Wednesday, December 20, 2006

A Song for Bloggers

Among other things, 2006 may go down as the year of the blogger. At least for me. This whole internet thing took new shape with the prevalence of the weblog. It makes for a decent portal where one can meet with others and get some thoughts out there. Even if no one reads your stuff, there is something about making it available that gives a (false?) sense of importance to it all. Frankly, I've enjoyed the blog as a place to try some writing and to open the odd conversation. Its a good place to keep informal contact with friends and acquaintances far and wide. While the inbox fills up with emails begging a thoughtful response, the blog is a place to say hello and make a thoughtless quip and basically keep in touch.

It is all fairly artificial though. I mean, there is no replacement for people in the flesh and dialogue that includes voice inflections, facial gestures and tone. Somehow emoticons don't cut the mustard. Of course, some relationships are separated by distance and so technology is all you have for most of the year. But long distance relationships aren't enough.

I have to admit that in a time of transition and moving around this year I have probably sought an unhealthy amount of solace in internet comradery. That's fine. I don't plan on shutting this stuff out of my life altogether. But I confess I have had a couple stints where I've been almost addicted. One could have worse addictions I suppose. At least this one thinly masquerades as an addiction to old friends!

Nonetheless, I find some humorous truth in the lyrics by Joel Plaskett to a song called Lyin' On A Beach. I think it came out in 2005, but I'm going to go ahead and call it 2006's song of the year. Here's an exerpt:

Somebody introduce me
To a member of the club
I think that they confused me
With some other rub-a-dub-a-dub

I should be working on my manners
But I’m working on my website
All you star-spangled scanners
Trying to photocopy moonlight

Staring at the computer screen
Feeling so alone and obscene
Getting restlessGetting randy
Getting mean

Somebody check my pulse
Slap me in the face
Show me what I’m made of
Get me out of this place

It’s like a weird technological dream
Watching buddies turn into machines
We never get our hands dirty
But paradise is never this clean

Lying on a beach in the sun
Don’t want to get burned to a crisp
You want something to remember me by
You can save it on a floppy disk

So longFarewell
You can kiss my @#& goodbye
If I don’t jump ship right now
I’ll never figure out how to fly

Funny song. Anyway, happy blogging everyone, and thanks for reading! Keep in touch in 2007!

Thursday, December 14, 2006

I've Solved the Worship Problem

For decades a war has been waging over what to do with church worship. Do we sing hymns or choruses or both? Do we sing the contemporary top 40 or the timeless classics? Do we try to give everyone in our congregation something to sing to or do we cater to a "target group"?

How do we have corporate worship that is meaningful and inspiring for everyone? How do make sure that everyone gets something out of the church worship? How do bring people together for an experience of God that will be authentic and which will speak to them, when our congregations are full of so many different people at so many different walks of life who see things so incredibly differently? How do we worship in the same room?

I've figured it out. I've solved the problem. I am going to be the UN peacekeeping force for the worship wars. Want to know my solution?

iPods.

iPods for everyone.

You come in to church, you are greeted by an usher, and you are given an iPod to use for the morning.

And when the cue is given everyone puts on their headphones and scrolls through the playlist for the worship songs of their choice.

Each iPod will be full of contemporary hits, golden oldies, 70s camp choruses, Vineyard choruses, Redman, Third Day, Ira Sankey, Charles Wesley, Fanny Crosby, Shout to the Lord kids, heck, even some U2--it'll all be there. Just choose what YOU want and worship more authentically than you ever thought possible. You will be sure to get something out of the worship every week. You will never have to sit through a song you don't like or understand again.

Feel free to raise your arms, dance, kneel, bow on the floor, stand or sit. If you like you can opt for the blindfold apparatus as well, so that there is no bashfulness or distraction.

Isn't it about time church was a place for YOU to worship again? Isn't it about time they sang your favourite song again--you know, the good one, not like all that drivel they keep pumping out week after week?

Isn't it time that corporate worship was something you could feel good about again?

Isn't it time someone thought of YOU for a change?

iPods, Headphones, and optional blindfolds: the secret to revival for church worship, and the end of our worship wars.

Why didn't anyone think of this sooner?

