In this semester’s Gospel of Luke class, I assign students to bring interpretations of our weekly passages drawn from the history of art and music. This has worked very well, with students bringing thought-provoking images from distant times and lands, along with some contemporary art. I project the chosen image on the screen from my laptop, and we talk through the elements of the reading that the artist has carried over, the elements that the artist has added or altered, and how we would assess the success of the interpretation.
For part of today’s passage (Luke 13 and 14), one of these students brought a hymn by Charles Wesley, “Come Sinners To The Gospel Feast,” as an interpretation of the Great Banquet parable in Luke 14:16-24. This made for an intriguing, welcome change of pace (I used “Prodigal Son” by the
Rev. Robert Wilkins as the epigraph for the syllabus), and we listened and talked about the relation of the parable to the hymn text. As the conversation was winding down, the student who chose the hymn noted that it was the only musical adaptation of the parable she could find.
Some of you know what’s coming. Over the course of many years, I have listened to our family’s cassette tape of the Medical Mission Sisters often enough that I knew there was at least one other musical adaptation of the Great Banquet, the MMS’s “I Cannot Come” (from their record Joy Is Like The Rain). I launched hesitantly into the refrain, and one student joined me, but it was clear that most were not acquainted with this classic. Another student urged me, “Search YouTube.”
Thank you, Intertubes!