Pastor Sally Devotional April 22

Dear friends,

 

Today is Earth Day, which marks a day when we are particularly thankful for the place we call home – planet Earth.  This is actually the 51st Earth day which began in 1970 when people came together to express concern for the future of our planet.  Earth day is a day both to give thanks for the natural wonder all around us and to ask the question: What can I do to preserve, protect and pass on this gift to future generations?

 

Our place as caretakers of the earth harkens back to the tasks given to the first humans by God in the Garden of Eden.  They were charged have dominion over the earth. (Genesis 1: 28) Rabbi Nahum Sarne who wrote the JPS Torah Commentary on Genesis  is very quick to point out, however, the authority to “rule” over the earth is limited by God who is ultimately the only one with complete dominion.  The man and the woman’s role is more in line with being caretakers on behalf of the creator.  I think the language in the second creation story captures this idea better when the man and woman are charged with tilling and tending the garden of God.  (Genesis 2: 15)

 

We actually have a boatload of gardeners in our church to love to till and tend the Earth.  I’m one of them.  I love to dig in the earth, break up the soil and plant new things of beauty.  The tree pictured is a weeping cherry that my son and his friend helped us to plant last weekend.  My husband and I prepared the bed, tilled and amended the soil, and picked out the tree.  As you can see here, we had very little to do with setting that big tree.  We certainly are enjoying it, however!

 

On this Earth day I invite you to take a walk outside and give thanks to God for the glories of the creation large and small.  Then maybe think about what you can do to add to the beautiful landscape before you as you take on your roll to till and tend what God has given us all.

 

Peace,

Pr. Sally



Pastor Sally Devotional April 20

Dear friends,

 

I’ve been reading through the book of Isaiah lately in my personal devotional time.  I consider Isaiah one of the most difficult books of the Bible to read in part because it is a compilation of Isaiah’s prophecies over time directed to different peoples at different times. Scholars believe Isaiah was written by at least two different prophets and maybe three over a long period.   There does not appear to be an order to these prophecies excepting that they sort of fall groupings.  To me, the book often looks like someone took a box of Isaiah’s prophecies written on scrapes of paper, dumped them on a table and starting copying them into one complete scroll.  There is, of course, more order to the prophecies than that, but it sometimes feels pretty haphazard and makes writing these prophecies a challenge.

 

So why spend time on Isaiah?  I am reading and studying Isaiah because Isaiah was exceedingly important to the early Christians who did not have the New Testament to read.  They only had the Hebrew scriptures which we call the Old Testament.  The early Christians loved Isaiah and quoted from him frequently – so frequently, in fact, that Isaiah is sometimes referred to as the fifth gospel.  So I’ve been spending time with Isaiah off and on over the last few years trying to see what those early Christians saw in these writings.  I came across one of my favorite passage this morning”

 

On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples

    a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wines,

    of rich food filled with marrow, of well-aged wines strained clear.

And he will destroy on this mountain

    the shroud that is cast over all peoples,

    the sheet that is spread over all nations;

    he will swallow up death forever.

Then the Lord God will wipe away the tears from all faces,

    and the disgrace of his people he will take away from all the earth,

    for the Lord has spoken.

It will be said on that day,

    Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, so that he might save us.

    This is the Lord for whom we have waited;

    let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.

10 For the hand of the Lord will rest on this mountain.  (Isaiah 25: 6-10)

 

For anyone who wonders why many Jews in Jesus’ day believed in resurrection, this is an important bit of scripture.  Isaiah is clear that God will destroy death and wipe away the sadness of his people and gather them in a great banquet to live with him in joy.  The life in abundance that Jesus spoke of is envisioned in these first few verses which describe the Great Banquet of rich foods and well aged wines. I hope you notice that all peoples are gathered for this feast.  There is no distinction suggesting that some might be invited and others not.  All will say, “This is our God; we have waited for him, so that he might save us!  Let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.”

 

Imagine those early Christians pouring over their Hebrew scrolls trying to understand what God was doing when he raised Jesus up at Easter.  Surely they read this passage with great joy!

