Methodism and Discrimination (TLDR version: NO!)

We despise it. It’s that simple. As certain events have unfolded in the past few days, my social media feed has blown up with rhetoric from both sides of an issue that, in the 21st century in USAmerica, shouldn’t even exist. I admit that in the midst of it all, I’m rather proud to be a Methodist (not Pride in the evil biblical seven-deadly-sins sense, btw…).

I continue to be a little mortified by my association with other people of the Christian faith who think that Jesus would applaud the act of discriminating against people you misunderstand or fear or just don’t want to understand. And I struggle with what I’m supposed to do about it. More than I am, I suspect…

Our Book of Discipline says it better than I ever could. I would say that, at least as far as Methodists are concerned, there should be no question that we can not support, and must actively oppose, any kind of discrimination that is somehow “justified” by religious freedom. There is more on other kinds of equal rights and discrimination issues in the Book of Discipline. If you are interested, you can read it all here.

Equal Rights Regardless of Sexual Orientation

Certain basic human rights and civil liberties are due all persons. We are committed to supporting those rights and liberties for all persons, regardless of sexual orientation.

We see a clear issue of simple justice in protecting the rightful claims where people have shared material resources, pensions, guardian relationships, mutual powers of attorney, and other such lawful claims typically attendant to contractual relationships that involve shared contributions, responsibilities, and liabilities, and equal protection before the law.

Moreover, we support efforts to stop violence and other forms of coercion against all persons, regardless of sexual orientation.

Light – Part 10: Holy Mystery

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This is a continuation of my exploration of songs from LIGHT.

Communion… The Lord’s Supper… Eucharist… The Lord’s Table… so many names, such a mysterious event. All wrapped up in one song, “Holy Mystery“.

For me, God does an amazing thing here, regardless of whether you feel it’s an ordinance or a sacrament (I go with sacrament), or whether you feel the elements are really and truly changed, like Roman Catholics do, or in a “Real Presence” or a mere symbol. I have strong feelings on all that, but I’ll save them for another day.

In any case, God takes the most ordinary everyday items in our life, our food and drink, and transforms them into a remembrance of the sacrifice of the Cross. He changes the celebration of Passover into something totally new, totally final, totally accomplished, and totally mysterious.

My wording here is directly from the United Methodist Church’s liturgy for Communion, so this is a communion song.

What a mystery…

Holy Mystery

Holy mystery
You poured out your life for us all
Holy mystery
You poured out your life for us all
God of eternity
We pour out our hearts in thanks.

Let’s go into the world
In the strength of your Spirit
Let’s go into the world
Giving ourselves in your name
Jesus Christ our Lord

©2015 Peter J. Hamm, All rights reserved. You can buy and download LIGHT pretty cheap right here.

Light – Part 9: You Are the Way

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This is a continuation of my exploration of songs from LIGHT.

When Jesus says “I am the way, the truth and the life, I think (and I’m not the only one) that he meant something beyond “I am the way to get to heaven” and such. A handful of people have pointed out that when he says “I am the way”, he might mean that his method of life is the best way to live.

I like that, so I wrote a song about it. This past weekend, when our church’s pastor was preaching on imitating Christ, it seemed only fitting to share this song, “You Are the Way“, since that’s exactly what it’s about. (But no, I didn’t just write it. It was written years ago.)

This song is a promise and a prayer all wrapped into one. I want Christ to live in me so that I can do a better job of loving my neighbor the way that He would like me to, and it’s a promise to do that, as well, to “lift my neighbor up off the ground”.

When you really mean that, I suppose it’s a hard song to sing, but I think it’s fun to do it anyway.

You Are the Way

I want to do the things you do
I want to pray the things you’d pray
I want to love whoever You love
I want your truth, your life, your way

You are the way I want to follow
You are the truth I want to believe
You are the life I need inside me
Jesus, won’t you put your love in me

I want to know forgiveness
I want to spread it all around
I want my heart to be just like yours
I want my life to make a joyful sound
The same melody they heard when you were around
I want to lift my neighbor up off the ground
I want to show all the lost that they are finally found

©2015 Peter J. Hamm, All rights reserved. You can buy and download LIGHT pretty cheap right here.

Light – Part 8: Do Justice

This is a continuation of my exploration of songs from LIGHT.

I am intensely proud of two of my siblings in particular. My oldest brother John, was ordained a Roman Catholic Priest just about a year and a half ago, after a very interesting and long journey, and my oldest sister Julie, a year before that or so, was ordained in the United Church of Christ. Both serve their churches very well and are an inspiration to anyone who might consider switching careers to ministry in mid-life.

John, you’ll get your song someday I’m sure, but Julie inspired me with her life-verse and I wrote a song based on it. Unfortunately, it wasn’t ready for her ordination, but she’s had the opportunity to hear it live a few times, and now it’s been recorded for her (and you) to enjoy anytime.

