Archive for April, 2016

The City–A Sacred Place

Posted: April 26, 2016 in Uncategorized

When I first walked out of the condo this morning, it was nine o’clock and the street was nearly empty, even two thirds of the parking spaces were missing their usual wheeled occupants. I could count the pedestrians on one hand between home and Blondie’s Wine and Coffee Bar. As the day warmed up, so did activity. At 1:00 (Yep, four hours at Blondie’s this morning! It’s one of my writing studios. 🙂 ) the traffic is steadily traveling both east and west. Young entrepreneurs were walking with energy singly or in clumps eagerly talking about their projects. More and more start-ups, particularly of the tech variety, are finding a fertile place on Washington. It gives a vitality to the place.

Such vitality and energy is part of what keeps me young, or at least feeling young. It’s becoming increasingly difficult to know what I should feel like as one who is on the downward side of a septuagenarian. It is the raison d’être for living where I do and not moving to a retirement village, particularly one in a pastoral setting. I do grant that there is something redeeming about being in touch with the soil and living things it produces. Many lessns can be extrapolated from an ecologically natural environment.

There is also something to be learned in the interaction of people when one is submerged in life as it is lived in cities today and not as people encountered it in the past. Even though I am in an urban environment, I am not disassociated from living things. Not only are people everywhere, as I looked out the window at Blondie’s, I saw newly green shrubbery surrounding Rosalita’s Cantina patio, reddish new growth on potted rose bushes, red-leafed maple trees at Sen Thai restaurant, and the filigreed effect of new oak leaves in the park. In a few days I suspect the hanging planters all over downtown will be filled with flowers, greenery, and other beautiful living accents. I’ll take the vitality, energy and progressive stimulation of an urban setting to the quiet lethargically pastoral rural setting that is focused on conserving the past.

I am talking about personal choice and in no way intend my comments to be taken as normative for all people. To examine this problem theological, there is a strong theology of place to be found in Christian Scripture: Jacob’s well, the altar on the other side of the sea, Mount Sinai, cities of sanctuary, Golgotha, the empty tomb, (these can be developed into a salvific theology rife with symbolism, metaphors, and typology).

I could talk about the theology of place in pastoral settings, but I live in a city and so am reflecting the place where I am. The theology of place is redemptive when one’s spirit connects with the Spirit of God. I left Blondie’s and walk along Washington Avenue. An old lady with a scarcity of teeth looks up at me from the bench she’s on. She was dressed in clothes that last had been refreshed with water and detergent long ago. She smiles widely revealing a couple of teeth and says, “Good morning, sir. Isn’t God good today”? As I walked on my mind touched my heart; God spoke to me through her. I choose not to judge the instrument through which God spoke, nor his message. I heard her voice again and looked back over my shoulder. She was blessing the next pedestrian to walk by her.

Over on the corner of Ninth and Olive a handsome young man was strumming a guitar. I almost missed a moment of spiritual reflection when I walked passed. I was about to dismiss him as just another homeless youth begging for a dollar. He wasn’t. He wasn’t homeless, nor was he begging. As I listened, I discovered not an untrained strumming of strings but rather the beautiful sound of a trained classical guitarist blessing people through his music. People weren’t passing him by; they were stopping to listen. He made that city street corner a spiritual place.

My walk included the Mississippi waterfront. From there, I turned toward home planning to stop at a coffee shop I frequent. The young barista was sitting on a stool gloomily looking out the window. “Afternoon, Shawn,” I said. “How are you.”

He slowly moved off of the tall chair and just as slowly walked behind the counter as he muttered “Okay.”

He wasn’t. I said, “You don’t look like you’re okay.”

After a moment’s hesitation, he said, “You gotta take the hard times with the good ones,” and began making my decaf latte. He handed it to me and said, “Ya know? The good times wouldn’t be nearly so good without the bad ones.” And smiled. His energy picked up and he was quickly back to his usual pleasant manner. When I suggested that he not push the bad down and not deal with it. He quickly responded that that doesn’t work; he’d tried it. “Ya gotta look it in the face and work through it,” he said, and smiled broadly as he handed me my latte.

There is something sacred about the mosaic of God’s created people rubbing souls together in the space we call a city.

A Living, Dynamic Design—The City

The wind blows
The clean team sweeps
The guides walk
Baristas create
Traffic hums
Leaves flutter
Buses put in order
Workmen focus
Shops open/close
Dinners eat
Drinkers imbibe
Street crews dig
People pray
Construction workers build
Families play
Leaves fall
Entrepreneurs negotiate
Homeless gather
Bicyclists pedal
Trash trucks gather
People walk
Dogs pee
People talk
Emergency vehicles speed
Congregations worship
Police officers patrol
Rain falls
Postal workers carry
Children play
Workers mow
Passengers ride
School children study
Lawyers debate
Ferris wheel turns
Children slide
Dogs bark
Conversations hum
Servers attend
The city–a living, dynamic design
always changing
always the same