Last Sunday, St. Andrew’s guests were The African Community Choir of St. Cyril’s Roman Catholic Church. They gave gifts that were marvelous to our eyes and ears, adding light and unbridled joy to our liturgy.
It was an amazing hour and a half.
Once, during that time, my eyes wandered to the carved, wooden crucifix hanging on the east wall.
I could have sworn it moved and said, “Hey!~ Get me down from here!”
I’M SAFE WHILE HE’S STUCK UP THERE
Two words – “Free Jesus” – scare hell out of me.
Have you noticed how we use the image of the cross and Jesus’ suffering so much more than images of liberation, joy and freedom?
The liberated Jesus is a problem child. The one who attacks the religious establishment. The one who overturns the world’s tables of economic inequity; who aggressively and violently lays the whip to money changers and the “generation of vipers”. He, the Wrecker of Holy Havoc.
Could his Momma not teach him how to behave?
THANKS BE TO GOD, MY SAINT SELF AIN’T SAFE
It mostly happens when I’m not looking.
A little voice or impulse says, “Turn here” and I do.
Sometimes that winds up being a HUGE mistake. That’s when I’m hearing only what I want to hear.
Many times the voice leads to miracles that I keep private. God and I know I’m grateful for each one. They are smile-markers on my journey.
WHAT’S THIS HAVE TO DO WITH MUSIC
I hope there comes a time when I am OK with Jesus roaming around off lead.
When I’m comfortable with the ribald, revolutionary, storytelling Spirit, roaming restless streets, sleeping in least-of-these parks, crying on the bathroom floor with a bleeding child or woman.
Yes, I know it happens everyday, but so many times it is despite me. I’m not involved.
I long for that Spirit, I pray for that courage – even though I am often too afraid to free it in myself.
Except in worship and music.
WORSHIP IS NOT SAFE
Annie Dillard said,
Why do people in church seem like cheerful, brainless tourists on a packaged tour of the Absolute? … Does anyone have the foggiest idea what sort of power we blithely invoke? Or, as I suspect, does no one believe a word of it? The churches are children playing on the floor with their chemistry sets, mixing up a batch of TNT to kill a Sunday morning. It is madness to wear ladies’ straw hats and velvet hats to church; we should all be wearing crash helmets. Ushers should issue life preservers and signal flares; they should lash us to our pews. For the sleeping god may wake someday and take offense, or the waking god may draw us to where we can never return.
[Annie Dillard, Teaching a Stone to Talk: Expeditions and Encounters (New York: Harper & Row, 1982), pp. 40-41.]
So – the music of worship must not be safe.
If you’re gonna use Beethoven as a tool to enrich worship, then by the power of God – Free Beethoven! The same is true for Palestrina or Tallis or Keith Getty or Arvo Pärt or Mozart or U2 or Billy Joe Shaver.
Raise praise and shout prayer and cry Kyrie with every slimy string of your insides. Empty your heart. Leave no tear unshed. No heart whole. Let there be no crumb left on the Table of Grace.
And don’t you dare mumble at God.