Pastor Henry's Memo

Valentine's Day -- Could be Every Day.

Valentine's Day is the 14th.  It's a day of candy, cards, and cuddles (if you're lucky or in love; or both).  Chocolate seems to be the favorite flavor for this day of exchanging more than pleasantries.  Hershey's Kisses and Whitman's Samplers sell well enough to make most lists of desirable treats.  And let's not forget the flowers.  Roses upon roses upon roses.  And still, more roses.  It was Gertrude Stein who said in the 1913 poem Sacred Emily "A rose is a rose is a rose."  The meaning of which no one can fully agree, so enigmatic is the phrase.  Perhaps better known is William Shakespeare's line from Juliet's mouth in Romeo and Juliet, "A rose by any other name would smell as sweet."  Truer words were never spoken.  The sweet smell of roses is full of romance and hope and longing.  Whether given as a gift for no special reason or when they lie in a spray on a coffin, love is in the smell, and thus, in the air for all to relish.  For the faithful Christian (and even for the not so faithful one) love is how we come closest to being like God.  When we love others, regardless of their capacity to love us back, we most perfectly mirror the Divine.  Wouldn't it be a blessing if what passes for love on Valentine's Day was just such a divine love as that?  And that it was like that every day?  If that came to pass, we'd soon run out of both chocolate and roses.



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More loving; More merciful; More forgiving

I don't suppose any of my readers will recall the name John Rogers.  Today (the 4th of February) marks the anniversary of his martyrdom.  In 1555, exactly 464 years ago, he was burned at the stake at Smithfield, London.  That quaint neighborhood is also known as a place where William Wallace was hanged and then drawn and quartered in 1305.   What lead to Roger's death was a series of disagreements about whether or not the Bible should be translated into English.  Rogers was all for it, as were other Protestant thinkers and clergy.  Others thought it an abomination.  Rogers was a Protestant and the religious leaders of the day in England were Catholic.  In the end, Rogers was arrested, tried, and sentenced to death.  Given a chance to recant, he refused and thus, John Rogers became the first acknowledged Protestant martyr.  We've come a long way over the last half a millennium.  We no longer hang religious dissenters; nor do we draw and quarter them. (At least I don't think we do.)  But some of our family of Christians continue to shun or shame or make life miserable for those with whom they disagree.  I guess it has ever been so.  But you would think, being disciples of the Risen Jesus, we'd be more loving; more merciful; more forgiving.  And if we cannot be, nay, will not be, why would we dare sing "Lord, I want to be like Jesus, in my heart?"   It's something to think about. 



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$5 Million!

As appalling as the weather is today and will be for the next several days, and as frustrating such weather is for most people who need to get out and about, something startling of a non-weather issue caught my eye.  A thirty second TV ad for the 2019 Super Bowl will set you back $5 million!  Perhaps you didn't hear me.  I said $5 million!  That's $167,000 per second!  However you calculate it, that is a lot of money for half a minute of air time.  And I do believe every available thirty second slot is sold.  Just under an hour of ad time is fully subscribed.  Soft drinks, automobiles, snack food, fast food, peanuts, beer, Mexican avocados...An array of products will be offered for our consideration. For some of us, the ads will be more entertaining than the game.  But, for me, not during game time.  I won't be watching.  I don't care who's playing.  I'll catch up post-game; maybe Monday.  We live in a great country.  So much money and so much interest and so much hype for so little benefit to how we live and what we cherish.  That is, unless we cherish professional football above all else.  And that is the message that seems to consume us from the beginning of the play-offs until the last second ticks off the clock in Atlanta of February 3rd.  Too bad the game isn't played on February 2nd.  That would give Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell a whole new perspective about repeating their famous day.



