Ancient Words, Old Soundboards, New Tunes

A poetic reflection on the Venite (Psalm 95)

Although now, the Daily Office

is an ingrained piece of my daily prayer life,

many years ago,

it was a new practice for me.


As a fairly new Episcopalian,

although I knew chanting parts of Morning and Evening Prayer

happened in some places,

it wouldn’t have been something that happened

in a small church

in a small town

in rural Missouri…

and I could barely read music anyway.


Yet something was gnawing in my brain

and whispering to me

that putting prayer to a tune

would be a different way of praying for me,

and perhaps I would learn something

about the old adage

that “He who sings prays twice.”


I knew nothing back then

about the standard chant tones

that we hear in sung Morning Prayer

and Evensong.


Then one day as I was saying the Venite,

and I could feel my body nodding to its cadence,

the wildest thing 

swept across my brain

in flashing neon lights…


I suddenly realized

that with only a little bit of wordsmithing,

it was possible

to sing the Venite

to Willie Nelson’s

“Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain.”


And so for several weeks,

when I’d say Morning Prayer at home

to God and my dogs,

I’d sing my “Willie Nelson Venite,”

and figured that since the dogs seemed pleased,

God would be fine with it too.


Now some would find that disrespectful,

or at the very least, a little odd,

but it worked for me.

Somehow the dilapidated soundboard

on Willie’s guitar

with the gaping, growing, decades old hole

became a metaphor for the beauty

that can come from brokenness 

if we can allow ourselves 

to make music through it.


So even though

we don’t normally sing the Venite in Lent

I’ve been singing it that way

to God and my dogs this season

simply because it feels right

after living through a pandemic

and in the midst of the polarizing tension

I feel in daily living these days.


For what good is Lent anyway,

if we can’t take the broken soundboards

of our lives,

and hear sweet comfort

in the music that rises from the debris

of our broken promises and lost loves

through the shattered world

that led to the Crucifixion?

Daily Office Readings for Friday, March 10, 2023: AM Psalm 95 69:1-23(24-30)31-38; PM Psalm 73 Jer. 5:1-9; Rom. 2:25-3:18; John 5:30-47

Image: Willie Nelson’s famous old guitar, “Trigger.” Photo by Mike Prosser, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons, through a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.

[adrotate group="3"]
[adrotate group="4"]
[adrotate group="7"]

All content ©2022 by the Episcopal Journal & Cafe

The Episcopal Journal is a 501 (c) 3 corporation. Contributions are tax deductible.

Website design and management  by J T Quanbeck.