Thursday, October 1, 2009

Open cannon - or closed cannon

I'm on study leave this week, and as my colleagues and I explore what it is we experience in parish ministry the topic arose (again) about how God continues to speak in the world. While the ecumenical councils waited until the Council of Hippo in 393 to say what biblical books should be codified into the biblical canon of accepted texts for use in the churches, since then we have found many other such texts that have meant the world to others during the short history of Christianity.

So at dinner tonight, I asked "What would you add to the canon?" This is a different question for biblical scholars who are familiar with the ancient texts that perhaps should have made it to the canon (Thomas, Peter & Barnabas, and the Infancy Gospels of Jesus). Of course, each of us have different lists of what we would want to take out - especially those that encouraged an Imperial, misogynistic Christianity, but what we would like to add is an altogether question. What kind of texts do we understand as part of the tradition?

My friend, the Rev. Steve Blackstock and I, both resonated that a first entry into our Canonical Hall of Fame is a song from the Joshua Tree Album by U2.

U2 - I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For

I have climbed highest mountains
I have run through the fields
Only to be with you
Only to be with you
I have run
I have crawled
I have scaled these city walls
These city walls
Only to be with you

But I still haven't found what I'm looking for
But I still haven't found what I'm looking for

I have kissed honey lips
Felt the healing in her fingertips
It burned like a fire
(I was) burning inside her

I have spoke with the tongue of angels
I have held the hand of a devil
It was warm in the night
I was cold as a stone

But I still haven't found what I'm looking for
But I still haven't found what I'm looking for

I believe in the Kingdom Come
Then all the colors will bleed into one
Bleed into one
But yes I'm still running

You broke the bonds
And you loosed the chains
Carried the cross
Of my shame
Oh my shame
You know I believe it

But I still haven't found what I'm looking for
But I still haven't found what I'm looking for
But I still haven't found what I'm looking for

In the video version from the concert in Milan, Bono pointed out that the Italians kind of invented the movies, that stories told in the stained glass windows in the churches nearby were the cinema of the day. And even when he sings, he voices the situation of many today.

"I believe in the Kingdom Come....
You broke the bonds
And you loosed the chains....
You know I believe it
But I still haven't found what I'm looking for..."

There is an eternal truth in this song, for we are always “works in progress.” But this version of the song points out that this is also a song we sing with each other, and as the band sings, and the choir adds their refrain, even the lead singers of the choir have their riffs to share. The very work of the universe is a process that continually evolves with us as co-creators.

So I ask you the question now. What are the texts (sacred and secular), poems, songs, art, short stories, videos and movies that you would include into the canon that give expression of what it means to be human, to live fully, and to explore the meaning of life? What additional human expressions would you add to make sense of the Jesus experience?

Don’t hesitate. No answer is out of bounds. Just claim for yourself what speaks to you and your life situation. As we together explore I’ll add additional posts in the coming days of other inclusions I would make.


Willy Mac said...

Dale Grothmann made a comment about your note "Open cannon - or closed cannon":

If a country is governed wisely,
its inhabitants will be content.
They enjoy the labor of their hands
and don't waste time inventing
labor-saving machines.
Since they dearly love their homes,
they aren't interested in travel.
There may be a few wagons and boats,
but these don't go anywhere.
There may be an arsenal of weapons,
but nobody ever uses them.
People enjoy their food,
take pleasure in being with their families,
spend weekends working in their gardens,
delight in the doings of the neighborhood.
And even though the next country is so close
that people can hear its roosters crowing and its dogs barking,
they are content to die of old age
without ever having gone to see it.

Willy Mac said...

A very peaceful and honoring way of human experience. Thanks Dale!

Willy Mac said...

Jack Buckley shares, "Beautiful, Will! How amazing, and wonderful, that you went right to this profound and powerful song for book sixty-seven. My spontaneous first choice upon reading your question is Frederick Buechner's novel GODRIC. It's a confessional narrative, told in an old-fashioned diction Buechner invented, of a medieval English hermit who's determined to refute all efforts to canonize him as a saint. He knows better, he says, and unloads one after another horrible thought or word or deed he's perpetrated his whole life long -- especially those he's committed since his dramatic conversion decades ago. The more he protests, the more we sense that sad old Godric is probably the most holy sinner Christ ever loved just as he was, without one plea except for amazing grace."

Willy Mac said...

Dolores Nice-Siegenthaler said, "I would rearrange the current canon, so that the Writings/Poetry come first because these are the least tampered with (redacted) writings. I would especially put Song of Songs first, to emphasize that our journey is relational and that creative tension is divine and that our primary gifts are our bodies. This summer when Song of Songs came to our lectionary I was inspired to preach a sermon like this."