Thinking Out Loud

December 3, 2016

The Season of Anticipation

nativity-calendar-enhanced-2

 

I’ll swear I never heard the word Advent until I was in my 40s. Growing up Evangelical, that just wasn’t our thing.

Let me qualify that slightly. I visited a wide variety of churches. I’m sure the word was used, but I had selective hearing.

That same hearing challenge would come into play when I worked in a Christian supply store. It took the first dozen occurrences to differentiate between whether the customer wanted an Advent calendar or Advent candles. In the first few years, either way, the answer was no. We didn’t have them.

I learned later the nuances of this particular season. Some would argue the season is best expressed in the carol/hymn O Come, O Come Emmanuel.

O come, O come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel…

O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free
Thine own from Satan’s tyranny…

O come, Thou Day-Spring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here…

I think you could make an equal case the ideology of this season is expressed by the old Heinz Ketchup commercial that was based on Carly Simon’s song Anticipation.  Or better yet, this later one from 1973.

The context (of Advent, not the commercials) is Israel awaiting for a coming Messiah. Perhaps for those with young children, it’s more of a Will Christmas ever get here? vibe.

advent-candlesA few years in we did Advent calendars with our own children. Not the ones where you open a window and there’s a chocolate inside. Give me a break! There was a verse for each day and a definite focus on the true Christmas story. The story of Simeon (Luke 2) also works well with children, as his life was only made complete by seeing the child, the Salvation of the Lord.

A few years after that I started noticing Advent candles in churches that were Christian & Missionary Alliance, Pentecostal and event Baptist. The word had spread, literally.

…Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

Another “anticipation” hymn always comes to mind here. I prefer it to the Welsh tune “Hyfrydol” which is also used for other lyrics, and one I consider among the finest musical settings Christianity has produced.

Come, thou long expected Jesus,
born to set thy people free;
from our fears and sins release us,
let us find our rest in thee.
Israel’s strength and consolation,
hope of all the earth thou art;
dear desire of every nation,
joy of every longing heart.

Born thy people to deliver,
born a child and yet a King,
born to reign in us forever,
now thy gracious kingdom bring.
By thine own eternal spirit
rule in all our hearts alone;
by thine all sufficient merit,
raise us to thy glorious throne.

And that’s where we leave it today. If you’re Evangelical like me, and Advent is a foreign word that “those Anglicans and Catholics use,” I hope you’ll pursue a discovery this season of something that can only enrich your understanding of what you currently call Christmas.


Related Resources:

November 28, 2016

Music Musings (2) The Worship Agenda

Filed under: Christianity, Church, worship — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:28 am

Recently I read somewhere that the present worship agenda for many of our churches is being set by three large churches which have produced three worship music families: Bethel Worship, Jesus Culture and Hillsong. While the word agenda may imply something rather sinister, the point is that compositions from these groups currently dominate the music used in churches which have adopted a modern worship format.

hymnboardI was thinking about that this weekend as I processed a service we were attending and also seeing it comparison to a more liturgical Reformed service we had attended the week before and the thought occurred to me that these newer songs are just plain long. They were birthed in environments were the term soaking music is broadly understood and in environments where songwriters simply adopt the dominant style they are experiencing.

I’m not going to place emphasis on the length of the songs in and of itself but I want to simply point out that in the half hour we set aside for that worship time, we might have sung about ten hymns, or even about ten worship songs of an older vintage.

However, if we went with the hymns, and each one had only three verses, that might we would have sung about thirty verses and what a different thirty verses they would have been; each rich in deep theology and scripture, and each both proclaiming/declaring truth and also teaching and reminding ourselves of these truths.

I like modern worship. But I crave something deeper, more profound.


For yesterday’s Music Musing, click here.

Want an outside-the-box fresh alternative for your church? I’m not a part of the doctrinal tribe from which it originates, but consider the material Sovereign Grace Music is producing.

November 26, 2016

Always Something There to Remind Me

Filed under: Christianity, Church — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 11:48 am

reminderEvery Thursday afternoon I get an email from my church reminding me what’s happening at weekend services. It’s somewhat the same every week — I’ve told them a weekly verse of scripture and a graphic people can use on their Instagram and Facebook accounts would help — but it’s definitely appreciated. (Someone even takes the time to make sure things happening between its arrival and Sunday morning are covered for one last time.)

