Pastor Sally’s Devotional 8/12

Dear friends,

One of my favorite and my husband’s favorite blessings comes from the Celtic Daily Prayer book put out by the Northumbria Community in Northwest England.  We have used this blessing in worship off and on over the years.  I was quite touched that the gift the Sturgis Church gave Mike upon his leaving featured this blessing.  It is pictured above.  You will notice the Presbyterian Seal in the foreground, but behind is carved the words of this blessing:

May the Peace of Christ go with you

Wherever he may send you.

May he guide you through the wilderness,

Protect you through the storm.

May he bring you home rejoicing

at the wonders he has shown you.

May he bring you home rejoicing

once again into our doors.

 

I think of this blessing every time I am in our church.  I pray that God will bring us all safety home rejoicing once again into the doors at our church.

 

Peace,

Pr. Sally



Pastor Sally’s Devotional 8/11

Dear Friends,

I was listening to Morning Edition on NPR in the car this morning as I was headed to the church for my Tuesday “Outdoor Office Hours.”  They were remembering and celebrating the life of Dr. José Gabriel López-Plascencia, Dr. Lopez for short.  Dr. Lopez died in June from complications of Covid 19.  He was 99 years old.  His grandchildren had to call in over a video call to be with him in his final hour.  He was unable to speak but he let his grandchildren know he could hear and understand by occasionally kicking a leg.  And when the grandchildren began to sing his favorite song, “Por Un Amor,”  tears rolled down his cheeks.  Dr. Lopez was a physician and provided health care for low-income families in Phoenix for over 60 years.  The remembrances were endearing, but what captured my heart was something the reporter said.  “Just imagine,” he said, “how many lives Dr. Lopez touched over the course of 99 years!”

That’s just it, isn’t it?  We have so many years upon the earth and how many lives will we touch?  These days, I often find myself waiting for that magical day when life is back to normal in the United States.  I sometimes feel like my life is on a temporary hold because there are so many things I can’t do right now.  But this reporter suggested that life is not so much about what we can and can’t do, but about how many lives we touch.  I would add life is about how many lives we touch with the love of God.

In the book of Acts, Peter is summoned upon the death of one of the saints in the church at Joppa.  Her name was Tabitha (Dorcas in the Greek.)  When Peter arrived they escorted him to see the body in the upper room.  He was greeted there by the widows who were crying and showing him the garments Tabitha had made for them.  Clearly she had touched all these women through her sharing of the love of God in word and deed.  Peter sent them out of the room and then prayed to the Lord.  Then he told her to arise and she opened her eyes.  Peter gave her a hand and helped her up and then gave her back to the widows who must have been over joyed because the news spread all over the region!  (Acts 9: 36 – 42)

I know we ask ourselves all the time, “When will this be over??!”  I wonder if that is the wrong question.  Maybe we should be asking, “Who’s life can I touch with the love of God today?”

Peace,

Pr. Sally



Pastor Sally’s Devotional 8/10

Dear Friends,

Included in  my summer Sabbatical in 2018 was some intentional time to reconnect with extended family, particularly in England.  My father’s parents were immigrants from England and we still have lots of cousins in the UK.  Additionally my niece lives in Oxford, so I took the opportunity to visit her as well. Of course we had to take the tour of Oxford University while we were there.  It was at Oxford that I took this picture of the priest, theologian, and Oxford professor, John Wycliffe who lived from roughly 1320s – 1384.

Many of you will only vaguely remember the name of John Wycliffe, in part because Wycliffe was way ahead of his time in the church and so missed all of the press that went with the Reformation.  Wycliffe spoke out against the abuses in the Roman Catholic church 150 years before the Reformation.  Among the most valuable contributions he made to theology in his day was a deep value for the scriptures.  He believed everyone should be able to read the scripture in his or her native language, and this led to Wycliffe and some of his colleagues translating the entire Bible from the Latin Vulgate into Middle English.  It appears to have been published in 1384.  It is believed that Wycliffe translated the four gospels and may have been responsible for the translation of the entire New Testament.  His colleagues translated the Old Testament.  While there were some earlier translations of some of the Bible into Old English, this appears to be the only complete translation into Middle English.

