By Pastor Wes Poole
I find myself today reflecting on all of the profound change the last year and a half has brought me, my family, and our church family. I remember being excited and filled with hope for the future in January of 2020, as you gifted me with the trust to be your pastor. In the past year, COVID notwithstanding, I think we have seen many of our hopes realized. Indeed, hope has not disappointed us here at Good Shepherd Church. Sure, it’s been tough, but the Holy Spirit has continued to infuse us with energy, power, and enthusiasm; the strength to meet the challenges we will surely face as we carry out Our Lord’s ministry. So many of you have stepped up and done your part to keep this important ministry alive. For that, I will always be profoundly grateful. We have continued to celebrate our blessings while allowing growth, change, and yes…adversity, to enrich us. Even after all we’ve endured together, I still feel the sense of excitement and purpose in myself and humming all around us. We’re back! The doors are open! Our voices are literally raised again in praise! It’s going to be OK!! God has surely smiled upon this family!
Because of 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. Diversity is still the watchword for our time, and thanks be to God for that! Cultural relevance, inclusivity, sensitivity to the differing needs of all people; 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 identity, or life’s situation; what has Jesus taught us to celebrate if not that?! What does this mean to the individual congregation struggling to cope and remain relevant 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 that we have been charged with telling? These are hard questions but good ones, questions that the Christian church in all of its denominations is dealing with here at the beginning of this new century.
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 is socially acceptable or politically expedient. We have a radically inclusive Story to tell, songs to sing, and people to whom we are called to minister. From visiting our own sick and shut-in, to meeting the needs of the hungry and poor, to supporting our Synod and greater church, we have a multitude of tasks which make up the ministry of Good Shepherd Church. Gathered together in worship around the Word and the Sacraments, we reemerge refreshed and strengthened into a world that needs us…through the power of the Holy Spirit. Yes, I mean that same Holy Spirit we just celebrated the last two Sundays; that person of the Trinity about whom we Lutherans often forget. It is the Spirit who 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 and frees 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 who is never boring or static is always doing a new thing. 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 Divine Agent 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 right relationship with Him. That same spirit is still alive and well at Good Shepherd. Again, we’re back! We’re open! God is with us and the Spirit is always blowing amongst and through us. All we need now is you! C’mon back! Let’s get on with being the Lord’s hands; always serving our neighbor.
Let us pray…
God of growth and new life, we thank you for the energizing gift of your Holy Spirit. As we move towards a new normal, help us to be open to new opportunities to serve You and our neighbors. You have given us a spirit of fearlessness and power. Help us to use that power to spread the Good News to a world always in need of hearing and experiencing it. We pray these things in Jesus’ Name. Amen.
Be well, be kind, and be safe, my friends. I look forward to seeing you and continuing to do ministry with you.
Your partner in Christ,
Pastor Wes †