Image: Vanessa Amorosi gave AWMA attendees a taste of her new album (AWMA/Darcy Goss Media).

‘The words of my mouth’

Andrew Collis
Ordinary Sunday 27, Year A
Exodus 20:1-4,7-9,12-20; Psalm 19; Philippians 3:4b-14; Matthew 21:33-46

“May the words of my mouth/ and the thoughts of my heart/ be pleasing in your sight, Adonai,/ my rock and my redeemer!”

So concludes our psalm for today, a three-fold prayer-poem. The sum of the first part of the psalm can be stated simply: the world witnesses to God. The second part is a precisely constructed passage exalting the virtues, benefits and desirability of the torah (God’s “law”, or “instruction”). The third part is a prayer for God’s help/grace. 

God in/of creation; in/through revelation of goodness (liberty and justice); preservation/salvation for frail and fallible people. Creation; revelation; salvation. A deep and broad theology.

And, fittingly, in the wake of last month’s Australian Women in Music Awards (AWMA) held at the Tivoli on Turrbal Jagera land in Brisbane, a mighty song.

Some great lines (reading from the Inclusive Bible translation): “[The sun] rises at one end of the sky/ and travels to the other end,/ and nothing escapes its warmth” (v.6); “Your law, Adonai, is perfect;/ it refreshes the soul./ Your rule is to be trusted;/ it gives wisdom to the naïve./ Your purposes, O God, are right;/ they gladden the heart./ Your command is clear;/ it gives light to the eyes” (vv.7-8). “But who can detect one’s own failings?/ Forgive the misdeeds I don’t even know about!” (v.12).

It strikes me that the psalm, this mighty song, echoes the themes of our other readings. 

The parable from Matthew 21 is about abuse of creation as well as abuse of vocation – all manner of greed and violence (Jesus, the victim and victor).

Exodus 20 tells the story of Moses receiving the Ten Commandments – in scenes of awe and wonder – instruction/revelation for a people no longer slaves, no longer oppressed.

And Paul’s letter to the church at Philippi sees the Apostle, like the sun in the heavens each day (Psalm 19), running to the “finish line” and “toward the prize – the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (salvation/acceptance with/alongside others in a diverse/egalitarian faith community).

There’s also the rock/stone motif: the once-rejected cornerstone (the marginalised at the centre of a new order); the stone tablets of the law; the stone rolled from the tomb’s entrance (by the “power of the resurrection”); and the psalmist’s “rock” and “redeemer” to whom the song is addressed.

In other words, it takes a song to express fully the wonders of life and faith. The heart-felt “words of my mouth” are song words, sung words.

A running theme of AWMA (available to stream on ABC iview) was honouring talents (onstage and behind the scenes) who’d spent many successful years in music without due recognition. 

Such as Artistic Excellence Award recipients Vika & Linda.

Vanessa Amorosi made the return home from the US to accept the Inspiration Award, as well as an intimate in-conversation panel as part of AWMA’s wider two-day conference and concert program.

“I can’t thank you enough, it’s been a long road”, she told the concert audience, acknowledging “a room full of people that have helped my career, have helped guide me and support me [not least AWMA founder and program director Vicki Gordon]”.

It’s the first official Australian music award for the 41-year-old singer, who first came to fame with turn-of-the-century pop hits “Absolutely Everybody” and “Shine”. She’s gone on to enjoy global success, including going top 10 in 23 European countries.

Amorosi also performed the gospel-infused “Don’t Judge Me”, from forthcoming album, Memphis Love (out November 17). 

In response to a question about gospel music – Amorosi is known for her strong gospel arrangements – the singer professed gospel a universal feeling, an uplifting. 

By way of music (a gift for absolutely everybody), we celebrate persons of courage and compassion – persons of faith/spirituality in whom is seen love for creation, love for instruction/revelation in ways of liberty and justice, and love for neighbours as souls deserving of respect and kindness. Persons called to non-violence, to life in abundance …

A First Nations showcase hosted by hip-hop artist Dizzy Doolan and beatboxer Hope One featured Glves, Suga Cane Mamas, the Merindas and Jem Cassar-Daley, a mighty singer whose “King of Disappointment” calls out male insincerity, perhaps patriarchal entitlement.

The song’s king, then, is both cruel and immature. Patriarchy is not a healthy system for men. Like the gospel, the song invites maturity, equality, mutual respect and joy.

It takes a song to express fully the wonders of life and faith – the full potential of faith and life together. The heart-felt “words of my mouth” are song words, sung words.

Praised be God in/of creation; in/through revelation of goodness (liberty and justice); salvation for frail and fallible people. Creation; revelation; salvation. Amen.