If I Had a Hammer

seegerThe sunsets this time of year are often spectacular, and we love looking out the back of our house, which looks west, to watch the colors spread across the sky. We see them through the sycamore in the back of our yard and the palm trees high above Mentor Ave.When we moved here ten years ago, the sycamore was about 15 feet high; it must be close to fifty now.The beauty of the sky has something to do with the length of light and how it reflects and refracts through the atmosphere and paints the sky and clouds.It arrests us, and we stand, just looking as the light fades.It is easy to just stand there, and a joy to be at rest for some moments and do nothing more than notice the world.

Last night I thought of another long light that had brought beauty to the world, but now is gone.That would be Pete Seeger, who just died at the age of 94.Seeger was one of those rare individuals. Carl Sandburg called him America’s tuning fork.  His songs, his good nature, his belief in the power of song and change, his steadfastness with progressive causes, his belief in democracy and in people – he is a hero. 

His songs reached back and forward, and he believed in a life shared with others.  He was a member of Community Unitarian Universalist Church in New York City.He sang at our General Assembly in 2005 and I remember what an uplifting presence he was.  There was not an ounce of cynicism in him.He, like the sunsets now, had a long view in him, and  a radiance too.It was enough to just stop and listen.

Congregations can be like that.  They have a length in them – all those of the past who built up a community, that have a radiance to them that shines and then fades and is gone, only to be followed by others, just as there will be more beautiful sunsets and more musicians who bring songs of struggle and hope. The communities we join, and hopefully support, exists in both space and time, the past flowing into the present and the present will flow into the future. And the light shines along the way.

We are getting ready to begin our yearly Pledge Campaign when we ask everyone to consider their financial commitment to Neighborhood.  As you think about this beloved community, remember that lots of people did what they could to bring it to the present, and now it is our opportunity to carry it into the future. Think of people like Pete Seeger who was one of us, and think of the beauty of a sunset and how it is good to join with others in seeing and creating beauty in the world. My favorite Seeger song is “If I had a hammer. We have a hammer, ringing out justice and freedom and love between our brothers and our sisters, all over this world.” We are a hammer and we are a bell – remember that.

-Rev. Dr. Jim Nelson

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