Friday, August 24, 2007

In the Sweet By and By

Kate, Paul and Charlie
Originally uploaded by paynehollow
ER is talking church music over at his place and that got me to thinking... it'd be cool to see what folk like to listen to in terms of church music.

At my church Jeff Street, we are in some ways pretty eclectic musically. It's one of my favorite parts about Jeff Street. While we certainly lean towards the acoustic folk sound, we pull from all over the map when it comes to hymns sung and, especially, special music.

A partial list of songs that we sing congregationally or have had as special music include:

Orphan Girl (flawlessly sung here by Emmylou Harris)

John McCutcheon's Hallelujah! The Great Storm is Over

Dylan's The Times, They are A-Changin'

Wayfarin' Stranger (sung here by the headbanger, Jack White, of the White Stripes which is apparently one of those rock and roll musical bands)

Oh, Happy Day

Louis Armstrong's What a Wonderful World

Cluck Old Hen (played here by Allison Krauss)

Bob Marley's
Redemption Song

John Prine's Spanish Pipe Dream, (AKA, Blow Up Your TV)

Eyes On the Prize (sung here by Sweet Honey in the Rock)

I could go on and on. I love the music we sing at our church. How 'bout you? You have favorite gospel or church-ish songs? Feel free to list some (with links would be all the better!). Jeff Streeters: Have I left out some quintessential Jeff Street songs?

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Watermelon Extravaganza!

Originally uploaded by paynehollow
The friends at the as-yet-unnamed farm graciously welcomed the church and friends out to the farm for some watermelon bobbing. The weather was delicious as the melons and about as cool (although nowhere near as messy) and there was a great turnout.

Old friends and new, children and adults and some where the line is blurred all had a great time, so far as I could tell. It was also the first real music hootenanny to take place at Erewhon.

Great big sloppy thanks to the farm group!

I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the community, and as long as I live it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can.

~George Bernard Shaw

I would never belong to a group that would accept someone like me as a member.

~Marx (Groucho)

The good we secure for ourselves is precarious and uncertain until it is secured for all of us and incorporated into our common life.

~Jane Addams

One definition of eternity is that we are not alone on this planet, that there are those who've gone before and those who will come, and that there is a community of spirits.

~Rita Dove

Steven Plays

Originally uploaded by paynehollow
The life I touch for good or ill will touch another life, and that in turn another, until who knows where the trembling stops or in what far place my touch will be felt.

~Frederick Buechner

We clasp the hands of those that go before us,
And the hands of those who come after us.
We enter the little circle of each other's arms
And the larger circle of lovers,
Whose hands are joined in a dance,
And the larger circle of all creatures,
Passing in and out of life,
Who move also in a dance,
To a music so subtle and vast that no ear hears it
Except in fragments

~Wendell Berry


Originally uploaded by paynehollow
In addition to the watermelon-eatin', the picnic, the music jam, the frisbee-flingin' and general congenial conversation, we played a bit of the volleyball sport.

What should young people do with their lives today? Many things, obviously. But the most daring thing is to create stable communities in which the terrible disease of loneliness can be cured.

~Kurt Vonnegut

Heaven have mercy on us all - Presbyterians and Pagans alike - for we are all somehow dreadfully cracked about the head, and sadly need mending.

~Herman Melville

We have all known the long loneliness, and we have found that the answer is community.

~Dorothy Day

The Kids Are All Right

The Kids Are All Right
Originally uploaded by paynehollow

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Fear's the Way You Die, Part I

Originally uploaded by paynehollow
Our youth minister, Roger, presented a fantastic sermon a couple of Sundays ago. Here is the bulk of it. Great stuff! We've been studying the Psalms this summer and Roger was preaching on Psalm 37.

…In studying the commentaries about this psalm, I was surprised at how many of the writers found this psalm to be a bad psalm, or at least a lesser psalm. Psalm 37 was described as an unsatisfactory “pie-in-the-sky-bye-and-bye” response to the question of evil. Do not fret about evildoers getting away with their bad deeds – God will get them in the end and will reward you, too, by the way. It is presented as a whiney, petulant, life’s not fair, Harry Potter & the Order of the Phoenix kind of way.

All of the commentators point out that Psalm 37 is one of the nine acrostic poems in the Book of Psalms… The commentators complain that the verses are therefore contrived, are lacking in theological structure for the sake of the poetical structure (which they further discount as a mere memory aid), and are at best a random collection of wisdom sayings of some old guy probably attached to Solomon’s court.

I was frankly stunned. The criticisms reminded me of the arguments folks have made about Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount – that Matthew merely gathered a large collection of Jesus’ teachings and threw them together with minimal thought of how they might provide a cohesive sermon.

You’ve heard the arguments – “No one can live up to the teachings in the Sermon on the Mount! These are surely teachings for the coming reign of God or when we all get to heaven or at least until we all join a convent or monastery and not longer have to interact with this world!” As you know, I find these arguments unconvincing given Jesus’ wrap up the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus says,

Everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.

Clearly Jesus intends us to put these teachings into practice. Glen Stassen’s book, Living the Sermon on the Mount is subtitled, A Practical Hope for Grace and Deliverance. He clearly doesn’t think these teachings are impractical for us and apply to monastic folk alone.

