Pastor Paul Burris's Memo

Wednesday, March 22

From Pastor Paul:

Every year when the NCAA men’s basketball tourney takes place I am often reminded of past tourneys and feats of heroics (and no I’m not referring to IU’s 5 National Championships, sorry Boilermaker fans). In mid-March every year teams take the stage with high hopes of going as far as they can in the tourney regardless of the odds.


One tourney that sticks out as one of my favorites took place in 1983. That year the North Carolina State Wolfpack won eight consecutive games which propelled them into the title game.  They faced the University of Houston Cougars, whose twin towers, Clyde Drexler and Hakeen Olajuwon, had earned the nickname “Phi Slamma Jamma.”


Experts considered the championship match an afterthought. Houston needed to go only through the motions. But the Wolfpack had other ideas. Another contest as an underdog didn’t faze Jim Valvano’s team.


NC State used the same strategy that had carried it on its winning streak. The team stuck to a controlled offense, tight defense, and planned to foul late to force Houston into pressure free throws. The tactics worked well. The Wolfpack led 33-25 at the half.


Houston regrouped and went on a 17-2 run. With three minutes remaining, the Cougars forged ahead 52-46. NC State began to foul. The plan worked. Houston missed free throws, and the Wolfpack hit buckets.


With the score tied at 52, Valvano ordered his team to work for the final shot. But the Pack’s offense wasn’t clicking and time ticked away. Dereck Wittenberg fired a desperation shot that touched nothing but air. Suddenly, two monstrous hands reached up, grabbed the ball, and stuffed it through the hoop as the buzzer sounded. The hands belonged to NC State’s Lorenzo Charles. The Wolfpack reigned as the NCAA Basketball Champs.


NC State proved that things don’t always go as planned. The strongest and the swiftest don’t always win. The writer of Ecclesiastes wrote: “I have seen something else under the sun: the race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong, nor does food come to the wise nor wealth to the brilliant or favor to the learned; but time and chance happen to them all.” (Ecclesiastes 9:11)


Time and chance happen to all. And God controls both. Let that be a reminder to us as we continue the work God has called us to here at Calvary. The Wolfpack’s 1983 championship season is a powerful statement as to what can be accomplished if one stays focused on the task at hand. As we move forward in ministry let us continue to pray for the readiness to receive the unexpected from God.


See You Sunday, Pastor Paul


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Wednesday, January 18

From Pastor Paul:

As I sit here in my office looking out the window, it’s raining and the wind chill is hovering around 30 degrees. It’s on days like today when I think how nice it would have been to stay in bed wrapped in a warm blanket or to be sitting in front of a warm fireplace with a cup of hot chocolate. However, I realize that we can’t always do what we want to do. In fact many times in life we find ourselves dealing with climate changes (and I don’t mean just the temperature) that we just don’t want to face. We would rather be anyplace but where we are.


Every year, many of us resolve to do things differently in the coming year. We do so in hopes that maybe the coming year will be the year that we overcome some of the addictions and habits that have become a burden in our lives. Maybe you resolved to lose weight. Maybe you thought that it was time to lay off the chocolates or caffeine. Maybe you decided this was the year you were going to make amends with someone whom you have had a falling out with. One month into the New Year, I can’t help but wonder how many of you are struggling to keep those New Year’s Resolutions that you set. We tend to make excuses and the climate might not always seem right for change. Many outside circumstances force us to alter our commitments and so we struggle along doing the best we can.


As Christians, we have been called to present the Gospel message to the world. To do so, we need to change our way of thinking and find a way to come together. It is only when we come together that we are truly the body of Christ. It is as a collection of members that we accomplish the works of apostles, prophets, teachers and healers. It is only when we work together that the whole Christian story can be told.


Last Sunday we embarked upon a journey to be unified in prayer as a church community. Through this Prayer Initiative we are making a commitment to come together in prayer (this prayer can be found in this month’s E-Navigator, our weekly Guidelines for Prayer and the bulletin each week) on a regular basis and listen for God’s guidance (nudgings) through the process. The leadership at Calvary believes that this is one way we can come together as a unified body and as we share our stories about what God has laid on our hearts we will begin to understand how God is calling us to present the Gospel message to the community that we serve. This will allow us to focus on matters outside our own personal lives and perhaps change the narrative of this church as we venture out into the unknown future.


