Your worship is not entertaining enough

greek-tragedy-maskSo says Carl Trueman. If you haven’t read any of Trueman’s writings, you should. He’s a great writer, has a sharp British wit, and from time to time says some pretty provocative stuff. In the best sense of the word.

And using the term “entertainment” in relation to worship is certainly an example of that provocative writing. But his point in doing so is that as worship has become more and more like entertainment, there is one classical form of it that is missing: tragedy. One of the cornerstones of entertainment from Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides to Shakespeare, it has been scrubbed from the church even as the worship has become more and more “entertaining.” All of this I find completely fascinating in light of my recent tumblings with the idea of using the lament in worship.

From Trueman:

Christian worship should immerse people in the reality of the tragedy of the human fall and of all subsequent human life. It should provide us with a language that allows us to praise the God of resurrection while lamenting the suffering and agony that is our lot in a world alienated from its creator, and it should thereby sharpen our longing for the only answer to the one great challenge we must all face sooner or later. Only those who accept that they are going to die can begin to look with any hope to the resurrection.

He goes on, arguing from Pascal and Aristotle and pointing out that even funerals are now devoid of a sense of the reality of death, but instead of have been replaced with the “celebration of a life now ended.”

Of all places, the Church should surely be the most realistic. The Church knows how far humanity has fallen, understands the cost of that fall in both the incarnate death of Christ and the inevitable death of every single believer. In the psalms of lament, the Church has a poetic language for giving expression to the deepest longings of a humanity looking to find rest not in this world but the next. In the great liturgies of the Church, death casts a long, creative, cathartic shadow. Our worship should reflect the realities of a life that must face death before experiencing resurrection.

May 16, 2013  Tags: , , ,   Posted in: christian culture, stuff to think about, worship and the church  No Comments

Say hello to…

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I’ve never been one to name things.

My truck does not have a name.

My Langejans guitar does not have a name.

Well, and let’s face it, those are the only things I own that anyone would ever deign to give a name to. But now I might have to make an exception.

Say hello to my new guitar. I’ve actually had it for a couple months now, but this is my first opportunity to share it with you. It’s an Ibanez Artcore AF85 Hollowbody, and if you didn’t guess, I purchased it from Sweetwater. Which is where you should purchase all your music equipment also.

Some of you might be wondering what I would do with such a guitar, and if I actually know how to make use of it. And the answer is…well, not really. But I am experimenting and learning and having fun with it. In fact, here are a couple little somethings highlighting the hollowbody.

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And, a couple more pictures, just for fun.

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May 6, 2013  Tags: , , , ,   Posted in: music, stuff I think is cool  No Comments

A lament for art in the church

picasso-old-guitaristThe other day one of my friends (I’m going to call him Ira Sankey) started a conversation on Facebook about leading worship that transitioned (the way Facebook conversations do) into a discussion of how many churches don’t appreciate art. In other words, he didn’t feel that most churches wanted the kind of music he would bring. Someone else, with a lot of experience in Christian music as a writer, singer, producer and all around musical genius (let’s call him Charles Wesley), suggested that the church doesn’t want art. You’re better off finding a church you can worship in and do your art elsewhere.

This bothered me.

Not because I think he’s wrong. I don’t agree entirely, but I do think there’s some truth there – and he’s speaking from a wealth of experience so I’m not in a position to argue too much. But it brings up a few questions for me.

Before getting to those, we’re going to have to define “art” in this context. Which is problematic, since art is something of a slippery concept. I’m going to suggest that what we’re talking about is the outpouring of the artist’s mind, emotion and will through his or her creative ability. In this way I mean to differentiate between making musical art versus writing or playing songs, which I think is more important to the discussion than an actual definition (so please don’t get too hung up on that if you disagree with the one I offer here).

Now with that context in mind:

Assuming Charles is right that the church doesn’t want art, is this disregard for art unique to the church? Ira plays at several clubs and restaurants around town and at some of those places he has the freedom to play his music in his way. But other places they would prefer he play cover songs. Isn’t that because they don’t appreciate art? They want some music, they want some background noise, they want something their patrons can hear without having to actually listen. They don’t want art.

Again, assuming Charles is correct, is this attitude Biblical? Do we as believers have a need for art in the church? Or is it something that is extraneous? I guess what I’m asking is, should we tell artists in the church – creators, if you will – that we would rather they create outside the church?

