From Winter to Spring 2015

From Winter to Spring 2015

From Winter to Spring: Reading from Psalm 22: 25-31 I know this is a risky title for a sermon in Cleveland, even in May. I had to keep my eye on the weather forecast in case I had to change the title or explain it away. Spring came seemingly within a couple of days: first crocus, then daffodils, then tulips, then forsythia, magnolias and fruit trees and Lilacs! This sermon is like that: signs of spring, but all over the place. I’m sorry it is not as straightforward and linear as you are used to. Let me ask: do we experience each other differently in winter than we do in spring? What lens should we use to look at the world? What perspective can we have? Pastor Roger Osgood’s quote from the Resurrection story in John’s Gospel vibrates in my memory: “On the first day of the week, while it was still dark…” resonates with me still, although Roger preached these words on Easter, giving us hope that while the news is dismal and dark like winter often is, there is the hope and joy of resurrection. We always think that our times are the worst and darkest times, but that of course is not true. The Gospels give plenty of hints at the turmoil and unrest of those New Testament days.   It was still plenty dark. Even AFTER the resurrection, the followers of Jesus were keeping the doors and windows locked. And this is still the Easter season. Let me tell you a true story: On my morning walk up Chadbourne Road in Shaker Heights just before dawn on April 29, 2015 (last Wednesday), I chanced to see two mallard ducks, a male and a female, walking up someone’s lawn toward his or her house! Although I have seen everything on my morning walks from skunks and raccoons to deer and even a coyote and a fox one day, I had never seen a pair of ducks. And in my mind, I imagined the female saying to the male: “Where are you taking me? Where the heck is the water? You DO know, I’m a duck, right? Do you think I fell in love with you because of your pretty feathers? I’m supposed to be swimming, NOT hiking!” And I imagined the male’s reply: “Relax, honey! After the sun rises and we take to the air, you’ll not only see the lakes in Shaker, you’ll also see that GREAT lake out there, and it will bring tears to your eyes. But THIS is a perfect place to nest—not crowded, off the beaten path, and landscaped just how we like it!). This is such a good story. I’ve thought...

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Comments on the Psalms

Comments on the Psalms

It is fitting that after Lent and Easter, we allow ourselves to attend the concert of songs which are the Psalms. We read the story of the Passion of Jesus from Mark’s Gospel this year, and echoes of Psalm 22 rang in our ears when the soldiers divided his garments and especially when Jesus began to pray the first verse of this psalm in his agony: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” This verse has come to be known as the “Fourth Word” from the Cross, although for Mark and Matthew it is the ONLY word. John has references to Psalms 69 and 34 in his account of the Passion, both referring to thirst. These references confirm Dr. Beal’s point that “The Psalms give voice to the tremendous depth and breadth of human experience… “( p. 144). The Alleluias of Easter are there, too, and great hope, confidence and joy. If we were to “sing to the Lord a new song” every day, some people would use the psalms, picking one that matches their life situation, their need, their fear, or their heart’s being full of thanksgiving and joy. The psalms have not lost their popularity. Although some books of the bible are read and preached about infrequently, something of the Psalms usually finds its way into worship every Sunday. When the Cleveland Ecumenical Institute scheduled a four week course on the Psalms taught by Rabbi Roger Klein, forty people signed up, and we had to close the enrollment because of lack of space! A priest came to hear the Jewish interpretation of the Psalms. Rabbi Klein brought with him the original Hebrew text, intending to use the original language at times to enlighten the understanding of the translation. Dr. Beal chooses just 6 psalms to include in his book on Biblical Literacy. They are good choices. What mood do they evoke? In 1926, Archibald MacLeish wrote a poem about the nature of poetry, and concluded it with a line that used to be famous: “A poem should not mean, but be!” It was a modernist statement, wanting poems to be like little gems which we could hold up to the light and see the intricacy and ingenuity of their structures as if we were seeing all the colors of the rainbow, dazzling us with their beauty. That MacLeish quote, however, doesn’t seem to apply to the Psalms at all, and never has.As Dr. Beal points out, they do have intriguing parallel structures, and contain lots of imagery, symbols and analogies. But they are not read for their beauty. Many people might comment on the beauty of a Psalm 23, perhaps the most popular among the 150 songs, but people who know that psalm have held on to its verses...

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