Sunday, April 10, 2011


From John 9:1-41 -- Jesus heals the blind man. The authorities are displeased, and dissemble.

We’d come to sing at a United Church [largest Canadian protestant denomination] in Toronto. My wife Ande’s friend since senior year high school is pastor there. Her church is small, historic, unassuming and welcoming. She and her husband invited us for the weekend. Both our families have loved and shared music and time together for some 30 years. The church hall coffee house was a good chance to visit again. On arriving at the church in early evening to set up, the day was bright sunny. Along the south wall of the hall had popped up the “little blue flowers” of early spring, that have always reminded Ande of her dad, Leo. A carpet of blue they were in the family home backyard, April 2, 1981 the day he died.

Our practice was a little unsure, and then the show was on--a progression of many performers. The music was fun and all passably good, including ours. And after our short set came a piano player and songstress who’d been chatting with us at our table, friendly folks in their fifties. Their second song was in French. The melody recognized by us as “Autumn Leaves” written a little differently for both languages in 1945—one of Leo’s favorite songs. Thirty years to the day of his passing he is with us again.

Ande’s guitar and my djembe drum had been invited into the energetic multi-instrument church band, and the concert ends with a rousing rock-celtic “Stand by me.”

The next morning the Rev. Debra Schneider gave a courageous sermon in four parts, challenging the blind authorities arrayed against Jesus and the blind man He’s healed. On into the present day, “[Authorities] say we can’t afford to care for our poor, or strengthen our education system, because we need better fighter jets.” And then from the pulpit, connecting both pulpit and pew, “When will we open our eyes to the truths we already know? What will it take to make us find our voices? To whom will we speak those necessary truths that need to be spoken? “ Humbly, forthrightly she urged her flock, to “ruffle some feathers.” [That’s something Leo could do {not always for edification} with little effort.]

Soldiers in Iraq, Mar. 23, 2003, demolishing confiscated weapons—a small part of the worldwide all weapons job necessary. Photo from MSNBC

Music had continued to deepen this Liturgy of the Word. The psalm was sung by a small choir with piano—The 23rd Psalm, The Lord is my shepherd I shall not want. This was a favorite prayer of Ande’s mom, Olive, when she could verbally pray--before dementia stole most responsiveness a few years ago. Ande leaned near to say she’d prayed that psalm for her mom at the nursing home the day before. The music was a beautiful new arrangement we’d not heard before, and the choir director [also energetic band conductor] gave her a copy.

Ande has been visiting her mom every day during Lent and prays that, for her mom---by restful waters He will soon lead her, back to Leo, and the new life, we all seek.
Illuminations by Kathy Brahney

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