On my way home, I saw two birds burrowing in the dirt/dust of the berm(?) near our house.
"Won't you help to sing these songs of freedom? 'Cause all I ever had: Redemption songs. Redemption songs." -Bob Marley
Call to Worship:
[One] Holy One, Eternal Wisdom, Divine Love: gather the spirits of all your beloved together in songs of praise and thanksgiving.
[All] Let us proclaim your presence in the midst of our community.
[One] May our beautiful voices, blessed bodies, and beloved souls express with adoration our love of your grace, justice, and redemption.
[All] Let us proclaim your presence in our hearts, in our sanctuary, and in our world.
Opening Hymn: "In Unity We Lift Our Song" (FWS 2221, v. 1, 4)
Tiffany had the offering basket, and talked about how in Nicaragua (where she's done a lot of work), many people are very poor and don't have money to put in the basket, so instead they offer "un especial" -- would go up to the front of the church and sing a song.
Eternal God of the vast universe and its rainbow cacophony of sounds, we offer to you today a song of joy, a song of justice, a song of our brokenness, and a song of hope and healing. You put all these songs in our hearts, O God. We thank you for the gift of music in all its myriad forms. Help our voices raised in song to celebrate life and love, and to reach out into the world to bring the healing and hope of your blessed kin-dom. Amen.
Hymn of Praise: "How Can I Keep from Singing"
Hebrew Bible Lesson: Psalm 100
God of our deepest selves, Maker of heaven and earth: accept the songs of our hearts and the sounds of the whole earth offered to you this day as a sacrifice of praise. Let the whole earth sing in great harmony together, a song of your holy unity and just peace.
Special Music: "To Our God, All Glory Be"
Formerly know as "Men and Children Everywhere." Tallessyn said that this is one of the hymns she has known and loved from childhood, but she always literally pictured "men and children." She said that children are very literally and therefore we shouldn't say "men" when we mean "men and women." I never spent much time in church, or paid much attention when I was there, before I was in about high school (the pastor's sermons put me to sleep, so I stayed downstairs helping taking care of the little kids during service), but I don't remember having much issue with "men" (or "mankind") being used as a stand-in for "men and women" (or "humanity").
Confession: Micah 6:6-8
Liturgy of Confession:
[One] When the church of Jesus shuts its outer door,
Lest the roar of anguish drown our songs and prayer,
[Many] May our song, O God, make us ten times more aware
That the world we banish is our Christian care
[One] If our hearts are lifted where devotion soars
High above this hungry, suffering world of ours,
[Many] Lest our hymns should drug us to forget its needs
We pray that you would forge our Christian worship into Christian deeds.
[One] Lest the gifts we offer: money, talents, time,
Serve to salve our conscience, so that we may hide our shame,
[Many] O Christ, reprove and inspire us by the way you give,
Teach us, fearless Prophet, how true Christians live.
The Internet tells me this is an adaptation of a hymn by Methodist minister and hymn–writer Frederick Pratt Green (b. 1903). Full text here (scroll down); as always, I'm interested by the changes.
Hymn: "This Is My Song" (verse 2)
I was like, "Hey, I sang this this morning, and I liked it."
It also had a verse 3 written by Georgia Harkness, which I wasn't particularly into. But we didn't sing it, so that was okay.
Lament: Psalm 22:1-2. 7. 11
Hymn: "When We Are Called to Sing Your Praise" (FWS 2216, v. 2)
Healing and Hope: Matthew 11: 28-29 (she initially read verse 12 by accident, hee); Isaiah 40:1. 9. 11; Psalm 98:1., 4-9
[One] Sing! Sing a new song! Sing of that great day when all will be one!
[Many] God will reign, and we'll walk with each other, as sisters and brothers united in love.
Hymn: "Lift Ev'ry Voice and Sing" (UMH 519, v. 1)
There's a part in the Refrain with triplets etc. that felt very familiar melodically, and I realized it was from Les Mis: "Do You Hear the People Sing?" (e.g., "the blood of the marchers will water the meadows of France," cf. "full of the faith that the dark past has taught us).
Trelawney did the Reflection.
