Foundry UMC

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Why We Sing

October 29th, 2017

A sermon preached by Rev. Ginger E. Gaines-Cirelli at Foundry UMC, October 29, 2017, Consecration Sunday and the final Sunday in the “I Am Foundry: Voices in Harmony” series.

Texts: Psalm 96, Philippians 4:1-9

 

Why?  That is one of the most important words—one of the most powerful questions—in the work of being and becoming human. Any parent knows that there is a long developmental season when their child asks “Why?” again and again and again.  It is the way we learn; it is the way we begin to understand the relationship of things and our place in the world. Mentors and business innovators and educators agree that asking “why?” is a critical piece of expanding the mind, imagining something new, and discerning priorities.

 

Sometimes, as we grow up, we stop asking the question.  This happens in all sorts of contexts for a variety of reasons.  Dr. Ronald Vale—a professor of cellular and molecular pharmacology at the University of California—describes his observation of trends in science classrooms. He says that the approach to teaching science is to “Learn the facts and don't deviate from that script.” He goes on to say, “Young children are full of questions, spawned by true curiosity rather than a desire to impress. But over the course of their education, students and adults ask fewer questions and more passively accept facts as ‘the way things are.’”[i] 

 

I was struck by this because it rings true across so many areas of life.  I’ve heard plenty of stories about how folks were taught that asking questions in church was not allowed, that the mode of instruction—much like what Dr. Vale describes—was to provide answers to be memorized and accepted “as the way things are.”  As we grow, it seems the tendency is to stop asking so many questions and settle into “the way things are” mode.  We may stop asking questions because we think we have the answers. We may refrain from asking questions because we assume we’re supposed to know the answers already and that others know the answers—and we don’t want to appear ignorant. // It is powerful—at any point along life’s journey—to stop and ask the question, “Why?”  Why am I here? Why am I doing this? Why does this matter? Asking “Why?” opens up all sorts of helpful conversations and can lead to greater clarity, collaboration, and freedom.

 

Foundry is a community that believes in the power of questions, of wrestling with ideas, of being honest about what we’re thinking, of exploring things from a variety of perspectives.  And we also realize that even a community like Foundry can fall into habits that, without meaning to, might discourage folks from asking questions.  This year at Foundry, our hope is to make space to ask questions, to explore some of the foundational stories, teachings, and practices of Christian faith without taking for granted that everyone “already knows” them.  Today, the question is “Why do we sing?” 

 

This month we’ve been thinking about our identity and call as Foundry Church, we’ve been thinking about how our voices in harmony—our different personalities, experiences, gifts, talents—are essential to the vitality and impact of Foundry’s life and mission.  John Wesley’s “Directions for Singing” have inspired, amused, and reminded us that we are called to share a common song, to be connected to one another, to participate and join in.

 

Today’s direction is the final word from Wesley about how to sing together and it pretty clearly answers—from a literal standpoint—the question about why we sing. Wesley writes, “Above all sing spiritually. Have an eye to God in every word you sing. Aim at pleasing God more than yourself, or any other creature. In order to do this attend strictly to the sense of what you sing, and see that your heart is not carried away with the sound, but offered to God continually...”

 

We sing in worship as an offering to God—specifically as a way to offer our heart to God.  Also, the admonition to “have an eye to God in every word you sing” and to “attend strictly to the sense of what you sing” reminds us that the words and their theological meaning are important as well. We sing to both learn about and proclaim our faith.  In this direction for singing (as in all of them), there is an inherent connection between the heart and the head, between the cognitive power of the words and the emotional power of the music.  This strong, intentional focus on connecting heart and head, passion and good thinking, is a distinctive mark of our Methodist spiritual tradition from the beginning.  Singing together is a primary way we practice that connection.

 

So, we sing to offer our praise and our hearts to God in worship, to proclaim our faith in God, and to join our voices with others in a shared song.  But even here we can ask the question, “Why?”  Why is God worthy of praise? Why does this faith need to be proclaimed? Why does it matter if my voice joins with others?

