Tag Archives: church

Pieta

pieta1

Artist Paul Fryer’s piece “Pieta” was recently put on display in a cathedral in Gap, France. Although it is certainly not unusual to see a bloodied representation of Christ, it is unusual to see him upon an electric chair.

I have often wondered how Christ would have been executed if his passion were to have taken place in modern times. Would he have died under the needle? Or perhaps dropped to his death with a rope around his neck? No matter the modern form of execution, none compare to crucifixion on the cross. As painful as death by electrocution, hanging, injection, or rifle must be it is over in an instant, modern methods seeking to be as “humane” as possible. The cross was designed for a long and violent death as the victim bled, choked, and asphyxiated to death. In fact, people were surprised that Jesus died as fast as he did.

I would be interested to hear what your initial reactions are to the piece. I appreciate the work for its craftsmanship. Works of wax have become eerily life like and an effective medium for portraying humanity. As for the chair, I do not find it to be as scandalous or shocking as it is described, but merely a modern viewpoint of the crucifixion; helping us realize that Christ was indeed executed by both religious and political authorities, institutions of men, rather than suffering an ethereal or metaphorical death.

What made me interested enough to post on the piece is where it was being displayed: a church. If “Pieta” was merely on display in a gallery it could be approached from a distance. It could be found interesting or provocative, perhaps arousing a curiosity as to the artist’s perception of Jesus and Christianity, but would remain distant or merely cerebral. However, within the Church, where Christ is the center and the cause for gathering in the first place, one is forced to grapple with their understanding who Christ is and what this image has to offer that understanding.

I commend this church for its willingness to present Christ to the people in this manner. People will be blessed.

On Support

Kyrie Yeshua

I am made small beneath the weight
of such gratitude
of such gracious outpouring
beneath the weight of this cup overflowing

How did I come to think that
any meaningful step could be made
alone?

I am made small
beneath the weight
of this cup

And am made vast, again
In the midst of such company
In the midst of such gracious outpouring

Wanted: Tech Director who will do what I’m thinking but forget to tell them.

Hey, so, our church is hiring a sound guy .. I mean, a tech director. We had one candidate that was very close, but at that last minute withdrew himself from consideration. So, I’m kicking this out to you all. Do you know anyone who might be a good fit? Here’s the job description I posted on Craigslist:

Christ Community Church in Buena Park is searching for a qualified technical director. The primary responsibilities are running sound for two contemporary Sunday Morning worship services, setting up slides (sermon powerpoint and song lyrics) in Media Shout software for the service, some website content updating, and managing a team of technical volunteers in supporting roles.

This position requires about 10 hours of work per week, most of which occurs on Sunday morning. Compensation is fixed at $150 per week. Candidate must be a practicing Christian of any denomination, with experience in mixing live sound for contemporary bands.

A full job description is available at the following link:

http://cccbpmusic.com/tech-director.doc

Interested candidates should send a brief email describing how your experience fits the job description.

If you know anyone who might be right for this, have them drop me an email, michael [at] addisonrd [dot] com. We have an interim helping us out, but he leaves in about 3 weeks, so time is short. Any and all help is appreciated.

Polytonaly Yours, With Love

The opening lines of “It Is Well” don’t normally include clashing polytonality and inscrutably rhythmic patterns. I took a creative risk this morning. Note clusters. Non-functional harmonic groups. Painting with colors that are so far outside of our normal 3-chord pop-tastic worship that at one point I was screaming inside for a 3rd hand, so that I could fully realize the Eb / D(6/9) / Dbmaj9 stack that I wanted. I know. Using chord notation at that point is just gratuitous. You get my point.

And then, because I like my church and enjoy my current level of employment with them, the crashing cacophony resolved down into notes that made sense, notes that made happy, notes that made me fairly certain that I will be welcome back next week. But for a little while, it was glorious.

I blame Alex Wen, my ne’er-do-well teaching assistant. That kid causes me more trouble. He has a frustrating habit of dropping by, serving up some canapé of intriguing speculation, and then leaving me to process and re-process for the remainder of the week. I enjoy it so much that I don’t have the heart to tell him that it’s supposed to work the other way around.

