Sunday, April 30, 2006

St. Sinead the Smokin'

(note: this post was updated in 2007 to include newer songs..also click Sinead's name under "tags" at bottom of post for more)

A powerful prayer:

"Thank You for hearing me.

Thank You for saving me.

Thank You for healing me..."

So far, pretty standard evangelical praise song lyrics...maybe even in danger of being trite...

But this lyric takes an unexpected...and I think anointed...left turn.

Dare to guess what comes next?

"Thank You for breaking my heart.
Thank You for tearing me apart.."


If you have a problem with that prayer, the author is merely being honest (God has broken our hearts) and consistent with Scripture ("THE LORD has torn us to pieces.." Hosea 6:1-3)

Try praying it here:

Sometimes we need to be radically honest in our prayers. Jesus was ...check this shocking prayer..

Anyway, the "Thank You for...." song, though it has been recorded by "officially Christian" singer David Crowder, was penned and prayed by Sinead O' Connor.

I know what you're thinking.

She ripped up a picture of the pope once.

Did you know she's now ordained in a Catholic offshoot denomination, and her
new CD
is called "Theology" and has some beautful songs like "Job", "Isaiah" and "Jeremiah's Vineyard"?:

...and here below is video of her incredible Gethesmane prayer with the Edge ( a fan video, so the video theme is off, but try on the words:."..Afraid, but you will not run/Alone, Thy will be done/confessed, but you still feel the shame/Bring me into Your arms again"):

Reading material:

St. Sinead and Occulture

Sinnead wants to rescue God from religion

To be clear: I never said she was a "Christian".

I never said I endorse everything she says or does.
Some of her theology is way off.

But sometimes she prays more Christianly (read "honestly") than me.

That's a gift to the church.

How to Win the Culture Wars/Twinkies and Sodomites

Two great Christian thinkers offer insights on "How to Win the Culture wars".

Of course, considering the website you are on, you already know that the question is mostly wrong, so
the answers will not be the expected and 'church as usual answers':

- Peter Kreeft

-Edward Veith

Then for further fun, try on these two related articles:

Pastor Sends Sodomites to Island; gets stoned

Twinkies/Midrash:Dobson motivated by morality or gospel?

Friday, April 28, 2006

Mega Church on King of the Hill

This video (click here if it doesn't play), from "King of the Hill," raises several questions about life and church....chief among them is.......................... "How long can "" last before it gets "Napsterized"?

Thanks to the amazing Bob Hyatt (nice pub-church) for the link

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Praying thru guitar tongues this time

RevKev, dreamer of LifeBridge, just turned me on to amamzing resource, Earl Creps., PhD and director of a DMin program

Several items on his site of note and value.

But in light of my recent post, "Praying Through Guitar," I couldn't help notice this blog post
(emphais mine) below...connects many levels of research I am doing...including on synesthesia and linearlity (or not) in the brain..

Sunday, March 12, 2006
the guitar solo

This morning in an Alliance church in Pittsburgh I heard a guitar solo between verses of a worship song. It was a
sort of jazz/rock fusion riff, and I found it both appropriate to the song and
moving, almost as if the guitarist was speaking to God through the

The experience made me thing about the analogy to speaking/praying in
tongues, if we think of human language as an "instrument." (The 1 Corinthians 14
reference to the muted trumpet might be intriguing here.)

Glossolalia involves linguistic signs related to vernacular speech but not representing it (at least
directly) as jazz guitar notes are related to the song within which they occur
(i.e., being in the same key--mostly) without precisely mirroring that song.

So, if I play out the analogy (calm down, this is just a thought experiment), I have
some questions:

1. Would my emotional/spiritual reaction to the solo be something
parallel to an "interpretation" of a tongues utterance?

2. Is an outpouring of
glossolalia touched off by Spirit baptism something like a "solo" drawn from the
original song, but expressing it in more elastic forms?

3. Is one value of
inchoate prayer/singing to add the "jazz" element to corporate (and individual)
worship experience?

Recently I saw a documentary (I think it was on PBS!) about
jazz. Someone explained that, in other genres, people show up to hear the
musicians replicate the musical score with exactitude. In jazz, people show up
to experience how the musicians change the melody, the song being mainly the
vehicle for their extended solos.

In Fire from Heaven, Harvey Cox draws the
Pentecost/jazz analogy. So maybe I'm not altogether crazy here.I just know what
I heard this morning.


now that's church

Wednesday, April 26, 2006


Click the title to read how a hundred plus geniuses/thinkers/intellectual scientists (from string theorist Brian Greene to ex-Monkee Mike Nesmith, by way of folks like Esther Dyson ) answered this very crucial question for the church in these amazing days (where God is speaking wake-up calls to the church through "secular" people and technologies)....


Interesting they chose the last 2,ooo years as the time frame, recognizing (at least) the Christian era...I wonder if anyone gave "Chrisianity" as the answer...

Actually, one of my favorite answers is by one of my favorite thinkers, Stephen Johnson who said, winkingly:

Given the amount of self-reference in the answers so far, I'm tempted to nominate
this very discussion list as the greatest invention of the past two thousand
years, and hopefully out-meta all the other contenders

..before giving his intriguing nomination:

I think part of the problem here is the fact that inventions by nature are
cumulative, and so when asked to pick out the single most important one, you're
inevitably faced with a kind of infinite regress: if the automobile is the most
important invention, then why not the combustible engine? (And so onŠ) In that
spirit — and in the spirit of nominating things you happen to be working on
professionally — I'd nominate the ultimate cumulative invention: the city. Or at
least the modern city's role as an information storage and retrieval device.
Before there were webs and telegraphs making information faster, there were
cities bringing information physically closer together, and organizing it in
intelligible ways. ...

The printing press came up more than once...very telling...especially since that's what catapulted and vehichled the Reformation. What will do it for this current reformation? Obviusly the Internet is part of that answer, maybe Google (or Google Image...recognizing that the last Reformation was Word; this one is Image) in partcular; but I am sure it will eb more multiplex this time...

Re: the "next" printing press (one appropriate for a "new orality culture," as Walter Ong would coin it or "EPIC culture" as Len Sweet would have it), see this article, and it's sequel linked at bottom; especially references to Leonard Shlain, who said in the seminal " The Alphabet Versus the Goddess: the Conflict Between Word and Image":

The Protestant Reformation was clearly not a return to the CENTER of the New Testament; but, I submit, a wrenching sociological shift wrought by a new information technology dependent on users being alpha-literate. This, in turn, changed the collective perception of culture. The printing press made the Reformation's rigid and repressive self-discipline posible.(349)

The religious wars that wracked Europe...occurred ONLY in those lands impacted by the printing press..(361)

How to criticize your worship pastor

How to criticize your worship pastor...
complete with audio...even a "r and b" remix version


stolen by Your song
seduced by Your scroll
stealthed by Your love
skyjacked into control

until my yes was yes
and the cords were cut
i know the cross has crossed me
spared me; snared me, but...

now i lust to live
inside that surrender-dome
till the Dovetail marks my steps
and the temple smells like home

and i
catch Your dreams
catch Your design
dive unafraid
and take terrain and time

Blood it to me, Jesus
Wrestle me into limp and line
Betray my betrayal
Till i eat only from the vine

resting in restlessness
pilgrimmed into place
flooded by templed fire
amazed by illegal grace

i must stay stolen

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Elevation Church:Jesus Loves Righteous People

Elevation Church...great name, huh? Idaho (!) has got one of the best video clips ever designed for showing in a worship setting; click to watch: "Jesus Loves Righteous People"

Good, huh?

Fascinating website (set up and organized like a ski, too.

More videos are on the site. ..including:
"Jesus Loves Red States" and (of course) "Jesus Sells Insurance."
See them all at: and click , about in the middle: "Services/Resources."

Cool value statements, too. Remember, the whole website is set up like an "elevated" ski resort. Places names are in that theme. For example, in the "Rest Room" is the Reading Room page copied below:

We recognize that God is big. He is difficult to make fit into finite
human minds. For example, how can a being be both perfect justice and perfect
mercy? In our minds we understand in part. Elevation Church believes that we are
created in the image of God. As you read our values you may notice that they
seem to contradict...
In our collective search to know God these are some of the
things that we think are important:
High-Speed and Slow Paced A church that
moves efficiently employing technology while embracing a "stop and smell the
flowers" attitude
Prayer and Laughter Paying constant attention to our physical,
spiritual and emotional life, realizing that God created humans with a body,
soul and mind
Justice and Mercy Showing mercy to our neighbors while not shying
away from correction Youthful and Maturing Handling life with wisdom, yet daring
to view life through the eyes of a child
Loud and Quiet We value "knowing the
seasons" in our gatherings, mixing the charismatic with the liturgical, speaking
and listening to God Local and Global Our goal is only to change the world, but
teaching that goal begins in our homes, offices, jobs and church.

I was thinking this might be a church that liked U2, then I saw the pastor's picture on his blog!

On the name of the church, I have to tie it to what Bono (and other rabbis) mean by the term. An excerpt below from my chapter "And Elevation begat Vertigo":


All right, let’s get to the elevation of "Elevation, " because as you will recall, it’s the only path up to Vertigo (I promise we’ll get there!) . To my amazement and delight, I stumbled upon a stunningly insightful commentary on U2’s song (and therefore prayer about, and theology of) "Elevation."

