Category: Lent

DAMN. and the Crucified Christ

Image result for Kendrick Lamar's new album, DAMNThis week, Rev. Greg Henneman returns to BTSF, partnering with his son, Noah, as they review Kendrick Lamar's new album, DAMN.
So I was takin' a walk the other day, and I seen a woman—a blind woman—pacin' up and down the sidewalk. She seemed to be a bit frustrated, as if she had dropped somethin' and havin' a hard time findin' it. So after watchin' her struggle for a while, I decide to go over and lend a helping hand, you know? "Hello, ma'am, can I be of any assistance? It seems to me that you have lost something. I would like to help you find it." She replied: "Oh yes, you have lost something. You've lost... your life." [sound of a gunshot]
This is the story of Good Friday. Christians remember Good Friday as the day that Jesus was executed. Fully divine and fully human, Jesus entered human history amongst its struggle and sought to lend a helping hand by modeling a new way to live centered around love of neighbor. Jesus offered assistance. For this, Jesus was killed. On Good Friday, 2017, these words introduced the release of Kendrick Lamar’s newest album, DAMN. Lamar’s normally aggressive and quick words are countered with softness as the song BLOOD. serves as the album’s preface. At the end of this metaphor, the man offering assistance is killed. Related imageThroughout this album, Kendrick aligns himself with the Crucified Christ. In the song, DNA, Kendrick is both “Yeshua’s new weapon” and seen as “an abomination”. His very DNA places him amongst a minority culture, thus making him a threat, described by the soundbite voice of Geraldo Rivera as being a part of hip hop music which has done “more damage to young African Americans than racism in recent years.”  Ironically, the song Rivera criticized, Alright, is one in which Kendrick offers hope and encouragement, that against the struggles of life he repeats “we gonna be alright.” “Alright” has become an anthem of the Black Lives Matter movement. Yet, despite the song’s claim of assurance, Black DNA makes him a threat to dominant American culture, just as Jesus’ words of inclusion threatened the political and religious powers of the Roman Empire. Within popular music, there may not be a more powerful voice in 2017 than Lamar. When Beyoncé had to cancel her Coachella music festival appearance, it was Kendrick that replaced her with a lauded performance. A recent survey of music reviews came to the conclusion that Kendrick is the highest rated performer of the 21st Century. Despite all of the critical and commercial success, Kendrick does not exalt himself in praise, but places himself amongst struggle. He does not see himself as exalted, but views himself from his Compton roots. He aligns himself more with the Crucified Christ than Glorified God. He wonders if success will last and asks in the song FEAR., “All this money, is God playin' a joke on me? Is it for the moment, and will he see me as Job?” Image result for kendrick lamarJust as Jesus found disciples asleep in the garden and found himself abandoned on the cross, Kendrick’s repeated cry echoes across multiple songs on the album “aint nobody praying for me.” But while Kendrick often feels trapped within his Compton roots and culturally alienated, he finds unity with God. The song GOD. unites God’s and Kendrick’s shared perspectives. The song begins with God saying, “this what God feel like.” Kendrick responds that “ever since a young man” God has been watching over him for his whole life. After describing the behaviors Kendrick used to and is still doing Kendrick says “don’t judge me”. and God responds “who are you talking to, do you know who you are talking to”. And then he says all of the things that God says like “everything I touch is a gold mine.” The song finishes with both God’s and Kendrick’s perspective talking with each other. Kendrick’s struggle, unified with that of the Crucified Christ, is powerful, but is not a lone voice. Image result for Chance the RapperThe most noteworthy winner at this year’s Grammy’s was Chance the Rapper who despite being a self-published artist without a record label won best new artist, best rap album, and best rap performance. Chance’s lyrics mix unashamed praise for God with the reality of his experience growing up in Chicago. In the midst of singing about praises and blessings, Chance makes the same connection as Kendrick between contemporary struggle and the Crucified Christ with the statement, “Jesus black life ain’t matter.” The latest album by Logic, “Everybody” is also filled with theological questions. The album includes an exchange with the voice of Neil deGrasse Tyson as the voice of God in which the meaning of life is explored. But as noted in Kendrick Lamar and Change the Rapper, these are not mere philosophical wonderings, but connect to modern life. In the song “Confess” Logic asks: “Dear God, I just wanna know why, Why do you put us here? Why do you put us below? Why do you put us subservient?” Across the spectrum of modern rap music, questions of where God can be found are being asked. Most often, God is found amongst the struggle. God’s voice is speaking from the streets. The prophetic voice is not only coming from the pulpit, but from the microphone.

To Experience Resurrection (a Poem for Holy Week)

You have to return to the tomb
to experience resurrection. 
Return to the place where once 
you knew without doubt 
all hope was gone, the last 
dying gasp of breath expelled. 
Then silence, stillness 
and the great tearing open 
of sky and earth. 
The first sign of spring 
is the revelation of all 
that’s died.  Snow’s clean 
slate hides decay, 
but when the sun’s warmth rises 
its first disclosure is the depth 
of loss – the grass, 
brown and trampled, barren 
broken limbs scattered, earth 
exposed and the empty stretch 
of field filled with brown stalks 
of decomposition. 
This is the time of waiting, 
the time in which we grow 
weary and lose heart. 
You have to watch the barren 
earth, pull back brown leaves, 
lean close scanning the hidden 
places.  You have to stand beside 
the stone, Martha would tell us, 
your trembling hand pressed against 
its cold, hard surface.  You have to enter 
the dark cave, Peter whispers, not knowing 
what you’ll find.  
You have to sit through the long, 
dark night to see the first light of morning,         
to feel the sharp intake of breath 
as the sky’s closed eye, cold and gray, 
cracks open slowly, then with growing 
determination.  This is what you must do
to experience resurrection.

The Savior we Want

Give thanks to the Lord, for God is good. God’s steadfast love endures forever. . . . Save us—Hosanna in Hebrew—Save us, we beseech you, O Lord! O Lord, we beseech you, give us success! Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord. (Psalm 118) This is the hymn that…

Waiting for Resurrection

I love to connect with readers, and was thrilled to receive this email comment recently from Shelley K. Hill of Second Baptist Church in Chester, Virginia, reprinted here with her permission: I am one of the teachers for our Lenten Season this year and we are excited about your book, Christ Is for Us and the journey you are leading us through….We have two Bible study sessions–12 noon and 7pm, both of which have doubled in size since we started this series. We are conducting our evening class in the sanctuary due to the number attending. Thank YOU!! [...] Read More ›

Call to Worship for Lent 5A

This call to worship is based on Psalm 130: In the wilderness we cry out to our God. In the wilderness our souls wait. In the wilderness we hope in God’s word. In the wilderness we know God’s steadfast love. And so, in the wilderness we worship together.

It’s Friday, but . . .

“It’s Friday, but Sunday’s coming.” This phrase has been circulating widely on social media during Good Friday both in script and as a meme. I don’t know the origin of this saying, but Tony Campolo uses it as his signature message.

The Cross in the Roman Empire

I want to suggest a new spiritual practice—one that will be uncomfortable for many people. I want to implore the Church to reframe its understanding of the cross. While the cross (and resurrection) makes reconciliation possible for us, our understanding of the cross must begin with it as a sociopolitical tool of the Roman Empire. […]

The post The Cross in the Roman Empire appeared first on Conformed to be Transformed.


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