Friday, June 27, 2014

Guest post by Don Berg: Evolution of Bruce Cockburn lyrics part 3: "Up on the Hillside"

by Don Berg:

Up on the Hillside (1972) Bruce is obviously on the path to Christianity here. There is an inevitability to this song. He hears the call of the cross, but like Jonah, he sees the danger of that path. Though for Jonah the danger in the end was that he was unable to have the forgiveness of God.

Up on the hillside you can see the cross shine
Out in the alley hear the hungry dog whine
You and I, friend, sit waiting for a sign
See how the sunset makes the lake look like wine

Over the mountain I can hear myself called
I want to come running but my window's too small
The cliffs are so high and I might fall
What were you saying? -- oh, it's nothing at all

Yes, the world's in convulsions and the weather is fine
Buicks get bigger and five cents costs a dime
I must get going, you know, there's not much time
The road is waiting and I'm running out of rhyme
Up on the hillside, see how the cross does shine

by Don Berg:

Guest post by Don Berg: Evolution of Bruce Cockburn lyrics part 4: "Night Visions"

by Don Berg
Night Visions (1973)
In 1973 Bruce reaches his “Moment of Surrender.” His album Night Visions is suffused with dark images of a man in crisis. A man who is trapped in visions of the night, looking for the dawn. The songs “Mama Just Wants to Barrelhouse All Night Long”; “Clocks Don’t Bring Tomorrow, Knives Don’t Bring Good News”; “When the Sun Goes Nova”; and “The Blues got the World...” paint the picture of descent into crisis of the singer. Even the song Foxglove, and instrumental is named after a toxic plant (which in it’s own moment of surrender can be synthesized into the life-saving drug digitalis. I find a lot of parallels between this album and the U2 song “Moment of Surrender.”

Bruce sings:
I've been in paris doing what the frenchmen do

He says if we burn up the roof from above us
We surely will see the light and maybe more

Bono sings:
I tied myself with wire
To let the horses roam free
Playing with the fire
Until the fire played with me

Bruce reaches his moment of Surrender in the song “You don’t have to play the horses:”
So we wait beside the desert
Nothing left to give away
Naked as the Hanged Man's secrets
Nothing left to do but pray...

Oh God I don't know where to step now
Help me find the right road please

For Bono it comes like this:
I’ve been in every black hole
At the altar of the dark star
My body’s now a begging bowl
That’s begging to get back, begging to get back
To my heart
To the rhythm of my soul
To the rhythm of my unconsciousness
To the rhythm that yearns
To be released from control

At the moment of surrender
I folded to my knees
I did not notice the passers-by
And they did not notice me
And both singers sing of a vision:
Bruce in “God Bless the Children”
With pain the world paves us over
Lord let us not betray
God bless the children with visions of the Day

At the moment of surrender
Of vision over visibility
I did not notice the passers-by
And they did not notice me

On a final note I wanted to illustrate the imagery of Cockburns lyrics as here he describes dusk:
Night comes
The mask of the world
Resolves into round bits of silver on the table
Round arrow nocked against the bow
Round fruit devoured by time
While the moon climbs

by Don Berg

Guest post by Don Berg: Evolution of Bruce Cockburn lyrics part 2: "Love Song"

by Don Berg:

Love Song (1970)
In the place my wonder comes from
There I find you
Your face shines in my sky

In your heart where the world comes from
There you will find me
Your eyes dance in my mind

We used to speculate about whether this was about God or a girl. Like all good art, it has more than one meaning, and we bring our own meaning to it based upon our life experiences. 

by Don Berg:

Guest post by Don Berg: Evolution of Bruce Cockburn lyrics part 1: "Going to the Country"

by Don Berg:

I thought that I would start an evolution of Bruce Cockburn lyrics blog of sorts. Hopefully, pretty short entries with links to the song. After his years at Berklee College of Music Bruce became a "bearded folk singer."
"Going to the Country" 1969

Birds singing, I'm singing in my bones
Doesn't much matter now where I'm going
Get it when I get there is what I'll do
If I get enough I'll give some to you
And I'm going to the country

Birds start singing and I am lost...
I once taught 8th grade language arts for a Semester to at risk students in Fresno. This song was one of the poems in their textbook. I played the song for them and they cooperated by not rioting.

