Paul Barton (born in Yorkshire, England, but living in Bangkok, Thailand) plays all three of French composer Erik Satie's Gymnopedies, written in 1888.
They are supposed to be played at a pace that sounds like "painful" (the first) or "sad" (second) or "grave" (the third). Satie was a very close friend of Claude Debussy, who orchestrated the first and third of these pieces. He felt that the second one wouldn't work.
I love these pieces for their simplicity and the tranquility they seem to embody. Enjoy.
8th Century Byzantine mosaic of Mary, Mother of Mercy,
in the Church of San Marco, Florence
(it is believed to have come to Florence from St. Peter's in Rome)
Salve, Regina, mater misericordiae;
vita, dulcedo et spes nostra, salve. Ad te clamamus exsules filii Hevae. Ad te suspiramus gementes et flentes in hac lacrimarum valle. Eia ergo, advocata nostra, illos tuos misericordes oculos ad nos converte. Et Iesum, benedictum fructum ventris tui, nobis post hoc exsilium ostende. O clemens, o pia, o dulcis Virgo Maria.
Today we said and sang the burial rite for our Director of Music at St. Stephen's, Peter Hopkins. Peter died very suddenly on Monday morning of an apparent heart attack. He was 57. We have all been reeling from the shock. I still can hardly believe it.
The service was glorious. All five of us clergy participated and we had 70 people singing together - the Virginia Girls Choir, the Virginia Boys Choir, our St. Stephen's choir and Sanctuary, our Compline choir. Peter was the director all of these choirs.
The hymns were "Christ is made the sure foundation" (Westminster Abbey); "The King of love my shepherd is" (St. Columba); and ALL the verses of "For all the saints" (Sine nomine), singing the seventh verse a cappella. There were people from other choirs among the congregation, and it is not often that I am in a procession out of the church walking between such beautiful voices singing in all the parts. My heart, and my eyes, were so full.
The choirs sang as anthems O How Amiable (Vaughn Williams); Rise Up, My Love, My Fair One (Healey Willan); O sacrum convivium (Giovanni Croce); and ended with the Thomas Weelkes Nunc Dimities.
Never have I heard such beauty at a funeral. Bittersweet. Peter, into paradise may the angels lead you. At your going may the martyrs receive you, and bring you into the holy city Jerusalem.
Life is short, and we do not have much time to gladden the hearts of those who make the journey with us. So, be swift to love, and make haste to be kind.
Our Gospel reading
from Luke today is one of the more vexing parables in the New Testament. It
goes by several different names – is it the unjust steward, the dishonest
manager, or the prudent middleman? – and some interpretations of it are
questionable or downright bizarre – is Jesus praising dishonesty? Is it about
justice rather than money? Does this parable tell us to use worldly wealth so
as to secure our own futures? Or is it all just completely ironic?
In my career as a
theology student, both formally here at Candler and informally in my previous
life as a recovering Baptist, I have come across plenteous articles, footnotes,
and commentary essays about this story. And I can say with some confidence that
the problem with many writers of articles and commentaries is that they were
not English majors.
Because if they had
been English majors, they would be looking first to the whole Gospel of Luke
for themes and key concepts and then looking within this parable to see how
those themes and concepts play out. Further, they would be looking at the
stories surrounding this one to see why this parable is situated at this
particular place in Luke.
In Luke, the rich do
not fare well. Right off the bat, Mary sings in the Magnificat that the rich
are going to be sent away empty. And Jesus directs a woe at them during his
sermon on the plain: woe to you rich for you have received your consolation. In
the Lukan stories - both parables and personal encounters - we meet the rich
fool, who stores all his stuff in a barn and then in a bigger barn and then
dies, having stored his treasure for himself instead of using it for God.
There’s the rich young man who goes away sadly from Jesus because he cannot
bring himself to sell all he has and give the money to the poor. There’s the
other rich man who wears purple and eats gourmet meals and ends up in the
flames because he did not use his wealth to help poor, sick, hungry Lazarus at
It is easier for a
camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the
kingdom of God, Jesus says. Get the picture? The rich have difficulty parting
with their wealth, and this is a big problem for them in terms of their
salvation. Not because rich people cannot be saved – rich Zacchaeus will be
saved over in Chapter 19 – but because they are not willing to be generous with
their wealth. They don’t get it that their wealth is to be used to bridge the
gap between rich and poor – to address the needs of others. And in fact, this
is how Zacchaeus is going to be saved, by volunteering to give away his money
to the poor. Because, as Jesus emphatically tells us, you cannot serve both God
Now, notice that
today’s story comes at the heels of the parable of the prodigal son, who
squanders his father’s property in dissolute living and suffers the
consequences. When he hits bottom, he decides on a course of action by which to
secure a future for himself: he will return to his father and do penance,
seeking his protection. So goes home, where his father welcomes him with open
Compare now our story.
