Friday, December 28, 2012

And the winner of The Year D Project's "Dead Horse Metaphor Award" for 2012 is

... "the fiscal cliff"!

[NB: No links provided. There are just too, too many, and I know you've seen them. Hence, the award.]

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Music for the Pastor's Study, Volume ... (I've lost count)

I've already mentioned Anthony Phillips in this series, but when Ant comes out with a new volume in his Private Parts and Pieces catalog, that is noteworthy indeed. Here are a few of the tracks (those that have earned five stars on my iTunes carousel) from his latest, Volume 11, otherwise entitled, City of Dreams.

The interesting thing about this album, if one scans the titles of all these instrumental tracks, is how difficult Ant apparently finds it to focus strictly on urban themes. That theme is held together by the undeniably metropolian artwork, and two series of tracks called City of Dreams (Parts I-IV) and Mystery Train (Parts I-III). Otherwise, the titles are often pastoral (Air & Grace, Act of Faith), rural or oceanic (Sea & Sardinia, Sunset Pools, Across the Steppes, Coral Island), and celestial (Sea of Tranquility, Astral Baths, Star's End, etc.). Even 39 Steps, for those familiar with the book and the movie of the same title, evokes more of a seaside setting than a cityscape. The technological and urban feeling is also anchored by tracks like Piledriver and Night Train ..., but one gets the sense that the latest addition to the Private Parts ... series would sound better in, say, an "HGTV Urban Oasis" than on the street itself. If one were to search Ant's impressive catalog for something comparable, the first stop should be PPP VII, Slow Waves, Soft Stars, for its ethereal use of synths and other electronic keyboards.

Merry Christmas to all

... but especially to the most frequent visitors to The Year D Project, namely, those in the following countries:

Top Ten (All Time)
1. US [NB: Far and away, the biggest source of traffic]
2. Russia [NB: Recently overtook Canada for the second slot]
3. Canada
4. Germany
5. UK
6. Netherlands
7. Ukraine [This was a happy surprise! Merry Christmas, Ukraine!]
8. Australia
9. France
10. South Korea

In the last month, however, we have seen more frequent visitors from:
India
Malaysia
Philippines,
even China

But, hey, when it comes to the good news of God's gift of a Savior at Christmas, it really is, "Peace on earth among people of good will" [en anthropois eudokias], no other boundaries or qualifications withstanding.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Christianophobia

You can read about this sobering assessment by Civitas here.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Call to Worship, Volume 46

I probably should have mentioned this a month or so ago, but Call to Worship is a helpful denominational (Presbyterian) resource, edited by David Gambrell, with associate editor (UDTS graduate) Jana Blazek, for planning worship in Reformed and Presbyterian congregations. It just so happens I contributed the Prayers of Confession for the current issue (Lectionary Aids for Year C, Volume 46). These, by the way, are not the same Year C prayers that I've been slipping in here on occasion.  

Monday, December 17, 2012

Praise the Lord for the life of Glendora Paul

Our good friends at Pittsburgh Seminary will host a memorial service today (December 17, 2012) for this gracious and mighty champion of Christian missions. Please join them in giving thanks and praise for her winsome witness and her many years of service to the King of kings. 

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Tax violent horror movies at 10 times earnings

Horrific as the shootings in CT are, the reactionary inclination to insist that gun control is the solution is at once predictable, impractical, and simplistic. The suggestion made by law professor Glenn Reynolds on an entirely different front: the need to increase tax revenues, namely, by eliminating the Hollywood tax cuts, applies here, only more so. I say tax horror movies and films that depict and exalt torture, abuse, and violence at 10 times earnings. Yes, people will remain constitutionally free to make such films, only — as with Obama's policy on building coal plants — "it will bankrupt them." In the meantime, it will both raise needed revenues, and clean up the culture of Hollywood, at least in part, by stripping the profit motive from those who think its cool to create and feed a culture of massacre, mayhem, and murder. For the fact is, it is not just children who imitate what they see.   

