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Jon Batiste, C.S. Lewis, and Love


american-singer-jon-batiste-with-his-keyboard-1530092302Jon Batiste is a musician from Kenner, Lousiana. (You drive by it on the way from Louis Armstrong Airport, if you are headed into New Orleans.) He grew up in a musical family, and also seems to be a deeply spiritual person. It comes through in his music, and even in the name of his band, which is Stay Human- he named it that to remind himself and his bandmates that human interaction during a live musical performance can uplift humanity in the midst of the “plug in/tune out” nature of modern society. He believes in using music to connect people, bring them together. He often organizes free street performances that he calls “love riots”.

He’s become quite famous, largely because of his role as the music director on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. A few years ago, my son and I got to meet him, and his whole band, after a concert. He was quite kind to my son, who at the time was learning to play the melodica, which Jon Batiste also plays. I think it comes through in the video, that Jon Batiste loves what he does, and that he’s pouring love out. His song “Let God Lead” is a great rendering of 1st Corinthians 13.

We begin to succeed
when the cares of our lives
begin and end
with the hurt of others

We begin to breathe
when the wounds of others
become relieved
with the love of others

 He who looks around and finds who’s in need
has made the best investment as a human being

 He who looks around to find who’s in need
has made the best investment in his legacy

 I say that love will never force,
love will never quit,
love ain’t never lose
love ain’t never miss

 Of all things lasting there remains only three
what money can’t buy only these will succeed
faith hope and love,

but the greatest of these
is love

 so here is a formula for a real hard situation,
just let God and let love
lead the way

Let love lead
Let God lead

Can love strut (no way)
can love destroy (no way
can love belittle (no way no)
can love pose
can love be proud
can love rejoice with a mother’s pride
love stands up when other’s won’t
love prevails without want
love puts up with anything
God is love and love is God

Let God Lead video

Love is a word we hear a lot, maybe a little more than usual around Valentine’s Day. I think it’s an important word, that deserves some caring attention.

Christians get a lot of ideas about how to love, from the New Testament. The New Testament we read is a translation, based on earlier texts, the oldest of which were written in an ancient form of Greek called Koine’.

The first translations were from Koine’ into Latin, which became the official language of the Roman Catholic church. Much later on, the Bible began to be translated into languages spoke by ordinary people.

The first English translations appeared early in the 17th century. Translation is far from an exact science. Anyone who speaks more than one language can tell you that it can be challenging to find a word in one language, that is close enough, to the word or idea you were thinking, in another language.

The translators struggled, and did the best they could, and sometimes took shortcuts, and over-simplified things, in their efforts to create a clear, readable English version.

The original versions of the New Testament used at least 4 different words, that were all translated to the English word “Love”.

C.S. Lewis, was a British writer well known for the Chronicles of Narnia. He was a respected academic and lecturer at Oxford and Cambridge, and good friends with JRR Tolkien, who wrote The Lord of the Rings.

the four loves bookIn the late 1950’s Lewis wrote a series of lectures for the BBC called The Four Loves. They were popular in Great Britain, but thought of as too risque’ for the United States, because in them he dared to discuss human sexuality.

The four words that were all translated into English as the word “love”, are: Storge, Phileo, Eros, and Agape.

Storge, or Affection, is the most simple of the loves. We can have affection for a thing, or enjoy a particular flavor of ice cream, or get engrossed in a tv show, or take up collecting a certain thing. This kind of love might be the starting place for the other kids of love. At its best, this kind of love awakens us to what we like, what we appreciate in the world, and in people. Taken to an extreme- the love of things for their own sake can be an unhealthy replacement for the deeper kinds of love, and result in hoarding, or obsessive collecting.

Phileo, or friendship is what it sounds like, the love of affiliation. Friendship may arise if we spend time with someone with whom we share similar interests or concerns, passions, or commitments. Friendship can grow into genuine appreciation for, and concern about another person, but it has its roots in what we have in common.

Eros is the kind of love some Americans did not want C.S. Lewis to talk about on the radio. It is love with the added energy of sexual attraction. The positive expression of this is the desire to bring joy and happiness to another person. Erotic attraction can be the gateway that leads to a real partnership between people. The immature expression of this kind of love can result in objectification, in which possessing the person feels like the goal. This unhealthy kind of erotic attraction often has little to do with the actual person, but only an illusion of them, or what fantasy they seem to fulfill.

Agape is considered by Lewis, and many others, to be the highest, most unselfish of the loves. In the King James Version of the passage from 1st Corinthians 13, where we read “Faith, Hope, and Love, and the greatest of these is love”, the text uses the word Charity. Faith, Hope and Charity. Charity in the old-fashioned sense is about giving without expecting reward- not even a tax receipt.

