Sunday, July 19, 2009

The Hills Are Alive With The Sound Of Sheep

The Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Today's Word:
Jeremiah 23:1-6 (RC - "Woe to the shepherds who have misled and scattered the flock of God's pasture...I will raise up a righteous shoot to David")
2 Samuel 7:1-14 (UMC - "Should you build me a house to dwell in?")
Psalm 23 (RC - The Lord is my shepherd)
Psalm 89:20-37 (UMC - He shall cry to me, 'You are my God, who brings me victory')
Ephesians 2:13-18 (RC; 2:11-22 UMC - Christ is peace and hope to all)
Mark 6:30-34 (RC; +6:53-56 UMC - Jesus had pity on the people assembled, for they were as sheep without a shepherd)

Sign for Our Times:

Motorists traveling through parts of Arizona may encounter this "Sheep Crossing" sign.

Sheep raising is more prevalent in the western US than in other parts of the country. It's even bigger in other parts of the world - New Zealand, Australia, and Ireland come to mind as places where sheep might outnumber the human population in places.

That said, it is often hard for us suburban and city folks to identify with all these shepherding references in the Bible. Even though we're savvy enough to understand that this was a steady profession at the time of Jesus, we can't easily wrap our brains around the concept.

Today I heard those references put in a context that I most readily understand - music.

It's really quite simple - God is the Composer; Jesus, the Conductor; and we are the musicians; members of the band, as it were. If the band's supposed to be playing a ballad and the guitar starts 'rocking out' (or the piano player gets rather funky), Jesus is going to leave the band on stage and go after that wayward musician. And if the singers don't harmonize well? The sound produced is not very good. But when there's good harmony? Oh, what beautiful music we can make! (Thanks, Father Dennis!)

Do we listen to each other? Do we listen to God? Do we have an ear trained to understand that some of us are meant to be drummers, and others more suited to the clarinet, the glockenspiel, or the French horn? Or, as Isaiah writes, Are we like sheep gone astray; every one to his or her own way?

It's the director's (or conductor's) mission in music to interpret what the composer has written and assure that Beethoven's Pastoral Symphony indeed sounds pastoral. Yes, music is a subjective area - and many a contemporary artist has tried 'updating' a classic piece of music, putting a different spin on the original composition. Those who are successful at this do so without removing the feel and overall ambience of the original. In another context, while improving the wheel it's not reinvented.

At this point in the cycle of readings, the stage is being set for one of the greatest of Jesus' presentations of God's eternal concert. He will speak to the assembly at some length; and then, being as considerate as he is, will feed the large crowd - not just with words, and not just with food; but with his very essence. Beginning next week and for the next five weeks, we will once again consider Jesus as the Bread of Life and the Cup of Hope, Promise, and Salvation.

Prayer: God, you created us with such great potential - and yet, many times, we act much like sheep in the pasture. Help us to see Your will, your plan, your composition for life and the part we play in it. And may the music we raise truly be a worthy song in praise of Your glory, power, wisdom, and love. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

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