Saturday, June 27, 2009

First Revelation

Along my journey of Jesus music, I have found many gems, and also a fair share of turkeys.

First Revelation are an example of a gem: odd, eclectic and shiny.
The band consisted of Danny Kimer who played all sorts of guitars, banjos, and probably many types of other stringed instruments. His wife, Lynda, sung and played organ and synthesizer. She had a voice like Grace Slick, and Danny played guitar like Jeff Beck and Chet Atkins.

First Revelation recorded three albums. The first was under the name Danny and Lynda, and was called "Gospel".

I have not been able to find this anywhere on the net, so I have no idea what it sounds like, but it is so on my hunt list.

The next album was recorded twice. I have heard the second version of this:

This is a fine album; it has some great stuff on it. The keyboard work is wonderful; a mix of monophonic moog lines and fairgroundlike organ. Lynda's voice is resonant and understated, yet emotional. Danny's guitars are all over the place: fuzz leads, banjo, and some serious smoking lead work. I instantly liked this album. There is something so odd about it. Lynda's keyboards are a bit sloppy, and loose, but so wwonderful and charming. They are in fact the main drawcard for me. Her organ sound is a bit cheesy and loopy, but it just adds to the overall coolness.

A couple of weeks after getting the This Side of Eternity, I went in search of the follow up, with not much luck. Eventually it turned up, and it has been a constant listen since. In many ways it is a better album than the other, a bit more together, more acoustic guitars. Lynda's keyboards are tighter, with a bit more moog work; her voice is richer. Yet, the production is a bit more homey, lo fi. That is not a problem in itself, but just surprising.

The lyrics to both albums are very Christian, no mucking about. The songs are about evangelising more than anything else. This is all fine, and in fact gives the whole vibe an even odder feel. I particularly like their take on "New Jerusalem".

You can find these albums at The Ancient Star Song.

There is much more info about the Kimers here.

When I heard these albums, I had no idea what the Kimers looked like.
When I went to the site that explained their story, I found the above pictures. I was pleasantly surprised to see that my wife looks like Lynda! Yet another reason to love this band.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

MacMillan Greek New Testament Commentaries

My current collecting obsession is the MacMillan Commentaries on the Greek New Testament. I have managed to get quite a few of them over the past year or so, but a few have eluded my grasp. For those so biblio-inclined, here is the list, that may or not be complete:

Matthew McNeile, 1915
Mark Swete, 1913
Luke Creed, 1930
John Westcott
Galatians Lightfoot, 1865
Ephesians Westcott
Philippians; Lightfoot, 1890
Colossians & Philemon Lightfoot, 1879
Thessalonians 1 & 2 Milligan
Hebrews Westcott, 1903
James; Mayor
1 Peter; Selwyn
2 Peter & Jude; Mayor
John 1, 2 & 3; Westcott 1883
Revelation; Swete

Titles in bold I do not have. Hint hint for birthday.....

These, combined with the International Critical Commentaries, would make a mighty exegetical bookshelf.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Wake up sleepy head!

A great gale arose,
and the waves beat into the boat,
so that the boat was already being swamped.
But he was in the stern,
asleep on the cushion;
and they woke him up and said to him,
do you not care that we are perishing?’
He woke up and rebuked the wind
Mark 4:37-39 NRSV

One of the factors within the stilling of the storm is the fact that Jesus is asleep, and the disciples are worried and think that he doesn't care.

Within Mark's Gospel (and the other synoptics, but we are dealing with Mark here. To me it makes sense to compare Mark with Mark. It is his wording and version of events that is being looked at.) this is the only time Jesus is actually stated as being asleep. This isn't to say that He didn't sleep at other times. In fact, when He does stay up all night, a point is made of it. However, the fact that this is the only time Mark actually mentions Jesus sleeping may be of some import.

