Sunday, July 15, 2018

column on local music


“Ah, music," he said, wiping his eyes. "A magic beyond all we do here!” (J.K. Rowling)

Sometimes a column pushes me to reflect on the week. One of the few good things about Facebook is reconnecting with people from the past. A classmate sent out a video of her brother, afflicted with Alzheimer’s. His wife was with him and he was singing to her a song from his youth. He was beaming. She was beaming as he touched on himself again and may recognize her for a moment. He would tell her this is the beginning of the song; this is the middle. Somehow many of the words were clear to him. It reminds me of being in memory care when otherwise silent residents can sing, with gusto, the first verse of Christmas carols.

The songs of our youth seem to have special holds on us. Memory is connected to emotional triggers, and youth is a wellspring of deep feeling. Repetition helps us remember, and some songs have been played endlessly. The same goes for church hymns, as people often prefer ones that they have heard many times and then get to complain that they have heard them too frequently or too infrequently.

The revolution in music streaming allows us to create our own virtual radio stations. The algorithms by groups such as Pandora amaze me with their success at finding music that suits one’s taste by measures such as piano or guitar based songs.

At Rotary we had a presentation by the conductor of the St Louis and Belleville Philharmonic orchestras. A poor kid, Robert Baker, stumbled into the oboe and in remarkable happenstances worked with both Leonard Bernstein and Aaron Copeland. Through a lifetime of contacts, he brings major pianists to Belleville for a series.

I prize this area’s musical offerings, often for free. For folks of my musical tastes, it is astounding that we can hear talented artists such as Rogers and Nienhaus, Pat Liston, and the Mondinband on a regular basis. Fast Eddies has music every single night. Grafton in the summer has competing sounds of music in venue after venue. Of course we have our own Alton symphony, choral groups, the offerings at Lewis and Clark, and the high schools and middle schools. The work of ABOB parents to maintain a stellar music program is a testament to community spirit. I think that Hair at Alton Little Theater promises to be a big hit for them. I do wish we had a more centralized method of the music opportunities week to week, instead of hunting them down bit by bit.

I spent a good deal of money this spring going to veteran rock concerts. I admire that they have the knowledge and ego strength to hire skilled players that threaten to outshine them. For less money, I can go to the St Louis symphony to hear world class artists, and even then they offer free performances at times, such as the fall concert on Art Hill.

Music affects some of us in different ways. Some only want dance music. Others want only upbeat happy songs. For some of us, the blues or sad songs work to lift a downhearted spirit. Some people need music to get them through work.

What songs have stayed with you? Are performers on your bucket list?  If you are a couple, what is “your song?” Do you resist even giving some musical formats a try?

“Music... will help dissolve your perplexities and purify your character and sensibilities, and in time of care and sorrow, will keep a fountain of joy alive in you.” (Dietrich Bonhoeffer)

week of July 15 readings

Sunday July 15-Ps. 24-reminds us that entry into the presence of the God of all creation is through worship. Some say that they find god in nature. What elements of creation would you like to see placed forward in worship?

Monday-When our words come too soon and we are not yet living what we are saying, we easily give double messages. Giving double messages - one with our words and another with our actions - makes us hypocrites. May our lives give us the right words and may our words lead us to the right life. Nouwen
Tuesday-The way God's Spirit manifests itself most convincingly is through its fruits: "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, trustfulness, gentleness and self-control" (Galatians 5:22). These fruits speak for themselves. It is therefore always better to raise the question "How can I grow in the Spirit?" than the question "How can I make others believe in the Spirit?"

Wednesday-Mother Teresa-I always begin my prayer in silence, for it is in the silence of the heart that God speaks. God is the friend of silence – we need to listen to God because it’s not what we say but what he says to us and through us that matters. Prayer feeds the soul – as blood is to the body, prayer is to the soul – and it brings you closer to God. It also gives you a clean and pure heart. A clean heart can see God, can speak to God, and can see the love of God in others.

Thursday-N. T. Wright-Here is the mystery, the secret, one might almost say the cunning, of the deep love of God: that it is bound to draw on to itself the hatred and pain and shame and anger and bitterness and rejection of the world, but to draw all those things on to itself is precisely the means, chosen from all eternity by the generous, loving God, by which to rid his world of the evils which have resulted from human abuse of God-given freedom.

