REFORMATION, CREATION, AND IMAGINATION

By Pastor Wes Poole

Jeremiah 31:31
The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. NRSV
John 8:31-32
Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” NRSV

This coming Sunday, we will read both of the above passages and more as we celebrate Reformation Sunday. For the Lutheran Church, and many other Protestant denominations, this is the day when we focus on our heritage; on the things that we have brought to the table of Christianity, and of course on Martin Luther. Normally, on this Sunday, most every Lutheran around the world would be belting out Luther’s greatest hit, A Mighty Fortress Is Our God. Perhaps not this year, but the sentiment and spirit will certainly still be there. All of this is quite good, as we have a great deal to be proud of as Lutheran Christians. The energy, insight, and devotion to the Gospel that Luther both possessed and acted upon has changed the world for the better. Indeed, some 20 or so years ago, Time Magazine listed the Lutheran Reformation as one of the top 5 important events of the last Millennium. This was no small accomplishment for one rather insignificant monk in 16th Century Saxony. For Luther, the Gospel of Jesus Christ was so important, so all encompassing and transcendent of earthly authority that he risked his own life, and some would say mortal soul, to bring about the changes in the Church that needed to happen. Luther, though flawed and sinful like any of us, was a man of vision and imagination. He imagined a world made better by a more grace filled and inclusive church. His vision remains at the heart of our church’s mission to this day.

However, the Reformation really isn’t just about Luther; otherwise we might call it “Martin Luther Day”. There is more at work in this celebration than simply a history lesson or the remembrance of an important historical figure. The Reformation was about change….and more than that…the Reformation is about change. Many of us know that Luther did not want this church to bear his name. He preferred the term “evangelical” meaning basically “of or pertaining to the Gospel/Good News”, although that term gets misused a bit these days. Fortunately or not, as the poet said, “You can’t always get what you want!” and so our church bears his name proudly to this day. Still, Luther’s point resonates across these past 500 years. An evangelical church, a church firmly rooted in the Good News of Jesus Christ crucified, risen, and reigning, is not a static institution that is rigid and unyielding. Indeed, the Church of Jesus Christ is a living, growing, entity that is constantly finding new ways of expressing itself in different, or as is certainly the case these days, difficult times.

“The days are surely coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant…” The words of the prophet Jeremiah tell us of a God who is not content to “leave well enough alone” and have everything remain the same. This same God, who created all that is and who has never stopped creating, sees fit to work new wonders in this world He brought into being. That is what the Reformation is all about. That is the spirit of fearlessness and creativity that Luther set into motion some 500 odd years ago and still survives to the present.

That is indeed the spirit we are called upon to embrace on this most Lutheran of celebrations. If we are to remain faithful bearers of the Good News to this world which has a profound need to hear it, we must be willing to take a step back; to be able to effect and accept change. Sometimes it’s a personal change; a change of behavior or direction or heart. Sometimes, it’s a corporate change; a community of faith willing to take a leap of faith, grind up those proverbial “sacred cows”, and proceed in a new or unexpected direction. Regardless, there is no need for fear or hesitation. This same God who promises to do new things is also the God who has written His law on our hearts and set us free with the truth his Son brought us. With a God like that, fear has no foothold and there are no limits to what can be achieved. Remember the proverbial “battle cry” of the Reformation, Sempre Ecclesia Reformanda…the Church always reforming. That is the very essence of the way in which the Christian Church is to operate. That is yet another part of the Truth that will, as John tells us, set us free. It is a truth that is bigger than we are; a timeless truth that will still be when perhaps people have forgotten about Luther and his Reformation. Still, the Church of Christ will live on, transforming lives and telling that great Story. Our Good Shepherd family is a part of that story. May we continue to embrace that bold and dynamic spirit of growth!

Let us pray…
God of creation and creativity, grant us open hearts and minds as we celebrate the Reformation. Help us always to be willing to embrace newness and innovation; employing the imagination that is one of your great gifts to us. As always, in whatever we do or attempt, may we continue to put our trust in you and the promises you have made to us in Jesus Christ, for it is in his name that we pray. Amen.

Be well, be kind, and be safe!

