Monday, February 28, 2005

Shepherds and street people, hookers and bums

I've been really struggling with how to be real in my faith lately, especially given my Tuesday night class "Trinitarian Theology: Texts, Traditions, and Trajectory." Sounds quite lofty, no? Just the new vocabulary alone is enough to fry my brain and give up trying to figure out how God is three yet one, etc. Thanfully, my readings in Colin Gunton's The Promise of Trinitarian Theology have kept my feet planted on solid ground: "The Trinity has more often been presented as a dogma to believed rather than as the living focus of life and thought" (p.3). He also emphasizes that theological dialogue must take place in the entire Christian community, not just between seminarians or pastors because Christianity is a "faith that takes shape as the faith of a community of worship." One such distant member of the community of faith is Bruce Cockburn, a Canadian guitarist and lyricist extraordinaire. When I first heard the song below, I was shocked by how "earthy" he made Jesus. He tore my flannel graf Jesus to shreads. So in the same vain as the "Popular Mechanics" Jesus, this song has helped me realize the scandal and the hope of the incarnation of the Son of God. What's Jesus got to do with shepherds, street people, hookers and bums? Read on!

Cry Of A Tiny Babe
Mary grows a child without the help of a man
Joseph get upset because he doesn't understand
Angel comes to Joseph in a powerful dream
Says "God did this and you're part of his scheme"
Joseph comes to Mary with his hat in his hand
Says "forgive me I thought you'd been with some other man"
She says "what if I had been - but I wasn't anyway and guess what
I felt the baby kick today"

Like a stone on the surface of a still river
Driving the ripples on forever
Redemption rips through the surface of time
In the cry of a tiny babe

The child is born in the fullness of time
Three wise astrologers take note of the signs
Come to pay their respects to the fragile little king
Get pretty close to wrecking everything
'Cause the governing body of the whole land
Is that of Herod, a paranoid man
Who when he hears there's a baby born King of the Jews
Sends death squads to kill all male children under two
But that same bright angel warns the parents in a dream
And they head out for the border and get away clean

Like a stone on the surface of a still river
Driving the ripples on forever
Redemption rips through the surface of time
In the cry of a tiny babe

There are others who know about this miracle birth
The humblest of people catch a glimpse of their worth
For it isn't to the palace that the Christ child comes
But to shepherds and street people, hookers and bums
And the message is clear if you've got ears to hear
That forgiveness is given for your guilt and your fear
It's a Christmas gift you don't have to buy
There's a future shining in a baby's eyes

Like a stone on the surface of a still river
Driving the ripples on forever
Redemption rips through the surface of time
In the cry of a tiny babe

Bruce Cockburn

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Funny T-Shirt

Although I can hardly be accused of rambling, I'm prone to be a slacker when it comes to updating. Thought this was wicked funny!


Wednesday, February 23, 2005

New Link: Red Mountain Music

My friend PJ just introduced me to Red Mountain Music. There's some great re-working of hymns to contemporary melodies and arrangements. If you're looking to deepen your personal (or congregation's) "worship music" selection visit their site and listen to some of the audio clips. Very original and refreshing. Also, you might want to check out Indellible Grace, too. They are by far my #1 choice in music selection when I'm choosing music for community worship. They even have a FREE hymnbook online with audio clips and piano/guitar lead sheets; it's called the RUF (Reformed Universities Ministries).

Red Mountain Music
Indellible Grae Music

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

The Sound of Silence

Today I had the privelege of attending "Soul Sabbath: A silent retreat" sponsored by my school, Gordon-Conwell. After shoveling the truck out from yet another winter storm, my friend, John, and I drove up to the Emery House in West Newbury. Although John and some other friends had gone last semester and spoken very highly of the retreat, I claimed I had "too much to do." Famous last words, huh?! The Emery House is part of the Society of Saint John the Evangelist, a monastic order in the Anglican Communion. They live under traditional monastic vows in non-traditional settings while facing the challenges and opportunities of today.

