Noticed in November, Pt 8 :: “Don’t Wanna See You”

Though I’m collecting a list of songs I notice in November (hear them on Spotify), I’d like to submit a very special song today.

I’ve released a few singles lately, and this is the newest. It’s called “Don’t Wanna See You.”

You can get it—along with other tracks—on my Bandcamp site. Pay what you like, or just listen.

Another one coming in a few weeks.

 

 

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Noticed in November 5 :: Going to the Church

Here’s the latest in my series about music I’m noticing in November.

I have no idea how I discovered the Red Devils. I think I’d read some obscure article about a hard-core blues band in LA that Mick Jagger was watching at some club. At any rate, I bought this CD when it came out, and I’m glad I did because they only made one, a live one that is so raw and joyous. It is certainly one of my top 3-4 blues CDs. It’s sweaty  and smoky.

Here’s what this track tells me:

  1. There’s a difference between going to “church” and going to “church-AH”. I’m not sure what it is, but I know it’s real. In fact, I have been to both, but I’m not always sure how to make the “-AH” happen. Maybe someone should create a conference that teaches churches how to “add the -AH.” Someone get on that. Credit me when it’s done.
  2. You don’t ever need to change chords in a song.
  3. (Guitarists) You don’t ever need effects pedals.
  4. Simple music can be powerful.

I just love this stuff. It’s so stripped and, well, honest. You just don’t hear much music like this anymore. These guys tore it up, and did it about as close to the bone as you could.

There are actually YouTube videos of these guys, but make sure you check out the CD track. They really captured some mojo on that one.

 

Noticed in November 4 :: “Head On”

The latest song in November is by The Jesus and Mary Chain. Hear it (and the others) on Spotify.

In so many ways, and for better or for words, I “came of musical age” in the 1990s. Even then, my musical tastes were pretty wonderfully diverse: from Pearl Jam to Paul Simon, and lots in between.

Musically, I’m decidedly an anglophile—slap an English accent and sensibility on it, and I’m prone to give it a second listen.

In 1989 or 1990, I picked up Automatic, from The Jesus and Mary Chain, largely on the strength of the music video for “Blues From a Gun”. For some unknown reason, I’ve always been fascinated by music that brings together electronic and decidedly human elements. The Jesus and Mary Chain did just that: they layered loud, distorted guitars over really basic drum machine patterns. From a songwriting perspective, they sounded like they were reinterpreting the Velvet Underground and classic rock and roll melodies and themes through much louder amps.

I was listening to this the other day for the volume and energy of the whole thing, but I also got to thinking about that point of intersection between humanity and electronic elements. It reminds me a lot of my own spirituality, in a way.

“Being human” is always a dance between divine and being, well, “not-so-divine.” That’s an uncomfortable notion for some of us: we’d rather be all of one thing (or the other), but life just isn’t that. We are electronics-meeting-guitars; divinity meeting blood-and-guts. Saints meeting sinners.

(Ironically, my first band didn’t realize that a human drummer doesn’t sound the way a drum machine sounds; we tried to cover a few of the songs on Automatic, and just couldn’t figure out why they didn’t sound right.)

The collision is exhilarating, but sometimes frustrating. I really wish I could just get the whole “saint thing” right and be done with it, or just surrender the “saint thing” and just admit my humanity, giving up on the idea of ever changing.

For some reason I can’t. I have to keep heading back into that tension.

Makes you wanna feel // makes you wanna try
Makes you wanna throw the stars from the sky…

 

Channa Masala and the Myth of the Super-Disciple

Here’s what you must know first: I really, really like Indian food. photo-2

So when a buddy of mine forgot about a lunch appointment we were supposed to have at an Indian restaurant in town, I wasn’t about to shrug my shoulders and say, “Oh well, guess I should go on back to my office.”

No way. I was going to stay and enjoy that lunch buffet.

While I sat and enjoyed my tandoori chicken and naan, I started reading a book by one of my favorite authors: Future Perfect by Steven Johnson. Johnson perfectly fits my idea of interesting reading: his work is multi-disciplinary, makes unexpected connections, and is built around what makes ideas great and compelling.

He starts off the book by telling the story of US Airways flight 1549, the “Miracle on the Hudson,” when Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger managed to successfully land a damaged airplane on the Hudson river in New York with all 155 passengers safe. Though it was truly an amazing act of piloting, and “Sully” made a great hero—humble and relatively quiet, and committed to being good at his vocation—Johnson goes deeper behind the story.

