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 6/19/2020

Dear Friends,

I am quite taken with the story of the early church in Thessaloniki because of it’s tumultuous beginning.  You will recall in Acts, Luke tells us that not long after Paul began preaching in Thessaloniki, he had to be secreted out in the middle of the night because of the Jews in that place were so outraged by Paul’s theology.  There was no good- bye.  Some of the new Christians, just hustled him off to the city of Berea where Paul would actually be better received.

Anyway, I image it was difficult to not be able to say goodbye.  One day Paul was there ministering and the next day he was gone – never to return.  I can imagine Paul’s new flock was grieved at his disappearance.  Paul writes about it in the second chapter of I Thessalonians:

As for us, brothers and sisters, when, for a short time, we were made orphans by being separated from you—in person, not in heart—we longed with great eagerness to see you face to face.  For we wanted to come to you—certainly I, Paul, wanted to again and again…  I Thess 2: 17-18.

Separation is difficult.  Change is hard.  I read an article a couple of days ago published by the Harvard Business Review entitled, That Discomfort you’re feeling is Grief.  https://hbr.org/2020/03/that-discomfort-youre-feeling-is-grief The author, Scott Berinato, says that most of America is dealing with some form of grief or another related to the Coronavirus and all that it has taken from us.  He says that if we can name it, we may be able to manage it better. 

Berinato says part of learning to manage the grief is to understand the stages of grief and how you may be expressing your grief.  Here’s how Berinato suggests some of may be working out our grief.  “There’s denial, which we say a lot of early on: This virus won’t affect us. There’s anger: You’re making me stay home and taking away my activities. There’s bargaining: Okay, if I social distance for two weeks everything will be better, right? There’s sadness: I don’t know when this will end. And finally there’s acceptance. This is happening; I have to figure out how to proceed.  Acceptance, as you might imagine, is where the power lies. We find control in acceptance. I can wash my hands. I can keep a safe distance. I can learn how to work virtually.”

In the first couple of weeks of the “Shelter at home” orders, I remember Anna talking to the children about the grief they were feeling because everything had changed and because they had been ripped away from their teachers, their friends and their routines.  I suspect that feeling of grief is still with most of us, but it has gone underground.  It surfaces now and again when we loose our temper or have an unexpected emotional moment.  At such a time, be sure to give yourself a break.  Grief takes time and we’re not out of this yet.

In the meantime remember all the people who long for your face just as you long for theirs.  We may not see face to face, but love is not gone.  God is near and keeps us close.

Peace,

Pr. Sally

 



Pastor Sally Devotion 6/18/2020

Dear Friends

I’ll get back to I Thessalonians tomorrow, but I couldn’t resist this picture. 

 

Our mother robin has an almost full grown baby bird.  He is feathered out and almost ready to leave the nest.  I saw him perched on the side of the nest yesterday.  He was adorable – all brown and speckled, looking at me with his head cocked.  Obviously he’s hungry in this picture!  Mother robin flies back and forth all day long to keep his appetite satiated. 

 

Genesis 1: 21 So God created … every winged bird of every kind. And God saw that it was good. 22 God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.”

 

I find the creation and all of its creatures to be completely fascinating!

 

Creative blessings to you,

Pr. Sally

 



Pastor Sally’s Devotional 6/17

Dear Friends, 

 

I was struck by something one of our members wrote to me in an email today.  I hope it’s ok to quote him because I thought his sentiment was lovely.  He wrote, “I so wish we could live in a community where we were all just God’s children without recognition of ethnic origin, race or sexual preference.  That is the way I was raised but I guess I must resign myself to the reality that our society in general does not accept that view.”  I responded that I thought that was the Kingdom of God moving in his inner being causing him and all of us to long for the world as God intended it to be.

 

In I Thessalonians 2:12 Paul writes to the new Christians in Thessaloniki reminding them how he and his colleagues “urged and encouraged and pleaded with them, that they would lead a life worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory.”  I really believe that God’s call to his Kingdom begins to have an effect on us over time.  In stirs up the love, mercy and justice of God in our hearts and minds so that we tend to see what’s wrong with ourselves and the world around us, and it causes us grief.  Part of leading a life worthy of that calling to the Kingdom then is seeing clearly with the eyes and heart of God and finding the love and creativity to try to bring God’s grace and goodness into the picture.  This is not a simple task, but no one ever said being God’s child in this world was simple… but it is a blessing.

