Sunday, April 30, 2006

The Woodman's Wood

A journey into the forest the woodman undertook
He searched and searched and found his tree at last
Drenched in sweat he chopped the wood
And the log to his hunching back was fast'd.

In his dusty workshop by the brook
The log was washed in the cold clear stream
Drenched in sweat he carved the wood
And carved them meticulously by his prints

Half the log was hollowing, but the other half was good
So the woodman hatched a shrewd plan
Drenched in sweat he worked on the wood
A brilliant statue and a footstand

And then the woodman donned his dirty boots
Carried his wares to the market of the week
Drenched in sweat he sold his wood
The same log; one for worship, one for the tired feet

Or from someone else who said it much better:

The carpenter stretches a line; he marks it out with a pencil.
He shapes it with planes and marks it with a compass.
He shapes it into the figure of a man,
with the beauty of a man, to dwell in a house.
He cuts down cedars,
or he chooses a cypress tree or an oak
and lets it grow strong among the trees of the forest.
He plants a cedar and the rain nourishes it.
Then it becomes fuel for a man.
He takes a part of it and warms himself;
he kindles a fire and bakes bread.
Also he makes a god and worships it;
he makes it an idol and falls down before it.
Half of it he burns in the fire.
Over the half he eats meat; he roasts it and is satisfied.
Also he warms himself and says, "Aha, I am warm, I have seen the fire!"
And the rest of it he makes into a god,
his idol, and falls down to it and worships it.
He prays to it and says, "Deliver me, for you are my god!" (Isa 44:13-17)

Saturday, April 15, 2006

'tis my god

I took a grand stallion
and proudly scale the holy hill
But you rode down the mountain
on a colt, in tears, in spirit humbler still

Tho' gods should sit on thrones
and mortals flock to kiss their feet
But you my god alone
for love reversed this deed

Tho' gods should dress in gold
and jewel crowns to don
But you to woo my soul
three rusty nails and a crown of thorns

Living in the tension of fear and hope between Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday - Black Saturday A.D.2006

Friday, April 14, 2006

And can it be that I should gain?

Words: Charles Wesley, Psalms and Hymns, 1738
Music: “Sagina,” Thomas Campbell, Bouquet, 1825

And can it be that I should gain
An interest in the Savior’s blood!
Died He for me who caused His pain!
For me who Him to death pursued?
Amazing love! How can it be,
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?
Amazing love! How can it be,
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?

’Tis mystery all: th’Immortal dies!
Who can explore His strange design?
In vain the firstborn seraph tries
To sound the depths of love divine.
’Tis mercy all! Let earth adore;
Let angel minds inquire no more.
’Tis mercy all! Let earth adore;
Let angel minds inquire no more.

He left His Father’s throne above
(so free, so infinite His grace!),
Emptied Himself of all but love,
And bled for Adam’s helpless race.
’Tis mercy all, immense and free,
For O my God, it found out me!
’Tis mercy all, immense and free,
For O my God, it found out me!

Long my imprisoned spirit lay,
Fast bound in sin and nature’s night;
Thine eye diffused a quickening ray;
I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.

No condemnation now I dread;
Jesus, and all in Him, is mine;
Alive in Him, my living Head,
And clothed in righteousness divine,
Bold I approach th’eternal throne,
And claim the crown, through Christ my own.
Bold I approach th’eternal throne,
And claim the crown, through Christ my own.

O Sacred Head, Now Wounded

"O Sacred Head, Now Wounded"
by Paul Gerhardt, 1607-1676

Text From:
(St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1942), pp. 135-136

1. O sacred Head, now wounded,
With grief and shame weighed down,
Now scornfully surrounded
With thorns, Thine only crown.
O sacred Head, what glory,
What bliss, till now was Thine!
Yet, though despised and gory,
I joy to call Thee mine.

2. Men mock and taunt and jeer Thee,
Thou noble countenance,
Though mighty worlds shall fear Thee
And flee before Thy glance.
How art thou pale with anguish,
With sore abuse and scorn!
How doth Thy visage languish
That once was bright as morn!

3. Now from Thy cheeks has vanished
Their color, once so fair;
From Thy red lips is banished
The splendor that was there.
Grim Death, with cruel rigor,
Hath robbed Thee of Thy life;
Thus Thou has lost Thy vigor,
Thy strength, in this sad strife.