Blessings always,
Pastor Wes †

HOLY HUMOR

By Pastor Wes Poole

“Humor is by far the most significant activity of the human brain.” – Edward De Bono

“Imagination was given to man to compensate him for what he is not;
a sense of humor to console him for what he is.” -Francis Bacon

“From there to here, and here to there, funny things are everywhere.” -Dr. Seuss

Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy;
Then it was said among the nations, “The Lord has done great things for them.” -Psalm 126:2

It’s so easy to get caught up in the troubles and travails of life. Here is a bit of “churchy” humor…and wisdom. We will surely deal with “weightier” matters later. For now, I hope these lighten your heart, as they did mine!

Some people are kind, polite, and sweet-spirited until you try to sit in their pews.
Many folks want to serve God, but only as advisors.
It is easier to preach ten sermons that to live one! (Yea, verily to that one!)
The Good Lord didn’t create anything without a purpose, but mosquitoes come close.
When you get to your wit’s end, you’ll find God lives there.
People are funny; they want the front of the bus, the middle of the road, and the back of the church.
Quit griping about your church; if it were perfect, you couldn’t belong!
If the church wants a better pastor, it only needs to pray for the one it has.
God Himself does not propose to judge a person until he or she is dead…why should you?!
(Double AMEN to that one!!)
Peace starts with a smile.
Why do people change churches; what difference does it make which one you stay home from?!
We were called to be witnesses, not lawyers or judges.
God doesn’t call the qualified, He qualifies the called.
God loves everyone, but probably prefers “fruits of the spirit” over “religious nuts!”
God promises a safe landing, not a calm passage.
The one who angers you, controls you!
If God is your co-pilot…swap seats!!
Don’t give God instructions…just report for duty.
The tasks ahead of us are never as great as the Power behind us. (Another heartfelt AMEN!)
The Will of God never takes you to where the Grace of God will not protect you.
We don’t change the message, the message changes us.
++And with apologies to bishops everywhere…forgive us, Lord, for we have synod!++
Sources unknown.

Let us pray…
God of all happiness and comfort, lighten our hearts with laughter when times grow difficult and joy seems elusive. You have always been a God who promises to turn mourning into dancing and sorrow to rejoicing. Help us to see past the troubles or concerns of any given moment, and put our trust always in You; for we ask these things in the name of Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

I’ll return next Wednesday with my usual treasure trove of “deep and relevant wisdom”!

Be well, be kind, be safe, and find some time to laugh!

Blessings,
Pastor Wes†

Autumnal Grace

A devotion by Pastor Wes Poole

No Spring nor Summer beauty hath such grace,
As I have seen in one Autumnal face.
John Donne – The Autumnal

Autumn is, hands down, my favorite time of the year! The grace and beauty of God’s Creation as this season comes upon us is quite inspirational to me. As I feel the weather start to turn colder, and anticipate the leaves beginning to change, I cannot help being caught up in the spirit of the season. From the sights and sounds of children (and many adults!) at Halloween, to the thought of the table loaded with turkey and trimmings at Thanksgiving, to the coming celebrations of Advent and Christmas, I am constantly reminded of how richly God has blessed us. Yes, the pandemic is still with us, with all of its anxiety. Regardless, this is a season of change; a time to step back and take in the wonder of this world God has given us. It is a time to offer to the LORD our thanks and praise for His wondrous Creation.
I find that I have many changes for which to be thankful this autumn: a wonderful new place to worship God, new friends in a caring family of faith, and a future ripe with possibility. In short, I am talking about a new home. A home, simply put, is a place where one belongs. Home stands at the beginning and at the end of our journeys. It is a place of refreshment and rejuvenation. This autumn, after a spring and summer that were, admittedly, not optimal, I find that I am being strengthened and revitalized as Christine, the kids, and I finally begin to live into this next chapter of our lives in such a kind and caring new home. Trusting in God, I am focusing on allowing the Holy Spirit to help me look past the COVID fears, and to appreciate what autumn is showing us this year.
As the season changes, each of our homes represents a special place of warmth and security. Of course, sheltering at home has made that even more significant this year. The kindness and friendship we have received from the good people here have made us feel that Good Shepherd is indeed our new faith home. We may have had a slow start, but I remain hopeful for the future. As the weather keeps growing colder, let us give thanks for the warmth of the spirit of our family of faith. Ours is a spirit that can make Christ known throughout our community and the world. Let us embrace the change that this season represents and keep striving to make a difference in the lives of all people in the name of Jesus Christ. Our Lord is always offering us opportunities for ministry. Let us recommit ourselves to the important work to which Christ has called us.

