Monday, October 22, 2012

More important concerns

I have just finished (by the skin of my teeth?) a course in Historical Theology, on the Early Church. That would be, for purposes of the Historical sequence, the first four Christian centuries . . . just slipping over into the fifth century. Medieval course begins on Thursday.

The reading list for this course was fantastic, and the theological ground covered in eight weeks was really stimulating. Who was Jesus? What is the Trinity? How did the church grow by engaging with heterodox ideas? What is to be done with confessing Christians who make some concession - for political reasons or for personal safely - to pagan/political religion? What in the world were all those "councils" about, anyway?

Sitting here today, near the end of fall break, and realizing that when the Church had really important things to think about, the stuff our day tends to get hung up seem kind of silly. (Like, for example, the theme of this blog: church music!) In fact, many of those same issues are still current today, still challenges within and without and against the church.

But that won't keep me from being concerned about the issues that are closest to my heart and vocation. In fact, some of these issues are also traceable to theological problems in the early church. Onward!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Where I belong

Comments I made at my farewell service, College Church, 7 October 2012:

Somewhere in a burst of glory, sound becomes a song.
I’m bound to tell the story; that’s where I belong.

So wrote Paul Simon, and while it’s a song about something else, the first time I heard it, I thought of the privilege I have of telling the story through song.

Some of you know that the sound-track of my life is driven by the music of Paul Simon. Whether it’s “feelin’ groovy” or “I don’t find this stuff amusing anymore,” or more recently:
Hey, hey, off to school we go;
You might learn something,
Yeah, you never know
My poor kids have had to hear this their whole lives. Some of you have had to decipher the arcane quotation. And I should probably apologize to the choir for all too often enjoying my own private little pop music jokes.

But when you understand that I consider Paul Simon the best popular songwriter of my generation (and therefore, of course, of any successive generation :~); and if you understand why, you’ll get a glimpse into what I value about words and music.

When I see you smiling                                             
When I hear you singing                                           
Lavender and roses                                                   
Every ending a beginning                                          
The way you turn                                                      
And catch me with your eye -                                  
That's where I belong

It’s that sound of singing, the look in the eyes of worshipers, that has given me such joy on this platform. Whether my face is turned to the choir, that little church of ardent and joyful worshipers, or to the congregation, less prepared perhaps but no less engaged in praise, that’s where I belong.

I’m not entirely sure why I’m quoting pop songs tonight. Maybe to surprise you, maybe to disarm you, maybe to guard my emotions. If nothing else, it ought to tell you that for me music in the church has never been about “what I like.”

But probably, finally, it’s just because a hymn [“Bless be the tie that binds” anyone?] or a Bible verse [“I thank my God upon every remembrance of you”] could be heard as just a cliché. And there’s nothing clichéd about my gratitude: to have served in this place, with you, rehearsing the story of God in song. That’s where I belong, and I am thankful that for so long, belonging there has allowed me to be here.  

I’ve heard that there is some more surprising music in the reception across the street. Enjoy it with me, will you? 
(It was a jazz trio - and, man, were they good!)

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Outed Parodist

There might be a more normal approach to take for my first Te decet hymnus post, post-College Church. I'll get around to that later. But this one is prompted by my being "outed" as a parodist, in a comment made by my senior pastor. To be fair, Josh was highlighting things he appreciated about me, and one exhibit was this little parody I wrote to honor a colleague's change of theological conviction.

"Jay" (we'll call him Jay for purposes of this story, because that is his name) was a diligent defender of credo-baptism (baptism should only take place upon a personal confession of faith). This on a staff and in a church where we also practice paedo-baptism (infant baptism). Jay's good-natured but ardent challenges to the paedo-baptists among us are legendary.

So it was a bit of a surprise when that conviction became a matter for personal study, and a huge surprise when he switched his view entirely. Well, there really was - nor is there yet - a better response than the following:

Baby Baptizer
dedicated to Pastor Jay Thomas
with apologies to Lennon and McCartney
sung to the tune of “Paperback Writer

Baby baptizer …

Dear Rev’rend Doctor, I have read your book,
It took me years to get, but I’m fin’lly hooked.
Based on a covenant it seems so clear,
Now I’m in your camp, and I want to be a baby baptizer.
Baby baptizer.

I would be like Calvin, Cranmer, Keller, too,
Wesley, Edwards, Packer – just  to name a few.
I can fin’lly get into that Cov’nant style,
I have changed around and I want to be a baby baptizer.
Baby baptizer.

Baby baptizer  . . .

It’s not the doctrine that I learned in school,
But my heroes do it, so I guess it’s cool.
Yeah, I used to diss it, but I’ve changed my mind;
You may be surprised, but I want to be a baby baptizer.
Baby baptizer.

I am really digging sacramental rites,
But it took some time, it wasn’t overnight.
I am still reforming, paedo-baptist here,
This is my big break, and I want to be a baby baptizer.
Baby baptizer.

Baby baptizer . . .

Baby baptizer – baby baptizer
Baby baptizer – baby baptizer

Chuck King © 2010 All rights reserved.