By Tom Ehrich
I love New York in the rain.
Well, not a steady downpour. That’s just getting soaked and still having many blocks to walk.
But a light rain, a good rain jacket with hood, Gore-Tex shoes, a worthy destination, and my beloved wife at my side — that’s city life at its best.
The city sparkles — yes, even grimy old Manhattan can sparkle. Idle wanderers and sidewalk cloggers — a/k/a tourists — are inside museums, leaving the sidewalks to locals with a purpose.
Errands become an adventure. Stepping inside the fish market at 39th and Ninth feels like seeing fish on display for the first time. Even the basketball-sized octopus looks inviting.
The Greek market next door feels like a haven for friends, even though we are strangers to them. We browse a Mediterranean-style array of bins (dried beans, bulk spices) and barrels (olives, coffee beans), shelves of cheese and olive oil, trays of baklava. We leave carrying far more weight than we would normally shlep for 15 blocks, but with a sense of victory.
Stiles Farm Market one block away isn’t as much fun. Today’s ambient music is loud and jangly. Rain sounds would have been better. We bought the minimum and sought refuge in the windy mist outside.
Back home, I spent more time on Facebook than I normally do. I noticed many clergy struggling to prepare sermons for Trinity Sunday, the only religious holiday devoted to a doctrine, as opposed to a person or event.
My answer: preach about rain. If it’s raining outside, preach about rain. No matter what argument long-ago church leaders were trying to resolve in their convoluted Trinitarian formula, God is here today, and the issue at hand is rain — as well as hunger, poverty, injustice, lives distorted by wealth, societies corrupted by greed, parents yearning for hope in raising their children, old folks yearning for safety and purpose, lost souls yearning for meaning.
Those quests, and the many others we experience, have little to do with religious doctrine. They are about the rains of reality, not the opinions of theologians.
Or if I were anywhere near Indianapolis, I would preach about the 500-Mile Race starting at noon today. Specifically, the brief but profound moment of deep spirituality that will occur just before noon, when cheers greet active-duty military parading down the track to their special seats, the crowd sings along on the National Anthem, the Roman Catholic archbishop calls 400,000 people to silence for prayer remembering the fallen and seeking peace, when a lone bugler plays “Taps,” and everyone becomes a Hoosier for one day and sings “Back Home Again in Indiana.”
In these few minutes, our better natures will come together: respect for those who serve, love of nation, faith in a God who expects more of us, gratitude for the price many paid for freedom, and a wistful and yet earnest desire for home.
That will preach. In fact, it will preach better than any verbal gymnastics about “three in one, and one in three.”
When it’s raining outside, share your umbrella.