singing songs of peace

Posted by on Nov 20, 2013

Looking back on this fall’s touring season, a common thread that comes to mind is “singing songs of peace.”

On one hand, I think of Ephesians 6:15 – “As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace.” On the other hand, I am also mindful of Jeremiah’s warning about about those who “have treated the wound of my people carelessly, saying “Peace, peace” when there is no peace…” (Jer 6:14). I hope that my traveling and singing/speaking/leading is closer to the first, but in my “line of work” I always need to pay attention to the possibility of falling into the second…

Here are just a few “singing songs of peace” snapshots from the past few months:

Singing “A God Who Makes Friends”at the Wild Goose Festival (Aug 8-11, Hot Springs, North Carolina) with the children’s program, getting the kids in pairs and singing to/with each other along with a cooperative hand-clap rhythm… and later hearing of a woman who stood and watched with tears in her eyes, saying how this scene gave her a renewed sense of hope for the world. (My hope too was fed at this event, hearing from folks like Nadia Bolz-Weber and Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove and the Indigo Girls and many others.)

Singing “New World Coming” with a fascinating-and-a-bit-puzzling gathering of people in Orwell, Ohio, who are mostly refugees and exiles from the Amish communities in that area. Getting to know these folks, and hearing their reflections on their experiences and deep hurts from their “peace church” upbringing, was a new and sobering experience for me. At the end of our time together, the pastor/leader of this community called me back to the front and said “We’re going to sing that song again – and this time _______ will do some free-style rap for the verses”… so there we were, in a shed in the middle of Amish country, rapping and singing our hearts out, expressing our yearning for the fulfilment of the various prophetic visions of the “peaceable kingdom” that our world so badly needs.

Singing “Peace Be With You” at the Stouffville Peace Festival, celebrating and bearing public witness to the “peace church” heritage and history of this community… in the face of attempts to falsify that history in pursuit of rather different agenda (as I reflected in a blog post about Stouffville’s military parade last year).

Singing “When You Learn to Follow Jesus (You Will Act a Little Strange)” at a congregational retreat in Washington DC… the epicentre, of course, of the most massive military force in human history.

Writing/recording/teaching/singing the songs for “Selah’s Song” – an “original folk musical” in collaboration with Theatre of the Beat, and a songwriter’s dream in many ways… as it is (among other things) an extended reflection on the potential of something as apparently powerless as a song to effect change in a world of violence and greed.

I’ll close this post with the third verse of the “title track” of Selah’s Song… which is not a bad segue into the Advent/Christmas season as well…

 So I guess I’ll keep planting my seeds in the ground

Never knowing if they will take root

And I’ll keep on singing my songs in the air

Never knowing what they’re gonna do

‘Cause the drumbeat of war that we hear all around

Is a sound so afraid and alone

There’s another drummer drumming somewhere

With a rhythm that’s calling us home…

Won’t you sing, sing, sing with me

Won’t you sing a song of peace?

Won’t you sing, sing, sing with me

Won’t you sing a song of peace?