30 October 2006

In All Seasons, God

Walter Brueggemann changed the way people read the Psalms. Brueggemann (pronounced Brew-ga-mawn) introduced three kinds of Psalms: orientation, disorientation, and reorientation.

If there are too many syllables in the previous description, think about it like this: Psalms of life, death, and renewal.

While most Psalms are either one or the other, Psalm 23 actually contains these three movments. Psalm 23 is a renewal Psalm, but it shows the reader how the three seaons must be held in tension with each other.

Seaons of Life:

1The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want.
2He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters;
3he restores my soul. He leads me in right paths for his name’s sake.

Seasons of Death:

4Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff— they comfort me.
5You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

Seasons of Renewal:

6Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD my whole life long.


In the fall of 1963 one preacher articulated these seasons of life as well as any thinker has in modern times.

May I now say a word to you, the members of the bereaved families? It is almost impossible to say anything that can console you at this difficult hour and remove the deep clouds of disappointment which are floating in your mental skies. But I hope you can find a little consolation from the universality of this experience. Death comes to every individual. There is an amazing democracy about death. It is not aristocracy for some of the people, but a democracy for all of the people. Kings die and beggars die; rich men and poor men die; old people die and young people die. Death comes to the innocent and it comes to the guilty. Death is the irreducible common denominator of all men.

I hope you can find some consolation from Christianity's affirmation that death is not the end. Death is not a period that ends the great sentence of life, but a comma that punctuates it to more lofty significance. Death is not a blind alley that leads the human race into a state of nothingness, but an open door which leads man into life eternal. Let this daring faith, this great invincible surmise, be your sustaining power during these trying days.

Now I say to you in conclusion, life is hard, at times as hard as crucible steel. It has its bleak and difficult moments. Like the ever-flowing waters of the river, life has its moments of drought and its moments of flood. (Yeah, Yes) Like the ever-changing cycle of the seasons, life has the soothing warmth of its summers and the piercing chill of its winters. (Yeah) And if one will hold on, he will discover that God walks with him (Yeah, Well), and that God is able (Yeah, Yes) to lift you from the fatigue of despair to the buoyancy of hope, and transform dark and desolate valleys into sunlit paths of inner peace.

(Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Eulogy for the Martyred Children)

21 October 2006


Detroit is the best sports town in the United States. Period. Tigers, Pistons, Red Wings, UofM Football, the Shock (give the WNBA some love) make Detroit a great place to live.

I do not remember the last Tigers World Series: I was living in Kansas in 1984 and I was only five. You better believe I'll remember this one.

Some of my best memories growing up in Michigan are going to (and watching) Tigers games with my grandfather. Sitting in the bleachers for $5 and eating as many hot dogs as we could manage gave his grand sons some excellent memories to take into our own families.

Here's a great article from a Detroiter and senior writer for ESPN.

* * *

By LZ Granderson
Special to Page 2

I was made in Detroit.

Mack and Van Dyke followed by 8 Mile and Schaeffer.

Government cheese in the morning. Canned pork at night.

WJLB and the D.O.T.

It wasn't always pretty but it was always home.

Wherever I go I try to make it a point of saying where I'm from because people like to make it a punch line.

Especially people who have never been to Detroit.

People who have never danced under the stars to live jazz at Hart Plaza with the river just a few steps away.

Or was there for the birth of house music with InnerCity in the basement of St. Andrews Hall singing about a "Good Life."

No, it's easy to make fun of Detroit when all you hear about is violence and poverty. And it's true, the city's hurting. Nearly a third of the families are living below the poverty line and over 70,000 people are unemployed. Last year, the average U.S. home sold for $167,500. In Detroit? $88,300.

But there's more to a city than numbers and glitz. There's a soul.

This city gave the world automobiles, Motown, Jerry Bruckheimer and Eminem. This city provided hope for thousands of blacks who migrated from the South in hopes of a better life. People like my mother, who had enough courage to leave behind everything she knew in smalltown Mississippi to make it possible for her children to go to college and, in her words, "be somebody."

