Strange justice

And the business men and bankers of the earth weep and mourn for her, since no one buys their products any more, their products of financial derivatives, clothes, televisions, cola, rare animals, furniture, burgers, cars, and human lives.

Party time wierdos and madmen! For God has given judgment for you against her.

with apologies to the Holy Spirit, John and Richard

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Poem on the Underground

Proud readers
Hide behind tall newspapers.

The young are all arms and legs
Knackered by youth.

Tourists sit bolt upright
Trusting in nothing.

Only the drunk and the crazy
Aspire ro converse

Only the poet
Peruses his poem among the adverts.

Only the elderly person
Observes the request that that seat be offered
to an elderly person.

D.J. Enright (1920 – 2002)
From London: Poems on the Underground

I quite liked this poem. London buses are a world away. Maybe I’ll write something one day.

Everything is Everything

My whole life is a miracle. My whole life is a prayer. My whole life is worship.

Now all these are true… well …ish…. erm… actually I guess they’re not false. A while back at the brilliant group of people that is ‘Thursday at 8’, we were discussing miracles. We talked about what a miracle was. One statement that came out was that ‘Every day is a miracle.’ I couldn’t really disagree with that but Luiza could. She accepted the emotion and feeling behind that statement but simply told us that that’s not what a miracle actually is.

I’ve heard this about prayer as well. And worship. Worship is a word that’s really going through the wars within Christianity at the moment. So much so that we can’t simply say, ‘let’s worship now.’ After all isn’t worship a lifestyle? So now there are qualifiers such as ‘corporate worship’, ‘sung worship’ ‘said worship’ and at the end ‘coffee and cake worship.’

Prayer now encompasses, praise, adoration, intercession and so on. But weren’t these actually terms of worship? So is there any difference between worship and prayer? In the terms of popular theology it would seem not. And yet, it somehow doesn’t feel as though they are the same.

Maybe we’re just coming to grips with metaphor as language develops. The danger is the loss of particularity in how words are used. Recently, in a conversation about worship, I was told about the belief that the truest worship is actually receiving from God. I think such an idea is possible because worship no longer means what it should mean. Worship no longer means to bow down or give worth to. Since worship is now eitherĀ  our whole lives or that time of communal gathering, the high point of that life and that time will be God’s movement towards us since God is the highest and best possible person to meet and experience. And so instead of ‘us giving to God’ it is ‘us receiving from God’.

I feel confused now. I’m sure others are as well.

Give the word space to breathe.

Maybe we’ll hear better then.

Empire

A long time ago there was a family in the empire. They were in the empire but they weren’t part of it. Yes they paid their taxes and obeyed most of its laws. But they didn’t go along with what most people did. In fact they rejected the central foundation of the empire. Well they found it tough a lot of the family held on. rejection, torture and death followed.

empires changed, their foundations changed. They were no longer even called those things anymore. In each new age a new entity came which behaved like an empire. Each time the family had to reject the empire but rarely in open rebellion. In fact for a while everyone thought that the family were the emperors and empresses. These were imposters though. the real family still lived against the empire.

The thing with the family was that anyone could be adopted. Anyone. I was too. And as all families go it’s pretty much the same. some fun, some shouting, some anger. And the family still lives against the empire. Naming the empire is much harder now. And living against it is so grey. Yet we somehow do. Because the one who adopted me did. And he’s the true emperor.

A hanged emperor.

Jonah

One of the weirder stories in the bible. And yet every child knows it. and Jesus specifically mentions him. I mean what’s all that about being swallowed by a fish?

There was a talk today on Jonah in church. It was a bit all over the place but I enjoyed it as it set my imagination ticking. It’s astonishing that Jonah gripes at God. And the gripe is not like Job about injustice, nor is it like the drone of meaninglessness that the writer of Ecclesiastes moans about. Jonah gripes at God for who God is. That God is kind and compassionate. that’s his complaint!

O LORD! Is not this what I said while I was still in my own country? That is why I fled to Tarshish at the beginning; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and ready to relent from punishing

And then he says he wants to die. Twice. and that he’s angry enough to die.

God does all kinds of things in this short book.

He causes a storm
He stops it
He gets a fish to swallow AND SAVE Jonah.
He gets the fish to vomit Jonah
He changes his mind about Nineveh
He makes a plant grow.
He gets a worm to eat the plant.
And through it all he argues with Jonah about his anger. Almost gently. Like convincing a 4 year old to forgive her 1 year old sister.

I wonder about my own anger. My anger against India. Bangalore. KMC. My former boss. Evangelicals. Is it right to be angry? No. But it’s there. Sitting quietly in the belly.

News

Most news organisations gives us so called 'news'. But face it. It's ''same old' isn't it? Death destruction greed and so on. Essentially pure gossip. So where's the news? Well actually I do read the real ''news'. But not enough. I'm too addicted to ''same old'.

Music: a missing link

‘When the Music fades’ is a song the expresses a clear and simple truth. Worship is all about Jesus. Many musicians have taken this on board in order to ‘restrain’ or balance their musical indulgences in order to ensure that what music happens is actually worship.

I’ve heard many musicians pray that they wouldn’t get ‘carried away’ in the music and interestingly enough that the words would get precedence. I would agree with the first part. Of course the focus is on God. That’s what worship is all about.

And music? What’s that all about? In practice it seems that music is a vehicle for words. It creates moods. It gets people doing something together. But is that it? Is music finally like a spiritual car of some sorts? Taking people together in air conditioned comfort from one spot to another?

I think music is much more. Music does carry meaning. Unfortunately in media saturated societies the meaning is often caricatured and laughed at. Slightly disonant chords immediately signify horror movies and key changes can be considered too dramatic. But I believe that music does carry meaning and I wonder if church musicians are completely losing out on this aspect of music.

In the bible music has a hugely prophetic function which has not been dwelt on at length at least within my moderately narrow reading list. From the song of Moses where Miriam prophetically leads the dance, right to the New Testament where we’re supposed to minister to each other with songs there is a strong element of the prophetic in music.

Asaph, Jeduthun and Heman the big 3 musos of the 1st temple worship scene were all officially the king’s SEERS. (2 chronicles 29:30, 35:15, 1 Chronicles 25:5) No they weren’t worship leaders. And they were called to prophesy with instruments and so were there sons. (Prophesying with instruments also happens in the odd story of Saul where he meets a band and goes into a frenzy.)

The well known passage in Amos where God says ‘Away with the noise of your songs’ has often been used as a message against wrong type of worship. There definitely is a strong element of injustice there but the quest for justice itself is a prophetic role. And within the book of Amos in 2:12 and 7:13 the human powers that be insist that prophets don’t prophesy anymore. I wonder whether the ‘noise’ of the songs have to do particularly with prophesy that’s been told to shut up.

If music does have this prophetic role then it will be good to think about what it means for the doing of music in church.

Maybe it would mean taking music a bit more seriously. It carries its own meanings and emotions. And a musician’s excellence therefore is not merely to play in a way that won’t be distracting. (This leads often to the middle of the road pastiche of sound). Her excellence will also be required in order to play what God is saying. There might be some things that God speaks through the music that he won’t do through words. This is why a church musician should continually keep adding vocabulary to her instrument.

And I think this same prophetic function goes for all art forms. Visual artists through painting and digital forms could give prophesies to the gathering. Think of the great craftsman artist Bezalel who incidentally is the first person that God says his Spirit is upon.

This can mean all kinds of exciting and for me scary things. Doing our art and our music in worship needn’t feel like singing to the air. The air might actually speak to us.