Out to Cambridge for a few days before Lent...

Dianne and I are headed out in about an hour for a little rest and renewal before the start of Lent next Wednesday.  I am going to be a part of a Massachusetts Conference worship event tomorrow morning and then we're on to Cambridge, MA for some exploration.  And tonight we got a cheap motel near Northampton just to chill - so we're in road trip/mini-vacation mode - which often evokes this song...

Taking a break before entering the disciplines of Lent has become an important act of self-care for me:  I cherish the deeper journey of Lent, but if I don't prepare for it I am also depleted and exhausted, too.  So, off we go for four sweet days away - with a mini-detour at tomorrow's worship.  I've been asked to open the gathering and this is what is likely to come out...


THERE’S SOMETHING HAPPENING HERE – WHAT IT IS AIN’T EXACTLY CLEAR
THERE’S A MAN WITH A GUN OVER THERE – TELLING ME I’VE GOT TO BEWARE
THINK IT’S TIME WE STOP – CHILDREN – WHAT’S THAT SOUND
EVERYBODY LOOK WHAT’S GOING ROUND…

That old song by the Buffalo Springfield is as true in 2011 as it was when I first heard it in the late winter of 1967: the context has changed – the players are definitely different – but God is still calling us to stop – listen to what’s going down – and faithfully join the march towards freedom. Whether it is in Wisconsin or Egypt – Libya or Soweto – we have been called by the One who made the Word flesh to listen – and respond with compassion.

+ At least that’s how I came to the Lord – listening – hearing – SHEMA O YISRAEL – HEAR, O PEOPLE OF GOD THAT THE LORD YOUR GOD IS ONE – discovering that the Voice of the Sacred is most often heard in the most unusual places.

+ You see, I heard my call to ministry in back of a 1965 Ford Mustang – well, the word of the Lord first came to me in Washington, DC a few days earlier – when my suburban Connecticut youth group joined the celebration at the Potter’s House. It was just two months after Dr. King had been assassinated – the summer of 68 – and we were on a mission trip to see the church in action.

+ And after engaging in the creative worship at the Church of the Savior – something that was 180 degrees different from my Darien, CT – Pilgrim Hymnal – upper middle class, white world of church – I was certain that I was being called. And on our way home – with the Queen of Soul – Aretha Franklyn blaring, “you better think – think about what you’re trying to do to me – oh freedom – freedom – freedom” on the radio – I KNEW that God was calling me into ministry. A ministry of the arts – a ministry of compassion and justice – a ministry of freedom.

THERE’S SOMETHING HAPPENING HERE – WHAT IT IS AIN’T EXACTLY CLEAR
THERE’S A MAN WITH A GUN OVER THERE – TELLING ME I’VE GOT TO BEWARE
THINK IT’S TIME WE STOP – CHILDREN – WHAT’S THAT SOUND
EVERYBODY LOOK WHAT’S GOING ROUND…

SHEMA O YISRAEL – listen o people of God – it will change your life! And once you start listening – and looking – and feeling you can’t help but see that there are no longer any false distinctions between the sacred and the secular. Everything is holy – how did St. Allen Ginsberg put it in “Howl?”

Holy! Holy! Holy! The world is holy! The soul is holy! The skin is holy!
The nose is holy! The body is holy! Everything is holy! Everybody's holy!
Everywhere is holy! everyday is in eternity! Every soul is an angel!
The bum's as holy as the seraphim! the madman is holy as you my soul are holy!
The typewriter is holy the poem is holy the voice is holy the hearers are holy the ecstasy is holy!

Everything is holy – heaven and earth have embraced – justice and compassion are locked in a soul kiss the unites our hearts and minds with our flesh. But… and this is huge – but – not without listening – hearing – and responding to the Lord’s call with tender integrity.

+ In my day it was Aretha singing freedom – a chorus she borrowed from Dr. King – who learned it from his slave for bearers. Do you know the old version? It’s easy – try singing it with me:

Oh freedom – oh freedom – oh freedom over me
And before I’d be a slave I’d be buried in my grave
And go home to my Lord and be free

Ours is a proactive – gentle call to freedom – it has roots – it has legs – it is born of tradition and innovation – and the song goes on forever. It is part of the Alpha and Omega – the Word – or dare I say Song – become flesh within and among us. Calling us into God’s grace and our best selves: Oh freedom – there’s something happening here.

And so we begin today’s worship listening – hearing – and singing about freedom – real freedom – grace and justice – hope and compassion – word and flesh – together – embracing – forever: maybe you can join with me in one last version of this song from my spiritual mentors – U2 – the bad boys of Irish punk who touch more lives with the Spirit and Truth of Jesus than we can ever imagine. Singing about Dr. King in their generation they say…

One man come in the name of love – one man he come and go
One man come he to testify – one man to over throw
In the name of love – what more in the name of love…
Early evening April 4th – shots ring out in a Memphis sky
Free at last – they took your life – they could not take your pride
In the name of love…
Lord, may it be so among us this day. Amen

Comments

Black Pete said…
(Song by Canada's Ian Tyson.)

And amen to everything, James. I feel the carnival coming! The trumpets distant in the woods, the piercing jangle of the tambourines, it's all coming...

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