Monday, December 29, 2008

tagged by Brent...

An embarrassingly long time ago Brent Bill tagged me and introduced this meme challenge by explaining:
My friend and fellow blogger Shawna "meme'd" me and so I'm trying the same thing back at her -- and including you. I looked up "meme" in Wikipedia, and got completely and totally lost. So I reread Shawna's post and thought, well, maybe I can do this and so, here goes....
Meme "rules:"
1. Link to your tagger and post these rules on your blog.
2. Share 7 facts about yourself on your blog, some random, some weird.
3. Tag 7 people at the end of your post by leaving their names as well as links to their blogs.
4. Let them know they are tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.
5. Present an image of martial discord (as in "war," not as in "marriage") from whatever period or situation you’d like.
Brent's tag reminds me well that I picked up on a pair of ideas from Shawna's main blog way back last summer and have yet to finish blogging them, but meanwhile, here's Brent's post: Is a meme as annoying as a mime? Finally, here's my 7, though I'm not convinced any of them are weird except I decided to include numbers in all of them and given that everyone in the blogosphere probably has played or declined an invitation to play, consider yourself tagged and invited and let me know if you do.

life stuff button1. I love the number 5 and multiples of 5

2. I've lived in 3 parsonages

3. I hope for countless, innumerable – try 999,999,999 - tomorrows for everyone, for Jubilee Justice for all creation and for peace in our time

4. I've attended 5 professional schools: music; social work; divinity; biz (mini-MBA in entrepreneurship) and design

5. My 2 favorite jobs were about food: writing restaurant reviews for the local radical rag and working as a line chef at a semi-high end restaurant

6. I've moved house at least 20 times

7. I have 2 particular theological interests: ecological theology and liturgical theology

For an image of martial discord I'll cite too many local church and judicatory meetings I've experienced.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

grace in (fluff)land

(fluff) Friends have become a huge Facebook favorite for quite a few. These virtual critters (mostly animals, a few foods like radish and tofu) are friendly, social, generous, energetic gourmet types. I've adopted a leppit and named him WildSpirit; leppits look like rabbits but have trouble pronouncing rabbit. However, "leppit" is close enough to Lepus the hare the meaning shouldn't be confounding. fluff election results

(fluff) Friends developers keep busy offering new events (keep busy endlessly writing code) that recently have included a pirate ship treasure hunt, Halloween trick or treat and most recently, Christmas stockings and gifts. Around presidential election time in the USA, there was an exciting couple of weeks of (fluff) elections, so people ran around casting votes for each others critters. According to the way participants interpreted (fluff) press releases, the top vote-getter would become (fluff) president and receive perks like seal, podium, white house, (fluff) force jet and related. Runners-up would become ambassadors, secretary of (fluff) fence, vice-fluff and similarly influential political positions. Given the common perception that whoever got the most votes would win, everyone cast their hourly votes and waited for the outcome.

However, after the (fluff) polls closed and (fluff) owners went to check on election results, it turned out everyone had won the position of president! In other words, there was nothing anyone could have done to make the results any different, either any better or any worse: election results turned out to be an undeserved, unmediated gift of grace. I've no clue as to the history and background of any of the (fluff) developers, but this was yet another example of the world outside of the Church "getting it" more correctly than the world inside the Church. Just sayin'...

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Nativity 2008

With its retrospect and prospect of judgment, repentance, renewal, redemption and hope, Advent 2008 is past; the Feast of the Nativity and the season of Christmas have arrived! In the Bethlehem manger we meet God surprisingly come to earth amidst darkness and cold, pleased to share our common lot...of huge casino payoffs, sunny endless summers, mega-mansions and financially prosperous career tracks? Surely job layoffs, bankruptcies, brokenness, alienation, urban decay, ecological degradation, disillusionment, mining disasters, organizational disarticulation, loneliness and betrayal are far more customary than what the world typically covets and deems success, so God enters history in the thick of human need and in human need, too...

Yahweh's people Israel called the desert manna "Bread of Heaven," and for forty years of peregrinations it nourished and sustained them. In chapter 6, John the evangelist calls Jesus born in Bethlehem, Little Town of House of Bread, Bread of Heaven and Bread from Heaven, and because of Jesus' touching everyday lives with God's love in the commonest essentials of creation, today we have living manna blessed and broken, given and shared to sustain, to nourish, to mend and to heal.