Friday..sometimes we forget and we spend more time looking at somebody else and wishing we were doing something else. We waste our time thinking of tomorrow, and today we let the day pass, and yesterday is gone.Source: Mother Teresa,

Saturday-"Time heals," people often say. This is not true when it means that we will eventually forget the wounds inflicted on us and be able to live on as if nothing happened. That is not really healing; it is simply ignoring reality. But when the expression "time heals" means that faithfulness in a difficult relationship can lead us to a deeper understanding of the ways we have hurt each other, then there is much truth in it. "Time heals" implies not passively waiting but actively working with our pain and trusting in the possibility of forgiveness and reconciliation. Nouwen



July 15 Sermon Notes eph. 1, @ Sam. 6, Mark 6

July 15-Worship is the central element of Christian action. It has been downplayed for far too long and skipping it made far too easy.Contrary to current views, One of the things I admire about the Catholic church is its unwavering commitment to worship, indeed daily worship. hold that everything the church does flows from its worship. Otherwise, it is merely another social organization. 2Sam. 6 The ark is the locus of the LORD's presence with the people,.   The ark serves as the LORD's throne and place of self-revelation, such that Moses would hear the voice of the LORD from it.The ark, has great power that can also result in death. The death of Uzzah is disconcerting as he is simply trying to stabilize the ark, rattled by the movement of the oxen. Our outrage and confusion, however, pale to the holiness of the LORD and the LORD's throne, the ark of God. worship is an encounter with the holy, the wholly other, the very presence of the divine One.
So great was David's anger and fear that it was three months before he gave the ark another run into Jerusalem.  And in the meantime it ought not to go unnoticed that the ark's temporary host, the house of Obed-edom, was blessed by its presence.  The LORD's holiness, as in the ark of the LORD, is wholly other, working and affecting the world beyond the bounds of our imagination
Ps.24-Starts with god the Creator but that Creator’s presence is found in worship. No mention of it being hot or cold in the temple is made.
Eph. 1:3-14 lavished with grace.

Mk. 6:14-29-We are reminded that the first forays into the region of Jesus  places us in a tough world. John the Baptist called for turning around our perspective toward God, to take a different road. He received not blessing but imprisonment.Black-Corrupt politics torque this birthday party. Everywhere greed and fear whisper: in Herod’s ear, among Galilee’s high and mighty, behind the curtain between mother and daughter, in a dungeon prison. When repentance is preached to this world’s princes, do not expect them to relinquish their power, however conflicted some may be. The righteous die for reasons both valorous and vapid. “[A]s the fishes that are taken in an evil net, and as the birds that are caught in the snare; so are the sons of men snared in an evil time” (Ecclesiastes 9:12 KJV). Herod’s drunken feast is in  contrast to the famous feeding of the multifude.At that feast greed and fear have no place. There all are fed to the full, with leftovers beyond comprehension (6:30-44). Hoffman-Herod was "perplexed" by John. He liked to listen to John, but he didn't know what to make of him. .Outlook-Where do we imagine the Kingdom of God is manifested - palaces or prisons? John the Baptist's head ends up on a platter and they live to throw another party. Mark, wants to say emphatically that God's providence and power is in the prison cell, not the palace. God will bring the redemption of the world through the One crucified, dead and buried. God's Word will not be silenced, despite all worldly evidence to the contrary.  This tale of manipulation and murder foreshadows the fate that will befall Jesus. Speaking God's word has real life consequences. Engaging in God's work of defeating evil doesn't gain you worldly favor. But rest assured, despite all evidence to the contrary, God's will and Word will not be thwarted. If we want to be reminded of that truth, we may need to leave the palace and go instead to the prisons.


Sunday, July 8, 2018

Column on first Reformed


The Lovely One actually asked if I wished to see the movie First Reformed at the Frontenac. We went over the dress requirements for entering that piece of real estate, as it is more upscale than entering Godfrey from Alton. It is definitely not a movie for everyone, but it holds a deep well for reflection. It tips its hat to Dairy of a Country Priest and Bergmann’s winter Light, as Paul Shrader, the writer and director, is as much film historian and critic as he is writer and director.   He wrote Taxi Driver years ago, and adapted the Last Temptation of Christ, and this movie comes at some of the same themes: loneliness, social dislocation, and mental balance. He respects image as well as words: notice the movie is projected more as a square than as a wide screen rectangle,; look at two differing views of his small bed, or shots of the churchyard and of the site for an outdoor service, or the strange cocktail Toller makes, keep an eye for how he composes shots with light and shadow.