That's why it's so important the Tigers have made it to the World Series this year. It's not that everyone who actually lives in Detroit (not suburbs Grosse Point or Bloomfield Hills) can afford to be at every game. But just being able to walk on the outside of the stadium -- to see the lights and hear the crowd -- is empowering in itself. It's a reminder that something excellent can still come from this city. Sure, the Pistons have been one of the best teams in basketball the past four years, but the truth is they don't actually play in Detroit. They're in Auburn Hills, about 30 minutes north of downtown. If you can afford the ticket, you still need a car that can make the trip and gas to get there. The Red Wings? A great team but not a sport that's been embraced by those who live in the city. The Lions? Forgetaboutit.

So we need the Tigers. They are here, in the heart of a downtown that's desperately trying to resuscitate itself. Just as Detroit is trying to recover from a year in which it's main source of employment -- the auto industry -- announces more crippling job cuts. In a year in which people are not only losing their jobs, but the homes they worked so hard to buy. For many, it's the first home anyone in their family has been able to call their own. In a year in which school started after a 16-day teacher strike because administrators wanted to institute a 5.5 percent paycut to employees to cover the $105 million deficit in the school budget.

Yeah, it's been tough, but I, like so many, am proud to be made in Detroit.

I've seen brothers in Now-N-Later gators strut the street with their heads up high despite not having a dime to their name. I've stood in the cold outside of welfare lines, waited for buses an hour late, done homework without electricity and played the numbers. That's life in the D -- down but never out.

Back in 1984, the last time the Tigers won the World Series, there was a slogan: Bless You Boys.

We're not New Orleans, but we needed this blessing. We knew God didn't forget about us, but it's nice to get a reminder just the same.

LZ Granderson is a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine.

19 October 2006

Instruments of Peace

Nine People from the Rochester Church and Rochester College went to Washington DC to find out a) the impact the Invisible Children viewing (almost 800 people) has had across the country and b) the impact the Global Night Commute (some 250 of you came for this in Rochester) had on local and state government officials.

Hundreds of concerned individuals will converge in Washington, DC for the Northern Uganda Lobby Day and Symposium. They will spend a day learning in-depth about the conflict, and a day lobbing their leaders for the change that will bring lasting peace to the two million people victimized, displaced, and impoverished by this twenty year nightmare (http://www.afjn.org/). NOTE: Almost One Thousand people came from all over the country for this two day event--mostly followers of Jesus!

U.N. Under-Secretary General of Humanitarian Affairs Jan Egeland has called the situation in northern Uganda "the world's most neglected humanitarian crisis" and "one of the biggest scandals of our generation."

The war in northern Uganda has been ravaging its people for nearly 20 years and has gone largely unnoticed by the mainstream media and the general public. Over 20,000 children have been abducted by the rebel-led LRA to be used as soldiers and sex slaves, over 90% of Acholi people have been displaced in camps that offer neither security nor basic provisions. This war has paralyzed an entire nation with fear, forever altering families, cultural traditions and way of life for an entire generation.

Here are some practical ways to get involved:

*Pray that God will relieve the suffering of the Acholi People.

*Contact myself (jgraves@rochestercoc.org) or Stephanie Corp (scorp2@rc.edu) to find out more about the "worst humanitarian crisis in the world." Worse than Darfur, worse than any other place in the world. This is genocide.

*Write your congressional senators and representatives.

*Connect with www.invisiblechildren.com or http://www.afjn.org/. Give your time, money, and energy to help create sustainable peace.

Makes one wonder how things might be different if oil was suddenly discovered in Northern Uganda :)


16 October 2006

I've been all over the last few weeks, from kayaking in West Virginia with my family to teaching and participating at the ZOE Worship Conference in Nashville, TN. My last stop was Washington D.C. where several people from the Rochester Church and Rochester College participated in the Northern Uganda Lobby Day sponsored by Africa Faith and Justice Network (http://www.ugandalobbyday.com/).

