Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Gospel According to Pop: Episode 13 (Footloose: Kenny Loggins)

A meditation on the rabble rousing ways of Jesus. A rebel who encourages other faithful folk to break the rules that were being taught as the way to win God's favor. What are the ways folk try to tell us we must behave now? How do you fall outside of the expectation of a faithful one?

Gospel According to Pop: Episode 12 (Won't You Please Let Me Back into Your Heart: Jackson 5)

This song is sung by the amazing Ally Nugent

Today's video is a meditation on the story of Jesus healing the blind man. I'm particularly thinking of the story as it appears in Mark, because Jesus fails the first time and it takes two tries to restore the man's vision.

Mark 8:22 They came to Bethsaida. Some people brought a blind man to him and begged him to touch him. 23 He took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village; and when he had put saliva on his eyes and laid his hands on him, he asked him, "Can you see anything?" 24 And the man looked up and said, "I can see people, but they look like trees, walking." 25 Then Jesus laid his hands on his eyes again; and he looked intently and his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly.

This need for Jesus to try again does not appear in other Gospels. I think it's a great opportunity for us to think about how second (or sometimes third, fourth, fifth or a million) chances are needed to get things right. After all, if God has to try again sometimes, why would be expect perfection from oursevles, partners, pastors or others we hold in too high a regard?

Friday, December 23, 2011

Gospel According to Pop: Episode 11 (It Isn't Happening :Be Good Tanyas)

A meditation from the point of view of Jairus, whose daughter dies because Jesus gets distracted and doesn't make it before his daughter dies. I imagine these words are how Jairus feels in the moments before Jesus bring his daughter back to life.

Gospel According to Pop: Episode 10 (Orbiting: The Weepies)

This episode is sung by the amazing Ally Nugent.

Mark 3:
21 When his family heard it, they went out to restrain him, for people were saying, "He has gone out of his mind." 22 And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, "He has Beelzebul, and by the ruler of the demons he casts out demons." 23 And he called them to him, and spoke to them in parables, "How can Satan cast out Satan? 24 If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. 25 And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. 26 And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but his end has come. 27 But no one can enter a strong man's house and plunder his property without first tying up the strong man; then indeed the house can be plundered. 28 "Truly I tell you, people will be forgiven for their sins and whatever blasphemies they utter; 29 but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin"-- 30 for they had said, "He has an unclean spirit." 31 Then his mother and his brothers came; and standing outside, they sent to him and called him. 32 A crowd was sitting around him; and they said to him, "Your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside, asking for you." 33 And he replied, "Who are my mother and my brothers?" 34 And looking at those who sat around him, he said, "Here are my mother and my brothers! 35 Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother."

This song is for one of the moments in the gospels that always sticks to my ribs and feels like there is so much more to explore in the story. It's the moment in the Gospel of Mark where Mary is convinced that Jesus is a demon and comes to take him home because the neighbors are talking about his behavior. Jesus' response to his mother coming to get him is to deny her by telling those who are learning from him that they are his true family.

This is a moment that resonates with a lot of people who have created families that replace their biological ones. Sometimes families hesitate in their unconditional love when a member of the family takes what is thought to be an unconventional path.

This song takes a mature look at the text and that there isn't an easy sitcom solution. As I meditate on this story, with this song I like to alternate the voice of the singer from Mary to Jesus and back again.

This like so many family disputes is one where I imagine both people think they are right and are acting with the best intentions and out of love. I imagine them each standing on their side of the door wishing the other could join them on the the journey that is leading them away from each other.

I couldn't find any ancient images of this story or icons. So instead I've found images that highlight their relationship or show them near a door.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Gospel According to Pop: Episode 9 (How to Save a Life: The Fray)

A meditation where Peter remembers his favorite memories with Jesus and wonders if there was anything else he could have done to prevent his friend from dying. I imagine that this is the emotion that Peter would have had after Jesus' death. Like the feeling of helplessness, doubt and shame many friends feel after the suicide, the steps you are supposed to take to try to prevent suicide match very closely to Peter's sometimes insubordinate interactions with Jesus before his death. They caused me to think of Peter less as a bumbling disciple who always had the wrong answer to Jesus' questions and more as a good friend trying to prevent the eminent death of a loved one.

Take a look and see what you think:

Gospel According to Pop: Episode 8 (The Rose: Bette Midler)

It's not known if the dark cloud the Holy Spirit says will come upon Mary is traumatic or not. Is this unwanted sexual aggression or a gift of bearing God into the world? Imagine Mary singing these words as see tries to process the news she will bear a child, or as her words to a toddler Jesus when she tells him the story of his birth.

The moment depicted in the images of this video, where Mary is told that she will have a baby who will be the Son of God, is called the annunciation. It's an easier word to remember if you think about it as when the angel announces to Mary that she will become pregnant.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Gospel According to Pop: Episode 7 (I Will Survive: Gloria Gaynor

Why wasn't Thomas locked up inside hiding with the other disciples when Jesus comes back to visit them for the first time after the resurrection? Perhaps he was off doing all the work Jesus had taught them to. Perhaps, he was getting groceries to feed the others. Or, perhaps he was in the angry stage of the cycles of mourning and he was pissed off that the teacher who he believed would save the world and bring justice has died and left them alone. Today's Gospel According to Pop explores what it would feel like for Thomas if this was the case. And if Thomas was the disciple that Jesus loved, as some scholars speculate, this could be exactly the song Thomas would have had in mind. Check it out and see what you think:

Friday, December 16, 2011

Gospel According to Pop FAQ

Why pop songs?
They're catchy and many people already know the tunes. They play on universal themes and often pack an emotional punch. Luther used the pub tunes of his day and rewrote the words. When I've rewritten the words to a song I'll label it a remix. The songs that once were pop during Luther's time sometimes seem unsinkable and boring. So consider this revival.

