Friday, April 22, 2011

Getting Back on the Bus: "Who Do You Say that I Am?"

Christ's death on a day with the most post-modern name I know of -- "Good Friday" -- is the summation of tragedy, the sucking of meaning from the world. After he is dead, the rest of us move on. But can we move on? How have we been affected? His death as well as his life speak to our own guilt. Open your eyes and look upon Him you -- you and I -- have pierced with our transgressions. His miracles, his Presence, His Love, His washing of our feet -- none of it was enough. We did as He knew we would do and demanded, then obtained, His Death. What came next had not yet happened, and for some of us has not yet happened now. Still, we seek to crucify Him.



John Chapter 19 (New Revised Standard Version)

1 Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged.

2
And the soldiers wove a crown of thorns and put it on his head, and they dressed him in a purple robe.
3 They kept coming up to him, saying, "Hail, King of the Jews!" and striking him on the face.

4 Pilate went out again and said to them, "Look, I am bringing him out to you to let you know that I find no case against him." 5 So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, "Here is the man!" 6 When the chief priests and the police saw him, they shouted, "Crucify him! Crucify him!" Pilate said to them, "Take him yourselves and crucify him; I find no case against him."

7
The Jews answered him, "We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die because he has claimed to be the Son of God."
8 Now when Pilate heard this, he was more afraid than ever. 9 He entered his headquarters again and asked Jesus, "Where are you from?" But Jesus gave him no answer.

10 Pilate therefore said to him, "Do you refuse to speak to me? Do you not know that I have power to release you, and power to crucify you?" 11 Jesus answered him, "You would have no power over me unless it had been given you from above; therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin."

12 From then on Pilate tried to release him, but the Jews cried out, "If you release this man, you are no friend of the emperor. Everyone who claims to be a king sets himself against the emperor." 13 When Pilate heard these words, he brought Jesus outside and sat on the judge's bench at a place called The Stone Pavement, or in Hebrew Gabbatha.

14 Now it was the day of Preparation for the Passover; and it was about noon. He said to the Jews, "Here is your King!" 15 They cried out, "Away with him! Away with him! Crucify him!" Pilate asked them, "Shall I crucify your King?" The chief priests answered, "We have no king but the emperor."

16
Then he handed him over to them to be crucified.

So they took Jesus;
17 and carrying the cross by himself, he went out to what is called The Place of the Skull, which in Hebrew is called Golgotha. 18 There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, with Jesus between them. 19 Pilate also had an inscription written and put on the cross. It read, "Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews." 20 Many of the Jews read this inscription, because the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, in Latin, and in Greek. 21 Then the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, "Do not write, "The King of the Jews,' but, "This man said, I am King of the Jews.' " 22 Pilate answered, "What I have written I have written."

23
When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his clothes and divided them into four parts, one for each soldier. They also took his tunic; now the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from the top.
24 So they said to one another, "Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see who will get it." This was to fulfill what the scripture says, "They divided my clothes among themselves, and for my clothing they cast lots." 25 And that is what the soldiers did.

Meanwhile, standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.
26 When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, "Woman, here is your son." 27 Then he said to the disciple, "Here is your mother." And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home.

28 After this, when Jesus knew that all was now finished, he said (in order to fulfill the scripture), "I am thirsty." 29 A jar full of sour wine was standing there. So they put a sponge full of the wine on a branch of hyssop and held it to his mouth. 30 When Jesus had received the wine, he said, "It is finished." Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

31 Since it was the day of Preparation, the Jews did not want the bodies left on the cross during the sabbath, especially because that sabbath was a day of great solemnity. So they asked Pilate to have the legs of the crucified men broken and the bodies removed. 32 Then the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first and of the other who had been crucified with him. 33 But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. 34 Instead, one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once blood and water came out. 35 (He who saw this has testified so that you also may believe. His testimony is true, and he knows that he tells the truth.) 36 These things occurred so that the scripture might be fulfilled, "None of his bones shall be broken." 37 And again another passage of scripture says, "They will look on the one whom they have pierced."