This week, it was on the role of music in worship. Alex was talking about the use of aggressive and difficult music, modern compositions that will not yield easily to passive listening, but that richly reward the engaged.

Which left me thinking about the role of music in church. Not just in worship, but in the institution at large, the cultural and social phenomenon that the gathered people construct around themselves.

Music is nearly gone from public education. We recruit our best musicians at APU either from secluded art-intensive high schools, or from other countries that still consider a musically literate public to be a worthwhile expense. The musicians who grew up in the church come to us either as butt rock guitar strummers of the most parochial kind, or as power-pop vocalists. Some are very good, but good only in the narrowly confined musical space that is useful for corporate worship. Good at dreamy delays and 3-note gospel harmony. Good at ripping off Coldplay. Good at dropping out after the bridge to build up to the final chorus.

Can we do more? Should we do more? Should we, as the church, be elevating the musical language of our congregants? Should we be force-feeding them dissonance, poly or even a-tonality, and complex musical ideas until they know how to understand that rich language of tension and resolution? Should we give them musical meat that is not yet useful in worship, until it is? Can we move to repair some of the musical poverty caused by our federal abrogation of all non-testable educational outcomes? Can we train up young players to understand and appreciate music that is just beyond them, until it isn’t? Should we bring in talented artists capable of transforming and elevating the congregation’s perception of what music is? Can we set them loose to play things that are not trite rearrangements of popular hymn melodies?

Once we move beyond music as marketing, music as useful, music as emotional scripting, is there a role for music in the church qua music?

An Oasis

It’s been a long time since I’ve been a worshiper while leading worship. It’s been a desert. This morning was an oasis, though. It was alive, responsive, passionate, and the words I was leading were true for me too. Songs that had been clunky and awkward in previous weeks just soared.

What a blessing.

Charlie Peacock on the Future of CCM

Charlie Peacock wrote a piece for the final print issue of CCM Magazine, on the future of Christian Music. Well worth a read:

In the future, young musicians will think that all Christian music is dated and boring, and they will create something they think is current, relative and exciting. They will say things like: “We just wanna show people that you can be a Christian and have fun, too.” Or, “We’re not gonna hit people over the head with the Bible. We’re not Christian musicians; we’re musicians who are Christians.” Or, “We are totally sold out to Jesus. We don’t write vague, sugar-coated lyrics.”

It will be nothing but retread hubris though. I will roll my eyes and grumble that history is hell-bent on repeating itself.

Read the whole thing here.

(ht: The Black Nail)

Servant of Grace

I wrote a song about 3 years ago that we’re pulling back out and dusting off for the next 3 weeks at church. Doug’s starting a series about actually doing things, serving the community in which we’ve been placed, you know, that whole Kingdom thing.

This song seemed to fit. You can download the chart and the demo, and use it freely if you’d like. Or, mock it intensely in the comments, either way.

Servant+of+Grace.mp3

Downloads: Demo / Chart

No More Tithing

So, a few years ago, Matt shot a quick and cheesy little video about what church would look like if we simply did away with tithing. I subbed out some of the music, and we distributed it through Sermon Spice – you can see the original here: No More Tithing.


no-more-tithing.png

You need to watch it all the way through, just trust me on this one. Watch the little gags along the way. Got it? Good.

I did a Google search tonight for the phrase no more tithing, just to see what would pop up. And lo, the google gods blessed me with this:

I called Matt, and made him watch the whole thing while on the phone with me. We laughed so hard I threw up.

The Hand of Blessing

Josiah Michael Lee
On Sunday, we brought our son Josiah forward to be blessed by our church family. It was a joyful event, as those sort of things always are, I think. In our church, we come forward and lay hands on people, and the whole church prays together for that person. It’s a beautiful moment. It was made all the more beautiful by our precocious 2 1/2 year-old Sophia reaching her hand over and placing it on Josiah’s back to pray for him.

It’s been causing me to think, over the last few days, about what that blessing means. I have a bit of a mystical and contemplative nature, and am prone to think about everyday events as small reenactments of grand themes. In this case, though, the act of placing on hands and blessing a child doesn’t feel like some great supernatural transaction, some new angel hovering near, or fortune being enticed into a child’s life by some new supernatural gravitational field. The blessing of the church felt human, earthbound, and it was that humanness that brought me to tears in the service. Yes, I cry a lot these days. It’s how I leak out all this excess testosterone.

