Pastor Henry's Memo

Leap Saturday

This is the year we add a day to the calendar.  Leap Year means 29 days in February.  Adding the day has to do with the earth's orbit around the sun and keeping in sync with astronomical time.  Our planet is just a very tiny bit slow with a 365 day year.  Way smarter people than me have determined the need to add a day every four years to make up for the earth being that tiny bit slow.  This calculation is a tad more intricate than simply adding an extra day every four years. But this manipulation keeps the vernal equinox on or very close to March 21st which is, as they say, good enough for government work.  At least that will keep the seasons regular.  Now, for the big question: what will you do with your extra day?  How will you spend that gift of 24 hours?  Take an extra long nap?   Spend time with grand children?  Go fishing or to the movies?  Just imagine how 24 extra hours could be used.  This year the 29th falls on a Saturday.  Perhaps we could "remember the Sabbath to keep it holy."  However you determine to spend your Leap Saturday, remember who makes all time and orders the seasons and keeps watch upon us all in every day we live.  Just remember, you won't get another chance to live an extra day for another four years.



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Thomas Edison

Thomas Edison was a genius.  His inventions changed the 20th Century.  Did I say he was a genius.  Well, he was.  He was granted 1093 U.S. patents in his lifetime.  Famous for the incandescent light bulb, he was also the inventor of the dictaphone, relay magnets, the kenetiscope, and the electrographic vote-recorder.  That last item could have been put to good use in Iowa last month.  In 1878 Edison also invented the phonograph; a way for reproducing and projecting sound.  What a boon for the Columbia Record Company.  My brother and I took some of our hard earned money from passing newspapers and became subscribers to that company.  Our dad approved, with reservations.  We could only order two records a month; which fulfilled our obligation to Columbia.  The Beatles, Herman's Hermits, The Mamas & The Papas...  Oh, I forgot, the sales pitch for subscribing for at least a year was a "free phonograph."  Battery operated with an adapter for a wall plug.  It was red and came in its own case.  We could take it to parties.  I remember going to sleep with my mom's record of George Gershwin's "Rhapsody In Blue" playing over and over and over.  Thank goodness for the wall plug in.  Now, that red phonograph has long been trashed.  The LPs of our favorite groups are long gone.  I don't even have a phonograph anymore.  We've moved on to cassette tapes and 8 tracks and MP3s and now our phones.  By the way, Edison was granted multiple patents for improvements to Alexander Graham Bell's telephone.  While the method we use to listen to our music has changed over a century and a half, the pleasure of listening to music never ends.  Whether it's Chopin, Caruso, Gershwin, or Mama Cass or Beyonce or Taylor Swift or Johnny Cash, our music marks us and enlivens us and reminds us we're creatures who share the pleasure of listening.  Would we did more of that than the screaming and criticizing and threatening that seems to fill our TV news.  Thank you, Thomas Edison.



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Uncle Charlie

Every birth comes with a name or two or three.  One of the joys parents have is giving their newborn a name.  Will it be a family name from generations past or brand new never before used?  It seems the trend of late is to make up a name so it is unlike any other.  Spellings and hyphens and even numbers are being added to names.  David Charles Henry. Three first names.  I can't tell you how often I've heard that when giving my name for some document.  My middle name was not my favorite name.  David was strong and not in either the Henry or Polovitch family tree.  Charles was my uncle's name.  He was my mother's brother.  When she left home at twelve to live in town so as to finish school my grandfather told her she needn't ever come back to the farm.  And she didn't.  It was her brother Charles who bought her a bicycle so she could get around.  Mom finished high school, spent a year in San Diego with her sister Kate welding on Liberty Ships, and in 1942, enrolled at the Brooklyn School of Nursing.  Upon graduating in 1946 she was a Registered Nurse.  Uncle Charles  came out to Indiana in 1950 to walk her down the aisle at her wedding because Grandpa and she never reconciled.  I was blessed with his name.  Charles Polovitch was a United States Marine and he fought in the South Pacific during World War II.  He was stationed on Tinian Island in the Northern Marianas.  He was among the US Marines who guarded the ENOLA GAY as it was prepared to drop the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan.  Uncle Charlie came home from the war and took up farming and raised a family in Nicholson, PA.  He couldn't talk about where he was stationed or what he did but word got out.  One of the Nicholson hometown boys was on Tinian.  One of the hometown Nicholson boys kept watch on the most famous air plane in the US arsenal.  And when the town folk confirmed this, they named the road that ran past his farm "The Polovitch Road."  Such is a name.  Such was their decision to honor his service.  I'm proud to bear his name into the 21st Century.  Uncle Charlie's middle name was Basil, after the saint of the Eastern Orthodox Church.  David Basil Henry.  Doesn't have quite the same ring.  Thanks Mom for Charles.



