Saturday, April 30, 2005

Stroud reversal

United Methodist New Service
NPR News

New! Interview with Beth Stroud
New! Beth Stroud's website

Yesterday, on my birthday, a church appeals court reversed the decision that had defrocked Elizabeth "Beth" Stroud for being a self-avowed practicing homosexual. I have to say, I'm glad about this change. I know that this is a divisive issue in The UMC, and I know that this reversal required quite a bit of legal juggling. Still, I just don't understand why homosexuality is the only specific criteria that can disqualify someone in The UMC from being clergy. The only other requirements are evidnece of gifts and graces and fitness for ministry. Yet for some reason we disqualify GLBT persons, while we don't specifically disqualify murderers, sex offenders, pedifiles, thieves... It makes no sense whatsoever to me.

Furthermore, I know many gay and lesbian persons who are clearly fit for ministry, clearly show the gifts and graces, clearly evidence a call from God for ordained ministry. How is it that we think we can stand in the way of a clear call from God? Why do we think we know better than the evidence God gives?

I note that yesterday was also the recognition day for two other women. The first was Catherine of Siena, a 14th century mystic who struggled with the church because she received revelations from God that spoke in a feminine voice. The other was Laura Askew Haygood, a teacher and missionary of The Methodist Church, South, who broke social norms by going to China as a missionary and founding a school for Chinese girls.

Both these women received clear calls from God that the church had trouble accepting. We seem to still have trouble accepting God's movement in the world.

Friday, April 22, 2005

The Meatrix

My housemates Nikki and Keith turned me on to The Meatrix not long ago. This is a must-see. Check it out before you read the rest of my post.

What Is The Meatrix?

A couple years back there was a huge to-do in my home conference of Oregon-Idaho over a labor dispute between NORPAC, a food packing corporation, and PCUN, an unrecognized union of farm workers. The debate quickly devolved into a battle between those who supported the workers and those supported family farmers. What I heard very little of is the fact that these two groups have a common enemy: Agri-business. Factory farms are bad for farm workers, for family farms, for farming communities, for the environment, for consumers, and for animals. This is an issue that should be taken up by conservatives and liberals alike. Whether you're pro-environment or pro-family-business, agri-business is a bad thing. Technology is not always the answer to our problems. Sometimes the good old-fashioned way is still the best way.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Iliff Settlement

Iliff and Former President David Maldonado have come to what seems to me to be an absolutely amazing settlement. Both Iliff and Dr. Maldonado apologize. Dr. Maldonado is given Emeritus status and a scholarship is created in his name. Furthermore, he is named as a special advisor to the President for the next year. I'm a bit stunned, but very, very happy.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Praying With Scripture Reflection

This is a paper that I wrote for the class Praying With Scripture. It is a reflection on some of the methods of prayer that we have studied so far in class.

The practice of Lectio Divina has been a relatively new one for me. I've been led through Lectio Divina a few times in the past, but I could never seem to get the various phases down correctly. I'd find that when getting to one of the steps I had accidently done it already in the previous step.

During this class is the first time that I've had a chance to take an in-depth look at the whole structure of Lectio. It finally started to make some sense. I was finally able to make it through the whole process without jumping ahead on my own.
I found the practice to be both difficult and fulfilling. For me, it is an odd prospect to look for a personal message in the scripture. My tendency – like yours, I gather – is to want to get right into the analysis of the passage. I want to tear it apart, look at historically, translate the original languages, and try to get at the root meaning. I want to find a best and universal meaning.

That is not at all the process of Lectio Divina. In Lectio, I am waiting for the gift of my meaning. It doesn't have to be the best meaning. It doesn't have to be a meaning that works for other people. It is simply my meaning. And it is only for the here and the now. It is an odd experience to have a personal meaning come to me when I know that it was not the intended meaning of the author. The text becomes strangely alive and able to speak to me in new ways at new times.
I found some interesting and helpful tools for praying the Lectio Divina at I even ended up writing a short blog entry about it and got a few comments from my readers.

Lectio seems like a great way to get in tune with God in the here and now. I would be careful, however, of trying to use Lectio to gain insights into writing a sermon. I think that the personal nature of the Lectio experience makes it somewhat inappropriate for the more universal nature of the sermon or even the Bible class. It could be used as a wonderful experience for a congregation or class, but I think that trying to get universal insights from it distorts both the Lectio and the sermon.