Wycliffe suffered for his work.  The church outlawed the translation.  A person could be arrested and punished severely for having a copy of Wycliffe’s Bible in their possession.  After Wycliffe died, his writings and works were declared heretical.  (Most of his beliefs would be adopted by the Reformers.) His bones were removed from the church graveyard, burned and the ashes scattered in the River Swift.

I had a lovely conversation today with one of our people about some of the history of the Christian church.  We talked especially about the history of the Reformation with all of it’s turmoil, and agreed we are grateful to live today.  We both feel privileged to be able to look in the Bible and read it for ourselves even if we sometimes disagree on how to interpret it. 

The saints of old died so the faith could come to us.  Many suffered so we could read the Word of God in a language we understand and so we might hear and see the good news of God for ourselves.  I invite you to honor the memory of people like John Wycliffe today.  Pick up your Bible and read it for yourself…  because you can.

Peace,

Pr. Sally 



Pastor Sally’s Devotional 8/8

Dear Friends,

 

John O’Donohue was a priest, poet and theologian, born in 1956, into a native Gaelic speaking family, on the farm in a region called “The Burren” in County Clare, Ireland (pictured here). As the oldest of four children, he work alongside his parents and uncle, and developed a close kinship with the wild landscape of his home nestled between the  limestone valley and the sparkling waters of Galway Bay. He was educated at the local primary school, alternating his studies with the farm chores of tending livestock, raising crops and carving peat for fuel, in his youth.  John later described the influence of his childhood home as, “A huge wild invitation to extend your imagination…an ancient conversation between the land and sea.”

 

I was moved by bit of John’s poetry.  He writes:

You can suffer from a desperate hunger to be loved.

You can search long years in lonely places, far outside yourself.

Yet the whole time, this love is but a few inches away from you.

It is at the edge of your soul, but you have been blind to its presence.

We must remain attentive in order to be able to receive. 

 

The psalmist writes, “Be still and know that I am God.”  Psalm 46:10.  Take a moment right now.  Close your eyes and take a deep breath and sense the closeness of the Lord.  He is closer than the air we breathe.

 

Peace,

Pr. Sally



Pastor Sally’s Devotional 8/7

Dear Friends,

I went Kayaking today on Simonton Lake.  I have been thinking about possibly purchasing a canoe for Mike and me, and a member in the church offered to give Mike and me a Kayaking lesson.  He thought we might prefer Kayaks to a canoe.

I am an old canoer.  I learned the fundamentals at Girl Scout camp as a preteen and then went with the scouts for a week long canoe trip down the Manistee River.  So the Kayak, while more tippy than a canoe, felt quite natural to maneuver. 

What a beautiful day for a paddle in a Kayak!  We put in at the Simonton Lake boat launch which is at a quiet section of the lake and quite shallow.  I thoroughly enjoyed paddling among the lily pads which were in bloom.  I wanted to pick one of the blooms and take it home with me, but I seem to remember picking the lily pad blooms is illegal in Michigan, and I wasn’t sure about Indiana.  The shallows were teeming with waterfowl today.  I paddled as close as I dared to the swans and their young.  There were some large grey birds with them that I could not identify, although I wondered if they were herons.  I also gently chased some Mallards and their ducklings along the lakeshore.  They were not social distancing or wearing masks and I was glad they had no reason to feel unsafe.  😊  Just beyond the lily pads were the most beautiful wildflowers.  There were these big stalks with purple tops and some huge pink blooms (pictured above).  I’d like to know what kind of flower these are as I’ve been seeing them around Elkhart.  Surely one of our readers can identify them.