N.T. Wright video: Why begin with Philemon? It's "pressing your nose against the window to see the landscape"

"know what we see rather than see what we know"

Abraham Heschel, in The Prophets

What impairs our sight
           are habits of seeing
            as well as the mental concomitants
                             of seeing. 
Our sight is suffused with knowing, 
  instead of feeling painfully
                          the lack of knowing what we see. 
The principle to be kept in mind is
                  to know what we see
                       rather than to see  what we know.”
-Abraham J. Heschel, The Prophets: An Introduction. vol. 1 (New York: Harper & Row, 1962), p. xi.

"the depth of our doubt is roughly proportional to the depth of our faith"

"...Perhaps that's a general principle: The depth of our doubt is roughly proportional to the depth of our faith. Those with strong faith have equally strong doubts. That principle bears out in the other direction as well: People with a trivial and shallow faith usually have trivial and shallow doubts. And if you ask them, Who is this god you doubt? you'll likely find this: He's safe. -Mark Buchanan, Your God is Too Safe, pp 67-68.

"Clergy Robes and Anonymous Notes in Church" by Jason Micheli

From Jason Micheli:

Clergy Robes and Anonymous Notes in Church
When I was a student at Princeton, I got the chance to hear a lecture delivered by Stanley Hauerwas, a theologian whose work I knew only from the snarky comments I heard whispered by certain professors as I waited on their tables during faculty lunches.

Hauerwas was a like a breath of fresh air: robustly Barthian, absolutely not a Calvinist, and he had a mouth dirtier than my own.

During the lecture, which was on discipleship, Hauerwas shot from the hip and offered what has continued to be a guiding maxim of the pastorate for me:

“Ministry is like being nibbled to death by ducks.
It’s just a nibble here and a nibble there but before you know it you’re missing a leg.”

I’m grateful for those auspicious words and have never forgotten them. I once again recalled them when this morning this little gem found its way to my desk:


In December I preached a sermon in which I used folding chairs to illustrate my point. In the first service, the cincture of my robe kept getting caught in the chairs so I took it off for the following services.

I wasn’t making a statement.
I wasn’t trying to ‘go contemporary.’
I wasn’t trying offend traditional sensibilities.
I wasn’t trying to do anything but avoid breaking my leg on the altar steps.

Not wearing my robe that Sunday elicited such bad behavior, in the form of anonymous notes left in my box, under my door, in the pew pads, and on the pulpit, as well as gossip being brought to me fourth-hand (‘so and so is concerned..’), that I decided not to encourage such behavior by putting it back on.

To date, in over four months, only 1 actual living, breathing human has approached me face-to-face to tell me how they feel about the robe. The ratio of anonymous complaint to face-to-face encounter is about 1/300.

Before proceeding, I probably don’t needto, but I will do so anyway and point out that 98% of my congregation are wonderfully sincere Christians who are supportive, encouraging and want nothing but to partner in furthering God’s mission in the world. I love working with those 98% and I think (fingers crossed) they appreciate me, warts and all.

Back to this week’s latest note.
I could point out that leaving an anonymous complaint in the offering plate- the plate that gets prayed over and dedicated to the Lord’s reconciling work in the world- suggests something far more disturbing than my lack of vestments.
I mean- would you ever stick a cranky post-it note on the communion bread?
That’s bible bad.
I could point out how..  continued

see posts linked below on 'clerical clothing,' especially

My Dress for Sale on EBay...Finally!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

videos from Christian Political Witness Conference

Speakers include William Cavanaugh,Stanley Hauerwaus, Peter Leithart, Jennifer McBride .
All videos here.
Richard Beck reviews/summarizes the books based on the conference here.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Scot McKnight video: The Atonement and the Pastor


Scot McKnight video: Gospel and Atonement

Gospel and Atonement from Fuller Seminary on Vimeo.
The other three videos in the series here

Bach's subversive, chiastic and non Joel-Osteen-y golf club: Where's the Christus Victor in THIS?

