Pastor Henry's Memo

July 2020

Wednesday, July 29

Pastor’s Memo…    "Who was that masked man?"  Those of us who grew up in the late fifties and through the sixties know who he was.  He was the Lone Ranger.  He and his faithful friend, Tonto, rode through the West bringing law and order to the land.  Riding Silver and Scout they stood for right and justice and against the bad guys.  I will grant you the line between right and wrong was very easy to determine.  Everyone knew who was a miscreant and who was honest.  Simpler times, no doubt.  I will also admit that line hasn't ever only been clear.  In every life there are plenty shades of gray, and they way outnumber 50.  Life would be so much easier if every decision could be made by looking at a clearly marked line: this side is right, the other is wrong.  It has never been that simple.  It occurred to me, as I went to the bank this week, of a great irony.  I was greeted by a sign demanding I wear a mask to enter.  Just a few months ago it was absolutely impermissible to enter a bank with a hoodie or a face covering of any sort.  Some banks didn't even want it customers to wear a hat.  Being able to identify bank patrons who wanted to transact legal business made it necessary to be able to capture a picture of the customer.  Facial coverings made that very difficult to do.  Ergo, no masks, no large sun glasses, no hoodies.  COVID-19 has changed all that.  Masks are mandatory.  The Lone Ranger would be right at home in the American summer of A.D. 2020.  We may be in an unfamiliar and awkward season given COVID-19, but it won't last forever.  This Summer and the coming Fall.  Maybe even Christmas and beyond.  A new season free of the inconvenience of masks will surely come.  In the meantime, wear your mask in public.  Sanitize your hands often.  Maintain a safe distance always.  We'll beat this thing.  Of that, I am sure.

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Monday, July 27

“Ask the Pastor”

How about this: let the pastor ask you a question.  Answers aren't necessarily mandatory.  This is more of an opportunity for the pastor to reflect.  Saint Paul encourages the Church in 1st Thessalonians to "16 Rejoice always, 17 pray constantly, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 19 Do not quench the Spirit..."  The Pastor's Question is this: Does Jesus rejoice always?  Does He pray constantly?   Does He give thanks in all circumstances?  Being the Son of the Living God who, according to the Apostles' Creed, sits at the right hand of God, what does Jesus do?  Does Jesus still remember the Sabbath to keep it holy?  Does he still honor his father and mother?  As the human creature finds ever more ways to demean and defame and deface the goodness of God's creation, what evidence does the Church have that Jesus is afoot in the world?  Well, let me count the ways.  Pets are still rescued.  Our local pantry still feeds the hungry.  Calvary still provides a 2nd Friday of the Month free meal.  Couples still exchange vows.  Congregations across the land still dig wells and inoculate children and teach them to read.  The Red Cross still has blood drives for life saving surgeries.  Thousands of local Lions Club chapters collect and recycle eye glasses.  If our eyes are open and our hearts are alert, we can see innumerable good deeds being done for those less fortunate than others.  The pandemic has caused many churches to adjust worship to be socially responsible but The Church has not closed up shop.  It lives and thrives and that would give Jesus plenty to rejoice always about.  And us, too.

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Wednesday, July 22

Pastor’s Memo… The world is both a strange and interesting place.  People and their pets make it so.  Man's best friend is the dog.  Humans and their dogs have been companions for thousands of generations. Some suggest we've been by each other's sides for over 15,000 years.  Not all of our companions have been of the canine persuasion.  I performed a funeral for a retired librarian almost thirty years ago.  Katherine Sprawl was well over ninety when she died.  One of the strange and interesting bits of information I learned about her in preparation for her funeral was she had a small monkey.  She would walk around Geneva, Indiana with it on her shoulder.  It was long gone before she died.  Everyone in Geneva knew her and her monkey.  I'm not sure monkeys and humans have a 15,000 year relationship.  However, if we descended from the great apes, we do have a thing or two in common.  That's an argument for another memo.  I live in a neighborhood where a man walks his cat.  This pet is not on a leash nor near his side and they patrol Camelot Lakes.  This cat rides in luxury.  It makes its rounds in a stroller.  It sits in a mesh enclosure on the seat of a baby stroller.  My guess is this cat is an indoor cat and it demands some outdoor time.  So, with some frequency, I see them make their way along the pavement in most kinds of weather.  They seem content and perfectly at ease making their rounds.  I'm not sure who gets rewarded with a treat after their daily jaunt.  I saw them this morning as I was leaving the parsonage.  It had me thinking: would that humans treated each other as cordially and kindly as this man and his cat.  If we did, wouldn't the world be a better place?

