Sermons and Music
by Paul Landkamer
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Scattered thoughts and trying to juggle too much stuff has inspired, or rather necessitated, this collection of random thoughts. Every now and then, I spot that I'm a 500 member here at Faithwriters, and am now quite aware that I've not written for a long time. Faithwriter 500 and not-written really shouldn't go together. So many near-articles have popped up, and my notebooks are full of snippets of useable text. Instead of trying to find round-tuits, or waiting for them to miraculously appear so I can write a coherent one-topic article, I've decided to poke a little at a bunch of 'em. If you see something that really interests you, let me know, and I might elaborate in a future article.
One thing that bothers me this time of year is preaching on speculation. It may have been tradition to marry young in the Jewish culture of Jesus' time, but I don't see anything that says Mary was 13 or 14 when she found she was carrying Jesus. If it's not written like that, don't preach it! Say she was young, and leave it at that.
We don't know how many wise men came from the East, except that it was more than one. We only know they gave three gifts. Maybe one gave frankincense and myrrh and the other gave gold, or maybe four of them gave myrrh and the other one gave the frankincense and gold. Again, we just don't know.
Another thing is the bad press the inn-keeper at Bethlehem gets. Why do so many preachers say he could have given up his own room for Joseph and Mary. Maybe he already did give up his room and was spending his nights at the check-in desk. Some preach that he'd have found room if Joseph and Mary were wealthier. As my Bible says, maybe his inn REALLY WAS full. If I was an inn-keeper, I'd not have turned away a few more dollars if I actually had more room. Don't preach that the inn-keeper was a liar. We don't have any evidence that he was.
Matthew doesn't say there was an inn-problem or stable. Mark skips the birth and jumps right into Jesus' baptism. Luke says Mary laid Jesus in a manger because there was no room at the inn –NOT that they were simply told there was no room, but that there "was no room". Like Mark, John skips the birth. I've read that inns of those days often had mangers in their entryways –almost right there in the foyer. Maybe there wasn't a stable at all. We don't know, and "Away in a Manger" isn't Scripture. Quit preaching what's not there.
Another thing I question is the rampant acceptance of yoga as a form of exercise amongst Christians. C'mon you guys! Google "yoga" or "yoga and Christanity" and read about its history; what it's name means; what the various poses are supposed to symbolize and so forth. Yoga says to empty your mind and seek peace from within yourself. My Bible says to fill my mind with all things good, and that peace comes only from Jesus. If idle hands are playthings for the Devil, what's an empty mind look like to him? The Devil doesn't need us to follow him: he gets his way if we're simply distracted from Jesus.
And speaking about Googled stuff, I Googled Kwanza. Its origin is purely racist and anti-Christ. The founder said Christmas is a white holiday and that blacks needed an alternative to Christmas and the Christ it celebrates. Kwanza was created in the '60s and is in no way an ancient holiday celebrated in Africa. A line from a not-fully-written parody song came to my mind, and anyone can expand on it if they want: "Rockin' around the Kwanza tree, to distract from Christ-i-an-ity…" Jesus was born for all of us, not just for whites. When Bing Crosby sang, "I'm dreaming of a white Christmas", it wasn't a racial comment. (Now I get to throw a politically-correct and worldly-popular word in here.) God must love "diversity" or he wouldn't have created us so differently.
God made boys and girls differently. True, we're all created equal, but, there's no denying that there's a difference between the sexes –both physically and emotionally. Feel free to simply call it cultural conditioning, because I'm not obligated to argue. That's a great thing about writing. Cultural or not, here's a few comparisons/contrasts I've observed. Boys are handsome; they laugh, usually like harder music, and play with action figures. Girls are pretty; they giggle, usually like softer music, and play with dolls.
Frogs and snails and puppy-dogs' tails –that's what little boys are made of. Sugar and spice and everything nice –that's what little girls are made of. Boys' play involves crashes, explosions and noises where girls' play usually involves lots of conversation. Boys hit each other and get over it. Girls mutter and fume for weeks while someone's not their best friend anymore. Boys and men need respect and girls and women need love –and THAT's biblical. Respect and love.
I'm going to make a confession. I actually listened to several country music CDs –secular ones at that! I heard some of Toby Keith's songs on TV while visiting my in-laws. I heard solid patriotic stuff there. American values! Hooah! When I was doing my library delivery route, I poked my nose in a box of old book-sale stuff, and the branch manager said, 'That stuff didn't sell. Take what you want.' There were four Toby Keith CDs, so I took 'em. They were pretty beat up, but the price was right. One of those CDs showed that Toby had some serious trouble with women. He forgot birthdays one time too many on two songs, and his girl left him. He forgot an anniversary one time too many and his wife left him. But he still had his loyal buddies and booze. I can't help but think there a connection between alcohol and an inability to keep a relationship healthy. And that was just one of the CDs. Guys, love is something that is given even when you don't feel like it sometimes, but respect is something that's earned, then maintained. Love that girl, and ONLY that ONE girl, and give her reason to respect you. I've got lots more on this topic, but maybe I'll elaborate in another article.
I want to tap relationship stories like those of Abraham and Sarah, Boaz and Ruth, Solomon and Watzernayme in Song of Solomon, David and Bathsheba, Jael and Sisera, Pilate and his wife and more. There's some interesting relational lessons to be learned there. I got to help with a Sunday night class of third-fifth grade boys. A big part of that class was on how to treat girls. That class got me looking at the differences between the sexes a bit more.
