By Pastor Wes Poole
“…hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.” NRSV
It’s hard to believe that we’re already pondering Thanksgiving, Advent, Christmas, and beyond! How could it have only been about nine months since I accepted your call to ministry here in the Good Shepherd family. I remember being excited and filled with hope for the future. In the past year, I think it is safe to say that we have been dealt one surprise after another. There is no disputing that. Regardless, hope has not disappointed us here at Good Shepherd. The Holy Spirit has infused us with energy, power, and enthusiasm; the strength to meet the challenges we will surely face as we carry out Our Lord’s ministry. We will continue to celebrate our blessings while allowing growth and change to enrich us. For the moment, our ministry looks and sounds different, but we will continue to focus on what we can do, and keep striving to do those things well! Here, as 2020 starts to draw to a close, I call upon all of us to renew our commitment to this family of faith, and to finding and relevant ways to reach out to our neighbors.
Because, or frankly despite the best efforts of many, growth and change are still going on around us, in the worldwide church, in this congregation, and in our communities. Anyone paying attention to the news outlets in this county last week would surely have to agree! Diversity is the watchword for the time, now more than ever. Cultural relevance, inclusivity, sensitivity to the differing needs of the individual; these are all high priorities in an ever increasingly connected world. Unity through diversity, strength through celebrating our brothers and sisters everywhere, regardless of race, creed, gender, or life’s situation; what do these things mean to the individual congregation struggling to cope and remain viable in a world that seems to change shape every five minutes? How do we come together with all of the different elements of society and even right here within the walls of Good Shepherd and speak a language that effectively tells the Story we have been charged with telling? These are hard questions, without quick or easy answers, but they are good questions, questions that the Christian church in all of its denominations is dealing with as we look to move past COVID, contentious elections, financial difficulties, and the myriad challenges of these “interesting times”.
Well, first and foremost, we are the Church, the Body of Christ in the world. This identifies us as followers of and believers in the Triune God. What this means for us as a church family is that we do and say things that do not always jibe with that which may be dominating the news outlets of this time, even when they manage to agree! Regardless of the aforementioned challenges, we have a Story to tell, songs to sing, and people to whom we are called to minister. From visiting our own sick and shut-in, to helping build houses for the poor, to supporting our Synod and greater church, we have a multitude of tasks which make up the ministry of Good Shepherd. We can’t do all of those things right now, at least not in the way to which are accustomed, but we will be able to again! Hopefully, it will be sooner rather than later, but we will continue to focus on what we can do, and still be ready to resume our “normal” modes of ministry. Gathered together in worship around the Word and the Sacraments, we still reemerge refreshed and strengthened into a world that needs us…through the power of the Holy Spirit. Yes, the Holy Spirit, that Third Person of the Trinity about whom we Lutherans often forget. It is the Spirit that fans the flames of our faith and provides us with the Divine strength necessary to carry out our ministry. The amazing thing about working for God is that He never leaves us solely to our own devices. God, through His Holy Spirit, gives us the backbone to stand up to what the world throws at us, while freeing us from the fear of change. The Holy Spirit is the One who motivates us and energizes us in all things. The Spirit frees us from fear and anxiety, and turns us loose as Our Lord’s agents on Earth. God is always doing new things. He is the same God of Creation who made all that is, and His creative genius is still here among us at work. The Holy Spirit is the very active spirit of life and growth and change. The Spirit is the One who rallies us all as a family around the one, universal truth which cannot change…God, in Jesus Christ, has loved our imperfections away and has restored us to our God and Father.
As we look forward to 2021 and beyond, we will constantly be facing new changes and challenges because we are a dynamic, Spirit filled community. As these challenges present themselves, may we find the strength and the wisdom to say together, “Amen, come Holy Spirit!”
Let us pray…
God of growth and change, instill in us, through the power of your Holy Spirit, to meet the ongoing challenges of ministry in the coming year in beyond. We know that in Christ, all things are possible. Grant us open minds and dynamic imaginations as we seek out new and innovative ways to reach people with the Great Story of Your Love. We ask these things in Jesus’ Name. Amen.
Be well, be kind, be safe…and be of good hope!
Pastor Wes †