I often quote Michael Westmoreland White, who says he can’t imagine being in heaven and having to deal with folks striking him on the right cheek, or suing him for his clothing, or forcing him to carry a military pack for a mile. I do however think the teachings of the Sermon on the Mount have to do with the coming reign of God. I believe the reign of God is here all around us and the teachings of Jesus show us how to participate in God’s reign.

By Roger, but wait! There's more!

Fear's the Way You Die, Part II

Great Blue Heron
Originally uploaded by paynehollow
The Sermon on the Mount is a practical guide for people to be perfect as their Abba in heaven is perfect. Hold on, you just said this was a practical guide! I can’t be perfect like God is perfect. Well, I agree you can’t be perfect is you are using Greek philosophy to define what perfection is. A few hundred years before the birth of Jesus, a Greek philosopher named Plato was all the rage and he believed that every thing on earth was a mere shadow, an imperfect imitation of the true form of that true and perfect thing in heaven. We talked about this last year when we studied the Sermon on the Mount, remember? To Plato, the perfect apple was only in heaven and it was without blemish or flaw, with the most pleasing shade of color, balanced just right in its sweetness and tartness, un-bruised and absent any worm or parasite. That’s the way the Greeks thought about perfection. And that’s the way we think about perfection, too. But that’s not the way Jesus thought about perfection. Jesus was a Jew and in Jewish thought, the perfect apple is the apple that does what God created to do, namely to nourish its seeds and create a new apple tree. The perfect apple does what it was created to do.

When Jesus commands us to be perfect as our Abba in heaven is perfect he is telling us to be what we were created to be. Nothing more. Nothing less. And the Sermon on the Mount tells us how.

All that to say, when the commentators started bashing and minimizing the message of Psalm 37, red flags started going up in my mind. You see, when I first started looking at Psalm 37, I was amazed at how it is similar to the Sermon on the Mount in its specific teachings and overall themes.

I don’t see it merely as a whiney psalm about how the wicked get away with stuff. I don’t see it as an unsatisfactory “pie-in-the-sky-bye-and-bye” kind of response to the problem of evil any more than the Sermon on the Mount is a set of rules that only apply “when we all get to heaven…”

Think of it. Psalm 37 is not about “Quit whining about the rich – you’ll get yours eventually.” It’s about participating right now in God’s kingdom, God’s reign. It’s about participating with a God who knows us and loves us, who delivers us and provides our daily bread, who delights in us and gives us the desires of our hearts! This is a much better theology, don’t you think?

One of the quotes I did like from the commentators was this – it was just a comment on the psalms in general – “Wherever you are in your spiritual journey, whatever emotions your heart may be feeling, whatever struggles you may be going through, you will find a place in the Psalms that resonates and draws you closer to the Lord.”

By Roger, but wait! There's more!

Fear's the Way You Die, Part III

Grapevine Dave
Originally uploaded by paynehollow
I felt the truth of this statement the other day I was working out at the farm. I am cleaning out the pond – you know, pulling out trees that have fallen into the pond and clearing some of the brush back from the edge of the water. Yesterday Steven and I spent several hours in the canoe dragging these fallen trees and branches closer to the shore where we then snagged them and dragged them ashore.

Anyway, the other day I was taking a break and enjoying the view of the pond, the cattails and tulip poplars and the ridge leading up the knobs rising beyond them. I saw a kingfisher swoop down and catch a fish and land on one of the overhanging branches briefly before flying off. And it started to rain. It was a gentle summer rain. The pond was dotted with surprising raindrop circles from one end to the other, just a few at first then more and more. The musical plops in the pond complemented the sound of the easy rhythm of the falling rain on the leaves of the surrounding trees. It was a blessed moment.

I was reminded of a line in a song John Denver sings, I guess he’d rather work out where the only thing you earn is what you spend.

I love the work out at the farm. I really feel like I earn what I spend out there. I love clearing the trails and messing with the mowers. I love it that we’ve had so many of our church family come out and play and hike and relax and move very heavy cabin timbers. I love watching the deer and turkey and bluebirds and kingfishers.

I can’t wait to get the chicken coop up and going so we can have chickens to keep the bugs out of the garden and eat the ticks. I love it that we have blackberries and grapes and watermelons growing. I love it that we’ll be able to raise more of our own food and use less nonrenewable energy to do so. I love it that we’re looking at passive solar options for building our homes. I love the work out at the farm and I love the dreams that work represents.

In a lot of ways, though, I’m finding myself challenged by the prospects of now going beyond the words and ideas I’ve shared for over five years now of living on a farm and living in community with others. Any day we’ll be closing on the property. We’ve got our drawings of adding onto the farm house where Michelle lives to make space for Christy, the girls and I. There are many challenges we will face as a community, some I’m sure we’ve never imagined, and sometimes I am anxious. Sometimes I worry. Sometimes I am afraid…

Psalm 37 is a psalm about how selfishness, greed and fear can keep us from being satisfied. It is about looking to God’s love and about God providing us with all we need even the very desires of our heart as we seek to be God’s people.

May our choices lead us to love – to love ourselves when we are selfish, greedy or afraid and need to make better choice; to love those around us, family, co-workers, fellow students, our neighbors and our enemies; to love justice and work for peace; to love God’s good earth and to lessen the impact of our energy consumption and the pollution it causes for us all; to love God and recognize that God wants us to live and love with integrity in all we do so as to participate fully in God’s reign here on earth as it is in heaven.

by Roger, our youth minister and rather fearless fella (or is that redundant)