Life Is a Thump-Ripe Melon
I’ve long been a fan of singer-songwriter Joan Baez for a long time. Not always: I guess I was aware that she had been present at Woodstock; and I was a pretty prissy guy when I was a kid and that awareness turned me off on so many things. But as she – and I – have matured, I’ve rediscovered her, with her talent, her show-person-ship and I’ve also discovered her as a person of faith who has made a career of advancing the reign of God. I knew that in the civil rights era she was close to Martin Luther King, Jr., and had been jailed as a protester for civil rights. In the early sixties, she made a pilgrimage to Kentucky to spend time with Thomas Merton. Some of her songs are fun; some inspirational; some are hymns; some are anthems. And some are profound: an album released maybe fifteen years ago includes the song, “Lookin’ for Rexroth’s Daughter,” in which she states, “Life is a thump-ripe melon: so sweet … and such a mess.” I smile: I recognized the truth immediately. As I grow older, though, it feels the more poignant – and the more true. I mean: “such a mess!” … Fires in Canada clouded the Minnesota skies when I was there for a family wedding a couple of weeks ago; smoke from fires in California cloud the Colorado skies which another old song claims “are not cloudy all day.” And we wish those skies would cloud up, really, because clouds can bring rain: and we want rain so desperately. Farmers here wonder if there will be a corn crop; some places wheat has seemed hardly worth the effort and expense of harvesting. And yet: this morning, sunlit at 8:30 AM, driving north on Colorado SR 61 to meet my class, the corn looked green; the brown stubble fields from harvested wheat fields looked golden-brown brilliant; the small sunflowers in the ditches were wild in cheerful disarray, and the larger sunflowers in cultivated fields were splendid in yellow exuberance. The political unruliness irritates, but it doesn’t stop Joan Baez from singing, “Ain’t gonna let the state of the country turn me around: going to build a brand new world.” (She’s been singing that for decades, too!) And corona-virus or not, with all the devastation and disruption it continues to bring, the sunflowers still encourage an attentive person’s heart as we hurtle past the middle of August on a too-sunny morning. This is God’s world: and in God’s world weeds and wild flowers continue to break through paved parking lots and concrete walks. Disruption and chaos? Or explosion of beauty? Shucks, not even all the order and discipline of the Roman Army were able to keep a crucified Jesus contained for very long. Such messiness. Such sweetness. The human condition of all of us who live in God’s broken and beautiful creation. Poet Jane Hirshfield writes of Kosovo in a short poem: she writes of the grand buildings that have been leveled: and of flowers growing in the rubble. That’s life. So sweet – and such a mess. And here is where God calls us to build God’s “brand new world” – from the rubble of what has been destroyed.
The Rev. Allen Heggen