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Archive for September, 2018


For those who have forgotten, my reading project this year is 2000 Years of Christ’s Power, a church history set by Nick Needham. Each quarter I’m reading one of the 4 volumes in the set. Due to vacation I started the 3rd volume a little late but finished it before the end of the quarter. A whole week to spare.

Volume 3 covers the Renaissance and Reformation. It covers quite a bit of material since the Reformation was not a uniform movement. By no means am I an expert on the history of the Reformation, but have read a fair amount. Needham provided plenty of nuance in his discussion, bringing in other factors that influenced people and events. There was plenty here I didn’t know and found beneficial particularly on interactions between groups seeking elusive unity. One issue that kept arising, and preventing union, was communion. Attention is paid to the different views and meetings over those views. Another distinctive mark of the series so far is present here as well. He addresses events in Eastern Orthodoxy during this time period in the final chapter. That he refuses to limit himself to Europe is one of the strengths of this set.

The first chapter covers the Renaissance, which in God’s providence give birth to the Reformation. The humanists were those who developed a great fondness and dependence on the “ancient books” that had in many places been forgotten. They began to read Plato and Aristotle, Augustine and fell under the spell of Greek and Hebrew. It was a revival of the knowledge of the past. There were pockets of the Renaissance in Italy, Germany, England, France and Spain. It was not a uniform movement with ideological goals. But many humanists, like Erasmus, begin to see and confront the problems they saw in the church. There were some theological critiques due to the renewed influence in Augustine, but largely they focused on moral issues.

The humanists laid the groundwork for the Reformation by bringing the study of Greek and Hebrew, and Augustine (among others) back into vogue. Many began to realize the rich heritage of the Church and how it differed at points with parts of their contemporary church. The theology of Rome was not uniform either. The theological aspects of the Reformation would later produce more uniformity in Roman Catholic theology as a response.

There were “Reformers” before Luther, people who expressed “evangelical” theology and called for changes within the Church. They would influence communities, but not a nation like Luther did. Needham notes people like John of Wesel who held to an early form of sola scriptura, attacked indulgences, rejected transubstantiation and enforced celibacy of priests. He was deposed from his office and subjected to the Inquisition. 79 years old, the Inquisition was too much for him and he renounced his “heresies”. He was sentenced to imprisonment in an Augustinian convent where he died 2 years later. Wessel Gansfort was a teacher who made many of the same criticisms, though he accepted a form of transubstantiation. He managed to escape the Inquisition. Girolamo Savonarola led a moral reform in Florence in which people burned their pornography, cosmetics and gambling devices. In his preaching he also attacked the corruption of the papal court. He was a strong Augustinian, and therefore drew the ire of the Franciscans.

One of the ironies of the Renaissance is the rise of the witch hunt. In such a time of great learning, there was also a time of great superstition and fear regarding black magic. Over 300 years governments put thousands of men and women accused of black magic to death. Estimates range (widely from 100,000 to as much as 9 million). For instance, in Geneva while Calvin was alive 2-3 women a year were executed by the government for witchcraft. Most were hanged, not burned.

Martin Luther by Cranach-restoration.tifNeedham moves to Luther in whom all of this took root, and through whom all of this came to be a crisis that rocked Europe. While a monk and professor, Luther’s spiritual guide was Johannes von Staupitz. He was a professor of biblical studies at Wittenberg University, as well as a disciple of Augustine. He was highly influential on Luther. Luther would take over Staupitz’ duties in 1512.

The initial dispute was over indulgences. Eventually the dispute moved to the root of that dispute: justification. But this took a few years. Luther’s personal breakthrough on the issue of justification likely took place in 1518-19 (with Melanchthon’s help), after the 95 Theses sparked the controversy. Men like Spalatin, Carlstadt and Melanchthon joined Luther. Some for a time (Carlstadt) and others for a lifetime (Melanchthon).

As one considers the Reformation, you see the different tensions that emerge. There was the theological tension between Augustine and Aquinas (despite being greatly influenced by Augustine), nationalism and the Holy Roman Empire, informed faith and implicit faith. The Reformation was about salvation, worship and Church government as well as the Church’s relationship with government.

The 3rd chapter focuses on 1521-1531 as Luther’s views began to shake up and shape much of Germany. In Germany a state church developed under the authority of the magistrate. There were no more Church courts, thereby unrolling the reforms of Hilbebrand.