Bono once (in)famously asked (about terrorism),
"Where's the glory in that?"

I'll come back to that.

One day after asking about possible  new liturgical uses of a Christus Victor theme,

I have an answer:

Forget new.
Get back to Bach.

Like any theological golfer, what Bach did..

Okay, I know.  I need to unpack that Bach as golfer image.
I love Scot McKnight's work, especially on the atonement.
Yet I have sometimes felt his "golf club" metaphor for theories of atonement seemed--even though making a very profound and accurate point--seemed a bit crude:

Scot McKnight wants you to have your golf bag fully equipped—theologically speaking. That's the controlling metaphor of McKnight's 2007 study of soteriology, A Community Called Atonement (4 stars).
Here's how the metaphor works. Each "theory" of the Atonement is, like a particular golf club, better suited to some situations than others. Ministering the gospel is like playing a round of golf. Just as a golfer knows when to use a driver, a wedge, or a putter, the way we proclaim, teach, or share the Good News should be adapted to the situation. You can hit the ball out of a sand trap with your driver, but why would you if you had a wedge available?
The strength of the golf-bag metaphor is that it asks us to stop being partisan toward one particular theory of the Atonement and to minister with the best tools at hand. McKnight is a peacemaker and a bridge builder, which makes his book welcome.  link
But I have come to  agree with Frank Viola; and see that it works well.

I sometimes use Baker and Green's language of a  "constellation of images" of the atonement being needed.
 I sometimes apply NT Wright's language  (in different context) of four speakers with adjusted volumes to the atonement.

 But it just may be that as down-home,  utilitarian and Joel-Osteen-y as it sounds, choosing the right "golf club" might be one of most helpful ways of making the point that multiple (multiplex) "views" are in Scripture, and that the "theories" are indeed practical" (See  "God loves donkeys, sweat, entrails and menstruation" )and "Nothing is more practical than theory, and nothing is more theoretical than practice)")

Having said that, I must also say:

--In light of the fact that McKnight's point in the very title, and throughout the book, is that the community needs to interpret atonement, not just individuals, one is disappointed that there was no  team sport that would work better than the individual player nature of golf..Hmmm..

--I also wonder how best to communicate that atonement theories inevitably overlap and constellate/cluster/Venn--unlike use of a golf club for a particular shot, which rules out  simultaneous use of another. (Or does it?? Creative golf, hmm...)


Bach apparently wrote five passions, including one for each gospel.
Matthew's was based on a satisfaction theory of atonement; John's steeped in Christus Victor imagery.  Mark's survived only in text; and two were lost.

Wow, makes one wonder what we lost by not having inherited all of Bach's golf clubs.

In an article analyzing the underpinnings of CV in  Bach's St. John's Passion, Calvin Stapert notes that Jesus' words "It is finished," if indeed interpreted as Chistus Victor, should obviously be a victory  cry. Yet..

Bach set these words to a descending line that fittingly depicts the expiration of a dying man. 
But where, then, is Christus victor in this

Full article PDF here

Well, read the article to see how Bach--no theological and musical slouch-- brilliantly  and musically subverted desencion and death into ascension and joy.  (It's kind of a  holy hemistiche.  Note also that Bach weaves together three chiastic structures!  What a rock star.).

Music itself may be the only medium to liturgize our message.
As Happy Lee  and James Allison remind us, "theories of atonement" are better yet "liturgies."
Even though  in our day, we have forgotten that "worship is not music," 
music ..especially corporate worship music...can sure be worship. 
There's glory in that!

Ryan Schellenberg:

The actuality of the atonement exceeds our theologizing:

....people are more than the sum of their conscious ideas, and therefore any account of atonement in the New Testament should be curious about how the message of the cross connected with the rest of what makes up a human being. Surely it is instructive here that the earliest evidence we have for atonement piety is not theological discourse at all but rather ritual practice, specifically, baptism and the celebration of the Lord’s Supper, both of which predate any extant Christian text by nearly twenty years. 17 We don’t know what the earliest followers of Jesus were saying about the atonement, but we do know that they participated ritually in his death and resurrection—they shared in his body and blood; they joined in his death and resurrection—and thus experienced themselves as redeemed people.

