I'm going home...

One of my musical colleagues asked me tonight: "How does this song work - fit - into Sunday's worship?" It was a good question because, as is periodically true for me, the gentle folk song I asked them to rehearse has no obvious religious connotations. The song in question is Lisa Null's haunting and tender, "I'm Going Home to Georgia." The lyrics are:

My body is tired, my spirit is burned
I'm going home to Georgia
My poor heart is aching with all that I've learned
I'm going home to Georgia

Pour me a drink; it'll settle my thirst
You always knew what I loved best
Maybe it'll dampen this pain in my chest
I'm going home to Georgia

After all that I've traveled and all that I've seen
I'm going home to Georgia
It's none of your business just where I've been
I'm going home to Georgia

Sing me song; set my spirit at rest
You know all the tunes I love best
Maybe it'll lighten this weight on my chest
I'm going home to Georgia

I've brought you a secret as true as a rose
I'm going home to Georgia
The more tarnished it gets the brighter it glows
I'm going home to Georgia

In all of my wanderings I could never forget
You were the one I loved best
Lay yourself down, put your head on my breast
I'm going home to Georgia

Each of my musical partners had a distinctive perspective on this tune. One connected with the world weary nature of some of the words while another felt that it was a song of recognition - not resignation - where the singer sensed that now was a time for rest. Another heard the essence of a Psalm in this song without any explicit religious language. I discerned the Psalter too and sensed this to be a tender and mature confession: after trying everything else in life and finding no lasting satisfaction, the poet chooses to return to a sacred and safe place that feels like home. As we talked - and they layered in sweet harmonies - it struck me that this might actually be an amplification or corollary to Psalm 131:

O LORD, I am not proud;
    I have no haughty looks.
I do not occupy myself with great matters,
    or with things that are too hard for me.
But I still my soul and make it quiet,
like a child upon its mother's breast; 
    my soul is quieted within me.

I am using it in connection with Sunday's gospel where a genuinely religious person asks Jesus what is necessary for a life of integrity and value? This man is a true seeker - one who prays and observes the commandments - but believes there is still something deeper to discover. But when Jesus tells him he must give up his wealth and follow as a disciple, this young man's face "clouded over for this was the last thing he expected to hear. So he walked off with a heavy heart because he was holding on tight to a lot of things and was not about to let go." (Mark 10, The Message.)

I've been there - holding on to a lot of things and not yet about to let go - maybe you have, too? Maybe I still am in some ways?  But I have also experienced - and who knows why or how - that sometimes a moment comes to us like a song and helps us realize that we need to "go home." To rest. To lay our heads down on the breast of the one who loves us better than ourselves and simply let grace lift our souls and spirits from their weariness. Last week I read the scripture: come unto me all ye who are tired and heavy-laden and I will give you rest. Learning to own and name our weariness - and lay our heads down upon the breast of grace - is something so many of us ache for. 

And one of the best ways to recognize our aching is to encounter it obliquely - on the slant, if you will - through music (or art or poetry or film.) My hope is that this song will help us sense the aching in our hearts so that we, too can let ourselves rest and be refreshed by the blessings and safety of God's home we know as grace. Serendipitously, the other music for this week's Sunday feast includes Horace Silver's compositon "Peace" and Brahms' take on Psalm 51: create in my a clean heart O God and renew a right spirit within me. Classical hymns, jazz, American folk music and Brahams shared in community: what a GREAT way to honor the Lord.

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