We live in a world where we need to be reminded of things. We’re too busy. We’re too forgetful.

For years in my early 20s I attended a weekly Bible study that was held in a private home and wasn’t associated with a particular church. Each week the leader would phone, remind me, and then ask for a direct commitment; “Will you be there this week?” He was a very busy guy in the commercial banking industry and besides leading the study, he took time to phone the entire list every week. By doing so he had extra contact with us. (I look back now and see it as the equivalent of the traditional ‘pastor at the door’ thing on Sunday mornings.)

This morning I attended a men’s Bible study at another church. I mentioned that it’s too bad they don’t have a phone list, or better yet, an email list. This particular church has leveraged social media well; they have a good person at the helm of this who knows the internet, but her particular strategy has been more Facebook-oriented whereas I still see that as skewing slightly more to a female demographic. I believe traditional email might work well to remind the guys to come for the breakfast.

This church also doesn’t have a church directory which includes email addresses. The church I mentioned first does do this and it allows people to continue the conversations started on Sundays throughout the week; to initiate contact; or to follow up with friends they haven’t seen in awhile.

But back to reminders: I think we need them. We also need the encouragement to join in on various church activities in a general social climate where many find themselves isolated.


Related: Here are three devotionals which deal with our tendency to forget.

Tangentially: Email bulletins reduce the number which need to be printed each week, thereby saving the environment. Phone calls to ministry group members also reduce the need for printed bulletin inserts.

 

October 31, 2016

Luther and the Lion – The Totally True Story of Halloween

I know I ran one of Aaron’s posts just 9 days ago, but this one seemed so timely. Click this link to read at source.

It all started almost 500 years ago. Once upon a time there was a little boy named Martin Luther.

wittenberg

Martin was very poor, as were all the boys in his village. They were poor because every year a scary Lion from Rome would visit and take all the village’s money. Lion would go into All Saints’ Church (or All Hallows’ Church), stand at the top of the bell tower, and mightily roar,

“I am Lion! Hear me roar!
Give your gold! Give me more!
I won’t stop until you do!
You won’t sleep until I’m through!”

This scared Martin and all the children very much. So every year the families would go to All Hallows’ Church one by one and knock on the door. Lion would make them say “Purgatory or treat,” because if the village did not give Lion his treats, he would not give them indulgences.

Martin decided that he had had enough of this. He decided that he would stop Lion. That year, Lion came at the time of the harvest and locked himself in the church and demanded his treats, roaring,

“I am Lion! Hear me roar!
Give your food! Give me more!
I hold the Keys, I stand on the Rock!
Until you admit it, I won’t stop!”

Martin knew he would need help to stop Lion, so he went to visit his friend Calvin. Calvin was a sad and lonely boy who spent most of his day reading books, but he was very smart and clever.

calvin

Martin knocked on Calvin’s door and said, “I am going to stop Lion and kick him out of our village! You are so very clever. What shall we do?”

Calvin opened the door and said,
“Silly Martin. You can’t stop Lion.
He’s so very strong, it’s not even worth tryin’.
If God wants to do it then in time He will,
And if He does not then I won’t waste my skill.”
For Calvin was clever and very well read,
But also quite lazy, and left not his bed.

Martin needed someone else to help him to stop Lion, so he went to visit his other friend Wycliffe. Wycliffe was clever but moreover quite active. Wycliffe had learned to speak Lion’s language and secretly shared Lion’s books with the villagers. Surely he would help!

wycliffe

Martin knocked on the door and said, “I am going to stop Lion and kick him out of our village! You are so very clever and active! What shall we do?”

zwingli

But it was not Wycliffe who came to the door.
“I’m so very sorry, but please stay outside.
I’m sorry to say that my brother has died.
We did not pay Lion so he’ll come for us,
But it was nice to meet you. My name is Jan Hus.”
Wycliffe and Jan – They were both bold and smart.
But sadly for them, Lion’s teeth were too sharp.