4. My burden in Thy Passion,
Lord, Thou hast borne for me,
For it was my transgression
Which brought this woe on thee.
I cast me down before Thee,
Wrath were my rightful lot;
Have mercy, I implore Thee;
Redeemer, spurn me not!

5. My Shepherd, now receive me;
My Guardian, own me Thine.
Great blessings Thou didst give me,
O Source of gifts divine!
Thy lips have often fed me
With words of truth and love,
Thy Spirit oft hath led me
To heavenly joys above.

6. Here I will stand beside Thee,
From Thee I will not part;
O Savior, do not chide me!
When breaks Thy loving heart,
When soul and body languish
In death's cold, cruel grasp,
Then, in Thy deepest anguish,
Thee in mine arms I'll clasp.

7. The joy can ne'er be spoken,
Above all joys beside,
When in Thy body broken
I thus with safety hide.
O Lord of life, desiring
Thy glory now to see,
Beside Thy cross expiring,
I'd breathe my soul to Thee.

8. What language shall I borrow
To thank Thee, dearest Friend,
For this, Thy dying sorrow,
Thy pity without end?
Oh, make me thine forever!
And should I fainting be,
Lord, let me never, never,
Outlive my love for Thee.

9. My Savior, be Thou near me
When death is at my door;
Then let Thy presence cheer me,
Forsake me nevermore!
When soul and body languish,
Oh, leave me not alone,
But take away mine anguish
By virtue of Thine own!

10. Be Thou my Consolation,
My Shield when I must die;
Remind me of Thy Passion
When my last hour draws nigh.
Mine eyes shall then behold Thee,
Upon Thy cross shall dwell,
My heart by faith enfold Thee.
Who dieth thus dies well!

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Scriptural Foundation For Arts

Notes From Colin Kirton's presentation on Scriptural Foundation for Arts. The bible gives us wonderful case study of itself, a work of art that has inspired artists in every generation.

Look at how Genesis first portrays God as Creator, the attention to detail in the tabernacle and temple building...

Listen to the music and songs of worship in the Psalms, the honesty and suffering of Job, how people may need to be confronted with the bankruptcy of life without God first before he is willing to even consider the alternative (Ecclesiastes), the practical wisdom of Proverbs, the graphic love poem in Song of Songs...

Be shocked by the prophets who inspired artists to prick the pretentiousness of those in power, speaking for justice on God’s behalf through bizarre acts that provoke and shock like Ezekial, Isaiah, Jeremiah and Hosea etc..

The artist must prophesy not in the sense that he foretells things to come but in the sense that he tells his audience at the risk of their displeasure, the secrets of their own hearts

Not to hit people with the truth like a bat and leave a bad taste in the mouth like a soap powder advertisement. But to puzzle, provoke and prompt the right questions as well.

Through the prophets, God seeks to recapture their imagination and hearts through painting pictures in the visions that were described, through picture words – his hopes for them, his worst nightmares of what was in store for them if they turned their backs on him. (Michael Card)

In New Testament, we see God speaks the final, living and luminous Word incarnate – Jesus Christ. A picture of drama where the word became flesh, Jesus communicates creatively through parables, stories and object lessons.

God’s art showing God’s heart.

Recommended Reading:

The Creative Life by Alice Bass
Scribbling in the Sand by Michael Card
Imagine: A Vision for Christians in the Arts by Steven Turner
Art & Soul: Signposts for Christians in the Arts

A Theology For Artistry

Notes From Colin Kirton's Agora forum on Arts. The artist can play the role of a...

Court jester – speaking the truth as he sees it, however uncomfortable it may be; sometimes the audience screams back at him, sometimes it sits shame-faced and silent.

Doctor – pointing out diseases, making prognoses. Bringing us to face issues we would rather bury, deal with them and find healing.

Guide – taking you on strange and beautiful journeys to places you never have found on your own.

Clown – showing you reasons for laughter and delight. See hope in despair.

A Christian worldview in our efforts means it is important that we see arts through the lens of creation, fall, redemption and character and purposes of God whose hand moves throughout history. Redemption is Christ’s conquering of sin at the cross, Christ’s continuing work in our lives and Christ’s culmination of redemption in eternity.

