Pastor Henry's Memo

Monday, January 25

Pastor’s Memo…    Fanny Crosby was a blind American hymnist.  Over 8,000 religious poems are attributed to her and many of them were set to music. That would make her more prolific than Charles Wesley, who was said to have written something in the neighborhood 7,000 poems; many of them also being set to music.  Her hymns are sung by Christians around the world.  As you might surmise, she is very well known.  Born in 1820, she was of a patriotic Revolutionary War linage.  When only 24 years old she sang for the United States Congress and was recognized by former president John Quincy Adams, then a U.S. Representative from Massachusetts.  Life is full of amazements.  A blind hymn writer sings for Congress and a former president knows her.  She’s descended from American Revolutionary spies and is related to Harry Lillis Crosby; better known as Bing Crosby.   She touches thousands of lives every day in the hymns she wrote.  According to her autobiography, never once did she wonder why she was born blind.  She did, however, count her blindness a blessing, in that she noted she was never influenced by the presumed beauty of the Lord's creation.  It allowed her to write her poetry unimpeded by distractions.   Fanny Crosby was a wife and mother.  She was never financially well off.  All in all, she led a starkly provisioned life in many, many places and died at 94 in 1915.  By all accounts she was generous when able, fiercely patriotic, and an abolitionist.  She was a Methodist from her conversion in 1850 and faithfully supported the denomination's missionary outreaches to the homeless, poor, and hungry.  What a powerful legacy and a reminder that physical limitations need not impede one's faithful witness to God.  

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Wednesday, January 20

Pastor’s Memo…    Today is a beginning.  Inauguration Day in America marks the transition from one governing administration to the next.  An election determined the outgoing government; an election determined the incoming government.  We'll do it again in four years and again four year after that.  We will continue this election changing process until such time as we change it by amending our Constitution.  That is not likely to happen in any foreseeable future.  We like this changing of the guard, so to speak.  The nation changes and moves.  Political parties morph and emerge with new priorities.  The bureaucracy seems to dig in, remaining a constant presence for good or ill, depending on one's point of view.   New administrations use that dug in bureaucracy to facilitate their programs and their policies.  This is true regardless of who won the most recent election.  Ideally, it is the performance of these bureaucratic departments which move our nation in a direction that mirrors the will of the people at the last election.  However tense the last election was and the current climate in Washington, D.C. is today, we are Americans.  We live under a stable and successful Constitution.  That 2020 is behind us is a blessing.  What 2021 will be is still to be seen.  Pray it will be better and we will continue to be the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave.

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Monday, January 18

“Ask the Pastor”

There was an Old Man of the Void

Who said, "I grow bored and annoyed;

I'll create Me a planet,

Then I shall man it.

I'm tired of speaking unhoid."

Limericks are quaint and pithy verses meant to amuse and annoy and skewer all at the same time.  The above lyrical offering is from the fevered mind of D.R Bensen.  He's been composing limericks for nearly half a century.  This one raises the eternal conundrum of why God created anything at all in the first place.  Ironically, God is not always included in the analysis.  How many creation stories are there?  That depends.  There are two in the Hebrew text and they do not agree as to very much at all; order, timing, contents, purpose.  Every culture has a creation story or two.  There is more than a cottage industry involved in telling and re-telling and amending and correction and disproving and debating the truth of these ancient tales.  There will continue to be such squabbling and nit-picking and raised voices concerning these offerings.  As to the good Mr. Bensen's assertion, all God wants is to be "hoid."  So, say a prayer and wait.  Maybe say another one and wait some more.  It can't possibly hurt to offer heavenward a plea or a praise or a question or even a lament.  You might bring a smile to the face of a listening creator.

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Wednesday, January 13

Pastor’s Memo…   Door to Door salesmen were seen around most towns with some regularity more than a century and a half ago.  These enterprising characters would ply their trade from one neighborhood to the next selling their wares and offering to repair pots and pans.  Those who did this work were known as tinkers.  There were others who offered different skill sets a household might find need of.  Traveling medicine shows had an attraction all their own.  Who remembers the Avon lady?  Or the Fuller Brush salesman?  What about those religious souls who wanted to talk about The Jehovah's Witnesses or sell you a Book of Mormon?   Anyone remember buying a set of encyclopedias from a guy who showed up at your door?  I was a door to door salesman of sorts back in the mid to late '60's.  I was a paper boy.  My brother and I passed the Kokomo Morning Times seven days a week.  We earned about $6 a week each for our labors.  That included getting up at 4:45am every morning, then walking or riding our bicycles (if the weather permitted) to our route.  We were expected to have the Times delivered by 6am.  There are no newspaper boys or girls anymore.  Delivery is done by mail.  And who reads a newspaper today, anyway?  Times change.  Appetites shift and some disappear.  This memo comes to you as a way of saying we need to take a breath and let the waters calm and cool.  Our politics are important even if they cause us heartburn from time to time.  We'd like to think simpler days were better days, but that is an illusion.  The only place we can live is here and now, however stressful that is.  While no one will look back a generation from now and call 2020 the Good Old Days, if we're among the living that might be blessing enough .What stories we will tell to our grandchildren about passing papers and buying beauty products from some enterprising lady.  I almost can't wait.