Martin started off, but before he could go
Jan Hus said, “There’s one little thing you should know
My brother found out, before he got sick,
The Lion is lying – Purgatory’s a trick!”

Martin was very sad. He simply had to stop Lion but Wycliffe was gone, Jan would be soon, and Calvin was just too lazy. Martin almost gave up but then, on the last day in October, he had a brilliant idea!

“I can’t outsmart Lion. He can’t be out-dared.
But what if, I wonder, he were to be scared?”

So Martin went to visit his last friend, Zwingli. He knocked on the door and said, “Zwingli! I am going to stop Lion and scare him out of our village!”

zwingli-not-hus

Zwingli opened the door and asked, “How?”
Martin explained how they’d chase out the Lion.
Martin would dress up and then terrify him!
They took to the kitchen and chopped up his hair
And made him look sickly, his head’s top was bare.
Lion would run, thinking Martin a nut,
For no one is sane who has that hair cut.
Lion would tremble and Lion would flee
And the people of Wittenberg would then be free!

Dressed up as a complete lunatic,  Martin went to All Hallows’ Church. Lion roared from the tower,

“I am Lion! Hear me roar!
Give your soul! Give me more!
I don’t care if there’s a recession!
I have apostolic succession!”

luther

Martin knocked on the door, refusing to stop
Until Lion arrived on the 95th knock.
The doors opened wide with an ominous creak.
And Lion growled out, “Purgatory or treat!”
“Trick or treat!” The bald boy said,
Yelling quite loudly and showing his head.
The Lion was frightened, his eyes filled with dread.
“What is wrong with your hair!?” He shouted and fled.

Then Martin called out to the people nearby,
“Good news, everyone! Purgatory’s a lie!
We’re saved from our sins only by grace
And the Righteous, from this day on, shall live by faith!”

The people of Wittenberg shouted and applauded and that winter was the most joyful winter in years! Lion tried to come back every year, but the people of Wittenberg would knock on All Hallows’ Church’s door dressed as monsters to scare Lion away. They named the day “Hollowe’en,” after Lion’s hollow doctrine. In later years, they discovered they could scare Lion using images carved into hollowed-out pumpkins. Calvin always left his house a mess of pumpkin guts, but his brother Jacob was always there to clean up Calvin’s messes.

Wycliffe and Jan were gone, but the village built a library in their honour and filled it with all kinds of books! Martin and Zwingli remained good friends, but occasionally disagreed over the health benefits of juice and crackers.

And for the next 499 years, the village was free and happy and peaceful, apart from the occasional party on Azusa Street which the village was mostly okay with it. And that’s the true story of Halloween.

door

Happy 499th birthday, Protestantism!

 

 

October 30, 2016

Where’s My Casserole?

For that very small percentage of my readers who live in my local area, please know that as we often do at Thinking Out Loud, the purpose of today’s piece is to provoke thought and is not intended as criticism of any church or churches.

As readers here know, my mom died on October 10th. Because I have my feet planted in two local churches and am known to people in other churches as well, I felt very blessed to be surrounded by the prayers and support of a loving Christian community. The emails, cards and a couple of phone calls were deeply appreciated.

One of the two churches follows the larger church model that is probably familiar to many in Thinking Out Loud’s mostly American readership. There isn’t what’s called the “pastoral prayer” in weekend services, so hospitalizations and bereavements are therefore not always made known to the broader congregation. There is an email that goes out however, though I believe this is a different list than those who receive the weekly announcements email.

casseroleIt was many days after the funeral that in jest, I said, “Where’s our casserole?” It wasn’t that I wanted one, truthfully I don’t even like casserole, especially one that my wife didn’t make, as she is an excellent cook. But after we laughed — and laughter is something that was rather absent in the weeks before my mother’s passing — she noted that it might have been nice to come home the day of the funeral and simply stick something in the microwave…1

