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Christmas Carol Challenge   Leave a comment

St_Mark iconThe Challenge went out the week before Christmas: Does anybody know a good Christmas carol based on Mark’s version of Jesus’ birth? But alas, Mark doesn’t have a “birth narrative” on which to base a Christmas carol. So, we challenged LtQers to come up with a carol anyway!

Thanks to Dennis Ryle, Squire John, and Marian L Shatto for their contributions. They’ll all be receiving their very own copy of LtQ’s popular alternative Christmas Pageant, “Matt and Lucy’s Version Births.”

Below, in no particular order, are their three verses, each sung to the tune of St. Louis (The original tune to “O Little Town of Bethlehem”). Now all we need is a catchy title!

A Christmas Carol According to Mark

Tune: St. Louis (O Little Town of Bethlehem)

Mark’s Christmas tale begins with John
who comes to show the way,
“Make straight God’s paths and change your hearts;
Come, embrace this brand new day.”
“I baptise you with water;
It is enough for now.
Be ready, though, for one who comes
the Spirit to bestow.”  (Dennis Ryle)

O little town of Nazareth,
how unknown you really are.
You host no tale of Jesus’ birth,
nor star, nor wise ones, mark.
In all your roads and laneways,
no light is shining bright,
no hope, no fear, and all the years
will just ignore your plight. (Squire John)

In Nazareth did Jesus grow,
A child in Galilee.
Sepphoris was just down the road;
the slaughter did he see?
Two thousand crucifixions,
a town wiped from the earth –
This horror to his preaching of non-violence
did give birth. (Marian L Shatto)

And the original verse that kicked off the challenge…

Of Jesus’ birth we have no news,
No details or anecdotes.
It likely was a normal birth,
at home with a midwife’s coax.
In Nazareth it happened.
Where else could it have been?
For Jesus was a Nazarene
No father’s name is given. (David Felten)

Thanks for all your great Facebook comments and encouragement — and be sure to check out George Stuart’s Advent and Christmas hymns/carols for next year (see previous posts). Thanks, everyone; and a Happy Christmas!

Two more BRAND NEW Carols from OZ   Leave a comment

Thanks to everyone for their enthusiastic responses, shares, and praise for George Stuart’s lyrics! In response, George has written two BRAND NEW sets of lyrics.  More Christmas than Advent, one is to the tune of “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” and the other is to the tune “The First Nowell.”

In keeping with LtQ’s encouragement to actually read the birth narratives in the Bible (see our “Version Births” Christmas Pageant for children), these carols stick to each gospel’s unique story without blurring the lines.

We think you’ll find the theological perspective, the inclusive language, the social justice bent, and the keeping of the two stories separate as refreshing as we have.

Thank you, George!

Matthew’s Story

By George Stuart, The Uniting Church (Australia)
Tune: Mendelssohn (77.77 D with Refrain) 
“Hark the herald angels sing”

As we ponder Christmas tales,
And a hope that never fails,
We give thanks for all new birth,
Wondrous miracle of earth;
Jesus, helpless, meek and mild;
New born baby, undefiled;
Mary’s, Joseph’s great delight;
Jesus grows to be ‘The Light’;
In his human-ness we see
What our lives can truly be.

Ancient stories set the stage
For this humble Jewish sage;
Wise men come; look for a king
With the precious gifts they bring;
Herod was perplexed when told
What their searching could unfold;
Blameless infants must be killed;
Scripture thus, can be fulfilled;
Modern Herods work against
All that loving has commenced.

In a house is where they find
Jesus, born of humankind;
Frankincense and myrrh and gold
Are their gifts; and we behold
Jesus and his star so bright
Shines for us each day and night;
So for infants born today
Stars shine brightly as they play.
Deeds of love are gifts we bring;
Joyful praises we now sing.

Luke’s story

By George Stuart, The Uniting Church (Australia)
Tune: The First Nowell  (Meter: Irregular)  
“The First Noel”

When Christmas comes it brings great joy;
This story of a baby boy;
These tales that tell of this new birth;
The miracle of Mother Earth;
Noel: Noel: Noel: Noel:
Jesus is born and all is well.

No room was found for this young maid;
She felt alone and quite afraid;
A shed was where his birth took place;
It was unclean, a sad disgrace;
Noel: Noel: Noel: Noel:
Jesus is born and all is well.