Friday, December 14, 2012

A parable of the atonement

Here's a sermon illustration for you, if there ever was one. How does God execute justice and show redeeming love at the same time? This story might give you an inkling. 

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Er, Sorry ... !?


Anne Lamott's new book, Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers seems to overlook one that has been rather important for those of the Presbyterian/Reform tradition. It goes like this: Sorry.

A quick search — yes, I confess I have not read what looks like a "quick read" book, only the free excerpts ... sorry! — shows the word only occurs twice in the book (once sarcastically, so that doesn't count). "Forgiveness" occurs once, "forgive" twice, "repent" once (but she soon retracts it). So, evidently "Sorry" is not a major theme, neither does it (for Lamott) constitute an essential prayer.

Lamott is a witty writer who evokes a lot of sympathy (I'm truly sorry about her cat, and the serial human losses she endures), and I don't wish to detract from what she has to say about Help or Thanks or Wow. But when it comes to what we consider "the essential," shouldn't the "Reform" tradition in the age of Twitter expect just a bit more — if only five more titular keystrokes — of its leading literary lights? 

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Tribute

Just a wee addendum to my earlier series on Music for the Pastor's Study: I am thoroughly enjoying this CD from Steve Hackett, entitled Tribute. One of his best, most consistently contemplative, in a long time. Lots of great material for exegetical brooding!




Hieropraxis

Hieropraxis is another cool website worth exploring. Subtitled "literature and faith, truth and beauty," it's a forum for a half-dozen or so astute poets and creative scholars from diverse backgrounds, but with an apologetic bent.

UPDATE: Link added at right.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Just ruminating ...

So, having cancelled my subscriptions to just about everything a while back, ... and having added back a journal or two (I have a soft spot for Journal for Preachers and Interpretation), I subscribed to Ruminate the other day. A visually cool journal of poetry, short stories, etc., it operates from an intentionally Christian worldview, without being all ... "you know" ... about it. (How's that for a deft choice of words?) Who knows? Perhaps some sympathetic ruminant will review my nifty new volume, The Just Quiet Wind.

UPDATE: Link to Ruminate added at right.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

"Sing to the Lord a new song"

Among the many challenges Year D presents, beyond the sermonic, is the fact that so many hymnals and songbooks overlook these texts as well. Search through the scripture index of your denomination's hymnal, and the odds are that, if the text is not in the lectionary, neither is it going to appear in your lectionary-based hymnal.

One of the wonderful things about the liturgical history of the church, however, is the fact that preachers who may not have had any particularly outstanding musical gifts, when they put their minds and pens to it, came up with some great hymns and spiritual songs, sometimes a tune, sometimes a lyric or psalm paraphrase, and in certain cases both.

Wouldn't it be cool if a gaggle of Christian songwriters, or a flock of shepherds, so to speak, applied themselves to the challenge of writing new hymns and songs based on Year D texts? Yeah, I think so, too. I say, go for it.




Friday, November 9, 2012

The Just, Quiet Wind

The Just, Quiet Wind is a little volume of my poems, mostly from 1994 to 2002, with a few recent editorial modifications, all but two of which are published here for the first time (on CreateSpace). The pensive, playful reader will find these imaginative, evocative poems, inspired by texts from the Revised Common Lectionary (Year B), distinctly beyond the liturgical pale, yet just as clearly within conversational proximity to the Scriptures that set them in motion.



Thursday, November 8, 2012

Kingdom Poets

In case you've never run across this website, Kingdom Poets, by D. S. Martin, you should bookmark it. Martin is providing a rich, valuable service here.

UPDATE: Link to Kingdom Poets added at right.

And the world's most persecuted religion is ...

Good for Angela Merkel for saying so.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The early morning sky

I don't have a camera capable of capturing what would not be all that arresting an image anyway, so ... there is no photo to go with this post. But, I just came in from walking the dog. To the west, the sky is clear as a bell: full moon, Orion in his proper place, just one jet trail skirting through Ursa Major, but otherwise, a sky unmarred. In the east, I saw the morning star, but only as a headlight through fog, the broad streaks of the outer bands of Sandy filling half the sky. Yes, Sandy. It is not the sight, but knowing whence those bands have come, and knowing: this is Iowa, west of the Mississippi. Lord, have mercy on folks in the eastern US, all of them, in Jesus' name. 

