Fifth Sunday in Lent

Sometime last decade, Tom incorporated a block of wood into a postlude. Yes, I'm serious. I don't remember the name of the composition, but it called for a high note to be sustained during the entire piece. Thus, Tom placed a block of wood on one of the keys on the console and placed the rest of the piece with his actual hands. The note sustained and persisted over top of everything else that was played.

We had our own bit of sustained sound this morning, but in a different manner. For the first five or ten minutes of the service, there was some sort of static that seemed to be coming through the sound system. (There's a bit of irony that the system that's supposed to help us hear the service was actually a hindrance...I guess there's a lesson there on our broken world and the challenges that we will always face. I'm not writing about that today, though.)

Eventually, the source of the static was detected and taken care of.

Of course, that's not all the background noise that ever occurs during a service. There are the creaking pews, people leafing through the bulletin, babies crying...and this morning, my daughter was in a bit of a chatty mood when we were in the service. Sorry about that (I asked her to be quiet, and she eventually complied).

It may not be obvious, but Hymn 588 is about static, too. It's about the sounds we have tried to shut out as we focus on growing in faith...but in this context, those sounds have been the voices of woman. Their wisdom and their truths silenced for centuries. Even as our congregation embraces women in leadership roles (obviously), we, too, will struggle with it. It's a society-wide problem. Women's voices and are opinions are much more easily and quickly dismissed than those of men. Our governments are dominated by men. Our airwaves are dominated by men. Our boardrooms are dominated by men.

We may not be doing this intentionally, but systemic oppression persists and it is the precipitate of the overt and direct oppression referenced in Hymn 588.

And, of course, the voices of women are not the only ones that are easily dismissed. People of colour, people new to our country or our congregation, people from marginalized communities or who lack social or economic clout have their voices suppressed. Even children and youth can be victims of such silencing. (As a middle-aged white cis male whose family has been at this church for generations, I suffer none of this silencing.)

So that static you hear, may not be noise, it may very well be a message intended for our ears. We have to to listen, discern and demonstrate humility as we learn from others.

At the end of that postlude, Tom finished the melody, the harmonies, the themes and variations...everything ended, except for that one note, the block of wood still keeping it alive. It had been lost in all the beauty and bluster of the organ. It just sat there, above everything else, waiting, persisting. Tom sat there for a moment, not playing, giving that lone note just enough space to be heard and to resonate.

Jonathan M.