Is there room for art in worship? Or should worship – corporate worship music specifically – consist only of the happy/happy/joy/joy songs that we are familiar with? Is lament acceptable – should it be a regular part of corporate worship? I mention lament because I think perhaps it is central to artistic musical expression. The artist takes what he sees in the world and attempts to make sense of it through his artistic medium, whether that be music or paint or whatever. And since this world is broken, doesn’t that mean that much of what the artist creates will be concerned with the broken, ugly, painful parts of life? Do we have room for this in the church, or is lament better left at home?

Beyond the lament, is there room for the unconventional in corporate worship? Creating art often involves doing something new. Stretching boundaries, so to speak, which is something that the church in general does not cozy up to very well. Is it too much to ask a church (or THE church) to glorify God through a new and unconventional expression of music even if they don’t understand it or appreciate it on an aesthetic level? What is the responsibility of the artist as worship leader, and what is the responsibility of the congregation as worshippers? Is it the artist-worship leader’s responsibility to present his congregation with safe, familiar sounding music that they can identify with emotionally, or is it the congregation’s responsibility to choose to worship God no matter what the music sounds like? Or is there a balance between the two?

May 3, 2013  Tags: , , , ,   Posted in: christian culture, music, stuff to think about, worship and the church  One Comment

Tim Tebow, Jason Collins and Chris Broussard…and courage.

collinsNormally the news that Tim Tebow was released…well, any news about Tim Tebow, really, would be the talk of sports talk radio. But not yesterday. Yesterday (and today, and probably for the rest of the week) the talk – and not just on sports talk, but all over the radio dial – was about another Christian, Jason Collins.

For those who don’t live here in the States, don’t listen to the radio, and don’t follow the news, Jason Collins is a professional basketball player. He has played for 12 years for a number of teams. And he is gay.

There has been speculation for some time now concerning when (not if) a male athlete in one of the four major sports (that’s baseball, basketball, football and hockey, for you sports challenged) would come out as homosexual. So it is no surprise that his announcement has made some noise.

Also making some noise are the comments that ESPN basketball analyst Chris Broussard made concerning the announcement, how other players might or might not feel about playing with an openly gay teammate, and, most disconcertingly for some, what the Bible says about homosexuality.

The reactions are predictable – Broussard is a bully. He shouldn’t have used that medium to express his views. His views are based on centuries old influences that clearly are out of date and out of step. He is a hypocrite, a bigot, and a loudmouth. And of course, “Christ told his followers not to judge.”

Jason Collins is brave. He is a role model. He deserves a contract next year (apparently just for being homosexual…). He is courageous and strong. Even the President called to congratulate him and laud his courage.

Others are taking it with a degree of apathy or at least ambivalence, saying, “why does it matter?” or “What do I care if a pro athlete is gay or otherwise?”

Some have written their support for Broussard and a Biblical view of sin and homosexuality.

Rather than make a statement, I’m going to just ask a few questions (albeit leading questions):

1. Isn’t this the big news everyone is making out to be (it was the lead story on ABC News) because it is widely understood (or assumed) that other players might have a problem with a homosexual in their locker room? Isn’t that why other players haven’t come out before now?

2. If a player doesn’t feel comfortable with a homosexual person sharing a locker room, do they have the freedom to say so (as the retired Larry Johnson did)? Or is that person a bigot? Or does he just need to grow up and get over himself? After all, as one writer said, “we’ve all been in the locker room with Jason Collins and he’s never come on to any of us.”

3. If you say that it’s no big deal (to have a homosexual teammate), aren’t you suggesting that there is no difference between a homosexual man and a heterosexual man? Don’t you have to ignore sexuality as a whole to make such a claim? And if so, why don’t we have unisex locker rooms and showers? Why do they have a men’s shower and a women’s shower at the gym?

4. If it is courageous to stand up and “accept who you are” in the way that Jason Collins did, isn’t it also brave and courageous of Chris Broussard to admit that he believes what has become unpopular to believe – that the Bible is true, that the Bible says that homosexual sin is just like other kinds of sexual sin, and that the Bible says you will know them (followers of Christ) by their fruit? Knowing the extreme politically correct atmosphere in which we currently live, having seen others have to backtrack or apologize or “clarify” their statements – including Tim Tebow, incidentally – wasn’t it courageous of Broussard to come out as a Bible believing Christian?

