Bach’s “Passion” as online meditation

Bach is among the very greatest of Christian artists, and his “St. Matthew Passion” is considered one of his greatest works.  It is an oratorio, something like an opera, that sets to music Matthew’s account of the crucifixion of Christ (Chapters 26-27), with soloists singing the lines of the various characters and magnificent choral music, all punctuated with Bach’s rendition of Lenten hymns (many of which we still sing today) and remarkable verse by Bach himself responding to Christ’s sacrifice.

My colleague Steve McCollum alerted me to an online resource that makes this masterpiece of musical devotion accessible online:  Oregon Bach Festival » Digital Bach Project » St. Matthew Passion.  It gives the English translation, as well as the Biblical sources and the dramatic script, for each line as the oratorio unfolds.  Click the link, then when you see the painting of St. Matthew, hit the play button.  It’s divided into five 30-minute segments, which makes it an excellent Holy Week devotion.  [Read more…]

Conservative Christians and immigration reform

A group of Bible-believing Christians has formed the Evangelical Immigration Table to promote immigration reform. It is promoting what it is calling the “I Was a Stranger” Challenge.  They give you 40 Bible passages that have to do with how we should treat immigrants.  They ask you to read, meditate, and pray about each one, one a day, over 40 days.  And then see what you think about immigration reform.  After the jump, read the details and see the 40 Bible passages.

The organization includes lots of religious conservatives, though also some on the evangelical left. (See this.)  At any rate, it is clear that the Bible tells us to be kind to “sojourners.”  One could make a case that Christians should champion immigration reform because it is the right thing to do and also because the immigrants in question tend to be religious, pro-family, pro-life, anti-homosexuality, and potential cultural and political allies.  Do you agree?  If not, could reading the 40 Bible passages at least in theory change your mind?

[Read more…]

The Bible TV show

The Bible on the History Channel is a smash hit, even though most critics hate it.  The mini-series reportedly takes a reverent stance towards its source material.  I have not seen it.  Have you?  How is it?  (After the jump, a critic of the Hollywood scene discusses the show.) [Read more…]

At the still point of the turning world

From Ash Wednesday by T. S. Eliot

If the lost word is lost, if the spent word is spent
If the unheard, unspoken
Word is unspoken, unheard;
Still is the unspoken word, the Word unheard,
The Word without a word, the Word within
The world and for the world;
And the light shone in darkness and
Against the Word the unstilled world still whirled
About the centre of the silent Word.

via Ash Wednesday by T. S. Eliot.

(“The still point of the turning world” is from Eliot’s “Burnt Norton,” the Four Quartets.)

What is Eliot saying about the Word?  about the Word in an age of unbelief?  What does this have to do with Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent?

Better than witnessing the Transfiguration

Yesterday was the climax of the Epiphany season, Transfiguration Sunday, marking the most explicit epiphany of Jesus during His time on earth.  St. Peter saw witnessed it personally, as he describes in His second epistle.  But he goes on to say that we have something even better, even more certain, than witnessing the Transfiguration. [Read more…]

The “grace” vs. “holiness” debate

Christianity Today has set up a symposium discussing the following question:  Do American Christians Need the Message of Grace or a Call to Holiness?  As usual, no Lutherans were asked to participate, and the whole debate is maddening for a Lutheran to read, not just because of its false dichotomies but because of what is missing in the understanding of both terms. [Read more…]


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