All was not fine and dandy however. It was the Peasant’s Revolt, which was a misunderstanding and misapplication of Christian liberty among other things. There was also the iconoclast vision of Carlstadt and Zwilling in Wittenberg. They were concerned with actions, not hearts and went far beyond where Luther was willing and disrupted the city.

This period includes the beginning of the Swiss Reformation under Zwingli. While there were many common points with Luther, the one big difference was the Lord’s Supper. While they tried to work it out, it seemed insurmountable. Luther would condemn the Swiss Reformed, not even counting them as brothers. The milder Melanchton would maintain his friendship with them and would end up counting John Calvin as one of his best friends.

Martin Bucer by German School.jpgNeedham then brings us to Calvin whose reformation when deeper than Luther’s on many points. It would have gone deeper still if not for the hindrances of the local magistrate which saw itself as controlling the church. Under this chapter he includes Bucer who would have a great influence on Calvin, as well as Peter Martyr. Martyr would work with Calvin to “finalize” the Reformed doctrine of communion as distinct from transubstantiation, Luther’s view and Zwingli’s memorial view. Emphasis was placed on our union with Christ, the nature of signs and the role of faith in receiving that which they symbolized by virtue of that union.

He then focuses on Calvin. One of Calvin’s contributions was his view of the Church in distinction to the Roman Catholic, Lutheran and Anabaptist views. Calvin is dependent on Bucer but was able to say it better, with more force and able to implement it far more than Bucer did. They distinguished between the visible and invisible church, argued that the church and state work together but that the church was not controlled by the state. The church must exercise church discipline lest the visible church become corrupt.

Needham spends a fair amount of space on the controversy with Servetus. This “tragic episode” should be seen in a larger context of Calvin’s controversy with the Libertines or Perrinists. The Libertines opposed Calvin in his desire to enforce moral discipline. They often had loose morals and many held hetrodox views: pantheism, denying the inspiration of the Scriptures etc.. The Libertines made life very difficult for Calvin: so difficult he often wished God would let him leave. At the time of the Servetus trial and execution, Ami Perrin was the chief magistrate.

Michael Servetus.jpgServetus was considered a heretic by Roman Catholics and Protestants alike for his denial of the Trinity. Over the years he had correspondence with Calvin in which Calvin tried to reason with him. Eventually Calvin decided to no longer offer pearls to swine. Servetus was arrested and condemned by the Inquisition, but escaped the prison before he could be executed. For reasons unknown he went to Geneva where he was arrested.

The trial was a contest not only between Servetus and Calvin (a primary witness against him) but also between Calvin and the Libertines (who controlled the city council). In one of histories great ironies, Servetus believed that the magistrate should put heretics to death. He just didn’t believe he was the heretic. The Libertines used this as an opportunity to harass Calvin, putting every conceivable obstacle in the way to justice according to Genevan law. They strung it out even as they knew they couldn’t acquit him with all the western world watching. The council condemned him to death by burning. Calvin argued for a quicker, less cruel manner of death. His old friend, Farel, called Calvin soft.

The Libertines had destroyed their credibility by how they conducted the trial. In the next elections they lost power. In response they staged a riot, for which the ringleaders including Perrin were arrested and convicted. Most were banished, but Perrin was sentenced to death. He was able to flee Geneva to Berne to avoid his sentence. But the Libertines troubled Geneva no more.

Calvin’s work as a pastor and theologian of the first order was not carried out in ease. “He was a constant martyr to arthritis, migraine headaches, bleeding from the stomach, bowel disorders, hemorrhoids, inflamed kidneys and kidney stones, fever, muscle cramps, and gout.” He endured all of these without the benefit of modern medicine.

The 5th chapter covers what is called the Radical Reformation. Needham views this time as one of Reformations, not a single Reformation with different branches. This is due to the complexity of this phenomenon regarding theology and the view of the state and worship.

Needham identifies three Radical tendencies. Any group may have more then one of these tendencies, but any one of them put them outside of the Lutheran and Magisterial Reformations. Those three tendencies were Anabaptism (rejection of infant baptism and baptizing people “again”), Spiritualist (rejecting the authority of the Word for the Spirit apart from the Word) and Rationalist (rejecting the authority of the Scriptures for the authority of one’s on reason).

