Finding Our Voice: Finding God’s Voice

A Resource for Scriptural Interpretation Through Song and the Arts

Overview
Eric
Kristen
Marranda
Hannah

Scripture Presentations

A Brief How-to
— An Example


Scripture Presentations: An Example

Here’s how Jake, a congregant at Not So Churchy, interpreted his scripture passage through music.

1.     Jake was given this passage.

Exodus 3:1-12

Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian; he led his flock beyond the wilderness, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. 2 There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of a bush; he looked, and the bush was blazing, yet it was not consumed. 3 Then Moses said, “I must turn aside and look at this great sight, and see why the bush is not burned up.” 4 When the Lord saw that he had turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” 5 Then he said, “Come no closer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” 6 He said further, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.

7 Then the Lord said, “I have observed the misery of my people who are in Egypt; I have heard their cry on account of their taskmasters. Indeed, I know their sufferings, 8 and I have come down to deliver them from the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey, to the country of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. 9 The cry of the Israelites has now come to me; I have also seen how the Egyptians oppress them. 10 So come, I will send you to Pharaoh to bring my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt.” 11 But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” 12 He said, “I will be with you; and this shall be the sign for you that it is I who sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall worship God on this mountain.”

2.  Having read this passage, what stood out for Jake was Moses’s question, “Who am I . . . ?” It reminded him of particular struggles of his own.

He was also struck by the response from God: “I will be with you.”

3.  Jake played around with melody ideas and realized he could make a call-and-answer melody for “Who am I? / I will be with you.” A song leader could divide the congregation in half and invite one half to sing, “Who am I?” and the other half to sing, “I will be with you.”

Then he realized that the same melodies could be used for another key exchange: Moses saying, “Here I am!” and the response from God, “Come no closer!”

This response both echoed and challenged “Who am I?”/”I will be with you.”

Giving these key phrases to the congregation would invite them to look out from the scripture, to imagine themselves as part of the story.

4a.  Jake made a voice recording of these simple melodies and sent them to Charlotte, the song leader who would lead the congregation.

4b.  Since he has some musical training, Jake also created a simple, repeating instrumental accompaniment that the pianist, Hannah, could play underneath these exchanges, and he emailed that music to her. 

Note that instrumental accompaniment was not necessary to the reading, and if Jake had not known how to create an accompaniment, he could have asked the musicians to help him figure something out during rehearsal.

5.  Here is the final script for his scripture presentation.  Note that Jake added the names of the matriarchs Sarah, Rebecca, Leah, and Rachel.

Exodus reading.

Overview — Hannah, accompanied by Jake, plays an 8-bar repeating piano part. Charlotte teaches a refrain to the congregation, one half sings the call and the other sings the answer. Then she reads, teaches them new words to this refrain and leads them through that. Then she reads to the end and invites them to sing the call/answer until we end.

See accompanying sheet music and listen to accompanying recording for details.

Piano starts

After once or twice through the 8-bar pattern, Charlotte divides the congregation and teaches this refrain.

Call:  “Who am I?”

Answer: “I will be with you.”

This repeats 3 times.

Then Charlotte reads.

“Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian; he led his flock beyond the wilderness, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of a bush; he looked, and the bush was blazing, yet it was not consumed.

Then Moses said, ‘I must turn aside and look at this great sight, and see why the bush is not burned up.’

When the Lord saw that he had turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, ‘Moses, Moses!’  And he said . . .

[Sung – call melody]  ‘Here I am.’

[Spoken] Then he said, . . .

[Sung – answer melody] ‘Come no closer!

[Charlotte invites the congregation to sing this exchange three times]

[Spoken]  “Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.’ He said further, ‘I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham and Sarah, the God of Isaac and Rebecca, and the God of Jacob, Leah, and Rachel.’ And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God. Then the Lord said, ‘I have observed the misery of my people who are in Egypt; I have heard their cry on account of their taskmasters. Indeed, I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them from the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey, to the country of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. The cry of the Israelites has now come to me; I have also seen how the Egyptians oppress them. So come, I will send you to Pharaoh to bring my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt.’

But Moses said to God . . .  [sung – call melody] ‘Who am I . . .

[spoken] ‘Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?’ 12

God said . . .[sung – answer melody] ‘I will be with you

[spoken] and this shall be the sign for you that it is I who sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall worship God on this mountain.’

Charlotte then invites congregation to sing “Who am I? / I will be with you.” repeating over and over until we end.

A few items worth noticing:

  • Simplicity. Note how little was added: two pairs of sung refrains. These small additions, which reflected Jake’s engagement with the passage, added emphasis to particular points, and this opened up the reading. 
     
  • Repetition. Note how the simple ideas were repeated.  (The instrumental accompaniment was an eight-bar, repeating pattern.) This repetition helped draw the congregation deeper into the moments of special emphasis.
     
  • Breath. The instrumental accompaniment beneath the reading allowed Charlotte, the song leader and reader, to pause between the reading and the singing. These momentary breaths allowed the congregation to absorb the reading and singing and have a little time for reflection.

Remember, this is an example, not a recipe. Take inspiration from it if you like. Your scripture presentation might incorporate similar methods, but it might employ other means, too: movement, theatrical elements, visual art, whatever calls to you


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