Archives For Worship

More experimenting with a piano, layered over guitar tracks. What makes this complete track unique is the absence of drums. Like my previous instrumental, my aim was simplicity.

Translated, kyrie eleison is an old Christian prayer associated with liturgical worship and Jewish prayer, which means: Lord, Have Mercy. At once and the same time, it’s a trusting and humble call, full of the joy of expectation at the coming of God’s promised response.

‘Jesus told his next story to some who were complacently pleased with themselves over their moral performance and looked down their noses at the common people:
“Two men went up to the Temple to pray, one a Pharisee, the other a tax man. The Pharisee posed and prayed like this: ‘Oh, God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, crooks, adulterers, or, heaven forbid, like this tax man. I fast twice a week and tithe on all my income.’
“Meanwhile the tax man, slumped in the shadows, his face in his hands, not daring to look up, said, ‘God, give mercy. Forgive me, a sinner.’”
Jesus commented, “This tax man, not the other, went home-made right with God. If you walk around with your nose in the air, you’re going to end up flat on your face, but if you’re content to be simply yourself, you will become more than yourself.”
Luke 18:9-14 (The Message (MSG)

May we, in our own hearts, heed the zeal of the tax collector and a stand guard against the self-righteous fanaticism of the Pharisee.


Sidenote: Just a reminder about sound quality. At the moment, I’m only work with audacity; a free mixing software, my laptop, an amp, an app and my guitar.

Lacey Sturm _ The Reason GVL Review 2015Often a book will land in your lap. Then, sometimes you run into it. Unable to avoid the undertow that draws you towards it.

I’d have to say, for me at least, that the latter experience applies to ‘The Reason’.

Lacey Sturm’s story revisits darkened avenues.

‘The Reason’ might look like a standard ‘’rock-star’’ reading. It isn’t.

Sturm’s famous vocal-scream and its raw transition from heart to ear, directs attention to the depth of her pain, prayer and subsequent gratitude. What you hear in her music is what you get in this book; it’s the figurative heart, scarred, but bursting with new life.

Lacey writes:

‘It is brave to trust that the God who gave you life in the first place has a good plan in mind, even when everything around you looks like hell. It is brave to live.[i]

One might rightly say its contents reflect something akin to Cohen’s vision in ‘Anthem’ of how light pierces through the cracks.

Illuminated by an underprivileged and abusive past Sturm pins down connectivity with the broken-hearted, reaching well beyond the realm of safe pulpits and the sanitized pews of the middle class Christian West mindset.

This is theological poetry for the self-styled “damned.”

Much like the autobiographies from Johnny Cash and Brian‘Head’ Welch, Sturm delineates cause, effect and the overarching struggle to simply breathe beyond sin towards forgiveness, through a brokenness unfairly thrust upon them, delivering hope to those of us who can relate.

Like ‘emotional vomit’, lyrics about ‘horrible abuse, if sung honestly, must be screamed…Screaming was my natural response to injustice… When I started writing music with screaming in it, the point was to hit someone back… After God rescued me, however, I found a purpose for my screaming: to speak truth over the lies in people’s hearts. Lies like the ones I believed about myself when I wanted to die….I prayed God would use my voice to scream justice over every lie seeking to destroy the very people he made for great things.[ii]

Sturm, accompanied by beautiful hand drawn bespoke illustrations, unpacks the darkness in order to reveal the light. It’s clear that her words are carefully chosen, a well-considered pre-emptive attempt to prepare most readers for what is ahead.

‘The Reason’ deals with a series of issues including: bullying, parental abandonment, violence, identity issues, depression, poverty, fatherlessness and abuse.

Something that exists as an overarching theme is Lacey’s search for identity, acceptance and freedom. A big part of this is her wrestling with sexual identity, atheism, mistrust of men, confusion, love, and hate for injustice; a quest that fills these pages with more authenticity than some autobiographies twice as long exhaust themselves trying to achieve.

If anything, Lacey’s vulnerability makes her too vulnerable. Yet, what this all suggests is that Sturm is not out to just sell a book or artificially pad her already well supplied fan base.

‘The Reason’ is absent of hype and pretence. It denies any temptation to rely on these staple ingredients so often used in modern appeals to the masses.  It is ‘unassuming in its significance’.

This is evident in one of the most impressive highlights (and there are many), the theological distinction Sturm makes between “awe” and “emotionalism”.

