How to Ruin Christmas

UPDATE! I’m not removing this article, because I think that it was still a bad idea, but only because when seen out of context it’s misunderstood.

The creators of this piece have explained the context for this.

We are SUPPOSED to be offended by the number, as it is, in the context of the Christmas show it was part of, a metaphor for Herod’s response to hearing about the baby Jesus. But I’ll let this stand, because I’ve been in churches that made decisions like this that ended up being a bad idea even though intentions were good and context mattered.

There is a year-old performance of Silent Night that has suddenly started to go viral in the circles I frequent. Here it is.

This church in London violates what many of us have learned is the cardinal rule for churches in December. You. do.not. mess around. with. Christmas. Recently I had a conversation with a guy who does, for his job, what I do (music in the church) who was thinking about not doing Silent Night this year and his pastor was okay with it. I told him he should probably update his resume if he goes through with the plan. It’s not to be messed with.

An upbeat jazzy version of Silent Night? Seriously? As of this writing, there are about 1500 people who’ve voted on the video. Just around 3% have given it a “thumbs up”. That’s not a misprint. 3%. Not 30%.

Here’s how I think this church went unhinged on this. Somebody had a great idea in a meeting, and this church likes to bust boundaries and break down traditions and somebody else in that meeting where this was decided didn’t speak up and say, “Hey, wait a minute, not all traditions are bad, and not all boundaries should be busted.” They didn’t because maybe the person with the great idea had a history of great ideas, or it was a leader who you can’t talk back to, or because nobody in the meeting had the sense God gave a chicken that day, or a combination of those factors… I don’t know…

But practically speaking, here’s why I actually got upset seeing it, upset enough to write a blog post about it.

Thanks to that church, I have one more “I’m a Christian, but…” disclaimer I need to make with friends who are far from God. I don’t need that. The song was defended by somebody saying “If only one person comes to Christ because of that, who’s to judge” without wondering about the 100 who didn’t come to Christ because they thought Christians looked even more ridiculous now than they did before.

You don’t mess with Christmas.

You don’t mess with Silent Night.

That is, I promise you, not a bad thing. Some traditions actually point to Christ and don’t need to be totally deconstructed.

Here’s my favorite version of Silent Night for you, to cleanse your musical pallette if you made the mistake of watching the link at the top of the page.

Merry Christmas

And, for what it’s worth, here’s my little instrumental version. It’s not as good…

Christianity is not American

This is from a discussion I had recently on a forum. We were talking about this excellent blog post.

Here’s why “american Christianity” has lost me…

Many of the “facts” (like certain videos) that certain conservative Christians (and some who are presidential candidates) have been using for justification of our outrage at Planned Parenthood have turned out to be outright lies, fabrications used by certain people (I won’t mention the internet troll posing as a “pastor” who I’m referring to), knowingly or not, to even justify and perhaps exhort people to violence against an organization whose budget is almost entirely NOT used for abortion.

We keep telling people Planned Parenthood is an abortion factory. That is a tiny part of what they do, and most of the Christian rhetoric I’ve seen lately has been a lie. (For the record, I am pro-life.)

Jesus. would. never. do. that.

We have Christians insisting on keeping refugees out, when our Bible tells us to welcome the stranger OVER AND OVER!

Jesus. would. not. do. that.

We tell a lot of lies about guns and such, as well, among Christians. Evidently, we’ve erased “well regulated militia” from the 2nd amendment. We’ve decided that being ready to kill a stranger is some how Christian.

Jesus. would. not. do. that.

Read this next statement twice if you’d like:

When our arguments are based on lies and ignore the parts of Scripture that don’t line up with the Republican party’s positions on stuff, we have no moral high ground, regardless of whether or not our position on an issue is right. Christian or not, we become wrong. We become the enemy.

Thanksgiving and immigration.

First off, yes… I know that in actuality our celebration of Thanksgiving is NOT some continuation of a utopian celebration of thanksgiving involving English settlers and Native Americans that we only know about from one little scrap of information (one paragraph) that wasn’t even discovered for hundreds of years… so let’s just put that aside. (It’s still a great holiday, thank you Abe Lincoln for starting it.)

Still…

…our country is basically inhabited by either 1.) immigrants and refugees or their descendants, 2.) people who were brought here against their sill or their descendants, or 3.) those who are left of the aboriginal inhabitants of this place (that weren’t murdered).

And the majority of the people of this nation follow one of the denominations of Christianity.

So, let’s think about immigration and regugees today since so many of us are basically that… biblically… (I borrowed this list from this site here.)

