provide gifts for children again in 2021.

Each year members and friends share God’s love by giving children a better Christmas. Members pick names from the tree and purchase gifts to fill the wishes of each child.

Some of the gifts provided this year.

REJOICE!

By Pastor Wes Poole

Isaiah 9:6

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. – ASV

One of the great choruses from Handel’s Messiah, is “For Unto Us a Child is Born”. It is an exuberant expression of praise to God for His many great gifts. Difficult to sing, and filled intricate and fast moving lines, it is one of the highlights of the piece. I love singing it, and when it’s done well, it can give you goosebumps and raise your heart rate! The coming Sunday, we will observe the 3rd Sunday of Advent, and light the third candle on the wreath, which is a different color from the other three. Traditionally, this Sunday has been called Gaudete Sunday. Gaudete is a Latin word that means “rejoice ye”. It is an exhortation to lift our hearts and voices to God, even in the midst of our quiet anticipation. Sure, we will still hear the John the Baptist’s unrelentingly stern admonishments to get our proverbial acts together, but the joy that is coming cannot be dimmed, even by John’s “tough love”. It’s really a lovely juxtaposition of the sometimes painful reality of the human condition with the unwavering and far more powerful love of the Most God for His children.

As we continue to walk our journey of a faithful Advent in the midst of the stresses and craziness of the “Holiday Season”, we would do well to remember this duality. As Christians, we still live with the reality of sin and human failings, but we also live in the perpetual hope and joy of this God who has redeemed us all in Jesus Christ. When we’re frustrated and irritable as we’re standing too long in line, or worrying about paying the credit card bill in January, let’s all try to take a moment, breathe out, and ponder with joy the amazing love of Our God. Then, in response, we can reach out to others who might be in need; showing them God’s love through our own actions and good works. A faithful Advent is not just the journey of a month, but a journey of hope and faithful living that begins now, and carries us through the rest of the year. God is with us always!  Rejoice! 

Let us pray…

God of all joy and goodness, we give you thanks for this holy season of waiting and preparation. Help us always to remember the gift you have given us in Jesus Christ; new life and the opportunity share that good news with others. As we approach, once again, the wonder that is Christmas, make of us ever more faithful and generous servants; reflecting your love in all that we say and do. We pray these things in the name of Jesus. Amen.

Be well, be kind, and be safe. Emmanuel is coming!

Your Partner in Christ,

Pastor Wes Poole †

First Sunday – Symbols of Christmas

Our December First Sunday program theme was Symbols of Christmas. A visit from St. Nicholas connected the modern day Santa Claus to the real saint. Participants learned the symbolism of the wreath, angel, butterfly, and gnomes as they made ornaments.

The Faith Formation team will be taking a break for First Sunday in January but will continue in February. Stay tuned for more information on our February theme.

A Personal Message of Thanks

By Pastor Wes Poole

PSALM 28:7

The Lord is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts; so I am helped, 

and my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to him. – NRSV

As we all pause for our annual feast of Thanksgiving, I wanted to take the time to share some of what is driving my personal feelings of gratitude this year. Of course, I thank God always for the gifts of family, friends, and food on the table. I feel particularly compelled this year though, to thank all of you! I thank you for the trust you have placed in me, and the privilege of being called as your pastor. I’m thankful for lunches at Norm’s with the ladies, and the kindness and goodwill that simply abounds in that wonderful group of people. It’s one of the highlights of every month. I’m thankful for our church leadership; caretakers of the property, parliamentarians and constitutional experts, financial officers, and tech gurus! He may chide me for singling him out, but I’m truly thankful for our friend, Guy French, whose positivity and can-do attitude represent the heart and soul of this family of faith. I thank everyone who has been honest and forthright with me, even when it may not have been exactly what I wanted to hear. Then there’s our utterly competent, unfailingly helpful, and indefatigable Altar Guild. Thanks for everything you do…which is indeed a lot!! I thank everyone who has shared a kind and encouraging word on Sunday mornings. You have no idea how gratifying a simple “good message, pastor” can be! As always, I am thankful for the gift of music in my life, both in and out of the church. Sandy, Lisa, John, and Liz have managed to brighten our hearts and enrich our worship life even though there have been many restrictions to navigate. Thank you for sharing your gifts. While I am certainly NOT thankful for COVID, I am encouraged by our spirit of endurance as we continue to weather this particular storm. We may be a bit smaller and “leaner”, but we are still strong; strong in faith and determined to move forward. We will continue to face the “new normal” together, whatever form it takes. I could go on, but I think y’all get the drift. Thank you for being you! God has blessed us so we can bless others. May that spirit continue to drive us forward to a bright future.