Some groups majored on Anabaptism, thinking the Reformers at the time weren’t going far enough in their rejection of Rome. Many of them were peaceful groups wanting to live out their faith in an increasingly dangerous environment due to the political realities of the time. One of their distinctive views was that of a “pure church” comprised only of the truly committed. Today this is expressed in a “regenerate church” in which being in the covenant is conflated with salvation. This is the presupposition that drives credobaptism. Zwingli, for instance, believed the Swiss Brethren were asking too much of him- to abandon the existing church and form this new separatist religious communities. Early on, Anabaptists like Grebel did not seek to change the mode of baptism to immersion but that would come and become a shibboleth for “real baptism” among Baptists today. Zwingli saw their baptisms and celebration of the eucharist as anarchy since they were outside of the established church.

They also seemed to shun theology. The Schleitheim Confession is a case in point. It “dealt exclusively with matters of morality and Church order.” With regard to the latter it develops their understanding of the ban or shunning. They thought everything flowed out of lifestyle, and theology arose from their “ethical and communal concerns”, which is quite the opposite of the Magisterial Reformation and Luther. This led to a rejection of the Augustinian views of salvation found among the Reformers. They were semi-pelagian or even Pelagian in their understanding of salvation. They rejected the forensic doctrine of justification by faith alone, and maintained Rome’s conflation of justification and sanctification. Like Rome they feared it was a license to sin.

Since Zwingli was forced to engage them on baptism, his own position changed. Early on he wrote that infant baptism was “neither right nor wrong.” In 1523 he was committed to infant baptism. In his engagement with the Anabaptists he formalized a biblical defense of infant baptism rooted in the covenant and connected to circumcision. One of his key texts was Romans 4, which was one of the key texts in my transition to Reformed infant baptism.

Unfortunately, some Anabaptist groups began predicting the return of Christ. Perhaps this was a consequence of their pure, or true, Church focus. Now that the true Church had been established, Christ would/could return.

MennoSimons.gifMenno Simons was one of the more balanced Anabaptists. But one way he differed significantly from the Reformers was his formulation of sola Scriptura. He disallowed any appeal to tradition. It was not simply that Scripture alone is the final authority, but cleaved Scripture and the church from the past for help in understanding Scripture. That is a very dangerous place to be.

The more a group also drank from the Spiritualist well the more dangerous that group became. This thread subordinated all external authorities, including Scripture, to the “living voice of God speaking directly in in the individual’s heart.” It was about “inward personal experience.” Sebastian Franck went so far as to argue that God deliberately placed contradictions in the Bible to point us away from it to the Spirit. At its worst it also resulted in the Munster community which was filled with sexual license and violence before the armies came to lay siege.

The Rationalist Radicals subordinated all external authorities, including to Scripture, to human reason, often called “right reason”. As a result they rejected the doctrines which were revealed but not provable by reason: the Trinity and the Incarnation. The most famous of them was Socinus.

Needham moves to the topic of Europe divided. Here is where the politics of the time rises in prominence. There were power struggles galore as states sought independence from the Holy Roman Emperor and regional churches sought independence from Rome and the Pope. At times it stained the Protestants, including Luther, Melanchthon and Bucer, when they approved of the bigamy of Philip of Hesse. This was significant because Philip’s role in the Schmalkaldic League which united Lutheran states against the Emperor. When Luther died, Charles struck and defeated the League. He could defeat their armies, but not their faith.

The Reformation spread to the Scandinavian countries, first gaining a toe hold in Denmark. Luther’s death also saw the growth of the Reformed faith in Germany due to the work of people like Peter Martyr. France experienced stiff resistance to the Reformed faith with quite a few persecutions and eventually a war that split the nobility. The Catholic League formed an alliance with Spain to destroy the Huguenots. Philip Duplessis Mornay, a Huguenot, developed Calvin’s statements on the lesser magistrate into A Defense of Liberty against Tyrants, which would be a theological justification for the English Civil War, the American Revolution and the horrible excesses of the French Revolution.

In addition to the divisions on the European continent, divisions would come to the British Islands. The 7th chapter focuses on England and Scotland. Here as well politics and religion formed a dangerous combination at times with persecution breaking out periodically, particularly by Mary as she sought to restore Catholicism as England’s faith. It all began with a king’s idolatrous pursuit of an heir. His three children from three mothers led to a see saw effect. Edward embraced Protestantism, Mary Catholicism and Elisabeth was Protestant but more concerned with uniformity. Her Act of Supremacy reasserted the throne as the Head of the Church of England setting the stage for the rise of the Puritans and the English Civil War.

