For this morning’s prelude, the Wilshire Winds plays an excerpt from “The Promise of Living,” a piece American composer Aaron Copland wrote for his opera, The Tender Land. The opera tells the story of a Midwest farm family in the 1930s during the spring harvest. The libretto by Horace Everett includes these lines:
The promise of living with hope and thanksgiving
Is born of our loving our friends and our labor.
The promise of growing with faith and with knowing
Is born of our sharing our love with our neighbor.
The promise of loving, the promise of growing
Is born of our singing in joy and thanksgiving.
Everett’s faith and religious leanings aren’t readily known, but his words encompass ideals that any Christian should be comfortable with and find compatible with the life, ministry and message of Christ. Copland, meanwhile, was a Jew who often incorporated folk songs and Christian hymn melodies in his compositions. In this case, “The Promise of Living” includes strains of the melody from “Zion’s Walls,” a Southern folk hymn first published by John G. McCurry in 1855, which includes these lines:
Come fathers and mothers,
Come sisters and brothers,
Come join us in singing the praises of Zion.
Well known for compositions that evoke physical landscapes and the human condition, Copland once said, “The conviction grew inside me that the two things that seemed always to have been separate in America — music and the life about me — must be made to touch.”
Taking a cue from Copland’s fondness for borrowing and adapting existing musical and lyrical themes, I wonder if we can nudge his words a little to say of our faith journey, “The conviction has grown inside me that faith and the life about me must be made to touch.”
As you listen to the music and hear the Scriptures and messages that are shared today, consider the places where your faith and life touch each other — or where they don’t and maybe should. Consider the “promise of living … growing … loving” through Christ that convicts us to share our hope, thanksgiving, labor, faith, knowing, joy and love with our families, friends and neighbors.