Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Christians and Defending Possessions!

There is something that I have been lamenting over. It has simultaneously made me sad and yet an anger shut in my bones like fire needing to get out.

It is this, and this may be the harshest I have ever said anything: You cannot be a Christian and believe it is ok to kill someone over possessions!

I will not make the same argument for gun ownership. I would rather people not own guns, but I don't see this conflicting with being a Christian. But holding the position that it is ok to kill someone in the defense of possessions is absolutely contradictory to the teachings of Christ and the church.

"My next door neighbor wants to BAN all GUNS!
Their house is NOT ARMED!
Out of RESPECT for their opinions I promise NOT to use
I am not thinking of anyone specifically, but I have seen numerous pictures and words on facebook from Christians, of all people - those who are supposed to be "little Christs," that have expressed this exact position.

I know it is your right as an American citizen to defend your stuff, but you are not primarily citizens of America - you belong to another Kingdom altogether, which has a higher ethical claim on your life. "For many live as enemies of the cross of Christ; I have often told you of them, and now I tell you even with tears. Their end is destruction; their god is the belly; and their glory is in their shame; their minds are set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven, and it is from there that we are expecting a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ" (Philippians 3:18-20). Is your god your belly? What about your stuff? Where is your mind?

There are infinite verses about stuff, about possessions. Christ was very clear about their negative impact on our lives. We can only serve one master for we should hate the one and love the other (Matthew 6). Stuff is deceitful and stifles us (Matthew 13:22). To follow Christ we must renounce our things to begin with (Luke 14).

But of all the teaching about wealth in the general sense, Jesus is quite clear about defending stuff: "And if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again"-Jesus (Luke 6:30)

This teaching is hard, I make no bones about it. I am not even saying that we have to follow it literally. But one small take away I think we can be sure of: We cannot kill someone who is stealing our stuff. We cannot even think it is ok to hold such an opinion. If we're going to be "pro-life" we should also be consistent in our beliefs about life - which is that all life is precious, even the life of our enemies, in this case the thieves and robbers.

This teaching is found smack dab in the middle of teaching about loving enemies, lending to enemies without expecting a return (a gift!!!), and showing mercy as our Father has shown us mercy. Not 20 verses later Jesus says, "Why do you call me 'Lord, Lord,' and do not do what I tell you?"

Again, I am not talking about owning guns. Do what you want there! That is another conversation that should be had at a greasy spoon at 2am (teetotaler's bar!). But it is in no way appropriate to think that we can defend our stuff, any of it, all of it, in a way that physically harms anyone.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

4 Song EP: "August 24th" - Final song!

The final post in the 4 Song Ep is here and it ends with a doozy!

This is my favorite song by far.

Erin and I spent a lot of time on these and are now sharing them. We hope you enjoy!

This song based on this saint and Bishop, Ignatius, who wrote some letters in the early 100's on his way to facing the lions in Rome for his faith. His writings are beautiful and they really touched me as they have the whole Christian faith for the last 2000 years.

The interesting thing about Ignatius is that he wanted to die. He thought it was a great honor to die for the faith and often talked of fighting the beasts, provoking them, hoping they weren't too full from eating other people already. In his final letter, to the Romans where he was going to be executed, he asked them not to interfere or try to stop his execution. If anything he asked them to come to the arena and provoke the beasts to eat him. He did not want them to cry but to sing hymns of Jesus. Below is the song and full explanation of what I was trying to do.

August 24th (Finest Bread) (Going to the Lions)
Take me on a journey, from morning dawn to setting sun.
Take a choir and please sing, a hymn of praise to Jesus for allowing me this peace.
Take this passion burning deep, fulfill it like a lover’s leap
Take the Word straight from your lips,
if the world has made it’s home underneath of your skin

I know that I am going to the Lions
Please, Dear Romans, allow me this passion
I hear the whisper “come to the Father”

Farewell now until the end
And wait with Patience all for Him!
As I write, it’s August twenty fourth!

Take this wine aged to its peak, pour it out in offering
Take my body or what’s left, send it to my brother’s, bury it in hope
Take this flour ground in stone, finest bread I can bring over
Take my lead to taunt the beasts, I don’t want to be a burden when I fall asleep

Are these pearls on my neck? Or chains there wrapped instead?
I can’t tell by the way you lift my head.