The lead role is a middle aged minister, Rev. Toller, played by Ethan Hawke
For me, no surprise, the spiritual elements stand out: the politics of money and church; the old church as more a museum than a functioning community, the intersection of the personal and the communal. He demonstrates the fading old variety of orthodox faith, and its new market-oriented upbeat expression at a nearby church, upon whose largesse he is dependent... Toller’s is a gloomy, Gethsemane spirituality. Rev. Toller admires Thomas Merton. (I may have spotted the 14th century spiritual book, Cloud of Unknowing, in his books). He decides to make a journal as a spiritual exercise. Our Puritan spiritual ancestors spent much time in self-examination, and it seems Toller’s spiritual descent is in a realm of isolation, guilt, and darkness. “A life without despair is a life without hope.” He knows well the tensions of the spiritual life.  His home is so austere, so spare, that it looks as if it would be a parish manse version of a monk’s cell. In a later scene, I assume he is led into a mystical revelation worthy of the great saints, of creation resplendent, then an awful fall into the pollution and toxicity we pour into the creation. I say creation and not environment, as this is an example of Toller’s spiritual lens. Toward the abrupt end, we witness a bizarre scene where he movies toward extreme physical self-torture, a form of the flagellation of some monks, a terrible version of a hair shirt.

He is asked to counsel one of his few parishioners, a man being moved to eco-terrorism and utter despair about the fate of our warming planet. He asks Toller a haunting question, will God forgive us? I keep hearing the question as: can God forgive us? In a bracing conversation, Toller responds about living in the presence of facts in this way:  “Wisdom is holding two contradictory truths in our mind at the same time.” 

Schrader knows the faith of the fathers. Worship begins with the first question from the Heidelberg Catechism. He has Rev. Toller use an apt passage from Job at a funeral service. As the grounds shifts beneath him, Toller quotes Ephesians: "Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world."  It is an attempt to face a faith where, as Richard Niebuhr taught us, can be Christ against culture and Christ with the culture, at the same time.



July 8 sermon notes-2 Cor 12. II Same. 5, Mk 6

2 Sam. 5,1-10, Klein-I am with you" so important? It means that David and all of us later royal and priestly children of God are never alone.  "I am with you" in our language could me on our side or companionship.. Whether it is the ability to trust, to carry out our day to day vocations, or to face all the challenges of life -- including our mortality -- God's "I am with you"  endures. In Isaiah Emmanuel is god with us, and we apply it to christ.How do we know that God is with us? Took a while to get to Jerusalem in the account given.
It all starts with our naming at our baptism. you have been marked  forever. It is Christ's real presence in the Supper that says to us in ways that we can taste, touch, and smell, "I am with you." Was God ever more with us than when Jesus was extended for us on the cross? This congregation may learn, once again, or maybe for the first time to trust God’s presence in its past, present, and future.Need each other's talents, time without caving in to the voices of the loud, the extreme, the controlling.Brueggemann-what god does first and best is to  trust people with their moment in history.”

Pas 48 -guide-steadfast love-I am with you is another way of expressing that divine loyalty and fidelity.
2 Cor 12:2-10, the righteous suffer-Tiede- the power of Christ dwelling in them.thorn in the flesh/thorn in the side-not given more information than that, so it invites speculation. Paul’s prayers went unanswered. Some take it as a point of pride to be a thorn in someone’s side.Clearly it can be taken to be an internal struggle or physical pain or infirmity.Paul knows full well the pain of unanswered prayer. I don't know how I would respond to a sense  that divine power is made complete in weakness when I want a healing of some sort.


Mk 6:1-13 Jesus met with utter failure in his home base. Even Jesus found his power limited due to the dismissal of him by his townfolk.-In some ways the spread of the mission emerged in a search for a receptive audience.can't expect mass conversion but do not hold a grudge either but move on and do not remain rooted in the failure. We have a hard time forgiving because we cling to grudges life life preservers. Recall that the usual root for forgive in the NT is to let go, release. In church, of all places, we permit resentments to fester. In church of all places, we act in unforgiving ways. In church we even honor those who act as thorns in the side of others and seek to run over the unobtrusive.In part, that may stem from being unable or unwilling to capture the presence of god in our interactions. It may well be an unwillingness to acknowledge the continued presence of god within these precious vessels that Paul dares to call temples of the Holy spirit.

Packing light may well be difficult, but letting go of the baggage of cynicism, contempt, anger, fear and just plain fatigue is harder...Jesus  did what he could in his hometown and when he could do no more he went into other towns. He kept moving. Kept proclaiming. Kept healing, casting out demons, confronting evil, calling out oppressors and alleviating suffering. Others' affirmation or acceptance was not a prerequisite for his ministry, and it cannot be for ours either. When tangible results are elusive, we trust that God gives the growth, sometimes underground and unseen to those of us throwing the seed. Outlook

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Week of July 1 Readings

Sunday-Ps.130 recurs in the lectionary.It links sin to the depths of our experience, but it need not be a consequence of sin, but of life itself. How doe sprayer help you to plumb the depths of the self?

