Here’s a song I wrote a number of years ago. I think this song (and the other 3 parts of this long extended suite… you can have it on this album right here, buy it or just listen for free…) make pretty decent meditations for lent. I hope you enjoy.
Not too long ago I wrote a contemporary wording with music of John Wesley’s covenant prayer. Here it is… for free or whatever you want to pay.
And here are the lyrics if you’re interested.
Wesley Covenant Prayer
I don’t belong to me, I belong to you
I belong to you
My life is not my own, it belongs to you
It belongs to you
Have me do what you want
Put me with whoever you want
Put me to work, or set me aside
Let me be exalted for you
Let me be humbled for you
Fill me up or empty me out
Grant me everything in you
Or take it all away for you
Give me joy, or fill my heart with tears
Because everything I have
I surrender it to you
Let me serve you, with a humble heart
Glorious God, Blessed One
Creator, redeemer, sustainer and Lord
Let this promise I make
Reach from earth to the heavens
You are mine, and Jesus, I am yours
©2016 Peter J. Hamm, based on John Wesley’s Covenant Prayer.
If you use this in your church, please contact me to let me know. Thank you.
What beliefs, though?
But he wouldn’t “fight” I don’t think… with anyone…
My son is turning 14 this year. And he has shot up like a weed, like they all seem to do so quickly. He’s already 5’5″ and I think he grows a half-inch every time he takes a nap.
A little while ago, I noticed “the shift” had begun. Let me explain.
Phase One is where he might do some stuff as well as you do as the parent. For instances, in general, when he’s paying attention, he does the dishes as well as I do. He takes care of his laundry quite well, and even folds it after about the fourth time I ask him to.
But Phase Two has begun. I thought about this today as we were shoveling snow today. I’m old enough that I’m losing the joy (yeah, I said joy) that I used to get out of this task, popping in my iPod headphones and listening to a favorite record, new or old. (for the record, favorites for shoveling include anything by Rich Mullins, Aztec Camera’s “Knife”, Bruce Cockburn, Gungor, and U2. eclectic, I know)
And in Phase Two, Charles is now better than me at things. This is new for me, I’ll have to get used to it. It’s not just the typical things kids are better at (operating the remote control, figuring out video games, stuff like that…). He’s better at shoveling the snow and not feeling it for days. Pretty soon, it’ll make more sense for him to mow the grass than for me to (another favorite activity of mine, and no, he can’t have all of it all the time… another iPod music opportunity).
Ironically, God (our Father in Heaven, as he is called in the scriptures) loves it when we make a different kind of shift. Where we rely on him more for stuff, and not less.
So… today… let’s shift!
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.
And, for what it’s worth, here’s my little instrumental version. It’s not as good…
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?
It starts innocently enough.
A friend posts a story that makes up details and marginalizes one group of people at the expense of another and I repost it…
Or… I share my prejudices with my child in an angry fashion, so that they pick it up and believe the same thing… even though the story that I read and reposted and then read aloud to my son was innacurate in the first place. I might even say that I don’t think a particular kind of person deserves to live.
Now my son sees the world through a lens that is tainted by lies, fear, prejudice and a sense that the world is against him and he sets his teeth on edge and then seethes quietly, raging inside against a world that actually doesn’t exist, but I made real enough in my hate and anger and fear and prejudice that it is now the only world that exists for him.
So then he sits at the back of a church for an hour waiting to open fire.
And I caused it.
I warned you I was going to oversimplify. I don’t know a thing about the man who actually killed those great saints of God in a church last night, or his father. I do know about the hate-mongering, fear-mongering, prejudice-mongering and general antisocial dysfunction that litters the media, social and otherwise, every day.
No, I have no idea how this young man came to the conclusion that killing was an answer, and I don’t mean to say that the above scenario caused what happened last night. I am saying that whether a young man chooses love or hate can be heavily influenced by something outside himself, that he allows and causes to fester and grow inside him into a sickness (which doesn’t mean this man shouldn’t spend the rest of his life in a locked room).
I am saying that when we continue in this misguided notion that there is a “them” and “us” based on skin color, religion, gender or sexuality, economic status, ethnicity, or any other external distinction, we forget that we are all one race, human. I suspect this young man didn’t realize that anymore, even if he knows it deep down.
When we foster hate and allow it to be the determining factor in the decisions we make about the actions we take, we are destroying ourselves, our race, our brothers and sisters and mothers and fathers.
So… here’s a suggestion for you.
Love someone who is different from you. Do this on purpose. Foster love. Allow it to control your actions. Give it free reign.
Or, as Saint Paul said in Colossians 3…
As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
There are a number of articles floating around about the recent Pew Research study that supposedly shows that Christianity is declining. It’s not a surprise to those of us who work in the church, but here’s some interesting thoughts from this article.
You’d think this news would concern those who care about the American church. But some denominational officials have actually been feverishly trying to put a happy face on the Pew report. Take a look at some of the quotes from these writers over the past week:
“It is good news for the church.”
“Christianity isn’t normal anymore, and that’s good news.”
“Christianity isn’t collapsing; it’s being clarified.”
“Americans whose Christianity was nominal—in name only—are casting aside the name. They are now aligning publicly with what they’ve actually not believed all along.”
“The numerical decline . . . is more of a purifying bloodletting.”
“Fakers who don’t go to church are just giving up the pretense.”
“Good riddance to them.”
Why is it always “good news” when people who are “nominally” Christian admit they aren’t and then leave the church. That’s horrible news. I want a church filled of those people so that they can hear the Gospel (again) and maybe respond.
“Good Riddance”? I don’t think Jesus even thought that about Judas.
When the rich young man turned his back on the faith, Jesus was sad. When people leave our churches because they can’t commit or won’t believe, we are happy?
You don’t like your church and can’t connect to God? May I suggest you try another before giving up.
I think they’re the bane of humanity sometimes.
I recently “unfollowed” a facebook friend who took a current new story and managed to twist it directly into a political attack on a political group… a group that had absolutely nothing to do with the news story whatsoever.
But Christians, especially, love easy answers. Even at a funeral for a young life that ends tragically, Christians will say that “well, it was his time” or “well, God needed another angel in heaven”, basically telling a grieving parent “Well, God doesn’t care how you feel, his plan was to do something horrible to you and your child.”
When does it end?
Jesus didn’t give easy answers. Not at all.
For all my Christian life I’ve been mystified by the way that people recommend a brand new Christian start their Bible reading with the Gospel of John. Seriously? I’ve read it dozens (maybe even hundreds) of times. It freaks me out more every time. If you can get one chapter in and say that you truly and honestly understand what is being communicated by this “logos” (word) that is described… you must be makin’ stuff up.
I’ve read, in just the past few years, books that explained the Sermon on the Mount totally differently, and all of them were compelling.
People asked Jesus why bad things happen to “good people” and he gave this really confusing answer (look up the Tower of Siloam), and it seems like half the time he’s asked a question he responds with a question that totally turns the original question on its head.
The God who did that does not offer easy answers. God offers love, compassion, mercy, forgiveness, acceptance… God offers to include us all in the only family that will stand the test beyond time, the test of eternity.
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.