38
After these things, Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, though a secret one because of his fear of the Jews, asked Pilate to let him take away the body of Jesus. Pilate gave him permission; so he came and removed his body.
39 Nicodemus, who had at first come to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, weighing about a hundred pounds. 40 They took the body of Jesus and wrapped it with the spices in linen cloths, according to the burial custom of the Jews.

41 Now there was a garden in the place where he was crucified, and in the garden there was a new tomb in which no one had ever been laid. 42 And so, because it was the Jewish day of Preparation, and the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Songs for Lent #19: Andy McCarroll & Moral Support's "How the Kids Are Feelin'"

One of the premier Christian punk bands of the early 80s, Moral Support offered a Clashesque sound and highly articulate lyrics. This song reminds me that I must not get lost in my own sense of mortality, but should rather focus on "How the Kids Are Feelin'." Which reminds me that this hunger for reality, for meaning, starts very early. Lord, help me be ready to offer You, the Bread of Life, to the young (and their parents).

Songs for Lent #17 and #18: Mind Garage (1967) "Processional" and "Our Father" from "Electric Liturgy"

My love of psychedelic rock is fully met in this wonderful early, early example of faith meets amplification by the Mind Garage. The first song is a prayer...



And for perhaps *the* prayer, there's always "Our Father":

Songs for Lent #16: Soundtrack for Godspell's "By My Side"

In contrast to the "interested agnosticism" of Jesus Christ Superstar, Godspell borrowed heavily from Anglican hymnody for its message. Ambiguous at points, sure... but faithful. "By My Side" is to me the most haunting of Godspell's songs, and upon relistening to it I sense its heavy message of community -- we walk together through a life of light and shadows. In the movie, Judas' betrayal is announced during this song, and that makes the community message all the more poignant. "By My Side" is, in the end, a song of adventure... and a song of discipleship.

Dear Jesus, thank You for my sisters and brothers, who share my sorrows, failures, joys, and successes, giving my walk with You additional meaning. I am blessed to have them... in You.



Godspell - "By My Side"

Where are you going?
Where are you going?
Can you take me with you?
For my hand is cold
And needs warmth
Where are you going?

Far beyond where the horizon lies
Where the horizon lies
And the land sinks into mellow blueness
Oh please, take me with you

Let me skip the road with you
I can dare myself
I can dare myself
I'll put a pebble in my shoe
And watch me walk (watch me walk)
I can walk and walk!
(I can walk!)

I shall call the pebble Dare
I shall call the pebble Dare
We will talk, we will talk together
We will talk (chorus) about walking
Dare shall be carried
And when we both have had enough
I will take him from my shoe, singing:
"Meet your new road!"
Then I'll take your hand
Finally glad
Finally glad
That you are here
By my side

By my side
By my side
By my side

Songs for Lent #15: Soundtrack for Jesus Christ Superstar's "Superstar"

Jesus Christ Superstar (the LP) was for me as a young man a weapon to use against my Christian friend. I played it whenever he came over. It seemed to me an overtly agnostic, angry take on the Gospel Story. Over the years, however, as I've moved deeper in my own acceptance of the New Testament's narrative, Jesus Christ Superstar seems to me one of the most honest (and also contemporary, therefore immediate) tellings of that story.

Lord, help me not to be afraid to face my own doubts and fears about my faith in you. Help me to remember the agnosticism -- and also the anguish -- with which I initially faced You. Help me never to make of the Gospel Story a Hallmark Cardish, "Precious Moments" sort of narrative. Help me to know your humanity and your suffering every bit as much as I trust in and rely on your Godhood. Help me to remember what it is like to yearn to love you, yet be blocked from you by my own doubts, to indeed be asking "Who are you what have you sacrificed?" Give me compassion for others who likewise struggle in that way. Thank you for faith. Thank you for doubt, especially doubt when it is asking the right and most vitally central questions.