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Thanks for the Lesson, Dad!

New responsibilities come to us upon reaching a certain level of maturity.  They are unavoidable as we move from being children to youth to adults.  One such adult responsibility is paying one's bills.  I remember watching my dad take out his checkbook every Friday after dinner, gather the family's bills, and write checks.  He'd have the bank deposit slip where he could see it and off he'd go.  Some bills were paid in full, like the utilities.  Others were not, like the Sears charge card or the Shell gas card. The mortgage payment was paid monthly with a coupon and was paid on time without fail.  As I watched my dad do this week after week after week, I knew it was a very important task.  When finished, Mom and Dad would talk about what money was then available for food and other living expenses for the coming week.  It was some time before I realized the lesson my dad was silently teaching week after week after week.  He was demonstrating what an adult does when being responsible for a family; how to be a husband and a father.  His employment fed us and housed us and clothed us.  He took seriously the obligation to keep us safe.  You might not realize it, but that recurring task is one of the ways we help stabilize the culture.  Each person and each family taking responsibility for their debts and being trustworthy over weeks and months and years seeing to it they are paid to whom they are due.  When I moved out of the house just before my 21st birthday and found myself looking at a bank deposit slip and a stack of bills and my checkbook.  That's when I knew I'd become an adult. Thanks for the lesson, Dad.



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Boomerang BackPacks

Calvary United Methodist Church celebrates children helping children by collecting loose change and paper currency each week to fund Boomerang BackPacks.  We conclude our weekly children's sermon by pulling a wagon down the center aisle with a jar in it.  Into that jar offerings are made for said Backpacks.  Across the Syracuse neighborhoods such things are done in different ways providing money for school kids so they won't be hungry on weekends.  In a place like Syracuse, Indiana, it may be hard to believe there are hungry children.  There are.  Our school system provides these Boomerang BackPacks to try to alleviate some of that hunger.  Calvary UMC is a part of this effort.  Feeding the hungry is always a charitable endeavor.  Feeding hungry children only makes the enterprise more important.  Would that no child was ever hungry.  We will continue to do our best to do our part for this necessary ministry.  And as your pastor, I am proud of my congregation as it steps forward with loose pocket change and much more for hungry kids.   



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RIP, Andre, the Giant

Andre's leash still hangs on a hook by the front door of my daughter's home in Colorado. Andre, the Giant was a 175 pound Great Dane rescue dog.  He was a very gentle giant.  He was Sarah and Josh's pet for almost five years. With Ponce de Leon, their cat, grandson Jack rounded out their five member family.  Andre died while Sarah, Josh, and Jack were vacationing in Indiana this past fall.  It was quite a shock.  Andre seemed in good health.  Then suddenly and unexpectedly he fell dead.  Sadness befell three families.  His ashes are encased in a decorative box provided by their veterinarian and rests on the bureau in their front room along with his collar.  And his leash hangs by the front door.  His family isn't ready to let him go.  The leash, the collar, and his ashes bear witness to his having been a member of the family.  They are in no rush to forget.  And these simple reminders of his place in the family are more than comforting.  They speak to a very ancient reality about the relationship between humans and their pets, especially dogs.  Man's Best Friend is recognized almost universally as the dog.  It doesn't matter if it’s a purebred for breeding or a mutt of indistinguishable heritage, dogs have been our companions and friends for untold centuries.  Andre, the Giant was one family's best friend in a most agreeable way.  One day his cremains will likely be sprinkled along the paths he walked and the fields where he played.  For now, they lie in wait for a final resting place.  If it's true all dogs go to heaven, Andre will have been rescued one last time.  For that, a half dozen or so human beings will rejoice.  RIP Andre, the Giant.