So, how will we tell the Christian story in the year that lies ahead? What New Year’s Resolutions will we make as the body of Christ in our church today, and what will we do to show that our commitment is more than skin deep? This is the year to:


  • Show real warmth as we reach out to the community, welcome visitors to our congregation, and work to strengthen the bonds of Christian community among us.
  • Demand authenticity in our Christian education, congregational care and personal interaction inside, and outside, of the church, so that we won’t settle for pat answers to difficult questions or challenges.
  • Encourage passion in our worship and outreach to our community, so that everyone will feel and see, our commitment to the work of our gracious and powerful God.
  • Focus on Jesus in every aspect of our church’s life, so that we will be able to deepen our relationship with the One who is our Lord and our Savior.


Warmth, Authenticity, Passion and JesusThese are the four key characteristics of a healthy church, and they are the four qualities that will be decisive for the vitality of the body of Christ in 2023 and in the years to come. See you Sunday!!


Pastor Paul

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Wednesday, November 16

From Pastor Paul

November 27th begins the season of Advent. For 28 days, we journey to the manger where we experience God’s presence become flesh and dwelling among us. God’s good news takes human form to tell us we are not left alone in this life. Emanuel, God with us, comes to us. It is a life-changing story that we enter at this time of year.

This year, I wonder how we will get there. It seems now with the branding of Christmas that there are many other paths to Christmas Day. For some, Christmas is now about what sits under the tree after searching at length for presents we may or may not need. Encountering God’s life-transforming presence seems less interesting if it is even remembered as the story of this season.

The basic definition of Advent means the coming or arrival of a notable person, thing or event. As Christians, we know how our familiar story ends (or begins) with God arriving through poor, unknown parents in a back alley of a small city. In a poem unrelated to Advent yet very pertinent, T.S. Eliot speaks about being in a familiar place and yet exploring it until we arrive at the same place and know it in new ways. He writes,

We shall not cease from exploration


And the end of all our exploring

Will be to arrive where we started

And know the place for the first time.

~T.S. Eliot

We know the destination of Christmas, but what path will we take in our travels through Advent to the manger and Christmas Day? Jesus’ own words in his Sermon on the Mount can be helpful: seek and we will find. We find God’s way in the midst of searching for it. We find God’s dream for us when we follow the Way of hope, peace, joy and love.

What if we take that path, a path less traveled this season? Let’s search for the manger using God’s Way of hope, peace, joy and love as if they are points on a compass and we are seeking ways to live authentic and faithful lives to a story that has transformed us and wants to do so again. What might we see in an otherwise routine and annual story? What unexpected turns will we take? What stops will we make along the way?

I’m looking forward to our journey together and what God will reveal to us along the way and on Christmas Day. I’m looking forward to searching for God’s Way this Advent and the ways God will make us living examples of God’s presence in the world.

Traveling Mercies,

See You Sunday,

Pastor Paul

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Wednesday, October 19

From Pastor Paul:

Driving around northern Indiana this past week I have been somewhat hypnotized by the trees and the brilliant colors on display. It seems to me that they are more prominent than in years past. Maybe it’s because I’m getting older and have learned to appreciate things more. I don’t know? Whatever the reason this has always been my favorite time of the year. However, when I stop the car and get out I am reminded that the leaves are falling off the trees and that this particular beauty will be short lived. Winter is right around the corner. Winter is the time when I often reflect upon the changing seasons of life. It is a reminder that there is an end to everything and I begin to wonder what legacy I might leave behind when my time on earth is finished.

Have you ever thought about what you are going to leave behind when you die? Most people think in terms of possessions—property, money, stocks and bonds, and so forth. But let’s think in terms of spiritual heritage. What kind of lifestyle, what kind of understanding of who God is and what the Scriptures say will be your legacy?

