I am the one who has not rejoiced, always, and again I will say, is not rejoicing.
Hardly ever my gentleness is known, even to me, and not, certainly, to my children. Strangers report to have seen it on Tuesday in the library. I do not confirm this sighting.
But I have catalogued my every worry about everything, my requests made known in the sharp, carping voice on my blog. By supplication and prayer I claim to have been deserted. I say it again, deserted, justly.
And still, some Spirit stays near, alert for the stingiest rejoicing, key ready in his unclenched hand. Unlock, Heart-Guard, my chest’s dark vessel. Empty me of treasured loss. And again, I say, make it emptier, until, for rejoicing, a space larger enough to echo appears.
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.
and teachers are really missing those summer days when we got to preach on
wonderful parables about mustard seeds and loaves of yeast bread. Now it's
judgment-parable season, and many of us wish we were on vacation.
If you wrestle with this Matthean parable through the night, it'll leave
you limping by morning. Martin Luther didn't like preaching on it, and
worshipers in early October won't be in the mood for its judgment.