“The LORD your God is the God of all gods and Lord of all lords, the great, mighty, and awesome God who doesn’t play favorites and doesn’t take bribes. He enacts justice for orphans and widows, and he loves immigrants, giving them food and clothing. That means you must also love immigrants because you were immigrants in Egypt” (Deuteronomy 10:17-19 CEB)   “You must not oppress foreigners. You know what it’s like to be a foreigner, for you yourselves were once foreigners in the land of Egypt” (Exodus 23:9 NLT)   “When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God” (Leviticus 19:33-34 ESV)   “The same law applies both to the native-born and to the foreigner residing among you” (Exodus 12:49 NIV)   “Don’t oppress the widow, the orphan, the stranger, and the poor; don’t plan evil against each other!” (Zechariah 7:10 CEB)   “The LORD watches over the sojourners; he upholds the widow and the fatherless, but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin” (Psalm 146:9 ESV)   “You have brought your judgment days near and have come to your years of punishment [because] father and mother are treated with contempt, and the foreign resident is exploited within you. The fatherless and widow are oppressed in you” (Ezekiel 22:4, 7 HCSB)   “‘I will come to you in judgment, and I will be ready to witness against sorcerers and adulterers; against those who swear falsely; against those who oppress the widow and the fatherless, and cheat the wage earner; and against those who deny justice to the foreigner. They do not fear Me,’ says the LORD of Hosts” (Malachi 3:5 HCSB)   “If you really change your ways and your actions and deal with each other justly, if you do not oppress the alien, the fatherless or the widow and do not shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not follow other gods to your own harm, then I will let you live in this place, in the land I gave your forefathers for ever and ever” (Jeremiah 7:5-7 NIV 1984)   “Thus says the LORD: Do justice and righteousness, and deliver from the hand of the oppressor him who has been robbed. And do no wrong or violence to the resident alien, the fatherless, and the widow, nor shed innocent blood in this place” (Jeremiah 22:3 ESV)   “When you are harvesting in your field and you overlook a sheaf, do not go back to get it. Leave it for the foreigner, the fatherless and the widow, so that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands. When you beat the olives from your trees, do not go over the branches a second time. Leave what remains for the foreigner, the fatherless and the widow. When you harvest the grapes in your vineyard, do not go over the vines again. Leave what remains for the foreigner, the fatherless and the widow” (Deuteronomy 24:19-21 NIV)   “When you have finished paying the entire tenth part of your produce on the third year—that is the year for paying the tenth-part—you will give it to the Levites, the immigrants, the orphans, and the widows so they can eat in your cities until they are full” (Deuteronomy 26:12 CEB)   “‘For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’ Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me’” (Matthew 25:35-40 NASB)   “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it” (Hebrews 13:2 NIV)   “Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul” (1 Peter 2:11 NIV 1984)

That is all…

Christmas Light

Did somebody say “early Christmas present”?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Advent is upon us! It rears it’s lovely head this coming Sunday. The Church’s new year, the beginning of our wonderful season of anticipation, the celebration of the coming of God’s light, God’s Word, God’s very soul into the world.

To celebrate this year I have a present for you.

Click here to download “Christmas Light”.

The bandcamp site will ask if you want to pay anything for this really little 6-song EP, and if you want to, that’s cool, but you don’t have to. Just download and enjoy my slightly punk rock exploration of the Christmas season.

All the songs are great Christmas hymns of the past, except number 5, “Forevermore (The Christmas Gift)” that I wrote for the holidays. So if you want to rock your Christmas/Advent season around a little, this is for you!

Baseball fans. Matt Harvey just became a sermon illustration.

Incomplete metaphor alert. (I posted this this morning on a social media group. Thought some of y’all might like it.)

Baseball fans. Matt Harvey just became a sermon illustration.

Look, I get it. I don’t play baseball or work in it, so I could be totally wrong, but as soon as they let a him pitch the 9th, honestly (not lying) I was tired and went to bed, expecting to see “Royals win in 10th” on my news feed this morning (it was the 12th, so I was wrong there).

I don’t care about how passionate you are about your abilities in this moment… life is usually a team sport (Ministry, at its best, most certainly is this), and the team around you gets to assess where you can and can’t be most effective. And when you allow your emotion and passion to cloud your judgment and even those around you… bad things can happen.