 

Peace,

Pr. Sally



Pastor Sally’s Devotional 6/16

Dear Friends, 

In the second chapter of 1 Thessalonians, Paul talks about the way he came to the town of Thessaloniki with the word of God.  He talks about his motives.  He wasn’t trying to trick anyone or to impress anyone or flatter anyone into believing in Jesus.  He says he came to them gently and tenderly as he would with his own children.  He wanted to share the gospel of God, and he and his companions wanted to share themselves because the people of Thessaloniki had already become so dear to him in a short time.  I have to say that I know something of what Paul is saying because you Presbyterians in Elkhart stole my heart almost from the very first day I met you.  You have been dear to me.

I think when we think about sharing the love of God and the message of Jesus that is so important to us, we have to ask why we want to share it.  I know that for me, the people I am most passionate about communication the gospel to are the people who are nearest and dearest to me.  Because they are near and dear, I am also the most careful with how I share my faith.  I would never want to hurt them or suggest they are misinformed or wrong.  They are smart people and I respect their ability to think and reason. But I still want to share my love for Jesus, because my experience of God changes my life for the better.  I want them to know that same experience because I find it so helpful to me.  My motivation is love.

I hope you will think tonight about the people you love and pray that God will speak to them and call to them and draw them close in love.  I hope you will offer to be helpful in whatever way God might use you to love both the ones who are near and the ones God might choose to bring near to you.  We have the love of God treasured in our souls that is meant to be given away.  Give generously.

Peace,

Pr. Sally

 

We were gentle among you, like a nurse tenderly caring for her own children. So deeply do we care for you that we are determined to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you have become very dear to us.  I Thess. 2: 7-8



Pastor Sally’s Devotional 6/15

Dear Friends,

Do you ever muse about what others might remember about you after you are gone?  Paul writes to those early Christians in Thessaloniki about their reputation.  He writes:

You became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you welcomed the message in the midst of severe suffering with the joy given by the Holy Spirit. And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia. The Lord’s message rang out from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia—your faith in God has become known everywhere. Therefore we do not need to say anything about it.  (I Thess. 1: 6-8)

That’s quite a reputation!  These Christians from Thessaloniki had barely had time to listen to Paul preach, but they had embraced Jesus so securely that they had become amazing people of faith.  They were imitating the Lord, willing to suffer joyfully so others could know the love of God.  Paul calls them a model to all the believers in the surrounding area.  Wow!  They are so well known, Paul doesn’t even need to call attention to their church.  Everyone knows about the church in Thessaloniki!

So I find myself wondering what the reputation of our church is in Elkhart.  I know the reputation our church has in the Presbytery.  First Presbyterian is known as a strong church with good people and solid leaders who have a heart for mission and compassion for the poor.  I wonder, though, what people say of us in Elkhart itself.  You will have to tell me what you hear from others outside the church. 

More importantly we want to ask what we want to be known for?  I want us to be known for our devotion to the Lord and our love for each other.  I want to be known as a good place to raise children and youth.  I want to be known as a church that makes Elkhart a better place to live.  I want to be known as a church that offers a hand up.  And I guess I want to known as a fun church.  I think it’s a good thing to enjoy God and enjoy our church family.

What do you want our church to be known for?

Thoughtfully yours,

Pr. Sally



Pastor Sally’s Devotional 6/13

Dear Friends,

I’ve decide that over the next couple of weeks I’m going to write on passages from I Thessalonians.  I thought it might be fun to work through one of Paul’s letters.  Thessaloniki, as the Greeks call it is a special place to me.  I spent several weeks living in one of the neighborhoods of Thessaloniki during my Sabbatical summer. I have warm memories of the couple who hosted my husband and me in their third floor apartment and warm memories of the Greek people I met in the neighborhood. The picture if from the balcony of the apartment where we stayed. The Greeks are a friendly and kind people.  I hope some day to get a chance to visit there again.

We learn in the book of Acts that Paul brought Christianity to Thessaloniki in his second major stop after visiting Philippi.  Paul missionary work had been requested of him by a man from Macedonia calling to him in a dream.  So Paul set sail and landed in Neopolis, modern day Kavala.  He preached and established a church in Philippi and then went on to Thessaloniki.  He began his preaching at the Synagogue there about his understand of what it meant for Jesus to be the messiah.  Many believed including both Jews and Greeks.  But some who didn’t believe tried to start a riot.  When they couldn’t find Paul, they grabbed Jason, the man who was providing hospitality for Paul and accused Jason and his friends of trying to overthrow Caesar.  Jason and his friends were released on bail, and that evening they secreted Paul and Silas out of the city.

