Pilgrim Pathways: Notes for a Diaspora People

Incarnational Discipleship

Better Carols # 3 “Whatever Happened to Peace on Earth?” by Willie Nelson

Written by Willie Nelson on 30 December 2003 as a protest against the invasion of Iraq.

There’s so many things going on in the world
Babies dying
Mothers crying
How much oil is one human life worth
And what ever happened to peace on earth

We believe everything that they tell us
They’re gonna’ kill us
So we gotta’ kill them first
But I remember a commandment
Thou shall not kill
How much is that soldier’s life worth
And whatever happened to peace on earth

(Bridge)
And the bewildered herd is still believing
Everything we’ve been told from our birth
Hell they won’t lie to me
Not on my own damn TV
But how much is a liar’s word worth
And whatever happened to peace on earth

So I guess it’s just
Do unto others before they do it to you
Let’s just kill em’ all and let God sort em’ out
Is this what God wants us to do

(Repeat Bridge)
And the bewildered herd is still believing
Everything we’ve been told from our birth
Hell they won’t lie to me
Not on my own damn TV
But how much is a liar’s word worth
And whatever happened to peace on earth

Now you probably won’t hear this on your radio
Probably not on your local TV
But if there’s a time, and if you’re ever so inclined
You can always hear it from me
How much is one picker’s word worth
And whatever happened to peace on earth

But don’t confuse caring for weakness
You can’t put that label on me
The truth is my weapon of mass protection
And I believe truth sets you free

(Bridge)
And the bewildered herd is still believing
Everything we’ve been told from our birth
Hell they won’t lie to me
Not on my own damn TV
But how much is a liar’s word worth
And whatever happened to peace on earth

December 20, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Better Christmas Carols #2 “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” by Ken Sehested

As readers of this blog know, I already think that this traditional carol is one of the best Advent/Christmas carols around. The lyrics are already subversive of our rich, complacent, self-satisfied status quo. But when we sing the same lyrics year after year, we can cease to notice their power.  Rev. Ken Sehested, radical Baptist preacher, formerly the founding Executive Director of the Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America, currently co-pastor of Circle of Mercy congregation in Asheville, NC has done us a great favor by writing new lyrics for this hymn that bring out anew its utter radicality.

O come, thou fount of Mercy, come

And light the path of journey home

From Pharaoh’s chains grant liberty

From Herod’s rage, confirm thy guarantee

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel

Shall come to thee, O Israel!

O come, thou Watchful Keeper, bestow

Glad heart, warm home to creatures below

Give cloud by day and fire by night

Guide feet in peace with heaven’s delight

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel

Shall come to thee, O Israel!

Secure the lamb, the wolf no longer preys

Secure the child, no fear displays

The vow of vengeance bound evermore

God’s holy mountain safe and adored

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel

Shall come to thee, O Israel!

Arise, you fear-confounded, attest

With Insurrection’s voice confess

Though death’s confine and terror’s darkest threat

Now govern earth’s refrain…and yet

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel

Shall come to thee, O Israel!

O spring, from Jesse’s root, the ransom flower

From Mary’s womb, annunciating power

Bend low you hills, arise you prostrate plain

All flesh shall see, all lips join in refrain:

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel

Shall come to thee, O Israel!

O come, announce the Blessed Manger’s reach

All Herod-hearted, murd’rous plans impeach

Abolish every proud and cruel throne

Fill hungry hearts, guide every exile home.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel

Shall come to thee, O Israel!

December 20, 2010 Posted by | Advent, composers, hymns, liturgy, worship | Leave a comment

Better Christmas Carols #1 “Cry of a Tiny Babe” by Bruce Cockburn

Mary grows a child without the help of a man
Joseph get upset because he don’t understand
Angel comes to Joseph in a powerful dream
Says “God did this and you’re part of the scheme!”
Joseph comes to Mary with his hat in his hand
Says “forgive me I thought you’d been with some other man.”
She says “what if I had been – but I wasn’t anyway and guess what
I felt the baby kick today”

Like a stone on the surface of a still river
Driving the ripples on forever
Redemption rips through the surface of time
In the cry of a tiny babe

