Saturday, November 7, 2015

it is getting better ALL the time...

A stunning rehearsal on the MIssa this afternoon in anticipation of a quasi-dress rehearsal tomorrow afternoon with: cello, guitar, organ, piano and bass. Tomorrow we'll add the vocalists and the soprano sax and that will knock this music out of the ballpark. What a privilege to play with these people - and we're not even talking about the two guest soloist - who are out of this world. Two quick thoughts:

+ First, artistically, this will be the most important concert we have presented in 8+ years. It requires a commitment and sophistication beyond anything we've attempted to date. In an interpretative essay I've written for the congregation, I put it like this:

The title, Missa Gaia, fuses Latin (Missa – Mass) with Greek (Gaia – Mother Earth) to evoke a holistic song of the spirit. Incorporating ancient liturgical texts with the melodies and dynamic rhythms of Africa, Brazil and American gospel music, Missa Gaia also treats the songs of the tundra wolf and humpback whale as equal in beauty and integrity to traditional sacred choral song. It is an authentic environmental liturgy that bends genres with creativity and compassion.

The opening of the Missa unites a prayer attributed to St. Francis – “Brother Sun, Sister Moon” – with a text from the Hebrew Bible’s book of Job as well as Plainsong from the 13th century. The “Kyrie” – one of the oldest Greek prayers in Christianity meaning, “Lord, have mercy” – uses the natural chant of an Alaskan Tundra wolf to form the foundation of a choral cry for forgiveness. The “Beatitudes” infuses the Sermon on the Mount with syncopation and improvisation. The Latin “Sanctus and Benedictus” – the Eucharistic songs of thanksgiving and gratitude – take their cue from the music of the humpback whale; while the “Angus Dei” – Lamb of God – evokes the prayers of nature alongside our own ancient liturgical prayers. The composition concludes with “The Blue Green Hills of Earth” – a vision of Mother Earth as seen from a space craft – and “Let Us Depart in Peace” – a reprise of the opening call to praise as our invitation to go forward and treat all of creation with sacred reverence. It is simultaneously a work of art, a call to action and an act of prayer.

The Missa Gaia is an original, compelling, challenging and unique musical offering that includes soloists and choir, jazz instrumentalists as well as organ, piano and percussion. Our Berkshire premier will also include dancers, guest performers as well as a reception following the performance. We are hosting the Missa in support of BEAT (Berkshire Environmental Action Team) and will take a free will offering to strengthen their work in our community.

+ Second, the wild inclusivity of this composition should make it clear to those with ears to hear and eyes to see, that this is not the old First Church - however they might understand "the old." This is radically contemporary and boldly traditional - there are women and men, gay and straight, young and old, Catholics, Jews, Buddhists, Protestants and nones all mixed together in un beau melange (beautiful mixture as our Montreal landlord used to say) - in a way that speaks to God's grand plan as celebrated in Scripture.  Everyone - from every tribe and tongue - shall be gathered around the banquet table and offered the blessings of God:

Immediately I saw Four Angels standing at the four corners of earth, standing steady with a firm grip on the four winds so no wind would blow on earth or sea, not even rustle a tree…  I heard the count of those who were sealed: 144,000! I looked again. I saw a huge crowd, too huge to count. Everyone was there—all nations and tribes, all races and languages. And they were standing, dressed in white robes and waving palm branches, standing before the Throne and the Lamb and heartily singing!

The old Clarence Jordan used to say about segregationists, "Well, the Scriptures already tell us that the end of time God's house will be integrated. So we'd better get used to it now by de-segregating and getting ourselves in tune with God's party!" 
I truly can't wait to practice this composition tomorrow at 12:30 pm. We'll run it once - work out whatever presents itself as bugs - and then run it again. And we've got a few more passes to work out ALL the bugs before show time on Sunday, November 22, 2015 @ 3 pm. Please, if you are in the area, you owe it to yourself - and our mission partner BEAT - to get yourself up to the house!

We believe in the work of BEAT.  Eight years ago, our faith community made a decision to focus our often diverse interests into four broad areas:  eco-justice, peace-making, food security and local justice organizing work. This shift allowed us to invest time and resources, talent and treasure, into partnerships with local mission activists already doing good work in our community rather than trying to re-invent the wheel. Cooperation and servanthood is always at the heart of the Cross where our horizontal human connections embrace our vertical yearnings for the holy so that "heaven and earth embrace, compassion and justice kiss." (Psalm 85)

Over time a deeper truth was revealed beyond our initial inspiration for greater efficiency: we began to see the eternal pattern of Christ made flesh among us through working in solidarity with our mission partners. Wendell Berry put it like this, "I take literally the statement in the Gospel of John that God loves the world. I believe that the world was created and approved by love that it subsists, coheres, and endures by love, and that, insofar as it is redeemable, it can be redeemed only by love. I believe that divine love, incarnate and indwelling in the world, summons the world always toward wholeness, which ultimately is reconciliation and atonement [at-one-ment] with God." There is a love deeper than our imagination at work in the world that binds us together in unity. It includes not only human beings, but animals, the elements and the entire cosmos. Fr. Richard Rohr recently observed that since the beginning of time, God has been calling us to live as one:

The Greek word used for Word in John's prologue is Logos. Philosophy has often defined Logos as the rational principle that governs and develops the universe. Christian theology would say it is the Divine reason, logic, or plan that was revealed in the life course of Jesus. The early sermons in Acts tried to "demonstrate that Jesus was the [Eternal] Christ" (2:36, 9:22) and therefore the deepest pattern for everything that preceded and followed him…  I like to use the word blueprint to make the point here. Every time you read "the Word" in John's prologue, just substitute the word "blueprint," and it all makes much more sense to the contemporary mind… Christ is the Archetype and we are the Type… As the Book of Revelation puts it, the Christ is "the Alpha and the Omega" of all history and of all creation (1:8, 21:6,22:13). With this perspective, Christianity need not compete with other religions; rather, authentic Christians can see and respect the Christ Mystery wherever and however it is trying to reveal itself – which is all the time and everywhere, and not just in my group. This is far beyond tribal religion; in fact, it makes all tribalism impossible. 
In collaboration, we have come to celebrate that we are in this world  together. The greater our alliances with those beyond the ghetto that has become  the Church, the stronger our social order becomes and the common good is fortified.

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