Sound Theology by Colleen Butcher
Monks start the day at 3:20 am with Vigils, and they typically sing Psalm 95.
1 Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord;
let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation.
2 Let us come before him with thanksgiving
and extol him with music and song.
3 For the Lord is the great God,
the great King above all gods.
4 In his hand are the depths of the earth,
and the mountain peaks belong to him.
5 The sea is his, for he made it,
and his hands formed the dry land. read more…
Ubi Caritas is one of the oldest hymns of the early church. Dating from as early as the 4th century, settings of Ubi Caritas are frequently included as part of the Eucharist story, reminding us of Christ’s great love for us. But more than simple remembrance, the first line of text calls us to be and demonstrate love to others: God is with us and love is our bond. read more…
When I was a doctoral student, I wrote a series of four articles for Foundations on “The Chicago School of Theology” with one of my ethics professors, Kenneth “Snuffy” Smith. Smith was feted and famous for being the person who taught Martin Luther King, Jr. his ethics and some of his theology.
White researching and writing the articles, I will never forget listening to the Beach Boys while reading this passage from the Canadian scholar Shirley Jackson Case, one of the “Chicago School” theologians who was both a mathematician and a historian of early Christianity. In his book “Highways of Christian Doctrine” (1936) he writes “Not long ago a well known English novelist, speaking through one of his characters, alleged that Christianity like a passing toad has left behind on the beaches of life a promiscuous deposit of wriggling theologians, hopping and burrowing in the warm nutritious sand. Were it true that the tide has passed, never to return . . . let the deceased champions of Christian opinion rest in peace. . . But tides have a defiant way of ebbing and rising again” (184-85). I have never been able to listen to the Beach Boys without thinking of those toady “wriggling theologians.”
“Pet Sounds” may be the greatest album of all times. In this 1966 recording, Brian Wilson and The Beach Boys took pop music as deep as it could go. It set the standard for excellence in rock’n’roll for generations of musicians. But Capitol records was so afraid of these musical “depths” that they released “Pet Sounds” with a tandem album “The Best of the Beach Boys.” The “best” of the old immediately outsold the new greatness, and it took the “Pet Sounds” album 50 years finally to go Platinum. 50 years. Pet Sounds includes arguably the greatest love song ever written, “God Only Knows,” the song Paul McCartney called after hearing it for the first time “the perfect song” every songwriter dreams of writing.
This love song begins with the confession, “I may not always love you.” Which is one reason why it’s “perfect”—because the “perfect” always contains imperfections.
So too will your greatest sermons. Always imperfect. Always unfinished. Every sermon is an “Unfinished Symphony.” Also remember that it may take years, decades, generations for the impact of your preaching to be appreciated and realized. In the words of those Emmaus disciples, who in looking backward realized the magic of the moment that had passed. “Did not our hearts beat within us WHEN . .. “
And as you do, please know that “God Only Knows What I’d Be Without You.” All of you.
To most, today is the celebration of Epiphany: remembering the arrival of the Magi and the presentation of the Christ to the Gentiles. But in some circles, today is also known as “Women’s Christmas.” In particular, the Irish/Celtic tradition celebrates January 6 as the day when women gather together to relax and refresh after the busyness of the season and leave the household duties to the men. We’re told that Mary treasured up her thoughts and pondered them in her heart. What an amazing time it was for her and her new baby. I’m sure she also shared these events with her trusted friends, contemplating and conversing about all of the astonishing things that had happened. read more…
In the weeks before Christmas – as the days get shorter and the nights get longer – there is chill to the air that makes it difficult to remember the feeling of the light. In northern regions, it’s dark when you go to work and dark when you go home. The smallest light can bring hope and delight. A few years ago, I filled my front window with tiny battery-powered tea lights at the beginning of Advent and kept them lit until Epiphany. Night and day, week after week, in the darkest days of the year, I held vigil with tiny lights. Those candles represented persistence to me; the insistence that light would not be overcome by any darkness. I looked forward to coming home and seeing them peeking at me from the window. A neighbor commented that she liked those lights better than the ones on the outside of the other houses because she had a feeling that the tea lights represented love, flickering out to the neighborhood. read more…