Sabbatical planning goes deeper...

Tonight I get to meet again with my Sabbatical planning team (snow willing!) We're going to flesh out both my Sabbatical budget and the budget for the congregation's portion of this encounter with the performing/creative arts.  Not long ago, I came upon these words (and clips) from one of my intellectual mentors, Jeremy Begbie, who is now at Duke Theological Seminary. "Art can show us the possibility of transformation through the interplay of tradition and innovation as well as order and disorder."

Our proposal includes a significant time for me to both study and practice jazz upright bass in Montreal, AND, the congregation to learn about and experience 3 different ways the creative arts can deepen their faith and build community. We've been "doing" this, of course, for the past seven years - and when I offered an interpretative explanation of how the music and art retold the Passion Narrative as part of last year's Good Friday encounter, all sorts of lights went on in many formerly doubtful minds. Seems that I was relying too heavily on the "experience" of the art without adequate "interpretation." So, we are intentionally building in lots of interpretation for the congregational part of this Sabbatical.

My hope, therefore, is both that I will become more accomplished on my primary instrument, AND, there will be a critical mass of lay leaders who both grasp and celebrate the importance of the creative arts in the life of our mission and ministry.  I love this description of the Begbie's life work from a Duke publication:

The theologian and accomplished pianist Jeremy Begbie says that one of the greatest contributions the arts (and in particular music) give to theology and the church is that they show possibilities for transforma-tion, they show possibilities for what could be,where none or few existed -- that within a simple three-note melody a wild symphonic score can spring to life.
Begbie’s point is that the nature of music reflects something fundamental about the Christian story and the triune God Christians worship. From within the unlikely, the unexpected can happen; that a hick rabbi from the hill country is also the Lord of the universe; that in death, new life is possible. In death new life is possible. Think about the astronomer’s finding again: as a star dies music comes to life, a single note humming through the cosmos.
The phenomenon brings to mind how the theologian Robert Jenson describes the trinitarian life of God. “God is a great fugue,” he writes near the end of his “Systematic Theology,” a simple image for a complicated doctrine.
Perhaps we are God’s music. In the midst of all the tasks -- the 147 unopened emails in your inbox, the budget meeting, the fundraising campaign -- it’s worth remembering that as a Christian leader, you haven’t been asked to be a manager (even when it feels that way); you’ve been invited to be a music maker, to find and create possibilities for new life where few existed. And even more, you get to be the music.
For those willing to take the time, check out this lecture. I had the privilege of taking this in at an IAM conference about 10 years ago - and have loved this guy ever since.


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