Within the Psalms of the OT sleep is used in two different ways. One expresses an idea of when things are bad, God is viewed as being asleep:
Rouse yourself! Why do you sleep, O Lord?
Awake, do not cast us off for ever!
Why do you hide your face?
Why do you forget our affliction and oppression?
Psalm 44 23-24 NRSV
This is how the disciples on the boat are thinking.

Another representation where being able to sleep can represent complete trust in God:
I will both lie down and sleep in peace;
for you alone, O Lord,
make me lie down in safety.
Psalm 4:8 NRSV
This is how Jesus is represented in the boat. He has complete faith in the Father. Storm or no, He knows it will be fine. This may be a little easy however.

In this case, I think the agony at Gethsemane may hold the meaning
On the boat, it is Jesus who is asleep, and the disciples who wake him up.
In Gethsemane, Jesus asks the disciples to stay awake, yet they fall asleep.
for you all things are possible;
remove this cup from me;
not what I want,
but what you want.’
Mark 14:36 NRSV
Here, Jesus lets us know what the whole point of it is. It is about what we want, or think is fair. It is really about letting go. It is about trusting, faith, and knowing that what God wants for us is.

I have to admit I am finding this the most difficult part of all this. I really want to say that when Jesus was aware of the full extent of what lay in store for Him at Calvary, He too was worried. He too asked God the Father to sort it out for Him. But it isn't that simple. He adds, that He is aware it is not His decision, but the Father's. He was aware of the awfulness of what was to occur, yet He had total faith in God the Father. He trusted.

If we are Christians, how do we respond? When our lives turn to mush?

‘Why are you afraid?
Have you still no faith?’

Monday, June 15, 2009

Is there anybody out there?

‘Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?’

‘Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?’

These two phrases are key to what the passage of the stilling of the storm is really about, and what we can take from it for our own lives.

The storm of course represents any form of grief that we may be going through.
Depression, illness, unemployment, anxiety, lack of money, lonliness, tension, conflict.....
The list could go on and on.

Within the context of the story, the storm arrives very quickly. A few moments ago, Jesus was teaching. Of the go, to the other side, then the clouds gather. If it was looking too dodgy, I doubt they would have decided to cross. Also, the fact the Jesus has had time to have a little kip gives us an idea of the length of the voyage.

The point is that these storms can come up on us quickly. An extra bill in the mail can change a whole month, can change all sorts of plans. Can change hope into despair. A fall may brake a bone. A cold can turn into a flu, from a sniffle to a week in bed. Who's going to cook dinner? A discussion can quickly turn into a disagreement, into a feud. A friend can move away to another city, or country. A friend may pass away. All of a sudden we may realise that we are in fact quite alone.

It is at these moments we can be like the disciples in the boat with Jesus:
‘Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?’
"Why am I going through this?"
"What have I done to deserve this"
"How come this is happening now?"
"Lord, help me through this"

We feel we have been deserted by God, we are alone in the storm. It seems as though God does not care.

In the reading, Jesus sorts the storm out. Then He says
‘Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?’
Why do we assume that things going wrong, the storm, means God does not care?

Monday, June 8, 2009

That'll learn 'em

Christ Stilling the Waves
Edward Burne Jones

On that day,
when evening had come,
he said to them,
‘Let us go across to the other side.’

And leaving the crowd behind,
they took him with them in the boat,
just as he was.
Other boats were with him.

A great gale arose,
and the waves beat into the boat,
so that the boat was already being swamped.

But he was in the stern,
asleep on the cushion;
and they woke him up and said to him,
‘Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?’

He woke up and rebuked the wind,
and said to the sea,
‘Peace! Be still!’
Then the wind ceased,
and there was a dead calm.

He said to them,
‘Why are you afraid?
Have you still no faith?’

And they were filled with great awe and said to one another,
‘Who then is this,
that even the wind and the sea obey him?’
Mark 4:35-41 NRSV

I am currently preparing my second sermon of the year, based on the above passage.