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Happy New Year

Happy New Year!  A.D. 2020 ushers in a new decade to this 21st Century.  A.D. is the abbreviation for the Latin Anno Domini: the Year of Our Lord.  It is placed before the stated year.  It is a distinctly Christian designation for the time since the birth of Jesus.  The abbreviation is often times not used for inclusive purposes.  In its place are often the three letters CE: Common Era.  That designation marks the year without declaring any religious or theological reference.  For our Jewish cousins it's year 5780.  These are the years from the beginning of the world according to the Jewish calendar.  Muslims mark this year as 1441 according to their tradition and is not related to Muhammad's birth, but to another event about which I know nothing.  I'm sure all this numbering is of small import to us as we begin a new decade.  However, there are other measuring systems in other cultures.  The human family does not mark time on a calendar the same way.  Just the same, 2020 is the most used and recognized dating number in the world, with or without A.D.  Marking time and passing the time are two different things and we should know the difference.  The one is a calendar thing.  The other is our life.  It passes and progresses and the days add up.  I encourage you to use your time and make a life worthy of its span of years.  Some day there will be a marker with two dates on it for all of us.  What happened between them is what will have mattered, not the calendar by which they were measured.  



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Santa Has Been Discounted!

SPOILER ALERT!  SEND THE CHILDREN OUT OF THE ROOM!  Santa has been discounted!  Oh, the humanity!  I was in CVS last week and the Santa figures were discounted to $129.99.  Originally, Santa was going for $400.  He's been discounted just under 67%.  Is that a deal, or what?  I think it fits in the category of "or what."  Being the universal cultural symbol of this season, to have him reduced by such a large amount might be sending an unintended message.  Santa is Santa all over the globe.  He, the elves, and the reindeer (and Mrs. Claus) are ubiquitous.  Their presence in advertising and songs and TV specials can't be exaggerated.  They can't be ignored.  Neither can they be taken for granted.  They aren't just necessary additions to the holiday gift giving season, they've become near reality in our culture.  However, let me gently remind you about what you already know.  Santa and Jesus are not twins.  Santa comes only once a year in December.  And while the baby Jesus also comes in December, as the Only Begotten Son of God, he is present and alive and real every minute of every day all year long.  If you want to talk ubiquity, it's Jesus.  While a drug store Santa can be discounted for clearance purposes, the child of Mary remains un-discounted because he isn't for sale.  He's for sharing and praising and worshiping.  It is he whom we await.  O, come, O come, Immanuel.  And ransom captive Israel.



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Advent Expectation

Advent is a season of expectation.  The Church waits for God to keep a promise.  While the world listens to holiday music on the radio, the Church makes plans for a child.  Yes, the Church also listens to the holiday songs and attends Christmas pageants and participates in the shopping and wrapping this season encourages.  But a word about Advent seems a small thing to offer in the days leading up to December 25th.  Prophets foretell the coming of God's Messiah; the one who will deliver Israel from her bondage and warfare.  That God will be faithful to His ancient promises isn't doubted.  Israel's trust is patient.  She believes the deliverance God has promised will come to pass.  So she waits and watches and makes ready.  The Church waits with her Jewish cousins.  She, too, trusts God and proclaims the Messiah will change history.  While there is much hustle and bustle in the weeks before Christmas, Advent reminds us to be patient in our waiting.  God's time is dawning in an unexpected way.  Soon the angels will sing out and a virgin will bear a son.  As we shop and wrap and prepare to give, remember He will be God's gift to all of humanity.



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Love God, Love your Neighbor, Love your Enemy

Rabbi Harold Kushner wrote a remarkably readable book about theodicy (the justice of God) entitled When Bad Things Happen To Good People.  It's been almost forty years since it was published and, across that span of time, his question has continued to haunt thoughtful minds.  Rabbi Kushner wasn't the first to pose the question.  It's as ancient as human existence.  Poets and theologians have struggled with that question and in spite of their efforts our human family is no nearer an agreed upon answer than those who first asked it.  Why DO bad things happen to good people?  Are good people exempt from the vagaries of life?  Does being good inoculate one from pain or suffering or grief?  Can any person escape from life's vicissitudes. (From the Latin, meaning turns or changes.)   Bad things happen to bad people, too.  Now what?  Do we smile and express satisfaction?  Is our response more like "serves them right" or "what goes around comes around" or "karma, baby, karma?"  Truth is, and we know it, life is not fair.  Never has been.  Never will be.  And if there is a "fixer of fairness" somewhere in the world (or above it) he or she is asleep on the job.  Perhaps it's up to us to be the "fixers," so to speak.  In Jesus we have the perfect example of how to live in such a world as ours.  Love God, love your neighbor, love your enemy.  Do good, eschew evil, turn the other cheek.  Jesus has taught us enough things to keep us busy for this life and the next.  Pray God we remember this in the season of God's Advent.



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