Three Hands Clapping

This is my latest recording project (released May 27, 2019). It is a double album of 22 songs, which very roughly track the story of my life... a sort of musical autobiography, so to speak. Click the album image to listen.

Ghost Notes

Ghost Notes
A collections of original songs I wrote in 2015, and recorded with the FreeWay Musical Collective. Click the album image to listen.

inversions

Recorded in 2014, these songs are sort of a chronicle of my journey through a pastoral burn-out last winter. They deal with themes of mental-health, spiritual burn-out and depression, but also with the inexorable presence of God in the midst of darkness. Click the album art to download.

soundings

soundings
click image to download
"soundings" is a collection of songs I recorded in September/October of 2013. Dealing with themes of hope, ache, trust and spiritual loss, the songs on this album express various facets of my journey with God.

bridges

bridges
Click to download.
"Bridges" is a collection of original songs I wrote in the summer of 2011, during a soul-searching trip I took out to Alberta; a sort of long twilight in the dark night of the soul. I share it here in hopes these musical reflections on my own spiritual journey might be an encouragement to others: the sun does rise, blood-red but beautiful.

echoes

echoes
Prayers, poems and songs (2005-2009). Click to download
"echoes" is a collection of songs I wrote during my time studying at Briercrest Seminary (2004-2009). It's called "echoes" partly because these songs are "echoes" of times spent with God from my songwriting past, but also because there are musical "echoes" of hymns, songs or poems sprinkled throughout the album. Listen closely and you'll hear them.

Accidentals

This collection of mostly blues/rock/folk inspired songs was recorded in the spring and summer of 2015. I call it "accidentals" because all of the songs on this project were tunes I have had kicking around in my notebooks for many years but had never found a "home" for on previous albums. You can click the image to download the whole album.

blogs I follow

random reads

Book Reviews

Book Reviews
The Shallows, Nicholas Carr
In this very readable, very thought provoking analysis of electronic communciations technology and its impact on our brains and culture, Nicholas Carr brings together media theory (think Marshall McLuhan), history (think Gutenberg) and neuroscience (think discoveries in brain plasticity) to show how computer technology is shaping us in ways of which we are only dimly aware. He argues that such technologies reduce our capacity for deep, creative and sustained linear thought (or at least have the potential to do so) and predispose us to the fragmented, the cursive and the superficial. Worth the read.

Exclusion and Embrace, Miroslav Volf

Ecstasy and Intimacy: When the Holy Spirit Meets the Human Spirit, Edith Humphrey
A fascinating and engaging introduction to spiritual theology-- or the theology of spirituality, as the case may be. This book is a very scholarly, devotional, christo-centric, ecumenical and trinitarian overview of what it means for Christians to live in the Spirit and with the Spirit within. Bracing and enlightening.

Leading with a Limp, Dan Allender

five smooth stones for pastoral work, Eugene Peterson

From Darkness to Light: How One Became a Christian in the Early Church, Anne Fields

Life in the Ancient Near East, Daniel C. Snell
Snell's Life in the Ancient Near East offers a social history of the ANE, tracing the earliest settlement of Mesopotamia, the development of agriculture, first cities, ancient economy and the emergence of empire. Bringing together a rich variety of data gleaned both from the archaeological record and extant historical texts, he tells the history of this cradle of civilization with a special eye for the "human" element - focusing on the forces and factors that would have directly affected the daily life of the various strata of society. Worth a read generally, but all the more for someone with a particular interest in the biblical stories that find their setting and draw their characters and themes from the same provenience.


The Power and the Glory, Graham Greene

Flame of Yahweh: Sexuality in the Old Testament, Richard Davidson
Davidson's Old Testament theology of human sexuality is stunning in its achievement, challenging in its content, and edifying in its conclusions. Davidson addresses every-- and I do mean every-- Old Testament text that deals (even obliquely) with human sexuality, and, through detailed exegesis, careful synthesis, and deep interaction with the scholarly research, develops a detailed picture of the Old Testament's vision for redeemed human sexuality. 700 pages of Biblical scholarship at its best.


