Archive for January, 2010

Sunday Morning Devotional: Dorothy Day

After Howard Zinn passed away a few days ago, I began thinking about those who have come before, in our recent past, who have told a different story of a better way. Dorothy Day came immediately to mind. Nicely enough, the Open Door Community in Atlanta was sharing these videos on their Facebook page. Herein lies rare television footage of the holistic peace activist and Catholic Worker co-founder. Enjoy!

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Sunday Morning Devotional: Kenosis

Let what was seen in Christ Jesus be seen also in you –

Though his state was that of God,
yet he did not claim equality with God
something he should cling to.

Rather, he emptied himself,
and assuming the state of a slave,
he was born in human likeness.

He being known as one of us,
Humbled himself obedient unto death
Even death on a cross.

For this God raised him on high
and bestowed on hi the name
which is above every other name.

So that at the name of Jesus
every knee should bend,
in heaven, on earth and under the earth,

And so every tongue should proclaim
“Jesus Chist is Lord!”
to God the father’s Glory

– Philippians 2:5-11, Christian Community Bible translation, from the Philippines, as cited in Cynthia Bourgeault‘s Centering Prayer and Inner Awakening

Ancient-Future Worship: The Odes Project

I’m no musician, but I think a lot about worship-in-song. As I’ve commented some before, I want to see worship become increasingly wise and transformative, with everything from lyrics to tone aiding in the development and formation of the worshiper. (More about this in a post soon – probably something about ‘integral worship.’) This doesn’t always mean aping the past (as Kevin Beck so succinctly argues), but I am a ‘conservative’ in that I think the past offers us many rich treasures, treasures that can provide a welcome relief, at times, from the cacophony of the present. It is with this in mind that I approached The Odes Project, a double-album of contemporary worship arrangements based on “the oldest Christian hymnal,” the second-century Odes of Solomon.

The Odes Project bills itself as an adaptation of

…the Odes of Solomon for use in worship today, bringing the past to the present. It is hoped that by doing so, a greater understanding of the nature and function of Christian hymns will be understood by Christian artists who are learning the principles and practices of Christian worship.

Two Christian Music pioneers, Dr. Chuck Fromm and John Andrew Schreiner joined together to create this project, sharing a calling to serve Christian worship communities with “new song.” Both are lifelong students of worship and music, and as they joined their talents together, they resolved to make these ancient songs of faith accessible in the present tense. Fromm is a visionary and publisher in the service of worship. He connected with the Odes of Solomon while studying the worship of the early 1970’s worship music and preparing to write his dissertation. The worship history scholar Hughes Oliphant Old, a regular columnist in Worship Leader magazine, pointed out the connection between the Odes and the wisdom doxology of praise. Fromm related the singing and teaching to his own experience of the Jesus Movement of the early 70s. John Schreiner is a noted musician, composer and worship leader/pastor and has dedicated his life to the service of the Word through music.

The album is very easy to listen to – it’s a tasteful arrangement of 32 of the 42 Odes. I could see singing many of these in a congregation; the lyrics are great – as you can imagine, they’re very theocentric. Take this song, adapted from Ode 12, for instance:

He filled me with his truth
So I sing of His beauty
He came to dwell with me
So that I reflect His light
He poured out his love on me
So I can show mercy
He gave me the truth of his Word
So I share his love

Come and Flow living waters
Flow through me
That I might serve You
Flow living waters
Flow through me
That I might serve you
Overflowing, overflowing to those who thirst.

Inexpressible
Before the dawning of His light
His eternal Word
His mind and his thought
Unsearchable
Yet your Word dwells with me
And Your truth is love, One to another
I will sing of Your beauty, Your glory, Your purpose, Your ways

Blessed are they who know him
Blessed are they who love
Blessed are they who know him
Blessed are they who love

One to another, One to another, One to another

The only thing I’d change, musically, for congregational singing is that I might arrange the music to sound a little more ancient, ambient, and/or a capella. As they stand now, they’re rather ‘Maranatha‘ in style, which isn’t exactly my bag – but it makes sense, seeing as that is the background of the composer.

One last word: I’ve corresponded some with the creators and really appreciate their vision to bring the Odes of Solomon to life. But it’s ironic to me that this very evangelical crew is helping popularize a work that many scholars consider Gnostic in origin. As its Wikipedia entry notes, the Odes

perhaps originated from a heretical or gnostic group. This can be seen in the extensive use of the word ‘knowledge’ (Syr. ܝܕܥܬܐ īḏa‘tâ; Gk. γνωσις gnōsis), the slight suggestion that the Saviour needed saving in Ode 8:21c (ܘܦ̈ܖܝܩܐ ܒܗܘ ܕܐܬܦܪܩ wafrîqê ḇ-haw d’eṯpreq — ‘and the saved (are) in him who was saved’) and the image of the Father having breasts that are milked by the Holy Spirit to bring about the incarnation of Christ.

It’s quick to note, however, that

In the case of ‘knowledge’, it is always a reference to God’s gift of his self-revelation, and, as the Odes are replete with enjoyment in God’s good creation, they seem at odds with the gnostic concept of knowledge providing the means of release from the imperfect world. A number of scholars, considering the links with gnosticism have been overworked, now see the Odes as gnosistic at most.

