As we eagerly await tomorrow’s main event, we have been surrounded by all things eclipse-related: the OSU 150 Space Grant Festival, the Totality exhibit at the Fairbanks Art Gallery, and so, so many eclipse-themed concerts in the area. There is such a wealth of music involving the skies that it was almost too easy to choose music for today’s service. I finally settled on “Sun and Moon” from the Broadway musical Miss Saigon, a stunning adaptation of Puccini’s Madama Butterfly by Claude-Michel Schönberg and Alain Boublil (the team who also composed Les Miserablés). Lovers Kim and Chris hail from vastly different backgrounds and the barriers of race are strong in their world, but for a brief time before the story’s tragic end, they are able to see past skin color and fall in love. Chris compares himself and Kim to the Sun and the Moon and sings:
These words remind us to consider how we as a diverse people can progress so that someday we can look back and truly say that we have come far, without having to add “but we still have a long way to go”.
I usually have an inkling of what pieces I will play in the service when I first walk into the Fellowship on Sunday mornings; when I first read Jill’s sermon title last week, “Living in the Universe”, the Beatles well-loved “Across the Universe immediately came to mind. When Jill began her sermon and spoke of Dr. Kate Russo, I was so fascinated by this clinical psychologist who loved eclipses so much that she became an “eclipse chaser”. Russo doesn’t just track and travel around the world to experience total eclipses – she became such an expert that she is now a sought-after “eclipse planner” (someone who helps prepare and educate communities for upcoming eclipses) and published a number of writings on eclipses. When Jill read Russo’s thoughts on how a total eclipse isn’t only a breathtaking visual experience, but a reminder that we humans have so much in common – we are all part of the movement of the stars, and we are all made of the same matter – I felt myself nodding along. But as Jill continued and spoke of the racism and violence that divide people, and how we must act for change, I realized that that I had made the wrong choice for today’s music for meditation. The most memorable lyrics that anyone can recite from “Across the Universe” are “Nothing’s gonna change my world”…and we live in a world that could do with some change. I decided to play the eighties hit “We are the World” instead. Written by Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie, this song is an anthem about (as well as an appeal for) human compassion. An all-star roster came together to sing this song, including Billy Joel, Stevie, Wonder, Paul Simon, Tina, Turner, Diana Ross, Bob Dylan, and Ray Charles, and proceeds from the song were donated to an organization called United Support of Artists for Africa (USA for Africa). USA for Africa’s mission was to feed and relieve starving people in Africa (especially Ethiopia, where around one million people died during the country’s famine in the mid-eighties) and this song raised what amounts to $24 million for their cause. The song ‘s lyrics are so powerful that I am reprinting them in their entirety below:
There comes a time when we heed a certain call
When the world must come together as one
There are people dying
And it’s time to lend a hand to life
The greatest gift of all
We can’t go on pretending day by day
That someone, somehow will soon make a change
We are all a part of God’s great big family
And the truth, you know
Love is all we need
We are the world, we are the children
We are the ones who make a brighter day
So lets start giving
There’s a choice we’re making
We’re saving our own lives
It’s true we’ll make a better day
Just you and me
Send them your heart so they’ll know that someone cares
And their lives will be stronger and free
As God has shown us by turning stones to bread
So we all must lend a helping hand
When you’re down and out, there seems no hope at all
But if you just believe there’s no way we can fall
Let us realize that a change can only come
When we stand together as one
Today’s offertory was a reflection on the first hymn we sang in the service, “Though I may speak”. Traditionally known as “The Water is Wide”, this tune “O Waly Waly” was born as a Scottish folk song and has had a number of lyrics set to its music. The rendition I had in mind as I played the piano solo for this turn was the Protestant hymn setting by Hal Hopson, as the text also speaks to Jill’s message of action and change:
Though I may speak with bravest fire,
And have the gift to all inspire,
And have not love, my words are vain,
As sounding brass, and hopeless gain.
Though I may give all I possess,
And striving so my love profess,
But not be given by love within,
The profit soon turns strangely thin.
Come, Spirit, come, our hearts control,
Our spirits long to be made whole.
Let inward love guide every deed;
By this we worship, and are freed.
And of course, there was really only one postlude that could be used for today’s service…
Happy eclipse-watching! Be safe and enjoy the wonderful show that Mother Nature is putting on for us!