by Rev. Jeff Gannon – Senior Pastor
Further reflections from my sermons….
Julie Linville shared something very profound in a recent email. With her permission, I share it with you….
Two weeks ago, in my sermon, I said one of the ways we cope with the realities of life is to engage with music even if we are not “musical.” Music touches us at the deepest parts of the human soul. This past Sunday, I suggested in the interview this past Sunday with Fr. Terry, we learn to memorize more easily and quickly by singing.
In your sermons the past two weeks you have mentioned the harmonization of the Psalms and music and I thought I would share some of my thoughts and observations.
If the Psalms were written to be memorized and integrated in a person’s spiritual life, it only makes sense that they were written in poetic forms and set to music. The organization, structure, patterns and repetition of music make it an effective tool for such a purpose.
Adding the pitch of music to the rhythm of the poetic words integrates both sides of the brain forming synaptic connections that become more efficient with each repetition. It could be compared to driving in a new city. Each time a person travels from one location to another, the time required for the trip decreases because of fewer wrong turns and stops for directions. The path is learned and memorized.
This is an explanation for Alzheimer’s patients who can no longer construct sentences but can consistently and confidently sing the songs that were significant to them in earlier years.
This same use of music as a tool for memorization has been prevalent in education for quite some time. Perhaps the most recognized example for our generation is the collection of Schoolhouse Rock songs. I personally have relied on the Grammar Rock songs to remember those eight parts of speech.
To return to the Psalms, the structure of music at the time they were written was quite different from more contemporary music. Gregorian Chant is the oldest form of music I am even vaguely familiar with and many of the Psalms predate Gregory I for whom the chant form is named. The purpose of chanting was to recite scripture and then later added some components of the liturgy (Gloria, Kyrie, Agnus Dei, etc.). Therefore, the organization (rhythms, measures, etc.) was driven by the text.
In translation, the Psalms have the added complication of including rhythm in order to maintain the poetic character. You have often stated that particular passages were not translated well or that the English language does not have the vocabulary to adequately express the author’s intended message. It has been my observation that some translations and versions of the Psalms more effectively maintain this poetic character than others as well.
For the last five to six years, I have taken one or two verses from the Psalm of the Lectionary readings to sing as part of the service at Church of the Resurrection. This blending of the older text (we use the Psalm readings from the Book of Common Prayer) with a more contemporary structure of music is sometimes much easier than other times.
I have not gone back to research and reference what I have written here but it is simply my understandings and recollections. Perhaps there is something you might find helpful.
Every day I pray for wisdom. I learned from the Psalms the importance of praying for wisdom. The Psalms has a perspective I embrace. I can do everything I can such as study, research, listen, and learn and the by product will be knowledge. The Psalms are individually and corporately adamant that wisdom is a gift from God. God can give us wisdom in our seeking of knowledge but the Psalmists have come to the conclusion that only God ultimately gives wisdom.
I have known very wise persons who do not have a lot of knowledge and I have a lot of persons who have a lot of knowledge and not much wisdom. There are very few who have an abundance of both. It is not that wisdom and knowledge are mutually exclusive. They are, in fact, two sides to the same coin, if you will. Wisdom, if you and I listen well to the Psalms, is a gift of the Holy Spirit for those who take the spiritual life seriously.
Therefore, for the next several weeks, I want to share wisdom with you. I know it is presumptuous for me to name something as wise. But wisdom is like the color green. You know it when you see it. It is like the taste of chocolate ice cream. Very difficult to describe but you know it when you experience it.
A pastor, for whom I have tremendous respect, Jim Jackson, recently retired. He has begun to take Scripture, life experience, professional perspective, and a whole lot of pondering to create a set of “laws.” These are not legalistic practices but principles upon which God has created this earth. Just like the law of gravity, there are spiritual laws at work in this universe and Jesus was always speaking about them using the language of the Kingdom of God. This is how God has arranged this world to work at its best and reality is, as Dallas Willard says, what we run up against when we are wrong.
“How You Know a Decision is Important”
The law of decision-making: Every important decision you make feels scary and ticks someone off.
Hundreds of times people through the years have come to me for help with an important decision. I usually ask them two questions.
First, “Is this decision scary?” If it’s not a scary, it is not an important decision.
Second, “Who is your decision going to tick off?” Important decisions always leave someone feeling disappointed, angry, or hurt.
My usual advise has been for people to do what Jesus did when he made important decisions: 1. Withdraw to a lonely place for three to five days. Go to a location where you do not know anyone and you will not be disturbed. 2. Do not take books to read or movies to watch. Do not turn on a television or a computer. Take only a minimum of food and clothing, a notebook, and a Bible. Avoid all conversations. Respond only to text messages from immediate family members. 3. Spend your time sleeping, walking, journaling, and praying. See what answers come up from the bottom of your soul.
The right decision may not come clear in three to five days, but I will guarantee you that you will be in a place where you could not have been if you had not gone away.
“Aging and ‘More So'”
The law of “more so:” The older you get, the “more so” you become.
As we get older, we become “more so.” Whatever our natural bent is, it becomes more extreme as we age.
If you were obsessed with money, you become more obsessed. If you were generous, you become more generous. If you had a problem with alcohol, you drink more. If you were kind, you become more kind. If you were a worrier, you worry more. If you were a person of faith, you become more trusting. If you have character flaws, you become more vulnerable to them. If you were a godly person, you become godlier. If you were mean and judgmental, you become harder to deal with relationally. If we are kind and accepting, you become easier to deal with relationally.
Tell me what you are like now and I will predict what you will be like in the future. The only way to change your future disposition is to change what you are like today.