 I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised, as theological analysis of U2 is all over the world and web. (Even as scholarly papers at the business meetings of the "I guess they’re not so square and stodgy after all" Evangelical Theological Society…Baptist PhD’s contemplating the theological catalog of Bono!) .

 But this particular piece grasped and grappled so well with what U2 are (in Bono’s phrase) "on about" in "Elevation, " and in general, I cannot anymore hear or pray the song without this review at hand. It has rocked my world, theology and prayer life. I had always intuitively felt the song was about, indeed was, prayer. But to definitively second that motion it took these words, which should be read slowly, and with "Elevation" playing softly (!) in the background:

Prayer is not something (Bono) just is an
experience he enters into. There is no room for inhibition; singing and dancing are essential means by which he expresses his emotional cleaving to God….but such ardor/desire for God has to be so overwhelming that any extraneous thoughts
are excluded…If distractions are erotic in nature…and (Bono) faces to the predominance of the sexual urge at both conscious and subconscious levels, and its capacity to intrude even during prayer...then he has learned to take measures…by introducing the (ancient) doctrine of the "elevation of strange
thoughts." This is a Chasidic Jewish technique not of sublimation, but of thought conversion, whereby the beauty or desirability of the woman is latched upon and used not as a sexual but rather as a mental and spiritual stimulus. We are taught to "elevate" these thoughts by substituting the beauty of God for the
physical beauty that is currently bewitching us. (Bono) has learnedto
immediately contrast the pale reflection of beauty that humans are endowed with, on the one hand, and the supreme Divine source of authentic and enduring beauty, on the other…This is not sublimation; This is elevation

Wow! Surely anyone who re-reads the lyrics to "Elevation," (or ventures and voyeurs a watching as Bono sings/prays/dances/incarnates it on concert DVD), will surely fall at the feet and conclusions of the reviewer, admitting that he astoundingly accurate. And I (seminary grad!) didn’t even know until I found this review that "elevation" was the official name for an ancient and established style and form of prayer. Surely this is exactly what Bono is fundamentally "on about" in this song; even in wider life and mission. Just for starters, lets interlace the lyrics to the song "Elevation" itself, and the review thereof:

Prayer is not something (Bono) just is an
experience he enters into. There is no room for inhibition; singing and dancing are essential means by which he expresses his emotional cleaving to God….but such ardor/desire for God has to be so overwhelming("You make me feel like I
could fly") that any extraneous thoughts are excluded…If distractions are erotic in nature…and (Bono) faces up to the predominance of the sexual urge ("I’ve lost all self-contol")at both conscious and subconscious("Digging up my soul/Going down/Excavation") levels, and its capacity to intrude even during prayer( "Tell
me something true/I believe in You"")...then he has learned to take measures…by introducing the ancient doctrine of the "elevation of strange thoughts." This is a Chasidic Jewish technique not of sublimation, but of thought conversion,whereby the beauty or desirability of the woman(the corner of your lips/the orbit of your hips")is latched upon and used not as a sexual but rather as a
mental ("I need you to elevate my mind") and spiritual("you elevate my soul") stimulus. We are taught to "elevate" these thoughts by substituting the beauty of God for the physical beauty that is currently bewitching us. (Bono) has
learned to immediately contrast the pale reflection of beauty that humans are endowed with, on the one hand, and the supreme Divine source of authentic and enduring beauty, on the other. This is not sublimation, but elevation.

Because it so convincing, I hope Bono read the review I quoted, and I’m guessing he may well have. Not because I found it in Rolling Stone, or another obvious publication that Mr. Vox has been known to frequent, but because it’s in a classic book called "Blessed are You: A Comprehensive Guide to Jewish Prayer," by Rabbi Jeffrey Cohen, copyright 1993. That’s right, a commentary on U2’s "Elevation" written long before the song. (And of course, "elevation" as the name of a prayer-vehicle has been around for centuries).

 No, I didn’t truly trick you; though I did keep that card up my sleeve (All I did to the text was insert Bono’s name where the author had "the praying person" and the like). But surely this passage is radically relevant review..uh, preview..of the record. As much as we can often find more God in the lyrics than Bono (or God) intended; this would be a case where, even if the song is about different things on different levels, it at heart revolves around this technique of prayer. It is too close a match that it’s precisely "the orbit of the hips" that catapult elevated (versus sublimated, in the rabbi’s terms; "excavated and going down" in Bono’s) prayer into action. Whether or not Bono has the "Blessed are You" book in the mad stack by his bedside or not; there can be no divorcing this song’s inspiration from its interpretation by the rabbis; or from...

continued here

The Ancient Secret of Men vs. Women!!

(Cliff Pickover has done it again)

St. Margaret

There is no way to describe Margaret Wheatley. Tiy can trt terms like "leadership futurist," and "organizational theorist." But the one who introduced me to the power of fractals can only be "St. Margaret" in my book (No matter what she does or doesn't believe..she consults with, and speaks at, churches). Ever since her seminal "secular" book,
"Leadership and the New Science: Discovering Order in a Chaotic World,"
it has become fairly obviou she is a gift to the church. Anyone with articles like
"Consumed by Either Fire or Fire: Journeying with T.S. Eliott," and "Goodbye, Command and Control," could they not be?

Len at has long drawn on her wisom and applied it to church and Kingdom.

Roger has been commenting on this book at the House Church Blog. He comments at one point:
The author, Margaret Wheatley, describes the inability of our ancient
"Newtonian" science concepts to properly describe our universe. The "old"
science views creation as a machine that can be understood by taking apart each
piece and examining it. This view of life has caused us, for centuries, to
put together control-systems that will organize mechanical systems for the
desired result. She suggests that our understanding of organizational and
leadership models is a direct result of our old way of studying the
universe. The new science, on the other hand, describes a universe that is
not so easily defined or controlled. At the core of the universe is not
some basic "building block" but rather unseen connections between "entities"
that change and are, themselves, fluid. Thus, Wheatley sees our new
understanding of the universe pointing us toward "living sytems" that use "fluid
and organic structures" that possess the "same capacity to adapt and grow that
is common to all of life."

On to the Wheatley book itself:

We seem hypnotized by structures, and we build them strong and complex
because... this is a universe, we feel, that cannot be trusted with its own
process for growth and rejuvenation... By sheer force of will, because we are
the planet's intelligence, we will make the world work...
If people are
machines, seeking to control us makes sense. But if we live with the same
forces intrinsic to all other life, then seeking to impose control through rigid
structures is suicide....

...I want to trust in this universe so much that I give up playing
God. I want to stop struggling to hold things together. I want to
experience such security that the concept of "allowing"--trusting that the
appropriate forms will emerge--ceases to be scary.

Rhonda Servine did a paper at Fuller on Leadership and the New Science, which she donated to the House Church Blog. The entire paper is here; excerpt below:

Organizations have long been structured like a machine, divided into multiple parts
which have varying functions, and ignoring the human beings which compose it.
The church has also followed this form. But now the key determinant in our world
is being recognized by scientists as relationship, and the consequences of this
are influencing our whole society...

In the new science, the structure of processes and potential relationships
is what is central to being. Relationships determine who we are, how we
think, what we become. We are not isolated machines but are interconnected and
influenced by all with whom we come in contact. The Church as ‘friendship’
and ‘relational conversation’ fits well with this concept; deep relationships
are centered in love, which changes the individual and then the world.

What are you waiting for? Get started yourself:

heavy theology

There's a debate about whether babies are born in "original sin" and/or "original innocence"
Which does this photo support?

No, it's not one my kids (of course) ; and no, I don't know where I got this picture (it showed up on my computer kinda thing)...must've been St. Rev. Scott Allred of Toyota again!


"The Lord Be With You...Even When He’s Not!"

“The Lord Be With You..
        ...Even When He’s Not”

Expanded version of a message  I preached at a Community Good Friday service
North Central Pastor’s Cluster, Fresno California 

Qualifier: I never type out manuscripts for sermons, I go from brief scribbled cryptic notes; if anything. So I have tried to write in somewhat oral style; as if I had preached this whole 
thing (Right! In the seven minutes I was allotted as the third of three preachers preaching through Psalm 22 that day!)


There was a church that was not very liturgically oriented; in fact they were decidedly “low-church.” So the pastor wanted to teach his flock a bit of the richness of the liturgical tradition. He figured he’d start them out with a “win-win” that would be easy; the classic responsive that begins with the leader saying:

“The Lord be with you.”

You know the response:

“And also with you.”

And the pastor thought he’d have the congregation practice the responsive for several weeks, and then officially inaugurate it on Easter; a high attendance Sunday with lots of guests.

So every week they walked through it:

“Now when I say, ‘The Lord be with you,’ remember that you say,'And also with you.'
 Let’s practice…”

They practiced. They were primed. Pumped. Throughout the countdown weeks of Lent, they became quite prepared.

Then came the big Sunday; Easter in all its glory. Lots of guests; an air of expectancy in the room; especially among the well-trained saints knowing they were about ready to show off what they had been practicing.

So the pastor stepped up to the pulpit with a knowing smile.
 But he noticed that something was wrong with the microphone.
 So before he realized it, he said aloud just that:

“There is something wrong with this microphone.”