You see, Sullenberger (and flight 1549) was indeed a talented and composed pilot. But, as Johnson points out, there was a lot more going on here than just Sully’s grace under pressure. Actually, Sulllenberger’s actions on that morning were the culmination of decades of research and behind-the-scenes engineering, all of which enabled the pilot to make the “in the moment” decisions that saved those passengers lives.

(Hint: it was all about chicken guns and fly-by-wire technology.) 

 

This just in: none of those engineers were being interviewed on cable news shows.

Instead, decades of men and women simply went to work and thought about little ways to make flight better and safer.

And then when it mattered, it all came together.

Are they any less heroes?

There’s an assumption that the one with the most “face time” is the hero. They are the ones who have done all the right things in order to make things happen (or make things not happen, as the case may be). These heroic mean and women—even truly humble ones like Sullenberger—are celebrated as “just-a-bit-better-than-everyone-else” people.

But are those nameless engineers and manufacturers any less responsible for those 155 passengers still being alive?

Sullenberger is definitely a “hero”, but he is not the only one. Little decisions and efforts get made over months and years and decades that put people like him in position to win.

Sometimes people of faith get hung up on the “super disciples” around us. Whether it’s people from the Bible (like Peter, Paul, or John), or other really, really good people we’ve heard about (like Mother Theresa, or Billy Graham, or Desmond Tutu), it’s easy to get caught up in their stories, or in their charismatic personalities.

Maybe, if you’re anything like me, it’s even tempting to somehow start thinking that somehow they got an “extra dose” of God’s Spirit, something that’s allowed them to do the things they did and think the thoughts they did.

But it’s simply not like that.

Sure Paul looms large in the Bible. But if you just read his letters you know he didn’t do it alone: that he traveled with people, and had key helpers with him as he did his ministry. Some of their names ended up in our pages (Priscilla and Aquila, Junia, Tychicus [my favorite]), but a lot of them probably didn’t. 

Yet they were with Paul. Helping. Doing the work when he had moved on to other cities. Some of them may have even had preliminary conversations with their communities before Paul got there, so that they would have context for what he was talking about.

In other words, they help “set the table” so that Paul could succeed.

What are their names?

I have no idea.

But they absolutely made a difference.

And they are absolutely heroes.

Sometimes the person that gets the most prominent billing is not the only one responsible for the victory, or for averting a disaster. Sometimes there’s another story that is just as critical, just as important to the success as the decisions that are made in the moment.

The point that I’m trying to make is that when faith becomes “big business”, and when we become exposed to all of the gifted and talented Christian teachers, preachers, writers, musicians, etc., etc., we can allow this thought to enter our head that says that somehow they are “just a little bit more” than us. They are Christians, but moreso: somehow they got that extra dose of the Spirit.

That’s simply not true. Paul writes in Romans 8 that the same power that raised Jesus from the dead lives in us: the church.

That means everyone has the same spirit. We may all be at different parts of our journey, and we all have different gifts, but we should never assume that the man or woman doing all the interviews is the “most gifted”, or the only hero.

We are all heroes.

I love Indian food.

And this David Bowie song.

 

 

 

God’s Architectural Sensibility

My family and I just got back from a vacation in London and Paris. My wife and I just celebrated 20 years of marriage, and we decided that rather than get each other gifts, we would instead do something that would involve our kids as well, and so we decided to experience these two great cities for roughly four days each.

We took in museums (The British Museum, Tate Modern, Louvre, Orsay) and historical sites (The Tower of London, Versailles), and in general just soaked up the vibe of both places by walking (a LOT) and eating as much like “the natives” as possible.

Though London and Paris are in ways utterly unique (London has much more modern architecture, to my eye), both cities also feel remarkably similar in a way.

There is a phenomenon in architecture called “Human Scale”, which says essentially that human beings have a natural sense of appropriate building and street size in relation to ourselves. If buildings are too tall and streets are too close or narrow, most of us feel hemmed in and claustrophobic. If they are too low and too far away from the sidewalk (hello, suburban America), we experience a sense of disconnectedness from our immediate environment.

When there is appropriate relationship between humans and their built environment, we feel encouraged to look in windows, to slow down, to interact with each other and the stores, businesses and restaurants around us.

Things feel right.

I think it’s that way with God.

In a couple places in the Bible, we are told that God is a “consuming fire” (Deuteronomy 4 and Hegrews 12), and it’s easy to understand that God is transcendant and big, and our “human scale” to Him is way out of wack.