In Scotland there was no king like Henry VIII, but plenty of internal struggle between Catholic royalty and Protestant nobility. We see the rise of John Knox (who spent time in England and Geneva as well as a French slave galley to make for an interesting resume).

The Catholic Counter-Reformation was not quite uniform. Needham spends some time on the evangelical Catholics. They affirmed justification by faith alone but typically maintained allegiance to the Pope and the doctrine of transubstantiation. One of these was Luther’s old mentor, Staupitz. While a faithful Catholic, his books were placed on the index of forbidden books in 1563. Others included Albert Pighius, Jacob Sadoleto and Juan de Valdes.

One the other side of the spectrum was the rise of Ignatius Loyola and the Jesuits. A former military man, he organized his order in similar fashion and acted like it was on, moving into “enemy territory” to reconvert the Protestants.

Rome also responded to the Reformation with the Council of Trent. Intended to be ecumenical, it was anything but that. The Pope(s) and Emperor struggled over the Council including its composition and location. They each had factions loyal to them. The Catholic Evangelicals were involved in early meetings but soon were pushed out. Roman Catholic theology had a greater breadth and variety leading up to the Reformation. Trent changed all that, bringing greater uniformity with its anathemas and affirmations. Needham notes that the anathemas were largely aimed at straw men. They consistently misinterpreted Protestants.

In the East, the Church fell on hard times to the spread of the Ottoman Empire. The courting of Rome for help didn’t work, and alienated much of the Orthodox masses who greatly resented the Pope and Roman Catholicism. The Russian Orthodox, among others, saw this compromise as close to apostasy. The Ottoman Empire defeated Constantinople and made Christians 2nd class citizens. They allowed the Patriarch of Constantinople to exist, but began to appoint men to the position. There was some correspondence with the Lutherans who wanted to remind Rome that there were churches tracing their roots to the early church that rejected Rome and the Pope’s authority. It didn’t get far due to stark theological differences.

The power vacuum created by the Ottoman conquest was filled by Moscow which was granted the position of Patriarch city. Oddly, the Russians didn’t seek to push the Ottomans out of Constantinople. While offended that Constantinople looked West instead of North, they did nothing about it. But the compromise of the South lead Russian Orthodoxy to believe they alone held to the true faith, a view which still exists today.

There is obviously much more in this volume. I’ve only touched on some highlights. As usual, this volume is engaging in its writing. Some history can be dreadfully dull as written. Needham’s isn’t. He hits on some points that other historians seem to overlook. He also rejects the temptation to neglect the Eastern Church after the Great Schism. This is good and informative reading that includes sections of original source material. Can’t beat that.

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Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs [2 CD 40th Anniversary Deluxe Edition]Albums in the 60’s could be frustrating. Everyone seemed in search of the hit single, not developing strong albums of strong songs. So, when I think of the albums produced by the Yardbirds and Cream (and the Kinks), I think of some great songs that Clapton played on. But not necessarily albums that stood out to me.

For Clapton, that changed (for me) with Derek and the Dominos one and only release, Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs. Eric had spent time touring America with Blind Faith and Delaney & Bonnie and Friends was the opening act. Some of those friends joined him to form Derek and the Dominos: Bobby Whitlock (keys & vocals), Carl Radle (bass) and Jim Gordon (drums).

Clapton’s sound had shifted. With the Yardbirds, the focus was on R&B, and with Cream it was blues rock. His time with Delaney & Bonnie seems to have moved him in more of a southern blues rock direction which would take up most of the 70’s. He also grew weary of fame, which may be a reason for “becoming” Derek.

Derek and the Dominos.pngThis album sounds like Clapton joined the Allman Brothers, and not just because Duane Allman played some slide guitar on this album. Other guests included Dave Mason (actually a member of the band for about a year, playing some live shows with them) and George Harrison. Mason grew weary of Clapton’s focus on helping George instead of them working full time as a band.

