May 31, 2010
Ever had a blue-funk? Whenever I feel sad and can’t quite put my finger on why, or if I’m sad over something and it persists more than about an hour, I call it a blue funk. Like anybody’s standard melancholy, it’s of varying degrees and duration. The most annoying part about it isn’t that I feel sad, but that I can’t concentrate- on anything. When I’m sad like that I have trouble reading for long periods of time (which I love doing), don’t listen well to sermons, and if you call me on the phone, I sound a little confused and like I’m in a dream bubble. Such is the blue-funk.
Several Sundays ago, I was in just such a blue funk, when I arrived at Duke Chapel for the morning worship service. I’d been to another church, so I was running late and missed the confession. This made the sadness-spell worse, now not only was I sad, I had to wait another week to be absolved of my sins (I know this sounds odd to some, but I’ll talk about confession later). Even Dean Sam Wells’ sermon didn’t snap me out of it. And if you’ve ever heard him preach, you’ll know that’s odd. He’s a great preacher. I didn’t hear more than a few snatches.
But then the low, resonant notes of the doxology sounded, shaking my feet, summoning me to stand. It was like someone waking me up from a dream. The organ chirped the introductory alleluias to bring the congregation in. I fully came to from the sadness-dream, and (somewhat surprisingly) I was singing. “Praise God from whom all blessings flow.” And arguing with myself, is it honest to praise God? I don’t feel like praising anything. “Praise God all creatures here below.” And then it hit me: It’s always honest to praise God in any mood and at any time. (Duh, Miss Masters degree.) This was just training on how to praise God at all times, happy or sad in the real world. “Alleluia, Alleluia.”
I realized that we sing the doxology every week in worship as an antidote to that bent-inward self obsession of original sin, which we ALL grapple with as we are learning to really live. Singing praise to God lifts our eyes and hearts away from our own midsection and lifts them toward the Lord. In thanksgiving, even just for a moment, we learn to be truly ourselves, upright, open, and lifted up. “Praise God above ye heavenly hosts. Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.”
Did it cure my blue funk forever? Nope. But doxology is teaching me how to love God in the midst of all things. I know it’s an old trusty that you’ve probably sung ten thousand times- but next time the Old Hundredth (the tune name of the frequently used setting) cranks up, try not to check out. We’re learning something valuable there.