It is a wonderful section of the Gospels, and Mark's version is my favourite telling of this event. In typical Marcan fashion, he places the moods of the disciples closer to the surface than the other evangelists. Throughout Mark, the disciples seem hopeless, they don't understand anything, and seem to constantly need reassurance. They doubt Jesus' divinity.

Yet, in Mark, Jesus is also a bit stroppier. The episode where he curses the fig tree, and in the above passage:

He said to them,
‘Why are you afraid?
Have you still no faith?’
In Matthew and Luke, He is gentler toward them; he understands they not understanding. Here in Mark, you can almost hear His frustration. How much more will they need? As we know, it will take a lot more than just claming a storm to prove who He is.
Before going into some homelitical exegesis, there are two bits of information that aren't in the reading, but from earlier within the same chapter.
Again he began to teach beside the lake.
Such a very large crowd gathered around him that he got into a boat on the lake
and sat there,
while the whole crowd was beside the lake on the land.
Mark 4:1 NRSV
This lets us know where Jesus was, the fact that He was already in the boat, and that He had been teaching there before. This was not a new occurance, but I suspect this is the largest crowd He has had up to this point. There were so many people, He had to step into the boat, either for the sake of space, or to gain height so a larger than expected crowd could hear and see Him.

I like to think there is something about the fact that He alone is on water, while severyone else is on land. Something for further investigation.

Jesus then taeches in a series of parables. After this Mark informs us:

he did not speak to them except in parables,
but he explained everything in private to his disciples.
Mark 4:34 NRSV

To the average punter, He spoke in mysterious tales. Those who get it will get it. However, He will explain all this in full to His disciples. I can't help but think that the stilling of the storm is one such occasion.

Jesus sleeps, the storm comes, the disciples freak out and complain to Him that He doesn't care. Was this a test? Was the stilling of the storm an enacted parable to teach faith?

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Glory Road Exit

Glory Road

Over the past six or so months, I have raved on about certain Jesus music albums: Jimmy Hotz, Concrete Rubber Band etc. The one album that has really blown me away is "Exit" by Glory Road.

A wonderful mix of progressive rock and acoustic country folk, with vocal harmonies that CSN would be proud of. It also has some nice touches, like backwards guitars, atmospheric synths, and to top it all off, the lead singer, Greg Williams has a fantastic voice.

The lyrics are very Christian, but not in an evangelical, "come and be a Christian" kind of way. They speak of the Christian experience with a sense of beauty and mystery. Conversion is sung of in terms that are dreamlike and warm. It is really a beautiful album. It is however, a bit patchy. Five of the eight songs are complete stunners however.

I love this album, and would love for it to reach as many people as possible.

Here is a link to download the whole thing: Exit- Glory Road

But before you go ahead and download that, bear in mind:

The sound quality of this transfer is very poor. It might as well be single channel. It is boomy and very unclear.All that being said, it is still manages to get through.

However, joy of joys, yesterday I found another source of mp3's. These are quality, taken from clean vinyl, and the difference is huge. The guitars chime and glisten, the harmonies shimmer, the keyboards create an atmosphere that is mysterious and wondrous. Four of the five aforementioned stunners can be downloaded here from Bernie Rolfe's site:

Please give these songs a listen. This is easily one of my favourite albums, and easily my favourite Jesus Music album.

If you know anything about this band, album, or know what any of the guys are up to, please leave a comment.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Poverty, oppression and the Incarnation in the Kingdom of God

And the Word became flesh and lived among us 
John 1.14 NRSV

 The incarnation and Jesus’ teaching on the perils of wealth are two inseparable concepts. The narratives surrounding His birth (The Annunciation, The Visitation, and The Nativity) show that even before He became flesh, His mission was for the poor and the oppressed. By looking at the implications of God becoming man for society and what Jesus taught about the social equality of the Kingdom of God, we can see that the incarnation is ultimately linked to social justice.

