Wednesday, May 2, 2012

O all ye sun-breaks and rain-drops, praise the Lord!

I recently enjoyed one of those truly delightful days of being a cycling pastor. I set out in the cool morning air, joining others making their way to the workplace, part of the flow of morning traffic. Drivers on this morning were very mellow. I had a short chat with a man working a stoplight for change. He wanted to know what kind of bike I was riding. We bade each other a good and productive day.

After a mid-week church service and some morning office work (yes, clergy have plenty of that to do), I went to visit a parishioner across the river. The first part of the journey required some raingear. For some people, cycling in the rain is hard to imagine wanting to do. I have my limit in this matter, but a moderate shower (as this was) really isn’t unpleasant at all, especially this time of year. Having a bike built for such weather helps a lot.

To get to the river from church, I have to (eventually) cross a few major thoroughfares. I decided to try a new route, though. It involved a small pedestrian bridge over one of the many streams rolling through our downtown area. I only noticed this bridge in a residential neighborhood near downtown once I began cycling—having driven by it many, many times over the years. It provided a peaceful respite from the traffic. After crossing the creek, I took the opportunity in that quiet venue to take off the now-unnecessary rain pants…the shower had passed.

Getting to the river was not all creeks-and-willows, though. There was one enormously convoluted intersection to traverse (the stoplight mounting for which can almost pass for a modern art sculpture). This was not the best place to cross, really. I walked my bike through the three crosswalks involved, wondering what it would look like to have an easier way across—and thinking how hard/creative a traffic engineer’s life must be.

After threading my way through some alleys, I arrived at the former railway bridge, now converted to a pedestrian/cycling bridge. This is one of our city’s most far-sighted and enjoyable accommodations for ‘active transportation.’

The bridge was originally completed in 1912, and sports many date plates announcing this fact. The rhythm of girders and supports seems (to me) to shout “Look, you future citizens: we did this! Isn’t technology wonderful!” with all the hometown pride and optimistic innocence pre-WWI America era could muster. No matter what the weather, travelling on this bridge makes me feel happier.

As I returned from my pastoral call, the sky was clearing and the air had a clean, smooth quality to it. People were out walking, taking in the break in the showers. A fellow on a mountain bike I passed looked at me and motioned to the river passing silently under us: “Beautiful, huh?” he said. Golden shafts of light briefly shot through the complex metal web above us.

As I pedaled slowly along—I didn’t want this moment to pass too quickly—I recalled the words of a prayer in our church tradition (inherited from our Jewish forebears) used at daybreak, part of which goes:

O ye sun and moon, bless ye the Lord;
    O ye stars of heaven, bless ye the Lord;
O ye showers and dew, bless ye the Lord;
    praise him and magnify him for ever.

I often like to make up new verses to this hymn as I deal with various situations in life. As I glided over the river on my way home, these came to mind:

O ye sunbreaks and rain-drops, bless ye the Lord;
    O ye in-line skaters and joggers, bless ye the Lord;
O ye cyclists and saunterers, bless ye the Lord;
    praise him and magnify him for ever.

Another journey, made at a leisurely pace, with time to consider and enjoy, on my upright bike with a frame design dating to 1892 (older than the bridge!). Another day of experiencing gratitude for the beauty of nature, the people God puts in our life, the creativity of community leadership, and the “perfect machine” that is the bicycle. O, the miracles we unthinkingly pass by each day.

Sermon ended!