Posts Tagged ‘theology’


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.


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


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


Essentials Blue, Week 3: To be human…

January 31, 2009

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

So, our question to ponder this week was, “What Does it Mean to be Human?”  I know, leave it to theology teachers to keep it simple.  It’s a fair question, I suppose.  Job asked it, when he wished that he could have been a lesser animal so that God (Satan actually, unbeknown to Job) would have left his life alone (Job 7:17-19).

I’ve had a number of conversations in recent days with persons from all ranges of the faith spectrum who asked “how dare we ascribe ourselves [human beings] this universal greatness that we feel, by our mere existence, we deserve?”  The basic presumption among these folks is that, at best, we’re lucky animals, the product of a good spin of the evolutionary wheel of fortune. At worst, we [humanity] are a virus to the earth that could probably stand to be thinned out a bit for the good of the world (twice in the last month, I have heard that exact “virus” sentiment from separate people).

So, I have to ask myself, what about the human being is truly unique? And if I believe, as I do, that we are different, somehow, than the animals that roam the earth (like the dog that roams my kitchen) or the cancers that destroy our bodies, then how do I account for that belief?

Many things struck me about the course materials this week. We read a lengthy article on celebration that captured the human triumphant spirit [1].  But celebration isn’t unique to humanity. The staff at our dog’s daycare facility (yes, our dog does enjoy the occasional day of doggie daycare) will tell you that they have rarely seen celebration like that of our dog when my wife comes to pick him up. He makes new sounds and dances every time they are reunited. [2]

Communication and relationships aren’t necessarily human functions either [3]. But what has most struck me this week is our unique ability as subcreators [4], who are ultimately charged to use our creativity for the betterment of the world. Dan Wilt and Ed Gentry spoke at length about the call to “right-relatedness” [5]. We have the unique place on earth to not only relate to God, each other, animals, the soil, quite literally everything. But human beings contain the potential to render each of those relationships to beauty, tragedy or even the redemption from tragedy.

Ed says
“Our welfare as humans is tied up very tightly to the welfare of the planet.”

Certainly, a swarm of locusts can have far-ranging effects on a local (and perhaps, in theory, a global) ecosystem. But they can’t consciously maintain or repair those effects. Locusts do as locusts are programmed to do, for good or for bad. But humans, we have nearly the full range of destructive or redemptive power in our relations with our ecosystem as the God who created it and turned it over to his subcreators. The same applies to our human-to-human relationships. We can destroy or beautify our interconnected lives, all according to our God-given use of creativity.

All of this has huge implications for our worship lives as we seek to better connect to the perfect heavenly Giver of creativity, as we use that creativity to find new ways of repentance for the damage of wrong-relatedness with ourselves, our neighbors and our world, and as we strive to rightly bear the unique image of the sovereign God of the universe.

[1] Morphew, The Restoration of Celebration (Inside Worship)
[2] Cheesy YouTube illustration
[3] Cheesy YouTube illustration #2 (sorry, couldn’t help myself)
[4] Dan Wilt, Online Studies in Worship Theology and Biblical Worldview, 28
[5] Wilt/Gentry (Podcast: Two Brothers on Righteousness)


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


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


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.