Peace,



Pastor Sally Devotional Thursday April 15

 
 

Dear friends,

At our recent staff meeting Anna Parkinson had the devotions for the day.  Anna mentioned that she had been thinking about Leviticus lately.  Several of us laughed.  Leviticus is not a particularly enthralling book of the Old Testament and is known for its detailed rules and regulations.  Anna laughed too and then said she was serious.  She had been thinking about all of the rules in Leviticus that protected the health of the greater community, and she said she had been developing a new appreciation for those rules.  Leviticus is full of such rules and regulations that protected the people’s health.  Here’s an example:

The writer of Leviticus begins by saying that if a home owner discovers there is a disease in the house… “the owner of the house shall come and tell the priest, saying, “There seems to me to be some sort of disease in my house.” The priest shall command that they empty the house before the priest goes to examine the disease, or all that is in the house will become unclean; and afterward the priest shall go in to inspect the house. He shall examine the disease; if the disease is in the walls of the house with greenish or reddish spots, and if it appears to be deeper than the surface, the priest shall go outside to the door of the house and shut up the house seven days.”  (Lev. 14: 35 – 38)  This is just the beginning of what may happen to the house and the people who live inside.  The passage goes on to detail several stages one must go through to rid the house of the disease, and if all else fails the house has to be torn down and the building materials taken outside the camp and put in a dump for unclean things.  The people also have steps to go through in order to be made clean.

I agree with Anna in having a new appreciation for rules that protect a community.  God was very clear with the children of Israel that everyone was part of the community and no one person was an entity unto themselves.  They lived together, worked together and were responsible to one another and for one another.  The rules God set in place protected everyone because each life was of value to God. 

How weary we are of rules these days: masks, social distance, no large gatherings.  Bear in mind when we practice these precautions, we are living in accordance with the values set out for us by God in ancient days.  Each life is of value.  We are intended to live in community.  We are responsible to one another and for one another.

Peace,

Pr. Sally



Pastor Sally Devotional April 13

Dear friends,

 

Last summer the session created a team to address issues of racial inequity in our community of Elkhart and to consider how our church might love all our neighbors better!  When the team initially gathered they wrestled with a name for this group.  They settled on the Christian Action Team for Racial Equity because in the words of Jim Pyle, they didn’t want to just talk about issues of race, they wanted to take action and do something concrete to love all our neighbors and to improve racial equity in our community!  Without dismissing the great contributions this team has made to our conversations about race and equity issues, last Saturday Jim Pyles got his wish.  The Christian Action Team for Racial Equity took action to make a huge difference in our community.

 

The effort got its inspiration back in January when the team invited the Mayor of Elkhart, Rob Roberson, to a team meeting to talk about race relations in Elkhart.  Toward the end of the conversation they asked Mayor Roberson, “How can we help?  What can we do to address racial inequity in our city.”  Mayor Roberson said the most pressing issue was to help get the vaccines to the black and brown community.  I spoke with the mayor on Saturday and I think he was a little surprised by the passion of our team for this request.  He said Bruce Carter was calling his office within days to talk about a strategy.

 

The team began drawing together representative from the City of Elkhart, Elkhart County Health Department, the Northern Indiana Hispanic health coalitions and The Elkhart County Minority Health Coalition.  Bruce Carter reached out to area pharmacies and secured the commitment of Walgreens to run some walk in clinics in the south part of the city in places where underserved residents might be comfortable coming for their vaccines. 

 

The first of these clinics happened last Saturday at the Tolson Center.  I stopped in at the beginning of the day to lend my support.   What I saw was remarkable.  There was a long line of people that had started forming an hour before they opened.  Walgreens had 17 volunteer medical technicians setting up their vaccination stations, having given up their Saturday to participate in this event.  There were at least eight Presbyterians who were assisting with parking, check in and directing people through the clinic.   366 people received the Johnson and Johnson vaccine during the day. Bruce Carter reports there was good representation of black and brown residents along with members of our community  that are most vulnerable and underserved by vaccination clinics. I think this effort was a wonderful success.