Singing scripture is something that is more common for me than the practice of Lectio Divina. Though music has been important to me for a long time, the practice of singing or chanting scripture has come to me late. In fact, I have recently considered becoming Anglican because of their use of liturgy, including singing prayers and scripture. The Episcopal Church is where I was first introduced to this practice, but I have since discovered that my home is still with the Methodists.

I have, however, joined another organization that is committed to liturgical renewal, including the singing of scripture: the Order of Saint Luke. Yes, I am now Br. David D. M. King, OSL. And a major part of the practice of OSL is the praying of the Daily Office. My vows require me to pray the office at least twice a day, typically morning (lauds) and evening (vespers).

I use the office resources that are created by the Order. For more information, you can read my articles on the subject here and here.

In any case, this office includes the singing of scripture. First, every of the seven offices includes a pointed psalm, which can be chanted to any one of five tones, found in the Psalter of The United Methodist Hymnal, page 737. The psalms for vespers and lauds cycle, but the psalms for compline, terce, sext, and none typically remain the same. By the end of one year, every psalm has been sung once.

Second, the reading of scripture is followed at vespers by the singing of the Magnificat (Luke 1:39-56) and at lauds by the Benedictus (Luke 1:68-79). These are typically chanted to one of the five tones mentioned above. However, there are also hymn versions of these found in The United Methodist Hymnal.

Third, several offices begin with a Canticle, either scriptural or ancient. Vespers always begins with the Phos hilaron or "O Gracious Light." During Eastertide, lauds begins with the "Christ Our Passover."

Fourth, the service of compline always ends with a scriptural canticle, the Nunc Dimittis (Luke 2:29-32). Like all of the canticles mentioned above, this one is sung to one of the five chant tones.

Finally, the Lord's Prayer is often chanted. It has its own chant tone, found at number 270 in The United Methodist Hymnal.
I find great power and significance in the singing and chanting of these scriptures and canticles. The chant not only forces me to slow down and really hear the words, but it creates its own mysterious significance in sound and vibration. We know that these texts were written as songs, though we no longer know the original instructions for singing them. Nonetheless, it is good to sing them.

I recently delivered a sermon on the singing of scripture at Calvary Baptist Church of Denver, called Hidden Songs in Scripture: How Can We Keep From Singing. In it, I argued that people of faith have always sung their prayers to God, and that we Protestants are particularly bad at carrying on that tradition. We, however, need to sing. There is meaning that cannot be expressed with spoken words alone, but is captured in song and chant. You can find the full sermon text here. The Baptist crowd that heard it seemed to be at least intrigued at the possibility of singing prayers of scripture.

Protestants haven't completely lost the art of singing prayers and scripture, of course. This art has been transferred to the realm of hymnody. Hymns have long been for me a method of prayer and meditation. Long before I knew how to pray, I know how to sing and play hymns. Before I got a reasonable Christian education, I learned the faith from the hymns. They have been very influential in my faith and in my discernment of call. UMH 340 "Come, Ye Sinners, Poor and Needy" is my justification hymn and prayer. UMH 386 "Come, O Thou Traveler Unknown," a Charles Wesley classic that recounts the story of Jacob wrestling with the stranger, has been very important to my sense of calling. The Faith We Sing 2212 "How Can I Keep From Singing" has to really sum the whole thing up in it's call to sing prayers to God even in the midst of terrible tribulation.

In addition, I practice the art of hymn meditation. For many years at Salem First United Methodist Church, we had a hymnfest in which people called out their favorite hymns (by the number, of course) and we would sing them. Whatever the last hymn of the hymnfest became the basis for an improvisational prelude that I would play. This was quite an act of meditation and trust in God. It became for me a prayer beyond words. Though I am no longer called upon to share these hymn meditations in worship, I still practice them as a form of prayer from time to time.

The Ignatian Method, though I had not learned it by that name, seems familiar to me. I may have learned it first in Preaching Class. We were instructed to take time to meditate on the scripture passage, imagining ourselves to be inside of it. Preferably, we were to do this several times, each time taking on the persona of a different character in the story. Further, we could do the same, but imagine ourselves as specific members of our congregation, hearing this text.

