Saturday, March 11, 2017

Rockin' the church to life....

Rockin’ the church to life…
The Godfather of contemporary Lutheran music has died.  I am sure John Ylvisaker would laugh heartily and reject that title, but it is true.  John composed many memorable songs from his lyrical celebration of the life-cycle, Borning Cry to his pulsing confessional “I believe, I do believe…”  As I write this tribute I can’t get out of my head his ode to the Trinity, “Baptized into Christ Jesus”, which we sang at a Lenten service last night.
His songs gracefully wove together sound theology, simple, yet profound lyrics, and singability.  Great music does that.  Again John would demur hearing me sing his praises.  He was, after all, a Norwegian Lutheran, both stoic and on guard against pride. Well, maybe humble, but to hear him rock out I have to delete “stoic” from this review. 
Back to my claim that he was the Godfather of contemporary music in the Lutheran church.  Certainly names like Jay Beech and Marty Haugen belong in this pantheon.  But John got the beat going…. 
As a young pastor I read in a youth publication an article John wrote entitled “Rocking the church to life.”  In it he argued that the war between rock n roll and classical music was a misguided battle.  I was glad to hear this because I loved the Beatles, Stones, Peter, Paul and Mary, and the Moody Blues.  I also loved Back and Beethoven.  John was very clear that the real issue was “good and bad music”.  He contended that there was good and bad music in every genre.  To drive his point home, he mentioned several hymns that were unsingable and liable to cause injury to one’s vocal chords.  His criteria for good music were good theology, simplicity and singability.   

I would add to his list: memorable!  You gave us “good music” John and I can’t get out of my head  and my heart today.  For that I am most grateful!

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Gratitude: A Full Heart
“Rejoice in the Lord always; again, I will say, rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything, by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:5-7
I don’t know how many times I heard my mom share her favorite verse. In so many ways over her nearly 97 years, she came to embody much of the wisdom in this passage about joy, gentleness and peace. It wasn’t until I was paddling the Mississippi that I discovered what I believe to be the key to my mother’s kind and generous spirit. The word is “thanksgiving.” As I paddled, I regularly made my requests known to God: for sunshine, clouds, tailwind, slight headwind, cool when it was hot, heat when it was cool, good food, a warm shower, good campsite and cold beer. I was pretty good at the “in everything, by prayer and supplication” part. We humans are good at making requests and even demands of God. But that little word I had missed for all those years makes all the difference: thanksgiving.
I began to remember to give thanks during my prayers. I even began my prayers with thanks: for the gift of life, for breath itself, for a new day, for family and friends, for faith, for health, for the creation, for the opportunity to paddle my kayak. The whole dynamic of the day changes when we begin with saying “thank you!” We see, even in the midst of struggle, pain, heat, cold, loneliness and hunger how blessed we are to have another day to live life’s adventures, to love our neighbors and, above all, the God who created us! When we give thanks, we experience a full heart, and out of that fullness, we have more than enough to give others. And then for a final bonus, we experience a deep peace beyond our understanding. Paddle with gratitude!
~Paddle Pilgrim: Kayaking the Erie Canal and Hudson River to the State of Liberty (available on Amazon)