May the Blessings of Almighty God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit warm our hearts and guide our steps with the wonder of this season.

Be well, be kind, and be safe, friends!

Your partner in Christ,
Pastor Wes †

Teach Your Children Well

A devotion by Pastor Wes Poole

Deuteronomy 11:18-19
You shall put these words of mine in your heart and soul, and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and fix them as an emblem on your forehead. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise. NRSV

Teach your children. It was one of God’s commandments to the ancient Hebrew peoples and it is still just as relevant and powerful a commandment all these millennia later. The continual nurturing of faith that we provide our children and ourselves throughout our lives is one of the most important responsibilities we have as God’s children and as a congregation. This is the time of year when we usually start back with Sunday School, confirmation, and other educational ministries. The reality of COVID is making that a bit more challenging than in the past, but your Faith Formation Team is still committed to bringing opportunities for growth and learning. They may not look quite the same, but the goal hasn’t changed. Growing and nurturing our faith is like a garden that needs tending. Until the pandemic is behind us, we’ll be trying some new approaches; some in person, some virtual. Please bear with us, as we may need to make corrections along the way.
As always, with new challenges and the need for innovation comes the ever increasing need for people….people to volunteer, people to support, and of course people to participate. I’m asking you, the faithful ministers of Good Shepherd Church, to make a personal commitment for yourselves and your families to come and be a part of faith formation here in our congregation. The potential for rewarding and exciting ministry is still there. We just need to be open minded, patient, and of course…grounded in prayer. Come and help us realize that potential to the Glory of God and for the future of our children.

Let us pray…
God of all knowledge and creation, we lift up for you the educational ministries of our congregation. Give us open hearts and minds, and a spirit of creativity, so that we tell the Story with passion and enthusiasm. We ask these things in Jesus’ Name. Amen.

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

Making Pancakes

A devotion by Pastor Wes Poole

Mark 12:29b-31
“Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one;  you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” NRSV

Six year-old Brandon decided one Saturday morning to fix his parents pancakes. He found a big bowl and spoon, pulled a chair to the counter, opened the cupboard and pulled out the heavy flour canister, spilling it on the floor. He scooped some of the flour into the bowl with his hands, mixed in most of a cup of milk and added some sugar, leaving a floury trail on the floor which by now had a few tracks left by his kitten. Brandon was covered with flour and getting frustrated. He wanted this to be something very good for Mom and Dad, but it was getting very bad. He didn’t know what to do next, whether to put it all into the oven or on the stove and he didn’t know how the stove worked! Suddenly he saw his kitten licking from the bowl of mix and reached to push her away, knocking the egg carton to the floor. Frantically he tried to clean up this monumental mess but slipped on the eggs, getting his pajamas white and sticky. And just then he saw Dad standing at the door. Big crocodile tears welled up in Brandon’s eyes. All he’d wanted to do was something good, but he’d made a terrible mess. He was sure a scolding was coming, but his father just watched him. Then, walking through the mess, he picked up his crying son, hugged him and loved him, getting his own pajamas white and sticky in the process!
That’s how God deals with us! We try to do something good in life, but it turns into a mess. Our relationships get all sticky or we inadvertently insult a friend…we can’t stand our job, or health problems present themselves. Sometimes we just stand there in tears because we can’t think of anything else to do. That’s when God picks us up and loves us and forgives us, even though some of our mess gets all over Him. Still, just because we might mess up, we can’t stop trying to “make pancakes” for God or for others. Sooner or later we’ll get it right, and we’ll all be better off for the effort we put into it!

“We can’t stop trying to “make pancakes” for God or for others.” That statement alone deserves a robust, heartfelt “AMEN!” from the entire Church of Christ on Earth. The Church does not exist for itself alone. We exist, by definition, in community; in service to God and neighbor. Buildings, programs, music…the wonderful finery the church brings to bear are all for nothing if we can’t manage to remember Christ’s command to love and serve our neighbor. The love that we hopefully reflect in our ministry is an active one. We don’t simply say that we love, we show Christ’s love through our actions. Kindness, tolerance, forebearance, and forgiveness. Sometimes it’s risky…sometimes it hurts…often we don’t get our own way…sometimes we might even get a bit dirty in the process…but you know, I’ll take a bit of dirt under my fingernails any day rather than be the “ivory tower, removed from reality, completely self-absorbed caricature of a church”. Thankfully, I don’t believe we are that kind of church. Difficult times notwithstanding, we remain committed to telling the story and serving our community. By and large, it’s that spirit of adventure; of being willing to think outside the box, take risks, and try new things that I want to see in our church family. I pray that we will continue to cultivate that attitude and put it to work for All God’s People. After all, who doesn’t love pancakes!!?!?!

