Paul Simon (the musician, not the politician) was at my church Wednesday during our Lenten worship service.
Let me explain.
I had planned to play a generic Lenten piece as a piano solo during the offering Wednesday night (In The Cross of Christ I Glory, I think). During the pastor's sermon, though, something started tugging at me. We're doing a 6-week series called The Valleys of Lent, which looks at some of the "down" times in the Bible and in our own lives, and how God walks with us. This particular sermon discussed the story of Joseph (you know, the one of Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat fame) being sold into slavery by his brothers, and their eventual reconciliation. The general theme was the pain caused by others being transformed into the cross of Christ.
Something told me I needed to look for another song. And it needed to be sung as well as played. Not that there's anything wrong with what I was going to do, I just felt compelled to look.
So look I did (yes, during the sermon...sorry, Pastor!). And I found, in my ELW Accompanist's Edition, hymn #703, O God, Why Are You Silent? The tune is a familiar one--O Sacred Head Now Wounded, but the words are newly-written ones by Marty Haugen. It was too perfect. So I quickly set up a microphone by the piano (thank goodness I was by myself in the balcony) and accompanied myself while singing it during the offering. There was a relatively small congregation in church Wednesday night, so I just did the first and last stanzas, which were the most appropriate anyway. Here's the words of those verses:
O God, why are you silent? I cannot hear your voice;
the proud and strong and violent all claim you and rejoice;
you promised you would hold me with tenderness and care.
Draw near, O Love, enfold me, and ease this pain I bear.
May pain draw forth compassion, let wisdom rise from loss;
oh, take my heart and fashion the image of your cross;
then may I know your healing, through healing that I share,
your grace and love revealing, your tenderness and care.
So what does Paul Simon have to do with all of this? Well, I didn't want to sound like I was just playing something generic out of a hymnal, even though that's exactly what I was doing, so I arpeggiated the accompaniment, changed up the rhythm of the lyrics a little bit, and when I got to the "the image of your cross" I took the melody high. It was spontaneous, yet there was something about it that felt right...comfortable...almost familiar. I finished it pleased with the song itself and how it had gone.
Then, a couple of hours later, driving home alone in my car, it hit me why it all felt so familiar.
I had just, in the changing of accompaniment and rhythms; as well as changing the melody in that one phrase, unconsciously imitated Paul Simon's song American Tune, which itself is based on O Sacred Head Now Wounded.
The Spirit does work in mysterious ways...apparently, one of them is through Paul Simon.
And that's how Paul ended up in my church this past Wednesday.
BTW, for those who haven't heard it, here's a clip of American Tune: