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Week 2: This Weary Earth (song)

January 22, 2009

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

All week, my mind has been drawn to this “Kingdom of Heaven” notion of of God restoring everything some day just as Jesus was resurrected fully and more so.

In particular, I’ve been thinking about how much of our planet requires restoration.  A coworker of mine, after seeing An Inconvenient Truth, told me that he’s convinced the planet is beyond repair and that any attempts we make to turn the tide of climate change would be feeble and futile.  The earth is going to die and humanity with it.  “We are a virus to the planet and the Earth needs us to die.  It’s inevitable”, he said.  I find this more and more difficult to reconcile with my faith and I wonder how large a share of this restoration work God is hoping we’ll try and shoulder.

Some quasi-poetic phrases came to mind yesterday and I started writing.  By the end of the day I had a song:

This Weary Earth (click to hear my hastily assembled recording).

This weary earth doth groan for care
and rescue from her keepers’ war
which rages, lustful in its aim
extinguishing life’s dimming flame

While sovereign God, in sadness toils
to soften hearts with healing oil
Earth’s kingdom heaves a dusty sigh
awaiting heaven’s grand reply

Were angels charged to tend the earth
then thrive, she would, e’er since her birth
Yet, fallen, we in violent form
have wrought our home it’s greatest harm

O beauty, rest resplendent thus
and God, restore in man your trust
to render heavenly design
redeemed as ours as we are thine

Criticism is invited and welcomed.  It’s been quite some time since I’ve put some original artistic expression into the world for others to see and I’d cherish feedback.

[1] Dan Wilt, Online Studies in Worship Theology and Biblical Worldview,  9-10

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Wholly Yours

January 16, 2009
a hallmark worship project if I must say so.

A Collision by David Crowder Band: a hallmark worship project if I may say so.

To those in Essentials Blue who might be following this blog, I thought I’d share that I’ve been incredibly fond of the David Crowder song “Wholly Yours” this week in two ways that are directly related to our Essentials work.

1) I’ve always considered this song to be particularly rich in theology, going much deeper than many worship songs.  I think it stands as a great model to what can be created when a songwriter is intentional about communicating big truths about God.

2) Wright’s echoes (well, God’s echoes articulated by Wright. No need for blasphemy I suppose) are illustrated both implicitly and explicitly in most all of the song.  One could say (and I will) that the song is saturated with the signposts to God.

Here are the lyrics:

I am full of earth
You are heaven’s worth
I am stained with dirt, prone to depravity
You are everything that is bright and clean
The antonym of me, you are divinity
But a certain sign of grace is this
From a broken earth flowers come up
Pushing through the dirt

You are holy, holy, holy
All heaven cries “Holy, holy God”
You are holy, holy, holy
I wanna be holy like You are

You are everything that is bright and clean
And You’re covering me with Your majesty
And the truest sign of grace was this
From wounded hands redemption fell down
Liberating man

But the harder I try the more clearly can I feel
The depth of our fall and the weight of it all
And so this might could be the most impossible thing
Your grandness in me making me clean

Glory, hallelujah
Glory, glory, hallelujah

So here I am, all of me
Finally everything
Wholly, wholly, wholly
I am wholly, wholly, wholly Yours

I am full of earth and dirt and You

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End of the Myth

January 16, 2009

Emergent Village posts this interesting (and perhaps troubling) thought about future theological sources as we trek further and further into the internet age.   If you’re in Essentials with me, I found the post and it’s comments to be a fascinating supplement to Dan’s “Analog/Digital Theology” musings.

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I want in!

January 16, 2009

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

The first week of our essentials course has got my head swimming with positive energy! And most of that optimism is around the idea of those who choose to worship Jesus deepening their understanding of God; a deepening that can be ignited and fueled by specific theological intentionality on the part of the lead worshiper.

One of the things that drew me to the Vineyard movement in the first place is the embracing of the heart’s innate longing for God, particularly in a personal, relational way. N.T. Wright suggests that a human desire for relationship is a “signpost for God” or the “echo of a voice” that belongs to the Almighty [1]. And I believe that we are constantly searching for the perfection of our limited human relationships, a pinnacle to be found only in communion with God.

So much of the body of songs that the Vineyard movement has contributed to the world’s greater hymnbook allow for a deep and prayerful entrance into that sort of relationship that Wright suggests all of humanity is searching for. What excites me is that greater possibilities could exist as the creative personalities behind those songs deliberately engage with theology, church history, current landscapes of faith and life and the hopeful future of Jesus’ presence in the world.

Already, more than one hundred of us have started this in our own way and several themes emerge as we dialog over our prescribed readings. We notice gaps in our worship lexicons. We see themes that we long to express better. We stretch our minds and emotions to absorb new ideas and rich God-thoughts that have emerged in a classmate’s blog post or facebook discussion. [tangentially, I’m incredibly proud of the Institute for pushing us to dig further into internet social networking. It’s been a long-held belief of mine that the church should be shepherding people into fostering healthy and enriched internet lives, a world that is both potentially beautiful and dangerous.]

When all of these influences stir the hearts of creative people, the entire world benefits as the church as a whole is engaged by the results and brought to life in new ways. Dr. Peter Davids says this about the worship leader’s intentional study of scripture, for example:

If one sets out to study the scripture with a heart intention of knowing God better, one often ends up encountering God in a way that goes beyond rational study.” [2]

And if the songwriters, the performers, the painters, sculptors, liturgists, photographers, dancers, the lead worshipers are encountering God more, so by extension, I may hope, is the rest of humanity. Art inspires the mind, hands and feet.

