Saturday, January 14, 2012

Music Notes for January 15

       “Here I Am, Lord” is one of those songs which came into their own in the 80s and which are now part of the repertoire frequently chosen for funerals.  Apparently the song carries some emotional weight for those who sang it when it was “new wine,” since, if the Lord calling in the night is symbolic of death, then death becomes a vocation!  The song is actually based on today’s story of God calling the young Samuel, and on Psalm 40.
      Perhaps as we consider once more our response to Jesus’ strategic question, “What are you looking for?” and his coy invitation to “Come and see,” we might also imagine how Martin Luther King, Jr. responded to the call in the night. His birthday falls on Sunday this year, as did Christmas and the solemnities of Mary and Epiphany. He was a talented, scholarly young preacher in Montgomery in 1954 who could have led a comfortable life by simply delivering eloquent sermons and not rocking the boat.  But the bus boycott needed a leader.  To heighten our awareness of the events of the late 50s and early 60s, it may be helpful to read the book The Help, or to watch the DVD.                      
       Psalm 40 is the prayer of someone suffering a crisis of faith. We might imagine Dr. King praying this psalm in the days when it seemed the legal system was immoveable and his house was bombed.  Since the lectionary only appoints selected verses to be sung at worship, one should read the entire psalm from the Bible to experience its drama. Verses 10 and 11 read: “I announced your justice in the vast assembly . . . Your justice I kept not hid within my heart . . . I have made no secret of your kindness and your truth . . .” So the theme of justice which began in the psalms of Advent continues into the Epiphany season. Robert Christian, of Catholic University, has elaborated on Dr. King’s notion of justice in an essay, “Dr. King and Catholic Social Teaching,” available on the website of Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good,  He emphasized the importance of community if human beings were to realize their full potential. As members of the body of the risen Christ, the sin of any one member harms the rest of the body, as our I Corinthians passage points out. This is especially true if one person treats another unjustly. The corollary is that we must respect life in all its forms.
       Music this weekend includes spirituals, “This Little Light of Mine” in a beautiful setting not often heard, “I Told Jesus It Would Be All Right If He Changed My Name,” from the gospel story, and “Hush! Hush! Somebody’s Callin’ My Name,” the theme of listening which will reappear for the next few weeks. “Spirit of God Within Me” is an elaboration on St. Paul’s image of the temple of the Holy Spirit, as is Matt Maher’s contemporary song, “Just Like You.”  “The Summons” has, in the last 25 years, become the classic musical meditation on the implications of listening to Jesus’ overtures.