We showed up at North Point’s Buckhead Church on a rather quiet day in 2008 and got what I believe was a rather unique behind-the-scenes tour. There were things I didn’t know about Andy Stanley’s church; things you don’t see or don’t think about when you’re streaming the Sunday services. I wasn’t surprised that Andy doesn’t do weddings. A lot of megachurch pastors don’t. But even the army of campus pastoral staff doesn’t do them at any of their locations. There isn’t a chapel. The couple-to-be must source a location on their own, and then a North Point pastor will officiate. I suspect the funeral protocol is somewhat similar. A few years back, I do remember seeing this discussed on an FAQ page, but this week I couldn’t locate it…

I understand that things must change. In another time and place the local radio stations would broadcast funeral announcements at noon each day. They also interrupted programming if the police were trying to contact someone on an urgent family matter. (“Mr. Roger Millberry of Jefferson Heights, believed to be vacationing in the area is asked to contact police…”) Even the more progressive rock and roll stations persisted in this and more, including afternoon announcements of which horse took the win, place and show at the local track, well into the 1970s. (“Pinocchio, by a nose.”) Well, at least on AM. FM was too cool for such things.

Our church services have become performance-oriented and we certainly wouldn’t expect announcements of this type at the movies or sporting events, would we? But church is supposed to be different. It’s supposed to be about the family of God gathered together. This is what I believe Millennials are longing for and what will draw them into the Christian communities they will form. (That in turn begs the question we posed in February, what will happen to the abandoned megachurches?)

So you have to ask: Did God ever intended for church to look like today’s megachurch that now sets the agenda in even medium sized churches as well? Would members of the early church even recognize the form our weekend worship takes?2 And, Dude! Where’s my casserole?


For some strange reason, every time we discussed doing this article — and whether my wife or I would write it — I kept thinking of that other poignant question: It’s the ’80s, Where’s my Rocket Pack?3


1 It occurred to us later that there may be younger readers here unfamiliar with the tradition of church people bringing a casserole over to the house when there has been a bereavement or serious illness. (For the record, my wife’s friend brought us a half-gallon of pumpkin spice ice cream.)
2 One book I read recently suggested something along the lines that a First Century Christian would find a service at the megachurch similar to the shows the Romans staged in the arena. Hard to argue that one.
3 ADD does that to you.

October 25, 2016

Sermon Topics in the 1950s

The Peoples Church was Canada’s first and for many years only megachurch, and this long before the term existed. The Toronto church was also independent, a rarity in its time. It was founded by Oswald J. Smith whose ordination was Presbyterian and had also founded an earlier church with the Christian and Missionary Alliance. Smith had been turned down by several missions agencies because of his health, but ended up living to 96 and traveling all over the world.  You can read more at Wikipedia.  (As a young child, I attended Oswald Smith’s funeral, where Billy Graham spoke.)

Yesterday we were going through a number of family photographs and papers related to my father’s sister, Audrey Wilkinson who died on the mission field in India before I was born and was a missionary of The Peoples Church. Oswald’s son Paul B. Smith had succeeded him as pastor and continued his father’s tradition of colorful, topical and even controversial church services. Critics referred to the place as “a three ring circus.” (At a later age, Paul Smith baptized me.) But I had never seen the advertisement below.

television-and-the-theater

The thing is, you could preach this sermon today as well. There are, among more conservative Christians, people who would not be caught dead in the cineplex watching certain genres of movies, but have no hesitation to own them on DVD (or more recently, stream them on Netflix.) Add to that the current proliferation of faith-based movies in national release, and for many Christians, the theater has become a second home. (I don’t think I am exaggerating to say there is one new title a week at ChristianCinema.com.)

But back to the premise of the sermon, there are many cultural things the church refused to embrace — ballroom dancing, bridge and other card games, drinking wine or beer, etc. — which later became more acceptable. Only one thing, the conservative Christian acceptance of Halloween, seemed to run the opposite way. The sermon teaser also raises the question of context. Is it more acceptable to have an alcoholic drink in a family restaurant than in a bar? Is there a stewardship component in waiting for the DVD release as opposed to paying the money to see the film on its release?

You can have a lot of fun with this one.

September 30, 2016

When You’re Asked to Read the Scripture

Filed under: bible, Christianity, Church — Tags: , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:25 am

scripture_readingNothing strikes terror in the hearts of churchgoers like being asked to do a scripture reading in a service, or even their small group. Some progressive, non-liturgical churches are trying things in the middle of the sermon which involve having the reader seated with a live microphone to jump into the middle of the sermon to read texts as requested by the speaker. (The change in voices might actually keep some from slipping into their Sunday slumber.)