 

The only way to answer to these questions is to look to the core of our faith story. And that is where we began back in September as we set the stage for our year-long exploration of faith using the language and metaphor of music. We began with a 101 course in music composition, applying it as a metaphor for the life that God creates.  In that metaphor, the life we share and the whole creation is God’s love song.  Foundational biblical stories— the creation, the flood and rainbow, Moses and the burning bush, and the exodus from Egypt—give us the framework for understanding not only the essential elements of God’s love song, but also how our lives are part of the song. Here is what we learned:

 

God’s creative love is the “melody,” God’s saving grace is the “rhythm,” and God’s empowering, eternal presence with us is the ostinato, the “stubborn” repeated reality undergirding the song.  We are made to sing, dance, live, love, and serve in harmony with God, other people, and earth.  God’s overflowing love—wanting to be shared, powerful to create and recreate life, to wake us up and set us free—is the center of the song, the connecting point. There is tension in the song…but resolution happens when we cross over whatever it is that keeps us separated from God’s love and enter the freedom of being fully received into the welcoming arms of God.

 

Friends, we sing because God has given us this amazing song to sing, a song of love, a song of grace, a song of presence, a song of liberation. The God who composes this song, who grants us new life every day, who forgives us again and again, who never leaves nor forsakes us, who calls us to do scary and beautiful things, who leads us forward into freedom—this God is worthy of songs of praise.  This story of love and grace, liberation and justice is a proclamation worth sharing! 

 

Last week, Pastor Dawn, preaching on the gospel story of Jesus sending out 70 of his disciples to proclaim the Kin-dom of God (Lk 10:1-9), reminded us that our collective call is to get shaken out of our seats to carry the good news of God into the world—to be the “surround sound” speakers of God’s grace and liberating power in every place that we go.  Why is it important for us to do that, to add our “voice” to God’s song?  Because our lives may be the only gospel other people ever read.  Your love, your hope, your mercy, your ability to rejoice even in difficult times because of God’s promises—that witness might change someone’s life for the better.

 

It matters that we add our voice—that we participate and share our time, talent, and treasure with Foundry—because without our collective power—without the harmony of the whole—we cannot change lives and change the world as we are called to do.  There is powerful change happening in and through Foundry.  Since implementing A Disciple’s Path as our entry point for new members, we are seeing an uptick in sustained connection with the church. Of those who have joined Foundry since August of 2016, 92% are actively engaged in ministry—most in at least two different areas.  Three folks are exploring candidates for ordained and consecrated ministry, five have planted small groups, eight are ministry team leaders. 39% of new members are involved in small groups!  In the past 10 months, Foundry has helped launch Sanctuary DMV, trained folks in rapid response in solidarity with vulnerable populations, created a Sacred Resistance Ministry, stood in solidarity with Bishop Karen Oliveto and T.C. Morrow and advocated for affirmation and full inclusion of LGBTQ people in the United Methodist Church, been written up in the Post for our life-giving ID Ministry, furnished a home for a previously unhoused family, offered unconscious bias training, coordinated tours of The National Museum of African American History and Culture with guiding questions developed by our Racial Justice Ministry, and re-energized our connection with Washington Interfaith Network. Our children, youth, and families are getting a wider range of experience in worship and education through the addition of classes, children’s worship, and a youth retreat with so many young people that our Director of Family Ministries is scrambling to find enough transportation to get them all there!  Foundry has provided guidance and inspiration to people through our hospitality and inclusion, through our livestreaming of music and preaching, through our pastoral statements and congregational stances in response to the critical issues of the day.  In other words, Foundry is as important as ever—not only to those of us who worship here, but to all those whose lives are touched by the harmony we create when we sing, share, and serve together.