Well, the congregation was so primed and practiced that they immediately shot back, before they realized it, with one loud and clear voice:

“And also with you!”

There’s nothing wrong with my microphone today!

But we can’t help but feel there’s something deeply wrong with us when we are forced to admit what we have been told is unthinkable, impossible, heretical and horrible:

The Lord is not with us.

Or so it feels if we are daring enough to be honest.

I might even contend that until a Christian has said; meant; felt; prayed that unspeakable thought that must be spoken..… they may not even be a full follower of Jesus:

The One who was and is God.

The One who modeled for us how to live, how to pray, how to feel…

The One who dared enough to be honest.

The One who said, and I quote:

“God, God . . . my God!
Why did you dump me miles from nowhere?
Doubled up with pain, I call to God all the day long.
No answer.


Did you know that’s what the Almighty Jesus Christ said, felt, prayed on the cross?

No answer.

It gets worse.

Be sure you catch the condemning; the accusatory, angry, agnostic tone and tenor. The next two words must by necessity be read with all that volume and venom. If fact, the Bible specifically mentions that Jesus prayed this “in a loud cry.”
He prays on:

“And You!!

Are You indifferent, above it all, leaning back on the cushions of Israel's praise?
We know You were there for our parents!

They cried for Your help and You gave it; they trusted and lived a good life.
And here I am, a nothing--an earthworm, something to step on, to squash.
Everyone pokes fun at me; they make faces at me, they shake their heads:
‘Let's see how GOD handles this one; since God likes him so much, let him help him!’
And to think You were midwife at my birth, setting me at my mother's breasts!
When I left the womb You cradled me; since the moment of birth You've been my God.
Then You moved far away and trouble moved in next-door.

 I need a neighbor. “

This graphic and earthy (and astoundingly accurate) rendering of Jesus’ prayer from The Message translation is stunning, shattering; and yet not as devastating as the original language portrayed it. Somehow the whole scene changes, and is dialed down; is in effect censored; through standard translations such as the NIV:

 Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One;
you are the praise of Israel.

 In you our fathers put their trust;
they trusted and you delivered them.

They cried to you and were saved;
in you they trusted and were not disappointed.

 But I am a worm and not a man,
scorned by men and despised by the people.
 All who see me mock me;they hurl insults, shaking their heads:

 "He trusts in the LORD;
let the LORD rescue him.
Let him deliver him,
since he delights in him."

Yet you brought me out of the womb;
you made me trust in you
even at my mother's breast.

 From birth I was cast upon you;
from my mother's womb you have been my God.
Do not be far from me,
for trouble is near

and there is no

I know.

That sounds devastating…and dangerous… enough.

But “In You!!?” has lost all of its darkness, its near-atheism, its anger. It has been prematurely resolved into a peaceful surrender. The whole tone of voice has been twisted into trust.

Way too soon.

Let Jesus be ticked. Let him accuse God.

Let him curse. Let him yell at God that he has abandoned him miles from nowhere.

Otherwise I am sunk.

As are you.

I must fully embrace, pass through, pray through ..and feel through that Scripture; that  psalm…uncut…before I can…in a way that is not cliche, contrived, and.indeed denial…find a mature and wrestled-through-the-crucible confidence in God’s sovereignty.

We quote Romans 8:28 too tritely and too soon.

We quote Psalm 23, and post it on on our refrigerator doors, slap it on our bumperstickers; without its context and its immediate predecessor in the Psalter.

We cannot have Psalm 23 without this Psalm we have been quoting:

The devastating, glorious Psalm Twenty TWO.

The one that starts not with a resolute “The Lord is my shepherd,”

But with a ruddy “Yahweh has dumped me.”


“I’ve got nothing left to give,” the professor said.

Several years ago some other pastors and I had responsibility for a pastors retreat. We decided to bring in a deep, profound, distinguished man of God; a professor renowned in the field of spiritual formation.

We were busy pastors, some of us bordering on burnout; we badly needed retreat…and training in the meat spiritual formation .

So there was indeed a huge hunger and holy hush in the room, when after weeks of waiting, the respected PhD, whom we were thrilled had said “yes” to flying out the 3,000 miles from his seminary to enlighten our relatively small but serious group, opened his mouth that first night.

Bibles and notebooks in hand , we leaned forward to receive what the master would say; what gleanings the guru had studied and prayed hard to impart.

His opening line broke the silence, the mood, and all the “rules” of grad-school-level Spiritual Formation 701:

“I have nothing to give.”

“Excuse me?,” I am sure we all collectively thought.

He continued, oblivious to our headscratching; indeed not even acknowledging the question marks hanging over us.

“I almost didn’t come. I almost cancelled, but I figured this retreat was booked, and I had better keep my commitment.

You see, the other day, I woke up to my wife saying ‘I’m leaving you.’

And she did.

I was so distraught that all I could do was immediately, and in a daze, drive the thousand miles to my best friend’s house.

When his wife answered the door, she could only manage: ‘How did you know?’

‘Know what?, I asked.

‘He just killed himself!’

I could only jump shellshocked into my car, drive all those miles back home..

..To find my house had been struck by lightning and burned to the ground.”

The question marks over our heads were gone.

He matter-of-factly concluded:

“So all I could do is keep my commitment and make this retreat where you want me to teach you spiritual formation. I’m sorry if I’ve made the wrong choice in coming; if I’m wasting your valuable time and money. I am here to teach spiritual formation, and maybe I can do that…

The only problem is I’m not sure I have anything left to give..

All I know is that somehow..

.God is still good."

That was the most profound lesson and lecture in spiritual formation that I have ever received.

As you can tell, I remember every word of that opening lecture.


“God, God, my God! Why?...

No answer. Nothing.”

Jesus prayed that.

“And You, God…Traitor!”

“I’ve got nothing left, and it’s Your fault.”

“To think You were there at my birth!!” Jesus cried out.

“I need a neighbor.”

My God, My God, Why oh Why have you forsaken me?

One translation is daring enough: “Where the hell are You, God?”

I mentioned that all this seemingly blasphemous prayer was a prayer Jesus actually prayed.

Indeed he did.

On the cross, of all places. Jesus owned, recited, and prayed Psalm 22.
Incarnated it incredibly.

You don’t remember Him praying such a long prayer? You only remember the “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” part; the opening salvo?

Your memory serves well. But I am probably preaching to the choir to remind you (Note: here I turned to the choir, and laughed that I was now literally preaching to the choir) that in biblical days, when a Jew quoted the first portion or line of a Scripture, it implied she or he was quoting and implying the whole passage.

The opening verse stood for the rest.

But they had no atomized verses; they visualized only sections; memorized only passages.

There were no “memory verses.”

So much so that to quote one part of the passage implied an acceptance and implication of the theme and flow and content…. and emotion….of the entire thing.

In a way, this is not much different than if I were to say as a rhetorical device in this sermon, “For God so loved the world…” you would understand I would mean imply all of what we have memorized as “John 3:16.” You would fill in the blank. But how many know John 3:15 and John 3:17 from memory?

That’s what I thought.

“Our Father who art in heaven….” I know you know, and can finish. that prayer without a cheat sheet.

“The Lord is my shepherd….” I know you know the rest of that as well as you know the answer to “The Lord be with you…”

“And also with you!”

So the reason we three preachers are “also with you” today , and are preaching through Psalm 22 sequentially, is to help us all remember or realize that there is no doubt that what Jesus the Jew was doing on the cross as he recited what we now call Psalm 22, verse 1. He was praying…uncensored…the entire glorious, gory, gutsy, God-forsaken Psalm.

True, only the first line is mentioned as having passed his lips in the gospel accounts;
But there is no question that he was saying not just “I am the Messiah, and I am fulfilling this ancient Scripture,” but…“I am praying, I am feeling, this whole rugged, ruthless Psalm. Psalm 22 uncut.

Everyone around the cross who was versed in Scripture knew what he was quoting, and thus suggesting: the entire emotive Psalm was his liturgically-correct prayer that day; agnostcism, angst and all.

Whether or not he literally verbalized aloud from the Place of a Skull every “verse” of that psalm (which is possible, perhaps probable, as we will see), or just was able to utter
and sputter the blunt first line.. .it’s microcosm and thesis statement…. the effect;and affect; is the same.

Jesus Christ, Lord of the Universe felt …

Abandoned, betrayed, used.

Agnostic. Angry.

Hear this explosive good news: You are allowed to feel that way…on Good Friday, or any day it fits.

“Jesus, I know You’re looking out for us…”

So the prayer started. So far; so good.

“…but maybe Your hands aren’t free.”

Excuse me?

It gets


“Wake Up, Dead Man!”

A man once prayed, felt, this devastatingly honest prayer.

He even was bold and honest enough to include a four letter word as he was reminding the Lord how messed up his life and world was.

“Is there some order in all of this disorder? Is it like a tape recorder? Can we rewind just once more?”

Tell me you have never felt something like that.

Let me phrase it another way: All who have ever felt something like that; please be seated.

Ah, that’s what I thought.

This prayer is a cheerful little worship ditty, put to music and recorded under the title “Wake Up Dead Man.” It’s based on another psalm we’d be tempted to excise and excuse: 44. Written and sung and prayed by Bono of U2.