A rich man discovers that his manager has been squandering (there’s that word
again) his property. The manager, like the prodigal son, has hit bottom: he is
about to be sacked, so he sits down to decide on a course of action by which to
secure a future for himself, because he must protect himself. But his way of
protecting himself is to be generous: to take this last chance to offer
generosity to the rich man’s debtors while he still can. He does not repent of
his squandering ways, he keeps on squandering, believing that his generosity
will lead to his salvation - being welcomed into the eternal home.
And then the story
after ours is the parable I mentioned before about a rich man who spent his
wealth on himself while the hungry beggar Lazarus lay outside his gate, covered
with sores. And lo, the rich man found himself burning in the eternal flames –
because he was not prudent with his Mammon – he used it for himself instead of
So, while that rich
man kept his wealth to himself, our friend the manager used his position to be
generous with the wealth of his boss. The manager has served God (through
openhandedness toward others) rather than serving the rich man’s monetary
interests. And for this reason he is called dishonest, or shrewd. In fact,
Jesus says, he has been faithful by giving the boss’s Mammon away.
Well. It’s probably
not all that profitable to talk about Mammon with this crowd, seeing as how
many of us are living on the largesse of Emory’s endowment made possible by
Coca Cola stock dividends.
And actually, what I
find remarkable about this story is that the manager’s way of protecting
himself is to be generous.
Now I don’t know about
you, but for me, about this time every semester, I start worrying. I look at my
assignments stretching ahead of me, all those pages, those papers, those hours
spent at my field placement, not to mention the needs of my family, and I start
to feel anxious. I’m already overloaded and I start to wonder how I’m ever
going to do it all.
And then pretty soon I
start to doubt my abilities – why did I think I could do this? Who am I to
write a sermon to turn in to Tom Long? AND a paper, AND read hundreds of pages,
AND go to the grocery store and do the laundry and plan a service for Sunday
And so about this time
every semester, I start feeling as if I do not have enough. Not enough time,
not enough intelligence, not enough energy, not enough anything. And my impulse
is to pull in and protect myself. To ward off things that might take more time
or require energy or creativity. Even things that might be fun. Even things
that might help others.
I want go into “Two
Year Old Child Automatic No” mode – will you serve at Chapel? No. Will you go
to the concert? No. Will you take notes for someone in class who has a
disability? No. Will you have lunch with me so I can tell you how overwhelmed I
feel right now? No. I don’t have time, I don’t have energy, I have to study, I
have to run errands, I have to do something that makes me feel productive. If
the phone rings, I am tempted to answer it by saying “What do YOU want?!?”
Because I’m in crisis mode and I need to protect myself.
This is why I admire
the manager. When HE gets in crisis mode and sits down to think of what he will
do to protect himself, HE decides to be generous. He decides that helping
others reduce their own loads is the best response to his anxiety. And Jesus
calls this behavior faithful.
This makes my
automatic no mode look like what it truly is – an attempt to make my life
manageable by treating it like the proverbial pie. As in, if I give you any
pie, there may not be enough for me, because there’s just only so much, you
know. But I am not a pie. We are not pies.
We all may be under
pressure, but we are still called to be faithful. And in fact, we are stewards
of all kinds of riches that we did not earn - but yet we have the power to give
There’s way bigger
stuff out there than books and papers and laundry and errands. There are people
who need someone to help them out. Who need a hand with planning a worship
service or need help with a newsletter article. Who need advice and
encouragement from a more seasoned student. Who need a friend with whom to eat
lunch. Who need your expertise in something you have a talent for. Who need a
shoulder or a sympathetic ear. Who have their own anxieties.
There are people out
there who are looking to you and me, my friends. And we can live out our call
to be faithful by giving away whatever kind of wealth we have access to –
friendship, smiles, wisdom, talent, even time.