Why do we include art, music and poetry in our worship?
It can be argued that Christian artists, musicians and poets show us how to abide with Christ as friends, not servants, because they explore personal insights into faith through their creativity.
“I do not call you servants any longer because the servant does not know what the master is doing: but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father” (John 15:15).
Inspired by the Gospels, some poets give voice to those whose lives were disrupted and transformed by their encounter with Christ. The “first person” voices are those of friends, no longer servants.
T.S. Eliot’s poem Journey of the Magi imagines the anticipation of the Magi and the difficulties of the journey itself as they travel to see the Christ child
“ And the night fires going out, and the lack of shelters……
And the Villages dirty and charging high prices…….
With the voices singing in our ears, saying
That this was all folly..”
The visit to the Christ child is disruptive, affecting the Magi profoundly as they grapple to understand and indeed ask
“ Were we led all that way
For Birth or Death?”
They return to their kingdoms “No longer at ease…in the old dispensations”. There is a shift in the relationship with God through the birth of Christ.
The New Testament records life changing, disruptive experiences as Jesus healed, forgave, touched, challenged, taught, fed, suffered, died and rose from the dead. In his poem Emmaus, Rowan Williams creatively explores the disruption that occurs on the road. Like T.S.Eliot, Williams uses the first person to give voice to the power of the experience.
“What we hear is not each other
Between us is filled up, the silence
is filled up, lines of our hands
and faces pushed into shape
by the solid stranger.”
Luke’s Gospel records that Jesus continues with the men, listening to their account of events and reminding them of the Scriptures. It is not until later when he has agreed to stay with them and they start the meal, that Jesus’ thanksgiving and breaking of the bread cause their eyes to be opened.
By giving voice to the men at this moment, Williams takes us to the heart of the encounter:
“The food is set and the first wine splashes,
a solid thumb and finger tear the thunderous
and our released voices shine with water.”
The solid stranger on the road to Emmaus has become the solid Christ, their friend Jesus.