Laypersons so asked to participate will often make a panic purchase of a resource  like How to Pronounce Bible Names only to find the pastor saying the names with completely different vowel sounds and syllable emphasis than what they read to the congregation moments earlier.

And then there’s always the critical question, “What should I wear?” This usually transcends any consideration of the words being uttered.

Talking about this on the weekend however, we decided that what is usually lacking in these moments is passion. It’s not that the participant is unsaved or involved in gross sins. Rather, they just haven’t taken the time to examine the text and draw out its key elements in spoken form.

I loved the way a reader described this in comment to a piece we did years ago, A New Way to Meditate on Scripture, where he redefined this study process as: “…like walking down a highway that you drove on every day. Longer to look, to feel, to think about.”

So let’s cut to the how-to. Here’s how to slow down on the highway and consider the text so you that can read it with passion.

Photocopy or hand-write the verses you have been asked to read. Then go through and place EMPHASIS on the KEY WORDS you want to draw out. You can do this with:

  • underlining
  • capital letters
  • bold-face type (or retracing handwritten words)
  • highlighting in yellow

In other words, whatever works for you; one, some or all of the above. This is what newsreaders on Top 40 radio stations would do to keep music listeners from tuning out during the newscast. Punch it out a little! Sell it! Make it sing! (Unless of course you’re reading from Lamentations.) 

Drawing out the text can also mean critical pauses. If the Psalmist asks a question, be sure to raise your voice at the end. If the verse in Romans says, “May it never be!” say that as you would say it to someone in your own interactions.

In other words, short of doing a dramatic reading — which you probably were not asked to — communicate some of the fire and intensity in the passage.

Because, all scripture is God-breathed.   


…There are two sides to everything, and of course public speaking/reading is not everyone’s talent. It’s important that giftedness determine areas of service. Thus the right people need to be asked. However, it’s important that the church not have a short list of the usual suspects. New people should be brought on to the team. That may involve some experimentation and a week where things aren’t ideal.

September 29, 2016

From the Archives: Delving into the Classics

Filed under: Christianity, Church — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:06 am

September, 2008: This week my kids and I are “binge reading” a number of devotionals from a collection by A. W. Tozer, one of the pioneers in the Christian & Missionary Alliance denomination. His final pastorate was at the Avenue Road* Church in Toronto, Canada, which continues to this day as Bayview Glen Alliance. Tozer is one of a number of classic reads, in a list that includes D. L. Moody, George Whitfield, Watchman Nee, Jonathan Edwards, E. M. Bounds and others. 

[Note: In the eight years since this was written I have come to learn, that by classic, many would assume the writings of what are termed “The Early Church Fathers.” Although Tozer, who was still writing within the last century, is pictured here, I actually mean people of his generation and writers from antiquity.]

What is it that’s different about reading classic authors like these?

Language
– Right away you notice that they speak with a different voice, and having studied the Philosophy of Language, I know that our use of words shapes our understanding. There is also a greater economy of words on some points, but there is laborious repetition on others, so that we don’t miss something profound. Clearly, the did understand some concepts somewhat differently than many of do today; and the “spin” on some Bible passages is distinctive by our standards.

Intensity – These classic writers endure because they were passionate about living the Christian life to the nth degree. There is an urgency about their writings that is sorely lacking in some modern Christian literature. Were they preaching to the choir, or were they voices crying in the wilderness? Probably both, and with the same message for both.

Response – They wrote in response to the issues of their day, some of which are unknown to us now, but some of which are strikingly similar to the issues of our day. There was a concern for a general apostasy, a watering-down of the gospel and of Christian ethics. Is this just preacher rhetoric, or are things truly deteriorating with each successive generation? Or do Bible teachers and preachers just get so “set apart” that they start to view both the church and the world less charitably?

Wisdom – These books represent the cultivation of much wisdom in an era that wasn’t full of the distractions of our era. While we will inevitably turn back to our modern writers; there is much to be gained from seeing how scripture was interpreted in a previous century. They did their homework so to speak, and interacted with others who were on the same path of study; and some of them were simply a few hundred years “closer to the story” than we are today.


