by Michelle Plata
Confession: I sometimes change song lyrics at church. If we sit together, you might hear me sing “You” instead of “He”, or “Om” instead of “Lord”. This is with complete disregard for the sanctity of the slide projected at the front of the room. In the order of sanctity of contemporary church stuff, the Bible is at the top and right under that is PowerPoint – I mean Keynote.
This past Sunday, we closed with the song Cannons by Phil Wickham. A beautiful piece, and one that’s part of Sojourn’s regular rotation. The lyrics include a line that goes “I’m so unworthy but still You love me”. When I first sang that, I felt like throwing up. Nowhere in my body do I believe that I am unworthy of God’s love. I am worthy. Always. Even when I make epic mistakes. I have proved that to be true (see: my many epic mistakes). So, to avoid throwing up, anytime we sang that song I changed a couple words.
This week, though, this week it was on the slide. Subverted lyrics. In actual hipster font. Projected at the front of the room:
"I FEEL UNWORTHY BUT STILL YOU LOVE ME!"
Same number of syllables. Still works with the music. A tiny change, yet a completely different posture. Self-loathing transforms into self-acceptance.
Jesus: “For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
The all-holy slide deck included a teaching icon. "Teaching icons are the best," says this visual learner.
The guy in red (Pharisee) is exalting himself on the left, and is humbled on the right. In contrast, the guy in green (Tax Collector) is humbling himself on the left and is exalted on the right.
Time moves from left to right. Up is up. Down is down. Up is always better than down, and the finish line is where it counts. Everybody knows that. Moral: Don’t be a jerk like the guy in red.
Cool, we can go home now.
Look what happens if we draw that left-right-up-down progression on the image. Hey, a cross! Everyone’s connected, no longer standing apart. Look how their hands have changed. Their postures have changed too. The important thing to notice here, I think, is that people are changing. They both changed.
When Jesus gets going talking parables, up is down and down is up. And like that cross, everything is sideways. Maybe up is no better than down. Maybe it has nothing to do with moving along the lines from left to right, or who is where at the finish line, and everything to do with being still at that single point where our lines intersect with each other and with Spirit. That point where it can feel like you’re about to throw up. How do you allow yourself to change or be changed? Or do you resist it? What do you say in that moment?
Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh: “When you say something with your whole being…. it can transform the world”.
So heed that feeling of uneasiness and sing the song that is true for you. Change the words. Change your posture. Move and be moved. Sing on the days you’re the guy in red, and sing on the days you’re the guy in green. But sing.
Michelle is an incredible, awesome mom of two beautiful, smart kiddos. She also happens to be a gifted leadership and mental health professional, too. When she's not coordinating community gardens, she's probably making the best yogurt ever (so good!) or hosting a Parable Potluck to aid in the digestion of Sojourn sermons. Oh yeah, she was also just elected to the Board of Elders. Woot woot! PS - Can you tell how much we love her?