Let us pray…
God of Creation, instill in us a measure of your creative genius. Inspire in us a spirit of fearlessness in our ongoing ministries; that we may serve you and our neighbors faithfully and joyfully. We ask these things in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Be well, be kind, and be safe!
Blessings always,
Pastor Wes †

Comfort in the Storm

A devotion by Pastor Wes Poole

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 †

Imagination and Ministry

A devotion by Pastor Wes Poole

Hebrews 6: 10-11
For God is not unjust; he will not overlook your work and the love that you showed for his sake in serving the saints, as you still do. 11 And we want each one of you to show the same diligence so as to realize the full assurance of hope to the very end. NRSV

Serving the saints. Ministering to God’s People. Looking outside of ourselves and our immediate circles, and meeting the needs of others with generosity and compassion. Love God, love your neighbor. These are the primary tasks of the faithful believer. That’s not a terribly controversial statement. I doubt that anyone reading this would take issue with it at all. God has given us so much. It is incumbent upon us, as modern day disciples of Jesus, to tell the Story of God’s love for us and then to share what He has given us with our brothers and sisters out there in the wide world. Unfortunately, during the pandemic we have become a lot more insular and necessarily distant from each other. We spend a great deal more time at home, and as such, it is all too easy to forget about the world around us as we try to keep each other safe.

So while we continue to hope and pray for an end to this time of truly unprecedented difficulty, we still don’t know when that might be. Doubtless, many of us have kept to ourselves and an immediate “bubble” of people, and were just hoping for a quick resolution and return to our normal way of life. That hasn’t happened yet, but this is not the time to despair. God will bring us through this in His time. Of that I have absolutely no doubt. In the meantime, social distance notwithstanding, we are still the church; God’s hands at work in His creation. There is ministry that needs to be done and we need all hands on deck to make it so. To that end, I am encouraging all of us to get engaged. We all have contributions to make to our Good Shepherd family. Even though our community looks a bit different these days, our time, talents, and treasures are needed more than ever. We need everyone engaged creatively, spiritually, financially, and enthusiastically. There is so much good we can do to help others and keep our ministry active and vibrant. As fall approaches, we will be searching for new and innovative ways to share the Good News. We want your ideas and suggestions. Let’s think outside of the box. Think your idea is a bit “out there”? Let’s hear it anyway! God has called us all into ministry together. Let’s get on with it! I look forward to hearing from you. As always, you can get in touch with me directly at pastorwes@goodshepherdwb.org or by calling the church and leaving a message. Thanks for all that you do!

Let us pray…
God of creation and creativity, we come to you today and ask that you reinvigorate a spirit of boldness in our Good Shepherd family. When we look outside of ourselves, we see a world that needs to hear the Story of your love for all people. Many of those people are in need. Help us to find creative ways of meeting those needs and telling that Story; for we know that all things are possible in you. We ask these things in the name of Jesus. Amen.

Be well, be kind, and be safe!
Blessings always,
Pastor Wes †

Social Distance and Spiritual Community

A devotion by Pastor Wes Poole

John 13:4-7
Jesus got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” Jesus answered, “You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” NRSV

Has anyone experienced the phenomenon recently of watching a TV show or a commercial, like a rerun or a familiar ad, and your first thought is, Argh, they’re not wearing a mask and they’re standing way too close!” I usually catch myself a second later and just shake my head and think, “Wow, how quickly do we get so used to the new normal!” Well I just did the same thing when I read the passage above. It sounds silly, but such is the headspace most of us live in these days. I’m not decrying that, by any stretch of the imagination. On the contrary, I don’t think we can do enough to keep our families and communities safe. As difficult as it can be sometimes, it also dawned on me that all of this emphasis on keeping each other safe and healthy has forged a new kind of community; one that is physically distant by necessity, and yet closer, in that now we have to be more considerate of the health and well being of our neighbors and loved ones.