‘There’s a definite sense of awe in the presence of God, and I experienced this most in the worship setting in church. I fell madly in love with experiencing awe. This experience was more than emotion. Something within us resonates when we encounter the sublime in life. C. S. Lewis talks about this feeling of awe in his book The Problem of Pain. In it he describes the word numinous. The numinous is that “thing” we sense or feel that is outside of ourselves.[iii]

Her discourse shifts away from a false euphoric emotionalism in worship towards ‘awe’, adding that there is a ‘difference between relationship with God and the experience of God.’ Lacey is aware of potential unseen dangers with regards to music, further stating:

‘The power of music, with its effect on the soul, is one of the most tangible ways to touch someone’s heart or spirit. I began to be very selective about the music I let into my soul and spirit because of how powerful I knew music could be. Emotions aren’t wrong, but letting them control your life and sway all your decisions can be deceptive and very destructive. I felt myself slip easily back into depression and condescension whenever I listened to certain music.[iv]

As easy as it would have been to slip into this trap, by providing advice like this Lacey evades feeding a narcissistic subculture,  “Christian” or otherwise. Instead her story and reflections that run concomitant with it, present a well thought out chronological narrative of displacement, warning, encouragement and realignment.

In conclusion, ‘The Reason’ is in-part exactly what a fan would expect; commentary complete with  a list of who and what helped that person steer into a musical career, fame and noticeable accomplishments.

However, Sturm’s book is not a chronological drift of what and how to become a rock-star. It is not an all-purpose list, to-be-generally read and followed formula for success.

Lacey points to God as the author of her success with a fierce reminder that God, in Jesus Christ, through His Spirit reaches for us.  That He hears us. Especially our deepest gasps, loneliest sighs and anguish filled groans. Although we may not see it, His gracious grasp is firm, authentic and unmistakable.

As Tolstoy and Barth rendered it, so Lacey Sturm profoundly reminds us of it:

No matter how bad it is, we are, still indeed ‘held firmly above the abyss.[v]


Sources:

[i] Sturm, L. 2014, The Reason: How I Discovered a Life Worth Living Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition. (p. 62).

[ii] Ibid, pp.77-82

[iii] Ibid, p.134

[iv] Ibid, p. 132

[v] Tolstoy’s A Confession & Karl Barth: ‘It is given an answer from the cross of Christ. The serious and terrible nature of human corruption, the depth of the abyss into which man is about to fall as the author of it, can be measured by the fact that the love of God could react and reply to this event only by His giving, His giving up, of Jesus Christ Himself to overcome and remove it and in that way to redeem man, fulfilling the judgment upon it in such a way that the judge allowed Himself to be judged and caused the man of sin to be put to death in His own person.’

(Church Dogmatics: A Selection With Introduction by Helmut Gollwitzer, Kindle Ed.)

(Disclosure: Unpaid review)

© Rod Lampard, 2015


Related reading:

Unassuming Significance: The Reason {An Introduction}

Industrious {…Or, Just Running After One’s Hat}

I came across this reinterpretation of ‘Be Thou My Vision’ while listening to the Spotify playlist ‘Hymns for Hipsters’.

Rend Collective’s version is addictive. I’m also in awe of the fact that they didn’t omit verse three. Of which, the more modernised versions seem to generally leave out.

Be thou my breastplate, my sword for the fight;
Be thou my whole armour, be thou my true might;
Be thou my soul’s shelter, be thou my strong tower:
O raise thou me heavenward, great Power of my power.

Phrasing like:

Thou my best Thought, by day or by night,
Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.

Can remind us that ‘negativity wastes life, that sin drains us of our strength’, so we are to ‘seek God first, and his righteousness. Because He is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble[i]

I ever with Thee and Thou with me, Lord;
Thou my great Father, I Thy true son.

That, ‘all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. For we did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but have received the Spirit of adoption, as sons and daughters, by whom we cry, “Abba Father”[ii]

Be thou my battle-shield, sword for the fight.
Be Thou my Dignity, Thou my Delight;
Thou my soul’s Shelter, Thou my high Tower:

That, ‘a person’s life does not consisIMG_20140801_121310t in the abundance of their possessions’[iii]; we are more than what we own,  and we are not what forces outside of God try to define us as[iv]. The temporary power of the world is a borrowed one; ‘these powers are confronted by the ultimate word already spoken.[v]

Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise,
Thou mine Inheritance, now and always.

That, we are called to ‘live wisely in evil (extreme?) days[vi], not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man’[vii]

 High King of Heaven, my victory won.

Finally, the words of this hymn can remind us that, the ‘Bible is not the telling of a dream, something viewed only as transcendent (beyond us), without relevance or connection to actual reality…Because in spite of all appearances[viii].

