Tuesday, January 7, 2014

The Strange Songs God Sings To Us

I had a really solid conversation with someone who's planning on joining my little church this last Sunday.  It was technically the opening theological portion of my new member's class, but, er, I don't tend to approach that quite as systematically as other Jesus folks.   Fifteen weeks of theology before you're empowered to tag along for the ride?  Ack.  For some reason, I don't remember Jesus inflicting that on his disciples.  "Set down your nets and follow me, for now I will make you sit through twenty hours of coursework" just doesn't quite have the same ring to it.

I figure, you come, you connect, and when you hear the Gospel and want to join in the sharing of it, you're in.  You've got a lifetime to learn and grow.

My classes area bit more free-range than most, particularly if it's a one on one or just a couple of folks, which it tends to be in a small church.

So our conversation about the Trinity ended up touching briefly on music, and how odd it was that such a universal human thing could be so divisive.  Human beings tend to be musical creatures, and our love of song leaps across the boundaries of culture into every corner of every moment of our history.

It unites us as a deep commonality, or at least that's the idea.  But in actuality, it divides us. We sing, but we sing different songs.  And Lord, but does that bug us when it comes to sharing or being open to other forms.  The "music wars" in churches are legendary, as advocates of traditional music butt heads with those who like "contemporary" music.  Then there are those secular songs we sing in our societies, as wildly distinct as hip hop and country, as modern classical and pop.

I'll confess that I have my own preferences, which tend to be eclectic and wildly variant. I don't like consumerist treacle, I don't like selfishness, misogyny or the willfully simplistic.  But I try to be open, and I try to tolerate other musical styles and find what grace there is to be found in them.  I also can't help thinking how peculiar our arguments over song must seem for God.  Particularly those arguments had by faithful folk of every ilk.

The cultural differences between us, the ones that drive our musical aesthetics, these can't even begin to compare with the depth of the existential chasm that separates us from our Maker.  And as God sings to us, those songs aren't just the ones that we know and love.  Yes, God knows our tunes, and uses them.  But the repertoire of the Numinous goes deep.

There are songs God sings that use words we don't even understand, in languages and forms that are alien to our culture and to our sensibility.  We have to be careful, in our particularity, that we do not close ourselves off to those peculiar tunes.