Over the years, on a number of occasions, I’ve talked with folks who thought they were called to ministry full-time, riding on a wave of emotion of “God’s call on their lives” and behind my eyes as I listened patiently, I prayed that somehow they would change their mind, because I knew (and probably others did) that this was all emotion and not ability and calling (sometimes DEFINITELY not their calling). (BTW, I know some people who don’t think they’re called to ministry… yet… who I think are… so there’s that, too…)

Some of you are called into full-time ministry, for life or for a season. When you get a confirmation, and direction and fine-tuning on that calling, from those around you, it’s a glorious thing. I promise you.

Some of you that might manage to land a full-time job in a church somewhere are probably… not… called to it… You know how you know the difference? When you don’t have the confirmation of the church around you, when you don’t manage to allow others to help you define your calling (there are things that others know about you that you don’t… shocker!), when you barrel ahead and demand the ball in the top of the 9th based on pure emotion… and someone actually gives it to you because you’ve made it the path of least resistance for them by your confidence…

…your team might be going home for the season…

Church Is Not a Concert

Every now and then, some of the Christian Worship Leader forums I engage in talk about the difference between getting people to sing along at a rock concert where the songs are too high but people sing and dance anyway… and singing in church where we are often careful to make sure that the songs can be sung by anyone.

The conversation always gets a little heated, and I posted a rant in one of them today I thought might be useful to some of y’all. So… here goes…

If we don’t care about the people of our church who don’t enter in to worship enough to remove barriers (high keys, unsingable songs, etc.), then we only love the people who have the attitude that we want them to have to be “good worshippers” (whatever that means), and not the ones who might have some growing to do.

The big concerts, at night, where people pay big bucks and are rabid motivated fans with different expectations than the family of 4 who barely got their kids ready and out the door and to church in time because of (fill in the blank), are unfair comparisons to the local church.

I think some of Paul’s comments about the worship service might apply to this discussion.

So, my dear brothers and sisters, when you gather for the Lord’s Supper, wait for each other. If you are really hungry, eat at home so you won’t bring judgment upon yourselves when you meet together.

 

We need to wait for each other in more ways than one.

And, one last thing… and it hurts a little to say this, please try not to be offended.

If you truly are the kind of worship leader who doesn’t care to work hard to engage as MANY of your people in worship as you can, not only including, but maybe ESPECIALLY those who need the most “education” in these matters…

…you might be in the wrong job…

We Are Still Here

Supermoon Morning

Supermoon Morning

When I was younger, I ran in different Christian circles than I do today. I ran with people who, on the face of it, were very passionate and dedicated to Christ and expected the supernatural to happen at any moment.

I don’t want to say I grew up, but maybe I did.

Once again, yesterday, doomsayers and apocalyptic voices were silenced as the “blood moon” came… and went… without incident. I woke up this morning, and that beautiful “supermoon” was still in the sky, I was still alive, Christ had not returned for judgment, and my loved ones are still here.

I am tempted (indeed, it was my intention when I started typing) to giggle at the folks who delight in the prospect of Jesus’ return to the detriment of what appears to me to be logical thinking… but I won’t…

I do hope that folks will stop listening to Harold-Camping-esque voices of doom and gloom, and I hope they will stop delighting in the possibilities of judgment and Revelation-style horrors that lead some to make awful movies and even more awful books… but I think today I will delight in Christ. In the one who will come when we do not expect, in ways we do not expect, bringing mercy and love that we do not deserve, and simply rest in God…

Come Lord Jesus…

Immigration 2015

#imachristian but…

Please don’t lump me with the protectionist reactionaries who are actually trying to use a Christian platform to say we shouldn’t help in the current refugee crisis. Just to be clear, they are running from this…

syria

And, just to be clear, there are one or two places in the Bible that deal with this situation. Warning… this is a long list…