Recovering the Scandal of the Cross: A ‘Redaction-Critical’ Reflection, Direction, Spring 2012  ·  Vol. 41 No. 1

Monday, June 23, 2014

two embarrassing book purchases that help my quixotic quest for reduction of seduction and the strangulation of triangulation..and keep from building a stage and props

I pray some and try hard not to be an idiot..
..or the seducer  (see this, this and this) that the pastor/teacher role and expectation  can inevitable invoke/evoke.

So once again I found myself buying a book at the thrift store (the price is right, and it's a place where O have learned big lessons about how and how not to pastor..that sordid story here), buying a book I wouldn't buy at full price; one with  a title or cover I'm a bit embarrassed by..

This time it was  "The Art of Seduction"...which I bought to help me in my reduction of seduction.
Very Screwtape-ian..and MacPhisto-esque of me, eh?

(There are no pictures in the book, and it is SFW..unless you are a pastor!)

Oh, one of the  others in the stack I was concerned the clerk might misundertand also.

It was  "No One Left to Lie to: The Triangulations of William Jefferson Clinton,"
making the case for Clinton's impeachment.
What I didn't want the clerk to think it that I was some  conservative who automatically hates liberals.  What I love about the book it makes an articulate and compelling case; argues not so much from sex but violence (violence to cover up sex)..and it is written by a liberal (Oh, there's  one more good book on Clinton by a liberal..a Jew who had voted for him, but wouldn't again).

The author makes the case that Clinton was a master at "staging" things  (p. 101); even using his daughter as a "prop" (78)...and these were seductions  and "detractions" of the public to cover up his private seductions.

I try to be so careful and prayerful that I don't stage things, or use things/people as props.  But that's what we pastors do by default (Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain..)

See these links on "stage":

And on "props," Vincent J., Vera has already said it...sung it (embedded below).I don't know if VV ever saw the double meaning of "taking the props" home, but if you think of "props" in the vernacular sense of "Kudos"  "appreciation" and "proper respect"  those too are items that pastors take home at their own risk...

..and self-seduction.

Where the leitourgia has no shame: Christus Victor/ trickster calls to worship?

photo credit
Hat tip to Beth for my title; and my apologies to her for my twisting it.
Her wonderful chapter on "Where the Leitourgua has No Name: U2 Live" should be read well by the well-read   (it's in this book; for more on  leitourgia, see this),

Actually, the way I nodded to her title and tweaked it is itself perhaps a cheap example of the liturgical experimentation I am encouraging below.  Hopefully you will get the reference.
(As Beth herself has confessed about me, I can be "ever-prolix"  (:..)

Paul Ryan blogs:

One ordinary Sunday morning, I sat in my pew praying customary words of confession and hearing familiar words of assurance. My pastor announced, as he did every Sunday, “God assures us with these words of pardon . . .” But at that moment, the words surprised me. Immediately, I turned to my wife and whispered excitedly, “Pardon! That’s an image of the atonement!”
I had been studying notes outlining five images of the atonement: Christus Victor, ransom, penal substitution, sacrifice, and moral example. My professor, John Witvliet, had encouraged us to consider how we might balance these images in worship. That morning, I realized that the word pardon is a courtroom image (penal substitution). And I realized that we had been introducing our words of assurance with this image exclusively.
Since that day, I’ve been reflecting on how we might enrich and balance our confession through attention to other images of the atonement... LINK

SOO..what would it sound/look like to  shamelessly incorporate into corporate worship/leitourgia a shameless 
I don't know what it would look ;ike..maybe a high church Zoo TV? (:
Think of ...and suggest below...some practical examples of  such creative calls to worship, collects etc..

I know this next example is taking it too far; but I remember Shawn Rabon and I thinking out loud how to gently satirize   (Yes, I know "gently satirize" is oxymoronic, but...) the tendency of some Christians to, during prayer meetings, address Satan more than God.  We wondered if opening a meeting with "Dear Satan"  would make the point. (:

Friday, June 20, 2014

"I had seminars booked as a second career..."

