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Jarge's Jottings

The Swinging Sixties

Well, we had plenty of warning . . . 2,300 years ago, both Plato and Aristotle wrote critically of the influence that music has on people’s (especially the young’s) behaviour. Plato, a Greek philosopher when writing a plan (“The Republic”) to create the ideal Society warned that the kind of music allowed should be strictly controlled for “men fancying that they knew what they did not know had no longer any fear and the absence of fear begets shamelessness”. Something apparent in modern Society.

He recommended that in his ideal Society, the type of music taught and practised should be carefully policed, other wise, trouble will ensue.

Similarly, Socrates wrote “Musical training is a more potent instrument than any other, because rhythm and harmony find their way into the inward places of the soul”.

Look back to the 1960s, when rock bands appeared for the first time, and melodies gave way to constant drum beating followed by acts of vandalism (even on their own musical instruments), we can see what changes appeared in our Society.

We now have a new outbreak of violence, including stabbing and random killings that is attributed to a more menacing type of music and words gaining ground, especially in the more deprived multi-racial areas of our big cities.

“Alright” you will say, “but I thought you were writing about our approach to worship, what relevance is all this to our Christian situation?”

Quite simply, if you look at the modern Church, the growth is among those evangelical congregations, where the music is noisy, repetitive, much attention being paid by the drummer! Of course, it is worship, but not necessarily helpful in creating a sense of the “otherness” of God.

Elijah, when seeking to find and meet God, found Him, not in the sound of the wind, the earthquake or the fire, but in the “still small voice”, and the psalmist writes “Be still, and know that I am God”.

This is why our choice of music for our worship must be directed to that which will inculcate a sense of stillness and the Presence of God, the great mystery.

Beginning with a bright, rousing hymn or 10 repetitions of a jolly (but sometimes banal) chorus may sound fine, but as a precursor to meeting “The All Holy” in our worship it can well have a negative effect.

Compare that with Wesley’s translation of a German hymn:

“Lo, God is here, let us adore and own how dreadful is this place. Let all within us feel its power, and silent, bow before His face. Who know His power, His grace who prove, Serve Him with all, His reverence love”” or

“Let all mortal flesh keep silence, and with fear and trembling stand; ponder nothing earthly minded, for with blessings in His hand, Christ our God to earth descendeth, our full homage to command”.

Yes, "fear and trembling” and while some will think this is resurrecting “Nasty old God”, fear means “respect” to the Creator of all that is, while we rightly think of God as “Father”, He is mystery beyond human understanding and we can only know His true nature, through the life and teaching of Jesus. 

Traditional Church music surprisingly, can be appreciated by the younger generation, and particularly if it leads them to contemplate the Holy, the “awesome” (to use a popular ‘teen-age word).

Were we to be visiting the Queen to have a cup of tea, imagine the feelings that would crowd in.

You are here this morning because God has invited you, not for a cup of tea, but to receive the sacramental life of His Son. “Lo, God is here, let us adore”.


12 August 2018

This is the Word of the Lord

"Sexy poetry in the Bible, read in church?" well, yes. Two Sundays ago, we heard a short passage that sounded a bit "racy" from "The Song of Solomon" which was read because The Church insists that it is an allegory, describing the relationship between God and His Church.

Dismissing that as "twaddle", our Old Testament lecturer wondered aloud how a collection of sexy love poems had got into the accredited Biblical books. Likewise, the book of Esther whilst describing how the Jews escaped mass-executions (don't get me wrong, as a "story" it's quite enthralling) but it never mentions God once!

Start dipping into the Bible, particularly the Old Testament, where God apparently encourages the brutal killing of multitudes of gentile people of all ages, you are bound to ask the question, "Where is this God of love" of which the New Testament speaks so eloquently?"

Some passages we hear in church are far from the Gospel, and when, after hearing, the reader declare that "This is the Word of the Lord" you might well ask "Is it really?"

A prominent last-century atheist declared that "The Bible is the most dangerous book in the world" and reading some of the Historical (?) books of the Old Testament, one can sympathise with her judgement.

Yes, the Bible is "Dangerous" if you read it without a great deal of guidance, or you take it literally without fore­knowledge of the circumstances.

If we carried out some commands to the letter, for instance, some of this morning's congregation would be condemned for wearing trousers. Deuteronomy says it is wrong for women to wear "Men's garments" as it is equally improper for men to have skirts (unless they are "kilts"?).

When my wife was a 20 yr. old, her father remonstrated as she was wearing moygashel slacks! When his wife did likewise, it troubled him a great deal.

Some of the appointed readings at the Eucharist, without explanation are misleading unless you understand their context. That is why I welcome the inclusion of the readings in our weekly notices, which reading them at home, quietly, helped by the preceeding explanations can give us greater understanding and then they may indeed sound like "The Word of the Lord".

To suggest that "Every word in the Bible is true" is to make a mistake, but it tells of truths about God and ourselves..

For instance, If you study Genesis, Chapters 1 & 2, you find 2 entirely different accounts of Creation.

In Genesis 1, human beings are created last, and reading it you find an almost Darwinian sequence of events, but in chapter 2, Adam is created first.

The reason? Chapter 1 is a later revision, written by religious scholars, whilst Chapter 2 Including the picking of the forbidden fruit was probably an ancient explanation created in the days when knowledge was passed on by word of mouth and is of very primitive origin. Likewise the account of Cain murdering his brother Abel.

Similarly, the story of Jonah and the giant fish is an imaginative writing pointing to the need for the Jews to share with the Gentiles, their faith and relationship with God.

So, because some parts of the Bible are fabrications, does not affect the integrity of the whole, for underneath lies the essential story of God's unique relationship with the Jews, leading on to the New Testament where in Jesus there is a fulfilment of history and ancient prophecies.

The Bible presents us with truths; truth about God, His nature and His purpose for His Creation and that is why we need to listen carefully to the readings as part of our worship, and perhaps read our Bibles more at home.


5 August 2018

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