April 30, 2013  Tags: , , , , , , ,   Posted in: christian culture, If you're not outraged..., Sports, stuff to think about  No Comments

Top 4 (possible) reasons I haven’t been writing…

1. Nothing to say

2. Too busy with other things

3. Writing is for weasels

4. “You haven’t been writing? Huh. I didn’t notice.”

Just so you know…it’s true. I haven’t written for a while. At least not here on this blog. And no, I haven’t put all my efforts into some other blog that I didn’t tell you about.

Truth is there are a number of reasons I could think of for not writing. For example: it’s true, I haven’t felt compelled to say anything for a while. That’s not to say nothing has happened. Just…you know…does it matter if I write about it or not? And it’s true, I have been busy with other things and trying to stay focused on doing things that need to be done (as opposed to things that, truly, don’t matter).

We’ll leave the question of whether I am, or am not a weasel for another time.

At any rate, I do feel like it’s time to write again. And I do have some time (although not as much as I might hope) to write from time to time. So my commitment to you, my friend, is that I will put up new content here regularly. Not every day. But maybe 3 or 4 times a week. I’m going to try to focus a bit so that I’m not all over the place, but don’t expect major changes as far as the type of content.

Just a bit more than there’s been for the past, oh, six months.

 

[Editor’s note]:

After six months the comments and spam folders tend to get a little backed up. These are the two best comments found in the spam folder. For your edification, should you need some ideas on good, well-formed, attention-getting comments.

“You are my inhalation , I possess few blogs and occasionally run out from to post .”

“Utterly pent subject matter, Really enjoyed studying.”

April 29, 2013  Tags: , ,   Posted in: the blog  5 Comments

Midweek Humor

I’m not in class anymore, but for those of you who are back in school:

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September 5, 2012  Tags: ,   Posted in: humor, what are you drunk?  No Comments

Midweek Humor

For my polyglot friends.

 

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August 1, 2012  Tags: , ,   Posted in: humor, language  No Comments

Worship Music July 29

This week was the last week in our beginnings of the church series. We ended with Stephen’s stoning in Acts 7 and his sermon leading up to it. As you might imagine, there aren’t a lot of songs out there about stoning or about worshiping God in the midst of stoning or anything along those lines. As I was talking with Mike about the sermon some of the themes that came out were majesty and sovereignty. So that is the direction I went with the songs this week.

Pastor’s Greeting
Glory in the Highest
Come Worship The King
Scripture
He Is Exalted
Before the Throne of God Above
Be Thou My Vision
Prayer

Despite the awkward “Lord, You’re the encore” line, I think Glory in the Highest is strong enough to open the service. The title phrase puts us immediately to mind of God’s majesty. It’s a little slow to start, so maybe it’s not typically used to start a service. But as I’ve said before I’m not all that concerned with the new tradition of starting fast and progressing into more meditative songs. We put it in the key of A which is low enough but not a particularly good place for my voice. I’m afraid if we do it much higher, though, it becomes a problem for most people in the congregation.

I’ve used Come Worship the King almost exclusively to start services in the past. It just feels like a call to corporate worship to me. But that’s kind of the reason I chose to do it second here. For one thing I felt like I wanted to start the service with Glory in the Highest anyway. But that left me with the decision to either not use Come Worship the King, or to do it somewhere else in the set. I decided it would not only be appropriate, but beneficial also, to put it second. My reasoning was that sometimes we get into a rut with how we view songs or how we use them. If the song is strong enough to use to start a service, it should be strong enough for other places in the service as well. And just because it has the word “come” in it, does not mean that we can’t have already sung a song or two. In fact in many ways it makes more sense to have it in this order. “Here is our King, the Almighty, the Holy one who reigns in glory. Come, let us worship Him.”

Psalm 8 – O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens. Out of the mouth of babies and infants, you have established strength because of your foes, to still the enemy and the avenger. When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him? Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet, all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the seas. O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!