If you are not aware of the genocide taking place in Northern Uganda (related but different than the genocide in Darfur), check out these kingdom leaders (http://www.invisiblechildren.com/)

Apparently, there was interesting but rather sad gathering at Freed-Hardeman University (http://www.christianchronicle.org/modules.php?name=News&file=article&sid=495).

Here’s an excerpt from the gathering that is tackling and cutting edge issue of “instrumental music versus acapella”—I can’t believe some institutions of higher learning can still defend this element of their Christian faith considering the current religious/philosophical climate in the West. What does it say about a version of the Christian faith where instrumental/acapella is as important as the resurrection of Jesus? It’s fundamentalism in sheep’s clothing (i.e. “we are after the truth.”)


While describing Faust as his brother in Christ, Gilmore told the crowd, “We are not in fellowship because of one big, obvious thing.”

That one, big obvious thing — the use of instrumental music in worship — dominated the discussion.

But Faust rejected the idea of dividing fellowship over music.

“I may not agree on some points, but because we’re brothers and sisters in Christ, we do have fellowship,” he said.

Gilmore begged Faust to “lay aside the instrument” for the sake of unity.

But Faust said that would require Christian Church members to give up convictions and freedom in Christ. He likened the request to asking a cappella churches to give up multiple communion cups or Sunday school classes because some congregations object to them.

Faust highlighted similarities between the two groups that a 1906 federal census first reported as separate bodies.

Both groups — with a combined 2.5 million baptized members in the U.S. — believe that Jesus is Lord, baptize for remission of sins and offer the Lord’s Supper each Sunday.

“Instrumental music is not the focus of my faith,” Faust said. “Christ is.”

Appealing for unity and a deeper love for lost people, he said, “Often, we are like two lifeguards who get in a fistfight on the beach while a swimmer is drowning.”

Gilmore agreed that the Bible requires Christian unity. But he said, “There can be no genuine unity without truth.”

The issue boils down to how one understands God when he’s silent about something, Gilmore said. Ephesians 5:19 calls for “singing and making melody in one’s heart to the Lord.”

That verse “tells you where you’re supposed to pluck the string — in your heart,” Gilmore said. “It’s a purely vocal reference.”
The same logic that allows a piano in worship could lead to doughnuts and coffee in the Lord’s Supper, he said.

Gilmore said the Bible does allow “expedients,” such as songbooks, to help carry out specified actions, so long as the tool does not change the action or “involve swapping something in the category specified with something else.”


Using what he called the “desert island principle,” Faust suggested that a person reading the Bible with no presuppositions would learn God commanded and blessed the use of instrumental music in the Old Testament.

“Since I read this in the Old Testament, where would I find in the New Testament that God now frowns on this?” Faust asked.

Gilmore responded: “If you’re on that desert island, chances are you’re not going to have an organ or piano with you. But you’re going to have your voice, and you can always worship God.”

If the New Testament is silent on instrumental music, it’s equally silent on four-part harmony and pitch pipes, Faust said. “If it’s permissible to use a pitch pipe to get the song started on the right key, why is a guitar or a piano not allowed to keep it on the right key?” he asked.

Gilmore countered that a pitch pipe “just tells you where you’re going to start your singing. It is not your first note.” As for four-part harmony, Gilmore asked, “Where does that expedient change the idea of a cappella singing?”

Freed-Hardeman President Milton Sewell said the university hosted the discussion as an educational opportunity for church members. “I would love to see us all back together again,” Sewell told The Christian Chronicle, “but we’re not going to worship with the instrument, and we’re not going to promote it here.”

85 percent of the United States is not engaged in a church body, and some people are still rearranging furniture on the Titanic.

God help us.