22/03/20 Sunday Worship

Social distance with emotional and spiritual connection.

Welcome to our Sunday worship, it’s so good we can all share together in this way. Given the current situation, I think it’ll be good to start by watching this encouraging video by our Territorial Commander, Commissioner Anthony Cotterill.

Please note: the song links will take you to an online songbook, you’ll have to search for the song number manually in the 2015 Song Book (possibly by going back to the homepage). I’ll try and sort this out if possible, it’s all been put together in a hurry as you’ll appreciate. Also, apologies for any mistakes, but please let me know.

Our opening Song 948 is a reminder to stay strong in the grace of God, having confidence in him. The third verse says: Be strong in the grace of the Lord, Be armed with the power of His might; Be daring when dangers abound, Courageous and brave in the fight.

Bible ReadingRomans 8:31-39

As Paul, in that reading tells us, we are more than conquerors. Nothing will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Our next Song 30 reinforces that theme.

Prayers: Use this time to make your own prayers and use the one below, which can be found in context here. Apologies if I’ve infringed copyright.

Christ, as a light
illumine and guide me.
Christ, as a shield
overshadow me.
Christ under me;
Christ over me;
Christ beside me
on my left and my right.
This day be within and without me,
lowly and meek, yet all-powerful.
Be in the heart of each to whom I speak;
in the mouth of each who speaks unto me.
This day be within and without me,
lowly and meek, yet all-powerful.
Christ as a light;
Christ as a shield;
Christ beside me
on my left and my right.

We’ll now take up the Offering and listen to the Announcements: For those of you who give a weekly (or other regular) offering to your church, please save these up as they will be much needed in due course. Additionally, there may be those of you who would like to make a donation to a charity of your choice. Please check your local church for arrangements during this bewildering time, and don’t forget to check back here. I’ll do my level best to have a Sunday worship service (meeting as we call them in the Salvation Army) online for you each week. You can download a modified handout (PDF format) for distribution to those not online here.

Let’s listen to the Band as they bring us a lively march with an uplifting message.

Bible Reading: Numbers 21:4-9

We turn to Song 48 for our Testimony Time. Please share your testimony with someone with you now in person, over the telephone or online.

Bible Reading: John 3:14-21

Before we listen to the Bible Message, let’s watch this beautiful video by Major David Chadwick. Selected verses from Psalm 91 with scenes of the Lake District and music from Chelmsford Salvation Army Band and Songsters. Words of encouragement as we enter a prolonged period of self-isolation.

Bible Message (Major John Ager)

Our main Bible reading contains one of the most well-known verses from the New Testament: For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.

But the short passage we shared is not the whole story, you might like to read the whole chapter for context. Our reading had no mention of Nicodemus who came to Jesus by night seeking answers to his questions and no mention of being born again.

Instead, the teaching of Jesus is linked to the story of Moses in the wilderness having to deal with a discontented people found in Numbers 21:4-9.

Life used to be better for them, but now they have left Egypt. Under the leadership of Moses they have achieved freedom. They are no longer slaves. This was what they longed for, the fulfilment of their hopes. But now they are hungry. What food they have is boring. It’s not like the good old days in Egypt when at least they had good, interesting food to eat. The memories of their hardships have faded and all they know is that their bellies are empty and life is tough.

They are and should be people who are journeying towards a high destiny. They’ve been called by God for his purposes. They must reach out to the future and not dwell in the past, particularly on unrealistic memories of the past.

Moses is told by God to make a bronze serpent and to put it on a pole. When anyone who had been bitten by a poisonous serpent looked at this bronze serpent they would live. For many centuries this symbol has been used by those involved in healing and health care as their sign. One of the explanations of this clearly links it to the story in Numbers.

The symbol is still used widely today and maybe part of what it’s intended to convey is that health and healing are gifts. It was God’s gift of healing to an undeserving people, a rebellious, complaining, petty-minded people. Here it was a gift that would help them to become what they were capable of being, God’s chosen people that now includes all who name Jesus as Saviour and Lord.

In the Gospel reading (John 3:14-21) Jesus refers to this passage from Numbers and sees it pointing to his own destiny. The Son of Man will be lifted up and whoever believes in him will have eternal life.

This is a recurring theme in the gospels, that believing is what brings about the change in people and in their situations. Believing is the gift of God, the grace of God, and with that gift of grace all sorts of things become possible in people’s lives.