You may say, “Wait a minute. You can’t give someone else your faith. That’s something everyone has to experience on a personal basis. You can’t really give your faith away.” You cannot give away your experience, I admit, but you can hand down your faith. You can leave your sense of moral values, the understanding of the principles of Scripture, those principles of the Word of God that have guided you and led you as you made your decisions in life….

If you are a Godly parent, or grandparent, look at what you may have to give to your children. You may not be able to leave them even a small amount of money, but if you have loved God and practiced the principles of Scripture, if you have loved your children and listened to them, you will leave them a faith to sustain them through every difficulty, every heartache, and every trial of life.

As the seasons of life come and go, our challenge as parents and as a church is to build strong Christian homes. To teach our children everything we know about God and life. By doing so we will in fact be leaving them the greatest treasure they will ever receive. 

See You Sunday,

Pastor Paul           

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Wednesday, September 21

From Pastor Paul:

Back in the late sixties a group called Simon and Garfunkel wrote a song that stated, "I am a rock, I am an island." It indicated that no matter what happened to them they could stand strong and that they had isolated themselves so no one else could hurt them. It may sound like a noble statement, but in reality we are flesh and bone and we have been created as social creatures and cannot function normally without contact with other people.

I have to confess that it has been a battle in my own life to get close to others. As a pastor you feel like you need to have all the answers, all the time, and that you can never get down because you've always got to be positive. We've been taught and frankly, most people expect, their pastor to always be up, never depressed and ready with the answers they need in their lives. The truth of the matter is that no one pastor can completely and always fulfill such a role. That's because we are all human. We all need friends and someone we can confide in. That's a lesson I've learned the hard way. Over the years I've shared many of my own blunders, mistakes, and sometimes outright sins through my sermons and personal conversations. I've done that because frankly people need to know that pastors are human too. They do make mistakes and they do need friendships and understanding from others.

We need each other and the Bible has many statements giving us instructions on how to treat each other. Here are some examples:

Romans 15:7 tells us that we are to accept each other just as Christ has accepted us.

Galatians 5:13 tells us that we are to serve each other in love.

Galatians 6:2 tells us that we are to carry each other's burdens.

Colossians 3:13 tells us that we are to accept each other and forgive those things that come between us.

1 Thessalonians 5:11 tells us that we are to encourage and build each other up.

And 1 Peter 4:9 tells us to be hospitable to each other without grumbling or complaining.

I'd say that this is a lot of proof that we need each other. Always remember that the sign and evidence of our Christian experience is that we love one another. All of these passages that talk about how we should treat our fellow believers are examples of this love. This is how the world knows that we are Christians. It isn't by how holy we are or how much we know, but how much we love our brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus.

See You Sunday,

Pastor Paul  

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Wednesday, August 24

From Pastor Paul

Hard things. What makes them bearable? Doable? Where do you find the inner strength that you need to endure them?
     I decided recently that I can put up with almost anything, endure tough things, stretch my comfort zone, and deal with hurts and disappointments. If they are for the Lord. I mean if my attitude ultimately impacts someone for the Lord, then it's worth it. If I sacrifice something for the Lord, it's worth it. If I'm hurting but I know that ultimately that hurt will be worth it because I'm giving it over to the Lord and He will use that situation or hurt for His greater good, then it's so worth it. But things just don't seem very bearable or doable without being able to lean on the Lord or knowing that He will use them.
     I think that is where hope is so valuable. In my life, I have hope because I know I can turn to God and He can bring good from what I am going through or use it in a mighty way. If I couldn't turn to Him, things would just feel so very lonely, hopeless and empty.
     Hard things come into our lives all of the time. It's hard to forgive someone who has hurt us deeply. It's hard to sacrifice our desires, dreams, and wishes especially if other people benefit who may not deserve them. It's hard to feel like we are forgotten or "shafted" not noticed. It's hard to do the right thing when the wrong thing feels so good at the moment! It's hard to swallow our pride, let go of our bitterness, or squelch our anger. It's hard.
     Doing something hard is worth it though. It's worth it if you do it for the right reasons. Do it for the Lord and not yourself. If you do it for yourself that only keeps the focus on yourself and you don't really benefit in the long run. But if you do it for the Lord, then you have a greater cause and something that motivates you to be better, stronger, wiser.
     Yes, doing something hard is worth it, if it's for the Lord. I know that I can do anything if it's for my God. You can too. Find the inner strength you seek by giving those hard things over to God today. 

