“Why Stand So Far Away My God”

“Why Stand So Far Away My God” — my homily in the aftermath of the Las Vegas shooting and devastation in Puerto Rico — with musical selections of “Why Stand So Far Away MY God” (Ruth Duck) and Prayer of St. Francis (Trinity Anglican) with Atticus Hicks. The homily was given on Oct 8th, 2017 at the MidWeek Communion Service (Weds at 5pm) at Oak Grove United Methodist Church (ogumc.org).

Our continued prayers with the people of Las Vegas and Puerto Rico and friends Glen and Bill and their teams serving and working there.

chords & lyrics:
Why Stand So Far Away My God (fws 2180) by Ruth Duck
Prayer of St Francis (G) by Trinity Anglican

 

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“The Greatest Must be Servant of All”

“There’s something about kids and how they can make us stop in our tracks…a child changes our perceptions of a scenario or situation….”

This was a difficult sermon/homily to write in light of the ongoing crises in our world and how they disproportionately affect vulnerable people groups and children. This is my Homily/Sermon from this past Weds Night Worship on Mark 9:30-37 at Emory Wesley Fellowship, the United Methodist Campus Ministry at Emory University in Atlanta, GA on 2015.09.16.

Emory Wesley Orientation Video

Orientation Video 2012: Students sharing about the importance of Emory Wesley Fellowship, the United Methodist Campus Ministry at Emory University.

Here is the quick video introduction to Emory Wesley Fellowship, the United Methodist Campus Ministry at Emory University: (students on Facebook here  ||  Twitter here  || Alumni, friends, parents, supporters FB page

music: “Festival” by Sigur Ros used under fair use regulations and this statement by the band: http://www.sigur-ros.co.uk/banda/faq.php#13

O the Depth of Love Divine

This is not a hymn that provides answers about how Christ is present and God’s grace is conveyed, but simply marvels that grace is indeed given…

“O the Depth of Love Divine” was written in 1745 by Charles Wesley as a poem/hymn describing how God’s grace is available and given to all people through Holy Communion in the Christian Tradition. This is not a hymn that provides answers about how Christ is present and God’s grace is conveyed, but simply marvels that grace is indeed given. In the United Methodist tradition we practice “open communion”–meaning ALL people are welcome at God’s table and that God’s grace is made available and tangible to all.

Charles and his brother John Wesley were the founders of the renewal movement in the Anglican Church that eventually became the Methodist Church. This is my own setting of the hymn, but you can find Carlton Young‘s (famous arranger of hymns & the hymnal) setting of “O the Depth of Love Divine” in the United Methodist Hymnal #627.

Kyrie (Lord Have Mercy)

Lent is one of those seasons where the phrase “Lord Have Mercy” may get a good bit of usage in worship…

As we move into the season of Lent in the Christian liturgical calendar (a season of preparation, reflection, and spiritual growth) it is good for us to look to Jesus’ time spent in the wilderness being tempted (Matthew 4:1-11) and times in our own lives where things have been difficult. The point of Lent (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lent) for those who observe it is not necessarily to “give something up” for 40 something days, but perhaps to take on a spiritual practice that helps us realize our need for God’s grace. Many people take time to give to the poor, volunteer, pray, and reflect upon their priorities in life.

Liturgically speaking, Lent leads up to Holy Week where Jesus will suffer and die for the sins of all people–and then Easter and the Resurrection of Jesus. BUT, many people seem to get ahead of themselves and go directly to Easter–Lent is a time to literally “sit in the ashes” and is an appropriate time to contemplate the difficulties in our lives and the lives of others. Lent is not a time of introspection and evaluation to the point of “analysis paralysis” or the loss of self worth, but rather it is a time for reflection and spiritual growth.

The phrase “Lord Have Mercy” now, as in ancient times, often expresses all that we can really say in difficult seasons and situations in life. Lent is one of those seasons where the phrase “Lord Have Mercy” may get a good bit of usage in worship. The song “Kyrie (Lord Have Mercy)” comes from an ancient tradition of sung prayer as found in Psalms, Isaiah, and in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, & Luke. The Ancient Greek words “kyrie eleison” mean “Lord have mercy” and were used as a prayer in times when we don’t know what to say–times when we can only say “Lord, have mercy.”

This is my interpretation of the Kyrie and its debut performance was in February 2011 at “The Composes Concert” sponsored by Sacred Artistry and the Office of Religious Life at Emory University.

