Ministry in Context

Matching the Words and the Music

During a long car ride last week we popped in an old CD, and I heard a song from deep in my past that always makes me laugh.

When I was in high school the singer Bobby Darin had a short-term hit with a song called “Artificial Flowers.” What amuses me about the song is this: while the narrative is “tragic”/maudlin (a nine year old orphan girl freezes to death), the music that goes with it is relentlessly cheerful and upbeat. If you just heard the music, you’d want to get up and dance. If you just read the words, you’d want to sit down and cry.

It reminds me of (brace yourself—heresy dead ahead) the hymn “Amazing Grace,” one of my least favorite songs in ELW (or any other hymnal, for that matter). The words are wonderful, fine, joyful words, but the music is dirge-like. A mismatch. I’ve always liked Garrison Keillor’s suggestion that “Amazing Grace” be sung to the tune of the Mickey Mouse Club theme song. I prefer it that way.

And it reminds me of the challenge we as pastors and interns face in fitting our actions with our words. It’s perfectly easy for us to encourage the members of our congregations to get out into their neighborhoods and talk to people about their faith; but when we are introverts, we might not be inclined to do that ourselves. Our talk about stewardship rings hollow if we are not practicing good stewardship ourselves. To preach a sermon on Luther’s explanation of the 8th Commandment with its admonition to “interpret everything (the other person) do(es) in the best possible light”, and then head off to the ELCA Clergy Facebook page to lament how awful the people in our congregations treat us.

If we could just talk this faith it would be a pushover. Unfortunately we are challenged to live it as well.

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