            This song seems to be best explained with a line-by-line commentary. Some initial thoughts that may be helpful before beginning this commentary include: (1) Everything is taken directly from St. Ignatius’ letter to the Romans with as little artistic variance as possible and (2) the first line of each verse is directed towards Jesus with the counter (or second) line being directed towards his church family in Romans, the eventual place of his martyrdom. Let us begin:

Take me on a journey, from morning dawn to setting sun [Lyric].
·      “…sing hymns of praise to Jesus Christ to the Father, for permitting Syria’s bishop [Ignatius], summoned from the realms of the morning, to have reached below the world’s horizon towards God, to rise again later into the dawn of His presence!” (86)[1] [Ignatius’ actual words].
o   It would seem that the Syria is representative of the east, where the sun rises or “the realms of the morning.” This language serves as another metaphor, morning is the beginning of life and the sun’s journey across the sky is life’s journey. So it stands to reason that Rome is the west and the horizon. For Ignatius, it is also represents death as it will be the location of his eventual martyrdom. After the darkness of death or sleep, he will raise to a new dawn, new life, in the presence of Christ. [Commentary].

Take a choir and please sing, a hymn of praise to Jesus for allowing me this peace.
·      “Then you may form a loving choir around it  and sing hymns of praise to Jesus Christ to the Father…” (86).
o   It refers to the libation poured out and sacrifice placed on the altar which is a metaphor for Ignatius’ body.

Take this passion burning deep, fulfill it like a lover’s leap
·      “Here and now, as I write in the fullness of life, I am yearning for death with all the passion of a lover” (87).
o   This phrase is juxtaposed to Ignatius’ other thoughts, which he says that if he comes to the Romans and pleads for his life - do not listen to him. Now, while his mind and heart are clear, he establishes his true desire.

Take the Word straight from your lips, if the world has made it’s home underneath of your skin
·      “Do not have Jesus Christ on your lips, and the world in your heart…” (87).
o   This line isn’t just pastoral advice. The context is that if the Romans really love Jesus, they will let Ignatius die. If they do anything to stop this martyrdom, they better do some soul searching to see if they are really a disciple of Christ.

I know that I am going to the Lions
·      “How I look forward to the real lions that have been ready for me! All I pray is that I may find them swift. I am going to make overtures to them, so that, unlike some other wretches whom they have been too spiritless to touch, they may devour me with all speed. And if they are still reluctant, I shall use force to them. You must forgive me, but I do know what is best for myself.” (87).
·      “I am His wheat, ground fine by the lions’ teeth to be made the purest bread for Christ” (86).

Please, Dear Romans, allow me this passion
·      “…but for me it is going to be very hard to get to the God unless you spare me your intervention” (85).
·      “For my part, I am writing to all the churches and assuring them that I am truly in earnest about dying for God – if only you yourselves put no obstacles in my path” (86).
·      “Leave me to imitate the Passion of my God” (87).

I hear the whisper “come to the Father”
·      “Earthly longings have been crucified; in me there is left no spark of desire for mundane things, but only a murmur of living water that whispers within me, ‘Come to the Father’”(87).

Farewell now until the end, and wait with Patience all for Him!
As I write, it’s August twenty fourth!
·      “As I write this, it is the twenty-fourth of August. Farewell now until the end, and wait with patience for Jesus Christ” (88).

Take this wine aged to its peak, pour it out in offering
·      “This favor only I beg of you: suffer me to be a libation poured out to God, while there is an altar ready for me.” (85-86).

Take my body or what’s left, send it to my brother’s bury it in hope
·      “…in which I hope to rise again through the help of your intercessions” (Letter to the Ephesians, 64).

Take this flour ground in stone, finest bread I can bring over
·      “…pray leave me to be a meal for the beasts, for it is they who can provide my way to God. I am His wheat, ground fine by the lions’ teeth to be made the purest bread for Christ” (86).

Take my lead to taunt the beasts; I don’t want to be a burden when I fall asleep
·      “Better still, incite the creatures to become a sepulcher for me; let them not leave the smallest scrap of my flesh, so that I need not be a burden to anyone after I fall asleep” (86).

Are these pearls on my neck? Or chains there wrapped instead? I can’t tell by the way you lift my head.
·      “Apart from Him, nothing else should have any value in your eyes; but in Him, even these chains I wear are a collar of spiritual pearls to me” (Letter to the Ephesians, 64).