Luckily, God understands architecture.

I think God gives us a spiritual “human scale” in two very profound ways.

First, He provided His people with things like the Ten Commandments. (By the way, the Ten Commandments make up what some of us know as “The Law”, but a better way of understanding the Commandments is to think of them as “The Instruction”; it’s actually a better translation.) Saint Paul says in Galatians that the Law was “our custodian” (3v24).

In other words, the Law—the Ten Commandments and other specific instructions from God—help us “scale down” God’s character to something that we can more easily relate to.

But God goes further.

Paul also writes in Colossians, “The Son is the image of the invisible God, the one who is first over all creation” (1v15).

The most “human scale” element of God’s doing is, in fact, Jesus.

In a way, the glory and power of God is simply too much for us to bear; our humanity has no basis for understanding or coping with it.

It is way beyond human scale.

But God—in His great grace and mercy—remakes the spiritual architecture of the universe so that we can better relate to Him.

The temptations are still there: open up the spaces too wide (with no appropriate “confinement”) and we become disconnected to our environment, to the world in which we live and move. Our spirituality becomes abstract and centered around “getting to Heaven” when we die. Shrink the spaces too much and we become focused on “following the rules” and performing for God while ignoring the heart transformation that He offers us.

But when you get it right—when the Human Scale is appropriate—it feels great. You are connected to the environment, and your spiritual life is vitally connected to the world around you. You are in community, relating to the world around you as God works in you and shapes your heart.

Like walking down the Champs Elysses or The Strand.

The Grammies and Satanic Goat Statues: Not Surprised

So I spent last week in a seminary class on Christian Ethics. The class began the morning after the grammies, and not surprisingly the class opened with some alarmed comments about the shenanigans of the night before.

(Disclosure: I declared the Grammies dead and irrelevant after the 1991 “Jethro Tull/Metallica” debacle, though I showed a brief revived interest with 2007’s “duets” idea.)

At any rate, some folks in the class were “shocked” and “appalled” at some of the performances.

Which made me think of satanic statues.

(As you do)

Lately, some pagan—and even straight up satanic—groups (I’m not using these terms pejoratively: they are self-identified pagans and satanists) have petitioned to have monuments and statues placed on courthouse and state lawns alongside “Christian” symbols (you can read the story here).

Ahem.

So I know that I’m supposed to be angry and indignant at this outrage, but I’m really not.

(Well, excepting the fact that the statue is actually quite hideous and ugly… THAT is quite disappointing.)

You see, I like it when people and institutions “show their cards.” When they take off the masks they wear and just declare, “This is who I am: deal with it.”

I like it because then I know a little more of the truth, and I can choose to accept it or walk away from it.

But at least I know.

In these two cases—the Grammies and these petitions—the music industry and our culture—are “showing their cards.”

Church (and I mean everybody): they are not our friends. We should not be surprised.

I don’t mean in a “get-scared-they’re-coming-to-take-me-away-and-oh-please-Jesus-come-back-it’s-the-Left-Behind-series-starting-where-is-Kirk-Cameron” way.

I mean a little more in the “raise-eyebrow-roll-your-eye-turn-off-the-TV-and-read-a-good-book-or-better-yet-have-a-conversation-with-your-actual-family” way.

Let me be really blunt:

  • The Grammies—and the music industry—exist for pretty much one reason: to make money. While they occasionally make a reference to “values”, and while people may occasionally thank God during an acceptance speach, if the industry has to choose between a dollar and Christian values, they will choose the dollar. They are obligated to.
  • The state exists to be a political entity. It has to perpetuate that system. If you know history—at least anything besides recent North American history—you’d discover that the “State” is no friend to faith. Because of the unique era of history that we’ve lived in, it’s easy to believe that our (awesome) political system is an ally of our faith, but that’s an illusion that most of the world does not live in (for that matter, it’s an illusion that most of the history of the Church doesn’t share, but see below).

(This is probably the time that I’d say I don’t believe in a “Christian nation.” I believe in Christians who may be part of shaping a nation, (but really, have you seen the “Jefferson Bible”?) but largely Christianity and politics have been disasters (#Calvin’sGeneva #Rwanda).

Now, in regards to the State, there is some good news:

This is not new.

Our New Testament was written in an era where the State and Roman culture dominated the landscape. But there are repeated reminders that culture, and in particular the State, do NOT have the same interests as Jesus (and His church).

