Monday, November 17, 2008

The wonderful world of "Jesus Music" and music blogs.

My recent rant about Christian metal and Hillsong has stayed with me. In usual fashion, I began to wonder whether I have it all wrong, and Christian metal is in fact not "right". An independent test would suggest that it is evil. It certainly sounds so at times.

This is not really a problem most of the time. Yes, it sounds dark, but the lyrics are covering dark subject matter: the Crucifixion, the Apocalypse, sin, and so forth. But sometimes, one doesn't want to feel depressed about the faith (church attendance numbers does a good job of that)

I Googled "Christian Progressive Rock" and found a whole new world. Well, two in fact: the world of "Jesus Music" and "Music Blogs".

The world of Jesus Music is truly a timely blessing for me. Here I was thinking Christian rock was dire sentimental nonsense. And the golden era (1967-1979) didn't seem to hold much hope, from what I had read.

Then the whole idea of "underground" came up. It ends up there was a whole psychedelic Christian rock scene; sort of contemporaneous with the hippy thing. It is completely hippy: but instead of acid and dope, it is Jesus and the Bible. Istead of "free love", it is love everyone. Wonderful, and completely logical.

The first album I came across was Jimmy Hotz "Beyond the Crystal Sea".

A late 70's progressive rock gem: bits of Yes, Styx, Rush, Pink Floyd, and he sings a bit like Peter Gabriel.

I'll post more as I get time beyond listening.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Dreams do come true!

It is just a shame when it is the ones that really suck.
It is even worse when the dream only prefigures one small aspect of what is occur.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

"Dream a little dream of me"

And while he was sitting on the judgment–seat,
his wife sent unto him,
Have thou nothing to do with that righteous man:
for I have suffered many things this day in a dream because of him.
Matthew 27:19 RV

I was confronted in a dream this morning by two of my least edifying features, both of which are related to an earlier post.

The dream consisted of me organising the vessels for a Eucharist. It was in a restaurant kitchen where a meal was being prepared. The vessels I had been given to prepare were filthy with dirt and old wine.

As I was cleaning them, two of the chefs asked me to put four spoons of some tomato stuff into a pot. I did this.

When I realised that I had been taking way too long cleaning the vessels, I got ready to leave. Two of the chefs stopped me, and asked what size spoon I used. Was it a teaspoon? I knew I had used a tablespoon, but I lied, and said I had indeed used a teaspoon. They saw through my deciet and showed me the meals that I had ruined.

I was worried, and started to complain about the vessels, and the time, and how if there was any trouble with the Priest, I would walk out.

I awoke with a sense of dread. Before me were my weak points, the parts of my personality that I can't stand: open, bare and raw. A very harsh way to wake up.

My dream stayed with me all day.

In the New Testament, dreams are mention very infrequently: in fact Matthew is the only Evangelist who exclusively uses the idea of divine revelation coming from dreams. Joseph is told all about Jesus conception, when to go to Egypt, when it safe to go back. The Three Wise Men are warned in a dream about Herod's plan to kill Jesus.

The most interesting dream reference comes much later in Matthew's Gospel, when Jesus is on trial in front of Pilate. At one point, Pilate's wife comes to him and says:

Have thou nothing to do with that righteous man:
for I have suffered many things this day in a dream because of him.
Matthew 27:19 RV
I am not suggesting that my dream was a divine revelation. What I am saying is that our dreams very often point out our horrible points. Without the benefit of gloss or blur or sugar.

I would love to know what Pilate's wife's dreams were.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Martha and Mary

Martha and Mary
Maurice Denis
Now as they went on their way,
he entered into a certain village:
and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house.

And she had a sister called Mary,
which also sat at the Lord’s feet,
and heard his word.

But Martha was cumbered about much serving;
and she came up to him,
and said,
dost thou not care that my sister did leave me to serve alone?
bid her therefore that she help me.
But the Lord answered and said unto her,
thou art anxious and troubled about many things:
but one thing is needful:
for Mary hath chosen the good part,
which shall not be taken away from her.
Luke 10:38-42 RV

I have liked this story since I first read it last year. It has a wonderful twist. As a first time reader, we expect Jesus to heed Martha's request and rebuke Mary for being lazy.

dost thou not care that my sister did leave me to serve alone?
bid her therefore that she help me.
Luke 10:40 RV
But it is not so.

Instead, Jesus suggests she chill out, and look at the bigger picture. Instead of worrying about who is or is not doing their fair share, she should either just get on and do, or not. It is not worth worrying about.
thou art anxious and troubled about many things:
but one thing is needful:
for Mary hath chosen the good part,
which shall not be taken away from her.
Luke 10:41-42 RV

He then informs her that Mary has her priorities correct. Instead of worrying about the mundane, she is learning the word.

