For a song

Mixon MusesSummer has come and, with the turning of the calendar, another anniversary. July 1 marks the beginning of my ninth year as pastor of FBCPA. It has been quite a journey. I am happy to be continuing with you as we look to the future. We had a good meeting of the Assistant Pastor Search Committee last week and we are moving forward with the search. If you have thoughts or questions to share, feel free to speak to any of us – Dan Cudworth, Doug Ha, Melanie Ramirez, Hugh Satterlee, Carolyn Shepard or myself.

This last week of June has been especially full with extra meetings and the final Choral Project concerts of the season. We had a nice audience in our sanctuary on Friday, including a number of church members; a full house at Mission Santa Clara Saturday night; and a good crowd at Peace Congregational Church in Santa Cruz on Sunday afternoon. I have to say it is a real joy making music with this group, probably the most satisfying choral experience I have had. And the set of concerts we just finished were among my favorites ever.

Under the banner, “Americana,” we sang a collection of songs from the USA, Canada and Latin America. It was not a collection of patriotic songs. Rather it was 20th century works masterpieces along with folk songs and early American hymns in settings by superb composers and arrangers. All the songs seemed beautifully constructed and fit the voice in a way that made it extremely satisfying to sing. Some of it was just fun like “Cindy” (“Get along home, little Cindy. I’ll marry you some day”) and a French Canadian nursery song about a mill wheel. Some songs were tender and moving like the early hymn “Bright Morning Stars” or “Let Us Break Bread Together.” Some were deeply stirring like Randall Thompson’s setting of Robert Frost’s “Choose Something Like a Star” or Aaron Copeland’s “The Promise of Living” from his opera, The Tender Land.

I quoted this last number in my sermon last Sunday on “Prophets of Peace.” Copeland’s librettist (and partner) Erik Johns penned these words, “The promise of living with hope and thanksgiving is born of our loving our friends and our labor. The promise of growing with faith and with knowing is born of our sharing our love with our neighbor. The promise of ending in right understanding is peace in our own hearts and peace with our neighbor.” In a time in our world when there is still too much enmity and fighting, these are words of wisdom, a little gospel. There is nothing like cooperation, sharing, loving to bring about peace among neighbors and strangers alike.

Then Robert Frost encourages us with these words about a star,

It asks a little of us here.
It asks of us a certain height,
So when at times the mob is swayed
To carry praise or blame too far,
We may choose something like a star
To stay our minds on and be staid.

There is part of me that would love to forward these words to our political leaders (and some religious leaders, as well.) Surely there is a higher calling, something like a star, to lift us above the vicious, self‐serving politics that too often plague our land (and our churches.) There is a word here about grace and humility from which we can all learn.

And there were hymns, with words familiar and perhaps sentimental, yet speaking of that universal longing for heaven and home, for that place where we may yet live in peace and harmony, in love and thanksgiving with all of creation. “Come fathers and mothers, come sisters and brothers, come join us in singing the praises of Zion.” “Oh where are our dear mothers? They have gone to heaven shouting.” “Let us break bread together on our knees.” “What wondrous love is this, oh my soul?” “Are  there anybody here like Peter sinkin’? Call to my Jesus and he’ll draw nigh.” “If I could, I surely would stand on the rock where Moses stood. Elijah rock – shout, shout – Elijah rock, I’m comin’ up Lord.”

Well, maybe this is a mish‐mash that makes little sense. If so, thank you for your indulgence of my re‐hashing a great choral experience. Hopefully you get a little sense of what it means to me. Maybe you had to be there. In fact, I wish you had. There is real joy in sharing the magic and mystery of music with you. As our conductor always says, “without the audience it would
just be another rehearsal.” Beauty, truth, hope, love, something of the eternal – so much can be conveyed in a song. I’ll close with a line from one of my favorite hymns, “If love is Lord of heaven and earth, how can I keep from singing?”

Yours for a song,
Pastor Rick