forest findings: on the way to 2024

This is a blog complied by Uwe Steinmetz about finding seeds, fruits and blossoms in the rain forest, the "Harmony of Difference" of a shared common ground of the priesthood of believers since Luther.

The blog presents brief inspirational pieces from musicians who all share roots and experiences in Lutheran churches, theology and church music and carry a religious inspiration into their music making - on concert stages and into church liturgies. Over the course of this project, interviews with contributors and presentations of contributions to the Global Achtliederbuch 2024 will be included as well.

21.-24.02. WAR IN EUROPE

War is the greatest plague that can afflict humanity, it destroys religion, it destroys states, it destroys families. Any scourge is preferable to it. Martin Luther, Alexander Chalmers (1857). “The Table Talk of Martin Luther”, p.332

 

My oldest son asked me some time ago why on some maps Russia is not part of Europe but it plays part in the European soccer championship. I pointed out how closely Russia and Germany have been tied together, how closely Russia has been culturally a part of Europe, for me particularly also particularly through Russia´s  wonderful artists.  Russia has been part of Europe and Europe part of Russia, specially through the arts. But in these days Russia´s leadership feels threatened by Europe or "The West" and seeks war while politicians all over the world seek to keep the fragile peace through diplomacy.

 

On the 22nd of February the hopes for successful diplomacy are dying. Hundred thousands of soldiers are prepared to move, reasons are announced why there needs to be blood shed.

 

On the 23rd of February blood is shed, the soldiers are marching, rockets are fired, war is formally declared.  On the 24th of February War in Europe is a fact, the morning begins with news of battles and destruction.

 

Despite the knowledge about the devastating impact of war, humans engage in it, Christians engage in it. Christians fighting against Christians as well. However, the songs crying out for peace have to be sung, more than ever. Martin Luther´s 1531 adaption of the Latin chant Da Pacem Domine turns the perspective toward God - Grant peace, We Pray, in Mercy, Lord (Verleih uns Frieden Gnädiglich): As we humans constantly fail to keep peace and even seem to actively seek war over and over again, Christians and all, peace truly becomes divine grace, uber-human, bridging all hatred, granted only through God - for Christians, for everyone.


20.02.2022 (on listening III): Lost in adoration

 

WE ARE YOUR SONG

The song began, when the universe responded,
your voice rang clear, as the darkness turned to light
And since that day earth and sky have sung your glory.
Praise without a word ever to be heard.

The song be came the expression of your people in pain and joy,
in oppression and release,
And we in turn have now learnt to hear the whisper
of your gentle voice cutting through the noise.

And so we sing at one with all creation,
together bring our worship and our praise
till we are lost in humble adoration
To you we belong for we are your song.

Today I was reflecting on this song (above an excerpt) by composer, guitarist and worship leader John Featherstone. Have we indeed "learnt to hear the whisper" of God´s gentle voice cutting through the noise? For myself I have to admit I am often overwhelmed and sometimes even attracted to the noise.

But the experience of Elijah (1 Kings 19:11-13) is the one where I strong feel, I always find a resonance with. An encounter with God for me  is within the quiet - be it the stillness within a storm or the magical silence of the few seconds after a concert before the applause. The sensation that something inexpressible just happened, passed, touched us and changed us forever. Worshipping with this gratitude for these experiences in life, in full thankfulness for those past experiences and full of hope and longing for those to come, is more than enough for what can ever be achieved with a Gloria: till we are lost in humble adoration.


19.02.2022 The song Eli, Eli (music: David Zehavi, lyrics: Hannah Senesh) can be found in many translations within international hymnbooks. I discovered this beautiful interpretation of Sophie Milman above just now. Her English translation of Hannah Senesh´s lyrics differs a bit of the printed version I have found so far:  My God (alone) I pray that these things never end: The sand and the sea, the rustle of the water, the thunder (and lightning) in heaven, the prayer of man. There is more to read about Hannah Senesh´s courageous life and faith in the video above. I find her poem very powerful in its simplicity:  that such natural phenomenons as thunder storms and the waves in the sea could end  - like prayer; and that all is indeed dependent on God´s grace, is a deep spiritual insight. As Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote in a letter to Eberhard Bethge on 29 May 1944: “We are to find God in what we know, not in what we don't know.”  Bonhoeffer reminds himself and his friend Eberhard that God has to be part of all things we know and experience. When God (or say, what is sacred and holy and life defining) is put  somewhere far out (outside, for example, of being the creator of natural phenomenons), at the end God is reduced to a speculative cause for the Big Band theory but not part of our daily life - like the sand and the sea.