God loved us so much that he gave his only son. But that’s in the past tense, it needs to be in the present tense, because the activities of God are always in the eternal now. God loves the world so much that he gives his only son. That love is from eternity to eternity and nothing can separate us from that love.

On this unusual Mother’s Day, what we experience in the best of parental relationships, we experience even more in our experience of God. In fact, it’s our experience of divine parenting that becomes the model, the benchmark for human parenting. God loves the world so much. We look to God and live. In God’s love is all our renewal and healing.

We turn to an old favourite now, Song 453. Words that I hope will reinforce my Bible message in your hearts.

In this time of Reflection, Response & Prayer, please spend some moments quietly in ways that you find helpful.

We finish with Song 959. The places we can go might be limited, but we can still ‘go in the strength of the Lord’, finding new ways to share God’s love.

Benediction:

Let nothing disturb thee,
Nothing affright thee;
All things are passing,
God never changeth!
Patient endurance attaineth to all things;
Who God possesseth in nothing is wanting;
Alone God sufficeth. Amen.

You can find a deeply personal post about Mother’s Day 2020 here.

God bless you all, Major John Ager.

When I Was Cruel (Elvis Costello)

One of my favourite albums of the 2000s decade (2002 to be specific) is When I Was Cruel by Elvis Costello. Unfortunately, at the time of writing, it doesn’t appear to be available for streaming on Spotify, although I have it on CD.

The video is the title track on Later with Jools Holland in 2002. This album might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but here is a singer-songwriter at the top of his game, an album that repays careful and repeated listens.

The 2000s – Album of the Decade

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Having recently posted my album of the 2010s decade I’ve gone back retrospectively and compiled my favourite album(s) of each year of the 2000s in order to choose my album of that decade.

You might be surprised by one (if not more) of the choices, but I have written about my musical eclecticism here. I’m not one to shy away from a particular group or musician simply because some might consider that choice as ‘uncool’ to like.

Listed below are over 30 of my favourite albums, and you’ll see that 2001 was a good year with 9 favourites altogether. Choosing my album of the 2010s decade was easy, the album effectively chose itself, but this decade is not so easy.

The Radiohead albums are particular favourites, especially Kid A and Amnesiac, but I’ve actually chosen In Rainbows. It was self-released as a pay-what-you-want download. This was a first for a major act and it made headlines around the world and sparked debate about implications for the music industry. So In Rainbows has significance over and above the music itself.

2000 Radiohead: Kid A
2000 PJ Harvey: Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea
2001 Anne Sofie von Otter & Elvis Costello: For the Stars
2001 Barry Manilow: Here at the Mayflower
2001 Björk: Vespertine
2001 Diana Krall: The Look of Love
2001 Gary Moore: Back to the Blues
2001 Mary J. Blige: No More Drama
2001 New Order: Get Ready
2001 Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds: No More Shall We Part
2001 Radiohead: Amnesiac
2002 Coldplay: A Rush of Blood to the Head
2002 David Bowie: Heathen
2002 Elvis Costello: When I Was Cruel (see also here)
2002 Sigur Rós: ( )
2003 David Bowie: Reality
2003 Elvis Costello: North
2003 Joss Stone: The Soul Sessions
2003 Radiohead: Hail to the Thief
2004 David Byrne: Grown Backwards
2004 Diana Krall: The Girl in the Other Room
2004 Franz Ferdinand: Franz Ferdinand
2004 Morrissey: You Are the Quarry
2005 Martha Wainwright: Martha Wainwright
2005 Sigur Rós: Takk…
2006 Amy Winehouse: Back to Black
2006 David Gilmour: On an Island
2006 Thom Yorke: The Eraser
2007 Radiohead: In Rainbows
2007 Robert PlantAlison Krauss: Raising Sand
2008 David Gilmour: Live in Gdańsk
2008 Metallica: Death Magnetic
2008 Portishead: Third
2008 The Fall: Imperial Wax Solvent
2009 Placebo: Battle for the Sun
2009 U2: No Line on the Horizon

This is the official video of the track House of Cards.

The 2010s – Album of the Decade

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Once I’d chosen my top albums of the individual years of the decade (15 albums in total with joint-favourites) the album of the decade just shouted out at me!

Blackstar (stylised as ★) by David Bowie was released on 8 January 2016 (Bowie’s 69th birthday). Two days later, he died of liver cancer; his illness had not been revealed to the public until then. Co-producer Tony Visconti described the album as Bowie’s intended swan song and a “parting gift” for his fans before his death. Staying true to himself, he again produced something new and unique.

