Pastor Henry's Memo

May 2020

Pentecost Sunday, May 31


Numbers 11: 24-30

Acts 2: 1-21

John 7: 37-39

     The last many weeks have been different.  The pandemic has caused us to change and shift and compromise.  What was normal is no longer that.  We wear masks (some of us), we keep safe distance (some of us), we only go where necessary (fewer of us).  We're tired of waiting for the world and our lives to be normal, again.  This being tired of waiting brings with it no small measure of anxiety. 

     As a worshiping Church community, we have weathered the loss of most of Lent, all of Holy Week, Easter, and the Season of Easter.  Today is Pentecost; the 50th day from Easter.  And we're still a couple of weeks from worshiping at Calvary.  Has it been a drought for our spirits?  Perhaps.  The waiting is not easy.  It tests us in ways that are unfamiliar to us.

     For the first Christians, the waiting was also difficult.  Jesus was the Messiah, but he died on the cross.  His tomb was empty.  Witnesses told of his several appearances.  The disciples twice saw him in the Upper Room.  Confusion and surprise were known by those near to Jesus.

     On Pentecost the Holy Spirit came upon thousands with great power and with fiery tongues and unconfused languages.  The waiting was over, so to speak.  The beginning of the Church was sourced in the gift bestowed by Jesus in the Holy Spirit.  He promised to give them this Holy Spirit.  He told them to wait for it.  Finally, it has come and it has overwhelmed them.

     Another overwhelming reality is revealed in our text from Numbers on this Pentecost Sunday.  Moses chooses 70 men for prophecy in Israel.  God came down from heaven and bestowed his Spirit of them that they would be His prophets in the Land.  Now, there stood Eldad and Medad.  They were back in camp and were not among the 70.  But, still, the Spirit of God rested on them and they were also divinely empowered prophets

     But there was some jealousy.  There were those in camp who wanted Moses to prohibit Eldad and Medad from prophesying.  The Lord refused by saying "Would that all the Lord's people were prophets, that the Lord would put his spirit upon them."

     The power of the Holy Spirit for prophecy is unrestricted.  It rests upon whom God chooses and it empowers according to God's designs and those who bear that Holy Spirit are free to speak the holy words of God.  That power and those words are free and cannot be contained or fixed in place, culture, or generation.

     The fiery tongues and the understood languages of that first Pentecost have not disappeared from the earth.  The promise Jesus made to those who were with him on that Jewish Day of Pentecost in John's 7th chapter stand as witnesses to every prophet who ever risked bearing and speaking the Word of God.  

     "If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink.  He who believes in me, as the scripture has said, 'Out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water.'"   The river to which Jesus refers is the one that will flow from Jerusalem on the last day.  It will flow down the Kidron Valley enveloping Gehenna, extinguishing its fire and continuing to flow ever broadly out from there until the entirety of the earth is washed free.  

     That power is the power of the Holy Spirit that Jesus bestows on and blesses the twelve and, by them, every believer from those first many thousands at Pentecost to those who today bear witness to the goodness and graciousness of God.  

     In a season of pandemic, when the COVID-19 virus threatens the lives of millions, the Church of Jesus Christ can declare there is another kind of power that is life affirming and life changing and in it rests our hope for this life and the next.  Amen.

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Wednesday, May 27

Pastor's Memo...

Not long ago I was buying a Diet-Pepsi at the gas station.  With the pandemic, there were strict instructions on where one should stand while waiting for one's turn to approach the cashier.  The floor of this establishment has arrows and "Xs" on the floor for the efficient and safe movement of human traffic.  Present was an older woman who looked confused.  Let's just say, she didn't know where to stand nor did she know what place in line she was.  I was behind her with my re-fill.  She says out loud: "Who's next?  I don't know who's next."  Being the smart alack that I am, from behind her I pipe up and say: "You must be; after all you're a treasure."  She looks at me with a quizzical expression on her face.  I continue: "You're standing on the 'X' and 'X' marks the spot.  You must be the hidden treasure.  You're next."  She sort of smiles an almost smile and pays for her bottled fruit drink.  She heads for the door as I pay for my re-fill.  She stops at the door and waits.  She's not wearing a mask, but I am.  She begins to tell me she's not had a good day.  She can't get in to see her mother in the nursing home in Goshen, she's had her hours cut back at work, and she's still waiting for her (expletive deleted) check from Donald Trump.  A few more distasteful descriptives directed at The Donald flow almost without effort from her lips and I bite my tongue.  I don't know who she is; but I know who I am.  I'm Calvary's pastor under the immediate supervision of Bishop Trimble's conference superintendent.  I listen and I nod and I smile, after a fashion, as she continues her diatribe about the President, her job, and the rest of her life.  She steps out to the parking lot.  The last thing I said to her was "You must be the hidden treasure.  You're next."  As she starts to get in her car, she turns, looks at me, and says with a sigh that was hardly a whisper: "Nobody ever told me I was a treasure before."  That's when I knew biting my tongue through the length and breadth of her revilement of Trump and her lament concerning her mother and the economic hardship she was continuing to endure was God's doing.  Keeping me silent while she vented became a blessing for me, perhaps for both of us.  The proof of it were the tears in her eyes as she climbed into her car and drove south on Indiana State Road 13.  

