Friday, April 21, 2006

Modern Worship?

I've been arguing for a long time now that there are three types of "Christian" music. The first is the type that you probably don't listen to unless you're forced. It's hymns and organ music and what is common referred to as "sacred" music. The second is "contemporary" Christian music. Like praise bands and such--contemporary music that is intentionally "religious." Finally, there's contemporary music that happens to have religious significance. Sometimes I think it might even be unintentional. More often I think that these are the product of musicians who end up incorporating Christian themes and values into their music because they themselves are Christians. They're goal is not to create "Christian Music" per se, but in it creeps because of who they are.

Personally, I find that the latter situation speaks to me most powerfully (and consistantly). As you might have guessed, this leads to the burning of mix cd's for my personal enjoyment. Now, I can't copy music to send to you (that would be just a little illegal, all you former Napsters) but I can give you my playlist! I've even added some liner notes/quotes, so maybe you can see what I was trying to do.

So here's a playlist for a liturgical mix cd. Enjoy!

Prelude: Canon—Zox

Call to Worship: These Are Days—10,000 Maniacs
“It's true that you are touched by something that will grow and bloom
in you.

These are days you'll remember.
When may is rushing over you with desire to be part of the miracles
you see in every hour.
You'll know it's true that you are blessed and lucky…”

Invocation: Beautiful Day—U2
“Touch me
Take me to that other place
Teach me
I know I'm not a hopeless case…”

Confession: Until It Sleeps—Metallica
“Where do I take this pain of mine
I run but it stays right by my side
So tear me open, pour me out
These things inside they scream and shout
And the pain still hates me
So hold me until it sleeps…”

Assurance: Few and Far Between——10,000 Maniacs
“'Till you make your peace with yesterday,
you'll never build a future.
I swear by what I say.
Whatever penance you do,
decide what it's worth to you
and then respect it…”

Gloria: Gloria—U2

Passing the Peace: All I Want—Toad the Wet Sprocket
“All I want is to feel this way
To be this close, to feel the same
All I want is to feel this way
The evening speaks, i feel it say...

Nothing's so cold
As closing the heart when all we need
Is to free the soul…”

Hebrew Lesson: One——Metallica
(Job 3:1-26)
“Hold my breath as I wish for death
Oh please God, wake me…”

Church At Prayer: Objects in the Rear View Mirror May Appear
Closer Than They Are—Meatloaf

“But I can still recall the sting of all the tears when he was gone
They said he crashed and burned
I know I'll never learn why any boy should die so young…”

Carry On My Wayward Son—Kansas
“Carry on, my wayward son
For there’ll be peace when you are done
Lay your weary head to rest
Don’t you cry no more…”

Offering: Milkshake Song—Angry Salad
“And she gave me a milkshake and a kiss
I don’t need a whole lot more
And she gave me a milkshake and a kiss
I don’t need a whole lot more than this…”

Gospel Lesson: Are You Ready?—Creed
(Luke 11:9-10 & Luke 12:35-40)
“Hey, Mr. Seeker
hold on to this advice
if you keep seeking you will find
Don't want to follow
down roads been walked before
it's so hard to find unopened doors
Are you ready…?”

Sermon: Believe—Lenny Kravitz
“The Son of God is in your face
Offering us eternal grace
If you want it you’ve got to believe
‘Cause being free is a state of mind
We’ll one day leave this all behind
Just put your faith in God
And one day you’ll see it…”

Benediction: Love Will Come to You—Indigo Girls
“And I wish her insight to battle love's blindness
Strength from the milk of human kindness
A safe place for all the pieces that scattered
Learn to pretend there's more than love that matters.”

Postlude: “40”—U2
(Psalm 40)
“(sing this with me, this is 40)

I waited patiently for the lord
He inclined and heard my cry
He lift me up out of the pit
Out of the miry bog

I will sing, sing a new song
I will sing, sing a new song…”

Thursday, April 20, 2006

One Man's "Going Straight" Is Another Man's "Passing On The Left"

"Ed, I don't know if I'm going to be able to pick her up today," I say as I stare forlornly at the road. I've become fixated on the way the shattered plastic crunches as traffic slowly grinds it into the road. That's my plastic, I think dispationately. I wonder if I'm a little bit in shock?

Yeah, I probably am. Otherwise I might be pissed.

That intersection kinda sucks. Two side roads, but not directly across from each other, so if you need to turn left you have to cross the whole intersection first. The oncoming traffic almost always wants to turn left as well, and they almost always drift into your lane a little bit as they do it. So you have to jog to the right a little. To get past them. Before you turn left.