As you can see, there are some variances on the phrases and words, but the meanings are kept intact. In fact, many of the lines were preserved almost word for word.
            Though competing heavily with Psalm 46, this song is probably my favorite. The reason I love it so much is that I struggle with Ignatius so much. The whole class struggled with the whole of the martyrdom series in Global Christian Heritage 1. The martyrs were not only willing, but also desired to be a witness for Christ through the death of their literal bodies. I tried to hold the tension we all felt when reading this letter, namely that the words and subject are inexplicably sad yet the tone is rejoicing. The song is upbeat set to the melancholy words of Ignatius. I really do feel that we have lost a great deal in our evangelical churches by cutting out our historical parents. If we are going to have earthly heroes, it should not be whichever quarterback is doing best this year. Our earthly heroes should be the saints gone before us.
            The bridge falls from the upbeat nature of the rest of the song. This is the part where we sing about the tension felt in the chains. It is a breaking point. It causes us to reflect. The beat can’t carry us anymore. The weightiness of the subject matter takes its toll. We are left looking at a naked man in chains. Our heart breaks. The first phrase resolves on a minor chord. But then we realize what we are singing, that the chains are actually pearls; that the Lord Jesus has promised blessing to those who suffer for His name’s sake, that the world and our bodies will perish and so let it be done to the glory and witness of the Lord. The beat is building back in, hopefully, with the realization that Ignatius is right; with the realization that sacrifice and suffering are the ways that the Lord has decided to perfect our faith. It is the way of the cross. In the upside down kingdom, entry into the martyr’s coliseum is a red carpet into Jesus’ presence.
            The role this song plays in the worship service, this album, is the dedication and rededication to the God for whom we have waited and fellowshipped. We have met with the Lord, experienced God in a real way through our koinonia and we can’t leave unscathed. We dedicate our lives to be lived in the example of Christ, a life of sacrifice shaped by the cross, through the medium of Ignatius. It is a radical call to discipleship that ends only in the death or parousia; and, for most of us, it is likely going to be death. Though death is the enemy, last to be destroyed in the end, we confront it boldly in the grand sense and through small acts of service to our spiritual family and secular community in the present: to our neighbors.
            May we come weary but we leave renewed, recreated and ready to face the world around us in a way that cooperates with the work of Christ to bring kingdom to our neighborhoods.

[1] All references to Ignatius’ actual words are taken from: Louth, Andrew, ed. and Maxwell Staniforth, trans. Early Christian Writings: The Apostolic Fathers. (Harmondsworth: Penguin Classics, 1987). Page numbers will be in parentheses after the quote.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

My Hope For Holy Saturday!

It is my hope we would sit in shock, in quietness, in awe...

For many of us we focus on Good Friday and Easter Sunday. Between the two is Holy Saturday. If we place too much emphasis on Good Friday we are probably reducing our gospel entirely too narrowly on sin and sin management in the individual. If we focus too much on Easter, we are probably creating unrealistic, underwhelming expectations about the demands of the true Gospel, venturing into self-help, reductionism and dangerous triumphalism. If we focus only on the two, Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday, we create an unhealthy dichotomy so starkly contrasted that by necessity we have to observe them both only as religious obligation where the two events meld into a single event without further reflection or transformation.

It is my hope that today we would question everything! From the standpoint of today, there is no tomorrow. There is no Easter Resurrection. There is no new creation and the destruction of death. There is nothing. The messiah has failed by all earthly measures. The epitome of religion is unchanged in Jesus' failed attempt at bring the Jewish nation to repentance. The epitome of politics is unconverted in Jesus' encounter with the powers and principalities with the Roman state, using Jesus as a pawn in business as usual. Whatever Kingdom Jesus sought to establish is crushed. The King is dead.

We should consider what our lives would be like, in reflective trajectory, if there were no resurrection. Did our father keep the fishing nets? Should we join the counter-revolution again, forcing about our own utopia? What would we be doing if the Lord had left us alone? What would our lives look like if the risen Lord had not risen at all to call us out to be reconciled and reconcile?