Consider the film industry. How many films in the world inspire, through their content, stronger feelings of love between a couple after watching a romance? Or a greater fear that there is evil in the world? Or a better hope for the future of the world? Or a more intense feeling of sadness for the past? Or an inspiration to go and do something (save the whales, serve the needy, reconcile a friendship, drink Pepsi)?

So when a church violinist is more engaged with God, as she stands on the deck of an inspired symphonic offering of praise, built upon her soul’s truly enlightened encounters of the sacred, echoing forth an intertwining of divine beauty and truth, she is further leveraging her influence over the congregation to become, themselves deeply engaged. Oh the communal beauty!

As for what happens at that point, who knows? But I believe that God is one who acts powerfully and that we are vehicles for the divine intent for an enriched world. I want in!

[1] N.T. Wright, Simply Christian: Why Christianity Makes Sense (San Francisco: HarperCollins Publishers, 2006)

[2] Dr. Peter Davids, The Importance of Scripture Study for Modern Worship Leaders (Inside Worship Magazine, Issue 48, October 2002)

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Poor economy?

January 13, 2009

Yup. It’s nearly 2pm and we’ve had only three guests walk into the restaurant.  One has to hate the days when it costs more than your day’s tips to take the bus to and from work.

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Forces of Nature Forcing Community

January 12, 2009
black-christ-of-the-andes

Current Listening: "St. Martin de Porres" from Mary Lou Williams' "Black Christ of the Andes"

It snowed last night into this morning, sending our neighborhood into it’s ritual parking mayhem: shoveling out and protecting one’s newly-freed parking spot from those unappreciative motorists that would trample on the hard work put into snow removal.  This protection is done by any object within reach and includes (but is certainly not limited to): orange road cones, lawn chairs, plastic coolers, table lamps, cardboard cutouts of Spiderman etc.  We actually heard tale this morning of a family that has made a tradition of marking their spot with a table adorned with a tablecloth and champagne glasses!!!

So when I woke up and surveyed the situation I decided to make the sad declaration to Suzy that, rather than shovel out the car and find a scarecrow wearing a Richard Nixon mask to keep watch, we had to take the bus to church.  Who could have predicted that we would have actually met, for the first time, other South Boston residents that attend the Vineyard?  Now we know a few more really nice members of our faith community who happen to reside in our residential community.

Steven Johnson, in his book on emergent theory, thinks of urban/metropolitan areas as complex living organisms and is almost reverential for the sidewalk as their communicative vehicle.  He generally frowns on the “personal bubble” created by automobile commuting, since there’s so much to be discussed on sidewalks, buses and subway trains.  Johnson believes that our body language alone is enough to transmit and receive significant information about ourselves and our surroundings.  And I’m sold.  Maybe not sold enough to entirely forsake the ease of tossing my gear in the car and getting to church in 10 minutes, but perhaps there’s a new spiritual discipline in the making, what with Lent on the horizon and more snow in Tuesday’s forecast.

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MOSHing through the past.

January 11, 2009

mosh-guitar-0091I recently started providing worship music leadership for a new gathering a former student of mine is trying to get off the ground at her church.  The gathering is called MOSH (Manna Of Sound for Humanity), sort of a place for high school students to treat themselves to fun [often-loud] worship music and prayer. As cool as that sounds, it’s been a little jarring for me since it’s closely tied to the work Suzy and I used to do (Episcopal youth ministry) which ended, shall we say, poorly (empathetic head nods from familiarity with church work going up in flames accepted).

To be honest, I’ve been sort of keeping myself at arm’s length for a number of reasons; old wounds, uncertainty of success, general fear of professional commitment.  However, something was different tonight.  Notably, there were a bunch of students there for a change, a handful of whom were also former students of ours.  And all of them seemed into it.  And I mean really into it.  They came to get down for Jesus!  And I felt myself sincerely reaching out to them, spiritually, in a way that I haven’t for some time.

I realized tonight that I harbor some fond memories of the work that we used to do, despite how easy (and justified) it is to be bitter about the institution that caused us so much pain.  Those kids love being together in church on a Saturday night and they really sang and danced with energy and passion.  And I know that much of that is fruit from the seeds that Suzy and I sowed.  That makes me happy.

A few noteworthy things this makes me aware of: I’m thankful for the time that we had in the earlier ministry and I’m glad that it seems to have at least a somewhat-lasting effect.  Also, having seen that it could still be successful, I wouldn’t wish to go back to the same job, and that’s important.  I’ve moved on and expect God to do great things, especially since I now realize that I’m most happy while working on and taking part in creative and relevant liturgies that express the beauty of God’s presence with us.  Maybe MOSH will be a place that God expects me to dig in and get artsy again.  Or maybe there’s something wildly unexpected peeking around the corner (like a way for me to leverage that creative experience towards better ministering to my restaurant colleagues).

Regardless, I’m grateful for the gang at the Boston Vineyard letting my guitar and me hang out with them and for inviting me in on the Essentials journey.  Maybe it’s Dan’s passion for communicating theology, but I feel like this is an inspirational season at an opportune time.   Of course, I’ll need to accept the possibility that it may come at the cost of not getting to spend a gazillion hours learning to play the guitar solo from “Bodhisattva”