We owe the success of this album as much to Harrison as to Delaney & Bonnie. Derek and the Dominos formed during sessions for his All Things Must Pass Album. They had been jamming and writing songs before those sessions, but didn’t seem to have had much of a plan beyond the moment. The persona of Derek allowed Eric to sing about his unrequited love for Harrison’s wife, Pattie Boyd. George was his best friend, so this internal conflict was more encouragement to get stoned, and play guitar. It wasn’t just Layla that expressed this, but a number of the songs deal with love gone sideways and feeling like you’re going to die. For instance, Bell Bottom Blues which is probably one of my favorite Clapton songs:

Bell bottom blues, you made me cry.
I don’t want to lose this feeling.
And if I could choose a place to die
It would be in your arms.
Do you want to see me crawl across the floor to you?
Do you want to hear me beg you to take me back?
I’d gladly do it because
I don’t want to fade away.
Give me one more day, please.
I don’t want to fade away.
In your heart I want to stay.
It’s all wrong, but it’s all right.
The way that you treat me baby.
Once I was strong but I lost the fight.
You won’t find a better loser.
The double album is a collection of original songs and covers of older blues standards and a tribute to Hendrix in Little Wing.
The album begins with I Looked Away, which is credited Clapton & Whitlock. We see the lost love theme right away.
She took my hand
And tried to make me understand
That she would always be there,
But I looked away
And she ran away from me today;
I’m such a lonely man.
It came as no surprise to me
That she’d leave me in misery.
It seemed like only yesterday
She made a vow that she’d never walk away.And if it seemed a sin
To love another man’s woman, baby,
I guess I’ll keep on sinning
Loving her, Lord, till my very last day.
But I looked away
And she ran away from me today;
I’m such a lonely man.

Related imageClapton’s voice cracks at times. The slide guitar chirps and Whitlock adds some background vocals. This is a short song, a mere 3:04, on an album dominated by songs 5 minutes or longer. But it sets the tone both musically and thematically.
Then it is 5 minutes of blissful agony with Bell Bottomed Blues (BBB). This is such a great song, written by Clapton and Whitlock. Clapton alternates his vocals and lead runs perfectly. The pain is seemingly evident in the whole song.
Keep On Growing doesn’t hit the heights of BBB, but it is a good song. It is about a young man who learns he has much to learn about love. It has plenty of instrumental sections to fill its 6 minutes.
Next we have the first cover, Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out by Jimmy Cox. It is more of a straight blues song about a man who has lost it all and finds himself friendless.
Next Clapton used much of the Persian poem The Story of Layla and Majnun by Nizmai as the lyrics for I Am Yours. It is a song with more space than others on the album. Some acoustic guitar, organ and simple lead along with the lyrics seem to dominate. The repeated lines of “I am yours, however distant you may be” continue the theme of the album.
Anyday returns to the sound similar to the rest of the album, and Allman’s slide guitar. While touching on the rejection, it hangs on to hope that anyday now she will smile and receive him.
You were talking and I thought I heard you say
“Please leave me alone
Nothing in this world can make me stay
I’d rather go back, I’d rather go back home”
But if you believed in me like I believe in you
We could have a love so true, we would go on endlessly
And I know anyday, anyday, I will see you smile
Any way, any way, only for a little while
Well someday baby, I know you’re gonna need me
When this old world has got you down
I’ll be right here, so woman call me
And I’ll never ever let you down
Key to the Highway is another old blues standard written by Charles Seger, William Lee and Conley Broonzy. Eric would later play this on his album with B.B. King as well. In this song, he is leaving her. While there is one last kiss, there is no time to waste in heading for the border.
Back to their own compositions with Tell the Truth, about who’s been fooling who. This song doesn’t really stand out.
More upbeat southern blues rock with Why Does Love Got to Be so Sad?. The chorus is repetitive. He’s like a moth to the flame, however. He’s aware she’ll break his heart, but still there’s a song in that heart.
Stop running away;
I’ve got a better game to play,
You know I can’t go on living without you.
Have You Ever Loved a Woman is a song by Billy Myles. A blues song with plenty of good licks. We see why it is on this album when we look at the lyrics:
Have you ever loved a woman
So much you tremble in pain?
Have you ever loved a woman
So much you tremble in pain?And all the time you know, yeah
She bears another man’s name

But you just love that woman
So much it’s a shame and a sin
You just love that woman, yes
So much it’s a shame and a sin