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Forever

Elizabeth Scalia (a.k.a. The Anchoress) has some thoughts on the new "Forever" stamp by the USPS. It really is lovely. In this day and age, it is a grace indeed that something as simple as a stamp can be used of the Holy Spirit to redirect our harried thoughts to eternal things. 

Monday, October 15, 2012

For capturing your sermons ...

Here's a list of top-rated digital voice recorders with USB connectivity, for small church pastors who have to act as their own sound technicians (and promise to do it unobtrusively), or for those whose sound techs may tend to fall asleep at the switch. This one seems to garner the best reviews:




UPDATE: There seems to be some question as to whether the above is Mac compatible, but this one seems to be:


Sunday, October 14, 2012

The state of the nation ...

Here is a perfect depiction of the state of the nation at present. A man in NC invites those concerned for the health of the nation to engage in a prayer walk for the healing of the land, citing 2Chron 7:14. It is a simple, earnest expression of faith and concern. He does not say, "Look at me," but rather,  "Join me, wherever you are, if you share my concern" (my paraphrase).

Then the first commenter tells him to keep it to himself, and cites Jesus as his authority for doing so. Evidently he has overlooked the key phrase in Jesus' instruction, "in order to be seen by" others (Matt 6:1). I read no such motivation behind Mr. and Mrs. Poore's letter. This detractor, Mr. Gay, should read Bonhoeffer's exegesis of the whole of the Sermon on the Mount (Matt 5—7) before he concludes that Jesus wants the entire Christian life to be lived sequestered in the closet.




Thursday, October 11, 2012

An excellent choice

I take the appointment of Craig Barnes to take the helm at Princeton Seminary as a most happy development. I'm happy to say I (along with gobs — or let's say, myriads — of other people, evidently) suggested his name to the committee. May God bless and watch over him, his family, and all in the Princeton Seminary community. It really is a very special place.

Friday, October 5, 2012

A petition worth praying at least as often as you pray the Lord's Prayer

Here is a worthwhile reminder about keeping first things first from colleague and friend, Chip Hardwick.

Just to reinforce the point, I often remind students of worship that Jesus' instruction to his followers to pray for laborers was no less normative than his instruction concerning the Lord's Prayer. Thus, if we pray the Lord's Prayer in Sunday service, should we not ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers every week? Or, if we pray the Lord's Prayer thrice daily (per Augustine), should we not ask for laborers just as often? What difference would it make? Let's find out, for Christ's sake! 

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Good news in the age of higher education bubbles ...

The University of Dubuque has been given an anonymous $12 million dollar gift, the annual return on which will be used to offset tuition. From the Dubuque Telegraph Herald:

“It’s the kind of thing that makes good schools better and improves the lives of students for years to come,” UD President Jeffrey Bullock  said. “We have an attitude of gratitude and a commitment to paying it forward. We believe in that, and when the students who benefit from this are in a position to help we hope they will.” 
In a statement the donor reflected on being the first individual in his family to have the opportunity for both a high school and college education, and many people supported that graduation dream. ... 
Bullock said other than Grinnell, every other Iowa college is tuition dependent. Bullock said the university is always cognizant of costs and its sticker price is one of the lowest in Iowa, but the board has set an aggressive goal for increasing the size of its endowment fund.
“We give away $13 million a year in student aid and it is our goal to increase the size of our endowment in a way that makes college more affordable,” Bullock said. “One of the ways to stay competitive is to offset the cost of tuition.”

One of the happiest things about this, of course, is the sense in which it runs counter to the general trend, as documented here. God bless this anonymous donor!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Liturgical Elements for Reformed Worship—Year B: When Heaven Stands Open


For those of you who are using Year B at the moment, here is a sample from the volume, When Heaven Stands Open: Liturgical Elements for Reformed Worship, Year B (Cascade Books).


