“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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re-Hymn: In the Garden (of Gethsemane)

In thinking about preaching this year on Good Friday, the idea came to me to create a minor-keyed arrangement of the classic hymn “In the Garden (I come the Garden Alone).”

So often the music and key of a song can greatly impact the words and meaning. After all, “the medium IS the message” and the WAY we communicate deeply influences WHAT we are trying to communicate.*

In thinking about preaching this year on Good Friday, the idea came to me to create a minor-keyed arrangement of the classic hymn “In the Garden (I come the Garden Alone).” This much beloved (and yet also critiqued as being over sentimental or potentially romantic**) hymn from C. Austin Miles was composed in 1912 and made it into our United Methodist Hymnals soon thereafter.

This re-arranging of this hymn text is heavily influenced by re-imagining the text as written about the Garden of Gethsemane (in Matthew 26:36-46) instead of the resurrection garden encounter (in John 20:11-18) and is also influenced by Black Liberation theologian James Cone‘s God of the Oppressed. Placing this hymn tune’s normal major progression in G C D into and Em Am Bm minor progression and adapting the melody leave it with a haunting, appropriate sense of what it means to sing about being with Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane that fateful night just before his arrest and subsequent crucifixion. Here is a rough version of the chords written out.

In the Garden (of Gethsemane) from joseph mcbrayer on Vimeo.

I’ll be singing and preaching more about this hymn at the Emory Office of Spiritual and Religious Life Good Friday service April 14th, 12noon at Cannon Chapel, Emory University.

___
Footnotes:

*Media theorist and author Professor Marshall McLuhan, The Medium Is the Massage (New York: Bantam Books), 1967, 10.

**Choir master and hymnal editor Carlton R. Young, Companion to the United Methodist Hymnal (Nashville: Abingdon Press), 1993, 432-433.

Doctoral Work: Boundary Leaders

The goals of this curriculum will be for students to gain a deep and practical understanding of boundary leadership, to understand what boundary leadership does for community formation, and how students/leaders can become/create other boundary leaders…

For my Doctor of Ministry Final Project I am filming a series of interviews with a remarkable set of leaders in and around Emory University: Rev. Lyn Pace (Oxford College Chaplain), Carlton Mackey (Emory Center for Ethics and Artist), Dr. Elizabeth Corrie (Candler School of Theology), Danielle M. Bruce Steele (Emory Office of LGBTQ and the Center for Women), Rashika Verma (Emory undergraduate student), Ruth Ubaldo (Candler Theology Student), Kevin McIntosh (Emory Housing and Residence Life) and Dr. Bobbi Patterson (Emory Graduate Dept of Religion and Professor of Pedagogy).

This project is born out of my research on Emory undergraduates and from our course work around Asset Based Community Development and Alternative Leadership models–like “Boundary Leadership.” Boundary Leadership is necessary in order to build vibrant, thriving communities of inclusion, wholeness, and mutual prosperity, which, for Christians, is exemplary of the in-breaking Kin-dom of God made manifest through our loving actions.

My structural and social analysis research into the difficult and challenging issues in the Emory University community have further impressed upon me the importance of remarkable and adaptive people in leadership positions both in institutional and community settings. Author and researcher Gary Gunderson calls this “Boundary Leadership,” which “is the practice of leadership in the boundary zone, the space in between settled zones of authority, where relationships are more fluid, dynamic, and itinerant.*”

In order to learn more about how Boundary Leaders function in different spaces and areas of community life, practice self-care, act with intentionality, and help create other Boundary Leaders, I have conducted video interviews with both known and emerging boundary leaders in the Emory University community. This information and research will be compiled into a three to six week video small group curriculum for collegiate ministry.

The goals of this curriculum will be for students to gain a deep and practical understanding of boundary leadership, to understand what boundary leadership does for community formation, and how students/leaders can become/create other boundary leaders.

Below is the first edit of my interview with Chaplain Rev. Lyn Pace of Oxford College of Emory University, which serves as an introduction to Boundary Leadership.

