Like a Prayer: Words That Get Us Moving

This week’s post from the “Good Word” brings you some words from the Gospel of John. And some words from Madonna.

The HDS B.A.R. Hoppers hopped on over to the MIT Chapel on Sunday to see our friend and colleague, Michael Woolf, lead a service from the Baptist tradition. It was great! Part of the mission of our group is to support our fellow students who are heading into the ministry. Michael has what it takes. He delivered a thoughtful and thought-provoking sermon on the following passage from the Gospel of John:

John 12:20-33: “Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, ‘Sir, we wish to see Jesus.’ Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. Jesus answered them, ‘The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honor. Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say — ‘Father, save me from this hour?’ No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.’ Then a voice came from heaven, ‘I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.’ The crowd  standing there heard it and said that it was thunder. Others said, ‘An angel has spoken to him.’ Jesus answered, ‘This voice has come for your sake, not for mine. Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.’ He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die.”

Whew, some heavy stuff in there. Michael focused specifically on John 12:25 (“Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life”). He talked about how there are  many such paradoxes found in the Christian faith. What are we to make of them? His particular interpretation of this passage (and correct me if I’m misrepresenting you here, Michael…) was to say that perhaps by living a life fully devoted to one’s faith,  one inevitably encounters trials, obstacles, and perhaps even death (he gave the examples of folks such as Martin Luther King and Malcolm X). In other words, living a full life often entails risk of one kind or another. And we should be willing to face that risk. Because, hey, it’s worth it. I found there to be something in that message that we could all relate to.

The MIT chapel has a beautiful, cylindrical design and this awesome hanging sculpture. It’s designed as a non-denominational space (the cross was temporarily added for the service).

I really like singing hymns. We sang Amazing Grace among others on Sunday, always a good one.

This service got me to thinking about how religion and religious texts can speak to people in so many different and meaningful ways. Sometimes, rather than focusing on the “true” or “literal” meaning of a certain saying, passage, or text, it seems nice to allow those words to speak for themselves to whomever they may be speaking to at the time. However, maybe there’s risk in that too, for better or worse. Thoughts?

Something that spoke to me this week was Madonna’s Like a Prayer (in a singing and dancing kind of way). I tend to get temporarily infatuated with songs so I’ve been listening to it for about an hour on repeat. The choir I’m in is singing this tune at our weekly HDS Noon Service tomorrow.

Madonna verse II: “I hear your voice

It’s like an angel sighing

I have no choice, I hear your voice

Feels like flying.”

Sing it, lady.


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