Pastor Henry's Memo

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?



Keep Reading >>

The Whole Human Family -- Laughing, Rejoicing, and Giving Thanks!

As you read this pastor's memo on the 5th of December, I'll tell you yesterday was my brother's birthday.  He's twenty-one months older than me.  There are three December birthdays in my family.  Brother Keith on the 4th, wife Julia on the 17th, and our son Nicholas on the 28th.  Presents are sometimes a tricky choice keeping birthday and Christmas separate.  There was a season when my brother and I were not in touch, if you know what I mean.  We were never Cain and Abel or Jacob and Esau.  We were more like Laurel and Hardy.  Just ask our mother.  On second thought, don't ask.  I suppose plenty of siblings have various kinds of falling out.  Those extended seasons make for bewildering feelings.  You will never hear from me what precipitated our season of division.  It's past and behind and we are brothers who love each other more than ever.  We share jokes and cartoons and birthday cards.  We don't get to share a meal as often as we'd like to, but when we do gather at the table, we feast.  And our wives worry about the way we remember the "good old days."  We will begin to laugh about something and pile another memory on top of that and before you know it, we're crying and hardly able to breathe and it wouldn't surprise me if someone has their cell phone out ready to call 911.  After all, we're both beyond middle age.  December is such a delightful month for all the reasons about which we need no reminder.  It's still several weeks away, but Christmas comes not just on the 25th, but whenever families are at peace in their hearts and are able to share it with others.  Perhaps one day the whole of our human family will know that peace and every heart will laugh and rejoice and give thanks for the family God blesses us to be.



Keep Reading >>

LAGNIAPPE

Words are an important part of my life as a preacher.  To begin, THE WORD is the focus of the Christian faith.  With words God called everything into being.  Remember, "Then God said, 'Let there be light.'  And there was light."  And we’re off to the races, so to speak.  In my reading (again, words) I am always intrigued when I come across a new word.  Often I can tell by context what that unfamiliar word means.  And when I cannot discern the meaning, I'm off to the dictionary.  Last week I was reading an essay by Indiana University professor Susan Gubar and she used the word LAGNIAPPE.  It's French and it's most commonly used in Louisiana Cajun culture.  It means "a little something extra."  Think of a Baker's Dozen; thirteen eggs for the price of twelve.  Or having your mother put a surprise treat in your school lunch bag.  Or your favorite uncle handing you a wad of cash as you drive off to college for the first time.  Lagniappe; a little something extra.  How pleasant life could be if we all practiced the kindness of giving "a little something extra."  Going and doing a little more than required could be good for everyone.  Imagine the good will it would create.  In this Advent Season and the coming of Christmas, "a little something extra" would most assuredly be welcomed by all.



Keep Reading >>

115 Days

The scaffolding is being erected around our tower.  The physical work has begun to repair our lightening damaged building.  We've been waiting and waiting and waiting.  Finally, all the necessary preliminary work has been completed and we see progress.  It's been one hundred fifteen days from the lightening strike in July.  Our patience has been stretched and I believe it will be rewarded.  Together we will watch a kind of transformation occur.  The life of the Calvary Congregation has been disrupted to a point, However, we have continued to be a functioning and faithful part of the Body of Christ.  We have worshiped and eaten carry-in dinners.  We have maintained our office and completed year-end reports.  Our Church Directory will soon be available and Christmas decorations will adorn our fellowship hall.  We have persevered through this bit of inconvenience and we will happily see progress every day toward being made whole again.  All of Syracuse can join in being witness to a restoration that will be celebrated well before another 115 days pass.



Keep Reading >>

When the Guns Fell Silent

Sunday marks the end of World War I.  One hundred years ago at 11 am on the 11th day of the 11th month The War came to an end.  By every account The War was catastrophic.  There are only reliable estimates to the total number of persons killed.  The most reliable numbers count more than 9 1/2 million killed in action and another 20 million lost or wounded.  As to civilians, the numbers range up to 20 million dead.  Those are the statistics.  We'll never know a final number.  A hundred years on, it's easy to report such horror.  However, the carnage of The War was enormous.  Whole cities lay in ruin across the European continent.  Whatever was left of kings and kingdoms pretty much came to an end.  Modern war made a hash of any notion humanity was rising very far above its ancestor taste for blood. The War To End All Wars did not end war.  After all, a century after it was declared over, the world has not, and still does not, know an end to that foul beast.  Sunday will mark the day when the guns fell silent.  Our prayer should be they be silent everywhere.



Keep Reading >>

Pericles and our November Election

Pericles (495-429BCE) was a Greek statesman, orator, and general.  Today he is mostly remembered for his orations and quotability.  Among those quotes: "Time is the wisest counselor of all."  "Just because you do not take an interest in politics doesn't mean politics won't take an interest in you."  "The secret of democracy is courage."  There are scores of other memorable bits of wisdom attributed to Pericles.  These three will do for this memo.  As it comes just a week before our 2018 elections, I find them instructive.  Our decisions in the voting booth will impact everyone.  Those who vote will make a difference for themselves and for all those who don't vote, also.  Note the second quote above.  The taxes we pay, where we shop, the speed we drive, the air we breathe, the food we eat...Everything we do will be impacted by political decisions authorized by the persons we elect to office.  Town councils, school boards, state legislators, United States senators, et. al.  These representatives will do their jobs whether we take notice or not.  And we will celebrate or rue the day.  Maybe we'll do both.  Our democracy is not without its deficits.  But it is ours.  And we make it what it is by voting and by not voting.  To vote is our right and to do it with thought and purpose and conviction requires the courage about which Pericles wrote 24 centuries ago.  And time, "the wisest counselor of all" will tell whether our votes were reactive and small minded or wise and courageous.