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Monday, July 20


This edition of ASK THE PASTOR isn't much of a question.  Truth be told, it's not a question at all.  One of the questions our District Superintendent asked me during our summer conversation a few weeks ago was "How is Calvary being the Church when so much is irregular due to COVID-19?"  I listed how we were worshiping but not singing or passing offering plates.  We still provide the Hanna Circle's 2nd Friday of the Month free community dinner.  I don't remember exactly the other specifics.  But it struck me just a few minutes ago of another thing I'm sure was mentioned.  We help the poor in Syracuse.  We assist persons and families who come seeking food or gas.  Once in a while we fill a prescription.  We make referrals for housing and rent payments and scores other needs to the ministerial association and to Compass and other community aid offices.  What reminded me of this Calvary outreach/mission is a family came in need of gas to get to a doctor's appointment.  We put gas in their car and wished them a blessed day as they drove away.  The needs of the poor in our community are vast.  No one church or organization can fill every need every time.  We do what we can.  And we do it because our church family considers the poor to be part of our family.  There are very conscientious and generous Christians at Calvary.  They make it possible for Lori and I to assist those who come to our doors in need.  Some weeks there is a stream of needy requests.  Sometimes we go days, even weeks with no one coming for aid.  Calvary's family is faithful and ready to help and for that I am privileged to be your pastor.  Giving is one of the ways Calvary is being the Church during this COVID-19 season.  It will be one of the ways we will continue to be the Church long after this season is behind us.

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Wednesday, July 15

Pastor’s Memo…   A new day has dawned in every American church.   Worship is different because of social distancing, face masks, and hand sanitizer.  Add to that temperature checks, no singing, and no hugging.  Sunday mornings are different and strained and no one knows when it will be back to normal.  So much of what Christians understood about the rhythm of the week is being dismantled.  Providing a traditional worship service with hymns and intinction communion and passing offering plates is not safe.  Every congregation has made changes to adapt to this season of isolation and separation.  Technology has not exactly come to our rescue but it has offered us new ways to stay connected and be the Church in creative ways.  Calvary is now on the air.  Our worship service is transmitted on 92.5 FM radio.  For the past three Sunday mornings we have broadcast our worship service to those who drive-in to sit in our parking lot.  This past Sunday we sent out the intrepid Buddy and Bev Martz to listen for our signal in the Syracuse neighborhood.  They reported Calvary's worship could be heard at Chubby's Restaurant and The Frog.  The high school parking lot and some of Wawasee Heights picked up our signal.  West past Brook Point and south to One Call Water on State Road 13 are within our listening area.  Some places at Oakwood can receive 92.5 FM.  Miller's Merry Manor did not have good reception.  Buddy did not report on the northern reaches of our transmission.  What we do know is much of our town south of Penguin Point is our neighborhood for Sunday worship on FM radio station 92.5.  Soon we will be streaming our service on the Internet.  That means we will be world wide!  United States troops in Afghanistan and in the South China Sea and United Methodists in New Zealand could tune in to our website at and worship on the air with tens and scores and hundreds and thousands and tens of millions.  For now, join us in the sanctuary or in the parking lot or in your family room.  Know in your hearts God is worshiped by Calvary United Methodists in this strange season and we all look forward to the day when we will sing and join in communion and hug our friends and neighbors in Christian love.  And then head to Chubby's or KFC or Louie's for lunch.  God bless you all.

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Monday, July 13

“Ask the Pastor”

      Did Jesus ever pay the Roman tax to Matthew?  That is our ASK THE PASTOR QUESTION for today.

     Jesus was a resident in several cities during the course of his life.  Bethlehem, Nazareth, Capernaum, perhaps Cana, maybe a few others.  As to Jerusalem, scholars are not sure.  Across the course of his life Jesus would have worked as a carpenter as that what Joseph's profession.  When Joseph died, Jesus, being the eldest male in the family, would have taken control of the household.  That would require him to care for any and all family members.  His mother, Mary, and any siblings would have become Jesus' personal responsibility. 

     Never would he have been exempt from paying taxes.  His obligation to pay the half shekel temple tax would have continued until his death.  Any local taxes would surely have continued to be due.  It's the Roman tax that concerns me this morning.

     Tax collectors and sinners and prostitutes surface in many of the Jesus' stories in the Gospels.  He is forever being accused of consorting with these kinds of riff raff.  Roman tax collectors were hatred in the Jewish community.  They were agents of their oppressive Roman rulers.  Working in concert with Rome made them very undesirable.

