Pastor Henry's Memo

May 2019

Non-stop News Cycle

How quickly we move on.  Notre Dame ferociously burned on the 15th of April;  just forty-three days ago.  I don't remember the last news item I read about it.  Granted, I live in The United States and not France.  Still, so tremendous a disaster is now old news, so to speak.  The world turns; the days and weeks come and go; our attention is both deflected and re-directed.  We Americans already seem to be in the midst of a presidential election.  Two dozen Democrats and, at present, one Republican are trading punches more than a year before either national party convention convenes.  Even the most avid of political junkies must believe things are out of whack this time around.  Political overload will surely set in.  Right?  Maybe not.  Our news cycle is non-stop.  Our capacity to pay attention simultaneously to multiple headline stories is being tested.  What the cable news outlets would like to believe is that our interest in the news is insatiable.  We'll have to wait and see.  If the disaster that befell Paris just a mere six weeks ago can fade from the front burner, perhaps our politics can at least take a breather sixteen months from election day.  That would be my wish. 

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The Greatest Spectacle In Racing

It's late in the month of May and only yesterday did see (for the first time this year) a speeding race car on the track in Indianapolis.  "The Greatest Spectacle In Racing" is nearly upon us and it's been totally invisible to me.  I remember "Thirty Days In May" as the rallying cry for this most auspicious event.  It was more than a race.  It was the "sine qua non" of sporting events.  An entire city was consumed for those thirty days with racing celebrities and movie stars and assorted other famous personages wanting to be seen being seen with others of their kind.  And the sound of the engines and the roar of the crowd on Pole Day... At times, even the Olympics, the World Series, and Happy Hour at the Howard Johnson's out on US 31 South were dwarfed by the Indianapolis 500.  Maybe not so much, anymore.  The first weekend of May is no longer reserved for the fastest of the fast vying for the inside of the first row.  No longer is 6:00pm that first May Saturday the most significant moment in time; when qualifications for the pole position are ended and those in line must sigh and beat their fists into the air.  Growing up in Kokomo meant we watched the Indianapolis TV stations and were inundated with all the racing news for those Thirty Days. One could not escape it.  And here I sit, only a week away from hearing those stirring words: "Gentlemen, start your engines!"  My apologies to the women in the race, if there are any.  Again, I haven't been following this year's race news.  Alas, that once famous Howard Johnson's is gone.  Happy Hour will need to find another place for lifting a Diet Coke to the winner of this year's spectacle.

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Going Back?

Mehmet Ali Agca attempted to assassinate Pope John Paul II in Rome 18 years ago yesterday, the 13th of May, 1981.  Only 44 days earlier (on the 30th of March) John Hinckley, Jr. tried to assassinate President Ronald Reagan in Washington, D,C,  Two very popular and powerful men were targeted by two less than stable assassins.  Both criminals are still alive.  Hinckley now lives on his own at a court approved undisclosed location.  Agca was deported to Turkey and was eventually released from prison in January, 2010.  Two would-be-killers are at large in the world and their victims are "at large" in the Kingdom of Heaven.  (I presume,)  Thirty-eight years is a generation ago.  It was a world without cell phones and lap tops and Facebook.  Could we go back there, please?  No.  We can't go back.  We can only live in the now; with cell phones, lap tops, and Facebook.  Back then I was in seminary.  Our son, Keith, was born just two weeks before Reagan was shot.  And on the day after the Pope was shot, Julia and I celebrated our 4th wedding anniversary.  Yesterday was our 42nd.  Would I go back to when I was young and our son was a new born and our other two children were not?  Nostalgia is a sometimes pleasant thing to contemplate.  But going back is never possible and inadvisable.  I wouldn't return to a time when Julia and I were not the parents of three wonderful children.  They're adults now and they have blessed us with two precious grand children.  Would I go back?  Not in a million years.  Too much joy and satisfaction and even exhilaration has enriched our lives.  As empty-nesters we have a new rhythm to our lives and it's well worth it.  All those 42 years bring us to this year and if I could have 42 more I'd take them.  Imagine how big the Henry/Thompson family would be then?

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Desperation can show itself in many ways.  Tone of voice.  Pleading look.  The sigh just beneath audibility.  Sometimes it manifests itself in a behavior.  Several days ago I saw a woman digging cigarette butts out of one of those sand-filled "ashtrays" next to a building.  She looked up at me and kind of smiled and giggled and said "I lost my quarter."  Her left hand was holding more than a few smoked butts which she quickly put in her jacket pocket.  I didn't say anything.  Neither did I offer to help her look for her "lost quarter."  I just stepped over to my car, got in, and drove away.  However, I did look back and saw her return to the search for her "lost quarter."    I've never been a smoker.  I don't know what a nicotine addiction feels like.  I have other obsessions that occupy my attention.  Like food.  Enough said.  I've never been hungry, like way too many people are hungry all the time.  I've never needed to "look for my quarter" in a dumpster or trash bin.  I've never been that desperate.  But I was reminded yet again of the words of Jesus: "The poor you always have with you."   Try as we might as individuals or as families or even as nations to irradiate poverty, it's too real and it's not going away.  And neither will hunger; only one manifestation of poverty in our community.  Taxes and charity and backpacks for lunch and food pantries and food cards...  The ways in which we attempt to alleviate even one kind of desperation are too many to mention.  As to the desperation gripping a person for nicotine, such that would compel them to smoke discarded cigarette butts, I can only imagine.  Alas, my barely audible sigh is for her.

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Monday marked the 74th anniversary of the liberation by the United States Army of the Nazi concentration camp at Dachau, Germany.  There, beginning in 1933, a ruthlessly evil process was begun to murder Jews, Gypsies, Jehovah Witnesses, homosexuals, and political prisoners.  Horrific and sadistic medical experiments were conducted under the supervision of Heinrich Himmler.  At its liberation, there were almost 30,000 inmates still there, a third of them so ill and malnourished they didn't survive.  Dachau, and similar camps across the Third Reich, has left an indelible stain on human history.  The sinful evil that was the underpinning of Hitler's Final Solution did not disappear with the liberation of the Camps and the defeat of Germany.  Our generation knows anti-Semitism..  Our generation knows the sting of synagogue bombings and shootings and the defacement of Jewish cemeteries.  These last 74 years are only the tip of nearly 2000 years of hostility aimed at our Jewish cousins.  The attacks at the Poway and Pittsburgh synagogues are only the latest such incidents.  The Church needs to say "Enough!"  Then continue to work to build bridges of understanding and love and peace between all the people of God who dwell on the earth.

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