“Yes, Bono’s a believer. I know him and have even worked with him on mission projects,” the famous evangelist strongly told my friend and I.

He continued to address my friend’s question about Bono being a professed believer and using such “salty language. ” Tony Campolo, the evangelist (a Baptist , no less), shot back unapologetically, “Sometimes our language is not salty enough.”

No, parents, I am not asking your kids to swear in prayer or Sunday School.

But letting Bono break the barrier for us; maybe you can finally admit, however colorfully and candidly, what you may actually fear saying aloud even more than a four-letter word: that…like Jesus!...I still haven’t completely “found what I’m looking for.”

I am allowed to; in fact commanded and called to, at times; feel and taste the same.

With or without the salt of the psalter.

Surely you have noticed that many psalms begin with inscriptions, denoting for example that they are to be put to music for liturgical and prayer use. Sometimes even naming the tune it was to be set to is named. Have you ever noticed the suggested tune title to the Psalm 22? The psalm Jesus prayed…uncut...on the cross? It rings amazing, sounds ridiculous…and makes perfect prophetic sense.

It’s…you could never guess this, but look at it yourself in your Bible:

“Doe of the Morning”

Excuse me?

Doesn’t that title conjure up the happiest, most peaceful serene scene imaginable? What’s more beautiful than a doe? Or uplifting than a new morning?

What gives, O God?

Can you imagine a melody by that title as anything else but upbeat, uplifting? And maybe in God’s…and the psalmwriters…ironic and irenic sense of holy humor, it was! And maybe it was. Some of U2’s most droning laments lyrically are set to very positive music and major chords. This is not denial; or an attempt to hijack pain and make it land prematurely as unfettered joy. It’s acknowledging irony, faith and doubt as a package deal…especially while hanging on crosses. Jesus, no doubt in more excruciating pain anyone in history endured it all, Hebrews 12:2 claims, because of the….fill in the blank… set before him?



“Doe of the Morning”? On Good Friday? Go figure.

I have a hard time living, singing, praying in the beautiful tension, dreadful and healing paradox, and ruthless reality.

Picture “My God, My God, Why have You forsaken Me” sung to the tune of “This Little Light of Mine”?!

Hear again Psalm 22 in the Message:

“God, God . . . my God! Why did you dump me miles from nowhere?

Doubled up with pain, I call to God all the day long. No answer. Nothing!!”

Now set it to the tune of “Shine Jesus Shine”.

Ridiculous? Perhaps. Revelatory? Just maybe.

Bono, as you know by now has been, sometimes rightfully, accused of being too real and rough with his language, prayer and theology. So you won’t be surprised to hear him say in an in interview which we’ll now listen to (Now, don’t worry…no salty words ahead, but don’t let your musical preference trip you up so you miss the point; he may be overstating, but he is speaking truth in love to say):

"God is interested in truth, and only in truth. And that's why God is more interested in Rock & Roll music than Gospel... Many gospel musicians can't write about what's going on in their life, because it's not allowed ..If you can't write about what's really going on in the world and your life, because it's all happy-clappy... Is God interested in that? I mean, 'Please, don't patronize Me! I want to go the Nine-Inch-Nails gig, they're talking the truth!"

-Bono, audio here

Jesus Christ prayed, at least implied, the whole gamut of emotion in Psalm 22.

So can we.

If we are interested in truth, and only truth…wherever it takes us (look at cross).

The account of Jesus’ dying words in John actually could be made to infer that Jesus did in fact pray aloud the entire Psalm…or at least the first and last line… to give context and contour, no matter how real...and really troubling...the fullness of what he was experiencing.

Jesus, as John tellingly tells us, cried out the famous words…the “My God, My God, Why have you forsaken me?” line “in a loud voice.” Then it is relayed that someone offered him a sponge with wine vinegar. (Matthew, not John, notes that Jesus had said “I thirst.) Then a fascinating, intriguing fact that only John highlights: “And then, after receiving the drink, he cried out again in a loud voice”
(emphasis mine). This second crying out has puzzled Bible readers for years: What did he say? Was it anything audible? Was it the “eighth saying from they cross”, just one that never got transcribed?

There is actually a chance that we know exactly what he cried out that second time.

With the help of John.

The mentioning of the wine vinegar sponge being lifted to Jesus is immediately followed…not in Matthew, but only in John… not by Jesus offering up a generic loud cry. Jon alone tells us exactly what Jesus said. I’m reading it now; watch this: “The wine was lifted to his lips. When he had received the drink, Jesus said…..

‘It... is…. finished.’

"With that , he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.”

So according to John’s journal, the literal last words of Jesus were not a helpless “My God, Why…” but a hearty “It is finished.”

Three words which are strikingly similar to the literal last words of Psalm 22.

Look at them. One version even translates the last line of Psalm 22; “It is finished”

Many scholars recognize the similarity in the structure of the Hebrew (of Psalm 22)
This last line is usually rendered something like in the NIV “He (God) has done it.”

Jesus’s cry on the cross, “It is finished” doesn’t specifically mention God having done or finished something; so we often assume it means “It is finished…I, Jesus, have finished the saving act of dying on the cross.” That of course, is true and key. But in the Greek language grammar, it may well be what we call a ”divine passive”…a sentence that doesn’t specifically mention God, but implies it. Like we might say “Someone is watching out for you.” Or “I was touched.” So it may be “It is finished; God has done it.”

The last line of Psalm 22 may have been the last line of Jesus on Friday.

He may have forced himself, as he was dying, to say and pray aloud

.....sing aloud...
                                  the whole thing.

Did you ever wonder why Jesus said “I thirst” right in the middle of dying? Maybe he was right in the middle of a long Psalm, but he knew he had to get it all said.

For our sake.

Again, whether or not Jesus literally prayed the first line only, the first and closing line (a common framing technique in Bible days, a framing device, an “inclusio”), or the entire psalm, the message is the same salty one:

“I feel this whole psalm. My guts are literally being wrenched. I wonder why God is doing this to me. But I am sensing it will work out; that God is finishing something.”

Maybe there are “does of the morning” visible from Golgotha; from Good Friday after all.

Or to quote Tony Campolo again; from his most celebrated sermon refrain. Who knows it?
 “It may be Friday…”

                                                                                              “…but Sunday’s coming!”

Maybe Jesus prayed Psalm 22…all of it…as a way of saying “It is painful, but it is finished. Yet I can only wrestle my way to resolution and full faith in the Father and the future by facing the forsakenness and  Abba-abandonment that I feel in my heart…and even more real.”

As you have heard the whole flow of Psalm have walked through all that Jesus felt on the cross..what started in abandonment and anger traveled to confidence and faith.

But it never would have arrived without its doubt.


I fear that many Christians are walking time bombs.

We have been told, even if between the lines, that we should never question God, doubt God, or admit our feelings, even our anger. Enter our emotions. Take up our crosses and admit our Psalm 22 days…even if everyone else in church is having a happy clappy Psalm 23, Romans 8:28 day.

It could be that until we realize…emotionally…that we have nothing left to give, we have nothing to give.

That is a lesson in spiritual formation worth receiving.

Such might even be the only path to Sunday coming.

There is a simplicity on the other side of complexity that is deeper, wider, and the very beginning of faith and resurrection.

Eugene Peterson, translator of the Message Bible we have been using, has an amazing book on the Psalms called “Answering God.” It’s about the Psalms as a prayer book..uncut. In it he maintains, “Anger is not to be sublimated; it is to be prayed.” And he is a Presbyterian! (Note: look teasingly at the Presbyterian pastors on the platform)

My pastor in college was such a strong preacher, but true to his style he hardly ever told a joke in a sermon. So passionate; so convicting and dynamic a preacher was he. (And he was a Methodist!) He was so phenomenal and engaging that he never had to tell a joke. I still remember the time he tried to throw in a light-hearted reference: “Sometimes I feel like Roger Dangerfield; I get no respect.”

I’m still not sure he realizes that the only reason we laughed is that he said “Roger,” when the comedian’s first name was “Rodney.”

Eventually this great preacher found a great joke that worked wonderfully. He preached it around the world. Here it is:

Wilbur wakes up in the morning, and stubs his toe on the bed.
“God, Why me?” he cries out.

Wilbur goes out to start his car….it doesn’t start.
“God, Why me?” he asks.

He finally gets to work..and gets fired!
“God, Why me” he screams.

At which point the sky finally splits open, and the divine silence is broken, as the voice of God booms down:

“Well, Wilbur… There’s just something about you that ticks me off!”

In a delightful twist, years later, after telling this joke literally all over the world, Pastor Al told it, and told it well, at a men’s retreat at which there was…against all odds, for the very first time anywhere...a member of the church I was pastoring...named …you guessed it: Wilbur!

We are all Wilbur.

We have all felt that, prayed it, though likely never aloud…as we hear it’s not allowed.

Hear the good news: it’s allowed to say that aloud. In church.

If Jesus can say it from a cross; surely we can say it in church.

We fear fear to face the…albeit false… feeling that God is ticked off at us; we fear facing the flipside; what seems an even worse offense: We are ticked off at God.

If we are, I mean since we are; we are in good company.

I’ll bet even Pastor Al has felt fleetingly like that.

Like most pastors do on Monday.

“It’s Sunday, but Monday’s coming!”

Every Wilbur in the word has felt a version of that.