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Monday, January 11

Pastor’s Memo…   Our New Year has raged into being in ways we could not have predicted nor wanted.  For an America which has been challenged in our history with riots and economic panics and Civil War we are on edge in a way not recently known.  We have always prided ourselves by settling all manner of disputes more peaceably than what we have witnessed this past week.  Elections have consequences and our avenues for redress are the courts and, if need be, the next election and the one after that.  Declaring half our nation unfit for citizenship or elected office is not the way forward.  Our ability for self-government has not been destroyed.  Joe Biden will be our next president in accordance to our laws and the nation will move forward.  The events of the last week will be reviewed and debated ad nauseam.  We will continue to be governed by elected officials who have sworn allegiance to our Constitution and the principles which have served us very well since 1789.  All of us should give them a chance to right the course of the nation that we may continue to be a United States of America. 

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Wednesday, January 6

Pastor’s Memo…   Indiana Conference Bishop Julius Trimble has accepted my request to retire on June 30, 2021.  After serving in the Indiana Conference since June 1, 1977, retirement will come as a welcome culmination to forty-four years of ministerial service.  During those years Julia and I have served thirteen congregations in ten cities.  When a student at The Perkins School of Theology at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, (1979-1983) we lived in Drumshanbo County Leitrim serving a circuit ministry that included seven Irish Methodist congregations.  Also, at Perkins, I was a chaplain for ten months at Dallas Methodist Hospital as part of my field education.  In the coming weeks The Reverend Dr. Saneta Maiko, our Conference Superintendent, will meet with our Pastor Parish Relations Committee to discern Calvary's ministry needs for the future.  Together, they will assist Bishop Trimble in finding Calvary's next pastor.  This memo is out of character with all the others written during my appointment to Calvary.  It's news and not a reflection and it comes during an uncomfortably stressful time in our community's history.  The COVID-19 pandemic has caused significant disruptions in every aspect of our lives, including worship.  As a people who love and worship together in a living witness to the love and grace of God, I am proud to have been your pastor.  Thank you for all the kindnesses and generosity shown to Julia and me these last six and a half years.  I pray our final six months will be faithfully lived out.  May God continue to bless each and every one of you as I give thanks to God for my time among you.

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Monday, January 4

Pastor’s Memo   Making resolutions for the New Year is probably a function of self-reflection and the observation improvement would be in order.  For example, saving more for retirement, losing more weight because your high school reunion is drawing near, actually reading the magazines to which you subscribe, canceling the subscriptions to those magazines.  Self-improvement is not an easy task at any age.  Ever notice how commercials are forever trying to convince us to exercise, select healthier food, drive a sexier car, carry the right credit card?  Advice is everywhere and it never stops.  Self-improvement advice often comes with a healthy dose of guilt.  Perhaps, if we feel badly enough about a certain behavior, we will try to minimize or eliminate it.  Therefore, the more guilt that can be inflicted, the more likely an amendment to behavior will be forthcoming.  A more bald-faced lie has never been uttered.  Guilt only works with a conscience that operates at saintly levels.  And that eliminates most of us.  Maybe all of us. Trying to turn over a new leaf and be a better person is always a laudable effort.  When there is success, praise be to God.  After all, have we not heard over and over again Scripture admonish "Turn and repent?"  Oh, well.  The human creature is frail and fraught with competing desires.  The New Year is as good a time as any to change.  Resolve away and strive to be better.  Enjoy a Happy New Year and let us all hope 2021 is an improvement over its immediate predecessor. 

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Wednesday, December 30

Pastor’s Memo…         Buying oneself a gift may seem a bit odd, but that is what I did after my Elder's ordination back in 1986.  It was a communion chalice.  A potter in Muncie, Indiana, took my order and in a few weeks it was in hand, literally.  One fateful Sunday after the chapel service it toppled off the tray I was carrying, hit a pew, and broke where the stem attached to the bowl.

     Two levels of weeping commenced.  First, for the clay chalice.  It wasn't shattered, but broken, nonetheless.  Secondly, I wept for the symbolic and metaphoric sign of the Cup of Salvation being injured, so to speak.  Ah, how providential.  

     The base and the stem were of one piece.  The bowl/cup was severed from them.  That top form of the chalice would still hold the Blood of Christ, however wobbly it would rest on the altar.  That wobbly character was not what was intended.  I took those two pieces of self-given gift back to the potter.

     Having left it with him with instructions to fix it or mend it or put it back together, I intended to have it back no matter what condition and appearance it would newly take on.  This was not a Humpty Dumpty disaster and my faith in the potter was not insignificant.  I knew the potter would make it right, whatever the outcome.