What classic authors do you enjoy?

*Gotta love the redundancy of the name, “Avenue Road.” Still exists, running parallel to Toronto’s main drag, Yonge Street. (Pronounced “young street.”)

September 22, 2016

A Pastoral Career: The Parabolic Curve of Church Size

Filed under: Christianity, Church, writing — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:34 am

Conrad sat in the living room staring at the “yearbook” that Central Church had given him when he resigned several years ago. Well, “resigned” wasn’t exactly the right word, but other than that, there was nothing about his time pastoring the 700+ member church that did not evoke fond memories. He was only the third pastor Central had ever known, and while he did not experience the rapid growth of his predecessors, he’d seen the church grow from 556 members to 703.

Not that it was about numbers. Well, maybe it was. His first church was 168 members, but he was only there for three years. Then he jumped at the opportunity to go to a 289 member church, where he stayed for five years. Next, he entered a four year term with the 374 member — oh, my goodness; it really was about numbers; he couldn’t believe he had remembered all that detail.

Short StoriesBut Central was the pinnacle as it turned out, twelve years, and average weekend attendance just under a thousand in two services, with 703 of those people full members.

And then he got sent to East Valley on an interim pastor assignment, that ended up lasting six years. Smaller numerically. A little backward culturally. He was balding now and the 414-member church was an older demographic that signified, along with his own age, the numbers might start dropping. And then it did.

Before he knew it, he was doing a meaningless job in the district office waiting out the years to retirement. He had ridden the entire parabolic curve of church size.

He put the yearbook down and sighed.

“You’d better get ready to go;” his wife Carla admonished from the kitchen, “The service at Whispering Willows starts at 2:00 PM.”

So this is what it comes to, he thought. Sunday afternoon chapel services in the local seniors’ home.

The pianist assigned from the Salvation Army didn’t know any of the hymns he’d bookmarked. “We tend to do Army music;” she confessed, “But I can do Amazing Grace and How Great Thou Art.”

“That’s all they ever want to sing anyway;” Conrad told her, and at 1:55 Whispering Willows staff started wheeling in the dozen-and-a-half women and three men who had signed up to go to chapel that week, plus two staff. Okay, a few of the residents used walkers, but he noticed that everybody that week had some type of appliance necessary to get them around.

At 2:00 he opened in prayer. At 2:01 they sang How Great Thou Art. At 2:05 they sang Amazing Grace. At 2:08 he asked the pianist if she would play a little number from her Salvation Army hymnal. She gladly obliged, but the tune was unfamiliar and the melody was incomprehensible. But now it was 2:10.

Conrad checked his watch again. These services ran an hour, usually 40 minutes of singing and a 20 minute message. He knew he needed to stretch, so he asked if anyone had any prayer requests. “Just put your hands up.”

Surprisingly a woman in the second row did just that. He nodded toward her to share anything with the group and she said, “This isn’t the dining room.”

“No it isn’t;” Conrad replied.

Silence.

More silence. He noticed the ticking of a mantle clock he’d never noticed before. Things had never been this quiet.

“You know;” the retired pastor said, “I come here each month and I’ve never really told you much about myself, so before I share today’s scripture reading and message, perhaps I should share my story.”

So he spoke about his call to ministry late in high school, and how he had gone off to his denomination’s Bible college, and how he graduated and started climbing the ministry ladder. The problem was, as he had done before leaving for Whispering Willows, he was sharing more about the metrics of the various churches than about anything else that had happened in those various communities.

There was no story about Fred, or Jill, or Michael, or Jennifer, or anyone else. It was about the 168 and the 289 and the 374 and the 703 at Central Church and down to the 414. There was no reference to Carla standing by him in all those years in ministry, or raising a daughter and two sons in those various churches.

And then Conrad stopped. He had been listening to his own story. And he realized that it sounded pathetic.

It wasn’t that all he cared about were the numbers; it’s that he was bitter about never again getting the adrenaline rush associated with being able to speak to a thousand people each weekend. About being bounced down to a smaller church. And then left to deteriorate in a useless administrative position in the district office.