“Lord have mercy, have mercy on me
help me be the things you want me to be
help me see the things you want me to see
Lord have mercy, Lord have mercy on me”

words and music copyright by Joseph McBrayer 2010

As It Is In Heaven by Matt Maher

a great setting of the Lord’s prayer by singer/songwriter Matt Maher

The lyrics of this song come from Psalm 40 (sing a new song) and Matthew 6 (the Lord’s prayer) as penned by Catholic singer/songwriter Matt Maher (http://mattmahermusic.com) in collaboration with Ed Cash (accomplished singer/songwriter/songcompleter in the christian music/worship realm).

In the process of writing and rewriting this song, Maher writes that he hopes that this song can be one that emphasizes the unity of the Christian faith as all traditions utilize some form of the Lord’s prayer as found in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7.

It gives me hope for the future of church music (and the church) when worship leaders and musicians use ancient words with modern arrangements that have such a high degree of liturgical and practical significance–such as this song. This gives me hope–hope that the Church can move beyond the extremes of traditionalism (tradition for its own sake) and the misunderstanding/denial of traditions &  people who have come before us. I have hope that the Church can continue to express the Christian faith in ways that embrace the ancient, liturgical, & traditional elements of our past while engaging with the modern/post-modern/future elements of our current cultural climate and our contextual understanding of Christianity. Music and worship like what Matt Maher and Marty Reardon (see post below) are doing is giving deeper context and meaning to ancient liturgical words and practices that enable people to gain a deeper understanding of the Christian faith and tradition. May others continue to do so.

Maher is also the author of the popular song “Your Grace is Enough.” One of my favorites from the album “Alive Again” is a deep, meaningful, & liturgical song: “Christ is Risen From the Dead”, which uses the Eastern Orthodox phrase from the Pascha (Easter) “Christ is risen from the dead/trampling over death by death.” It will likely show up here later this liturgical year.


New Orleans, college campuses, and the Church

This week we’re on vacation…jackson park fencewell my wife is at a conference and I’m walking around the city of New Orleans taking in the sights, the sounds, the smells, and the food of course. In my walkings around the French Quarter, City Park, and the Warehouse district I’ve noticed how many tourists I see with very nice digital cameras taking lots and lots of photos. I guess New Orleans is a very photogenic city. Its historic nature and subsequent variety of people and architecture make it a great place to “people watch” and take pictures…although hopefully you’re taking pictures of the scenery and not the pedestrians.

There is always something going on here in New Orleans–a prime example: after I searched for 15 mins to park ourbrass band 2 car to check into the hotel I found a spot on a side street in the French Quarter. As I was getting our luggage out of the car and BAM!–right in front of me emerged a brass band and following parade moving down the street. It was out of no where and I’m not even sure why it was going on, but it was and it was awesome. Every time we come here to visit friends, there is always something going on–if it’s not Mardi Gras, it’s a Jazz festival, crawfish boil, or something else. It seems to me that the people  in New Orleans like to do things–not just talk about them.

I feel like that is what a college campus is like or supposed to be like. sandwich makingCollege is about learning–but (hopefully) not just about the theoretical part of things. Sadly many classes are about theory and the proper procedure, but are generally lacking the practice or application section. However, all the students at Emory are encouraged to take part in extra-curricular activities and service projects. Many of the students in the Emory Wesley Fellowship are very involved in campus activities–everything from being resident advisors (RA’s), being involved in student government as class representatives, and leading service trips for Volunteer Emory and even making sandwiches to help support people struggling with homelessness in Atlanta. Outside of service opportunities, there are many other interests and activities vying for attention from the student population.

Basically, there is always something going on at a college campus too. Whether for good or ill, I think that college students are about doing things. They’re interested in talking about things, but they also couple that talking with action and living out what they learn and what they believe.

This brings us to the Church. I won’t take this space to be too critical of the actions of the Church, that is the body of Cathedralpeople claiming Christianity as their faith tradition. I’ll leave that discussion for a later, more interpersonal time. However, the Church, when it is truly being the Church–the ekklesia, the gathered people–the Church is about action and about transformation. The life and teachings of Jesus motivate us to join in the movement of God towards the reconciliation, healing, and transformation of and for the world.

Now, the nexus of these topics is found in Campus ministry: young adults and college people who are about living out the good news and love of God through action to and with thier neghbors in the world. That is what campus ministry is about.

If you’re heading off to college, Emory or otherwise, and you’d like to get involved in a living, breathing, action inducing faith tradition, then check out a campus ministry like the Emory Wesley Fellowship.

As always, email with comments or questions. –Joseph   jmcbray@emory.edu