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Message for Ascension Sunday, May 24


    PSALM 47

    ACTS 1:10-11

    LUKE 24:44-53

     These texts will not match what is listed for the 7th Sunday after Easter because this Sunday, the 24th of May is Ascension Sunday.  It is the day when the entire church celebrates Jesus rising into heaven where he, according to the Apostles' Creed, "is seated at the right hand of God, the Father Almighty; from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead." 

     Quite properly, Jesus' ascension occurred on Thursday, the 21st, the 40th day of Easter.  There's a kind of Holy Symmetry to the 40 days of Lent then the 40 days to the Ascension.  Most United Methodists don't find themselves gathering on that specific Thursday to celebrate Jesus rising to heaven, so we delay this glory until the following Sunday (as if humans had that kind of power.)

     This event is so significant, St; Luke records it twice; first, in our Gospel for the day and secondly, in the first verses of Acts.  According to St; Luke, Jesus rises from the tomb, walks about for 40 days, and rises into heaven.  Make no mistake about this Jesus of Nazareth: he's very special.

     As he finishes eating some broiled fish, showing his disciples he is a flesh and blood reality, Jesus recounts his ministry with them: the words he spoke concerning his being reveled in the Hebrew scriptures; how they must be fulfilled as proof to all of his being the Son of the Living God.  

     In a kind of subtle way, Jesus is saying, "If you don't believe me, believe your scriptures; believe what Moses said and what is written in the prophets and the psalms."  At the very last of his earthly ministry, Jesus is still teaching and revealing the truth about what God wants all of the human family to know.

     Jesus promises the Holy Spirit and encourages them to wait for it.  Receive it with courage, because they will need it for the days that follow.  What's more, Jesus empowers them by that Holy Spirit to do a kind of ministry that only the Church can perform and embody in its living: preach repentance and forgiveness in His name to all the nations across the world.  

     Jesus says for them to begin in Jerusalem and by that I take it Jesus means in the Temple.  The promise of salvation that comes from the Jews, begins with the Jews, and it spreads out like a wave to all the nations.  Even after having suffered shame and death and the tomb, the loving goodness of God is eternally manifest in the Chosen People.

     In Acts we have the record of how Jesus has embodied in his living the promises of God for our benefit.  He encourages them to wait for their empowerment and their spiritual baptism by the Holy Spirit.  That baptismal power comes upon them so they can do the repentance and the forgiveness that is their ministry in his physical absence.  

     Once again, Jesus reminds them their Jewish faith and traditions and covenants are not made void by the new thing he has done.  When they ask him about when he will restore the kingdom of Israel, he replies a bit obliquely;" It's not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has fixed by his own authority."  

     The restoration of the Kingdom of Israel has been fixed in God's eternity.  It has not been replaced with a different kingdom.  It has not been relegated to a hoped-for memory.  Its time and season God has determined.  In the meantime, teach and tell and bestow peace and forgive sin and wait for the God of your salvation to keep all the ancient promises.

     On Ascension Sunday, in the Year of Our Lord, 2020, what more glorious message could the world receive than a resurrected Jesus ascending into heaven to the voices of angels promising he will come again?  Amen

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Wednesday, May 20

Pastor’s Memo:   The nation is in debt to many millions of women and men who served in the United States' armed forces.  From before we were a country, Americans fought and died on this nation's soil and across the globe.  Early on they were all volunteers.  They came from every walk of life.  They were young and old, married and single, rich and poor.  They were farmers and merchants, tradesmen and tinkers, school teachers and illiterates.  The Great Melting Pot of America is found in the ranks of those who fought and died to gain and then preserve what we know as The United States of America.  God Bless them all.  As Memorial Day draws near let's remember them all.  Some ten years ago the Jamestown UMC honored its high school graduating seniors.  I think there were seven or eight.  Each was named and invited to the chancel area to receive a small token from the church.  Each was applauded and given an opportunity to say a word or two about their plans for the future and the entire congregation cheered them on.  There was one more whose name was called.  Lennie Behler.  Now almost eighty-five years old, he left Jimtown High School, lied about his age, and enlisted in the United States Marine Corps.  It was 1943.  He served in the South Pacific and returned home at the end of the war.  He didn't go back to school.  He didn't get a GED or go to college.  He became a stone/brick mason.  He married his high school sweetheart, Lil, and for the next 60 years he made a life for himself and Lil in Jimtown.  On that Sunday ten years ago, when his name was called, Lennie rose from his pew at the very back of the church, and slowly made his way up the aisle.  As he drew nearer the chancel, the congregation applauded and stood and they stayed on their feet for a very long time.  All Lennie could do was stand there and wipe tears from his eyes.  Lil came to stand with him and oh, what a glorious moment it was.  When the applause was silenced, all Lennie said, as he held the graduation gift we gave him was "Thank you."  And a new round of applause began and continued until he returned to his pew at the very back of the sanctuary.  That afternoon, at Jimtown High School's commencement ceremony, Lennie would, at last, receive his high school diploma.  I wasn't there, but I'm sure there was another standing ovation and plenty of tears.  Thanks to Lennie and to all his comrades and to those who now serve all over the face of the earth.  God Bless you all.  We remember and pay tribute to those who gave their all.  May they rest in peace.