C.S. Lewis thought that of the 4 loves, Agape was the one that went most against human nature. Where Affection, Friendship and Erotic Love all contain a component of there being something in it for me, Agape love is totally about giving. It gives all, and expects nothing, asks for nothing in return.

This is the kind of love considered to be the most like the way God loves us- without condition, and with total generosity. This is a love that risks everything, and does not count the costs. It is also, paradoxically, what makes us the best we can be. It is not about how we feel, but about the kind of person we choose to be. C.S. Lewis said it like this:

The rule for all of us is perfectly simple.  Do not waste time bothering whether you “love” your neighbor; act as if you did.  As soon as we do this we find one of the great secrets.  When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love them.  If you injure someone you dislike, you will find yourself disliking them more.  If you do them a good turn, you will find yourself disliking them less.

Jon Batiste sang it this way:

He who looks around and finds who’s in need
has made the best investment as a human being

 He who looks around to find who’s in need
has made the best investment in his legacy.


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The Gift of Joy

JOY“There are those that have in themselves the gift of Joy. It has no relation to merit or demerit. It is not a quality they have wrested from the vicissitude of life. Such people have not fought and won a hard battle, they have made no conquest. To them Joy is given as a precious ingredient in life. Wherever they go, they give birth to Joy in others—they are the heavenly troubadours, earthbound, who spread their music all around and who sing their song without words and without sounds. To be touched by them is to blessed of God. They give even as they have been given. Their presence is a benediction and a grace. In them we hear the music in the score and in their faces we sense a glory which is the very light of Heaven.”

-Howard Thurman, From the Inward Journey, p. 252

Who do you know that brings the gift of joy to your life? Take a moment today to appreciate them.

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Joy wins out

howard thurman close up“There is earned joy: an impossible job tackled and conquered, leaving no energy for assessing the price or measuring the cost, only for an all-inclusive sense of well-being in the mind, and slowly creeping through all the crevices of the spirt—or it may be some dread has reared its head, gathering into itself all hope that is unassigned, until it become the master of the house., then relief comes through fresh knowledge, new insight, clearer vision. What was dread now proves groundless and the heart takes to wings like an eagle in its flight.”

–Howard Thurman, From the Inward Journey, p. 251

I thought of this after I posted the Thurman quote. Here is a link to a great Bruce Cockburn song about Joy: Joy will find a way

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Thought for the New Year

“All around worlds are dying out, new worlds are being born; all around life is dying but life is being born. The fruit ripens on the trees, while the roots are silently at work in the darkness of the earth against a time when there shall be new leaves, fresh blossoms, green fruit. Such is the growing edge! It is the one more thing to try when all else has failed, the upward reach of life. It is the incentive to carry on.”

–Howard Thurman, From the Inward Journey, p. 248


As Wikipedia notes:

Howard Washington Thurman was an African-American author, philosopher, theologian, educator, and civil rights leader. As a prominent religious figure, he played a leading role in many social justice movements and organizations of the twentieth century. Thurman’s theology of radical nonviolence influenced and shaped a generation of civil rights activists, and he was a key mentor to leaders within the movement, including Martin Luther King, Jr.



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A break from Facebook

letter-f-alphabet-broken-d-perspective-set-blue-color-isolated-white-letter-f-alphabet-broken-d-134933645I posted this today:

The following announcement may not change the world: I will be taking something of a break from Facebook for the time being. This is a kind of pre-New Years resolution. When I have things I want to put out into the online world, I will use my own website: revdarrow.com (which is also set up to send links to my Facebook page and other social media outlets.) I am sure I will miss the tiny glimpses into the lives of some of my friends.

While I enjoy the photos and words from my friends, and sometimes learn from the articles for which people post links, I am paying attention to the time I spend on devices, and intend to be a little more productive, and less consumptive, in my behavior.


Z is for Zoroastrian

Z sparklyDecember 25, 2019 Christmas      Day 25 of the Advent Alphabet

Z is for Zoroastrian. Have you come across this word before? Some scholars suggest the Magi who appear in Matthew’s Gospel as visitors to Jesus were Zoroastrian priests. The word Magi derives from an Old Persian word “magus”, which was an occupatiadoration of the magional title for members of the priestly caste of the Zoroastrian religion. The Zoroastrians were very interested in the stars, and had a highly developed “science” of astrology. Their reputation as astrologers led to the term Magi being used in connection with the occult, and this led to the development of the English word “magic”.

The Zoroastrian religion survives to this day. While it was once the dominant religious force in Iran, now it survives there only in an underground fashion, because of the radical Islamic fundamentalism that treats it as a heretical religion. The largest number of Zoroastrians are found in Pakistan, and India where they are called “Parsis”.