But all the time you know, yes you know
She belongs to your very best friend

All this makes on wonder what it was like to hang out with Eric and George during this time.
Little Wing is by Hendrix and would also be covered by Stevie Ray Vaughn. Hendrix notes it is about the women you sometimes meet who flit in and out of your life but leave their mark. They leave sadness because they seem so far above us. Hendrix died tragically 8 days after they recorded this track which was devastating to Eric (and many others).
It’s Too Late is a cover of an Animal’s song. The reason it is too late is she’s gone.
Layla takes its name from the aforementioned Persian love poem. It is, of course, the best known song from this album and a staple on classic rock radio. Fittingly. The instrumental is a bit too long for some people. Not for me. Last night I learned that Clapton played a Les Paul rather than his Strat for this song. Layla is obviously Pattie. And Eric is obviously a mess.
I tried to give you consolation
When your old man had let you down.
Like a fool, I fell in love with you,
Turned my whole world upside down.
Layla, you’ve got me on my knees.
Layla, I’m begging, darling please.
Layla, darling won’t you ease my worried mind.
Let’s make the best of the situation
Before I finally go insane.
Please don’t say I’ll never find a way
And tell me all my love’s in vain.
It is strange to find a popular song so deep into an album. This is the 13th track! But it ended up on the Top 10 in 1971.
The album closes with Thorn Tree in the Garden. It is under 3 minutes. Bobby sings to acoustic guitar. It was written by him about the only girl he ever loved, and still misses. Musically, it doesn’t quite fit on this album. But it is the last song, and it is short so who really cares.
The band only survived this album. Perhaps they were done in by the drugs. But it was also the realization that it was fake, they were hiding and this was Clapton singing about trying to steal his friend’s wife. The album itself was not warmly received at first, by critics and the public. This fueled Clapton’s depression and addiction. Tragedy followed the members. Allman would die in an accident a year later. Radle’s drug and alcohol abuse lead to kidney problems that caused his death in 1980. Jim Gordon’s schizophrenia was not diagnosed (drug induced?) and he killed his mother with a hammer. He’s been institutionalized since 1984.
While initially not a success, it would chart in 1972 and again in 1982. It is known as one of the high marks of Clapton’s career. Sometimes the things that seem our biggest failures end up defining us, in a good way. The pain behind this album is obvious but it also seemed to bring out the best in Slowhand, producing music which touches the soul.

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For all of 2018 I’ve been trying to preach shorter sermons, largely in vain.

I found that I was preaching in the 40-45 minute range. I really wanted to be around 35 minutes. Why?

According to CavWife, this is my sweet spot. I’m not exactly sure about that. She is dealing with the kids, so when I go longer it puts some pressure on her.

ThatImage result for preaching is the point, I don’t want to put pressure on her or other parents. I want to love them by giving them God’s Word but not in such a way that it becomes overwhelming in dealing with kids.

While our members have raised no complaints about the length of my sermons (it was a bit different in FL but that may be a different blog), I need to consider visitors. I have literally had visitors walk out near the end of sermons. I exceeded their acceptable sermon length.

Should I care? I think so. We are made of dust, weak and limited. People have different limits. While I don’t want to concede to the lowest common denominator, say 20 minutes (oh, Florida popped up), I shouldn’t be insensitive to the needs and limits of others. I have to find a relatively happy medium.

This will also help shorten our service. We celebrate communion weekly, so I’d like the service as a whole to be 90 minutes or under. Under would be good.

We have, I think, a meaningful service. I don’t want to chop out the call, confession of sin or faith, pastoral prayer or Scripture readings which support the sermon text. Music and singing is important too. We have shortened our prelude but the easiest and most consistent way to be under 90 minutes is to preach about 35 minutes.

Two Sundays ago I preached about 45 minutes. CavWife noted this to me. It was a bit shorter than some recent sermons in my Issues from Genesis mini-series. But still longer than I wanted, and thought going into the sermon. I jokingly asked her which 10 minutes should I remove. She said it was good and couldn’t think of something to remove.

I noted this to one of our long-time members. He noted that sometimes I can repeat myself. Yes, he’s right.

So I decided to think some on Monday morning. I wrote a few things on my whiteboard:

  1. Remove redundancies.
  2. Limit cross references to the most pertinent & important.
  3. 1 illustration per subject. Don’t over-illustrate.

It is important to choose a proper text size so you can meaningfully explain and apply the text in the allotted time frame. At times we can be redundant (I can), bringing up an idea you discussed in an earlier point. That adds time unnecessarily to your sermon.

