18 August 2011

reflecting: Mark 6:53-56

Amidst all the commotion of Jesus walking on water (and rightfully so, I mean he WALKED ON WATER!), we may have totally skipped over the healing in Gennesaret that Mark records afterwards.

This little episode shows the crowd’s immediate (a great Markan word) recognition of Jesus and how they flock to him for healing.  What ensues is the oddest kind of mayhem.  Jesus gets rushed by all sorts of people, misfits and outcasts, wherever he goes.  If they can but “touch the hem of his garment they’ll be made whole.”  This is the same desperation we saw in the interruption in Chapter 5 (Mark 5:21-43) as Jesus was en route to Jairus’ dead daughter.

I’ll go ahead and out myself…I’ve probably been to hundreds of concerts and, Lord willing, will go to many more yet, but the first concert I ever attended was at the Daytona Beach Ocean Center in 1992.  Two as yet unknown acts, TLC & Boyz II Men, opened for MC Hammer’s 2 Legit 2 Quit tour.  My best friend in third grade and me rushed out of our seats, leaving his chaperone mom in her seat, desperate to try and get a hand on those famous parachute pants as Hammer moved freely about the arena flaunting his brilliant new wireless microphone headset technology.  We elbowed and vied, only to get boxed-out by some screaming girls, who needless to say, hit their growth spurt before we did.

All joking aside though, I’m indicted by the fact that my most diligent attempt to get to somebody in a crowd, that I can remember, was not, and tends not to be, me getting to Jesus.  In these gospel stories, I’m most struck by how Jesus is the obvious hope for these people’s hopelessness.  

This is not obvious to me most of the time.  

I go through most of my days trying either to ignore the hopeless moments or areas of my life, drowning them out with shear busy-ness, or attempting to solve my own problems so that I don’t have to go through the hassle of having Jesus heal me.

Jesus, make me desperate for the healing that I need and that you offer.  
Show me the ways I clutch at other things and people that aren’t you and can’t do what you can do.  
Let me recognize you immediately in my life and in the lives of others who are hurting.  

A bit better musical accompaniment to Mark 6:53-56.

05 August 2011

reflecting: Mark 6:30-44

Have you ever seen one of those “hoarder shows” on TV?  

They’re kind of fascinating, but they’re also kind of upsetting.  

Reality television is largely a case-in-point that truth, or at least “real life,” is stranger than fiction.  When I was watching, I was about to totally disengage with the lives on the screen, till a behavioral psychologist came on.  It seems that these professionals’ main role is to get to the bottom of some fundamental problem of “enough-ness” in their patient.

I can connect with this issue.  The old man on the program hoarded because, in his estimation, there was a good chance that at some point there just was not going to be enough.  He held onto things and food and memories because he didn’t believe that the future will be so kind to him.  

The sad irony was that this holding onto resulted in him being threatened with losing his home because it was dangerous, losing his relationships because he had alienated the people closest to him, and losing his own possessions because of rust, corrosion and rot.

Sunday we’ll explore a famous passage in Mark’s Gospel (Mark 6:30-44), but common to all four accounts, about Jesus feeding more than 5.000 people with just 5 loaves and 2 fish.  Sounds suspicious given the lack of “enough-ness” in Jesus’ camp.

We get the privilege of not only hearing the good news about how Jesus manages this, but we also get to participate in a meal of communion together, remembering another dramatic moment when Jesus fed his disciples with bread.  Look forward to seeing you then.

13 July 2011

review: David Rosenfield- Son of Ojito

Originally Published at The Blue Indian on July 13, 2011.

To start, David Rosenfield’s Son of Ojito promises an interesting mix, a veritable gumbo, of poetry, folk, blues, punk-rock storytelling. The fourteen tracks seethe with pledges of unorthodox hippy ditties in the vane of mewithoutYou or Edward Sharpe, but ultimately fail to deliver the goods on that oath. The result is an album of busky, suitcase songs, tinged with open-mic emoting and Shel Silverstein jejunery.

This album was incredibly approachable and, for me, initially appealing. Lest you think I’m being too hard on this one, let me try to explain. I wanted to love it; I wanted to sink my teeth into the zanily imaginative snapshots. To put it culinarily: I wasn’t expecting fine dining. I wasn’t hungry for fillet or lobster. I didn’t expect silverware or cloth napkins. I was okay with that. It seemed Rosenfield’s album was to be some sort of fused streetfood, served in a corn tortilla out of the side of an old plumbing truck, alloying cultures and sensibilities. I readied my taste-(ear)buds, and prepared a makeshift bib out of a single-ply napkin, but when I took my first bite, it lacked the basics, the salt and the pepper, and the chicken was a bit on the pink side.

Underdeveloped, most tunes lacked the passion and believability they warranted. Sing It exudes some of the Danielsonian charm, laced with dormy acoustics and a campy chorus, that this artist and album are capable of. “Streetlights Playing Dixie” sounds like a song begun in one of John Darnielle’s old notebooks, while “The Cat’s Meowing” too bears some of the marks of playful potential.