Voice of Judas
Every time I look at you
I don't understand
Why you let the things you did
Get so out of hand
You'd have managed better
If you'd had it planned
Now why'd you choose such a backward time
And such a strange land?

If you'd come today
You could have reached the whole nation
Israel in 4 BC had no mass communication
Don't you get me wrong
Don't you get me wrong
Don't you get me wrong, now
Don't you get me wrong
Don't you get me wrong
Don't you get me wrong
Don't you get me wrong, now
Don't you get me wrong

Only want to know
Only want to know
Only want to know, now
Only want to know
Only want to know
Only want to know
Only want to know, now
Only want to know

Jesus Christ
Jesus Christ
Who are you? What have you sacrificed?
Jesus Christ
Jesus Christ
Who are you? What have you sacrificed?
Jesus Christ
Superstar
Do you think you're what they say you are?
Jesus Christ
Superstar
Do you think you're what they say you are?

Tell me what you think
About your friends at the top
Now who d'you think besides yourself
Was the pick of the crop?
Buddah was he where it's at?
Is he where you are?
Could Muhammmed move a mountain
Or was that just PR?
Did you mean to die like that?
Was that a mistake or
Did you know your messy death
Would be a record breaker?

Don't you get me wrong Don't you get me wrong
Don't you get me wrong, now Don't you get me wrong
Don't you get me wrong Don't you get me wrong
Don't you get me wrong, now Don't you get me wrong

Only want to know Only want to know
Only want to know, now Only want to know
Only want to know Only want to know
Only want to know, now I only want to know

Jesus Christ
Jesus Christ
Who are you? What have you sacrificed?
Jesus Christ
Jesus Christ
Who are you? What have you sacrificed?
Jesus Christ
Superstar
Do you think you're what they say you are?
Jesus Christ
Superstar
Do you think you're what they say you are?

Jesus Christ
Jesus Christ
Who are you? What have you sacrificed?
Jesus Christ
Jesus Christ
Who are you? What have you sacrificed?
Jesus Christ
Superstar
Do you think you're what they say you are?
Jesus Christ
Superstar
Do you think you're what they say you are?

Songs for Lent #14: Jamie Owens-Collins "I've Never Had to Go This Far Before"

Jamie Owens Collins is far off my musical radar (I don't normally "do" ccm), but deeply touched my wife long ago at a moment when the ministry Carol was part of unexpectedly fell apart. Carol would sit with headphones on listening to Jamie's "Growing Pains" LP, and the music helped her slowly rise out of her depression. "I've Never Had to Go This Far Before" is a prayer for those struggling with unexpected downturns in their lives.

Songs for Lent #13: Gavin Bryars and unnamed hobo's "Jesus' Blood Never Failed Me Yet"

This strange song came about, legend says, when a short recording of a hobo's singing accidentally got "looped" by musician Gavin Bryars -- who then realized he'd stumbled onto something lovely. Various recordings of this, including one with Tom Waits dueting with the hobo's vocal, have been done.

Prayer: Let me love you, Lord, as the very poor and homeless love you.



Gavin Bryars and unnamed hobo:
Jesus' Blood Never Failed Me Yet

Jesus' blood never failed me yet
Never failed me yet
Jesus' blood never failed me yet
There's one thing I know
For he loves me so

Jesus' blood never failed me
Never failed me yet
Never failed me yet
One thing I know
For he loves me so

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Songs for Lent #12: Billie Holliday's "Strange Fruit"

Billie Holliday sings a crucifixion song. Prayer: silence.



Billie Holliday: Strange Fruit

Southern trees bear strange fruit,
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root,
Black body swinging in the Southern breeze,
Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees.

Pastoral scene of the gallant South,
The bulging eyes and the twisted mouth,
Scent of magnolia sweet and fresh,
Then the sudden smell of burning flesh!