Eaarth, Bill McKibben
Bill McKibben's Eaarth, is a call for us to wake up smell the ecological coffee...while we can still brew it. Unlike his previous work, or any writing on ecology I've yet read, however, Eaarth does not argue that catastrophe is pending. Instead, he argues that catastrophe has arrived, and that our all talk about "going green to avert disaster," "and "saving the planet" is woefully obsolete. In ecological terms, the planet as we once knew it is gone, he argues, and rather than trying to "avert" disaster, we need to start figuring out how to live in the disaster that's happened. Key themes he identifies as important for life on planet Eaarth resonnated with me as profoundly Christian ways of being (disaster or no). We must stop assuming that "bigger" is better; we must acknowledge limits on economic and technological growth; we must get reacquainted with the land; we need eschew self-sufficency and nurture community.

Love Wins, Rob Bell
So fast and furious has the furor over this book been, that any review will inevitably feel redundant or tardy. Given the crowd on the band wagon by now, I actually had no intention of hopping on myself, but my kids got it for me for Father's Day. About 15 pages in, I realized that I could probably finish it in on good push, so I got it over with. My thoughts: probably the most over-hyped book I ever read; I loved it and found it frustratingly under-developed at the same time; while he raises some important issues, his handling of them reads like a yoda-meets-Tom-Wright account of salvation; nothing C. S. Lewis hasn't already said more clearly and more cleverly; I'm glad he wrote it, and I'm glad the Evangelical world has errupted over it the way it has, and I hope a much more spirited and generous and optimistic understanding of soteriology and eschatology will infuse the evangelical church's mission as a result.

Rediscovering Paul, David Capes et. al.
Rediscovering Paul is a hepful overview of Paul's life, times and theology. While at times I felt it might have gone deeper, or expressed its ideas more clearly, it provides some interesting and inspiring insights into the man behind the letters. Among these is its discussion of the communal aspect of first century letter writing, and the influence of one's community on one's personal sense of identity, and how those issues might have played out in Paul's writings. Another challenging issue that it tackles is the whole process of letter writing in the Greco-Roman world, especially as regards the role a scribe often played in shaping the text, smoothing out the langugae or providing stock phrases, etc.


Lavondyss, Robert Holdstock
If you've read George MacDonald's Lilith, then think of Lavondyss as sort of a Lilith-for-Non-Christians. It's the convoluted labyrinth of a story about a young girl called Tallis and her adventures in a magical wood that brings the Jungian archetypes buried deep in our subconscious to life. Dense with questions about Jungian psychology, and the spiritually-thin-places of the world, and death and myth and magic and story, it's pretty tough slugging at times, but thought provoking and challenging. At times I felt like I was reading the Narnia book C. S. Lewis might have written if he had pursued the "stab of northerness" in directions other than the Christian Faith where he found it eternally satisfied.

Jesus and Money, Ben Witherington III
My friend John Vlainic once ranked Ben Witheringon as one of the strongest Biblical scholars in the Wesleyan tradtion working today. This thin but powerful volume is evidence to support such an accolade. I opened it expecting (judging by the cover) either a how-to book on Christian finances, or (judging by the other books I've read on Christ and Money) a hodge-podge of Bible verses taken out of context and mushed together as proof texts about the tithe. I got neither; instead, Ben Witherington walks slowly, thoughtful and exegetically through the breadth of Biblical teaching, with special sensitivity to the cultural context of the various texts, the tension between Old and New Testament teaching on the topic, and the differences between modern and ancient economies. If I were to recommend one book to develop a biblical theology of money, it would be this one.

The Gravedigger File, Os Guinness
My first taste of Os Guinness, and, if you don't mind a mangled metaphor, it went down like a bracing pint of... well... Guinness. Grave Digger file is sort of a "Screwtape Letters" project on a church-wide scale. In concept, the book is a series of "training files" for an undercover agent attempting to undermine and ultimately sabotage the Western Church, delivered from the pen of a seasoned saboteur to a young agent recently assigned to Los Angeles. In plot, the young agent ultimately defects, and delivers the "Gravedigger File" into the hands of a Christian, urging him to alert the Church to the operation. It is bursting with "things that make you go hmmm..." and deserves a second, careful read with pen in hand, ready to mine it for its scintillating and eminently quotable lines.

