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



Pastor Sally’s Devotional 3/29

Dear friends,

 

As I was studying the text for Sunday’s Easter message, one of the books I was reading pointed to a bit of scripture related to Jesus’ resurrection that surprised me!  It comes from John 14 which is right in the middle of Jesus’ farewell speech on the night before he died.  Among the many things he said to them that night, he said,

 

18 I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19 Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. 20 On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. ( John 14: 18 – 20)

 

This chapter 14 in John’s gospel is packed with lots of last words of Jesus.  I just hadn’t seen these words in quite this way before.  One of the terrible realities of death is the desolation of being left behind when a loved one dies.  Jesus surely knew that his disciples would feel this desolation after his death.  They would feel very much alone.  So when Jesus tells them he will not leave them alone, but will come to them, his words shout resurrection to me.  He says the world won’t see him anymore but his disciples will.  Again, the words shout resurrection.  But the most poignant phrase for me is the last one – verse 20.  Jesus wanted them to know and us to know that we would never be alone.  We are “in him” and he is “in us.”

 

It is Easter week, and I am pondering all that resurrection means in this week.  For me resurrection is always about the presence of the risen Christ who is with me and with us.  We are not alone.  God will never abandon us.

 

Peace,

Pr. Sally

 

 



Pastor Sally’s Devotional 3/27

Dear friends,

I went to Battle Creek today to see my parents. Whereas it was not the first time I’ve seen them since the Pandemic began, it was the first time I was able to visit freely with them without having to wear masks, limit our time and stay across the room from them. They are both fully vaccinated now and I am within 5 days of being fully vaccinated. What a joy to spend time with them in their home.

It was also the first time Theo (my Bassett) got to meet Abby, their new rescue dog. Abby is about 18 months old and is a Corgi mix, although I think she just looks Corgi. She’s a nice dog and Theo is a nice dog, but I wasn’t sure how they would do together. They started off well enough with sniffing and tail wagging, but within a few minutes Theo spotted Abby’s rawhide bone and took the whole thing in his mouth. That set off some growling and snapping. I managed to get the bone back from Theo and put it on the mantel, but the dogs immediately started snapping at other Abby toys scattered about the living room. Abby was not interested in sharing “her” toys. We quickly gathered up all of the toys and put them beyond reach. Suddenly the dogs were quite content to play together. They chased each other and romped most of the three hours I was at my parent’s homes. They stopped only when they were completely breathless at which point they fell exhausted on the floor until one or the other of them had enough energy to start the play all over again. By the end of my visit they were pretty funny to watch. They would fall all over each other for about three minutes and then rest for five. I think Theo will sleep well tonight.

I was thinking, however, about the initial troubles we had with the dogs. Dogs just aren’t willing to share what they believe is theirs. I wonder about people. Do we have trouble sharing? We teach our children at an early age that it’s nice to share. Children, however, don’t take to sharing much better than dogs. But at some point usually in late elementary school, children share something or are generous with someone and they find that sharing is fun. It’s wonderful to give gifts or share what you have with someone just to see the joy and wonder on that person’s face. I remember going through this phase with each of my sons when they loved to give gifts away or even give away their money. I would give them an allowance and they would immediately seek to spend it on a gift for someone they cared about. I used to worry they would never learn to manage their money, but I didn’t want to quash their generous spirit.

I believe any inclinations we have to be generous comes from God who has been most generous with us – so generous, in fact, that God did not withhold his son from us. “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3: 16) There isn’t anyway we can compete with such a gift, but we can imitate such generous love. Generosity is learned by watching generous others. I recommend looking to our Lord as the model. Go ahead an count all the ways God has been generous with you and see if it inspires a generous spirit in you.

Peace,

Pr. Sally



Pastor Sally’s Devotional 3/26

Dear friends,

 

I spent a little time in the garden this afternoon with my husband.  We are creating a new small bed in the front yard in which we plan to plant a small ornamental tree and maybe some day lilies around it.  I haven’t decided on the complete plan yet.  In the meantime it is a lot of work to dig up this new bed.  Our house has been here a long time and I’m sure the yard has been through a variety of plantings.  It appears there was once a large bush with big roots where we are digging the new bed!

 

There was also a hydrangea bush in this area.  It had to go, but I love hydrangea bushes.  So we dug it up carefully and then Mike split it up.  I planned to get four smaller plantings from it, but we actually managed to get six!  I then dug spots along the south side of the house for a row of hydrangeas.  I loosened the soil, fertilized and planted, covering with mulch. I’m sure they will be huge in a couple of years with big balls of color in the summer.

 

I really marvel at how well hydrangea divide, transplant and thrive.  I first divided my hydrangea bushes in La Porte under the guidance of a master gardener.  He assured me hydrangeas are hardy plants.  He said I couldn’t hurt them.  He said as long as I gave each divided plant enough of the root ball, they would take to their new location.  I haven’t lost a hydrangea yet, so fingers crossed.

 

There are several verses about the need to prune plantings in the Bible.  One of my favorites comes from Jesus’ comments about pruning the vine.  “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. (John 15:2)  There is an understanding among gardeners that pruning, digging around the base of the plant and sometimes digging up to divide are all good for the plant.  They grow better after a little disruption.  Those of us who love plants, care for them in ways that at times appear a little rough, but our plants thrive because of the attention.

 

I feel like I have been pruned a great deal in this last year.  At least I have certainly endure a great deal of disruption!  I know you have as well.  I wonder how we will grow in this coming year as individuals and as a church.  I’m ready to bear good fruit.  How about you?

 

Peace,

Pr. Sally



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