On our way home from the Joan Osborne concert last night, James and I talked through our arrangement of “On Our Way Home” some more. Neither of us was really happy with what we came up with on Tuesday—it was too straightforward and pretty. So I thought I’d describe for you all the feeling or understory that I see in this song to help you understand what I’m trying to get at with it.
To me, this song expresses that “WHAT THE F***?!?” moment where what the disciples thought was happening in their journey was suddenly NOT happening and something else really HUGE and HORRIBLE was happening instead. The ground was completely torn out from under them. They knew going to Jerusalem was risky and tried to discourage Jesus from doing it, but he insisted, and then their entry into the city was a big parade with people cheering and waving palms so maybe they were wrong and this was all going to work out o.k., and then they have their Passover seder and all of a sudden Jesus is accusing them of betraying him and gets all weird and morbid on them. He stays up praying the whole night and then the next day Judas tips off the guards and Jesus is arrested and taken away. The crowds who were cheering him are now jeering him. What the f***?!?
So they want to dig a hole and bury all their scrapbooks, forget the whole thing. Pretend it didn’t happen. They were trying to find Sacramento: “sacrament,” “eucharist”—but felt like they were completely lost. “The compass broke; this map’s a joke; and we are turning around”—where they ended up sure didn’t feel like a sacrament to them, not the Coming of the Messiah they expected at all. And everyone is laughing at them. They want to just get the hell out of there.
The last verse to me both expresses the feeling that there’s a lot more to this whole Jesus thing than anyone understood or was prepared for (“all the thoughts we’ve ever had were hammers that sat in our garages gathering dust”), and draws everyone into it—we are all, each, standing in the disciples’ place (“everyone we’ve ever known is in us; everyone we’ve ever known is here”).
I’ve had a “WHAT THE F***?!?” moment in my life, where it felt like the ground I thought I stood on was suddenly gone. That’s the feeling I’m going for in this song. Confused, frightened, angry, humiliated. Musically that says to me: distortion, unexpected chord changes in the instrumental break, voices that aren’t perfectly in sync. Forget the directions I printed on the lyrics sheet—we’re taking it a whole different way. Living into the song…
Over the years it has become clear that there is a disconnect – a BIG disconnect – between the marking of Good Friday and the way people of faith enter the mystery of this hard day. Most people avoid it like the plague – partly because it has to do with our mortality – but partly because it calls us to see our complicity in the oppression, wounds and hopelessness of our generation. What’s more, the language of the liturgy is either shame-based or else empty liberal platitudes. Most people know their pain – even if they hate it – and don’t need more bullshit… so they stay away.
That’s why for 10 years we’ve been experimenting with a way of making the contemporary connections with the Cross clear by blending the sounds of popular culture with a reworking of the ancient words. This year, for example, we’ve rewritten the ancient “reproaches” – made them personal and social – discarded ALL the ancient anti-Semitism and combined them with songs by Nina Simone, The Silent Years and The Swell Season – with some modern jazz, too.
If you are interested in deep spirituality – if you think the personal is political – AND if you are interested in a way of doing religion that nourishes the soul, the mind, the heart and the wider community… you might want to check out our Good Friday presentation: Friday, April 6th @ 7 PM ~ First Church on Park Square ~ 27 East Street, Pittsfield, MA.
For months a song has been poking at my brain, saying, “Sing me on Good Friday.”
When James began to describe his vision for the Good Friday liturgy this year, blending jazz kyries and traditional “rebukes” rewritten to speak to today’s ears, I thought, “The song doesn’t really fit in that liturgy.”
The song said, “Sing me on Good Friday.”
Then James said that I Corinthians 1:18-31 would be read after the rebukes—in his paraphrase, the passage speaks of Jesus’ death on the cross as an “embarrassment.”
“Ah,” I thought to myself, “that’s where the song fits.”
The song said, “I told you so.”
I Corinthians 1:18-31 (from Eugene Peterson’s The Message)
18-21The Message that points to Christ on the Cross seems like sheer silliness to those hellbent on destruction, but for those on the way of salvation it makes perfect sense. This is the way God works, and most powerfully as it turns out. It’s written,
I’ll turn conventional wisdom on its head,
I’ll expose so-called experts as crackpots.
So where can you find someone truly wise, truly educated, truly intelligent in this day and age? Hasn’t God exposed it all as pretentious nonsense? Since the world in all its fancy wisdom never had a clue when it came to knowing God, God in his wisdom took delight in using what the world considered dumb—preaching, of all things!—to bring those who trust him into the way of salvation.
22-25While Jews clamor for miraculous demonstrations and Greeks go in for philosophical wisdom, we go right on proclaiming Christ, the Crucified. Jews treat this like an anti-miracle—and Greeks pass it off as absurd. But to us who are personally called by God himself—both Jews and Greeks—Christ is God’s ultimate miracle and wisdom all wrapped up in one. Human wisdom is so tinny, so impotent, next to the seeming absurdity of God. Human strength can’t begin to compete with God’s “weakness.”
26-31Take a good look, friends, at who you were when you got called into this life. I don’t see many of “the brightest and the best” among you, not many influential, not many from high-society families. Isn’t it obvious that God deliberately chose men and women that the culture overlooks and exploits and abuses, chose these “nobodies” to expose the hollow pretensions of the “somebodies”? That makes it quite clear that none of you can get by with blowing your own horn before God. Everything that we have—right thinking and right living, a clean slate and a fresh start—comes from God by way of Jesus Christ. That’s why we have the saying, “If you’re going to blow a horn, blow a trumpet for God.”
The song: “On Our Way Home“ (The Silent Years)
On our way home we found ourselves some shovels
On our way home we dug ourselves some holes
On our way home we buried our old photo albums
Everyone we’ve ever known was in ‘em
Everyone under the sun was there
On our way home we tried to find Sacramento
Our compass broke, this map’s a joke, and we are turning around
On our way home we realized we had just become big embarrassments
Everyone we’ve ever known’s been laughing
Everyone we’ve ever loved was there
On our way home the noises that our footsteps made were echoes
And all the thoughts we’ve ever had were hammers that sat in our garages gathering dust
On our way home we won’t go in without someone else holding our ankles
Everyone who’s ever been is in us
Everyone we’ve ever known is here