Month: March 2015

LENT DEVOTIONAL 2015 – 40 DAYS OF CLASSIC ROCK – #6 – “All Along The Watchtower” – Jimi Hendrix

LENT DEVOTIONAL 2015 – 40 DAYS OF CLASSIC ROCK – #6 – “All Along The Watchtower” – Jimi Hendrix
by Pastor Kyle Durbin, Centenary UMC

First things first, yes, for those unaware, “All Along The Watchtower,” was written and recorded by Bob Dylan in 1967. Dylan has performed this song as part of his live concert experience more than any other song in his repertoire, but let’s be honest, that probably has a lot to do with the popularity Jimi Hendrix brought to the song with his own recording for his “Electric Ladyland,” album, released just six months after Dylan’s original.

As Hendrix (or Dylan, depending on your preference) sing a doom-laden, apocalyptic ballad featuring watchmen and riders coming in the distance, the lyrics to “All Along The Watchtower,” appear to contain a subtle reference to Isaiah 21: 5-9, which reads, “They prepare the table, they spread the rugs, they eat, they drink…For thus the Lord said to me: ‘Go, post a lookout,’…Then the watcher called out: ‘Upon a watchtower I stand, O Lord, continually by day, and at my post I am stationed throughout the night. Look, there they come, riders, horsemen in pairs!'” Dylan, and Hendrix, who were writing in the shadow of Vietnam, along with our countries newfound exposure to the atrocities of war, had reason to write an apocalyptic song. However, the victorious Christ who teaches love for enemies, found in the Gospels, would have also been familiar with Isaiah 2: 4, which states, “He shall judge between the nations…they shall beat their swords into plowshares…nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.”

Compassionate Savior, transform our weapons of violence into an arsenal of love. Teach us to love, not to hate, even when others hate us, for it is love, not hate, and not war, that conquers all. Amen.

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LENT DEVOTIONAL 2015 – 40 DAYS OF CLASSIC ROCK – #7 – “Bohemian Rhapsody” – Queen

LENT DEVOTIONAL 2015 – 40 DAYS OF CLASSIC ROCK – #7 – “Bohemian Rhapsody” – Queen
by Pastor Kyle Durbin, Centenary UMC

Truth be told, picking exactly which Queen song was going to land on the countdown was a complete toss-up and easily could have gone to a handful of songs. I settled on “Bohemian Rhapsody,” not only for it’s musical intricacy, but also because, just like SNL, “more cowbell,” and Blue Oyster Cult’s “Don’t Fear The Reaper,” there is a generation that will always connect “Bohemian Rhapsody,” to SNL’s, “Wayne’s World! (Party Time! Excellent!)”

Written at home by Freddie Mercury over a period spanning parts of both the 1960’s and 70’s, the singer, himself, has admitted that he wanted to make a rock opera that was intentionally confusing, a sort of ridiculous song about nothing…and that’s exactly what he did. In the song, the narrator reflects, “I’m just a poor boy, nobody loves me,” to which the chorus responds, “He’s just a poor boy from a poor family. Spare him his life from this monstrosity.” Not only does Jesus have a special place in his heart for the poor and the children throughout the Gospels, throughout the entire Bible, God makes it abundantly clear that God cares especially for the outcast and the marginalized. It is with this understanding that James, brother of Jesus, writes in 1:27 of his epistle, “True devotion, the kind that is pure and faultless before God the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their difficulties.” As children of God and followers of Christ, we are to offer extra care and pay special attention to those that society would all too often cast aside without hesitation. Regardless of social or economic status, all people are valued by God and have a place in God’s Kingdom.

Sovereign and Just God, we know you hear the cries of those that our culture tries so hard to drown out, because they don’t meet our superficial standards. Give us eyes to see the injustices of this world, voices to speak out against them, and hands to lift up those who have spent a lifetime being stepped on. Amen.

