Monthly Archives: July 2017

Down in Bethlehem

Today I am beginning a series of blogs about songs, more specifically songs I have written. I want to write a little about their “births,” as for me, songs are like children, or at least like the ugly ash tray I made out of clay at camp. They are mine, they mean something to me, and I still love singing them. Today, I’ll start with the first cut on my new album, “Down in Bethlehem.” I actually came up with the idea while writing a sermon, I guess it was during Advent of 2015. It’s a bit weird, really, to think of a third of humanity gathering every week to reflect on a two thousand year old set of texts, but in a time when we obsess over the latest thing, it’s a little comforting to me that we can mull over the same writing again and again, and like some prism being slowly turned in daylight, new colors of insight come.

I was struck by the commonality of the major stories about Bethlehem, that of Ruth, a Moabite widow who came as a foreigner immigrating back to her husband’s home’ David, the youngest of eight, who was selected by the prophet Samuel to replace Saul as king, and Jesus, born to a young couple shrouded in unimportance.  Again and again, in the Bible, God “chooses” to work with the “Most Likely Not to Be Chosen.” First I wrote a short poem to use in the sermon, then was haunted by it until this song came.

I was thinking about U2, Springsteen, music that is simple, driving, repetitive and building over time. Brent Warren does some really fine electric guitar work on this cut.  Take a listen and enjoy!  BUY or listen to it here. It still is true, I believe, that hope is a powerful and inexplicable reality, one that rises up unexpectedly and in the most unpromising of moments. That is when I suspect God might be up to something.  (see Ruth, 1 Samuel 16, Matthew 2 for the stories behind the song).  I’ve posted the whole song on my website for a week or so.  https://www.reverbnation.com/garyfurrmusic

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Blessed Are the Meek?

                           How did a meek and mild Jesus fashion a whip and scald the hides                                           of the buyers and sellers in the temple?  How did meek and mild Jesus                                    get angry and denounce the Pharisees as “whitewashed tombs?”

Currently I am preaching a series on the family, around certain words that seem to me both important biblical words for Christians and important skills for families in this current weirdest of times. I have preached about family a lot through the years and if I thought the need was done, I only have to listen to some of the arcane mental gymnastics of a fellow preacher still trying to hammer 21st century people into tiny first century cultural forms. The point of biblical study does not end when we ask, “What did something mean in the first century when the text was written?” Otherwise, we’d simply have to stand up and read ancient texts and proclaim, “Ok, go do that.” It has to be interpreted. Always.

That said, last week’s word was “Meekness,” which is a word not much in vogue, of course. It is one of the Beatitudes in the sermon on the Mount: “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.”

We have tended to look at the meek as doormats or docile, weak persons without any power. We equate power with physical strength, domination, authority “over” others. You can see why we equate “meekness” with “Weakness.”

The word shows up in the New Testament a few interesting places. This is the Greek word  πρᾳΰτης (“prautes.”) It is often rendered “meekness.”  As in “gentle Jesus meek and mild.”   Yet this is indeed a central remembrance of the church about Jesus.  I’ve always wondered, “How did a meek and mild Jesus fashion a whip and scald the hides of the buyers and sellers in the temple?  How did meek and mild Jesus get angry and denounce the Pharisees as “whitewashed tombs?”

I think “meek” and “mild” need to be permanently separated.  Prautes actually means strength, not mildness.  It is a word that means “having the right tone, soothing the other when they are angry, keeping the conversation the right way.”  It is also a word that is used of the training of animals.  It means “teachable.”

You know people who are proud and hard-headed.  They think they always are right.  No one can tell them anything.  They are virtually unteachable.  And their lives and relationships are miserable for it.  Psalm 147:6 uses the Hebrew of this word.  In the NRSV it says, “The LORD lifts up the downtrodden; he casts the wicked to the ground.”  But the old KJV keeps this sense of the word when it says, “The LORD lifteth up the meek: he casteth the wicked down to the ground.” Read the rest of this entry