Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Wesleyan Art

My feelings on art and the Church resonate with Carole Baker and Leonard Sweet in the videos below ("bastions of boredom," funny...but also not).


Reclaiming The Material Gifts from The Work Of The People on Vimeo.


Len Sweet: Wack-A-Mole from The Work Of The People on Vimeo.

So I like and need art in a variety of forms and find it virtually absent in the Church today, and dangerously so. I find that the vast majority of what is labeled "Christian" art today is either:

  1. not art (usually some pale copy/attempt at art, or worse yet, simply mass-produced for easy distribution);
  2. doesn't speak to me (like southern gospel, 97% of CCM, Thomas Kincaid, etc.*);
  3. or is dominated by reform theology (I love listening to Derek Webb and Shane & Shane, but they are unapologetically and wholeheartedly Calvinistic...frankly, so is much of contemporary worship music).
We know that much of what came out of the ministry through John Wesley was in great part due to his brother's music and lyricism. The argument might be made that Charles was more concerned about didache than music...but I might disagree. Charles seemed to understand that didache is best done through art.

So my question is this:
Where, who, what have you found these days that speaks to the soul that's saturated with Wesleyan-Arminian theology?


A couple of answers to my own question:
  • The musical group Jars of Clay has always spoken to me...since I first heard their first album back in 1995. They were postmodern before most any in the Church new what the term meant. While not necessarily Wesleyan, I find that their lyricism is much different from most of the reformed-dominated nature of CCM.
  • The visual liturgy site The Work of the People continues to slay me with their work. While not exclusively Wesleyan (in fact, quite often reformed**), they have been studying and highlighting Wesleyan-leaning theologians and artists more and more (like Leonard Sweet and Stanley Hauerwas).
Wow...my list is short. Perhaps I'll remember more later, but I basically want others' help. Anyone?

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*I'm really not trying to start a debate on southern gospel, Thomas Kincaid, or anything concerning contemporary worship music. Please don't make this post that. Focus on the bold question above.

**I'm also not dismissing reformed art, I listen to and view it all the time. I'm just looking for more Wesleyan.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

"Braby" Parker Scott

So I haven't blogged much about our impending fourth child.  Meghan's due around October 31st.  I confess that this wasn't the easiest idea (another child!) at first.  I'll never forget when Meghan told me that she was pregnant.  I immediately said to her, "Um...I'm going to need a minute."

It has taken longer than a minute.

I thought we were done having children of our own.  Brayden was beginning school again, the girls were becoming more independent, and I was looking forward to giving more time and energy to North Street.  But the news gave my plan a "set back."  Of course I knew right away that I would love this child and that I would grow into the same feelings I had for my first three.  And I certainly have.  But to say that it was butterflies and smiles right away would be disingenuous.

Then the other day an overwhelming feeling of excitement and anticipation overcame me.  I can't wait for this guy, despite my uncertainty of how on earth we're going to live with four children.  It's not that our house is too small (it isn't, unless you're measuring by American standards).  It's more so that I have no clue how we're going to make it financially.  I'm praying and researching about this right now.

We still don't have a name for this poor guy!  It's odd.  With Brayden, Brenna, & Brooklyn, it was no trouble at all.  We had their names pretty well set early on.  But with this one, we're somewhat set in the whole "Br-" thing.  We're contemplating something else, but it really wouldn't make too much sense.  And other meaningful Br- names just aren't coming...

...well there is one that I like, but Meghan won't go for it.  I don't blame her.  But the more I read about the guy, the more I wouldn't mind one of my children being named after him.  Phineas F. Bresee is one of the founders of the Church of the Nazarene (his name is pronounced "Breh-ZEE".  Having been pretty much forced from the Methodist Episcopal Church, he founded the original Church of the Nazarene (not initially a denomination) based upon the notion that Christ's church should first and foremost be composed of the poor.  Not just that we should minister to the poor, but with the poor and as the poor.  Now it's pretty likely that this vision was very quickly compromised, and for sure the CotN is so so far from that founding vision, but nonetheless...Bresee was a challenging and formidable man.

Our first three each have a name after someone in our family or church history.  Brayden's middle name is "Wesley," which was my grandfather's middle name and certainly so after the great John Wesley.  Brooklyn's middle name is "Gwen" after Meghan's great aunt Gwendolyn Mann who was a long-time professor at Eastern Nazarene College and who had a profound impact on my mother in heading into education.  And Brenna's middle name is "Munro" after my great aunt, Helen Munro Lahmeyer who was named after Bertha Munro, long-time ENC professor and Nazarene saint.  So "Bresee" seems to fit...

But Meghan just can't do it.  And I understand, because while I like to read about the guy and know who he really was, he is most often in our denomination seen as a sort of "Mr. Nazarene"...which isn't necessarily our kind of thing.  But if we named our child after him, we could tell people what he was really like (as if I even really know...we all know that saints are made after death). 

Anyway, we're taking any and all suggestions.  It's 99% certain that his middle name will be "Parker," which is Meghan's maiden name.  We've jokingly thought about naming him "Bronald" since Meghan's dad's name is Ronald.  Then he'd be "Bronald Parker".  :-)  Just for fun, I've put a poll on the page to see if anyone has any input.

Anyway, his arrival is likely in two or three weeks.  Life will change yet again.  I can't wait. 

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Remembering

I think one of the things that most greatly pains me about the Christian Church is the brokenness of her various parts. Often, the Church's voice speaks of the brokenness of the world. As well it should - the world needs some help. But the Church herself is broken and it pains me. And it pains many others who've pretty much given up on the Church. In great part, I can't blame them.

But at the same time, it's nothing new, is it? The people of God have quite often been a collective whore, selling themselves out to whatever the whims or ways of the world are at the time (monarchy or syncretism with Ba'al for Israel, tradition for the Pharisees, Christendom for the Catholic Church, politics for the evangelical Church, and so, so many more examples). But our faith and theology tell us that Christ, the bridegroom is faithful all the while. Do I get pissed off at the Church? For sure...but it's in these moments that the words of Christ (via lyricist Derek Webb) challenge me back: "If you love Me, you will love the Church." In part, we love not because of perfection, but because of potential.

More and more I'm understanding that this side of the Great Resurrection, the Church will continue her shameful ways. This is not to say that I will not strive to do what I can to speak prophetically and to love unconditionally. It's also not to say that we shouldn't strive together to be who we were made and created to be...together...as a people.  But I need to temper my emotions and read Jesus' prayer for his people in John 17 over and over and over again.

So when we began our Sunday evening gathering of communion at North Street, we called it "The Remembrance." There is a lot of intentionality behind the name.  It is a gathering around the table of communion and specifically not around the preached word.  The grace of the table abounds in multiple ways (ways that I'm still learning about and discovering).  But one way we receive the grace of God - that is, we understand who God wants us to be together - is that Christ told us to come together at the table "in remembrance of him."

For sure, this means the general notion of what it tell our children it means: "remember that Jesus died for you."  But it's way more than that. The Greek word here is "anamnesis": to recollect, indeed to remember.  But what does that mean?  To re-collect or to re-member is to put back together the things, the thoughts, or the parts of something.  So...at the table of communion, if we are, as Christ asked us to, doing it to re-member him, then each of us, who is a member, coming to the table is making a decision to put the Body of Christ (the Church!) back together.