She had Eric come up and read a fifth Scripture reading: Ephesians 5:1-2, 15-20.
She asked us if we like to sing. Tiffany said no.
And here I get to say thanks that she posted her sermon 'cause I love getting to crib from full texts.Do you sing? When I ask that question here I always get a lot of nervous, frantic denials. A lot of people ask that question, meaning "do you think your voice is the kind of voice our culture deems worthy of publicly performing a song?" But that isn't what I mean. Do you like to sing? At all?Again, Tiffany said no, and I said, "Tiffany, you're my favorite today."
Trelawney continues:You know why I ask? Because all through the scriptures, we are not just invited to sing – we are commanded to sing! From the time of ancient Israel – the very moment when the Hebrews first became an organized community – the Exodus from Egypt – their liberation and identity was announced in a song. Miriam sings for joy, and we can imagine her community joining in her song, a song of freedom, liberation from oppression, joy at their hope for a new community of justice and love and devotion to God.She quoted James Crenshaw, and here I'm excerpting: "They plumb the depths of despair through which many pass at one time or another, and they soar to lofty heights of adoration, to which good people aspire. In short, from these majestic psalms, one learns how to pray." It's that last sentence that really resonated with me.
And then come the Psalms – you've gotta love the Psalms. I mean, yes, I know there is a lot of scary, vengeful stuff in the Psalms, but what a window into the deepest hopes and fears of the ancient forbears of our faith, from thousands of years ago! And as we sing our hymns together, we can look far back in time and history, and imagine the ancient Israelites singing together as they worshipped, with their instruments - harp and lyre - accompanying them.
Not only that, many, many modern hymns and praise songs and gospel songs take their inspiration from the Psalms and use language and themes from the Psalms.
She said that we are not called to be relentlessly positive, commenting, "Elizabeth should like this, our resident cynic." Yeah, that's not in the posted version, but was obviously my favorite moment :)
She also pointed out that songs of lament make up a full third of the Psalms.Psalm 73 is a good one like this – the psalmist basically says, "I'm struggling not to be jealous of people who are wealthy and arrogant, whom everyone admires, and here I am trying to be good, just, loving, and moral – and I get so weary of wrestling with my faith, and trying to be a good person in a thankless world, when it feels like I'm not getting anywhere, and I don't understand you God, or how your justice works, or what I'm supposed to believe about it all! I feel stupid and ignorant and weak. But…At the end I was like, "Oh! 'He will my strength and portion be' from 'Amazing Grace'!" but this whole section really resonated with me:
25Whom have I in heaven but you?
And there is nothing on earth that I desire other than you.
26My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart and my portion for ever."I get so weary of wrestling with my faith, and trying to be a good person in a thankless world, when it feels like I'm not getting anywhere, and I don't understand you God, or how your justice works, or what I'm supposed to believe about it all! I feel stupid and ignorant and weak.She said, "Everyone should feel free to sing to God, both here at church, and at home, and standing on the sidewalk or by the sea or in the forest or on a mountaintop," and I feel like she was breaking it up and phrasing it as questions, but anyway, at the sidewalk part, Will said, "Yes!" and Tiffany tuned and raised her eyebrows at him. It was great.We love our choir here, and we are very blessed by their offerings of worship and praise for us. But God does not just want to hear choirs and trained professionals. In that passage from 1Corinthians 12 about "many gifts one spirit," how God gives us each a different way to contribute to the community of faith – guess what is NOT on that list? Singing! Singing is not on that list – because we are ALL supposed to sing as the Spirit moves us.I really liked that phrase: "Your voice is a pleasing offering to God."
