Month: February 2015

LENT DEVOTIONAL 2015 – 40 DAYS OF CLASSIC ROCK – #31 – “The Boys Are Back In Town” – Thin Lizzy

LENT DEVOTIONAL 2015 – 40 DAYS OF CLASSIC ROCK – #31 – “The Boys Are Back In Town” – Thin Lizzy
by Pastor Kyle Durbin, Centenary UMC

In 1976, the Irish rock band, Thin Lizzy, released their biggest single to date, “The Boys Are Back In Town,” and the song has been played at European futbol and rugby matches ever since. Despite the iconic refrain, the song is best known critically for it’s “twin guitar lead,” played by Scott Gorham and Brian Robertson (who would go on to play with the heavy metal band, Motorhead).

“Guess who just got back today?” asks vocalist Phil Lynott to kick off Thin Lizzy’s rock anthem. The song continues to be part reminiscent, part homecoming welcome, culminating in the title lines, “The boys are back in town.” Returning home is a common theme in the Bible as well. In the Old Testament, the Jews who were forced into exile by the Babylonians longed for a return to the promised land. In the New Testament, we experience the return of Christ, and also wait with anticipation for our return to the glory of God in heaven. As Isaiah 55:11 reads, “Then let those ransomed by the Lord return and come to Zion with singing and with everlasting joy upon their heads. Let happiness and joy overwhelm them; let grief and groaning flee.”

Precious Lord, we know that our time on earth is temporary, and that our true, eternal home, is in your Kingdom surrounded by your eternal presence. Grant us divine assistance as we continue on our journey towards our everlasting home. Amen.

LENT DEVOTIONAL 2015 – 40 DAYS OF CLASSIC ROCK – #32 – “Don’t Fear The Reaper” – Blue Oyster Cult

LENT DEVOTIONAL 2015 – 40 DAYS OF CLASSIC ROCK – #32 – “Don’t Fear The Reaper” – Blue Oyster Cult
by Pastor Kyle Durbin, Centenary UMC

Blue Oyster Cult’s 1976 song, “Don’t Fear The Reaper,” is one of those rare examples of a song that achieved equal parts mainstream success and critical reception. Released off of their album, “Agents of Fortune,” the song was written by guitarist Donald “Buck Dharma” Roeser and revolves around his iconic six-string lead melody. Of course, many of us remember it best for Saturday Night Live’s parody featuring Christopher Walken and his famous, “More cowbell!”

According to Dharma, “It’s basically a love song where the love transcends the actual physical existence of the partners.” While on the surface, the song appears to concentrate on everlasting love, at it’s core, the lyrics are an emotional, heartfelt lament regarding the inevitability of death. The Bible, however, is quick to respond to answer who “Fears the Reaper,” saying in Hebrews 2: 14-15, “14 Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, he also shared the same things in the same way. He did this to destroy the one who holds the power over death—the devil—by dying. 15 He set free those who were held in slavery their entire lives by their fear of death.” Through Jesus Christ, death has been defeated, and we have nothing to fear, because by his grace, we are promised eternal life.

God of Grace, it is human nature to fear death and worry about what is to come. Encourage us to have faith in your Son, Jesus Christ, by whose grace, we are forever freed from any reason to fear death, because he has promised to reign in us and with us for eternity. Amen.

OOPS! I mean…

LENT DEVOTIONAL 2015 – 40 DAYS OF CLASSIC ROCK – #33 – “Pour Some Sugar On Me” – Def Leppard

LENT DEVOTIONAL 2015 – 40 DAYS OF CLASSIC ROCK – #33 – “Pour Some Sugar On Me” – Def Leppard
by Pastor Kyle Durbin, Centenary UMC

Given the mainstream popularity of Def Leppard’s 1987 single, “Pour Some Sugar On Me,” it’s hard to believe that it was held off from the number one spot on the Billboard charts by Richard Marx and his ballad, “Hold Onto The Night.” While most millennials may not even be able to tell you who Richard Marx is (if you don’t know who he is, go shed a tear to “I Do It For You,” right now), “Pour Some Sugar On Me,” is more often than not, the first rock anthem that any high schooler will learn by heart, which, given the lyrics, would be disturbing if there weren’t just as many naive children out there singing about how they’re “hot and sticky sweet.”

