Monday, April 16, 2007
Wednesday, March 28, 2007
Tune" (Many's the time I've been mistaken, and many times
confused...,) which I've always liked a lot, uses a tune that is
actually not originally American.
From a folk music website:
"American Tune - Lyrics by Paul Simon. The tune was used by J.S. Bach
in the "Passion Chorale" of his St. Matthew Passion (1727) and other
works. It was not original to Bach, however. He took it from a love
song written by Hans Leo Hassler in 1601. "
What makes this extra interesting to me is that the Passiontide (week
before Easter) song "O Sacred Head, Now Wounded" also uses the
plaintive tune. In hymnals, the melody is called Passion Chorale and
is attributed to Hassler with Bach supplying harmony.
The words of this hymn are powerful and they invoke three Christian
themes (at least).
One is the way that Christians have stared this particular death in
the face. In the best of times, this means that Christians teach the
world to look and see suffering and weep.
A second theme is that somehow Jesus' suffering was "all for sinners'
gain"; that Jesus died so that sinners would avoid suffering. In the
best of times, this means that Christians have something hopeful and
powerful to say to those who have ruined themselves such that no
forgiveness seems possible and to those whom life its own self has
ruined such that there is no reason to trust.
The third theme is powered by how Jesus, dying on the cross, prayed,
"Father, forgive them for they know not what they do." In the best
of times, this touches and changes us and leads us to love Jesus.
Brian Wren wrote new words to the tune of which the first verse is this.
Here hangs a man discarded,
A scarecrow hoisted high,
A nonsense pointing nowhere
To all who hurry by.
Can such a clown of sorrow
Still bring a useful word
Where faith and love seem phantoms
And every hope absurd?
(I found the song in the Chalice Hymnal, which notes that the Hope
Publishing Co. holds the copyright for Brian Wren.)
Two other verses are awesome too. The Christian theme in this verse
concerns the embarrassment we might feel claiming a savior who is
merely cast aside by empire and culture in no particular special
way. In the best of times, this opens the story to those for whom
the absurdity of Jesus' inglorious ending has been a block to
"getting" Jesus. This is precisely the problem of the crucifixion
and also its power. For Jesus dies in as ignominious a way as any
peasant killed by rebel or state militia, as anyone who starves or
dies rich and empty inside. This "savior" is as weak before the
forces of disease, convention, and power as we are. So, when
Christians have been honest about that, some will choose to listen
further, hoping that this story can be trusted.
Thursday, March 08, 2007
Waiting for the summer, waiting to see which flowers will come up,
just like you,
Waiting to see how long it will be that some people are not free,
Waiting for you.
But I am not only waiting.
While I do not puff my cheeks to make the wind blow, I am thrilled by
the way my winds blow all over this world.
When the ice cream truck comes down the street ringing its bell, my
pulse quickens just thinking about a Creamsicle.
When taking the next step suddenly looks possible to you, I am the
one who has made the change that tips the "better wait" into the
"time to go."
I am listening.
Listening for the song of the fields, the song of the sea.
Listening for the sound of the car in the driveway coming home.
Listening to every word that is said and every tune that is played.
Listening for your footsteps coming to me.
But I am not only listening.
When the one who plays guitar in the subway finishes the song, I drop
a few bills and say, "Great song! Thanks!"
When the word is read by each of you, I am filled with hope and
determination. I am renewed just like you are.
When you have sought me in the busy world, in the silent places, in
your joy, and in your despair, as I have spoken before so am I still
You are mine.
Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born
I consecrated you.
I am with you always, to the end of the age.
I will dwell with you as your God; you will be my people, and I
myself will be with you; I will wipe every tear from your eyes.
I am yours.
You say, "... as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD."
You pray, "Father, who art in heaven..."
You sing, "We your people, ours the journey, now and ever! now and
ever! now and evermore!"
You dwell in my house for all your days.
June 1, 2004
Tuesday, January 16, 2007
O Holy One, you did come to walk among us for a time. On the day that you rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, our ancestors in faith greeted you with palms and loud hosannas. All these years later we wonder, what did you know that day? Were the loud hosannas sweet to your ears? Were you glad to see us; we who were so hungry to see you?
Like those ancestors in faith, we are cheering you as you come into our lives!
But – we confess – that like those ancestors in faith, we are cheering for some version of you that meets our expectations. We want you to be comforter! We want you to be leader! We want you to bring holy justice now! We ask you to save us!
Our confession reveals our guilt. For we have claimed you only in our own terms. We have defined what kind of savior, teacher, and friend you will be to us. This constraint upon your possibility is our sin today.
Forgive us our pride and presumption. Break the chains of our limited expectations like the bondage of the Israelites was broken in Egypt. Break us open, so that we may let you in.
We only know you as best we can. In this humble way, we ask these things.