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Outrage and Civility

Public outrage is at epidemic levels in our culture.  Road rage, snarky tweets about one's dining disappointments or our latest Uber ride, missed pass interference calls, The Press and The President "wrestling" with the news, yada yada yada.  The ability to find offense around every corner and demanding something be done (so long as it satisfies our particular political or religious preferences) is belittling.  It's demeaning.  It's fatal to our good character.  When did it become permissible to speak or write hateful words just because we have perceived a personal slight?  Or had our sensibilities ruffled?  The easy and often times anonymous opportunity to vent one's spleen is tipping our culture in the wrong direction.  Civility is disappearing.  Humor is no longer gentle.  No one is safe from their past; repentance, reconciliation, and forgiveness notwithstanding.  To turn the other cheek is a rarity in the public square.  For today, this is my two cents worth.  Stay tuned.  The soap box is ever at the ready.



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Be of Good Cheer!

In case you've forgotten, The United States is currently under an official terrorism advisory.  At 2PM EDT on September 14, 2018, our National Terrorism Advisory System issued the following bulletin.  It's not an alert.  It's only a bulletin.  "Since 2015, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has used this Bulletin to highlight the continuing terror threat to the U.S. Homeland. The United States is engaged in a generational fight against terrorists who seek to attack the American people, our country, and our way of life.  An informed, vigilant and engaged public remains one of our greatest assets to identify potential terrorists and prevent attacks."  Feel better?  It is, after all, only a bulletin.  It expires on January 18, 2019, at 1PM EST.  In just four days this more than four year old bulletin will expire.  Will a new bulletin take its place?   What color will it be?  Red?  Orange?  Yellow?  Green?  I think there used to be five color levels.  Now, I'm not sure.  Will it matter?  What precautions should we take?  How much more vigilant should we be?  Do we even care to notice a threat level?  Our post 9/11 anxieties have mostly dissipated to the point of vanishing altogether.  After all, 18 years is quite a long time and no one lives on the edge that long.  A new normal has taken shape and we live within it most casually.  It seems our concerns are more about flight delays and icy roads and whether our favorite Survivor will survive.  We go about living and working and playing and being human.  It's what we have always done after every threatening event in human history.  And if you need a word of hope after this memo, remember this: "In the world you have tribulation, but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world."



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Patience: A Christian Virtue

The virtues expected to be practiced by Christians are impressive and challenging.  They reflect a kind of living that bears witness to the faith we have in the Savior of the World.   Chastity, Charity, Humility, Temperance, Diligence, Kindness, and Patience comprise the list of the most recognizable virtues.  There are other lists, but this one will do because it includes Patience.  That is what describes what our Calvary congregation has shown since our tower/steeple was struck by lightning back in July.  As you may have observed in the last couple of days, the plastic and scaffolding is being taken down from around our tower and that means significant progress has been made toward the completing of our repairs.  There is still some work to be done outside.  Most of what still needs to be done is inside.  There is light at the end of the tunnel, so to speak.  We will be returning to the sanctuary, but that date has not yet been fixed.  We will need to be patient for a bit longer and then we will celebrate as we re-dedicate our tower/steeple.  I hope and pray we continue to be patient in our waiting and faithful, too.   I'm excited we are coming to the end of this particular season of challenge and perseverance in the life of  Calvary.  I believe our patience will be rewarded in many, many ways.   God bless and thank you all.



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Happy New Year

Happy New Year!  A.D. 2019 will bring excitement and surprises to most of us.  It will bring changes and new opportunities.  However, it will be like most years in that what will make it different will not be known to us until after it's different.  Who would have thought 2001 would see the world plunged into paroxysms of patriotism and terrorism and war?  Who could have predicted 2016 would see a billionaire real estate tycoon elected to the presidency of the United States of America?  Surprise, surprise.  The coming weeks and months will bring more unexpected news.  Some of it will be welcomed and some of it not.  That's just one part of the new year that will be just like every other new year.  If we're blessed to live, we'll get older.  Perhaps, wiser.  But that isn't guaranteed.  If, however, our day comes, we'll just have to live with it.  Or not.  If you're PAYING ATTENTION you'll note I've been just a bit wacky these last couple of lines.  But that's OK.  A happy new year should allow for  bit of wacky-ness before the business of knuckling down to get on with life and the inevitable demands it makes on our living and working and playing and all the rest.  I wish you all a very Happy New Year and pray we all grow older and wiser together.



