We were in Raleigh recently – Linda was there to exchange something at Macy’s and I was there to make our obligatory Costco run. As we prepared to head back east, she asked if I was thirsty. Well, I’m always thirsty, so she steered the car through a McDonalds where you can get any size drink for $1. The problem was that actually you can get any size drink for $1.07. The further problem was that I had a couple of twenties, a ten, a five, and an assortment of ones but no coin. And there was a sign pleading for us to pay with exact change. Do you think there is really a shortage of coins?, she asked. Makes no sense to me, I replied to which she countered, I understand that it is because the pandemic has driven people to online buying so that we are not paying with coins as much.
Ever the thinker, I said, Perhaps, but then again, if we are not dealing in cash as much, we aren’t being given change, right? Well, now we were at the window, Linda apologized while she handed the cashier my three dollar bills, and a moment later got one of the bills handed back to her, thus verifying that the coin shortage is a real thing. Our study of the matter lasted past Knightdale, and I would report it to you except I am imagining that you are all giving thanks you were not imprisoned in our car that evening suffocating with boredom. (Subsequently, I have discovered that early in the pandemic, the U S Mint was producing fewer coins because of worker shortages, but I verified that Linda, as usual, was correct, about the cause of the continuing shortage – we are not circulating coins though I still would argue that businesses aren’t circulating them back.)
Well, that set me to thinking about other shortages. Before our first storm of the year, I paid more than $7 for one of the last two cartons of eggs in Harris Teeter – organic and free-range as it were – an extravagance necessitated by broad supply line problems and exacerbated by weather conditions. There were several other cartons in the refrigerator section, but they all had broken eggs in them. My guess is that every mom in Wilson was planning a special breakfast for the impending snow day.
Any of you who do the shopping for your families have seen it. Brisket was over $5 a pound at Costco—untrimmed brisket which is like $10 per pound when you cut/cook away all the fat and gristle. Gatorade has been sparse on the shelves in the past year or so. I have been able to get it, but a couple of times I have had to drink blue instead of red. Could not find any decent lettuce a couple of weeks ago. Elaine asked me to fetch her some Lactaid vanilla ice cream, but chocolate was all they had. Yes, I have lost some weight, but the truth is that it has been an accident.
Okay, put the trivialities aside and let’s look at a more serious shortage. I give platelets regularly, and I have been getting a constant barrage of messages from the Red Cross about the shortages of blood products. The day after I donate, I get a message pleading with me to donate again. I can’t, I want to say, for another six days. I assumed that they were just doing what they do, but then I discovered that this blood shortage is more than real – elective surgeries are being postponed because blood donations have dropped more than 10% since March of 2020. Before that, the need for blood products had been rising 6% annually while donations were going up 3%.
But here is the hopeful piece in all this. In running through a couple of articles to check my stats, I ran across one person’s reflection about the shortage of blood products who observed that the good thing is that it is in our power to fix. Of course, it is. We are not short of A+ blood, plasma, or platelets because the blood volume of the average American has dropped from 10 pints to 6 in the past couple of years. No, this is a shortage that is eminently solvable. I don’t know about all of the shortages I have mentioned, but my guess is that many may fall into that category.
And theologically, our proclamation ought to be one of abundance. Is that not the whole point of Jesus feeding the multitude? The disciples saw the situation as a problem – we don’t have enough. Jesus said we have plenty if we just come together and share. The possibilities are endless. Let us remember that the next time we feel like running around like Chicken Little. No, the sky is not falling. Together, we’ve got this.
But here is one more thing you can do. The next time one of you is at Triangle Town Mall, go through Mickey-D’s and give them 14 cents. Tell them your preacher is worthless.
Blessings and Peace,
After 10 years as Senior Minister at First Christian, Gary Walling has signaled his intention to begin his retirement on March 1, 2022.
