Saturday, August 29, 2009

Playlists are the New Album

It occurred to me a while back that the playlists you have on your ipod are very vivid expression of post-modernism. The album forged in the furnace of the bands creativity, with it's own narrative arch or thematic development are no longer important--it's the hit song purchased for 99 cents blended together at the whim of consumer. It's the death of the author in a nut-shell.

Indie Music and the Rapture

I don't know why but it seems like an increasing amount of great bands-whose lyrics are rife with Christian terms- are stuffing their songs with 'rapture' themes. Here's an example from Page France's "Chariot":

you're a wrecking ball
with a heart of gold
we will wait for it to swing
like a chariot
swing it low for us
come and carry us away
so we will become
a happy ending.

And then also from My Brightest Diamond's song "Disappear":

One day I may disappear
Don't be too suprised
'Cause I get tired of
Noisy alarms
& phone bills

& I don't think we're meant to stay here very long
I don't dream of bringing heaven down not like this
I'd rather move on.

There is also Sufjan's "Chicago" on Illinoise.

It's fascinating that edgy talented indie folk are seeming to prefer a relatively new doctrine without much scriptural warrant. Perhaps "noisy alarms / & phone bills" are really that annoying, add that to the wars, broken families, etc. Still it would seem that the more prevalent theme of restoration, new creation, new heavens and earth would be a less gnostic outlet for lyrical creativity.

I guess I didn't think folks like Sufjan and Page France would have much in common with Hal Lindsey. Huh.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Pride Upside Down Mark 9:30-37

This is a continuation of the Devo-Commentary I'm working on for my students on the book of Mark. Thoughts are welcome!

Jesus was teaching them, telling them that the Bible (the Old Testament), says that the Son of Man—the Messiah—was going to the cross and then be raised from the dead. Mark says the disciples didn’t understand, which is really obvious, the next thing you find them doing is arguing about which one of them is the greatest, which one has the best stats.

This makes sense to us. Whether video games, football, looks or smarts high-schoolers—and all everyone really—want to be on top. We want to be the best. It makes us feel good about ourselves; it makes us feel loved. Over the years I’ve come to see that underneath all of our posing, flexing and comparing, is a desire to be accepted—to be loved. Acceptance is hard to come by, that’s why we feel like we have to look a certain way, be good at a certain sport, have massive brains, etc.—we’ve been taught by the world that acceptance is based on our ability to perform. Think about it, that’s how it works at school (you’re accepted on the Honors Society if you perform), that’s how it works in sports (you make varsity if you perform), that’s how it works at your job—if you got one. The disciples, like us, want to be accepted by Jesus but they have a twisted way of going about it.

Jesus hears about it and pulls a kid up and says, “You want to be cool… well hang out with this little snot nosed whiner. The way I do life is centered not around being first—posing on stage—it’s about being last, a servant to everyone!”

How can Jesus say something like this? He turns pride upside down, why? Because he knows that acceptance isn’t based on shoving your way to front of the line, it’s not based posing. It is based on the pose that Christ took on the cross though. You’re accepted—what you’ve always wanted—not because you proved that you’re the best it’s because Christ became the least on the cross and made a way for us to connect with the Creator of all things!

Because He’s accepted you, you’re free to not be concerned about shoving your way to the front of the line… let someone else go! Instead of playing shotgun, play not-gun and sit in back. You don’t have to posture and pose to pretend you’re the best, you’re already accepted! You’re accepted into something more important and foundational than the ‘cool’ group… you’re accepted into God’s arms!


Think about all the ways the world tries to thrust itself into first place. Knowing that you’re accepted how can you practice humility? How can you turn pride upside down?

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Help my Unbelief

I'm working on a devotional-commentary type thing for my high school students. We have spent the past year looking at the Gospel of Mark; so it's on Mark. Below's a sample, your comments are welcome and needed.
The disciples hadn’t faced challenges like this before—an evil spirit that didn’t respond to their exorcism [read: for more on the disciples’ ministry experiences check out Mark 6:7, and 30]. I imagine they wondered what in the Hell was going on, literally. They’d done this kind of thing before; Jesus commissioned them to do this kind of stuff. Shouldn’t it get easier as time goes on? Isn’t this the natural way for things to go… easier with time? Oddly enough, this is anything but the truth for the Disciples. The initial excitement splinters in the face of the cross's reality. The longer they follow Jesus the closer they get to the cross, the disciples most challenging experience in their life of following Jesus.

It’s not just the disciples who are confused. There’s a father of a demon-possessed boy whose a big swirling mixture of confusion, stress, and belief. When Jesus talks to him he tells the man, “Everything is possible for one who believes.” [think: Jesus is telling the man to believe in him, Jesus—not in the miracle. Another way of saying it is “If you believe in Jesus anything can happen.”]. The man replies, “I do believe; help my unbelief.”

The disciples are confused. The man is a belief and emotions are being tugged either way. The drama is high. [What do you act like in tough situations? Is it tough to believe?]

A really sharp dude named John Calvin once wrote, “The prayers of believers do not always flow on the with uninterrupted progress to the end … but, on the contrary, are involved and confused, and either oppose each other, or stop in the middle of the course, like a vessel tossed by tempests, which, though it advances towards the harbor, cannot always keep a straight course, as in a calm sea.” He knew that in tough situations, when the storms are brewing and we’re lost in the winds of confusion, our prayer and belief fluctuates and is tested. The good news of this story, the story of your life, is that Jesus is trustworthy—even when life is not.

This section of scripture concludes with Jesus healing the boy, and with the disciples learning more about doing ministry to the hurting and the possessed. What we learn (again) is that while we have a storms Jesus calms them. What we learn is that while our faith fluctuates Christ’s faithfulness to us doesn’t. That’s good news!


Journal about some situations that you’ve doubted or had a hard time believing… ask God to show you how he was faithful… even when you doubted.