 

Today, if your life has been impacted for the better through Foundry church or if you are inspired by what Foundry stands for and who Foundry stands with; if you are a regular worshipper here in our sanctuary or part of our virtual congregation through livestream, I am asking you to find the estimate of giving cards (in the pew or on the website…) and write down what you want to contribute in 2018 to support Foundry.  In a few moments we will create harmony through singing and through bringing these estimate of giving cards forward or confirming them online.  It is impossible to overemphasize how important our shared ministry of stewardship is—and these commitments are the single most critical piece of that stewardship.  What we give sustains this community through which we can be good stewards of our time and talent.  Last year we had 395 pledges and this year our goal is a 25% increase to help us raise $1.6 million.  To date, we have received 107 pledges for a total of $700,000.  You may have noticed the stepped graph in our “I Am Foundry: Voices in Harmony” booklet that reveals the giving breakdown of our congregation. We have many people who are giving generously and carrying much of the financial load.  But for almost half of our membership we have no record of any gift.  If those more than 650 folks were to make a commitment—even of $5 or $10 per week—our financial picture would look even stronger.  

We at Foundry sing together literally and figuratively to love God, love each other, and change the world.  And the world needs changing.  So we sing!  We sing through our prayers. We sing through our study. We sing through our service. We sing through our advocacy. We sing through our solidarity. We sing through our care. We sing through our financial support.  We sing because children in our human family are hungry, because siblings are abused, because sisters are sold, because brothers are bullied, because cousins are profiled, because mother earth is poisoned.  In a world gone mad, its values resting upon idols and illusions, we sing a song that echoes what is true, honorable, just, pure, commendable, excellent, and worthy of praise.  Our song is God’s love song and it has power to heal, to mend, and to bring new life.  We are those privileged to know that God’s love and faithfulness are new every morning.  So sing the song. Sing with all you’ve got. Because right now, you—we!—are who God’s got in this beautiful, broken world.

 

 

 

 

 

 

[i] Ronald D. Vale, “The value of asking questions,” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3596240/            

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Surround Sound

October 22nd, 2017

A sermon preached by Rev. Dawn M. Hand on October 22, 2017 at Foundry United Methodist Church in Washington DC. 

 

Scripture:  Ephesians 2:13-22,   Luke 10:1-9

 

Ephesians 2:13-22

13But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

14For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us. 15He has abolished the law with its commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new humanity in place of the two, thus making peace, 16and might reconcile both groups to God in one body through the cross, thus putting to death that hostility through it. 17So he came and proclaimed peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near; 18for through him both of us have access in one Spirit to the Father. 19So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God, 20built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. 21In him the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord; 22in whom you also are built together spiritually into a dwelling place for God.

 

Luke 10:1-9

10After this the Lord appointed seventy others and sent them on ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he himself intended to go. 2He said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. 3Go on your way. See, I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves. 4Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals; and greet no one on the road. 5Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this house!’ 6And if anyone is there who shares in peace, your peace will rest on that person; but if not, it will return to you. 7Remain in the same house, eating and drinking whatever they provide, for the laborer deserves to be paid. Do not move about from house to house. 8Whenever you enter a town and its people welcome you, eat what is set before you;9cure the sick who are there, and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’

 

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The “I” in Sing

October 15th, 2017

A sermon preached by Rev. Ginger E. Gaines-Cirelli at Foundry UMC October 15, 2017, the second sermon in the series: “I Am Foundry: Voices in Harmony.”

Texts:  Romans 12:1-8, Matthew 16:13-20

 

“Who do people say that I am?”  Have you ever consciously stopped to ask yourself that question?  If not, think about it for just a minute…who do people say that you are?  What do you suppose guides others in their perceptions of you?  What guides you in your perceptions of others?  Who do people say that I am? is a question of identity and relationship and how it gets answered makes a difference in our lives.

 

One of the great needs of all humans is to be understood, to be accepted, to be loved just exactly for who we are.  The great spiritual writer Henri Nouwen speaks of this as the need to be “fully received” or unconditionally loved.[i]  Most of us spend our whole life searching for a person with whom we can risk sharing who we really are, trusting that we might finally be “fully received.”

