In 1991 I attended the ELCA National Youth Gathering in Dallas with thousands of other high school kids from across the country and around the world for worship, service and Bible study. In addition to being fun and exciting, the trip expanded my view of and encounter with the church.
It’s the second movement of Leonard Bernstein’s choral work, Chichester Psalms. A boy soprano (or a countertenor), in the “role” of the shepherd boy, David, sings in Hebrew the opening verses of Psalm 23. He is accompanied–sparingly, fittingly–by the harp. The first several measures are tender but not tentative; filled with sentiment, but without sentimentality (this per Bernstein’s instructions). When the women’s voices take over the text at גַּם כִּי־אֵלֵךְ בְּגֵיא צַלְמָוֶת . . . (Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death . . .) there’s an ethereal echo-canon effect. This part of the movement, when executed well, is something sublime.
Christ "has broken down
the dividing wall. . . . that he might create in himself one new humanity in
place of the two, thus making peace, and might reconcile both groups to God in
one body through the cross, thus putting to death that hostility through it."
July is vacation time for many of us. Anticipating grilled burgers, potato salad, sunshine and seashore can get us through months of occupational drudgery. We all need time away to kick back, relax and recharge—even Jesus did. We read in Mark 6 that he invited his disciples to join him for a beach getaway. It had been a busy chapter for them all.
I write this from a retreat center in Washington State. I'm on vacation,
supposedly. In reality I am still writing, worrying about my church
community and even instant messaging parishioners to ask how church
went. It's almost impossible for me to disengage.