Pastor Henry's Memo

Category: Epiphany 2020

Message for Sunday, May 10

Proverbs 4: 10-18

John 14: 1-14

     Uncertain times.  How more accurately could our present situation be described?  Everyday brings news of one state governor decreeing a relaxation of person-to-person contact regulations.  Another decrees no relaxing at all; the status quo is sufficient for now.  Yet another imposes more stringent limitations and relies on new data from The Centers for Disease Control (CDC).  Who do we trust?

     Our dilemma isn't easily resolved.  We cannot know from one day to another which statistics are applicable for our daily schedules.  The statistics and the decrees change frequently.  We arrange our lives with an eye to a date in the future when we hope we can relax and return to normal, then they change again.  Not being able to depend on our elected leaders for consistent and reliable advice is disconcerting, to say the least.  

     There are some who think the government is doing the best it can with what information is available.  There are others who think it's far too cautious.  Still others assume some level of dishonest intent; even perfidy; from the Latin meaning "treachery, to ill effect; extreme faithlessness."  In other words some think our leaders are evil in their intent to control and manipulate this pandemic to their own advantage, be it economic or political.  

     Human associations are subject to all sorts of manipulations and ulterior intentions by their leaders. It has always been thus.  We all know of those who can wring a personal advantage from any confusing situation.  But to assume this is the first and most obvious intention when things don't go according to our own view is to be too cynical.  

     Fear can contribute to misapprehension.  Lack of reliable information can do the same. So too can human stubbornness.  We find Jesus in the Upper Room on the last night of his life; it's Thursday.  In a very short time he will be betrayed, beaten, tried, condemned, and hanged on a cross.  The next dozen hours of his life will create dilemmas of startling proportions for the disciples, the Jerusalem religious leaders, the common citizen, and the Roman government.

     In that room, before he goes off to pray Jesus tells those present: "Let not your hearts be troubled; believe in God; believe also in me."  Jesus anticipates what will come naturally to his followers after he's betrayed and all the rest.  I don't think it's so much that he can predict the future.  It's more likely he knows how the improbability of all that will transpire in the coming hours will cause panic and fear in the hearts of his disciples.

     He tells them before the fact what to do or better, what not to do: "Let not your hearts be troubled."  Don't be afraid;  Don't worry.  "Believe in God; believe also in me."

     The Greek for BELIEVE is equivalent to the Hebrew word TRUST.  Trust God.  Trust me.  Trust.  It's what we do when we can't know fully or finally how to proceed.  We leap out hoping to be led or caught by someone who can keep us safe; who knows the way.

     Jesus asks us to trust him to know that way to safety.  He promises a future where we will find a place of rest.  It's a place already in waiting for us, by the grace of God.  And He, Jesus, goes there to make sure that place belongs to us. 

     What is waiting is a room in God's heavenly inn.  Jesus promises us this room so "where I am, you may also be."  Jesus is asking us to trust him to make a place for our eternal abiding that will be in his presence.  As he goes to his death, he asks us to trust him that in our life and finally, in our death, we will not be separated from him.  

     Trust.  In this unpredictable time of isolation and uncertainty and fear trust God.  Trust Jesus.  Trust the promises of God as they have been made across the centuries and have come to us through the prophets.  Trust the Word of God that is revealed in Jesus   That Word is "the way and the truth and the life."  

     This pandemic will end.  This season of confusion and wariness will not last nor will it have the last word.  Take heart and believe.  Take heart and trust.  This day and every tomorrow.  Amen.



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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.   

God bless you all.

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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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