18.02.2022 (on listening II)

Ike Sturm: Listen

 

Ike Sturm was director of worship at Saint Peter´s Lutheran Church in Manhattan from 2004-2021. The piece above was often used for candle prayer in his services and I have used it often in services, sometimes a cappella, sometimes even instrumental. Listening in its holistic meaning (with all our senses, as the beautiful text by Bret Hesla suggests) is an essential mode of human behavior  - and is under threat as well more than ever, I believe, since a precondition before Listening is an open mindset that embraces also silence and stillness and simply "being in the moment". This is a spiritual challenge especially in times when words and anger steer our society more than love - My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry. (James 1:19)


17.02.2022 (on listening I) - Janne Mark: "Pilgrim"

 

We go to the temple.

At first, silence.
Finally silence, not just silence,
but silence full of expectation and alertness.
Silence to listen, to hear and to feel.

To experience the power, that reduces
the present, the past and the future, the beyond and this world
to what they are allowed to be at the most: symbolic terms
that only let us suspect how incomplete and fragmentary
they fill our life without fulfilling it,
can determine us, but not liberate us.

To open ourselves to the power that unites mind and heart,
that can lead us closer to the truth within us, the world and behind all things.
That can take our momentary fears and longings,
our fleeting happiness and unhappiness into a new healing light,
can reconcile us with ourselves,
can heal us and is therefore: holy.

Immerse ourselves in a world where all searching is allowed to pause for a moment,
and everything found seems excitingly strange and can be rediscovered.

We go to this temple, which is only sacred by what is practiced and experienced in it,
no matter how profane it may seem on its own.

We go to this temple, whether together or each for oneself,
(in the end all alone), which can bring God closer to our lifes
more than all words alone can ever do, and which remains/resonates in us
even when we leave - we "can" trust. We have "found" faith.

We go to the temple, the temple of music, Finally, music.
Melodies become temples of worship. 

A temporary home, a resting place, is found in hymns and
in communal memories of worship in sacred (to us) places.
No more words required - except - thank God for music!


16.02.2022 Thinking about the notion of performing religiously inspired music  in the concert hall, the Danish singer-songwriter and church musician (at Brorson´s Kirke) Copenhagen) Janne Mark comes to mind immediately. She has written beautiful songs, hymns, that are inspired by a her spiritual journey, some of them translated into English by John Bell of the IONA community. Janne performs her music on concert stages all over Europe and in churches alike - no church walls here, Martin Luther would be delighted...But I am thinking today about what "belonging" means, a home, a church (church walls here are necessary and allowed) - how does it look? Janne has been writing a beautiful song about this that will be part of the "Belonging" section of Lutheran Hymns and Rites 2024:

 

 

A HOUSE WHERE YOU BELONG

(ET HUS AT KOMME TIL)

Music and text by Janne Mark (from ‘Salmer fra broen 2013)

English text by John L. Bell (WGRG 2016+2019)

 

1. A house where you belong founded on spirit, built with song, where mind and body, sand and stone come to their own - this is a solid place, in which we feel God's firm embrace.
2 A house to which you come, a shelter better than your home, for here the love of God is known practiced and shown and all discourage is dented by God's promise and intent.
3 A house from which you run and yet to which you can return, a place in which each one can share deep joy and care although the open door is one we often may have passed before.
4 A house in which you find things that were seldom on your mind, things which you thought you'd never need: on these you feed. Here those who fondly greet will hope to recognize you in the street.
5 A house in which each day there is no limit to your stay. Should you pour out your heart to God his love is broad; and where despair takes seed God plants in that same soil the hope you need.
6 A house where you belong a house which you can call your home where we believe the law of love stands high above the laws we sometimes make which harm our neighbour and humiliate.
7 The church must be the home to which all people freely come should life be good, should it be bad happy or sad, this still must be the place which welcomes all and offers God's embrace.

 


15.02.2022 The website is launched. Where to start? Here´s what inspired me through setting up this website: The pianist Tord Gustavsen works part time as a church musician in the Lutheran Tanum Church in Bærum near Oslo. He once mentioned to me, that in some respect, there is no difference in the music making for a congregation or a concert audience, if at all, playing at a church for him brings him close to his childhood roots and centers on an important essence of music making for him as a professional artist: the dramaturgy of the mass is often an inspiration for his concerts. Some of his liturgical music and chorale arrangements will be part of Lutheran Hymns and Rites 2024.

 

Below is an excerpt of a studio session before a trio concert at Lincoln Center, NYC, with his interpretation of two compositions by Johann Sebastian Bach. For me, his thoughts and musical interpretation illustrate the ability of music to inspire and carry religious meaning as Luther envisioned - inside and outside of church walls. Here, the priesthood of all believers is stretching back in time through centuries - from Martin Luther via J.S. Bach to Tord Gustavsen...as Tord puts it: the longing for companionship with those whe went before us. The common ground for inspiration is not musical style but musical expression of individual faith.