Thursday, July 21, 2005

Lib'ral Who Worships

When Amy Grant was still in grade school, before there was "Contemporary Christian Music," when "Gospel Music" was largely relegated to one of two insular communities or to novelty presentations in the secular world, when some of that Gospel Music was just getting heard alongside rock and roll (I'm ignoring Sam Cooke and the Soul Stirrers, early Staple Singers, early Curtis Mayfield, as well as a host of country artists led by Hank Williams and Johnny Cash, not to mention Elvis Presley), when Edwin Hawkins was about to get a hearing with O Happy Day, and the Staple Singers with I'll Take You There and Respect Yourself, when Aretha was just working up to her Amazing Grace album, long before Bob Dylan's "Christian" albums and way before the commercial success of "Christian artists" or "Worship Music," a liberal Canadian folk singer was worshipping God and getting his worship played on the radio.

I've been a Bruce Cockburn fan since the release of Inner City Front back in 1981. But he'd been at it for several albums by then. This week I've immersed myself in Cockburn music again, occassioned by my discovery of several more "Deluxe Editions" (Are you tired of these quotation marks yet?!) of his classic discs.

Mostly I've been replacing my old discs with these new remastered versions, which also have at least one bonus song each. But my greatest joy has been the discovery of gems on a couple older offerings that I've never owned. Lot's of great music on these discs, but I want to mention only one song from each.

Amongst the love ballads (never pop-y or syrupy) and the social commentary (often angry), Cockburn never fails to worship God. He has known, like all wise believers, that there's really no separation between our social, personal, and spiritual lives. In the Falling Dark opens with "Lord of the Starfields," a praise song without the selfishness that dominates much of today's praise in worship--It's all about the Lord, not about what the Lord has done for me.

Ironically Further Adventures Of presents another worship song, this time MORE personal than most of today's praise and worship, but still it seems a fitting tribute to Jesus Christ "Can I Go With You" begins

When you ride out of the shining sky
to claim the ones who love you,
can I go with you?
Can I go with you?

How personal, but how worshipful is that?!

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Africana Worship

Just finished my first installment for the African American liturgy project I'm contributing to for work. The overall site is at But if you want to go directly to my first submissions, you can find them here.

I've dragged my feet on my parts of this project, despite my great belief in it. The feet dragging just comes from the work it takes to write liturgy (interestingly, I've learned that the word liturgy means "work"). It's not the natural way I think or write. But I've been thrilled with the opportunity to train my mind in this way, to reclaim my Black Church heritage, and to mine that heritage for the benefit of the Reign of God.

I like this project because I have come to renounce the idea of a disembodied Gospel. Along these lines, Anthony, the postmodernegro has been posting some provocative thoughts here and here.

From my perspective, while our cultures can certainly distort the Good News of Jesus, any truly Gospel message will come culturally contained. We should be careful not to confuse our cultures or our ideologies with the Gospel, but we need not be ashamed of culturally-influenced constructions of the Gospel. All constructions, even biblical ones are culturally-constructed anyway.

End of today's sermon.

Emergent, United Methodist Youth, and Blogs

Went "home" this week to my old haunt at the United Methodist Publishing House for a sort of consultation on the Emerging Church and United Methodist youth. It was actually a pretty fun discussion for me. Though brief, it reminded me of the conversations I loved at this year's Emergent Convention.

Even more fun than the discussion was catching up with my old friends: Crys, Jenny, Sheila and Keely. 'Twas also great getting to hang with Gavin, Jonathan and Josh (Gavin and Jonathan helped me with my rookie blogging questions), and meeting Clark in person, after visiting his blog.

You can find pics of the day at Gavin's site here.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Dinah's Dad Rocks

The land is now littered with rocks, thanks to Dinah's dad, Jacob. I've made the list now. I don't want to miss any; I want to leave no stone unaccounted for.

As we've walked through Genesis in our Sunday morning Bible study, we've lamented (or celebrated) how human all these "heroes of the faith" are, and how slow they are to learn. Dinah's father, Jacob, is the best example so far. A schemer, a manipulator, a cheater from birth; he seems only to mature into a schemer with less will. His sons are increasingly out of control, and he doesn't seem to know what to do.

His obsession with one wife (to the exclusion of three others) and his devotion to one son (to the devastation of 10 others, not to mention at least one daughter, our Dinah) demands a modern-style addiction intervention.

But there is another side to Jacob--a side that seems to be showing signs of growth, of spiritual formation, of connection with the God of Universe, the God of Dinah's grandfather and great-grandfather.

Jacob marks his spiritual formation, his encounters with God, by building altars periodically throughout his life. He marks times and places, and he names the places for his God-encounters. So he's got "House of God" (Bethel, Genesis 28:22), "heap of witness" (Genesis 31:45), "two camps" (Genesis 32:2), "face of God" (Genesis 32:30), "God of Israel" (Genesis 33:20), "God of the House of God (Genesis 35:7, 14), and finally the "pillar of Rachel's grave" where his mother died between Bethel and Bethlehem (Genesis 35:19).

What do we do to mark our encounters with God? Do we pay attention to them? I believe that God is always with us. Sometimes God is that silent figure beside me who keeps me sane. Sometimes God makes me feel insane. But I believe any good that comes from me comes from God. Any good that comes TO me comes from God. Any time I sense grace, love, forgiveness, strength, wisdom, inspiration, rest, God is its source.

I need some rocks.