Let alone Jesus.

It may feel like one thing after another. Like the poor man I am about to tell about; .this story..unbelievably… is no joke; totally and tragically true.

Brace yourselves and imagine this.

One day when this humble believer and farmer was enjoying an innocent family party; a messenger came to the door with the message: “Your cattle, and all your ranchers, have been killed…I’m the only one who survived!”

And while this messenger was still speaking, another arrived and knocked on the door with more news: “Fire from heaven just came down and killed all your sheep and shepherds. I am the only one who survived!

While this second messenger was still speaking, a third came to the door: “A mighty wind just descended on your house and killed all your children. I am the only one who survived!”.

Do you feel that? Is that you?

To which the man…one named Job, you may recall…replied:

“The Lord gives and the Lord takes away.”

BUT not before he (we dare not skip verses, remember?) he tore his clothes in remorse, and morning.

Got honest.



He may have even felt the absence of the omnipresent God.

He might well have succumbed to his wife’s advice (“Curse God and die!”) if he had not been righteous and real enough to know and work the secret.

The secret the spiritual formation professor found via a frighteningly similar three-chaptered experience.

The secret Jesus used and utilized as he prayed Psalm 22…uncut…on the cross.

The only other option to being honest is to lie.

And we who mistakenly fear that allowing our occasional agnosticism, almost atheism, and anger to surface and verbalize itself aloud, is a sin nearly unpardonable; do well to remember what sin it actually was that did indeed cause God to literally strike someone…..two someones..dead.

“Well, Anananias and Saphira, there’s just something about you that ticks me off!” if you will.

They lied.

Like I do when I violate Scripture, and reality itself, by jumping to the happy clappy faith-formula before embracing and even celebrating the redemptive depth of honest anger and passionate prayer. Doesn’t God know what you’re thinking anyway? Might as well be honest and say it; pray it!

This is not a touchy-feely anger therapy; though there may be value in that.

This is just being honest enough to tell…and pray…the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you, God.

Put that in your Christian songbook and smoke it.

I’ll never forget the first time I heard the lyric; I had to do a double take before I embraced it. It was an upbeat Matt Redman song; I bet you know it. “Blessed be the name of the Lord....” That part sounds good and kosher and evangelical…if not happy-clappy.

But the next line did me in: “You give and

take away! Blessed be the name of the Lord.”

But as you know by now, it’s just quoting Job.

And Jesus.

Walter Wangerin writes in novel “The Orphean Passages,” of a pastor who got up to preach on Good Friday, and suddenly realized the gravity of all Jesus went through on what we call Good Friday, and thus…. couldn’t say a word.

Sometimes we have to stay in Friday, even if it feels Sunday is not coming.

I wrote in my journal after reading how affected the pastor wasL

 “Do I love or know Jesus?”


One last clue and evidence could clinch the argument that Jesus literally prayed aloud all of Psalm 22 on the Good Friday tree. We have heard how he definitely quoted the first verse; we have provocatively proposed that he also prayed aloud the last verse. How many realize that a biblical writer also says clearly that Jesus quoted Psalm 22, verse 22, obviously in the middle of Psalm 22?

I’m not making this up; It’s Hebrews 2:12, which says:

“Jesus says,

‘I will declare your name to my brothers;
in the presence of the congregation I will sing your praises.’"

Your footnote will call attention to the fact that this sentence, which Hebrews 2:12 says that Jesus says, is Psalm 22:22.

But does anyone remember Jesus saying that?

When, where, why does he say that?

It’s nowhere in the gospels.

The context is unclear.

So the jury is out.

One obvious and overlooked theory is …

He said it…literally….on the cross.

Especially if he prayed liturgically the whole thing from memory as we have suggested is possible.

How could he pray something so downright optimistic while nailed, bleeding, thirsting, choking, dying?

Makes perfect sense, as does a later verse in Hebrews (12:2)…remember?…which sheds incredible light on all this: “Jesus endured the cross, despised it’s shame for the….joy (!) set before him!”

How is that possible? He must have seen the doe in the morning, the light at the end of the tunnel, the prize that made it all the Godforsakenness and pain of the torture stake worth it.

What in the world was the joy that got him through?

Namely, you! Even me!

I dare to believe he loves us that much!

That’s why you have Hebrews 12:2 in the Book.
Insert your name: “For the Tom set before him; Jesus endured the cross and despised its shame”

That’s why Psalm 22 ends so astoundingly upbeat, seizing such faith in the future…all while bleeding to death.

Ironic and intentional. As the footnote to this section in the NIV Study Bible says, “No psalm or prophecy contains a grander vision of the scope of the throng of worshippers who will join in the praise of God’s saving acts.”

Grand vision…from the cross?

In fact, let’s pick up at Psalm 22, verse 22. Remembering this is the conclusion of the radically emotional angry burst and blare at God. This is the other end of “God, God, My God, why have you rejected me?....” Remember Hebrews tells us Jesus said this, too:

 I will declare your name to my brothers;
in the congregation I will praise you.

 You who fear the LORD, praise him!
All you descendants of Jacob, honor him!
Revere him, all you descendants of Israel!

 For he has not despised or disdained
the suffering of the afflicted one;
he has not hidden his face from him
but has listened to his cry for help.

 From you comes the theme of my praise in the great assembly;
before those who fear you will I fulfill my vows.

 The poor will eat and be satisfied;
they who seek the LORD will praise him--
may your hearts live forever!

 All the ends of the earth
will remember and turn to the LORD,
and all the families of the nations
will bow down before him,

 for dominion belongs to the LORD
and he rules over the nations.

 All the rich of the earth will feast and worship;
all who go down to the dust will kneel before him--
those who cannot keep themselves alive.

 Posterity will serve him;
future generations will be told about the Lord.

 They will proclaim his righteousness
to a people yet unborn--
for he has done it.

Even from the cross, he knew it was finished. God has already done it.

Such was the vantage point of the rugged cross, somehow. Such was the vista from hell.

He said all this, shamed and naked.

That’s right, no mater how many paintings of Jesus on the cross with a strategically placed loincloth…don’t believe it. He almost surely died, and prayed this for you, dressed like most all crucifixion victims: naked. If a person to be crucified was to be stripped of their dignity, they had to be stripped, literally! Remember earlier in
the psalm (verse 18) his clothing is gone!

Many of you will remember that the sudden memory that Jesus was naked on the cross empowered Corrie Ten Boom to endure and submit to forced nakedness in the Ravensbruck concentration camp.

So you see this amazing visionary faith in the future…and in us…is not just wishful thinking; not the power of positive denial.

It was the radical optimism that is only won and wrestled through to praying in pain, naked and shamed, spit on; admitting and visiting anger and pain , so it can all be morphed into untold joy.

And we can’t get there without praying the whole Psalm..uncut. The joy comes is collective..did you notice how everything hinged on verse 22 when the pray-er imagines himself surrounded by the encouragement of the worshipping faithful. That’s why we are gathered across race and denomination Pray collectively and corporately..the whole Psalm.

The brother in Afghanistan who narrowly escaped with his life; under death sentence for his faith in Christ, is a chilling reminder that in recent years, over a hundred thousand Christian believers are killed every year, somewhere around the world, just because they are Christian. In countries like Sudan and Indonesia. This year, believers have been literally crucified due to their allegiance to the Crucified One. Their stories are inspiring. But one of my favorite such testimonies happened in ’55.

That is, 1555. In England.

Thomas Hauker, brave Christian, was slated to be burned at the stake the next day; all for his relentless faith in Christ.

A friend of his begged, “Thomas, I have to know if this thing; this Christian faith you have; is real.

Will you do me one last and huge favor? Tomorrow, when you are burning on that cross; right before you die…if the pain is bearable and your faith is still alive…will you simply clap your hands? Then I’ll know if it’s real. I beg you, Thomas.”

Thomas Hauker agreed.

The next day, the fires were lit. Hauker was placed on the stake like his Lord.

After awhile his hands were completely burned…even fell off.

The crowd gasped.

But they hadn’t seen anything yet.

Thomas Hauker had to keep a promise.

His friend watched, horrified yet hopeful, as Thomas raised his hands…better yet his burning wrists…and clapped them loudly and firmly together.
Not once.

Not twice.

Three unmistakable and unforgettable times.

Thomas Hauker’s friend could only say..and pray:

“I know that it’s real.

I believe.”

I can’t pretend to know all that you have been through, or are going through now.

Maybe like my professor friend…your spouse has walked out, your best friend has been stolen; your house or your dreams struck by lightning or circumstances and gone.

It could be that like Job, your possessions and family have been ripped away.

It might even be that like Jesus, your only prayer is:

“Why, God?”

And it may well be that Sunday is not coming until we feel and temporarily believe that it is not.

Lament not lamenting.

Life is hard. It’s sometimes hell.

Might as well be honest.
Jesus was.

But remember, he prayed the psalm through to its outrageously hopeful end.

Sunday came.

I hesitate to tell the end of one of my previous stories, because unfortunately I can’t promise an equally happy ending.

Remember the spiritual formation professor? Wife left? Best buddy dead? House destroyed?

Some years later, I heard he was happily married. You might guess to who.

To the wife of his best friend, the one who killed himself.

I can’t promise and identical ending to your story.

