Jesus Loves…YOU

It will not surprise regular readers of this irregular blog to hear me write “what we sing forms who we are.” It’s been that way as long as there have been humans singing…and heck, even animals, and nature, and heaven sing…so I guess what those created things sing forms them too.

I think about almost everything I do in my life through a hymnological lens. It’s who I am…and that started in my curiosity as a young child wondering why the song leader at my church where I grew up had a white-leather, special book that was different than the gold colored ones we all had in the pews.

So, i’ve been consumed with thoughts about the recent COVID-19 experience and the death of George Floyd especially through this lens…and here is what I’ve decided to write as of Tuesday, 0945 AM on June 9, 2020. (I’ve had lots of posts I’ve started, walked away, deleted, started over, and “rinse and repeat…”)

While I love the simple theology of “Jesus Loves Me,” it seems painfully clear that generations have been too focused on self as a result. I think that it’s time to make “Jesus Loves You” the main verse.

I love that I and you and generations of others learn that we’re loved by Jesus with this simple hymn as youngsters. But here’s the problem: its selfish.

And the root of each and every problem of race, bigotry, cultural and societal elitism, is a hateful selfishness that may even be subconscious.

Until we realize we are called to love and serve ALL (read that as someone other than yourself…no exceptions) just as Jesus did.

When we sing “Jesus loves YOU” it’s more for our heads and hearts to believe others are more important than it is anything else.

John tells us that “They’ll know we are Christians by our love.” But until we believe this at the core of our being that other people (regardless of race, gender, financial status, job status, etc.) are more important than we are and live like it, things are not going to really change.

Change starts with ME. And Until My heart & head believe and are ready to act like “Jesus Loves YOU,” change can’t happen.

Jesus Loves Me (Anna Warner/William Bradbury)

I DON’T KNOW…

I DON’T KNOW.
We don’t like these words. We don’t like saying these words. We don’t like not knowing. But these three words fill my mind as I try to process this last week’s events, the entirety of the COVID-19 virus crisis…


As a 38 year old, privileged white male who has NEVER wanted for anything…who has always had a roof over his head, a meal to eat, and spare change in my pockets, I DO NOT KNOW how to respond to the death of #GeorgeFloyd. I don’t know how I can yield my voice, my gifts, my pulpit, my pen, my music to a growing chorus of people struggling to help bring biblical justice into our world. I DO KNOW that God weeps with those who weep…and that the comfort of the Holy Spirit has never been needed more than it seems to be needed today. I have so much more to say…but I don’t know quite how to articulate my thoughts yet.


COVID? Why can’t scientists, politicians, and idiots who are trying to look smart just rest in knowing that it’s ok to say I DON’T KNOW. We don’t know what’s next with this virus. We don’t know what all the symptoms are and how they manifest themselves..We don’t know if/when a next wave of cases comes where they will be, what they will look like. We don’t know if we’re reopening things too soon. There’s just SO MUCH we don’t know. We need to not guess and say that we think we don’t know. Because we DON’T know.


Here’s another I DON’T KNOW. We don’t know when Jesus is coming back. But it is “high time” we started living like it could be tomorrow. We need to start RIGHT THIS SECOND making life on earth like it is in heaven. LOVING one another…STANDING UP, KNEELING, WEEPING, CELEBRATING with those who need people to love them where they are, who they are. Why? Because it’s what Jesus would do. I need to do a better job acting, living, speaking, and LOVING like Jesus.

“Let Party Names No More…”

Let Party Names No More (from Haggard, 1815)

Let Party Names No More (B. Beddome, 1769) from Rice Haggard’s Christian Hymns (1815)

This hymn by Benjamin Beddome, “Let Party Names No More…” was written around 1769. Rice Haggard was among the first to include it in his Christian Hymns hymnal of 1815, one of the earliest from the Stone-Campbell-Scott, etc., Restoration Movement.It’s easy to see why it isn’t in hymnals today…don’t you think?

Wanna sing it at your church this Sunday?