So it's my hope that this is what happens at the Remembrance - that it's a symbol, a hope, a desire to right now put back together the Body of Christ.

The Work of the People, as they often do, have just put out a wonderful video.  In it, John Goldingay speaks to this notion of remembering.  He talks about how the Hebrew notion of "remembering" isn't just about the past.  To "remember" means to "be mindful of" (and thus, we can actually "remember" the future").  So to "forget" is to choose "not be mindful of."  (This might help for those who can't understand how God can "forget" sin...)

Give it a watch, and wrestle with me about this "re-membrance" of Christ's Body, the Church.


Monday, September 21, 2009

Book Response: Evangelism After Christendom, Bryan Stone

I'm not really a good book reviewer. Keep that in mind. This is way more a response than a review.

I have started a post on this book multiple times over the last couple of months, but never posted it. And the other day, after finally finishing the whole book, I wrote a long post which I lost when we lost power.

I'll try again...

I'm not sure I've read a book that's been more affirming and challenging and resonating and all sorts of other things more than this one. I'd say it was 90% affirming and 10% challenging. It was incredible and wonderful to find an ecclesiology that "matches" much of who/how/what I feel like the Church is supposed to be. More than once I put the book down and said to myself something along the lines of, "There, there, Jeremy...you're not an idiot." Well...maybe I am an idiot. But at least I know I'm not alone.

I read the book along with a group of three other Nazarene pastors. It was interesting. At the beginning of our conversations on the book, I think that there was some frustration and disagreement with Stone. As such, at that time I tempered my thoughts that agreed with Stone a bit. But by the end, I'm fairly confident in saying that each of the other pastors was pretty much on board with Stone. The topic of pacifism may be excluded for them, but in terms of evangelism as a whole, I think each pastor appreciates and embraces the notions of the book. More than once in the later weeks of our discussions, the question was asked: "What on earth are we going to do with this?"

I also put the book down in frustration sometimes, but not because I disagreed with it. I've never met nor talked to Bryan for more than a few seconds. But he lives less than 30 minutes away, we have multiple mutual acquaintances (including friends who are studying with him), and I feel like I "know" him from what I've read. This all led to frustration because as I read about this wonderful image of the local body of the Church, I could not help but wonder, "Yeah...great, Bryan...where the heck are churches like these?" (In fairness, he finally answers this question in part almost right at the very end of the book. I hope to join this community "at" their gathering sometime soon.)

The book is saturated with Wesley & Holiness. While not surprising since Bryan's training is both Nazarene & Methodist (and he teaches at a "Methodist" School of Theology), many who consider themselves either Wesleyan or Holiness people would be aghast, confused, or both at the claims of the book.

One thing's for sure: This book has only thrown more gasoline on the fire that is my desire to return to studying theology at BU. I see no possible way for this to happen with the current state of our lives, so the fire is only an insatiable monster.

I have no clue how to really respond specifically to the book in a post...I feel like I could write a book on this book. I guess I'll just post some of the things that jumped out at me throughout the book and in places give some commentary. Really, the book is a major repetition, over and over again, of the same thing (the thesis): "...the most evangelistic thing the church can do today is be the church." (p.15)
  • Right away in the intro, with the way that he talks about "re-claiming the E-word," I was challenged. I'm *sure* that this was explained fully to me in my seminary evangelism class: that "to evangelize" means to give good news. Simple as that. Nothing more and for SURE, nothing less. (My evangelism class should have been called "The Church Growth Model," but whatever...speaking of seminary, I've already sent a strong recommendation to the president, dean, and new evangelism professor that this book be strongly considered as a text for the class).
  • (p.12) "...the power of the gospel is demonstrated not through winning, but through obedience." How on earth do we read anything else through the eyes of scripture, particularly Jesus' ministry?
  • (p.15) "The church is the evangelistic strategy."
  • (quote from Hauerwas & Willimon): "The only way for the world to know that it is being redeemed is for the church to point to the Redeemer by being a redeemed people." (p.48) One aspect that I think I have taken away the most from the book is the encouragement that Christ has already done it all. We need not "win" for Christ. He's already done it. Our lives are simply now to reflect that victory again and again in the situations presented to us. Here's another quote that speaks to this (p.234): "To believe that the 'real world' is something other (or larger) than the world of the gospel is to deform Christian evangelism from the beginning."
  • quote from Russell: "...salvation is a story and not an idea..." (p.61)
  • quote from Lohfink: "What drives them to the new thing cannot be force, not even moral pressure, but only the fascination of a world that is changed." (p.73)
  • I wrote at one point on p.79, amidst Stone's discussion of Table fellowship (and fellowship in general): "Is exclusion our job or theirs?"
  • (p.85) "All Christian evangelism, therefore, whether directed to the rich or to the poor, is ultimately eschatological from beginning to end. It is not an exercise in getting persons ready for 'the end' but rather the practice of inviting persons to be transformed by the end that has already made itself present, and on that basis to see differently and live differently."
  • "The Constantinian story is the story of the church's forgetting its journey and making itself at home in the world." (p.116)
  • "...the point is that the logic of evangelism is not, in the first place, a matter of what 'works' but rather a matter of faithfulness and obedience." (p.162)
  • I've read Yoder's Politics of Jesus almost twice. But for some reason, this statement from Stone made clear "politics" to me better than ever before (p.178): "Politics refers to the processes, rules, and skills that help us as a people to understand, order, and form our involvements and relations." Yet another word that needs "re-claiming."
  • (p.195) "Holiness is never a way out of the world but ever and always a way into the world. It is for the world that the church is called to be both in the world and visibly different from the world." Good grief how did we ever get away from this?
  • (p.196) "The politics of evangelism, then, is the church's 'otherness' in worship, fellowship, baptism, discipline, moreality, and martyrdom." Um...why did I leave seminary feeling in great part like evangelism was best "done" when modeled after the ways of the world? Like...we have to be "cool" or something to evangelize people...
  • (p.199) "eucharistic fellowship and sharing" Nothing more I need to quote. These three words together are shaping my ecclesiology. I need them to shape my life.
  • (p.200) "The Eucharist is an economic act." (quoting Yoder)
  • "Sanctification does not happen first behind the closed doors of the church and prior to its bodily social engagement with the world. Rather, the church's eucharistic engagement with the world is its sanctification as a visible and public body that glorifies God." (p.211)
  • On pages 216-217, I wrote this: "Dude...you need to give Bresee credit." It felt like he was quoting Bresee without referencing him. Here's one such line: "It is to make sure that our buildings, sanctuaries, and meeting houses are places that cry out welcome to the poor." Doesn't that ring of Bresee!?
  • Yoder quote again: "...brokenness, not success, is the normal path of faithfulness to the servanthood of God." (p.224)
  • A general notion of the chapter on the Holy Spirit is that evangelism is for the whole church community, not just those who aren't yet a part. I wrote in the margins of p.228: "When I cease to reek of good news, I need to be evangelized."
  • (p.229) "...evangelism is characterized by witness rather than by effectiveness."
  • (p.257) "Evangelism cannot be measured by the conversions it 'produces.' Its only measurement is faithfulness to the gospel of Christ of which it is a witness and to which it is an invitation." Again, this resonates with a Bresee quote I recently discovered: "Don't count them. Weigh them. Not quantity, but quality." I know that a lot of people don't like this thinking. I do. And I daresay it's quite biblical.
  • (p.260) "The problem is this: when the practice of evangelism becomes so preoccupied with entry that it loses sight of the journey itself, it is capable of being taken over by a logic foreign to the journey and even antagonistic to it."
  • I'm still chewing on this one...and will be for a while. It haunts me: "...the one who is committed to the poor must run the same fate as the poor..." (this is a quote from Romero). This, to me, is the truest and more literal notion of com-passion. (p.287)
  • (p. 291) parenthetical: "it is worth noting that the word patience, like the word compassion, is derived from the Latin pati, which means 'suffering'"
  • "Evangelism takes time. But for a people of hope, it is precisely time that we have been given." (p.294)
  • (p.294) "To evangelize is not to convince or convert; it is to share a promise that has been made by God, narrated in the story of God's people and embodied in the person of Jesus."
In one sense, I hate giving proof-text quotes like this. You need to read the book.

