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...
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