Here are three of my favorites:

1.
In Matthew 2, the magi show up and tell Herod that the KING OF THE JEWS has been born. “When King Herod heard this, he was troubled, and everyone in Jeruslam was troubled with him.” (2v3) Why? Because if someone else (namely, Jesus) is King, it means Herod is not. It means that there’s a new king, and he’s coming to Jerusalem to shake things up. Things are about to change. You have to understand that the Jews (and the Christians) of the 1st century didn’t hear “King” like we do, as a private, faith-filled term. They knew their king ruled. Like really. Externally. Visibly. (It goes without saying that we should realize that Jesus is a real, ruling, living King.)

2.
Mark begins his gospel like this: The beginning of the good news about Jesus Christ, God’s Son…” (1v1) The Greek word for “good news” is euangelion which, oddly enough, was used by the Roman state to announce a military victory. It seems that what Mark is saying is that Jesus as the Messiah means that a visible, military victory is going to be one. It means that Jesus’ “kingdom” (state) is going to be the new reality.

3.
Saint Paul probably knew this more than any of the writer of the New Testament. He was a Roman citizen, after all, and so he was quite aware of its agenda, and he knew it was not Jesus’ agenda. In 1 Thessalonians he is writing to a church about the time when all things will be resolved, a final time when Jesus will bring all things visibly together. He writes this odd phrase: “When they are saying, ‘there is peace and security,’ at that time sudden destruction will attack them, like labor pains start with a pregnant woman, and they definitely won’t escape.”

Here’s the thing: “PEACE AND SECURITY” WAS A ROMAN SLOGAN. It was meant to remind people, “Hey, your peace, security, and well-being all come from Rome. (So keep supporting us.)” Paul is saying though, “Actually the folks—the state—who are saying we will provide your peace and security are deceived, and they are not your friends.”

For Paul, Rome was no friend of Jesus Christ and His church (though Paul was not above giving sensible advice to living under authority: see Romans 13).

I think the same is true for us today. We shouldn’t be shocked when we see ridiculous behavior on the Grammies, or ugly public art (though I’m sure we Christians have created our share).

To me it’s just those institutions showing their cards.

They are not my friend, and their agenda is not the Church’s agenda.

So get over the shock, and keep on walking, folks. We still have work to do.
+e

Actually, Cover Bands DO Change the World…

via Wikipedia

via Wikipedia

One of the great slogans in the Seth Godin/Linchpin world (which I actually enjoy poking around in) is, “Cover bands don’t change the world.”

It’s a call to be unique to seek to strike out to do something bold and new in the world, to be disruptive, to reach for something that’s never been done.

It’s also obviously a bit of a slap in the face to anyone who may be a feeling slightly more conservative or iterative. Folks who are not as “disruptive.”

(It’s also an insult to cover bands, but who’s counting?)

As usual, the truth behind the slogan is a bit more cloudy, because in a sense cover bands have changed the world, and actually continue to do so, primarily because many of the most iconic and world-changing bands in rock history started out as cover bands.

Beatles? Cover band.

Stones? Covered blues.

The Who? They called their versions of Motown songs they covered, “Maximum R&B”.

The Band? Started out playing rockabilly covers in honkey tonks all over the midwest.

James Brown? yup.

(Now, I get that these artists are all “old guy” bands, but I’m taking the approach that the verdict is still out on how much Arcade Fire, The National, Coldplay, etc. are going to change rock and roll. That being said, I know the Black Keys at least know blues really deeply, and I’ve heard at least a couple covers from them.)

Now,I get what Seth is saying: you really do need to find your own unique voice. But here’s the deal: all these artists who later changed the world were cover artists for a significant and formative time in their career.

So what’s the point? Well, I’m not just being contrarian. Being in a cover band has its advantages, and in fact provides critical experience for working your craft.

Because when you’re in a cover band, you get to learn

You get to learn what makes a great song…

You get to learn how to work in a group with others…

You get to learn how to work a crowd…

What gear works in a bar, versus in your bedroom…

What outfit looks ridiculous on you…

Don’t get me wrong: aspiring to something great is absolutely critical and something to be encouraged.

But before you change the world you might want to be good at your craft. Lots of bands start out wanting to change the world, but their ambition greatly (and almost tragically) outstrips their ability.

So maybe you’re in a “cover band” right now…

… Maybe the organization you’re in isn’t as wildly creative as you’d like;

… Maybe the position you’re in isn’t the perfect fit;

… Maybe your platform isn’t in front of the “right people” yet.

