Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Too Good to be True

I grew up in Connecticut. Make no mistake - I grew up on the Red Sox side of the state. My Dad was born and raised and educated near Boston and it was simply taken for granted in our home that we were a Red Sox family. And even in school, I seem to recall listening to a particularly imporant game (Carl Yastrzemski - Yay!) in a ninth grade classroom.

But now, my home is definitely not in Red Sox Nation. For example, our church has families that are enthusiastic supporters of the Yankees. We've even had "mixed marriages" in church, with one spouse supporting the Red Sox and the other supporting the Yankees. I don't know how they do it.

Back in 2004, my mom and dad and aunt came for a visit. They came during the American League pennant race, and the Red Sox were one game away from losing the pennant.

That Sunday, I was privileged to give the children's talk in church. The Gospel lesson for the day was the incident when Jesus went to the synagogue in his home town and read the prophetic scroll of the good things God would one day do for the people of Israel and the world. And then he announced that these prophecies were being fulfilled right then, in front of them - in front of his friends and family and neighbors. The people didn't believe him, and ran him out of town.

I sat down on the chancel steps, and the children sat in front of me. I summarized the Gospel story, and then I said something like this:

What Jesus told the people in his home town was unbelievable to them. It was just too good to be true. It's as if I told my Mom and Dad and Aunt, who are here today, that this year the Red Sox will win the World Series.

Alas, I had forgotten my audience. There was a mini-riot among the children. One little boy started pumping his fist in the air and chanting "Yan-KEE! Yan-KEE!" (His mother told me later that she was mortified.)

I don't remember how I finished that talk that day. Perhaps the memory loss is merciful. But the odd thing was that the Red Sox did, indeed, win the World Series that year.

I told a friend this story, and he looked at me seriously and said, "you broke The Curse."

Of course I didn't. It was the great members of a great baseball team who won the World Series that year. They've won the Series since, too. (Yay!) But the lesson I took away from all of this was that "too good to be true" isn't always. Maybe sometimes things are so good that they have to be true.

Second Unsung Hymn

So here is another hymn, which could be sung to the tune to "We gather together" (but at the beginning omitting the note for "We", if that makes any sense). Anyway, I wrote this as part of the narrative for a Christmas Putz, in the Moravian tradition, which our Sunday School presented several years ago. I have edited it slightly. Yes, I know that two or three "mages" are magi, but I checked and "mages" is acceptable usage.

The Star

Mages and sages for ages and ages
had pored over pages and stared at the stars.

Watching and waiting for news of a new king,
predicted by prophets and promised by God.

Then came a new star. Only the wisest
dared to set off and to follow its light.

Slept in the daytime and traveled in darkness;
followed the star as it shined in the night.

Now it stands still over Bethlehem’s slumber.
Now they have found him, and soon they can rest.

Mages and sages and shepherds and wise ones:
all who have sought him and found him are blessed.

Unsung Hymn

In a recent Christian Education class, the teacher explained the difference between a hymn and a tune. A hymn is the words to be sung, and the tune is, well, the music to which you set the words. Many hymns are known with more than one tune (think of "O Little Town of Bethlehem"). In hymnals the hymns are often coded with symbols like "78.78.78" or "LM" indicating the number of syllables in a line. All hymns with the same "metrical" code can be sung to the same tune. And a tune with a certain metrical code can be used with any texts that have the same code. Of course syllables can be stretched out to several notes, or two syllables sung together, so there is a real art to fitting a hymn text to a tune.

It turns out I have written a hymn - actually, two, but I'm only sharing one in this post. I once presented it to a choir director, and she regretfully told me that it wouldn't easily fit any tunes that are in the public domain. Sigh.

But I thought I could share it here as a poem. I think of it as "The Facebook Prayer", although I suppose that is an improper us of the Facebook trademark. Sigh again.

The Facebook Prayer

Jesus, may I call you “Friend”?
I know that I don’t deserve to.
May I call you “Teacher”, when
I have failed to learn to serve you?
How may I address you, Jesus,
when I come to kneel before you?

On the night before the end,
you ate dinner with your students.
Then you called your students “Friends”,
knowing they would soon desert you.
None of us deserves that title;
so we come to kneel before you.

Teach me, Friend, to see you clearly
in the least of those now near me.
Teach me, Friend, to serve you well:
here and now in those around me.
Let me serve you here, and then
let me dare to call you “Friend”.

Jesus, Friend and Teacher, Lord,
when at last I come before you,
raise me to my feet so that
I may know and praise you only.
Give me what I don’t deserve, and
let me serve as you have served.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Stations II

Cold, this place, but dry
and airless, till the flurry
of activity and winding cloth
stirs air and dust both into motion.
Strong odors, too, of myrrh and spices,
itching at the nose while masking other,
all too human, scents.
(Doubtless through the tears
some poor soul tries to press away
a sneeze.) How many fail to hide their
trembling - fear and deep exhaustion from
the night and day now passing?

No one lingers. Now the men are pushing
at the stone, while women watch in silence,
save for groans from one who groaned before,
when pushing that poor body into life.

Now slip away, for soon those under orders
will approach in boredom
and take up their station (soon to fall to sleep),
resenting their assignment meant to to stop a pointless theft.

So too will they approach, unseen,
unseeable, those hosts of wondering angels
once again, not to sing Gloria - not just yet, at least -
but waiting for the earthquake soon to come.
And it will come to wake the sleeping and the dead.
But not just yet.