Our art should reflect beauty in the midst of ugliness, life in the midst of death, dignity in the midst of disgrace, purpose in the midst of meaninglessness, truth in the midst of lies and excellence in the midst of mediocrity. (“It is good!”)

Levels of Christian artistic expression:
1) Arts that doesn’t suggest any obvious worldview i.e. a playful ditty
2) Arts that dignifies human life and introduce a sense of awe
3) Art that carries imprint of biblical teaching that isn’t uniquely Christian
4) Art inspired by Bible’s primary theological themes
5) Art that depicts the unique Christian gospel of death and resurrection

Saturday, April 08, 2006

The Lord Of Universities?

Dallas Willard, the spirituality/marketplace sensei, (also mentor of JP Moreland) wrote this insightful article that reminds us as Jesus' apprentices that we are not 'alone' in the best of academic and scholarly settings of today... He is the "Lord of universities and research institutes, of the creative disciplines and scholarship"

Is Jesus the maestro of interior decorating? Systems design?
Do you see Him as your mentor in, say, engineering?
Would he be the greatest char koay teow Chef in SS2 and beyond? hehehe...

It's interesting as I am exploring this area as a primer for some university students to affirm them that Jesus is with them in whatever discipline they are in, and He's there not only 'spiritually' but also in their vocational life too :)

Some selective excerpts from Willard's article about Jesus the logician:

There is in our culture an uneasy relation between Jesus and intelligence, and I have actually heard Christians respond to my statement that Jesus is the most intelligent man who ever lived by saying that it is an oxymoron...

Now this fact has important implications for how we today view his relationship to our world and our life--especially if our work happens to be that of art, thought, research or scholarship. How could he fit into such a line of work, and lead us in it, if he were logically obtuse? How could we be his disciples at our work, take him seriously as our teacher there, if when we enter our fields of technical or professional competence we must leave him at the door? Obviously some repositioning is in order...

His use of logic is always enthymemic... it enlists the mind of the hearer or hearers from the inside, in a way that full and explicit statement of argument cannot do.

Jesus' aim in utilizing logic is not to win battles, but to achieve understanding or insight in his hearers... That is, he does not try to make everything so explicit that the conclusion is forced down the throat of the hearer. Rather, he presents matters in such a way that those who wish to know can find their way to, can come to, the appropriate conclusion as something they have discovered--whether or not it is something they particularly care for.

...And so he typically aims at real inward change of view that would enable his hearers to become significantly different as people through the workings of their own intellect. They will have, unless they are strongly resistant to the point of blindness, the famous "eureka" experience, not the experience of being outdone or beaten down...

It is not just in what we say about him, but in how he comes before out minds: how we automatically position him in our world, and how in consequence we position ourselves. We automatically think of him as having nothing essentially to do with 'profane' knowledge, with learning and logic, and therefore find ourselves 'on our own' in such areas.

We should, I believe, understand that Jesus would be perfectly at home in any professional context where good work is being done today. He would, of course, be a constant rebuke to all the proud self-advancement and the contemptuous treatment of others that goes on in professional circles. In this as in other respects, our professions are aching for his presence.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Requiem Aeternam Deo: The Madman's Song

Empty chapel or silent tomb
Great monument of heroic past?
Now enveloped in a morbid gloom
Now crowded but ruined alas

Is the altar for worship of an immortal name?
Or an eulogy of former glory
We each threw in our tiny flame
To feed the pyre for the dead Body.

The madman jumped like a madman would
Swinging his lantern as he moved
Indifferent to the sombre mood
He danced 'round the firewood

Amidst the cracking of the funeral fire
The madman's song pierced our hearts
As the fire of death burned brighter
His tune grew cold and dark:

I seek God! I seek God! I seek God!
Where is Him once dwelt hither?
We'll search, but we'll find not;
For we've killed him, you and I, murderers of murderers

Did we drink up all the ocean?And unchained the earth from its sun?
Whither now our directions?
With all life's meaning undone

The smell of the rotten holiness
The wetness of our bloody knives
They stoowith the fire as Witnesses
We killed God and he died

He sang again the last verse, more determined
Only with a worse fanatic frenzy
Before he finished the song he was singing,
He jumped into the pyre, to die with his enemy

They say we've inherited a loftier time
For our fathers had killed the holy One
Now finally freedom from the Divine
Now finally life's meaning undone