The church didn’t pray down a blessing that didn’t already exist. They stood up, laid their hands on my son, and confirmed their commitment to the blessing he already shares.

He will live and grow in a community of faith, and will learn to see the hand of God in the mundane transactions of life.

He will learn in the company of loving teachers, in silly songs and motions, in shared toys and snack time, he will learn how to be gracious and patient. As he grows, he will learn to love The Book, and learn how to let it implicate his life. He will learn to take up models and heroes, and to let them inform his choices. He will learn to serve, to give, to set his hand to the task of building the Kingdom of God in acts of justice, compassion, and grace.

He will learn to be a man in the company of godly men. In their strengths, and in their failings, he will learn about honor, and self-discipline, and humility, commitment, the special obligation of the strong to the weak, about virtue and integrity. He will learn about sexuality and identity, about the particular weaknesses of men, and he will learn about them in the company of those who love Yahweh.

He will be the recipient of grace, of instruction, of companionship, of diligent correction, of hospitality, of all the good things that come from life lived together.

When our church comes together to bless someone, it is a very human thing we do – we pledge to be blessing to that person. To see a hundred people stand, and lay their hands on his head, and on his back, and on us in support, and to hear them say, “He is ours, to care for, to love, to encourage, to teach, he is ours, and we are his. We are the cloud of witnesses, the strong right arm, the body, the co-laborers, the gathered followers of The Way, the forgiven-thus-forgiving Family of God in this place. We are his brothers. We are his sisters. We obligate ourselves to him. This is our particular blessing to him.”

Nothing could make me love this church more than the beauty of that moment.

New Church Mission Statement

First Covenant Church of Visalia has a new missions statement:

First Covenant Church exists for the passion and purpose of inspiring, discipling, equipping and sending out Christ followers with the destiny of transforming the world to the glory of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and fostering a graceful yet convicting church environment in which people of all faith experiences and backgrounds are molded into the image and reflection of Christ, together creating a God-honoring community of authentic worshipers deliberately focused on reaching their community, the nation, the next generation of believers and the world through missions works, innovative programs and prayer.

from Lark News.

The Dailies House Band

How hot is that guy on the B3, eh?

A few thoughts:

  1. The camera guy doesn’t know the difference between a bass and an electric guitar.
  2. Over the past few years, Rosy’s left hand has become the thunderstick of justice on the snare drum.
  3. Nothing beats a real B3. Nothing else even comes close.
  4. That dress is 3 inches away from being NC-17.
  5. This is video evidence of Katharine McPhee asking us to be her house band. This was probably more exciting last week than this week.

String We Now Of Christmas

I love writing for strings. Looooooove it. One of my favorite things to do. I love hearing the meshing tones in my head, transposing them to paper, I love closing my eyes and physically mimicking the execution of the passages, to get a feel for bowings and fingerings, checking for potential errors or hidden difficulties that can be smoothed over. I love the range and flexibility of the instruments, the contrast between the dark brooding of the viola and the sonorous projection of a cello across the same range of notes, the athleticism that a good 1st violinist can execute.

I love everything about writing for strings, right up until the moment I hand the printed to parts to actual players, and the bitching begins.

String players are an onerous breed. There is an attitude, a vibe that permeates the culture of string players that makes them, almost uniformly, unpleasant to work with. I think it stems from the fact that they all, deep down, want to play nothing but chamber music for knowledgeable and adoring impresarios at outdoor amphitheaters under the evening stars of Tuscany. They harbor barely repressed violent urges toward you for having the audacity to offer them money to play anything else, and every gig they take reminds them that their career has not yet reached such fabulous heights that they can afford to turn you down.

As a result, when you had a string player a piece of music to play, they wear a look as if you had handed them a page covered with warm spit. They will condescend to play this hackneyed drivel you’ve given them, but they will make sure everyone involved knows that they deserve better.

