Category Archives: Arts

New Year New Opportunities

calendarWhy do people make new goals and resolutions for the new year?

I think it has to do with our desire for things to get better!  We want to be part of something bigger than ourselves and have a sense that our work and life matter.

Sometimes I think that we like to plan for the future and make goals to have a sense that we actually have control over our lives!

When we look at how the author of the book of James talks about the future we should take a moment to reflect.  What does it mean for a follower of Christ to make plans? What does it look like to make plans without seeking what God wants?

James says it this way:

12 God is in charge of deciding human destiny. Who do you think you are to meddle in the destiny of others? 13 And now I have a word for you who brashly announce, “Today – at the latest, tomorrow – we’re off to such and such a city for the year. We’re going to start a business and make a lot of money.” 14 You don’t know the first thing about tomorrow. You’re nothing but a wisp of fog, catching a brief bit of sun before disappearing. 15 Instead, make it a habit to say, “If the Master wills it and we’re still alive, we’ll do this or that.” James 4:12-14 The Message

It is too common for those of us who live in a western society to think individualistically about our time, our money, our future and plans.  However what would this year look like for those who follow Christ if they ask first, what does God want for this year?  What would today look like if I focus on what is clearly in from to me and instead of looking far ahead I focus on what He wants me to do today.

For James finishes this section (v16-17) by saying that

16-17As it is, you are full of your grandiose selves. All such vaunting self-importance is evil. In fact, if you know the right thing to do and don’t do it, that, for you, is evil.

I can be quickly caught up in thinking that my plans are most important rather than His.  Ah my grandiose self!  For many times I would rather dream about my plans for tomorrow and not do today’s work.

Well today I’ve got to get my Christmas Tree and Decorations down!  If the Lord wills I will be spending the rest of the weekend getting ready for worship on Sunday!

Happy New Year!

 

The Father’s Love and Old Hymns

Divinum_mysteriumAs I grow older I am sometimes surprised at how many people don’t know or appreciate the past.  As a musician, my training was in classical music.  Honestly Music History classes didn’t grab my attention in college and I’m certain that the same fascination with the new and trendy is what captures the minds of many today.  I’m also certain that a blog about an old hymn could be over looked as the season approaches!  Take a few minutes to keep on reading.

I had discussions with worship leaders who quickly dismiss hymnody and older songs.  When we discuss this I think to myself that they are referring to those really old songs from the 80’s and 90’s.   One Carol derived from an ancient poem, Corde natus by Aurelius Clemens Prudentius (348-405) is a bit older.  We have a few translations of this text.

That great source of knowledge, Wikipedia says:

“The ancient poem was translated and paired with a medieval plainchant melody Divinum mysteriumDivinum mysterium was a “Sanctustrope” – an ancient plainchant melody which over the years had been musically embellished.[2] An early version of this chant appears in manuscript form as early as the 10th century, although without the melodic additions, and “trope” versions with various melodic differences appear in Italian, German, Gallacian, Bohemian and Spanish manuscripts dating from the 13th to 16th centuries.[2]

Divinum mysterium first appears in print in 1582 in the Finnish song book Piae Cantiones, a collection of seventy-four sacred and secular church and school songs of medieval Europe compiled by Jaakko Suomalainen and published by Theodoric Petri.[3]

Corde natus ex parentis
Ante mundi exordium
A et O cognominatus,
ipse fons et clausula
Omnium quæ sunt, fuerunt,
quæque post futura sunt.
Sæculorum sæculis.

The version that we sing is translated by John Neale.

“Neale’s original translation began “Of the Father sole begotten,” in his Hymnal Noted (London, 1851), and contained only six stanzas.[5] It was Neale’s music editor, Thomas Helmore, who paired this hymn with the Latin plainsong. Neale’s translation was later edited and extended by Henry W. Baker for Hymns Ancient and Modern (London, 1861)”

1. Of the Father’s love begotten,
Ere the worlds began to be,
He is Alpha and Omega,
He the source, the ending He,
Of the things that are, that have been,
And that future years shall see,
Evermore and evermore!

2. At His Word the worlds were framèd;
He commanded; it was done:
Heaven and earth and depths of ocean
In their threefold order one;
All that grows beneath the shining
Of the moon and burning sun,
Evermore and evermore!

3. He is found in human fashion,
Death and sorrow here to know,
That the race of Adam’s children
Doomed by law to endless woe,
May not henceforth die and perish
In the dreadful gulf below,
Evermore and evermore!

4. O that birth forever blessèd,
When the Virgin, full of grace,
By the Holy Ghost conceiving,
Bare the Savior of our race;
And the Babe, the world’s Redeemer,
First revealed His sacred face,
Evermore and evermore!

5. This is He Whom seers in old time
Chanted of with one accord;
Whom the voices of the prophets
Promised in their faithful word;
Now He shines, the long expected,
Let creation praise its Lord,
Evermore and evermore!