“The LORD your God is the God of all gods and Lord of all lords, the great, mighty, and awesome God who doesn’t play favorites and doesn’t take bribes. He enacts justice for orphans and widows, and he loves immigrants, giving them food and clothing. That means you must also love immigrants because you were immigrants in Egypt” (Deuteronomy 10:17-19 CEB)   “You must not oppress foreigners. You know what it’s like to be a foreigner, for you yourselves were once foreigners in the land of Egypt” (Exodus 23:9 NLT)   “When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God” (Leviticus 19:33-34 ESV)   “The same law applies both to the native-born and to the foreigner residing among you” (Exodus 12:49 NIV)   “Don’t oppress the widow, the orphan, the stranger, and the poor; don’t plan evil against each other!” (Zechariah 7:10 CEB)   “The LORD watches over the sojourners; he upholds the widow and the fatherless, but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin” (Psalm 146:9 ESV)   “You have brought your judgment days near and have come to your years of punishment [because] father and mother are treated with contempt, and the foreign resident is exploited within you. The fatherless and widow are oppressed in you” (Ezekiel 22:4, 7 HCSB)   “‘I will come to you in judgment, and I will be ready to witness against sorcerers and adulterers; against those who swear falsely; against those who oppress the widow and the fatherless, and cheat the wage earner; and against those who deny justice to the foreigner. They do not fear Me,’ says the LORD of Hosts” (Malachi 3:5 HCSB)   “If you really change your ways and your actions and deal with each other justly, if you do not oppress the alien, the fatherless or the widow and do not shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not follow other gods to your own harm, then I will let you live in this place, in the land I gave your forefathers for ever and ever” (Jeremiah 7:5-7 NIV 1984)   “Thus says the LORD: Do justice and righteousness, and deliver from the hand of the oppressor him who has been robbed. And do no wrong or violence to the resident alien, the fatherless, and the widow, nor shed innocent blood in this place” (Jeremiah 22:3 ESV)   “When you are harvesting in your field and you overlook a sheaf, do not go back to get it. Leave it for the foreigner, the fatherless and the widow, so that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands. When you beat the olives from your trees, do not go over the branches a second time. Leave what remains for the foreigner, the fatherless and the widow. When you harvest the grapes in your vineyard, do not go over the vines again. Leave what remains for the foreigner, the fatherless and the widow” (Deuteronomy 24:19-21 NIV)   “When you have finished paying the entire tenth part of your produce on the third year—that is the year for paying the tenth-part—you will give it to the Levites, the immigrants, the orphans, and the widows so they can eat in your cities until they are full” (Deuteronomy 26:12 CEB)   “‘For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’ Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me’” (Matthew 25:35-40 NASB)   “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it” (Hebrews 13:2 NIV)   “Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul” (1 Peter 2:11 NIV 1984)

Lord, help us to find ways to help, and help us to embrace love, not fear.

Out of Place

I saw a couple hot air balloons this morning on the way to work. Couldn’t get a pic of them, sorry. But I wasn’t the only one who was drawn to them as the line of cars waited at the only busy stop light that I encounter on the way to work. They had some message on the side, but from our angle, we couldn’t make it out.

It got me thinking… We are drawn to things that are “out of place”. Sometimes in a movie or a book, a character will emerge out of nowhere or a totally unexpected situation will develop. Sometimes we are in a store and we run into someone we haven’t seen there before, and perhaps haven’t seen in a very long time. We get an email from an old old friend who just found us on the internet.

Jesus was the master of “out of place”. People wanted him to pick up stones to throw, but he offered forgiveness and mercy. They wanted him to lead a violent revolution and he died on a cross. They expected that all hope was gone when he did die on that cross… until Sunday morning and all hope broke loose.

I wonder how I can be “out of place” today. How can I offer grace where none is expected, or favor where none is anticipated, or even just a kind word where there seems to only be disappointment… or despair…?

How can we be out of place today?

The Death Knell of a Symbol of Hatred

no_conf_flag

The Confederate Flag will, before you know it, be relegated to museum status only.

It’s about time.

Yes, I’ve heard all the arguments that it’s a symbol of far more than slavery and racism. I’ve heard the arguments that southern (and northern) blacks were sometimes slaveowners and not only slaves. I’ve heard that it represents southern pride. I’ve heard that somewhere, somehow, you can find an African American or two who are not offended by it (I know a lot of African Americans, none of those are part of that group I promise you). I’ve heard all those discussions.

Gimme a break. Seriously… We all know how this symbol is perceived by people, and after Germany lost WWII I don’t think there was much of any tolerance for the “former symbol of good luck” swastika that had a great and rich history… but needed to go away.

But now even the mayor of Charleston, and the Governor of the state agree with those of us who want it gone, as both have called for its removal (which requires a 2/3 vote in the state legislature). So have the U.S. senators from South Carolina.

This is a town where the historic church that suffered last week’s atrocity is forced to list “Calhoun Street” as their address. You may not know it, but John C. Calhoun, the Vice President of the US under John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson, was a staunch defender of slavery. Not only did he argue it wasn’t a “necessary evil”, he argued that it was a good and right thing.

It’s time to take the flag down and put it in a museum. Perhaps we can display it next to the swastika in the hall of shame.

But more than that.

It’s time to work hard to root out the hatred from our hearts and replace it with love.

It’s time to learn to know, appreciate and love those who aren’t like us.

On purpose.

It is time.

Farewell, Confederate Flag. Don’t let the door hit you on the way out. We will not miss you.

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