Scripture is victorious over the world because it attests to the light of Jesus the Christ. Victor![ix]

 

(h/t Jenny, from DelightfulOak.com for introducing us to the phenomenon that is Spotify)

Source:

[i] Psalm 31:10 (NLT); Matthew 6:33-34 (ESV); Psalm 46 (ESV);
[ii] Romans 8:15 (ESV)
[iii] Luke 12:15 (ESV)
[iv] James Cone, ‘God of the oppressed’.
[v] Barth, K. 1938 C.D I/II Hendrickson Publishers p.677
[vi] Ephesians 5:15-16 (ESV)
[vii] Ephesians 6:6-7 (ESV)
[viii] Barth, K. Ibid, p.678
[ix] Barth, K. Ibid, pp.676 & 679
[x] Barth, K. Ibid, p.676
{Full lyrics: Be Thou My Vision}

This past week I’ve posted two brief reflections on Eberhard Busch’s lectures featured in ‘The Barmen Theses: Then and Now’.  The first reflection discussed Prayer and Christian Ethics. The second, was about the Church, the State and the claim of Jesus Christ as Lord over both.

The subject of Natural Theology will form the third.

In the light of the renowned forcefulness of Barth’s “Nein” to Emil Brunner, there may be some irony in suggesting that any discussion about Natural Theology requires a certain amount of sensitivity and decorum.

This is especially so, given the serious word limitations of a blog post about it.ID-100165049

Developing an understanding here by reading a meme or two point outline could mean missing key contextual information that is essential in arriving at a well-informed theological conviction. Take as an example, the plethora of tangents, verbose material drawn out and drenched in heavy theological jargon about the subject.

In sum, Natural theology ‘acknowledges something other as God.’[i]

This takes belief beyond the author in and of authority – God, and asserts humanity as the ultimate authority, outside Jesus the Christ.

As Busch states:

‘In such a Natural theology humanity has so much divine Spirit within it that it can comprehend God by means of its own capacity to do so. Humanity therefore has no need of God’s coming to meet it. To speak of one Word repudiates precisely the claim that there is a second word of another god that purports to be authoritative for the Christian witness and is thus not subject to the standard of the one Word. The term “Word of God” designates a particular story as it is attested for us in “holy scripture.” In this story God distinguishes himself from all other gods. By electing particular people to be his people, he differentiates himself from the gods that people choose for themselves.’[ii]

Within the pages of  ‘The Barmen Theses: Then and Now’ Busch addresses Barth’s rejection of Natural theology, constantly keeping in mind the all important historical context of the German Churches in the 1930’s.

Article one: (8:12)We reject the false doctrine, as though the church could and would have to acknowledge as a source of its proclamation, apart from and besides this one Word of God, other events and powers, figures and truths, as God’s revelation.
‘”No” to Natural theology, in this context, is first of all a word of repentance in which the confessors must ‘beat their own breasts.’ There was very real cause for that repentance, for up until then, the confessors had, to be sure they made a distinction between themselves and the German Christians at some points. They were thinking in the same patterns. This pattern made room, on the one hand, for faith-centred preaching for the heart, or within churchly spaces, while on the other hand, it endorsed the church’s “joyful yes’’ to the racial nationalistic ideology. This “yes” was even theologically grounded, but with reference to another god, from the One who is ‘’attested for us in Holy Scripture”.[iii]

Avoiding Barth’s and the ‘Confessors “No” to natural theology, could mean walking away from any reading of this “No” with little other than the rough idea that natural theology = bad theology, because badass Barth thundered it forth as such.

Sadly, in the theological climate of today it is too easy to leave this ”no” to natural theology at that, writing it off as intolerant, anachronistic or bigoted.

It might be sufficient here to say that Natural theology leads humanity into taking its point of reference about who God is from itself rather than The Word of God.

Causing humanity to abandon God as we reach for God outside the Revelation of The Word of God.

When this happens the reconciled relationship enacted by ‘God’s free decision in revelation’ (Karl Barth) is abandoned. Subsequently, the voice of the Church is silenced by its irresponsible acquiescence to ‘something other as God’ (Busch), slowly allowing itself to be concealed behind a veil of what can be posited as either practical atheism or deified existentialism.

In other words, we miss the point of the Gospel that states in Jesus Christ, God comes to us. To be God with us, for us and, ‘not God without us’ (Karl Barth).

I am in agreement with Eberhard Busch as he strongly advocates the necessity of not just visiting this issue on the surface, but sticking with it until one can see clear through it. The imperatives laid out for us in the Barmen Declaration have way too much relevance to us in our contemporary context to ignore.

 “If anyone tries to flag you down, calling out, ‘Here’s the Messiah!’ or points, ‘There he is!’ don’t fall for it. Fake Messiahs and lying preachers are going to pop up everywhere. Their impressive credentials and dazzling performances will pull the wool over the eyes of even those who ought to know better. But I’ve given you fair warning.”
(Jesus, Mt.24:23-24, The Message)

Sources:
[i] Busch, E. 2010: The Barmen Theses: Then and Now, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, p.28
[ii] Ibid, pp.27-28
[iii] Ibid, p.28-29

The Theological Declaration of Barmen: Sacred-texts.com
Image: courtesy of Sira Anamwong, “Church of The Light” / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The past week witnessed the debut of ‘Neon Steeple’. David Crowder’s first solo release.

