One of my favorite bands of the last few years is “Sons of Bill.” Formed in Charlottesville, VA, by five guys, three of whom are brothers (and sons of a guy named Bill), they fit squarely in the popular Americana or Roots Rock genres. When I had a radio show on WEVL in Memphis, they were in heavy rotation. While they are plain ol’ good listen while enjoying a beverage in the company of friends, their lyrics are also genuinely interesting. They weave complex stories. Plus, they’re huge R.E.M. fans (https://youtu.be/C-UdFdrj1EU), which always earns big points in my book. If you’re interested, give their Christmas at the Jefferson 2012 live album (https://music.apple.com/us/album/christmas-at-the-jefferson-2012/636060894) a spin – it closes with an E P I C cover of Bob Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone.”
One of my favorite songs on their 2014 Love and Logic album is “Higher than Mine,” an ode to an erstwhile romantic encounter. The chorus sings,
Higher than mineHigher than mineWho said you could build your wallsSo much higher than mine
The word “wall” and the concept of walls has political connotations these days and I don’t intend, directly or indirectly, to “go there.” Separation, physical or otherwise, can be good or bad, depending on the circumstance. I once smiled at one of those plastic rods in the grocery check out lane meant to separate your purchases from the folks in front of and/or behind you in line – it read, “healthy boundaries are good.” However, I am curious about the mental, emotional, and sometimes spiritual walls we build around ourselves. Sometimes, we’ve been hurt, by someone or some institution, and we need those walls to protect us and make us feel safe. Sometimes, our own anxieties (or the anxieties of others projected upon us) cause us to build unnecessary walls, walls that prevent us from expressing our gifts or living as fully as we were meant to live. Sometimes, our walls prevent us from enjoying and fully entering relationships and friendships.
Our Wednesday Morning Bible Study is studying the parables of Jesus using Dr. Amy-Jill Levine’s wonderful book Short Stories by Jesus. Please join us on Wednesdays, 9:30-11:00am in the Parish Hall, and if you can’t, do pick up the book – it’s truly spectacular. The other day, we were studying the Good Samaritan. Dr. Levine said, “Today, we think of ourselves as the Good Samaritan – even harder, think of ourselves as the man in the ditch. Would we be willing to take help from that person [that person being the Samaritan, a reviled demographic in Jesus’ day]? Would we be willing to destroy some of our prejudices, some of our stereotypes, and say, ‘that person too has the potential to be neighbor to me.’ How vulnerable can we be, and if we can be vulnerable we can be open, then we’re better able to set foot into that Kingdom of Heaven.”
Can we be open? Can we open ourselves to the other, whether that person is sitting across the living room or living across the world? Or do we resign ourselves to separation? St. Paul wrote to the Church in Rome, “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord,” (Romans 8:38-39). If we can’t be separated from the love of God, how can we separate ourselves from each other? I believe I can be more open to my sisters and brothers. Perhaps you can, too.