Today’s Sermon: The Music of the Spheres

I had the privilege of preaching in my church today, and it was well received by all. Here it is in its entirety:

2 Peter 1: 2-11 (NIV):

2 Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.

3 His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 4 Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.

5 For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6 and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7 and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. 8 For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins.

10 Therefore, my brothers and sisters,[a] make every effort to confirm your calling and election. For if you do these things, you will never stumble, 11 and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

This list is a recipe for spiritual growth, and could easily form the basis of a whole series of sermons, but I would like to focus on one small aspect of it, how knowledge of God leads to love for God.

The word translated as faith, pistis means a clinging to things we know to be true from the evidence, even when our emotions tell us to doubt. Goodness is self-explanatory, a long-term determination to seek the truth and do good, whether that is in the form of defending the innocent, standing up to evil, consoling the suffering or declaring the uncomfortable truth as best we can.

We all know the greatest commandment, from Matthew 22:36-40 (NIV):

36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Some people really struggle to love God, they have it in their heads that love is a feeling, a mood you have to be in, but that is an unhealthy approach, a dangerous lie sold to us by advertisers and bad storytellers, that will not only lead us to an unhealthy, superficial and fragile relationship with God, but similarly disastrous and unsatisfying relationships with other people.

The attitude of “As soon as you stop entertaining me or make me uncomfortable, I’ll discard you” leaves you alone, shriveled and childish. Like goodness, love is an attitude, a determination and daily decision to seek the best for the object of your love in the long term, even when it is sometimes the last thing that person wants in the short term. It is the highest calling, and a difficult challenge.

Some would say that the key to loving God is gratitude for what He has done for us, for saving us, and they would be right. Gratitude is a cure for all sorts of evils, it helps us to see ourselves as we really are, a healthy motivation for all sorts of good things and a very important part of a loving relationship. However love is more than just gratitude, and gratitude can wear thin. An important part of true, deep love is really getting to know the one that you love, and delighting in who they are.

This is sometimes difficult with people here on earth, because we can discover unpleasant things about them, and this can spoil our impression of what God is like, but with God, who is perfect, we know that there will always be more and more wonderful things to discover and admire, that the greatest appeal of heaven is that we will be there with God, and see Him in His full glory and beauty with none of our own flaws and sins getting in the way.

Many people struggle to love God because they have a false impression of who God is, they imagine he is a cosmic Santa Claus, a magical grandfather who smiles, pats us on the head, gives us a treat and sends us out to play (and when they see the pain and suffering in the world, they start to doubt that He exists at all); others see him as a mean and strict sheriff, watching our every move so he can bring the full hammer of the law down on us the moment we step out of line.

Both of these images are wrong. God is more loving and generous as well as more powerful and just than both of these images.

Others see him as an engineer, who built his creation as a great machine, then left it to run, following its progress with interest and occasionally tweaking it or reprogramming to make sure everything is running properly and it does what he wants it to do, sometimes even stopping it and acting directly to rescue someone or tell his creations something important.

This one is a little better, but like all images of God falls far short of reality, He is far more involved and interested and foundational in His creation than this. No one image can capture God completely, He is far greater and more amazing than we can possibly imagine, but there is a much better approximation, and one that is far from a new idea. First, a quick look at Revelation 4:11:

“You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.”

Not just created, but also have their being. Not just crafted, activated and left to themselves, but actively maintained from moment to moment, from nanosecond to nanosecond. The idea from classical theology, the analogy for the relationship between Creator God and His creation is of a musician and the music that he plays. He is the source of all existence, and is actively involved in absolutely everything that exists, if he stopped actively supporting the existence of the universe, it would no longer exist, just like the music would end as soon as the musician stops playing. We don’t need to worry, the patterns, and harmonies that we know as the Laws of Nature are solid and dependable because God is solid and dependable. It is a powerful analogy that works on multiple levels, in that God’s creation is full of beauty, harmony, and repeating patterns, like well-crafted music.

In ancient times they used to call the motion of the stars and planets musica universalis, the music of the spheres. Even in modern physics, String Theory (which I don’t pretend to fully understand) has vibrating strings as the basis of all matter, with different vibrations like musical notes producing different particles, the notes with which God plays the music of the universe.