There’s not much to say about the typically chauvinistic desire for sexual gratification found in the lyrics of Def Leppard’s most recognizable hit, which would be all fine and well, if I wasn’t tasked with somehow relating this song to the Bible…so here we go! The Song of Solomon is a biblical book that enjoyed it’s fair share of controversy. in fact, it is contested by some scholars that it was the original, “50 Shades of Grey,” a writing so scandalous that it was originally banned from the Bible, causing young boys to literally sneak off just to read it! Here’s how it begins in chapter one, “2 If only he would give me some of his kisses . . .Oh, your loving is sweeter than wine! 3 Your fragrance is sweet; your very name is perfume. That’s why the young women love you. 4 Take me along with you; let’s run!” Well whaddaya know? Not too far off from old Def Leppard after all. Here’s the thing, the biblical authors weren’t naive when it came to physical desires and romantic interests. In fact, when experienced within the realm of a loving, committed relationship, this aspect of love is often celebrated in the Bible. Some would even say we were created for it!

Loving God, we all desire love in life, and everything that comes with it. Thank you for promising to love us no matter what. Provide us with the opportunity to experience all that love has to offer us while in this life, and the discernment to act responsibly and respectfully in doing so. Amen.

LENT DEVOTIONAL 2015 – 40 DAYS OF CLASSIC ROCK – #34 – “Boys of Summer” – Don Henley

LENT DEVOTIONAL 2015 – 40 DAYS OF CLASSIC ROCK – #34 – “Boys of Summer” – Don Henley
by Pastor Kyle Durbin, Centenary UMC

If my summer of 2004 while a college student at the University of Maryland can be defined by one song, it was the Ataris cover of Don Henley’s classic, “Boys of Summer,” off of their 2003 album, “So Long, Astoria,” which my friends and I rarely removed from my car stereo. However, it was the original song, released in 1984, that gave the former Eagles vocalist his first, solo Grammy award.

The song is a soaring emotional rock anthem that touches at the heart of anyone scorned by a romance they simply couldn’t move on from. By the lyrics, it would appear that everything from an “empty lake [and] empty streets,” to a “Deadhead sticker on a Cadillac,” reminds the singer of a former lover that has left him for somebody new. The prophets speak of a God who shares these feelings when it comes to us. Joel 2: 12-13 reads, “Yet even now, says the Lord, return to me with all your hearts…for [God] is merciful and compassionate, very patient, full of faithful love, and ready to forgive.” No matter where we go in life, no matter what bad decisions and mistakes we make, the Lord will forever be waiting for us to return to God’s loving arms of grace.

Forgiving God, we are bound to make mistakes, and so often we find ourselves turning from the path you would have us follow. We praise and thank you for your faithfulness, and yearn to follow you forevermore. Amen.

LENT DEVOTIONAL 2015 – 40 DAYS OF CLASSIC ROCK – #35 – “Sharp Dressed Man” – ZZ Top

LENT DEVOTIONAL 2015 – 40 DAYS OF CLASSIC ROCK – #35 – “Sharp Dressed Man” – ZZ Top
by Pastor Kyle Durbin, Centenary UMC

“Sharp Dressed Man,” was first released as a single off of ZZ Top’s 1983 album, “Eliminator,” and has been a mainstay in the bearded bands arsenal ever since, performing it for mainstream audiences as recently as the 2008 Orange Bowl. The song has been covered by everyone from Brad Paisley, to Nickelback, to Alvin and the Chipmunks, and not only was it a featured song in the video game, “Guitar Hero,” it is also the current theme song of the TV show, “Duck Dynasty.”