There are Psalms and hymns and songs that express what is in your heart – and if there aren't, well, write your own! And God wants to hear you. Your voice is a pleasing offering to God, whose spirit is singing within your heart.You've gotta sing when the Spirit says sing!I thought of JoeF :)
And we are called to sing old songs and new songs. Many Psalms, such as Psalm 98:1 say, "O Sing to the Eternal One a new song!" So we need to keep alive our old traditions, but we also need to open our hearts to the Holy Spirit speaking to us now, new interpretations of the old psalms and hymns, new topics to sing about, new instruments, rhythms, languages, and messages, all adding to the old favorites and keeping our faith fresh and alive.But our scripture today warns us to be careful what songs we are singing – because the songs we sing shape our hearts and help to create our world. In fact, studies show what Christians believe is shaped primarily from hymns, rather than from sermons or creeds. (So I know you're all ignoring me!) Songs have an incredible way of getting into our deepest emotions and forming powerful memories. [...]My notes have in between Psalm 8:1 - "sing a new song" and "Coke is It" a bit from the Silmarillion (she's a big Tolkien fan) about how God sang universe into being (it was in her talk about how the kinds of songs we sing matter).
So which songs are we singing in our hearts?
I sometimes wonder if we're singing this one? "It's a smile you can't hide, 'cause it comes from inside; and wherever you go, and whatever you do, there's something big waiting for me and you… Coke is it: the biggest taste you've ever found! Coke is it: the one that never lets you down! Coke is it: the most refreshing taste around! Coke is it… Coke is it!"
I mean – come on - Is Coke really it? What if Coke really were it? That's a scary thought! It's like - what if the Hokey Pokey really is what it's all about?
She went through some other ad jingles (as you see in the linked sermon), and Tallessyn would chime in, and she commented that she knows all of them 'cause they watched the same tv (they're twins).In her powerful song "A Life Uncommon," artist Jewel says, "Lend your voices only to sounds of freedom; no longer lend your voices to that which you wish to be free from."I mouthed along to the second half of that quote (hi, "Fill your lives with love and bravery / And you shall lead a live uncommon" was in the previous incarnation of my LJ UserInfo) 'cause I tend to do that when I know lines, and of course she noticed and said, "Quote it along with me, Elizabeth," which was an amusing contrast to my previous name-check as cynic.
Are you choosing songs of freedom?
There is a difference between dreaming and pretending
I did not find paradise
It was only a reflection of my lonely mind wanting
What's been missing in my life
-Jewel, "Goodbye Alice In Wonderland"
She also talked about Bob Marley and his song "Redemption Song," and I wasn't impressed by the song, but I do really like the idea.
I also approve of the uncited allusions to major Christian songs :)
Prayers of the People / Call to Prayer ("Come, O Holy Spirit, Come," as per usual) / Pastoral Prayer and Jesus' Prayer // Offertory Hymn (refrain of "Many Gifts, One Spirit" - UMH 114) // Passing of the Peace
I've been noticing the past few weeks that when Tiffany and company do what one would call the words of institution, it's often couched as, "Jesus said something like this," and the words put in Jesus' mouth relate to the theme of the day's service. Part of me is conservative and attached to capital-T Truth and Text and is thus slightly put off by this, but mostly I like it -- I like how it keeps the sacrament new and relevant and keeps us paying attention and reminds us that ours is a Living God who is with is in all contexts and in all times.
Tiffany did the bread and Will did the cup. Will said that, 'Jesus said, "Coke is it," and his sister remembered and laughed.' And yeah, I definitely don't remember the rest of it
Tiffany held the bread and said something usual like: "Elizabeth, This is the bread of life, that you might have life abundant."
Will held the Cup and said, "This is it."
I replied, "Do you know I was planning to say 'Coke is it' in response to whatever you said?"
Closing Hymn: "Now on Land and Sea Descending" (UMH 685)
Liz (the CWM interpreter) was absent, and Kirk and Will left after service, so I chatted with Eric during dinner.
I forget how it came up, but I said I'm indifferent to gender-inclusive language -- and commented that I could happily never hear the phrase "Father-Mother" -- and that I'm bad at being feminist, post-modernist, liberal, any other of those adjectives.
He asked if there's anything I don't budge on, anything I require in a service to be comfortable. I'm not entirely sure how to answer that question, but I talked about how having attending so many different kinds church services has really increased my tolerance for/comfort level with ways of doing church service that aren't how I grew up, and I also talked about how in ecumenical Advent-ing I realized just how attached I am to the way I grew up with the Lighting of the Advent Candles and how that surprised me since I thought of myself as very Low Church and not into liturgy.