Archive for February, 2009

Lives in the balance a highlight

browneWell … something fine at last night’s Jackson Browne concert?  Absolutely – even though (slight sob) he didn’t do that particular song.  He made up for it by doing an even-older song: These Days.  (not the Powderfinger song – think 35 years earlier!)

With a set list including material from most phases of his career, a superb backing band including two young backup singers who added a soulful edge to many songs and a really appreciative crowd open air at Brisbane’s Riverstage … it was a really wonderful night … with my birthday the next day (today!)

On his 1980 (ish) album “Hold Out”, Browne wrote: That Girl can Sing. On last night’s evidence, that guy can too, and even better – continues to write incisive songs, both elegant and provocative.  A highlight?  An updated version of his mid-80s classic: Lives in the Balance, with the band in acoustic mode and an extra verse thrown in, with some interesting Biblical overtones in there too from 2 Chronicles 7:14 –

if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

Not that blatant, but really added to the song.  Jackson Browne is all over Australia these next few weeks (including many regional centres).  Great night.

Something fine … hoping so!

jackson_browne_07000472Tonight … with my birthday tomorrow, Dale and I will celebrate it tonight at a Jackson Browne concert. This (gloat I know) will be my third chance to see the guy in concert – the first almost 20 years ago.

Many will say that Browne sacrificed his career mid-80s by tilting his repertoire toward sings that were far more political or environmental in nature.

I’d like to think it did the opposite – ensuring a continued appreciation and respect across the music world for songs that blend both the introspective & reflective with the profoundly political. The political stuff has always been there – think mid-70s “Before the deluge”

There’s little doubt that Jackson Browne has had a profound affect on my own songwriting . I don’t copy his style or even much of his content (wish I did sometimes!) but I hope I can in some way emulate his passion, and the beauty or potency of his lyric.

I’m looking forward to “Something fine” tonight … don’t expect to be disappointed!

Losing my grip

YOUNG WOMAN RECEIVES MARK OF ASHESThis morning, I shared in our church’s Ash Wednesday service.  It’s only in recent years that I’ve come to appreciate its value.  It’s become more than that service when we paste ash crosses on each other, though we do – Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return.  In “Sojourners” I’ve just read a reflection from Michaela Bruzzese, called “Losing Our Grip.”

We live in an addictive society, and we need to allow the spirit of freedom to pry us free from its grip. We all long for security and happiness, and we need to free ourselves from the idols that promise both but can deliver neither.” Jesuit Dean Brackley sums up the work of Lent: prying ourselves free from the false idols around us – or perhaps prying the false idols out of our hands! In the next four weeks, we will enter a process of cleansing; we will learn how to recognize and reject our false gods so that we will know Christ resurrected

Lent – and this article helps, directs me to discern where my true priorities are in life.  Who am I serving?  Who is God for me?   Who … what must I lose my grip on?  Folks like me are most comfortable when they are in control; my hands tight on the wheel … or is that the wheels that I steer in life.

Lent calls me to lose my grip … to open my hands … to bare myself before God … with the prayer as from Psalm 51: Create in me a clean heart, O God.  Lent … and especially this Ash Wednesday assures me, once again from Psalm 51: The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.  Phewww!!!

Lent calls me further; having loosened that grip, to reach out with open hands, open heart and open mind to – in a sense – grip my hands afresh around the all-giving love that is Jesus. Continue reading ‘Losing my grip’

The touch

touch1“Touch” is a difficult subject in this day and age.  Today’s gospel reading (Mark 1:40-45) of Jesus touching & healing the leper, alongside what for me were powerful images of folk embracing each other amid the Victorian bushfire tragedy — or as simple as a gentle hand on another’s shoulder, well, they led to this sermon.  I won’t always post my sermons to this blog, but wanted to this time, acknowledging the input of Sojourners Community’s Rose Marie Berger towards the writing of this …

Today’s gospel reading is the third in a series of healings in Mark’s gospel.  We’ve had a healing that freed someone from an evil spirit that bound him.  We’ve had the healing of someone that enabled them to serve the Lord, and today – a healing the allows someone to re-engage with … to re-enter the community.

At the time, people with leprosy were excluded from the community. They ere forced to leave their homes, their families and communities. They lived in colonies – gradually becoming more disfigured and alienated. They were considered to be “unclean” which meant that they were unable to attend synagogues – to read the Scriptures – to offer sacrifice. All religious and spiritual practices were forbidden them since they could not go into any populated place.  It was a desolate existence.

When the leper approaches Jesus, he is, in fact, going against the Law. This said that he should have called out to warn Jesus and the disciples that he was unclean and that they should keep away. Instead, in desperation, he comes to Jesus and speaks directly to Him. In his wretched state, he has seen in Jesus someone who could heal him – the question was did Jesus want to heal someone who was ritually unclean – who, some said, was leprous because of some sin?

 Jesus, of course, wants to and reaches out and touches him – strictly speaking, making Himself unclean in the process. At once – immediately (how often do we hear that word in Mark’s gospel?! the leprosy leaves the man and he is healed.  Jesus reaches out and touches him …

 This past week, night after night on our TV screens we’ve watched footage of devastated bushfire victims hugging another victim close, folk – Kevin Rudd included, placing a comforting hand on the shoulder of a bushfire survivor.

There’s something about touch.   

Continue reading ‘The touch’

Songs of sadness & sustaining

These past days, as folk here in Australia have reflected on appropriate worship resources to use this weekend – in helping God’s people deal with the horror, grief, sorrow, anger, sadness and bewilderment of the Victorian bushfire tragedy (and not forgetting 62% of my state Queensland in flood) – here are many of the songs that have been suggested and some of my own thrown in.  This is far from an exhaustive list.  For a longer selection, go here.  Special thanks to Natalie Sims – Uniting Church, Victoria

God, we’ve known such grief and anger  –  Carolyn Winfrey Gillette     lyrics

Babylon (by the waters, the waters, the waters of Babylon ..)  traditional – the one popularized by Don McLean back in the ’70s

We cannot measure how you heal  – John Bell/Graham Maule   (Iona Community: When Grief is Raw, also Church Hymnary, Common Ground)

Nothing is lost on the breath of God –  Colin Gibson.  Words and music are here. Sound sample here.

Touch the earth lightly, God weeps  –  Shirley Erena Murray (various)

Don’t be afraid  (my love is stronger than your fear) – John Bell    (Iona Community,  All Together Whatever 496)

O God of mighty wind and flame –  Carolyn Winfrey Gillette   lyrics etc                  

O Christ you wept when grief was raw. –  John Bell/Graham Maule   (Iona: Love from Below,  Church Hymnary 734)

When pain and terror strike by chance  – Brian Wren   (Together in Song 262, various)

How long?   –  short lament response by me.  Link here to download page  (scroll down to Holy Communion settings)

Lord have mercy  – short sung response by me.  Link here to download page

For you, deep stillness  –  Julie Perrin/Robin Mann       (All Together Whatever 494, various)  Beautiful, gentle imagery – appropriate for a blessing song


For more bushfire info/pictures/video – go to this link:    It’s worth checking out.   The ABC is our equivalent (sort of) of your PBS.

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