You know, like the Gospel of John. At most, this might be the reason why some Odes were rendered for this project and some were not.

There are other things that are intriguing to me about the Odes, including its prototypical Trinitarian doxology in Ode 23, which the composers render explicit throughout the album; I wish they would have done the same with the rich feminine and nursing imagery of God – but perhaps this is something Isaac Everett or the liturgists at St Gregory’s in San Francisco can take on?

All in all, I’d recommend The Odes Project. It’s an excellent model of what good ancient-future worship can look like.

Brian & Spencer’s Excellent Adventure

I started reading Brian McLaren about eight years ago. I was drawn in by his probing, unconventional, and sometimes-controversial questions about Christian faith and practice – his, ours, everyone’s. Reading Brian morphed into friendship with Brian, and today I’d say he’s one of the top half-dozen living people who’ve had the greatest impact on my faith and life. I wasn’t alone in finding his work compelling: Many people worldwide were asking similar questions; the conversations and action that followed have created conversations and (arguably) movements. From The Church On The Other Side and his New Kind of Christian novel trilogy, to A Generous Orthodoxy and Everything Must Change, Brian has been on a journey to re-envision what it means to faithfully follow Jesus in the 21st century. For many of us in emerging, missional, and ‘progressive’ faith circles, Brian needs no introduction – and in some ways, that’s a problem, isn’t it? Presumed familiarity can sometimes breed narrative contempt, especially in our world of high-profile authors who basically rewrite the same book over and over again. But I can honestly say that, in light of Brian’s back-catalog, this book breaks some new ground and is written with fresh candor and synthesis. That’s why I’m so happy with this ten-minute video of Brian and Spencer Burke, driving around Santa Monica and discussing where they’re at with faith and life these days.  I hear a wiser, more no-nonsense McLaren who’s grown more comfortable in his own skin, more comfortable as a voice and statesman for a new generation of Christianity coming of age in the 21st century. What hear ye?

Brian isn’t finished questing and questioning. Whether you love his work or it makes you nervous, whether you’ve read his every book or have lost track with him these past few years, his latest offering is his most important and striking to date: A New Kind of Christianity. In it, Brian asks ten questions that attempt to integrate our inner lives with our outward actions, to align our beliefs with how we live in increasingly interconnected global community. Questions like

  • The Narrative Question: What Is the Overarching Storyline of the Bible?
  • The Authority Question: How Should the Bible Be Understood?
  • The God Question: Is God Violent?
  • The Jesus Question: Who is Jesus and Why is He Important?
  • The Gospel Question: What Is the Gospel?
  • The Church Question: What Do We Do About the Church?
  • The Sex Question: Can We Find a Way to Address Sexuality Without Fighting About It?
  • The Future Question: Can We Find a Better Way of View the Future?
  • The Pluralism Question: How Should Followers of Jesus Relate to People of Other Religions?
  • The What Do We Do Now Question: How Can We Translate Our Quest into Action?

We at TheOOZE are teaming up with Brian to bring these questions into your churches, coffee shops, pubs and living rooms. In addition to the Think:FWD episode here (go here for show notes BTW), we’re going to be launching an entire Brian McLaren channel devoted to exploring these questions starting in February. Stay tuned!

Want more links?

Ancient-Future: Faith or Fad?

This week I’m going to review a couple of recent offerings – one an album and one a book – that could be seen as a continuation of the ancient-future faith revival sparked by Robert Webber a decade or so ago that is still going strong. But before I do that, I’m going to call the whole ancient-future enterprise in question! Actually, I’m going to let my friend Kevin Beck do that for me, as a.) I’m a wimp, b.) I’m lazy, and c.) I’m more of a softie for ancient-future expressions than Kev-O. Even so, I find that I need to listen to his gracious but incisive critique – you probably should too. Here’s a taste:

While appreciating centuries of tradition is important, the attempt to reinstitute them is misguided and can result in unintentional authoritarianism. We’re not medievals. Pulling forward medieval tradions is nt a sacred way into the heart of God. Trying to recapture the thirteenth century is certainly not an emergence.

Continue reading in

Kung, Authoritarianism, Christianity, and the Protestant Ancient-Future Impulse

Kung and Authoritarianism in Evangelicalism

ROM Year One: The Results Are In…

What a year it’s been. Just over a year ago, I received the fruits of what you demanded: a ROM at my house – a $14,000 piece of exercise equipment that makes an audacious promise: A complete workout in just four minutes a day. My plan was in one year – from age 29 to age 30 – to not only maintain the shape I was in from my on-again, off-again gym attendance, but to get in better shape: To lose about 50 pounds and, as I put it in the Fitness Challenge,

  • Keep up with my growing little girl
  • Think clearer
  • Radiate peace
  • Be the very picture of virility
  • Attain body-mind-spirit health
  • See God

So! It’s been a year and those results are in. What’s happened? Well, I’ve sustained about 10 pounds of weight loss, I managed to watch Jubilee solo for nine (!) days in a row last year, and I’m growing in the other areas incrementally. This is in switching from 45-minute – 90-minute workouts at the gym (when I could make myself go) to 4-minute workouts from home. To me, this is impressive. But it’s also, if I’m completely candid, a little disappointing. After all, 10 pounds is not 50 pounds; I am not Charles Atlas at the beach.