I tend to read cross references- letting the Scripture speak- and this takes some time. When I put together my outline I know that 8 inches down the page is where I want to be. But then I put in the Scripture quotations. Too many add too much time. So I need to be more economical in choosing which ones I read and which ones I may just mention the reference to.

Sometimes I can fall in love with illustrations. I know that not all illustrations speak to all people. But I need to limit them since they add time. Too many illustrations can make things more complex as well.

The first attempt? 35 minutes! That is just one sermon, but hopefully it is a step in the right direction to achieving this goal. Let’s see.

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I Image result for the dudewasn’t planning on doing an Eagles record next. But I watched The History of the Eagles. I’m almost afraid to put an Eagles’ album on here. The scene when the Dude is in the taxi declaring his hate for the Eagles is quite hilarious. They were popular, almost too popular when they imploded after the tour for The Long Run.

It was tempting to list Hotel California. It has some great songs on it like Life on the Fast Lane. The famous riff was …. an exercise Walsh did that the other guys heard and said, “What’s that?!”. Yes, another hit song derived from an exercise (like Dust in the Wind and Space Truckin’). Life sure is weird. It also has Victim of Love which Felder really wanted to sing. But when you have “Golden Throat” Henley … that just makes more sense.

The Eagles The Long Run.jpgDespite the fact that it took them 18 months to produce The Long Run, in part due to being burned out and in part due to snorting too much cocaine, I think it is a better album than the illustrious Hotel California. I never cared what critics thought.

The first song, The Long Run, was almost prophetic. Would their relationships make it in the long run? Certainly didn’t look like it as personal tensions tore them apart. Henley claims the song was about the new music that had emerged. The Eagles were considered dinosaurs, but whose music would last? While the band broke up, their music survive on the new Classic Rock radio format.

Things slowed down for the ballad I Can’t Tell You Why. It is a stripped down song with a nice little guitar run in it. Timothy B. Schmit, who had just joined the band, brought the partially written song with him. He sang the completed song, having a hit before his dream melted away from him.

But it gets back to upbeat with the Joe Walsh song from The Warriors, In the City. Like the movie, it was a bleak sort of view of the city. It had classic Eagles harmonies to go with Joe’s classic guitar sound.

DImage result for the eaglesisco Strangler is a strange song musically. It is guitar driven, but not a typical Eagles song. It is about our quest for recognition, to be desired, which meets a sad end in the hands of a serial killer. Felder is reputed to have written it using a disco beat despite the fact that the band disliked this new style. Perhaps they really thought disco would kill rock music.

It is a return to ballads for the King of Hollywood. Not their best song.

Back to rock with side 2’s first song and hit, Heartache Tonight. It has the sound of an old J. Geils blues romp. It is a fun sounding song about the fact that disappointment seems to find us.

Then the guitar driven Those Shoes. Almost like Steve Martin’s cruel shoes put to music. But not quite. Those shoes are the kind you go out in, and make mistakes in. Always liked this song.

Teenage Jail is not a very memorable song but the guitar part was interesting. This would be one of those which disappointed the critics.

It is another party song throw away with The Greeks Don’t Want No Freaks. The chord progression is interesting and the lyrics playful but …

The album closes with the ballad The Sad Cafe. Plenty of classic harmonies around Henley’s vocals. It is this albums version of The Last Resort.

I’ve got memories of listening to this album on my Sony Walkman in the back of the car while on a college campus visit. I was visiting Manhattanville College. It was a women’s only college that the Kennedy girls when to (supposedly) that went co-ed. I had a good scholarship and was accepted into a 6-year law degree program with NY State law school. I didn’t accept it. Sometimes I wonder what would have happened if I did. Would I have spent too much time at the pub on campus (at the time the drinking age in NY was 19 and I would turn 19 a few short months into my college experience). So much better than posing as Seth Rothstein on a fake ID in Boston. But would I have dated Liz if I’d gone that far from home? Would I turn into a miserable lawyer who drinks too much whiskey and thinks its romantic to have the occasional cigarette (this is how I pictured my future at the time minus the misery)?

During my time between pastorates, when I was under-employed and miserable, I wondered about that decision. But I was where I needed to be. Sometimes things fall apart, but it’s okay. The Eagles fell apart after this album, but that was alright.

 

 

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