Sign, Sign, everywhere a sign… Do you recognize that song? It was a one-hit wonder from the Canadian band 5 Man Electric Band (I had to Google that bit), which made its mark on the charts in 1970-71. You’ll still hear it on classic rock radio today. The song tells the story of a “long-haired hippie” who gets turned away from several places, such as a job or club. This “long-haired hippie” hid his hair to get into the job interview, or tried his best to blend in to get into the exclusive club. Essentially the song talks about rules we place upon ourselves in order to keep those unlike ourselves away from where we work or would choose to spend time.

Rules. We have rules everywhere. In The Journey at St. John’s, Narcie has preached the past few Sundays about Leviticus, which deals with rules just a bit… Even the Psalms for the recent lectionary have discussed the “statutes” of our Lord.

Rules, gotta love ‘em right?

Music has a lot of rules. Many of the rules we study grew out of Bach’s Das Wohltemperierte Klavier (The Well-Tempered Clavier). The first volume, composed in 1722, contains fugues and preludes written in all 24 keys – major and minor. Essentially Bach specified tuning which became the modern tuning of keyboard instruments and laid the fundamentals for modern music theory – the rules in which melody, harmony, and form are derived from. These rules reached their zenith during the Classical period (Mozart’s time). Then composers began to completely disregard these historical rules and forms, ushering in the Romantic period. But the complete disregard for the rules of
harmonics became the rule. And later in the 20th Century, composers began to develop systems which they would write within; Row Theory, Modal, 4th/5th Harmonics – 100 years after composers decided to break from the rules of the Classical period they were inventing rules of restraint for composition (IRONY ALERT!).

But composers such as Bach, Beethoven, Debussy, Stravinsky, Schoenberg and Adams all had one goal: to write music that will have some sort of emotional affect on the listener.

Our faith has rules also, many of which are laid out in Leviticus. Can we follow all of them? Or should that even be the goal? When Jesus was asked what is the most important commandment what was his answer? `People of Israel, you have only one Lord and God. 30You must love him with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.’ 31The second most important commandment says: `Love others as much as you love yourself.’ Mark 12: 29-31 CEV. We should know the rules, but we should never lose sight of the Love of God.

Now if this were a song, I would be returning to the original theme…

The last verse of the song Signs tells how our “long-haired hippie” went into a church, where he was finally accepted for who he was. And there was welcomed to come in, kneel down, and pray.


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