Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Music Does the Work of God

So, what’s your favorite hymn? Even better, what’s your least favorite hymn?

I will go out on a limb and admit that I, Arthur Stewart, am the one who picks the hymns for Sunday morning worship. I do not play favorites — if I did, we’d simply do “Come, Share the Lord” every single week for communion — and I do, on occasion, take requests. I plan them out about three months in advance, along with scriptures and sermons, hope they all work together, and make sure we run the gamut in styles, content and time period. Why? Because every hymn is someone’s favorite, and, as the Rev. Dr. Zan Holmes pointed out this last week at Jazz Vespers, God speaks in every language, including jazz, and in this case, your least favorite hymn.

A few weeks ago, we did the hymn “Come, Celebrate the Call of God” (#454) which is an ordination hymn, and is printed in the Chalice Hymnal with feminine pronouns. Don’t get me wrong, that’s awesome; it just seemed really weird that I picked it, it seemed really weird doing it on Palm Sunday, it seemed really weird to sing it as a discipleship song. And as I was standing up there grinning in verse two, Sue Nunn and Melody Heath came forward to join the church. Was it the hymn that sealed the deal for them? Nope. But was there a Spirit in that room that called Sue and Melody? Yep. If I haven’t said it publicly lately, I am so glad that God is far more competent than I, or else we’d all be doomed.

Music does the work of God. At Jazz Vespers this past week, I will admit I was a little worried when Charles, the pianist and leader of the Quartet, let me know they’d be doing “I Know it was the Blood” during communion. He and I have had a lot of talks about what he calls “the blood songs,” and about what I call reconciliatory atonement — I tend to preach the cross as the action of God in reconciliation and redemption, not as sacrificial atonement. But man! The way they did it made me hear it for the first time ever. It was awesome! (I need to get “TRUST CHARLES” tattooed on my hand just so I remember to more frequently.) I can’t say “I Know It Was the Blood” is one of my favorite hymns, I can guarantee we won’t be singing it this Sunday, but God spoke through it, most definitely.

I look forward to seeing you on Sunday. And until then, shalom y’all,


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