The journey toward being “fully received” involves a maturing awareness of our own sense of who we are—of our own identity.  In other words, part of our spiritual work is to answer the question, “Who do I say that I am?”  Who am I?  If you desire deep and mutual relationship with anyone, you will need to be able to offer yourself as a gift—just as you will try to receive the other as a gift.  If we are to give ourselves to each other in love, we need to know the “self” that we are giving—otherwise, the relationship can get twisted and we lose ourselves instead of finding ourselves in relationship.

 

I’ve observed that we often depend upon what others say to define our identity.  To fulfill societal, religious, parental, or professional expectations of who we are, we may focus on the outward appearances of our lives.  Or we may try to make ourselves into something we are not.  Reasons for this are many: fear of not being enough; fear of disappointing others; fear of ridicule or rejection.  We may get so focused on others’ real or imagined perceptions of us and their expectations of us that we forget that we are more than the perceptions, expectations, or labels that others give us.  There is an “I” that is you.  And that “I” is who we, at Foundry, want to help you celebrate, nurture, and share. Because you are God’s beloved.

 

As we continue in our “I Am Foundry: Voices in Harmony” series, today’s focus is on the “I.”  Your unique voice is important and encouraged.  John Wesley’s “Directions for Singing” that we began exploring last week are, at their core, about inviting and valuing every voice.  We read the fourth direction earlier in our worship today.  And the first part of that—just as a recap—is: “Sing lustily and with good courage. Beware of singing as if you were half dead, or half asleep; but lift up your voice with strength.”  This is a clear invitation to bring yourself fully, to add your voice to the voices of others without fear and with courage.  The second part reads, “Be no more afraid of your voice now, nor more ashamed of its being heard, then when you sung the songs of Satan.”  This is simply a reminder to bring yourself as fully and freely to life with God and the church as you do in the other places and communities.  Much of what we are working on at Foundry as we lean into our third century, are ways to help you do just that—to help people connect to their true identity as unique, beloved children of God, to create opportunities for each one to connect with God and others in mutuality and trust, and to remove obstacles to full participation in servant leadership and generosity.  Foundry exists to care for each “I.” And without each one of us, there is no Foundry; without “I” there is no singing.  Every voice, every unique individual, every gift of service, kindness, and money contributes to the song we are called to sing.

I find it fascinating that Jesus asks his disciples this question:  Who do people say that I am?  Jesus is aware of the ways that people label and pigeonhole according to their expectations, based on their wishes, their half-baked self-awareness, their prejudice, or their preconceived notions.  He knows that it is profoundly human to see only in part, to misunderstand and to misjudge.  So he is curious:  Who do people say that I am?  And the responses are that he is John the Baptist or Elijah or Jeremiah or another prophet.  And I wonder whether the disciples are being kind by not mentioning the other things that people are probably saying about Jesus—things like “he’s a weirdo” or “a magician,” or “a troublemaker.”  But Jesus seems unmoved by what he is hearing (though I imagine he might have been amused), and quickly shifts the question to the disciples themselves.  “Yes, yes, that’s what they are saying, but who do YOU, my closest friends, say that I am?”  The writer Kathleen Norris talks about how sometimes our words are wiser than we are.[ii]  That is, sometimes when we speak out of a place of intuition and spiritual impulse, the words that come out of our mouths have a truth and power that we don’t even fully understand.  In response to Jesus’s question, Simon speaks with words that are wiser than he is: “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”  In that moment, we see that Simon son of Jonah has tapped into one of his gifts, a part of his truest identity:  an openness to the wisdom and revelation of God. 

