In the crush of things last month, I forgot to post my reflection from our parish newsletter as I normally would. On a day when our president has tweeted base insults and every aspect of our national life seems degraded, it seems odd to me that a reflection should turn anywhere but to the ire of the prophets. But even the prophets reminded us of the sweetness of God. The two hold together: wrath and grace, the outcry against injustice and the tenderness of divine affection, the rage of God at our wounding world and the willingness to suffer for our sake. So I offer this, and the reflection of the month to come, mindful that there is much to be decried – but also grace to be spoken.
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I find myself flipping through our recent Bible study material hoping for something that will trigger some inspiration for this article. I have already looked back through my personal journal, but my life is too boring. There wasn’t much there except for the time I smelled smoke in the apartment, thought it was the neighbors, then eventually realized it was coming from my dishwasher. A plastic cutting board had fallen onto the heating element in the bottom, and the button on the front had gotten bumped that called for a “hot dry”.
I hate the smell of melted plastic.
My television died. But there isn’t any real inspiration there. I have not entirely missed watching the news; it gets wearisome as we lurch from one scandal and outrage to another – and from one tragedy to another. It was easier to hear about the bombing in Manchester than to watch it again and again on the television. I can imagine the TV news was full of tearful stories, and I have enough tears thank you.
I still get the news. I switched over to KQED on my radio. Unfortunately my TV went out right at the start of pledge week, but I survived those tediously repetitive appeals – although I did find myself half-wondering whether we should halt the worship service just after the prayer of the day for a pledge-break.
Actually our finances aren’t bad. We ended last month in the black. The first time in a very long time.
So my life is boring. My rent is soaring another couple hundred dollars. It is now more than seven times my house payment in Michigan. I had a mini-crisis searching through boxes to find my birth certificate and the house is still in some disarray. But you’ve seen my office; I can endure disarray.
I have enjoyed the preaching series with the pictures and booklets that we have been doing, but it has turned out to be much more work than I expected. I guess it’s a good thing that my TV picture blinked out. I haven’t had time to watch anything (except I did find a way to watch the Warriors).
It all seems very ordinary and boring. But life is never ordinary. I find myself stopping frequently to take pictures of the roses in the church’s garden. Roses are amazingly beautiful. Even when but a few petals still linger, they float on the edge of the sepal with rare grace. And it’s not just the roses. The orchids in the sanctuary are filled with grace. There’s some wall of passionate pink flowers near the Trader Joe’s – and a wall of jasmine near where I like to park. I smile at the children in the music school running up and down the dirt embankment, testing their balance and thrilling with victory when they balance on that old stump. There were children from the neighborhood on the new bouncy boat in the play yard on the very first day after it was completed. The dad was grateful. There was someone walking the prayer labyrinth last Sunday afternoon, in one of those rare moments the parking lot was empty. There was a night sky when the lights of the city against the low cloud cover created a gorgeous blue layer of sky beneath the clouds.
We are surrounded by graces big and little. A notoriously difficult passage to translate in Psalm 8 suggests that the cooing and babbling of infants is a fortress “to silence the enemy and the avenger.” Every bit of beauty, every simple kindness, every child’s laughter, every kind word or sound silences the claims of fear and evil to rule the world.
Simple joys. Ordinariness. In the midst of anxiety over the country and sorrow over lost friends, there stands the miracle of the ordinary. The sustaining grace of God. The daily rising and setting of the sun. The arc of the moon across the sky. The scamper of lizards across the walk. The sound of crickets in the night. The word of grace in the Biblical text and the bit of bread in our hand. We are surrounded with graces. God grant us eyes to see and ears to hear.