Archive for February, 2009

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Happening and Worship Music

February 16, 2009

Just got back from Happening in New Jersey.   It was marvelous, one of the best I’ve been a part of!  One of the Spiritual Directors, Rev. Elizabeth Kaeton has some especially profound reflections on the weekend and, in particular, the music.

This is the second time I’ve worked with Elizabeth (I provided music for her parish’s youth service in November) and I’m always grateful for her welcoming grace towards this Texan.  Our work in tandem is kind of like the beginning of a bad joke (a Ft. Worth church musician and a Newark priest walk into a bar…), but it has been marked by mutual respect in a way that, I think, makes Jesus smile.  She says:

We agreed that it’s important for kids to get exposed to both [images of God]. Heck, it’s important that we ALL get reminded that God is, in fact, so glorious as to be beyond our wildest imaginings. No one has been able to get God to stay in our safe little box of who we think God is and what we think God is capable of doing in our lives.

I wish that more of the clergy in Massachusetts who clamored for my removal had her perspective and gracious spirit.  I used to want to tell upset priests that if the songs their kids merely sang with me turned them into misogynistic fundamentalists, perhaps they should reevaluate how convicting the teaching in their home parishes is.

It’s true that divine feminine imagery is sorely lacking in my repertoire.  I should devote more time to creating songs that a) illustrate the motherly character of God and b) motivate, excite and incite youth to praise the same.

I am, therefore, grateful for some of the Happening liturgies which nicely fit this purpose, allowing me to expand on the embedded theologies of New Jersey Episcopal students with images of a heavenly father (where some earthly fathers aren’t doing such a hot job) or a King of Kings who is far more deserving of our pride and allegiance than any earthly power.

Elizabeth and Tim (youth minister and cherished friend of Suzy and me) have done an incredible job in their ministry with the young people of Chatham.  It didn’t take much to get them fired up about God.  And that’s the kind of rich communal spirit that fills me with worship energy even after sleeping on the floor for a few hours a night.

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Essentials Blue Final Project (song)

February 11, 2009

[Skip to the bottom of the post for the recording…]

So, after five intense weeks of worship theology, we’ve all been asked to post a creative project, a response to our learnings that could possibly be of use to our spiritual communities.  Well, you can take the worshiper out of the Anglican  church, but you can’t take the Anglican out of the worshiper.   I’ve chosen to rework a quasi-classic hymn, originally titled “Rise Up, O Men of God”.  The text was written in 1911 by William Merrill, a Presbyterian minister who would undoubtedly hate what I’ve done.  I follow in a long line of hymnal revisionists who have toyed with the lyrics to change the text from an exhortation towards men (actual males, not mankind) to a more broad congregational spectrum.  My own spiritual upbringing was in a church that sang “Rise Up, Ye Saints of God” each year on the first Sunday in November (All Saints’ Day).

Below are my lyrics.  The first verse is [roughly] Merrill’s original, and I kept the last line of the second verse intact, but everything else was written by me (I think).

Rise up, ye saints of God; be done with lesser things
Give heart and soul and mind and strength
to serve the King of Kings

Rise up, ye saints of God; Earth’s suffering doth prolong
all join in bringing Kingdom power
to end the night of wrong

Rise up, ye saints of God; as Jesus on the cross
He died to cover all our sins
and make a way for us

Rise up, ye saints of God; as Jesus rose to save
triumphant over pain and death
King Jesus, o’er the grave

We’re alive, we’re alive
in King Jesus, we’re alive
rising up, rising up to view the breaking dawn
we’re alive, we’re alive
in King Jesus, we’re alive
rising up, rising up with all our souls to you

The call is to all people to awaken to and join in God’s work of resurrection.  It is not just future resurrection, but present.  God’s kingdom is not separate, but coterminous with ours and getting closer.  This hymn specifically calls us to consider Jesus as we go about this awakening.  We look to him as the example, the one who gave his life for the kingdom being lifted on a cross and was then risen from the dead as we and God’s creation will be.  We also look to Jesus as the executor of this coming kingdom; more than just an example, his death and resurrection actually triggered this intersection of worlds, cancelling human sin and defeating the power of death.  Boo-yah!!!

Finally, upon contemplating Jesus’ importance, we celebrate the life he has won for us and we proclaim him Lord, our king.  Just as early Christians said, “Jesus, not Caesar is Lord”, we say Jesus is deserving of our full allegiance.  He has given life and we follow him, ushering in the new creation.

Here is a recording. I wish I had more time to polish it, but this week is crazy at work and I won’t get to it for another week if I don’t post it tonight.

