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Sunday, April 25, 2010

Good Shepard Sunday

Today's offering is a musical meditation on the Divine Feminine in the 23rd Psalm by Bobby McFerrin.

The first time I heard this performed was 10 or 12 years ago at Princeton Chapel where I had the great honor and privilege of preaching. The choir director had called me the week before to ask if I might be planning to refer to God, at any point in my sermon, with a feminine pronoun.

I thought that was a curious question so I asked him the reason for his question. "These kids are so conservative - in every way - they are really having a hard time with this piece. I just thought it would help if they heard someone else speaking of God in terms other than "He" and "Lord"."

I remember saying something to him about, "Well, after centuries of following the voice of an all-male priesthood, it's going to take more than just this one female voice, but I'm happy to be one part of the process."

Years ago, I listened to an interview with McFerrin, who, as a matter of fact, was brought up Anglican. At one point in his life, he was seriously discerning the path he would take for the rest of his life.

He felt a strong call to the Episcopal priesthood, but he felt an equally strong vocation as a musician.

He was asked, many years later, how he felt about his decision to pursue a career in music vs. the path of ordination in The Episcopal Church.

As I recall, he said something like, "Looking at the past through the lens of fame and fortune never provides an accurate picture."

So, I won't speculate about how The Episcopal Church might have been changed by McFerrin's ordination, but I can only imagine that the voice McFerrin followed was the one he needed to hear.

Our loss. The world's gain. To wit - this marvelous piece.
The Lord is my Shepard, I have all I need,
She makes me lie down in green meadows,
Beside the still waters, She will lead.

She restores my soul, She rights my wrongs,
She leads me in a path of good things,
And fills my heart with songs.

Even though I walk, through a dark and dreary land,
There is nothing that can shake me,
She has said She won't forsake me,
I'm in her hand.

She sets a table before me, in the presence of my foes,
She anoints my head with oil,
And my cup overflows.

Surely, surely goodness and kindness will follow me,
All the days of my life,
And I will live in her house,
Forever, forever and ever.

Glory be to our Mother, and Daughter,
And to the Holy of Holies,
As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be,
World, without end. Amen


Marie said...

I preached on this Sunday's texts in chapel on Thursday at EDS. It was my last sermon before graduation and we used this piece (written out in Anglican chant) for the Psalm. It's not only lovely, it's a wonderfully gentle way to remind folks of God's feminine side.

Caminante said...

An octet sang this song during communion when I was ordained to the priesthood. A woman who initially had been livid about not only a woman interim rector but also woman transitional deacon (me) but then warmed up said the next day: Did I hear 'she' and 'Mother'??? It was a delicious moment.

This song is still one that I play before bedtime on occasion.

Riley said...

Marvelous, indeed!

You were the first 'voice' I had ever heard refer to God with a feminine pronoun. It was a little shocking to this conservative girls' system at first, but I've come to really love it. It has a gentle, comforting quality that can't be denied.

I'd like to print the meditation. With your permission, of course. Just for me to enjoy.

I love your new picture, Elizabeth. It says,
"Come on in, Make yourself comfortable," ...Tell Mother Kaeton all of your secrets. : )

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Marie - Congratulations on your imminent graduation. I'm going to be at EDS Spring Semester 2011. If you ever get back to what will be your alma mater, I'd love to meet you. Maybe we can listen to this together and you'll share this sermon with me. I'd like that.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Caminante - I adore this piece. I often play it before bedtime as well.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Riley, Thanks for asking. Of course you can print it out.

I guess I added that picture because I wanted the blog to be more welcoming. It seems to me that can happen when people can connect my words, my 'voice' with my face.

It's about being incarnational - more than telling secrets. ;~)

Riley said...

I was teasing of course. But then you already knew that. : )

I've always found your blog welcoming and your picture makes it even more so.

OCborn said...

Bobby's mother worships with us at my parish in Orange County, CA. In the past, when her health allowed and the choir had an off Sunday, we were often blessed with her voice during the anthems. Our parish choir often performs his version of the 23rd Psalm.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Hey, Riley. Come by any time.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

OCborn - Oh, how fortunate are you! I LOVE the piece Bobby did on the Wizard of Oz for Public TV. Classic!

Thomas Eoyang said...

Thank you so much for posting this. I wish I knew how to save it so I can replay it at will. I've just recently asked Bobby McFerrin to be my friend on facebook--and he AGREED (assuming I contacted the right BMcF). We were in first grade together, and were good friends, at least until I punched him and knocked out a tooth. I am absolutely certain it is the same person, because not only is the adult a handsomer but unmistakeable version of the skinny kid I was fond of, but he was doing the same things with his voice at 6-7 that he is doing now. I've never met a more purely musical human being. There's no question in my mind (then or now) where his ministry to the world lay. He has done so much more for the glory of God with his voice and his fame as a musician than he could ever have done as an Episcopal priest. What a blast it must have been for you to preach at a service where he was.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Thomas - No you did not punch Bobby McFerrin and knock his tooth out. You? Of all people? No way! I can't believe you would punch anyone, but if you had to, I suspect only you would punch someone who would grow up to be famous.

Someone named "OCborn" commented in this space. Perhaps she can check out your story for you.

BTW: just go to YouTube and type in "Bobby McFerrin 23 Psalm". You can watch it any time you want.

Paul said...

Bobby occasionally came to the early service at St Aidan's, San Francisco, when I was interim there. I could sense a profound devotion in his presene among us, though I had not heard, until today, that he had considered ordination. He has been a great priest through the ministry of music, ordination notwithstanding.


Absolutely beautifully done ... and brings back wonderful memories. Thanks SO much, e!

Muthah+ said...

This too is one of my favorites.

Ck out Stoneofwitness. One of our deacons (a vet) did a great job on sheep and shepherds.