The postliberal nature of stuff like this is more and more how I believe the Church must move forward: know the story of God in such a way...that our lives are the story of God...acting as an invitation to the world to become a part of the same story.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

American Idols: Security

This is actually a posting from our North St. News site, but I thought I'd post it for the four of you who read here too. It's coming out of our topic from yesterday at North Street: American Idols - Security.

The recording for this past Sunday's American Idol: Security is now posted. For those of you that are listening on the web alone and aren't able to or haven't been in our worship gathering with us each week, you should know that after the sermon we take some time to respond to it, question it, and offer other perspective/thoughts about the given topic. A couple of great and difficult points were brought up this week, and I said that I'd respond more in depth during the week. Please understand and read these questions only in the light of the sermon (read: "listen to the sermon first!").

What about the Kings and Nation of Israel in the Old Testament? Doesn't this show in scripture a balance between the pacifist Christ-King and a people of God who fight for God?
It's notable that in the very first place, when the people of God (Israel) told God that they would like a king to rule over them, God basically said, "Um...no you don't. A king will take your sons and make them work for his armies and take your daughters and make them work for him as well. And a king will tax you and take your best things from you." But the people persisted and said, "No, we are determined to have a king like the other nations." And so God said, "Okay, have yourself a king." And the rest is history...

God even goes as far as to say (to Samuel), "When the people ask for the leadership of a king, they are rejecting my kingship."

You can read it all in I Samuel 8.

The other story that I alluded to was when King David "counted" his armies (II Samuel 24 or I Chronicles 21). The two accounts differ on how it happened, but the main point to David was this: don't count your armies and/or people.

The power of God is always to be the power of God's people. Or, again, the people of God are at their best when they rely on nothing but the strength and power of their cruciform God. As one person noted on Sunday (in context Zechariah...not Gideon), "'Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit,' says the Lord of hosts."

In light of that verse from Zechariah, I can't help but think again of the theme for yesterday: the people of God are at their best when they rely on nothing but the strength and power of a cruciform God. When has the Church been at her best? Look at Pentecost, for one. What was the power of that day? The very Spirit spoken of in Zechariah (and not might or power).

So does God leave us powerless?
Absolutely not! That's the whole point! God gives us great power! But it doesn't look like power as we tend to know it. His strength and power to drive out fear and evil is love (I Peter 4:16-21). And Paul gives us some great words about what our defense ("security" we might even say) does look like in places like Ephesians 6 (the armor of God). But take note that Paul says that we have this armor to "stand against," to be able to "withstand," and to "stand firm." He doesn't speak at all of "going and getting people." Yeah, yeah, I know...Paul talks about having the "sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God." First off, any fencer will tell you that a sword is as much of a tool of defense as it is of offense. Second, there's that "Spirit" again, which we already know is not of "might nor power." Third, the "word of God" is our defense, so wonderfully demonstrated to us by Christ during his time of temptation in the wilderness/desert (Luke 4:1-13 and Matthew 4:1-11). Thrice Christ uses the "word of God" to defend himself against the "wiles of the devil," just as Paul mentions at the beginning of this passage.

I can't help but think of some of the great martyrs of our history: people who decided that fighting wasn't the way of the Kingdom and ultimately lost their life on this earth (for now) as they knew it. Martin Luther King, Jr. is perhaps my favorite. This short speech gets me every time (he spoke those words the very day before he was killed...haunting words). He also said, "Nonviolence is the answer to the crucial political and moral questions of our time; the need for mankind to overcome oppression and violence without resorting to oppression and violence. Mankind must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression, and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love."

But perhaps best known to us is the account of the first martyred follower of Christ, Stephen, in Acts 7:54-60, where again, we find this "Spirit" of the Lord. It says that Stephen, full of that Spirit, laid down his life. So we see that the people of God, when filled with the Spirit of God, don't fight back...but remember that there is more than living (and dying!). It doesn't make any earthly sense. :-)

This has turned into a much longer post than I meant, but I can't help it...I continue to hold to the notion that God has more for his people than we see in the way we generally respond to the evils of the world.

Again, the question for us in all of this is, do we trust God? Or are we trusting other things in the place of God (the very definition of "idol")...?

Peace,
Pastor Jeremy

Saturday, August 29, 2009

TheWorkofthePeople.com

I've shared their videos before, but I continue to be moved and inspired by the work and art of Travis & Steve over at The Work of the People. Their videos go beyond simple interviews and/or rebukes of the Church and/or cheesy evangelical videos...all the way to art. We need more art in the Church. When the Church sold itself to rationalism, we left the arts to the rest of the world, which is an absolute pity. Anyway, there are about a dozen videos I want to share from them right now, but the one that's been haunting me the most lately is from Fuller Seminary professor John Goldingay.

In the first ten seconds, I was annoyed with Goldingay. By the end of the two-minute video, I wanted to cry with him. If anything can switch my emotions that quickly...it's art.

HELL IN A HAND BASKET from The Work Of The People on Vimeo.



"What's your strategy to love?"

"To do it."

True, true.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Going Away

Only for two nights, but Meghan and I are going to the Cape to a bed and breakfast. We're finally using a B&B.com gift certificate that the church gave us last October. I need this time (I need more, actually). But I need it to be restored a bit. Last week was a particularly difficult week in various different ways. If you're actually reading this on my site rather than in a reader, you'll notice that I finally changed the mast. I look forward to sitting and watching the ocean wash things away sometime in the next 48 hours. I need that.

I did indeed record a podcast as I said I would be doing with the Three Philosophers (click on the sixth episode to hear the one I participated in). Feel free to listen to it, but again be warned that it is rather raw. I was caught a bit off-guard because I thought we were talking about the future of organized religion. Instead, we talked about evidence for God...which is a conversation I don't really get into. For me, true faith can't be built on evidence. That's kind of the whole point for me...as Augustine said, "If you can grasp it...it isn't God." But it was enjoyable to record, I suppose. Having listened to it again, I feel like I sounded more belligerent than I meant to at a point or two. But I suppose that's what happens in these types of things.