So for a day, I had a small taste of such a life. About 14 of us met in the chapel where we were asked about our expectations for the day and recieved a crash course on "silence." What's that you ask? Well, for me, its that really uncomfortable feeling when you're driving in the car and you have to put some music on. Or the awkard tension that lingers when a conversation has apparently died. Silence scares me. It probably scares you, too. That's why we either try to annihilate it with our busy schedules or squelch it out with any background noise. But today I learned that silence is a gift. It's a gift in which we can learn about God, others, and ourselves. And in the context of community, it became a gift that we gave each other.

Brother David told us today, "Without silence, our hearts would find the burdens, the secrets and the pain of those we seek to helop intolerable and overwhelming." True that!! Just the other day I had an earnest conversation with a good friend about how incapacitating life can become as we consider the tremendous needs around the world and even in our own lives. What makes silence so relevant is that it drives us to reflection and meditation; it moves us from preoccupation with ourselves and our limitations and unto God and his immeasurable wisdom and resources. I realized today that while we need to truly pursue sound doctrine, we cannot do it apart from stopping and letting God reveal to us his perspective. In this way, prayer becomes more conversational, rather than me just ranting and raving to God. Today, I waited and listened for what God wanted to tell me. What did I hear? I believe that God taught me that one of the most tangible ways to express my faith is to actively and passionately pursue times of silence, reflection, and solitude in the midst of the mundane and the unexpected. Not only will this give me godly perspective of the world around me, but also the world inside of me. And believe, me, that's a scarry world sometimes!

Monday, February 21, 2005

The "real" face of Jesus?

A few years ago I came across a picture in Popular Mechanics that I have never been able to get out of my mind. In fact, whenever I think about what Jesus most likely looked like, I think of this image...even after watching The Passion of the Christ. The depiction below is a digital, 3-D reconstruction of an average Semitic, adult male might look like around the time and place that Jesus walked the earth.

Here's an excerpt from Popular Mechanics :

The Real Face Of Jesus

Advances in forensic science reveal the most famous face in history.

From the first time Christian children settle into Sunday school classrooms, an image of Jesus Christ is etched into their minds. In North America he is most often depicted as being taller than his disciples, lean, with long, flowing, light brown hair, fair skin and light-colored eyes. Familiar though this image may be, it is inherently flawed. A person with these features and physical bearing would have looked very different from everyone else in the region where Jesus lived and ministered. Surely the authors of the Bible would have mentioned so stark a contrast. On the contrary, according to the Gospel of Matthew, when Jesus was arrested in the garden of Gethsemane before the Crucifixion, Judas Iscariot had to indicate to the soldiers whom Jesus was because they could not tell him apart from his disciples. Further clouding the question of what Jesus looked like is the simple fact that nowhere in the New Testament is Jesus described, nor have any drawings of him ever been uncovered. There is the additional problem of having neither a skeleton nor other bodily remains to probe for DNA. In the absence of evidence, our images of Jesus have been left to the imagination of artists. The influences of the artists' cultures and traditions can be profound, observes Carlos F. Cardoza-Orlandi, associate professor of world Christianity at Columbia Theological Seminary in Atlanta. "While Western imagery is dominant, in other parts of the world he is often shown as black, Arab or Hispanic." And so the fundamental question remains: What did Jesus look like?

An answer has emerged from an exciting new field of science: forensic anthropology. Using methods similar to those police have developed to solve crimes, British scientists, assisted by Israeli archeologists, have re-created what they believe is the most accurate image (above) of the most famous face in human history...

For those accustomed to traditional Sunday school portraits of Jesus, the sculpture of the dark and swarthy Middle Eastern man that emerges from Neave's laboratory is a reminder of the roots of their faith. "The fact that he probably looked a great deal more like a darker-skinned Semite than westerners are used to seeing him pictured is a reminder of his universality," says Charles D. Hackett, director of Episcopal studies at the Candler School of Theology in Atlanta. "And [it is] a reminder of our tendency to sinfully appropriate him in the service of our cultural values."

