Wednesday, September 27, 2006

poetics 3

In the Old Testament, the message that is preached today was being given to us by poets. We have reduced the poet to the recitation of what we already know while often preachers break down, analyze, codify, lengthen and explain the magic right out of the poetry that was originally given us.
We have developed a cultural paradigm that has a single person standing before a congregation in a one-way dissemination of information, while we allow the poet only to sing songs that everyone already knows. The preacher delivers his message to a quiet congregation who are expected not to interact or participate with him, and the poet is not allowed to sing unless everyone in the congregation is participating.
Four and a half years ago, when I first began leading worship week after week with the same congregation, there was a Deliriou5? lyric that encouraged me greatly, “I’ve got a message to bring – I can’t preach, but I can sing – and me and my brothers here – we’re gonna sing redemption hymns.” I owned that lyric and mourned that as a poet/prophet, I was not expected to teach or preach but to facilitate community in corporate singing. I decided that both were possible at the same time and set about subversively causing the congregation to sing the message to themselves every week. Each week, I brought a message to the congregation, but I brought it to them through their own mouths.
Some never heard the message. They were too distracted by how old and tired, or new and unfamiliar the song was, or how fast or loud or slow or boring, or how high my tenor voice delivered the melody. Others, fewer, caught on. Their attention spans went beyond the authentic cadence and tempo change and introduction to the next song and saw the big picture and how it all worked together to tell a single, specific story. And they sang the story to themselves, and after the preaching was finished, and the blanks were filled in from the sermon outline, and we sang the closing song, they kept singing the message, they kept rehearsing the story and each week the story grew more real and immediate and necessary and deep and personal and it took root and changed us and shaped us and grew us and humbled us. The songs became a part of the story so that even a whistle of a portion of a melody became like the tassels on the robe of a rabbi and called up memory and assurance and promise and hope and truth.

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