Anyway...peace to you all this day.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Summer...meh...and a few updates

Yeah, I know, it's been a while. Not posting should not imply a lack of not thinking or learning. I'm learning much (still) these days.

So the picture on the mast of this blog is still one with tree branches covered with snow. Yes, I know that it's August 5th. I've not changed it due to time and perhaps some sloth.

But I've been thinking lately about how I can't stand summer. Really. I mean, yes, I enjoy some aspects...but I dislike it more than than I like it. Mid- to late-Fall is where it's at. Early spring too. Call me abnormal. I'm okay with that.

Here's why I dislike summer:
  1. 1. The heat. I really can't complain so much this summer. It's been mostly beautiful. We've had perhaps a collective week over 85 degrees. So this isn't so much a complaint this year. But I hate it when it's hot. I don't like sweating. Even more, I don't like more sweating at night when I should be sleeping comfortably. And for some reason...I feel badly when we run our ACs. We kept them out until late July this year, so that was nice, but since I've put them in I feel like I'm slipping dollar bills out into the humid air.
  2. Society. I feel like I don't fit in much of the time. I've driven by Nantasket Beach (and other beaches) several times on "nice" summer days this year, seen the thousands of people having a great time. I don't fit in there. All I can think of at the beach on these kind of days is sticky sand, scratchy salt water, and dirty, oily trash. I love the beach...but mostly before 7:00 AM or after 7:00 PM. I love to go and sit at "The Gut" at the tip of Hull and watch the busyness of the boats and Boston. I feel like I'm so close yet so far away when I'm there. But as for a crowded, hot beach on a hot summer's day: not for me. In addition, it seems like society is more willing to be stupid in the summer.
  3. Inconducive to community. I think the biggest annoyance about summer for me is that our church community is very difficult to keep together. Seems like half of everyone is gone every week. It makes it really difficult to be a community, and it greatly frustrates me.

Wow...I hate for this to be the way I post for the first time in a while. There are good things going on in life! Here are some updates:
  • North Street is a great group of people. We've been here almost three and a half years now and we continue to wrestle with the notion of daily Christian community. This continues to be the intense prayer and desire for Meghan and I. In the meantime, we're in the middle of a sermon series called "American Idols." Click here for more, including recordings. I've not preached this way before: either topically (leaving the lectionary) nor as prophetically. It's going well so far, but to this point, there have been no topics that will bring much dissention (busyness, the moment & instantaneity, and success). We'll see how it goes when we get to legislative morality, democratic freedom, family time, and the Bible. The hope is that coming through this series...we will all rely more upon God and one another.
  • Our pregnancy is going great. The difference between our first pregnancy and this one is slightly humorous. We're having a great time, don't get me wrong - I love feeling his movements when Meg and I are just chilling together. And the notion of what's happening in her belly continues to blow my mind. But it's surely different than the first. I can't believe how quickly this is going. We're less than three months away from his arrival. As for a name...we're at a loss. Any suggestions are welcome.
  • The kids are growing quickly and amazing me each day. Just yesterday, Brooklyn went out with me to visit some people and I was taken back by her knowledge of animals as I watched her read a book with someone. I just didn't know she knew that many of them. And both she and Brenna are singing ABCs (albeit not too enunciatively). The twins turned two and a half on the 1st. Brayden's almost four and a half and still incredibly smart and programmatic. He'll be going to "school" again for two days a week this fall. As advanced as he is with reading (and now math!), he is definitely behind socially. We look forward to more social structure for him.
  • Tomorrow night, I'll be a guest on a podcast called "Three Philosophers," but it isn't your academic notion of philosophy. Feel free to search for the podcast, but be forewarned that it's raw. I've enjoyed listening to these guys - they're honest, not afraid of dialogue or being wrong. Two of them are Christians, however disillusioned. The third is an atheist. I'm being brought in as they discuss the future of organized religion (we'll see where it really goes).
  • I've got a couple of other things on the horizon too that I should remember to post when they go live (a small writing "job" for NPH, and a roundtable discussion video with the House Studio.)
Anyway, I'm not sure I meant to write this much, but thought I should have something up here. Peace.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Update, Prayer & Community

Yeah...I know. It's been months. Sorry.

Just a quick update for those who don't know - I've currently got Lyme's Disease. It's not been a great experience, but I am definitely coming out of it. Our family looks forward to driving down to Lynchburg, VA on Monday to spend a night or two with Mike & Beth Lyle and then on to Orlando, FL for the General Assembly of the International Church of the Nazarene. I'll be helping out on an unofficial reporting site (click here), namely the GS Election Tracker.

The baby in Meghan's belly is doing great. His name is "Braby" for now. We really haven't come across many options we like for a name. We'll see what we'll do. But we're excited about it.

Anyway, what prompted my post was actually a video from an acquaintance of mine here in Hingham. He's a monk at the beautiful Glastonbury Abbey, a Benedictine monastery. He speaks about prayer & community. God...I long for this.



Local Voices: Br. Dan Walters from Robin Chan on Vimeo.


Till next time. And I hope it's not several months again. Once I figure out the best way to format and update my blog on the new Mac, I'll get some things done, but not for a few week.


Peace.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Where The Wild Things Are

Long been my favorite young children's book, the movie is well on it's way. Here is the trailer:


Thursday, March 19, 2009

Flags Removed from Global Ministry Center

So over at Naznet.com, Chuck Milhuff reports that by order of the Board of General Superintendents, the American and Kansan flags have been removed from the Global Ministry Center.

Which makes sense for the GLOBAL Ministry Center of the INTERNATIONAL Church of the Nazarene.

Here's the thread

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Family Dinner Prayers

We rotate between three different meal prayers.  One is: "Lord, bless this food which now we take to do us good for Jesus' sake."  Another is the good ole "God, our Father" song.  And the third is "God you're great, God you're good..."  I have minor theological differences and/or dislikes with each one of them.  

So I wrote one for us:

We thank you, God, for the food we have
and the ground from which it came.
We think of those who have it not
And pray them help in Jesus' name.  
Amen.

Any thoughts?

Refuse to Lead

This video really hit home this morning.

Last night, Danny sang Jesus Take the Wheel on American Idol. I'm not a big fan of the song. The music's all right, but the lyrics fall short of my Wesleyan-Arminian understanding of the relationship between God and humanity. While it may seem a worthy thought to hand over the steering wheel of our lives to Christ, it doesn't really work that way. When we "give" our lives to Christ, we still play a major part in making the decisions of life. The change comes in that we've committed to living life in an understanding that we're following in the way of Christ. Sure, we have Christ's Spirit to guide us, but Christ is a guide...not an auto-pilot. The image I've seen used and used myself a couple of times is the difference between a road map and a compass: our lives in Christ are not lived by a road map which tells us exactly where to go, but by a compass, who gives us direction.

It's actually quite a beautiful thing...this interaction and relationship between humanity and God.

