Growth is surprising. You think you’ve based your existence on something and then as you grow something deeper is revealed. When this piece starts it is ambiguous as to where the first beat is. Only later in the piece do we have a definite beat one.
Life is quite like that. We keep saying that we want to get back to our roots, our foundations; but in reality our foundations keep changing. Not because of a lack of fidelity but because we can discover deeper structures under what we thought were our foundations.
My view of Jesus has changed incredibly over the last decade and a bit. This doesn’t mean I’ve discarded all my old beliefs. However some of my old beliefs needn’t be absolutely at the centre because they are no longer the foundation.
I’ve been led to dig deeper into the skies.
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.
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.
Over the dunes,
our only hope
is in denial.
Or listen to it here
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.
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
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.
Jesus experiences the amazing affirmation that he is the beloved of God. Then he’s driven into the wilderness. It seems so strange. Elijah experiences an astonishing victory where one prophet essentially defeats hundreds. Then he flees to the wilderness in fear..
Luiza and I had a brilliant final year in college. We got married. We were heading to a new life in India with a new job, with new hopes. It all collapsed. Well, thankfully our marriage didn’t. It’s like we were primed to do something but then sent into nothing. Why does God do this time and again? I’ve often heard of the term refinement. Yet refinement is a word that doesn’t portray the sheer breakdown that is required in order to be a canvasser of the kingdom.
So I think it’s the breaking of delusion. For we have so many false hopes, false expectations and false impressions. These need to be broken down. The wilderness gives us the chance to do so. And it is a chance, not a certainty.
This piece, ‘Now here, now what?’ tries to capture that sense of nothingness that we are sent into but with the Holy Spirit singing alongside us. Harmonising breathly.
Lent has started. So I thought that instead of giving up something I would actually do something. I’m going to try and put up a new piece of music every day of Lent and write a short reflection on the wilderness experience. The music will be mostly incomplete pieces and ideas which are yet to be developed.
The first piece is called driven. After Jesus’ baptism he was driven into the desert by the Spirit. From the amazing experience of being declared ‘My Beloved Son’, he is led into the desert. This is a recurrent theme in scripture. Amazing events followed by dreary wanderings and all kind of false realities are attractive possibilities.
The Israelites after their astonishing exodus from Egypt wander for 40 years. Moses their most esteemed leader, like the rest of his generation doesn’t leave the wilderness alive.
Israel, after settling in the land is afterwards sent into exile.
Jesus is driven into the desert.
The early church after their initial warm cosy existence are driven out of Jerusalem.
And yet most of our scripture is written in these times. Possibly being taken out of your comfort zone strips away the dross and gives you the chance to break your delusions. Luiza and I have experienced this twice now. It’s not comfortable nor romantic. I can’t fully accept or understand it.
The piece of music is written in quasi-glam-rock style. It’s fairly noisy and groovy but goes nowhere, ending in chaos.