We will lift up in music and in prose the beauty of cultivating our divine indwelling, our sense of “being home,” a dwelling the Buddha described as the Brahmaviraha. We will lift up the paradox and tension that can exist between this desire for home with another Buddhist teaching that “the raft is not the shore.” That to truly have reverence for all life means we each are on a journey of change. Sevina Martin, leader of the MA Poor People’s Campaign will give this message powerful context in her presentation in Sutherland Hall immediately following the service.
Homily for Music Sunday
On Thursday I finally got a chance to go to choir practice and when I heard the powerful gospel songs and the beautiful ballads the choir will sing for us today, I took it as a sign that this day is an occasion for song, for celebrating music that carries us through life. So if you came today to hear about Buddhism as advertised that will be next week.
The poet Wallace Stevens use to say we are a “body of journeys” and each journey is an occasion for a song that can help us remember “all the fragments of ourselves” for singing helps us discover our truths and make meaning of the world. What I love about singing, especially our hymns, is that I discover what is in me that I have not yet been able to voice. And I bring that truth from my margins to my very center and listen to how it resonates in my mood and thought. Does this happen for you? When we sing together we give voice to these truths in a way that is incredibly intimate and yet public which leads to a powerful sense of communion. You may know the experience of singing at a rally, at a concert, at church with people older, younger, richer, poorer, with darker skin or lighter skin, when you are suddenly overcome with a powerful “yes, the world is just right at this moment.” Do you know these moments?
I remember several years ago when my kids were in middle school, I led a kayaking camp in the summer. One day was brutally windy, and Marta, a 12-year couldn’t keep up. We were well behind the group on the mouth of the North River. The tide and wind were against us and we were barely making headway. She finally just gave up and started to drift towards the open mouth to the sea. Well that’s when I discovered she was in the school musical Oliver and I started singing “Oom pa pa, oom papa that’s how it goes, oomp pa pa, oom pa pa everyone knows.” That was the cadence that carried us up river against the wind and the tide.
Singing not only connects the inward with the outward, it connect me with that which has come before, with all that is present, and with what I hope will yet to be. My fondest memories of our together time as a family when I was a kid were when we cleaned up dinner singing Girl Scout songs. Moments of levity we shared in voice as we accomplished a task together, moments that were for me an oasis of connection in an otherwise disconnected family. These memories were a lifesaver for me as a young parent. We were living in Key West when my second set of twins was born. We suddenly had 4 kids 2 years of age and younger. My mom had two sets of twins and I wanted to know, how did she do this. She had died when I was in college and I missed her. By singing those same songs I embodied her embrace during those stressful moments with 4 toddlers. Songs held us all together; well at least held me together. I sang so much with my kids that my mother-in-law Lyn of beloved memory gave me this statue. Thank you Lyn for your witness.
Lastly, what I love about music is that it names the special qualities of the space and time. In song we can praise beauty, lament sorrow, invite calm in the chaos, find strength to fight the current, give voice to love, and energy to passion. Sometimes, I feel that we need to sing to explain just about everything. For this is what the sound of music is to me, it helps me understand what is both present and absent in my heart. When my heart is silent I go to the hills. I know this is not an original. But, I go to the hills for the sound of music to the fields, to the woods, to hear in the cosmos the notes that ring true. I wonder, if you too sense the “the hills are alive.” If you have place your spirit sings with the laugh of a brook as it trips and falls over stones a long its way? Is there a place within your heart that sings like a lark as you are learning to pray during the predawn hour? Do you know such a place? Is there someone beloved, a friend or spiritual guide who joins you there?
A few years ago, people all over the world celebrated the 50th anniversary of the movie the Sound of Music. People Magazine told a story of one young man in London who attended a sound of music sing-a-long in full costume. He was spray painted from top to bottom in gold. When asked what character he was from the movie, he said “I’m Ray a drop of golden sun.” My prayer this hour, and all hours is that that the sound of music be like a ray of golden sun that lights your way, renews your spirit, emboldens your courage, strengthens your resilience, clarifies your vision and fills your heart with blessings. May we commune together as we listen to the summons of this day.