GREAT EXPECTATIONS

By Pastor Wes Poole

Advent is the season of waiting and expectation. How many times have I said or written something to that effect? Well, I would hazard a guess that I’ve said that pretty much every Advent since I was ordained…which is starting to add up to a respectable number of years!!! Still, it’s true. During this season of preparation, we hear the great chronicles of our faith; leading up to the truly epic story of Our Lord’s Nativity, the Incarnation of God Almighty as a little child in a manger. A story of that magnitude deserves a bit of dramatic build-up don’t you think? However, Advent is not just about sitting around waiting for a story to unfold. Why?  Because the story continues to this very day…and we are some of the major characters!

Yes, that’s right, we’re a part of the story of Our Lord’s Nativity…and all the incredible events that happened afterward.  You see Christmas changed everything.  Christ’s Nativity showed the world that ours is a God of action, a God of involvement, a God who is a part of the lives of His children.  What’s more, Immanuel¸ God who is with us, comes among us for a reason…to show us, by example, how he wants us to live and act and exist as His Holy People and His called co-workers in the faith. We are major players in the great unfolding story of new life in Jesus Christ.

What does this have to do with Advent? Everything.  Advent focuses us on the story while reminding us never to forget that we are all still moving the plot forward. Waiting and expectation do not excuse God’s faithful people from attending to the tasks to which He has set us. The breathless wonder of the Godchild in the manger with the Star shining brilliantly in the East merely shine the light on the great, transcendent truth of our Christian faith…Immanuel is alive and at work in our lives and in the lives of all people! That does not, will not, and indeed cannot change…ever.

As we get caught up in the wondrous spirit of the season…and by all means, let’s get caught up in it, let us also strive to keep our day to day ministry in the forefront of our thoughts. The Word still needs proclaiming, the poor and hungry need feeding, the despairing need to hear the amazing, transformative Story of Life that we have to tell. Immanuel is shown most clearly in the words and actions of God’s people. As we gather in wonder during this Holy Season, let us all make the commitment to be Immanuel to all those who need him.

May the blessings of Immanuel, the Incarnate God made visible, move us to carry the Story ever forward!

Let us pray…

God who is with us always, bless this holy season of waiting we are about to embark upon together as a family of faith. Keep us ever mindful that the Story of your Incarnation continues to this day, and that we each have a truly vital role to play in it. May we bring the blessings of the Christ child to all who are in need. We ask these things in Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Be well, be kind, and be safe.

Your Partner in Christ,

Pastor Wes †

THANKSGIVING

By Pastor Wes Poole

Psalm 9:1
I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds. NRSV

Thanksgiving. What is it all about? Well certainly we Americans think of Thanksgiving as a national holiday celebrated by many different people of many different creeds…or no creed at all. Prosperity, plenty, food on the table, personal freedoms, political stability; all these things and many more could be listed, quite justifiably, as things for which we, as Americans, can be thankful. For many of us, Thanksgiving simply means being grateful for our homes and our enlightened system of government that allows us to achieve such an opulent lifestyle…for it is indeed opulent by world standards. This year, our beloved national holiday is taking on a new and different tone, or rather rediscovering an old one. Many of us are paying closer attention to the deeper blessings God has given us. The reasons for this are obvious. Even though COVID may have kept us at home more than we have been used to in the past, there has been a renewed focus on families pulling together and relying on each other. The celebration of Thanksgiving is really all about home, family, and faith, even during trying times. We’ve also seen people across the country coming together to share the burdens these trying times have created for all of us. Difficult times still can bring out the best in people. For me, that is one of the most compelling reasons to give thanks this year.
For the Christian, giving thanks also means looking past the secular aspect of Thanksgiving and acknowledging God as the author and source of all that is good in our lives. Family, friends, home, and livelihood; all of these things oblige us, as believers, to give God the wholehearted thanks the psalmist illustrates for us above. When we name the Name of the Most High God in prayer, praise, or celebration, we offer all that we are and have to be used as God’s instruments of peace in His Creation. As we approach, once again, our national day of Thanksgiving, I pray that we will continue to place our thanks in the hands of the One to whom it truly belongs. God is the author of all goodness, and there are good times yet to come. Not even COVID can stop that. Let us recommit to giving thanks for what God has done, is doing, and promises yet to do!
May the power of Almighty God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit inspire us all to give thanks for God’s blessings by being a blessing to all our brothers and sisters everywhere.

Let us pray…
Heavenly Father, we offer you our most heartfelt thanks for all that you have given us. As we pause, as a nation, to give thanks for our manifold blessings, help us, as the modern day disciples of Jesus, to continue to do good works in our communities. May our lives give others even more reason to be thankful. We ask these things in Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Be well, be kind, be safe, and be thankful!
Your partner in Christ,
Pastor Wes †

HOPEFUL HEARTS AND THE HOLY SPIRIT

By Pastor Wes Poole

Romans 5:5
“…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!

Blessings,
Pastor Wes †

THE VOICE OF CALM

By Pastor Wes Poole

My apologies, friends. I spent yesterday (Tuesday) glued to the TV and let time get away from me completely. Wonder why?? 😉

1 Kings 19:11-13
Then He said, “Go out, and stand on the mountain before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice. So it was, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood in the entrance of the cave. Suddenly a voice came to him, and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” NRSV

The story is told of Franklin Roosevelt, who often endured long receiving lines at the White House. He complained that no one really paid any attention to what was said. One day, during a reception, he decided to try an experiment. To each person who passed down the line and shook his hand, he murmured, “I murdered my grandmother this morning.” The guests responded with phrases like, “Marvelous! Keep up the good work. We are proud of you. God bless you, sir.” It was not till the end of the line, while greeting the ambassador from Bolivia, that his words were actually heard. Nonplussed, the ambassador leaned over and whispered, “I’m sure she had it coming.” (source unknown)

Political humor seemed appropriate somehow! In all seriousness, our nation has been stressed and anxious for most of this year. COVID was bad enough! Couple that with a vitriolic, contentious election cycle, and we’ve seen a perfect storm of chaos and cacophony that would have challenged even Elijah’s listening skills. As I write this, I am still following the returns. Do I have a preference? You bet I do! Will I share it? Nope. Not a chance. Not in a forum like this, and NEVER from the pulpit! It is not my place as a clergyperson to make such public, political pronouncements, and I take major issue with anyone in my profession who does so. One official though, commenting on the ongoing drama, cautioned the listeners that whichever side wins, both sides must learn to listen to what the other is trying to say. Amen to that! You know, it’s been said that listening is not simply waiting for your turn to reply. That is so profoundly true. Often, the voice of the one crying for help is a still, small one; overlooked or marginalized by society. That voice is truly the Voice of God, just as surely as the One Elijah heard so long ago. As followers of Jesus in these discordant times, we have a unique opportunity to model the caring and kindness that allows us not just to hear each others’ voices, but to listen with our hearts. That is exactly the life Jesus showed us how to live. Regardless of who ends up in the White House, our Christian vocation is always about showing others the Way Jesus taught us; kindness, love, generosity, and welcoming the stranger in our midst. These things will always be at the core of who we are as people of faith. “What are you doing here, [Christians]??” What indeed?! May we open our hearts to the “others” in our midst…and listen to them.

Let us pray…
God of mercy and truth, open our hearts to be able to listen to each other. Help us sow understanding in the midst of strife. Help us to be the calm amidst the storms of life; that we may more effectively show the Way your Son modeled for us so perfectly. For it is in his name that we pray. Amen.

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

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 †