 

Notice what happens in this exchange between Simon and Jesus:  Simon sees through all the labels and pre-conceived notions heaped upon Jesus—and names the deepest, truest identity of Jesus.  And Jesus does the same for Simon—Jesus gives Simon a new name, a true name, a revelation and affirmation of his identity.  The new name was “Peter” which means rock or stone.  Jesus names this disciple’s strength, affirms his gift of openness to God’s wisdom and proceeds to place in his hands some hefty authority and responsibility.  With gifts always comes responsibility…

 

We may yearn for a clear and direct word from Jesus telling us or affirming who we are.  I imagine many of us would be at least curious to know how God sees us, what gifts God sees in us, what work God has for us and whether our lives as they are today have anything to do with who God knows we are.  Some might get a little frustrated that Peter gets such unmitigated direction when we, so often, are unsure...  But I would remind us that Simon didn’t get his new name and divine direction while he was just minding his own business.  He had responded to the call of Jesus and had given his life to follow and learn and serve according to the Way of Christ.  That is to say, if you find yourself wondering what name Jesus would give you, wondering how God sees you, what gifts God discerns in you, maybe you might consider how open you are to Christ, how close you are in relationship, how willing you are to metaphorically add your voice to God’s song, to “put yourself out there” to try to follow the spiritual path of Jesus. 

 

What we learn from Simon Peter today is that, in the midst of living with Jesus—and for us that is through service, participation in faith community, and spiritual practices—we may begin to utter words that are wiser than we are, we may find ourselves connecting with our gifts.  Something about journeying with this One who is truly and beautifully human helps us discover the beauty and truth of our own humanity; as we come to know Jesus more deeply and personally, the mystery is that we come to know ourselves more deeply.  Think about being in a mutual, loving, trusting relationship with someone…in that relationship you are not diminished—but rather you discover even more of yourself.  Being in a close relationship with Christ, the one who loves you perfectly, you will come to know yourself most deeply and fully.  It’s like as we gaze upon the light that is Christ, that light shines back upon us enlightening our hearts and minds so that we can see more clearly… So as Jesus the Christ shines upon you, who is revealed?  Who does God say that you are? 

 

The answer may very well be something different than who others say that you are. It also may be different than who you say you are.  If you look into the mirror and only see your brokenness or past mistakes, if you see a person who has no purpose or direction, if you see a person who is too weak or ill to matter, if you only see a disappointment, if you only see the labels or messages or slurs that others have placed upon you, if you see a person who believes the abuse is deserved, if you see a person who has no gift to offer, then (I will be bold to say) you are not seeing as God sees.  While Christ certainly sees our brokenness and our pain, Christ also sees us put together, sees us whole, integrated, and free to live and lift up our voice as who we truly are with courage and confidence.  Christ sees beyond all the labels, the masks, the roles we play and knows who we truly are.  Christ is the one in whom we are “fully received,” fully known and loved beyond measure.  Who do you suppose Christ sees in you?  Who does God say that you are?

 

I don’t know the answer for you, but as you journey with Christ, I believe you will find that you have always known, deep in your center.  The trick is clearing away all the layers of labels and expectations, the depression and fear, to see and listen to the voice of Christ within.  This is the most important work we are given to do.  It is important because God created us to be who we are; and who we truly are is meant to be a gift to others.  We have been given gifts…and with gifts come responsibility to use and to share those gifts.  God needs you to be who you are; the world needs you to be who you are; Foundry needs you to be who you are.  To hear Christ calling your name and to live from that place of deepest truth will not always be easy, but there is a peace and freedom that comes from knowing who calls you and from trusting that, in Christ, you are “fully received.” 

 

Sing lustily and with good courage…lift up your voice with strength. Be no more afraid…

 

Let us pray:  Loving Jesus, speak to each person here today from deep within; reveal our true identities; and grant us courage to BE who we are, to offer the gift of ourselves fully and freely to one another and to the world, just as you offer yourself to us.  Amen.

 

 

 

 

[i] Henri J. M. Nouwen, The Inner Voice of  Love,  New York, NY: Doubleday, 1998.

[ii] Kathleen Norris, Amazing Grace, A Vocabulary of Faith, New York, NY: Berkley Pub., 1998.

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State of the Church

October 8th, 2017

On October 8, 2017, we held our annual State of the Church. Various representatives of different ministry areas spoke, and as such, there is not typical "sermon" to be shared here. 

 

Tension and Resolution

October 1st, 2017

A sermon preached by Rev. Ginger E. Gaines-Cirelli at Foundry UMC, October 1, 2017, World Communion Sunday and the final sermon in the series “Composition 101.”

