Friday, September 22, 2017

Songs for Creation

Songs for Creation
John Pitney

We Resist. We Build. We Rise. (Words & music by John Pitney)
I composed this song for the 2nd People’s Climate March in Washington DC, April 29, 2017.  Its title was the March theme. The March date was our current Administration’s 100th day.  Walking the route past the Capitol, the Washington and Lincoln Monuments and the White House, with 200,000 resistors, I was surrounded by people of faith from across our good country, including close friends from our church in Eugene, Oregon.  As I read the signs of our partners in the struggle I was filled with new courage.  The signs read:  I Stand With Jesus/A Brown-skinned Radical Who Condemned Greed And Taught Unconditional Love, Love Your Neighbor As Yourself, Presbyterians for Creation, Evangelicals for Climate, Catholics 4 Solar!  A woman near me had a sign painted with Noah’s Ark and a quote from Noah’s neighbor: “Sea level rise is a hoax!”  I took a photo of a woman standing with our nation’s capital building in the background.  She’s holding a sign reading: If You Love the Creator, Take Care of Creation!  Marching in resistance together, we always make new friends and receive new messages.
Psalm 104: Will Earth be satisfied? (Words & music by John Pitney)
Reflections on Psalm 104: Water Song
            I created this song for the national Presbyterians for Earth Care conference in the Rockies a few summers back (“Too Big to Fail?”).  We were drawing our liturgical life from Psalm 104.  Actress-dancer-prophet Tevyn East and I were asked to take the water references in the psalm and create morning worship, which we led one wondrous morning as the turning of the earth made the sun appear from beneath the plains to illumine the watersheds of the majestic Rockies to the rear of our open-sky sanctuary.
         In biblical truth and physical reality, we are water, beginning to end to beginning.  In one creation story it all begins with Wind-Spirit moving on the waters; in the other, the theologians tell us, the breath that enlivens humanity from our source in humus is a moistened aspiration.  Is it any wonder the ancients knew earth was satisfied (vs. 13)?
         Songs emerge from mystery and the collaboration of community.  As Tevyn and I, strangers at the time, e-talked and planned worship across the miles, she asked me to consider changing my original lyrics.  At the time, the final chorus line was “Earth is satisfied, Earth is satisfied.”  Given the status of water in our world, she was asking, is that line really true?  Witness the Cochabamba campesino, rising in protest at the privatization of their Bolivian waters so that they, living on the margins, would now be forced to pay for what is Earth’s gift.   Witness the greed of lawns and golf courses, the weeping of Himalayan glaciers and the thirsting of Bangladeshi masses downstream.  Witness the dry bed of the mighty Yangtze and Somali mothers raped and murdered on their way home from the well, carrying a precious few drops for their babies.  Witness the lyrical change for yourselves.
         This song is for the parched masses: endangered creatures who have no voice and human beings with deserts in their throats.  And it is for those who speak for them.  Orthodox priests and their Alaska Native congregants carve crosses in the ice of Bristol Bay and say mass for the salmon.  Google it and learn.  Bill McKibben and friends of the 350 movement are arrested in D.C. in protest of tar sand exploits.  The U.N. tries to make watercourse treaties with no teeth, bound only by conscience.  Gathered with PEC in Colorado was our friend Carolyn Raffensperger, director of theScience and Environmental Health Network, who reminded us it’s not enough to project our caring seven generations to the future.  The half-life of the nuclear waste we would hide in the salt mines beneath the desert Southwest would suggest it will take 10,000 generations for us to really care.     
         Last summer, backlit by the setting sun sinking behind the Pacific, my wife Debbie and I witnessed a humpback whale breaching.  As we watched her elegant, gargantuan body flee the deep not once, but again and again, each time body-slamming the watery surface of Earth with seeming delight, I thought, “This is ‘Leviathan at play (vs. 26).’”  It will forever remind me that one of the fundamental yearnings of Earth is to rejoice!  So what will our vocations be?  How will we live?  Let us stand together, up to our armpits in the cool deep waters of resistance.  Willearth be satisfied?
            My partners in this song are Chelsea Young with her haunting voice parts and Keenan Hansen with his wicked bass!  Thanks friends.

John is a U. Methodist minister, songwriter & teacher, working in retirement to energize churches for Climate Justice.  His song, We Resist,We Build,We Rise, was composed for the Climate March in Wash. DC, this spring. He & wife, Debbie, live in a Net Zero home in W. Oregon. He vows not to be one who has to explain to his grandchildren why he didn’t do everything he could to respond to climate injustice while there was time.  Follow his music at and blog Our Net Zero Life.

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