Sunday, February 20, 2005

9.5 Theses on Worship

One of the best classes I have taken at Gordon-Conwell is "Worship and Christian Formation." The foundation of the course, taught by Gary Parrett, is what he calls the "9.5 Theses of Worship." This should harken you back to Luther's monumental 95 Theses. I honestly believe if congregations and their leaders applied the wisdom distilled below, there would be a modern reformation.

1. Our heavenly Father wills that the whole life of believers should be worship.

2. The word worship, when applied to public gatherings of the saints, must not be reduced to a synonym for singing praises to God.

3. Worship involves a rhythm of revelation and response: God graciously reveals himself to us, and we faithfully respond—all the elements must help worshipers
participate in this rhythm.

4. Those who lead the congregation in song must be theologically equipped for this important task.

5. Faithful response to God involves more than praise—we need a much broader range of
songs available for congregations.

6. The body of Christ in worship is more than an assembly of individual worshipers—
we need more we songs.

7. The body of Christ is far bigger than what we see in the gathered community—and our songs should reflect this.

8. Those who lead the church in song are called to assist the congregation in its
singing, not to replace it—technologies such as amplification must be used with
theological and pastoral sensitivity.

9. The Seeker that we must serve in our worship services is, first and foremost, God himself.

9.5 In its services of public worship, the church must obey such Scriptures as Philippians 2:3-4: "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others more important than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others."

--By Gary A. Parrett

9.5 Theses on Worship

Links: Sovereign Grace Worship Resources

Planning and leading times of community worship that are spiritually forming is challenging. We've been lead to believe that "music equals worship", "old is bad, but new is good", "worship is a personal matter", "worship is a Sunday thing", "the worship leader is the one who leads the singing", etc. Thankfully, every year Sovereign Grace Ministries hosts the WorshipGod Conference, which is designed especially for pastors and musicians. You'll find articles like "Beholding the Glory of God's Supremacy" to deepen your biblical theology of worship as well very specific, practical articlkes like "Making the Most of Rehearsals." Check it out.

WorshipGod 2004
Previous Conferences

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Bush slams desk at Bono

It seems that the President had a case of "Vertigo" during Bono's recent visit to the oval office, resulting in a burst of instability:

Fast-talking rocker BONO was impressed when President GEORGE W BUSH interrupted him mid-flow to get his point across during a debate on the AIDS crisis.

The VERTIGO singer, who works tirelessly to raise awareness of issues affecting the developing world, wouldn't allow President Bush a word in edgeways, forcing him to bang his fist passionately on the table.

Bono says, "He banged the table at me once when I was ranting at him about AIDS drugs. He banged the table to ask me to let him reply. I was very impressed that he could get so passionate. And let's face it, tolerating an Irish rock star is not a necessity of his office."

Apparently Bono's recent lyrics are self-fulfulling: "I like the sound of my own voice, I didn't give anyone else a choice."

News Articles:
Bush Left Bono Speechless
When Dubya Silenced Bono's Vox

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Tolkien links and more

Just added some links to the blog. Check out the NY Times archive on Tolkien; the articles go all the way back to the first printing of the Hobbit. You can even hear J.R.R. himself reading selections from the LOTR trilogy! Enjoy.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

What the Pope and I have in common

It seems that Pope John Paul II and I have something in common. Or at least had in common. No doubt you heard about him in the news earlier this week--he had the flu. And so did I. Before Monday I used to laugh at all those people getting flu shots, thinking what wimps they were and why they should toughen up a bit. Well let me tell you, never again will I scorn the flu shot folk. That was the absolute sickest I have ever been in my entire life. 24 hours of gut wrenching pain (minus all the graphic details) is not something I would wish on my almost worst enemies. Hard to believe I'm feeling up to par just a few days later. What's even stranger is how empathetic I became of the Pope this week. Tuesday morning I was honestly concerned. How many times have I heard about the Pope's ailing health over the past few years, but I never gave him the time of day! Until this past Monday. Odd isn't it, how calloused we are at the images of tragedy (and joy) we see on the news unless somehow, in some way, it connects to us? I wonder how the Pope is doing?