Friday was busy!
In the beginning was the Word…
Anne Zaki preached on Psalm 113 with music being led by John Bell and The Psalms Project. Click here to view this marvellous service in which Anne presents us with the unpredictability of life within which we can encounter a God who ‘stoops down’. She makes the very valid observation that we never see a statue of a stooping God and yet this is the God that many want to praise – not a God who just sits on high…
Soon afterwards, I had the pleasure of sitting through a plenary by Walter Brueggemann entitled ‘Performing a Counter World: the Alternative Reality Offered by the Psalms for the Worlds We Inhabit.’ Speaking at a rapid rate, Brueggemann covered an astonishing amount in just 60 minutes. One thing I will share from that plenary is this:
“The dominant world given to us by our culture is not the real world and we need not inhabit it. In a world without God there are only idols. The Psalms mediate to us the covenant-making God of Israel.”
After this 60 minute intellectual overload (I mean this in a positive way!), I attended a seminar entitled ‘Intentionally Inclusive Worship’, which discussed how we can and should make our churches inclusive. This was in the context of including with disabilities. We are called to reach out to all of God’s people in the inclusive Kingdom of God and should be seeking the giftedness of every person as per the inclusive nature of Jesus Christ.
Following lunch, I went to hear Gilliam Grannum discuss ‘The Holiness of Jazz’, which, as a musician, I found particularly interesting. We come to know each other and God through story. Jazz can be seen a means of collective story telling with a starting point and all of the individual players and instruments becoming part of the story telling process. It is always different with a wide range of variation. The composer sets the plots and gives the details, but it is the instruments that make the story with each individual character and action details in note, rhythm and texture. We can therefore see Jazz through the lens of Scripture as much as we can see Scripture through the lens of Jazz.
Gillian Grannum continues with four ‘God is…’ terms, which she paired up with four ‘Jazz is’ terms, which really opened my eyes and ears to what Jazz can unlock in our walk through the Word:
- Where God is Creator, Jazz is Improvisation as discussed above in terms of putting the story together and crafting the characters, dialogue and actions uniquely each time.
- Where God is Faithful, Jazz is Groove – God is dependable, reliable and consistent. Groove relies on experience – it is establishes and sometimes feels like it is disappearing from us when things build up/intensify, but we can be comfortable with gaps and deviations as we can rely on us getting back in the Groove in our own time and back into motion.
- Where God is Redeemer, God is Accepting – Imperfection is required… Community is where mistakes are redeemable. We are accepted as we are with out gifts and our brokenness. Even with faults, flaws and failings, the coming-together of the entire community makes it beautiful. A wrong note is when you give up on a note. We can take the time to make a note right with the wrong notes quickly forgotten and forgiven as the next stave that is life begins…
- Where God is Triune, Jazz is Community – There are specific roles amongst the musicians with interdependence. Part of that role is leaving space for others. Each community has a different way of working in a particular context.
Here is a question…
What three words come to mind when you think of God?
Feel free to write them in the comments of my blog.
If I get enough responses, we can try something out!
Before dinner, I attended a Taizé Vespers Service, which was absolutely beautiful. The synergy of song and silence under the canopy of candlelight was the perfect way to reflect and to give thanks to God for being all of the things that I have listed above and much more.
The evening concluded with A Festival of Singing to mark the launch of a brand new Psalter called Psalms for all Seasons, which I would highly recommend. It contains music to all 150 Psalms as well as the Psalms themselves and various worship elements such as Calls to Worship and Benedictions. A video of the concert can be seen here
As I listened to this festival of song today and tried to sing along or accompany on the Piano, I could only think of the words of Psalm 150, with which I will close as my prayer for us all to do:
Praise him with each note and word…