But I can promise one thing.

You can make it.

This thing is real.

It works.

And someone who is not yet saved will be saved because they’re going to witness you clap your spiritual hands…not in some happy-clappy farce; remember your hands may be burned….

Your wife or husband may have walked out. Your best friend or best plans may have killed themselves. Your house; your life; your dreams may have burned to ash.

You may have no fingers; no hope, little faith left.

But you have earned the gift and grace of “persisteverance” through praying the full gospel; the full Psalm 22 . Before Psalm 23.

What’s the worst they can do: kill you?

You are indestructible until the will of God is accomplished for your life!

Everything God allows always has something to do with someone’s salvation.

Someone in your life is about to say to the Lord, because of you and your honest faith:

“I know this thing is real.

I believe.”

Blessed be the Name of the Lord.

The Lord be with you!

(motion for congregation to respond with:)

“And also with you.”

Monday, April 24, 2006

Water...uh, over the bridge

Bridges are obvious and multiplex metaphors for ministry in culture.

Accordingly, three photos to stir you up.
First, this one.
According the the caption: "BRIDGE MADE OF WATER: Six years, 500 million euros, 918 meters this is engineering! This is a channel-bridge over the River Elbe and joins the former East and West Germany, as part of the unification project. It is located in the city
of Magdeburg, near Berlin. The photo was taken on the day of inauguration."

Easy apps: We need to be more "fluid" as we build brides between church and culture..

Secondly, this photo below from a presentation by Brian McLaren,
of the Choluteca Bridge after Hurricane Mitch made it

useless, was used as an image of the church. Since the hurricane displaced the bridge, someone from a village on one side can wave at, but not cross over to see anymore, folks on the other side. The bridge is now a tourist attraction. It was a much cherished gift from the Japanese; it withstood the storm, still looks good, but is useless . USA Today caption:
“The graceful arches of the New Choluteca Bridge stand abandoned, a white concrete sculpture far from shore, linking nothing to nowhere....The Choluteca bridge itself is perfect… except that it now straddles dry land. Mitch changed the course of the Choluteca River, and there is water where the access roads used to be ... Now, there is no solution… it is very difficult to change the current. [The river] is in a totally different place.''

As they say, "If that dog...", uh, bridge won't preach, I dunno what will.
See more of how MacLaren uses this photo as a teaching point on story
are of the exact same bridge the authors of "Lost in America: How You and Your Church Can Impact the World Next Door" mentioned, the point is the same. Some bridges are built from both sides, and meet in the middle.

(Later note: I added a video of McLaren about the bridge below)

If I have to draw out the implications of that illustration for church and culture, you are on the wrong website.(:

Ironically, these "newer paradigm" or emerging metaphors of the bridge are more "fluid" and more bridgebuilding than the last century's classic modernity illustration of "The Bridge." Not to say I still won't draw it on a napkin once in fact, we still have it on our church website...on a page that hasn't been updated since last millenium!

Bridge that!

Newer vid of McLaren and the bridge

Dear Lord, Don't let Chuck Colson become a crabby old man...

Here below is my letter to the editor of Christianity Today, which I also emailed to Chuck Colson, in response to the Colson column here.

I am glad his column has stirred up the Body; one helpful response can be read here. I'll add more later; just wanted the "official" letter to be succinct. -dw

Thanks once again to the prophetic Chuck Colson for yet another wonderful, salient article ("Soothing Ourselves to Death," April 2006) to wrestle with. Our lives would be
Immeasurably shallower without this precious and powerful provacateur to deepen our Kingdom obedience.

Occasionally, Colson may flirt with hyperbole, or arguments which could be questioned. But for the first time, he has (unbelievably!) crossed the line into personal slander.

To claim that a respected Christian songwriter's scripturally sound prayer...which he put into a song which has blessed an unqualified "meaningless ditty which has zero theological content" is beyond opinion; it is judgement and slander...of a believer who is perhaps as mature and prophetic as Colson himself.

A quick check online reveals that many have already more articulately called attention to what may be fallacious arguments in the column. But amid the inevitable flurry of responses, I am asking for my letter to be published (in the print edition) in full, especially as it may be the only one publicly asking restitution.

And four words which will change and heal much.

First, I humbly believe that Colson is now biblically mandated to meet the brother (Kelly Carpenter) he has unintentionally offended.

I am only asking for Colson to utter two words at that meeting: "I'm sorry."

Not for his opinion, or musical preferences (This has nothing to do with which side of the "worship wars" one is on), or for anything else in the article; but for personal slander, which I hope was merely a result of an editing or ghostwriting gloss.

Then I request another two words be spoken by Colson. These are to be inserted into the article: "To me." As in "endless repetition of a (to me) meaningless ditty."

It may well be a meaningless song to Colson; that's fine and understandable. But it cannot be point blank a "meaningless ditty"...period. Especially not if it is pure heartfelt prayer (how can prayer be meaningless?) by a highly respected worship leader who undoubtedly believes it was divinely inspired (however imperfectly transcribed). To judge a prayer as a "meaningless ditty" is to judge not only its writer and his relationship with Christ, but any who find meaning and healing in praying it.

I am aware of one internationally respected Christian leader (likely
a friend of Colson's) whose life was radically touched by God as as result of hearing/praying "endless repetition"...a particular worship song. It saved him from depression, giving up on his call, perhaps even suicide. As I recall, it is the very song ("Draw Me Close") under discussion. Is that meaningless?

Chuck, I love the subtitle to your column ("Should we give people what they want or what they need?") and its essential theme. I am assuming, then, you will appreciate the following words, as they would've fit astoundingly well as a closing to your excellent piece:

"On the other end of the spectrum is a God who is all too familiar. Yes, Jesus can be, among other things, our friend. Yet, sometimes we take this too far. We think of Him as our "buddy" Jesus that we keep in our pocket for good fortune. He makes sure we get those good parking spaces and he makes the sun shine today just for us.
The all-too-familiar God evokes worship that is devoid of reverence and fear. The familiar God makes it too easy for us to treat that which is sacred as profane."

I thought you would like that quote. Ironically, it is from Kelly Carpenter, the songwriter in question; the one who according to Matthew 18:15 has every right to ask four simple words from you.

You obviously haven't met him.
But, as a brother in Christ, I ask you to pray about whether you are now required to.

In Christ,
Dave Wainscott
Fresno, California
Pastor, Third Day Fellowship of Fresno
539 W. Celeste
Fresno, California 93704
(559) 436-1794


Follow-up post , four years later:

St. Chuck Colson looses his crabs?

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Bluetooth Church, Pastor Marshall McLuhan

I knew it was inevitable.

Adam Calwell won the caption contest for this striking photo with this entry.

My fascination with it is it's a sign of the times. McLuhan (prophetically saw the theological implications of technology becoming an extension of the body; anda phenotype of mind)and Toffler predicted that technology would eventually morph with our clothes and bodies. The church cannot miss the cruciality of this shift ..

What does it mean? I've only begun the conversation with the title to this post, and the McLuhan quotes to ponder here.

Guten Tov! Carpe Manana!

Rocknroll star

In the spirit of the previous two posts..

..I offer this delightful photo...appears to be genuine.

Stolen shamelessly from Locusts and Honey blog..

Bono always said "Catholicism is the glam rock of religion.."

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

"Is there such a thing as Christian music?"

Note: this article was penned a few years ago in response to a question on our forum, then became part of a U2 article, and now appears here to link into today's post on "Praying through the guitar". Enjoy!

"Is there such a thing as Christian music?"

Such is a  question that begs to be wrestled with:

"Saul has slain his thousands, David his ten thousands" Is that "Christian"?   Is it a Christian thought?  Whatever it is, it’s I Samuel 18:6-7, it was even put to music, the Bible says,  as a "joyful song".

Book of Esther? Is that "Christian"? Doesn’t mention God!  Song of Solomon?  Uh, it's about...nevermind (blush).

And besides, this discussion will naturally lead to a bit of challenge to the church to at least consider, and refuse to prematurely dismantle, another on-target Leonard Sweet bomb: "It may be that for the first time in history, God is more active in the world than the church." 

Sweet’s sweetly provocative quote above explains, in part, why one of the most powerful, biblical and Christian prayers ever prayed was prayed over the world’s airwaves, and not the church’s. Without being overly dogmatic, or framejacking its context, I must maintain that  U2's "Elevation".. IS first and foremost about prayer; no, IS first and foremost prayer. I think I have proffered a convincing case for such a sweeping claim at this link   We must agree that in all things art and U2, there is a necessary freedom and fluidity in lyric interpretation. Always. We must honor and unleash that, wherever it takes us. But even though many interpreters will shut me down, I say "Elevation" has to be-- at heart-- heartfelt and honest (which is why it may not fly in many churches!) prayer. I do allow all kind of breathing room for other and complementary interpretations, other steams of meaning that are vital and valid. And this is an excellent time to insert a wake up and shake up call: some songs are "Christian" if not even "about God" at all; or even if (God forbid!) not written by a "Christian" at all.  Last time I checked, all truth is God’s truth.. T-Bone Burnett, one of the band’s spiritual and musical "pastors," was once thanked in U2 liner notes for "the truth in the dark." Which is exactly where Truth often hides and is brightest…but we miss its brilliance and blessing because we are afraid to "go there." And God has been desperately trying to get us to stand under the light and blessing of His "light bulb hanging over my bed." (That last quote, of course is Bono’s, from the same song/prayer["Ultraviolet/Light My Way"] where the Lord faces the accusation ..some say from Satan…that "You bury Your treasure where it can’t be found"..accurate, unless we are bold and believing enough to "go there", that is.)

