As I drive to work each morning, a man who makes his home on the streets waves a palm branch in blessing over every car that passes under the bridge. I know that his hair is matted and his jacket is torn, but what really bothers me is that I cant see his shoes. Normally, this wouldnt have been my first concern, but in the recently released CD Justice and Love, Bryan Sirchio asks: "How does the love of God abide in you if you have this worlds goods and yet refuse to help someone in need?" I have more shoes than I need. Justice and Love urges me to wonder why I dont give them to this man.
This is Sirchios seventh solo recording of his 10-year musical ministry and adds to a body of work that invites children, teens, and adults to participate in the joys and challenges of discipleship. An ordained minister who gave up the pulpit to put on the guitar, Sirchio preaches two sides of the gospel: seizing and nestling into a personal relationship with God while living the faith of personal responsibility to promote peace, end hunger, and eliminate poverty. To his fans, he writes, "I try to nurture a balance between songs which help us look inward and nurture the Spirits presence in our personal lives, and songs which call us beyond ourselves to reach out to this broken world with Christ-centered compassion and justice."
Sirchio reminds us that Jesus directed his followers to "follow me" 87 times. This call is not merely to acknowledge his existence or to believe, but to "follow me." This commitment does not include recreating Christ in our own ideological image but aligning life choices with the radical changes Jesus required of all his disciples. To Sirchio, following means acting upon a God-inspired voice that comes nagging in prayer, as in "There Really is a God," or while driving "Westbound on Interstate 80," where you might just hear God urging you to give your new sneakers to the man at the side of the road.
Sirchio extends this commitment by asking us to view our Wal-Mart purchases through sweat-shop eyes in "Id Just Like to Know," where he challenges personal shopping habits that are complicit with exploitative labor practices. In "Dear Mr. Eisner," Sirchio asks the Disney CEO, who makes $97,000 an hour, if he is really worth 346,000 times more than the subcontract laborer who makes less than $3 an hour sewing Mickey Mouse T-shirts.
DESPITE SIRCHIOS LACK of formal musical education (rather, he has a Masters in Divinity from Princeton Theological Seminary), the music is solid (thanks in part to Jeff Eckels, of NPRs "WhadYa Know?" fame, on the acoustic bass). The arrangements are not terribly sophisticated. The message is not imparted in masterful riffs or lush orchestration but in his straight-talkin preaching style. Sirchio seems to have recognized that there is no point to finding a rhyme for "independent human rights group" when conveying the facts is more important than slick words.
Its not surprising that his influences arent musicians but preachers like Tony Campolo and Gordon Cosby, and activists like Mother Teresa. His Web site, www.sirchio.com—the only place Justice and Love is for saleoffers a ministry of social justice Web links and invitations to participate in "reverse pilgrimages" with Ministry of Money, a program of the Washington D.C.-based Church of the Saviour, and youth treks to Haiti (led by Sirchio), where First World participants experience Third World realities.
So why do I worry about the street mans shoes? Because in Justice and Love, I am reminded that if I am not listening for the God-inspired voice that challenges me to share my comforts after receiving my morning blessing, then I should be. Sirchio offers a prophetic voice in the wilderness of pop Christian music, calling us to be the way of hope by doing "something small" but doing it "with great love."
ROBIN FILLMORE CHAPIN is director of internship, education, and hospitality at Sojourners.
Justice and Love. Sirchio, Bryan. Crosswind Music, 1/1/99.