Some shepherds woke and searched to find
A baby born to humankind;
They felt at home where herds would feed;
These outcasts were the lowest breed.
Noel: Noel: Noel: Noel:
Jesus is born and all is well.

So all are welcome to the stall;
For us, this is the gospel call.
We join to lift the chorus swell;
For God is here; Emmanuel.
Noel: Noel: Noel: Noel:
Jesus is born and all is well.

 

George Stuart at the 2013 Common Dreams Conference in Canberra, ACT

George Stuart at the 2013 Common Dreams Conference in Canberra, ACT

Lyrics by George Stuart. These works are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. Without any further permission, the lyrics herein can be copied, stored or printed for public worship or private devotions, screened through a data projector or projected by an overhead projector, as required.

When the lyrics are used, acknowledgement of the author is requested.

There is however, a strict copyright prohibition regarding copying any of the lyrics in any way whatsoever for re-sale.

Seriously. A New (and Singable) Advent Hymn   1 comment

More and more, practitioners of Progressive Christianity are speaking out about the beloved but threadbare hymns in current denominational hymnals. Most are intolerable. The rest are downright counter-productive to the foundations of 21st century faith. As George Stuart has noted, these traditional hymns use lyrics and words that “express ideas which singers no longer enthusiastically or wholeheartedly endorse,” resulting in “much personal irritation” from “a growing and significant number of people.” The result has been Stuart’s efforts to use traditional hymn tunes to be the vehicles of contemporary, progressive Christian ideas.

“I write my alternative lyrics particularly for many of the older members of congregations who have grown up in the church and love the many old tunes they have sung over the years, but who now find that the traditional words are no longer meaningful, helpful or even tolerable.”

— George Stuart

As Bishop John Shelby Spong says that Stuart’s work “meets a critical demand. It is terrific,” here’s just one example of Stuart’s poetry: an Advent hymn called “The Search for Hope.”

The Search for Hope

By George Stuart, The Uniting Church (Australia)
Tune: Darwall (66.66.88)
[“Rejoice, the Lord Is King” #715 in the United Methodist Hymnal]

1. We search for lasting hope
To help us face each day,
To give us reason to pursue a different way.
In Christ we see
A way to go through ‘high’ and ‘low’
And set us free.

2. Sometimes the hope we want
Is difficult to find;
It falls to us to foster it in heart and mind.
In Christ we know
A path to tread through peace and dread
And help us grow.

3. When others seem to break
When hope seems at an end,
We may be able to give hope
just as a friend.
In Christ we share
A call to be in ministry,
To love and care.

4. Hope brings us back to life
In hope we can proceed;
God of the future calls to us if we but heed.
In Christ we view
How God can reign in our domain;
Make all things new.

5. This Christmas brings new hope
For justice, peace, goodwill;
This Advent time may bring with it a secret thrill.
With Jesus born
New hope can be reality
With each new dawn.

 

George Stuart at the 2013 Common Dreams Conference in Canberra, ACT

George Stuart at the 2013 Common Dreams Conference in Canberra, ACT

Lyrics by George Stuart. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. Without any further permission, the lyrics herein can be copied, stored or printed for public worship or private devotions, screened through a data projector or projected by an overhead projector, as required.

When the lyrics are used, acknowledgement of the author is requested.

There is however, a strict copyright prohibition regarding copying any of the lyrics in any way whatsoever for re-sale.

 

Bishop Spong on the First Easter   1 comment

“There is no question in my mind that had there not been some transforming experience that happened to the disciples after the death of Jesus that convinced them that he had conquered the boundary of human death there would be no Christianity.  But what people don’t understand is that the idea that that experience meant the resuscitation of a body that could walk physically out of a tomb on the third day after crucifixion is a very late developing tradition.  You will not find it in Paul; you will not find it in Mark.  Most people are surprised to know that in the first gospel, Mark, written in the early seventies, that no where does the risen Christ ever appear in Mark to anybody!  It’s only in the late gospels that he not only appears but offers his flesh to be inspected and eats and walks and talks and interprets scripture; it’s a very late development in the tradition.  There is a powerful Easter experience that starts the whole Christian faith, transforms the disciples, changes them from cowards who had forsaken him and fled and brought them back into being heroic followers of this Jesus —  changed the way they understood God so that whatever that Easter experience was they could never again think of God without seeing Jesus as part of that definition.  They could never again see Jesus without feeling that God was part of that definition.  Something incredibly powerful happened but it had nothing to do with the resuscitation of the body.”

