Thursday, February 28, 2008

The Music of Freedom

I have been following with great interest the recent visit of the New York Philharmonic to North Korea. I have read a lot about this performance, both pro and con. I think my fascination in this stems from my own visits to Eastern Europe, prior to the fall of Communism, more than 20 years ago.

I remember those visits so starkly; the contrast of oppression and freedom, darkness and light. The bland expanses of centrally planned Eastern Block architecture, the attempts to immortalize communist leaders, and the looks of resignation on the faces of the people we saw, these are the memories I will never forget.

Today, North Korea, with its highly centralized system and tight controls on the daily lives of its people, remains firmly in the grip of its leader, Kim Jong-il. He and his father, Kim Il-sung, are the subjects of a personality cult that requires portraits in every home and their images on lapel pins on the jackets of every official. Huge statues of the older Kim dominate cities (shown above, click to enlarge). The state operates what human rights experts say is a vast gulag of labor camps, many filled with the ideologically suspect and their families.

Into this comes the New York Philharmonic, playing the music of Freedom. Dvorak's New World Symphony, and George Gershwin's "American in Paris." Dvorak's New World symphony has always been quite moving to me; I think it speaks of freedom. It was written by the composer while here in the US between 1892 and 1895. For more details see

Lorin Maazel, the Music Director of the New York Philharmonic wrote recently:

"It is a role of the highest possible order: bringing peoples and their cultures together on common ground, where the roots of peaceful interchange can imperceptibly but irrevocably take hold. If all goes well, the presence of the New York Philharmonic in Pyongyang might gently influence the perception of our country there. If we are gradually to improve U.S.-Korean relations, such events have the potential to nudge open a door that has been closed too long."
I have posted a clip of the actual PyongYang concert below - it is haunting to watch the elite of a totalitarian state listen to music composed in the Land of the Free.

The music of freedom. Millions still long to hear it in their hearts. My prayer is that someday, like the millions of Eastern Europe, freedom might ring throughout the Korean peninsula. Until then, listen for the music of freedom.

Of Professors and Regular Folks

The previous post below, and an experience the other night, have me thinking again about what it means to form meaningful Christian community in today's world.

One thing I do know. Following Jesus, and having lives that make Him attractive to others today, is in no way similar to the way people did it in 1950, 1970, or in 2000, for that matter. Change is persistent; it will not go away. I have been thinking about this for a
long time now. And if you want to see a small peek of what change is looking like, look in the post below.

Professors' Thoughts
There is a little quote by a well respected theologian and
professor that fits this idea well:

"…so much ministerial training has focused on caring for the flock of God and on maintaining the “shop”. So much of our traditional theological agenda has been shaped by a Christendom-context mentality and has been largely confined to an internal debate between various theological factions. A missional theology, on the other hand, focuses on dialogue with unbelievers and those of other religions."
Listening Well to Regular People
I am currently involved in the beginnings of a number of conversations in the life of our church, that will hopefully begin the process of leading us where God may be calling us to go in the future. And that will likely be a very new place, something very different from where we are now. As in completely different; not in the Christ we worship and serve, but in the way we do those things.

Over the past several weeks, we have been gathering groups across generational lines and typical groupings, to discover what God might be saying in our midst. Now listen to what these folks are saying:

"Most people don’t know their neighbors where they live and work. In terms of church, it seems that a certain type of person comes to this church. I don’t feel like the immediate neighborhood is interested in this church – we attract a certain maturity and educational level – there is not anything wrong with this – and we may not need to knock on the neighbor’s doors.

But what is an active role in the life of the church? What does that mean? Does it mean that everyone needs to take an active role in the life of the church? Is three hours a week on Sunday, and 1.5 hours in the middle of the week an “active role”? Different people have different levels of vesting their involvement in the church. Sometimes a church is like a hospital, where others are nourished and fed. Not everyone who comes here is happy and fulfilled – perhaps a "church" is a place that extends beyond the “life of the church”.

How is the life of the church defined? I find it alarming, that peoples’ only involvement in the life of the church is on Sunday. And there is a significant difference in the lifestyle of the younger and older generation. Older generation is committed marriages, long term relationships, but the younger generation is often disconnected, single parents, lack of ability to make commitments. There is a huge generational shift occurring, and how do we make this work. How do we make this equitable? How do we do mentorship; connecting generations?"

I find this all fascinating, that a seminary professor, writing several years ago in Pasadena, knew what might be in the mind of a lay person at a church in Hollywood several years in the future. Hmmm. Wonder if God is up to something here?
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...