Pastor Sally Devotional 5/25

Dear friends,

 

Yesterday my husband and I took our lunch down to McNaughton park to eat by the river.  While we were there a family of geese came by.  I have never seen such an enormous family.  I counted 20 goslings for Mama goose and Papa goose.  I thought maybe they were baby sitting some extra goslings for some other goose parents who were taking a break, but these two parents were very protective any time another goose came near.  And besides, I don’t think geese parents loan out their goslings to other parents.  So it appears that all 20 goslings belonged to these two goose parents.  I didn’t even want to think about that poor mama goose sitting on 20 eggs!

 

Mike and I watched them for a long time as they walked down to where our car was parked and then moved on down the river edge.  Dad seemed to wander near the front leading the flock while mom took up the rear.  In some ways the parents hardly seemed to pay attention to their goslings.  The little ones wandered with their heads bobbing constantly toward the ground picking up stems and leaves and seeds and bugs.  They were hungry.  Occasionally one would run ahead or to the side flapping its wings joyfully, but they would always look up, find mom and dad and get back to the flock.  Mom and Dad seemed oblivious to their little dears as they wandered until I came a little two close.  Then they were hissing and raising their wings threateningly until I moved back… which I did.  They were clealry paying more attention than it appeared.

 

As I watched them I thought about the way God looks after us.  We often think about our relationship to God as sheep to a shepherd.  We particularly love the story when the good shepherd goes looking for the lost sheep and carries him home.  But that story is about the unusual event.  Most of the time it would seem that the sheep were supposed to follow the shepherd, to listen for his voice and to come when called.  As we remember with joy that God is gracious and seeks us when we are lost and protects us when we are in danger, we need to also remember that we have responsibilities in this relationship.  We are also supposed to listen, to follow and to respond to the call of our Lord.

 

Peace,

Pr. Sally



Pastor Sally Devotional 5/20

Dear friends,

 

I really am quite excited about gathering for worship with you on Sunday.  I feel like I’m planning for a party.  The staff and I have been back and forth this week talking about decorations, flowers and lots of “red” in celebration of Pentecost.  Anna added an upbeat video about our kids in worship this morning.  And Jess and I have revised the bulletin format three times now in order to fit in the words to songs so we can all sing along.     I think it’s going to be a fun day and looks like we will have wonderful weather!

 

It is somehow right that we should begin meeting anew on Pentecost.  Pentecost is a day of new beginnings.  Pentecost is sometimes referred to as the birthday of the church.  That makes good sense to me.  On Pentecost the disciples were drawn together by God’s Spirit, and together they were sent out into God’s world.  Their mission was communicate the grace and forgiveness of God which was available to all people because of Jesus Christ.  The Spirit gave them courage to speak about God and for God.  The Spirit filled them up so they could embody God’s love wherever they went.  1000s of people heard God’s voice in the words of these disciples and experienced God’s love in their presence on that first day of Pentecost. This is a lot to celebrate!

 

I hope you can join us on Sunday as we remember and give thanks for the faithfulness of the disciples of old and embrace the challenge to be God’s people anew in our time and place.

 

Peace,

Pr. Sally



Pastor Sally’s Devotional 5/18

Dear friends,  (I never got my devotion posted yesterday.  Here it is!)

 

My granddaughter released butterflies last weekend.  I was talking with her on Sunday night at our Sunday evening zoom bedtime reading time, and I asked her about her butterflies.  She has been raising Painted Lady butterflies after my husband and I gave her a Butterfly Garden kit as an Easter present.  The kit came with a butterfly house to build out of netting and colored cardboard.  Once the house is constructed, there’s a postcard you fill out and send to the distribution house for Painted Lady caterpillars. 

 

Charlotte received her caterpillars and spent the next several weeks feeding them sugar water and leaves and then watched as they climbed a branch she had set for them in the house.  They spun their cocoons and dangled from the branch for the appropriate time as the caterpillars slowly decomposed into caterpillar soup and then reassembled their cells into butterflies.  Four butterflies emerged about 10 days ago and Charlotte decided this weekend was the right time to release them.

 

She was surprised.  The butterflies didn’t want to leave the house she had built for them.  Eventually she got them to step on a flower which she pulled out of the house into the big bright world.  The butterflies looked around for a while and then took off.  Two of them, however, immediately returned and landed on her hand where they sat for a while until they found the courage to try their wings.