"You can write two types of songs as a believer," Burnett says. "You can write about the Light, or about what you see by the Light." His point is that since he tends to circulate more naturally in the latter type, some have pre-judged him as not even being ‘lit" (That means he flunked the church’s "lit"mus test, huh?) The church, of all people, has not easily blessed and baptized the truth of that classic quote. Just as some Christian radio stations appear to actually have a minimum "J-word" count to let a given song in the door, and on the airwaves, we evangelical types have been trained to fine-tooth  everything; ditching Baby with bathwater. We need to be retooled and retrained to enter into the subtle layers and levels of lyrics we feel "may not be Christian" just because they lack enough "J-word" namedroppings (or drop the unpardonable and atomic "F" bomb.!) . I have a yearning to to free Christians , not to violate their own conscience, but to trust it to lifeguard them even out in the "deep (read "forbidden" ) waters, where the swimming and drinking of this deep Kingdom water is exhiliratingly edifying and splashworthy. If you’ve never ventured far enough offshore to swim with the likes of Chagall Guevara, Bruce Cockburn, and of course Burnett: come on in, the water’s fine!). In the words of one frustrated blogger, "Sometime the best Christian music can’t be bought at Christian stores.")

Perhaps it’s only "attempting to justify ourselves" and our "under the radar" listening to, and loving, a "secular" band for Christ’s sake; and for art’s sake, that we feel religious relief to hear that a certain song "really is about Jesus after all." Yet is it comforting, or afflicting, to hear Bono admit that "Our songs are either about God or women, and sometimes we confuse the two."? This rugged and ruddy honesty about confusing the two…because it labels what all of us experience but are afraid to "church," anyway… is precisely why "Elevation" as a prayer tool is such vital component of our tool belt. It would be a gnostic betrayal of Jesus, and St. Bono’s own "hermeneutical key" to NOT "turn each song into a prayer." "Each" is a wonderfully all-encompassing, and dangerously all-inclusive word…shamelessly sweeping in songs about..well, "sex and love and faith and fear" (not to mention "sex n drugs n rockandroll"); much in line with the reckless Matthew 13 fishnet of Jesus that chef-pastor Robert Farrar Capon recklessly and delightfully describes thus:

The word used here is used only once in the New is a particular kind of net, namely, one that is dragged through
the water, indiscriminately taking in everything in its path. Accordingly, the
Kingdom (and by extension, the church as the sacrament of the Kingdom) manifests
the same indiscriminateness)..As the net gathers up everything in its path—not
only fish but seawaeed, flotsam, jetsam and general marine debris—so too the
Kingdom..So the church as fisherman should not get in the habit of rejecting as
junk the flotsam and jetsam of the world—the human counterparts of the old
boots, bottles and beer cans that a truly catholic dragnet will inevitably
dredge up. (Parables of the Kingdom)

Not to "trash" Bono’s..or any deep-water believer’s… sometimes "secular" ("fishy") lyrics, just the holy and wholly opposite: it’s all about being brave, brazen and Christlike enough to inkingdom, bless and baptize all of them, and let the King to sort them out, but not us, and not now: not until "the very end of the age" "(Matthew 13:39). Because in this age, the church and its net needs to be stretched enough to hear prophetic and pointed words from real-world "dredges"; saints and sinners (from Radiohead to REM to Over the Rhine and beyond) that the church would rather not let into the net, even if they are only visiting.
Interestingly, Bono comments on what killed Elvis, and it relates:

I really think he was trying mostly to escape the pain
of the guilt, the pain of believing that he was tapping into voodoo and the
spirit of the devil.All of that must have affected him because of his
Pentecostal upbringing. And he must've known, instinctively, that when he sang he
was touched by the spirit ofGod. And he apparently did read countless books
trying to figure out suchquestions., but I don't think he ever got a
satisfactory answer. It's the thingthat Bob Marley lived, and not just in terms
of the sex and the spirit but interms of the politics. He had that three-chorded
strand. That's the wholeness I'm looking for. It says in the Bible "the
three-chord strand cannot be broken."That's a reference to the Trinity,
obviously, and the Trinity is God the Father,God the Son -- which is the flesh,
Jesus wanting to understand what it's like to have a body -- and the Holy Spirit.
That's what we must aspire towards. But Elvisd idn't reach that state of being,
he was crushed under the weight of not figuring out how to draw together those
three strands. And crushed under not being able to accept that God loves him,
loves his creations as they are, and where they are.That's the tragedy. Though
the problem also is learning how to live with the tensions between those forces
and the thought that you may never pull them together. Maybe even feeding off
that, which I think is what I do in terms of allt he music I create, and my life.
Elvis was left with those two great energies,sexual and spiritual, and even
though he never resolved how to draw themt ogether, with the the third strand,
his music did help so many of us to pull together at least two of those strands.
That was his greatest contribution to rock 'n' roll and to our cultural life in
general. That's his greatest legacy.

The question "What makes music (or lyrics) Christian" needs to be pursued, wrestled with prayerfully and carefully and maybe even eventually (only post-wrestling)..left abandoned and unanswered, or at least left uncomfortably open. On the other (third!) hand, maybe it can be…after the hard theological work and crucible, be dogmatically closed. Whatever the ultimate answer, and meaning of , "case dogmatically closed", it cannot .include either sibling of the following twin and tempting heresies: 1. "As long as it's not_____(fill in supposedly "satanic" genre: rock, rap, Gaithers, Elvis, opera, U2, whatever) , or 2. "As long as it satisfies the minimum count/quota of the 'J-word'. And just maybe Jon Foreman of the band Switchfoot, (whom I recently saw at the local fair ; they book fairs and arenas more often than Christian festivals) settled it once for all, if only our ears would hear: "I am Christian by faith, not by genre." At any rate, a quick and cursory "goggle" for this exactly phrased question {'What makes music Christian?'} yielded no less than 92 links, representing nearly as many articles and essays asking and probing the depths and rabbit-trails of this at first all-too-obvious "answer in the question" question.

Often the very asking of this focused, perhaps ridiculously rhetorical, question grows out of the evangelical disequilibrium we are reeled into upon hearing passionate and bold Christian musicians..from Foreman to P.O.D. to Jars of Clay... say things like "We are not a Christian band. We are a band of Christians." Or "our love songs are just as Christian as our worship songs...because all of life is sacred and Christian". Take the following defining example as a microcosmic window into this forced sacred/secular dichotomy...and be prepared then to unashamedly but gently throw a brick through that dichotomy and Jesus’ name of course:

The Christian in-house debate over ( and at times near ex-communication of ) " Sixpence None The Richer" and their Steve Taylor-produced (pastored?) breakthrough single on the "secular" charts, "Kiss Me," was both humongous and hilarious; both necessary and fruitful on one level, and ridiculously unneeded on another; both intrinsically-motivated in some, and extrinsically and Pharisaically-so in others; both appropriately Christian at points and sub-Christian and unadulterated Gnostic at others ("all matter is inherently evil", "clear distinction between secular and sacred", etc).. at others. Said song may have not mentioned the " J" word . or even a generic "G" word (maybe that can be snuck and danced round by substituting "Yahweh," or maybe, "I AM", ..someone oughta try that!), but who is to say whether it is ultimately..or simultaneously..about a human romantic kiss , and/or a kiss between our Divine Lover and us…and as you know by now, Bono has recently invoked a Song-of-Solomonic kiss on his Guiness-tainted mouth by none other than Yahweh! ), but it sovereignly led (in a way a "straight-up" worship song couldn't have) to an amazingly Spirit set-up moment between Sixpence singer Leigh Nash and David Letterman on Letterman's show, where God convicted Letterman, and not only literally turned him red in from of millions of viewers, but momentarily turned him into an articulate evangelist, who theologized aloud about God and salvation through the lens of C.S. Lewis before his studio and worldwide "congregation". Is that "Christian"? (Rejoice and read more of "the rest of that story" and a proposed answer by clicking here.

One should also celebrate the good company of the very same Steve Taylor (Sixpence producer and frontman of the most missed band around that almost opened for U2: Chagall Guevara), whose credentials speak for themselves when they include being kicked out of the Christians stores and club for (all but literally) putting on MacPhisto-like horns and driving an "ice cream truck" loaded with bombs with intent to "blow up the clinic real good". Accused of advocating the bombing of abortion clinics by playing a character who advocated it, even though the tongue in Taylor’s cheek was as ridiculously oversized and obvious as the horns on Bono’s head, he was dutifully bounced out, by the left foot of fellowship, of the very club he was trying to speak to. Of course, this resume resembles that of another band. Anyone hear of certain well-meaning fellowship in Ireland that very early on questioned that their most famous members (3 of U2) could actually be a Christian band, or a (worse!) a band of Christians...