Why are the songs paired with ancient art and icons?
I know some of my faithful readers are a bit creeped out by icons. That's exactly why this project is needed. Here I seek to reclaim the images that have oppressed us, or caused some of us to feel less than faithful. The stories are richer than any one interpretation. We're taking back the stories and the centuries of art that goes with them, because the tradition of tolerance is older!

Why isn't the music produced, always in tune or in rhythm?
My rules for recoding the songs is that they cannot be produced, must be recorded in one take and mistakes are encouraged because they show the ordinary in the sacred and the sacred in the ordinary. I seek to show people that anything I do to help create sacred community can be done yourself at home without any special outfits or equipment. Like the Amish who intentionally leave at least one mistake in their quilts to remember that only God(dess) is perfect, if these songs were too professional singing they would be inaccessible and inappropriate.

Can I help make the Gospel According to Pop?
Yes. You can send song or scripture ideas you'd like to see or even join in the conversation. Here's how: 1) record yourself singing a pop song. Please use songs from the BMI collection, as that is the group that I have a copyright agreement with. 2) send it to me: streetvicar@gmail.com 3) then either let me know the story you'd like to pair it with or I'll find one.

Gospel According to Pop: Episode 6 (1234: Feist)

A meditation, and much nicer way for Jesus to tell the woman at the well that he knows her heart and the journey it's taken over the years.

Stay tuned for another episode that will how the woman's response to Jesus.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Gospel According to Pop: Episode 5 (Rolling in the Deep: Adele)

I'm not Adele. I can't hit the notes she can. Well, even her throat can't handle hitting the notes that she does. Set that aside for a second.

This is the Gospel According to Pop where we look at the Gospel stories in a new way by thinking about the human sides of the stories and the stories behind the stories.

Today, I ask you to think about what it felt like for Judas as he left the Last Supper, where Jesus just told his 11 closest friends that Judas would betray him.

As I put these meditations together I'm a bit at the mercy of icons and famous paintings. Becuase I'm trying to mix the old and the new to take bits of what have been seen as sacred for decades and hope it rubs off on the ordinary things I pair them with. This sometimes means that Jesus often bears a much whiter tint than I would have chosen for my own meditations.

In this circumstance because Judas lets the soldiers know who Jesus is by kissing him, I found that mixing the images of Judas betraying Jesus with a kiss with Adele's song added a homoerotic undertone to the story. It wasn't something I expected, but it something kind of fun and new to think about.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Gospel According to Pop: Episode 4 (Hit Me Baby One More Time: Britney Spears)

Ever thought of Britney Spears' "Hit Me Baby One More Time" as a funeral dirge that Mary sings to her son as she holds his body in her hands? We'll, check out this latest installment of the Gospel According to Pop and I bet you'll never think of the song in the same way again.

The moment when Mary holds her dead son after he is taken off the cross is called the Pieta. It's a pretty famous moment in the life of art. But, it's not actually an event mentioned in the gospels featured in our contemporary bibles.

So enjoy this special gospel moment, brought to life in a way only Britney Spears could. Those are pastoral words I never imagined I'd ever say. It just goes to show you that God(dess) must have a sense of humor!

Gospel According to Pop: Episode 3 (Be Ok by Ingrid Michaelson)

A meditation on the healings and miracles of Jesus:

You can imagine any of the ailments listed in the bible being healed as you watch and listen. Or, you can think about your own life and what you would do or feel if someone was within arms length that could cure any disease, addiction, blemish or feeling of self doubt. Would you reach out and claim your wholeness? Or would you feel afraid? Maybe you have claimed as a gift what others see as a disability and you wouldn't want to be "healed."

What if you were it was all within your grasp? There are no ruby slippers: just some hands, some spit mixed with mud and some faith.

Gospel According to Pop: Episode 2 (Save Tonight by Eagle Eye Cherry)

A meditation on the Last Supper and Gethsemene:

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Gospel According to Pop: Episode 1 (Baby, baby, baby)

Today's Gospel is written by Justin Beiber. Yes, I know. I felt that way too at first. But imagine it through Joseph's eyes.

During this Advent time, we are asked to be people waiting for God's arrival in the world. This year there have been several stories of people using pepper spray as they impatiently wait. So, I've been thinking about all the ways that people wait impatiently for God.

Today's episode of the Gospel According to Pop is a song that I don't typically love listening to. I guess I'm just too old to get it. But, there is an entire generation of loyal followers who think it is the best thing imaginable.

This song took on a new meaning for me when I thought about the words being sung by Joseph after he learns that is fiance Mary has been impregnated by the Holy Spirit and is carrying a baby that is not his. Sure, it will be God and all. But, I imagine these words capture his first reaction to the news.