Men and women often differ in musical taste. I regularly think of having a radio station. It'd probably have call-letters like WDRC for "Dad's Record Collection". Most stereotypical Christian music radio stations play easy-listening, or as Christianity Today called it, soccer-mom music. That's their target audience, soccer-moms and mainly women in general. It's official genre-name is Adult Contemporary (AC). Those stations often play a token teen show where they feature the extremo-screamo stuff or rapcore or other stuff that appeals to the teens –mostly boys. But that segment is just a tiny portion of time, and it's usually tucked away in a fairly inconvenient time-slot for most people's listening. I sometimes think those shows are thrown in the playlist just so station managers can say, when challenged, "See!? We play more than just AC. We're reaching a wide audience!" I really don't mean to slam on the AC stations, because they really do minister to people –mostly women and small children, with a few teens thrown in there maybe late on Friday or Saturday night.
Recently, my airwaves were most-pleasantly disrupted by a Christian music station that upped the energy level from the sticky-sweet butterflies, puppies and kitties-ness of AC to a really tolerable blend of hard and heavy without being too extreme and, of course, enough softer stuff so as to not alienate too many soccer-moms. I was quite happy to hear the CHR (I've heard both "Contemporary" and "Christian Hits Radio) genre of Air 1 on my car radio. It's good stuff, and lots more males, in a fairly wide age-range, will listen to and tune in by themselves, to hear this higher energy stuff. I know I do. For me, it's lots closer to my target sound, but doesn't quite hit the mark of that good old classic rock style.
Granted, there's not much in Christian music that can be called "classic rock" but there's a vast array of artists whose music is strongly influenced by classic rockers. Most "classic" Christian rock that people think of has a very big-hair-and-spandex sound like Stryper, old Petra, White Cross, Whiteheart and a bunch of other White-x's. A lot of that featured corny preachy turn-or-burn lyrics. A friend (name escapes me) called 'em "love and above" songs. They were so same and predictable. They didn't give Christian rock a very good reputation for originality, to say the least. Sure, WDRC would have some of that in its tribute to a classic-rock sound line-up, but there's way more than the stereotype from which to play!
Dad's Record Collection would screen the music to keep effeminate hissy males, breathy, slurred or mumbled, pouty overly melismatic vocals at a minimum. Don't expect many chick-flicky anthemic songs or slow piano, watery chimes or keyboardy string sections on WDRC. No offense to anyone, but you'll hear almost NO Chris Shultz or Mark Tomlin, and very little David Mullin or Nicole C. Crowder.
WDRC won't play traditional or classic songs that have been re-arranged to make singing along in the traditional manner difficult. They're traditional and classic for a good reason! We won't promote musical slaughter. WDRC won't be an easy-listening or teen extreme station. It won't be a southern gospel station, either. By now, you're probably wondering, "What WOULD we hear on WDRC?"
Dad's Record Collection would play way more than just the big labels. The big labels have a target audience, and WDRC's would be a little different. I see lots of bikers, construction workers, outdoorsmen, factory workers, truckers, and military members in WDRC's audience. If you like the musical styles of ZZ Top, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Queen, David Bowie, Heart, The Beatles, Blondie, Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, or Sheryl Crow, Creed, Metallica, Imogen Heap and Korn, but can't stomach their overall messages, WDRC would be for you!
Check these artists out on Google.com, or MySpace.com or Amazon.com, which WDRC would play: Larry Norman (often called "The Father of Christian Rock"), Ashley Cleveland (multi-Grammy country/blues-rocker), Steve Taylor and his tongue-in-cheek jabs at organized, mechanical "religion", Skillet (OK, I know Jon Foreman is slightly hissy with his vocals, but the instrumentals more than make up for that), Switchfoot, Tal and Acacia (a sister duo and new favorite of mine), PFR, ApologetiX (the Christian Weird Al), Tourniquet and Seventh Angel (both puttin' the heavy in heavy metal). We'd play good local bands like Mission Blues, Jimmie Bratcher and Matt and the Testifiers. And then there's heavy rocker, Eowyn, and soft, but outside-the-mold J.J.Heller. We'd even play Scott Stapp and Brian Welch. WDRC would still play some of the big names like Third Day, Jeremy Camp and Newsboys, among lots of others.
Now here's a scary thing. WDRC wouldn't be too scared to play rap, and even might dabble with some bluegrass. Frightening, eh? Before you gag on those, check out Big Al's "Back Man" or Sackcloth Fashion's "Infectious" or "Give" or Eryn Eubanks and the Family Fold's "If That Don't Make You Want To Go". We'd not be afraid of Christian artists, like SHEL, who play clean music that wouldn't really get the label, "Christian" from casual listeners. This might be really scary: we'd even consider playing Christian ponderings from secular artists like Black Sabbath's "After Forever", or Lenny Kravitz's "Baptized", or several of Alice Cooper's songs from his Christian album trilogy.
Would there be any liking for a radio station like that, or am I the only one who thinks so? I DO know my 30s to 60s male demographic is an extremely overlooked group.
I think I've rambled enough for this article. Maybe I'll have a single coherent topic next time. Let me know if any of these topics interest you.
Until next time, always let your music help keep your focus on Jesus!
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