July 2, 2015

Summer Flames – Meditation for Fathers Day, 2015

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , , , at 11:47 am by Rev. Thomas Perchlik

Flames connect us. You know that it is the sunlight of a million summers, caught by photosynthesis, sealed in the earth, that we burn within car engines, moving us here, or there. We gather at fires in the winter, but it was under summer skies when I was closest to my father. We would camp in the mountains, hiking toward the sun. I learned from him to turn a pile of sticks into a fire, to heat beans or perk coffee. I remember liking the taste of burnt marshmallows: their molten centers so sweet on the tongue. Never as golden as his. 

 Perhaps it was a charcoal grill your father cooked on. A fine combination of lighter fluid and smoke may summon his younger self back to you. Perhaps your father was furnace hot burning you with words or strikes. My father lit sparkers in our hands, and one July he had to chase a burning wheel of fire through dry grass to stop a forest from catching flame. I remember his sun-dark skin, sweat radiant, working a shovel in summer heat. 

Perhaps the sun is a god, as some imagined, quickening life, changing the earth, transforming each of us. Or perhaps the summer sun is an icon of something like love; source of power, fearsome, more distant than the inconstant moon, and yet shining in our eyes and skin, warming our minds and heart in this very moment. 

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December 13, 2010

Seasonal Peace

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 3:42 pm by Rev. Thomas Perchlik

A few days back, I got up early to go jogging with my dog through the new-fallen snow. We were full of energy. The dog saw a squirrel behind every tree and in every yard we passed. There was so much sound: the sound of our feet on the snow, the sound of my hat and earmuffs rubbing against my ears , my coat sleeves swooshing against my sides, the sound of cars taking people to school, the sound of a blue jay startled by our passing. My mind ran through the day’s news, my plans, thoughts of conversations and sermons.

Then we came to the thick woods beside the high school and stopped. No wind blew. The cars were stilled since school had started. No one was outside. One clean, unbroken sheet of snow turned the sport fields into shrines for the contemplation of silence. The trees towered in their white-traced elegance. The words of Wendell Berry came to me: “For a time I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.”

The religious life is like this. Not one of busy activity, nor one of silent contemplation, but of both together. As I stood silently, endorphins from my jogging intensified my awareness. The hyper energy of my dog made his moment of utter stillness awesome. The memory of crowds cheering in the stands, the green of summer, my daughters competing on those fields, all deepened the quiet of that place and time.

Soon my restless dog wanted to be off running. I let him sprint into the woods. before long I had to get back to exercise and the office. This is how it is. We begin engaged in the world. After a time, we must retreat to consider, ponder, and sort. Beyond even that we need to rest in the ultimate grace of life. Then, drawing from that deep well, we are able to return through thought and planning to engage again in the work of our days.

I hope your holiday season is blessed with balance, of vital work and deep peace.

February 22, 2008

Labyrinth Ghosts

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , at 1:25 pm by Rev. Thomas Perchlik

From May through October our worship faces north, into the woods, but in the bright bareness of winter all the chairs face west.  That north wall of the UU sanctuary in Muncie is all glass (at least for a third of the way up).  The east wall of the room is brick with three spaces for doors and one half the brick is hidden behind a wooden set of screens on which we have displayed the early history of our church (1859 to ~1900).   On Wednesday we took out several back rows of chairs and made a “U” of chairs on the south side that opened to a labyrinth.  One of my talented lay-leaders took brown paper bags, added sand and tea-lights and arranged them in a meandering line that began in the south and ended in the center with a small “loop” of about seven luminaria.  That night, when we turned off most of the overhead lights, the room was beautiful.  After some readings, a song and a little homily (about how life looks like a maze when we begin, but more like a labyrinth when we look back on our journey) we walked through the dark and silence; always keeping the little lights on one’s left.  Thus we walked on either side of the line, in and out again.  It was simple and elegant.  To the north we could see reflections of ourselves walking beyond the glass out in the woods, like ghosts walking where the near full moonlight illuminating the snow and tree trunks.  I have walked labyrinths in Oregon and New Mexico, Colorado and Ohio, on a bright clear morning and at sunset.  Sometimes it is a simple, uninspiring act.  Other times such walks get me thinking, or they awaken in me a sense of harmony and peace.  Sometimes they remind me of ancient earth-centered worship, other times of Christian pilgrimage to a Holy place, or the Sufi ‘journey to the beloved.’  Of my three favorite labyrinths all were temporary.  The first I made in the dry grass of a West Texas winter with lines of corn-meal.  The second was made of planters and lights on a high hill overlooking a river.  The third was in the Muncie UU Church Sanctuary this past Wednesday night.  The only sorrow for me was that there were so few people there to appreciate it.