Here is fruit for the crows to pluck,
For the rain to gather, for the wind to suck,
For the sun to rot, for the tree to drop,
Here is a strange and bitter crop.

Songs for Lent #10 and #11: Paul Robeson and Odetta "Motherless Child"

This song has, since the first time I heard it (Paul Robeson singing), haunted me. Rooted of course in the black slave experience, it speaks universally to human suffering and sadness and loss. Lord, help me to cling to you in those moments I realize there is an end to myself, an inability for me to travel on from the place I'm at. Help me to rely on your strength, and the strength of those you've given me to love me, and to abide in you at the moments of absolute weariness.

Paul Robeson:



Odetta (w/ interesting European Jesus movie clips):

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Despair's End

Another lyrical outing...

Despair's End


Jesus you are my floor
You are my walls
And you are my door
You are my windows
And you are my room
You are my stairway
You are my house
And the rock it sits on
Don't matter, boy... let the tears run out and down
I've nowhere else I need to be hide your head against me
Let the sorrows you feel be our shared companion
I'd gently remind you that there's nowhere I'd rather be
Jesus you are my eyes
You are my ears
And you are my sighs
You are my screams
And you are my words
Past this despairing
You are my dry lips
And you are my everything
Don't matter, boy... let the tears run out and down
I've nowhere else I need to be hide your head against me
Let the sorrows you feel be our shared companion
I'd gently remind you that there's nowhere I'd rather be
Jesus you are my sorrow
You hold my despair
And you are my Savior
I'm in your tender care
You are my Beloved
My faithful wounding friend
You hold my broken soul
Here at despair's end


(c) 2011 Jon Trott

Friday, April 15, 2011

Songs for Lent #9: Staples Singers' "Why Am I Treated So Bad?"

This song might seem like a self-pitying whine... but I don't think so. Sometimes a Christian really does feel beat down by his/her fellow believers... and sometimes he/she feels beat down by non-believing relatives or acquaintances. For sure, getting beat down does seem to be part of the Christian's job description. As the old preacher says, if you don't encounter resistance in your walk with Jesus, you probably aren't walking with Jesus!

Lord, help me to keep my eyes on you not on me. Help me to know the difference between whining and real persecution. And help me respond in Christ-like love no matter what. And Lord, help me answer the question "Why Am I Treated So Bad?" with the response, "Because you were... and I'm just trying to follow in your foot steps!"

By the way... aren't the Staples Singers just amazing?



Staples Singers - "Why Am I Treated So Bad"

Why, am I treated so bad?
Why, am I treated so bad?
You know I'm all alone as I sing this song,
Hear my call, I've done nobody wrong
But I'm treated so bad

I'm gonna walk out in the Master's name
Things I do, they seem to be in vain
You may be blind, you may be lame,
walk on out in the Master's name
Though you treaed so bad

Ooh ooh ooh ooooooh
Ooh ooh ooh oooooooh
oooh ooh ooh oooooh ooh ooh oohhh
you may be blind, you may be lame
walk on out in the Master's name
Though you treated so bad

Songs for Lent #8: Thompson Community Singers' "It's Gonna Rain"

The first time our own now-disbanded gospel choir, Grace & Glory, did this song I got absolute goosebumps. My wife and I, in a move that might have seemed odd to some, had G & G members do the song for our wedding. Strange to hear a joyful song about impending judgement, but there it is. And I don't think the emotions are misplaced. Lord, help me to "get on in this house" -- among your people -- so that I am not as vulnerable to my own stormy inner world or to the fiery rain of temptations which face me from outside directions. Help me find you among yours so I can tell those not yet yours about you... and find shelter.



Thompson Community Singers (Milton Brunson) - "It's Gonna Rain"

Sopranos:
Can't you see the clouds gathering?

Altos:
Don't let it be said too late.