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Monday, May 18...Ask the Pastor

“Ask the Pastor”

"What is the difference between debts and trespasses in the various translations of The Lord's Prayer?"  

That is our ASK THE PASTOR question this week.  Simply put, "debt" is the Greek for what one is legally obligated to repay.  One thing we must keep in mind is we do not know what language Jesus was speaking when he said "forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors."  Was he speaking Aramaic or Greek?   We don't know, but it comes to us in the Gospel as debts from the Greek word "opheilema."  This is the King James translation.  There is a Greek word for trespass which is 'hamartano" in Luke 17: 3.  It means to be mistaken or to err or to wander from the path.  In either case, debt and trespass have come to be metaphors for sin.  Debt seems to be more about property or money.  Trespass seems to imply a violation of God's Torah.  Just to let you know, there is the Hebrew word "ma'al" often times used in substitution for trespass.  But it has a much, much harder edge.  It means to be unfaithful in a treacherous way.  This word is closer to our English word perfidy.  This is a grievous violation of a behavioral boundary.  To forgive this trespass or this sin is to forgive with a heart most loving, indeed.  Maybe that is what Jesus meant.  To forgive the most egregious sin as if your heart was God's own.  If so, we have our work cut out for us.

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Message for Sunday, May 17


EZEKIEL 34: 1-7

JOHN 14: 15-21

     When our lives become dis-arranged (if you know what I mean) we may be uncomfortable or anxious or vexed.  Our usual daily patterns don't seem to fit anymore.  Our customary rhythms for making it through the day don't feel natural anymore.

     These last many weeks of compulsory isolation have altered our lives.  Whatever we did automatically before has now been noticed because we must think about everything we decide to do when we leave our place of quarantine.

     Is this trip necessary?  Is it otherwise permitted?  Must I wear a mask?  Hand sanitizer?  Can I make it home before needing a restroom?  The new kind of thinking we must at least consider has changed all sorts of patterns.  

     Last week Jesus reminded us not to let our hearts be troubled.  He invited us to continue to believe in God and in him and to trust him to be our Good Shepherd.  He promised us a room in God's heavenly inn and what's more, he prepares that room for us.

     This week his words to us are again a kind of invitation.  Love me and keep my commandments.  Simple.  Direct.  Unambiguous.  He promised us a room for our eternal rest in God's abode.  Now he promises us a counselor; an advocate.  This promise is also eternal.  The Holy Spirit will come and be with us as we live and will continue to be with us until we reside in that specially prepared room.  

     Jesus promises never to leave us.  Never!  Not in this lifetime nor in the eternity that awaits us in the Kingdom of God.  Verse 18 reads:" I will not leave you desolate."  Another translations reads: "I will not leave you comfortless."  The Greek word here is "orphanos."  It means "bereft of a father or of parents.'  In other words, as orphans.  Jesus promises us we will not be orphans in this life. 

     "I will not leave you 'orphanos.'"  This Jesus promise, I remind you, is made to the disciples on Thursday just hours before his betrayal and all that follows.  We are never alone while Jesus lives.  Never!  Therefore, his invitation to love and keep the commandments suggests we are not without the strength and wherewithal to do just that.

   Nearly half a century ago Methodist theologian and scholar The Reverend Albert Outler was quoted in the Christian Century answering this question: How has your mind changed about ministry or theology or your faith in your lifetime?  Dr. Outler's answer was both simple and profound.  He said: "I always preached 'You've GOT to love.'  Now I preach 'You GET to love.'  Such is the power of God's love for us in Christ Jesus."

