Why do I write? Why do I post? What’s my mission?
The beginning of a new year is a great time to look for clarity, but what really prompted me to ask these questions was a response to one of my other posts. Gospel Isosceles commented on my revisited reflection on marginalized peoples with the words to a song by Monsters of Folk. She quoted,
“Their job tonight,
Re-write the bible
For a whole new generation
She told me she was reminded of those lines by the title of my blog and by the sense she got of my mission from what she read.
I decided to track down the whole song. I listened to it several times and looked up the lyrics. Here they are:
His Master’s Voice
Mohammed rolling dice with Christ at twilight
And they hear their master’s voice, they run to do their chores
At master’s calling.
Their job tonight, re-write the bible
For a whole new generation of non-believers.
The pastor screams out to the crowd
‘There’s evil that must be put down!’
And it touches the soldier boy he heeds his master’s voice
His life is calling.
Sweet soldier boy, the speaker is bleeding
He hears his master’s voice do you hear your master’s voice?
Calling like the lady siren’s call.
Sweet soldier quiet- just staring at the ceiling
And he hears his master’s voice he hears the call to war
The siren’s singing.
Out on the line- there’s something that strikes his side
And he sees his inner child he hears his mother’s voice
Spirit soldiers mother hovers she holds up a paper cup
And the sound of life and love fills her ear.
You’re only gonna hear what you want to hear
Do you hear your master’s voice now?
Mohammed and Christ speak twice as nice
But the one that I like best he sings inside my chest
I hear my master’s voice now
Calling out, calling out, calling out calling out
Monsters of Folk have produced something here, something deep, something powerful. I struggle with poetry, which it certainly is, but I feel like I am just beginning to find my way as I stumble through wisdom literature. I think this is modern day wisdom literature.
I know wisdom when, as I read it, I feel pulled apart from the inside. I know wisdom when easy and clear-cut guidelines become elusive. I know wisdom when I get done receiving it and don’t know what to do with it, but I feel compelled to stick around until it forms something in me.
Here is the fool’s question (to use the language of Proverbs), the one I asked myself immediately after reading the lyrics the first time: Does it view the one re-writing the Bible for a whole new generation of non-believers favorably or with judgement?
I’m still not sure I know the answer to that, and short of contacting the artists, I don’t think I can figure it out with certainty. Another question is what was Gospel Isosceles’ opinion when she shared it with me? Again, I could ask, but what would that do beyond satisfying my curiosity?
Wisdom does not seek merely information; it seeks transformation.
So, I meditate on these words. I reflect on what they could mean. I reflect on the story they tell. I reflect on what they stir in me. I consider what my mission is, what my desire is when I write and hit “publish.”
Even now as I re-read the lyrics, they shake me upside down like a snow globe, they leave me unsettled and I wait to see where the bits of glitter come to rest. What picturesque forest cottage forms from the tumult when the words find their home?
Swirling within, I see the names of Christ and Mohammad. I see a call to arms and the death of dedication turned violent, of fear and anger wresting the life from the body of a mother’s beloved. I see faithfulness and creativity, and I see desire. Desire for something more real and more of life and love.
Is this a mirror or a window? How much does the song reflect what’s inside me? What exactly is my mission?
My initial impulse when Gospel Isosceles shared the words was pleasure. I liked them and their application to me. I wasn’t as sure when I read the whole song.
I don’t know that I want to re-write the Bible for non-believers or anyone else. I don’t think that’s my job. But I do know that my soul craves the wisdom and the love I find when I take the time to read what the scriptures hold. And I know that the vast majority of American’s, whether Christian or “non-believers” never get to see the richness and fullness of what is really there, waiting to be known.
I have a bachelor’s degree in biblical studies and a master’s degree in divinity, and I learned a lot about how to find the meaning in the shapes on the pages of the Bible. Much of how I understand scripture comes from that portion of my life. Some of it, though, comes from experiencing it for myself and in the company of others who love the Spirit and Scripture, some of whom have no formal training.
When I read the words of Moses, and Solomon, and Isaiah, and Matthew, and John, I look not just for information, but for conversation. Understanding the perspectives of the original authors and audiences is important. Also though, understanding how the people of God have understood those words throughout history is just as important. Beyond that, understanding not just how but also why God’s people understand it how they do is essential. Sometimes they’re wrong. But knowing why they think that way helps point us in the right direction.
OK, so what am I getting at? What is my mission exactly?
Honestly, I don’t know. I write because I’m a healthier person when I do. Creating and committing myself to reflecting deeply enough to put down my thoughts coherently is a spiritual exercise for me.
When I write, I hope people read it. I hope people find it meaningful. I hope people share it. I hope people like it or that they interact with it if they don’t.
When I think of the title of my blog—An Old Song with a New Dance—and what was happening in my life when I chose it, I think of forming a new way of life out of the patchwork of history and culture that has had an influence on who I am and what I care about. I think about Medieval monks and about living in a big house with another family leading to a painful schism. I think about the longing for connection with other people and with God that led to trying something new. I think about the dark night of the soul that followed the dissolution of that community. I think about learning from a new community what serving and community and faithfulness and love look like.
When I think about hearing God’s siren call and stepping into the waters, I think about belief and experience and practice and shared life, immersion in the Spirit of Christ and faithfulness to the way of Christ, little by little and day by day. I think about reaching and gasping and struggling and resting in the presence of the source of everything worth knowing and doing and being.
I want to relish the words of the Bible and share them in a way that shows them as something worth listening to. I want to experience God in the pages and reflect what I find there. I want to learn wisdom and let it shape me. I want to become the things I seek.
In listening to the ageless song, I want to dance steps never known before because they take me places I’ve never seen. My job is to let the Bible and the Church and the Spirit re-write me for a whole new generation of faithful believing.
As the edits take place, I’ll keep writing the new words to share them with others who might also find them formative. I can’t help it. “I hear my master’s voice now, calling out,” and all I can do is answer.