Tuesday, July 06, 2004

Swing Low Sweet Chariot

I've just finished listening to a programme about Swing Low Sweet Chariot on the radio. You can find it here. The programme traced the origins of the spiritual, the secret meanings that it could contain and ended up with the way in which the English sing it at rugby matches.

The most striking thing, for me, was an account of a semi-pagan funeral (woodland, no religious officiant) in which it was sung. People clearly found it very moving, despite its religious connotations. At first I was a little shocked that people could sing this and ignore the religious element of the spiritual. But then it struck me that this is what incarnation is all about - God making himself available to everyone and certainly beyond the control of we religious people. Jesus' arguments with the religious authorities of his times are enough of an indication of this. There is something of our vocation as Christians that is simply about keeping alive the possibility of encounter with God. But with this vocation comes a death to any chance of controlling this encounter.

Given the origins of the spiritual in the religion imposed on people as they were enslaved, perhaps this is just as well.

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