In the church, we have an opportunity to take this newfound attitude and put it to good use. Yes, fellowship right now is difficult in the traditional sense, but the love of God in Jesus Christ is not bound by earthly matters like time or distance. We can still keep our church family safe and spiritually healthy. For those who feel comfortable, we will continue to have in-person, socially distanced, worship with Holy Communion. When we share that meal, we’re drawn far closer than mere physical proximity. Our true unity is always in Christ, and as St. Paul reminds us, nothing can separate us from him. However, we don’t have to have come fresh from communion to share that unity with others. How might that play out practically in our current context. Even for those of us still sheltering at home, the simplest things tend to mean the most: a phone call, text, or email; a card or an actual snail mail letter. (Does anyone still do that?) My son, Ian, often takes flowers or a box of cookies and leaves them on his girlfriend’s porch. The fact is, we can still be the church in the time of COVID. Any act of care or kindness is never wasted. When this is all behind us, and God willing, it will be, we might find ourselves stronger for the struggle. So if you see or think of anyone who might be in need of the blessings of community, reach out to them. By the same token, please reach out to me if you see a need of which I should be made aware. I am always reachable by email at: pastorwes@goodshepherdwb.org or by calling the church office. For now, let’s continue to build one another up; praying for the time when we can, once again, as Paul also says, “Greet one another with a holy kiss”, or hug, handshake, etc. May that day come quickly!

Let us pray…
Lord Jesus, as you showed humility in washing the disciples feet, help us to be open to new ways of reaching out to our brothers and sisters during this time of physical distance, for we know our unity in you can never be weakened or dissolved. Keep us strong in faith and commitment to our church and greater community, and keep our hearts filled with love and forgiveness. For you live and reign with the Father and Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Be well, be kind, and be safe!

All God’s Blessings,
Pastor Wes †

Communication, Collaboration, and Encouragement

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 pastorwes@goodshepherdwb.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.

Blessings,
Pastor Wes †

A Change Will Do You Good!

A devotion by Pastor Wes Poole

Jeremiah 31:31-34
The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt—a covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, says the Lord. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, “Know the Lord,” for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more. NRSV

We usually read the above passage on Reformation Sunday. The prophet reminds us that our God is never boring or static. He is always doing a new thing; creating something wonderful. In all of the history between God and His people that Scripture recounts for us, God never rests on His laurels. God never settles. God is actively engaged with us; inspiring us to live and engage with one another in the same way. As a church of the Reformation tradition, we subscribe to the doctrine of Sempre Ecclesia Reformanda…the Church, always reforming. We are a community of believers built to thrive on growth and change, for one can’t exist without the other. Right now, there are a lot of changes in the church that we likely didn’t expect or want. Social distancing, online worship, limited in-person worship, new methods of celebrating communion…all of these changes have been forced on us. This has obviously been difficult, yet again, we are a church designed to deal with and even embrace change. Jeremiah was foretelling the new covenant God promised and brought to fruition in Jesus. Yet even then, Jeremiah was reminding his people of the need to trust in God’s creative genius. God promises a new relationship that is deep and eternal. We trust that He will see us through any difficulties and indeed inspire us to even greater acts of goodness in His Kingdom. We’ve heard it said a lot during this COVID crisis that we are the church wherever we may be and in whatever situation we find ourselves. This has never been truer than during these trying times. Will it be difficult? Yes, sometimes, but we face every challenge before us with Our Lord at our side. As a community of faith, we at Good Shepherd are still grappling with how to be the Church in the time of COVID. There are social, theological, doctrinal, practical, and certainly financial challenges ahead. Coming together as a family, social distancing and financial obstacles notwithstanding, God will see us through and we will see each other through everything. We will undoubtedly be changed permanently in some ways…but we will still be the Church and God will still be God. His promises are never in vain and He will continue to create wonder out of even this most trying of times. The Church, Always Reforming. May we continue to trust in God’s creative and redeeming power; showing the world what this new life in Christ looks like. It may not always be easy, but it will never be boring!

Let us pray…
Creator God, we thank you for the wonder of Creation, and for the new life you have extended to all people in Jesus Christ. Through the power of your Holy Spirit, give us a share of your creative genius; for we know that all things are possible in you, and this world will one day call upon you as one people, with your Word in our hearts. We ask these things in Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Be well, be kind, and be safe. I hope to see you soon!

Blessings always,
Pastor Wes †