All of these exercises are quite revealing. It doesn't take much imagination to really make the scripture come to life with new meaning. This is a very valuable tool for bringing out some the marginal meanings of the text – the feminist and liberation readings. Try reading the expulsion of Hagar from Hagar's view. Then from Sarah's. Then from Abraham's. Then from God's. I tried this with a class of young adults recently, and it was absolutely amazing the readings and meanings that they were able to bring out. These were not biblical scholars, but with very little effort they were able to understand a text that before had seemed completely foreign. They were able to speak as experts because they had lived the story. They had become, even in just those few minutes, the people in the Bible.

This is the same kind of experience that I have using the Ignatian method. It's easy. All it takes is a little time. And it is so powerful. Suddenly hidden meanings, things that aren't stated explicitly in the text but can be understood by the context, spring to life. What had been dull words become living, moving beings and things.

Clearly, this method works best with narrative passages. It can still be somewhat effective with other types of scripture, but stories are the natural environment for the Ignatian method.

Furthermore, and unlike Lectio Divina, the learnings gained from the Ignatian method seem to be transferable to sermons and lessons. These are more universal meanings. Insight does not come just to me, but comes by being someone else, by crawling into a character's skin and walking around. The learning comes from the character much more than from the self and is therefore transferable to other listeners and readers.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Adoption Update: Home Study Report

We just met with our adoption case worker at Lutheran Family Services to go over our home study report before it is sent off to Holt International. I was surprised by how good it was. It was practically glowing. It was just nice to read through it and have it be so positive.

It looks like we'll be having a little bit of a delay before we move on the next step in the process. I've mentioned the biometrics before, but it looks like we're going to have to wait until the end of the summer to get them done, since our whole house needs to be tested, and so many of us will be out of town/state/country this summer. That's puts us in a bit of a holding pattern for a few months. Much has already been done, though, so I'm not too worried.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Snow Day

We've had quite the snow storm today. Even by the morning, it was enough to cancel church, and it hasn't stopped snowing all day. Melissa is really hoping for a snow day tomorrow, but so far, the Aurora Public School District has not seen the light and made a cancelation.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Hidden Songs In Scripture: How Can We Keep from Singing?

Here is my sermon for this morning. Hidden Songs In Scripture: How Can We Keep from Singing? by David D. M. King. It's on the occasion of Music Appreciation Sunday at Calvary Baptist Church of Denver.

For the sermon this morning, you're going to need the hymnal found in your pew racks. Now, before you go looking too hard, let me tell you, it looks something like this. [Hold up pew bible]. We don't notice or appreciate it very often, but this book, the Bible, is not only a library of the stories of faith, it is also a hymnal of the songs of faith. As long as humans have been around, we have sung songs to the divine: songs of triumph, songs of bitter weeping, songs of awe, songs of praise… Throughout history, people of faith can hardly keep from singing.

And so, this morning we are going to take a look quickly at some of the songs found in the scripture – a sort-of whirlwind tour of Bible hymns.

You might have heard that the Book of Psalms is the songbook of the church. It is, but in truth, there are songs and hymns scattered throughout the Bible, and the first one we're going to look at is from Exodus 15: the Canticle of Moses and Miriam. "Canticle," by the way, comes from the Latin word canticum and simply means "song." This particular canticle comes just after the Israelites have passed through the Red Sea on dry ground. [The great armies of Egypt are pursuing them, trying to keep them in slavery, when the waters come crashing down, devouring Pharaoh's army.]

If you're following along in your Bible, you'll notice that I'm beginning and ending each canticle with a traditional response that's not found in this part of scripture.

Hear now this Word from the Book of Exodus:
CANTICLE OF MOSES AND MIRIAM (Cantemus Domino); Exodus 15, UMH 135, Tone 2 in c)

Then Moses and the people of Israel sang this song to the Lord, saying,
I will sing to the Lord, who has triumphed glor-ious-ly;
The horse and its rider
The Lord has thrown in-to the sea.
The Lord is my strength and my song,
And has become my sal-vation;
This is my God whom I will praise.
I will exalt my fa-ther's God
Who is a mi-ghty warrior,
Whose name is the Lord.

