Archive

Terry Green

Tuesday, July 30 at 4:00 P.M.

Opening Chapel Service – “New Life”

Keynote Speaker: Dr. Terry Green

and music by Festival Musicians

 

 

Tuesday, July 30 at 7:30 P.M.

Soprano Lisa Lowry and Pianist Paula Pressnell

 

 

Wednesday, July 31 at 7:30 P.M.

Violinist Wesley Mason

 

 

Thursday, August 1 at 7:30 P.M.

Tenor Jeff Prillaman and Pianist Charles Hulin

 

 

All events take place at Lasker Baptist Church

and are free and open to the public.

For more information, please call 863-667-6974.

Advertisements

A Conversation with Terry Green

Paraphrased, 2007

Dr. Green: In his reflections on Mozart, Karl Barth articulated some things about experiencing music that I have strongly noted over the years myself. Barth was in an ideal position to articulate these particular ideas as he was a person who read deeply in theology and also experienced worship richly. Thus, he was able to put the mental and experiential parts together as he framed his ideas.

What Barth expressed that resonates deeply with my experience begins with the idea that the experience of music can be extremely worshipful for the person of faith, even in the absence of words. There may be no need for words as part of the musical experience to order the thoughts of a reverent person whose heart is already directed to the Lord, just as prayer without words might sometimes express our deepest longings and most intimate communion with God.

This sort of worshipful, musical experience also need not happen within the walls of a church or the confines of a worship service. At times, music seems to create its own church around it, transforming our location into a holy place of encounter with the Lord. At such times, music gives us the same sense that Moses had on the mountainside when he had to remove his shoes as he came to understand he was standing on holy ground.

To restate all that I have said so far in different terms, a person of faith who reads the story of the Bible and meditates on the grandeur of God may be predisposed by those activities to experiences of Christian worship when experiencing good music. This music does not have to be explicitly theological. A Christian text is not required nor is it necessary for the composer to have intended to glorify Christ through his or her composition. This music is good in that it touches the soul and reveals transcendence.

These sorts of experiences lead me to ponder if a spirituality without music could be complete. Music can convey heaven coming down to earth. Perhaps musicians view their work as pulling earth up to heaven. When I listen to the music of the great composers, it causes me to wonder what they knew about God that I haven’t learned. One wonders at the sheer genius and expression of these composers and their gifts to conceive and organize the possibilities of the orchestra. It seems that the role of music in the development of personal spirituality has probably been overlooked many times. An important endeavor in this area could involve a very intentional exploration and selection of works of the great composers somehow organized in conjunction with scripture.

Again I emphasize that if our approach to spirituality is only verbal and historical; we are missing part of the spiritual.

Now to start hearing these qualities of excellence and revelation of transcendence in music, one may need to listen for a while. We might begin to understand composition as part of the ongoing act of Creation. We might also learn to see Creation as being more fully related to fellowship between God and humanity.

In physics, they’re always talking about a “unified theory,” something that would explain how everything interacts and works together. You have to account for some basics in a unified theory: matter, gravity, light, electromagnetism, and other things. I’m almost totally ignorant about this, so I couldn’t say for sure what the basic framework is and what a “unified” theory attempts to explain.

Anyway, I think that, in terms of spirituality, metaphysics or religion, any “unified theory” must include music as a fundamental element and attempt to explain its interactions with other basic elements (prayer/worship, reason/intellect, sensory perception and other things we might name).

I find this concept helpful because I’m sort of like the physicists – I’m absolutely convinced that music is a fundamental element in human experience and behavior, but not sure how to describe its interactions with other fundamental elements. It’s just that I think any quest for truth which ignores
music is probably going to be flawed or incomplete. I’m not saying music is the key to human experience – but no one can discover such a key without employing music as a research tool.

Charles Hulin: I’ve thought a lot about how music speaks to us of God. In that composers and other musicians are crafting their work by organizing materials that God created (sound, the laws of physics, human nature and perception), I believe it can speak to us of God just as the beauties of nature do. The talents of the artists are themselves part of the glory of God’s creation.

We can add to this that classical music is a reflection of the culture which gave rise to it, and that culture was profoundly shaped by Christian thought, among other things. The very structure of classical works is permeated by resonances with Christianity. The basic forms of classical music compose out basics of Christian philosophy. For instance, themes and variations assert a
sense of individual identity that is indestructible over the life of a piece. This parallels the fundamental Christian concept of personhood. Sonata form revolves around the successful resolution of conflict which is an idea that is articulated at many levels of the Christian worldview. The great number of
works in joyful major keys and the tendency of minor-key works to give way to the major mode suggest the hopeful expectations of believers. Tonality itself mirrors a realm that is harmoniously organized around a single authority.