Which is all fine, as long as the guy behind you is patient. It's all good as long as the guy behind you pays any attention to your turn signal which says you're going to turn left. It's all good, in other words, as long as the guy behind you doesn't handle the situation by beeping at you and accelerating.

Cause if he does that, you turn right into him.

Then you get to watch your own signal light explode in a shower of orange plastic.

And then you get to pull over and wait for the police to come get "your side" of the story.

And you get to call your boss and explain why he has to go take care of transporting your parishioner from the hospital to the nursing home.

And then you can get to become fixated on the way the shattered plastic crunches as traffic slowly grinds it into the road.

That's my plastic,

What's taking the police so long anyway?

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

What the Hell? Literally?

So last night I was watching WWE wrestling, and...

Oh. Right. First I should step back and give you the Pro Wrestling apology. Here it is. Well, first, my brother and I have been watching what was then the WWF since the days of Hulk Hogan's heyday--back when it was tame enough to show on Saturday mornings and before they admitted that it was "fake." I put 'fake' in quotes because there is a sense in which what these entertainers do is very real. Even though these are stories, like a soap opera, with fantastic stunt work--the stunts can still be dangerous. Just ask Stone Cold Steve Austin, Droz, or the family of Owen Hart how "fake" wrestling is. The upside, however, is that these all represent accidents. Horrible and tragic accidents, to be sure, but none of these men came to their fate as a result of intentional malice. Can we say the same for boxing? Football? I'd rather watch pro wrestling than these "real" sports most of the time. It's almost like the two arguments against pro wrestling cancel each other out. Some don't like how "fake" it is, others don't like how violent it is. *shrug* If the violence is fake, and we can distinguish between reality and fantasy, then where's the harm?

So yeah, my brother and I have been watching together for years. We could practically write for the shows now--half of what we do when we're watching is saying things like, "Huh, I wonder where they're going with that." and "I wouldn't have gone there, I would have had this happen instead..." We find it fun to analyze, the plots are mostly simple, almost archetypal, with the one complication of crowd reaction. If the best plot in the world doesn't elicit a reaction from the crowd, it'll get changed or dropped in a big hurry. ...or, occasionally, if a story goes too far it will get yanked right quick.

An example: The character Muhammad Hassan. I'm a little sad that they pushed the character and the story line too far, as it was kinda brilliant. Muhammad Hassan was a controversial heel (think "bad guy") who raged at, well, everyone, for the way that he, as an Arab-American, has been treated since 9-11. He managed to garner heal heat from his bad reaction to a sad reality. The character and his story line was a cutting piece of social commentary that walked a very, very fine line. A line that was crossed when, after a horrible match, Muhammad's manager was carried "unconscious" from the ring in a manner similar to the way Muslims treat the body of a martyr. I was a little shocked at the time myself, but as it turned out, the timing couldn't have been worse--the episode aired right after the 2005 London bombings. Well... to make a long story short, Muhammad Hassan was pretty quickly written right out of existence. (Powerbombed through an open section of staging... literally disappearing from sight--and the WWE altogether.)

Interesting, huh?

So what's happening now, is a story line involving long-time headliner Shawn Michaels and none other than Vincent Kennedy McMahon! Yes, that Vince McMahon. The chairman and majority owner of the company. It's not the first time he's been on camera in a story line, and he almost always plays a heel. He's really good at it, too. But now... I don't know what he's up to. You see, Shawn Michaels is a fairly vocal Christian, and so, to garner heel heat, Vince has turned to intentional blaspheme. In fact, last night, Vince claimed to be the creator of his own religion, "McMahonism," wherein he is the god of all sports entertainment. He then begged God to strike him down.

Uncomfortable, no?

I'm still not sure if what happens next is better, or worse. Later in the episode, Vince ties Shawn up in the ring-ropes, and goes to get a folding chair (bane of all pro-wrestlers). Only a series of pyrotechnic displays keeps Vince from re-entering the ring.

That's right, God uses fireworks to save God's faithful butt-kickers from receiving chair-shots.

Never mind the fact that the format of wrestling doesn't really allow for deep exploration of the Christian religion--cause who wants to watch stuntmen turn the other cheek? No-one, of course, stuntmen should be doing stunts, that's what they get paid for. (I think the origin of Austin 3:16 is in the Stone Cold Steve Austin article, go look at that as an example of what I mean.) Never mind, even, the natural discomfort associated with watching someone even pretend to be so intentionally blasphemous. Never mind the question I want to ask (What church let Vince McMahon film in their sanctuary?)

