Dear readers – this was perhaps a much more exciting week. At least from my perspective. (It really is remarkable what one can experience when not dulled by Migraine.)

WATCHED

Red Nose Day Special on NBC. Listen, we all know that the best Red Nose Day skit is this one with David Tennant and Catherine Tate (close second: the “original carpool karaoke” with James Corden & George Michael.) NBC is still working up the hype with the US version (and as James Corden mentioned on a recent Talking with Chris Hardwick, the issues of networks and contracts make it difficult to draw specific star power, even when someone like Corden would like to be a part of it) so there was something missing. It would be really great of Red Nose Day to grow to a cooperative event like Stand Up to Cancer concerts have been.

I should be honest, though. I really only watched for two things: Stephen Amell’s run on Ninja Warrior and Red Nose Actually.

Witness Stephen Amell in all his Salmon Laddering glory:

And Red Nose Actually. Which was fun and lovely.

And then, of course, I watched lots and lots and lots of softball at the Women’s College World Series started up. There were surprises and heartbreaks, but by the end of the weekend, the bracket was shaped up into pretty much exactly what I thought it might be.

READ

Still working on Assassin’s Fate, and loving it so much I might need to do a re-read this summer of the original FarSeer books.

And then their was this article about a robot priest called BlessU-2, which offers  “blessings in a choice of German, English, French, Spanish or Polish. Worshippers can choose between a male or female voice. The robot raises its arms, flashes lights, recites a biblical verse and says: “God bless and protect you.” If requested, it will provide a printout of its words.” It’s not intended to replace priests; it’s meant to provoke a debate about whether one needs a human to receive a blessing. I’m on the side of “yes, you need a human”, because a blessing is so much more than the words. A blessing comes from the connection humans have with the Divine through one another. An offered blessing comes from one human’s desire to share their experience of the Divine with another; without the conviction of experience, the blessing is hollow. It is only words. It must be infused with something Other, something a robot cannot offer, for the robot has not known the love of the Divine.

LISTENED

Speaking of blessings, I had a great one Memorial Day weekend when I ventured to Trinity Lutheran Church in Mount Joy, PA for worship. I came to know Trinity when my wife’s grandfather died. He was a long-time, devoted member of Trinity. When we went to the funeral, I found myself wandering a bit, church nerd that I am, and exploring – where I encountered Pastor Mike Martine, who later introduced me to Associate Pastor Matt Pensinger. We had a lovely chat, friended each other on Facebook, and stayed in touch. One of the very cool things Trinity does is offer “contemporary” worship with a band, so that was the service we attended, and wow-oh-wow was it Awesome with a Capital A.

The hallmark of the service is the music, which provoked an unexpected reaction in me. Like many progressive Christians, I have an awkward relationship with “worship” music.  The theology can be… questionable.  Sometimes it’s over simplified, sometimes it just sets forth something that perpetuates harmful tropes. It’s probably been 4 or 5 years since I’ve listened to any new Christian music because I’ve just avoided it. In March, when I presented at a United Methodist evangelization event, I was surprised by how much I responded to the truly great music, even though the lyrics of one song made me slightly uncomfortable. Since then, I’ve been pondering how our theological foundation is crucial to what we understand when we sing this music.  What I hear in a song (or prayer or sermon) depends upon what my context is as a human being. What have I experienced of the Divine? What do I know to be true? Do these lyrics confirm this or are they contradictory?

When I worshipped at Trinity, I realized just how true this is. At Trinity, a progressive, liberating, integrated theology is preached and taught at all ages. Service born out of love for God (leading to love of neighbor) is their truth. There is hope when you sing “You are good You are good/When there’s nothing good in me” because what you have been taught within the community is that God is good, God is loving, and grace pervades all.  Not all communities provide this in their preaching and teaching. Not all children learn this in faith formation. Far too often the words “When there’s nothing good in me” lead to shame that is exploited within the community. It doesn’t have to be that way.

Driving home from Pennsylvania, I thought about whether there was space in my life to explore worship music again, and decided to give it a try. I spent some time with Spotify and found some music I really liked. I found lyrics I really liked. I found at least one song that I was super-singable but the lyrics made me cringe.

I’m still pondering all of this, (and not just the theology. Do I have a responsibility not to financially support a band that comes from a church that is notoriously anti-LGBTQ, for example.) I suspect there will be a longer blogpost about this coming. In the meantime, it’s not lost on me that I spent a week not really listening to any podcasts, just listening to (and singing loudly!) Jesus music, and I had a really, really good week.

Here are a couple of the songs that I especially liked listening to last week.

Until next week, dear ones. <3