Tuesday, April 22, 2014

One Triduum down, who knows how many to go

Despite being a mere unordained seminary student, I ended up with a Thursday-Sunday schedule this past weekend not unlike that of a number of the fully-ordained and pastorally employed.  Not fully so, mind you.  But closer than I expected.

Thursday: a service in chapel on campus, working with a team of four (including myself) but ending up with the "meditation," which task I complicated by attempting to deliver it from memory.

Friday: not a sermon or any speaking task, but singing Samuel Barber's "The Crucifixion" for a Good Friday service.

Saturday: no actual services but a drive up north to...

Sunday: preach two services at Culpeper Presbyterian Church.

A few observations and clarifications:

I was not required to "go from memory" on Thursday.  But, having taken a class back in January in which this was one of the larger points of emphasis, the idea snuck into my head subconsciously, leading to many moments when I wished I had not taken that class.  Nonetheless it happened.  I make no claims for any effectiveness on the part of that "meditation" (or sermonette or devotion or mini-sermon or whatever you call it, something under five minutes).  The service as a whole (incorporating both communion and washing, hands rather than feet) ended up being quite effective, so I will go with the notion that at worst I preached Hippocratically (I did no harm).

Friday was also something I did to myself.  Though I give off airs of not being a sentimental type, I cannot deny that coming to the end of seminary feels like coming to the end of a lot of things other than seminary.  Samuel Barber was never a composer I spent much time with in my research (other than late in my academic career, when I got obsessed with his choral cantata Prayers of Kierkegaard; partly influenced by that I'm taking a directed study on Kierkegaard in May to finish my studies here).  Nonetheless I've enjoyed the vast majority of his music that I've heard.  A course on Celtic Christianity back in January 2012 brought his Hermit Songs back to mind (since the texts he set for that derived from the same Celtic traditions we studied in that class), particularly "The Crucifixion," which I always regretted not getting to sing (and my voice professors were probably right to refrain from it, I will admit).  Somewhere in the two years since that course my interest hardened into a determination to sing "The Crucifixion" publicly at some point, preferably for a Good Friday service. Fortunately the chief musician at the church I've attended this year was willing, and it happened.  I'll even say it went pretty well, which I'm not usually willing to say about my singing.  And I'll admit to no small amount of personal satisfaction at being able to put it together enough to sing without embarrassment.  As much as I'd like to keep that kind of thing as a viable outlet for my musical impulses, I have my doubts.  But at least that happened.

Saturday, nominally the day off, was marked by sleeping late, finishing the sermon for Sunday, and visiting a local botanical garden with friends for some much-needed relaxation.  Then the drive north to Culpeper (yes, not a double "p"), which was nice except for getting caught behind campers and horse trailers on occasion, an overnight stay with a very gracious couple in the church, and two Easter Sunday services worth of preaching.  (The pastor of that church was painfully unable to postpone back surgery, and the classmate they called who could preach Palm Sunday but not Easter Sunday was kind enough to think of me for the latter.) As always, I'd have liked one more day to work on the sermon (maybe two days in this case), but in the end it seemed to go out to good effect, as far as I could tell from reaction and feedback (limited, obviously).  The church proved very gracious and generous hosts, and I now have both a supply preaching engagement and an Easter sermon under my belt.

Then I got home Sunday afternoon and an intended fifteen-minute sit-down turned into a two-hour nap.  

Now it' s back to more routine seminary tasks this week; last bits of work for my internship, one more chapel in which to participate, a reception to attend, and a paper looming out there to be written, all with my wife away this week.  It's not that big a deal, I'm aware; a "real pastor" has a lot more to do in such a week.  Still I find it somewhat useful to know I have accomplished at least that brief imitation of a Holy Week once in my life, and won't be totally at sea when it comes time to lead one "for real" (hopefully in 2015, obviously).

And yes, I am also aware that I am the rare seminary student who got to preach on Easter Sunday. ;-)

Sunday, April 13, 2014

New hymn, particularly suitable for a week ago.

Frankly, this week has rotted.  I have had too many occasions to let my temper flare.  (Yes, I have one.  It's not pretty.)  Typically that anger is directed at myself for my own incompetence, as was sometimes the case this week (I have control of mostly nothing in my life right now, so I get particularly wrathful against myself when I screw up one of the things I do control).  Very few people have really experienced my anger directed against them.  By the grace of God, a few of them are still friends.  This week produced some angry, or at least argumentative, moments directed less at people than against events, or in some cases memories of events -- a past where those who were putatively leaders in my church of raising ranted on about childless married couples (like, um, us) being in rebellion against God or some such rot in one case, and the spoilage of baseball in another, as witness yesterday's rant over on the other blog.
Fortunately, though, the rages of the week somehow did not prevent me from fulfilling the third part of my Lenten task for this year.  I took on the assignment of reading two books (not related to class assignments) and writing two new hymns this lent, and thankfully I can now say the hymn part of that is done.  (One book is read, which is described in the previous entry in this blog.)  I'm fudging a little, to count a set of responses for the Eucharistic Great Prayer of Thanksgiving as a hymn, but the same work is involved, so there.
Last week's scriptures, Ezekiel's dry-bones encounter and the raising of Lazarus, started the percolation of the idea.  It took a while for the ideas to shape themselves into verses, with the result that the hymn in its final (so far) form finally took shape and demanded my attention about midnight last night.  Fortunately my iPhone was nearby and I could type it out in the "Notes" app until I could record it here.

Rise up, old bones, return to life,
Take sinew, flesh, and breath;
Give witness to the power of God,
A power that overcomes death,
A power that overcomes death.

Rise up, dear friend, return to life,
No longer in the grave;
Give witness to the love of God
That drives a Savior to save,
That drives a Savior to save.

Rise up, old church, return to life,
No longer drowned in fear;
Give witness to the word of God
The world refuses to hear, etc.

Rise up, my heart, return to life,
No longer bound in sin;
Give witness to the grace of God
And let a new life begin, etc.

The tune of choice for right now is DOVE OF PEACE, probably best known with "I come with joy to meet my Lord."  This hopefully explains the repetitions and "etc."s in each verse, if you know the tune.  Hopefully the Ezekiel and Lazarus parts are clear enough; the two latter verses bring that idea of returning to life forward to our own church and self.  (It's possible I had the PC(USA) specifically in mind when verse three developed.  Possible.  Maybe even most specifically in the last two lines of that verse  And it might even be possible that the "world" that "refuses to hear" might just include other domains of Christianity.  Just maybe.)  I'm not opposed to other tune suggestions.  It would be good to find a tune collaborator at some point if I'm going to keep doing this, so if you know any such person feel free to connect me to them or vice versa.

So anyway, there 'tis.  It might be a little too specific for wide use, but make of it what you will.