Rosenfield will undoubtedly continue to cook. My hope is not only that these tunes continue to marinate and develop, but also that he hones his unique recipes into something even more square and satisfying.

Rating: 2.5/10

12 July 2011

Hymns from the Gathering Church Kickstarter

A very important project to me that I’m currently working on:

My church (the Gathering Church, Durham, NC) is beginning work on a full-length record of Christian hymns re-spun by our rotating casts of musicians and special guests.  I realize that we’re in trying economic times, but I can truly testify that this project is no less than mission-critical to who our church is, where we are going, what we’re called to be.

Our three emphases (by no means innovative) at the Gathering Church are presence before God, connection to one another in community, and engagement with the world.  The hymns that we’re getting our hands on are even less novel than the worship our Church hopes to share in.  In a lot of ways we’ve come to realize that looking back is our best way forward, and that old idioms can nourish our devotion in surprising ways.  This record of reworked songs will serves as a worship/devotional companion, hopefully successful in both clinging to old stories of gospel-fidelity while jarring loose the corrosion that comes with familiarity.

You may ask, if this is so critical, why didn’t it make it even make a line item in the church budget?  By using innovative fund-raising techniques like www.kickstarter.com (sometimes referred to as “crowd-sourcing”) we hope to generate and renew an important culture of artistic patronage within our local community (inside and alongside of the church).  Understanding the vitality and gratuity of such endeavors pairs with my understanding of the gospel of grace that these songs sound.

These songs “make sense” within our community.  By that I mean, all of the songs we’ll commit to production have been integral to our Sunday worship at some point.  They all have concrete connections to our particular community.  These memories span child dedications, Holy Week services, kids’ devotions, baptisms, communion, and of course, ordinary time.  They train us in a new way to speak to each other.  They anticipate the choruses we’ll belt when we’re granted true union with Christ and one another.

But these songs aren’t only “ours.”  We’ve also found that they are disarmingly accessible to even the most hardened cynic.  Their melodies and content have a mysterious ability to bring people into a space of exploration and participation in the worship of the Triune God.  These mere tunes profess a profound confidence in the creativity and redemption of the Holy Spirit at work in the world.

Finally, my hope is that my excitement about this project be evident and that you’ll consider partnering in some way with this undertaking, even as you are already an invaluable partner in the Gospel of God in Christ Jesus.

Here are streams for some of the guest artists to be featured, for your enjoyment:

17 June 2011

reflecting: Mark 4:21-34

This Sunday we'll continue on in chapter 4 of Mark's Gospel.  This chapter is laden with stories and teachings by Jesus on the Kingdom of God.  I can't help but remember, when I read this chapter of farmers and mustard seeds, when I was called on to preach one of my first sermons to a rural North Carolinian congregation two years ago.  It was pretty intimidating to drive to work everyday that summer past fields and barns and then try to explicate how the Kingdom of God is like something that they knew far more intimately about than I do.  

But maybe that's the point.

The Kingdom of God is like a seed, even like a mustard seed.  Small, but when nourished and come to fruition, yielding great and surprising things.  Mysterious at its core.  We rely on seeds and their fruit everyday (ie "our daily bread"), but can we really explain them, can we totally domesticate or control them, or do we, at some point just have to sit back and relish in the mysterious bounty and sustenance they provide us?

I look forward to meeting this Sunday to learn more about, to participate in, and to continue to imagine this mysterious Kingdom of God with you.  I thank God that his kingdom resists mine, or ours, or really anybody's attempts to control it.  I thank God for the mysterious, manna-like provision with which He keeps us and pray for the faith and patience and awe to really appreciate a loving God that works that way.  Finally, I pray that I get used to that kind of Kingdom, which looks and feels so different from any kingdom I would imagine on my own or try to make for myself.

09 June 2011

reflecting: Mark 4:1-20

This Sunday we dive back into the story that we put on “pause” since Holy Week.  We fittingly pick up Mark’s Gospel in chapter 4.  I say that it is fitting because the setting of this passage that features Jesus teaching is a lake.  This setting is especially familiar as we spent last Sunday at Camp Chestnut Ridge celebrating the baptisms of Steve, Tanner, and Mike.  We can imagine ourselves on the shore of Jesus’ lake because we’ve so recently worshipped by the lake.

We’re involved.  We’re invited to participate.

Beyond the mere setting, we’re also invited by Jesus’ teaching itself.  Jesus teaches by the lake, but hardly as some sort of professor.  Rather than lecture, he tells stories in parables.  Jesus uses these parables to involve us.  To invite us into the story.  To do the imaginative work of figuring where we are in the story.

To form us rather than just to inform us.  To leave us affected.

So when we read and hear Mark 4:1-20 this week, jump into the story.  Imagine the scene he paints with a sower sowing seeds that either die or flourish and bear fruit.  Let this simple agricultural story put the question to yourselves and your life.

What kind of soil does God’s Word land on in you?

What are the thorns in your life?

Where are you shallow?  Where are your roots weak?

Where are you bearing fruit and how is that fruit blessing people?