— Bishop John Shelby Spong in Saving Jesus Redux (available at livingthequestions.com)

NLS_Spong6_Jan27_03The retired Bishop of Newark, New Jersey, John Shelby Spong is one of the featured contributors in several Living the Questions series. He is a columnist and author of over sixteen books including Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism and Why Christianity Must Change or Die. Lecturer at Harvard, Humanist of the Year, and a guest on numerous national television broadcasts including The Today Show, Politically Incorrect with Bill Maher, and Larry King Live, Bishop Spong continues to write and lecture around the world. His newest book is The Fourth Gospel: Tales of a Jewish Mystic. 

A Prayer for a Quirky New Year: Happy 2014!   1 comment

A Harvest of Quirkiness (CLICK HERE for HD version on VIMEO)

Gracious God,
how can creation sing your praises,
except with the red wings of blackbirds
flashing across blue sky,
and the croak and splash of frogs
playing hide-and-seek in the ponds?

How can the firmament proclaim your handiwork,
except in the wagging tail of a puppy,
and the focused attention of a toddler
soaking in the wonder of it all?

How can the heavens proclaim your glory,
except through a morning sun rising upon gold-green grass,
lighting up the face of lovers as Earth spins them
once more into a new day?

Your beauty and goodness, O Immanent One,
requires Earth’s diversity
and our own wildness,
breaking down – and out of –
the monotony of prescribed patterns,
choosing rather to take our place
in the dancing procession
of differentness,
the variegated life of Christ finding expression
in this body of the church
and the bodies of our kin-creatures.

Make a harvest, O Holy One,
of our quirkiness,
that we might be your radiant presence.

— from If Darwin Prayed: Prayers for Evolutionary Mystics, by Bruce Sanguin

Each session of LtQ’s DVD curriculum, Painting the Stars, concludes with a reading from Bruce Sanguin’s collection of prayers and liturgical resources published in his book “If Darwin Prayed.” This prayer, “A Harvest of Quirkiness” was produced by Scott Griessel of Creatista and is read by Sara Jackson. Happy New Year!

PtS logo white frameFor more on Living the Questions and Painting the Stars, including DVD/web-based curriculum and home editions, CLICK HERE (or on the graphic at left)

Bruce Sanguin_scarf

Rev. Bruce Sanguin is a leader in evolutionary Christianity, teaching evolutionary theology and practice with a passion for updating the theology and practice of the church in light of the reality of evolutionary processes and the creative impulse of the universe. He lives in Vancouver. Find more of his writing HERE

Oy Vey Maria! The Virgin Birth as Mistake, Marketing, and Major Distraction   Leave a comment

Living the Questions’ co-author, David Felten, is on Huffington Post with a blogpost for Christmas. Check it out by clicking HERE or on the “Mary & Jesus” graphic.

__________________________

2013Creatista-MaryAndJesus-

Mary and Jesus ©2013 Creatista/Scott Griessel. Used by Permission.

“There really is something about Mary.

Catholics aren’t the only ones who harbor a measure of devotion to Jesus’ mother that can sometimes border on the fanatic. But Mary can be a bit of problem. From the church’s doctrinal expectations about believing in the literal virgin birth to the political realities of women’s reproductive choices, beliefs and notions about the person and role of Mary are right below the surface in many peoples’ subconscious…”

To read more, click HERE…

God is Dying   Leave a comment

Sample God being Bombed

“God Will Not Be God Without Us.  When anybody in this world is hurt, God is hurt. When anybody in this world gets their lives twisted and out of joint, that radically affects the reality of God. When a culture is bombed and civilizations are dying, God is being bombed, and in human terms, dying.”

–Tex Sample
in Living the Questions’ Saving Jesus Redux,  “Atonement”

Tex SampleThe Rev. Dr. Tex Sample served as Academic Dean and Emeritus Professor of Church and Society at the Saint Paul School of Theology, and currently writes books and travels  as a freelance lecturer, workshop leader, consultant, and storyteller. His books include Ministry in an Oral Culture: Living with Will Rogers, Uncle Remus, and Minnie Pearl, and co-editor of The Loyal Opposition: Struggling with the Church on Homosexuality. He is currently the coordinator of the Network for the Study of U.S. Lifestyles and a contributor to several Living the Questions programs.

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