Whenever our goals are not met, we quite naturally ask “Why?” Taking an inventory, it’s difficult to determine precisely why, in this case. Was I not ROMming diligently enough? That’s a possible explanation, but I pinky-promise that I’ve been way more diligent in hopping on the ROM than in driving downtown to work out. More likely is that I’ve not been ‘pushing it’ enough. An outside observer into my life might initially conclude that I’m a hypochondriac; while I’m in basically excellent health I do have occasional concerns about my heart health. This is tied into a decade-long struggle with anxiety and phobias – something I want to blog about more this year, as I think many of you could probably connect. All this to say, working out doesn’t always make me feel good. Maybe I’ve just been lazy from my youth, but feeling an elevated metabolism is deeply uncomfortable for me at times; I think I’m having a heart attack or something. All this to say, this past Fall I underwent an extensive battery of tests at a cardiologists’ office. I’ll probably have more to say about this in the anxiety/phobia posts, but suffice to say for now that my Doc gave me a clean bill of health in the exercise department. When I told him what I was doing, he said “ROM away.”

I am now resolved to accomplish in my 30th year what I’d hoped to in my 29th. I know more about the ROM and my own body than I did last year. With this in mind, I had a phone consultation with a ROM coach, Tom. (When you own a ROM, you have lifetime phone and in-person access to the ROM family of coaches in California. You also end up discovering other ROM enthusiasts nationwide – like my new friend Jeff.) Tom listened to my breakthroughs and struggles, and made three very practical suggestions:

  1. Put my ROM on lower resistance settings. I wasn’t scoring too high – typically around 80 when I should be around 110. I’ve had my resistance set at 220 pounds, which in retrospect is a bit he-mannish and macho. Not to mention futile, as it’s the motion that generates resistance ultimately – the faster I can turn that flywheel, the more results I can get. So I had it as 200 over the weekend, but my score still isn’t as high as I’d like; I’m dialing down to 180.
  2. ROM interval-style. It’s only four minutes so you’d think it’d be easy to just go all-out for the entire duration. But oh, no – not necessarily. Plus even if you do, your muscles and metabolism get used to that, so it could have diminishing returns. Better to vary it up a little, going (say) 30 seconds at a brisk-but-stable pace, and then 30 minutes b@lls-to-the-wall. That’s what I’ve been doing these past few days…and I can feel the difference.
  3. Do an additional nighttime ROM workout. I usually ROM in the mornings, which is a great way to start my day. But Tom noted that I have, essentially a desk job for a living – and a desk-job at home, at that. (My commute is about 50 feet from bedroom to home office!) Which is lovely in all kinds of ways, but fighting sedentary-ness is not one of them. Since I’m not digging teaches, plowing fields, or wrestling wooly mammoths, a later ROM session could be beneficial to jump-start my metabolism later in the day. This latter ROMming, Tom stresses, should not be a super-strenuous one…that could interfere with sleep for a sensitive lad like me. But a ‘light’ ROM session would be helpful. So be it.

So here we go! Following this already-helpful fitness advice, I still hope to meet my fitness and well-being goals, and see if the ROM is a good solution for people with less time and perhaps less of a discipline threshold than career gym-o-philes. I thank you for joining me on my ROM fitness journey last year, and I hope you stay tuned for my updates in 2010!

Sunday Morning Devotional: The Meaning of Christianity with Leonard Cohen

Seth: You have such vivid Christian imagery in many of your songs, and much of it is contrasted with the selfishness of the “modern” individual. I was wondering what’s your take on the state of Christianity today?

Leonard Cohen: Dear Seth, I don’t really have a ‘take on the state of Christianity.’ But when I read your question, this answer came to mind: As I understand it, into the heart of every Christian, Christ comes, and Christ goes. When, by his Grace, the landscape of the heart becomes vast and deep and limitless, then Christ makes His abode in that graceful heart, and His Will prevails. The experience is recognized as Peace. In the absence of this experience much activity arises, divisions of every sort. Outside of the organizational enterprise, which some applaud and some mistrust, stands the figure of Jesus, nailed to a human predicament, summoning the heart to comprehend its own suffering by dissolving itself in a radical confession of hospitality.

– from Canoe (HT: David Dark)

And now, a Cohen psalm…


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  • Friend of Emergent Village

    My Writings: Varied and Sundry Pieces Online

    Illumination and Darkness: An Anne Rice Feature from Burnside Writer's Collective
    Shadows & Light: An Anne Rice Interview in MP3 format from Relevant Magazine
    God's Ultimate Passion: A Trinity of Frank Viola interview on Next Wave: Part I, Part II, Part III
    Review: Furious Pursuit by Tim King, from The Ooze
    Church Planting Chat from Next-Wave
    Review: Untold Story of the New Testament Church by Frank Viola, from Next-Wave

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