Sunday, February 17, 2008

A whole new world on the other side

Normally my Sunday mornings are predictable: I rise, feed the dog, drink my coffee and read, meditate, and then leave for church, listening to uplifting music as I drive.

But today was a little off: I overslept a bit, and my meditation period, already shortened, was further interrupted by a cat who was determined to build a nest somewhere inside the neck and sleeve of my bathrobe.

It's all good, I thought, as I climbed into the car, but the song I had in my head as I drove out was not a hymn, a chant, or Taize but rather a Cuban rap song called "Represent Cuba" from the soundtrack of Dirty Dancing, Havana Nights. What the heck, I thought; and popped in the disk into my CD player, though of course it was so inappropriate for a meditative Sunday morning.

So I pulled into the church parking lot and went in with a lilt in my step. Interestingly enough, the sermon was about telling a new story and singing a new song. And the preacher for the day, an 82-year-old lifelong Episcopalian, informed us that his new story was that he had discovered he could appreciate the companionship of Lutherans and Presbyterians.

Having been raised in the Presbyterian church, and having grandparents who are Lutheran, atheist, Baptist and Catholic, I am always delighted to hear when others get a chance to discover how irrelevant our denominational differences can be.

After the service I climbed back into my car and headed for the coffee shop (another very important part of the Sunday morning ritual). Driving out the parking lot it seemed important to consider my own preconceived notions, and the prejudices I carry.

And there in front of me, the car I passed just before I pulled out onto the road, was someone against whom I've held a grudge for years, and was finally able to forgive just this past Ash Wednesday; one of life's amazing miracles.

As I waved a cheery hello, and he waved back, I heard the tail end of my Cuban rap and then another song came on with which I am less familiar. I think you could call it a new song.

And as I listened to the lyrics -- it had a delightful sort of salsa feel -- I realized that this new song had in it the same lesson as today's sermon:

The world divides from the bitter
sweetness that love provides.
I will redefine my place,
within this union.
If a word is a lie,
and the better me can show its side.
I will try to find my way to higher ground.

There's a million stories
and a million ways to get there from here.
Baby I'm gonna put your skin on mine...

If you let your heart
open up your mind.
There's a whole new world on the other side...

When I hear you scream, I hear you cry,
makes me realise that I am only human.
The world relies on the balance between
Love and Pride.
I'll abandon all my pride and bring you love.

There's a million reasons
and a million ways to get to your heart.
Baby I'm gonna make you step outside
the corners of your world and find,
that if you let your heart open up your mind
There's a whole new world on the other side...

Isn't it amazing, what the world has to offer, if we just listen? And we who preach have much to learn about love and unity and respect from the world around us. We forget, I think, that the truth does not just reside within the limits of our denominations, or even within the walls of a church, its community, its teachings or its music.

Surely the writer of this song articulates so much better than I the essence of this photograph: that under the skin-deep differences of race, religion, age, region and social standing -- and even the music we choose to listen to -- we are one.

So that's the sermon for today: Listen to your heart, open up your mind:
There's a whole new world on the other side!

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