*Gunderson, Gary; Cochrane, Jim (2012-02-15). Religion and the Health of the Public (pp. 119-120). Palgrave Macmillan Monographs. Kindle Edition.

filming setup at Lyn Pace's office

Power, Fear, & Love

“Power, Fear, & Love”  // The sermon I preached on Sunday October 18, 2015 at University Worship at Emory University on following Jesus, servanthood, Amelia Boynton Robinson, Civil Rights, Selma Alabama, and Mark 10:35-45.

University Worship in Cannon Chapel, Emory University, Atlanta, GA Emory Office of Spiritual and Religious Life.

“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.

Bishop White: Letter to Martin 2015

This year, I am honored to again film Bishop Woodie White reading his annual “Letter to Martin” (Martin  Luther King, Jr.) on the state of race relations and racial justice in America. Bishop White is a retired United Methodist Bishop, was an active leader in the Civil Rights movement, and continues to teach and work for racial and social justice. He is the Bishop in Residence at Candler School of Theology at Emory University in Atlanta, Ga where he teaches, preaches, and works to equip future leaders of the church for the transformation of the world.

Bishop White is a graduate of Paine College in Augusta, Ga and Boston University School of Theology. From 1969-1984 he was General Secretary of the General Commission on Religion and Race of The United Methodist Church. Elected a bishop in 1984, he served the Illinois Great Rivers Area prior to his service in Indiana. He was president of the General Board of Discipleship from 1988-1992 and president of the Council of Bishops in 1996-1997. Bishop White was elected to the Martin Luther King, Jr. International Board of Preachers at Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia.

You may link to or embed this video on social media or your church website and it may be downloaded (in vimeo) to use in worship, Sunday Schools, Small Groups, or discussion groups for the purpose of further engaging in the conversation on Race and the Church in America.


The images used here are from various sources including Candler School of Theology, Emory University Libraries, United Methodist Communications, Wikimedia Commons, Twitter, and from news articles. The sole intent is for Fair Use of these images in order to show historical context of both earlier and more recent events.

Many thanks to Bishop White for his writing, his prophetic voice, and his work to aid the church in being a part of racial justice and reconciliation in America and beyond. My personal thanks to Rev. Brian Tillman (Johns Creek UMC), Claire Asbury Lennox (Candler School of Theology), and Joey Butler (United Methodist Communications) for their collaboration, encouragement, and interest in this project.

Full text of the Bishop White’s Letter:

Dear Martin:

I begin this letter mindful of the events that took place in our nation 50 years ago, events that changed the United States.

As you and other leaders of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference accelerated the challenge to the discriminatory practices prohibiting black people from registering and voting in several Southern states, a special campaign was launched in Alabama.

A march from Selma to Montgomery was planned. At the end, the demonstrators were to present the governor with a list of practices encountered by black citizens of the state. Hundreds gathered on Sunday, March 7, 1965.

State officials had determined the march would not occur and banned the planned demonstration.

As the marchers began to move across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, they were met by a sizable police presence on the bridge. Some of the police were on horses. When the peaceful marchers refused to disband, they were attacked by the police, beaten and trampled by horses. Mass hysteria erupted. Wounded and bloody, the nonviolent, peaceful protesters were turned back.

Millions witnessed the brutal attacks on television and in newspaper photos. So vicious were they that the day became known as Bloody Sunday. The nation was horrified to see peaceful citizens so brutalized as they sought to be granted the right to vote in their own country.

Only days later, Martin, you called for a second march. This time thousands responded. Celebrities, church leaders, pastors and ordinary citizens gathered — and the march was fully racially integrated. It ended on the steps of the Capitol in Montgomery, with leaders presenting their concerns, grievances and demands.

Five months later, in August, what is commonly called the Voting Rights Act was law. Congress passed the 1965 Civil Rights Act because of the bold leadership of President Lyndon B. Johnson. For the first time, black citizens anywhere in America had the right to register and the right to vote protected against intimidation, unfair and discriminatory regulations, fear of reprisals or violence.