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Two Turtle Doves

"On the 2nd Day of Christmas my true love gave to me, two turtle doves and a partridge in a pear tree."  Wednesday the 26th is that 2nd Day of Christmas.  Those two turtle doves seem inauspicious enough.  They are of no large monetary value.  I understand they are rather easily captured.  Children can trap them with a piece of cloth or even a butterfly net.  Turtle doves are not aggressive and seem to be rather unencumbered by fear.  When a male child was brought to the Temple for circumcision and naming in Jesus' day, the least costly and appropriate offering for sacrifice was two doves.  They were cheap; almost of no value at all.  Yet, they were offered to YHWH on the eighth day when an infant son was brought for naming and circumcision.  I would guess the reason for two doves being acceptable was precisely because they were easy to catch and so inexpensive.  Everyone could afford such a sacrifice.  No one would be turned away from being admitted to the Covenant.  No child would be forbidden a place in the Family of Abraham for lack of a sacrificial offering.  How like YHWH to set so very low a bar for so very high an honor.  



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Cell Phones, Yada, Yada, Yada....

Cell phones have become an addiction.  It's almost as if they have become an extension of our hand; an indispensable tool for living from minute to minute on the planet.  The very thought of not having it on your person and even in your bed is too horrifying to contemplate.  News reports suggest too much screen time with phones and iPads and other devises can be detrimental to children's brains.  (Not to mention family meal time and homework and chores and being outside running around and falling down and learning how to get up and move on to riding your bike yada yada yada.)  I don't think I've actually become a curmudgeon, but there's a debate going on in my family about that.  Did I forget to mention cell phones cause cancer and carpel tunnel syndrome and texting while driving is as dangerous as driving under the influence of alcohol?  And marijuana.  Don't get me started.  Cell phones are the focus of my weekly pastor's memo.  What has me ranting on and on is my phone bill.  I mean OUR phone bill.  It comes monthly like the New Moon.  It's never the same. The total bill is NEVER the same from month to month.  What makes the bill so frustrating to read is the litany of taxes and charges and fees and data usage and 911 access and every other way a government agency finds a way to extract a few cents from my wallet.  Then I receive a text from my daughter with a picture of grandson Jack trying to eat oat meal while making sure the dog gets his share smeared on his nose and I almost don't care about the bill.  I'm too busy re-texting that picture to half a dozen people who may or may not care at all about oatmeal.  Or the dog.  Or even Jack.  And for one joyous moment I'm free, free, thank God Almighty I'm free at last.  And it's time to move on.  So Amen and God bless all of you.  I'm moving on.



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A World of Zero Tolerance

 It has now become apparent no one is safe from their past.  In the age of Twitter and Facebook and Instagram we keep account of our own behavior for others to rifle through.  The notion of privacy is in precipitous decline.  Traffic cams and ATM cams and security cams and...  There is almost nowhere we can go for privacy.  Even our cell phones and Alexa and Echo and Google Assistant keep track of us whether we intend for them to or not.  Heisman Trophy winner Kyle Murray, while a young teenager, posted offensive comments on his social media accounts and he's being given an electronic 3rd degree.   Kevin Hart was selected to host the Academy Awards and it was discovered his social media past was littered with offensive posts.  He is no longer Oscar's choice.  Maybe there won't be a host this year.  Perhaps the imaginary fantasy world of Hollywood could spare us all the inconvenience of four hours of self-congratulatory television and dispense with it altogether this year.  Have we finally come to a point where our sensibilities are so fragile we no longer able to just walk away and ignore boorish behavior?  Is every social slight an occasion for public humiliation?  Will our lives be more secure and our consciences be more at ease if every mistake is corrected for all the world to see?  Our "zero tolerance" culture will soon be impossible to tolerate.  None of us will be free from some form of taint.  We will all be so fallen and broken we might rediscover the Biblical revelation: "All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God."  (Romans 3:23)  Or, "The inclinations of the hearts and minds of men are only evil continually."  (Genesis 6:5 AND 6:21)  Perhaps knowing our pedigree we could be more tolerant and more forgiving.  After all, we don't want another flood.  Do we?



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