Making the rounds…

I’ve been playing music in church since high school and as a member of worship bands at least since college, and have played most all the instruments on the team save for electric guitar, but yesterday was a new one for me: I’ve never had this view before for a full worship service.

The worship team was short a drummer for the week; with the middle daughter now taking drum lessons I have an electronic kit at home that I can practice on.

It was really a lot of fun. My goal was to practice enough that I didn’t embarrass myself, and I think I managed that. To be fair, the songs were relatively easy. Still, I hope they let me do it again sometime.

For All The Saints

This great hymn was sung at the end of President George H. W. Bush’s funeral this morning. Written by Anglican priest William Walsham How in 1864, I’m always drawn to how it gets the sentiments of a Christian funeral so right.

(The typical hymn tune setting SINE NOMINE by Ralph Vaughan Williams doesn’t hurt anything, either, though I do remember struggling mightily to play it unrehearsed as a teenaged church pianist.)

For all the saints who from their labors rest,
who Thee by faith before the world confessed;
Thy name, O Jesus, be forever blest.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

Thou wast their Rock, their Fortress, and their Might;
Thou, Lord, their Captain in the well-fought fight;
Thou, in the darkness drear, their one true Light.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

O blest communion, fellowship divine!
We feebly struggle, they in glory shine;
yet all are one in Thee, for all are Thine.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

And when the strife is fierce, the warfare long,
steals on the ear the distant triumph song,
and hearts are brave again, and arms are strong.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

But when there breaks a yet more glorious day;
the saints triumphant rise in bright array;
the King of glory passes on His way.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

From earth’s wide bounds, from ocean’s farthest coast,
through gates of pearl streams in the countless host,
in praise of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

Of disappointment and unexpected footwear

A week ago I ordered some foam replacement earbud covers from Amazon. Friday the package showed up. It did not contain foam replacement earbud covers. Instead, it contained this pair of handsome Spider-Man socks, even in my size!

After a brief consultation with Amazon customer service, my order was refunded and they’re letting me keep the socks. Now I’m still waiting a few more days for another order of earbud covers, but on the whole, we’ll call it a win.

The Emperor and the Empty Tomb

A fascinating and engaging essay from the LA Review of Books (HT: Matthew Loftus):

When Wilhelm Froehner died in 1925, at the house on the Rue Casimir-Périer where he had lived since the reign of Napoleon III, he left behind among his possessions a curious inscription that might be the oldest surviving artifact of Christianity.

Froehner, sadly, took to his grave all but the most exiguous details about how he came into possession of the stone, putting us at one further remove from being able to grasp its meaning. The Greek text of the Nazareth inscription is easy enough to interpret. But the origin of the stone, and its historical significance, are puzzles that remain both unresolved and tantalizing.


The Emperor and the Empty Tomb: An Ancient Inscription, an Eccentric Scholar, and the Human Need to Touch the Past

Chaplain Mike: Exiting the Evangelical Wilderness

Oh man, I really appreciated this summary from Chaplain Mike over at InternetMonk.com today. While my path isn’t exactly the same as his has been, I resonate strongly with several of the moves he describes. He summarizes his move from the left-hand column to the right-hand column in a little table:

It’s worth reading Mike’s little summaries of each of those movements, but I found his concluding thoughts particularly interesting:

Here is what hit me earlier this week. The differences can be summed up in two letters. “J” and “P”. You may recognize them as the final letters in the Myers Briggs personality type indicator. While Myers Briggs has been somewhat discounted, it got me wondering. Have my theological choices been largely been a product of my personality or personal preferences? Is it just coincidence that many denominations are largely in one column or the other?

Then Wednesday’s Post came along with this humdinger.

Haidt (along with Richard Beck) have convinced me that when we take a stand for “truth” or “morality,” we are primarily revealing deep, fundamental visceral and emotional feelings and then using rational arguments to justify our “righteous” position. Furthermore, those who are on the more “liberal” end of the spectrum react intuitively to different things than those on the “conservative” end. (Chaplain Mike)

[I]t makes me wonder if most of my reasons for the theological changes I have made are because of the way I am wired. If I had been wired differently maybe I would have been quite happy to stay in the church of my youth. Conversely, perhaps those who are raised in traditions like the one I am currently in, and who crave certainty in their innermost being end up in those churches that promise more of that. And perhaps there are those who find they do not fit, and chose to chuck the whole church thing altogether.

