When I walk into work everyday, I do so to the soundtrack of Spanish radio. And part of that soundtrack, which appears to be in heavy rotation, is this percussive-techno-yodeling thing that is infectious in that certain way only a percussive-techno-yodeling thing can be. Long after evening service has started and we’ve turned off the radio, I can hear Abel start laughing when I realize I’m still singing the damn song.
“What is that song?” I asked him today.
“I don’t know,” he answered. “Some Mexican thing.”
I’m haunted by a percussive-techno-Mexican yodeling-thing. And I’m haunted by two things I read by Stanley Hauerwas yesterday as he reflected on the L’Arche community.
I believe L’Arche is the place where God has made it possible for Christians to be hope in a world where there is no solution. (55)
I have said that Christians are called to nonviolence not because we believe nonviolence is a strategy to rid the world of war – though we certainly want to rid the world of war. Rather, as faithful followers of Christ in a world at war, we cannot imagine being anything other than nonviolent. Of course we want to make war less likely. But nonviolence is a sign of hope that there is an alternative to war. And that alternative is called church. (55)
I love to sing harmony. As a result, I love gospel music. On Sundays after church, when I lived in Houston, my brother and I would race home from church so we could watch Gospel Jubillee. Those of you who follow this blog know how easily I can get caught up chasing Gaither Family Gathering video clips on YouTube. And it’s why I love bluegrass music: gospel music that needs a guitar.
So many of those old songs talk about heaven and they talk about how we belong there more than here.
this world is not my home I’m just a passing through
my treasure’s all laid up somewhere beyond the blue
the angels beckon me from heaven’s open door
and I can’t feel at home in this world anymore
I know these old songs grew out of times of hardship. And, as much as I love the harmonies, I have to wonder, in a world where there is no solution, why escape felt like the most hopeful choice. (I’ve worked on that last sentence for a good while now, trying not to sound harsh. I don’t feel harsh, I just don’t know another way to say it.) Whatever eternity looks like, I trust being in the unfiltered presence of God will be worth the trip and – not but – this world is my home and I think God expects more of me than to wish I were somewhere else, even if I sound good wishing it.
Wishing and hoping aren’t the same thing.
A world with no solution is a seedbed for violence. The reason I know that to be true is evidenced every time I have to call a customer service number and fight my way through all the “convenient” computer options until I finally get an actual human being on the phone who can’t actually help me. Violence is an easy choice for me in those situations because the voice on the other end is dismembered from any semblance of humanity and they can’t see me and I feel powerless so striking back, futile as it may be, is my all too familiar move.
Humaninzing the enemy is a lousy military strategy.
For all the resonance I found with Hauerwas’ statements, I shook my head and smiled when I read the last two sentences of the paragraph:
But nonviolence is a sign of hope that there is an alternative to war. And that alternative is called church.
“Stanley,” I thought, “you are one hell of a straight man. Don’t you realize the punch line (violent pun intended) you’re setting up?”
Yesterday at church I got to sing harmony with my friend, Donna May. Our song choice was also one written in difficult times, and one we felt had something to offer to our worship on the first Sunday in Lent and one where we were sharing Communion together.
let us pause in life’s pleasure and count its many tears
as we all sup sorrow with the poor
there’s a song that will linger forever in our ears
oh, hard times come again no more
it’s a song the cry of the weary
hard times hard times come again no more
many days you have lingered around our cabin door
oh, hard times come again no more
On this Sunday, we celebrated Communion by intinction, meaning folks came forward, took a piece of the bread, dipped it in the cup, and then ate both elements together. The practice took hold in American churches during the tuberculosis scare at the beginning of the last century. Churches didn’t want their members to be frightened to take Communion, so they found a way to allay their fears.
I couldn’t help but think , as I watched our little band of Pilgrims (that’s what we call ourselves at Pilgrim United Church of Christ) lined up for our meal together, how much we looked like one of those soup lines from the Depression Era photographs of people waiting for bread. In our sacred soup line stood some racked with grief so fresh they have a hard time sitting in worship, some with chronic pain, some with physical ailments, and a host of others whose injuries and heartache was not quite as apparent. And we stood in line with all the walking wounded of the faith who have come before us, and all those who will follow us, not because the Bread and the Cup offered a solution to the things we carry with us, but because we are not alone.
We are not alone.
We belong here.
We are in this together.
Humanizing one another is how peace is waged.
P. S. — I couldn’t resist this find: Mavis Staples singing “Hard Times.”