Try the words (Short Metre, S.M., or 6.6.8.6) with ST. THOMAS, ST. MICHAEL, DENNIS, BOYLSTON, LABAN (just to name a few).

Though the COVID-19 virus and all the surrounding crises seem to have slowed the election year rhetoric, this song speaks of something much deeper than merely the political system. Early leaders in the movement of the Campbells, Stone, Scott, and others longed to be Christians only, not the only Christians. It was Raccoon John Smith who said “Let us, then, my brethren, be no longer Campbellites, or Stonites, New Lights or Old Lights, or any other kind of lights, but let us come to the Bible, and to the Bible alone, as the only book in the world that can give us all the light that we need.” (J. Murch, Christians Only, Cincinnatti: Standard Publishing, 1952).

 

Singing, COVID-19, and Church…

So, some stream of consciousness thoughts that have been percolating for some time now.

hedley lamarr

 

As the great theologian Hedley Lamarr once said:

“My mind is aglow with whirling, transient nodes of thought careening thru a cosmic vapor of invention.”

 

I’ve been thinking, almost constantly now for several weeks, about the implications of COVID on our church and the church as a whole’s re-assembling…and about the numerous reports and stories regarding how singing can, did, does, and could be a significant factor in transmission of airborne germs that could carry the virus.

I don’t want to think about an assembly WITHOUT SINGING. The thought of that even being an option on the table saddens me deeply. If we can’t sing together, then it’s hard to think that it’s right to come back together quite yet.
[You can read an earlier post I shared last week about the wisdom in choosing not to assemble together quite yet from a perspective of preventing risk as opposed to creating risk…]

Yes, there are ways we can sing with masks on, tools, technology, things we can use to help us still worship in song even if we can’t sing full-heartedly and spirit-filled without masks.

As I was sharing with my bro Nathan Tillotson a little while ago, one of the take aways I hope to see as a result of this quarantine is that the church more fully embraces the communal and spiritually formative nature of congregational singing.

Each week, what I miss the most in our season of live streamed worship, is singing with my church family. For some time now, the church has seen in its present pendulum swing with regard to worship music, a leaning toward a return to more congregation-friendly, participation-initiating, more hymnic style songs (i.e., Getty/Townend – Sovereign Grace – Bob Kauflin – Indellible Grace – Kevin Twit – Audrey Asaad and others writing them and helping to lead the church in such a direction!).

But as the church processes just how much it has missed being together, I hope and pray that it will recapture and appreciate the incredible power and witness of congregational song again…it’s long overdue.

 

Technology, Millennials, and Church…

From time to time, I hear conversations that go like this:

“Ya know, people just don’t go to church like they used to…I remember when I was a kid, we were there every time the doors were open…”

Eventually, those conversations get to topics like social media, the internet, iPhones, technology…you know how it goes. At that moment, I will sometimes offer a question of my own, something to the effect of:

“Do you have a phone or computer and if so, how often do you check in with your friends, kids, grandkids, neighbors, etc. through that technology?” And often, the response is one like “I don’t do that stuff,” or “why would I do that” or “why do I need that…”

I know that technology, the internet, social media, smartphones and the like all have their perils and pitfalls. The least of which is how they have impaired human communication in a significant way. Just watch this video if you don’t believe me.

But I hear a recurring refrain about this generational gap that exists between millennials and boomers…I hear lots of boomers and others older than that say they wonder why they’re disconnected with younger generations and they don’t understand why they don’t go to church or participate in worship like “they did…”

And it makes me wonder…how can we help those folks, often so resistant to new things, change, and especially technology and social media, bridge that gap with the good side of all that this technological age has provided for us…I think the more we close that gap using some of the wonderful resources out there (that aren’t as hard as the media wants us to think they are), the more we’ll see relationships (which are STILL the most important thing) blossom and bloom where once they might have been prohibited by technology (on both sides of the gap, mind you).

Just fodder for thought. Not a full-blown rant, but something I think about almost daily.