LENT DEVOTIONAL 2015 – 40 DAYS OF CLASSIC ROCK – #8 – “Baba O’Riley” – The Who

LENT DEVOTIONAL 2015 – 40 DAYS OF CLASSIC ROCK – #8 – “Baba O’Riley” – The Who
by Pastor Kyle Durbin, Centenary UMC

I can remember when I was younger, searching diligently to find a copy of the song, “Teenage Wasteland,” by The Who. Of course, that was a pointless endeavor, because despite common sense telling us that songs are typically named after the hook in the refrain, and despite the tv show CSI: NY catapulting the already iconic song into a whole new level of fame, along with a brand new audience, The Who named possibly their most acclaimed song after the musical and philosophical inspirations for the lyrics, Meher Baba and Terry Riley, hence the name, “Baba O’Riley.”

The song kicks in with one of the most memorable guitar intros in rock and roll history, complete with delay effects and a nice, slow build. Written by Pete Townshend, Roger Daltry does most of the singing for the anthem. In all honesty, it’s hard to make perfect sense of the meaning to “Baba O’Riley,” with lyrics, originally written as an intro to a conceptual rock opera that was to be the sequel to “Tommy,” that can seem disjointed at times. Still, there is truth to be found in lyrics such as, “I don’t need to fight to prove I’m right.” In fact, Jesus went so far as to say, “But I say to you that you must not oppose those who want to hurt you. If people slap you on your right cheek, you must turn the left cheek to them as well.” There is no place for violence of any kind in the Kingdom of Heaven, after all, violence has only ever left things looking like a “teenage wasteland.”

Patient Lord, give us clear heads and calm hearts to respond to those who try to hurt us, emotionally, physically, or mentally, with the love that is only possible through realizing the grace you have already offered us. Amen.

LENT DEVOTIONAL 2015 – 40 DAYS OF CLASSIC ROCK – #9 – “Comfortably Numb” – Pink Floyd

Though most probably remember the titular anthem, “Brick In The Wall,” from Pink Floyd’s groundbreaking concept album, “The Wall,” it was 1979’s, “Comfortably Numb,” that truly showcased the depths of the bands musical and lyrical talent. For those unfamiliar with the tune, perhaps you recognize the cover performed in the award-winning film, “The Departed.” Originally titled “The Doctor,” the haunting song plays out like a conversation between the albums protagonist, Pink, and a doctor who is treating him, as she traces the pain she often suffered during childhood which has now left him as a contentedly apathetic adult.

The song concludes with the refrain, “When I was a child I caught a fleeting glimpse out of the corner of my eye. I turned to look but it was gone. I cannot put my finger on it now. The child is grown. The dream is gone. I have become comfortably numb.” It is so unfortunate that, as adults, many of us lose the innocence and hope sometimes found only in childhood. Perhaps this is why Christ told his disciples in Matthew 18: 3-4, “‘Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 5Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.”

Ever-present God, our experiences in this world harden us, constructing walls that separate us from the love you offer. Never allow us to become “comfortably numb,” instead, constantly renewing us with the hope that is offered through the grace and salvation of your Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

LENT DEVOTIONAL 2015 – 40 DAYS OF CLASSIC ROCK – #10 – “War Pigs” – Black Sabbath

LENT DEVOTIONAL 2015 – 40 DAYS OF CLASSIC ROCK – #10 – “War Pigs” – Black Sabbath
by Pastor Kyle Durbin, Centenary UMC

As if some of the songs on this countdown didn’t make the devotional task difficult enough, we begin our top ten classic rock songs of all times with Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs,” a song that was originally entitled, “Walpurgis,” an intentionally satanic reference to the witches sabbath. What Ozzy and the band may not have realized, however, is that despite their intent, a blatantly anti-war anthem is just the thing Christ would have sung.

Osbourne sings of the, “Evil minds that plot destruction.” These are the very forces Jesus faced in his final days, from both the Jewish religious leaders and the Roman authorities. When Jesus was arrested, his disciple Peter struck out with a sword against one of the soldiers, but Jesus scolded him in Matthew 26: 52, saying, “Then Jesus said to him, ‘Put the sword back into its place. All those who use the sword will die by the sword.'” Instead, we are instructed by the words of the Apostle Paul in Romans 12: 21, “Don’t be defeated by evil, but defeat evil with good.”

