MUSINGS OF AN AWAKENED MINISTER – “Watch what we say! … Watch what we sing!”

MUSINGS OF AN AWAKENED MINISTER

“Watch what we say! … Watch what we sing!”

Man on beach

My friend prefaced his musings with this explanation:  I have been composing so much as of late, and I have been altering words all over the place when it comes to what I have my choir sing. Words to 99% of hymns are separatist and downright dreadful and false.  Funny thing is that people sing the words and pay no real attention…. yet I know those negative sentiments seep in!  I had a Professor in College who once said:  “We sing more lies than we say.”  I have never forgotten this.  Though he was speaking from a Fundamentalist viewpoint, I still remember those words and find them even more poignant today.

 

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Watch what we say…. and watch what we sing! As a Minister of Music in a large denominational Church, my job is to choose and perform music that “brings one into perfect relationship with God.”  Hmmm……. how sad is that??

Think about this: my job has a description on it that presupposes that people are not connected, but separated from God. That is the sad and terribly false presumption and conclusion of the Christian Church:  humankind is lost and separated from God.  As a Minister I did, at one time, believe, adhere and propagate this heresy.  In fact, Lenten Season, that soon-upcoming period of 40 days when Christians repent, deny and mortify themselves was the part of the Church calendar in which I reveled!  Why?  Because “Amazing Grace,” John Newtonʼs world famous hymn, could be sung during this period!

The hymn, for all of itʼs appeal in both tune and sentiment, is one of the chief hymns that keeps people enslaved to a religion that teaches separation from Source.  How genuinely humble it is for us to sing that we were a “wretch” and “lost.”  This keeps our pride in check lest we ever think more of ourselves than is proper.

How dare we ever think or utter that we are wretched, blind, poor etc.

We are the very life and being of God, and in God “we live and move and have our being!”  (Acts 17:28)   That does not sound very lost and separated to my ears. In fact, the very title with itʼs word “Grace” is even an issue.  “Grace” is defined as “unmerited favor,” or as my fundamentalist teachers taught:  Godʼs Riches At Christʼs Expense!  Ah….. so we only get this “unmerited gift” of Godʼs riches through Christ and what he did!

Hmmm…… “grace” in the Greek New Testament is used in so many different ways, yet even with that understanding the Christian Fundamentalist states: “Against a still common view it must be stated that in Paul χαρις does not mean primarily a divine attribute (Wobbe, Charis-Gedanke, 32). It does not mean, in good Greek fashion, God’s graciousness, nor concretely his free love (Taylor). It almost always means the power of salvation which finds expression in specific gifts, acts, and spheres and which is even individualized in the charismata.” —Ernst Käsemann, Commentary on Romans, trans. G. Bromiley (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1980), p. 14.

So, all of a sudden, “grace,” which admittedly translates “Godʼs Kindness and free love,” becomes connected with a condition—Christ for salvation. How interesting that the Greek word has no condition inherent in the word, and yet the Christian interpretation does.  Something is either free or not free.  It is either condition-less or is conditional. No point in arguing this one: it either is or it is not.

If I had my way, I would alter Newtonʼs words to be sung thusly: “Amazing Grace, How sweet the sound! That loves the soul I am; Created thus, sustained and kept in love that knows no end.”

Ya know what?  I donʼt claim this to be a great piece of prose from my pen, but I feel and think that at least my version expresses the truth of “grace” as the truest expression of Unconditional Love.

Sadly though, people seemed to feel better about themselves when they affirm that they are “less than” and debased. “Humility” is most often seen as “a virtue in many religious and philosophical traditions, often in contrast to narcissism, hubris and other forms of pride.” (Wikipedia) For thousands upon thousands of years, humans have swallowed the lie that they are powerless and disconnected from all that is Love.  The terms that then have followed, such as “sin” and “hell,” have become adopted, accepted and yes, embraced, as the human lot in life!

Sorry, yʼall!  If you choose to stay with that belief system, then that is indeed your choice; however, like the words in the second verse of Newtonʼs hymn:                      How precious did that Grace appear the hour I first believed,”  I have chosen to believe that the most precious grace dawned on me when I “awakened” to who I truly am…. never disconnected, wonderful, beautiful, fully- functional, a powerful, lovingly-created ,sustained Co-Creator with All -That -Is, Prime Source…. God…. and that as such, I am indivisibly One with the same.

This is not hubris or pride or narcissism, my dear friends!  This is REAL!

As Cher, in her Oscar- winning performance in “Moonstruck” blurted out to her in-a-fantasy co-star Nicholas Cage: “SNAP OUT OF IT!!!!!”

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