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Saturday, May 28, 2005

Call and Response: Waiting for Dawn

Derived from the revival meetings of the Second Great Awakening, in African-American homiletics and hymnody there’s a common practice of call and response: the preacher, choir or soloist issues the call and waits...to give the response space and time to happen. Right now I’m finding myself unglued by the almost unforeseen realization of my tremendous un-wholeness regarding the church music scene and – not exactly peripherally – music in general. I am so hauntingly aware of the fact I wasn’t able to say in obedience, "God, the strength and purpose in your call far outweigh my reluctance, so I’ll go there and I’ll do that!" The title of this reflection is Call and Response; the call is God’s and some would insist we’re supposed to respond in obedience, whatever our misgivings or reservations, but in this case I believe God called me and then – in characteristic call-and-response fashion – waited for my response of seeing and acknowledging my own brokenness in an area of endeavor in which I’ve become exceptionally accomplished. Rather than to incessant dissection and analysis, God calls us to obedient action and service and I keep remembering my identity as a member of the excessively-self-interested Me Generation and then later on of the achievement- (and $$$)-driven Yuppie Generation; although I spent those particular years doing ministry in a local church setting and not chasing worldly riches at all, how I used to recognize myself in the media descriptions, nonetheless! Membership? Of course, my baptism defines and describes my primary identity as a member of the Body of Christ...

(However, as a literal parenthesis regarding critical thinking and analysis, I suspect my propensity for trying to keep figuring out what’s going on has expressed itself more productively and to a greater extent for the community in my gifts and passion for doing theology, so maybe it’s okay, after all!)

As Christians we live in the sway of Resurrection life, and a couple Sundays ago on the Day of Pentecost again we celebrated the revelatory visions, fire, wind and words of the Spirit’s sovereignty, yet still we spend much of our lives between the earthbound incarnational vulnerability of Christmas and Good Friday’s deathbound brokenness. And we need to keep recalling and retelling that throughout the witness of Scripture and throughout the reality of our lives, it’s not about signs and wonders but about unexpected, unmediated Presence and paradoxical Sacrament...

Looking way back, it was close to bizarre that I was getting a degree in musical performance yet too ashamed to admit the fact to anyone outside the musical community in the university’s School for the Arts. During subsequent years I’d continued hiding--only a couple months ago as a Faith, Order and Witness colleague and I were talking before the meeting formally began, I told him I hoped to be able to attend an annual ecumenical event in Europe during summer 2006 and in passing mentioned I’d like to return to the International SummerAcademy for Organists at Haarlem. Knowing my story about not finishing seminary plus my currently not having a formal call to serve a parish, he expressed surprise I (clearly) was an accomplished organist and then asked why I wasn’t playing somewhere, especially with the current shortage of organists!? Instead of replying directly, I said I’d hoped to get far more guest organist gigs than had been forthcoming--once again, not disclosing that on some level I could not serve formally or officially as a church musician (though playing an occasional service or performing any music anywhere in public always has been and remains sheer joy for me)! Despite ecumenism and ecclesiology being unusual interests, they count as normal ones, and since my behavior and participation in Faith, Order, Witness does seem to be well within the norm, I decided to hide in order to save my image. Again.

Recently I read somewhere:

When I surrendered to the crush of the waves and allowed it to naturally bring me back to the surface and ultimately back to the safety of the shore line I was able to survive it. I went with the flow and the flow delivered me. Simply divine.
  • Psalm 22:3--God still is enthroned upon the praises of His people!

  • Extravagant thanks to and trust in the God of Heaven and Earth Who, in the Spirit’s freedom, mystery and power, always answers with resurrection, and so I wait for another dawn in the wake of darkness.
Both the call and the response belong to God, Amen!

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