Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Good friday 2012...

After last week's "jazz and liturgy" workshop in Nashville, I've been thinking a lot about our Good Friday experiment:  for nearly 10 years we have been exploring how contemporary music and visual art can help 21st century people reclaim the wisdom of Christ's passion.  I am NOT a fan of most traditional substitutionary atonement theology - and was horrified when Mel Gibson's added his two cents to what is often a sado-masochistic exercise the violated both God and humankind - but DO believe that wrestling with the mysterious paradox of atonement theology is essential for all people of faith. So, over the years we've used U2 and the blues - a modern retelling of the passion narrative through the lens of the Iraq war, too - to find a new/old way back into Good Friday.
This year, I've been playing around with rewriting the so-called "reproaches" that were once common fare on Good Friday in many liturgical churches. (Harvey Cox offers an insightful commentary on the profound anti-semitism of these old words in his deeply engaging, Common Prayers.)  There is a powerful tension present in these old prayers - a no-easy-answers blend that acknowledges God's grace, human sin and everything in-between - that cries out for a new take on an old form.  The atonement is, after all, a mystical paradox. 

So, in the spirit of the jazz workshop, and the work we have been trying in shared leadership, I have invited my musical mates to both help me rewrite my first draft of the "reproaches" and bring their musical spirituality into the mix, too.  Already I've heard back with requests for Leonard Cohen's "Broken Hallelujah" as well as "On Our Way Home" by the Silent Years.

 I know that I was awakened to a new insight the other night while watching Paul Simon host the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's show on VHI:  when he and his old friend/opponent, Art Garfunkel, sang "The Boxer," I could have sworn I hear the Jesus of Good Friday in the last verse in anticipation of Easter Sunday.  I see a Cross - I feel the shame and the loss - as well as the sacred promise that with God ALL things are possible.


In the clearing stands a boxer
And a fighter by his trade
And he carries the reminders
Of ev'ry glove that layed him down
Or cut him till he cried out
In his anger and his shame
"I am leaving, I am leaving"
But the fighter still remains


We shall see as the planning ripens...

7 comments:

Black Pete said...

I am moving very tentatively toward an understanding of God that is articulated somewhat sharply by Reynolds Price ("Sheepdog, jackal, rattler, swan"...),--that is an understanding of God is "source of all we hope or dread", as opposed to simply "good loving God". It is a very risky venture, but I think atonement theology makes a lot more sense with this understanding. I think it makes JEsus the man and his teachings a lot more understandable as well. More to think about.

RJ said...

I have a sense of this, too and look forward to reading more... this more complex - beyond just love - is good, my man. Thanks.

Black Pete said...

Actually, this understanding is one of the foundations of Islam, as articulated by Willow Wilson.

RJ said...

That complex/beyond simply loving is also part of Job, too.

Black Pete said...

We're on to something, my man...

Lynn said...

I have been reading your blog with great pleasure since discovering it a few months ago. I am only 2 years into my first call (UCC) and find your writings to be a great source of inspiration.

Would you be at all willing to expound (or share) what you have done on Good Friday. Our tiny band observes Maundy Thursday only. It is too late for an actual GF service this year but maybe some thoughts about U2/Blues could be incorporated into the Passion reading on Palm Sunday. And I can get it on the calendar for next year. I would certainly be glad to give you credit.

RJ said...

Hey Lynn: send me an email and I would be happy to share some of the resources we've explored U2 was our starting point but the journey has deepened. Thanks for your note... I look forward to hearing from you. You can send it to: lumsden.james700@gmail ok?

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