Here’s the difference: if you hand a guitar player a piece of paper, and it has 95% of what they need in order to play the tune, they’ll figure out the rest and jump into the song, delivering their musical best. They’ll do the same if you hand them a Starbucks receipt with hand-scribbled chords on the back. If what they tried wasn’t what you wanted, they’ll gladly try something else on the next pass. If you did something silly, like writing in a whammy bar part for any guitar built after 1992, they’ll cheerfully try to get the same affect using string bends. If something is musically awkward, they might offer up 2 or 3 alternates, and cheerfully suggest them to you in rehearsal. If you don’t like any of them, they’ll go back to playing the original part.

In short, the guitarist recognizes that you, the arranger, are not a guitarist, and don’t understand the instrument like they do. When your chart asks them to do something, they understand that it will take some interpretation by the actual musician in order to produce a musical effect. They recognize that the printed chart is a map to the music, not the music itself, and that maps vary in their quality and accuracy. They understand that it is the responsibility of the player to find the destination – they’re not some DARPA experiment in robot navigation, they are intelligent and resourceful explorers within the musical terrain. The same is true of wind players, percussionists, pianists, trumpets, tubas, jug-bands, and castrato soloists.

This is not an excuse for poor writing or sloppy notation; it is absolutely the responsibility of the arranger and orchestrator to develop strong musical ideas, and ink out for the musician clear indications in how to execute them. But even the best arrangers, the best orchestrators, rely on the musicality of the performer to find the appropriate interpretation of an imperfect system of written indication.

On the other hand, if you place a piece of paper in front of a string player, and it has 95% of what they need in order to play the tune, you will spend the first 45 minutes of the rehearsal listening to them bitch about the last 5%. If you give them an awkward bowing, rather than trying to figure out what you might be trying to indicate by asking for it, and then figuring out how to deliver that musical effect in a different way, they will bitch that the bowing is awkward. If you do something musically non-standard, like writing the cello in unison with the 1st violin on a counter-melody against the singer, with 2nd violin and viola in harmony beneath the line, they will assume that you bribed your way past Theory 1 instead of learning decent part writing. There will, on no occasion, be any assumption on the part of the string players that they are being asked to apply their own musical instinct to the part, to locate the music to which the printed score is the guide. They are just here killing time until they get the call to fly to Tuscany, at which point they will cheerfully invest all of there passion and creativity into every performance. Your music, on the other hand, will get nothing of the sort.

So, on Christmas Eve-Eve, the Sunday before Christmas, I had a singularly wonderful experience. We booked a string quartet at our church, contracted by my Teaching Assistant, Alex Wen, who continues to use every opportunity to exceed everyone’s expectations. They started unpacking their instruments, they tuned up, ran some scales. Finally, the moment came, I handed them the parts I had written, and held my breath.

They were brilliant. Fantastic. Warm, funny, musically adventurous, willing to embrace the songs. The 1st violin, Gene Wei, was perhaps the best on that instrument that I’ve ever worked with – he was aggressive in his interpretation, which infected the entire quartet. When notation that was unclear, he quickly made decisions for the ensemble, he corrected problems with intonation and voicing between the parts. he improvised lead passages where appropriate, and followed my leading from the piano with decisiveness. In short, he seemed to possess that sort of spirit that seems all too lacking in string players: he recognized that the arranger (me!) was relying on the expertise of the string players to translate my written guide into actual music, and to do it with passion and conviction.

We blew through some arrangements of Christmas Carols for the congregational singing, and then the moment of truth. I had written an original song, “That Night, They Dreamed”, and arranged it for piano and string quartet. The piece asked for some particular things of the players, and I knew that the notation wasn’t as well-prepared as it could have been (the piece having just come into the world 48 hours earlier). If the typical string player vibe-throwing was going to infect the group, it would be here.

Instead, it ranked as one of the must satisfying musical experiences of my life. They responded, beautifully, to the ink. They interpreted musically. Gene, n 1st violin, improvised a passionate and sparkling (and in tune!) cadenza, and led the group through the rubato phrasing in perfect lockstep with my vocal leading.

If any of you are looking for strings in the LA area, and you’re tired of the attitude and vibe-throwing, email me, and I’ll hook you up. I have the phone numbers of 4 who get it.

That Night, They Dreamed

Things move quick around here, kids. Gotta stay on your toes. Remember that poem from yesterday, “That Night” by an unknown author? I had a few hours at the piano today, and got to write a new tune for it.