Tenors:
There's a brand new feeling in the air.

Baritones:
Better run to the ark, before the rain starts.

Chorus:
(You better come on in this house),
(it's gonna rain), it's gonna rain.

(Rain down fire),
(it's gonna rain), come on in this house.

(Come on in this house),
(it's gonna rain), it's gonna rain.

(Rain down fire),
(it's gonna rain), come on in this house.

(Doors have been) opened wide open,
just call His name, don't wait too late
because it's gonna rain.

Vamp:
Come on follow me,
it's gonna rain.

Ending:
(Doors have been) opened wide open,
just call His name, don't wait too late
because it's gonna rain.

Terry Jones Demands Retribution for U.N. Deaths... that His Actions Triggered

Floridian Terry Jones calls himself a Christian pastor, but his actions in "trying" by jury (a jury made up of his own fundie congregation) and then burning a Qu'ran this March 20th in Gainesville were certainly satanic and had satanic results. Twelve people at a U.N. compound in Afghanistan died when a mob rioted over news of Jones' actions.

Now Jones demands retribution against Islamic countries for what happened to these twelve people.

Sorry, buddy. There's blood on your hands. Nothing will get it off. You grossly misrepresent Jesus Christ -- in fact, you do not represent Jesus Christ. You represent your own false gawd. "By their fruits you shall know them." We now know you.

Terry Jones Demands Retribution for U.N. Deaths - NYTimes.com

Thursday, April 14, 2011

What Is Cornerstone Community Outreach?

This ten minute introduction to Cornerstone Community Outreach offers an encouraging response to homelessness in Chicago... CCO is always looking for partners in empowering and equipping those who are on the margins of society. I'm a member of the intentional community (Jesus People USA) responsible for CCO's existence and outreach.

cco - cornerstone community outreach

For more on CCO's Outreaches, including ways you can help, see: http://ccolife.org

Strive4More: A Long-Distance Runner Ultra-marathons for CCO Shelters

Patrick “Paddy” McCormack is running 240 miles in 8 days. Why? There are over 80,000 homeless in Chicago. Half of those are families, and over 28,000 are homeless children. His goal is to increase awareness about the needs of the homeless, and to raise support on behalf of Cornerstone Community Outreach.

strive 4 more

For more info on Cornerstone Community Outreach and their work with homeless kids and families in Uptown Chicago, see: http://ccolife.org

Appeal for Help Improving Homeless Kids' Playground at CCO Shelter

Hey, here's something we can actually DO rather than just be bummed about... Cornerstone Community Outreach needs help improving the rooftop playground for the homeless kids CCO serves. Want to help?



For more on CCO's overall outreach, see: http://ccolife.org.

Songs for Lent #7: Bjork's "All Is Full of Love"

I'm a sucker for Bjork. And for an old metal head, that's something. "All Is Full of Love" may seem too ambiguous, too "easy" as far as theological truth goes. I'm not saying such a critique is totally off-mark. But for me, that ambiguity is something to not be afraid of. Love is larger than we imagine. God's love exalts us, breaks our hearts, seems hidden from us more often than not. Or maybe we're -- at least I'm -- blind to it? "You just ain't receiving." Lord, let me see your love shining through others, through this creation, through... myself. Let me allow it to do so.

By the way, I hate the high-production techno-robot themed video done for this song, which seems to me to nearly completely undermine the song's message. This live version, which quite appropriately takes place in a church, is far nicer.


Bjork - "All Is Full of Love"

You'll be given love
You'll be taken care of
You'll be given love
You have to trust it

Maybe not from the sources
You have poured yours
Maybe not from the directions
You are staring at

Trust your head around
It's all around you
All is full of love
All around you

All is full of love
You just ain't receiving
All is full of love
Your phone is off the hook
All is full of love
Your doors are all shut
All is full of love!

All is full of love
All is full of love
All is full of love
All is full of love
All is full of love