Pastor Henry's Memo

Wednesday, May 12

Pastor’s Memo…   As retirement looms ever closer on the horizon, I've been clearing the stacks of papers, books, and magazines from my desk.  More than I wish to admit goes straight into the trash.  Why some of it ever made it to the desk is beyond me.  But every excavation holds out the possibility of finding a treasure or two.  If you have ever been in my office and have seen my desk, you would say "buried treasure."  Well, as the waste basket fills, so too is my memory jogged.  I discover bits of paper on which I have jotted down thoughts and dates and names.  I find lists of things I wanted to remember and, in time, the list was lost to the stacks of other stuff.  Below is a sampling of what I've found.  "Restraint is a lost virtue in this century."  "Loneliness is a poverty.  Solitude is a treasure,"  "Alms giving is the opposite of idolatry."   Voltaire reminds us "those who can make you believe absurdities, can also make you commit atrocities."   I have no attribution to this next thought: "The Church will do effectively both its prophetic and pastoral work only if it is concerned first with gratitude and joy."  "Greed is the enemy of mercy."   We have heard it said over and over and over that one cannot "shout fire in a crowded theater."  To claim a free speech protection for that utterance is not what the Constitution permits.  Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote this: "Falsely shouting fire in a theatre and causing a panic" is not protected free speech.  Justice Holmes made a clear distinction highlighting speech that is dangerous AND false is not protected, as opposed to speech that is dangerous but also true.  When quoting the good Justice Holmes, we should be more precise.  After all, if a fire did break out in a theatre, we would surely want some one to raise the alarm, whether by voice or siren.  "Creation, redemption, and reconciliation is a trinity that reflects the grace manifest in God's perfect desire for the lives of all earthly creatures."   Lastly, I found Dante's Circles of Hell, not literally, of course. There are ten of them and Lucifer occupies the lowest level all by himself.  Above him in level Nine are Cain, Judas, Ptolemy, and Antenor (Google the last two if you are confused.)  Google Dante's Circle's of Hell if you want the entire list.  Well, back to the excavating and all those levels of stuff.



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Monday, May 10

Pastor’s Memo…   Henny Youngman was a 20th Century American stand-up comedian known for his rapid fire one-liner jokes.  His comedic prop was a violin; which he could play well enough.  He used it as a diversionary interlude between his one-liners.  He was known to walk the streets of New York and put on impromptu performances.  Crowds would gather and he'd have them laughing at either his jokes or his violin recital.  He performed on television as well in clubs across the country.  While born in London, he lived most of his ninety-one years in Brooklyn.  He was the last of 13 children, but he didn't complain that he never had a new suit of clothes until he was in high school.  Though he once told fellow comedian Milton Berle he wouldn't have minded all those hand-me-downs, except that he had 12 sisters.  Which brings me to asking about hand-me-downs, of a sort.  Having retirement looming on the horizon, Julia and I are sifting and sorting through, then pitching and giving away, all sorts of stuff.  Goodwill and the Rose Home have been recipients of items still of some use.  Our kids have collected what's theirs.  The piano is to be used by Audrey Isabelle at her home in Shelbyville.  But, what to do with some of the rest of our stuff?  What hand-me-downs will be destined for dumpsters?  What is valuable or sentimental enough to keep and pass on?  Old pocket watches?  Pictures?  That third set of china that's already two generations old?  Cameras that aren't quite antiques?  Books?  Don't get me started.  Antique end tables and lamp stands or that century old chest of drawers?  As to more than four decades of sermons... it took me all of 10 minutes to place them unceremoniously in the dumpster out back of the church.  Maybe some woebegone miscreant searching for recyclable aluminum at the dump will stumble across them and find them exactly what he needs to amend his life.  Time will tell.  And if the movers don't bring a big enough truck, you all are welcome to sort through what's out by the mailbox.



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Monday, May 3

Pastor’s Memo…   What sparks my thinking today is the birth of Niccolo Machiavelli.  He was born this date in 1469.  He was a diplomat and a philosopher and an author.  He is most well known for The Prince; a treatise on political power that implied those wielding that power were not necessarily obliged to obey the law or the niceties of truth telling, promise keeping, and basic human decency.  In short, those in power to govern were in a class of their own permitted to do that which kept them in power (so long as it was in the generally exercised to the advantage of the governed).  There is no shortage of such power wielding in today's governing executives.  It is naive to believe only one's political opponents engage in such chicanery.  Machiavellian isn't a descriptor applicable only in our generation.  It's been in use for the last half a millennium. Nor it is only for the describing of local, state, or national affairs.  Local school boards and national labor unions and private sporting leagues are subject to the Machiavellian principles that beset our civic associations.  I would guess even the 7th grade chess club is not immune to the allure of gaining and keeping power. After all, someone must be in charge of refreshments.   Which makes it all the more dispiriting, that as the United Methodist Church lurches and staggers and bungles its way to division over its internal dispute about homosexuality, we find the playing of power politics in every nook and cranny of our broken body.  Factions and caucuses and whole regions of the Church are trying to put a civil face to our splitting.  Scripture is being employed by every side to justify positions at which Jesus would bow his bloodied head and weep.  Our denomination happily does not practice the 613 Laws of Torah scrupulously, but there are some who would go to war over one of them.  I hear you say we aren't Jews and Jesus and St. Paul put an end to the Law.  No.  No.  A thousand times no.  Jesus has come to perfect the Law so that in every jot and tittle of it love is revealed.  The Great Commandment is to love God and our neighbor.  Let that be reveled in every machination of our United Methodist body as we strive to divide and conquer late next year. 