Lots for me to consider there.

A night with Bruce Hornsby’s brain

Last Friday night my wife and I had the opportunity to go hear Bruce Hornsby play a solo show at the Paramount Theater in Cedar Rapids. Hornsby is an interesting character – a fantastically talented pianist who has made his fame and fortune in rock and jam band genres, but who has made multiple bluegrass records with Ricky Skaggs and drops classical music into the middle of pop tunes.

When I first heard Hornsby’s stuff probably 10 years ago, I quickly recognized that my own piano styles and harmonizations aren’t too far away from what he plays… to the point that it was almost uncanny. So the chance to see him play in person was not one I was going to pass up.

Hornsby’s current tour is just him with a microphone and a piano (a Steinway concert grand), but with those two tools he commanded the stage for just over two hours. He set the tone by starting the concert with his biggest hit, “The Way it Is”, into which he dropped a long improvisatory section, morphed it into a couple minutes of a Bach something-or-other, and then morphed it back into the close of the song. Later on in a jam section he dropped in an avant garde ‘perpetual motion’ piece by American composer Elliott Carter. Even if he did spend the majority of his years with The Grateful Dead, the dude has serious piano chops.

When we got to our seats on the right-hand side of the theater, my wife lamented that we should’ve gotten seats on the other side so she could see his hands as he played. And I get the fascination with seeing those fingers fly over the keys. But for me the fascination was entirely a mental one.

To sit in the auditorium and engage with Hornsby’s brain as he improvised long sections was an amazing experience. I’m not a jazz player, but I hear and read jazz players talk about listening to and interacting with other jazz players, and after this Hornsby concert I finally think I understand what they’re talking about.

When you really understand the playing technique, the harmonies, the nuts and bolts of the music, then you can start to engage at a deeper level – the progressions, the expression, the choice to go around again or branch off somewhere new… it’s really quite a head trip.

I’d love to see Hornsby play again – preferably with a band next time, to experience all of those interactions. Playing good music in a talented group is a intellectually pleasurable exercise for me almost as much as a musical exercise. Sitting in the audience last weekend wasn’t as good as being in the band, but it got pretty close.

A good word from Jonathan Martin

From a recent sermon on his Son of a Preacher Man podcast:

The fake good news only sounds like good news to me and my tribe. The fake good news only sounds like good news if you go to my church. If they’re in another village, it’s bad news for them. But the real good news is not just good news for us, it’s good news for them.

It’s a sermon worth 40 minutes of your time.

You are always more ready to hear than we are to pray…

Wow, Proper 22 from the BCP this week:

Almighty and everlasting God, you are always more ready to hear than we to pray, and to give more than we either desire or deserve: Pour upon us the abundance of your mercy, forgiving us of those things of which our conscience is afraid, and giving us those good things for which we are not worth to ask, except through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ our Savior; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Being Christians above all else

Really good piece from Father Thomas McKenzie yesterday about living as a Christian in these divided American times. This bit is worth it alone:

Have your political opinions. Seriously, you have the right to your opinions. You also have the right to voice them. Remember that other people have the same right.

Challenge your own opinion. Where does your opinion match up with Scripture or the teachings of the Church. How does Jesus inform your opinion? Be humble enough to change your mind to match your faith.

Because someone has a different opinion, they are not your enemy. They aren’t stupid, heartless, or evil. They are likely a normal person, a sinner, just like you. They may well be someone who loves Jesus, someone you’ll live with forever in Heaven. Treat them as you would like to be treated, remembering Jesus words to “love your neighbor as you love yourself,” and “do to others as you would have them do to you.”

His call for us to be Christians first, striving for healing and peace above all else, is a challenge to me. Worth reading the whole thing.


Living as a Christian in our Divided Nation