This video from Peter Rollins describes this in part on a human-to-human level within the Church. From the experience of some of my interactions lately...he's right on. I would like to say more, but probably shouldn't...


Saturday, March 14, 2009

SNL: How to Get out of Debt

There is a group at North Street right now talking and studying together about personal finance. I'm psyched that Dr. Dick Fish is leading this for us. The Fish's are a great example of a Christian couple who live not within, but below their means to be able to help out others. Dick has shared his personal finance testimony with us, greatly relating himself financially to the story of the prodigal son and loving father as well as this portion of Acts 2, a chapter which has been challenging me for a while now. If you're in the area on Wednesdays at 8:00 PM, join us.

Anyway, I found this Saturday Night Live video on Hulu.com just now as I ate my lunch. It's loosely funny...yet it's profoundly true.  In more ways than one, America is consuming itself to death.


Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Finally


File this under "90% of you don't care," but the new iMacs and Mac Minis have finally officially been announced.  We've been thinking, saving, and waiting for months for this.  Our poor 6 year old PC deserves a proper burial for good service rendered...but we're going to be moving on soon.

Now...we just have to decide if we're going with the BYOM (monitor) Mini or all out for the iMac.  At this moment, we're leaning with to the Mini, but we'll see.

Monday, March 02, 2009

U2 at the Paradise!?

I used to go to concerts.  A lot.  In high school and the beginning of college, not a month went by when I wasn't be groovin' it at a show.  My favorite groups to see live were mainly "jam bands" Strangefolk, Phish, Guster, and Bela Fleck & the Flecktones (Guster kind of strayed from that scene to pop over the years).  I'd catch other smaller groups to fill in the gaps.  The range of other groups spanned from hard altnerative like Grammatrain to improv jazz like Medeski Martin & Wood.  I drove all over the five states of New England.  And truthfully, more often than not, I went alone.  But all to say, I went to shows a lot.

Over the last 6-8 years, I've gone to perhaps half a dozen, if that. The major reasons for my inability to go include time and finances.  But I've often missed the scene. I love live music.  

So the front page of Boston.com speaks of a rumored U2 show at the Paradise in Boston.  Some of my favorite memories in concert were at the Paradise.  Jars of Clay were great there, but I think my favorite show was actually Deliriou5?.  It was an incredibly passionate and worshipful show, open bar and everything.

But U2 might as well come and play in North Street's sanctuary.  It's probably only just a little bit smaller than the Paradise.  I mean, U2 could sell out a 100,000 seat venue, if it existed in Boston.  If it's true, it's one show I won't be getting tickets to.  Not because I wouldn't love to be there, but because, well...no one will get tickets to a U2 show that small.

I will however be at the very-quickly-sold-out Phish concert (can't call it a "show" at Great Woods) on June 6th.  Phish has been off for a few years and this is a reunion tour of sorts.  I've always wanted Meghan to be able to go and see the scene.  So Grandma's coming to watch the kids and we'll be there.

While I think that Phish is my favorite large venue group to see live...I've never seen U2 in concert.  And I fully confess that my concert resume is not complete without seeing them.  I guess they'll be playing at Gillette Stadium in September, but I'm not sure I can justify two concerts in a six-month span these days.  We'll see...

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Lent

I'm posting this mostly as accountability, but some may be interested.  I will be observing Lent in the following ways:

Eating vegetarian
- Meghan and I have been greatly challenged in our eating habits of late.  This video is a main part of it, but I've also been studying Genesis closely about the distinction between carnivore and herbivore from the perspective of humanity.  I wrote this to someone recently about it.  Somewhat sums up my initial thoughts:    
As for the intentions of what humans were to eat "from the beginning," the argument for some is that in the creation stories of Genesis 1-3, God only mentions to Adam eating of plants.  It says that God made the plants for food for humanity and the animals to eat.  In the first account of creation, it's mentioned at 1:29.  In the second account of creation, it's at 2:9 and again at 2:16.  Then in Genesis 3, after the disobedience, God only mentions Adam eating "from the plants" (v. 18).  

While there might be made an implication that Cain eats of his sheep in chapter 4, it's really not until after the flood at the beginning of chapter 9 that God gives provision of the eating of the animals.

Now...

...I would never really run with this dogmatically whatsoever, but it does make us think about how much we consume.  If the establishment of the Kingdom of God (Kingdom of Heaven) is indeed somewhat of a return to Eden, vegetarianism could
 play a role in the already-but-not-yet-revealing of the Kingdom of God.

Again, I wouldn't run with this dogmatically, but it's something to think about.
So I'm trying the traditional practice of Lent to not eat meat.  I don't hold it as prescriptive for everyone else (yet!), but I am challenged by how we overconsume meat to the overall detriment of the earth.  I'm the first to say that I could pound a plate of buffalo wings or a 12 ounce steak.  But with the rate that everyone's going, I'm concerned about health: ours and the earth's.  This was one of my commitments from Saturday's Boston Faith & Justice event that I already blogged about.

We'll see how it goes...because I love meat.

Showering every other day for less than five minutes - This also comes out of the Boston Faith & Justice event.  I already bought a shower timer a while ago.  Of all the travesties in the world, the fact that so many are incredibly sick and even die from the lack of access to clean water sickens me.  We're talking about water here (I feel like Allen Iverson).  WATER!!!  My cutting back on showering for a while will not give them clean water, but it will in very small part remind me of their plight.  In addition, it will save water, money, and energy right here where I live.  

So I'll be showering on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, the days I play basketball.  (And Sunday, of course.)

This is what I call my "reminder that I'm human" for Lent.  You may remember that I didn't shave during Lent last year.  Part of what's happening for me in this time of preparation for Easter is a reminder that I am human and I need God.

Less sports radio, more reading -  I am going to look into going from standard to basic cable to save time and money.  In Kansas City we just used an antenna, but here in Hingham, it's useless.  If we want any TV at all, we have to have cable in some fashion.  But we could save a bit every month by going to basic.  We'll lose a lot of what I watch (NESN, ESPN, CNN, Discovery: basically the sports and news stations) and what Meghan watches (TLC, etc.).

But for Lent, I will not listen to sports radio.  I did this last year as well (though admittedly, much of the impetus was that the Patriots had just lost the SB, and I didn't want to listen to it).  

In place, I'll be reading more.  I'm reading five books throughout Lent: continuing Evangelism After Christendom and Finding Our Way Again, and beginning Beyond Homelessness, Between Cross & Resurrection: A Theology of Holy Saturday, and The Story of God.  I've made a reading schedule which is somewhat aggressive on some days and not so much on others.  

There will be some other things going on during Lent coming out of our church community.  

But these are the big things for myself.  Perhaps I'll post those after I hand them out to North Street.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

What is terrorism? (...and what is our response?)

One of the things I really enjoy about being in Hingham is participating in the religious leaders association (and don't you dare call it a "clergy group").  The Hingham & Hull Religious Leaders Association meets monthly, is well-organized with a president, VP, treasurer, and usually 15-20 attendees at the monthly lunch meeting.  The group also includes counselors and compassionate center leaders (including NCM Friends of the Homeless).  While there have been one or two "almost intense" discussions in my three years of participation (I'm there probably 75% of the time), I am amazed and proud of the collegial and friendly interaction amongst our group, which includes faith traditions Episcopal, Roman Catholic, Benedictine, United Methodist, Unitarian-Universalist, Reform Jewish, liberal conservative Jewish, Congregational (UCC), American Baptist, Conservative Baptist, Baha'i, and Mormon (LDS).  