 

Sometimes we look at enormous problems in our world and wonder what can I do?  I’m just one small person, and this is a great big problem.  I think it’s amazing what a few people can do, particularly when they join hands with other small groups of people and pool their resources and ideas.  Presbyterian polity is actually built on the belief that God moves among us and works in and through us when we are together, working hand in hand and heart with heart.  I think God has done a blessed good work through a few of our good people this past weekend, and I am thanking God today for the Christian Action Team for Racial Equity and their faithfulness to God’s calling to “Love all our neighbors!”

 

Peace,

Pr. Sally

By the way, the team is planning more walk in clinics:

May 1- Roosevelt Community Center– “Taste of Black Excellence”- Walgreens with J&J

May 2- St James AME- after service at 1:00 PM- ECHD with Moderna

 

May 9- New Vision Church- Elkhart County Health Department with Moderna

 

https://www.wndu.com/2021/04/11/city-of-elkhart-hosts-vaccination-clinic-tolson-community-center/

 

 

 



Pastor Sally Devotional April 8

Dear friends,

 

I was in the church this afternoon preparing for this Sunday’s worship service when it started to rain.  It really rained!  The water poured out of the sky and covered the back windows of the sanctuary.  It was a pleasure to see it.  Gardener Stu Barb says we need rain right now and he’s right!

 

There is something lovely about a spring rain.  That’s what we had today.  It was a warm rain on a warm day – the kind of rain I used to enjoy walking in as a youth.  It was the kind of rain that washed the earth clean and refreshes the growing things.  It’s later in the day now, and everything outside is green and happy.

 

The rain felt to me like a gift of God today.  It was a reminder to me that God is washing the sin and sadness out of our lives and refreshing us for a new beginning.  This is what the Eastertide season is all about.  We retell the many stories of Jesus’ resurrection appearances and we live into the hope of new life.  The natural world reinforces this promise for us everywhere we look as the trees bud and the flowers bloom. 

 

God is not finished with us yet.  He washes us clean and fills us with the life giving waters of his love showered upon us by the presence of our risen Jesus.

 

Peace,

Pr. Sally



Pastor Sally’s Devotional April 6

Dear friends,

 

Before I begin my devotional for today, I want to let you know that I am going to be reducing my Daily Devotional writing moving forward.  When I first started writing devotionals over a year ago, everything had been closed down because of the new Coronavirus. I expected our people might be uneasy, maybe even frightened and likely lonely.  So I thought a daily word in one’s email box might remind us all that our lives are in God’s hands and God can be trusted.  I thought this devotional writing would last a couple of months which stretched on through the summer surge and then the winter surge and into this spring!  As we are moving into the hopefulness that has come with vaccinations and the warmer weather it seems a good time to move from six devotionals a week to two.  My intention is to write on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  I hope twice weekly will be useful for now.

 

So… I wonder if any of you noticed the pansies that had been newly planted in the flower beds in the islands in the East parking lot on Sunday when we gathered for worship.  I first noticed them on Saturday when I was checking out the set up for Easter Sunday.  I had been watching the trees and bushes hoping for some color pop for Easter day.  I had not planned on pansies.  I have no idea who put them in the ground, but realized immediately they were an Easter gift to our congregation for our first gathering together this year!

 

Easter is all about surprising kindness.  The resurrection was a huge surprise even though Jesus had been telling his disciples for weeks that he would rise from death.  I’m sure they were too hung up on Jesus’ predicted sufferings to think about resurrection.  So it was a surprise!  It was a surprise of kindness because God had every reason to visit anger on the earth and it’s people for the way humanity treated his beloved son.  I’m sure the disciples were particularly aware of their own failings in faithfulness to Jesus.  But God did not act in anger but rather in steadfast, perfect, merciful love for the creation that had acted so despicably.  God acted in infinite, surprising kindness.

 

So thank you to whoever it was that acted in surprising kindness by planting pansies for our Easter celebration.  You have reminded us of the remarkable grace of God that never quits!

 

Peace,

Pr. Sally

 



Pastor Sally’s Devotional April 5

Dear Friends,

I just got off the phone with my son, Stephen, who lives in Los Angeles.  He was speaking very quietly because he was holding his new baby son, Sammy, who was born this past Saturday, April 3.  He was rocking him in the nursery and trying to keep him asleep so Sammy’s mom could sleep.  I asked him what would happen if he laid Sammy down to sleep in the crib, thinking my son could probably use some sleep as well, but Stephen declined.  Why would he want to put Sammy in the crib when he could hold him instead? He had probably been sitting there holding him for at least and hour and a half when he called me.  Wow, he loves his son!