Let us pray…

God of all good gifts, we thank you always for your manifold blessings. For family, faith, fellowship, and the time to take a moment to acknowledge your lavish generosity, we praise you! Make of us a people committed to turning gratitude into action, blessings into an opportunity to share. As we strive to model Jesus’ all inclusive love, may we never lose sight of the source of our blessings, a loving God who redeemed us all through His son, in whose name we pray. Amen.

Be well, be kind, be safe…and Happy Thanksgiving! See you in Advent!!

Your friend and co-worker in Christ,

Pastor Wes Poole †

Sharing Our Blessings

Adults and youth alike shared their blessings at our First Sunday in November. After opening with a reading and discussion on the classic book “The Giving Tree”, everyone made crafts not only for themselves but to share share with others. Handmade gifts of floral arrangements and fabric pumpkins were place in custom decorated bags for delivery to homebound members and friends.

First Sunday is an intergenerational Faith Formation program that takes place the first Sunday of each month. Watch for more information coming soon on First Sunday December.

WITH A LITTLE HELP FROM MY FRIENDS

By Pastor Wes Poole

Galatians 6:2

Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. NRSV

Matthew 7:7

 Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. NRSV

I get by with a little help from my friends. – Lennon/McCartney

Recently, I accepted an offer to sing the tenor solos in big choral work to be performed up at Marywood University. While in some ways it is difficult for me to admit this, it has been one of the hardest and most challenging pieces I have ever attempted. Usually, I take pride in being the guy who shows up, ready to go, makes it look easy, greets people afterwards, and goes home pleased to have brought some beauty into the world that others appreciate. This time around, it became evident early on that this particular enterprise was going to require a bit more work and commitment. That didn’t scare me, but when I started studying and practicing and was STILL having a hard time, I kind of started to panic. I can’t go out on a stage and just die in front of a hall full of people! 80 choir members, two conductors, and a whole orchestra were counting on me to have my stuff together! Failure was simply not an option.

What was the answer? Well, I did what I should have done way earlier and reached out to friends for help; two in particular. They took time out of their busy schedules to help me “woodshed” the material and get my brain and voice around it. Just today I finally feel like I can do this without bringing shame to my clan or my voice part! ☺ As I write this, I’m feeling a sense of lightness and thankfulness that I haven’t in awhile. How wonderful it is when we bear one another’s burdens! It is such a blessing to the one who receives the help, but asking for help is also a blessing to the one who is asked. As many of you know, I worked in the secular world right before coming to Good Shepherd. One of the most rewarding parts of the job was when someone would come to me for help, and I was able to do just that. It is such a blessing to the helper and the helped. It isn’t hard to see how this plays out in the life of the modern day disciple of Jesus. We are called to be the helpers, and to accept help graciously. This is central to faithful Christian living. Maybe it’s filling bags full of food for those in need…which the Good Shepherd Family does so well. Maybe it’s cutting an elderly neighbors grass, maybe it’s buying a meal for the homeless person who asks for your help, or receiving the gift of a meal during a time of grief. It is said that no act of kindness is wasted. No doubt the “Good Samaritan” in Jesus’ parable would have come away with a sense of blessing for rendering aid to the wounded man. The moral of the story is that we shouldn’t shy away from helping, asking, or receiving. Jesus said as much. This approaching holiday season is often referred to as the “season for giving”. As we walk our walks of faith in our daily lives, may we keep our hearts and minds open to the blessings of gracious giving AND receiving.

Let us pray…

Gracious and generous God, throughout history you have shown us that when we put our trust in you and ask boldly, you provide. Help us to reflect that same spirit of giving in our daily lives; offering help when needed and thankfully receiving it when it is given. We ask these things in the name of Jesus. Amen.

Be well, be kind, and be safe!

Blessings always,

Pastor Wes Poole †