15 April 2010

Sermon By The Tracks, CSX - Patapsco Church Of The Brethren

See that white building in the background? That is a church. Take note of that metal box that is left of center  in the photo, up against the tracks. That is important, as you will see. The church is Korean Baptist , I believe.  A humble structure, it is hard up against the road and a rail line. The lot bumps right up against the rail crossing, which itself abuts the lovely Patapsco River, here in my neck o' the woods, so to speak. Across the road are some modest homes, also close to the road, and a parking lot for the state park which brackets the river. Just south of all this (left in the picture) there is a also a stone quarry that produces some lovely product. The quarry is a reminder of the industry that used to make the river one of the most important economic engines in the region.

But I am not writing today of economics and industry, brothers and sisters, I am writing about gettin' churched. 

I was out for a Sunday morning hike along the river trail, seeking to clear my head and get a grip on myself. Was I thinking about God or religion or enlightenment or anything like that? Not directly. I was letting myself just breathe and put one foot in front of the other. So it was with open mind and clear head I approached that metal box there beside the tracks. Other than knowing it has something to do with the care and feeding of the trains that rumble along these tracks, I cannot say what is its function. There was grease or oil, there were hoses running from the box to the rails, there was a mysterious (and gunked up) mat laying between the rails and over the ties. Whilst contemplating this machinery tableaux, I noticed some writing on top of the box, hand scrawled in white paint:

I was scratching my head for a bit, trying to figure out why that, why here? The box was about the size of a pulpit, a generous one. Maybe this was a spot for someone to bless the trains as they lumber along the rails, doing the dirty work so that others may make things out of the ore, the metals the coal that travels this route. Maybe there is an industrial analog of St. Francis, preaching to the rail cars instead of the animals.

I decided it made no difference, really, why someone put it there. I suppose they were inspired by some mysterious exhortation of their own soul, brought on by the strange peace of the place. While standing there contemplating the words, I became aware of just how quiet it was, even though not far from the road. Quiet in the sense that I heard little to no noises generated by humans or human activity. I heard birds, ducks, an enthusiastic woodpecker somewhere in a tree down by the water. I heard the low murmur of the river itself and the faint rustle of breezes in the early greening leaves. It was peaceful, it was beautiful in its own way.

In saw no trains that day, so I did not get to see what that mysterious box might do. I did, however, get a little of that for which I went hiking. I got some peace of mind, and that, my friends, was all the churchin' I needed.

Photo credits: Irish Gumbo


  1. One thing that confounds me is how trains in my country are run so badly and so late. Maybe that was what they were getting at?!

  2. I find the entire passage confounding, myself.

    Peace of mind...good for you. Can you send some my way? Beloved's writing our yearly check to the government and peace of any kind is in short supply today.


  3. I stopped trying to make sense of biblical verses.

    The only one I really live by is the Golden Rule.

    I mean, did we really need to know more than that?

  4. Returning to nature is always a wonderful way to clear one's head.

    And believe it or not, I love the sound of the train in the dead of night. Always have, always will.
    And the answer is yes...I actually live right by the tracks - out in the sticks. Lovely.
    Nice post Gumby ol' chap.

  5. It's a brilliant biblical passage, and it's brilliant that it's placed in such a seemingly random place. It's a "foolish thing in the world" and it's meant to confound us!

  6. Nice fine, Gumby! Apparently you were meant to find it and share with us. Thanks for that. :-)

  7. That was supposed to say nice find grrr, blogger.

  8. It's much funnier in ancient Greek.

  9. I'm confounded by the wise, weak, mighty and foolish most days. But I'm not a train wreck today.

  10. And god hath chosen to put metal boxes beside train tracks to confound us all.


"Let your laws come undone
Don't suffer your crimes
Let the love in your heart take control..."

-'The Hair Song', by Black Mountain

Tell me what is in your heart...