Tag Archives: Pilgrim

Call and Response

Call and Response (CaD Ps 134) Wayfarer

Praise the Lord, all you servants of the Lord
    who minister by night in the house of the Lord.
Psalm 134:1 (NIV)

My nephew Sam and his family came to visit last Sunday to hear Uncle Tom’s message among our local gathering of Jesus’ followers and hang out with me and Aunt Wendy for the day. Sam mentioned that in their hour-long drive that morning they’d been listening to the music of an artist that his father introduced him to back in his childhood.

I love all kinds of music, and I consciously endeavored to introduce our daughters to all kinds of music. I even made compilation CDs of different genres and wrote liner notes to introduce them to some of the classic artists and songs of the genre. One of my favorites was Papa’s Got the Blues. In the liner notes, I described the connection between the blues and black gospel. One of the devices that both used is “call and response.” The lead singer calls out in song and the congregation/crowd responds with a word or phrase.

While the device is widely used in more recent musical genres, it is ancient.

Today’s chapter, Psalm 134, is the final in a series of “songs of ascent” that the editors who compiled the anthology of Hebrew song lyrics put together. The song is a fitting end to this section. It is comprised of only three-lines that were an ancient version of “call and response” that was sung between pilgrims who had spent the day worshipping at the temple and are leaving at nightfall Levites working at the Temple.

Members of the Hebrew tribe of Levi were responsible for the care, upkeep, and activities of the Temple (except for priestly acts that could only be done by descendants of Aaron). The lyrics of the song picture exiting worshippers blessing the Levites who will remain at the Temple to perform their duties through the night. The pilgrims sing:

Praise the Lord, all you servants of the Lord
    who minister by night in the house of the Lord.
Lift up your hands in the sanctuary
    and praise the Lord.

The Levite(s) then bless the worshippers as they exit:

May the Lord bless you from Zion,
    he who is the Maker of heaven and earth.

The reality is that “call and response” is actually a broader spiritual theme in the psalms and in the Great Story. Many psalms begin with a “call” to God anticipating the “response” to the song, prayer, and petition. In 1 Samuel, God “calls out” the boy Samuel who is confused until the priest instructs him to provide the response “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.” In the Jesus story, a blind man incessantly “calls out” to Jesus and Jesus responds by healing him.

In the quiet this morning I find myself meditating on the spiritual notion of “call and response” which works in both directions. God’s Word and Spirit may “call out” to me. Am I listening? Will I respond? How will I respond? At other times, I am like the songwriters of the psalms, calling out to God in faith that God will respond. Either direction, there is an interaction that is relational.

“Here I am!” says Jesus in Revelation 3:20. “I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice [calling] and [responds, as in] opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.

The Monk & the Pilgrim

psalm 84:2
psalm 84:2 (Photo credit: joopvandijk)

Blessed are those who dwell in your house;
they are ever praising you.
Blessed are those whose strength is in you,
whose hearts are set on pilgrimage.
Psalm 84:4-5 (NIV)

People are complex. I’ve discovered this in my own journey of self-discovery. I’ve discovered it in character studies I’ve carried out as an actor. I’ve discovered this in relationships with family and friends. People are rarely one-dimension. Humanity is not a simple equation. In these two adjacent lines from Psalm 84 I found two sides of myself.

Something you probably don’t know is that most mornings in the quiet of my home office as I write my daily post I’m listening to Gregorian Chant. I was probably one of the few people who got really excited about an article in the Wall Street Journal last week about a group of cloistered Missouri nuns whose CD of chants and sacred ancient music have made it to the top of the classical music charts. Meet Brother Tom, the monastic wannabe. There is part of me that feels called to the quiet and the simple. I long to dwell in the House of the Lord in quiet isolation to read, pray, and write.

A few years ago Wendy, the girls and I all did personality profiles and talked about our differences. I was amazed when Madison said she always thought of me as an introvert. She woke every morning across the hall from my office seeing me isolated in my pseudo-monastic quiet.

But there is the other part of me that people are more familiar with. Tom, the extrovert. Tom, the guy up front. Tom, the performer. Tom, the is called to the outside. My heart is set on pilgrimage in this life. I’m a pilgrim journeying through the arts, through corporate America, and through community.

The monk and the wayfaring pilgrim. We are all multi-dimensional people. We are not stamped out on an assembly line. God hand-crafted each of us with incredible complexity. Life is a process of understanding, accepting, embracing and celebrating the multiple layers of the unique person we are each created to be.