Numbering Our Days Alright

Numbering Our Days Alright

Lord, we come before you this morning knowing there is so much we do not understand   We don’t understand how time can go so fast when we count up birthdays and anniversaries and the age of children and grandchildren.  But then how can time progress so slowly when we are worried, or ill, or in pain? And so we pray with the psalmist: “Teach us to number our days aright.”  Moreover, teach us just how to be, how to be in the present moment and how to let go of all the stuff that drags us back into the past or makes us afraid of the future.  Show us how to give you time, maybe just in ten-second intervals, several times a day, shutting down our thoughts and fears.  We can do it.  For ten seconds, starting now: nine eight seven six five four three two one. And then refreshed and renewed, we can bring you our prayers for all the people and situations that need them as we pray:  “Lord, in your mercy, hear our...

Read More

Umbrellas

Umbrellas

It has rained so often this spring and summer, especially on weekends, and Hurricane #6 is sending Floridians back up North, that I thought I would preach on umbrellas.   For the past 25 or 30 years, whenever I come into my office out of the rain, I let my umbrella dry by opening it in a corner.  One day this past year, at Chagrin Falls, someone came into my office, saw my umbrella, and looked as if she would faint.  She pointed at it as if she had discovered some ugly rodent:  “Don’t you know what bad luck that is, to open an umbrella inside the house?”  I smiled and mumbled something about not believing in that kind of superstition, but then got to thinking about it afterwards.    You know, a lot of bad things have happened to me and my loved ones in the past 25 or 30 years, and I’m wondering if opening all of those umbrellas inside might not have been the cause of them!   As many of you know, I work for North Royalton City Schools, where they’ve had a lot of rain and flooding.  At our first meeting of the whole North Royalton staff to begin this school year, the Superintendent showed a 22- minute movie narrated by a photographer for the National Geographic magazine.   His name is DeWitt Jones.  I brought the video home for a night so Bernadette and my Father and I could watch it.  It reminded us of how much we loved looking at the pictures in that magazine when we were younger, and how we used to save each issue, as if to throw one away would be a sacrilege.   The photographer showed many examples of the pictures he took and tried to explain how he got not just good, but great pictures.  For example, he showed a picture of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco with the crescent moon just above it, and then another one of the same bridge 15 minutes later that was absolutely gorgeous because the light had changed and the sun was nearly down so the moon and the arches of the bridge were outlined in front of the colors of the sunset.  He described how one day he missed taking pictures of a field of dandelions, but then returned when they had gone to seed and created magical vignettes of light streaming through the puff balls.  And of course there were the faces: the face of a little boy who put his hand over one of those jets of water like the dancing fountains at Tower City and he caught his picture just as the water squirted out...

Read More

A Different Format

A Different Format

I’m pretty sure I have permission to tell this story.  You know how some couples sign pre-nuptial agreements before they get married?  My wife and I don’t have one of those, since neither of us had any money or property when we got married and she graciously wanted to leave me all she possessed.  But now I think my wife of 37 years wants me to sign a pre-SERMON agreement before I volunteer to preach (she said as much at this table on August 11!).   But when she wrote an email to me not long ago with a story attached, I wrote back that there was a sermon idea in there somewhere, and she wrote something like: Whatever I can do to help.  Now that I have that in writing (always save your emails), here’s the story:  My wife had been listening to an audiobook for days and days and she was finally coming to the last disc.  Since she usually borrows audiobooks from the library, she began to look for the box that had all of the remaining, finished discs in it.  She searched the whole house and couldn’t find it.  I helped her.  Nothing.  She began to worry about library fines and paying the exorbitant price to replace a 10 or 11-disc set [or maybe these were MY worries].  I complained to St. Anthony, patron saint of lost things, that he wasn’t answering my prayers. But then the next day when I was at work she sent me this email saying she no longer had to look for the box because she finally realized the book was an audiobook on her iPod and it had been downloaded from audible.com, and therefore a physical copy of it didn’t exist!  Because: it was in a different FORMAT!  [Remember the days when a book was a book?] In other words, she could have searched for it for days, called in professionals, the FBI, the NSA; they could have taken the house apart.  She NEVER would have found it.  She might as well have lain on the couch and searched by sliding her hand under the cushions and been comfortable.  She might as well have searched where the light was better.   She might as well have searched here in this sanctuary and prayed to St. Anthony or his equivalent in other denominations. Let’s think about formatting for a few minutes.  We have an understanding of formatting since the 1950s that no one before then could have had at the same level.  We have computers.  We have Blu-ray players and DVRs.  We have been unable to open files saved in a different version of Word or—God forbid—saved on a Mac with whatever...

Read More

You Have Been a Light (1 John 1:7)

You Have Been a Light (1 John 1:7)

You have been a light here, People feel it like the warmth of sun on skin, Sometimes casting shadows like an Ansel Adam’s photo So that what before seemed unremarkable Now stands appreciated and alive. The word repeats two hundred fifty times and more In Sacred Scripture, Shining through the holy text As if the God behind it wanted us to blink At dazzling glimpses coming through the message of those words, Enticing us to grasp what is behind and underneath And is to come. You’ve walked within the power and protection of that light, Reflecting in your ministry the countless colors hidden and refracted there. They say that some go trailing light Leaving it behind as sparks and embers which, if tended well, Will burn anew and transfer warmth to future travelers. You have been and shared a light And  John of old knew what to call it:...

Read More