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

What Happened At Bethelehem?

Here at seminary there has been the odd murmuring of an idea that is quite old, but fairly new to me. Its this idea that if there hadn't been a Fall there would still have been an Incarnation. In other words, if sin had not entered the world the plan still would have been for there to be a Jesus, Son of God, Son of Man. I was reading a book today that made this point again. It said,
Jesus Christ did not come only to save us from our sins, but supremely to bring to fulfillment the trinitarian purposes of grace in creation.... Retrospectively, Christ came to save us from our past sin, from guilt, from judgment, from hell. But prospectively he came to bring us to sonship, to communion with God in the kingdom of God... Western theology has too often limited salvation to the retrospective aspect, seeing Christ as saviour of our humanity only in the context of the Fall. But in the New Testament the two are never separated: 'When the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son ... so that we might receive adoption as children' (Gal 4:4-6 NRSV). It is that prospective vision we so need to recover today.
Now, this is not to say that we need to scrap everything we know about the cross and resurrection, but is to say that we aren't doing ourselves any favours in just seeing the incarnation as a "patch-up job" for a plan gone awry. God has always wanted to be in communion with us through his Son Jesus and, well, at Christmas especially that is something worth remembering and celebrating and looking forward to! This guy I was reading (James Torrance) goes on,
According to the New Testament, that life of communion [of the Son] with the Father did not begin at Bethlehem. He who was the eternal Son of God by nature, enjoying eternal communion with the Father, became the Son of Man that we 'sons and daughters of men' might become 'sons and daughters of God' by grace and be drawn into the Son's communion with Father, that throught the Spirit we too might call God 'Father.'
I wouldn't go so far as to suggest we celebrate Christmas and not think at all about the cross. But I would suggest we see Bethlehem as the site of an amazing event: God With Us in the Incarnation - a move toward humanity eternal in its scope and beautiful in its love.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

A Golden Moment at Seminary

Well, I'm having a golden moment. If you know me at all you'll understand why I say that:

I am sitting in Starbucks downing a Venti Christmas Blend, I have Saturday morning soccer on the TV, I've got Phoenix on the headphones, and I am writing a paper on my favourite book in the whole world. Does it get any better than that?

Of course there is more to the story. I had to walk here through sub-zero Arctic winds. But these were quickly forgotten once the coffee made its way into my body. The venti came at a grande price, which was a nice surprise. The game on TV is only Reading v. Bolton, but that's perfect since I'm supposed to be working anyway. If it had been Liverpool I might not be getting much done. I did catch the one goal so far and got to see the top 5 goals of the week as well.

Meanwhile, since there is some pop-"Christian" music on in the coffee shop, I've got Phoenix's "It's Never Been Like That" blasting in my ears, and it is wonderful. I work best with noise. Familiar noise. So I'm putting together my thesis proposal, entitled: "Theodicy in The Man Who Was Thursday." If you've never read this book you should. But if you haven't read it you won't get why I could write a thesis on it. So here's an exerpt from my proposal:

"Using imaginative narrative rather than systematic theology The Man Who Was Thursday probes questions of God's apparent hiddenness and the problem of evil. Along the way its characters are allowed to pose some of the hardest questions of life:

"I am not happy," said the Professor with his head in his hands, "because I do not understand. You let me stray a little too near to hell."
And then Gogol said, with the absolute simplicity of a child:
"I wish I knew why I was hurt so much."

Through the bizarre and nightmarish experiences of these characters and the story’s protagonist, Gabriel Syme, who almost certainly represents Gilbert Chesterton himself, readers are allowed to wrestle with mystery and see God behind it all."

Anyway. Just thought I'd share this golden moment at seminary. If you don't know me you'll just think I'm a nerd. Actually, you probably think that if you know me too!

By the way, you should really get a hold of Thursday and read it. I recently purchased Orson Welles' radio adaptation of the book. He introduced it this way:

Roughly speaking it’s a mystery story. It can be guaranteed that you will never, never guess the solution until you get to the end; it is even feared that you may not guess it then. You may never guess what The Man Who Was Thursday is about, but definitely, if you don’t, you’ll ask.