In a post to his official Facebook page yesterday, Crowder explained the albums origins stating that:

‘Neon Steeple is a collection of songs and sounds looking forward to the past and counting the present as sacred. It is a search for home. It is a collection of choruses that believe this is not all there is. It is displacement and tension and the forward lean anticipating the resolution.’
(Source: CrowderMusicOfficial)

The melody, rhythm, Neon Steepletone, lyrical content and structure are all representative of Crowder’s signature vocals, theological insight and song writing abilities. All are present, even when placed outside the genius of his old band (now known as ‘The Digital Age’).

‘Neon Steeple’ delivers a pleasant, yet strange familiarity. This is not a country gospel album, yet songs like ‘Jesus is calling’, ‘This I know’ and ‘My Sweet Lord’ along with the consistent coupling of banjo and beat indicate that this album has country roots.

Highlights include ‘My Beloved’, ‘Come Alive’ and the classy bluegrass driven ‘Lift your head weary sinner (chains)‘. With track 7, ‘Hands of Love’,  Crowder sneaks in a clever fusion between the much older American Spiritual ”He’s got the whole world in his hands” with an electronic riff. Making a clear departure and return, away from and back towards the musical styles that form the backbone of this album.

Musically, ‘Neon Steeple’ is where ambition meets ability. From a ministry perspective it thunders forth, marching to a beat Crowder hears and communicates well. This is an album of melodic proclamation. It looks forward with anticipation and recollection. Calling to memory God’s fulfilment of His promise. One we come to hear, see and own in the texts which testify about Old Testament Israel and Jesus Christ.

In Crowder’s words:

‘Neon Steeple is both a critique and a hope. A narrative of  innocence lost, of displacement, of misplaced affections and misplaced people. It is the search for belonging and home and forgiveness and reconciliation, the tension of death and life leaning toward resolution, the promised land of what it means to come to life. The story is not about making bad people good, it is about making dead people alive. This is Promised Land. This is Redemption. This is Reorientation. This is Resolution.’
(Source: CrowderMusicOfficial)

As disappointing as it was to hear that the David Crowder*Band were closing a chapter on their collaboration, there are no audible creative strains that might suggest Crowder, or the Digital Age for that matter, are worse off for having parted ways.

Both have now proven without a doubt that they are the musical and liturgical heavy weights, most of their admirers know them to be.

 

{No payment of any kind was exchanged for this review}

The sound of Leigh Nash’s voice has an organic quality to it. To me her unique voice communicates brokenness and resonates with something akin to lament. The result is often songs that contrast with the mainstream; songs that don’t sound contrived or forced.

Her album ‘Hymns and Sacred Songs’, from 2011, is no exception.

Worth checking out.

(Kingsway Worship)

Noise, The Joyful Kind

February 27, 2014 — 3 Comments

Noise_thejoyfulkind_Psalm98_BlogpostOur homeschool scripture classes sometimes turn into music lessons. For me this gives weight to the importance of Christian theology in education.

There is a depth and variety from which theology speaks. It shows up in everything from life to death, to new life, faith, relationships, gratitude, creation, art, history, science and reason. Rather than a hindrance to thought, Christianity fosters it and brings to the table a point of view that recognises the important dynamic in a “faith which seeks understanding”.

The recording I share below was an impromptu one recorded using my smart phone. I was blessed by the event and wanted to capture the moment. The recording was filtered through “Audacity” in order to apply balance and reduce the gain (amplification).

To add, the strings on my guitar are 3-4 years old and I didn’t tell them I was recording it, so what you hear is a raw and real unrehearsed version. Still, the overall outcome presents the mood, tone and joy, at being able to do Church, because we are part of the church, even in our small context.

To some the sound of children singing {and some younger ones, yelling} the words “How Great is Our God” may seem like sacrilege.

I’d be sympathetic to the critics, if not for the biblical reminders, like that of the Psalmist.

Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth;
break forth into joyous song and sing praises!
Sing praises to the LORD with the lyre, and the sound of melody!
With trumpets and the sound of the horn
make a joyful noise before the King, the LORD!
Let the sea roar, and all that fills it;    the world and those who dwell in it!
Let the rivers clap their hands;
let the hills sing for joy together before the LORD,
for he comes  to judge the earth.
He will judge the world with righteousness, and the peoples with equity.
[Psalm 98]

Our best is excellence.

So make a joyful noise!