Do Justice” is based on the passages about justice in the book of Micah, and the chorus expounds on Micah 6:8 in particular. Most people when they choose a “life verse” seem to focus on some promise of God and his peace or love, and there’s nothing wrong with that…

But people like Julie pick a verse to guide their lives that is all about loving and serving and seeking justice for those around her, especially those most put down and disenfranchised. Would that we all thought like that…?

Do Justice

Come on, let’s climb up God’s mountain
Come on, there is peace to be won
Come on, the whole world is crying out.
The God of the Armies of Heaven is calling

Come on, trade your hate for compassion
Come on, trade your violence for love
Come on, beat your swords into plowshares
The God of the Armies of Heaven is calling

Do justice for every woman and man
Bring mercy from Heaven and transform the land
We’ll walk humbly, and stretch out our tiny hands
And follow the heart of the One Who made us

Alleluia,
Alleluia,
Alleluia,
There’s no god like You, God

©2015 Peter J. Hamm, All rights reserved. You can buy and download LIGHT pretty cheap right here.

Light – Part 7: God of Light

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This is a continuation of my exploration of songs from LIGHT.

“God is Light”. That’s right. There is nothing dark or evil or bad or wrong in him. Nothing but light. I love how John, in his letters and Gospel, tells us this over and over in so many different ways.

I didn’t have any grand scheme, but boy oh boy, “God of Light” was a hard song to write. That happens sometimes when you start with a concept instead of a lyrical or musical hook. I wanted to write a song about the Light of God, and I ran through a bunch of choruses before I had anything I even remotely liked, and two different recorded arrangements.

Was it worth it? I hope so.

God of Light

In the silence
You spoke a word
In the emptiness
Our hearts are stirred
In the chaos of our hearts
In the longing of everything we are

You are light, you’re the God of light
You are hope and you are life
You are light, Shine your light
You are our hope and you are our life
You bring radiance to our darkness
You bring vision to our blindness
You bring healing to our sickness
You are the God of brilliant eternal miraculous light

In our loneliness
You bring your love
In the sadness
You bring us joy
In the aching of our souls to find the way
In the black of night, you bring a brand new day

©2015 Peter J. Hamm, All rights reserved. You can buy and download LIGHT pretty cheap right here.

Light – Part 6: All So Lost

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This is a continuation of my exploration of songs from LIGHT.

Ephesians in chapter two tells us that we “who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us.

I think you need the “bad news” part of the story that tells us that we are lost, strangers, aliens, outcasts to really appreciate the “good news” that we’ve been brought near, we have been found (we didn’t “find” ourselves), we are known, we belong, we are part of the family. And that is the very short journey I hope that this song, “All So Lost“, takes you on.

An interesting thing about the song structure that you may notice here is that there isn’t really a verse/chorus/bridge or what have you framework, but rather just sections that simply tell the story and move on.

This song tumbled out of my brain in literally a few seconds as I was on my way to work one day, and I struggled to get it written down quickly at the piano. And for those who care about such things, it’s my favorite song in the collection.

It’s been pointed out to me that it’s too short. Well, I guess I just wanted to leave the listener wanting more. More good news, more redemption, more grace, more mercy.

All So Lost

We are all so lost
We are all so lost
We are all so lost
Lost and lonely

So cry out and sing
So cry out and sing

Sing out and he will find us
Cry out and he will heal us

We have all been found
We have all been found
We have all been found
No longer strangers

So cry out and sing
So cry out and sing

Sing out, his love has found us
Cry out, his love has seen us
Sing out, his love surrounds us
Cry out, his love he has freed us
Sing out, his love, he gives us

Cry out, his love won’t miss us
Sing out, his favor lives on us
Cry out, our God is with us

 ©2015 Peter J. Hamm, All rights reserved. You can buy and download LIGHT pretty cheap right here.

Light – Part 5: Anointed One

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This is a continuation of my exploration of songs from LIGHT.

Anointed One” is supposed to be offensive. Yeah… I know… right? I was thinking of making it speed metal or something, but decided you wouldn’t even bother listening then. But I very intentionally crafted the song to basically sing, as worship, the meaning of the word “Christ”… and yet without using the word “Christ”. Very tricky. I hope I succeeded, not only in talking about who Christ is (the one we will follow, the anointed one) but what our response is (nothing else holds our heart, and we will do what Christ commands).

I’m reminded every time I read “Christ” in the Bible, that it offended everybody every time it was spoken of as Jesus’ title. It is not his last name.

The idea of “Christos” is that of an anointed one. To the Romans, this would be a term, “Lord” basically, that only applied to the Emperor. To the Jews, it was a reminder, every time it was spoken, of the early followers of the Way and their insistence that Jesus was, in fact, the fulfillment of every Messianic prophecy in the Scriptures.

The word continues to offend, today, if we mean it.

The use of this word also connotes that I do not swear allegiance to a country, king or ruler on this Earth. That my only allegiance, my only devotion and my only service, is to God, and to God alone. If I pledge allegiance to my flag or country, it is only second, and FAR second, to my allegiance to God and his Great News.

If you find that offensive because I’m supposed to be true-blue American or whatever… I think I will politely decline to apologize for it.