Holy Lord, the world is not short on “evil minds” and forces. Help us to resist evil with good, teaching us, still, a higher, better way. Amen.

LENT DEVOTIONAL 2015 – 40 DAYS OF CLASSIC ROCK – #11 – “Jump” – Van Halen

“Jump” clocks in as the only single released by Van Halen to reach number one on the US Billboard charts. Easily the most recognizable song the band ever released, it was distinct in it’s ability to synthesize both the keyboard driven arena rock of the early eighties with the hair-metal hard rock of the late eighties. Of course, none of this can compare to the statement made by David Lee Roth in his all white jumpsuit worn in the music video!

Unbeknownst to many, “Jump” was written towards the culmination of the friction between singer, David Lee Roth, and guitarist, Eddie Van Halen. The song was almost written with a certain amount of resistance from Roth, who ultimately changed the lyrics from a song about a suicide jump into a song about jumping into love. No scripture presents this idea better than in John 21:7 “Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It’s the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard it was the Lord, he wrapped his coat around himself (for he was naked) and jumped into the water.” The same disciple who earlier sank in the water for lack of faith, unabashedly jumped into the water upon realizing the resurrection of his Lord. Sometimes belief in Jesus requires just that, a leap of faith.

Resurrected Lord, you promise us new mercies every morning and new grace possible every day. Despite everything that tells us this can’t be true, grant us the faith to jump, unafraid, into the arms of your love. Amen.

LENT DEVOTIONAL 2015 – 40 DAYS OF CLASSIC ROCK – #12 – “Sweet Child Of Mine” – Guns N Roses

LENT DEVOTIONAL 2015 – 40 DAYS OF CLASSIC ROCK – #12 – “Sweet Child Of Mine” – Guns N Roses
by Pastor Kyle Durbin, Centenary UMC

Incase the message hadn’t already been received, “Appetite for Destruction,” the 1987 release by Guns N Roses, made it loud and clear that hair metal had arrived (and that there was some talented stuff to it too!) While not the most popular song released at the time, “Sweet Child of Mine,” has gone on to become the musical high note of the album, being covered by countless pop and rock acts, including Sheryl Crow’s widely acclaimed cover in 1999.

According to the Gospels, Jesus Christ was the “sweet child” of God, as in Matthew 3:17, after Jesus is baptized, the voice of God proclaims, ““This is my Son whom I dearly love; I find happiness in him.” Without getting too theological, the Christian belief is that, for those that believe in Christ, the Holy Spirit of God dwells inside of them, thus, making them equally children of God. Long story short, this is why, in Galatians 3:26, the apostle Paul writes, “For we are all children of God.” It is important to remember that, no matter who you are, when God looks at you, he very well may be singing,”Sweet Child of Mine.”

Parental God, we all long for someone who cares for us unconditionally. Help us recognize your love in our lives, and respond by living a life that is worthy of us each being called your child. Amen.

LENT DEVOTIONAL 2015 – 40 DAYS OF CLASSIC ROCK – #13 – “Don’t Stop Believing” – Journey

LENT DEVOTIONAL 2015 – 40 DAYS OF CLASSIC ROCK – #13 – “Don’t Stop Believing” – Journey
by Pastor Kyle Durbin, Centenary UMC

When listening to music and socializing with my seminary friends, a common joke we had was, “It’s too early for ‘Don’t Stop Believing!'” suggesting that the song was only appropriately played in social settings when it was time for the evening to come to an end. The single, which came off of Journey’s seventh studio album, has in fact gone on to become not only one of the most popular songs of its time, but also one of the best selling songs of the modern, digital, era.

Ironically, an area “south” of “Detroit,” that the lyrics speak of, doesn’t technically exist in America, and would more likely describe a portion of Canada. Even still, the song has long since exemplified the blue-collar American Dream of coming from nothing and making something out of yourself, against all odds. In the fifth chapter of Mark, a Roman leader comes to Jesus asking him to raise his sick daughter from the dead. Jesus response in verse 36; “Don’t be afraid; just keep believing.” Despite any odds stacked against us, we are to never stop believing in the power of Christ, who can do miraculous things for those who trust in him.

