WORSHIP November 20 2022 9:30 Informal Worship Service

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I don’t know about you, but I love music. Love it. When I’m having a rough day I pick a Pandora station and let it run through the tunes. I don’t even have to know all the songs being played…although the sentimentality of a Crosby Stills Nash and Young song or the memories associated with the vibe of 2Pac…it sure does help to boost the mood.

My husband and I were watching the movie “Bullet Train” last week and the soundtrack had me moving a bit. Familiar songs had been translated into Japanese to fit the scenario of the film. Songs like (sing it) “Holding out for a Hero” and “Stayin’ Alive.” But it’s not just the familiar music that gets me going. We went to see “Wakanda Forever” last weekend. I hadn’t heard most of those songs, but I had no shame in doing a little dance in my movie theater lay-z-boy chair.

As a kid, my dad would play music throughout the house – stuff he had been raised with: Ohio State Marching Band, his favorite records…consisting of a whole lot of everything. The sound would fill the house, and I don’t ever remember feeling annoyed about it. It was a part of my becoming. The music that he shared in the house, in the car, in the concerts my parents took us to. The piano lessons, the baritone lessons, the brass band groups they took me to once a week – those 3.5 hour trips across town on a school night, my mom working 12 hour shifts and my dad working 2 jobs…I have no idea how they did it. I even remember the first piece of music I owned – an Elton John tape my grandparents got me that came with a tape player and microphone so I could run around the house singing “Rocket Man” all I wanted.

Music isn’t what I ended up doing for a living, although I came pretty close. It’s freeing! It can change your mood or the mood of an entire room. It can raise debate as it did at our confirmation class last week – arguing over which genre is better. Poetry with a melody. Words and vibes that can help us explore our emotions and experiences of the world. It can give us insight into another person’s world – one that might relate to our own, a world we might empathize with or one that might make us realize we aren’t alone.

Maybe music has a similar history for you. Or is there something else that you might think of as a major part of your becoming. Let’s pause for a second and think about that. Is there something that has had a strong influence on who you are becoming? I say that actively, because growing into who we truly are isn’t something that ends when we become adults. For kids, youth, adults alike – is there something (or someone) that helps to mold you, to nudge you in your becoming?

In our gospel passage today, Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist sings a song. A hymn with a history. Reading it straight from the Bible, it’s difficult to hear it as a song. I often read them as words of joy and excitement over the birth of a child and the role that he will play in sharing the good news of Jesus, the messiah. But it is a song. And according to scholar Lis Valle-Ruiz,  “Many scholars agree that except for verse 70, the song is not original from the author of the gospel according to Luke, but rather a composite of citations, allusions or fragments from old songs of praise, psalms from the Hebrew Bible, the song of Hannah, and a Jewish blessing meant to be recited daily.”

A song that we now relate to a part of Zechariah’s becoming. A song about the becoming of John the Baptist. A song not sung in a silo, all by its lonesome, but one that has had to go through a process of becoming itself. Pieces of history pulled together – allusions, psalms, the song of Hannah, and even a blessing. All of these things come together, and continue to evolve into versions of what we call the benedictus or Canticle of Zechariah.

Who we are is a matter of pieces of history being pulled together – pieces we might choose to either reject or embrace. The music of my childhood has led me to a certain openness about different forms of expression – styles of music, words we choose to use. Music is what helps me embrace my feelings when everything else in my head tells me to shove the feelings under the rug because we don’t have time for them. It is a part of my ongoing process of becoming who I am, and it is not without the movement of the spirit and the influence of community.

Toward the end of our remembrance of baptism today, we said,

“There is no me without you.

We shape one another.

The Sacred that birthed us weaves our lives together

so that we can only find ourselves through shared becoming.”

The canticle of Zechariah, our gospel for today, reveals to us this beauty of God’s word and how it’s not just words on page. It comes from the development of communal wisdom, of sharing, of weaving lives and experiences from different times and places together. It is a shared becoming. How can we continue to make room for that shared becoming together? Our lives are weaved together for a purpose – so that we might walk alongside one another, revealing the grace and love of Jesus through stories, through shared experiences, making room for what each person needs to become. We are not meant to walk the journey on our own. God calls us to each other, pulling the divine from within each of us. And in this process, may we come to know love for one another, love for every human being, love for the possibility of who we are becoming.

-Pastor Emily Ebert


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