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Which Tune Do We Trust?

For my sermon on June 12 I recounted how on some days in New Orleans you can hear competing tunes echoing down the streets near the cemeteries.  You can hear one band playing slow sweet dirges as one casket is carried to the cemetery while at the same time you can hear another band playing celebratory notes after the graveside ceremony.   Just a Closer Walk With Thee competing with When the Saints Go Marching In.  Dirges of death competing with melodies of life.  And in the sermon I asked, “Which tunes do you think are the most powerful?  Which are the most real, the most enduring?  Which tunes will win the day in your own heart and soul and mind, today and tomorrow?  In which tunes do you place your trust?”
The point of reference when I preached that sermon was the death of Officer Verdell Smith and the homicide number in Memphis overall, which on June 11 reached 100 for the year.  Poignant, important questions in the face of such tragedies, but questions that became even more important as we returned home to news of the shooting in Orlando.
But the circumstances and size of the tragedy are relative.  For that widow in Nain (Luke 7), the text for that Sunday, the death of her one son was enough.  For all of us, the death or sickness or suffering of just one person close to us is enough.  Indeed in the face of all tragedy and pain, life asks us this question: Which tune do we trust, the dirge of death or the melody of life?  And how we answer that question will determine just about everything.
The dirge of death says that death is the definitive.  It says that life is limited, that resources are limited, that the goal of life is to live as long as you can, get as much as you can, and then protect it any way you can.  In such a tune, chances are few, judgment is quick, and exclusion is assumed.  It requires little—no imagination, no faith, no hope.  It calls forth nothing, except maybe fear and a survival instinct.  It obliges one to nothing, because why bother?   Life’s hard, then you die.   This song has much to commend it.  It fits the harsh realities of Officer Smith’s death and the Orlando massacre and the tragedies of your life and mine.
The melody of life does not debate this.  Indeed the melody of life begins in dirge-like fashion.  It acknowledges and laments the pain, the sorrow, the struggle of death, but…it does not remain there.  It perseveres, pushes through and ends on a chorus of life.  This way is more hopeful, and yet harder too.  Because hope and faith don’t come easy.  And what’s more, believing such has implications and obligations.  To believe in hope and grace and life is to be in its employ.  It is to choose to include and to serve and to share, even when such causes us to be vulnerable.  
So, in the face of death in Memphis and Orlando and everywhere…Which tune do we trust?  Which tune will win the day in us, and then through us win the day for those around us…Memphis, the LGBTQ community, faithful Muslim brothers and sisters, etc?   Moses exhorted the children of Israel, “Choose life that you may live.”  I think the same holds today.  So let us keep praying comfort, keep proclaiming grace, keep living hope, keep offering love, keep fighting for justice.  Let us keep singing the tune of life, for ourselves and this world.
Courage, David


This article was written by Rev. Dr. David Breckenridge and originally published in the July edition of Together.

Posted by Bridget Ellis at 8:00 AM
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