The child is born in the fullness of time
Three wise astrologers take note of the signs
Come to pay their respects to the fragile little king
Get pretty close to wrecking everything
‘Cause the governing body of the Holy Land
Is that of Herod, a paranoid man
Who when he hears there’s a baby born King of the Jews
Sends death squads to kill all male children under two
But that same bright angel warns the parents in a dream
And they head out for the border and get away clean

Like a stone on the surface of a still river
Driving the ripples on forever
Redemption rips through the surface of time
In the cry of a tiny babe

There are others who know about this miracle birth
The humblest of people catch a glimpse of their worth
For it isn’t to the palace that the Christ child comes
But to shepherds and street people, hookers and bums
And the message is clear if you’ve got  ears to hear
That forgiveness is given for your guilt and your fear
It’s a Christmas gift [that] you don’t have to buy
There’s a future shining in a baby’s eyes

Like a stone on the surface of a still river
Driving the ripples on forever
Redemption rips through the surface of time
In the cry of a tiny babe

December 20, 2010 Posted by | Advent, composers, liturgy, worship | Leave a comment

The Magnificat: Song of Mary-the-Social-Revolutionary

In Christian art, she is usually depicted as a meek maiden and a passive figure.  This taming, this domestication of Jesus’ Mother, Miriam (whose name we Anglicize as “Mary”) falsifies her.  I think in most of Church History, the bigwigs have been afraid of Mary.  Her song of praise (the Magnificat) after the angel’s announcement is almost always sung in Latin–to keep ordinary people from realizing just how revolutionary her words are.  Now Mary doubtless sang in Aramaic and we don’t have the Aramaic original.  Luke’s Greek text (given below) may have been informed by a Christian community in which Mary was a member or even a leader, but in its present form was clearly modelled on Hannah’s Song (1 Samuel 2:1-10).  Mary expects her Son’s birth to lead to a “Great Reversal,” the scattering of the proud, the putting low of the rich and powerful, and the lifting of the poor and filling of the hungry.  This is no meek maiden nor anyconservative defender of the status quo: Mary is a prophet of social justice who would be called “Commie” by Fox News and the Religious Right! Bring it on, Sister Mary!

Μεγαλύνει ἡ ψυχή μου τὸν Κύριον
καὶ ἠγαλλίασεν τὸ πνεῦμά μου ἐπὶ τῷ Θεῷ τῷ σωτῆρί μου,
ὅτι ἐπέβλεψεν ἐπὶ τὴν ταπείνωσιν τῆς δούλης αυτοῦ.
ἰδού γὰρ ἀπὸ τοῦ νῦν μακαριοῦσίν με πᾶσαι αἱ γενεαί,
ὅτι ἐποίησέν μοι μεγάλα ὁ δυνατός,
καὶ ἅγιον τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ,
καὶ τὸ ἔλεος αὐτοῦ εἰς γενεὰς καὶ γενεὰς
τοῖς φοβουμένοις αυτόν.
Ἐποίησεν κράτος ἐν βραχίονι αὐτοῦ,
διεσκόρπισεν ὑπερηφάνους διανοίᾳ καρδίας αὐτῶν·
καθεῖλεν δυνάστας ἀπὸ θρόνων
καὶ ὕψωσεν ταπεινούς,
πεινῶντας ἐνέπλησεν ἀγαθῶν
καὶ πλουτοῦντας ἐξαπέστειλεν κενούς.
ἀντελάβετο Ἰσραὴλ παιδὸς αὐτοῦ,
μνησθῆναι ἐλέους,
καθὼς ἐλάλησεν πρὸς τοὺς πατέρας ἡμῶν
τῷ Αβραὰμ καὶ τῷ σπέρματι αὐτοῦ εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα.
My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour;
he has looked with favour on his lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed;
the Almighty has done great things for me and holy is his name.
He has mercy on those who fear him,
from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm
and has scattered the proud in their conceit,
Casting down the mighty from their thrones
and lifting up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things
and sent the rich away empty.
He has come to the aid of his servant Israel,
to remember his promise of mercy,
The promise made to our ancestors,
to Abraham and his children for ever.

December 20, 2010 Posted by | Advent, Bible, liturgy | 2 Comments