Essentially, like so many pop-rock songs, the lyrics read like a cheap handbook for men about winning the affections of women. According to ZZ Top, women are more interested in “clean shirts, new shoes…silk suits, [and] black ties” than anything else when it comes to looking for love…not at all chauvinistic! (…then again…when I married my wife, I experienced an exponential increase in the number of button-up shirts in my wardrobe…but I digress!) The thing is, when it comes to our relationship with Jesus, our savior could care less what we’re wearing or what we look like. As a matter of fact, according to one of Jesus’ parables in Luke 16, “There was a certain rich man who clothed himself in purple and fine linen (the black tie apparel of the time),” and well, when he died, he found himself, “being tormented in the place of the dead,” because he placed more emphasis on his appearance and luxurious lifestyle than tending to the plight of the poor and oppressed around him. As Christians, it’s ok to dress nice, so long as that doesn’t become our priority.

Lord, teach us to be humble in appearance, so that we can focus our priorities on how our actions might honor you and serve others, as we seek to do your will on earth. Amen.

LENT DEVOTIONAL 2015 – 40 DAYS OF CLASSIC ROCK – #36 – “Juke Box Hero” – Foreigner

LENT DEVOTIONAL 2015 – 40 DAYS OF CLASSIC ROCK – #36 – “Juke Box Hero” – Foreigner
by Pastor Kyle Durbin, Centenary UMC

The first movie I ever took my wife, Joanna, to go see was the musical “Rock of Ages.” While I was familiar with the 80’s rock comedy, she had never heard of it outside of television commercials. However, I soon found she new the songs even better than I did, and it all began was she was able to sing along to just about every word of “Juke Box Hero” at the beginning of the movie.

“Juke Box Hero” comes off of Foreigner’s album, “4” which went on to earn Seven-Times Platinum status. The song chronicles the rise of a fictional musical artist who comes from humble means and goes on to become a rock and roll legend. Apparently, all he needed was “one guitar!” Similarly, the Bible is filled with heroes who society views as worthless that go on to accomplish great and wonderful things, from Rahab the prostitute, to King David, all the way through to Jesus Christ himself, and then pretty much every one of the disciples after him. The thing is, God doesn’t care what we look like or where we come from, as the Lord told Samuel when anointed a young shepherd boy to rule over Israel, “Have no regard for his appearance or stature, because I haven’t selected him. God doesn’t look at things like humans do. Humans see only what is visible to the eyes, but the Lord sees into the heart.”

Lord, help us remember not to worry too much about what society values or what our culture tells us matter in life. We know you have called us each to wonderful lives full of meaning and purpose, because you see our hearts, and we give our hearts to you. Amen.

LENT DEVOTIONAL 2015 – 40 DAYS OF CLASSIC ROCK – #37 – “Piece Of My Heart” – Janis Joplin

LENT DEVOTIONAL 2015 – 40 DAYS OF CLASSIC ROCK – #37 – “Piece Of My Heart” – Janis Joplin
by Pastor Kyle Durbin, Centenary UMC

While written for Erma Franklin (older sister of none other than Arethra) in 1967, the song, “Piece Of My Heart” gained much greater notoriety a year later when it was covered by Big Brother and the Holding Company, featuring Janis Joplin on vocals. It would soon become one of the female rock and roll icon’s greatest hits.

The lyrics are a tormented rock ballad about an individual experiencing all the emotions related to unrequited love. While the singer is madly devoted, she (or he) is at the mercy of their romantic interest, who seems to come and go as they please. As Christians, unlike the song, we worship a God who wants our heart, always and forever, saying in Proverbs 23: 26, “My child, give me your heart, and let your eyes observe my ways.” The ways of the Lord are faithful, and God promises to never leave us. God will “take every little piece of our hearts,” but God will never “break every little piece of our hearts.”

Lord, give us the courage to commit our hearts to you, with the confidence that you will never leave or forsake us. Fill our hearts with devotion to you, and love for one another. Amen.