As I paddled and enjoyed the beauty of God’s world, the words of Jesus came to me.  He was talking about how useless is our tendency to worry.  He said, “Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? If then you are not able to do so small a thing as that, why do you worry about the rest?  Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you—you of little faith!  (Luke 12: 24 – 29)

It is in quiet moments like these that I am aware of the always present love of God, holding our lives in trustworthy hands.  I am reminded that the world is much bigger than my small view of it and that God’s purposes are more grand that I understand.  I am willing to wait and watch for God in the days ahead.

Peace,

Pr. Sally



Pastor Sally’s Devotional 8/5

Dear Friends,

This week in Bible study, we reached one of my favorite passages in Genesis.  The story is about a visit of three strangers to Abraham’s tent.  Abraham treats them to great hospitality.  He provides water to wash their feet and a shady place for them to rest in the heat of the day.  Then he prepares a great feast of food for them and quiet stands by to serve them while they eat.

As it turns out, they are not you average strangers.  It is the Lord with two angels as the Lord’s companions.  They have come with good news for Sarah and Abraham about the upcoming birth of a baby boy for the elderly couple.  From this story the author of the Letter to the Hebrews in the New Testament wisely advises, “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.” (Heb. 13: 2).

I like this idea of showing hospitality to strangers or kindness to strangers.  I try to think about this when I go out for a walk or when I’m in a store.  These days there is a lot of tension in our world.  We may run into someone while out and about who is feeling angry about any variety of things and may choose to take that anger out on a perfect stranger.  It might be you.  I think it wisest to treat those around us with great kindness and hospitality when we are able.  You never know how the Lord may choose to meet us.

Peace,

Pr. Sally



Pastor Sally’sDevotional 8/6

Dear friends, 

Many years ago when I was in the Middle East, I traveled with a group of seminary friends in Israel.  This was in the summer of 1982 when Israel was at war with Lebanon and the Arab/ Israeli conflict was diminished, but simmering just under the surface of everything.  The Palestinian markets in Jerusalem were shut down in protest while we there and the only Palestinian newspaper was raided by Israeli soldiers.  The group I was with did a lot of traveling to see settlements and to listen to the voices from both sides of the conflict.

One day we were traveling by bus from one part of the Jerusalem to another.  Two small boys got on the bus and sat down together.  One was clearly Jewish and the other Palestinian.  They were friends.  They told each other stories and laughed and showed each other things in their backpacks.  One of the young men in our group, Wes, engaged them in conversation.  Wes asked how they had become friends.  The Jewish boy said he liked his Palestinian friend because he was different from his other Jewish friends.  The Palestinian boy said he liked learning about new things from his Jewish friend.  Wes asked if they sometimes got in trouble with the other boys for being friends across these ethnic lines.  They just shrugged.  They said they didn’t care.  Wes said, “You know, you are the best hope for peace in this part of the world.  Do you know that?” he asked.   They actually both grinned and said, “We know.”

I think the world changes and peace comes to us one kind person at a time… one unusual friendship at a time.  Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives.”  John 14: 27. 

Peace to you,

Pr. Sally



Pastor Sally’s Devotional 8/4

Dear friends,

When I was at Fernwood Botanical Gardens the other day, I walked inside this tree.  I saw the tree from quite far off.  The branches were reaching down to the ground forming a kind of tent around the trunk.  I immediately went around the outside looking for a break in the branches and a way inside.  I found one!  Inside it was beautiful.  The green leafy branches formed a curtain around a soft dirt floor that was large enough for me to walk around the entire circumference of the trunk.  I imagine I could have brought a small Sunday School class of children inside that tree, and we could have sat and marveled at yet another of God’s miraculous feats of creative imagination! 

I felt safe under that tree.  There was something about the curtain of branches and leaves hiding me from the rest of the world that felt very secure which was a nice feeling in a world that often does not feel secure these days!