What are we to take from this?
Is it that we are to engage in the spiritual life at the expense of the active life?

I think Jesus' point is somewhat more subtle. I don't think he means that we should negate the active life of service for the spiritual life. More, that if we are to be active and serve, we should do so uncomplainingly. If we are to be concerned about something, it shouldn't be the mundane reality stuff, more the spiritual side of our lives.

for Mary hath chosen the good part,
which shall not be taken away from her.
Luke 10:42 RV

The learning of the spirit is something that cannot be taken or lost.

We meet this same Mary later in Jesus' life. It seems she did learn while at Jesus' feet.

Mary therefore took a pound of ointment of spikenard,
very precious,
and anointed the feet of Jesus,
and wiped his feet with her hair:
and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment.
John 12:3 RV

I have previously written about the reasons for this incident here. What I am interested in now is for the second time we hear about her, she is doing something that someone believes Jesus should rebuke her for, in this case Judas:

But Judas Iscariot,
one of his disciples,
which should betray him,
Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor?
John 12:4-5 RV
As in the earlier example, we expect Jesus to agree with the accuser. Yet once again, he surprises us with his reply:

Suffer her to keep it against the day of my burying.
For the poor ye have always with you;
but me ye have not always.
John 12:7-8

Both times, Jesus informs the accuser that they are looking at things the wrong way. Indeed, Mary has got it right once again. Both times, Mary is doing something that could be regarded as selfish, and both times Jesus response seems to be egotistical, which I don't think they are.

Jesus reminds us that the spiritual life is of more concern than the material life. Yes, Martha could use a hand. Yes, the poor could use the money. But beyond this, our devotion to Christ, and our commitment to our spiritual lives is where our prime concern should be. It is from here that we will be able to help others.

On a different point, it is interesting that Mary annoints Jesus' feet. In Matthew and Mark, it is his head. John uses this motif again:
and he took a towel,
and girded himself.
Then he poureth water into the bason,
and began to wash the disciples’ feet,
and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded.
John 13:4-5 RV
So: Mary learns at Jesus' feet, then she annoints his feet, then he washes the disciples feet.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Criticism and Pride

For hereunto were ye called:
because Christ also suffered for you,
leaving you an example,
that ye should follow his steps:
who did no sin,
neither was guile found in his mouth:
when he was reviled,
reviled not again;
when he suffered,
threatened not;
but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously:
1 Peter 2:21-23 RV

Accepting criticism is never an easy thing. Being criticised is never fun, is never something one actively seeks. Whether it is deserved or not, the normal reaction is one of negativity.

I have a real problem with criticism. I don't handle it well at all. In some ways, the older I get, the worse I am at dealing with it.

When I was at music school, we would present our pieces in front of all the students, and then there would be a discussion on the merits, or lack thereof, of the the piece. I always found this hard, but I was confident in my work, so whatever wrongs there were, I never felt personally slighted by them.

I recently had some criticism that I found difficult to deal with. My competence, qualifications and manner were called into question. I stewed on this for month, became ill, all while I was getting to set to train my replacement.

The same weekend was our parish jubilee, with all the hoopla that entails. During rehearsals an incident or a "joke" came to my attention, which I found hurtful. The next day I turned up, and was rebuked for not doing something.

It was all a bit much for an over sensitive person such as myself. I over reacted and left.

The next day I read the following:

To recieve rightly and without offence the criticism of our own acts or characters is a large part of true meekness. I do not think it makes much difference, as far as this virtue is concerned, whether the criticism is justified or not; it may be that the bearing of them is a harder test when they are justified. Yet if we have a true and sober estimate of ourselves, I think we shall know that every criticism is justified in its spirit if not in its details. The humble man will do more than accept criticism without anger or bitterness; he will rejoice in it, seeing in it an aid to greater light on himself and to a truer estimate of his character.
Following the Way, Anon, SPCK, 1925; p 53.
I wish I had read it earlier in the month.

To realise that my over reaction was based purely on my pride being hurt has been a difficult thing. Pride is a difficult thing to overcome, and in this early stage of my journey, I now realise, yet again, how much I have to learn.
And he said,
That which proceedeth out of the man,
that defileth the man.
For from within,
out of the heart of men,
evil thoughts proceed,
an evil eye,
all these evil things proceed from within,
and defile the man.
Mark 7:20-23 RV