But for you who revere my name the Sun of Righteousness shall rise, with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall. Malachi 4:2, NRSV

As we ponder the witness of scripture and discern God's call daily to live as his Presence, we discover a constant interplay of theological realities and current cultural inclinations; you can't contextualize the gospel into a culture you're not familiar with! Right along that vein, recognizing Jesus Christ as Sun of Righteousness reflects the Mithric feast of the Unvanquished Sun that in turn came into imperial Rome through evolution and syncretism.

The first two songs on this list made it into a special Christmas edition of RevGalBlogPals Musical Musings and you might like to check out some of the other wonderful suggestions. I'm also bringing a mostly musical Christmas greeting for this year!

First, lyrical beauty from Amy Grant, "I Need a Silent Night" by Chris Eaton and Amy Grant
I've made the same mistake before
Too many malls, too many stores...

And the angels said fear not for behold
I bring you good news of a great joy that shall be for all people
For unto you is born this day a Savior, who is Christ the Lord
And his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Prince of Peace

I need a silent night, a holy night
To hear an angel voice through the chaos and the noise
I need a midnight clear, a little peace right here

To end this crazy day with a silent night

With our frequent multitasking and sensory overload, still we realize we need the kind of peace only the Son of Peace can bring us, yet at times we imagine we can buy it rather than awaiting it as gracious gift; nonetheless, the Savior's birth arrives again and brings along with it an end of fear and the song of the angels, messengers of gospeled good news, and we receive a silent night conclusion to this particular chaotically noisy crazy day (and to tomorrow's craziness, too).

I really discovered "Valley Winter Song" by Fountains of Wayne on a December LLBean commercial and even found a very appropriate, sepia-toned Winter in New England video:

fountains of wayne
This song evokes the New England winters I've experienced and endured, with their gray, salted, slushy snow, wind chill temps below zero, trying to write papers, anticipating final exams, Lessons and Carols at Harvard's Memorial Church, house parties with eggnog and hot spiced glögg along with the assurance "summer's coming soon" because the winter solstice is finally here, coming "to those who wait"...what else to do but to bring to you a creative gift, a valley winter song?

You know the summer's coming soon

Though the interstate is choking under salt and dirty sand
And it seems the sun is hiding from the moon

And the snow is coming down
On our New England town
And it's been falling all day long
What else is new
What could I do
I wrote a valley winter song
To play for you
Faith Hill, "Where Are you, Christmas?"
Where are you Christmas
Why can't I find you
Why have you gone away...
My world is changing
I'm rearranging
Does that mean Christmas changes, too...
Christmas still is here, after all, as God constantly comes into the world, into each of our worlds, often in hidden not always immediately apparent sacramental ways, reminding us God is there if only we will look and often surprises us before we even think to seek God, because the God of Jesus Christ graces with unmediated Presence...and unanticipated presents.

Next, full tilt boogie with Sheryl Crow and Eric Clapton, "Merry Christmas, Baby"

Feeling mighty fine, living in Paradise, lit up with gifts of creation (diamonds!) and light of the unvanquished Son of Righteousness...around 3:30 a.m., amidst deepest darkness the gifts of Christmas surreptitiously and surprisingly arrived in my very own dwelling, so "Merry, merry, merry, merry Merry Christmas, baby..."

Also via John chapter 6, Jesus calls himself the real manna from heaven, and promised anyone who ate that Heavenly Bread of Life never would be hungry, would live forever and never die! In revelation about the Logos, the chapter 1 "Prologue" to John's gospel identifies Jesus as the Word, the verb, God's action! The infant Jesus in the Bethlehem manger is the Word of Life, Jesus is the Bread of Life, Jesus is our manna and the entire world's manna. So finally for this Christmas, Amy Grant sings a rockin' "Little Town" with an unconventional melody that's neither St. Louis nor Forest Green along with tangy instrumentation:

"Little Town"

Merry Christmas, Happy New Year 2009, World!

PS Due to YT vids coming and going, I've been deleted all YT links in this blog but keeping the song titles so you can find your own.