Another resident raised a hand, this time one of the men.

“You left out a number;” he said; “22. There’s twenty-two of us here, twenty-four if you count yourself and the woman who can’t play the piano.” (Of course he had miscounted by one and ignored the staff, but…)

“Well actually;” he said, trying to do some damage control, “I think she did those hymns really well, she just doesn’t know the ones that are in your book.”

“Well I grew up Salvation Army, so hey, Miss, do you know Thou Christ of Burning, Cleansing Flame?”

“I don’t think we know that–” he started to say, but the pianist suddenly lighted up and launched into a rather rousing introduction, uncovering previously hidden keyboard skills, and the man stood to his shaking feet and in a loud and clear voice sang verse after verse.

As it turned out the song had a hook, a line that repeated constantly and by the 4th verse, all the residents were singing. Singing loudly, “Send the fire, Send the fire, Send the fire.”

By now it was 2:40 and he was back on schedule.

He read the text for the message, a sermon from the files of the glory days at Central Church, slightly shortened to fit the 20-minute window. In his mind he was back there. Two services. Almost a thousand people every weekend.

One of the two staff members held up a cardboard sign that said “One Minute Left.” He thanked everyone for coming and gave a short benediction. The staff members started getting ready to pull wheelchairs out of rows and into the hallway.

“Wait a minute! Stop!” yelled the man who had introduced the last song into the service mix; “That number you forgot. We aren’t 703 members, but there’s twenty-two of us, and we’re the best damn twenty-two people you’ve got right now.”

Conrad looked deep into the man’s eyes, and then noticed the smile.

And then he smiled back.

And then time froze and the staff stopped moving wheelchairs and everyone waited for Conrad to say something in return, except he couldn’t think of anything. Nothing at all. So he said the first words that popped into his head.

“This isn’t the dining room.”

 

September 12, 2016

Selah

guitar-solo

The Saturday Ramblings column at Internet Monk always proves interesting. It’s basically like our (occasional) Weekend Link List, but they tend to feature different types of stories.

Like everyone else, they’ve been captivated by what Adam Ford is doing at Christian fake news site, The Babylon Bee; and recently featured the item below, which sparked me to get creative. First, the article:

Ancient Documents Confirm ‘Selah’ Best Translated ‘Extended Guitar Solo’

ISRAEL—Ancient documents uncovered by archaeologists working in the West Bank confirmed Friday that the disputed term “selah” present throughout the Psalms and Habakkuk is actually best translated “extended guitar solo.”

While many scholars had previously believed the Hebrew word referred to either a period of quiet reflection, a musical pause, or a time of heightened musical crescendo, the recent discovery of scrolls in remarkable shape lend overwhelming evidence to the theory that the term actually instructed Hebrew worship bands to shred across all six-strings in a blistering, melodic guitar solo.

“This is an astounding find—it really can’t be overstated,” biblical archaeologist Dr. Thomas Earl told reporters excitedly. “While we knew that Old Testament worshipers often incorporated instruments into their singing of the Psalms, we had no idea that biblical worship was often accompanied by a gratuitous, performance-oriented electric guitar solo.”

Other experts in Old Testament language studies have confirmed that scribbled on the back of one of the newly discovered scrolls was a piece of tablature notating a rudimentary version of famed guitarist Slash’s soulful solo from hit single “November Rain.”

“While many Christians have cautioned against excessive use of showmanship and flashy musical performances in our times of worship, well—it seems like the Scripture now confirms it’s okay to wail, if the Spirit so moves,” Dr. Earl continued.

This prompted me to leave prose behind with this free verse concoction:

The lyric screen goes blank.
The guitar solo begins.
We stand there.
And stand there.
We have heard this solo before.
It’s a copy of the one on the album.
We take a deep breath to sing the next line.
Nope.
Too soon.
He’s going for another eight bars.
An older woman sits down.
A small child follows.
They’re dropping like flies.
The computer guy puts the next verse up in anticipation.
I’ve lost the worship vibe completely.
Now I just want the song to end.
This isn’t right.

Guitars in Church

 

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