The Rev. Casey dunsworth

serves as Associate Campus Pastor to the Belfry, the Lutheran-Episcopal Campus Ministry to UC Davis

and as Program Director for LEVN, the Lutheran Episcopal Volunteer Network.

Hamilton, again. Except Burr.

You may think I am cheating because I've already blogged about Hamilton kind of but it's not cheating because I have been listening to the musical non-stop since then and so it's basically the only thing I have engaged--theologically or otherwise--in a week. It's playing in the background right now as I'm writing. And probably will be playing in the background (of my life) whenever you're reading this. Okay maybe not forever but at least the first time.

There's so much to be said about how much Hamilton has made me feel. (Like that time when there was a lyrical reference to The Last Five Years and you BETCHA I gasped and then cried.)

But! What I want to grab at this week is the profound sense of loss expressed by Aaron Burr. I know, I know, he's like the bad guy or whatever. But! In the first act, Burr (played beautifully by Leslie Odom, Jr.) sings "Wait For It." The first verse is about the married woman he has a relationship with. He can't really have her, because her husband is a British soldier. Whoops.

[Pro tip: go on Spotify and play this song. It'll help you to get where I'm coming from if you can hear the resignation in his voice, and then the rising to meet the anguish of the ensemble.]

He sings:
"Love doesn't discriminate
between the sinners and the saints
it takes and it takes and it takes
and we keep loving anyway.
We laugh and we cry
and we break
and we make our mistakes.
And if there's a reason I'm by her side
when so many have tried
then I'm willing to wait for it
wait for it wait for it."
The next verse is about the deaths of his parents, and so the chorus is altered slightly--and this is where the theologizing of his experience just leaps out of my speakers:
"Death doesn't discriminate
between the sinners and the saints
it takes and it takes and it takes
and we keep living anyway.
We rise and we fall
and we break
and we make our mistakes.
And if there's a reason I'm still alive
when everyone who loves me has died
then I'm willing to wait for it,
wait for it, wait for it."
This is what's hard about not ascribing to an "everything happens for a reason" kind of understanding of God, because we can't say "this death all around you is the direct work of God" and be satisfied with that explanation. Lutherans like myself are so easily able to say that God doesn't discriminate between the sinners and the saints because we know ourselves to be simultaneously sinner and saint! That's the mess of it. "We keep living, anyway. We rise, and we fall, and we break, and we make our mistakes." And God rises and falls with us.

And I cannot ignore the pronouns. We keep living anyway. We rise and we fall and we break and we make our mistakes. There's a recognition of the communal nature of this type of suffering, but then there's a deep loneliness in the return to the singular pronouns of "I'm still alive when everyone who loves me has died."

And I don't know how long he waits. Is that one of those "all questions answered at the pearly gates" kind of things? Because we all know I'm not there with that.

I wonder: is he waiting for a time when he can live a life not marked by loss? Living alongside his beloved partner and child(ren), not in secret, not in fear. Living into a new generation, less pre-occupied with the death of his own parents. After the war, after the revolution, not surrounded by fallen soldiers, all so young. I think Burr just wants to live a whole, whole life. And who among us can't identify with that?!

Not Your GOP's American Jesus -- A Sermon on Matthew 11:25-30

A Thank You Note to Lin-Manuel Miranda