Imagine, Martin, it was only 50 years ago, that the most basic right of a democracy, the right to vote, was guaranteed to black American citizens! Only 50 years ago!

In a few months, thousands of us will again gather at the Edmund Pettus Bridge. We will remember those who led the way, some even giving their lives, that we might today exercise the right to cast a ballot freely.

Sadly, we will do so in the face of new threats to that right, as many state legislatures enact laws to make it more difficult for citizens to exercise that right.

The struggle continues.

Martin, we are again reminded of the deep racial divide in America. The deaths of a number of unarmed black youth and men at the hands of police have drawn national attention. Those who died in Brooklyn, N.Y.; Cleveland; and Ferguson, Mo., were males in their teens. Two of the deaths — one in Ferguson and the other in Staten Island, N.Y. – went before a grand jury. Neither resulted in an indictment against the police involved. The failures to indict have resulted in thousands demonstrating in major cities across the nation. There is general outrage and anger in the black community and beyond.

Is America again to have two societies, one black (or non-white), and one white, separate and unequal? And composed, as many hold, of two justice systems, one for white citizens and one for non-white citizens?

Is there the belief that black life is not as valued in our nation as white life? Indeed, a new slogan has emerged: “Black Lives Matter.”

A national conversation on race is emerging. With it is coming the revelation that white and black citizens view race dramatically differently. Even in these two widely known incidents of unarmed black young men meeting death as the result of police action, a significant number of white citizens conclude the deaths were clearly the fault of the black men, while black citizens believe they were caused by an underlying racism that views white and black people differently. White life is valued more than black.

Perhaps, Martin, that is still what is at the heart of the great racial divide in America. Still, it appears, the matter of one’s worth as a human being is finally about the color of one’s skin — not the content of one’s character, morality, ability or competence. Indeed, there seems no correlation between scoring a winning touchdown or basket, or between one’s abilities, political positions or party and one’s determined ultimate worth as a human being. Could it be that in the minds and hearts of so many, skin color determines worth and value?

We continue to face a lot of work in this nation on the issue of race. At times, we appear to move backward and forward simultaneously. The truth is, Martin, the events of the last 50 years are evidence of how far we have come on our journey to become “one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” But, the last 50 days are evidence as well of how far we have yet to go!

But, I still believe, Martin.

We shall overcome!

Woodie

Prayers of the People 2014.08.03

2014.08.03 Prayers of the People
written for The Gathering at Glenn UMC

“In order to see we must first admit we have been blind…”
-Rev Josh Amerson

God who leads us, loves us, and heals us,
we have come here today seeking you–
Open our eyes through music, fellowship, song, and scripture;
we pray that the Holy Spirit continues to teach us,
that we might know your healing touch,
See you at work in the world,
And be surprised and changed by encountering YOU.

We all come today with concerns:
with questions, with prayers, with longings;
we pray that your Holy Spirit would stir up in us
the courage to listen, to hear,
to challenge, and to be changed.
We pray today for people–
–people both near and far from us–
who need to experience your love and care:
for those who are fighting cancer,
sickness, and mental illness,
may you open our eyes that we might see,
and be your healing hands.

for people who are in the midst of
injustice, war, and violence,
may you open our eyes that we might see,
and be instruments of peace .

for survivors of every kind of abuse,
may you open our eyes that we might see,
and be compassionate, listening souls and shoulders.

for people who are caught up in systems
of oppression and economic injustice,
may you open our eyes that we might see,
and be agents of justice and change.

for people who are blinded and consumed
by consumption and materialism,
may you open our eyes that we might see,
and live out of your abundant economy.

for people who lead our
nations and local communities,
may you open our eyes that we might see,
and be compassionately engaged, civil, civil servants.

and for those who appear to be near to you
and those who appear to be far off,
may you open our eyes that we might see,
And help us recognize and behold you among us.

May we, all your people, know your healing touch–
and, by the power of your Holy Spirit,
may you open our eyes that we might see,
And GO to be the servants of your kingdom
with, and to, the hurting, broken, and surprising world. Amen.