Yesterday morning before church I found myself between these two worlds, as I stood in the doorway of my colleague’s office at church, chatting about the upcoming worship service. His thirteen year old daughter lay sprawled out on the couch, not quite awake, listening to tunes on her mac. Specifically, she was listening to this song called “Somebody That I Used to Know” by Gotye.
Then the organ started up. In one ear, I could hear the organ strains of “Lift High the Cross” while in the other, this song about somebody that I used to know.
I don’t really know how the pastor’s daughter thinks about hymns played on an organ. I didn’t ask her because it was far too early in the morning for her to consider answering me. But I wonder if it isn’t similar to the words of the song: Somebody that I used to know. And if it is the organ that is presenting the story of the cross…does the person on the cross also have potential to become somebody that I used to know? Or, somebody that I never knew?
My hope is that there is space in the Church for some people to figure out how to speak the language people are speaking, including the way music speaks. And by that, I don’t mean that hymns need to go away (though I think it is worth asking questions like: does this song still speak to how we think about God, or life, or the human condition?) And I don’t mean just putting guitars and drums up in front of the church, especially if it means singing songs within the Christian praise genre—(because I would ask the same question: Does this song speak to how we think about God, or life or the human condition?) But rather trying to figure out how music might speak about faith and proclaim good news from and into each context.
My friend Michael Larson (musician) has some smart things to say about music in the church. Check it out here Michael Larson, “God Concept, God Song”
I love other people’s poetry, so I hope they (dead and alive) don’t mind me quoting them for this season. Advent, as a time of waiting, seems to me a poetic season that we can choose to enter into or ignore. If you were in church today in most mainline denominations, you heard something from the gospel about “learning the lesson from the fig tree.” To me that lesson seemed to be about watching for signs of hope instead of paying attention only to how much life sucks everywhere. Yet today’s poem tells us to wait without hope…
I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope
For hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love
For love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith
But the faith and the love and the hope are all in the waiting.
Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought:
So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing.
– T.S. Eliot, Exerpt from The Four Quartets, East Coker, III (which begins, “O Dark dark dark. They all go into the dark.)
If any line says advent to me, it is in that last line: So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing. Like so many mystics before, finding a connection between the darkness we experience in Advent as we wait in faith, hope, and love…(or in the waiting we find faith, hope and love…) That darkness shall be the light. That stillness the dancing.
I am left with questions…what are the wrong things to hope for? What are the wrong things to love? What are the thoughts I am not ready for? These are mysteries I can carry through Advent, looking for illumination in the darkness.