Friday, February 12, 2016

We gon' be alright: Rap and Reggae as Black Sacred Space -- Sightings (Noel Leo Erskine)

Music is a powerful force. It touches hearts more than minds, but the messages carried by music can be powerful. That's why we sing in church. It helps us connect with God and with one another. Music also has cultural components, which means that not all music touches us in the same way. Rap and Reggae have now been with us for some time, but I came of age prior to the advent of rap. I'm not sure the style hits in the same way as it does others, but I appreciate this essay because invites us to listen to how music can be a vehicle for creating alternative visions of reality.  So, I invite you to read and contemplate this essay from Sightings, written by Noel Leo Erskine of Candler School of Theology.

We gon' be alright: Rap and Reggae as Black Sacred Space
Kendrick Lamar performing in Barcelona at the Heineken Primavera Sound Festival (05.30.14)
Credit: Christian Bertrand / shutterstock
Celebrated hip hop rapper Kendrick Lamar and his album, “To Pimp a Butterfly,” are poised to make history at Sunday’s 58th Grammy awards. Giving voice to the underside of Black communities in which marginalized persons seek to establish a sense of identity and dignity, Lamar has already broken a record with his nine nominations. He is now the most Grammy-nominated hip hop artist in a single year.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

40 Days, 40 Prayers, 40 Words (Bruce Reyes-Chow) -- A Review

40 DAYS, 40 PRAYERS,40 WORDS: Lenten Reflections for Everyday Life. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2016. Xvi + 85 pages.

Lent is a season of forty days, mirroring Jesus’ forty-day sojourn in the wilderness. Lent is supposed to be a season of prayer and contemplation, and it is useful to have guides for the journey. Westminster John Knox offers us this guide authored by Bruce Reyes-Chow, a Presbyterian pastor, writer, and cultural critic. He is a Senior Consultant with the Center for Progressive Renewal and served as the youngest ever Moderator of the Presbyterian Church (USA) General Assembly. In this brief book, Reyes-Chow brings together forty brief prayers and meditations focusing on forty words. Although the book is offered as a Lenten reflection, it can be used at any time of the year.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Where is Your God? Thoughts for Ash Wednesday

Joel 2:1-2, 12-17New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

Blow the trumpet in Zion;
    sound the alarm on my holy mountain!
Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble,
    for the day of the Lord is coming, it is near—
a day of darkness and gloom,
    a day of clouds and thick darkness!
Like blackness spread upon the mountains
    a great and powerful army comes;
their like has never been from of old,
    nor will be again after them
    in ages to come.

12 Yet even now, says the Lord,
    return to me with all your heart,
with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning;
13     rend your hearts and not your clothing.
Return to the Lord, your God,
    for he is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love,
    and relents from punishing.
14 Who knows whether he will not turn and relent,
    and leave a blessing behind him,
a grain offering and a drink offering
    for the Lord, your God?
15 Blow the trumpet in Zion;
    sanctify a fast;
call a solemn assembly;
16     gather the people.
Sanctify the congregation;
    assemble the aged;
gather the children,
    even infants at the breast.
Let the bridegroom leave his room,
    and the bride her canopy.
17 Between the vestibule and the altar
    let the priests, the ministers of the Lord, weep.
Let them say, “Spare your people, O Lord,
    and do not make your heritage a mockery,
    a byword among the nations.
Why should it be said among the peoples,
    ‘Where is their God?’”

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Alternative Paths to Power? - Lectionary Reflection for Lent 1C

Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing at all during those days, and when they were over, he was famished. The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread.” Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone.’” 
Then the devil led him up and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And the devil said to him, “To you I will give their glory and all this authority; for it has been given over to me, and I give it to anyone I please. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” Jesus answered him, “It is written, 
‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.’” 
Then the devil took him to Jerusalem, and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, 10 for it is written, 
‘He will command his angels concerning you, to protect you,’
11 and 

‘On their hands they will bear you up,
    so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.’” 

12 Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’” 13 When the devil had finished every test, he departed from him until an opportune time.

                Jesus was filled with the Spirit when he left the Jordan and headed into the wilderness. Led by the Spirit, he spent forty days in the wilderness fasting and praying.  This time of fasting is the basis of the forty days of Lent. Lent is traditionally a time of when we give something of value so as to better focus on the things of God. I doubt many of us fast for forty days. Indeed, I expect that most of us, myself included, haven’t given much attention to fasting at all. We may have even found the tradition of giving something up for Lent to have little meaning, though I do like the idea suggested by Pope Francis that during this Lenten season we give up indifference. That might actually make a difference in the lives of people.

Monday, February 08, 2016

How My Mind Changed -- On LGBT Inclusion

I am reposting this essay, which I wrote for the Energion Discussion Network.  Energion is publisher of a number of my books. As noted below, they have accepted for publication a bible study guide titled (tentatively) Marriage in Interesting Times.  The book isn't specifically about the subject below, but it is written by one who accepts/affirms same-gender marriage. 
If we keep an open mind, if we seek the truth wherever it might lead, then we will occasionally, even frequently, have a change of heart and mind. That has been true for me on more than one occasion. Among those changes is my understanding of the status of my LGBT brothers and sisters. Like many I grew up believing that the only appropriate coupling was a heterosexual one. I based this in part from what I imbibed from the surrounding culture. I was also informed by what I read in the Bible. God seemed to create the man and the woman for each other (Genesis 2). Then there were the passages that seemed to speak negatively of same-sex relations (were they not an abomination before God?). Finally, there was nature. Didn’t the church prove that man was intended for woman, and woman for man? It was a matter of plumbing. Thus, culture, Bible, and plumbing were in agreement. Or so I thought!