Students at commencement

Ministry in Context

My banjo, please

As an ice breaker at a recent cluster meeting, I asked all the participants to tell the group one little thing about themselves that other people would not usually know. One supervisor reported that she had taken banjo lessons as a child. I was filled with envy.

As a theologian of some small sophistication, most days I don't put much stock in the classic comic strip paradigm of heaven which portrays the blessed departed floating around in white robes with wings on their backs, riding the clouds and passing time by playing harps. When I die, if grace is good enough to grant me entry into that "heaven," I have decided that I will immediately seek out the management and make one request: could I please have a banjo rather than a harp?

Now you nay-sayers out there (you know who you are) will point out that I don't know how to play the banjo. That is true. However, I also do not know how to play the harp. If there are angels giving harp lessons, there ought to be a stray angel around to give banjo lessons. Earl Scruggs comes to mind. And heaven only knows (pun completely intended) there will be plenty of time to practice.

The harp is a perfectly fine instrument, but I have always loved the banjo, and I don't know anybody who can be sad around banjo music. I would expect heaven to be a pretty cheerful place, quite amenable to a little banjo picking. Lots of our churches right here in this realm of tears (see, there you go) could use a little cheering up. We sing Amazing Grace, a song that is a celebration of the greatest good news anybody could ever imagine, and make it sound like a dirge. Sets my teeth on edge. Amazing Grace needs more banjo. Maybe more cowbell, too. It needs a Sousa march, a Dixieland band, an upbeat dance floor rhythm. Maybe a samba. Grace is serious good news, but it shouldn't be solemn news.

They probably get that in heaven. I'll bet that when the cameras are turned off, a lot of those angels put their harps aside (no offense, harpists, your music is lovely if a bit heavy for my tastes), and whip out their banjos. I want to be in heaven's banjo band.

After I have mastered the banjo, for there should be enough "time" in heaven for me to do that, I will move on to two other never-fulfilled dreams of this life.

Learning to tap dance.

And learning to yodel.

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