 

I couldn’t help but think that we humans are an awful lot like those butterflies.  We get used to doing things the way we’ve always done them and find change unsettling.  We may be reluctant to try new things – even good new things!  We’re not sure if we can trust the new world around us.  But God is with us.  When we feel unsure, we have a hand to fly to for rest and reassurance until we are ready to try again.  Fortunately for us, our Lord is patient and kind and goes with us into the newness. We are safe with him.

 

Peace,

Pr. Sally



Pastor Sally’s Devotional 5/12

Dear friends,

I am rejoicing today.  The CDC has just issued new guidance for vaccinated people – no need for masks or social distancing outside or inside.  Wow!  Happy Dance around my study!  I have already sent a request for a meeting of the reopening team for our church.  We had already met this week and were planning to make new recommendations to the session.  We may be able to do more than we had planned.  We will still need to consider safety for our children, youth and others who are not yet vaccinated, but I believe the new guidance can be received with great rejoicing.  Vaccinations are working and making our communities safer!

So here is a psalm for today:

Praise the Lord.

Praise God in his sanctuary;
    praise him in his mighty heavens.
Praise him for his acts of power;
    praise him for his surpassing greatness.
Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet,
    praise him with the harp and lyre,
praise him with timbrel and dancing,
    praise him with the strings and pipe,
praise him with the clash of cymbals,
    praise him with resounding cymbals.

Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.

Praise the Lord.  (Psalm 150)

Peace,

Pr. Sally



Pastor Sally’s Devoional 5/11

Dear friends,

 

It was a delight to visit my youngest son, Terry, in Minneapolis for a week of vacation last week.  Terry was also on vacation and had just reached the point of being fully vaccinated.  He wanted to take advantage of his new status by visiting some places in the city after being cooped up in his single rented room for over a year.  Terry’s firm sent everyone home after the virus put three of the firm’s partners in the ICU.  They are still largely working from home.

 

One of the places we visited was the sculpture garden.  This is a large outdoor garden with weather resistant works of art.  The best known piece and my personal favorite is the Spoonbridge and Cherry  by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen.  Oldenburg was born in Sweden but moved to Chicago when he was 7.  Van Bruggen was born in the Netherlands in 1942 and moved to this country in 1978 after marrying Oldenburg.  Both were sculptors and often collaborated.  Oldenburg is still living at 92.

 

The Spoonbridge and Cherry fountain-sculpture was inspired by a novelty item Oldenburg had collected in 1962, featuring a spoon resting on an “island” of plastic chocolate. From this the artists envisioned a gigantic utensil as a fanciful bridge over a pond. In considering Minnesota as a site, they compared the spoon’s raised bowl to the prow of a Viking ship or a duck bobbing in a lake. Van Bruggen added the cherry, a personal symbol recalling happy moments in a childhood clouded by World War II.

 

I thoroughly enjoyed looking at this sculpture.  It just made me smile.  I wanted to walk up over the bridge handle of the spoon as it spanned the water beneath but of course didn’t dare.  I imagined the spoon bowl as the prow of a great Viking ship and thought with pride about the swedes who had largely founded the state of Minnesota.  Mostly I enjoyed the fact that the cherry never slipped down the spoon on which it rested, but remained suspended in air. 

 

What caught my imagination the most, however, was the fact that Van Bruggen had added the cherry to remind herself of happy moments recalled from a childhood clouded by World War II.  Born in Groningen in the Netherlands in June of ’42, she would have been about 3 and a half when the war ended.  Still I imagine she had memories of the terrible fighting there.  Groningen was the scene of a terrible battle just before the end of the war.  So close to the German border, the German forces made a terrific effort to hold on to Groningen.  100 Dutch citizens lost their lives.  270 buildings were damaged.  There would have been years of rebuilding in Van Bruggen’s childhood and teen years.  One can only imagine her memories, yet she chose to remember cherries in order to recall happy moments in the midst of tragedy.

 

We get to choose what we will remember.  Of course some of us are haunted by difficult, sometimes terrible memories in life, but choosing to remember the good is very useful way of neutralizing the bad.  I wonder what cherries have been a source of hope in your world in this past year.

 

“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”  Romans 12: 21

 

Peace,

Pr. Sally



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



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