Tuesday, October 17, 2006

marching sermon

I grew up in the vast wasteland of unimaginative edged yards, cookie cutter subdivisions that replaced farmlands, and the birthplace of product marketing and materialism all rolled into one. Yes, the Houston, Texas suburbs is where I sharpened my teeth on the file of life.

However, my high school had an incredible history dating back to the 1800's with a one-room school house in rural farmland. By the late 1980's my school was the well-known centerpiece that anchored the 10th fastest growing district in the entire US. This growth was fueled by Houston's sprawling economy and no-zoning laws.

Although my school was very suburbia-ish with all of its MTV, pop radio and shopping mall influence, it still hung on to its farming roots. Out of the whole city of Houston, our school had the largest FFA (Future Farmers of America, for you city slicks) program in town. Back then, half of the school's population came from the rural farming community and the other half from the suburban nightmare.

I always referred to my school as "the place where city folk and country folk come together and learn in perfect harmony".

I was born to be a musician. I think. Music always came natural. Unlike most kids who were forced to take piano lessons, I begged for piano lessons. But my parents were as musical as bricks, so there was no hope in getting a piano in our house. Then there was church...a church of christ for crying out freaking loud. They just sing goofy songs with no instruments. And I never liked singing much. So I had no outlet to discover music until the 6th grade when I joined band. And from there, marching band was the next step once high school begun.

Marching band is a big deal in Texas because football is a really big deal. And the two go hand in hand for some reason.

Back in the early 1900's marching bands were pretty serious entertainment for people as there was no radio, TV, laptops, etc. Over the years marching band has de-evolved into entertainment for other band nerds. Few real people listen to them seriously, and I don't blame them either.

Our high school marching band, like all others in the state, played in big competitions. Everyones goal was to get "to state", the superbowl of Texas HS marching band euphoria.

And every year a certain school in our region was so good that they'd not only go to state. They'd win. Their show was just asininely ridiculous in Spinal Tap levels of lunacy. One year they played a custom arrangement of Holst's "The Planets" (a well known orchestral piece that served as inspiration for much of the Star Wars score). It was so over-done and arrogant. BTW - my college rock band played a freaked out distorted version of "Mars". But we were cool.

But the biggest surprise in my marching band experience came from the last place band in our region: Smiley High School from the inner city Houston area.

Smiley was an all black school. And they kicked ass.

They didn't march like all the white suburbia schools. And they received the lowest, most embarrassing ratings at the contest because they didn't follow the rules that the marching band trends had created over the years.

Instead, Smiley followed the true calling of the marching band: they entertained.

It was THE most incredible thing I've EVER seen. Smiley's drum major was like James Brown on steroids. He had this 4-foot gold scepter and was throwing in in the air to the beat while doing back flips and cartwheels and gymnastic stunts all while blowing a whistle to a hip rhythm. Their band was small, but mighty. Like an extended Tower of Power horn section doing unison moves of a black church choir.

You couldn't help but cheer for them. They rocked!

Our HS band played some cheesy medley from "Fiddler on the Roof" or something stupid like that. Smiley was playing "Shaft", "Shake Your Booty" and other hits from Soul Train.

Our band: moved in unison like some rigid teen aged military. Smiley: moved like they were from the dancing-est hemisphere on earth.

Our band: excellent ratings.

Smiley: failing ratings.

Smiley didn't follow the official rules and traditions of the craft and paid the price. But they did what I thought was the original point for a band. And that is to entertain people.


Dear church of Jesus Christ and the great CEO of the universe,

Don't forsake your true calling for the man-made rules of your tradition. Quit whoring yourselves for the high ratings of man and the approval of your politically-run denominational heritage.

Return to your roots. Heal the sick. Raise the dead. Give to those without. Restore sight to the blind. Heal the crippled. Share the good news of the TRUTH by serving those outside your walls. And encourage one another.

And for those inside your walls: there should be none among you in need. KNOW each other and pay attention to someone other than your own naval.

Less talking. More listening.


Miller said...

extremely well said AB!

its about time we had a little prophecy...

rock on!

Pastor Phil said...

Play Shaft, and get the shaft. How is it that some things never change?

Good word bro.