ZoroasterHistorians of religion credit Zoroastrianism as being one of the oldest to have a revealed credal basis- meaning that it had written statements of belief. The religion was founded by the prophet Zoroaster, also called Zarathustra, who codified religious ideas and practices that already existed, and added to them his own world-view. Zoroastrianism is also likely one of the earliest “monotheistic” faiths, meaning that they recognized that there is only one God. Zoroaster is typically depicted as dressed in white, in garb that is very much like what modern Zoroastrian priests wear. His poetic writings form the basis of the religion, and its liturgy (prayer and ritual for worship).

Zoroastrianism had a powerful influence on the development of the world’s major monotheistic religions, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam (often called the Abrahamic faiths because they all trace their histories back to Abraham).

Some basic Zoroastrian beliefs:

-there is one God, called Ahura Mazda, the one Uncreated Creator

-there is a conflict in the universe between order and chaos, and humanity has a role to play

-the moral code of Zoroastrianism is universally summed up in the words, “Good Thoughts, Good Words, Good Deeds

-the religion teaches the equality of all, regardless of race, sex or social position

-Zoroastrians are urged to preserve and protect the environment

-Zoroastrian religion teaches that fire and water are to be used for ceremonies in which a person is made ritually clean. Prayer takes place in the presence of some form of fire, which is considered to be evident in any source of light.

There are active Zoroastrian faith communities in Canada, the largest being in Toronto and Vancouver. The Zoroastrian Society of Ontario is based at its community centre on Bayview Avenue, and is an active participant in Mosaic Interfaith, which is a group that promotes peace and religious tolerance.

The Advent Alphabet is a ministry offering from Rev. Darrow Woods, pastor at the United Church in Harrow, Ontario. http://www.harrowunited.org/ Each day in Advent, a different letter of the English Alphabet has been a jumping off place for a reflection. These reflections have be sent out via email to those who have asked to be on the mailing list, and were posted to Rev. Darrow’s Facebook page.



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Y is for Yeshua

y on laceDec 24, 2019 4th Week of Advent – Day 24 of the Advent Alphabet

Y is for Yeshua. Yeshua ben Joseph is the “reason for the season”! (The “ben” means “son of”) When I was growing up, I thought his first name was Jesus, and his last name was Christ. It was actually not until I was studying the philosophy of religion in my under-grad years that I learned that “Jesus” is our translation of a Hebrew name which can also be expressed as “Joshua”. I say “expressed as Joshua” because in the original Hebrew writing there were only consonants, and the reader would have to fill in the vowel sounds. There are a variety of ways to pronounce words that have the “J or Y” sound followed by the “S or Sh” sound, depending upon which vowel sounds we plug in. So we say his name is Jesus, but that is not a name that anyone who lived in his time would recognize.

Does it matter? Most people know who we mean when we talk about Jesus. What this minor revelation about names taught me is that it does not hurt to practice a little more humility when it comes to what we think we know, with certainty, about the founder of our faith.

The “Christ” part is not actually a name at all, but more of a description, or a title. Our English word “Christ” is derived from the Greek Χριστός “Khristos”, which means “the anointed”. When the Hebrew Scriptures (what we call the Old Testament was translated into Greek, this was the word chosen to translate the Hebrew מָשִׁיחַ  which means “one who is anointed”. This Hebrew word is also translated as “Messiah”. Words are important!

The word “Christ” has taken on a meaning in Christian theology that is very different than what “Messiah” means in Jewish religious thinking. (The word Christ, in much of our theology, is used to refer to the 2nd person of the Holy Trinity, who in creeds is described as being both fully human and fully divine. The word Messiah in much of the Jewish literature, refers to a person who is fully human. In Jewish theology, only the one God is divine.)

When early Christian theologians began poring over their Greek translations of the Old Testament, they were not necessarily aware of what had been lost (or added, depending upon your view of things) in translation. So Old Testament passages about an anointed king or leader of Israel took on an air of prophecy, of appearing to foreshadow or predict the coming of Jesus, who later came to be called the Christ.

Scholars of religion, and particularly of Christian theology, have been debating for centuries whether or not there is a connection between the “messianic hopes” of the Jewish people, who were looking for a human leader to “save” their nation, and the earthly ministry of Jesus (or Yeshua).

Does all this confusion over names, and the questions about the meaning of those names take anything away from our anticipation of the celebration of the birth of Jesus? Not for me. I think God is a mystery. It is not surprising our human languages, and our translation efforts, have not fully captured the truth.

The Advent Alphabet is a ministry offering from Rev. Darrow Woods, pastor at the United Church in Harrow, Ontario. http://www.harrowunited.org/ Each day in Advent, a different letter of the English Alphabet has been a jumping off place for a reflection. These reflections will be sent out via email to those who have asked to be on the mailing list, and will also be posted to Rev. Darrow’s Facebook page.