In the beginning of John’s gospel, John writes a beautiful poetic prologue to the stories he will tell about Jesus.  The prologue is theological in nature, but also artistic as John talks about how the Word of God became flesh… became Jesus.  Most of the translations we read in the English, say “The Word became flesh and dwelled among us.”  But in actuality, the Greek says, “The Word became flesh and tented among us.”  The Greek word is actually “Tabernacle” and refers to the way God traveled with the Hebrew people when they were wandering in the wilderness in the Sinai peninsula.  God had Moses and company build a Tabernacle (fancy tent) for God so God could always be with them on their journey. 

I thought about God’s willingness to tent with us, God’s desire to tent among us as I stood under the tent of leaves and branches in that beautiful tree at Fernwood.  God’s tent still holds us secure.  It’s big enough for all of us, and it goes with us everywhere.  Thanks be to God.

Peace,

Pr. Sally



Pastor Sally’s Devotional 8/3

Dear friends,

When I was a young person, my dad gave me a folk guitar.  It wasn’t anything special. I think he picked it up at K Mart because I had been asking for a guitar.  I learned a few chords and was off and running, singing songs I’d learned at church camp and girl scout camp.  Soon, however, I was looking for new music and picked up a book of scripture songs.  They were very simple and were clearly written to help the musician memorize the scriptures!  It worked.  I still find those songs flitting through my brain from time to time.  The one that has been playing in my head this last week is from Ephesians 4:32.  The song I learned was in the King James Version of the Bible, so that’s how I remember it.

“Be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.”

I really liked this verse.  Sometime in college I picked up a poster with just the beginning of this Bible verse on it.  The poster had a little girl sitting in a field.  She had picked a flower and was giving it to a little bunny sitting in front of her.  (I know.  Totally unrealistic, but it captured my heart.)  The words beneath the photo read, “Be Kind.”  That’s all it said and then had the verse reference from Eph. 4:32.  I took the poster with me to seminary after college and again took it with me to my first church and pinned it up in my office.

I think those words are good for all seasons of life.  We are invited to remember that God has forgiven us much… so much.  God has been kind to us.  So we, also, are invited to be kind and tenderhearted towards others.

I wish I could find a recording of the song I learned as a child.  I suppose it wasn’t much musically.  But here’s a nice recording of this verse.  Listen and give thanks for God’s kindness to you.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A-rIt_RE9mM

Peace,

Pr. Sally

 



Pastor Sally’s Devotional 8/1

Dear friends,

Yesterday my husband and I took a small jaunt over to Buchanan, Michigan to visit the Fernwood Botanical Gardens https://www.fernwoodbotanical.org/.  Mike and I have friends who have recommended a visit to this place for some time. It was actually a wonderful outing.  Although we went on a perfect day with cooler temperatures and splendid sunshine, there was hardly anyone around in the gardens.  They have clear guidelines for masking and social distancing when you do encounter anyone and the restrooms were spotless and smelled like they had just been cleaned.  It was a very safe place to visit and I recommend it for anyone feeling a little stir crazy at home!

 

The gardens are delightful.  They are built in a rural section of southwest Michigan so there is a large expanse of land both for gardens and trails into the woods which eventually lead you to the St. Joseph river.  The woods are old and the trees enormous.  I took this picture while we were walking the trails through these old woods.  I took several pictures of this same ravine because I was so fascinated by the way the light was dancing on the leaves on the left side of the picture.  It seemed like every time I took another picture, the light created different patterns on the leaves. 

 

Light is captivating.  It catches our attention and makes some beautiful things… extraordinary.  There’s a reason painters over the centuries have spent so much time trying to capture light appropriately on canvas. We are drawn to light.  Jesus once spoke about the how the light of God, working through us, captures people’s attention.  Jesus’ hope was that the light in us might cause others to praise God.  Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.  (Matt 6:16)

 

For most of my ministry, when I have baptized a baby, I have lighted a candle from the Christ Candle and given it to the newly baptized child with these words of Jesus.  We have been given a great gift – the very Light of God within us.  When we let others see that light, they can’t help but be fascinated and wonder about God.  Let your light shine wherever you are today!

Peace,

Pr. Sally



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