This day should challenge our entire Christian lives. Is it all for nothing? We should allow ourselves the holy act of doubting if we have ever really believed, if we have ever really understood, if we have ever really got it right - got him right. Yesterday, Good Friday, needs to cause us unbelief, today requires that we place our hope in ourselves and what we know... or no hope at all, and tomorrow should wreck us. Tomorrow should redefine everything. Tomorrow should theologically interpret all of our past and current self to push us into something so new and so exciting Christians simultaneously called it the 1st day and the 8th day of the week.

But for now... we are left, in the very least, with jaw dropping disappointment, and at most, the grips of sadness and despair. A sense of nothingness, lostness, deflated courage and misplaced hope... a sense having sunk all our money into the stock of a bankrupt company, having gone all in on a failed gut shot straight, having quit your job because you only thought you had the winning lottery ticket, having ditched all your friends for what your thought was the love of your life - all gone, now there is nothing.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

4 Song Ep: "I Will Wait"

I wrote 4 songs for school. I worked very hard on them and have decided to share them. I hope you like them.

This is song 3 of 4. Here are songs ONE and TWO if you are interested.

Now on to Song 3 - I Will Wait.

This song may be familiar to some of you. I have been recording and messing around with it for a while. There is a new ending for sure. The reader's digest version on my opinion of this song is that I like it but I don't love it. I love how technical the song is and I spent a great deal of creative time on the song, especially adding the Taize part at the end, but its ok. The full effect of what I was aiming for is described below!

“I Will Wait”
Your love has hit me from the start, filled the holes in the deepest part
I cannot wait but I will wait forever
Hope for me I am not strong; tell me what takes so long
I cannot wait but I will wait forever

And I will faint in your presence

Please I pray you come and meet me
I will, I will wait for you
Hope’s last hope I won’t let go
I will, I will wait for you

My heart burst from my chest. Whose fault is all this mess?
My soul beseech you, I’ve lost my speech now
I pushed you far away, I push too hard they say!
I cannot wait but I will wait forever

And I will faint in your presence

Please I pray you come and meet me
I will, I will wait for you
Hope’s last hope I won’t let go
I will, I will wait for you

(chanting: Veni Sancte Spiritus)
Come Thou Holy Spirit, Fill the Hearts of your Faithful,
Kindle A Fire within us – of your love
Come Thou Holy Spirit, And We shall be created,
You will renew the whole – of the earth

            This song comes from a topic explored in John Wesley's sermon on “The Means of Grace.” Wesley is advocating that people seeking Jesus should wait in the means of grace (e.g. Scripture, worship, communion, prayer) until the Spirit shows up, saying, “According to this, according to the decision of Holy Writ, all who desire the grace of God are to wait for it in the means which he hath ordained; in using, not laying aside.”[1] This song echoes this sentiment.
            The song is fast in tempo to convey the fast paced way we live of our lives. The drums symbolize the constancy of our pounding stress. The words imply that we are weak, fading, even pushing God away, not being able to wait on our own power, but realizing that we must wait for the Lord who alone is our strength, our only hope and our very life. So we wait because we must.
            Then there builds a fainting point, a point where we can’t hold on and so we let go. The guitar builds harsher and harsher as we are letting go. Then the interaction with the Lord happens. 4/4 is the most popular time signature for the most popular music. The time signature changes from 4/4 to 3/4, illustrating the normalcy of our lives changing signatures as we approach the divine. The 3 in the 3/4 can be the trinity though the words are uniquely addressed to the Holy Spirit. The music here is inspired by my encounter with the Taize service at St. James’ Catholic church in Seattle as part of a Seminary experience.
            The service was very new to me. I loved the participatory nature of the service. One song stood out to me. The congregation was prompted to sing “Veni Sancte Spiritus” over and over again as a drone for the choir to sing in Latin something so gorgeous. I too, in this song, drone the Veni, but since I don’t know Latin, I borrowed a Catholic prayer about the coming of the Holy Spirit. I soared the lyrics over the drone similar to the choir. The electric guitar soars as well. I apply more reverb to the lyrics here to give it the cathedral effect. I let the song pitter out leaving it open for the next song to impinge. Our encounter with the Holy Spirit cannot go without consequence and it certainly cannot go back to the stressed out, fast paced life that we just came from. We must depart the experienced changed.

[1]    Albert C. Outler and Richard P. Heitzenrater, edit., John Wesley’s Sermons: An Anthology (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1987), 162.