The Shepherd, the Farmer, and the Apple Butter Maker
The shepherd, the farmer, and the apple butter maker. This could be a great opening line for a sermon, right? Maybe someone should tell Gary. By the way, you know these three. And, hopefully you will agree that, together, they share a great story…
The shepherd has cared for numerous flocks across the country over the course of his 40+ years in the shepherding business. And, during these last 10 years, he has been the faithful shepherd of a flock he found in Wilson—providing spiritual guidance, abiding love, and comforting counsel.
With a commanding presence for a shepherd, he’s quite gentle in nature. His caring heart guides his words of spiritual influence, and his calm demeanor is welcomed when he reaches out his hand to those in pain or grief. He speaks softly into the ears of his lambs, especially those newborn for whom he prays, as he cradles them in his arms and casually walks down the center aisle of the church to introduce them to their new church family.
Known for his monthly “Wanderings,” this wind-weathered shepherd will be forever young in spirit. He has a penchant for tunes by Jackson Browne, but like Jimmy Buffet, he seems to have “a school boy heart and a novelist eye.” He’s extremely well read, from the masters of great literature to the books of thoughtful philosophers and faithful theologians. Each Sunday, he shares deep thoughts for parishioners’ contemplation, as he combines the sacred Word with engaging questions for our consideration.
Never a loner, this shepherd often reaches out into the community to serve in a variety of roles, including but not limited to emceeing “Seeds of Hope’s “Family Feud” fundraiser and overseeing Hope Station’s annual Halloween Golf Tournament. And, following a season of community-led Lenten services, he’s often found helping to carry the cross with fellow Christians on Good Friday.
We know the farmer as a multi-tasker. His work ethic is strong; he’s up early and often home late from weekly meetings. He can always be found among volunteers on selected Saturdays, spreading bales of pine straw, trimming shrubbery, applying a fresh coat of paint where needed, or helping to re-wire a light. He’s been known to jump on a tractor and till the rows for planting come “sprouting” season. And, he’s planted a bounty of crops over the past decade, including hope, gratitude, choices, and even imagination — always harvesting during the “Season of Faith.” Even in the midst of the COVID pandemic, he harnessed his team to glean the fruits of past harvests so that the congregation could celebrate its milestone Sesquicentennial Celebration with joy and thanksgiving.
The apple butter maker always finds ways to nourish others. He knows the right ingredients and spices to blend the perfect batch of ribbon-worthy apple butter. So too, he recognizes what his FCC family needs. Whether through food, or fellowship, or comforting conversation and prayer, he’s always reaching out. He’s quick to suggest “tossing some hotdogs on the grill” to feed the crowd bringing donations for Hope Station. He keeps spirits high with his tongue-in-cheek sarcasm while supporting the Boston butt grill-masters, and he never misses an opportunity to praise the bakers that donate their famous coconut and chocolate cakes and sweet potato, pumpkin, apple, and cherry pies. He loves to fill the fellowship hall with his FCC family and tables laden with bountiful spreads. And, at Christmas, he joins his flock to serve lunch and offer fellowship to those from the surrounding community whose spirits are in need of warmth and kindness. However, this apple butter maker serves best when he presides over The Table where everyone has a place. He never tires of reminding us that the Lord has prepared a meal for all who are hungry and all who thirst.
You know the shepherd, the farmer, and the apple butter maker. They are in our midst as a man of God - perhaps even better known as the Reverend Gary Walling, Pastor Gary, or just “Gary.” He is all three, faithfully serving our congregation for the past decade.
This month, we celebrate the Reverend Gary Walling’s multi-talented ministry, and we thank him for his many gifts and graces shared with us for these many years. You will not want to miss this last month of Sunday services led by Reverend Walling. No doubt, the shepherd, the farmer, and the apple butter maker will make us feel welcomed, nourished, and loved.
These thoughts and reflections come from our Senior Minister, Minister of Music and Board Chair. We hope that they provide both challenge and inspiration for your spiritual life.