The most general organizations of music in the West suggest a Trinitarian arrangement. The unity of the orchestra is made up of instruments that produce sound in three ways – air, friction, percussion. We tend to think of registers in terms of high, middle, and low and even the most complicated musical
textures rarely consist of more than three truly independent constituents. Our harmonic system recognizes three basic functions of chords, with the first two pointing toward the final tonic, much as the Spirit and Christ are described as ultimately bearing witness to the Father.

Beyond the tonal pale we find music that always sounds fresh because it plays against some deeply rooted expectations. In some small way, this energetic modern music shares in the classic characteristic of God’s creativity in that is somehow new every day.

Finally, there is a mysterious factor that defies our analysis. I think there are moments when music touches us in ways that don’t seem to relate to the body or the mind. There seems to be no clue as to how the effectiveness of music is achieved at such times. I believe our spirits are being addressed in these experiences and as these experiences defy analysis, we can’t begin to discern whether this spiritual speaking is inherent in the music or if it is a matter of God’s choosing to speak to us at those particular times. Whatever the nature of these experiences, I believe they come to us to help us and we can trust that anything that is good is from God.

Holy Creativity

Dr. Terry Green

When I was a preschooler in Sunday School, I looked forward to that event every Sunday because in our Sunday School department there was a large collection of wooden blocks. And perhaps a lot of you played with a similar set of blocks when you were growing up at church. There were round ones, square ones, rectangular ones, cubes, and a variety of others, all of which taken together filled my young mind with endless possibilities. And I use to love to gather with my friends in that preschool department and imagine how we could put those blocks together and what we could make and it always seemed that the hour ended much too quickly. We never quite got all of our creations finished.

I grew up, and as I did, they told me that there were really higher purposes to Sunday School. And they invited me to participate in them, and I did, and I’m grateful for it. But I’m here to tell that for shear entertainment, nothing beats those blocks. And I look back on that fondly.

What is it about being a child that finds within us such a capacity for imagination, such an inventiveness and an enthusiasm for that which has not yet been tried? What is that in our nature that’s coming to expression there? And why is it so difficult to hold on to that as we grow older?

That instinct to create something, to fashion and mold something, that willingness to be open to new possibilities is a wonderful gift apparent in childhood because in truth because it is a very mark of our human nature under God.

We were made, the Bible says, in the image of God. And, being made in God’s image, we are given the gift of creativity. Indeed were even given the opportunity by God, the responsibility by God, to continue to shape that wonderful creation which God has given us. We are to take care of what God has created not as though it were stagnant and unchanging, but instead, responsive to the image of God in us as we use that holy instinct of creativity. It is a marvelous stewardship that we have. And yet, it is one that I think we often have paid too little attention to, perhaps because as we grow older our lives become more filled with competing demands, perhaps because we feel if we don’t always walk in ordered paths that life may somehow return to chaos again. But I’d like to invite us to think anew about the marvel of creativity and about the very fact that it is one of the holiest of instincts that God has bestowed upon is.

As a Bible example of it, consider the word we just heard from the 19th Psalm. It is, the Bible scholars say, one of the most imaginative passages in scripture. For years, English scholars of the Bible, along with some Hebrew scholars, wondered if this psalm were not, in fact, two psalms because the subjects seem to be separated from one another. There is this beautiful lyrical celebration of the glory of God in Creation, capped by the beauty of the sun above the earth. But then there’s a turning to the nature of the law of God and a celebration of God’s commandments – important to be sure, but usually not
joined to the mystical celebration of the created order. As students of the Bible have looked at this psalm more and more closely, they’ve come to recognized that it is in fact, shaped by the creative genius of its author who is saying to us, in effect, look at the heavens and the universe and all there
is in the world, and then understand that after you have appreciated its glory, the most glorious creation of all is the law of God which shepherds God’s children.

It is a wonderful thing to bear in mind, isn’t it? Wherever you look in this universe – high or low, north or south, east or west – even in a very small corner, you see the signature of the Creator. As the telescopes open our eyes to the vast expanse of space and the glory of God’s Creation, we are awestruck with wonder. And we do well to be, for any use of the instinct of creativity has to begin there. If we are to serve God with this marvelous potential of inventiveness, we do so only by beginning with heads bowed in reverence and awe. We get on our knees with the psalmist and wonder at such a creation like this. How vast! How powerful! How beautiful! We remember that only God could
bring such a creation into beginning. And only God could share with us the gift and privilege of participating in it and in exercising the possibility of creativity in our own human nature fashioned after the image of God.

