Monday, June 12, 2017

Gratitude – Or Psalm 8 Part Deux -  Windowpanes

            It is a hot summer day – the kind that fills a room with bright sunshine and highlights the verdant greens outside the window.  It is one of those kinds of days when the heart is full of gratitude.  The creation spills over into all parts of life.  For a moment in time the political dialogue is on mute.  The “to do” list is on hold.  The gift that is our planet, the creation that is around us and includes us, holds sway.

            Yesterday I chose Psalm 8 as my text for preaching on Trinity Sunday.  This morning I am still held by the attention we gave to the Mystery of God in all creation.  The Literary Bible, An Original Translation, David Rosenberg (Counterpoint, Berkeley, 2009) provides a contemporary translation from Hebrew of Psalm 8.  The verses italicized are from this translation.

My Lord Most High
your name shines
on the page of the world

from behind the lights
covering the heavens –

            My musings for the day include window views – and the practice of gratitude for those glimpses of the world we get beyond our shielded panes of glass.  What follows is a Litany of Joy and Gratitude expressed through window moments from my photo collection and David Rosenberg’s translation of the Psalm 8.

My Lord Most High
your names shines
on the page of the world

from behind the lights
covering the heavens-

my lips like infants

held to the breast
to stun the darkest thoughts

when I look up
from the work of my fingers
I see the moon and stars

your hand set there

The sunsets and sunrises,


the flowers and the changing seasons enter into my busy life and tell me to “Be Still”.



and I can barely think
what is a man

how did you spare a thought for him
care to remember
his line

descending through death
yet you let him rise
above himself, toward you

The windows pointing to the Christ Story remind me always of how God cares for us…

From the birth of Jesus…


Though the sacrament of baptism….


And the Sacrament of Holy Communion where we remember with thanksgiving the sacrifice of the cross and the reality of the Resurrection.


held by music of words…
you set his mind in power
to follow the work of your hand

laying the world at his  feet
all that is nameable
all that changes through time

Stained glass windows tell the story of Jesus for all to see and read and show me the work of God’s hand, the vision of God’s kin-dom.


[St. Stephen’s UCC, Harrisonburg, VA]

[St. Paul’s UCC, Woodstock, VA]

[Mt. Calvary UCC, Woodstock, VA]

from canyons to the stars
to starfish
at bottom of the sea

all that moves blazing a path
in air or water
or deep space of imagination on paper

My Lord Most High
your name shines
on the pages of the world.

How might you illustrate a Psalm of Gratitude?

Grace and Peace,

Rev. Clara

Friday, June 2, 2017

Freedom to …


            Yesterday my husband and I made our annual pilgrimage to Arlington National Cemetery.  In recent years we have been going there on the days near either Memorial Day or Veterans Day.  We have now five gravesites we visit on these trips.  They mark the final resting place of one relative, one neighbor, and three friends with whom my husband once served during his Army career.

            Over the years I have gone to this sacred place as a location for contemplation and reflection and yes, even exercise.  When we visit our normal five gravesites we have walked the far reaches of the cemetery, up hill and down!

            Yesterday’s trip was particularly poignant for me as an Army wife and as an ordained minister.  The picture above is from one of two caissons bearing the caskets to their final resting place.  In all the years that I have been going to Arlington, this is the first time I have experienced this.  I was moved to tears by this final tribute to a life given in service to our country.

            As I walked those hallowed grounds I thought about the freedoms for which these men and women fought.  Because of recent newspaper coverage of local events, I particularly thought about the Bill of Rights, especially Freedom of Speech. 

            Within the past week a noose was displayed on a tree near the Hirshhorn Sculpture Garden on the Washington Mall.  Another noose appeared inside the new National Museum of African-American History and Culture.  According to the news release from the Smithsonian, tourists found the noose Wednesday afternoon on the floor in front of the interpretive display about the KKK and segregation.  The noose has been found displayed (complete with hate language) on the campus of American University.  There is a definitely ugly and evil pattern of protest developing in the nation’s capital.


            I have no idea of the political ideology of the fallen soldier on way to his final resting place yesterday midday.  One of the powerful effects of Arlington National Cemetery is the uniform gravesites where all who served are honored with equality.

            I do know, being an Army wife, is that those men and women who fought for freedom did not intend that our freedoms should be used for hate and violence against one another.  Yes, our freedom of speech, means we can resort to the lowest common denominator of language.  But it does not condone such hate language (in word, symbol, or action) because that is not an American value.  We, as Americans, are at our best when we affirm our dignity as Americans and when we talk, debate, compromise with one another for our common good. 

            As a minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ I felt a deep pain yesterday as I walked throughout Arlington National Cemetery.  It was a pain of loss.  Yes, of course, the loss of those buried there.  But more than that, I felt a loss of our humanity toward one another.  I felt the loss that is being symbolized through a distortion of the teachings in the Bible.  I felt a loss that “Me First” was displacing “We together”. 

            In Galatians 5:13-15 the Apostle Paul writes:  For you were called for freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become slaves to one another.  For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”  If, however, you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another.


            As the graves of those who have fought for freedom stand sentinel overlooking both the Pentagon and our national capital, Washington DC, may we all return to the values embedded in our founding documents that freedom of speech is not meant to destroy the fabric of our life together in all our diversity.

Grace and Peace,

Rev. Clara