Pastor Henry's Memo

August 2019

August 26, 1498

Humans have one life.  At the end of that life there comes a funeral.  While over the course of history there are no doubt countless humans whose deaths were not marked by any formal recognition, funerals became the norm.  How we conduct these affairs differs from culture to culture, but one thing seems to be fairly universal.  We mark graves.  We decorate them.  We leave flowers or religious symbols or items that memorialize our deceased loved ones.  Sometimes that materialization is extravagant.  The Taj Mahal in India; the Pyramids in Egypt; Graceland in Nashville.  On August 26, 1498, Michelangelo was commissioned to carve The Pieta for the mausoleum of French Cardinal Jean de Bilheres.  Carved in Carrara marble, it was completed the next year. The depiction of Mary cradling Jesus after his crucifixion is said to represent the epitome of grief.  Almost five and a quarter centuries later it rests in St. Peter's Basilica in Rome.  The good French Cardinal's grave was moved when it became necessary to reconstruct the church in which he was buried.  He stayed put, so to speak. The Pieta was relocated to the Vatican.  Such is the power of the Pope.   Very, very few will have the notoriety of such a grave marker or the splendor of the architectural magnificence of The Taj Mahal or The Pyramids or Graceland.  We will rest-in-peace six feet under ground beneath simply carved marble noting our name and the dates of our birth and death.  And guess what?  Our sleep will be just as peaceful as those under much more elaborate shrines. 

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Sleep in Heavenly Peace

For your consideration.  Born December, 1792.  Mother, unmarried.  Father, mercenary soldier; abandoned the mother before his son was born.  God-father, the town's executioner.  Ordained, 1815.  Three years later on Christmas Eve this priest wrote the lyrics to Silent Night.  The tune was played on a guitar as the organ was on the fritz, according to legend .  Joseph Mohr was that priest and he was fond of the guitar.  The rest of his life was as one might expect.  Never married.  No children.  Died just one week shy of his 56th birthday almost 38 years after that memorable "silent night."   He was said to have been generous with what earthly treasures were his and died in relative poverty.  I presume God has seen to it over the last 171 year that Joseph has been blessed to "sleep in heavenly peace."

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Remembering our Teachers

Miss Gladys Jackson was my 6th grade teacher at Lafayette Park Elementary School in Kokomo, Indiana.  She was the first of several influential teachers in my life.  She was patient and she was persistent.  She had rules in her classroom and expectations for performance by her students.  Looking back now over fifty-four years she made a difference to me.  Better put, she made a difference FOR me.  No 12 year old kid can fully know or appreciate the influence a teacher might make on his or her life.  Predicting life trajectories in the 6th grade are not likely to be accurate.  I will say she was the first teacher I consider to have been beyond significant to my education.  But not just to mine.  She formed and nurtured and prepared hundreds and hundreds of others who came through her classroom.  Somewhere in the years after the First World War she decided to be a teacher and became one and by God's Providential she landed in Kokomo at Lafayette Park and I was privileged to sit in her class.  Over the many years of classroom sitting I accomplished before being graduated from Kokomo High School and granted degrees from IUPUI and the Perkins School of Theology at Southern Methodist University there were many other influential teachers.  God bless them all.  They plied their skills and delivered their lectures; they graded reports and tests; they bore witness to an ancient and honorable calling to give of themselves for others.  As the new school year begins, may all the teachers be respected and admired and honored.  And may their students remember them in their prayers.

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Overload is a word often used to describe being inundated with information and/or images.  Most often that overload is disagreeable to our sensibilities.  There is only so much our minds can accommodate and our hearts withstand before we are in "overload."  What we do when this occurs depends on our personal stamina for such overloads.  Some compartmentalize and move on.  Some pour forth with grief or despair and wring their hands and move on.  Some will protest and offer solutions; some of which are sensible and some are impossible to implement.  And they move on.  When our capacity for tolerating whatever overload we suffer reaches the tipping point, that proverbial "straw-that-breaks-the-camel's-back." we demand action.  And we're pretty much satisfied with any action because it means at least we're doing something whether it works or not.  Doing nothing is seen as callous and uncaring and smacks of indifference to whatever tragedy that has befallen our neighbors.  I don't have any satisfactory answers for preventing future mass killings.  My tolerance level is reached and exceeded more often than not.  So I do what most of us do: I mourn and pray.  Today I will write a few words in a pastor's memo and move on.  I'll get through this day and the next and the next and do my part trying not to horrify Jesus in Syracuse, Indiana.  I hope and pray all of you will endeavor to do the same.

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