Monday-But what God has put in our power ...is largely to be secured by our being kind to them.…I wonder why it is that we are not all kinder than we are. How much the world needs it. How easily it is done. How instantaneously it acts. How infallibly it is remembered.Source: The Greatest Thing in the World

Tuesday-Abba is a very intimate word. The best translation for it is: "Daddy." The word Abba expresses trust, safety, confidence, belonging, and most of all intimacy. It does not have the connotation of authority, power, and control, that the word Father often evokes. On the contrary, Abba implies an embracing and nurturing love. This love includes and infinitely transcends all the love that comes to us from our fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, spouses, and lovers. It is the gift of the Spirit.Henri Nouwen

Wednesday-Do you see stress as an enemy or as your friend? Here lies the key as to whether it deepens you or demeans you: Look for inklings of personal resurrection. With Parkinson's diagnosis, I have scads of occasions to practice resilience. Resilience creates compassion: When I mess up, I tell myself: Practice compassion for yourself--you'll be in practice for someone else who will surely need it. Ira Kent Groff

Thursday-in this taste of paradise/ where rest becomes luminous/ and play a prayer of gratitude, /even the stones sing /of a different time, /where burden is lifted
and eternity endures. Abbey of the arts on sabbath

Friday-We are a spiritually impoverished generation; we search in all the places the Spirit ever flowed in the hope of finding water. And that is a valid impulse. For if the Spirit is living and never dies, it must still be present wherever it once was active.…It is like a small but carefully tended spark, ready to flare, glow, and burst into flame the moment it feels the first enkindling breath.Edith Stein

Saturday-The word must become flesh, but the flesh also must become word. It is not enough for us, as human beings, just to live..If we do not speak what we are living, our lives lose their vitality and creativity. When we see a beautiful view, we search for words to express what we are seeing...When we are sorrowful or in great pain, we need to talk about it. When we are surprised by joy, we want to announce it!Through the word, we appropriate and internalize what we are living. The word makes our experience truly human.




July 1 Sermon Notes @ Sam. 1, 2 Cor.8. Mk.5

July 1-2 Sam. 1:17-27 Giere WP-I always get the feeling that when David speaks it is both private word and public proclamation. In other words, he is always keeping an eye on the presentation of his public persona.David's grief at the deaths of Saul and Jonathan is acute.  From this flows his lament, a beautifully constructed example of Hebrew poetry that never mentions God, but is a prayer nonetheless. David even pleads with nature to mourn a lost good. Woven together here are these two relational threads, David's relationships with both Saul and Jonathan, drastically different thought they were.   William Holladay, David "chose to eulogize the two men side by side..., draws together his predecessor on the throne and his deepest friend, father and son at odds over the LORD's favor upon the throne of Israel. It is difficult to start to say goodbye to a congregation. All positions, all relationships are complex and a mixture of difficult and easy and David’s work illustrates it.

Church is a place where we recognize the full gamut of life. Look at the great psalm-what a cri de coeur-Ps 130 out of the depths-Worship is our communal point for meeting with God, being in the presence of the divine.

2 Cor. 8:7-15 spirit at work making new community and breaking boundaries and creating glad and generous hearts- money and emotional generosity. I suppose it may be healthy to make a compartment out of stinginess when it comes to money alone but be generous elsewhere. The reformed Scrooge is the great example of someone being transformed into a glad and generous heart. Paul’s advice on money here is to seek an equitable balance-he reaches all the way back to Exodus, the creation of the people of whom he is a proud member. He wishes them to excel and to be ready, willing and able, eager to be part of the community.god’s generous grace will continue to this place, as it has for almost 2 centuries, as pastors entered and left, and membership evolved over time.some people build walls and some open doors snag Jackson Browne last Monday. We wall ourselves off in a defensive crouch, or we can take the chance, the risk of opening doors.

Mk 5:21-they are intertwined healings-again the impossible possibility of the two healings-intercalcation/sandwich--they cast light on each other. Some think that the interruption in the story is what to keep an eye on. Life has a way of sandwiching events, so that a plan get interrupted.It cannot be an accident that a woman has suffered for 12 years and a twelve year old is dead, only to be raised. In the one, Jesus is touched, and the dead girl cannot know the she has been touched. Interrupted on the way to a dying girl-desperation doesn't know manners. After all, she was destitute and the alleged treatments of the physicians left o her worse. I2 years seems like an eternity to one suffering.!2 minutes is an eternity when a child is dying. From an adult perspective 12 year old girl, at the cusp of womanhood, is just starting her life.n the time of Jesus many believed dead was dead. Easter faith denies that obvious fact and moves healing into a new dimension within the life of God.when one thinks about it, a sermon itself is an example of this technique where current day concerns are sandwiched within a set of biblical passages for the day. We bring concerns to worship sandwiched within our prayer time.

Jesus was able to say au revoir/goodbye to them both, even though the girl was making her final exit.