Of course it’s right here where all the trouble starts and always has been, for human beings have first wondered about God’s Creation and then lost the capacity to wonder, first realizing they were stewards of the Creation and then deciding that they were actually owners, and have taken the gift of creativity and perverted it to such a degree that it becomes not a blessing but a curse. The misuse of our powers, scientific and otherwise, in our world, is an act of rebellion against God, a sign that our reverence has been forgotten or neglected. Indeed, our powers must be guided by the will of God, or our creativity will turn against us, and the garden which God gave us will be diminished by our own self-centeredness. And that’s why the power of creativity must always be held by the guidance of the Law of God. It’s why creativity includes reverence and moral understanding, for it recognizes that all human
gifts and all human powers are given with the possibility of creating good where God intends it: to enhance life in community, to bring about peace and reconciliation, to develop the highest possibilities of love and generosity in the human soul. That’s why God gave us the instinct of creativity. That’s why
God gave us the privilege of shaping his Creation. And that’s why God gave us the gift of a law – commandments, a Bible, tradition. For without reverence for these, we will begin to take God’s place and the beauty of the Creation will be marred by our sin.

The glory of course is that when we fail, God comes into the Creation to deliver us from ourselves and to show us anew the life of obedience in Jesus. With marvelous creativity and freedom, Jesus lives out the love of God, and invites us to perfect freedom that comes therein. He shows us what it means to
be fashioned in God’s image. And he says to all of us, whether there is one talent in our hand or many, “You are unique. You belong to God. You have gifts to offer in the service of his Creation.”

Whenever we hear fine music such as we are going to enjoy in this festival, whenever we admire the work of distinguished artists, we are liable to imagine that the gift of creativity is a sparing gift, and nothing could be further from the truth. If the inspiration that we enjoy with the presence of the Spirit in these days really reaches us, then it will be inviting all of us, not just the artists, to think about what we can do to express the holiness of creativity in our own service and witness. What gift has God given you? What is it that you need to offer more fully to God?

In that famous story that Jesus told about several men who had talents in hand, a stern condemnation was given to one man who said “What I have is not worth much. It’s just one talent. I‘ll bury it.” And he met with a stern rebuke precisely because he underestimated how precious that talent was. Most of us
will not have the talents of gifted artists, but in the exercise of their talents, they invite us in the Spirit of God to utilize even the single talents that we possess.

In one of the churches I served, we had a member who had had a very serious back injury years ago. It was difficult for her to even walk. Wondering what she could do for the church, she took a class on flower arranging, and she had a talent for that such that every Sunday we had a fresh arrangement whether we could afford it or not. I think that Susie could get more miles per flower than anybody I’ve ever seen. It was because she loved the beauty of God, and it was because she was determined to exercise a talent that God had given her.

What is it that God has given you that perhaps you’ve underestimated? How much the gift of creativity needs to be expressed in ordinary human lives and in the standard institutions or our existence! We need creative schools. We need creative teachers. We need creative healthcare centers and nurses and physicians. And yes, we need creative congregations. We as Christians live firmly anchored to the tradition and the history of our faith. But in no way does that mean that the creative gift of God should not also be expressed in our corporate life.

I was reading the other day a critique of the average Baptist church in which I found one rather disturbing, and I feared, accusing quote. The author said, “The gift to bore people is neither a gift nor the fruit of the Spirit.” I felt a little uneasy. But it reminded me that Jesus said that the gift of the Gospel is like fresh wine that needs new wineskins. And as I think about the life of my church and churches everywhere, I’m reminded that the gift of creativity is given us for the service of God in each new generation. It requires some risk. It requires some daring. And as any truly creative person will tell you, it requires a good deal of discipline, prayer, and hard work. But if we offer those things up to God whether there be many or few gifts in our hands, then the Lord will use us in our homes and families and vocations, and in our churches, to bring glory to his name.

Fashioned in the image of God, each of us has been given the instinct for creativity and gifts for its expression. If that is so, should we not gladly offer back to God what God has entrusted to us in whatever proportion God has given? Let these days be a time of beginning for us when we choose afresh to lend our hands, our hearts, our minds, and our voices to the ongoing work of a God who promises to make all things new, for it is when we dare to do that that we draw nearer to the God who created us and obtain the glorious liberty that is promised to his children.

Let us pray together.

Eternal God,Open our eyes that we may behold your beauty and the wonders you have made.

Open our minds that we may receive the gift of your commandments and know that they lead to life and freedom.

Open our hearts that we might receive the gifts of your Spirit and, in courage and faith, express them in fresh ways so that in our personal lives, and in the work of our congregations, we may remind all the world of the newness of life which we share together in Jesus Christ our Lord.

It is in his name that we ask all these things. Amen.