Andrew Collins writes in his article, “How Art Moved Me Beyond the Cliché,” about overcoming a blasé familiarity with Scripture. “I recently read through the Psalms—one song every morning or evening. But when I got to Psalm 23, something happened. I read through it in a minute or two, and not a single substantive thought went through my head. When I reached the end, my mind was blank.
“Why? Because it’s Psalm 23! Everyone knows it. I’ve probably had it memorized since I was 7 years old. Over the years, the psalm has dissolved, for me, into a rote sequence of words. What a shame. Gratefully, I remember Jon Foreman’s song ‘House of God Forever.'”
I’ve had a similar revitalizing through Michael Card’s songs from the Psalms in his album, The Way of Wisdom. His renderings of Psalm 23 and 139 have stuck with me for twenty years.
Here’s Sissel singing the most famous Norwegian Christmas carol — Jeg Er Saa Glad Hver Julekveld. Generations of Norwegian-American kids have learned it by rote and sung it for church programs. As did I.
The art here is not really appropriate. It’s not a Santa song. It uses the lighting of the Christmas tree to meditate on the wonder of the Incarnation of Christ. The child sings that he/she loves Christmas because of Jesus.
Last week, a great teacher in our church, adjunct at Covenant College, and godly resource for the global church passed away suddenly. I went to Twitter and became a bit irritated that no one was talking about him. But why would they? Maybe twenty years from now men like this would resonate online at the right frequency to vibrate whatever social networks people would be using then. But last week with all the talk of how important this or that thing should be, I was irritated by the thought I couldn’t say something about the most important person in my mind at the moment.
Tonight another man I know from church, a little older and not a teacher in the same way, has passed away. The last I’d heard about him was of his successful surgery and hospital release. I wasn’t prepared for the news of his death. I’m not prepared for missing him in the hallways and all of the other places I might have seen him.
I know that these are astonishing moments for both men and that both of them awoke on the other side as if they had been asleep their entire lives. I know that “this perishable body must put on the imperishable,” because Christ Jesus has put death in its own grave. Its sting is blunted; its victory made void.
As One Who Has Slept
This is John Tavener’s arrangement of a Holy Saturday liturgy from the Orthodox Church:
“As one who has slept the Lord has risen
And rising he has saved us. Alleluia.”
I think I can explain everything that’s wrong with western politics today. All intelligent people (that is, everyone who already agrees with me) will understand immediately.
I think the problem rises from the fact that westerners – even those who expressly reject Christianity – base their ethic on the teachings of Christ.
Only they misunderstand it.
They start with Christ’s Golden Rule: “Whatsoever ye would that men should do unto you, do yet also unto them.” And that’s good. It’s the best of ethical rules, and well worth following.
But they assume a corollary. They assume the next stage is, “And then they will do the same unto you in return.” Be nice to others, and no one will hurt you. A thousand Sunday School papers and children’s books make the tacit promise that that’s true.
But the passage doesn’t actually say that.
There’s no promise that anyone will return your kindness. In fact, Jesus often warns His disciples that people will hate and persecute them.
Most sophisticated westerners assume that if you’re peaceful and act peaceful, and if you’re kind, that will protect you from evildoers. Your kindness will make them kind, too.
There is no such promise.
That’s why the Apostle Paul tells us that the emperor bears the sword. Because somebody has to protect the vulnerable.
It isn’t the government’s job to practice the Golden Rule, unless you want everybody to die.
Here endeth the lesson.
And now, just to prove to you how old and white I am, another instrumental piece from my youth for a Friday – “The Syncopated Clock,” by Leroy Anderson (1908-1975). He was Swedish-American, by the way, and is probably best remembered for the Christmas favorite, “Sleigh Ride.”
There’s no good reason Bing Crosby is not at the top of everyone’s list of twentieth century superstars. He had a voice just about every man wanted, even those who didn’t like men singing.
Crosby recorded 396 hit singles, 41 of which topped the charts—yet only one, his 1942 “creator recording” of Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas,” the bestselling record of all time, continues to be heard regularly. He was also the most popular movie star in the world for five consecutive years between 1944 and 1948, a record topped only by Tom Cruise—yet few of the four dozen feature films in which he starred are still shown with any frequency on TV.
Still, readers who want to know as much about Crosby as Gary Giddins wishes to tell us—among whom I count myself—will find Swinging on a Star a compelling study of the middle years of a popular artist who by the end of the Second World War was so closely identified with the American national character that he seemed to embody it.
Not to preempt Lars’s Friday song day post (because he can post anything he wants), I want to share this wonderful piece from John Rutter, “O Be Joyful in the Lord.” This song never fails to draw me into transcendence. The Lord is good. His kingdom will last forever.
I never intended to designate Friday as music day around here, but I seem to consistently run out of books to review, and thoughts of any kind, by Friday. So I’ve been digging up songs from my past. Several of them were cheerful European songs, which was a kind of a thing when I was a kid.
This one, though it is European, isn’t from my childhood but my adolescence. It was a big hit around the time I finished high school and started college. It meant a lot to me in those days. “Love Is Blue,” written by Andre Popp and performed by Paul Mauriat’s orchestra. It placed fourth in the Eurovision Song Contest, but still went on to become an international hit.
I am, if you’ll pardon me, a little moody this evening (alert the media!). So I’ll post another song.
I shared a piece from Grieg’s Peer Gynt not long ago. Here’s one more, but it features none other than the Divine Sissel (who is wearing the Bergen bunad — the city folk costume). In the play, Solveig is Peer’s faithful and neglected girlfriend, whom he treats badly, as is his wont. She sings of patiently waiting for him. This is one the standard classic songs in Norway. Amundsen and his men had it on a recording to listen to on their way to the South Pole, I believe.
Yeah, I’m dry today. So I’m going to post another song from “Local Hero.” I’m gonna make you like this movie whether you want to or not.
“Victor” is a Russian trawler fisherman who drops in on the Scottish fishing village from time to time. He is an unabashed capitalist (this is before the Cold War ended). When he comes to a ceilidh, he always does this song, a favorite with his Scottish friends.
So we’ve got a Russian singing a country-western song to Scots. Fits right in with the whole film.
Today James Lileks, blogging from England, posted a musical piece from the 1983 movie “Local Hero.” Which happens to be one of my favorites.
So I’ll just post a “Local Hero” selection of my own. The movie, a light treatment of cultural miscommunication between an American oil man and the population of a Scottish fishing village, is full of magic. But the most magical part (for me) is the ceilidh, the musical party and dance held in the village hall. I could have posted the wonderful country-western song sung by a Russian fisherman, but the real peak of the night is this waltz, “Mist Covered Mountains.”
You may notice a brief appearance by Peter Capaldi, who would go on to become a Time Lord, but not before Time had had its way with him, good and hard.