Pentecost 2016

Sunday, May 15, 2016

“Kindling the spirit and sharing the spark:
Finding your personal Pentecost”
David Hirst

Today, I am sharing with you, my faith family, two hymns that I wrote after being inspired by your support and effect on my spiritual life. Some things we can do in unity to march ahead with a shared vision. Some things we must do in concert with everybody adding their unique touch to create a harmonious outcome. Listen as I share the songs and join as you are able.

For me, often, music is my Pentecost kindler, because music provides me with both an indwelling, contemplative place as well as an out compelling motivation to share music and create a feeling that others might enjoy. This is a gift that I was given, that was nurtured by my Grandmother, Sudie, an amazing pianist and by my Mother, Dodie a trained singer from the heart.

Act 2: verses 2-4 describes the first Pentecost like this:

“When the day of Pentecost had come they were all together in one place.

And suddenly, from heaven, there came a sound like the rush of violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues of fire rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages as the Spirit gave them ability.”

I would suggest, that as members of a faith community, we’re visited by tongues of fire that inspire us to speak and act in ways that we previously couldn’t have done. Keep in mind, as I share my story, that your tongue of fire is completely yours and how the Spirit manifests itself in you is also unique to the spiritual voyage that our mysterious creator reveals. So I will share a story of two songs, in the hopes that Pentecost will not seem abstract and overwhelming but a product of contemplative (albeit sometimes troubled) indwelling and then the courage, compunction and motivation to take the leap and share.

The first hymn I wrote for NCC came about during the time that I served as steering committee chair. It was a difficult time for me, personally, because I was in discernment for what my path would be as I retired.

It was a challenging time at NCC as we began to recognize that we needed to re-examine the founders’ vision for our community and how that vision meshed with new members and new directions for our community to grow.

It was a highly contentious time and some people became disenfranchised. On the other hand, it caused me to reflect on the church’s mission statement, and while musing on that statement, a melody came to mind. It was a Pentecost moment.

I knew that I wanted this piece to be written in unison, because mission statements are the unifying efforts of groups of people coming together to share a common vision.

Donnie told me that when the statement was written a taskforce of NCC’ers met for a period of several weeks. Once written, it was shared in small groups to get feedback. Taking the tabulated results, they fine-tuned it and presented it in its final form.

I chose a 4/4 meter because it is most like a walking tempo and I wanted to create a feeling as it was sung that we as a body of Christians were moving forward together practicing the inclusive love that Jesus taught.

Here’s the rub, I didn’t share it until last summer during a short course that Elsa Briggs and I taught. Why?

Because I was afraid to take a stand, even though I knew that the inspiration and vision came from the words of the NCC faithful, but it felt overly prideful to suggest that I might have dared to write a melody and tweaked the language to fit my desire for a walking meter. It isn’t Pentecost until you share the vision.

So what was keeping me from feeling comfortable with sharing?

A fear of people not liking it, yes . . . . a fear of offending people who may not completely agree with how I changed a few key words, yes. Doubt that I have right to share what I create, yes. But even more so, there is the fear that my work won’t be worthy. This was the most crippling thing for me.

In his book Let your life speak: Listening for the voice of vocation, Parker Palmer says “We can make choices about what we are going to project, and with those choices we can grow the world that is.” In projecting my fears about being worthy, being loved, or being a unifying force I lost the thread that this hymn was composed by me, but the words came from the community and the inspiration came from the Spirit, therefore, if I fail to share it I am not allowing it to inflame anyone else’s senses for good or bad. That is like what Jesus said in Matthew 5.versus 14-16 “You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hidden. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.”

As Christians, indeed as any followers of any faith based on unconditional love from a higher source, we are asked to drop the self-doubt, the self-importance and share what little we have to offer, in the knowledge that it will fall on some rocky soil and some fertile soil, but where ever it lands it will take on its own power from those who receive it. If ever a time existed, on this blue marble, we must be about taking those steps to share the message of unifying actions in love. What is your tongue of fire? I encourage you all to think about how you can stay connected to the energy that comes from our creator, be inspired by what love and the Spirit give you and then let it carry your forward to reach out.

Hymn #2 The Stone has rolled away.

This hymn came to me a time of personal epiphany and due in part to Susan’s use of a litany based on a poem titled “Easter” by Frances Brienen. In the reflection Susan shared after the litany, she wrote about how Resurrection can mean many different things and take on less metaphysical and more practical forms in our lives. Brienen’s poem posed that when we roll the stones away from things that block our progress we are given a new life and new direction. I was so inspired by that thought that I began to write the melody after that Easter Sunday service. The challenge as a composer in this piece was to capture that movement of a stone as it gets rolling, and I wrestled with several ideas while composing the work. Initially, I thought about a 5/4 meter piece (clap the meter out). But, I knew that singing a 5/4 metered hymn in a congregation is musically challenging. Then, it occurred to me that I could use the triplet figure in the chorus of the piece to capture the feel of how the first two nudges of moving stone are hard and then the third beat propels the stone and measure forward. That is how I scored the chorus of this hymn. You will notice too that this hymn isn’t in unison, instead it is scored in four part chorale style, because sometimes rolling a stone away means that everybody does their own part to create the change, and that change comes about in concert rather than in unison, everybody does what they can.

This three part push, is also true about how I got past my own block of sharing my hymns with you. I thank, Elsa Briggs for being the first push to share this with NCC. She invited, encouraged and co-wrote a mini-class last summer on hymns that gave me the first chance to talk about these pieces. The second push came when Elsa shared stories of her challenges in her musical training and how she overcame fear and stepped into the current of song allowing herself to be swept up and along. We all need some help with those first shoves against the stones that block our spirit. Sometimes we all need a sounding board, a co-conspirator (or co-inspiration) to move forward.

Twyla Tharp, the famous choreographer said “You can only generate ideas when you put pencil to paper, brush to canvas…when you actually do something physical.” It was the physicality of meeting for several weeks to look at hymns and share them in the class that was the third push, which increased my confidence about my capacity for sharing this gift. Tharp also said “To make real change, you have to be well anchored-not only in the belief that it can be done, but also in some pretty real ways about who you are and what you can do.”

This Pentecost Sunday we as followers of Jesus can take an additional anchor point from the knowledge that the Spirit is among us, and calls us from our places of fear and darkness to take action in the world. What are the tongues of fire inspiring you to do? How will you create change for a better world? Do you have stones that are keeping your spirit trapped? Are you willing to surrender to the coaching of the spirit and the pushes from friends in concerted effort? Are you willing to let it be rolled away for a better you; a better world? These are questions you may wish to think about and share later with someone you trust.