This was the ninth Sunday after Pentecost, and our songs were gathered with the weight of systemic violence in mind. Below, you’ll find the list of the songs and artists. Clicking the song titles will take you to the lyrics. Below the songs, you can find recordings from Sunday morning of a few of them, and below the recordings, there is an example of one way you might think of these songs in light of this week's theme. If you want to talk about any of these, feel free to comment at the bottom of this page or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
There by Jameson McGregor
There's A Wideness in God's Mercy by Jameson McGregor (adapted from F. Faber)
Up On A Mountain by The Welcome Wagon
Burn It Down by Jameson McGregor
Be Thou My Vision
How They Fit In:
There are many ways to think about the significance of songs and the way they fit together–-this is simply one way you can look at these songs in light of this week’s theme.
There: We sang this song to begin our time together proclaiming God's transcendence. God was there before there was anything (including the kind of pain that we've been living in the midst of in a particularly acute way for the past several weeks), God is there now, and God will continue to be there after the last star burns out. This song focuses on the fact that God stands above and beyond any source of pain or anxiety, and so there is always hope--God will not be toppled by even the most terrible evils we experience in the world. This transcendence is a part of what we can say about God, but it is thankfully not the only thing we can say. If it were, this transcendence would mean little to nothing for us in the midst of the world's chaos. In truth, God has chosen to be involved in what God has made, interacting with creation with the most absolute of loves. This love from-without is the source of our hope.
There's A Wideness in God's Mercy: We sang this song to meditate on God's mercy. For the past several weeks, we have been bombarded with news of various horrific kinds of violence. Humans are particularly skilled at finding ways to reject the divine image in one another. With what I know of God from Scripture, my assumption is that God is deeply grieved by our violence, and if we had one of the prophets writing today, God would most certainly talk at length about how God wanted to be rid of us. And rightfully so. But God's not going to rid Godself of us. Because that's not who God is. The Noah story shows us this quite clearly. God wanted to start over, and started that process, then realized how terrible that was--how deeply painful that was--and resolved never to do that again. Instead, God decided to fix things from the inside, entering into the story to suffer our violence and conquer it with love. That conquering is accomplished, but still unfolding. It's horribly slow for my taste, but it's there nonetheless.
Up On A Mountain: We sang this song to contrast There, and to proclaim the work of Jesus. Up On A Mountain contrasts There because it focuses on God's immanence. God is not just "out there," removed from the weight of the violence of the world. Instead, God came down low and entered our mess, experiencing anxiety, fear, betrayal, suffering and death. And so, we aren't alone. Jesus has shared our experiences, and has sent the Spirit to carry us through the best and worst parts of life.
Burn It Down: This song is a plea for the Spirit to shape us into people who can tear down systems that impede the hope of Christ. These systems are legion--we could think of the rampant racism and xenophobia that we encounter so often through our TV's, phones, and laptops, or perhaps the ways that culture elevates the voices of particular kinds of people, while silencing the voices that have not been endowed with the privilege of assumed legitimacy, on and on. Yesterday, Amy preached an incredibly brave and prophetic sermon on sexual violence. When we talked about sexual violence during Lent, one of the driving themes was that the Church's silence on that issue in some way authorized the prevalence of sexual violence that plagues our culture, and that this silence was sin because it did not mirror in any way the response of Jesus to affronts on the dignity of a human person. So we sang this song in order to petition the Spirit to shape our lives and words into firebombs that target the system of sexual violence that we are living in.
Be Thou My Vision: We sang this song to close every liturgy during Lent, which was also when we were first wrestling with our place within a culture of sexual violence. We sang Be Thou My Vision today in response to Amy's sermon and the Litany of Commitment we read together as a way of acknowledging that we rely on God to shape our imaginations to enact change within systems of violence.
Doxology: We close our time together each week with this proclamation that God is worthy of praise from every inch of the cosmos.