Anointed One

O Anointed One, we will follow you
You’re the one who is faithful, the one who is true
We’ll do everything that you told us to
O Anointed One, we will follow you

No man, no woman
No promise or no earthly hope
Can ever hold my heart
Will ever keep my heart

No king, no country
No beauty or no angel
Can ever hold my heart
Will ever keep my heart

 ©2015 Peter J. Hamm, All rights reserved. You can buy and download LIGHT pretty cheap right here.

Light – Part 4: I Give You My Heart

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This is a continuation of my exploration of songs from LIGHT.

Surrender is a too-often neglected subject in Christian thought in the 21st century, and that’s why I tend to gravitate towards songs of surrender. Indeed, years ago I wrote this one, “I Give You My Heart,” as an extra chorus for “I Surrender All”. When I recorded it, finally, after years of singing it in churches, I was going to actually record “I Surrender All” and simply add this chorus to it, but thought better of it.

In a world where every best-selling Christian book and so many of the songs on the radio seem to celebrate God as a cosmic vending machine, I wanted to center more on the idea that there is no worship without surrender (Romans 12 anybody?).

I tried to keep the arrangement simple and honest and quiet, which is harder than doing something really upbeat and loud if you can believe it. It’s designed to be like one of the songs from Taizé. You can sing it over and over as a mantra if you wish.

I Give You My Heart

I give you my heart
I give you my heart
Jesus, my savior
I give you my heart

 ©2015 Peter J. Hamm, All rights reserved. You can buy and download LIGHT pretty cheap right here.

Light – Part 3: Every Word You Say

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This is a continuation of my exploration of songs from LIGHT.

The third song is called “Every Word You Say“, and I wrote it shortly after that Scripture had come to my attention again because we had just done a very old song based on it for a special at church (if I recall correctly, because it was the psalm of the day).

The whole concept of God’s word being a light that shines only on our feet and where we are right now and where we are, perhaps, about to step, is one that is stuck with me for years as I’ve read this psalm. It’s the longest chapter in the Bible, and it’s devoted to the wonder and majesty of God’s written revelation to man, what we call the Bible, or the Christian Scriptures.

Regardless of what different Christians believe about the Bible, throwing around often misunderstood and sometimes misused words like “inerrancy“, “inspiration”, “authority” and others, even the most progressive of us agree that the Bible is an amazing record, an amazing book, and would probably not hesitate to say it’s “inspired” in some way or another, and the most conservative of us would have to agree that it is mysterious and strange and “other” in ways that we will never understand on this side of heaven.

So, when writing a song about the Bible as the lamp that shines our way, I simply took ideas from that amazing and long psalm, incorporating, as it does, the very tangible idea that God’s word changes us, molds and shapes us, and opens us up in entirely new ways… if we allow it…

Every Word You Say (Ps 119)

Every word you say, is a light that shines our way
And in everything we do, we want to give our lives to you
Every single breath, from our first day till our death
Gives us hope that makes us new
And so we give our hearts, we give our hearts to you.

Joy for the ones whose blame is taken away
Joy for the ones who look for the steadfast way
Peace to the ones who look for you
Your mercy and love make us all brand new

Open our eyes, and help us to always see
The wonders you make, and promises you keep
Show your power and love
Like nothing we’ve seen, Don’t let our hearts melt away
Revive us and make us clean

 ©2015 Peter J. Hamm, All rights reserved. You can buy and download LIGHT pretty cheap right here.

Light – Part 2: Hope

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I decided to take a moment, for those who are interested, to dig a little further into the songs from LIGHT.

This second song, “Hope“, was incredibly hard to write. I had the idea for a few lines in the verse and the chorus for years and years before I managed to “find” the rest of the song. It’s the only song on “LIGHT” that is really not designed for congregational worship, too.

Whether or not you think there was a literal Jonah and the whale event, it is amazing someone as flawed and as hateful (and racist, when you think about it) as Jonah would compose a poem and a prayer like chapter 2 of the biblical book which bears his name.

I’ve been blessed to experience the hope of God’s promise in the midst of some pretty significant challenges in my life, but nothing like the despair of certain death that is told in Jonah’s story, and nothing like the despair that so many in this world have experienced and continue to experience.

So, for those who have been in a situation where it only makes sense to totally give up… and who still trusted God… “Hope” is for you.

Hope (Jonah 2)

I went down to the countries that were underneath the earth
I went back to try to find the people of my birth
At the roots of the mountains I got lost
At the center of despair I turned to dust
But then… just then… guess what…

Hope rears His lovely head.
He’s here among the living,
His strong arm has saved.
Hope rears His lovely head.
My life has been restored again,
And I am not afraid.

I went back to the lost and lonely people from the past.
I went down to try to find a hope that would last.
I’ve been three days here in this place
Desperate, I can’t see your face.
But then… just then… guess what…

But can you find a way
To reach through this darkness
‘Cause I can’t get home.
Can’t you reach down here
And fix my broken heart amidst these
Cold dead stones
Roll away the stone…

©2015 Peter J. Hamm, All rights reserved.

You can buy and download LIGHT pretty cheap right here.

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