emerging thoughts about good friday...

In an hour I will hold a conversation with some of the musician/artists in my congregation about
doing Coltrane's "A Love Supreme" - plus other music and readings - for this year's Good Friday worship. There are four, inter-related reasons for this:

+ First, I have been experimenting with reshaping Good Friday worship for 20 years. Finding ways of blending contemporary, non-church music with once well-known but now ignored sacred readings as well as Taize chant, poetry, silence, candlelight and body prayers has become a way of reinterpreting an ancient holy day into a 21st century context. It allows us to alter an outdated theology of atonement without disrespecting the ever-resent challenge of hope in the midst of human and planetary suffering. And, of equal importance, it allows our artists - including myself - a way to create new liturgy in community.

+ Second, it is the 50th anniversary of "A Love Supreme." For the past few years, we have been working with more and more jazz in worship so Coltrane's composition resonates with the arc of our work. But not just for historic reasons: Coltrane celebrated a bold theological universalism that I want to affirm and our era needs.  In an age of such xenophobia and Muslim-bashing, I want to lift up the Christian universalism of Karl Barth, Jesus, Rob Bell, Barbara Brown Taylor and Diana Butler Bass for people who might not know what these thinkers have to say about our moment in time.

+ Third, blending jazz with rock, folk, poetry and chant expands the genre-bending experiment that is at the core of Coltrane's mature work. Further, this type of aesthetic integration offers others a visceral encounter with the paradoxical unity of God's grace alongside an experience of the ancient being honored in the experimental. This is worship that is multi-sensory and works on multiple levels, too.

+ And fourth this gives us a chance to work with some of the most creative musicians in our region again as we did with "Missa Gaia." One of the signs of hope I see in our way of being the church is through these experiments in radical creativity.  We take artistic and intellectual risks.  We bring together wildly different types of artists and give them a path to create beauty and hope. In a word, this type of liturgy suggests a spiritual path for me that includes trust, practice, listening, patience, respect and risk-taking in pursuit of hope.

And that is what I sense is at the heart of Good Friday: it makes no obvious sense to remain faithful in the darkness of death and agony. But that is what Christ teaches. Good Friday is our way of celebrating the truth of the solstice - or the phases of the moon - as it liturgically affirms that "to everything there is a season: hope and despair, light and darkness, joy and sorrow." It is an experiential call to trust the rhythm of salvation God set into motion in the first word - creation - and in message of the Christ.


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