“It is indeed right, our duty and our joy, that we should in all times and in all places give thanks to you, our God.”
That’s from the Eucharistic Prayer that the pastor chants at the local Lutheran church before the distribution of the Holy Meal every Mass. What I wanna blather on about here is the “joy” part of it. And I wanna address a stereotype about Lutherans which doesn’t apply to me and that is that we, like Meister Luther hisseff, love music and singing and all that jazz. I, to name one Lutheran in particular, do not love it – at least, not the way we it gets done in church.
Today, for example, after receiving the Eucharist, I was sitting there, zoning out in contemplation of the mysterious weirdness of consuming the body and blood of Jesus, an act which always causes me to be more aware of God’s presence in my reality in a way that I may try to explain at some other time, and I kinda became aware of the choir singing something and then I caught a bit of the lyric and realized it was “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms” which I love when it’s done by hillbillies – especially when it’s done as a bluegrass instrumental – but when it’s done by a choir, it just sounds like more of that generic churchy soundage that they put in there when they need to take up time. Like they couldn’t just let people sit in the silence. Everybody clapped when the choir finished, something which doesn’t happen very often at the local Lutheran church, but which happened once, which is too many times as far as I’m concerned, so I guess the rest of the congregants were pretty happy with the job the choir did, which was prob’ly good. I just don’t happen to care for that style. And I really don’t like the whole singing in church thing – I mean, I don’t enjoy doing it, not that I think it’s inappropos or anything. People been singing in church for a long time and I have no reason to think it annoys God, so I ain’t gonna fight it. And I do make some effort to participate for form’s sake. If the arrangement doesn’t require a whole lotta trills or anything, I’ll sing along, quietly and at the lower end of the limited range available to me, hopefully providing a bit of barely audible bass drone. When the arrangement is at all difficult, I just stand there. More often than I’d like, there’s a soprano near me who’s going at the hymns like Whitney Houston or some shit. Lotsa trills. Feh.
But getting back to the “duty and joy” thing – I wouldn’t say that singing hymns in church is in any way joyful for me. I get some emotional and spiritual lift from the confession of sins and forgiveness of same and from the recitation of the creeds – Apostle’s or Nicene, whichever it happens to be on any given Sunday – and like I said, the Eucharist does some stuff to me that I find enjoyable and beneficial. I could do without the hymns.
Back when the cassette player in my truck worked, I would get tapes for $.25/per at a thrift store. I got a buncha great stuff, including a collection of bluegrass instrumental hymns, including “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms” and I’d drive all around the county blasting that twangy shit and shouting the choruses and that was fun. I really gotta fix the cassette player in the truck. I also had the Stooge’s Raw Power, but that doesn’t really apply here.
So when I get my certificate of ordination, after I call my tattoo guy and make an appointment to get the Rose of Luther tatted on the back of my left hand, I’ma call my friend Katy and badger her until she agrees to be my musical director. Katy grew up in West by God Virginia, so she knows about hillbilly bluegrass hymns. I’m sure she’ll wanna do some of the regular churchy stuff with a piano and shit – I’m fine with that. I just don’t wanna havta think about it.
Back again to that opening which I have consistently ignored, while the actual making of a “joyful noise unto the Lord” in church does not interest me or give me warm fuzzies, my life is a whole lot better when I show up and participate. So it is indeed my joy as well as my duty to be involved in the whole thing. I think that’s worth noting because I ran into a guy I know before the service and asked him what he was up to.
“Just doin’ the church thing”, says he, without a whole lotta gusto like maybe his wife made him come along or something. He’s been a Lutheran a lot longer than me, so I guess the new has worn off for him. But the actual church part ain’t always gonna be fun – the church part is the part that’s “indeed right, our duty” and the “and our joy” part is all the resta the time. Unless you’re a soprano who likes getting loud or a mystically inclined weirdo who gets a little high from the bread and grape juice.
Just by the by – I kinda been letting this thing lie fallow lately. Lotsa work and trying to get into college and buy a house and I had my rotten kid for a week and I’m also writing an experimental prose thing that’ll take years to get done. And the weather got real good for hiking so I been doing a lotta that which is really waking up the pagan part of me that just fuggin’ loves God’s green earth. Also, I’m not suffering from the delusion that a whole helluva lotta folks are hanging on my every word. I’m not about to quit writing this – just got other shit to do.