Proper 21 — 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time / September 25 - October 1


    

Esther 7:1-6, 9-10; 9:20-22
Psalm 124
James 5:13-20           
Mark 9:38-50

In Preparation for Worship
You who are our help and stay,
who rescues us from the enemy,
who frees us from the fowler’s snare,
who spares us from the whelming flood,
you who sent your Son to save us,
we trust you with our lives.

Call to Worship                                   
Come, all who wish to act with mercy!
All who give but a cup of water
in the name of Christ will be rewarded!
Come, all who are sick!  Come, all who are suffering!
Come, all who are in need of prayer!
The prayer of faith will save the sick,
and the Lord will raise them up!
Come, all who are cheerful and who long to be righteous!
The prayers of the righteous are powerful and effective!
Come, all who wish to glorify God!
Anyone who does a deed of power can only praise the Lord!
Let us all sing songs in praise of God!
                       
Opening Prayer
Watchful God, if you had not been on our side, we would have been lost long ago. But our help is in your holy name; in you, the Maker of heaven and earth! We bless you, O God, our Creator and Keeper, for in Christ you have snatched us from the countless snares of sin and the raging tide of evil. 
           
Call to Confession
Whatever causes us to stumble along the journey of faith is to be thrown into the fire and burned. That we do stumble is undeniable. What then shall we burn? Let us not hide from God the sin in our lives. Rather, let us offer it up to be burned in sanctifying fire of the Holy Spirit, and ask for Christ’s purifying grace.

Prayer of Confession
Saving God, we confess that we have excluded others because we have not considered them a part of us. We are quick to find fault with people of difference and slow to admit the good that you do through them. Reform and renew our sinful hearts, and help us to love you and all your people with greater humility.

Declaration of Forgiveness
Be at peace with one another. God has preserved and saved you. Live life now on your guard against sin, making prayer and obedience to Christ’s rule of love your top priorities.  Support one another. Keep each other from stumbling. Be healed of all that has weighed heavily on you. And do not return to your former ways.

Presentation of Tithes and Offerings
How better to remember God’s kindness to us than by sharing our gifts with one another and with those in need. Let us celebrate God’s goodness. Let us rejoice that the risen Christ has turned our despair into hope, our depression into joy, our mourning into the dawning of a new day. Let us offer our gifts in the Spirit of Christ.

Prayer of Dedication
For every reprieve you have granted,
for every blessing bestowed,
for every breath you have given,
for every debt now paid, once owed,
for every sign or glint of heaven,
for earthly love and suffering,
for every heart of sin repented,
O Blessed God, for every grace, we thank you,
and we offer you these signs of our love, in Jesus’ name.
           
The Blessing
Find your help in the name of the Lord, who made of heaven and earth.
Place your trust in the name of Christ, who died and rose for you.
Discover your power in the Holy Spirit, who meets you in prayer,
who stirs in you a desire to pray,
and may your life in the kingdom of God be renewed.

Monday, September 17, 2012

OK, so what would Year E look like?

I'm glad you asked. In the Introduction to Year D, I suggest the ideal of a seven-year lectionary (see Deut 31:10-11), and offer a few criteria for Years E through G.

As you may know, Year D does not really address the problem of Acts or Revelation, each of which are treated by the RCL as an epistle, even occasionally using Acts in lieu of the Old Testament, a decision that suggests certain undertones of Marcionism. I would suggest, by contrast, treating Acts as the Gospel for Year E and Revelation as the Epistle. This pattern would carry through the entire year, more or less continually, and without any obligatory sense of a need to tie them together, although the juxtaposition may well (and often does) prove very interesting.

To address the problem of the Psalms which are pretty thoroughly represented once Year D is added, I've suggested working with other poetic material from the prophetic oracles and the wisdom literature.