The incarnation is the central and unique principle of Christianity;[1] God took our common nature to himself.[2] Without assuming human nature, the Son of God could not have lived and realised a truly human history.[3] A Jesus who is not truly divine implies a God who was unwilling to assume our condition, therefore not placing a high value on humanity.[4]

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son,
so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.
John 3:16 NRSV
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. 
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly; 
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty. 
because he has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free, 
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.’ 
‘Blessed are you who are poor,
for yours is the kingdom of God. 
Blessed are you who are hungry now,
for you will be filled.

By the Word becoming flesh, the brotherhood of all men became a reality for humankind.[5] By the incarnation, the Son of God claims the Kingdom for God over the whole of human life; this goes beyond transforming conditions, but to transforming the whole meaning of all life.[6] It is the manifestation of divine goodness in the flesh, in Jesus as Son of God first, then through the Holy Spirit in members of his mystical body.[7] It is the redemption of the physical body, therefore also of the social relations of the life lived in the body, and of the whole social, economic and political structure.[8] In Christ all men become brothers.[9] The unity of the whole human race was proclaimed. Every human being was declared to be an infinitely sacred and precious thing, with transcendent rights to the fullest development.[10] The separation of the sacred and secular was broken down. The will of God comes to us through our relationships with common humanity which God has taken on himself. It is impossible for those who don’t love those they have seen to love God which they haven’t seen; it is impossible because of the incarnation.[11]

We can see the importance of the socialist message of the incarnation by looking at the texts that deal with Jesus before His earthly ministry. In the Gospel of Luke, where hear that God is to become flesh at the Annunciation, when Gabriel says to Mary: 

And now,
you will conceive in your womb and bear a son,
and you will name him Jesus. 
He will be great,
and will be called the Son of the Most High,
and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. 
He will reign over the house of Jacob for ever,
and of his kingdom there will be no end.’
Luke 1:31-33 NRSV
 This is the news of the incarnation; God in midst of Gods people. While it may not have any socialist message, it is interesting to note that the annunciation takes place to a young woman in a house, not to a person of power in an important place.[12]

Mary then goes to visit Elizabeth at her home to serve her. (Luke 1:39-56) Like the previous annunciation, this idea of home reinforces the idea of commonality.[13] In the Magnificat, the socialist ideal is strong and irrefutable. Mary thanks God for what is about to occur with the incarnation:

He has shown strength with his arm;
Luke 1:51-53 NRSV

The Magnificat has been called a 'Christian Manifesto,' Stuart Headlam called it “the hymn of the universal social revolution" and the “Marseillaise of humanity."[14] In it, we hear God's new deal for the poor and oppressed, His special concern for the poor.[15] It tells us that we must embrace all humanity; the social doctrine of the church should begin at “he has bought down”.[16] The Magnificat shows us that God himself takes up the cause of the poor. We are to be on their side; to struggle against exploitation and oppression.[17] It calls for an end to dictatorship, or of money being a master. Most of all, it expects solidarity to the poor.[18] “A Pope has declared that the Blessed Virgin is the great foe of Socialism. If the Magnificat be her song, it would be far more reasonable to call her the Mother of it."[19]

The Nativity also belies the socialist nature of the incarnation. Jesus was born in a stable, not a palace or temple:

And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth,
and laid him in a manger,
because there was no place for them in the inn.
Luke 2:7 NRSV

The first people to be informed of His birth were shepherds; common working men, not religious or political rulers. (Luke 2:8-20) Jesus could have been class He chose; the Jews expected the Messiah to appear as a great Prince.[20]  Judaism had invented its own ideologies concerning the saviour. Jesus’ life and teaching was a radical challenge against this. [21]