Miraculous Christ, let us never stop believing in your wondrous power and love. Let us experience your healing and grace in our lives, especially when it feels like all hope is lost. Amen.

LENT DEVOTIONAL 2015 – 40 DAYS OF CLASSIC ROCK – #14 – “Sweet Home Alabama” – Lynyrd Skynyrd

LENT DEVOTIONAL 2015 – 40 DAYS OF CLASSIC ROCK – #14 – “Sweet Home Alabama” – Lynyrd Skynyrd
by Pastor Kyle Durbin, Centenary UMC

I originally had no intention of offering commentary on “Sweet Home Alabama,” by Lynyrd Skynyrd. For many, the song perfectly captures the sentiment of true southern rock. For others, the ambiguity of certain lyrics such as, “In Birminngham they love the governor” carry blatantly racist overtones. According to the band, the song was actually written in response to songs be Neil Young and could be seen as a proud, conservative, southern reaction to a judgmental, northern, liberalism that stereotyped all southerners together, regardless of their actual beliefs.

One of the contested lyrics in the song sing, “Sweet home Alabama, oh, sweet home baby, Where the skies are so blue and the governor’s true,” a reference to Alabama governor George Wallace who, in the 60’s, supported racial segregation. The idea that Wallace was “true,” for this very reason, is consistent with a darker history of Christianity, where slave owners would cite Colossians 3:22, which reads, “Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything, not only while being watched and in order to please them, but wholeheartedly, fearing the Lord.” The prospect of using this passage to endorse slavery in any way, shape, or form, however, is completely inconsistent with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, “who gave himself for [all] us to redeem [all of] us from all wickedness,” (Titus 2:14). This is why John, in his revelation, saw, “a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages.” Segregation, for any reason, whether based on race or any other division, has absolutely no place in the Kingdom of Heaven and is irreconcilable with a savior whose arms spread wide on the cross only further demonstrated his open embrace of all people.

Loving Savior, despite our best intentions, the history of our church is filled with failed attempts to model your love for all humankind. Despite progress that has been made, there is still much work to be done. Give us the strength, courage, and power to tear down the walls that divide your people and prevent the body of Christ from truly being the united people you desire. Amen.

LENT DEVOTIONAL 2015 – 40 DAYS OF CLASSIC ROCK – #15 – “Bad Moon Rising” – Creedence Clearwater Revival

LENT DEVOTIONAL 2015 – 40 DAYS OF CLASSIC ROCK – #15 – “Bad Moon Rising” – Creedence Clearwater Revival
by Pastor kyle Durbin, Centenary UMC

With the so much emphasis on nostalgia never to be reclaimed and a certain amount of cynicism regarding the future, it’s surprising that more classic rock songs don’t go the straight apocalyptic route. Leave it to Creedence Clearwater Revival in 1969 and their second gold-certified single, “Bad Moon Rising,” to fill that void for us!

John Fogerty claims that the song was written in response to a hurricane scene in the film, “The Devil and Daniel Webster,” citing his concerns regarding a possible impending apocalypse. The song begins with the lyrics, “I see the bad moon arising. I see trouble on the way. I see earthquakes and lightnin’. I see those bad times today.” The ensuing refrain repeats the concern that, “there’s a bad moon on the rise,” (not, “there’s a bathroom on the right,” as has been parodied countless times!). Unsurprisingly, Jesus has a similar description of the “end times,” in Matthew 18:29. saying, ““Now immediately after the suffering of that time the sun will become dark, and the moon won’t give its light. The stars will fall from the sky and the planets and other heavenly bodies will be shaken.” However, Christ goes on to explain that we aren’t to worry about these things, because our hope is in Jesus, who has the power to redeem and save any and all people.

Son of the Promised Return, we await your coming with fear and anticipation. Turn our focus away from whatever “time and hour” that may be, so that instead, we might focus on doing your will on earth with the time we have. Amen.