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Wednesday, April 28

Pastor’s Memo…    In the season of Easter the Church bears witness to an act of God that can only be described as breathtakingly audacious.  The Son of the Living God is raised from the tomb of death and exalted to the Throne of Grace.  That throne also happens to be the Throne of Judgment.  One day all of us will stand before that throne of twin objectives and we will be judged; the quick and the dead, alike.  We will not stand alone.  We will have an advocate by our side.  It's Jesus, as promised.  Our advocate is the Christ whom God has caused to be raised from the dead.  Jesus reminds us in John's Gospel that he "gives to us not as the world gives." (John 14:27). And neither does he judge as the world judges.  Thanks be to God for that.  I do not remember where I read Jesus does not come to change God's mind about us; to make us acceptable to Him.  Rather, Jesus comes to change our minds about God; that we might believe and trust in the grace that saves us unto everlasting life.  The truth of the resurrection is not that it is a reciprocated bargain wherein we and God are parties of equal standing coming to some eternal agreement about our true nature.  The resurrection of Jesus from the dead reveals God's victory over sin and shame and death. That victory is shared with we bodies of flesh and blood.  And for that, we are privileged to sing God's praises with the hosts of heaven for ever and ever and ever. 



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Monday, April 26

Pastor’s Memo…    The Hubble Space Telescope was launched thirty-one years ago yesterday.  That magnificent "eye-in-the-sky" was a technological marvel.  It still is.  (Google Edwin Hubble if you want more information on the man after whom the telescope was named.)  What I remember about the Hubble is that its main mirror was perfectly ground to the wrong specifications.  The result was a mirror with an aberration one-50th the thickness of a human hair, in the grinding of the mirror.  Every picture was blurry.  This multi-million dollar space telescope might as well have been blind.  Every photo image was blurry.  What to do?  The scientists back at NASA decided the fix for this tiniest of grinding errors was a lens; a monocle, if you please.  And that is what they set out to make and eventually it was put in place and the Hubble was cured.  The pictures it has sent to Earth of our galaxy have been a glory to behold.  The scientific information we have gleaned from the Hubble has been of great benefit to life on earth.  Scattered up in space are all kinds of telescopes and satellites that benefit humans; spy, weather, GPS, telecommunication...  Let's not forget the Eye Of God.  While not a scientific gadget, it sees all.  It never needs repair.  It looks down benevolently.  One day we'll answer for all that it sees and knows.  One day, indeed. 



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Wednesday, April 21

Pastor’s Memo…     The Church is just a third of the way into the Easter Season; its culmination will be Pentecost Sunday on the 23rd of May.  Marking this particular day is of no particular significance.  However, it does give me the opportunity to make an observation.  Jesus urged the disciples to wait in Jerusalem for the Holy Spirit.  He promised them it would come and it would clothe them with power from on high.  That power would enable them to be fearless in their bearing witness to all he revealed to them.  In short, they were to be patient.  For a company of believers who found it difficult to believe all he told them; as we know from their fear and trembling at the empty tomb and at his various appearances to them following his resurrection, I would imagine their waiting to be fraught with a bit of anxiety.  We 21st Century Christians are heirs to those earliest believers.  We march our way through the Church calendar with hardly a thought to what they imagined and endured.  They were hunted and ridiculed.  They hunkered down and waited.  A third of the way through that first Easter Season is like nothing we have known just eighteen days along the same journey in A.D. 2021.  Our patience for the coming of the Holy Spirit does not seem to be tested and we are not likely to be afraid of what lies before us as disciples of the Risen Lord.  The first three Sundays of this Easter Season have reminded us about forgiveness.  The gift Jesus promises us is meant to empower us to be a forgiving Church.  We don't need too many reminders about how necessary such a gift is.  The news is awash in examples of where forgiveness is needed.  How different would the world be if the Church more diligently and more generously practiced what Jesus commended to it?  That is my observation a third of the way through Easter this year.  