Having been separated from the new disciples in Thessaloniki, Paul wrote letters.  I find his affection for these people touching.  He had barely enough time to know them.  We read in in the first chapter:

We always give thanks to God for all of you and mention you in our prayers, constantly remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.  (I Thess. 1:2 – 3)

 

I does makes sense to me that Paul has this much affection for the new Christians in Thessaloniki.  There is a special bond that connects us as Christian people.  I have sensed it when I have come as a new pastor to a new congregation.  I sense it when I visit other churches on Presbytery business.  I sense it when I show up unexpected to a church while on vacation.  We seem to be connected already.  I think it is the Holy Spirit working in us, saying, “Oh look!  Here’s a new brother or sister you haven’t met yet.  See the love of Christ in them?”  That’s how I experienced all of you the first day that I met you when I candidate last spring.

 

Please know that I always give thanks to God for all of you and mention you in our prayers, constantly remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.

 

Warmly,

Pr. Sally

 



Palm Sunday Devotional

Welcome, Palm Sunday!

Tomorrow morning we will sing one of the ancient hymns of the church: “All Glory, Laud and Honor!”  This great hymn was written in Latin in 820 A.D. by Theodulf of Orleans.  Theodulf was made the Bishop of Orleans in France and the Abbot of several monasteries in that region when Charlemagne was the Holy Roman Emperor. Theodulf was a kind and hospitable man.  He believed in always keeping the door open and never refusing pilgrims, travelers or the poor if they needed a meal or a place to stay for the night. Theodulf thrived as the Bishop of Orleans starting many public schools outside the monasteries in order to educate the children, and he oversaw these schools himself. 

Unfortunately for Theodulf, when Charlemagne died, his son Louis the Pious was not a fan.  He believed Theodulf was involved in a plot to overthrow him and had him imprisoned in the Monastery at Angers.  It was while he was at Angers that he wrote the hymn poem, “All Glory Laud and Honor.”  A legend relates that one Palm Sunday, Louis was on his way with the crowds to Palm Sunday services and heard someone singing this now famous hymn.  When asking about the singer he discovered it was Theodulf himself, and promptly had him released.

Whether the story is true or not, it is clear that Theodulf wrote this beautiful hymn during a time of great hardship.  May all our times of trial lead us to praise God!

Peace,

Pr. Sally

All glory, laud, and honor to Thee, Redeemer, King!

To Whom the lips of children made sweet Hosannas ring,



Pastor Sally’s Devotion for April 1,2020

Dear friends,

I realized today that I was letting the future get to me.  In fact, the future, as I was imagining it, was ruining my day.  So I paused and took out my favorite prayer book.  I found a very useful reflection in the entry for today.  It was written by Anne Morrow Lindbergh, who suffered great sorrow in her early twenties at the kidnapping and murder of her baby.  I think her wise words are useful in these days when letting the future or the past “get to us” is simply not helpful.  Here are Anne’s words:

“Hurry is an unpleasant thing in itself, but also very unpleasant for whoever is around it.  Some people came into my room and rushed in and rushed out, and even when they were there, they were not there – they were in the moment ahead or the moment behind.  Some people who came in just for a moment were all there, completely in that moment.

Live from day to day, just from day to day.  If you do so, you worry less and live more richly.  If you let yourself be absorbed completely, if you surrender completely to the moments as they pass, you live more richly those moments.”                                                                                                                                                     Anne Morrow Lindbergh

Peace to you, Pr. Sally

Seek first God’s kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.                        Matt 6: 33-34

 



Daily Devotion from Pastor Sally – April 1, 2020

Dear friends,

I realized today that I was letting the future get to me.  In fact, the future, as I was imagining it, was ruining my day.  So I paused and took out my favorite prayer book.  I found a very useful reflection in the entry for today.  It was written by Anne Morrow Lindbergh, who suffered great sorrow in her early twenties at the kidnapping and murder of her baby.  I think her wise words are useful in these days when letting the future or the past “get to us” is simply not helpful.  Here are Anne’s words:

“Hurry is an unpleasant thing in itself, but also very unpleasant for whoever is around it.  Some people came into my room and rushed in and rushed out, and even when they were there, they were not there – they were in the moment ahead or the moment behind.  Some people who came in just for a moment were all there, completely in that moment.

Live from day to day, just from day to day.  If you do so, you worry less and live more richly.  If you let yourself be absorbed completely, if you surrender completely to the moments as they pass, you live more richly those moments.”                                                                                                                                                                                                Anne Morrow Lindbergh

Peace to you,

Pr. Sally

 

Seek first God’s kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.                        Matt 6: 33-34

 



^