Sunday, April 26, 2009

When In Our Music God Is Glorified

The Third Sunday of Easter

Today's Word:
Acts 3:13-19 (Peter: 'I know you put Jesus to death out of ignorance, just as your leaders did')
Psalm 4:2-9 (Lord, let your face shine on us)
1 John 2:1-5 (Whoever keeps His word has the love of God truly perfected in him)
Luke 24:35-48 ("Peace be with you!")

Philippians 1:12-26 (Paul of Tarsus: "I trust that my life will bring honor to Christ, whether I live or die")

For a reflection on today's Gospel reading, please see my post "I Haven't Eaten in Three Days!" of Easter Thursday, April 16, in the blog archives.

This weekend passing has been a very busy one. For one, it's one of the frequent enough hiccups in my schedule where I sing in both churches on the same weekend - with my Catholic community on Saturday, and the folks at Cornerstone UMC on Sunday. Saturday's occasion was a big one - sixteen young adults and two a bit older received the sacrament of Confirmation from the Bishop of Joliet  - in Catholicism, the bishop is the ordinary minister of the sacrament (there are very few exceptions to this).

There were also two weddings yesterday, one in each of my extended families. Because of the commitment and the distance, we did not go to either of the weddings. As it turned out, as there was no way I could go to one without hurting feelings over the other, I am prompted to be humbly thankful that I was busy; and also to pray for long and happy marriages for both couples.

When Confirmation is celebrated, it can sometimes seem like the clashing of the old and the young, the traditional and the contemporary. As the recipients are young, it would be helpful if the liturgy was more suited to their level (especially with regard to music, as music is probably the most flexible and subjective component within ritual). In many a Catholic environment, you have kids in their teens and whose lifestyles 'clash' with a bishop three to five times their age. In that specific environment, the bishop always wins. Cornerstone will hold their celebration of Confirmation at the end of May. At this point, I had arbitrarily made myself available to be there that Sunday; a chance to compare and contrast.

For various reasons I was the designated song leader for this Mass. I was prepared enough. Yet the older I get, and the more I realize what I did and received on the day of my ordination fifteen years ago, the stronger the pull of emotional energy through me when the high Masses of the year take place. I now experience increasing difficulty maintaining my composure when a traditional hymn such as Come, Holy Ghost is part of the liturgy - and the bigger it is, the more energy I feel being pulled through me.

I picked up one very important thing the bishop said in his homily to all gathered. He summarized it to the younger folks by saying that "Confirmation is not Graduation." I remembered that earlier in my life I believed that the Church had all the answers to getting through this life; it was among my reasoning why I felt called to serve within the Church. Here is the #1 person of the diocese saying this quest goes on infinitely. He's correct, of course - a journey in faith is a lifelong process. While the Church may hold all known revelation, not all has been revealed. That's something I could easily have overlooked when I was younger.

Today, in a less formal and more contemporary setting, my son and I returned to Cornerstone. And once again, I felt I was prepared enough. Here, I play bass guitar in addition to singing. I am no virtuoso at the instrument - those who know me well and have followed this blog from the start know this well. After all these years I play just well enough to tackle singing at the same time.

My dear wife's been playing with the Oriental literary form, the haiku. Today I read some of her handiwork; among the offerings:

Haiku is easy
The original Twitter
(If Twitter could think!)

(Punctuation emphasis mine)

I'm not as quick on my feet writing this stuff - she makes it look easy. Looking at the length of some of my musings, coupled with my demeanor, the best I could compose - with her help - is:

I like bigger words
Simple words can say a lot
Silence is golden

Anyway, I have a big mou--- I mean, voice, and I'm not afraid to use it. When the energy is there in the right mix, I will help 'raise the roof'. I know that better now than I ever have.

Pastor Paul's sermon on Philippians 1:12-26 also caught me looking at what I do. In the light of what I wrote here on Friday, commenting on Dave Ramsey's "Town Hall for Hope", I had to ask myself: Is what I do serving Christ or serving self? At different points along my journey, I realize that I didn't always have my priorities straight. While I felt the need to question Dave's motives, I also turned this into an opportunity to question my own. That's a good thing. Whatever his motives are, the fact is that people have been helped through his program. I don't know him well enough to be certain if my appraisal of his priorities where it comes to proclaiming the Gospel are true. I do know that Jesus said He who is not against us is for us; and Paul of Tarsus wrote to the Philippians that intent is secondary if the message of hope and about Christ is being proclaimed. 

And with that, I had no qualms about giving everything I could find in myself to singing a similar message of hope:
Let the song arise, yeah! Everyone sing a new Hallelujah!

Between all of us gathered in that place, the roof was definitely raised just a bit.

When in our music God is glorified,
and adoration leaves no room for pride,
it is as though the whole creation cried

How often, making music, we have found
a new dimension in the world of sound,
as worship moved us to a more profound

So has the Church, in liturgy and song,
in faith and love, through centuries of wrong,
borne witness to the truth in every tongue,

And did not Jesus sing a psalm that night
when utmost evil strove against the Light?
Then let us sing, for whom he won the fight,

Let every instrument be tuned for praise!
Let all rejoice who have a voice to raise!
And may God give us faith to sing always
Alleluia! Amen.

--When In Our Music God Is Glorified
Fred Pratt Green (1903-2000)

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