I had a bit of a creative explosion this week while I was attending the Duke Divinity Convocation so I wanted to share the fruit. Basically I wrote two raps and one praise song from Sunday evening to Tuesday afternoon. Then I played hookey from several of the lectures at the Convocation to sit down at my favorite piano in the world in Goodson Chapel and record these three songs and seven others with my iPhone propped on the music stand. The sound quality is actually not too bad. Because of time constraints, I did almost everything on the first take, mistakes and all, unless I completely shut down. So almost all the songs have two or three mistakes. Anyway I’m sharing them below. Some of them might sting a little bit because God is giving me a prophetic word to call out some things about the American church right now. As there’s always a mix of flesh and spirit, some of my cynicism and arrogance may have found its way in. That’s where I depend on you to call me out so I can refine this and make it more glorifying to God. So please critique and offer suggestions!!! (And don’t laugh too hard at the goofy expressions on my face on this page.) Continue reading
This is the first song that I’ve written in two years. It’s basically about stewardship of our wealth and witness as well an attempt to cling to the beauty of Christ in spite of the ugliness of the body of Christ in America right now. I pushed too much with my voice so it’s nasally but I had to record it on the third run-through that I did because my sons had to go to bed. Chords and lyrics are below. And for those who think the word “hate” shouldn’t appear in a praise song, see Psalm 139:21-22, but don’t google it because then you’ll find a bunch of misappropriations of scripture that are the object of the hatred I describe in my song, which isn’t against a person but against the kind of disrespect for Jesus’ name that occurs when a psalm is proof-texted in order to make a case for actually hating people instead of “love the sinner and hate the sin” (which was what Gandhi said, not the Bible, etc). Amazing what some so-called Christians have become, isn’t it? The psalmist brings his hatred to God in order to have it healed and converted into love. I hate any dishonor shown to God and most of all that shown by His people because I love God and I love His people. Continue reading
One of the most dramatic exorcisms of Jesus’ ministry takes place in Mark 5 when Jesus casts a legion of demons out of a man chained to a graveyard in the region of the Gerasenes by sending them into a herd of pigs who run with fury to a cliff and throw themselves in a lake. For the last several years, as certain aspects of the evangelical corner of American Christianity that I inhabit have looked less and less Christlike, I have had a single prayer that I have written probably several hundred times in my journal: “Lord, let their fruit be made plain.” I’m not sure who the “they” in the prayer is — probably people who earnestly hunger after God no less than I do. But it’s hit me this week that God really is answering my prayer. I really think American Christianity in the age of the culture wars has been like that tortured Gerasene demoniac ranting and raving in the graveyard and finally that legion of demons is starting to reveal itself in a herd of pigs who are racing furiously for the water. Continue reading
It was only supposed to be a catchy sermon series to attract attention for our fall kickoff season. At first our senior pastor was worried about being misinterpreted in the heat of an extremely divisive election season. We have a beautifully “purple” church where progressive liberals and Tea Party activists worship together. It’s one of United Methodism’s greatest strengths and sources of agony. We’re one of the few big tent Christian denominations left. So many have split on female ordination, homosexuality, and other political issues. And so a sermon series called “Jesus is My Candidate” seemed entirely appropriate for a congregation in which people of all political persuasions worship and serve together. But now it’s gotten bigger than a sermon series; it’s become a meme — that strange 21st century cyber-object that you attach to a hashtag on twitter or hand over to Willy Wonka on Facebook hoping that it “trends.” The vision God seems to be sharing feels about as ridiculous as Kevin Costner mowing an Iowa cornfield to build a ballpark for ghosts, and I need a James Earl Jones with a much bigger platform to swoop in, put this meme on your back, and explode it. It’s really simple. We get as many people as possible on twitter every evening at 9 pm until election day to share as many personal testimonies and prophetic statements about Jesus as they feel like with the hashtag #JesusIsMyCandidate. And if we come up with songs, videos, flash mobs, etc, using the same meme, we go where they take us. It’s not slacktivism. It’s a 21st century act of prayer and resistance against the designs of Satan to use this presidential election to pummel American Christianity (and I’m not being a melodramatic wing-nut to name it that way). Continue reading
I’m jumping on the bandwagon. Ever since the Episcopal convention last week, all the Christians bloggers are talking about whether or not the liberal church will survive. The conversation thread that I’ve followed has included John Meunier, Ross Douthat, Diana Butler Bass, and Rachel Held Evans. I spent my twenties in struggling mainline liberal churches that were very active in social justice causes in their community and painfully empty on Sunday mornings. Since I feel like my own observations and convictions are inadequate to explain the sociological shifts that are occurring in American Christianity, I’m not going to present this as any sort of coherent theory, but rather a series of points that respond to what I’ve read in no particular order.