Meanwhile, since the untreated Old Testament material is so vast, I've suggested two parallel tracks for Year E — yes, a choice would have to be made — which I label OTE1 and OTE2. Furthermore, each track would have to be developed as "episodic," taking into account the fact that an event or episode may span several chapters, in which case the preacher would likely need to select the verses to be read much more narrowly, and devote a significant portion of the sermon to placing things in context.

By the way, take a moment to read through the lections from Ruth (First through Third Advent) as is, with all the RCL verses omitted (skipping even the bits in parentheses, which are provided for context, but are also bracketed so as to denote their prior representation in RCL). I find this obverse reading quite interesting, in that, anyone who is at all familiar with the story (esp. by way of hearing it read via the RCL) will find the whole well represented by this partial reading. The impression one gets is of a tapestry that reveals the same pattern on the back as on the front, even if the reverse is the less finished or formally presentable side.

Here is a sample you may wish to consider for this coming Advent and Christmas.



The Advent-Christmas-Epiphany Cycle

The First Sunday of Advent
OTE1: Genesis 12:10-20; 15:13-16 (18-19) 20-21
OTE2: Ruth 1:19-2:23
Song of Solomon 1:1-8
Acts 1:1-5
Revelation 1:1-3

The Second Sunday of Advent
OTE1: Exodus 1:1-7; 2:1-25 OR 6:14-27
OTE2: Ruth 3:6-4:12 (13-17) 18-22
Song of Solomon 1:9-2:7
Acts 1:6-11
Revelation 1:4-6

The Third Sunday of Advent
OTE1: Exodus 3: (13-15) 16-22; 4:18-31
OTE2: 1Samuel 1:1-3 (19-20) 21-28; 2:11, 18-21, 26; 3: (19-20) 21-4:1a
Song of Solomon 2: (8-13) 14-17
Acts 1:12-14
Revelation 1:7-8

The Fourth Sunday of Advent
OTE1: Exodus 5:1-23 AND/OR 6:1-13, 28-30; 7:1-13 OR Numbers 24:15-19
OTE2: 1Samuel 2:12-17, 22-25, 27-36 AND/OR 4:1b-22
Song of Solomon 3:1-5
Acts 1:15-26 AND/OR 9:10-19
Revelation 1:9-16

Christmas Eve
OTE1: Exodus 10:21-11:10; 12: (1-2) 15-31
OTE2: 1Samuel 5:1-12; 6:1-22; 7:1-2
Song of Solomon 3:6-11
Acts 1:9-11 OR 2:1-21 [AND/OR Matthew 1:18-25; 2:1-12]
Revelation 1:17-20 OR 12:1-9 (10-12) 13-17 OR 21:1-8

Christmas Morning
OTE1: Exodus 10:21-11:10; 12: (1-2) 15-32
OTE2: 1Samuel 5:1-12; 6:1-22; 7:1-2
Song of Solomon 3:6-11
Acts 1:1-21 OR 2:22-36
Revelation 1:17-20 OR 12:1-9 (10-12) 13-17 OR 21:1-8

Christmas Day
OTE1: Exodus 10:21-11:10; 12: (1-2) 15-32
OTE2: 1Samuel 5:1-12; 6:1-22; 7:1-2
Song of Solomon 3:6-11
Acts 2:22-36 AND/OR 2:36-47
Revelation 1:17-20 OR 12:1-9 (10-12) 13-17 OR 21:1-8


More to come as time allows ...

Saturday, September 15, 2012

First they came for the film makers ...

OK, that's not quite the way the famous Martin Niemöller quote starts, but it's close enough. 

As an Iowan with no party affiliation, an academic, and a member of a mainline ("liberal") Christian denomination — not an insignificant demographic — I know how I'm voting: I will vote for the candidate I think will actually preserve, protect and the defend the Constitution ... 

Meanwhile, here's another home run from David Solway

UPDATE: Some similar thoughts from the always astute Roger Kimball.

A COUNTER-POINT or SOMETHING: Here is an explanation of why this author called for the arrest of the film maker, which, while it may explain her frustration, does nothing apart from offer non-sequiturs as to why she thinks the man's first amendment rights should have been suspended. The obvious question then is, should Bill Maher not then be in jail, and the silly folks at Comedy Central, and on and on and on? Somebody once said the United States is "a nation of laws, not of men." Perhaps they should have added, not of "feelings." O when will the church find the courage and learn to preach "Christ the Offense"?

