The Least, First

Monte Asbury's blog

Archive for the ‘Art’ Category

First ice of the season

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Ice on viburnums

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Written by Monte

December 2, 2006 at 12:54 pm

Posted in Art, Beauty, Iowa, Washington IA

Wanted: worship music

with 29 comments

Violin and Guitar, 1913Update, 12-8-08: Before you launch into this post, here’s an excerpt from a sermon that mentions something similar. You can see it in context here.

Can we look at our worship and come away with a sense that our group’s big thing is caring for humans who suffer? We’ve seen it in Jesus – nearly every single chapter, sooner or later, he’d get back to caring for human needs.  And now he’s used it to define ultimate success or failure.

Consider our songs of worship as a measure of what matters to us.  Here are some titles and first lines.  See if they reflect this passion for dishonored sufferers Jesus has been preaching about:

  1. “How beautiful!”
  2. “You are my hiding place.”
  3. “You are here, among us.”
  4. “Jesus, you are the one, gives me hope when the day is done.”
  5. I’m trading my sorrows.”
  6. “We want a new passion for Jesus – one that will burn in our hearts, like never before.”
  7. Open the eyes of my heart, Lord – I want to see you” [especially amusing, given today’s gospel story about how the good guys were the ones who served without seeing]
  8. “I’m here, to meet with you. Come and meet with me.”
  9. “Lord, I lift your name on high – Lord I love to sing your praises” [why?] “I’m so glad you’re in my life – I’m so glad you came to save us.”  [I’m so glad I work for Honeywell]
  10. “You-ou are, forever my friend.”
  11. “This is the air I breathe – your holy presence, living in me . . . and I’m lost without You.”

Nope. They’re about ooey-gooey with Jesus, as if no one else on earth existed.  And lest we get snobbish about modern Christian music, remember that that the songs in the hymnal are no more world-focused.  Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me. [ I’m on my way to heav’n I know, so I’ll let others be.]

The inestimable delight of sensing God’s nearness that our music reflects is a wonderful thing.  But we skipped dinner and went straight for the dessert.  What’s going to happen with that kind of diet? […]

But wait – didn’t Jesus picture himself standing at the end of time dividing the gentiles sheep from goats based upon how they cared for wounded people?  Would you think that would at least appear somewhere in our hymnology?  What is up here?

Could it be that the church has become so ensconced in pushing its own theology that it no longer reflects the priorities of Jesus himself?

Now, the real post:

We live in a day more drenched with beautiful worship music than any in history. But I need some things I can’t find.

Two years ago, I began preaching through the Bible via the Revised Common Lectionary. Why? To allow the Bible’s priorities – assumedly, God’s – a greater role in shaping my preaching priorities. If something came up a lot (I reasoned), it was because it was in the Bible a lot. So it must be important to God.

I was surprised by what those things were. For instance:

– loving one another well (building the authenticity of the community of faith) came up all the time
– God’s preferential passion for people of little earthly influence was a constant hot topic
– Jesus Christ was much more the focus of the Bible than my preaching had previously reflected
– the ongoing transformation of the people of God was the sine qua non of evangelism.

So far, so good, this was exciting.

Then I’d go looking for worship music that reflected what I was finding in Scripture.

Bzzzt! Sorry, you chose the wrong door, there’s no prize behind that one!

For building the community of faith, we’ve sung The Servant Song a lot (enough to get gentle snickers from the worship band) because there wasn’t much else! We have plenty of paeans to the glories of our radically individualistic faith, but almost nada about how “we are being built together” or “Everything you are and think and do is permeated with Oneness” (Eph. 4.6, The Message), or “They will know you are my disciples by your love for one another.”

For extolling Jesus’ passion for the poor, I found . . . ah . . . [imagine sound of thumping on empty barrel]. Yet Jesus insists that we serve him by serving them. It is a passion he lives and breathes – perhaps the one mentioned in Scripture more than any other – and can you think of a song or hymn that calls us to it?

As for songs that see us as a people getting better, becoming more attractive to those who can see Christ living through us – again, I’m stumped.

Weird, huh? Here is Jesus, living out these wonderful, radical, world-changing priorities . . . and those priorities are virtually invisible in the hymnology of his followers!

So, my plea: Help me out here.. Help me find worship music that tells of the longings of Jesus himself, that tells of the miraculous building of communities of love, that tells of the Master’s preferential passion for the dispossessed, that tells of the transformational reality of life together beneath the Cross, that tells of the Kingdom of God’s movement into our work and world. New or old, I’m game.

Whatcha got?

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The DaVinci Code

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I think I'll go see The DaVinci Code. Too many people are telling me I mustn't.

The debate brings to mind author Donald Miller, who (in his useful book Blue Like Jazz) tells of hearing a "blowhard preacher" railing on how TV reduces our brains to inactivity resembling sleep. Finding that inviting – and maybe feeling a bit suffocated by the authoritarianism of those who tell us what to do – Miller bought one.

In an excellent piece carried by Sojonet, Ryan McCarl writes that some of the issues raised by the film are, in fact, real issues (see the article here). Our faith does share many symbols with pagan religions, for instance. And the books of the Bible were selected over time by a wide array of people. And the abuse of power by our ancestors in the faith is atrocious.

Shall we pretend it isn't so? Wouldn't that make those we disciple more vulnerable?
Shall we boycott and censor and picket? Boy howdy (as Georgann says), that will love our enemies and satisfy our souls.

Look, we believe we serve the God Jahweh,
who has been on his throne since time began,
who sent his son Jesus to die for us,
who fills us with his Holy Spirit,
who reigns forever and ever,
who promised us that nothing could separate us from his love,
and that he who began a good work in us will faithfully complete it,
and that in all things God works for the good of those who love him.
And a movie is going to cast us up on the rocks.

I think not.

Watch God use it.

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Written by Monte

May 26, 2006 at 8:02 pm

Posted in Art, Worry