Chad, I’m sure I’ve borrowed some from your original setting, but I’m not worried about being sued by you, because to do that you would have to find the original, and you swore up and down yesterday that you had no idea where it is. I’m gonna go ahead and call that legal immunity.

Here it is. Since the author is unknown, I felt free to take a few minor liberties with the words, and the title.

“That Night, They Dreamed”
the-night-they-dreamed.mp3

The arrangement for Sunday is piano, vocals, and a string quartet. The interludes you hear are meant to be played by the quartet, and the cadenza solo section will be done by the violinist (Alex, you did get me good players, right?)

That Night

I’m in the midst of cooking up some Christmas Miracles for our church this upcoming Sunday and Monday, and a thought rattled up from the depths of my Nyquil addled brain. Back in school, Chad had done a choral arrangement of an poem by an unknown author, presented in a book called The Book of Jesus, by Calvin Miller. The words are almost perfect for the theme that our pastor, Doug, is preaching on this Sunday, and I wanted to rewrite a new song around it. It took some time to track them down, but here are the words. If anyone has any further information on the author, I’d appreciate any insight.

That Night

Author Unknown

That night when the Judean skies

The mystic star dispensed its light,

A blind man moved in his sleep –

And dreamed that he had sight.

That night when shepherds heard the song

Of hosts angelic choiring near,

A deaf man stiffed in slumber’s spell –

And dreamed that he could hear!

That night when the cattle stall

Slept child and mother cheek by jowl,

A cripple turned his twisted limbs –

And dreamed that he was whole.

That night when o’er the newborn Babe

The tender Mary rose to lean,

A loathsome leper smiled in sleep –

And dreamed that he was clean.

That night when to the mother’s breast

The little King was held secure,

A harlot slept a happy sleep –

And dreamed that she was pure!

That night when in the manger lay

The Sanctified who came to save,

A man moved in the sleep of death –

And dreamed there was no grave.

Two Shootings in Colorado

I was coming home from church today, and got a news alert that there had been a shooting at New Life Church in Colorado Springs. You might remember this as the church that Ted Haggard resigned from in disgrace after his homosexual affairs became public knowledge.

Horrified, I started scanning for more information, hitting up Google News. I found more information about a shooting at a missionary training center in a Denver suburb. I assumed that my original news alert had gotten the details wrong, but that wasn’t the case. There were two shootings in Colorado church gatherings today, and it’s unclear if they are related or not. There are some details, though not many, at Reuters. [link]

Please pray for those affected.

child o’ peace

Christmas is coming! I wrote a little hymnic song for the choir this year, called Child of Peace.

COP-mix.mp3

If anyone is interested in using it with your choir, here’s a copy of the chart: Child of Peace

This was by far one of the hardest demos ever to record – we did it wild, with no click, one part at a time. The timing was based on listening to the breath of the first bass part recorded. Once the choir has learned the parts, I’d love to bring some singers into a room and actually record a real demo of the thing, without the distractions of having to use separated parts.

Seize Him, And Make Him King

Posts in the Sermon Prep: Seize Him series

  1. Seize Him and Make Him King
  2. Inappropriate Zeal
  3. Seize Him, And Make Him King

The service went pretty well this morning. I had a few people come up afterward and take issue with the message, but I think they were, for the most part, reacting to what they thought I was implying, not what I actually said.

Thank you for your help, as always. For those interested, here’s the audio:

Sermon Audio: October 21, 2007

And, if you’d like to follow along, here’s the manuscript. Tons of spelling errors, I know. Oh well.

Sermon Manuscript: Seize Him and Make Him King

Previous in series: Inappropriate Zeal

Inappropriate Zeal

Posts in the Sermon Prep: Seize Him series

  1. Seize Him and Make Him King
  2. Inappropriate Zeal
  3. Seize Him, And Make Him King

I don’t think I’m going to even get past this fist verse for Sunday. The phrase “seize him and make him king” just keeps tripping me up. I’m sorting through what motivated the crowds, what they’re intent was, in part to get at Melody’s question about where they went. It’s hard to sustain a mob whose expectations aren’t being met.

wonder bread

Matthew Henry makes the comment that the motivating passion, the zeal, isn’t in itself bad, it’s just wildly misdirected. These people are experiencing a problem, one with political dimensions, and they see Jesus as a potential rallying point to solve the problem. Nothing inherently wrong with that, except for their misunderstanding of Jesus’ power and purpose.

