Lent 20 : Companions

Halfway through! It’s been quite hard. So far I’ve used two old ideas and about 5 ideas that I had put down in the few weeks before Lent. The rest were conceived pretty much the day before. That’s been hard especially with work and two lovely but full on children. And everyday I feel like giving up. That is the desert.

It’s when giving up is imminent that companions make all the difference. Luiza has been the sympathetic and discerning listener allowing me to live with myself despite my rubbishness. And of course there have been those who have been listening to the songs and commenting. Thanks all of you.

This piece is about two other companions of a different kind. I’ve never seen them but they’ve helped me enormously through my spiritual desert. If faith has made any sense in the last few years then it has been due to the way these two people have articulated God.

The writings of John V. Taylor and Rowan Williams have held my despair at bay, given me a will to believe and an ability to see the world as an intricate fragile work of beauty replenished.

I hang on to the edge of these bishops cassocks (pretty much like I did with my grandfather) and can bear the ride.

The piece is written in the rhythm according to the morse codes of my name, then Rowan’s, then John V Taylor’s and finally underneath it all love.

or listen to it here.

Lent 19 : God dances across our doctrines

The desert is a time for significant evolution of our belief; if we allow it. Our doctrines and theology atrophy when God moves to the next part of his kingdom song. God pokes fun at our beliefs by dancing over them, playing with them and skipping to the heavens inviting us to join him.

or listen to it here.

Lent 17 : The Wind shifts the sands

In the desert sometimes we can feel the presence of God. As he breathes, the sands beneath you start to move. All that we knew seems shaky. This is the work of the Spirit moving us on in journey to be more like Christ. Things that were certain and sure before are no longer needed. The Spirit sings us a different tune for us to follow. Yet inevitably we remain stuck and go out of sync. When we finally feel as though we get in sync with him, he seems to vanish back into the thin air he came from.

If you listen carefully to the piece you will hear the tune and accompaniment slowly go out of sync. As the piece moves towards the end the high note tries to get in sync but is stuck in it’s old timing. Closer to the end the high note manages to get with the beat but at the very end it feels as though we’ve been left alone.

or listen to it here

Lent 16 : Taken by the wind

Strange things happen in the wilderness that don’t happen in settled life. Bread falls from heaven and birds bring food. One of the stranger stories in the New Testament is that of Philip. He meets the Ethiopian, baptizes him and the Spirit of the Lord snatches Philip away and he finds himself in another place. As dreary as the wilderness can be the Spirit sometimes does snatch us away. Maybe back home. Or maybe to another part of the desert.

This piece uses the bass in an attempt to express that feeling of being taken.

Lent 15 : An alien grace

Angels sometimes happen in the desert. Jesus is comforted by angels after his temptations. But what does that mean? We are used to the imagery of angels having wings and having warm fuzzy feelings and lovely coincidences. Yet in the bible, angels bring out opposite responses; fear (Mark 16: 5), confusion (Luke 2:29) and people falling flat on their faces (Joshua 5:14). So an angel’s comfort must be so completely alien.

C.S. Lewis gives us a picture.

The merest whisper of light – no less than that, the smallest diminution of shadow – was travelling along the uneven surface of the ground-weed; or rather some difference in the look of the ground, too slight to be named in the language of the five senses, moved slowly towards him. Like a silence spreading over a room full of people, like an infinitesimal coolness on a sultry day, like a passing memory of some long-forgotten sound or scent, like all that is stillest and smallest and most hard to seize in nature, Oyarsa passed between his subjects and drew near and came to rest, not ten yards away from Ransom in the centre of Meldilorn. Ransom felt a tingling of his blood and a pricking on his fingers as if lightning were near him; and his heart and body seemed to him to be made of water.

Oyarsa spoke – a more unhuman voice than Ransom had yet heard, sweet and seemingly remote; an unshaken voice; a voice, as one of the hrossa afterwards said to Ransom, ‘with no blood in it. Light is instead of blood for them.’

C.S. Lewis, Out of the Silent Planet

Lent 14 : Temptation 3. Empire

The last of the posts looking at Jesus temptations.

1. Jesus rejects the power of self help.

2. Jesus rejects the power of religion.

3. Jesus rejects the power of the empire.

Jesus could become king of the world like the other king of kings. I’ve written briefly on the comparison between Nebuchadnezzar and Jesus. What is striking is how inhuman empires seem to be. The bible presents empire as anti-God. That is because an empire takes the place of God; a reality all too present in the way certain sections of America views itself and present in nationalism all over the world. Jesus soundly rejects this. He will not be ruler of the world like any other.

‘Worship the Lord your God and serve only him.’

The piece below is three patriotic songs woven together. Everything seems fine. Then things go wrong. Saviours come. Things seem fine. Things go rotten again.

Lent 13 : Temptation 2. Religion

Following on from yesterday I look at what Jesus rejects next.

2. Jesus rejects the power of religion

Jesus’ next temptation takes him to the top of the temple where he is to jump off. He is to expect the angels to protect him from harm. Religion attempts to comfort people with a slot machine God. All religious establishments claim that certain actions will set them right with God preventing his anger and unleashing his blessing. This God can be controlled according to the number of times we pray or by our visits to the temple, church or mosque. This God can be controlled by our offerings of money, talents and time. This God can be controlled if we ‘just believe.’

Jesus sees through this. ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’ God doesn’t work on formulas.

This piece has two pianos in it. The first piano represents religion; distorted and very constricted. The second piano represents God who is everywhere else playful and tuneful. Yet, in his amazing grace he meets us briefly in our religion to take us away from it.

Lent 12 : Temptation 1. Self Help

Jesus has deep temptations in the desert. I think these are temptations of power. Jesus has just been proclaimed as the Beloved Son. He is God’s representative. Now he is in the desert. How is he going to live out his special calling? The temptations that come his way are familiar paths to leadership. Today will be the first of those he rejects.

1. Jesus rejects the power of self help

When Jesus is tempted to turn the stones into bread the devil taps into the self help industry. Help yourself. It’s your life. Change it. Be the change. We’ve heard all these. So the devil tempts Jesus to just help himself. Maybe the kingdom will be established like this? Encourage people to help themselves and through raised self awareness the new kingdom could be established. Our Christian bookshops are filled with self help titles and large swathes of world urban culture is caught up in the self help industry. Jesus reply is ‘one cannot live by bread alone.’ His kingship cannot be realised through sheer will and determination.

This piece is a mashup of great songs of self belief.

Lent 11 : King of kings

The desert is filled with temptation. The temptation to recreate our mythical past, the temptation to blame others, the temptation to sink in despair.

Jesus goes through temptations too. They come to him, presented in a very reasonable way. It’s VERY practical. It’s familiar, tried and tested. Surely we should follow the same way? Despite its practicality, its workability and simpleness, Jesus sees through the temptations. I hope to further look at these over the next few days.

This piece presents the temptation to be the king of kings. Jesus is offered this coveted prize through a well known piece of music.