Many of us have recently watched the Royal Wedding. There were many breaks with tradition, or perhaps tradition was brought up to date. The sermon surprised many, the choice of music also surprised some, and the reading from the Song of Songs, in a modern translation, was a delightful surprise. It has got people talking. Perhaps it has even done something for the reputation of marriage.
Many years ago, when I was still training, I was invited to run a workshop at a Ministers’ Summer School on the use of contemporary music in worship. During the workshop someone commented that it was easier for me as I had teenage daughters. That was true, and it certainly meant I heard a cacophony of sound emanating from two bedrooms as I sat on the landing at the computer. However, I also took the time to listen to music on the radio and television and find out what was playing. I still do this although perhaps less than I should. Keeping up with what is popular and what is influencing others is important. For many people today, film and music are how they work out their spirituality. We watch, we listen, we read and try to find ourselves in the mix of culture and context.
In 2003, the BBC launched a survey to find the most popular books and in the top one hundred was a mix of 1984, the BFG, David Copperfield, Harry Potter, Pride and Prejudice and Birdsong. It was a list that prompted many to try something new, something they would not have considered reading. And that is the interesting point. How do you choose a book to read? Do you have a favourite author or a favourite style, do you go to the new releases’ table and pick one that looks interesting, do you trust a friend’s recommendation? Would you read a book your grandchild was reading or recommended?
There are books on the list that I would not have been drawn to naturally and yet I feel challenged because all these books are sufficiently popular to have made it into the top one hundred. Perhaps reading them would help me understand how others think.
We journey through life in the presence of God, everything we encounter is a part of our spiritual experience and helps to form who we are and what we believe. We need to take the time to reflect on our experiences, including music, books and films, and ask what they tell us about God, and about the way we relate to others?
John Drane once wrote, ‘if you reject a generation’s music, you reject the generation’; as a church are we in danger of rejecting many generations? If we want to be able to communicate with people we have to be interested in what they are interested in. Jesus went out and met people, talked to people, often people he seemed to have nothing in common with, and his interest in them changed their life. Jesus listened, reflected and offered informed opinion, how often do we offer ‘uninformed’ opinion, based on what we have been told or worse still what we have assumed. Jesus saw Zaccheus (Luke 19.1-10) and shared with him and it made a difference. Many who reject Jesus do so because they assume they know him and that he has nothing to say to them. Why do they assume that and how can we ‘make a difference’?
To be able to help others we have to be able to communicate and to communicate we must have a common starting point – that could be a book, a film, or a song; a shared experience. Over the summer why not experiment and try something new?
Love and prayers,