Who is like you, O Lord, a-mong the gods?
Who is like you, majestic in holiness
Terrible in glorious deeds, do-ing wonders?
You stretched out your right hand,
The earth swal-lowed them.
In your steadfast love,
You have led the people whom you have re-deemed;
You have guided them by your strength to your ho-ly a-bode.

Then Miriam, the prophet, the sis-ter of Aaron,
Took a tambourine in her hand;
And all the women went out after her with tambour-ines and dancing,
And Miriam sang to them:
Sing to the Lord, who has triumphed glor-ious-ly;
The horse and its rider the Lord has thrown in-to the sea.
The Israelites were running for their lives. They had spent 400 years in slavery in Egypt, and after enduring terrible persecution and plagues, had finally won their freedom and were now escaping. They thought they were safe, when the whole army of Egypt came out after them with horses and chariots, chasing them right to the edge of the sea. This would be the end. There was no way out. They would either be killed or brought back into slavery.

But something miraculous happened. Just as all hope seemed lost for these oppressed people, these refugees – just as they were about to be devoured by forces of war, power, economics – God stretched out the hand of liberation and gave them a way out. God rescued the weak from the hands of the mighty and brought them safely to new ground. God put down the forces of militarism and war in favor of those who were most needy and downtrodden.

And what else could they do, after being saved from such imminent destruction, but sing a song to the LORD, their God, who had stepped in as a champion for the powerless. "Sing to the LORD who has triumphed gloriously; the horse and its rider God has thrown into the sea." Miriam, the sister of Moses and Aaron, is so thrilled at their newfound freedom that she picks up a tambourine and leads all of the women of Israel in dancing and song. God has acted as their liberator, and they can do nothing else but sing for joy at God's saving power.

But not all of the songs in the Bible are songs of joy. Some are quite the opposite. The next stop on our tour of Scriptural songs is Psalm 13, a song of deep lament and suffering. Like all of the Psalms, this is a song, meant to be sung as a prayer in worship. Even though the Psalms contain some musical instructions, we have long since forgotten what most of them mean, and we don't know how they were sung, only that they were meant for singing. Over the years, the Church has developed its own ways for singing the Psalms and canticles. The method that I'm using today is that of The Order of Saint Luke of the United Methodist Church. Lest you accuse me of being too Methodist, though, let me tell you that we hardly ever chant the Psalms, and in fact, we even stole our chanting method from the Lutherans.

So, now that you know a little bit more about the method of chanting, hear this lament Psalm:

PSALM 13 (); UMH 135, Tone 2 in d)

Transpose to D minor (Dm/F – Dm | Am/C – D(no 3))

How long, O Lord? Will you forget me for ever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I bear pain in my soul,
And have sorrow in my heart all the day?
How long shall my enemy be exalted o-ver me?

Consider and answer me, O Lord my God;
Lighten my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death;
Lest my enemy say, "I have prevailed o-ver him";
Lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken.
But I trust in your stead-fast love;
My heart shall rejoice in your sal-vation.
I will sing to the Lord,
For the Lord has dealt boutiful-ly with me.

That's quite a contrast to the joyous celebration of freed slaves. "How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?" This is a song of deep agony and suffering. The Psalmist, in fact, is in so much distress that he is questioning God. In fact, there is a feeling of accusation toward God. Why have you abandoned me? If I die, it will be on your head, God!

This song teaches us a valuable lesson. So often we worry that ours prayers have to be just right, that we have to use the appropriate words and show proper respect for God. Psalm 13 reminds us that it is okay to be honest with God. It's all right to get upset and frustrated and angry with God. We can sing a song of worry, a song of despair, a song of hopelessness. God hears us, and God responds with loving-kindness.

So, be angry with God. Yell at God if you have to. Cry to God. Sing a wailing song of lament to God. The scripture tells you that you can. And when you reveal your true heart and feelings to God, you might just be brought, like the Psalmist, even in the midst of despair, to sing praise to God. "But I trust in your steadfast love. My heart shall rejoice in your salvation." We know that God understands our suffering, and stands with us in our despair. We serve a God whose strength is made perfect only in weakness.

