Archive for July, 2012



“You are kidding me!”

“No sh–!”

“Get out!”

Every age has its ways of expressing amazement, pleasure, and elation, when the heart can’t contain the joy and wonder of the moment. The phrases above may not be the most elegant of expressions when compared to terms such  “Jolly good!” or “Bravo!” and even more so when set against certain Biblical expressions.

For example, the word “Hosanna” is an expression of praise and also a plea for help.  It’s what the crowd cries on Palm Sunday as Jesus enters Jerusalem.  “Hosanna to the son of David.”  Hooray that you are here, and help us, for God’s sake.

However, the Biblical word we most associate with joy is “Hallelujah” (or the Greek version “Alleluia”).  “Hallelujah” means “Hail to Yahweh,” “Praise God,” and “Thanks be to God.”  It appears as part of our worship services during Easter season and in our Communion services as “Alleluia.”

This coming Sunday, the text is the story of David—the greatest of Israel’s kings, direct ancestor of Jesus – and the beautiful Bathsheba.

One of the most-performed popular songs of all time references this story (and also throws a little bit of Samson and his hair into the tale).  But most of all, Leonard Cohen’s classic song is a meditation on the many facets of the word “Hallelujah.”

Of course the classical interpretation of the word rendered in the majestic “Messiah,” written by George Frederick Handel in London in 1742 with its famed Hallelujah Chorus, is certainly one of the most intense, passionate, and soul-shaking outpourings of praise in musical history.  There is no ambiguity here, no uncertainty; it is resounding, pounding praise to God.

But what I like about Cohen’s take is its variety.  “Hallelujah” is uttered in praise and anguish, in confusion and ecstasy, with puzzlement and power.  Cohen says that the attached video is his favorite performance of the song out of hundred of renditions.  Hear another version of the tune this Sunday in church

For what do you praise God on this midsummer day?  For what do you say “Hallelujah”?

See you in church.



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The Space in Between

I filled up the yellow watering pitcher yet again and lugged it out to the deck to restore the potted plants.  The morning glory vines perked up immediately, the herbs stood up straighter, and the impatiens brightened. In this record-breaking summer, this is a daily task.

I went back inside and poured myself a huge glass of ice water.  Filled the kitties’ water dish.  Turned on the dishwasher.  Took a bath and felt better as I settled down to read as my window air conditioner fought mightily to get the moisture out of the air and cool the living room and dining room.

Summer makes you more aware of certain gifts – like water: water to drink, water for bathing, water to make crops grow, water in the lake where you can swim, fish, or sit on a dock and stare (Thoreau said that meditation and water are wedded forever).  Summer is a lot about water.

Not enough water and the crops wither.  Too much water and whole towns are flooded and lives lost.  Water is directly tied to our well-being and survival.

In the hideous movie “Waterworld,” the polar ice caps have melted and the earth is covered with water. To survive, Kevin Costner (“Mariner,” would you believe) and his motley crew survive by living on a ship. Of course, in the opening scene where Mariner is sailing his boat into the distance, land can quite clearly be seen on the horizon up ahead, which destroys credibility just a touch.  Sometimes, Hollywood gets it way wrong.

And then there was Noah.  The writer James Baldwin quotes a Negro spiritual where God promises Noah that God will not destroy the world again by water: “No more water.  The fire next time.” Now there’s something to think about.

Around 70% of our bodies are water.  Water covers 70% of the world’s surface.  Whole cultures and society thrive or die because of water.  Most religions have rites that rely on water, such as Baptism in the Christian church.

One of the last words of Jesus on the Cross was “I thirst.”

So do millions in the world for whom water is a luxury and thirst is an ongoing reality. Many, many women must walk miles a day to access water for drinking and cooking. The clinic in Uganda we built has no water, and we are working now to bring it there.

It might be a good spiritual discipline this summer to be especially mindful of water. When you spend ten minutes with clean water washing over your over-heated body, when you satisfy your thirst immediately by opening the refrigerator, when you turn the spigot and the sprinkler springs alive to water your lawn or garden, remember that you live in that precious space between enough water and too much water, and are blessed indeed.

See you in church.


You can support the initiative to bring running water to the St. John’s Clinic in Kayoro, Uganda by mailing a check to the parish office (60 Kent Street, St. Paul, MN 55102) or by going to our Razoo page and donating online.  Help us bring the gift of water to so many in need!

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