What bothers me is that the story has essentially reduced the Divine to simple parlor tricks.

It may be fun for an Undertaker story line, but I have a feeling it'll get a lot of backlash for a story line about God!

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Easter Morning! (Early)

Good Morning! Happy Easter! He is risen!

Yesterday was a long day, but a good day. I performed my first wedding in the morning, and then in the evening we got another call from Kristy. She'd made some jewelry for Jenny (a belated wedding present) and wanted us to come out to get it. So here I am in the parking lot of a mall, getting my picture taken with Kristy. (Yes, this is normal for us.)

If you want to see the jewelry, you'll have to go visit my wife.

Now, on a normal morning, even a normal Sunday morning, I'd be dragging my half-asleep butt around the apartment, eating breakfast and getting ready right about now. But not on Easter! No sir! Easter is for getting up before the sun, watching it rise, and worshiping in the outdoor air!

The service was well attended and I thought it went really well, even if I do say so myself. Everyone seemed to enjoy my sermon, although I need to give credit where it is due. I preached over a piece by Martin Bell entitled "Wood and Nails and Colored Eggs," which was published in The Way of the Wolf. I can't speak highly enough of Bell's' work. It's really good stuff.

Well, two more services, and then some time to be unconscious.
God loves ya,
Be good to each other.
Rev. Josh

Friday, April 14, 2006

A Spell for Eric?

Eric? Spells? Hold on, hold on, I'll get there. But not yet. Yesterday was Maundy Thursday, the day that we celebrate the institution of the Lord's Supper (Communion, the Eucharist). It is a somber occasion, as it was also the evening Jesus was betrayed by Judas, abandoned by his apostles, arrested... well, you know the rest, I imagine. So what did I do during the day to prepare for this somber occasion?

I went to a casino.

Wait, wait, it's not as bad you think. An old friend with whom I am very close came home (she lives in a town North of where I did, and my parents still do) to visit with her father, who is not well. I'm going to try to be like Aslan, and not tell you someone else's story, so I'll just leave it at that. The point is, it wasn't a social visit, exactly. We met at the casino because it's about halfway between here and there, and I needed to cut down on travel time, since I needed to come back for two services last night (a healing service and the "regular" Maundy Thursday service). It was very good to see Kristy again, and I'm glad that I was able to take the day to go support her however I could. I'd be lying if I said fun wasn't had as well, but I'm of the opinion that fun is healing, too, so I don't feel guilty!

So we said our goodbyes and I trucked on home just in time for a bite to eat and to get dressed and go to the healing service, which was (and I am assured always is) very emotional and touching. Very powerful. If you have an opportunity to go to one, you should. Then there was a little time between services.

So I'm hanging out in my office, killing time, and in walks Eric.

Eric is great. I can't think of anyone in the congregation who would say anything snide about Eric. He's always employing his many talents for the church, and even though I've only been here since October, he's already helped me out (sometimes on very short notice) lots of times. Now, you can probably guess that Eric is a busy kind of guy, so we haven't had time to just chat in what feels like a long time, so I enjoy the opportunity to do so in this little time between the two services.

He asks me, "What's new?"

What's new are blogs, Jenny's and this one. Now, when I name my blog for him, he says something along the lines of, "Now, that's where your tastes and mine diverge. I never got into D&D or The Lord of the Rings or any of that. He starts telling me about the books he's been reading--and it turns out that I haven't.

"What we ought to do sometime," says Eric, "is you should give me one of your books to read, and I should give you one of mine. That way I can see the book through your eyes."

Yes. That's exactly what we should do. That's awesome. It's got me thinking, pondering, where do you start? Where did I start? And you know what? I know exactly where I got my start. My father gave me a copy of Piers Anthony's, A Spell for Chameleon and told me that he thinks that I would like it. I devoured it. But I'm not sure that A Spell for Chameleon is where I want to start Eric, I was just a boy when I read it, and, well... it's punny. The whole series has an inordinate amount, I mean a LOT, of puns.

When I make a firm decision, I'll let you know.

God loves ya,
Be good to each other,
Rev. Josh

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Random Acts of Knitting

I believe that despite the tendency to refer to clergy and their call to (for example) ordained ministry as "The Call," everybody has something they are called to do. Teaching is a calling. Nursing is a calling. Right? Well here's something else I believe about calling. Working retail is a calling. Slinging burgers is a calling. Working at the DMV is a calling. Writing, acting, programming violent video games... all those creative things that have no purpose but entertainment? A calling.

We all have our callings.