A smaller group of us meets regularly for lunch and extended conversation (a rabbi, UU minister, Baptist minister, UCC minister, and me, the Nazarene...yeah, go ahead and make your jokes).  I've really enjoyed this group.  Each of us knows that we believe different things, but we know that we come to that table without fear of discrimination, proselytization, or anything other than helping each other figure each other out.  Indeed, I feel like I'm a better follower of Christ because of my learning and understandings from this group.  Are we different?  Definitely.  Do we get heated sometimes in dicussion?  Yes...if we didn't, then I might actually feel like I'm compromising.

The HHRLA hosts a number of events every year including an MLK, Jr. event, a Thanksgiving Eve community gathering, and several "Hot Topics" forums.  These forums have discussed things such as Heaven & Hell, Faith & Politics, and End of Life Ethics.  The format usually has 3-4 of us sharing about the topic from our faith perspective.  Last night we held another forum, this one answering the question, "What is terrorism and what does our faith do in response?".  I shared for the first time last night.  After reading McLaren's Everything Must Change, Yoder's Politics of Jesus, and Claiborne's Jesus for President all in the last six months, I had some feelings on the subject.

Below is what I shared.  


My name is Jeremy Scott.  I serve as Pastor & Teacher at North Street Community Chapel, a Church of the Nazarene.

Before I begin, a preliminary...I maintain a online blog and the blog is in my name.  And on my blog, I give this disclaimer: 
The written understandings expressed on this website and blog are solely those of Jeremy D. Scott and are not necessarily (though perhaps hopefully!) representative of the International Church of the Nazarene, North Street Community Chapel, or any individual or organization other than Jeremy D. Scott. If you happen to quote this website/blog, be sure that it's quoted to "Jeremy D. Scott," and not as necessarily representative of the aforementioned groups.

While the words I write and speak are certainly reflective of my upbringing, my education, my family, my experience, and my life in a certain faith tradition, namely the International Church of the Nazarene, a Wesleyan-Arminian denomination, to single out my words and feelings as wholly representative of any one of these bodies or experiences is hardly accurate.  You'll find members of my family, members of my denomination, and professors I've had each of whom may disagree with portions of what I'll say tonight.  But that's the beauty of living within the story of humanity, isn't it?

All those who speak publicly in front of crowds know that a small percentage of spoken words are retained by listeners.  So many a Sunday morning, as I stand in front of my small community at North Street, I find myself saying, "If you only hear one thing this morning, pay attention right now and hear this."  

I'll offer the same kind of thing this evening.  If you only hear one thing about my perspective on terrorism as one who follows Christ, hear these words from Henri Nouwen: "Much violence is based on the illusion that life is a property to be defended and not to be shared."

While I'll work from the definition of terror as "that which uses various expressions of power to elicit fear through intimidation."  The question of terrorism for me really comes down to a discussion of power.  And power, in speaking of terrorism, is so very related to a discussion of inequity, a vast chasm on the spectrum of prosperity.  If terrorism were put on one end of a spectrum of labeled "responses to power," the other end of the spectrum from my viewpoint would be resistance through love and self-sacrifice.  And much like the opposite end of the spectrum - a response of love, that is - terrorism is defined by the eye of the beholder.  What is terrorism to one is heroism to another.  

Any good dictionary follows a definition with examples.  This is where things can get difficult.  For myself, the spectrum of terrorism runs from the obvious: flying planes full of people into buildings full of people to make a statement - to the not-so-obvious to some: the use of torture for information extraction or the use of a massive bomb for the purpose of a statement of power.

So as a follower of Christ, how do I respond to terrorism...

Christian author and activist Brian McLaren, in his 2008 book, Everything Must Change sets out in one part of the book to propose three metaphors in response to the problems of international security, equity, and prosperity.  While I have not the time to go in depth with these metaphors, they are hopefully somewhat self-explanatory.  He says that Jesus might respond to these problems, all today an imbalance of power, with a "divine peace insurgency," an "unterror movement," or a "new global love economy."  (at this point, I read from the book)

And the topic of power is one to which I believe the life of Jesus of Nazareth greatly spoke, particularly noting the society, government, and culture in which he walked and lived (I'll get back to this in a second...).

Really, a response to terrorism is in effect a national security plan.  And a true Christian response to terrorism is "a national security plan that won't be winning any elections."

Activist and "new monk" Shane Claiborne wonders in jest why we never hear the words of the Gospel according to Matthew 10:39 from the mouth of a president: "Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it."  (read from book)

Even the Old Testament, which at first has seemingly exemplar examples of genocide and terrorism in the eradication of peoples in the Promised Land by the nation of Israel, the nature of God as written and understood by those who were called his people gravitated towards Jesus' understandings in certain times.  I Samuel 2: "...not by might does one prevail."  Zechariah 4:6 - "Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord."

But terrorism is about demonstrating the most power at any given moment to one-up the opposing side.  For the follower of Christ, this is unacceptable.  Christian preacher Barbara Brown Taylor wonders, "If Jesus wanted his followers to conquer the world, why did he teach them to wash feet?"

Perhaps you remember the Presidential Forum held at the evangelical Christian Saddleback Church in California, over which Rick Warren was moderator.  The question as asked was, "Does evil exist and what do we do about it?"  While one candidate's answer satisfied me more than the other, they both made the conclusion that we play a great part in eliminating evil.  That evil can be squashed by human endeavor and that this is the role even of the United States.  

And though this may be the response of many Christian groups, and indeed win elections, I hardly believe it to be the response of the human being that was and is Jesus.  Would Jesus say that evil can and will be ridden once and for all?  Yes, definitely.  Does Jesus live by example in human form demonstrating how to fight evil?  Yes, of course.  Does Jesus give example of squelching evil by force?  No, not when it counted most.

It's not by mistake to me that the central image of the Christian religion is perhaps the greatest icon of terrorism of all-time.  The cross or crucifix was the tool of terrorism of the Roman Empire: the society, culture, and way of living into which Jesus of Nazareth was born.  It was no accident that crucifixions were carried out in public, on high places, for days at a time, where all could see and remember the sight, the anguish, and the stench.  The pax romana, that is the peace of Rome, came at great cost to tens of thousands of human beings who served as blatant and obvious reminders of what happens to anyone who dares to challenge the pax romana.  This is terrorism: as I know it: "that which uses various expressions of power to elicit fear through intimidation."

And so was Jesus' response to this terrorism was to fight back, to give 'em what they give, to fight fire with fire, and to squelch by force the powers of oppression?  No, not at all.  As it goes, Christ succumbed to the cross, "took it up," so to speak, and lay down his own life.  