See you Sunday, 

Pastor Paul   

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Wednesday, August 17

From Pastor Paul


When I think about the text in Mark 4:35-41 it reminds me, once again that the storms in life are inevitable.  There are circumstances that are out of our control.   

            Think about your life as a boat and the circumstances of life as the storms.  I ask you three questions today. 

            #1 Is Jesus Christ in your boat?  You know if he is or isn't.  If you have asked him into your life he is there.  If you haven't you can.  If he isn't in your boat, your life, during stormy times you will be frantic and experience fear.  It will seem that you have no one to turn to except others who are also in the storm and trial with you.  If Jesus Christ is not in your boat all you need to do is say, "Jesus Christ, come into my life, come into my boat."   

            #2 If Christ is in your boat, your life, what is he doing at this present time?  Is Jesus sleeping and wanting you to see him at peace.  Is Jesus giving you peace in the midst of the storm?  Or is he waking up to speak to your storms and silence them in some dramatic fashion?  Is Jesus giving peace by his actions? 

            #3 If Jesus is in your boat during a storm have you responded with fear instead of faith?  If you have responded, like the disciples, in fear for your own lives do you hear the words Jesus?  "Why are you afraid?  Don't you have any faith?"  The words sound so harsh, and so direct.  Understand that the same grace that followed the rebuke to the disciples is yours as well.  Jesus continued to teach and love the disciples, he did not write them off.  He gave them another chance to show and express their faith.  Jesus Christ extends his loving grace to us today in the form of a second chance and hopes that we will respond in faith on another day. 

              One of my favorite hymns is "It is Well with My Soul." Horatio Spafford wrote it in 1873 after he found out that his four daughters died.  They died when the ship S. S. Ville du Havre sank in November 22, 1873.  The words to this song speak of peace and serenity.  Yet, this song was borne out of intense grief and suffering.  Can you imagine the loss of four of your daughters?  I cannot imagine the suffering.  Yet, Horatio in some way was able to express his faith in this beautiful song. 

            Listen to the words of the first verse.  "When peace like a river, attendeth my way, when sorrows like sea billows roll; whatever my lot, thou has taught me to say, It is well, it is well with my soul.  It is well with my soul, it is well, it is well with my soul." 

             We have the same man, Jesus Christ, who is in our boat, in our corner, in our lives no matter what storms we find ourselves in.  I want to offer up a special prayer for those who are in the midst of a storm that they might face their fear, they might ask Jesus to come into their boat, that they might see Jesus and might hear his words.   


See You Sunday, 


Pastor Paul 

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Wednesday, August 10

From Pastor Paul

Very little of the early life of Jesus is recorded in the gospel accounts. Only in Luke do we get a small glimpse into the childhood of the Savior. Men have tried to guess and assume certain things that Jesus may have done when he was young, for instance because his father Joseph was a carpenter, we assume that Jesus was taught and practiced the trade of carpentry. Even though we aren’t told stories of his youth, we can, by using other passages of scripture, come to realize that because Jesus was human, he shared some of the same emotions, feelings and temptations that you and I are experiencing right now. 

Because He was human, Jesus felt happiness when things went well. He probably spent time with His friends laughing and playing games that most children played. As He grew older He experienced the emotions of an adolescent, thus learning and understanding the vast range of growing pains that young people experience as they grow into adulthood. Also as He grew older, He was tempted with all of the bad things that life had to offer. We read that He was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Jesus cried when he was sad, got angry, frustrated and perplexed when people disappointed Him and enjoyed the company of children. In order to know us and sympathize with us Jesus experienced life fully. So you might ask, “What does this have to do with me today?” Well, everything. As we go through our everyday lives, we experience happiness, frustration, temptation, anger, and enjoyment. Knowing that Jesus experienced life just as we do can be very comforting and encouraging. There’s not a problem that the Savior doesn’t understand and will mediate to God for us.  