     Some weeks later I was called and told the chalice was ready; and all for the grand sum of $7.  My gift to myself was restored and I made hast to the potter's shop as though I was on my way to the Manger.  

     The potter told me what he did.  He now judged the chalice to be stronger in its re-firing than before.  Imagine my amazement!  It was stronger in the broken place; and not just that chalice-formed-clay from the earth.  

     We are human beings; wounded, broken, traumatized, betrayed, abandoned, abused human creatures, formed from the dust of the ground.  Where we are able to be mended we can be stronger.  Where we are able to be healed, we can be stronger.  Where we are sewn and stitched and forged anew, we can be stronger.  While we, for now, bear the pains and the wounds and the scars, our weaknesses need not diminish our witness. 

     The Great Pandemic of 2020 has taken a grim toll and will continue to inflict its ravaging into 2021.  But, it need not be the last word.  Yes, there are hundreds of thousands dead and millions infected and when it will end only God knows.  In this last Pastor's Memo of the year, I leave you with this.

     We can grow to be stronger in the broken places and be put back into sacred and sacramental service.  We can be witnesses that wounds need not all be fatal.  And even if they one day will be, in the meantime, we not only drink from imperfect chalices, but we become the Cup of Salvation in our love poured out in Jesus' name.  May the Great Potter bless us all with such life that we are always filled with gratitude and grace.

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Monday, December 28

Pastor’s Memo…    One of the great advantages I have composing these memos a couple of times a week is I am absolutely free to choose the topic.  I can choose a topic and then I can re-choose it so long as I don't simply copy a past memo.  These little think pieces give me an unfettered opportunity to unpack my mind.  And before any of you think that would only take a couple of minutes, beware.  I do a bit of reading and not all of it religiously themed.  Just last week I learned something about that horrifying event Native Americans call "The Trail of Tears."  Beginning in 1830 and continuing for nearly thirty years a series of laws were enacted by the United States permitting the forced relocation of more than 100,00 Native Americans from Georgia and other southern states to what was the Oklahoma Territory.  Estimates of more than 20,000 deaths during that march seem conservative.  Nevertheless, a 20% death rate was horrifying enough.  Not only were Native Americans forced to move, so too were their African slaves.  Yes, African slaves owned by Native Americans were part of the "Trail Of Tears."  And those Native Americans kept their slaves in the Oklahoma Territory until the end of the Civil War when all African Slaves were freed.  Such an interesting and arrestingly shocking tid-bit of history might give us all pause.  Trying to clean up our past and purify our history and set right in the present moment what was so wrong and even evil in the past might not be as easy or appetizing as some may think.  Every nation, every people, every person has reason to repent and seek forgiveness for past errors and sins.  Doing it selectively may be a start; but where does it end?  Which statues and monuments and schools and buildings and bridges and parks will need to be removed or re-named when we decide purity is the only answer?  God help us all!  Oh, God did already.  That help is lying in a manger. 

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Wednesday, December 23

Pastor’s Memo…    Sitting in the first pew of the balcony at Main Street Methodist Church, just above the grand piano, I bowed my head to pray.  I remember my dad to the right, my brother and two sisters to the left, and Mom on the end.  We were between them, we four siblings.  The six of us just about filled that pew.  I do believe I was next to my dad for security purposes.  By that, I mean, I was absolutely less likely to escape from that cushion-less pew with my dad blocking my path.  So, as the pastor invited us to bow our heads to pray, I accepted his invitation.  I listened and did my very best to keep my eyes closed.  I continued to listen and it seemed to me Reverend Earl was a bit long winded.  The prayer went on and on and on and I kept listening.  Eventually, my seven year old mind wandered.  I began to hear the sounds people make while praying; coughs, mainly; throat clearing, and some rather fervent nose-blowing.  I remember a kind of low level rustling of papers; bulletins, perhaps.  This went on for what seemed like forever.  Now mind you, I was only seven years old.  Finally I heard the word I was long awaiting: "AMEN."  I raised my head and to my utter and complete amazement I heard "Now let us turn to page such and so in your hymnal and let us sing our closing hymn."  Apparently, not only had I kept my head bowed through the prayer, but through the entirety of the sermon.  I don't recall dreaming or even being asleep nor being prodded by my dad to wake up and pay attention.  Perhaps he thought I was asleep and, as I wasn't causing a ruckus, he just left me alone.  I know Jesus warns us about going on and on in our prayers but I think he meant on a public street where everyone could see you and admire your piety.  But that was not what Reverend Earl was doing.  He prayed and then went on to preach.  And as one who has had occasion to look out across a congregation during a sermon, not all congregational members have been perfectly attentive every Sunday.  Jesus has invited us to watch for the one who is coming as has the prophets of old.  They have revealed the promises God had made about the Messiah.  Surely the time has drawn near for His coming.  Surely we will hear the angels sing and see the Star.  And we can rejoice with the Host of Heaven at the fidelity of God. 

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