He Is Exalted has been around for years. It still shows up on the CCLI list of most popular songs and for good reason (and no, I don’t peruse the “Top 100” list to help me decide what songs to sing). Musically it has a lot going for it. It has an interesting progression, it has movement in it, and there are definite emotive qualities to the music. And lyrically, while it may not be Wesley or Luther, it does have truth.

We haven’t sung Before the Throne Of God Above very much, but I liked the way the idea fit here. We sang a few song there that refer to God as King and exalted, majestic and full of Glory. I wanted the reminder that the writer of Hebrews tells us that we can boldly approach the throne – that we have a Great High Priest, but one that knows us and understands us and loves us.

We ended with Be Thou My Vision and honestly I’m not sure what was going on in my mind when I chose that song. I do know that there is a reference to the “High King of Heaven” but honestly I’m not sure that I was thinking about that when I put the song on the list. It had more to do with continuing from the previous song into a form of application. You are the King, You are exalted, You love and care for me and about me. So may I follow after You no matter what. Hold me and guide me by Your strong hand.

July 30, 2012  Tags: , ,   Posted in: music, worship and the church  No Comments

…And we’re back

If you’re a regular visitor, you may have noticed that the site was down earlier this week. And if you were very observant (or if you are me), you might have noticed that after the site came back up some of the posts were missing.

Fortunately I use an offline editor to write all the posts, so I still had a copy on my hard drive. I reposted what I had, and hopefully posted them with the original date. Hopefully we didn’t lose any comments and everything is back to normal.

This is not true of one of the other sites I have been working on and because of that I lost a good bit of the work that I had done on it last weekend. So that was frustrating. Even moreso because the web host that I use claims to offer “daily backups.” Only apparently that’s not always true.

Might be time to find a new host.

July 28, 2012  Tags: ,   Posted in: geeky stuff, the blog  No Comments

I side with…

isidewithI took this nifty little quiz the other day. It asks you several questions and compares your answers to the presidential candidates and then gives you a break down of whose positions most closely align with yours.

Shockingly it says “I side with” Mitt Romney more than anyone else. I was a bit surprised, actually, that I had so much in common with Ron Paul (is he still running?). I’ve never been much of a fan, although that has to do more with his foreign policy than most other things.

As I look at some of the answers, I think I would probably have answered differently had I looked at all the possible choices (there are some nuanced answers that better reflect my position) and some things that I would change having had some time to think them over a bit more (I’m constantly surprised at how fluid some of my opinions are).

Apparently President Obama and I only agree 17% of the time. I figured that there are enough issues and enough room in each issue that there had to be a few things I would agree on with almost anyone. Turns out most of the things we agree on are pretty minor and some of them I’m not sure accurately reflect the President’s position (for instance, his official position is that children of illegal immigrants should be permitted citizenship but not their parents. However, he has been pushing a bill that would grant citizenship not only to the children but family members also. Another one they say we agree on is stem cell research, but there is a huge gap between funding stem cell research and only funding research that uses adult stem cells).

I agree more with Jimmy McMillan of the RITDH party (although I have a hard time believing he’s an actual candidate for anything) than I do with President Obama. Jill Stein of the Green Party and I agree on 3% of the issues. So…I guess I won’t be voting for her. It would be historic, though – a woman president and vice president at the same time. Still, I’m not sure making history is the right motive to vote for someone (see 2008).

Bringing up the rear, so to speak, is Stewart Alexander. We agree on exactly two questions. So…we’re not exactly comrades. I looked at his website out of curiosity because I had no idea who he is. It’s startling to know there are people in this country who seriously believe the…stuff…he does.

Anyway, those are my results. Head on over there and try it out for yourself. Maybe it’ll help you solidify your thoughts on some of the issues, maybe it’ll surprise you a bit, maybe it won’t tell you anything you don’t already know. Still, it won’t take long and it might be worth it.

 

[UPDATE]

I took the quiz again and became a Libertarian. Also, I agree 63% with Virgil Goode of the Constitution Party, for whatever that is worth. It’s all those answers that say “let the states decide” and “the federal government shouldn’t be involved.” That said, I couldn’t vote for either Ron Paul or Gary Johnson because of their foreign policies and some of the social issues that are important to me. So, the lesson is, just because you agree with someone doesn’t mean you have to vote for them, okay?

July 24, 2012  Tags: , , , , , , , ,   Posted in: politics  No Comments