6. O ye heights of heaven adore Him;
Angel hosts, His praises sing;
Powers, dominions, bow before Him,
And extol our God and King!
Let no tongue on earth be silent,
Every voice in concert sing,
Evermore and evermore!

7. Righteous judge of souls departed,
Righteous King of them that live,
On the Father’s throne exalted
None in might with Thee may strive;
Who at last in vengeance coming
Sinners from Thy face shalt drive,
Evermore and evermore!

8. Thee let old men, thee let young men,
Thee let boys in chorus sing;
Matrons, virgins, little maidens,
With glad voices answering:
Let their guileless songs re-echo,
And the heart its music bring,
Evermore and evermore!

9. Christ, to Thee with God the Father,
And, O Holy Ghost, to Thee,
Hymn and chant with high thanksgiving,
And unwearied praises be:
Honor, glory, and dominion,
And eternal victory,
Evermore and evermore!

For me reading this ancient text, helps me remember that worship isn’t something that we invented in the last 10 years in mega churches.  It isn’t merely an experience where we connect emotionally to the music, worship has its roots in ideas and words.  We don’t know what tune Aurelius sang.  We don’t know the rhythm.  What we can see is that he was impressed with the wonder of the plan of the Father to send Jesus.  God with us.  Evermore and Evermore

Hobbits, Legends, Myths Echoes of Eden

Desolation of Smaug

I’m excited about the next installment in the Hobbit Movie trilogy by Peter Jackson.  Modern technology and filmmaking have enabled these creative people to make some amazing films.  I am sometimes taken back at the popularity of them. But I shouldn’t really.  For when we consider the great stories of our time, there is something about them that resonates with something bigger, something in the back of our minds, something that says Yes!  Jerram Barrs calls these the “echoes of eden.”

One foundational truth of Christianity is that we have descended from a historical Adam and Eve, who were created by a personal God. They were representing all humanity, and Adam as the first man was placed in a position where he and God lived under a promise. The contract was one with blessing and curse. “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.” (Genesis 2:16-17)

We know the story, as it is handed down, Eve tempted by the serpent, who was Satan, believed the lie, that God was withholding something, freedom, and she also believed that she wouldn’t die. Adam, I believe, was standing there silently avoiding his responsibility to guard, love and provide for Eve. He took and ate as well.

Things changed. From the moment of Adam’s disobedience, they were no longer in a perfect relationship with God. The curse which follows sin, resulted in not only their physical death and decay of all creation, but also the spiritual death and alienation from God.

The agony of this alienation was brokenness in their relationship with God and also with one another. Hiding in the garden, Adam and Eve try to cover their shame and nakedness.

The story continues. God in the cool of the evening, arrives walking and seeking Adam.

In the midst of the shame God comes. He at once shows his holiness by casting them from the garden and at the same time shows mercy clothing them and showing them the promise of a redeemer.

These first chapters of Genesis, which some consider fairy tales, resonate in us today. Others have looked at the history of God’s plan in terms of Creation, Fall and Redemption. Throughout history mankind has told myths and stories that bring hope from tragedy. There are many stories where a hero from humble birth arrives to save his people, stories of the humble coming to bring restoration through sacrifice.

J.R.R. TolkienI am a great fan of Tolkien. J.R.R. Tolkien was a big proponent of telling stories. He believed that the myths and great stories of time echoed the truth. (Read On Fairy-Stories pdf) Humanity having come from the same parents, bring with them an awareness of truth. It is interesting how even those who are not very interested in spiritual things, love the the story of a Hobbit. We see an humble person part of a greater story. We see the values of courage in the face of fear. We see self sacrifice for the good of others. How many people long for the Return of the King, who defeats the evil Sauron, heals the sick and injured with his touch and brings peace throughout the kingdom?

I believe that the Christian who is a writer, musician, dancer, painter, photographer, designer, composer, director, or in any creative field, has the opportunity to communicate profound ideas from God’s word, communicating what Francis Schaeffer called True Truth.1 We can write great stories, sing great songs, paint wonderful works, that share the same echoes of eden.

We can enjoy the creativity and works that others make as well. We can look with discernment and see where others connect sometimes unknowingly to the very ideas we celebrate in the gospel. For we all long for wholeness and goodness. We all look for someone to help make things right. We ache and groan with all of creation for the moment the King returns to make all things right.

Where do you see the echoes of Eden in the creative work of others?

 

 

 

1. It is an important principle to remember, in the contemporary interest in communication and in language study, that the biblical presentation is that though we do not have exhaustive truth, we have from the Bible what I term true truth. In this way we know true truth about God, true truth about man, and something truly about nature. Thus on the basis of the Scriptures, while we do not have exhaustive knowledge, we have true and unified knowledge.
(Francis A. Schaeffer, Escape From Reason, Ch. 2)