The album is remarkable in that David Bowie turns his own death into a work of art. Without discussion or question, it’s my album of the decade.

2010 Gorillaz: Plastic Beach
2011 Björk: Biophilia
2011 Radiohead: The King of Limbs
2012 Sigur Rós: Valtari
2013 Black Sabbath: 13
2013 Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds: Push the Sky Away
2014 Thom Yorke: Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes
2015 Public Service Broadcasting: The Race for Space
2016 David Bowie: Blackstar
2016 Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds: Skeleton Tree
2016 Radiohead: A Moon Shaped Pool
2017 Brian Eno: Reflection
2018 Nils Frahm: All Melody
2019 Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds: Ghosteen
2019 Thom Yorke: Anima

This is the remarkable video of the song Lazarus from Blackstar.

2019 Favourite Albums (Part 2)

AlbumCover

There have been some great independent albums released this year, but one stands out as my favourite: William Doyle’s Your Wilderness Revisited.

These are others I have particularly enjoyed:

ambienteer: lost | found
The Collective: The Glow of an Old Valve
Cousin Silas: Short Stories 4
Cousin Silas: Soft Focus – Guitarscapes Volume 1
Dronal: Internal Motion
James Hoehl: Cosmic Oblivion
Martin Neuhold: Ende / Anfang
Robert Farrugia: Adrift
Robert Otto: Dreams

I discover independent music through Bandcamp, you can find my collection here.

See my favourite commercial albums here.

2019 Favourite Albums (Part 1)

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My feeling this year (you may disagree of course) is that there have been lots of good albums, so it’s hard to pin down. For me, there are two outstanding albums that are my joint number one commercial album. Because there have been so many, this year I’m doing my top 20 instead of my usual top 10, and even that wasn’t easy!

Ghosteen by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds is the final part of a trilogy of albums released in the last few years, it is simply an astonishing album. In his first album wholly written since the death of his son, Cave reaches an extraordinary, sad and beautiful artistic evolution.

Anima by Thom Yorke has been described as “full of wraithlike frequencies and fibrillating pulses” in Pitchfork. The wonderful track Dawn Chorus is a “reverential song about loss, nostalgia, and regret” with “hushed”, almost-spoken vocals.

Above & Beyond: Flow State
Alice Merton: Mint
Angel Olsen: All Mirrors
Bruce Springsteen: Western Stars
Cate le Bon: Reward
Ed Sheeran: No.6 Collaborations Project
Ezra Collective: You Can’t Steal My Joy
FKA Twigs: Magdalene
Gloria Gaynor: Testimony
Jane Weaver: Loops in the Secret Society
Michael Kiwanuka: Kiwanuka
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds: Ghosteen
Nils Frahm: All Encores
Sheryl Crow: Threads
Sigur Rós: Liminal Sleep
Steeleye Span: Est’d 1969
Steve Hackett: At the Edge of Light
StuckFish: The Watcher
Thom Yorke: Anima
Wildwood Kin: Wildwood Kin

Dawn Chorus – Thom Yorke l Anima 2019 from Anderson Oliveira on Vimeo.

Finally, two releases deserve special mention:
Brian Eno: Apollo: Atmospheres and Soundtracks (1983) Extended Edition (2019)
Radiohead: MINIDISKS [HACKED]

See my favourite independent albums here.

Baby Driver (Movie)

baby-driver

Naomi and I watched Baby Driver recently and thoroughly enjoyed it, although it’s somewhat violent and sweary at times (not for the faint-hearted or easily offended). Overall it’s very stylish, stands out from the crowd and keeps your attention, although the script was ordinary and some of the characters could have been better defined.

A talented, young getaway driver relies on the beat of his personal soundtrack to be the best in the game. When he meets the girl of his dreams, Baby sees a chance to ditch his criminal life and make a clean getaway. (Bing search).

I particularly appreciated the soundtrack as this was an integral part of the storyline in a way I’ve not come across before, rather than (as is usual) accompaniment to the action and helping to set the mood.

The movie stars Ansel Elgort, Lily James, and Kevin Spacey (are we still allowed to watch his movies in the light of recent events?) amongst others. In fact, the reason Naomi bought the DVD was because it starred Lily James, who plays the young Donna in Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again.

The whole time I was waiting for the song Baby Driver by Simon and Garfunkel from their album Bridge Over Troubled Water; but I needn’t have worried, it starts before and plays through the end credits.

Note: I’ve created the soundtrack on Spotify, click here.