One of Jenny's callings is knitting. She heard the call and searched for its source, went through craft after craft until she hit knitting. And then it had her. Now she's involved with a shawl ministry group at our church (which she helped instigate) and if she has her way, the group will branch out into many more forms of charitable knitting. But that's not quite where I'm headed with this. I'm headed for... socks. Yup, socks. It's such a simple thing, but it strikes me as so powerful. She's been picking people, practically at random, and insisting that she needs to knit socks for them.

How cool is that?

I don't know what your callings are, but maybe it's knitting. If it is, consider committing a random act of knitting--pick someone, it doesn't have to be (and maybe shouldn't be) anyone you know very well--and make them some socks.

God loves ya,
Be good to each other,
Rev. Josh

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

So much going on! Last Saturday was awesome. Ok, so it had its ups and downs, but it finished well. We went to see Elizabeth play her own music at a young song-writer's event. Here's a pic of her singing Amazing Grace with Eric at my installation--we didn't think to bring the camara to the song-writer's event. She blew us away. You heard me right. Blew. Us. Away. I wish she had a CD so I could command you to buy it. She's that good.

You'll notice that my sidebar is different now. Or maybe you won't. But it is. I have a little copyright notice, so y'all can't steal my poetry 'n' stuff. (Hate to be paranoid, but... you know... they might be out to get me.) And there's my shining happy face at my installation.

Oh yes. And you'll notice that I've posted a picture. Yay me! (Soon the newness of this will pass and I will post stuff that's truly impressive. For now, you get this.)

Til then, May The Force Be With You!

Rev. Josh

Friday, April 07, 2006

Round Two... Fight!

I've already learned a lot, as you can see, I've been playing a little. It's still not exactly what I have in my head... if I'm ever satisfied I'll be sure to let you know. For now, though, I will not have oodles of time for exploration of all things blogging. You see, this Sunday is Palm Sunday, and it marks the beginning of Holy Week. Which means that I will be very, very busy. In fact, just to make things interesting, I have a wedding to perform on Holy Saturday, too. In fact, I picked up this wedding fairly late in the game. The pastor of the church up the road--er... wasn't a good fit for the church. I know him, he's a great guy, it just didn't work out, and it didn't work out quite abruptly. Anyway, the point is that I took this wedding for him, and that if I had my druthers it wouldn't be during Holy Week, but I wasn't very well going to say no!

Here are some suggestions for this last week of Lent, and then maybe a little something for Easter, too. If I knew all I wanted to, there'd be nice pics and links and so on... oh well, next time.

Neon Genesis Evangelion is an animated series from Japan (although there are a couple of movies, one that sums up the series, and one that ends it more spectacularly than the original last episode could) I know, I know, anime is expensive, but this one is really interesting. It draws from many different religion's imagery (Babylonian, Jewish, Christian...) and it has a lot (a LOT) to say about human nature that fits in well with the season of Lent. Besides, there are giant robots. Sort of. You'd have to see it.

Jesus Christ Superstar is a Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber musical about the last days of Jesus' life. I love this work for Lent, not just because it's a fun musical (which it is) but also because it depicts Judas Iscariat in an interesting and human light and leaves us with questions appropriate for the season. Is Jesus who He says He is? It ends with Jesus' death and does not comment on the Resurrection, which is another reason to view it during Lent.

The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe just hit DVD or it's about to, I forget, the point is to go buy it when you have a chance, and watch it on Easter. One of the most beautiful depictions of Resurrection comes from this classic from C.S. Lewis. Read it. Watch it. Love it.

Stay tuned, God loves ya, be good to each other.
Rev. Josh

Thursday, April 06, 2006

This is my very first post. I'm excited to get started, so many ideas flooding my brain, so much excitement... but I am getting ahead of myself. First, perhaps, an explanation of my blog's name. I thought it would be fun, and unique, to name my blog for several of the things I am (and love). I am an Associate Pastor in a UCC Congregational Church. I work in Christian Education, with Youth, I visit shut-ins, I preach, I teach, I make Julianne fries (not really). I love fantasy (hence the Dragon of my title) and science fiction (hence my Hyperdrive). I get really excited about the interaction of religion and spirituality and popular culture. And as I am of the generation with whom computers grew up (No, that's not a mistake. Computers grew up with me. In elementary school we were playing with Apple II computers, with those huge floppy disks that were actually floppy... but I digress.) this blog is a natural extension of my interest in that interaction. I have a lot to learn about blogging, and hopefully this site will get a lot prettier as time goes by--but for now, this is it!

Rev Josh