Lentblog 2015, Day 21: The Music of God’s People.

Ephesians 5:15-20, NRSV:

15 Be careful then how you live, not as unwise people but as wise, 16 making the most of the time, because the days are evil. 17 So do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18 Do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery; but be filled with the Spirit, 19 as you sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, singing and making melody to the Lord in your hearts,20 giving thanks to God the Father at all times and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Reading this passage, vv 19-20 jump out at me a little this evening. It says being filled with the Spirit can be accompanied by singing and other kinds of music-making. A couple of things stand out to me:

– The songs happen “among yourselves” (plural). This is, again, a church thing and not an individual thing.

– It doesn’t say they are all “happy-happy-joy-joy” songs, does it? At all times and for everything, our singing is to be eucharistic… “with thanksgiving.” What would it mean for that to include songs of lament, for example? Reading this passage, one might assume that being filled with the Spirit means the stuff we will write and sing will always be happy, energetic, and peppy or something. I’m pretty sure that doesn’t reflect real life. I’m pretty sure someone could be “in the Spirit” and still have a terrible day (or month or year…) and the song in their heart could be one that gives thanks through lament.

-The church as the diverse-yet-unified Body of Christ means we’re not all playing the same instrument, and that’s a good thing. An orchestra really only needs one piccolo, for example. And one set of timpani, unless you’re playing The Planets by Holst. But seriously, if the whole orchestra were a clarinet, where would the french horns be? And an orchestra without horns would be a terribly sad thing.

I wonder what kind of music our people are making this week?



LentBlog 2015, Day 19: Of Locker Rooms and Kingdom life

Ephesians 5:1-5, NRSV:

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us[a] and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
But fornication and impurity of any kind, or greed, must not even be mentioned among you, as is proper among saints.Entirely out of place is obscene, silly, and vulgar talk; but instead, let there be thanksgiving. Be sure of this, that no fornicator or impure person, or one who is greedy (that is, an idolater), has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.

 So I’m reading this again and again tonight, wondering what to say… And not a lot is coming to me except maybe this:  Paul is doing a vice list here, laying out specific behaviors to avoid. He lists them twice, using the same terms, in v3 and v5, with a little caveat on obscene talk in v4.

Paul says we’re not to be:

– involved in “fornication,” which tends to mean adultery but is also used as a sort-of generic term for sexual sin. Greek here is Πορνεία, “porneia,” which is the same root word as prostitute and from which we derive “pornography,”  which is perhaps literally translated “prostitution in writing.”

-impure– Greek ἀκαθαρσία, “a-catharsia” which denote uncleanliness, lewdness, and impurity, many times with a sexual connotation.

-Greedy, which he equates with idolatry.

In the midst of this, he says “obscene, silly, and vulgar talk” has no place among God’s people who are growing up.

The image I have in my mind is of a high school varsity (or perhaps college or pro-level) locker room. Lots of fornication, impurity, greediness talk. Lots of silly vulgar talk.

Now, I know not every person involved in high level sports or something is engaged in this garbage, and that athletes exist all over the place who try to embody a Christian ethic in a difficult spot… But I think the typical locker room  stuff is a decent picture of what Paul is talking about here. And it’s the kind of stuff our society tends to promote: the womanizing, rich, carefree sports jock or rock star life.

Paul says such a life is not a Kingdom life. Instead, love (and that’s agape for those of you playing at home, not eros) must rule all… love that lays its life down for others. Love that holds its tongue and speaks εὐχαριστία (eucharistia) “thanksgiving” instead. (Yes, that is the same root from which our “Eucharist” or Holy Communion comes…)

I guess what this passage is saying to me is it’s time for the high school jock or rock star wanna be in all of us to grow up. The Kingdom life leads us elsewhere.