Monday, December 08, 2008

advent 1, advent 2

Advent 1

This has been an Advent full of hope! We're again in Revised Common Lectionary year B, and this time my own journey started out with a jazz-tinged eucharistic liturgy at one of the Big First Churches here in Paradise, First United Methodist, though this one's in the Valley rather than Downtown. As Pastor Molly Vetter responded on Facebook to my asking if we'd be hearing the Isaiah passage that's the 1st lection for Advent 1B and one of my very favorites, of course--and Mark's little apocalypse, too: jazz, prophecy, and apocalyptic go together so very well! A chunk of Isaiah 64:1-9:
64:1O that you would tear open the heavens and come down, so that the mountains would quake at your presence— 2as when fire kindles brushwood and the fire causes water to boil— to make your name known to your adversaries, so that the nations might tremble at your presence! 3When you did awesome deeds that we did not expect, you came down, the mountains quaked at your presence. 4From ages past no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who works for those who wait for him.
Abram was an Ivri, a Hebrew, one from the other side. In Jesus we meet God from the exceedingly other side as God tears open the gates of heaven and comes to earth, permanently obliterating boundaries and distinctions between holy and mundane and confirming the covenant between heaven and earth. It's interesting we identify Abraham as our progenitor in faith, because both Old Covenant and New Covenant people of God form a gathered assembly and the solitary individual before God is the anomaly, the a-nomen, the "other than" the law rather than the general rule, yet scripture and history in general are replete instances of God claiming, calling and enabling a particular individual to a distinctive, transformative endeavor.

Regarding God incarnate in our midst, last week at The Rising we watched part of a DVD that reminded us 1) Joseph and Mary trekked to Bethlehem because Joseph was from Bethlehem and likely still had relatives there; 2) no, Jesus was not born in "straw poverty" (though I love that expression I heard a couple of Nativity seasons ago), Jesus was born as what a recent bank commercial would call a "regular guy," someone who "shared our common lot," in the words of the UCC Statement of Faith. Regarding the otherness aspect of Abraham as the prototypical person of God in being from the other side (of the hills, of this city, of mainstream culture, supremely from the other side of death), what does God's incarnation in the baby in the manger, the Nazarene carpenter and the cross of Calvary show us about us? Paraphrasing Jeremiah 22:15-16, Jesus ate and drank (no ascetic!) and did justice and righteousness, and it was well with him (and better with the world)...this not only is what it means to know God, but to be like God!

Advent 2

Sunday afternoon of Advent 2, featured another unforgettable liturgical event; this time it was the festival of Lessons and Carols in Founder's Chapel at nearby University of San Diego, and an exceptionally worthy piece of preparation for God's birth in our very midst, "fulfillment beyond all human reckoning," as one of the worship leaders described it. Angelo Musicante by Melozzo da Forl To call this experience perfect is a huge understatement! For the prelude music choir and orchestra exulted with Pergolesi's Magnificat, then more than a dozen (I didn't distract myself by counting) people jubilantly processed into the worship space with "On this Day, Earth Shall Ring," in an arrangement by the illustrious Alice Parker (I attended her hymn sing workshop at 1st UMC a couple months ago). Standard scripture selections, etc., and the gospel procession...back in City of History, after an Easter Vigil several of us went to, when I asked the senior pastor I served with his opinion of that congregation's liturgical style (I had my own opinions, of course), he replied he did not care for the gospel procession because it elevated The Book too much. But the gospel procession at the Lessons and Carols was something else altogether as it demonstrated and celebrated how God comes into human history to live as one of us so we can touch, see, smell, taste and hear evidence of God among us; this gospel procession on Advent 2 appealed to and teased all our senses. We had incense during the opening processional, the closing recessional and to accentuate the proclamation of the Word of Life. A couple of advents ago I asked "Is God among us not a Hallelujah moment?" Yes, a time for singing multiple responses of "Yahweh be praised" as we heard the gospel text. Finally, the recessional song was a West Indian Spiritual proclaiming...
The Virgin Mary Had a Baby Boy

The Virgin Mary had a baby boy,
The Virgin Mary had a baby boy,
The Virgin Mary had a baby boy,
And they say that his name is Jesus.


He came from the glory,
He came from the glorious kingdom.

The angels sang when the baby born,
And proclaimed him the Savior Jesus.
Mary's boy named Jesus brought the Glorious Reign, the Sovereignty of Heaven down to earth--Dietrich Bonhoeeffer speaks of God's "unfathomable condescension" and the Christmas carol sings "Pleased in flesh with us to dwell: Jesus, our Emmanuel, God with us!" During this season of Advent 2008 we once again await the arrival in our midst of The Wild Guy from Nazareth whose presence among us levels mountains, makes valleys higher, shatters barriers, blurs distinctions that separate us and raises the dead.