If this is the case, than here’s what you do:

  • You get better. 
  • You dig in and learn. 
  • You figure out how to with others (particularly a drummer who doesn’t keep time well and a singer who doesn’t always sing on pitch).
  • You learn what “excellence” looks and feels (tastes and sounds?) like. 

Your “cover band moments” are not wasted. They can be the crucible, the workshop that helps you develop and hone your craft for the moment when the world comes calling, and needs you to give something to it.

… Now go practice.

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If You Want to Be a Disciple, Learn to Dance

How Music Works

How Music Works

I’ve been so excited to get this book, and so far it’s been pretty rewarding. I’m actually not a huge David Byrne fan, but I just love people who pursue—and think and write about—creativity with few borders and labels. Byrne’s career has been awesome to watch, while he veered from New Wave and Alternative with the Talking Heads into some kind of Latin/dance explosion and then beyond.

Typical for me, I read something that struck me as related to spirituality. He describes preparing for a tour with a choreographer:

“Noémie began with an exercise I’ve never forgotten. It consisted of four simple rules:

  1. Improvise moving to the music and come up with an eight-count phrase. (In dance, a phrase is a series of moves that can be repeated.)
  2. When you find a phrase you like, loop (repeat) it.
  3. When you see someone else with a stronger phrase, copy it.
  4. When everyone is doing the same phrase the exercise is over.”

I think this is a great way to pursue a spiritual, Gospel-shaped life.

God sings this song; it’s a song of redemption and restoration. A song of absolute love and acceptance.

Music is meant for response. The best songs grab something inside of us.

For Believers, this Gospel-song is the highest form of musical expression we could hear.

All of us are called to this melody, this tune that has been sung through the ages.

But after responding, our job is not yet done.

Two things cause an exercise like what Byrne describes to fail:

  1. When you take no notice of anyone else’s dance.
  2. When you refuse to acknowledge the strength of someone else’s dance.

We do not do this dance alone. It’s not enough to celebrate our own response; we are knit together in these communities where others are responding, where we can notice and celebrate their responses as well as ours.

If we don’t notice other people’s response to the Gospel, it can become too easy to think that our dance is the best (only?) response to the Gospel-song.

We lose our perspective. Our dance is all we know, and we may be convinced that it is the only way to respond to the Song, but we also start to notice or suspect that something is not quite right: our sense of joy, or peace, or love seems lacking. Maybe we’ve noticed that it has become difficult to admit failure, or to ask for forgiveness from people we’ve hurt.

It’s times like these we need to maybe lift our heads and notice that others are dancing too.

They are dancing through consistent and fervent prayer; through passionate worship; through diligent study; through compassionate service; through committed community.

But even then job isn’t done, because we also have to be willing to—in the words of the exercise—notice the “strength” of someone else’s dance, and then submit to the strength of their dance. 

So often our ego gets in the way of our growth. We desire growth, but aren’t always willing to sacrifice our ideas of “how life works”—our dance—to someone else’s, even when we recognize the strength and success of that dance. 

As people of faith, we recognize that Jesus has the strongest dance of all, and we need to adopt his movement into our lives. But more immediately there are people in our midst who are responding and moving to the Gospel song, and we should readily recognize when their dance is stronger than ours, and then adopt it.

We think we know how to pray/worship/study/serve, but maybe we notice that someone else’s dance in this area is stronger than ours.

Are we willing to set aside our “dance”—the way we pray, or worship, or study, or serve—and adopt theirs? 

To admit that maybe we’re not as strong as we think we are in this area?

To say, “I want to know more. TEACH ME.” 

As we learn from each other, we respond to the Gospel Song in an organic dance of discipleship. It may not always be in unison, but it stems from the deep place of community. \

Who can you learn from this week?

… and now the multi-media portion… here’s some footage of David Byrne with some of the choreography…

… Here’s another track. Tacky fire suit, but great track; great energy.

… and lastly, classic Talking Heads

 

Jesus is SO Down With Marvin…

I’m journeying through Mark’s gospel with some friends, and we were talking this week about 2v13-22. Essentially, Jesus goes to this guy named Levi (no relation to my son) who is a despised and outcast member of his culture, and invites Levi to follow him.

Then, as if that’s not enough, Levi throws a part for a bunch of his friends and invites Jesus to it. His friends are, well, colorful. Scripture says they were “tax collectors and sinners.” Again, tax collectors were seen as corrupt and greedy, less than moral. The word “sinners” here is even more interesting. There were two different Hebrew words (and concepts) for our word here. The first word was ‘am ha’ aretz. This essentially meant “people of the land”. They were simple people, people who weren’t interested in the rigorous obedience of the Pharisees or the political change of the Essenes or Zealots, but they weren’t necessarily awful. 