"I had seminars booked as a second career
Until a still, small voice screamed loud and clear"
-Steve Taylor song, The Lament Of Desmond R.G. Underwood-Fredrick IV

Guest post by Mark DeRaud-- The Atonement Part 3: Reintroducing the "Good" in the Good News of the Gospel

  I (left) am honored to host a new series by guest poster Mark DeRaud  (right)
Click Mark's name under "topical diving" at right for more on Mark
Part I, click here
Part 2 click herePart  3 below:

 The Atonement Part 3:
Reintroducing the "Good" in the Good News of the Gospel
  by Mark DeRaud

"[Christ] gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us out of this present evil age..." Galatians 1:4

New understanding of the Atonement reorients us from concern for life hereafter (Do you know where your will spend eternity?) to the 'here' and 'after'......Life, life in the present, in the New Covenant of the Holy Spirit (Isaiah 59:21). Now.

"Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven," invokes heaven coming to earth rather than us going to heaven.

Just prior to the Reformation (launch in 1517) Michelangelo was in Rome creating his masterful mural on the Sistine Chapel ceiling under the auspices of Pope Julius II.
artwork by Mark DeRaud

Needing to fund Michelangelo, the expansion of St. Peter's
Basilica and assorted military campaigns Pope Julius II stepped up the sale of indulgences to raise money.

What better sales program was there but to turn up the fires of Purgatory's cleansing flames, then offer indulgences for a price, to quench them? Reformers had had enough and Luther ignited a revolt.

While Luther maintained belief in Purgatory, Reformers eventually abandoned Purgatory along with their rejection of indulgent sales, leaving us to inherit a pre-occupation with hell-fire, eclipsing the good news gospel message that God's Kingdom has arrived for the taking, now.

The Atonement, then, has been relieved of its 'earthiness'. The Atonement, even as administered under the Old Covenant, is popularly understood as God's means to transfer souls into heaven through Christ's blood.

So strong is this concept that we gloss over scripture that argue the Atonement is meant to transfer us, or better, Jews, from the Old Covenant into the New, here on earth, here on earth in the Spirit, with eternal life secured for a distant Final Judgment. Gentiles are then invited to join the family of faith.
This view, Atonement as a transference from the Covenant of Law to the Covenant of Grace (Charis, from where we get Charisma) better aligns our evangelism efforts to those of Christ and the Kingdom of God He preached, "on earth as it is in heaven."

Good News! You have access to the love, power and gifts of God, here on earth as it is in heaven, secured by Christ's atonement.

"For He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the Kingdom of His beloved Son." Colossians 1:13

"But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God," says Jesus, "then the Kingdom of God has come upon you." Matthew 12:28
by Mark DeRaud

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

"Church Around the Table": "his vision..still does not include a traditional pastorate"

Great article on my amazing friend and colleague Ryan Davis, and  the ecclesiology of Life Community Church; Pacific Magazine, May 2014, pages 11-12 here

More on Ryan in video below:

The Ryan Davis Story from Fresno Pacific University on Vimeo.

Should Christian pastors officiate marriages as agents of the state?

 Should Christian pastors officiate marriages as agents of the state? Series by Tony JonesL

There Are Two Marriages – Part One

There Are Two Marriages – Part Two

There Are Two Marriages – Part Three

There Are Two Marriages – Part Four


There Are Two Marriages – Conclusion and Video Chat

 There Are Two Marriages” eBook

The Case for Reparations

 Original article:
The Case for Reparations - The Atlantic

Should Christians Support Reparations for African Americans? Some thought on collective sin, responsibility, and healing.
Reparations, privilege and communal sin - Think Christian

Disingenuous Evangelicals and a Progressive Christian Case for Reparations

Ta-Nehisi Coates on his “Case for Reparations” on Stephen Colbert:

"Was Paul For or Against Women in Ministry?" by Craig Keener

article here

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

"Kingdom of God" book by Joel Green

The complete

"Kingdom of God: Its Meaning and Mandate"

                                            book by Joel Green is below; it's out of print.

Summary and review; click here
(click any page to read it all in a page-turning book format; or right click a page to enlarge) 
LOL.. I am thanked on page 8, lines 4-7.  I was there when this baby was being test-driven