I was in Nashville with colleagues, and a few of us had made our way to the Bluebird Cafe, which might be called the mother church for country music songwriters. A quartet of men and women sang and played guitar for about 80 people from 9 p.m. to around 11. The music was beautiful, and I wandered out of the café with the honest testimonies of human nature and destiny stirring within me.
When Arcade Fire won a Grammy for album of the year, Win Butler came to the podium clinging to his identity as one of
the band geeks. "We're gonna go play another song because we like
music"—just in case anyone had forgotten about the music after Lady Gaga emerged from an egg,
Katy Perry swung from the ceiling and Gwyneth Paltrow danced on a piano.
It's a truism that Christianity lives and breathes as much
(or more) through music as through preaching or teaching, to say nothing of
dense theological texts--so Christian preachers and teachers should be on the
lookout for ways to incorporate the great hymns of the tradition into our
sermons, lessons and other theological work.
church musician, I've been known to program what I thought were familiar
Charles Wesley hymns, only to find my non-Methodist song leaders tongue-tied by
the ambitious melodies and all-doctrine-all-the-time words. When I have a week
off and visit an Episcopal church, the Hymnal
1982's Arthur Sullivan tunes make my mind wander to operetta.
This soot-dark smear across the brow, between the eyes, will lead you, if the way be clear, through all the endless winter of our year, toward an elemental table, the tears and savage hubbub of that agonizing garden, the treacherous courtyard, hilltop, nails and spear, the cry, the dark descending fear, and then another garden with a cave and such an austere emptiness will fill the rest of history with clear resounding alleluias.