Text: Exodus 14:10-16, 21-31

 

Tension. It’s something we all experience regardless of age or situation in life. An infant feels tension between need and satisfaction of that need. As we grow, we experience tension in relationships, often as the result of disagreement, confusion, resentment, or hurt feelings. Tension exists in our bodies and in our thoughts. There are places of tension in our church and denomination.  And then there is the world around us. There’s tension… between nations, between parties, between regions, between races, between competing priorities, between the NFL and the president of the United States.

 

Tension is everywhere and affects us all the time.  And tension isn’t always bad.  It can be value neutral, as in the tension that arises when you know something’s inevitable but don’t know when; or in the midst of unpredictability—the tension of now knowing how things will turn out.

 

And tension can also be healthy and positive. For example, to “hold perspectives in tension” as you discern how to move forward is a healthy practice.  There will always be tension in times of growth and change—whether that’s in an individual’s life, a family, a congregation, or a culture.  Just as the tension of a rubber band increases as it is stretched, so when we are stretched to learn new roles, skills, or capacities, there is tension.  There is always tension in the becoming, in the in-between times, in moments of waiting and anticipation.

 

The more aggressive, destructive tensions in our lives and world can be devastating if not resolved or relieved in some way.  And while other tensions can be neutral and even ultimately positive, acute tension is generally not a comfortable place to dwell for the long haul.

 

Tension also shows up in music.  One theorist suggests that musical tension is analogous to tension in general. Things like disharmony in relationships, inevitability, and unpredictability find their way into compositions, creating a feeling of tension.  The most obvious way this shows up is in what’s called harmonic tension—a relationship between pitches that creates a sound or feeling of dissonance.  Stanley gave me a couple of examples of this—what’s called the minor second or major seventh (have him play these intervals).  This is a form of harmonic tension that can be very dramatic.

 

A piece of music can employ harmonic dissonance or tension throughout, creating sometimes a sense of dread or discomfort, sometimes a feeling of melancholy, other times a sense of mist and mystery, the unseen, unknown… and, often at the very end of the piece, the harmonic tension—the dread, sadness, or confusion—“resolves,” the relationship of pitches shifts, creating a different sound and experience, like light breaking through the cloud, like scales falling from eyes, like a clenched fist opening to receive a gentle gift. (Stanley plays/choir sings an example)

 

This is called “resolution.” In my quickfire study of musical tension and resolution, I was struck by what I learned about something called the “tonic” note.  The tonic note is like the hub on a bicycle wheel, it’s the center around which the rest of the composition is built, connected, and held secure.  The tonic note is the pitch on which the music sounds finished.  (speak to Stanley) Can you play middle C on the keyboard? That will be the tonic note. Now play C- F - G - F in a loop. Now see what happens if you simply stop after the final F.  It doesn’t seem finished, right?  It's ‘hanging”… it is unresolved.  Stanley, how about the traditional “Amen” chords at the end of hymns?  (play…) This is simple, subtle, resolution.

 

Resolution in music is that moment when tension is relieved, when there is a sense of rightness, of completion.  It is achieved by bringing the piece of music into relationship with the “tonic”—the homebase, the center.[i]

 

Over the past couple of weeks, we’ve talked about musical composition, applying it as a metaphor for the life that God creates, the life we share.  In that metaphor, life and the whole creation is God’s love song.  God’s creative love is the “melody,” God’s saving grace is the “rhythm,” and God’s empowering, eternal presence with us is the ostinato, the “stubborn” repeated reality undergirding the whole thing.  We are made to sing and dance, to live, love, and serve in harmony with God, others, and earth.  God’s love is the “tonic note” in the song.  God’s overflowing love, wanting to be shared, powerful to create and recreate life, to wake us up and set us free—that love is the center of the song, the center of life, the hub around which everything connects and is held.  But as with almost every musical composition, there is tension in the song.  To illustrate, we look to our text for today.

