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Mar 29 2009

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Spring griping

 Some thoughts re. this morning’s service (the first one).  Actually, not all are directly related to today’s events; some of these have been building for a while and others are basically the same things I’ve griped about before.  You’re welcome to write them off as the grumblings of an incorrigible curmudgeon, but I’ll feel better for having shared them with you…

First of all, what’s with all the standing?  We didn’t sit down today until 8:45.  Maybe it’s the stubborn congregationalist in me, but it irks me to be told constantly to stand up or sit down, without ever knowing why.  Perhaps if I understood how it helped us worship God better…  More than anything, I get the feeling that the person in charge (do we have a “stance minister?”) sometimes just forgets whether we’re up or we’re down…

Moving on, the responsive reading via PowerPoint was a bit of a bust.  I hope it was better during the second service, but I found myself wondering if there wasn’t something to be said for common prayer books or the responsive reading sections in the back of our old hymnals.  At least those were (I am assuming) reviewed by a committee that scoured them for accuracy and doctrinal precision.  I can’t help but wonder if our thoughts and hearts aren’t more oriented towards our Creator when we linger over printed words a bit longer than what the big screen allows…

On the subject of old hymnals, there seemed to be a bit of a mixup when we sang “Near the Cross” — are we raptured or ransomed?  The slideshow had it “raptured” but the choir sang “ransomed.”  Figuring some pre-mil sentimentality had crept into the lyrics, I opted for “ransomed” but Sherry checked her old hymnals (she collects them) and discovered that the slideshow had it right.  That’s another nice thing about hymnals — you can actually go back and re-read and meditate on the more meaningful lines of a song.  With our PowerPoint singalongs, we can’t even remember the last few words if the projectionist (“minister of projection?”) accidentally jumps the gun and moves on to the next slide.  As I read over the stanza in question, I realized it actually reflected an a-mil sensibility, that the rapture is the last “big thing” this side of eternity…

During one of the “God is my Girlfriend” praise numbers this morning, one line in particular kept jumping out at me.  What in the heck does “There is a fountain, who is a King” mean?  I figured it’s an allusion to all the bloody fountains of our grand old hymns, but on the face of it, the sentence just doesn’t make a lot of sense, does it?  Especially when you think about the next generation of Christians who won’t know a song unless they’ve heard it on the radio or had it taught to them by a music minister.  When we were members of a tiny Baptist church, the pastor got on a kick about singing the Psalms (since that was their original intent), fabricating the most elaborate, incomprehensible melodies possible in order to tack some musical notes onto each and every word.  We were expected to listen once, then follow along in unison.  I felt then (few sang along except the pastor’s wife and family) as I felt this morning; only a handful of voices other than the song leader’s could be heard, even after we had gone through it two or three times.

Enough about the music.  I do worry that we have no built-in mechanisms to check these songs (that one about being trampled like a rose comes to mind) for whether or not they are consistent with what we believe.  Do they point us to Christ?  Do they echo holy scriptures?  Do they remind us of our sin and our responsibilities?  Do they really exalt He Who spoke the cosmos into existence simply because we bandy about overused words like king, praise, worthy, warrior, and awesome?  I’d much rather sing “Praise God from whom all blessings flow…” or Handel’s Hallelujah chorus or even Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” (Rufus Wainwright’s cover is one of the best)…

Finally, I have to confess that your sermon did indeed give me much to chew on, although perhaps not as you expected or hoped for.  As you introduced an incarnate Jesus to us this morning, I couldn’t help but wonder how we’d really react.  I imagine him as looking a bit like Mahatma Gandhi, but horribly disfigured by his torture and execution.  Thomas touched his scarred hands, but were the nails the only signs of the cross that remained?  Once we got past his dark skin and the blood-stained, once-white robe wrapped around his short, skinny body like some sort of ill-fitting toga, would we notice that most of his hair had been pulled out, or the bright pink, jagged scar around his head, or the ugly welts across his back, or the funny way his arms moved because they had been pulled from their shoulder sockets?  Assuming we even let him come in and sit with us, how would we react if he stood up and starting walking towards the pulpit?  Would the ushers move in to intercept?  Would the police be called?  How many of us would really recognize the Christ among us?

 Last thing (really) and it’s about last things.  Have you seen the stuff circulating out there about how the New World Order folks are fixing to stage a fake rapture using holographic projections?  I couldn’t make up this kind of foolishness if I tried.  Here’s some of the links: 

http://www.cuttingedge.org/news/n2101.cfm and http://2012poleshift.wetpaint.com/page/NWO+Project+Blue+Beam:+False+Holographic+Second+Coming?t=anon

Permanent link to this article: http://levantium.com/2009/03/29/spring-griping/

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