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Listening to Old Ideas and the Wisdom of Elders

By Dr. Terri Martinson Elton, Director of the Center for First Third Ministry at Luther Seminary I don’t know about you, but music often speaks to my soul. Music has a way of drawing me deeper into my own human experience, while also moving me out of myself connecting me to the world and the greater human community. Theologian, colleague
by Faith+Lead | October 22, 2012

By Dr. Terri Martinson Elton, Director of the Center for First Third Ministry at Luther Seminary

I don’t know about you, but music often speaks to my soul. Music has a way of drawing me deeper into my own human experience, while also moving me out of myself connecting me to the world and the greater human community. Theologian, colleague and friend, Christian Scharen, understands what I’m talking about, this connection between music and the human experience. In the current issue of Immerse Journal, Chris offers a beautiful reflection on the intersection of Leonard Cohen’s life and music and the everyday struggles for people of faith. Today I commend to you his article, The Wisdom of Elders: Listening to Leonard Cohen’s Old Ideas, and offer ordinary people of faith some questions for reflection. (I also suggest you might listen to one or more of Cohen’s songs from his new Old Ideas album.)

  • Cohen, a Jewish man and “self-described seeker,…explored many religious traditions while never leaving his own.” Might Cohen’s experience be a witness to Christians in this post-modern time and perhaps even an invitation? Might such journeying such territory be fruitful and generative? What might accompanying people on such a journey entail?
  • Does the wisdom of Old Ideas (both as an album and concept) remind people of faith that a few things do endure and really matter, but discovering such things only emerges out of “ruminating on tradition, a sense of call, conflicted desires and the inevitable experiences of brokenness”? If this is true, what might such reflection look like? How might a community of people engage in this activity together? (Come Healing is a song written to illuminate this ruminating.)
  • In a time when there is a desire to place people of faith in religious categories (often times either/or in nature) might Cohen’s argument for a God that’s not tribal, but who is the “God of the heaven and the earth, the seas and all that is in them” (Psalm 146:6) be refreshing? How might such a stance impact interactions with our neighbor? How might it awaken us to see God beyond our own Categories?

Scharen believes “Leonard Cohen has delved deeply into the spiritual turbulence of our age” as he represents the wisdom of elders, clarifies what really matters and lets the fluff fall away. Where did this wisdom come from? A lifetime of seeking wisdom from God.

Thank you Chris Scharen for your reflection and thanks Leonard Cohen for spending a life wrestling with God. 

– Terri

Join the conversation on Facebook.com/FirstThird!

Terri Elton is passionate about young people and their families, and loves the church. No really! She’s our Associate Professor and teaches with an eye toward developing leaders and leading change.

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