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Thanks to Steve Thorngate ...

blogger at The Christian Century, for his kind expression of interest, and his question regarding possible implementation schedules for Year D. The short answer is that I have addressed this in Appendix C of Year D: A Quadrennial Supplement ... . The longer answer is that, while the book bears the subtitle Quadrennial, in fact the alternating option he suggests that retains the three-year "waltz" is one I have included there. The thing to bear in mind if going with a three-year alternating option is that a lot depends on when you begin. For instance, I had a post up a while back (since deleted) that presupposed (as I recall) an Advent 2010 start, since that would have followed on Year C and inserted D in lieu of Year A; thus: DBC / ADC / ABD / ABC. As it turns out, with the publication schedule for the book being Spring 2012, the first opportunity for integration based on the print source(s) would be this coming Advent, which assumes inserting D in lieu of C. Of course, there are a number of ad hoc or local options, too. But if anyone is especially worried about the cost to liturgical unity, I do think the musical/cross-rhythmic analogies (pp. 13-14) are very interesting, esp. when one considers what things might "sound like" from on high, as it were.

Thanks again, Steve, for the plug. I hope you like the book.


Friday, June 22, 2012

Best movie review I've read in a long time

... from one of those troublemakers over at Breitbart. A couple of memorable lines, from the review, that is, not the movie (in this case, Prometheus), include this definition of the term spirituality, which merits mention in some theological dictionary or other:
"Better to embrace spirituality – the welfare state of theologies. It asks nothing of you but supplies you with whatever you wish."
And this heuristic payoff:
"The answer to 'Where did we come from?' turns out to be some guys who are marginally taller than us and who have the complexion of a back-up singer for The Cure. And we, the audience, are sorry we asked."
Thanks to reviewer Kurt Schlichter for the warning, which only goes to confirm my hunch that I'm not missing anything. This is why I have not set foot in a theatre since, I don't know, Dawn Treader? Yep. I'm pretty sure it was Dawn Treader ... in 2010! (I am sorry for the waste of his $17 bucks, though. Really? Is it $17 bucks now? Sheesh.)

Monday, June 11, 2012

ATTN: International visitors

International visitors to The Year D Project may find the translation widget helpful. See the language selector in the upper left hand corner. It's fast!

While I can't guarantee the accuracy or fluency of these translations, I trust they will get you close enough to something that can be deciphered and honed to make these elements suitable for worship. I also hope this handy aid will increase the usefulness of this alternative lectionary year for brothers and sisters around the globe. It's not just the American church that needs these texts to resound anew!

UPDATE: And in case you are interested, since this site was launched, visitors have come from the following (top ten) countries, only three of which are predominantly English-speaking:

1. US
2. Russia
3. Canada
4. Germany
5. Netherlands
6. UK
7. South Korea
8. China
9. Ukraine
10. Brazil 

A great new worship solution for the gaps in the Psalter

Users of this site and readers of Year D will be familiar with the fact that a third of the Psalms are not represented in the Revised Common Lectionary, but that Year D gives the remaining Psalms a voice. One major problem for worship planning has been the fact that, if you wish to include a Year D psalm in worship, there are few settings of these excluded psalms available, since most recent denominational hymnals have tracked the RCL and favored the same 100 psalms the lectionary does.

Happily, for perhaps the first time in a generation, we have a useful compilation of musical settings for the complete psalter, edited by Joyce Borger, Martin Tel, and John Witvliet, namely, Psalms for All Seasons, ...



which contains multiple settings of all 150 Psalms. That is great news for users of Year D, who otherwise must resort to mining gems from the old Psalter hymnals from the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

This welcome resource is highly recommended! So highly, indeed, I'm placing a link to it at left, so that it does not disappear down the stack. It is just the sort of thing that renders Year D all the more useable.