This Month's Newsletter

The monthly Sing For Joy newsletter contains a letter from the program's host, Pastor Bruce Benson, along with a listing of music selections for each program and the corresponding scripture readings. If you'd like to receive a complimentary subscription, fill out our online request form for either the print newsletter or the electronic newsletter.

June 2017 Newsletter (Year A)
Pastor Bruce Benson
Untying the Knot of Anger, by Pastor Bruce Benson

“Master, do I hear spirits on this path?”
I said. And he to me: “You do indeed,
and they are loosening the knot of Wrath.”
Purgatorio, Canto XVI, Dante. John Ciardi, translation

Lovers of music, especially lovers of choral music, and even more especially lovers of choral church
music can hardly hold back a smile when reading Dante Alighieri’s 14th century fantasy about comings and goings in Purgatory. As in Inferno — Dante’s imagined journey through hell — so also in Purgatorio he describes various faults and short-comings that have kept sinners away from the gates of paradise. In the section quoted above he has entered the realm of the wrathful. Or, in another translation: the angry. It is full of thick dark smoke, the kind that keeps people from seeing clearly, which, according to Dante, is precisely what wrath/anger does. It keeps us from seeing clearly. Reason gets clouded, the ability to see others as neighbors gets obscured, the bonds of love get lost in the fog. And what is it that wrathful souls in purgatory are doing to “loosen the knot of Wrath?” Singing! Singing the church’s liturgy — specifically, the Agnus Dei, Lamb of God. Apparently, singing together loosens the knot of wrath. 

I know what you’re thinking: Any choir member could have told me that! And I don’t disagree. Dante likely knew about the power of singing from his own experience; he was part of worshiping congregations. He obviously knew also about the power of words. And he put the two powers together in this little episode about wrath.

Almost anything you might read about Dante Alighieri (1265-1321) will describe him as a genius, and his genius seems surely to be at work in this section of Purgatorio. Music — let’s be more precise: music-making does indeed have an almost magical ability to loosen or untie the knot of anger. Anyone who has tried to sing and laugh at the same time knows how nearly impossible that is. It is also difficult to sing and be angry at the same time. It is difficult, at least, to stay angry while singing. Dante thus selects a perfect exercise for letting go of anger/wrath. But if we notice only the music, we haven’t noticed quite enough. Dante’s wrathful singers who are busy loosening the knots of anger are not singing “la la la.”

“They offered up three prayers, and every one
began with Agnus Dei, and each word
and measure rose in perfect unison.”
(Or, in another translation, "every harmony seemed to be amongst them.")

They are singing, “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, have mercy on us.” Hopeful words, sung together, undoing the knot of anger.

Now to us: listening to music might be less effective than singing as a way to untie the knot of anger, though it isn’t bad. And simply hearing words of grace, forgiveness and love can often heal. So we at Sing For Joy will continue to provide music and healing words. And if you choose to sing along — well, you just might like what happens.

Peace be with you, 

Pastor Bruce Benson

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June Playlists and Programs

Playlists are ready now, and each show will become available to stream on the Friday before the week begins. 

June 4, 2017: Day of Pentecost (Year A)

June 11, 2017: The Holy Trinity — First Sunday after Pentecost (Year A)

June 18, 2017: Time After Pentecost — Lectionary 11 (Year A)

June 25, 2017: Time After Pentecost — Lectionary 12 (Year A)

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Listener Letters

 "I'm a long-time listener. I appreciate Pastor Benson's comments on the monthly newsletters and how he relates the hymns to the lectionary readings during each broadcast. I look forward to each week's program and thank you for this great service."  -Hillsborough, North Carolina

"Heartfelt thanks for the work you do to bring us the music and texts that enrich our lives. We especially enjoy hearing you from Grand Cayman!"  -Northfield, Minnesota

"I made the website a link on my phone and listen while preparing to go to church each week. ... Thanks for the inspiration every week!" -East Moline, Illinois

Sing For Joy Memorials
Memorials and Honorariums

Thank you for your gifts in memory and honor of those close to your heart.

Helene Anglin
Rev. Norman Aronson
J. Robb Bartlett
Jim Braulick, my husband
Parks Byrum
Mr. & Mrs. Robert Haugan
Rev. Thomas Herbon
Bernie Imbrock
my mom, Marie Naumann
Margaret Huss Smith

Bruce Benson
Lonnie Burns, our church organist
Dr. Yu-Wen Chen
Margaret Neale, musician extraordinaire
The staff at Sing For Joy

To include an honorarium or memorial when you give to Sing For Joy, simply include the name(s) and occasion(s) in the comment box, as well as who should receive an acknowledgement letter and a mailing address. Donations can celebrate a personal milestone such as an anniversary or birthday, or honor a loved one who perhaps also enjoyed music, all while furthering the Sing For Joy mission to bring sacred choral music to listeners around the world. 

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