Sunrise. Feels like a miracle every time I see it happen. I don’t usually go for the overly obvious symbolism in my photography, but how could a beautiful sunrise like this one not suggest all of the little resurrections we experience in our day-to-day lives.

Intimations

Behind me in this picture, the meetinghouse where I was married 41 years ago as of October 28. It was a sunny day a week later in a different year and the trees were a brilliant mix of yellow, orange, and red. Across the road, the graveyard where I expect to be buried. Bookends of a sort. I had a coughing spell 20 minutes into meeting for worship and had to leave. Outside I took this photo and looked up Wordsworth’s “Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood.”

Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:
The Soul that rises with us, our life’s Star,
Hath had elsewhere its setting,
And cometh from afar:
Not in entire forgetfulness,
And not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory do we come
From God, who is our home:
Heaven lies about us in our infancy!

It lies about us still, I thought. Back inside after the coughing subsided, someone else stood to speak of immortality. Is there life after death, and what does it look like? Or do we just continue forward in a different sort of life? He said he liked to think of the trees around the meetinghouse when he thought about those questions.

Friends

Lots of ambivalent feelings on the way to school about whether it might not be better to turn around and go home. Then in the last block we met a friend, and they clasped hands and went through the gate without looking back, somewhat to the dismay of the adults who hoped at least for a wave goodbye and feared something more dramatic. We were all talking about the mercurial emotions of toddlers, but I wonder if we aren’t all that way. A kind word, an affectionate gesture – they make all the difference in the world. Nothing seems quite as hard when you know you’re not alone.

Homeless at our gates

So I’m getting ready to preach about poor Lazarus, the beggar covered in sores who lay at the gate of a rich man and longed to eat the crumbs that fell from his table, when I come across this story about the President of the United States deciding to tackle the problem of homelessness, and for a moment I was glad. Then I read on.

The problem with the homeless, it seems, is that they bother the rich who occupy prestigious buildings and are offended by their presence..

The President said, “We have people living in our … best highways, our best streets, our best entrances to buildings … where people in those buildings pay tremendous taxes, where they went to those locations because of the prestige … and all of a sudden they have tents. Hundreds and hundreds of tents and people living at the entrance to their office buildings.”

Dirty, stinking homeless people lying at their gates.

And, Lazarus died and was carried away by the angels to be comforted in the bosom of Abraham. And in death, Jesus says, the rich man lay in agony in Hades and begged Abraham to send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool his tongue. And Abraham called the rich man “child,” and he refused.

A sermon for the fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost

I don’t know if you’ve all see the movie Groundhog Day, but even if you haven’t, you probably know the basic story because it’s one of those movies that’s become a cultural reference point. So if I say something feels just like Groundhog Day, you know I’m not talking about sitting out in the cold and waiting to see if a rodent comes out and sees his shadow. What I mean is it feels like the same thing is happening over and over again. So in this movie, which came out in 1993, Bill Murray plays an egotistical TV weather man who’s sent to Punxsutawney PA to cover the emergence of Phil the groundhog, and he ends up living the same day in this story over and over and over again.

It had been a long time since I saw the movie, but last week for some reason, we decided to watch it again and see if it really was as amusing as we remembered. And there are a lot of great lines in the movie, but this time one line in particular really stood out for me and I thought it was terribly poignant. The Bill Murray is sitting at the bar in a bowling alley and he’s drowning his sorrows in drink, and at one point he says out loud, pretty much to himself, “What would you do if were stuck in one place, and everything that you did was the same, and nothing mattered?” And a sort of a sad sack sitting next to him who’s maybe had a little too much to drink, and this guy overhears Bill Murray and he says, “That about sums it up for me.” And that just seemed so sad to me, to be living a life where nothing mattered.

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Love all creation

Peppers at the Safeway, Oakland

Love all God’s creation, the whole and every grain of sand in it. Love every leaf, every ray of God’s light. Love the animals, love the plants, love everything. If you love everything, you will perceive the divine mystery in things. Once you perceive it, you will begin to comprehend it better every day. And you will come at last to love the whole world with an all-embracing love.

From “The Brothers Karamazov” by Fyodor Dostoevsky

Social media in hard copy

In Oakland this week for a wedding, we spent some time yesterday at the Oakland Museum of California and were impressed by how well done it is. In particular I liked the use of paper notes and a chalkboard to create a kind of hard-copy social media, inviting people to comment on questions and issues. I guess what really impressed me was the tone. Unlike digital social media so much of the time, it was calm and compassionate. Possibly (probably?) it’s monitored by the museum staff, but it was refreshing.

Something I already knew about California: It was part of Mexico before it became a state in 1850, so it came into the U.S. as a place populated by Mexicans.

Something I learned about California: It’s white population is less than 50%; 42%, to be exact.

***So what is your vision of the future?

Street music

Solo sax, such a sweet soulful sound. I first heard it as I walked up 17th Street, well below Chestnut, and it filled the street so totally it was hard to tell exactly where it was coming. I’m fascinated by the power music has to evoke emotion, in this case a satisfying sense of yearning, a sadness that still contained some spark of joy. Opposites of the heart, all mixed together. I gave him all the change in my pocket and later wished I’d given him more in gratitude for sharing this gift.