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Monday, April 19

Pastor’s Memo…     Letting go isn't always easy.  Whether it's walking your first born to kindergarten and letting go of that tiny hand, or driving away from the college campus as your third born disappears into a crowd of almost adults or deciding if your constitution can take sorting through sermons from four decades ago.  It isn't easy.  Joining memories about children being released to go to school and old sermons that need to be discarded may seem a bit incongruous.  Let me explain.  Each of our three children left for school without too much bother.  Once they moved out of the parsonage they were gone, in a manner of speaking.  They did not move back home.  They moved on in their lives and have done well.  Those sermons, however, never left home and have been hidden away in storage draws and filing cabinets that now must be sorted and/or emptied.  I haven't yet begun the disposing of them.  By this time next week they will be in recycling.  Indeed, the earth giveth, the earth taketh away.  I know that isn't scripture, but it sounds religious.  Somewhere in the earth old manuscripts and sermon notes and bulletins will be reclaimed.  As to their efficacy, well, I leave that to the Holy Spirit. 



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Wednesday, April 14

Pastor’s Memo…  One of the Easter traditions now long lost from our house is the hunt for Easter Eggs.  There are a couple of obvious reasons for this.  First, our three children aren't young children anymore and second, they don't live with us, either.  We live at a distance even from our closest grandchild as to make it impossible for us to be present for a time of egg decorating and then egg hiding and, finally, egg  finding.  Baskets stuffed with plastic grass and positioned at our respective places at the table Easter morning had to wait for two Easter services to be worshiped and that agonizing ride home.  Still clad in our Easter finery we four Henry children would scour the house and the front lawn for hard boiled eggs and two-piece plastic eggs.  We'd painted the former and the Easter Bunny filled the latter with chocolate and jelly beans and the occasional nickle and dime.  Mom and Dad hid them with no real effort to keep them from being found and they always knew how many there were.  It just wouldn't do for any of them to remain lost or undiscovered.  Ah, how long ago was that innocent time when so much fun could be had at so little price?   I don't remember when last there was an Easter egg hunt in our home.  But I do remember when my mom died in 1985, my sister Joyce and I found those baskets with the plastic grass among the things we sorted through in the garage.  And, forty-five years later I wish I still had mine.  I sure hope our two grand children found Easter treasures this year; and one day, know in their hearts the living treasure of Easter resurrection. 



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Monday, April 12

Ask the Pastor

"How do you get to Carnegie Hall?"   PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE!  It's an old joke, but meaningful and truthful.  Carnegie Hall is a performance venue for the very best performers; whatever their talent may be.  To be booked there requires years of accomplishment and that takes practice.  Lent has given way to the Easter season.  It will last until Pentecost Sunday on the 23rd of May.  What about those Lenten disciplines so assiduously practiced for the seven weeks before Easter?  Are they still being practiced?  Or have they been put away until 2022?  Being in love and desiring a deeper communion with God requires intentional effort.  Lent can be a beginning to a disciplined connection with God.  It needs more than a seven week launch.  As any skill will require consistent and purposeful attention, so too the disciplines of Christian spirituality.  All of our efforts to improve our spiritual life are worthwhile.  God's attention span is phenomenally long.  Our every prayer and generous offering is received at the Throne of Grace with a chorus of thanksgiving.  Let the Easter season be a continuation of your Lenten season, and practice, practice, practice those loving disciplines.  Who knows?  A heavenly audience may be giving you a standing ovation!



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Wednesday, April 7

Pastor’s Memo…  Spontaneity often times causes a sense of euphoria.  An idea springs to mind and it seems like genius.  The immediate urge to act on that mind-reeling idea is almost irresistible.  The next thing you know, you've created a problem with severe consequences and you had no idea.  Take the good reverend sitting behind his desk.  He's trying to think up a way to raise money for the ministry.  Lo and behold, a newspaper advertisement catches his attention.  The county sheriff is setting up a program to buy old guns to get them out of closets and drawers and garages.  The offer is this: bring in your gun, old or new, and the county will pay you $50.  Rifle, shotgun, pistol, muzzle loader; new, rusted out, missing parts; just drop it off and collect $50 each.  That good reverend's brain is now in overdrive.  He could raise thousands of dollars.  He'll tell his listening audience to mail him their old guns and he'll take them to the sheriff's drop-off site and collect the $50 for each one.  The ministry will receive a fresh infusion of cash and he can go on preaching over the radio.  The next day the good reverend goes on the air and in an excitedly manic voice nearly screams into his microphone: DON'T SEND US YOUR GUNS!   I don't have a Federal Firearms License and it's a crime to mail them or receive them without said license.  Each offence is a fine and prison time of up to two years.  So, just send me the $50 and we'll stay on the air bringing you the Good News of Jesus Christ... This illustration is a true story that dates back over twenty five years and somewhere I have the good reverend on video tape asking for the guns and then, the next day, trying to stay out of jail and avoid huge fines.  Indeed, spontaneity is a wonderful thing.  Sometimes, however, counting to ten and slowing down can have its advantages.  By the way, if you have an extra $50 lying around, bring it to the church office or mail it in.  But please don't mail us your guns.  



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