To coin oneself a " Christian" band may sound like a good and God-honoring thing to do (and it may well be), but nowadays can get one relegated/ banished/ shelved (literally) in only "Christian" stores (where few pre-Christians haunt) or the "religious" sections (ghettos) of secular stores, which "forgets to remember" that the point of Christianity is to give it away. The last time I remember seeing a U2 record in a Christian store was so long ago that it WAS literally a record (the "Wide in America" EP), and the price tag was strategically placed over the cigarette hanging out of Adam’s mouth! What a picture of the church’s sincere but sincerely wrong strategy. And of course, you may have guessed by now that the record was the cut-out rack..the comparable "ghetto" of the Christian stores! About the same time era, I remember having to bribe a Christian store employee (thankfully, it was my wife!) sneak me a contraband copy of a 77s record that was conveniently stocked for all customers to see (not!)…in the storage room!! And the church is not yet over that disease, I see, having noted recently at that same store... under "L" section, Lifehouse was indeed available…behind the counter!….I assume alongside the cigarettes and condoms.

Bono, in his liner notes to Johnny Cash's glorious "God" CD (which, despite its title, is presumably sold only in stores that DO also sell cigarettes and condoms) , admitted he always felt like Johnny, though saved, was "not only singing TO the damned, he was singing WITH the damned...and sometimes he preferred their company." The fact that Cash's "God" record was one of a trilogy/trinity of discs named "God", "Love" and "Murder", revelates that the late Cash was right on time and in unfortunate touch with the pseudo-reality of much "Christian" music. Maybe the following lyric was included and spotlighted just to tweak the Pharisees: "I shot a man...just to watch him die." Cash belts out this line on the "Murder" (of course!) disc, not because he ever did such a thing or sanctions it, but because he was honest enough...meaning Christian enough, E. Stanley Jones would say (and thus pray) publicly that he had flirted with such a thing in his heart. So it is confession…but the confessional is in the marketplace, not the meeting place. U2 of course picked up a play from this book in the 90s with their shortlved but longsighted "video confessional," in which audience members waiting in line were invited to film their confessions, which would be presented onscreen during the concert for the whole congregation..uh, see and forgive (Something about the priesthood of all believers?). And how about Jimmy Carter’s infamous confessing to committing adultery in his heart, in a Playboy magazine interview presented between pages designed exclusively for men to commit adultery in their heart? God bless Rosalynn Carter and June Carter (no relation but except through the Christ-tribe and a common Kingdom honesty) Cash for letting their husbands bleed honesty in the marketplace..the world is waiting to see such fearless honesty. And of course Mrs. Bono likely smiled and smirked knowingly, when her husband responded to an interviewer’s question as to why they announced their "Pop" tour at a Manhattan K-Mart, and why on Ash Wednesday, with "Ash Wednesday and K Mart..that about sums us up!" As does Romans 7, which paints a perfectly imperfect view of (even the redeemed) human heart. But we prefer, for whatever reason (maybe we sickly prefer to "kill our inspiration and sing about the grief") , to jump to Romans 8 and prematurely find what we’re looking for: victory. .But this is nor right; not realistic nor real; it is is Easter shorn of Good Friday. Where’s the glory in that? In fact it is denying that some Sundays are bloody Sundays indeed. Wouldn’t we rather honor God and reality with gut-level, gut-wrenching, resplendent, refreshing, rare Kingdom honesty?

Another honest theologian (may the tribe increase), E. Stanley Jones, has often keynoted the theme that reality itself is Christian. The Kingdom of God is ultimate reality; wherever the Kingdom is, there is reality; therefore..hold your breath and your heresy gun...wherever reality is, there is the Kingdom (in however a veiled, pre-Christian singer or player; or no matter even how flotsamic or demonic the wrapping or wineskin.) "The people of the Kingdom have the whole universe backing them up," he would say. So, anything that is in essence real; honest, is by definition or by default Christian/Kingdom, at least in its purest genesis. "Evil is only," Lewis suggests "fallen good." Music, no matter how twisted, tampered with or tweaked: , no matter how later demonized by anti-Christ lyrics, is, at heart, at first, and at nutshell, a gift of God.

Bono: "Songs are the language of the Spirit...the melodies are how you sing to God. It's a deep language. But they can't explain everything, because really great songs touch places that you can't explain." In another interview, he tips his hand:. "All our songs are about God or women..and sometimes we confuse the two," he confesses with a casual, almost "throwaway" honesty which shocks, but which would benefit, traditional Christians. Part of the honesty of his confession stems from his fear of fans idolizing him, not just as a rock star, but as a professing Christian (or "Christian singer"..if there is such a thing): "I am a believer and I have faith in Christ," he is quick to put on record. "But I am not a very good advertisement for God." The band in fact, "went into the baptismal waters..and almost drowned" when, against their church's advice, they felt called to stay in the "secular" music industry and detour and Dovetail around the ghetto of "Christian music" .

"I'm just drawing my fish in the sand", Bono offers. And "every great song", he reflects, in perhaps an ultimately even more accurate quote than his God/woman confession, "is either about running to God, or from God". I ask: Is a song about "running from God" Christian? I dunno, but try some of the Psalms on for size. The shoes may fit. How about songs honest and real enough to be "agnostic prayers"?. Psalms again.
Such anthems cannot be anathema. . Aa heartfelt, heartbroken Bono lyric, responding in part to the death of his mother:" Jesus! Jesus, help me, I'm alone in this world, and a f____up world it is, too." Blasphemy or Christian? You decide, but to hear Bono pray/ sing it, one does not walk away saying "Bono swore," but "Bono just articulated, -psalmlike, something I had felt..and may never feel comfortable saying aloud..but in an odd way..maybe a God way..I find myself healed and worshipping afresh as I listen."
(For follow-up, you will be stretched by the column that the editor of Worship Leader magazine wrote, carefully entitled "Why I Would Follow Bono into Hell", kept here: ).

Very often a song by a person who is likely not a Christian by our (or their own) definition (Peter Gabriel, for example; a friend of U2), may animate and articulate (untainted by Christianese) a heretofore-latent worship emotion or expression. Thus: "This old familiar craving/ Don't know who the hell I'm saving anymore/ Let it go, let it pass, let it leave/ from the deepest place I grieve/ This time I believe..And I let go.." is a song (Gabriel's "Love to be Loved") with more passion and raw honesty than many an official or self-proclaimed "Christian" song or church "prayer"...yes, despite, maybe even PRECISELY BECAUSE OF the unedited "h" word...even at the expense of not naming the "J" word, which one might make the case is in between every line. And how about his belting out for life and death, in the song "Supper's Ready" (named after the marriage supper of the Lamb in Revelation! ): "There's an angel standing in the sun/Crying with a loud voice?/ This is the supper of the Mighty One...The Lord of Lord , King of Kings.. returns to take His children home/To take them to the New Jerusalem!" There is something in Gabriel that believes this with all his heart and more. Is he Christian? I do not think he would claim it. However, his lyric and voice do! Are his music and lyric "Christian?" Take a listen. No wonder his songs (like "In Your Eyes": "In Your eyes, the light, the heat/ I am complete in Your eyes/ I see the doorway of a thousand churches, the resolution of a thousand fruitless searches" ) have been recorded by "Christian artists" without a need to baptize the lyrics. Is "In Your Eyes" "Christian", even if Gabriel sometimes wonders if the words are written to God or a woman? Here I can only speak for myself: I fall on my face and worship Jesus to these lyrics. Do they come from a flawed even non-Christian messenger? Of course. But the music and lyric is Christian to the core and reached and teaches the core of my soul And as a result, God’s "love is teaching me to kneel" to a degree I wouldn’t have gotten to without a "secular saint" being a doorkeeper into the House of God.

Is there such thing as "Christian music"? I dare to believe the answer may well be yes, but not in the way the typical evangelical might frame question, or mean the answer. I don't believe I am "frame-jacking" to believe there is Christian music everywhere...even from the mouths of babes, the mouths of backsliders, and more often than we have admitted, the mouths of pagans. Leonard Sweet again,( this time from p 163ff of "Eleven Genetic Gateways to Spiritual Awakening") makes the case that life is "at its very base" music: "Scientists are finding that they are no different than theologians...They are finding that...Music does more than help us experience God as spirit as we experience life as spirit . Music is more accurately the essence of who we are created in the image of God. If the most elemental and elementary aspect of life is "energy that vibrates" (as scientists say they have discovered in quantum "string theory"), then life is at base music...For anything that vibrates gives off sound… and I… are at base a song.. There is no one who isn't musical….My personal definition of Jesus is 'God's perfect Pitch.’ It is in our genes to see (God's Words) as musical notes....As Pythagoras said, ' A stone is frozen music.'" Rocks cry out?

Whew! Maybe the starting point is now not "Is there Christian music?", but "Isn’t music Christian? Alternatively "Is life Christian?"

Besides, a wise non-Christian(?), Adam Clayton, outted and uttered this astounding observation about "With or Without You: "You don’t expect to hear that song on the radio. Maybe in a church." " Maybe marriage of radio and church, if done well (as Larry Mullen has said, "not at an angle"), could and should work. If it is moving in the right direction, and is not a hijacking. As Bono once told me (OK, me along with the other 30, 000 fans in attendance at an "Elevation" tour concert), "I’m going to take you to church!" He took us; no hijacking; it was holy. So about this marriage:
What God has joined together; let no reviewer; no radio; no church, set asunder.