Keep Reading >>

Books will Change your Life

Used book stores are places where treasures abound.  So too those book racks outside hospital gift shops.  And those sale books just inside the doors at Barnes and Noble.  You never know what treasure will be marked down to a dollar or even 50 cents.  Cheap books are for sale all over the place.  If I walk out of such a place with two or three or a bundle of books I count myself fortunate, indeed.  Imagine spending less than $5 on reading that will take you to exotic places or fill your memory with interesting facts about the world.  My library is littered with such cheap books; ones that changed my life and/or caused me to dig deeper into a topic or introduced me to an author I have later admired.  Elie Wiesel, Brennan Manning, Robert Farrar Capon, Barbara Brown Taylor, Rumi, Lauren Winner, Peter Bernstein, Frederick Beuchner, Richard Selzer, Henri Nouwen, Isaac Bashevis Singer, Thomas Lynch, Dwight Judy...I own at least two books by each of these authors and eight or nine and more by most of them.  The first book I bought by all of them were "cheap books" found for sale somewhere.  All of them have made a difference to me.  I have purchased multiple copies of some of the titles by most of these authors and have given them away as gifts.  I haven't listed titles in this memo, but I am prepared to share those titles with anyone who is of a mind to give them a read.  Who knows, you too might be hooked and your life might be changed and wouldn't that be worth it for a couple of bucks or less?



Keep Reading >>

Biography of Herod, the Great

Reading biographies at lunch is not my usual practice.  I alternate between something religious/serious and modern mystery.  My current book is a biography of Herod, the Great.  He was born in 73BC and died in 4BC.  His reign was from 37BC until his death.  He had several wives; not all of them surviving his displeasure.  He had many sons and only one daughter, Salome.  Caesar Augustus found reason to prefer him as king to several others, but it was for convenience.  Herod was Caesar's agent in Palestine.  He made sure taxes were collected and the peace was maintained at the eastern reaches of the Roman Empire.  Herod grew rich in this relationship but not popular.  Caesar is quoted as saying "I would rather be Herod's dog than his son."  After all, Herod executed a couple of his sons, one just four days before he died.  This book had been on my reading shelf for a dozen years.  It never really reached out to grab my attention.  That is, until I read the quote by Augustus about his sons and his dog.  I'm only a hundred or so pages into the book and I'm hooked.  Herod lived in the days of Cicero, Horace, Julius Caesar and Antony and Cleopatra.  He built the temple Jesus visited in Jerusalem.  I can't wait for what more I will learn about this man who set the stage in Palestine for the life of Jesus.



Keep Reading >>

Don't Hold your Breath!

This past October 3rd more than a couple hundred million cell phones were sent a test message from the National Emergency Broadcast System.  Cell phones, televisions, and radios were sent the "Presidential Emergency Alert Test" at 2:20pm that day.  I was in the car on my way to Fort Wayne and I eagerly awaited my phone to "alert' me.  The appointed time came and there was no alert.  I waited. And waited.  And waited.  Two minutes.  Three.  Five.  Good thing I wasn't holding my breath, because by minute five I would have been more than blue in the face.  I would have been in the ditch along the side of the road.  With my luck, no CPR volunteer would be at hand to revive me.  Later that evening, as I watched the news, I finally heard the "alert" as the voice-over commentator told listeners the "alert test" was a success.  Oh, yea!  I will not be a happy camper if a real "alert test" doesn't reach me until some four hours later.  By that time I might be in the ditch along the side of the road needing CPR with no volunteer in sight.  What's a guy to do?  Well, I'm not going to practice holding my breath, that's for sure.  



Keep Reading >>

Harvest Time

This time of year with increasing frequency, I find myself driving behind huge grain trucks, tractors, and other farm implements.  Often times the roads are too narrow to pass safely so I lumber along behind at 10 or 12 miles an hour.  I wish I had more patience, but that's an altogether different pastor's memo.  The road will widen or the tractor/grain wagon will turn off and the road is clear.  Today I was stuck behind just such a grain wagon and I began to think.  That corn was being harvested and was the income for a family.  It represents the faithful labor of someone who has trusted the earth and the rain and the sun and God to bring forth plenty.  And not just for themselves.  If we are what we eat, we are corn,  Corn is so vital for our lives we take it for granted.  The by-products of corn are astounding.  Lets begin with Sugar Frosted Flakes and cornstarch and cornmeal.  How about corn syrup and dextrose and corn oil.  Also, fructose, ethanol, and corn-on-the-cob.  Let's not forget whiskey, salad dressings, and popcorn.  In our local grocery store about the only things that do not have a corn component in them are ocean fresh seafood and items made entirely of metal.  Human beings have become very resourceful in using corn across the centuries.  Without corn you can just about kiss prime rib goodbye because grass fed cattle simply will not produce that succulent cut of meat.  And now I know what it was that overwhelmed me as I was tagging along behind that corn wagon this morning.  It was the smell of bacon.  Indiana corn-fed hogs.  I think a BLT for dinner sounds like a plan.



Keep Reading >>

Older Posts >>