I'll conclude again from scripture, and from a passage that I believe to be central to Christian ethics: Philippians 2: 5-11, which reads:
Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, 
who, though he was in the form of God,
   did not regard equality with God
   as something to be exploited, 
but emptied himself,
   taking the form of a slave,
   being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form, 
   he humbled himself
   and became obedient to the point of death—
   even death on a cross. 

Therefore God also highly exalted him
   and gave him the name
   that is above every name, 
so that at the name of Jesus
   every knee should bend,
   in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 
and every tongue should confess
   that Jesus Christ is Lord,
   to the glory of God the Father. 

From a human perspective, this seems foolish, and it's certainly not the natural response.  This is for us part of what Paul means when he says in I Corinthians 1: "...the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us it IS the power of God."  

But as a follower of Christ, that's why I believe that we see the best of humanity and divinity when we look at the person of Jesus Christ.

-------------------------------------------------

Some discussion ensued after.  

The general notion of the forum was that the panel was pacifistic.  I'd rather describe myself as an "almost-but-not-quite-pacifist."  At one point, the statement was made that "not doing anything" isn't how somebody wants to respond to terrorism.  I tried to clarify that I never said I wouldn't want to do anything.  There is a difference between pacifism and passivism.  Pacifism can be and ought to be proactive while passivism is...well...passive.

I have more thoughts, but that's good for now.  This post is already a few weeks delayed.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

The Church

I haven't been this transparent on this blog in a while.  

Went to the Boston Faith & Justice Network's Gratitude Economy: Gratitude & Creation tonight at Park Street Church, at which Shane Claiborne was the main speaker.

Meh...

I'm sick of "hearing."  

My feelings can be summed up by two songs:

In the spirit of the first song, I'm frustrated.  I've "heard" it all.  Been in the classroom.  Read the books.  Sat in the discussion groups.  Blogged.  Thought about it (a lot).  Discussed it...none of it's satisfied what I believe it means to be in Christian community together.  Sure, I do the one-on-one loving in the sense of the Great Commandment(s) (though certainly I have a lot more to do...to be).  But I want to be part of a group of people doing the same...

In the spirit of the second song, I know I can't just give up.  It's so tempting to move away to northern Vermont and live where I won't be distracted by the things around here (though certainly I'd find distractions there too), and to, in the words of Mother Teresa, "Find my own Calcutta" up there.

I don't know...I'm not sure any of this is coherent.

The grass is always greener, right?

"If  you love Me, you will love the Church."

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Adam Hamilton on Homosexuality & the Church

I have a few "favorite pastors" whom I greatly value...individuals that I am very thankful are great leaders in the evangelical church and leaders to whom I think we need to look for vision for the future of the Church, particularly in the United States.  These include "popular" names like Greg Boyd and Tim Keel, but also some Nazarenes like Jon Middendorf and Scott Daniels.  Perhaps the most recognized individual I really appreciate is Adam Hamilton, pastor of the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection.  Meghan and I would go there on Saturday evenings quite often to worship while we were in Kansas City.  I'm not big on big churches...but I could be a part of CoR if I weren't in ministry (though living in KC would be difficult!).

Anyway, below is Adam's response to a question about homosexuality & the Church.  He elucidates my feelings very well.  You can hear the overtones and opinions of the questioner in the way the question is asked..."reaches gays and lesbians".  I might have said "ministers to...".  Anyway, here it is:

SHANE: You recently preached a sermon on a controversial topic: homosexuality. Your position on this subject seems to have moved left over the years, but you show an unusual amount of respect for people on both sides of the issue and you even appear to be attempting to forge a "third way." What would be your advice to congregations that take far left or far right positions on this? Is it possible to take a traditional position on homosexuality and still be a congregation that effectively reaches gays and lesbians?

ADAM: I think it will be increasingly difficult to be a vocal proponent of the current UM position on homosexuality and effectively reach the next generation, or to effectively reach gays and lesbians. I think one might hold the current UM stance and not address the issue and reach them. One might, for the next five years (ten years in the south) articulate our current position with great compassion, and still reach young adults, homosexuals and their friends, family and co-workers. But the world is changing and I think the church will see this issue differently in the future. I'm convinced that all of the evangelical churches will wrestle with this issue in ten to fifteen years or they will have lost a generation and will themselves begin a steady period of decline. Sunday I asked our congregation to raise their hands if they have a close friend or someone they love who is gay. 90% of the congregation raised their hands. These folks already see greater complexity in this issue than the church does. They may still be a bit more conservative, but they will not tolerate churches that speak in ways that are cruel and insensitive about their friends. It's one thing to debate homosexuality as a hypothetical argument about someone you hardly know. It is another thing to consider a position regarding the life of someone you love.

My own journey and position on this involves several things: First, I continue to acknowledge that the scripture teaches that heterosexuality is normative and, to use Leslie Weatherhead's language from his book, The Will of God, God's "intentional will." The second is to recognize that there is a small portion of the population that seems to be shaped differently from that intention, either at birth or by early childhood, and usually not by a choice that was their own. For these heterosexuality will be very difficult to live into, even with the kind of "reparative therapy" offered by some. Next, after thirty years of daily Bible reading I have come to recognize that the Bible is a more complex document than most people would like to admit. It is both a book written by human beings who were shaped by their cultural and theological presuppositions, and the limitations of their knowledge, and it is a book through which God has spoken and continues to speak. This recognition gives us the ability to wrestle with the texts on homosexuality and to at least ask questions of them (did God really intend that homosexuals be stoned to death? Does God really see the gay children who we baptized, gave third grade Bibles to, confirmed and raised up as an "abomination"?) Fourth, we have a clear mandate, throughout scripture, concerning demonstrating love. We are to "do justice and to love mercy." Finally, what has most affected me and my views of this issue over the years has been my love of the children in our congregation. Having been in this church nearly 19 years, more than a dozen of the children I've baptized and watched grow up in the church later "came out" - I love these children (now young adults) and as I listen to their stories, and the way they've been treated by other Christians, I find myself being very protective of them. Likewise, in a congregation of 16,000 people, if we're reaching a representative sample of the community, 5% of these - roughly 800 people - are gay or lesbian. And I feel a great compassion and care for those in my flock that I know who are gay. So, both in my theological reflection about the nature of God, the nature of scripture and the nature of love, and in my personal experience with children and youth I care about in my flock, I find my views moderating on this issue.

I've tried to navigate a third way that says that we at Church of the Resurrection will agree to disagree about this issue - we've got folks on both sides. But we will continue to try to learn, grow and understand more clearly both the issue of homosexuality and how God looks at his children who are gay. And we will be a place where no one's children are turned away, or wounded by our church. I have tried to model how we might affirm the normative status of heterosexuality while seeing homosexuality with fresh and more sensitive and understanding eyes than we have in the past.

I still have a lot of unresolved questions about homosexuality, but what I've said captures the struggle, and the journey, I've been on.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

The Best Music of All-Time

I've been working on this post for months. In some ways, I've been working on it for my whole life.  I reserve all rights to make changes in the future, although since this actual post took me months to write, I can't imagine too many changes will be likely.

I'm a huge fan, devotee, connoisseur, and lover of music. While I do not consistently listen to all forms, I appreciate all forms. You won't find me listening regularly to opera, rap, or hip-hop, but even these I have come to appreciate in certain moments (like this one or this one).

