Category Archives: worship

Time and Space for Good News

After 8.5 hours...just exited The Clock to a beautiful morning

Through Advent, I will be writing reflections on the lectionary texts for the website Light Reflections, and reposting them here. Hope you enjoy! Please feel free to use any of them in sermon, teaching or other church education type prep.

Luke 3:1-6

3In the fifteenth year of the reign of Emperor Tiberius, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was ruler* of Galilee, and his brother Philip ruler* of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias ruler* of Abilene, 2during the high-priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. 3He went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, 4as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah,

‘The voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
“Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight.
5 Every valley shall be filled,
and every mountain and hill shall be made low,
and the crooked shall be made straight,
and the rough ways made smooth;
6 and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.” ’

These stories about John in the wilderness are so familiar that I risk no longer fully hearing them. I can jump right over the political positioning in the first few lines to get straight to the heart of proclamation because familiarity makes me think that’s where the meaning is. But not this year. This year I’m trying to dwell in the time and space established by those first few lines to see what might reside there. Continue reading

The Space Between Words

Given how sad – livid – I am that one of my favourite paintings was vandalized this week, I’ve been digging through some old files to see if I can find the piece I wrote on it 7 years ago. It’s funny to read an old piece of writing – a little embarrassing, but also kind of fun to be reminded of the things that moved me back then…many of which still do today. I get that to a lot of people, most paintings by Mark Rothko look the same – I’m posting this old piece of writing because for those of us who love his work, there are paintings with which we’ve spent hours of time in conversation and contemplation, paintings of his with which we’ve developed old, familiar friendships. The one that was defaced is one paintings of those for me.

I wrote this piece in 2005 while I was living in London. I wrote it in part for fun, but also with the thought that I might share it with my various friends who visited over the year, take them to the Tate, and let them enjoy this little aesthetic experience I’d put together. The Tate has since rearranged the room in which the Seagram Murals are housed, painted it with brighter colours (I liked the old version, in which I wrote this piece better). Nevertheless, the integrative art experience would still work – so if you find yourself in London, maybe pop on a little Ani, and make your way to the Tate with what follows after the jump in hand Continue reading

Bilbao: Part 1

I have wanted to visit Bilbao since I first studied Frank Gehry’s Guggenheim Museum there in my undergraduate Art History degree. This was the building that inspired my love of Gehry – of architecture in general, really – and I fantasized about one day visiting this fishing town in Basque country with glee as I memorized all the pertinent facts and theories for my final exams. I remember being captivated by the fact that Bilbao was not – at the time of the building’s construction – one of Spain’s more major cities. And so it was like the underdog won the competition for the fancy art collection and fancy architectural design. And I loved that piece of the story – I wanted to visit an temple of aesthetics in a place where no one really expected it to be. Indeed, while Tyler wanted to do the Northern route to be near the ocean, I wanted to do it so I could walk to Bilbao. It really was the first pilgrimage of my pilgrimage. Continue reading

starting over, again

So I’m using this picture again because I’m taking another stab at these new year’s resolutions. I wrote back in January about the contemplative practices I planned to take up so that I could delve deeper into my faith, particularly through practices of gratitude. Around March (maybe February?), I got a cold and began finding getting up at 5:45am to pray too difficult. I lost the rhythm and quickly lost the practice. I’ve been chastising myself ever since to try to get back into the swing of things. Continue reading

Good-bye to the God of Capital Letters

I’ve long defended praise and worship music to friends who claim it is too simple theologically. “It’s not about the theology,” I’ve argued, “so  much as it’s about a meditative practice.” The reason I used to love P&W, and in surprising moments nowadays, still do (albeit with a touch of nostalgia, an emotion that never sits right with me), is its chant-like quality. There’s the possibility of losing myself in the repetition, and opening my eyes surprised to find out I’ve been swimming in the deep waters of the Divine. But in recent years, I’ve found this depth harder and harder to plum. Even so, it hasn’t been the simplicity that has bothered me, and I’ve struggled to figure out what it is that I fail to connect with.

I visited a church a few weeks ago, heavy on P&W – and all of a sudden it struck me: I can’t handle all those capital letters projected onto the screen:  Continue reading

I don’t love you; I always will

It’s pretty easy to turn a love song into a worship song. We’ve all been teasing Contemporary Christian artists for doing so for years. But what about turning an anti-love song? And what about a turning that doesn’t water down the longing for the lover with the bile of cliched romance?

I immediately loved “Poison and Wine” by The Civil Wars the moment I heard it (even as the video is pretty terrible…sorry for that, unless you enjoy overly-dramatic singing and gratuitous cleavage-shots which, undoubtedly, many do). But I digress. The song’s achy intensity resonates with my aesthetic sensibilities. What I love most is that the yearning of the song is the yearning for an unloved lover. Don’t we all have those in our past…the lover whose touch haunted us long after they left, but who we might never place on the short list of lovers who we actually loved? Or even the yearning for the hint of a lover – a flirtation never consummated but which lingers in our imagination?

In the world of the song, the couple is committed to a life together – whether in memory or in reality remains unclear – without love. And yet the yearning does not waver. If anything, absent love the commitment grows stronger. The song inspires worship because it poses the difficult question: could I continue to choose God absent loving God? And it articulates a powerful answer Continue reading