     As Jesus managed the workshop as a carpenter, wouldn't a Roman tax collector, making his rounds, stop to collect?  Or extort?  Or strong arm him?  How often would the tax man come?  Monthly?  Semi-annually?  How was the tax calculated?  Did Jesus haggle or argue?  Or did he just pay up to keep the shop up and running?  

     Matthew, also known as Levi, and Zacchaeus are the two most familiar biblical tax collectors.  We know about the Sycamore tree and Jesus eating at Zacchaeus' house and the scandal that caused.  

     But calling Matthew to be a disciple and welcoming him into his very intimate circle of followers, must have caused great consternation all around.  Matthew could not have been a stranger.  Being a tax collector he was infamously known.  And Jesus, being a working citizen, would have surely paid the demanded Roman tax to Matthew.  Maybe even to Zacchaeus.  

     What does this tell us about Jesus?  That he wishes to keep his friends close and his enemies closer?  Remember, Judas is also among the inner circle.  Perhaps it tells us Jesus isn't afraid of being in the world.  He isn't aloof and apart from it and its demands.  Perhaps, it tells us neither should we be aloof or apart or even afraid. 

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Monday, July 6

“Ask the Pastor”

     In yesterday's sermon I cited three things the Talmud tell us about Sarah's Tent.  By mid-afternoon I had three emails wanting to know about the Talmud.  First, What is it?  Second, Why are you using Jewish sources for your sermons?   Third, Did Jesus use the Talmud?

     First, the Talmud is the basic text for Jewish learning.  When Herod, the Great's temple was destroyed by Rome in AD 70, Jewish sacrificial life shifted from the temple to the synagogue.  That life became more instruction and preaching and the Temple's sacrificial altar and all of its accompanying practices faded away.  Rabbinic Judaism became the cultural center for Jewish life and identity and learning. 

     By the end of the 4th Century the oral Talmud was codified.  It was about that time the Church agreed the Nicene Creed would be the minimal standard for identifying how the Holy Trinity was to be understood.  By the 5th Century the Talmud was the standard and accepted text for Jewish teaching about the Torah.  And to this very day, with great fervor, the rabbis discuss, argue, and debate it.  Why do I use Jewish sources for my sermons?  Well, what choice do I have?  The Old Testament is the Jewish bible.  It comprises over two-thirds of The Bible.  Genesis to Malachi is our Jewish text and the source of all those wonderful stories about creation and Adam and Eve and David and Goliath and the Exodus, and barley fields set aflame (Google that) etc...

     Third, Did Jesus use the Talmud?  No.  He used the same Torah I use.  The same Psalms I use.  The same Prophets I use.  The Talmud, no.  It wasn't generated until a generation after his crucifixion.  But he contributed to it when he was quoted by the rabbis as they debated some fine or obscure point of the Torah.

     It is a wonderful thing to have confirmed people actually listen to my preaching and, from time to time, wonder about what was said.  Bless all those who listen and thank you to you who write to inquire.

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Wednesday, July 1, Salvation Army

Pastor’s Memo:    July 4th might call for a bit of "Hip, hip, hooray," but not this year.  My mother was born on the 4th of July and the day has deep meaning for my family.  It's also, as suggested above, our nation's birthday.  However, this year America's birthday celebration comes fraught with symbolic, metaphoric, and real tensions.  And that makes me sad, indeed.  Given our current circumstance what with COVID-19, protests, and a political election made murky by all that afflicts us, I'm turning this Wednesday's Pastor's Memo into a celebration of the Salvation Army.  It was born on July 2, 1865.  One might think it arose from the American Civil War, but that is not the case.  William Booth, a former Methodist preacher in England, founded his Salvation Army in London.  He and his wife Catherine began a mission outreach to the destitute of London that has become an international charitable organization that continues Booth's outreach and mission.  What is sad for me is Booth's Army was a part of the Methodist Church in England, but left the denomination because some Methodist leaders thought it was too cozy with the poor, unwashed clients that came to the Army for food and clothing and spiritual sustenance.  Shame on the Methodists.  Today I place no blame nor cast aspersions.  The Salvation Army does the Lord's work across the globe.  And when any organization eases poverty and hunger and offers spiritual guidance to the needy, God bless it.  More than a century and a half of Christian good will should be recognized, praised, and encouraged for another century and a half, at least. 

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