Unexpected Fruit (The Director's Cut)

After I was done preaching this Sunday, one of my friends said to me: "Okay: did you make a bet in Seminary that you could preach a sermon on one of the genealogies in the Bible or something?"

The answer was no; but I do believe there's something important about standing under the whole word of God, all of it, even the strange or obscure corners of it, and letting it all address us as the word of God. To do this means hearing from its genealogies (and temple inventories, and tables of nations, and bizarre oracles and terrifying apocalyptic visions) as much as from its nice, neat, orderly Pauline discourses. And as ancient documents, genealogies are actually pretty fascinating texts-- theologically rich and spiritually verdant and imaginatively fertile-- or at least they can become so when you start meditating on them deeply.

All this is to introduce this Sunday's Sermon:

Matthew 1:1-17
Unexpected Fruit on the Family Tree


And speaking of theologically rich, spiritually verdant texts, here's a fascinating thought about the Matthean Genealogy that was a bit too esoteric for my sermon, but I thought I'd post here (the following comes primarily from W. D. Davies and D. C. Alison's 1988 commentary on the Gospel of Matthew, as reiterated in John Noland's 2005 commentary).

Matthew lists 42 generations in all from Abraham to Jesus; then he takes careful pains to note that there were 14 generations from Abraham to David, 14 from David to the Exile, and 14 from the Exlie to Jesus. All of which is, in one sense, just plain wrong ... or put a different way, sure there were at least 42 generations from Abraham to Jesus, so technically Matthew's not wrong, but there were a lot more that don't get mentioned. Matthew's trimmed out a few generations here, and he's compressed a few others there, and sometimes seems to be using the term "begat" much more loosely to mean "was the ancestor of."

None of this, it seems, is all that unusual for ancient genealogies, but the thing is: Matthew's taken pretty intent care to fit Jesus' genealogy into exactly 3 groups of 14. Almost as if the 3 x 14 schema was more important to him than any mere biological/biographical accuracy.

As moderns, this might seem pretty fishy to us, until we remember that Matthew thought like an ancient, and probably an ancient Semite at that. And of course, for an anceint Semite, there is power in numbers (7,3,12,40 being among the more famous ones). Not only is there power in numbers, but names themselves also have numbers (it wasn't just the Beast whose name had a number after all). Every word had a "number" that mysteriously related to the word itself, a number that could be determined through various numerological systems known generally today as "gematria."

In Hebrew, the name David has three letters, dalit, waw, dalit, whose respective numerical values are: 4, 6, 4, making the number of David's name 14 (note that David's name comes 14th in Matthew's genealogy). According to at least one system of gematria, the mispar misafi, you also added the number of letters in the word to the "number" of the word, which would give us (loosely speaking), the numbers 3 & 14.
This may get us to the bottom of Matthew's 3 x 14 schema for presenting the geneaology. Has he shaped Jesus' geneaology so that, in a strange way, it all "adds up" to the name "David"? Almost as if he were saying: not only is this Little Lord Jesus the legal descendant of David, but his whole family tree is actually "Christ-shaped"?

Maybe not pulpit material yet, but it sure makes you think.

4 comments:

Jon Coutts said...

Not pulpit material? You're a kinder preacher than I . . .

"Director's Cut" is a great idea. Put the leftovers on the blog for those who are curious about the footnotes! Awesome.

Hebrew Scholar said...

Some excellent thoughts on the Hebrew Gematria of David and the generations of Christ. Superb material.

Naomi said...

Tee Hee... I missed the sermon, but got to see the cool director's cut!

Luke N. Johnson said...

I really enjoyed it. Very insightful and engaging.

Interestingly, a choir put Luke's genealogy to music, called "Which was the son of..." http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2c_nu35JV5o