As I was thinking about Stephen and his beloved son, it occurred to me that God loves Sammy more than Stephen does.  This was not a new thought for me.  I thought this many times when I had a moment of awareness of how very much I loved one of my children.  With all the love I could muster, I was aware that God loved my children more than I did. 

It is hard to imagine how great is God’s love for us.  The resurrection for me is the ultimate demonstration of God’s love.  God loved the world so much that God raised up Jesus, the son the world denied, betrayed and killed.  He raised him up and gave him back to us.  How’s that for forgiveness?  If God could forgive the world what it did to Jesus, his beloved son, can we ever doubt the merciful love of God?

Peace,

Pr. Sally



Easter Sunday

Celebrating a Joyous Easter Sunday
 



Pastor Sally’s Devotional 3/31

Dear friends,

 

I want to take a moment today to invite you to attend the two services we have prepared for the congregation for Maundy Thursday (tomorrow) and Good Friday (the next day.)  The late days of Holy Week (Thursday and Friday) provide a unique opportunity for us who desire to be Jesus’ followers to deepen our faith.  These are challenging days to remember, to be sure, but worthy of our attention. 

 

There is something moving about entering into  the story of Jesus’ life in this week.  I like to imagine myself as one of the lesser disciples, watching from the fringes.  I see myself cooking in the kitchen and hearing snippets from the other room as Jesus offers bread and wine in the first communion.  I wonder where I’d have been in the garden when they came to arrest him.  I imagine myself as a fly on the wall at the trial took place in the home of the High Priest.  I hope I would have been a “nay” voice in the crowd that called for Jesus’ crucifixion, and I still don’t know if I could have watched Jesus die.  Perhaps from a distance.  Every year I try to relive these stories with my Lord again.  I try to remember and let the emotions of the day deepen my faith.  I would urge you to do the say.

 

Both services are at 7:00 PM.  The Maundy Thursday service includes communion, so bring some bread and beverage to your viewing screen at you watch and worship.  I will send the links tomorrow by email and will post them to Facebook.

 

Blessings on your remembering

Pr. Sally 

 



Pastor Sally’s Devotional 3/30

Dear Friends,

 

I was talking with my husband at lunch today.  Some of you know that Mike is doing transitional ministry and recently began working with a congregation in Michigan.  He has been spending the last two months talking individually with members either by phone or by zoom to get an initial feel for the ministry of this particular church.  He’s almost through with this initial individual interview phase and so I asked him, “So what do you know about this church?” 

 

He responded that there were lots of really good people in this congregation.  (That is my general experience of Presbyterian churches.  They are full of good people.)  He also said this congregation was really sad they were not who they used to be.  The church Mike is serving at the moment used to be a really big church with a large and very fine music program.  They miss being who they once were.  I didn’t even pause, but said immediately, “I think the Elkhart church is over that.”

 

I hope I’m right in that assessment because our church used to be a really large church as well.  I’ve heard the stories and I’ve seen the pictures, but my impression is that our church is over “missing who we used to be.”  I hope so because I really like the church we are today.  I like the really good people that make up our church.  I like the kindness and patience that our church has shown in this last difficult year during the pandemic.  I like the commitment to loving one another and welcoming everyone regardless of where you come from, or what you’ve done or what you look like.  I like the obvious love of children and support of families.  I like the theological curiosity of our people.   I like the passion for caring for our elderly. I like the tolerance of each other’s preferences for music.   I like the compassion this church has for people in need.  I like the sincere desire to reach out with the love of Christ. I like the generosity of our people.  And I especially like the passion this church has for ensuring First Presbyterian has a solid future.

 

If you don’t know it already, please know it today.  This is a good church.  It’s a really good church right now.  It’s a good place to nurture your faith, to raise your family and to find companionship in your sunset years.  Of course we have room to grow and lots of hope for a new future together.  But in the meantime, remember… this is God’s Presbyterian church in Elkhart and God can see, “It is good.”

 

Peace,

Pr. Sally



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