Well-known authors of fiction have also famously made use of this imagery, such as C.S. Lewis in The Magician’s Nephew, when Aslan sings Narnia into being and into life, or J.R.R. Tolkein in the Silmarillion where Eru Illuvatar (God) and his Ainur (Holy Ones) together sing the world into existence, and Melkor (the greatest of the Holy Ones) out of pride and lust for power and influence corrupts his part in the music, causing disharmony and twisted, evil creatures, but in a musical battle Eru takes Melkor’s harsh and dissonant part of the song and adds his own higher music to transform the whole into something even more beautiful, and this is all reflected in the world and its history that is created, as Eru announces, “Behold your music!”.

In this analogy of the relationship between God and creation, miracles are not God stopping the music to rearrange the orchestra or fix a broken instrument, but flourishes, fanfares and improvisations that fit into and enhance the overall work.

We are part of that music that God plays, we are utterly dependent on Him in every way, there is nothing we are or have or can have that is not directly reliant on Him. Not only that, but He has given us life, a mind a spirit and the ability to choose to take part in and add to that harmony, joy and beauty, or work against Him and create disharmony, ugliness and suffering.

Many people, and many of His angels, have chosen the latter, resulting in the polluted and corrupted world we live in, causing many to see God as cruel and heartless. If we can look more carefully, past the flaws, we can see a dim reflection of His true nature, his beauty and harmony, his astounding generosity and his power.

We see it in the sunset and in the night sky; in the majesty of mountains, forests, seas and deserts; in the songs of birds and the graceful movements of animals; in the inventiveness of ingenious machines and devices; in the purity of a child’s eyes wide with wonder; in the paintings and music of true artists; in the faithfulness and kindness of true friends and loved ones, in the magic of the seasons.

The triune God who is perfect love, who loves us more than we can ever love him, who gives us all these things and more, who will right all wrongs at His appointed time, sacrificed himself to pay for our part in ruining His creation, and invites us to come and know him, for now in part, but when the time comes we will know Him clearly, perfectly and eternally.

One day He will sing a new song, transforming this song that we know into something better; a song that will never end and never go wrong; music that this current song makes possible, and he invites us to be part of it.

That is something to look forward to and be grateful for. That is who we have the honour of knowing. That is someone to love.

Advertisements

There is a Place

This is a hymn I wrote. If I can ever find the proper musical accompaniment, I will record it for you.

There is a Place

There is a place where innocents rejoice;
There is a place where meek souls lift their voice,
There is a place where truth has its full gleam,
There is a place where sinners are washed clean.

There is a place where all will be explained;
There is a place where life abounds again,
A place where fear and death have no more power,
A place where healing flows from every flower,

There is a place where justice has been done;
There is a place where good has fought and won,
Where pain and sickness have been swept away
And beauty basks in bright eternal day.

The hope of glory lifts us from the grime;
A hope that saves us from a life of crime,
That we could gaze upon that holy face,
Who has prepared for us a special place.

The hope that lifted great souls long ago,
When through the vale of death they had to go
Their heads held high, no longer cursed to roam,
Safe in the knowledge they were going home.

Songs Now Available for Purchase

Both versions of the song ‘A Tale of the Once and Future King’ are now available for purchase at my cdbaby.com artist page for only 99 cents each. They can both be found by clicking the image below:

In time they should also become available from other online music stores. I hope you enjoy listening to them as much as I did creating them, and they help to prepare the audience for Anthony Marchetta’s upcoming masterpiece.

A Tale of the Once and Future King

After a highly enjoyable discussion of the Classic The Once and Future King by T.H. White at DragonCon yesterday, I was able to makes some new friends and give the premier showing of the promotional video for the Upcoming Superversive Press anthology Tales of the Once and Future King. It was very well received, and I can now share it with you all via the magic of youtube:

There is also a more orchestral version of the song, in which Sean McCleery again showcases his considerable musical talent:

Both versions of the song are now available for purchase from cdbaby.com, and in time will also become available from a wide range of music sites. As this is my first foray into the world of professional music, it is an exciting and also daunting prospect. Click on the image below to visit my artist page, where both versions can be downloaded.

The Lyrics of the song are below:

A Tale of the Once and Future King

I’ll tell you a tale so your hearts won’t quail
Of the Once and Future King.
Surrounded by heroes, how mighty the cheer rose
At the hope his presence would bring.
With the sword from the stone
For his sins he atoned;
Though he did go away,
He’ll be back here one day
To reclaim his rightful throne.

A shadowy hand stretched over the land
And the people were distressed.
Foul fiends of the night,
Filled with unholy might,
Gave the poor and helpless no rest.
By the power of the cross,
And at great human cost,
They were sent down to hell,
And the land was made well,
So at last they could mourn the lost.

