For reasons that would bore you to death I recently was reading about a primitive tribe of Indians in the Brazilian Rain Forest called the Kalapalo People. They are not like us at all. They are short people who wear almost no clothing. They cannot read or write nor can they think of reason to do so. They live by hunting animals and gathering wild fruit. They would have as much trouble imagining a life at National Cathedral School or St. Albans as we have imagining a life in the rain forest. We are completely twenty-first century. They are not far from cave dwellers. Yet we have something in common with them, something that pertains to this evening when we honor choristers and acolytes.
The Kalapalo sing a lot. They do it because they believe that singing brings their gods into being. In other words, they experience their gods in a special way when they sing, so they do a lot of it because they like feeling the nearness of their gods.
They also have elaborate rituals in their tribal life that are carefully rehearsed so that they are completely predictable, very precise, and peaceful. They do this because the day to day world is not like that for them. It is full of ups and downs, accidents happen, mistakes are made, things don’t always work out the way they should. The world they create in their rituals is the world as it should be, a world at peace and a great relief from the stressful world of common experience.
We are different from the Kalapalo—taller, more complicated, better fed and educated for our world if not theirs. But singing brings our God into being here just as it does in the rain forest. What we know of God has a reality through music that is unique and special for us just as what the Kalapalo know of God is made unique and special for them. Choristers know what the Kalapalo know even though they do not know the Kalapalo.
And our rituals create a predictable, precise, and peaceful world in here that is refreshingly different from the common of day to day experience where things don’t always work out as they should. Acolytes know what the Kalapalo know even though they do not know the Kalapalo.
The reason for drawing out this comparison between us and a primitive tribe is that one of the signs of God’s activity in this world is coincidence, what G. K. Chesterton called a spiritual pun. The fact that sophisticated, educated, complicated people like us and primitive, naked hunters and gatherers like them have something in common implies that God made that something a gift to all people. It is the gift of knowing God through music and of stepping out of an anxious reality into a calm and peaceful one.
I am not sure who bears those gifts in the rain forest but I know who brings them to the Cathedral. It is those we honor and thank this evening: the choristers and the acolytes. We thank God for the gifts of knowing God’s presence through music and God’s peace through ritual. And we thank you for bearing those gifts in this place.