The following list is my Top Twenty Best Compositions of All-Time. I don't expect people to agree with me. It wouldn't necessarily make sense. I liken making a list like this with giving an opinion as to "the best spouse ever." It's going to vary from person to person, and for good reason. "Best" is relative.  This list, while claiming "all-time" is quite obviously affected by a number of demographics, not to mention time itself - I live in the 21st century in the United States.  Anyway...

Actually, one last thing before the list...any interpretation of the lyrics or meaning of a song is pretty much my own.  That's one of the beauties of art, isn't it?  While the artist most likely has an intent with the work, it becomes up to the interpretation of the recipient who gets to enjoy the work down the road.  Any good artist realizes this and seeks to elicit emotions from the listener or observer.  

I tried to assess an order to these...I couldn't, with the exception of a "Top Three."  The others are in little to no order.

Let me begin:

Where the Streets Have No Name, U2 - The link is probably my favorite version. It was in Boston. I wasn't there, but I should have been. I've been to a lot of good shows and concerts, but my "resume" will not complete without hearing this live.

The Strong, the Tempted, & the Weak, Derek Webb - Sorry, but I couldn't find an audio file online or at YouTube. The link is to lyrics.  The song led me to blog once.

Worlds Apart, Jars of Clay - I bought Jars' first album on a whim during my freshman year of high school before anyone had really heard of them.  For a long time they were considered my "favorite band."  I've seen them live over 20 times, from Mama Kin's in Boston (my first 18+ show...I was 16...thanks, Jeff) to SoulFest to my favorite show at the Paradise in Boston. The link is a pretty long live version.  This song has brought me through a number of difficult times in life.  I've tried to listen to a lot of "Christian" bands over the years.  Only Jars have stuck (and perhaps Derek Webb).  

More Than A Feeling, Boston - Thanks to Ray for turning me on to Boston.  This is one of many songs that are meant for driving with all the windows down and the volume turned up.

Today, Smashing Pumpkins - Not really sure what the video's all about, but it's just a great song.  

In Memory of Elizabeth Reed, Allman Brothers Band - I never got to see them live, but this is my favorite song from the band.  Love the way it builds into a classic 70s jam.

Dissolve, Guster - (The link is to a site with a clip of the song...Guster's record company must have a strangle-hold on their songs, because I couldn't find anything on YouTube.)  At some point in high school, I was at the CD store in the mall, looking through the Jars of Clay section (I wasn't looking for anything other than to see what they had...I already had everything possible put out by Jars).  A salesclerk came up and said that if I liked the acoustic rock sound of Jars, I would like "this three-man band with two guitars and bongos."  Turns out it was Guster.  I bought their first album (Parachutes), and have a couple more, but none of the later ones.  I should check them out again.  I later befriended the salesclerk, Mark Lisavich, and we went to at least one show together (turns out we had mutual friends).  Anyway, the whole of the Parachutes is incredible, but I remember listening to this song over and over.  By the way, I don't really think that Jars and Guster sound much alike...but it doesn't matter.  The notion got me to Guster.

Fake Plastic Trees, Radiohead - Do you remember those sob songs that you'd listen to in high school when someone rejected you or you got turned down by a girl or something?  Yeah, this was one of them for me.  I also like this acoustic version.

As I've listened to it more over the years though, the lyrics have actually come to mean something very deep for me, and for anyone who's ever been addicted to anything.  It speaks of the things in life that are enjoyable in the moment, but over time become shallow, cheap, and ultimately a hindrance to greater truth and goodness, rather than feeding it.

One, U2 - The link is a great version with Mary J. Blige.  This song is saturated with theology.  I used it for this video.

So Well, Strangefolk (Reid Genauer) - The link is a horrible video of an acoustic version of the song. Reid Genauer is a great folky songwriter and lyricist.  I wish Strangefolk had never lost Reid, but I can't blame a man for searching for his own.  Regardless, this song brings back many memories of the Somerville Theater, and speaks well of life and death, even touching on some of my theology, though Reid may likely cringe at the thought.

Hoedown, Bela Fleck & the Fleck (originally Aaron Copeland) - (skip to 1:50 on the YouTube clip for the song) One of the signs of a great composition is the numerous musicians who seek to tap into the complexities of the composition (for the younger, "covering" a song) to make it their own. Emerson Lake & Palmer's version is great. But my favorite is by Bela Fleck.

All Along the Watchtower, Jimi Hendrix (originally Bob Dylan) - Another song redone by many. I used to listen to the Dave Matthew's Band's version a lot. U2's is great.

David Bowie, Phish - The song title is "David Bowie" and has little to nothing to do with the guy who wore tights in The Labrinth. This was my favorite Phish song for a long time.  There are a lot of good songs with extended jams from Phish, but this is one of the originals.

Jamming, Bob Marley - There are a number of Bob Marley songs I could put up here, but the four chords at the beginning of this are legendary, pardon the pun.

Prince Caspian, Phish - Just a great tune.  I used to put Brayden to sleep with it when he was a baby.  It has no theological significance or relation to the book from the Chronicles of Narnia (at least, not according to any published report by the band), but it's a great song.

Slave to the Traffic Light, Phish - I used to have this bumper sticker in my car that said, "See the city, see the zoo, traffic light won't let me through" (lyrics from the song).  Who of us who have ever seen the light sticks flying at a Phish concert can forget this song?

Big Country, Bela Fleck & the Flecktones - Very simple on this one: this song makes me happy. It's very relaxing, soothing, and pretty incredible composition-wise. I'm not sure I've seen a show with more musical talent on one stage than this group. If I could switch Carter Beaford for Future Man, this would easily be the most talented band on the planet.

Etude in C-minor ("Revolutionary"), Frederick Chopin - I was turned on to this piano solo by my friend J. Paul Pepper who can play it. A powerful quick song.

3. The Four Seasons, Antonio Vivaldi - I kid you not: I used to listen to this over and over in my room when in middle and high school, flailing my arms as if I were the conductor. I particularly like the Winter I portion, the end of Winter III (intense!), and Summer I.

2. Fix You, Coldplay - This is the newest song on the list.  I don't even know what to say.  It's an incredible song.  I suppose if I listened to it 20 times in a row, I might get bored of it...but not 10 times in a row.  I actually do often listen to it 3 or 4 times in a row.  My kids love it.  I've used this in worship and at a funeral.  This is a song of redemption, a song of putting back together something that has gone wrong.  I see it holistically for the world: "Lots of times things suck.  That's not what God in Christ wants."

1. Messiah - Hallelujah, George Frederic Handel - It just, well, I can't help but be blown away by this song. It can certainly be overdone and when it's used comically or as a fill-in in a movie, it seems cheap, but when it comes down to it, this composition is loaded with inspiration, power, and truth. It's when music can inspire beyond the notes that it most moves me. The image of a final creation with "Christ and all things Christ," with no sorrow, all that ails and plagues us wiped away - that's pretty powerful. Handel does a "pretty good" job of putting this to sound.  Most who've ever actually sat and listened through Messiah and gotten to this part can tell you how powerful it is.

All right, have at it...