Three observations:

  1. They’re still wide-eyed from the free meal. A little wonder, a little bread, and the thought that this guy might have a way out of the endless cycle of sowing, tilling, reaping, and baking. That’d be enough to whip up a mob anytime, anywhere. Imagine if Obama kicked off his stump speeches by filling up every gas tank in the parking lot from a miraculous never-ending fuel truck. It wouldn’t be too long before a mob formed up to seize him and make him king. This crowd is acting out of passion and appetite, with a healthy dose of wonder.
  2. The perspective of the crowd is limited to immediate, political solutions. They’re oppressed by the Romans. They’re oppressed by their own priesthood. They’re oppressed by their own leaders, who have colluded with the occupiers to preserve their own power. The thing I find interesting is that the political solution they seek would be a good thing! An independent Israel, one with a restored priesthood, economic viability, and person freedom , this seems like a goal that would fit with Christ’s stated values. So Jesus passes up this good thing because it’s not the most important thing, right now, for him. The people mobbing to seize him can only see the immediate, political reality, and so they diminish the totality of what their messiah has come to do.
  3. They misunderstand the Kingdom of God. Any kingdom with Christ at the head (or at least with Christ as the mascot) is the Kingdom of God, right? Apparently not. Christ resists being seized and placed at the head of some kingdoms, no matter how much we may think he belongs there.

An interesting side note, for all you Left Behind fans out there; the mob of Israelites seem to be suffering from bad end-times theology. Both in their formal rabbinical teaching, and in the populist imagination of the time, there was a highly articulated and detailed picture of what the messiah would look like. This was their end-times prophecy, their expectation of exactly what would occur before the re-establishment of David’s eternal throne. As a result, every time they saw something that looked close, they rose up and declared that person Messiah. The masses, in their ignorance and zeal, did a great deal of violence to the population of Israel in the name of their own end-times prophetic understanding.

I find some disturbing parallels between how 1st Century Jews read Daniel’s revelation, and other prophetic works, and how some in the Evangelical church read John’s Revelation. That kind of step-by-step, precise narrative interpretation seems inappropriate to the text, and can lead to actions that are contrary to the purposes of God.

But, for those who like that kind of thing, here’s a handy timeline you can print out and post on your fridge.

Previous in series: Seize Him and Make Him King

Next in series: Seize Him, And Make Him King

Seize Him and Make Him King

Posts in the Sermon Prep: Seize Him series

  1. Seize Him and Make Him King
  2. Inappropriate Zeal
  3. Seize Him, And Make Him King

I’m preaching this Sunday, and working my way through John 6. Doug spoke about the feeding of the 5 thousand last week, so I’m picking up the story at the Walking on Water section.

As a keep reading through this, the last verse of the feed 5,000 section sticks in my head:

Then Jesus, because he knew they were going to come and seize him by force to make him king, withdrew again up the mountainside alone. John 6:15

They wanted to seize him and make him king. I never made the connection before, but what Jesus later stands in front of Pilate, he says:

Jesus replied, “My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my servants would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jewish authorities.” John 18:36

I always assumed he was talking about the 12 disciples, but I think he’s speaking with a little more menace than that – he saying, “There was a time when 15,000 people were ready to take up arms and march on the city, declaring me king. Don’t you think if I wanted your throne I would have taken it then?”

I’m interested in any thoughts you might have about this passage. The message is very un-formed right now, so I’m looking for brainstorms. I think I’m going to spend some time on the “seize him” idea. It seems to speak directly to the tendencies of people who want to make Jesus their mascot, to seize him and make him the spokesperson for their movement, or to appear like they have his political endorsement. Jesus doesn’t seem to tolerate that kind of “seizing”; instead, he withdraws, and then does some majestic, earth-bending thing that demonstrates to those watching that his purposes here are unable to be contained by the petty banners of parochial movements.

Next in series: Inappropriate Zeal