Though we’re pressed on each side
And so many have died,
Now is not the time to despair.
We’re still strong enough
To repel and rebuff
The troops of the Queen of the Air.
We will not concede,
For in our hour of need,
It has long been foretold
That our great king of old
Will be back, and the people freed.

You may mock, you may sneer,
You may laugh out of fear,
At the hope I claim to bring:
Mere stories for children,
Or gullible pilgrims,
Of a good and righteous king?
Yet he stands in your midst
And will not be dismissed;
His heroes beside him,
His people uniting,
In his army we enlist!

When truth is viewed as treachery

When truth is viewed as treachery,
Integrity as vice,
And beauty as debauchery,
That’s when a nation dies.

When mercy is a hateful thing,
And power is all they crave,
The paradise they hope to bring
Is but an open grave.

And so we strive in our small works
To furnish, among other perks,
Young minds with beauty, wit and charm,
The faithful in this way to arm

Against the waves of hellish thoughts
Proclaimed in foul corrupted courts
That seek to undermine all hope
And glamourize the hangman’s rope.

So strengthened, they will dare to stand
And build great things upon the land,
Inspire others to the cause
That’s guided by such higher laws.

Thus day by day and heart by heart
We all must play our little part
In the greatest of all symphonies,
Most glorious of mysteries,

Whose notes are holy purity,
Resounding to eternity;
Uplift, inspire, make whole and strong,
And join in the Creator’s song.

I have known…

Listening to music can be therapeutic, soothing, invigorating, inspiring, heartbreaking, or depressing, much like reading or listening to a story. In fact Hans Zimmer once said that in all the music he composes his primary purpose is to tell a story, despite using no words. Listening to one of his most famous pieces (that accompanies one of the great movie endings of all time) inspired this little effort of mine below. In Zimmer’s piece, and the film, the hero is faced with a situation where all seems lost. He did everything he could, but all he has worked for has crumbled to dust before his eyes. He sees the situation for what it is, absorbs this devastating news, and yet he still finds the strength to keep going, even to sacrifice himself and his reputation to save people he will never meet, who will almost certainly never even know, let alone appreciate, what he did for them. He is able to do it quickly this time, because he’s done it before. In these respects, these few minutes are a microcosm of his entire heroic journey.

As the piece played I was struck by the ways in which it mirrored some of my own experiences (except it took me far longer to gather up the strength to keep going, and my behaviour has been far less heroic). It encourages me to keep going, to do better, to come closer to the good example set.

This is the power of story, of archetypes, of strong heroic characters, of good examples. Let us make more of them.

My piece set to Zimmer’s music can be found here, with the lyrics below that

I have known…

I have known despair, and I will not promote it.
I have known pain, and I will not glorify it.
I have known false hope, and I will not encourage it.
I have known cowardice, and I will understand, but not praise it.
I have known self-loathing, and I will not romanticize it.
I have known brokenness, defeat, lostness, and yet emerged on the other side, not unscathed, but grown.
I have known failure, and I will learn from it.
I will defend the truth.
I will not abandon my allies.
I will keep learning, and admit when I am wrong.
I will advocate for genuine hope.
I will praise and strive to create beauty.
I will call for courage in matters great and small.
I will seek to repair the damage I have caused.
I will seek to restore friendships.
I will console those who suffer.
I will encourage those who feel they can’t go on, for I have walked that path.

Superversive Press Opens its Doors with The Product

The new publishing house Superversive Press has opened its doors, releasing its first book, the dystopian novella THE PRODUCT, by the head of the Conservative Libertarian Fiction Alliance Marina Fontaine. She knows from personal experience what it is like to live under an oppressive regime, adding authenticity to a disturbing possible future. It is a story of beauty among dehumanising ugliness, hope in the midst of crushing despair, kindness in the midst of heartless cruelty, love in the midst of mindless hatred and apathy.

I must admit my personal stake in this work – I was the editor of this story, and I hope that my efforts in working with Marina on this book have made it an even more enjoyable and worthwhile read. As such I get a percentage of the royalties from each sale, so in buying a copy you will also be supporting me and a new publishing house with a worthy goal.

theproduct-cover

The Product will change your life. It will give you joy and confidence, make you more aware of the world around you. You will find new friends. You might even fall in love.

Few people know its name. Fewer still dare say it. It is, after all, illegal. Users are jailed. Dealers meet an ugly death. Yet the temptation is irresistible.

Kevin is a dealer. And he is about to get caught.

 

Now available at Amazon both as an ebook and in paperback.