Free to do what?

On Sunday, we’ll get to do something post-1979 Episcopalians rarely do anymore: read/sing a canticle.  Some of my readers have probably never heard the word.  I hadn’t until I arrived at Virginia Seminary.  A canticle is a non-metrical song, usually based on the Bible (other than the Psalms).  They have been a part of the Daily Office for ever, I think, but since we moved the Eucharist back to the center of our liturgical life and since very few people actually attend a Daily Office service, let alone pray it on their own, canticles have gone out of favor with Episcopalians.  And its a shame, really.  Two whole generations of Christians don’t know the joy that is Calvin Hampton’s setting of Canticle 18, A Song to the Lamb, from the Hymnal 1982.

As I said, this Sunday, we’ll have the chance to read/sing a Canticle, number 16, the song of Zechariah.  My friend, Evan, is blogging about it all week, you should read his stuff.  Anyway, I was struck by a part of Canticle 16 as I read through the lessons for Advent 2 this morning.  It come about halfway through Zechariah’s song, as he is extolling the virtues of God’s covenant with Abraham.

“This was the oath he swore to our father Abraham, *to set us free from the hands of our enemies, /Free to worship him without fear, *holy and righteous in his sight all the days of our life.”

I was probably more struck by it today than other days because of another blog I had read today by a fellow General Convention Deputy and Acts 8 Devotee, Megan Castellan, about her encounter with Zach, a 10 year old boy who is learning to knit.  Go read the whole post, but in the meantime, here’s the pertinent excerpt:

“[Zach asked,] ‘Why, if God gave us free will, did God insist that we worship him, and “not just let us sit on a beach in Miami all the time?”’ (That made me laugh out loud.)

To the last, I admitted that it remained a deep mystery, but for me, personally, I worshipped God because I actually like God.  Chances are, if I didn’t love God so much, I would ignore God a lot more.  But, moreover, I show God my affection by trying to live the way Jesus lived, and by trying to love the people around me as much as God did.  Zach pondered this concept for a while, knitting industriously.”
In Christ, we have been set free.  As Martin Luther said, we may “sin boldly,” but that freedom, Zechariah reminds us, should propel us not into dissipation, drunkenness, or debauchery (to paraphrase last week’s Gospel), but instead, our freedom in Christ is freedom to worship and freedom to act like Christ acted (or like Christ would have us act).  It is a powerful word from Zechariah, one for which I am thankful that the blog stars aligned so that I might see it.
Be set free.  Free to worship and obey.
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One thought on “Free to do what?

  1. ….some of your readers sang canticles weekly (and love them)! My favorite is Nunc Dimittis (any setting, but the minor, metric ones are especially good), but I’ll have to wait until after Christmas for that! S252 isn’t a bad setting of Zechariah either….. My favorite Canticle for the start of Advent is “Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord” – a la Godspell…..

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