This is the chord chart

Please leave feedback of any kind.

For: The Institute of Contemporary and Emerging Worship Studies, St. Stephen’s University, Essentials Blue Online Worship Theology Course with Dan Wilt

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Concepts of heaven

February 9, 2009
"Popular" view of heaven?

"Popular" view of heaven?

Sipping Coffee and Ideas shared her thoughts on slight disparity between mainstream views of heaven and what we’re coming to realize in class.  I thought this lawn display in my neighborhood would provide a fairly good illustration of the mainstream.  From Connie,

I did worry a little about what we would be doing, “once we got up there.” I mean really, I love to sing and I love to worship – but endlessly? For all of eternity? For ever and Ever? Really? And never do anything else?

She  does raise an interesting point.  While I have no doubt that the most desirable and beautiful object of worth in the Universe (Creator God) will inspire us to continual and unceasing praise, I’m not sure what is appealing in that notion to those who don’t currently believe in God.

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Week 4: My Worldview – The Revolution Will Not Be Televised

February 4, 2009

So we, the people in my worship theology course, were asked to come up with a 500 word summary of our worldview (broad, to say the least), particularly in light of the themes discussed over the last 4 weeks.  A fellow classmate, one who likely had a beautiful liturgical upbringing, pointed out that we were being asked to write our own creeds with less word count restrictions than those at Nicaea.  Here’s mine (slightly expanded):

My worldview begins with a sense that there is a created order that didn’t arise of it’s own volition but was set into motion by a specific creator. Such a sense is fueled by a) the intricate workings of creation, b) the beauties/tragedies of human relationships, c) an innate yearning for all in the world to be put to right and d) the history and cultures of the myriad generations that came before me, that raised me with an understanding that this creator exists and is God.

This God is of supreme worth in the universe. None is greater than he, none more complex, more sovereign, more perfect. This God is, by nature, a creative entity. And this God has a uniquely great and complex creation: humanity. Humans came stock with certain God-like attributes; creativity, charge over our surroundings and a capacity for relationship with oneself, with each other, with God and with our world.

Humanity, though, has neglected the source and perfection of these attributes and has acted as though we are of supreme worth. A distinction now exists between God’s perfect world and ours. God’s perfect world (or “kingdom”) is free of strife and full of vibrant communion between created beings and the creator. The world of humanity is frequently the opposite. However, there are moments of intersection between both worlds. The creator God is powerfully working to re-combine the two until they are one again.

In the act of carrying out this reunion, God has revealed other sides of himself to us. Jesus Christ, a fully human incarnation of God, set the reunion into motion by being God on the earth, with us, one of us. This inauguration through Jesus (which had been long-awaited by the Jewish people to whom God had made himself known for centuries) was marked by his performed miracles of restoration and beauty, his teaching of God’s purposes and by his death and bodily resurrection. Jesus’ death was an immense collision of the two worlds and when the smoke cleared, he had defeated death and so established that God’s world is on the way and will not be deterred.

God, through Jesus, once again charged humans to bring wholeness to what he had created. At this point another side of God was revealed: the Spirit of God, actively working in and through us to accomplish God’s purposes in bringing about the Kingdom. With the help of the Spirit, the human role is to strive for all relationships (with God, with self, with each other, with the world/ecosystem) to be made perfect as they were created to be. And as such, the human role is to assist God in fully reuniting his world to ours. It seems a little bizarre in it’s cyclical nature (am I really suggesting that God in Spirit assists us to assist him???). But that’s actually how healthy relationships work and humans are specially created for right-relationship with God [1] .

The magnificent reunion will happen.  God’s intended Kingdom will be fully overlapped with ours.  What will this look like?  Not an Anne Geddes “heaven” where babies need no clothes.  It’s gonna be this earth, this very planet with these very people, somehow restored to the way God wants it.  I don’t know how it’s gonna happen.  But as I look over my creed, that’s the biblical theme, the end destination.  And that’s what resurrection is all about.  Jesus, a human, rose from the dead better than ever and that’s the plan for us and our world [2].  So let’s get to know God with Jesus and his Spirit and get to restoration.  Rock!

[1] this “assistance-cycle-as-divine-paradigm-for-all-relationships” was a huge lightbulb that went off for me tonight.

[2] This connection of Jesus’ resurrection to our own literal bodily and worldly resurrections has been a huge lightbulb coming to glow for me over the last 3 weeks.  It’s also kind of making me think about trying to be a real environmentalist, which is kind of weird.

For: The Institute of Contemporary and Emerging Worship Studies, St. Stephen’s University, Essentials Blue Online Worship Theology Course with Dan Wilt