     Being in the presence of a risen savior forever and protected for all eternity by a loving God and guided by The Spirit of more secure could we be?  In the living presence of the Holy Trinity, we are free to love and keep the commandments without fear; without shame; without hesitation.  We have nothing to lose to live this way.  Amen

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Anniversaries are milestones.  They mark occasions of import in the lives of couples and families and nations.  One such occasion was the 75th Anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe.  What began in 1939, with Germany's invasion of Poland, came to an end six devastatingly bloody years later on May 8, 1945.  Hitler killed himself as did several of his closest advisers.  Some two weeks later Germany's generals surrendered to the Allies and VE Day was proclaimed.  The war in the Pacific would rage until September.  It's estimated 75-80 million people died during those six years from all causes.  That was 3% of the world's population.  Three quarters of a century later the world marked that anniversary with two minutes of silence.  In a few months we will do the same, after a fashion, to mark the end of hostilities with Japan.  More silence will ensue.  However silent we become, even for a symbolically sober moment, we can hardly do justice for the tragedy war brings to those touched by it.  Words can do no better.  Nearly two generations ago the world was engulfed in death.  Today we live in close proximity to a different kind of war that is no less fatal than bullets and bombs.  What will the death toll be in our pandemic?  Where will we be 75 years hence?   I sure hope we don't have to wage a six year war against it.  Nor bury 70-80 million dead.  I don't think two minutes of silence would be long enough.  For now, keep your distance.  Wear your mask.  Wash your hands.  

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Ask the Pastor, Monday, May 11

 “Ask the Pastor”

     Not all sizes fit all.  In other words, one size does not fit all.  This is the introduction for this week's ASK THE PASTOR.  As you might imagine,  I have been swamped with questions about when we can re-open our church.  When can we worship together?  When will it be safe for us to be together on Sunday for worship?  

     This question is on many, many lips.  It's being asked from my own lips, as well.  Bishop Julius Trimble instructed Indiana United Methodist not to gather for in-person worship before June 14th.  That was his recommendation last May 1st.  Calvary has complied with this recommendation as it comports with what Governor Eric Holcomb has also declared for public worship in Indiana.

     This date and the recommendation not to gather for worship is made with an abundance of caution for the health and safety for our neighbors, friends, and families.  Being impatient with this decree is risky.  Failing to wear masks and keeping six feet apart and washing our hands adds to the risk of being infected with COVID-19.  

     Most of our congregational members are demographically at risk.  For the most part, we are older than 60 and many have one or more of the underlying medical conditions that make infection very risky.  Our behavior on the side of caution is not only prudent, it's necessary.

     Not one of us wants to spread this virus.  We do not want to be the reason someone else falls ill or worse.  It is our hope Indiana's gradual re-opening will go well and the health numbers that will inevitably be gathered will demonstrate a continued flattening of the infection curve.  If that happens, we all will be safer and we will be able to gather more regularly. 

     However, until we know those numbers and the medical experts weigh in on their meaning, we need to remain vigilant.  This is what Bishop Trimble is telling all his Indiana clergy and their congregations.  

     Saint Paul reminds us "Love is patient and kind.  Love does not insist on its own way." (1st Corinthians 13: 4-5)  This is also my word to my Calvary family.  Our patience is needed now for ourselves, our loved ones, and our neighbors.  The Lord knows our love.  It won't be long before we will be gathering for worship to share that love.  

     When we do worship together, there will be some changes in order that we remain safe.  Those changes will no doubt be with us for some time.  Living with them will help us be present beyond the foreseeable future.  Our prayers and praises will continue to rise to God from Calvary's sanctuary.

     Continue to be faithful.  Continue to make your offerings.  Continue to care for your neighbors. Continue to be patient.  Continue to love graciously. 

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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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Wednesday, May 6, Sloth!

Our COVID-19 pandemic has been complicating our schedules in ways we could hardly have imagined.  Work, entertainment, travel, school, leisure, shopping, social, worship...nothing seems to fit like it used to.  We've adjusted and re-arranged and deleted.  We've chosen new patterns and found new rhythms for our days and weeks and months.  I hope the next time range (years, then decades) doesn't come into play.  That would mean monumental shifts in everything we do. That kind of extended time frame may even cause adjustments to be noticeable in who we are.  What is a calendar year without baseball and high school sports and tail-gating?   What about concerts and yard sales and foreign vacations?  Weddings and funerals are not the same.  What we have come to expect as regular and natural is being re-defined.  When will it ever be again what we once knew so well?  I have no idea.  And whatever is offered as a picture of that future is only guesswork.  In the mean time, we can be patient.  We can continue to be civil with each other.  We can guard against what the Greeks called "acedia."  It means "without care."  Apathy, boredom, listlessness.  These are traps into which humans have fallen across the centuries.  The early Church likened acedia to sloth, the fourth Deadly Sin.  It's traditionally situated between wrath (#3) and greed (5th).  Isn't it grand to know this particular human frailty sits smack dad in the middle of the deadly pack?  My word of caution to all of my readers on this first Wednesday of the month, strive to practice this sin less often and aspire to one lower on the list; like gluttony or lust.  On second thought, aspire to practice one of the Seven Virtues.  I may list them next Wednesday.  

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