LENT DEVOTIONAL 2015 – 40 DAYS OF CLASSIC ROCK – #38 – “Jack and Diane” – John Cougar

LENT DEVOTIONAL 2015 – 40 DAYS OF CLASSIC ROCK – #38 – “Jack and Diane” – John Cougar
Pastor Kyle Durbin, Centenary UMC

Despite what my high-school self may tell you, this classic guitar riff was not made famous by Jessica Simpson’s 1999, “I Think I’m In Love With You.” No, that honor goes to John Mellencamp’s (then performing as John Cougar) “Jack and Diane,” released almost 20 years prior to the diva’s pop song. A favorite in cars and bars, while some may not consider this #1 single true classic rock, at 33 years old, it fits the definition.

“Jack and Diane,” is a “little ditty,” about, you guessed it, a boy and girl named Jack and Diane sharing a young, American romance. The song is filled with innocence and naivety, as well as an acute awareness that a carefree, adolescent life can only last so long. The anthem repeats, “Oh yeah, life goes on, long after the thrill of living is gone.” With the same nostalgia in mind, King Solomon asks, in Ecclesiastes 7:10, “10 Don’t ask, “How is it that the former days were better than these?” because it isn’t wise to ask this.” Instead of lamenting about the “good ole days,” as Christians, we are called to claim the life that Christ has planned for us, even if that involves a little bit of effort sometimes, because he has a good life planned for us all.

Everlasting Lord, it’s sometimes so easy for us to remember “better times,” or to become preoccupied with thoughts of “what might have been.” Open our eyes to the vision you have for our lives, where better days are always ahead. Amen

LENT DEVOTIONAL 2015 – 40 DAYS OF CLASSIC ROCK – #39 – “Changes” – David Bowie

LENT DEVOTIONAL 2015 – 40 DAYS OF CLASSIC ROCK – #39 – “Changes” – David Bowie
Pastor Kyle Durbin, Centenary UMC

Despite never making it into the top 40, surprisingly, “Changes,” would go on to become one of David Bowie’s best known songs. Released in 1971 and again in 1972, the song was a retrospective biography of the singer’s career up until that point.

While much of the song is an artistic reflection of David Bowies changing styles, the lyrics of the refrain make things a little more personal, saying, “Turn and face the strange, ch-ch-changes. Just gonna have to be a different man. Time may change me, but I can’t trace time.” The themes of “turning” and “changing” were very popular with a certain gospel prophet who “proclaimed the way of the Lord.” In Matthew 3: 2, John the Baptist proclaims, ““Change your hearts and lives! Here comes the kingdom of heaven!” Many of us know this as “repenting,” which translates, “turning.” As Christians, we are called to make certain “ch-ch-changes” in our lives, including turning away from self-centeredness and turning towards service to God.

Gracious Master, help us turn away from selfish thoughts, desires, and actions, so that as we turn towards the path you would have us walk, we lead lives worthy of your Kingdom, in service to you. Amen.

LENT DEVOTIONAL 2015 – 40 DAYS OF CLASSIC ROCK – #40 – “Carry On My Wayward Son” – Kansas

LENT 2015 – 40 DAYS OF CLASSIC ROCK – #40 – “Carry On My Wayward Son” – Kansas
Pastor Kyle Durbin, Centenary UMC

Written for their 1976 album, “Leftoverture,” “Carry On My Wayward Son,” by American Rock and Roll band Kansas would go on to peak at Number 11 on the Billboard Charts, becoming the band’s first single to crack the top 40.

The song, with anthemic lyrics like, “Carry on my wayward son, there’ll be peace when you are done,” speak of persevering through adversity and struggles. These themes are not foreign to the Gospel. While Steve Walsh harmonically sings, “lay your weary head to rest, don’t you cry no more,” with the rest of his band, Jesus has similar words for his followers in Matthew 11: 28, saying, ” “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” No matter what trials we may find ourselves going through, we have a savior who will see us through it all, and will provide not only the endurance we need, but also a sense of peace and comfort as we continue moving forward.

Comforting Savior, you know the struggles in our lives and in our hearts. Give us the courage to face our hardships with the confidence that you will always provide us with the support and reassurance we need. Amen.