Musings of a Postmodern Negro

"During times of war, hatred becomes quite respectable, even though it has to masquerade often under the guise of patriotism."- Howard Thurman

Location: United States

Monday, May 23, 2005

Singing A New Song

This past weekend I have gained a deeper appreciation for music as a profound analogy of living in unity with God. I have never really reflected on it in-depth before. Worship this weekend while attending Warehouse 242 got me thinking about how I can re-imagine living this life. One of the band members leading worship song a song titled "Peace into me". It is a very beautiful song. It reminded me of the brokenness and finitude of my existence and my need to fall down on my knees at the foot of the Peasant. Another song popped up in my head. It is a classic and have heard that this was Martin Luther King's favorite negro spiritual (the best rendition is again by Mahalia Jackson...ah...Heavenly):

There is a balm in Gilead
To make the wounded whole;
There is a balm in Gilead
To heal the sin sick soul.

Some times I feel discouraged,
And think my works in vain,
But then the Holy Spirit
Revives my soul again.


If you cant preach like Peter,
If you cant pray like Paul,
Just tell the love of Jesus,
And say He died for all.

What these two songs have helped me realize is how I can imagine the Christian life as singing a new song. Not only singing a new song but a performance of a song in a world seriously out of tune. Stanley Hauerwas helps us try to use our imaginations in seeing the Christian life as a faithful performance:

"The church is therefore called to perform the good news of God's redeeming love in Christ. That is its vocation. What it means to be a good performer of the gospel, then is not simply a matter of finding the right words - although it is clearly that- but it is also a matter of finding the right key in which to sing our song, the right meter and cadence in which to say our poem, the right register in which to play our piece. All performances of God's called people, in other words, are repeat performances, at once emulating the one true performance of God in Christ but also an extension and variation- an improvisation, if you will- of that singularly defining performance. The elements of continuity and discontinuity, sameness and difference, old and new, make assessing the faithfulness of Christian performance an ongoing task." (Performing the Faith, p. 103)

What a way to imagine living this life. I find many parallels in playing a song and living this new life. I once was a saxophonist. Both the soprano and the alto. One of the parallels I see in playing these particular musical instruments and my tutelage under the Peasant is that there were times I would give a stellar performance. But before there were stellar performances there were those horrible performances normally done during practice.

All of this of course reminds me of how finite I am. We are all like artists rough around the edges. We need practice. We need terrible performances as well as stellar performances to make us faithful performers.

As a Christian I look at my life and see all the horrible performances I have made and the very few stellar performances I have under my belt and wonder what the next piece will be five minutes from now, later today, tomorrow. Will I rise to the occasion? Will I blow the house down? Will I tear up the stage? Will I dazzle the audience with my Christian virtuosity? Well...again Hauerwas pops my bubble when he suggests that being "best" is not a theological category. What is a proper theological category for us Christians as we seek to stay in tune with the Peasant? I am suspicious that it is to be faithful performers of the gospel.

More random thoughts later...


Blogger greg said...

In the film Spitfire Grill, the protagonist (messiah) finds the pariah in a field of wildflowers. She lays her hand on his shoulder and sings There is a Balm in Gilead. It's a wonderfully moving scene in a sweet, redemptive film.

May 24, 2005 9:02 PM  
Blogger Devo said...

Thank you for your thoughts. I particularly enjoyed you reminding us that even our supposed "poor performances" are precursores to our "great performances." Music is indeed a great vehicle to transact the transcendental. Having come from a fundamentalist background that demonized all secular music, I appreciate this all the more. To be relevant we must engage in cultural hermeneutics. Last year at the American Academy of Religion (AAR/SBL) conference there was a session entitled, "Bono as Public Theologian." Last night I was enjoying U2's, "Pride" a tribute to Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, as well as a less famous track called, "40," clearly an old gospel
spiritual whose main lyric is, "I will sing a new song."


May 28, 2005 11:03 AM  
Blogger postmodernegro said...


where was that tribute for MLK done? which channel?

May 28, 2005 11:17 AM  

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