In fact, the next canticle on our tour is about just that subject: the self-emptying love of Jesus Christ. It's called the Kenosis Hymn, from the Greek word kenovw which means to empty or to drain out completely. That is what Jesus did in taking on human form: he completely emptied himself. Listen to this song from Philippians:
CANTICLE OF CHRIST'S OBEDIENCE (The Kenosis Hymn); Philippians 2:5-11, UMH 167, Tone 5 in d)

Christ Jesus, though he was in the form of God,
did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,
but emptied himself,
taking the form of a servant,
being born in our likeness.
And being found in hu-man form
he humbled himself and became obedient unto death,
even death on a cross.
Therefore God has highly ex-alt-ed him
and bestowed on him the name which is above ev-ery name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow,
in heaven and on earth and un-der the earth
and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

This is an awesome message. It turns on their heads many of the ideas that we have about who God is. Moses and Miriam described God as a mighty warrior. But this hymn describes Jesus as a slave. This is a God who was willing to give up divinity, to drain it out, and become humble and lowly, obedient all the way to death. This is not a mighty, overpowering God, but a God who's strength comes only out of weakness and humility.

That means not only that God understands our weakness, but in fact, God is on the side of those who are weak. We are reminded in Christ's example, that only those who are humble will be exalted, and that the true leaders are the ones who serve.

That news is somewhat shocking, even 2000 years later. It's definitely something worth singing about. The steadfast love of God follows us even to death, and we are in awe of its magnitude.

And we are not the only ones who are in awe. Even Mary the mother of Jesus, known in the Eastern Church as the qeotoko", the God-bearer, is amazed at the awesome love of God. Listen to the song Mary sings to Elizabeth while they are both still pregnant, from the Gospel of Luke, the Magnificat:

Transpose Chant to F Major (Am – Em | Am/C – F)

My soul proclaims your great-ness, Lord;
my spirit rejoices in you, my Savior;
For you have looked with favor on your low-ly servant,
from this day all generations will call me blessed.
You the Almighty have done great things for me,
and Holy is your Name.
Your have mercy on those who fear you
in every gen-er-ation.
You have shown the strength of your arm;
you have scattered the proud in their con-ceit.
You have cast the mighty from their thrones;
you have lifted up the lowly.
You have filled the hungry with good things;
and the rich have been sent a-way empty.
You have come to the help of your ser-vant Israel,
for you have remembered your promise of mercy,
the promise you made to our forebears,
to Abraham and his children for ever.

Jesus is not the only one who is a slave. Mary thanks God for favoring her even though she is lowly. She would have been of no consequence to the world, but she was of supreme consequence to God.

But Mary doesn't just sing of her own situation, she is so overcome with joy that she breaks into song about the amazing liberating action of God for all oppressed people. "God pulls down the mighty from their thrones, and raises up the humble. The Lord fills the starving and lets the rich go hungry." These are hard words for those of us who identify with the rich and powerful, as most of us do. But they are wonderful words of salvation for those who are on the underside of society, for those in the Third World, for those who are marginalized and oppressed for any reason. God is the champion of the poor and needy, the benefactor of those who suffer, the healer of those who are diseased, the comforter of those who weep. Of what greater love can we sing than that of an almighty God who is self-humbling, and cares most for those who have the least.

We have so many reasons to sing to God. And people of faith have always sung their songs to the Lord. Songs of triumph, songs of despair, songs of amazement, songs of great thanksgiving – songs for every emotion and occasion. And when we sing we join together with people from all times and places – past, present, and future – North, South, East, and West. We come together in one great chorus of faith that transcends time and space. In all occasions, good times and bad, we must sing our prayers. In the words of today's Hymn of Praise:

So has the church in liturgy and song,
in faith and love, through centuries of wrong,
borne witness to the truth in every tongue, Alleluia!

Let every instrument be tuned for praise!
Let all rejoice who have a voice to raise!
And may God give us faith to sing always Alleluia!

With so great a God, how can we keep from singing?

Saturday, April 02, 2005


The first modern pope to pray in a synagogue (we know that Peter did). The first pope to pray in a mosque. Steadfastly and consistently against war. World traveler who went outside to meet the people. That is how I will remember him.

For the future, I hope for a Third World Pope.
ABC: How the next Pope will be elected

Friday, April 01, 2005

Pope watch III

Pope watch II