Within Jesus’ teaching, there is constant criticism of materialism.[22] He was not a social reformer who produced a “socio- economic blueprint for society”.[23] His incarnation is concerned with the whole of life.[24] In our competitive capitalist culture indifferent and selfish masters promote limitless economic growth, and oppress the men who work within it.[25] Mechanisation has either robbed labour of its dignity or has made many people surplus to requirements. But a worker is more than a worker; he is an individual and a citizen. [26] His ultimate value is not merely his value to himself or to society; it is his value to God. Everyone is a soul that God created as act of his love, and every human being is unique and irreplaceable, because they are a child of God.[27]

The first public speech of Jesus proclaimed a social revolution,[28]

‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
Luke 4:18-19 NRSV

He announces the dawn of a new era. This is echoed later in the Beatitudes, where money is a central issue:

Then he looked up at his disciples and said:
Luke 6:20-21 NRSV

The Kingdom will belong to the poor, the hungry, and the sorrowful and the persecuted, while the comfortable, well-fed and successful are the targets of the mirror image woes. [29] The rich are then condemned for their indifference to the sufferings of the poor and their profiteering.

Give to everyone who begs from you;
and if anyone takes away your goods,
do not ask for them again.
Luke 6:30 NRSV

If you lend to those from whom you hope to receive,
what credit is that to you?
Even sinners lend to sinners,
to receive as much again.
Luke 6:34 NRSV

The highest expression of love is free surrender of what is truly ours; our life, property, and rights. A lower level is the surrender of any opportunity to exploit others. [30] This is not a condemnation of wealth, it is more that the pursuit of wealth will numb all sense of spiritual reality,[31] creating “a permanent barrier to complete surrender to God's will and the demands of the Kingdom” [32] The pursuit of wealth breeds arrogance, self satisfaction, smugness and indifference to others’ needs. [33] Jesus wanted to put material matters into perspective, to encourage his followers to trust God, to store up their treasures in heaven, not on earth.[34] The service of God is incompatible with mammon.[35] The pursuit of wealth is seen as an obstacle of entry into the Kingdom of God.[36]
 The Kingdom of God was central to Jesus’ mission. He expresses the idea over 100 times in the Gospels. [37] The Kingdom is “spiritual and historical, eternal and temporal, outward and inward, visible and invisible, both a system and an energy”. It is not constrained by the conditions of present existence, but is manifest under them.[38] It is not of this world, but very much in it. [39] The Kingdom of God is not confined to church; it embraces the whole of human life[40]. It is humanity organised to the will of God.[41] The event of the incarnation tells us what the will of God is, and is told to us through the infancy narratives: to help the poor and oppressed. By God becoming man, He was showing us His love and the value He places on humankind, and making the brotherhood of all men a true reality. Jesus’ teaching throughout His earthly ministry is consistent with the ideals stated before His birth, and reinforced those ideals of social justice and equality.


 Coste, Rene; The Magnificat (1988) Claretian Publications: Quezon City 
Dearmer, Percy;  Socialism and Christianity (1907) The Fabian Society:London

Dowell, Graham;  The Magnificat. A Christian Manifesto? 
Gebara, Ivone; and Maria Clara Bingemer; Mary, Mother of God, Mother of the Poor (1989) Orbis: New York

Gore, Charles; The Incarnation of the Son of God (1898) John Murray: London 
Griffiths, Brian;  Morality and the Marketplace (1982) Hodder and Stoughton: London 
A.G. Herbert; Liturgy and Society (1956) Faber and Faber: London 
O’Collins, Gerald; Incarnation (2002)Continuum: London 
Orens, John R;  Dancing the Magnificat” 
Ramsey; A.M.; From Gore to Temple (1960) Longmans: London
Rauschenbusch, Walter; A Theology for the Social Gospel (1978) Abingdon: Nashville 
Temple, William;  Essays in Christian Politics and Kindred Subjects (1927) Longmans, Green and Co: London 
Walker, W.L.; The Spirit of the Incarnation (1907)  T&T Clark: London 
Westcott, B.F.; Social Aspects of Christianity (1888) MacMillan & Co: London