I am delighted to share another beautiful submission to the Monk in the World Guest Post series from the community. Read on for Adam Webber's reflection, "The Lady Loves Me."
Tuesday morning, I wake up grumpy. I don't want to go to work. Lying in bed, I recite the Breastplate of Saint Patrick to myself: "I arise today through a mighty faith…." I don't know whether I have a mighty faith this morning or not, but I arise anyway.
In my church office I go over the lectionary readings for next Sunday. I am the pastor of this church, and it is our custom for the pastor to follow the lectionary—to find a theme for the sermon and the service in one or more of these lectionary readings every week. Alas, I'm not finding any inspiration in the lectionary today. I read it, prayerfully, again. Still nothing. I read some commentaries. Nope. I answer emails and phone calls, update the web site, clean up my desk, and fix the paper towel dispenser. I make a visit to a nursing home. Then I think about those readings again. Nada.
In the afternoon I escape for half an hour to the sauna at the municipal gym, and there it hits me, a flash of inspiration. It's not the inspiration I was looking for, of course; it's nothing to do with the lectionary readings and, in fact, it's not a sermon idea at all.
It's a song.
Actually, it's just a line or two of a song, just a hook. "The Lady loves me, loves me, loves me day and night," I sing to myself—and when I sing it, the Lady of whom I sing is God, and the love of which I sing is a joy and a delight. I realize, then, what I'm being called to do. There will be no sermon on Sunday. There will be a song, a new song, and I will write it and share it with the congregation.
From long experience I know that it would be a waste of time to complain to God about this stupid inspiration. I complain to God about this stupid inspiration.
Wednesday morning, I wrestle with doubt. I look back at my sermons from three years ago; isn't there something there I could recycle? But after dithering for an hour, I take the plunge. I give my church secretary notes for Sunday's bulletin. In place of the sermon there will be a song, and it will be called "The Lady Loves Me." Now I just have to write it.
By Wednesday afternoon I have a draft of the lyric. But, musically, I still have only that one line. I take a long walk and sing to myself. The feeling I'm going for is a kind of innocent exuberance—a feeling of being swept away by love. I dance a little as I walk—nobody will see me, skipping along this back road in the wintertime. My song is starting to feel like a pop love song, a seventies love song, and it gravitates to a nice, familiar structure: verse, refrain, verse, refrain, bridge, verse, refrain, refrain. It seems to call for an exuberant seventies-style instrumentation, like a Partridge Family hit.
There are tons of other things to be done this week, of course. A member needs a meal brought, and I bring it. The choir needs to rehearse, and I rehearse with them. The Christmas decorations in the church need to come down, and I help take them down. My family needs dinner, and I cook it. But in between all these duties, I slip away to work on my song.
Thursday night, I've started scoring it: at first, it's just vocals, steel drum, and bass. By Friday I've got a full score: rhythm guitar, trumpet, trombone, flute, backup vocals. With a computer sequencer, I lay out all the instrumentation I've written and add a drum line. By Saturday morning, it's ready to go. I record the instrumental parts and practice singing along with them.
At the last minute, I rewrite the ending of the song several times. A true Partridge Family ending would use a repeated refrain that fades out as the applause comes up. But there will probably only be thirty people in church on Sunday. God willing, they'll be enthusiastic, but I'd better not count on a thunderous wave of applause.
Sunday morning, I wake up happy. When I was a kid, I used to lie in bed on Sunday mornings, hoping that my father would forget to get me up for church. (I can't remember that he ever did, though.) But these days, I'm usually excited about Sundays. It's like I've been cooking up a meal all week, and now I finally get to put it on the table. I pray as I arise:
Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me.
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me.
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.
I arise today through a mighty faith ….
Thank you, Lady. I love you, too. I'll do my best.
You can hear "The Lady Loves Me" at here >>
Adam Brooks Webber is a husband, father, writer, teacher, computer scientist, singer-songwriter, and student of the martial arts. When he was a boy, he couldn't wait to grow up so that he could A) move away from small-town Illinois, and B) stop going to church. Consequently, he is now a pastor in a small town in Illinois.