The other possibility, however, is slightly more scandalous. The second word is resaim. This word means the wicked. It means people who aren’t even the slightest bit interested in being good, much less holy.

To be clear, we’re not sure which word is being used here, but one thing is clear:

Jesus is with them, either way.

And what’s more—what is really freaking people out—is what Jesus hasn’t asked of these tax collectors and sinners…

… He hasn’t asked them to get their lives straight first.

… He hasn’t shamed them.

… He hasn’t berated them for their lack of morals or for their “bad behavior.”

… He has a party.

So when people come up to Jesus immediately after this and ask, “Why do John’s disciples and the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast” (2v18), something very interesting is going on. You see, fasting itself was pretty common in Jewish culture; it’s actually common in many religious systems. There’s nothing wrong with fasting at all. But fasting typically has a specific connotation to it:

it’s associated with repentance. 

We’re told that John the Baptizer came “proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins” (1v4), and the Pharisees were desperate to see God act on behalf of Israel, so they pursued a pretty vigorous program of fasting and righteous (not so they could be buzzkills, mind you, but so God would come to Israel and set them free and bring His peace and shalom to His people).

But when Jesus shows up, he neglects the repentance part and goes straight to the party (his “repentance” in 1v15 isn’t so much about repenting of your sins as it is about rearranging your mind and your life to see the Kingdom in a new way).

He’s saying, “You don’t have to arrange your life to invite God into it; He will come into it just as you are. I don’t want to leave you unchanged; no one wants to be wicked, after all, but I’m coming to the party and you’re invited.”

So, incidentally, when Jesus talks about “unshrunk cloth” and “new wine” in verses 21-22, this is what he’s talking about: the “old way” is not  a bad way, but it really doesn’t fit reality anymore.

Jesus is here, and he’s having a party.

Are we inviting people to a party?

Or are we beating them up?

Or are we selling them “get-out-of-hell” insurance?

A friend of mine sent me this article this week, and it made me think of this passage of Mark and this blog post of mine.

Go read it, please.

….

 

Shouldn’t we be singing a better song?

 

I can’t help but read the words of the Grantland article and think about the way we do evangelism. Just reading the words in light of Jesus desire to throw a compelling party for people makes my heart ache for the way we should living with our friends.

Marvin said, “I asked God that when I sang it, would He let it move men’s souls.” 

Do we ask God to let us move men’s souls when we sing the Gospel song?

Or do we just ask for a sale?

Also note: lots of folks hated it. They were outraged. Marvin was corrupting, destroying the National Anthem.

But there other folks there too.

… and they heard that song, heard it in a new way, in a way that they never even know that they needed. Something welled up inside them. Everything that was old and tired about that song now seemed new and refreshing.

They got it.

And they wanted IN.

BLESSINGS.

*e

 

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What Beck Can Teach Us About the Bible and the Mission of God

Beck’s latest record, Song Reader, is a phenomenal example of innovation and new thinking in music-making in the 21st century.

You see, Beck released Song Reader not as a CD, or a download, or even vinyl, but as sheet music.

That’s so Gutenberg!

Let me be clear: Beck released Song Reader with the intention that the actual performance of the songs would be carried out by people who bought the music. They would determine the character of the songs, based on his suggestions and music (folks could then submit their performances).

It’s a lesson about so much: not only about how we used to consume music (sheet music used to be enormously popular in the early 20th century) but about what art actually is and where it “resides.”

But I’d like to suggest that Beck’s idea can teach us something compelling about the Bible.

N.T. Wright uses this great analogy about how the Bible for us is sort of like a script to a great play without a written ending. We’re stuck, right now, in the gap between what’s written and the ultimate fulfillment of our story (in Revelation 21).

And, as Wright puts it, it’s up to us to improvise. 

Now, we don’t improvise in a way that is inconsistent with what’s written before; but we also don’t simply repeat the earlier acts. We symbolically “write” our own stories into the play, knowing that eventually the whole thing is going to be resolved by Jesus.

In this same way, Song Reader reminds us that we have the opportunity to take the “song” that’s been given to us—the command to love God and love others—and perform it in new and compelling ways.

Our song may not sound like everyone else’s; it’s really not supposed to.

It’s supposed to be our “performance” of what’s been given to us.

Are you singing? Are you playing?