 

Last week, we met Moses and witnessed the moment when God called him to return to Egypt and lead the enslaved Israelites to freedom.  Between that moment and today’s story, Moses brings God’s simple message to Pharoah: “Let my people go.”  Pharaoh refuses.  Pharaoh is given 10 different opportunities to relent—plagues are showered upon Egypt, but Pharaoh’s heart is hardened and he refuses to free the slaves.  Finally, following the last plague—a plague that takes the life of Pharaoh’s son—he tells Moses to take the people and go.  But once Israel has gone, the Pharaoh changes his tune, “What have I done letting Israel leave?!” And he mounts up in his chariot and leads all the chariots and armies of Egypt to recapture the freed slaves. (Ex 7-14)  

 

Our “classic” story today picks up right there, at the moment of the Israelite exodus when the sea is in front and the Egyptian army is closing in behind.  The people are quick to cry to the Lord in fear and to doubt Moses.  They even argue that it would have been better to remain in slavery than to meet this fate.  But, as the story goes, God is with the Israelites and brings them to safety, moving the waters aside so that they can cross on dry ground. The mighty Egyptians—following a leader who could have made a different choice—get stuck in the mud and perish.

 

There is tension all over this story. There is the dissonance of broken human relationship, of oppression. There is the dissonance of the inhuman impulse to enslave other members of our human family, of hearts hardened against compassion and care. There is pride and greed, the senseless commitment to violence that leads to seashores covered with the broken, lifeless bodies of God’s beloved ones.

 

There is also the tension created by the unpredictable, the unexpected—the thing we don’t really understand and can’t explain in the story.  Did the waters really miraculously “form a wall”—in the Cecil B. DeMille kind of way? Was that some fluky weather event—like the mysterious fog and wind that allowed General Washington’s Hail Mary move in 1776—the crossing of the East River—to go undetected by the British?  Or perhaps it was a natural ebb and flow (like the tides of Lindisfarne) that occurred right on time…

 

There is the tension of the people moving from slavery to freedom—and the fear, uncertainty, and vulnerability that ensues when stepping out of the dark, out of the closet, out of shame, out of destructive relationships, and into a new identity, a new reality, into freedom from the familiar bondage.

 

Tension abounds.  Where is the resolution?

 

Some might think that resolution is found in the destruction of the enemy.  “Ding dong, the witch is dead.”  But that is not God’s song. God’s song—remember!—is a song of love that creates and recreates, a song of grace and mercy, a song of steadfast presence, a song that calls us to risk joining in.  There is healthy tension in God’s song—a natural result of growth and change and newness.  Unhealthy tension is added when God’s own children seek to silence the song, to dehumanize and demonize others, to shut the mouths of prophets and poets, to bind the little ones so they cannot dance, to beat down the vulnerable so they cannot step into freedom.  But whatever the tension, the resolution in God’s song will always be tuned to the tonic note of love and will always result in liberation, in greater freedom.  Freedom to love more, to forgive, to be brave, humble, sacrificial, generous, gracious, honest, freedom to be more truly and fully ourselves as God creates and calls us to be.  The resolution in the story—and in God’s song—happens in the crossing over—from slavery to freedom, from fear to trust, from hatred to love, from death to life. 

 

The resolution in God’s song is like emerging from deep under water and taking a full breath, like stepping out of the chill and confusion of a fog into the warmth and illumination of the sun, like glimpsing—even for a moment—what is possible if we were to truly drink in the tonic, the originating note that is God’s love.  What a song we are created to sing!  The melody is God’s creative love, the rhythm is God’s gracious love, the ostinato is God’s ever-present love, the resolution is God’s liberating love.  We might name this song, “Communion.”  

 

 

 

[i] Grateful for the following sites that provided info and insight on musical tension and resolution: https://www.quora.com/What-is-tension-in-music-and-how-do-you-teach-it; http://www.bluesguitarinsider.com/learn-to-play-blues-guitar/tension-and-resolution-the-essence-of-the-blues-and-all-music; https://simple.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tonic_(music); https://www.britannica.com/art/tonic-music

 

 

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