So as we begin another week, let’s remember as the old song says, “there’s not a friend like the lowly Jesus, no not one” and He’ll help us through all of life’s troubles and triumphs because after all He was and is like us. 

See You Sunday




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Wednesday, July 13

Pastor Paul Burris Weekly Office Hours

Tues:  9 am – 1 pm

Wed:  9 am – 1 pm

Thur:  9 am – 1 pm


From Pastor Paul 

Lisa and I would like to thank all of you for the warm welcome we received during our first Sunday at Calvary. 

It’s never easy moving into a new community but you all have made the transition an easier one. The difficult part is always unpacking and finding a place for everything. As I sort through the boxes, I find it hard to believe the value that I place on some the items that made the journey. Some of these items are truly treasures while others I couldn’t tell you when or where I got them. 

That’s how it is with our lives isn’t it? We continue to carry around things that really have no value and carry no significance. Jesus continues to challenge us to prioritize what is important in our lives. Jesus desires that we place our relationship with him at the top of our list. My prayer for all of us this year is that we will make it a point to grow in our relationship with Christ and that we will experience the fullness of life that relationship has to offer. 

It is wonderful to be a part of your church family. I’m looking forward to our future ministry together. 

In Christ,  

Pastor Paul 

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Wednesday, June 22

Paul Burris – 
Lisa and I are excited about coming to Syracuse Calvary. I am one of six children (3 boys and 3 girls). Although we are scattered geographically we still remain very close. Our sister Lisa passed away in 2006. I grew up mainly in the Indianapolis area where I graduated from Avon High School in 1977. 
My father is a retired Methodist pastor where he served for over 50 years. He is still active in the United Methodist church and living in Fort Wayne. He has been my mentor and anchor throughout my life and my ministry. My mother was always supportive of my father’s ministry and did a wonderful job at raising six children. She passed away in 2006.
My wife, Lisa, and I have been married for 10 years (we’ve been together for 18) and have 3 wonderful children between us. My oldest son, Deyan, (31) lives in Columbia, Missouri. My youngest, Kristopher, (28) lives in Nashville, Tennessee. Lisa’s daughter, Kinsey, (31) lives in Leadville, Colorado. Although the kids are scattered across the United States, we feel blessed to have several unique travel destinations to visit each year.
Lisa was born and raised in northern Indiana. She has been a blessing in my life. Her love for God and others is one of her greatest strengths. We share many of the same interests including a love for the outdoors and the Denver Broncos. She lived in Missoula, Montana for 10 years where her family owned a canoe and kayak store. Our connection to the West is one of the reasons we were attracted to each other. I thank God daily for bringing her into my life.
After graduating from high school I moved to Colorado where I spent the next 15 years. My time in Colorado was spent enjoying the great outdoors; hiking, camping, mountain climbing, rock climbing, backpacking etc. In Colorado I attended Colorado Mountain College in Leadville (AA in Outdoor Studies) and Colorado State University in Fort Collins (BA in History). Although I worked in a variety of jobs in Colorado my main profession was working with developmentally disabled adults.
In 1992 God called me back to Indiana and into ministry where I have been serving for the past 30 years.  I attended Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis and graduated with an MDIV degree in 1997. I was ordained an Elder in the North Indiana Conference (now the Indiana Conference) of the United Methodist Church in 1999. Over the years I have served 6 different churches of various sizes in a variety of settings. Although I love the many different aspects and challenges that ministry has to offer my main passions are: preaching and teaching, children and youth ministry, music, missions and outreach and pot luck dinners. In my 30 years in ministry I have led and/or participated in 25 mission trips (including Jamaica and Haiti).
Hobbies and Interests: Hiking, camping, golf, travel (I’ve visited all of the lower 48 states), attending spectator sports (especially football and basketball), genealogy, American Civil War studies and photography.


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